Book Review

ARC Book Review: Ashlords (#1) by Scott Reintgen

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy
Length: 368 pages
Author: Scott Reintgen
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: January 21st, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Red Rising meets The Scorpio Races in this epic fantasy following three phoenix horse riders–skilled at alchemy–who must compete at The Races–the modern spectacle that has replaced warfare within their empire.

Every year since the Ashlords were gifted phoenix horses by their gods, they’ve raced them. First into battle, then on great hunts, and finally for the pure sport of seeing who rode the fastest. Centuries of blood and fire carved their competition into a more modern spectacle: The Races.

Over the course of a multi-day event, elite riders from clashing cultures vie to be crowned champion. But the modern version of the sport requires more than good riding. Competitors must be skilled at creating and controlling phoenix horses made of ash and alchemy, which are summoned back to life each sunrise with uniquely crafted powers to cover impossible distances and challenges before bursting into flames at sunset. But good alchemy only matters if a rider knows how to defend their phoenix horse at night. Murder is outlawed, but breaking bones and poisoning ashes? That’s all legal and encouraged.

In this year’s Races, eleven riders will compete, but three of them have more to lose than the rest–a champion’s daughter, a scholarship entrant, and a revolutionary’s son. Who will attain their own dream of glory? Or will they all flame out in defeat?

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an eARC. All opinions are my own!

ACTION-PACKED.

When you read a tagline that has “Red Rising meets The Scorpio Races…”, both of which are books you LOVE, it makes you think you have to know what this book is all about. I can’t say I see the Red Rising resemblance, BUT I do see The Scorpio Races with a bit more fire.

This book easily keeps you reading. I love how action driven this one was (a difference in my usual choices). The three POVs are all unique voices and really drive the desperation each one has to win The Races. What I found odd at first, yet really vibed with as the story went one was the difference in narration from the others. I think it would be more fun to not go into more detail, but it really adds to the personalities in how it was written.

World-building was totally awesome. The phoenix [horses] are killed each night, and rise each day under new conditions. There’s thousands of combinations to give your horse more speed, armor, better heart and lungs, the possibilities are endless. I love how the alchemy and magic system worked for these. I was a bit confused by the addition of gods into the story? They definitely played a part, but felt a bit disjointed. I kept feeling like they were added only to move the plot along because it needed a boost from somewhere.

I loved all of the characters for a variety of reasons. Imelda is the true underdog with a thorn in her side and something to prove. The choices she makes ultimately lead to larger consequences that will be a big deal in book two. Adrian is the saucy son of the rebellion who’s trying to win for his people. Lastly, Pippa, the daughter of two former winners who’s meant to win, supposed to win, and destined to win. Because of the intricacies of styles it was very easy to know which chapter you were in and who was speaking. I appreciated that it wasn’t muddled whatsoever.

Full of action and seriously not sure who was going to win. The race was exciting, with a touch of mystery and plenty of magic. The bigger politics of the society made the phoenix races that much more important and the story that much more enchanting.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: none
  • Violence: fire, physical, whips, guns, swords, battle/skirmishes

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Book Review

Book Review: Of Rioters & Royals (Swift Shadows #1) by M.L. Greye

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 421 pages
Author: M.L. Greye
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: January 18th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Emry is a Royal – a princess of Enlennd. As is tradition, she must have a knight at her side as her protector. The only way to appoint one is through The Trials. Her Challengers from the five regions of Enlennd must compete for the infamous title of Princess’s Knight. The problem, though, is that the people of Enlennd are split into two categories: Rioters and Royals. Finding the perfect knight may be the last of her worries. War is coming to Enlennd.

Declan is a Rioter. An upriser. An anarchist. He mistrusts the Jewels – the sovereign family of Enlennd. Yet, he is offering himself up as a Challenger in The Trials. The Mistress, leader of the Rioters, has a mission for him. The first step is for him to become the Princess’s Knight. He is ready for the task, until he actually meets Emry and discovers that betraying her would be much more difficult than he’d thought.

