Friday, June 30, 2017

[Review] Four Weeks, Five People by Jennifer Yu

Four Weeks, Five People by Jennifer Yu
Version: ARC Paperback
Rating: 3 stars

Release Date: May 2nd 2017

Goodreads Synopsis:
They're more than their problems
Obsessive-compulsive teen Clarissa wants to get better, if only so her mother will stop asking her if she's okay.
Andrew wants to overcome his eating disorder so he can get back to his band and their dreams of becoming famous.
Film aficionado Ben would rather live in the movies than in reality.
Gorgeous and overly confident Mason thinks everyone is an idiot.
And Stella just doesn't want to be back for her second summer of wilderness therapy.
As the five teens get to know one another and work to overcome the various disorders that have affected their lives, they find themselves forming bonds they never thought they would, discovering new truths about themselves and actually looking forward to the future.
I received this ARC from Miss Print's (Emma) ARC Adoption over here! Thank you Emma!

This will be a hard review to tackle, so please bear with me.

Four Weeks, Five People is told in alternating 5-POVs from the characters attending a wilderness therapy camp for the summer for their respective disorders. Stella has an anger-based depression and it's her second time coming to the camp. Clarisa has OCD and has a mother who is never satisfied with anything she does. Ben has a dissociative disorder and makes everything in his life into a movie. Mason has narcissist personality disorder and he thinks everyone at the camp is below him. Andrew has an eating disorder and he yearns to return back to his band and make them famous. 

The five of them are stuck together for four weeks and learn much about themselves and the people surrounding them.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

BookExpo & BookCon 2017 Recap

BookExpo & BookCon 2017 

BookExpo Logo

This was my second time attending BookExpo & third time attending BookCon, and it was still as exciting as it has always been. I skipped BookExpo/BookCon last year since it moved to Chicago, and I wasn't completely sure I would be attending this year until two or three months before, but I am glad I did!

Here are just some of my highlights from that week:

BookExpo (June 1 & 2)

Penguin Random House (and specifically Penguin Teen) definitely deserves a shoutout for their wonderful staff & lineup. They had so many popular signings, like for Leigh Bardugo's Wonder Woman and Marie Lu's Warcross, and they managed the lines pretty well; I didn't have any trouble trying to find the line. Their staff, including volunteers, were also very friendly and nice to chat with! 

Some of my favorites from Day 1 of the show:
  • Owlcrate's wheel, which consisted of either recent YA books or YA related swag, such as candles and calendars. I won Roseblood by A.G. Howard from the wheel. 
  • Disney also did a drop for The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken, which I didn't know about prior to the show so that was a nice surprise! And the art is just stunning. I mean, look at this!
(Photo from Amazon)
  • I also made it to the drop for Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen, which I had been anticipating since I absolutely loved Gaughen's Scarlet series. 

Some of my favorites from Day 2 of the show:
  • Of course, Marie Lu's Warcross signing on the second day was wonderful as expected.
  • Perhaps my most anticipated event for BookExpo and BookCon was Leigh Bardugo's Wonder Woman; it was my first time meeting Leigh, and I was just in the middle of reading Crooked Kingdom so that was a nice touch. The line for the signing started over an hour before, and it was nice to have book buddies to sit down with to pass the time. :-)

  • One of the last things I did at BookExpo was meet Julie Dao at her signing for Fires of a Thousand Lanterns and let me tell you - she was an absolute sweetheart! I cannot wait to read her debut.
  • I also met Holly Black, who was so friendly and a pleasure to chat with.
Scholastic also dropped Maggie Stiefvater's All the Crooked Saints, which wasn't announced pre-show, so that was a pleasant surpirse!

One thing I noticed is that Little Brown/The NOVL does not announce any dates and times for its events prior ro the show, so it's definitely worth heading there early on to grab their schedule.

The atomosphere was great, the lines went by fast, and BookExpo 2017 was even better than my first year (2015).

