Book Review

Book Review: Storm Siren (Storm Siren #1) by Mary Weber

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: YA Fantasy
Length: 333 pages
Author: Mary Weber
Publisher: Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins
Release Date: August 19th, 2014
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

“I raise my chin as the buyers stare. Yes. Look. You don’t want me. Because, eventually, accidentally, I will destroy you.”

In a world at war, a slave girl’s lethal curse could become one kingdom’s weapon of salvation. If the curse—and the girl—can be controlled.

As a slave in the war-weary kingdom of Faelen, seventeen-year-old Nym isn’t merely devoid of rights, her Elemental kind are only born male and always killed at birth — meaning, she shouldn’t even exist.

Standing on the auction block beneath smoke-drenched mountains, Nym faces her fifteenth sell. But when her hood is removed and her storm-summoning killing curse revealed, Nym is snatched up by a court advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon Faelen needs to win the war, or be killed.

Choosing the former, Nym is unleashed into a world of politics, bizarre parties, and rumors of an evil more sinister than she’s being prepared to fight . . . not to mention the handsome trainer whose dark secrets lie behind a mysterious ability to calm every lightning strike she summons.

But what if she doesn’t want to be the weapon they’ve all been waiting for?

Set in a beautifully eclectic world of suspicion, super abilities, and monsters, Storm Siren is a story of power. And whoever controls that power will win.

CONFUSED BY MY THOUGHTS.

I have left this review sitting around for about a week now because I couldn’t decide if it worse or better than I thought. I will say this book got better the further I got into it, but also, why does someone want to wait 200 pages to enjoy a book?

I appreciated the way Nym and Eogan’s (Wow, I don’t like that name) relationship built. There was a bit of an enemies to lovers piece. I was freaked out there was a love triangle flying in, but NEVER FEAR, it was nothing. The bugger from Nym though was that she could not stop talking about how attractive he was. I hate when this is repetitively added to books. They’re more things to think about Nym!

Speaking of no love triangle, Nym’s’ friendship with Colin was stellar. I was practically more invested in that at times. They were a fun pair to watch and had great banter and chemistry (friendistry).

One thing I could not wrap my head around was how the girl with all the powers (and she really could destroy a place) was the one not destroying all those who sought to control her!? I guess I was looking for a bada** type, but got a lackluster I don’t want to be used as a weapon character. You don’t have to be a weapon Nym, OWN THE ELEMENTAL POWER.

There were rotating villains in here, but Adora was the worst of all (not in a good way). I found her silly outfits laughable and her whole demeanor a farce. The real wickedness didn’t show up til the last few chapters and that’s the leg this series needs to stand on.

I missed all of the world-building and politicking I’m used to reading in fantasy. For instance, there were multiple animals in here and I couldn’t tell you what they actually looked like. Nothing was ever described enough to paint a picture. And all of the politics were behind closed doors where Nym never bothered to listen to. This made a lot of decisions by other characters seem empty.

I will say, there was a solid plot twist or two at the end. Where I even wrote in my notes: HOLY PLOT TWIST BATMAN. Reading like every other YA fantasy book left me begging for from the story. That ending has me debating picking up book two though. I’ll keep you posted.

Overall audience notes:

  • Language: none
  • Romance: a kiss
  • Violence: knives, physical, magical
  • Trigger warnings: slavery

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Book Review

Book Review: The Traitor’s Kiss (The Traitor’s Circle #1) by Erin Beaty

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy/Romance
Length: 344 pages
Author: Erin Beaty
Publisher: Imprint
Release Date: May 9th, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

An obstinate girl who will not be married. A soldier desperate to prove himself. A kingdom on the brink of war.

With a sharp tongue and an unruly temper, Sage Fowler is not what they’d call a lady―which is perfectly fine with her. Deemed unfit for marriage, Sage is apprenticed to a matchmaker and tasked with wrangling other young ladies to be married off for political alliances. She spies on the girls―and on the soldiers escorting them.

As the girls’ military escort senses a political uprising, Sage is recruited by a handsome soldier to infiltrate the enemy ranks. The more she discovers as a spy, the less certain she becomes about whom to trust―and Sage becomes caught in a dangerous balancing act that will determine the fate of her kingdom.

OKAY. THIS BOOK WAS MADE FOR ME.

Yes, I firmly believe this book was written for me, so if by the end of this review you aren’t feeling it. THAT’S COOL. I’LL BE FINE (but seriously if it’s up your alley you should read it and gush with me).

This is a love story with other components surrounding it. Definitely reminded me of The Remnant Chronicles by Mary Pearson (which I absolutely adore). The plot flowed from action, to new locations, to one heck of an epic battle scene at the end. EPIC.

