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.

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Book Review: Windwitch by Susan Dennard

29939390Windwitch (sequel to Truthwitch)

Susan Dennard

5/5 stars

Release Date: January 10, 2017

Publisher: Tor Teen

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

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…

After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

Review:

WINDWITCH by Susan Dennard was incredible from start to finish. Filled with action, heartache and some of the greatest moments of character development I’ve ever read, this book is sure to become a favourite of 2017. The world-building is so rich, it practically leaps off the page. Enemies become allies and allies become enemies in this stunning sequel to TRUTHWITCH.

I want to take a moment to talk about the writing. It was so beautiful that I’d take the time to analyze every paragraph, every sentence, and every word. I feel like, in a way, Dennard’s writing can be compared to the gorgeous, imagery-like writing of Laini Taylor. I’ve never really considered this before, but the world-building and character development is so complex, so rich, it’s reached that level. This is the best Dennard book to date.

Like in TRUTHWITCH, this novel is told in 3rd person, multiple POV’s. We have characters already familiar to us: Merik, Safi, Iseult, and Aeduan. However, Dennard adds a 5th voice: Vivia Nihar, Merik’s older sister. Having this many voices in one book can go really wrong, but Dennard is flawless. In fact, WINDWITCH is one of the best examples of a book told in multiple POV’s. The transitions were so smooth, that when character A’s POV ended, even though I wanted to know more about character A, I was satisfied enough to continue on with character B. There have been times when I’m reading a book with only two different POV’s and the voices weren’t different enough. I understood that these two characters had different personalities, traits and ambitions, but the voices sounded too similar; as if I were reading a book with 1.5 POV’s rather than 2. I’m really astounded at how flawlessly Dennard pulls this off.

Moreover, Dennard usually followed a specific pattern that helped make these transitions smooth. The first couple chapters had only 1 POV per chapter but eventually a POV would change mid-chapter. These POV “pairings”, as I’m calling it, were usually Merik and Vivia, Iseult and Aeduan, or Merik and Safi. Merik and Vivia, and Iseult and Aeduan were usually in the same location or general vicinity, so it made sense to have pairings like these. Like I said, this is one of the best books with multiple POV’s and if you’re writing a book like this or planning to, I’d recommend you study Dennard’s style. I think it’d be really helpful for writers to see why this style worked for Dennard and whether or not it could work for you.

The character development is so amazing, along with the sort of relationships we see between different characters. This book is Merik’s arc and the focus is mostly on him. He has so much rage and grief and regrets, that it’s funnelled into a new identity: the Fury. There’s also a focus on Vivia, and Merik & Vivia’s relationship as siblings/rivals. This relationship was the most prominent and I loved every moment of it!

Iseult/Aeduan fans will be very happy with this book. These two create a temporary alliance and start traveling together in the Contested Lands. Their chapters ended up being my favourite, mainly because Aeduan is my all-time favourite character! There was the makings of a slow burn romance and I mean slowww, but this book starts them off as could-be-friends and allies, which is something I’m really happy about.

Some readers might be a bit disappointed because, in a way, that strong friendship between Safi and Iseult, the one that drew readers to TRUTHWITCH isn’t as prominent. Safi and Iseult are definitely fighting to reach each other in WINDWITCH but it ends up more about how these two fight for survival without the other. These two characters are so strong together, but how do they fare without the other to lean on? Some very tough and heartbreaking decisions are made in this book. The reader ends up seeing a different side of the relationship we first encountered in TRUTHWITCH and I really liked that. WINDWITCH takes the characters we loved from the first book and has them forging new, exciting and sometimes difficult paths.

I was slightly confused at the beginning because a character death (that happened in TRUTHWITCH) is mentioned and I honestly couldn’t remember it happening. This was more on me than the book. I did read book #1 about 1.5 years ago.

The last couple of chapters, the POV’s would change three or four times in one chapter and my heart was actually racing. All I could think about was getting to the end, it was so good! I’m very excited for book #3 BLOODWITCH – which happens to be Aeduan’s arc 🙂 – and now plan to re-read TRUTHWITCH. I cannot recommend this series enough.