My BEA book "star" :D

BookCon (June 3rd)

BookCon is an annual thing I do with my friends, so above all, for me, it was more hanging out with my friends with the added bonus of being around books and authors. I only went the first day and didn't really plan a schedule.

If I can summarize BookCon into one word, it'll be lines.
Lines everywhere. Things at BEA that had absolutely no line (such as the Grishaverse) was swarmed on BookCon.

Despite the crazy crowds, I did have a great time.

Penguin had a bunch of random giveaways throughout the day with no coherent line, and they had a pretty cool giveaway promoting their new Underlined product. We got a zippered tote, a box with two books and some swag, a pouch, and a beach towel for signing up for Underlined. One of the books was The Golden Compass, which I've been thinking of reading anyway, so that was a cool surprise.

The only signing I went to at BookCon was the meet and greet for Kerri Maniscalo (Hunting Prince Dracula) and Lyndsay Ely (Gunslinger Girl). In fact, I think my next read may be Hunting Price Dracula.

I left not long after since I was still a bit tired from BookExpo, and the crowds were just not my thing.


BookExpo - A fabulous *insert many other positive adjectives here* event that I would reccommend to anyone with any role in the industry, whether it be blogging or selling.

BookCon - It's a nice event to enjoy with family or friends, but beware of the crowds.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

[Review] Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
Series: To All the Boys I've Loved Before #3 
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4 stars

Published: May 2nd 2017

Goodreads Synopsis: 
Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.
But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.
When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?
This was such an endearing end to one of my high school favorites. It seem like all my favorite series are ending this year. While To All the Boys I've Loved Before is my favorite of the trilogy, Always and Forever brought me back to my own senior year of high school. There's the growing up and the separation from family and friends, as well as the fair share of drama.

[Review] Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Format: Paperback
Rating: 3 stars

 Published: 1987

Goodreads Synopsis:
Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.
A poignant story of one college student's romantic coming-of-age, Norwegian Wood takes us to that distant place of a young man's first, hopeless, and heroic love.
This is a hard book for me to review.

I say this with the knowledge that my friend recommended me this book many years ago and I finally picked it up and finished it for #asianlitbingo not quite understanding what I had read. It is clear that Murakami writing style is artistic, even poetic at times. It even bares likeness to Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, which our narrator Toru mentions reading - this likeness I will explain shortly.

I was really unsure as to why my friend has recommended this book, beyond the fact of reading literature outside of YA; Norwegian Wood is depressing and dark, written by Murakami during a period of depression. This review mostly stems from my discussion with her after I read the book. There are deep meanings behind it - of loss, of sexuality, of youth, especially in one's college years (in a way, a coming of age novel), and of importance (what we find important now vs. later).

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

[Review] Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Series: Flame in the Mist #1
Format: ARC Paperback
Rating: 4.5 stars

Published: May 16th 2017

Goodreads Synopsis:
The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.
So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.
The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires. Renee Ahdieh is well-known for her The Wrath and the Dawn duology, which was a romantic retelling of A Thousand and One Nights. 
I received this ARC from Miss Print's (Emma) ARC Adoption over here! Thank you Emma!

Flame in the Mist has its hints of romance, yes, but this is a dark story. Emphasis on dark. It's nothing like TWATD. The way Ahdieh juggles two extremely different genres is masterful and precise. You know you're in for one hell of a ride when the opening pages feature the seppuku of a character's father. 

What a great ride it was. Flame in the Mist had the action, but it also had a great story behind it, as well as well-rounded characters. 

[Review] Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4.5 stars

Published: March 17th 2015

Goodreads Synopsis:
Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.
This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.YA Westerns usually fall under the same premise. Girl lives normal life, something changes girl's life forever, girl must disguise self as a boy in order to either seek revenge or make it big out West. To me, it's an overused concept that can get tiresome after so many times unless it is well done.
Under a Painted Sky was  one of those well done Westerns. Our heroine Samantha has just lost her father and must head westward to stake her claims. But, given the times and the fact that she is both Asian and a girl, she must disguise herself as Sammy, and journeys west with her new friend Annamae, who in turn becomes Andy. They join up with a trio of cowboys - Cay and his cousin West, and their friend Peety. 

