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Book Review: In the Hand of the Goddess (Song of the Lioness #2) by Tamora Pierce

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 264 pages
Author: Tamora Pierce
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: January 1st, 2005
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Disguised as a boy, Alanna of Trebond becomes a squire, to none other than the prince of the realm. But Prince Jonathan is much more to Alanna; he is her ally, her best friend, and one of the few who knows that she’s really a girl. Now it will take all of Alanna’s awesome skill, strength, and growing magical powers to protect him from the mysterious evil sorcerer who is bent on his destruction, and hers!

Here continues the story of Alanna, a young woman bound for glory who is willing to fight against enormous odds for what she believes in.

NOW I’M GETTING INVESTED.

I find it rare to come across a short fantasy book (less than 300 pages). I’m loving that this are this short because it’s a good break from big daunting fantasy books.

Alanna is someone I think we can all cheer for. I love continuing to watch her grow and become a powerful woman in her own right. She makes her own decisions and has her own convictions about how she wants her life to go and I applaud her for trying to attain those goals.

Yes, things could be overall fleshed out more. That’s the downfall to shorter reads. This has a lot of focus on just Alanna. A lot of information is thrown into casual conversation without any backstory. I occasionally was confused as to why things happened but, I like focusing on Alanna and what she’s going through rather than what everyone else is doing. This is a rare case of me being able to overlook these matters.

Her kinda sort-of-ish love connection is intriguing. I like that Alanna is choosing who she wants to be with on her own volition (but also you said you didn’t want to be with anyone…so….?). It’s good and fine and all, but I’m not sure they’re endgame. I think it would be interesting if she actually ended up with no one and she originally intended. WE’LL SEE.

The villain still makes me laugh. He’s not evil enough for me and since Alanna keeps besting him, there’s not a push and pull of issues between them.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses, mentions of spending the night with each other, but no actual depictions of those nights
  • Violence: swords, poison, magic, kidnapping, murder, battle skirmishes

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Book Review

Book Review: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 456 pages
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderberry Books
Release Date: June 4th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

A FANTASTIC SOPHOMORE BOOK.

I initially went into this book a little nervous because I was iffy on her first book, An Enchantment of Ravens. I LOVED this book so much more! Oh I’m so happy I picked this up, it was an easy 4 stars to give (which yes, still means I enjoyed it!).

One of my previous issues was that the writing was too flowery for me personally. I don’t need a page describing a tree for me to feel like I’m there. This book really cut back on that, but still built an amazing setting and world. It was such a relief. The way the grimoires were crazy clever. I loved the idea of the books being able to come to life and having their own personalities.

The sass from Nathaniel was on point. I love a good cheeky sorcerer as much as the next fantasy reader. The relationship between Elisabeth and Nathaniel was a great slow-er burn. I never felt like it was rushed and actually wondered at times when it was coming back on screen. This was another big step-up from book one. They had great chemistry and it was easy to ship them.

I could have used a little less of Silas *shrugs*. At times I felt he was a bigger piece of the book than Elisabeth was and she’s the main POV. I’m cheering for her, and I don’t want the focus to continually be on a side character. I did like his arc and thought he was the perfect dose of a creepy, good-at-his-core, demon. Those are hard to find.

Elisabeth was a great character. She had emotions, ambitions and went out and did what needed to be done. I appreciate that she didn’t wait around to move the plot forward and took matters into her own hands. She was brave and strong, and I would definitely love to be her friend.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses, an almost love scene (clothing is beginning to be removed), make-outs
  • Violence: magic, poison, explosions, swords, murder

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Book Review

Book Review: The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3) by Rick Riordan

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA fantasy + mythology
Length: 320 pages
Author: Rick Riordan
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: June 10th, 2014
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

When Percy Jackson receives an urgent distress call from his friend Grover, he immediately prepares for battle. He knows he’ll need his powerful demigod allies at his side; his trusty bronze sword, Riptide; and . . . a ride from his mom.

The demigods race to the rescue to find that Grover has made an important discovery: two powerful half-bloods, whose parentage is unknown. But that’s not all that awaits them. The Titan lord Kronos has set up a devious trap, and the young heroes have just fallen prey.

Hilarious and action-packed, this third adventure in the series finds Percy faced with his most dangerous challenge yet–the chilling prophecy of the Titan’s curse.

JUST PLOWING THROUGH THIS SERIES.

I’ve been listening to the later books on audio and the narrator does voices for everyone and it’s so fun! Really liking this format.

Book three brought it better than book two. YAY.

