Book Review

ARC Book Review: The Poison Season by Mara Rutherford

Rating: ★★★
Audience: YA Fantasy + Romance
Length: 400 pages
Author: Mara Rutherford
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Release Date: December 6th, 2022
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Outsiders are always given a choice: the Forest or the lake. Either way, they’re never heard from again.

Leelo has spent her entire life on Endla, coexisting with the bloodthirsty Forest and respecting the poisonous lake that protects her island from outsiders who seek to destroy it. But as much as Leelo cares for her community, she struggles to accept that her younger brother will be exiled by his next birthday, unless he gains the magic of enchanted song so vital to Endla.

When Leelo sees a young outsider on the verge of drowning in the lake, she knows exactly what she’s supposed to do. But in a moment that will change everything, Leelo betrays her family, her best friend, and Endla by making an unthinkable choice.

Discovery could lead to devastating consequences for both Leelo and the outsider, Jaren, but as they grow closer, Leelo realizes that not all danger comes from beyond the lake—and they can only survive if Leelo is willing to question the very fabric of her society, her people, and herself. 

Thank you to the publisher for an eARC.

NEEDED SOMETHING.

I wanted to love this. I went in hoping I would, buuuut here we are. I liked it, it just wasn’t a favorite.

It did have a very distinct YA fantasy feel. And I know that can be a winner for a lot. For me, I felt like I needed more. Something that added an edge, something I hadn’t read before. I don’t know. Within a few chapters I knew exactly what was going to happen and I wasn’t surprised by how it ended.

I did love Leelo as a main character. She has that strength and loyalty that I always appreciate in a FMC. I love that she was open to changing her opinions and took time to understand the new information that was being heaped upon her. Leelo handled a lot of things really well.

The romance is a bit much on the insta-love side. I was hoping for to see them connect over more things before confessions of love started rolling out. Leelo and Jaren were charming and easily sweet on each other.

I loved Leelo’s Mom and Brother. They were some of my favorite side characters and helped me enjoy and look forward to scenes with them. I liked the conclusion and do think it wrapped up things pretty well.

Overall audience notes:

  • YA Fantasy + Romance
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: make-outs
  • Violence: medium
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: loss of a parent, loss of loved ones, poison, weapons violence, murder, physical altercations

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: The Empress of Time (The Keeper of Night #2) by Kylie Lee Baker

Rating: ★★★
Audience: YA Fantasy
Length: 416 pages
Author: Kylie Lee Baker
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Release Date: October 4th, 2022
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami Ren Scarborough is no longer the girl who was chased out of England—she is the Goddess of Death ruling Japan’s underworld. But her problems have never been greater. Her Shinigami see her as a foreigner on the throne. Her brother, Neven, is gone, lost in the deep darkness. And her fiancé, Hiro, has been killed by her own hand.

Then Ren receives the most troubling news yet—Reapers have been spotted in Japan, and it’s only a matter of time before Ivy, now Britain’s Death Goddess, comes to claim her revenge.

Ren’s last hope is to appeal to the god of storms and seas, who can turn the tides to send Ivy’s ship away from Japan’s shores. But he’ll help Ren only if she finds a sword lost thousands of years ago—an impossible demand.

Together with the moon god Tsukuyomi, who shares an uncanny resemblance to his brother Hiro, Ren ventures across the country in a race against time. As her journey thrusts her into the middle of scheming gods and dangerous Yokai demons, Ren will have to learn who she can truly trust—and the fate of Japan hangs in the balance. 

Thank you Dreamscape Media and Netgalley for an ALC.

GLAD I WENT WITH THE AUDIOBOOK.

Audiobook review: Fantastic. I have zero complaints about the narration, story telling, or anything in regards to the audiobook. Easily would say to read this book that route.

Why am I happy I did? Because I could speed it up a bit. I adored the first book in this duo, and I’m unfortunately writing another meh review for a second book in a duology.

The plot was a bit meandering as if it was trying to fill space. I didn’t really get the sense of adventure I think was trying to be conveyed. All of the lore with Reapers and Shinigami was still one of my favorite aspects. I love dark fantasy and I this did hit those notes really well.

I also did like the sibling relationship. It’s not always simple to love your brother / sister and I liked the exploration of those dynamics. The good and the bad that can come with family, but how ultimately they were able to work things out. I loved Neven and Ren for these scenes the most.

For once I’ll say I don’t think the romance was necessary. I actually thought this had none and wasn’t upset about it (because it’s not the vibe here) so no harm no foul. BUT then when a little was woven in it felt out of place. I would have been here for a strong friendship over a relationship because Ren needed that kind of connection in her life.