This was a very heartwarming book, and what I loved about it was how Sammy's relationships with others changed over the course of the novel for the better. Of course, there is her father, who, despite dying early in the story, remained a constant presence for her, one of strength and courage. She is initially wary of Annamae, but soon enough, she can't imagine parting ways with her, and it is this sisterhood that really took me. Their banter was playful and displays their strong bond over the course of several long weeks. 

[Review] And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Version: HC
Rating: 3.5 stars

Published: May 21st 2013

Goodreads Synopsis: 
Khaled Hosseini, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations.
In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most.
Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.
This book marks my completion of Khaled Hosseini's works, and now that I've read them all, I can do a comparative review. For my next review on Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood, I can't even say the same, because it's the first book I've read by him!

But for both books, I feel similar feelings. While both authors craft beautiful stories and have such a marvelous usage of language, I am not quite sure of what to make of the story. 

And The Mountains Echoed differed from Hosseini's two other stories in that there were multiple POVs. There was not just two main characters on which we focused on, but numerous characters, all intertwined in the smallest of ways. One minor character, mentioned for just a sentence in one chapter, becomes the narrator of the next.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

[Review] Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney

Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney
Version: ARC paperback
Rating: 3.5 stars

Release Date: May 30th 2017

I didn't expect myself to enjoy this as much as I did, but it was certainly an adorable read.

From my knowledge, this book is supposed to be based off of Kate and Pippa Middleton, with Prince William in tow. If they were all in high school and had high school-esque problems, as everyone in high school tends to do.

The first 100 pages reminded me of The Thousandth Floor - everyone is rich, everyone's got something to lose, and everyone was just so damn spoiled that I almost got tired of reading it and wanted to put it down.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

My #AsianLitBingo TBR!

Hey everyone! Long time no see. This is a little bit of a late post, but I've been really excited for this reading challenge. Here are the books I'll be reading/have read for this reading challenge.

1. Historical Fiction with Asian MC - Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Friday, April 28, 2017

[Review] A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Series: Charlotte Holmes #1
Version: Hardcover
Rating: 3.5 stars

Published: March 1st 2016

Goodreads Synopsis:
The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.
From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

A Study in Charlotte imagines a world where the greatest detective duo of all time, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, had descendants, and those descendants landed up at the same private boarding school in Connecticut Sherringford.

Meet Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes, following in their predecessors' footsteps and are solving cases of murder and clearing their names.

So I wasn't sure how I felt about this book right until the midway point. I was still trying to wrap my head around the strangeness of it all. I wasn't sure if the tone of the book was supposed to be serious or funny, and it confused me at points. This is probably because I am not well versed in Holmes's mysteries, and knowing Holmes and Watson as characters in their original works would have gotten me accustomed to Jamie and Charlotte's strange quirks (Charlotte doing oxy, for instance). And how they hit it off and got close to each other so quickly! (The Watson to her Holmes) So, all in all, this part was definitely slower than the rest of the novel.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

[Review] The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Series: Prisoners of Peace #1
 Version: ARC Paperback
Rating: 2 stars

Published: September 22nd 2015

Goodreads Synopsis:
The world is at peace, said the Utterances. And really, if the odd princess has a hard day, is that too much to ask?
Greta is a duchess and crown princess—and a hostage to peace. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Go to war and your hostage dies.
Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the Precepture school with the daughters and sons of the world’s leaders. Like them, she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. Like them, she is prepared to die with dignity, if she must. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives. Elián is a boy who refuses to play by the rules, a boy who defies everything Greta has ever been taught. And he opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system they live under—and to her own power.
As Greta and Elián watch their nations tip closer to war, Greta becomes a target in a new kind of game. A game that will end up killing them both—unless she can find a way to break all the rules. 
Goats - the shapers of history.
That, my friends, is what most of the book is made up of. Goats. Not that I don't like goats, but it says a lot if there was more goat mentioning that say, actual character development. 