Also, because of something that happened near the end of the book I feel like I know what book #4 will be called. Okay, I’m not totally sure on the exact title but I kind of felt a foreshadowing of events to come in book #4. Dennard mentioned in a chat I think, one of the Witchlands novels was supposed to be called THREADWITCH (Iseult’s arc) but B&N wouldn’t accept that title so she had to change her plans. This ended up worrying me because I started thinking “Oh no! Everyone gets a book named after them except Iseult?!”. However, I am not worried anymore 🙂

#12DaysOfDiversity Retelling Readathon 2016

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-13-58-05

I’m participating in 12 Days of Diversity, a holiday readathon of Diverse Retellings! Hosted by Julia Ember, author of Unicorn Tracks and the upcoming titles: Tiger’s Watch and The Seafarer’s Kiss, the readathon runs from December 19th to 30th, 2016. I’m not sure if sign ups are still open but you can read all about it in Julia’s original post here. There are also prizes 🙂

Reindeer level – Read one of the books from each category plus one other book from any category. Six books in twelve days. Then review the book on Goodreads, your blog and another retail website. Everyone who completes this level is entered into a draw for a $35 Amazon gift card or equivalent from a bookstore of your choice.

Badass Santa level – this is given to the participant who earns the most amount of Readathon Points. Points are calculated as 10 points per book read and reviewed, with a further 5 points for taking a photo of the book and showcasing it on Instagram. This person will win an actual mini trophy engraved with their name, their title as Badass Santa, their blog name and #12DaysofDiversity, along with a $75 Amazon gift card or equivalent from a bookstore of your choice.

There will also be prizes for Most Beautiful Instagram Post and Most Hilarious Review. Winners will get a diverse retelling of their choice.

I don’t expect to win the Badass Santa level, but I am aiming for the Reindeer level and the Most Beautiful Instagram post. I’m not that funny, so I don’t think I’d win Most Hilarious Review 😉

Here are the books on my TBR. I don’t believe I’ll read more than six, but I’ve included all the books I’m interested in reading – if not now, at some point in the future.

Please check out the full list here. There’s so many great titles, some I’ve read, that I couldn’t possibly fit them all here. You’ll also notice some titles fit in multiple categories.

Diverse Retellings Published in 2016:

And I Darken by Kiersten White — Retelling of Historical Dracula, Gender-Flipped, LGBTQIA

Beast by Brie Spangler — Retelling of Beauty and the Beast, LGBTQIA

Marian by Ella Lyons — Retelling of Robin Hood, LGBTQIA

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury — Retelling of 1001 Nights, POC Protagonist/Non-Western

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi — Retelling of Hades & Persephone, POC Protagonist

Protagonists of Colour:

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale — Retelling of Maid Maleen (Grimm), POC Protagonist

Hunting Monsters by SL Huang — Retelling of Red Riding Hood, POC Protagonist/LGBTQIA

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine — Retelling of Phantom of the Opera, POC Protagonist

Street Love by Walter Dean Myers — Retelling of Romeo and Juliet, POC Protagonist

Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriot — Retelling of Cinderella, POC Protagonist

Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis — Retelling of 12 Swans, POC Protagonist

Ramayana by Daljit Nagra — Retelling of Ramayana, POC Protagonist/Non-Western

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury — Retelling of 1001 Nights, POC Protagonist/Non-Western

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler — Retelling of Little Mermaid, POC Protagonist

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi — Retelling of Hades & Persephone, POC Protagonist

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh — Retelling of 1001 Nights, POC Protagonist/Non-Western

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin — Retelling of The Wizard of Oz, POC Protagonist/Non-Western Influences

LGBTQIA Protagonists:

And I Darken by Kiersten White — Retelling of Historical Dracula, Gender-Flipped, LGBTQIA

Ash by Malinda Lo — Retelling of Cinderella, LGBTQIA

Beast by Brie Spangler — Retelling of Beauty and the Beast, LGBTQIA

Hunting Monsters by SL Huang — Retelling of Red Riding Hood, POC Protagonist/LGBTQIA

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesa Lia Block — Retelling of The Odyssey, LGBTQIA

Seven Tears at High Tide by CB Lee — Retelling of Selkie Folklore, LGBTQIA

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller — Retelling of The Iliad, LGBTQIA

Non Western Stories & Myths:

Ramayana by Daljit Nagra — Retelling of Ramayana, POC Protagonist/Non-Western

Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson — Retelling of Indian Folktale, POC Protagonist/Non-Western

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury — Retelling of 1001 Nights, POC Protagonist/Non-Western

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi — Retelling of Hades & Persephone, POC Protagonist

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh — Retelling of 1001 Nights, POC Protagonist/Non-Western

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin — Retelling of The Wizard of Oz, POC Protagonist/Non-Western Influences

Published by a Small Publisher:

Hunting Monsters by SL Huang — Retelling of Red Riding Hood, POC Protagonist/LGBTQIA

Marian by Ella Lyons — Retelling of Robin Hood, LGBTQIA

Seven Tears at High Tide by CB Lee — Retelling of Selkie Folklore, LGBTQIA

If you’re not able to participate, you should still check out the list. There’s a lot of great books to discover! Let me know if you’re participating and what books you’re hoping to read.