Thank you to the author for a digital copy of the book in exchange for a review! All opinions are my own.

I’M INTO THIS.

I really adored this book y’all.

The world building had a unique point that I hadn’t seen so woven through the story before. Color defining eyes. All sorts of crazy colors and combinations that give the person with those eyes a unique set of skills. I thought this was fascinating and loved learning all of the different gifts it allow a person to have. It was easy to follow the differing nations and even though a third party was thrown in at the end I believe they’ll really play a part in book two allowing this story to grow even larger.

I was smitten with the romance too. Declan and Emry were such a sweet and precious couple. The trope was along the lines of a childhood romance. They had known each other prior then were separated for years to be thrown back together when Emry was in search for a Knight. I enjoyed their banter and watching them come together as a power couple. They were able to communicate and love one another for who they are. The idea of pairs (a play on mates) worked really well for this too.

At times I felt there was too much focus on describing rooms, landscapes, etc. I personally don’t like having a lot of flowery writing and want to get to the heart of the story and narrative. By the second half of the book I felt this was really the case. I also noticed that somethings were along the lines of ACOTAR Series (A Court of Thorns and Roses). Which was very interesting to me. I have no idea if this was inspired by that or anything, I just noticed some quirks that were familiar. This didn’t stop me from loving the story on its own though.

I appreciated that the plot kept moving forward with steady action, but also the quiet moments that I love so much. I love watching relationships form, families get some time together, and friendships bond. This had all of that and more. I can’t wait to read book two!

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: kisses, a no-detailed fade to black scene
  • Violence: physical, mentions of past torture, magic, fires, drownings, explosions, skirmishes

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Book Review

Book Review: Escaping from Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3) by Kerri Maniscalco

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: YA Historical fiction + Mystery
Length: 437 pages
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Expected Release Date: September 18th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are en route to New York to help solve another blood-soaked mystery. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, they’re delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.

But then, privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow ever more freakish, with nowhere to escape except the unforgiving sea.

It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation as even more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?

THOMAS CRESSWELL DESERVES BETTER.

BETTER BETTER BETTER. Oh my goodness. Usually I give a book higher marks for making me feel intense feelings for all the things. In this case, the intense feeling was rage, so instead I marked it lower.

HOW DARE AUDREY ROSE WADSWORTH. This was cheating and I will stand by that firmly. I’m tired of seeing this as a plot device and it makes me upset every time.

Something kind of funny though? If this was a different story without a boyfriend and the girl was having this kind of flirtations and kisses with a magician with a mask? Yes. I would have loved the banter and the set-up of that. BUT IT’S THOMAS FREAKING CRESSWELL. WHAT.

Wow, I can’t get over this. My review is running away from me. It was the entire plot which is why it’s very much on my mind. Other than that, the plot consisted of the same as the previous two books. People die, Thomas & Audrey Rose try to find the murderer. Nothing new. It’s a kin to watching CSI (or something similar) where the same show essentially happens every time but you can’t look away. This is how I felt.

I love my boy Thomas though. And I missed him this book! Since Audrey Rose and her shenanigans took up most of the page time, I felt he was barely on screen. There wasn’t much banter between them, mostly angst and angry words.

This was honestly a big letdown for the entire series. I am curious how Capturing the Devil will play out because I’ve seen very mixed reviews.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction + mystery
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses
  • Violence: physical, a lot of murder (by knives, hangings, animal attacks)
  • Trigger warnings: cheating

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Book Review

Book Review: Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1) by Kendare Blake

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy
Length: 403 pages
Author: Kendare Blake
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: September 20th, 2016
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

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. 

THIS SURVIVED A NEAR DNF.

I had to ask my Bookstagram friends if this was worth it to keep going. They did say the first book isn’t *great* but does get better, then the rest of the series picks up so I thought, okay…well I’ll finish it then.

I’m satisfied I did. It was nothing spectacular, but the premise is interesting.