Conceptually, this story sounds really cool. For the first chapter, I was reeled in. Children of rulers taken as hostages and killed if their country enters a war? AI's running the world? Count me in. It's something different from the other dystopia novels I've read. 

But it wasn't executed the way I hoped. There's Greta, our main character and one of the seven hostages being held in the Prefecture. There's Xie, another hostage and one of Greta's love interests. When their friend Sidney gets killed by the Swan Riders, who do the killing of hostages when countries declare war, Elian comes in his place, as the hostage of the newly formed kingdom of Cumberland. Elian is rebellious when Greta is obedient - but the two of them learn much from each other.

Monday, April 24, 2017

[Review] Bound by Blood and Sand by Becky Allen

Bound by Blood and Sand by Becky Allen
Series: Bound by Blood and Sand #1
Version: ARC paperback
Rating: 4 stars

Published: October 11th 2016

Goodreads Synopsis: 
Jae is a slave in a dying desert world.
Once verdant with water from a magical Well, the land is drying up, and no one remembers the magic needed to keep the water flowing. If a new source isn’t found soon, the people will perish. Jae doesn’t mind, in a way. By law, she is bound by a curse to obey every order given her, no matter how vile. At least in death, she’ll be free.
Lord Elan’s family rules the fading realm. He comes to the estate where Jae works, searching for the hidden magic needed to replenish the Well, but it’s Jae who finds it, and she who must wield it. Desperate to save his realm, Elan begs her to use it to locate the Well.
But why would a slave—abused, beaten, and treated as less than human—want to save the system that shackles her? Jae would rather see the world burn.
Though revenge clouds her vision, she agrees to help if the kingdom’s slaves are freed. Then Elan’s father arrives. The ruler’s cruelty knows no limits. He is determined that the class system will not change—and that Jae will remain a slave forever.
I think I'm just a sucker for Avatar: TLA with the whole four-elements wielding thing, especially when it is done right.

Bound by Blood and Sand definitely was right up my alley. It takes place in a dessert world where water is slowly drying up, and all water comes from the magical Well. However, no one really knows how to get the Well working again. This is where Jae comes in.

Jae is a Closest, and in this world, there are two groups of people - the Highest and the Closest. The Highest can be Avowed, and are given a certain role to fulfill (aka their vow). The Closest are slaves to the Highest, and when a Highest makes a demand, the Closest must see that it is fulfilled, no matter what. This is known as the Curse. We see Jae endure the hardships that come with being a Closest, and she begins to have visions of a past when her people were free.

Friday, April 21, 2017

[Review] We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen

We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen
Version: ARC Paperback
Rating: 4.5 stars

Published: November 1st 2016

Goodreads Synopsis:
It’s the summer of 1982, and for Scott and Cath, everything is about to change.
Growing up across the street from each other, Scott and Cath have been best friends for most of their lives. Now they’ve graduated high school, and Cath is off to college while Scott stays at home trying to get his band off the ground. Neither of them realized that their first year after high school would be so hard.
Fortunately, Scott and Cath still have each other, and it’s through their letters that they survive heartache, annoying roommates, family dramas, and the pressure of figuring out what to do with the rest of their lives. And through it all, they realize that the only person they’ve ever wanted to turn to is each other. But does that mean they should think about being more than friends? One thing is clear: Change is an inescapable part of growing up, and we share unbreakable bonds with the friends who help us navigate it.
Finally. A YA contemporary that doesn't take place in high school. I was waiting all my life for something like this. It even fulfilled my expectations.