Sept/Oct/Nov. Wrap-Up Post

img_0785I haven’t done one of these in three months and decided to just combine them. I’ve been super busy with school and haven’t had much time to read. Little to no reading time means little to no books to talk about here  😦

September Books Read:

Vampire Knight Vol. 13-17 by Matsuri Hino

Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel

Black Bird Vol. 1 by Kanoko Sakurakouji

Inuyasha Vol. 1 by Rumiko Takahashi

October Books Read:

None 😦

November Books Read:

Wolf Pack by Edo Van Belkom

Dear Canada: These Are My Words: The Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheens by Ruby Slipperjack

Inuyasha Vol. 2-3 by Rumiko Takahashi

Rush by Eve Silver

Warrior Witch by Danielle L. Jensen

I ended up reading six books in November but I feel like I’m back on track. I started Rush over a year ago and Warrior Witch back in May. It’s really great to be able to check two books off my very long, currently-reading shelf.

Out of this list, I have one favourite I hope you check out above all the others: Warrior Witch. I know I said it took me six months to read this book, but I didn’t want it to end. Warrior Witch is the last book in Danielle L. Jensen’s Malediction Trilogy and it’s one of the best endings I’ve ever read! I can without a doubt give this book five stars. The writing is beautiful, with action-packed scenes and everything we could ever hope for in a final book. I won’t lie, the ending just about killed me but it was worth it. The characters were phenomenal and Jensen gives both her characters and her readers what we deserve: a riveting conclusion. If you haven’t heard of this series, the first book is called Stolen Songbird and it’s such a great fantasy series, 100% recommend.

I’m only six books away from my reading goal of 75, but I’ve decided to try for 100 books, or as close as possible. I’ll have lots of free time in December so fingers crossed.

December TBR:

Windwitch by Susan Dennard

Spindle by E.K. Johnston

The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon

The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Mirror King by Jodi Meadows

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

Plus a few more but I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I’d love to know what everyone’s reading in December and how close you are to your reading goals!

ICYMI:

Book Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Back to School & New Books

Goodreads Choice Awards 2016: Semifinal Round

Goodreads Choice Awards 2016: Final Round

Book Review: These Are My Words: The Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheens by Ruby Slipperjack

29913356Dear Canada: These Are My Words: The Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheens

Ruby Slipperjack

4/5 stars

Release Date: August 30, 2016

Publisher: Scholastic Canada

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

Synopsis on Goodreads:

Violet Pesheen is struggling to adjust to her new life at Residential School. She misses her Grandma; she has run-ins with Cree girls; at her “white” school, everyone just stares; and everything she brought has been taken from her, including her name—she is now just a number. But worst of all, she has a fear. A fear of forgetting the things she treasures most: her Anishnabe language; the names of those she knew before; and her traditional customs. A fear of forgetting who she was.

Her notebook is the one place she can record all of her worries, and heartbreaks, and memories. And maybe, just maybe there will be hope at the end of the tunnel.

Drawing from her own experiences at Residential School, Ruby Slipperjack creates a brave, yet heartbreaking heroine in Violet, and lets young readers glimpse into an all-too important chapter in our nation’s history.

Review:

These Are My Words: The Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheens by Ruby Slipperjack tells the story of 12 year old Violet (Pynut) and her experience at a residential school during the years 1966 and 1967. Like previous Dear Canada books, the novel is told in a diary-like format. If you’re unfamiliar with the Dear Canada series, they are books published by Scholastic Canada with the purpose of introducing middle grade readers to Canadian history through fictionalized diary entries, along with an epilogue, historical note and (usually) real photographs and maps. Most of the books are written by different authors but the format is always the same.

The diary-like format has always been my favourite thing about this series and THESE ARE MY WORDS is no exception. The diary entries help with bringing the reader back in time and makes Violet seem all the more real.