MY BIGGEST ISSUE Y’ALL? The amount of unanswered questions you’re left with. No I’m serious. I have a list of at least 10:

  • Why do the Queens have to kill each other?
  • Who are seriously half these people?
  • Anyone have a background story? No? Oh okay.
  • What’s the Quickening?
  • What is Beltane?
  • Why does the Queen leave her triplets?
  • Why triplets?
  • Why is the island hidden?
  • What’s the deal with the mainland suitors?
  • We only met one…okay then.
  • Random book boyfriends with no background? That tracks.
  • What’s the Disembarking?
  • Why is the island only sometimes visible?
  • Where did the Queen even go?
  • Why are they split up?
  • How does this magic system even work?
  • Why can’t they leave the island ever?

SEE? I’m seriously annoyed at how much I don’t know. The world-building is minuscule. It’s poorly constructed and I beg of the second book to get it together should I pick it up anytime soon.

While that was an issue I did enjoy how quick of a read it is. The writing is set up to where it takes out the flowery flourish paragraphs that I personally don’t need a ton of and keeps us involved in the story and dialogue. It did get better at about the halfway point, so there’s that.

But also, I hate Joseph. And I hate when cheating is used as a plot device. I can’t stand it in books and this was enraging to me. I didn’t like how Joseph went about his business and I don’t see the point of him sleeping with [redacted]. UGH. Clearly I’m still upset about it.

I like the differences in the Queen’s thoughts and mannerisms. They are unique individuals and don’t read as the same person. The magic system could use a thorough explanation. This almost read more like a prequel novel than anything else, because not much happened until the last 50 pages. We mostly got to know the Queens and see them trying to use their powers.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses, a fade to black, no detail, love scene
  • Violence: animal attacks, poison, elemental magic, physical
  • Trigger warnings: cheating

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Book Review

Book Review: Spin the Dawn (The Blood of the Stars #1) by Elizabeth Lim

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: YA fantasy + romance
Length: 392 pages
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: July 9th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.

THE MASH-UP I DIDN’T KNOW I NEEDED.

Ohhhhh I’m so happy I picked up this debut! Mulan? Project Runway? TOGETHER?

IT WORKED SO WELL. I got all of the Mulan vibes (my favorite Disney movie, by the way) from Maia’s actions and decisions. Then add in the competition to be the best tailor where there were even unconventional materials challenges?! Yessssss. The vibes this book gave off alone gave it a star. This was exactly what the synopsis gave me.

Maia and Edan were absolutely precious too. I had seen on multiple reviews that the banter is on point, and I’m here to put my vote in that THEY’RE RIGHT. It’s witty, sassy, and so stinkin’ cute. I really liked the way their relationship developed. I was surprised by a few bits of information about Edan that reminded me of other books and I was cool with it. I liked those additions and thought it gave another layer to who Edan is.

The adventure that these two went on was magical and enchanting. I was surprised that this was able to take only one book. I think it could have expanded into more if it wanted and still been captivating. Since this plot kind of wrapped up I’m curious where the next story will take us.

This is one of those typical YA fantasy books that WORKS. It’s why I love and read the genre regularly. The writing is delightful, the romance is on point, and the story is full of magic. I loved the world-building and the way the magic is set-up. Maia is such an easy character to love. I appreciate her loyalty to her family and how everything circles back to them. She’s brave, but also able to accept help. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses, make-outs, one or two fade to black, barely any detail love scenes
  • Violence: magic, fire, physical, arrows

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Book Review

Book Review: Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper #2) by Kerri Maniscalco

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Historical fiction + mystery
Length: 435 pages
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Release Date: September 19th, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

In this New York Times bestselling sequel to Kerri Maniscalco’s haunting #1 debut Stalking Jack the Ripper, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer…or has the depraved prince been brought back to life?

Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.

STILL ONLY HERE FOR THOMAS CRESSWELL.

This wasn’t bad. I think it’ll probably be my favorite of the entire series.