The letter-writing method of telling the story was definitely an effective way of getting the point across. It was very 80s... if only penpal-ing was still a popular thing, instead of the phone, no? It was a lot more sincere reading the viewpoints of the two main characters, Scott and Catherine, as they navigate the first year after high school through their own eyes, instead of through a third person POV. Of course, this means that there is a lot of gaps the reader must fill in for themselves, trying to figure out when one thing happens to someone but it take several letters to explain it. Never fear, Scott and Cath are surprisingly thorough when they describe the many dramatic events that take place over the course of their first year!

Because I am in college myself, I was able to relate to our two protagonists more. Relationships ending, friendships ending, grades dropping, all that lovely stuff was what I experienced (or something similar) in my first year. Scott's songs about his so-called friends hit the mark. Did I mention Scott is in a band? All these 80s vibes are in here... Granted, I haven't seen many 80s movies, but being in a band seems like an 80s thing.

Now I'm just the guy at the gasoline station,
Now I'm just the singer in this band.
Don't say what happened was an aberration,
That I just don't understand.
I understand that you don't know me

Now all you need with this book is a proper 80s mix tape.

And did I mention... There's a lot of f-bombs in this one. Well, to the extent any regular college student would curse. It was entertaining and realistic. I felt that the college setting made this book more relatable to a college person (aka me), and reading about Cath's and Scott's relationship and its development through letters is touching. And nostalgic for more simple times.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

[Review] Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
Series: Something Strange and Deadly #1
Rating: 4 stars

Published: July 24th 2012

Goodreads Synopsis: 
There's something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia. . . .
Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about.
Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she's just read in the newspaper:
The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.
And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor . . . from her brother.
Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she'll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

Eleanor Fitt has two problems. One, her brother Elijah as gone missing. Two, the Dead are rising in Philadelphia. Add in the fact that the first problem may be related to the second, and it's time to call in the Spirit Hunters, who are professionals are dealing with the other-worldly. 

Late 19th century and zombies? Count me in.

Monday, April 17, 2017

[Review] Shadow Run by Adrianne Strickland and Michael Miller

Shadow Run by Adrianne Strickland and Michael Miller
Series: Kaitan Chronicles #1
Rating: 3 stars

Published: March 21st 2017

Goodreads Synopsis:
Nev has just joined the crew of the starship Kaitan Heritage as the cargo loader. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person to command her own ship, but she brooks no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. Nev can't resist her, even if her ship is an antique.
As for Nev, he's a prince, in hiding on the ship. He believes Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, and when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, Nev resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary.
But before they know it, a rival royal family is after Qole too, and they're more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive.
Nev's mission to manipulate Qole becomes one to save her, and to survive, she'll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. He may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power--and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew.
Another space adventure of epic proportions.

But, to me, maybe it was a little too epic.

We have alternating viewpoints of Qole, a captain of the Kaitan Heritage, and Nev, who joins her crew for more mysterious purposes. Turns out, Qole has something Nev believes would be beneficial to the entire galaxy. The only problem is, the entire galaxy is against the two of them getting to Nev's home planet Dracorva safely, including Qole's own crew. Qole, the young space captain, has abilities that only people on her planet of Alaxak have - Shadow abilities. She also catches Shadows in space as a source of income... think of it as some sort of high-sea fishing, if you will.

Friday, April 14, 2017

[Review] Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves 
Series: Blood Rose Rebellion #1
Rating: 2.5 stars

Published: March 28th 2017

Goodreads Synopsis:
Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.
Her life might well be over.
In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.
As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

This book is typical of what has been seen again and again by others in the YA fantasy genre. There are some new elements here, but honestly, it's mostly the same old material that's just changed setting and character names. 

The special snowflake, Anna Arden. She's part of the magical society in England (and the rest of Europe) known as the Luminates. However, she's the outcast of the family for being the only one who can't use magic. The kicker is, at her sister's coming out ball, it is revealed that she is not a wielder of magic, but a breaker of spells, instead. So she's whisked away to Hungary with her grandma until the commotion about her lack of magic dies down in England.