I could immediately get into this book and the story itself was fantastic, but Violet’s characterization fell a bit short for me. She didn’t seem to have much of a personality and I couldn’t get a strong sense of the emotions she was feeling. I understood she felt angry, scared, anxious and on occasion joy, but it was more told than shown. I thought at times maybe we didn’t fully see her personality because of the way residential schools were; Violet would have gotten in serious trouble for the things she wrote. I also thought that, this being a diary, she could have at the same time poured everything she had into it. Residential schools did drain children in every possible way, mentally, emotionally, and physically, so it’s also possible that at the end of the day Violet didn’t have a lot to share.

The first couple pages were very powerful, showing the horrific ways Indigenous children like Violet were treated. One of the worst was when Violet was given a number. Being reduced to #75 really made an impact. Unfortunately, the last couple pages didn’t have the same effect and it didn’t feel like an ending. I didn’t really feel like Violet’s story was over, unlike other books in this series.

THESE ARE MY WORDS is really great for introducing middle grade readers to the history of residential schools and Canadian history. Like other Dear Canada books, this novel was outstanding and I read it from start to finish. I recommend that all teachers, librarians and parents buy this for their MG readers. I don’t think many people realize how close to us residential schools have existed. The author mentions in the historical note that the last residential school closed in 1998. 1998! That’s only an 18 year difference from this book’s publication date. I haven’t read this series for years so I’m really happy this was the book that brought me back into it.

Book Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

21414439Truthwitch

Susan Dennard

5/5 stars

Release Date: January 5, 2016

Publisher: Tor Teen

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

Synopsis on Goodreads:

In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden – lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls’ heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

Review:

I love reading an author’s second series because of books like TRUTHWITCH. Dennard’s writing is gorgeous, and her characters fresh and original. The world of TRUTHWITCH is huge and it’s because of Dennard’s experience as a writer that the reader is never overwhelmed by it all. This is the book that will be talked about for years to come, a book that deserves every bit of hype.

TRUTHWITCH is the tale of two threadsisters and Dennard is able to perfectly balance their stories, so that it never feels like one is more significant than the other. This is a multi-POV book; told in the POV’s of Safi (our Truthwitch), Iseult (Threadwitch), Merrik (Windwitch), and Aeduan (Bloodwitch). In a lot of cases, this is a big undertaking because there needs to be enough space given to each character. Dennard is absolutely perfect when it comes to this. The switch between POV’s is smooth and I felt like I got enough time with each and every character.

I loved all four of our main characters. Safi was funny and ambitious, someone who acts before she thinks. Iseult was my favourite, mainly because I felt our personalities were very similar. She was introverted and calm, and I felt like she was very selfless, in the sense that she’d give up everything if it meant her friends and family were happy. Merrik is someone who would do anything for his country and is desperately fighting for its survival. He also has a lot of rage, which fits so well with his witchery. Then there’s Aeduan, the infamous Bloodwitch. Like Iseult, he was another favourite and I can’t wait to find out more about him. He’s very mysterious and a bit of an anti-hero, but that kind of makes me love him more haha. The characters go through some serious character development and I especially loved the actions of Safi at the end – it showed her growth.

I usually mention this in my reviews, but world building is my absolute favourite and Dennard did not disappoint. If you’ve seen a map of this world, you might have noticed that it looks like an alternate version of Europe. I loved that! Dennard is so strong when it comes to giving the reader a good visual of her world. There are so many different cultures, but again we are never overwhelmed. We’d glimpse the world through the characters actions, through music and poetry, myths and legends. It was also great seeing both the good and bad of the world. For example, we experienced the discrimination of the Nomatsi through Iseult, which is her ethnicity.

I actually think if you liked Avatar: The Last Airbender, you’ll like this. The world is based upon elemental magic and the scale of the world (very big!) is about the same. I also sensed a bit of Zuko in Aeduan, which was great.

Dennard is truly a Wordwitch when it comes to writing. With magic and suspense at every corner, TRUTHWITCH is a must-read. The writing is visually stunning and the world equally so. Dennard has created a beautiful start to a fantastic, new series.

Disclaimer 1: I won an advanced readers copy from the author, this has in no way altered my honest opinion of the book.

Disclaimer 2: I wrote this review about a year after reading it, but I based it on notes written immediately after finishing it, so everything in my review is accurate.

 

August Wrap-Up Post

23381012So I read a total of five books in August, which feels like even less because four of those were novella-length 😦 Hopefully I’ll be able to read at least ten in September.