I love meeting so many new characters! Each book has had a new layer of mythology plus the addition of characters to back it up. It’s great meeting other kids and gods and really rounding out the story as a whole.

There’s more adventure and we see Percy have to handle the situation without Annabeth (which of course, has many ups and downs). I missed Annabeth though! I lover her intelligent, slightly snarky, but golden-hearted self. Her connection with others and ability to help those around her willingly makes her a forever favorite. The chemistry between Percy and Annabeth (and I’m not even meaning romantically) is easy to love and I am fully behind this friendship before anything.

I do have hope that Luke is heading for redemption. I think in this series it would be a great character arc for him to realize his faux pas and be able to come back to the fold. There were some other character moments I didn’t see coming! I’m curious how that will play out in the next book with different people going different ways. No matter, this series is fun and engaging.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult/middle grade fantasy + mythology
  • Language: none
  • Romance: none
  • Violence: some, never gory, all creatures “disappear” rather than die a bloody death

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Book Review

Book Review [Re-Read]: The Winner’s Curse (The Winner’s Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ 
Audience: YA fantasy romance
Length: 355 pages
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR)
Release Date: March 4th, 2014
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love…

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. 

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

RE-READ WAS SO WORTH IT.

I listened to this on Audible with narration by Justine Eyre. I really loved it on audio and thought the voices and accents were great. Highly recommend in this format.

Oooooh I missed this book, Ooooooh I missed these characters and this romance that still felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest when I finished it.

THIS OTP Y’ALL. Kestrel and Arin are all mine. I can’t get enough and love the absolute slow, angsty burn they give off the entire book. Coming from two different sides in their world they have a lot to conquer to realize they want each other. They slowly build from a tentative friendship to a passion-filled moment where the pieces start to fall into place. I love that the power dynamic flips between the two and we get to see how each responds to their struggles. While still fighting for their country, Kestrel and Arin realize they have started to fight for each other too.

Sneaky politicking and schemes abound in this entire series, but I love seeing the start-up in TWCurse. There’s a glimpse of the players laying out plans and putting others into action that really build over the books. I love the sharp mind Kestrel has to flush out and strategize. It’s even cooler how their game, Bite and Sting, has its own roll in the books.

So much action. I love how things are constantly fluctuating from slower, quiet moments to big, WHAT WILL HAPPEN moments. I found myself this time (it’s been 3 years since I’ve read it), still guessing a bit and LOVING IT. I generally knew what was going to happen, yet, when a book can provide the feels a second time around, you know it’s good.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy (focus on romance)
  • Language: none
  • Romance: a few passionate kisses
  • Violence: battles/skirmishes, duels, poison, swords

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult historical fiction + fantasy
Length: 384 pages
Author: Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: September 3rd, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Some legends never die…

Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it. 

Thank you to the publisher, Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for the e-ARC. All opinions are my own. Release date, page length, etc. subject to change before publication.

OVERALL ENJOYED.

I feel really conflicted about this book. It took me longer than usual to get through and I really did enjoy it, but I didn’t love how the ending went down which kinda bummed the book overall.

The world building was really cool. I love that it was set in Romania! That is unique and vastly different than a lot of YA books and thought it was great. The world building was well done and I felt like I was running all over the countryside with Theo and Huck. They really went on an adventure and that wasn’t stagnant in the slightest.

What I did realize after finishing this book was that I am not [as big of a] fan of second chance romances where they grew up together. I didn’t get all the feels for them that I was hoping. Their banter and interactions were sweet and funny so I still shipped them overall. I was happy things worked out enough in the end. They had decent chemistry but I hated the nickname Banshee (and he would not stop calling her that).

What annoyed me with the ending was the transition to caring more about her Father than Huck. I get that the premise was about family, BUT Y’ALL, we spent the entire book reconnecting with Huck and looking for her Dad (where Theo continually talked about how annoyed and upset she was with him). Then, she leaves Huck in his moment of need to find her Dad, and I don’t know. Since she talked up not liking him, I frankly didn’t care that much what happened to him. There was an interesting twist involving Theo that was creepy and accurate for a novel set around Vlad the Impaler.

I did like the dialogue and writing style. The addition of the history from the region was very interesting. Bennett must have done a lot of research to make it as accurate as possible (with creative choices for the book). I do enjoy her style and look forward to reading more books from her.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction + fantasy
  • Language: some strong language
  • Romance: a few kisses
  • Violence: poison, dark magic, scythes, losing a finger

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 336 pages
Author: Adrienne Young
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Expected Release Date: September 3rd, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The new gut-wrenching epic from the New York Times bestselling author of Sky in the Deep.