Monday, March 20, 2017

[Review] Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Series: Three Dark Crowns #1 
Rating: 3 stars

Published: September 20th 2016

Goodreads Synopsis: 
When kingdom come, there will be one.
In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.
But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.
The last queen standing gets the crown.

On the isle of Fennbirn, each generation is gifted with three heirs to the crown, queens who are gifted with remarkable powers. Mirabella is an elemental, who can control fire and thunder with a flick of her hand. Arsinoe is a naturalist, who can call upon the wild to aid her. Katharine is a poisoner, following a long line of poisoner queens, who can ingest the most deadly of poisons. The three of them must fight after their 18th birthday to the death, until only one queen remains to rule them all.

So the only strong one of the three is Mirabella. However, she's got a sense of compassion and dislike for harming others, especially her sisters. Katharine gets sick with most poisons, and Arsinoe's powers haven't exactly come yet. For now, it's all a power game the three are playing, to seem the most powerful and deadly.

Friday, March 17, 2017

[Review] A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
Series: Kingdom on Fire #1
Rating: 2 stars

Published: September 20th 2016

Goodreads Synopsis:
I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?
Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty's sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she's the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city--and the one she loves?

A Shadow Bright and Burning takes place in the heart of Victorian England, where magic is free and demons know no bounds. We follow the supposed chosen one, Henrietta Howel, who has been recruited with other sorcerers to test her mettle against those who threaten the British Isles. But, everything and everyone is not as they seem, as Henrietta soon finds out.

"Seven are the Ancients, seven are the days,
Monday for R'hlem, the Skinless Man,
On-Tez on Tuesday, the old Vulture Lady,
Callax is Wednesday, the Child Eater
Zen the Great Serpent crisps Thursday with his breath,
On Friday fear Kozoroth, the Shadow and the Fog,
Never sail on Saturday says Nemneris the Water Spider,
And rain on Sunday brings Molochoron the Pale Destroyer."

This book has a world building style similar to Truthwitch, meaning the scope of the topics and lore of the story is far reaching, but the roots simply do not dig deeply enough. I was bombarded with waves of information without the explanation. There are sorcerers, magicians, and witches. There are faeries and Unclean. There are the Ancients, who are the bad guys of the series, but are so faintly touched upon that I only remember what one of them is/looks like. Or two. It's certainly hard to remember.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

[Review] Traveler by LE Delano

Traveler by L.E. Delano
Series: Traveler #1
Rating: 3.5 stars

Published: February 7th 2017

Goodreads Synopsis:
Jessa has spent her life dreaming of other worlds and writing down stories more interesting than her own, until the day her favorite character, Finn, suddenly shows up and invites her out for coffee. After the requisite nervous breakdown, Jessa learns that she and Finn are Travelers, born with the ability to slide through reflections and dreams into alternate realities. But it’s not all steampunk pirates and fantasy lifestyles—Jessa is dying over and over again, in every reality, and Finn is determined that this time, he’s going to stop it…This Jessa is going to live.

I'm wondering why this is under 'time travel' on Goodreads because there isn't really time travel here, more like alternate dimension traveling.

Anyhow! Jessa has been having dreams of a mysterious boy and strange otherworldly adventures that she transcribes into stories. Strangely enough, this mysterious boy is actually a real person by the name of Finn. He reveals to her that they're both Travelers - they can travel to different dimensions with the help of other Finns and other Jessas. But Finn has another motive for seeking out Jessa... in other dimensions, she keeps on dying, and Finn has to prevent her death in this world, before it's too late. 