I keep expecting these books to have a better plot line, because it keeps forcing whatever mystery is happening in my face rather than letting the romance really shine. And so far I’ve been disappointed twice. I think HPD would be better if everything was turned more towards the relationship between Thomas and Audrey Rose. BECAUSE THOMAS Y’ALL.

I fear every story will repeat the same saga. Murder, murder, run around, fight with Thomas, love Thomas, murder, solve it quickly. That’s what I see in my future, yet here I am already downloading book three. There’s something oddly catchy about these books and I think it all goes back to THOMAS Y’ALL.

Cleary, I have a new book boyfriend and he really holds all of the cards here. I love his banter, confessions of love and the general way he swaggers about. This paragraph may be small, but my love for Thomas is large. I understand why everyone reads these for him, I’m doing the same dang thing.

Audrey Rose is fine. She’s still one of those main characters that runs around scatter-brained and trying to accomplish everything while accomplishing nothing.

I liked the change in setting and though the mystery around Dracula was cool. We got to meet a lot of interesting characters and I didn’t pick the bad guy out super early so that’s a plus. I’m captivating by listening to these audio books.

Really though, THOMAS Y’ALL.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult mystery + historical fiction + romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses
  • Violence: murder, baths of blood, bodies being drained of blood, autopsies, near drownings

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Book Review

Book Review: You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult contemporary romance
Length: 304 pages
Author: Erin Hahn
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: April 2nd, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Annie Mathers is America’s sweetheart and heir to a country music legacy full of all the things her Gran warned her about. Superstar Clay Coolidge is most definitely going to end up one of those things.

But unfortunately for Clay, if he can’t convince Annie to join his summer tour, his music label is going to drop him. That’s what happens when your bad boy image turns into bad boy reality. Annie has been avoiding the spotlight after her parents’ tragic death, except on her skyrocketing YouTube channel. Clay’s label wants to land Annie, and Clay has to make it happen.

Swayed by Clay’s undeniable charm and good looks, Annie and her band agree to join the tour. From the start fans want them to be more than just tour mates, and Annie and Clay can’t help but wonder if the fans are right. But if there’s one part of fame Annie wants nothing to do with, it’s a high-profile relationship. She had a front row seat to her parents’ volatile marriage and isn’t interested in repeating history. If only she could convince her heart that Clay, with his painful past and head over heels inducing tenor, isn’t worth the risk.

WOULD WORK WELL AS A MOVIE.

This was more unique to any YA contemporary I’ve read in recent past in regards to the setting. It’s set on a country music tour and that provided a whole array of situations including tour buses, hotels and concerts. There were some great scenes from those options alone.

My biggest gripe was that I felt it would work SUPER great as a movie. There were a lot of concert scenes and lyrics throughout the novel and I wanted to see those brought to life. Hearing the voices, seeing the emotions and body language of Annie and Clay on stage would really create an awesome movie. As a book, it was hard to truly convey everything.

The love story wasn’t bad, everything just happened SO FAST. It’s a very short book (under 300 pages) and things are thrown out in rapid fire. The relationship came off a bit insta-love, yet it was full of artist passion so in some odd way it kind of worked? Jury is still out for me. I will say, I loved how it came together at the end. That was a solid happily ever after that made sense and made me smile.

This was somehow naive and adult all in the same breath. The writing felt more on the younger side of YA, but the situations were DARK. I mention this in my trigger warnings, the descriptions of a child finding two who had committed suicide was probably one of the darker things I have read recently. Then having to watch a teen go through an addiction to alcohol and coping with grief was a lot to handle.

I enjoyed seeing the evolution of Clay and how he learned to cope with his choices and grief from situations out of his control. He and Annie were able to feed off of each other to help get to higher ground. I liked their connection and hope that they were finally able to find.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult contemporary romance
  • Language: some throughout
  • Romance: some kisses, and mentions of spending the night together but no big details
  • Violence: physical
  • Trigger warnings: drug use, underage drinking, alcoholism, loss of loved ones, double suicide (discussed throughout book, detailed in chapter 23), overdose, depression

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