Books Read:

Born to Endless Night by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan

Angels Twice Descending by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman

Vampire Knight Vol. 11-12 by Matsuri Hino – these were the only books I gave 5 stars to, so let’s hope for more 4-5 star reads in September

Circle of Jinn by Lori Goldstein

I did get to finish a series this month (Circle of Jinn), which is one of my goals of 2016. I’m glad I read the Becoming Jinn/Circle of Jinn series, but overall there are other series I enjoyed more so I wish I put more time into those versus this one. You can read my full review here and decide whether this series is for you. I was not, however, able to read a single book for ARC August, which is really disappointing.

I feel like I’ve been concentrating so much on reading 2015/2016 debut novels that I’ve forgotten a bit about what I really wanted to do this year re: my reading goals. I love reading debuts and supporting these, usually, brand new authors but there are so many series I love and want to get caught up on. I’ve decided that for the last four months of 2016 I’m going to try and read backlist titles as well as books I’ve been putting off for months. Don’t be alarmed, I’m still going to read debuts, but only if I already own or have placed a library hold on it.

So I’d love to know what books you’re planning to read in September? Is anyone else going through something similar, where you try to support new authors but also end up putting off books you really want to read?

ICYMI:

Book Review: Nil Remembered by Lynne Matson

Book Review: The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

Author Interview with Courtney Summers

Book Review: The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

21936988The Sin Eater’s Daughter

Melinda Salisbury

3/5 stars

Release Date: February 24, 2015

Publisher: Scholastic Press

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

Synopsis on Goodreads:

A startling, seductive, deliciously dark debut that will shatter your definition of YA fantasy. Sixteen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she’s engaged to the prince, no one speaks to her. No one even looks at her. Because Twylla isn’t a member of the court. She’s the executioner.As the goddess-embodied, Twylla kills with a single touch. So each week, she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love her. Who could care for a girl with murder in her veins? Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to her touch, avoids her.But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose playful smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the goddess. Yet a treasonous romance is the least of Twylla’s problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies-a plan that requires an unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?

Review:

I listened to an audiobook of The Sin Eater’s Daughter (read by Amy Shiels) and that was a huge mistake. There’s a lot of info dumping at the beginning of the novel, so it makes the audiobook seem really slow – like REALLY slow. The main character, Twylla would usually be talking about her past or the history of her kingdom and neighbouring kingdoms, which was interesting, but somehow the audio made it seem super boring.

Actually, the entire first half of the novel was boring and made me want to DNF it. I only continued it because at one point the king defies the queen in public and I knew something would go down. Usually the king and queen rule as equals, but the queen is the boss around here and is pretty much a villain. People have to tiptoe around her for fear of offending her and being put to death. The queen was actually the most intriguing character. I feel like I got a better sense of her personality versus Twylla’s. Finishing this book, I understand what Twylla is but not really who she is. I know being locked up in the castle half her life doesn’t really give Twylla the chance to get a hobby or make friends, but she still should have made a deeper impression on me than the queen.

There were things I liked and enjoyed about the book. The author infuses legends and myths familiar to the reader with her own fantasy world’s ones. For example, we hear stories like the Pied Piper and the biblical story of Adam and Eve falling from grace – although she changes a few things and doesn’t use the same names. The Sleeping Prince myth becomes central to the plot and I believe something like that already exists in our own world, which was great to read about! I also loved how sins existed in this world. There exist sin eaters, like Twylla’s mother, who eat the sins of dead people, which allows their soul to move on. This takes a huge toll on the sin eater. Twylla herself was meant to become a sin eater after her mother dies, but her destiny is changed and she becomes the goddess-embodied. I loved those two aspects! The world-building was my favourite part of the novel.

The romance was a little weird. Twylla and the prince haven’t seen each other for two years, so they act like I would expect: awkward strangers. Twylla and her new guard, Lief, however start to gain feelings for each other, but it only got weird when the guard says he’s in love with her after only knowing each other for 1-2 weeks. I liked the romance but it also had a lot of WTF moments.

Plot-wise it didn’t go exactly how I thought it would. There’s not much action and the protagonist pretty much stays in the castle for the entire book. I also expected the ending to go a different way, especially considering there’s a sequel. I did like the way it ended but the way I envisioned it was perhaps a bit more exciting haha. It just seemed too good to be true.

I also want to address the title. For the first half of the book I felt like it was a catchy title, but didn’t really relate to the novel or protagonist. Twylla’s younger sister is more the Sin Eater’s daughter than her, so it felt like those “The Tiger’s Wife/Daughter/something” titles that are nice but random. Twylla is the goddess-embodied and the future queen. She hasn’t seen her mother in years and won’t be the next sin eater. However, when I think about the last half of the book I’m a little unsure/neutral on the title. Sin becomes a more central theme during the last half.