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Wednesday Books (St. Martin’s Press) for the e-ARC. All opinions are my own.

IT PAINS ME THAT I DIDN’T LOVE THIS.

I found myself scanning by the end. This let me down compared to Sky in the Deep (a favorite of mine last year). I’m trying to break it down so here are some bullet points:

What I did like:

  • I liked having Halvard as the protagonist. Since he’s up and coming as the next clan leader it was a good perspective. He learned and experienced a lot to help him better serve his people. I found him fierce and easy to cheer for. I wanted things to work out for him.
  • Tova. I really enjoyed her character.
  • The strong focus on family bonds. This was a highlight in SITD too. A favorite part is the fierce loyalty they feel for one another and trying to protect what sense of peace they have.
  • Realllll obsessed with the cover.
  • It’s a really quick read! Even when I started scanning (which wasn’t until after the halfway mark) I noticed how fast I was flying through it. The chapters are short and the writing has a whimsical style to it.
  • How clean the book is. I love a book that doesn’t have excessive amounts of language or romance. This hit those marks well (regardless of what I thought overall). It’s a clear YA book.

What I didn’t like:

  • That we hardly got to see Tova. She may have been a POV, but we hardly learned anything about her until the last few pages.
  • There is no romance (which I’m only noting as an issue because other reviews highlight it, but I did not see it). I stand by that sentence. Tova & Halvard don’t even have a full conversation with each other until so deep into the book there isn’t time to form chemistry. The kiss at the end came out of nowhere for me.
  • A lot of side characters (especially on the Svell’s side) who had no history. So they were supposed to be seen as bad, but I wasn’t invested in them.
  • It was missing depth and development for the plot in general. As I mentioned above, we barely know anything about the Svell (and Tova’s clan – the Kyrr). Everyone is thrown together without much of a story.

Okay, I think I have broken it down enough. While this wasn’t quite for me, it could be for you! There was definitely some highlights, I just overall had some issues.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: a kiss
  • Violence: a lot, clans warring, arrows, knives, swords, axes, murder

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Book Review

Book Review: When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Historical fiction + Romance
Length: 346 pages
Author: Chanel Cleeton
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: April 9th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

In 1960s Florida, a young Cuban exile will risk her life–and heart–to take back her country in this exhilarating historical novel from the author of Next Year in Havana, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick.

Beautiful. Daring. Deadly. 

The Cuban Revolution took everything from sugar heiress Beatriz Perez–her family, her people, her country. Recruited by the CIA to infiltrate Fidel Castro’s inner circle and pulled into the dangerous world of espionage, Beatriz is consumed by her quest for revenge and her desire to reclaim the life she lost.

As the Cold War swells like a hurricane over the shores of the Florida Strait, Beatriz is caught between the clash of Cuban American politics and the perils of a forbidden affair with a powerful man driven by ambitions of his own. When the ever-changing tides of history threaten everything she has fought for, she must make a choice between her past and future–but the wrong move could cost Beatriz everything–not just the island she loves, but also the man who has stolen her heart…

SOPHOMORE BOOK IS EVEN BETTER.

Oooooh, I loved this even more than Next Year in Havana. Let me also say, I love the Audible narrator: Kyla Garcia. She did another amazing job and kept me completely entranced in this book.

I love Beatriz Perez so stinkin’ much. She was an amazing MC and brought out all of the feels. I love how strong and independent. Beatriz has so much loyalty and love for her family and her country. This control and defines all of her decisions. And even when I wanted to shout out her, I also understood her choices.

THIS ROMANCE THOUGH. Okay, didn’t start out in the best light (trigger: cheating), but guys. I will firmly stand by that this might be the only case where I accepted and was okay with it. Her relationship with Nicholas made me swoooooon. Oh, it was so good. And also destroyed me, but I’ve already accepted that this is how Cleeton likes to torture us. I was happy with the resolution and felt relieved at how it all came to a conclusion.

My reasoning for being 4.5 stars vs. 5 stars was that, at times, it was too political (for me personally). It would cause some scenes to drag on a little long when I had already gotten the point.

BUT, what was really cool was having Beatriz work with the CIA. It was really interesting to have that plot line and her relationships with the agent was intriguing and intense. I loved watching Beatriz navigate the crisis in Cuba, the JFK assassination and the beginnings of the Cold War. History was woven perfectly into the timeline.

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fiction + romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses, and a handful of light detailed FTB scenes
  • Violence: guns, murder, threats of warfare, mentions of the JFK assassination
  • Trigger warnings: cheating (while engaged)

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