Tuesday, April 17, 2018

[Review] Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Series: The Ash Princess Trilogy #1
Rating: 4 stars

Release Date: April 24th 2018

Goodreads Synopsis:
Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia's family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess--a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.
For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She's endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.
Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn't always won on the battlefield.
For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.

Deliciously brutal and compelling.

I like heroines with conviction. They set out on something, they get it done. Thora/Theodosia has been a captive to the Kalovaxians for ten years, after they took over her country of Astrea and imprisoned her people. After the capture and execution of one of the last Guardians, someone very dear to her heart, she decides enough is enough and she must end the reign of the Kaiser by getting close to his son, Prinz Soren.

Monday, April 16, 2018

[Review] American Panda by Gloria Chao

American Panda by Gloria Chao

Rating: 5 stars

Format: ARC
Release Date: February 16th 2018

Goodreads Synopsis:
At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents' master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.
With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can't bring herself to tell them the truth--that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.
But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?
I received this ARC from Miss Print's (Emma) ARC Adoption over here! Thank you Emma!

The moment I saw the premise for American Panda, I knew I had to read it. Why? Because it hits at my very soul. So this review will be more personal than I usual am with reviews.

Mei's going through something that many immigrant children have to deal with - juggling both fulfilling her parents' wishes after all their hard work and also trying to figure out her own dreams. For Mei, she has already been told that she must be a doctor, even though she hates germs and would rather teach and practice dance. She hides this from her parents and the rest of her family, who have brought her up in a closeted and sheltered lifestyle. Because her brother Xing has been disowned for falling in love with what her family considers is 'the wrong girl', Mei is the remaining hope for her family.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

[Review] Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Series: Dread Nation #1
Rating: 4 stars

Format: ARC 
Release Date: April 3rd 2018

Goodreads Synopsis:
Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.
But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

Alternate history post-Civil War with zombies! Reading this definitely gave me Django Unchained vibes.

We start of with Jane McKeene, who attends Miss Preston's School of Combat, a school for African American girls that not only teaches manners, but how to fight the shamblers, who have risen from the dead and are threatening the very fragile America. Jane and her rival (and eventual friend) Katherine, hope to rise through the ranks of Miss Preston's to become Attendants, who protect the rich white societal ladies of the late 18th century.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

[Review] Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

Rating: 4 stars

Format: ARC
Release Date: March 20th 2018

Goodreads Synopsis:
After her mother is shot at a checkpoint, fifteen-year-old Sarah--blonde, blue-eyed, and Jewish--finds herself on the run from a government that wants to see every person like her dead. Then Sarah meets a mysterious man with an ambiguous accent, a suspiciously bare apartment, and a lockbox full of weapons. He's a spy, and he needs Sarah to become one, too, to pull off a mission he can't attempt on his own: infiltrate a boarding school attended by the daughters of top Nazi brass, befriend the daughter of a key scientist, and steal the blueprints to a bomb that could destroy the cities of Western Europe. With years of training from her actress mother in the art of impersonation, Sarah thinks she's ready. But nothing prepares her for her cutthroat schoolmates, and soon she finds herself in a battle for survival unlike any she'd ever imagined.
"Never lie when you can tell the truth. Lies have to be worked out in advance or they will tie you up and eat you."
A dark spy-historical fiction set in Nazi Germany. Sarah passes off as part of the so-called perfect Aryans in Germany - blonde and blue eyed. However, she's seen her fair brutality, gruesomeness, and suffering, all because she is Jewish. Turns out, Sarah is smarter than she looks, and she ends up working with Captain Jeremy Floyd, a spy for the British, and infiltrates an all-girls Germany school as Ursula Haller, to befriend the daughter of a scientist, in order to steal back top-secret intel.

Monday, March 12, 2018

[Review] Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Series: Legacy of Orisha #1
Rating: 4 stars

Release Date: March 6th 2018
Format: ARC

Goodreads Synopsis:
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. 
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. 
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

This monster of a book is around 600 pages so I initially thought this would take me ages to read. Turns out, it only took me two-three days to zip by this one. Children of Blood and Bone was a quick-paced, action-packed adventure that reminded me heavily of Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy. There was never a dull moment.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

[Review] The Radical Element (A Tyranny of Petticoats #2) Anthology

The Radical Element 

Edited by Jessica Spotswood
Series: A Tyranny of Petticoats #2
Rating: 3.5 stars

Release Date: March 13th 2018

Goodreads Synopsis: 
In an anthology of revolution and resistance, a sisterhood of YA writers shines a light on a century and a half of heroines on the margins and in the intersections.
To respect yourself, to love yourself—should not have to be a radical decision. And yet it remains as challenging for an American girl to make today as it was in 1927 on the steps of the Supreme Court. It's a decision that must be faced whether you're balancing on the tightrope of neurodivergence, finding your way as a second-generation immigrant, or facing down American racism even while loving America. And it's the only decision when you've weighed society's expectations and found them wanting. In The Radical Element, twelve of the most talented writers working in young adult literature today tell the stories of the girls of all colors and creeds standing up for themselves and their beliefs—whether that means secretly learning Hebrew in early Savannah, using the family magic to pass as white in 1920s Hollywood, or singing in a feminist punk band in 1980s Boston. And they're asking you to join them.

This anthology was hella enjoyable. We got a whole century of badass, defiant, independent women from different backgrounds. Many of them I wish were expanded because they were so engaging! Time to review each one.

Monday, March 5, 2018

[Review] Daughters of the Storm (Blood and Gold #1) by Kim Wilkins

Daughters of the Storm by Kim Wilkins

Series: Blood and Gold #1
Rating: 4 stars

Release Date: March 6th 2018
Format: ARC

Goodreads Synopsis:

FIVE ROYAL SISTERS. ONE CROWN.
They are the daughters of a king. Though they share the same royal blood, they could not be more different. Bluebell is a proud warrior, stronger than any man and with an ironclad heart to match. Rose's heart is all too passionate: She is the queen of a neighboring kingdom, who is risking everything for a forbidden love. The twins: vain Ivy, who lives for admiration, and zealous Willow, who lives for the gods. And Ash, who is discovering a dangerous talent for magic that might be a gift--or a curse.
But when their father is stricken by a mysterious ailment, they must come together on a desperate journey to save him and prevent their treacherous stepbrother from seizing the throne. Their mission: find the powerful witch who can cure the king. But to succeed on their quest, they must overcome their differences, and hope that the secrets they hide from one another and the world are never brought to light. Because if this royal family breaks, it could destroy the kingdom.
I read Daughters of the Storm at a perfect time - during my ongoing Skyrim obsession. So I was able to picture the world and its characters with ease.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

[Review] Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

Trigger warning: Rape, miscarriage.

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

Rating: 2 stars
Format: ARC 
Release Date: February 27th 2018

Goodreads Synopsis:
In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can't make a scene at your sister's wedding and break a relative's nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy.
Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it's a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl--a subspecies of dragon--who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she's tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.

I just felt so many internal frustrations with Tess of the Road because on one hand, Tess's development on her adventure/quest for personal healing was actually really good (if you dig deeply into it the adventure, it's very symbolic with all the obstacles she has to overcome to find herself again), but on the other... There's just so much going on. And it's such a bulky, huge book (500+ pages), that it takes time to accomplish where it wants to go and how it wants to do it!

Monday, February 12, 2018

[Review] Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Series: The Illuminae Files #2
Rating: 4.5 stars

Version: HC
Released: October 16th 2016

Goodreads Synopsis:
Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.
The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminaecontinues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.
Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.
When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.
But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.
Another epic space adventure by Kaufman and Kristoff. The villain wasn't as haunting as AIDAN was in Illuminae, but it was still an awesome ride.

Gemina follows Hanna, Nik, and Nik's cousin Ella as they try to save their home, the jump station Heimdall, from annihilation by BeiTech, all while dealing with an alien force that has found its way on board. It's a lot of sneaking around and spy moves here on in.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Ace of Shades book tag (Irons version)

Hey everyone! As part of Amanda Foody's #Shadowgang, specifically on the #Irons Team, I'm really excited to promote her upcoming book Ace of Shades. This Ace of Shades book tag, Irons version, came from Amber at The Literary Phoenix. Without further ado, here are my answers.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

[Review] The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Series: The Belles #1
Rating: 4.5 stars

Release Date: February 6th 2018
Format: ARC 

Goodreads Synopsis:
Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.
But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision. 
With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

THIS BOOK.

I was already excited to read this book, and then I found out from my Professor for my YA Creative Writing course that it is actually going to be on the required reading list, and the author will most likely visit in May, I HAD TO GET ON THIS BOOK ASAP.

Of course this book is coming out today and that is also why I'm reviewing here today, but still, I'm glad I got on this sooner and not later.

The Belles was a really unique concept and I just can't get over that. We've got a lot of magical worlds, princesses fighting to be the last one standing, Romeo and Juliet-esque loves, that sort of thing, but this really took the cake on a book that took a very widespread and familiar issue in society, did a total 180 degree flip and made a completely unfamiliar yet totally plausible world with it. Dhonielle Clayton does an excellent job of crafting the world of Orleans and executing the story so that not only are we astounded by the glitz and glamour of this world, we can draw back to the real world and find the connections she makes between Orleans and societal problems.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

[Review] Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Rating: 5 stars

Format: HC
Release Date: April 7th 2015

Goodreads Synopsis:
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Monday, January 22, 2018

[Review] Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1) by Vic James

Gilded Cage by Vic James

Series: Dark Gifts #1
Rating: 2 stars

Format: ARC Paperback
Published: February 14th 2017

Goodreads Synopsis:
In modern-day Britain, magic users control everything: wealth, politics, power—and you. If you’re not one of the ultimate one-percenters—the magical elite—you owe them ten years of service. Do those years when you’re old, and you’ll never get through them. Do them young, and you’ll never get over them.
This is the darkly decadent world of Gilded Cage. In its glittering milieu move the all-powerful Jardines and the everyday Hadleys. The families have only one thing in common: Each has three children. But their destinies entwine when one family enters the service of the other. They will all discover whether any magic is more powerful than the human spirit.
Have a quick ten years. . . .

Friday, January 19, 2018

[Review] Renegades by Marissa Meyer


Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Series: Renegades #1
Rating: 3 stars

Format: ARC Paperback
Release Date: November 7th 2017

Goodreads Synopsis:
Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice.
The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone...except the villains they once overthrew.
Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova's allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

[Review] Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely

Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely

Rating: 3.5 stars 

Released: January 2nd 2018
Format: ARC Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old Serendipity "Pity" Jones inherited two things from her mother: a pair of six shooters and perfect aim. She's been offered a life of fame and fortune in Cessation, a glittering city where lawlessness is a way of life. But the price she pays for her freedom may be too great....
In this extraordinary debut from Lyndsay Ely, the West is once again wild after a Second Civil War fractures the U.S. into a broken, dangerous land. Pity's struggle against the dark and twisted underbelly of a corrupt city will haunt you long after the final bullet is shot.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

[Review] Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

Series: Reign of the Fallen #1
Rating: 3.5 stars (Buddy Read)
Format: ARC Paperback
Release Date: January 23rd 2018

Goodreads Synopsis:
Odessa is one of Karthia's master necromancers, catering to the kingdom's ruling Dead. Whenever a noble dies, it's Odessa's job to raise them by retrieving their souls from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. But there is a cost to being raised--the Dead must remain shrouded, or risk transforming into zombie-like monsters known as Shades. If even a hint of flesh is exposed, the grotesque transformation will begin.
A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears among Odessa's necromancer community. Soon a crushing loss of one of their own reveals a disturbing conspiracy: someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead--and training them to attack. Odessa is faced with a terrifying question: What if her necromancer's magic is the weapon that brings Karthia to its knees?

Monday, January 15, 2018

[Review] The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke
Series: The Balloonmakers #1
Rating: 3 stars

Format: ARC Paperback
Released: September 1st 2017

Goodreads Synopsis:
When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.
If you give a girl a magic balloon, she will burn down the world. 

The Girl with the Red Balloon was described as one of my favorite genres - time travel! And historical fiction! Together!

Except, when I finished this book, I found myself surprisingly disappointed. I wasn't blown away or anything. There are three POVs - Ellie, Kai, and Benno (Ellie's grandfather), and the only one I found myself drawn to was Benno's. Ellie's and Kai's sounded too similar that it was difficult for me to distinguish between the two.

Ellie was sort of a bland protagonist, and her romance with Kai was too forced, too sudden, too insta-love for me. Their attraction is very... circumstantial.

"Sponge," Kai said and frowned. "It's not a German word. You soak up everything around you, don't you? You're quiet because you're always absorbing everything. Everything's personal to you. Everything is." He paused and turned away from me. "It's very real."
He shrugged and added after a beat, "But I don't know you yet."

A lot of the worldbuilding was lost to me because the reader is just supposed to accept that balloon magic works with a bunch of fancy equations and writings in blood. I mean, I don't need the whole breakdown of it, but I'm not necessarily a reader who will take everything at face value - but this is just what this book is doing! Here is information and this is how it's supposed to be. There are people who make the balloons with 'magic' and people who run the escapees - the runners. That's what I got out of it.

The characters are drawing conclusions the reader may not be following. I am that reader.

"I read the physics about time travel after Ellie came," Mitzi said lightly. "Time's as much of a dimension as space. Like Ashasher says, space-time is like a fabric. But you can only go forward in time."

What?

I will, however, say that this book did evoke some very moving lines in Benno's POV.
The balloon carried me free of Chelmno. Dayenu.The balloon carried me to a Polish resistance camp. Dayenu.They snuck me south across mountains and through the Nazis' backyard. Dayenu.They found me a boat to Palestine. Dayenu.They saved my life with a magic balloon. Dayenu.They saved me. Dayenu.And I never learned the girl with the red balloon's name. Dayenu. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

My Favorite Reads of 2017 + Giveaway (US ONLY)

Hello everyone! I've been on-again, off-again with this blog, and I apologize; school's been pretty hectic, as I'm gearing up to take my MCAT in a few months. However, I am back for the time being, and I actually have reviews scheduled for once. I'm planning on doing a few giveaways this year, as I never seem to remember when my blogoversary is. This is my first giveaway for the year, to kick things off for 2018!


Saturday, January 13, 2018

[Review] Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu

Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu 

Series: DC Icons #2
Rating: 3.5 stars

Format: ARC Paperback
Published: January 2nd 2018

Goodreads Synopsis:
Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.
The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list.
One by one, the city's elites are being executed as their mansions' security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. Meanwhile, Bruce is turning eighteen and about to inherit his family's fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Enterprises and all the tech gadgetry his heart could ever desire. But after a run-in with the police, he's forced to do community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city's most brutal criminals.
Madeleine Wallace is a brilliant killer . . . and Bruce's only hope.
In Arkham, Bruce meets Madeleine, a brilliant girl with ties to the Nightwalkers. What is she hiding? And why will she speak only to Bruce? Madeleine is the mystery Bruce must unravel. But is he getting her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees? Bruce will walk the dark line between trust and betrayal as the Nightwalkers circle closer.