There's a lot more backstory to this - involving Dreamers, who direct the Travelers on which dimension they should go to, and how Travelers fix certain points in time in order to have some proper order in the universe. If that was possible.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

[Review] The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

The Valiant by Lesley Livingston
Series: The Valiant
Version: ARC Paperback
Rating: 5 stars

Release Date: February 14th 2017

Goodreads Synopsis:
Princess. Captive. Gladiator.
Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.
When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.
Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.
Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.
Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

Female gladiators! Sisterhood! Friendship! Intrigue! History! With a touch of romance.

What a wonderful book I just read on female gladiators in Rome. It's the first time I ever read a book, young adult or otherwise, on the topic. And The Valiant did not disappoint. 

Our heroine, Fallon, is daughter of the Cantii chief Virico, from the isle of Prydain (aka Britain). She longs to follow in her deceased sister's footsteps as a war leader, but that plan is thrown awry when she is instead betrothed to her lover's brother. Tensions rise and she runs away... straight into the hands of a slaver,  Charon. But her story isn't over yet, and she's thrust into the hands of the enemy, Rome, to fight her way to freedom as a female gladiator.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

[Review] This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee

This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee
Rating: 4 stars

Release Date: September 22nd 2015

Goodreads Synopsis:
In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch’s life shattered to bits.
His brother, Oliver—dead.
His sweetheart, Mary—gone.
His chance to break free of Geneva—lost.
Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead.
But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces. Oliver returns more monster than man, and Alasdair’s horror further damages the already troubled relationship.
Then comes the publication of Frankenstein and the city intensifies its search for Shadow Boys, aiming to discover the real life doctor and his monster. Alasdair finds refuge with his idol, the brilliant Dr. Geisler, who may offer him a way to escape the dangerous present and his guilt-ridden past, but at a horrible price only Oliver can pay…

Steampunk! Frankenstein! Historical fiction!

It's a mashing of various ideas into what led to a surprisingly great book. I've read several steampunk books in the past and despite how cool I find steampunk aesthetically, I find it hard to immerse myself in the lore. There's so many technicalities and so much worldbuilding, that it ends up confusing me. But in This Monstrous Thing, the concept of Shadow Boys and mechanical ligaments serving as aids for those who need - that's akin to modern technology, is it not? Adding in Mary Shelley and retelling Frankenstein in the sense that this was her inspiration makes that all the more interesting.

Monday, February 6, 2017

[Review] Summer of Supernovas by Darcy Woods

Summer of Supernovas by Darcy Woods
Rating: 3 stars

Release Date: May 10th 2016

Goodreads Synopsis:
As the daughter of an expert astrologer, Wilamena Carlisle knows that truth lies within the stars. So when she discovers a planetary alignment that won’t repeat for a decade, she’s forced to tackle her greatest astrological fear: The Fifth House—relationships and love. But Wil must decide whether to trust her heart or her chart when she falls for a sensitive guitar player whose zodiac sign points to cosmic disaster.
If Wil’s fate is truly written in the stars, then this summer is about to go supernova. . . .

Wilamena Carlisle has only a few weeks to find her one shot at love, according to her astrological chart. Her mother, famed astrologer, taught her that the stars never lie. But would she fall for someone outside of chart?

Conceptually, this sounds adorable. Falling for someone unexpected? Cute. Unfortunately, I didn't really like this as much as I wanted to.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

[Review] Vicious (Vicious #1) by V.E. Schwab

Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Series: Vicious #1
Rating: 4.5 stars

Release Date: September 24th 2013

Goodreads Synopsis:
Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

Victoria Schwab's Vicious is quite... vicious indeed. This is not the bloodless, black-and-white, stereotypical superhero story for the faint of heart.

Eliot Cardale (later Eli Ever) and Victor Vale are arrogant and ambitious pre-med students who test the limits of life by testing out the theories of EO's, otherwise known as ExtraOrdinary people. To become an EO requires a NDE (near death experience) that is propelled by the will to live. But by becoming EOs, they destroy their friendship, and turn into enemies, playing a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse ten years later.