Overall audience notes:

  • YA Fantasy
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: kisses
  • Violence: high
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: blood and gore depiction, loss of loved ones

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Book Review

Book Review: Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Contemporary Romance
Length: 464 pages
Author: Tashie Bhuiyan
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Release Date: May 4th, 2021
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

A reserved Bangladeshi teenager has twenty-eight days to make the biggest decision of her life after agreeing to fake date her school’s resident bad boy.
How do you make one month last a lifetime?

Karina Ahmed has a plan. Keep her head down, get through high school without a fuss, and follow her parents’ rules—even if it means sacrificing her dreams. When her parents go abroad to Bangladesh for four weeks, Karina expects some peace and quiet. Instead, one simple lie unravels everything.

Karina is my girlfriend.

Tutoring the school’s resident bad boy was already crossing a line. Pretending to date him? Out of the question. But Ace Clyde does everything right—he brings her coffee in the mornings, impresses her friends without trying, and even promises to buy her a dozen books (a week) if she goes along with his fake-dating facade. Though Karina agrees, she can’t help but start counting down the days until her parents come back.

T-minus twenty-eight days until everything returns to normal—but what if Karina no longer wants it to? 

GREAT CHARACTER JOURNEY.

A random selection because I was feeling a contemporary and this was available! And what do you know, I really enjoyed it. I flew through it quickly (one of my favorite aspects of contemporaries) and thought it was overall a charming book.

Karina goes on such a journey. Having anxiety as well, I felt seen by a lot of the portrayals of her anxiety. The counting and breathing, anxiety attacks and more. All things I know intimately that I connected with to Karina.

I absolutely adored the bad boy Ace. Oh my goodness, he was so stinkin’ cute. I loved his demeanor and when he whipped out a fake dating trope I was ecstatic. it played out well and the super cute scenes of them studying together, going on dates and meeting family had me grinning from ear to ear. I love the way he supported Karina and also respected her boundaries and time frame.

There’s not some wildly dramatic issue between them in the end. It’s more of a focus on Karina and owning who she wants to be and what life choices she has the right to make on her own. I cringed many times listening to the beratement from her parents and it broke my heart in two listening to her struggle to come to terms with pleasing them, and becoming a shadow of who she is. Luckily, this book ends on a sweet HEA.

Overall audience notes:

  • YA Contemporary romance
  • Language: some strong
  • Romance: kisses
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: emotional/verbal/psychological parental abuse, anxiety attacks, depictions of general anxiety

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: The Keeper of the Night (The Keeper of the Night #1) by Kylie Lee Baker

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy + Romance
Length: 400 pages
Author: Kylie Lee Baker
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Release Date: October 12th, 2021
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death… only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an eARC.

MURDEROUS.

That’s pretty much the whole vibe of this one. Dark, twisted, and oh so murderous. And while that’s not generally my jam, this grim YA fantasy was pretty good. I cringed a lot and the mental pictures painted are a bit horror movie style, and that’s its charm!

I really enjoyed the main character Ren. Struggling with her identity as biracial and not feeling like she fits in anywhere, she goes to Japan in hopes of finding a new home there. Upon arriving with her brother are when things start to turn, ahem, deadly. She’s very much morally grey and you’ll want to follow her down to the dark side.

The lore behind all of the terrifying monsters had me keeping the lights on. The writing was vivid, and I felt myself on the journey with Ren. I adored her brother Neven and the opposite views he created. He was the necessary dichotomy to a wicked story.

Plot wise, it did drag sometimes and it took me awhile to understand all of the different things Ren was trying to accomplish and why. But I loved her journey and her ability to express and acknowledge her emotions and standing in her feelings while she worked through what life had handed her.

The ending was wild. Did not see the majority of it coming and am so dang curious how the second book rectifies it all. There is a dash of something akin to a romance, but I don’t want to say more because it would definitely be spoiler-y. It was rich in explorations of family, identity and place to be who Ren wanted to be and I can’t wait to follow her journey further.

Overall audience notes:

  • YA Fantasy
  • Language: a little
  • Romance: intense kisses/make-outs
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: ableism, racism, many blood & gore depictions, mutilation of bodies (dismemberment, etc.), death of a parent, multiple murders, exile, bullying

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kylie Lee Baker grew up in Boston and has since lived in Atlanta, Salamanca, and Seoul. Her writing is informed by her heritage (Japanese, Chinese, and Irish), as well as her experiences living abroad as both a student and teacher. She has a B.A. in Creative Writing and Spanish from Emory University and is currently pursuing a Master of Library and Information Science degree at Simmons University. In her free time, she watches horror movies, plays the cello, and bakes too many cookies. The Keeper of Night is her debut novel.

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