Anyway, I did like this book and plan to read the sequel but there’s no way I’m listening to an audiobook again. In the last two minutes of the audiobook, creepy music starts up which was about the only good thing it did for me – it made me really excited for the sequel. Final verdict: if you don’t mind info dumping, you’ll probably like this. I wouldn’t recommend the audiobook.

Book Review: Nil Remembered by Lynne Matson

30827348Nil Remembered (Nil #0.5) – prequel novella to the Nil series

Lynne Matson

4/5 stars

Release Date: July 19, 2016

Publisher: Henry Holt & co.

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

Synopsis:

My name is Scott Bracken, and this is my journal.

Scott Bracken has been home for 28 days, but nothing is the same. A month ago, he escaped from Nil, an island of wonder, beauty, and incredible danger. Now, back in his old life, no one believes Scott’s story. To deal with his present, Scott must relive his past—whether he wants to or not.

Introduced to readers in Nil Unlocked, here, for the first time, is Scott’s journal in its entirety. Delve deeper into the world of Nil—before Charley and Thad, before Skye and Rives—and discover the truth.

Review:

NIL REMEMBERED by Lynne Matson is a quick, enjoyable read. I loved the main character, Scott – his personality really stood out to me & his humour was great. I also loved that, after going through Nil, he still found ways to make jokes. It actually reminded me of the protagonist in THE MARTIAN.

This novella is written in a journal-type format, with a mix of drawings and entries. It was an interesting way of re-discovering Nil, at least for someone like me who’s read the first book in the series & already knows a bit about the island. Sometimes it got a bit boring which I think was due to the lack of dialogue.

At the end of almost every journal entry Scott would write, “my name is Scott Bracken, and this is the truth”. I think it made this journal-type format all the more authentic. When you’ve gone through such a traumatic experience and people are telling you it wasn’t real, it definitely seems like something you’d be constantly thinking about. Something that you’d have to write down.

There were only a few things I disliked about the book. One is really specific; here’s a quote from the book:

“Now she’d been sitting in front of the Wall of Names for the last twenty minutes, Indian-style, like she was silently singing the Clash song ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go.'”.

I don’t really like that term “Indian-style”, which I usually see describing someone sitting cross-legged. I only ever see it in books published in the US, so maybe it’s only me (a Canadian) but I feel like people should use words like “cross-legged” instead of “Indian-style”. I feel like it’s not referencing Indian as in India but Native American, so I always get a bad feeling when I see it.

Overall I thought this was a fun, interesting addition to the NIL series and I definitely recommend it. Even though it’s a prequel, I’d say read NIL first and then this, just so you have a better understanding of Nil going into it. Disclaimer: I downloaded the ebook from Kobo for free, this has in no way altered my honest opinion of the book.

July Wrap-Up Post

IMG_1391I read a total of 16 books this month. Even though most of them were novellas, I’m still feeling very accomplished. I was able to reach the 50 books read mark before the end of July. One of the books I read, The Bane Chronicles, I started over a year ago so I’m glad I finally finished it. I also started Rebel of the Sands back in March, so I’m happy I finished that too!

Books Read:

Steel Scars by Victoria Aveyard

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Naruto Vol. 3-4 by Masashi Kishimoto

Morrighan by Mary E. Pearson

The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan and Maureen Johnson

Nil Remembered by Lynne Matson

Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan

The Lost Herondale by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman

The Whitechapel Fiend by Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson

Nothing but Shadows by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan

The Evil We Love by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman

Pale Kings and Princes by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman

Bitter of Tongue by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan

The Fiery Trial by Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson

The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

Rebel of the Sands would have to be my favourite book of July. Hamilton’s writing is gorgeous and I loved the slow-burning romance between the main character, Amani and Jin, a mysterious stranger she meets in the beginning of the novel. I am super excited for the sequel Traitor to the Throne. I hope you guys all check it out! Some books I liked but ultimately underwhelmed were Nothing but Shadows by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan and The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury. For the first, it was basically a story within a story and very boring. The second one was also very boring for the first half of the book and there wasn’t a lot of action.

I’d love to know what everyone read in July and what they plan to read in August? Are you taking part in the ARC August challenge?

Click on the links above to read my reviews.

ICYMI:

The Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

ARC August Challenge

Book Review: Queen Song by Victoria Aveyard

Book Review: The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster