Book Review

Book Review: When the World Didn’t End: Poems by Caroline Kaufman

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult poetry
Length: 192 pages
Author: Caroline Kaufman
Publisher: HarperCollins
Expected Release Date: August 20th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Teen Instagram sensation and author of Light Filters In @poeticpoison returns with a second collection of short, powerful poems about love, forgiveness, self-discovery, and what it’s like living after a hard-fought battle with depression, in the vein of poetry collections like Milk and Honey and the princess saves herself in this one.

Thank you to BookSparks and their Fall Reading Challenge Campaign for a gifted copy. All thoughts are my own!

WOW. I NEED TO READ MORE POETRY.

This made me realize that I’m really missing out on poetry books. I generally don’t pick them up. Not because I don’t like poetry, it’s just not what I first think of. Clearly, I need to add a few more into rotation.

As someone who personally struggles with depression, I felt a lot of these poems. I was able to connect with Kaufman’s powerful words and meanings. Words matter y’all.

“I am a book
with the pages all worn.

the cover is tearing,
the ink is fading,

but I swear I’m worth the read.”

This is a shorter review because the poetry book itself is less than 200 pages, but trust me, there is a lot of substance within those pages. I read it in one sitting because I was entranced by the vulnerability and rawness of her words.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult poetry
  • Language: a few words
  • Trigger warnings: There is an author’s note in the beginning of the book mentioning that some of the poems include themes of: mental illness, suicidal ideation, self-harm, disordered eating, and sexual assault

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Book Review

Book Review: Crown of Feathers (Crown of Feathers #1) by Nicki Pau Preto

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 496 pages
Author: Nicki Pau Preto
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Expected Release Date: February 12th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

I had a sister, once… 

In a world ruled by fierce warrior queens, a grand empire was built upon the backs of Phoenix Riders—legendary heroes who soared through the sky on wings of fire—until a war between two sisters ripped it all apart.

I promised her the throne would not come between us. 

Sixteen years later, Veronyka is a war orphan who dreams of becoming a Phoenix Rider from the stories of old. After a shocking betrayal from her controlling sister, Veronyka strikes out alone to find the Riders—even if that means disguising herself as a boy to join their ranks.

But it is a fact of life that one must kill or be killed. Rule or be ruled. 

Just as Veronyka finally feels like she belongs, her sister turns up and reveals a tangled web of lies between them that will change everything. And meanwhile, the new empire has learned of the Riders’ return and intends to destroy them once and for all.

Sometimes the title of queen is given. Sometimes it must be taken. 

Crown of Feathers is an epic fantasy about love’s incredible power to save—or to destroy. Interspersed throughout is the story of Avalkyra Ashfire, the last Rider queen, who would rather see her empire burn than fall into her sister’s hands.

I LOVE PHOENIXES.

Since the only book I can remember having anything to do with a phoenix in it is from HP, I didn’t realize just how much I love these mythical birds. The heavy focus on them in this story was AWESOME. And I can’t wait to learn more about the Phoenix Riders.

This book starts out a bit slow, there is a lot of history to catch up on and grasp. Honestly, it took me about 100+ pages to really get the story-line. I did appreciate all of the chapter break-ups where I got a glimpse into how the original story with Avalkyra Ashfire happened. It helped me understand everything and be further invested in the story. If there’s every a chance for a prequel novel with that story I would be allllllll over it.

SLOW BURN. Oh the slow burn romances. There’s two brewing and I kept thinking I was at least going to get a kiss out of someone, BUT NO Y’ALL. I was left hanging. And I love it. I know we all often see how fast some relationships tend to move in books and the fact that this one is making me wait to book two, MAKES ME WANT TO READ BOOK TWO. Clever. I ship both of them and like how both of the relationships developed. A little bit of enemies to lovers and genuine time together really sealed the deal.

There were twists and turns throughout the book, yet when the last 100 pages, WHOA HOT DANG. I had an inkling about some of them, but definitely was surprised by a few of them. I love being surprised. While I did mention this story was slow in developing, the bones are really great. Lots of world-building, understanding character motives, and getting a grasp of the politics really was necessary to fully appreciate this book.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some *almost* moments
  • Violence: fire attacks, physical beatings, throats being cut, swords, knives, animal attacks, animals being harmed, battle scenes, poison

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Book Review

Book Review: Rage (Stormheart #2) by Cora Carmack

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult historical fantasy
Length: 460 pages
Author: Cora Carmack
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: August 27th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Princess or adventurer.

Duty or freedom.

Her Kingdom or the Stormhunter she loves.

If Aurora knows anything, it’s that choices have consequences. To set things right, she joins a growing revolution on the streets of Pavan. 

In disguise as the rebel Roar, she puts her knowledge of the palace to use to aid the rebellion. But the Rage season is at its peak and not a day passes without the skies raining down destruction. Yet these storms are different—they churn with darkness, and attack with a will that’s desperate and violent. 

This feels like more than rage. 

It feels like war.

SO YOU’RE SAYING THERE’S A CHANCE.

This is how I feel about #teamcassius. Anyone with me?! We’ll come back and visit this in a few paragraphs.

Okay, so I maaaay have over-hyped this for myself a bit and maaaay have been a little disappointed. What picked up my spirits though was that by the end, it was clearly a book two. Book two syndrome is alive and well here. So while I was bit let down, and thought this was slow more often than not, the ending was ON POINT AND I AM SO HERE FOR WHERE IT MAY LEAD.

Where may it lead you ask? Oh yes, back to #teamcassius. It isn’t even a love triangle [yet] and I am pushing for it. Who am I? I’ve loved Cassius from day one (I can’t handle a brooding Prince trying to be a better person than his father). And this caused me to never be fully on board with Kiran. Kiran got better over the story, but his protective and dramatic streaks left me wanting to put him on the side. There were some really sweet and cute moments with Aurora though. I’m clearly conflicted.

I love the rotating multiple POV. I am a sucker for a bit that gives it to me in all the angles possible. The POV flashbacks with the Stormlord weren’t necessary though. It took up too much page space and I wanted to go back to the present. I don’t think it really gave new information (other than I supposed a deeper understanding of his mistreatment). Ooh, well, okay it did drop one HUGE tiny tidbit, but then nothing happened with it so I think it could’ve waited.

Aurora is not my favorite heroine. I enjoy her character and think she is pretty tough and mostly brave. She is trying so hard to be a good royal for her kingdom that she is making so many mistakes it’s distracting. We’re building through a character arc with blunders left and right. I have high hopes for her in book three (like being nice to Cassius – y’all agree with me right?!).

Claps all around for the ending. It was just what the book called for and had me begging for more. And you know what relationship I’m excited for? The brewing something between Novaya and Jinx. They’re SO CUTE. I was cool with all the screen time they got. That’ll be one to watch for. I also can’t get over the creativity of the storm magic concept. It’s a big ticket item here. It’s so cool and well thought out. I love the dynamics of this magic system!

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: kisses, make-outs, one little detailed fade to black scene, multiple mentions of *what they did* the night prior
  • Violence: violent storms, physical, swords, murder

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Book Review

Book Review: Crystal Crowned (Air Awakens #5) by Elise Kova

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆  
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 400 pages
Author: Elise Kova
Publisher: Silver Wing Press
Release Date: July 12th, 2016
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Long live Solaris. One bloodthirsty ruler has been overthrown by another, casting the shadow of death over the Solaris Empire. Vhalla Yarl stands upon the stage of fate, prepared to do battle one final time. Fragile alliances will be tested and new bonds will be formed as the world is reshaped. She fights as the champion of peace, but when the night is darkest will she be able to pay the price of a new dawn?

THIS IS JUST MY FAVORITE EVER OKAY?

I waited to read this book because I didn’t want this story to end.

I waited to write this review because I didn’t want to sign-off on my love for this series.

So now I’m sitting here, a few weeks after finishing Crystal Crowned still trying to put into words how much I love this series.

It had everything that I look for when it comes to a young adult fantasy novel. I got the romance (always y’all), battles, politics, friendships, magic, world-building and so much more that combined to make a stellar series. Crystal Crowned was no exception. It was an impressive finale.

VHALLDRIK FOREVER. I love Vhalla and Aldrik and they are without a doubt, my new OTP (hello Feysand, you now have someone tied with you). Their relationship grew and changed with them as time went on. They adapted and fought to be by each other’s side every dang time and I AM HERE FOR IT.

The magic system is intense, yet easy to follow. There were some small tidbits of other characters that popped in that had me connecting a thousand dots at once. I loved how it all came together! The villain was wicked and we got some back story on him which really brought him out as a character.

FRIENDSHIPS. Vhalla and Fritz, Elecia, Jax, etc. While yes, this is heavily flavored with romance, it is also very strong in friendships. The bonds formed between all of these characters make my heart MELT.

Vhalla remained strong, intelligent and fierce. Even when faced with some crazy odds and poor choices she persevered and endured. She has got to be one of my favorite heroines. I love that Vhalla never gave up for what she was fighting for. Yes, times got tough, but she continually strove to remember the peace she was seeking.

If you’ve ever thought about reading these, you should. I can’t wait to read the rest of Kova’s books because I don’t doubt I will obsess over them just as much as these.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy + romance
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: A handful of love scenes that are barely detailed and fade to black
  • Violence: demonic creatures and soldiers, elemental magic, physical, torture, swords, battle scenes; fairly gory
  • Trigger warnings: miscarriage

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Book Review

Book Review: Essence (The Essence Chronicles #1) by Hayley Gabrielle

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 406 pages
Author: Hayley Gabrielle
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: June 22nd, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

When Abbey Shader is summoned to Ethra, a land where human qualities roam free in flesh known as Essences, her life and the universe as she knows it splits open before her.
With the expansive secrets of humanity at her fingertips, Abbey’s strength of will and heart are put to a test no amount of time or meticulous study could have prepared her for.
Left to decide between the comfort of the familiar and the potential enlightenment of the strange, Abbey is thrust into a journey that demands more of her at every turn. She must learn to trust what she sees, and trust what she can’t.

Essence marks the first installment of the young adult fantasy series, The Essence Chronicles. 

Thank you to the author for sending me a digital copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

AN INTERESTING CONCEPT.

This was interesting! I didn’t know quite what I would be getting into when I started this book. The author reached out and asked if I would like to review a copy and upon checking out Goodreads I accepted the offer because it did sound up my alley!

Do y’all remember the movie, Inside Out? With all of the girl’s emotions portrayed as actual creatures/people? THIS WAS THE BOOK FORM. The further I read and the more characters I met that embodied different essences, the more it reminded me of that movie. This isn’t a good or bad thing, I just saw the similarities. I rather enjoyed having characters completely polarized in their personalities. It made for fun conversation and some solid banter. Combining Joy, Pride, Good, Honesty, and Pessimism (the ones we met in this book) was a squad to watch.

Abbey grew on me over the book. At first I was shaky with her. But what I appreciated was that she didn’t run off and agree with everything everyone was trying to tell her. I hate when characters don’t question what the heck just happened and loved that Abbey asked all the questions. It gave her time to understand and slowly grasp what was happening around her.

The love story with Zac is cute! Even though it was over a shorter period of time it didn’t feel rushed. There’s still a lot of feelings to convey and bonds to form. I liked watching them interact and learn more about each other. Zac is charming and has a deep background that I want to know more about.

As far as magic systems go, this one was rather confusing. I felt as frustrated as Abbey sometimes trying to understand the Earth, erodosphere and Ethra interactions. Then throw on top the Melder, and the Breathing and it left me all sorts of flipped around. The more I read, the clearer everything became and I’m happy that by the end I better understood what was everything meant.

At times this book read more like a prequel. Not a lot honestly happened. Abbey and the crew around her went on an adventure to meet the Overseer who brought Abbey to Ethra in the first place. That scene lasted a whole 2 pages. Instead, we really created a background for the lands and an understanding of how Ethra works in conjunction with Earth. While I wished it had a bit more substance, I’m still really interested in book two. I always found myself wanting to pick up my Kindle to keep reading this and am curious where Abbey will take us next.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: some minor language throughout
  • Romance: a few kisses
  • Violence: knives, animal attacks, not super gory, but moderately descriptive

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Book Review

Book Review: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult fantasy (retelling)
Length: 416 pages
Author: Erin A. Craig
Publisher: Delacorte
Release Date: August 6th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

SO CREEPY.

I did this as a buddy read with some friends on Instagram and it was so much fun! It really made this book even better being able to discuss it with everyone.

I thought it was incredibly creepy. The descriptions of what Annaleigh was seeing would flat out make me full body CRINGE. And nobody would believe her! It was the perfect dose of eerie and disturbing that I’m comfortable with (which is low, I don’t love horror-ish stuff).

The mystery itself kept me busy the entire book. I never knew where to point my finger! The author was able to draw attention to character after character that could be the murderer and wow, I was impressed. By the end though (and the reason I gave it 4 stars) was because the ending was a little cliche. I did appreciate that it wasn’t clear and that truthfully, they weren’t inherently evil.

The ball scenes were beautiful and descriptive but I wanted more of them! I love ball scenes and since this is based off of Twelve Dancing Princesses I was hoping for even more dancing. It was amazing to see how this was woven into the murder mystery though. It brought out a very macabre side to the story that I was all over.

I did ship Annaleigh’s endgame from the beginning, but I also don’t know that the romance was entirely necessary. It did give her a chance for a romantic happy ending. They didn’t get a lot of chances to connect on screen, leaving me wanting more of them or not at all.

All of the death left me shocked. I only flipped pages faster and faster wondering who was going to die next. SO MANY DEAD. I mean whoa. No wonder there had to be twelve princesses for this story to work out. It was unpleasant and occasionally gruesome. Definitely a great read.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: very little (maybe one word?)
  • Romance: some kisses
  • Violence: murder, possession, drownings, falling from buildings, fire, freezing to death; fairly detailed and cringe-worthy

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Book Review

Book Review: Dark Age (Red Rising #5) by Pierce Brown

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Sci-fi + Fantasy
Length: 757 pages
Author: Pierce Brown
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: July 30th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

For a decade Darrow led a revolution against the corrupt color-coded Society. Now, outlawed by the very Republic he founded, he wages a rogue war on Mercury in hopes that he can still salvage the dream of Eo. But as he leaves death and destruction in his wake, is he still the hero who broke the chains? Or will another legend rise to take his place?

Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile, has returned to the Core. Determined to bring peace back to mankind at the edge of his sword, he must overcome or unite the treacherous Gold families of the Core and face down Darrow over the skies of war-torn Mercury. 

But theirs are not the only fates hanging in the balance.

On Luna, Mustang, Sovereign of the Republic, campaigns to unite the Republic behind her husband. Beset by political and criminal enemies, can she outwit her opponents in time to save him? 

Once a Red refugee, young Lyria now stands accused of treason, and her only hope is a desperate escape with unlikely new allies.

Abducted by a new threat to the Republic, Pax and Electra, the children of Darrow and Sevro, must trust in Ephraim, a thief, for their salvation—and Ephraim must look to them for his chance at redemption.

As alliances shift, break, and re-form—and power is seized, lost, and reclaimed—every player is at risk in a game of conquest that could turn the Rising into a new Dark Age.

LIVED UP TO ITS NAME.

It’s not often that I read a book where I can clearly see that it was named appropriately. HOLY COW Y’ALL. I can’t even begin to cover the darkness, and amazingness of this book.

My notes for this book were allllll over the place. I have so many caps sections of me shouting WHAT IS HAPPENING. All of my characters were [okay, still are] strewn across planets and in various disarrays of maybe dead, definitely captured, hope they’re alive, scenarios. WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THAT? I need a dose of happiness before this is all over or I’ll cry. I want my babes to be happy. They gosh dang DESERVE IT.

This without a doubt, kept me on my toes. It took me about 100ish pages to really get into it because I was having a hard time remembering who everyone was, and some specifics of what happened in previous books. It is insane how much work clearly goes into making these sci-fi masterpieces. I am astounded at the writing (though I do wish it wasn’t so vulgar at times – you win some you lose some), and how easily captivating it is to keep flipping pages. I am deeply invested in everyone’s lives at this point. There’s barely a moment to catch your breath as the bombardment of action hits you over and over.

I want to rattle off a hundred reasons I love MY main characters (those being: Virginia, Darrow, Victra & Sevro). These original four are so flawed and so full of strength that I cheer for them at every turn. I love that they make mistakes, love deeply and care a great deal about what happens in their world. Everyone has occasions of boldness, passionate monologues and lethal how are they that good at killing moments. Even better, characters like Lysander had me questioning who’s side I was on (only for a little bit y’all, he’s a great villain).

All of this sounds great right? Well, the reason I gave it 4 1/2 stars vs. 5 is because of one scene. It was way too dark for me personally and I haven’t seen the purpose of it other than to be realllll cruel. I actually put the book down for a few when it happened. I will mention it with a spoiler warning prior in my Overall audience notes section!

Can’t get enough of this series regardless. I am in awe at the behemoth of a book this was. Absolutely amazing and I highly recommend catching up with this series! I’m not a huge sci-fi lover, but these have really become a winner.

Overall audience notes:

  • Adult sci-fi
  • Language: a lot of strong language and often crude/vulgar in nature
  • Romance: a few kisses, towards the end a few little detailed fade to black love scenes
  • Violence: okay, I have no way of conveying all of the violence that happened literally every page so a small breakdown would be: explosions, war, battle scenes, swords, poison, storms, mobs, torture [all scenes are very bloody, gory & very detailed]
  • Trigger warnings: a lot of mentions of off screen rape, now: SPOILER ALERT (from what I mentioned in my review): the scene that I thought was too much was that of Victra’s murdered NEW-BORN nailed to a tree; NAILED.

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