My angst filled romance between the two main characters WAS EVERYTHING. This didn’t start out as enemies to lovers. It was more who are you to lovers. BUT NEVER FEAR. There was banter, some hate vibes (which created the angst I previously mentioned) and plenty of sweet, precious moments.

My dearest Sage. Girl is stubborn, rash, strong-willed, and independent. I love that she hung with the men and wanted to DO something rather than sit on the sidelines. Even better, our lovely military escort allowed her too. NO HOLDING HER BACK. What I appreciated most was when she found out some information (that of course, as a reader, I already knew) that she responded in a matter that made sense. Sage was angry, yes, but also was able to listen and understand why things were done in such a way. It made me love her character even more.

Don’t even get me started on our male POV — yes keeping his name out. It’s more fun this way, TRUST ME. Y’all he was so swoon-worthy. He’s a new addition to my ever growing book boyfriend list. His final battle scene had me cheering. YOU TAKE DOWN THE DUKE. I loved getting to know him on many levels and watching this love story grow.

There was even one part that brought tears to my eyes. I wasn’t prepared and didn’t think it would happen. I appreciate this in authors though because sometimes, crap has to happen. And that’s okay, even if it pulls at all my heart strings.

Funny tidbit: the opening scenes are straight out of Mulan (the matchmaker scene). Not sure if it was actually inspired by that, but it brought Mulan to mind and I thought it was humorous.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy + romance
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: a few kisses, and make-outs
  • Violence: Knives, poison, physical, arrows, battle scenes (+gore), mentions of torture
  • Trigger warnings: suicide (a random soldier in front of male POV), domestic abuse + miscarriage (mentioned that it occurred to a character not in book), sexual assault (unwanted grab of backside & kiss to female POV)

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Book Review

Book Review: The Falconer (The Falconer #1) by Elizabeth May

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 
Audience: Young adult historical fantasy
Length: 378 pages
Author: Elizabeth May
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Release Date: May 6th, 2014
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

One girl’s nightmare is this girl’s faery tale

She’s a stunner.
Edinburgh, 1844. Eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, has everything a girl could dream of: brains, charm, wealth, a title—and drop-dead beauty.

She’s a liar.
But Aileana only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. she’s leading a double life: She has a rare ability to sense the sìthíchean—the faery race obsessed with slaughtering humans—and, with the aid of a mysterious mentor, has spent the year since her mother died learning how to kill them.

She’s a murderer.
Now Aileana is dedicated to slaying the fae before they take innocent lives. With her knack for inventing ingenious tools and weapons—from flying machines to detonators to lightning pistols—ruthless Aileana has one goal: Destroy the faery who destroyed her mother.

She’s a Falconer.
The last in a line of female warriors born with a gift for hunting and killing the fae, Aileana is the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity. Suddenly, her quest is a lot more complicated. She still longs to avenge her mother’s murder—but she’ll have to save the world first.

The first volume of a trilogy from an exciting new voice in young adult fantasy, this electrifying thriller combines romance and action, steampunk technology and Scottish lore in a deliciously addictive read. 

FAE. FAE. AND MORE FAE.

I’m really into anything with faeries y’all. I don’t know why. Maybe all that mystical-ness and gorgeous selves makes me have to pick it up. Either way, that’s my original intention when I grabbed this at the library.

This was fun! I wouldn’t say I thought it was spectacular, but it did get better and better as I went along. I loved the vibe of the world the author built. It was historical 1844 Edinburgh, but with a steampunk aesthetic. They had little devices to dispense tea/punch, others to create stitches and even a version of a helicopter.

Hot dang, I was almost upset about a love triangle, at present, there is none! And therefore, I can be alllll over Kiaran and Aileana. This is definitely a slow burn romance. I’m loving their banter and affinity towards each other.

They’re a lot of typical aspects to this novel. A fierce, warrior fae who’s handsome and brooding. The girl who’s in society, but secretly is a chosen-one type to help save the lands. She’s fueled by the death of her mother, etc. While this was a little eh, the different influences of everything else made this book worth the read.

A lot of secrets were left out for the next book. It was often chalked up to the fae “not answering” because they can’t lie kinda thing. I’m intrigued and interested because it seems each book is stronger than the previous. This is great, standard YA that I love to read.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fantasy
  • Language: damn is used often, but that’s it
  • Romance: a few kisses
  • Violence: knives, explosions, a bit gory physical, faerie magic, guns
Book Review

Book Review: Defy Me (Shatter Me #5) by Tahereh Mafi

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Dystopia
Length: 352 pages
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: April 2nd, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The gripping fifth installment in the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestselling Shatter Me series. Will Juliette’s broken heart make her vulnerable to the strengthening darkness within her?

Juliette’s short tenure as the supreme commander of North America has been an utter disaster. When the children of the other world leaders show up on her doorstep, she wants nothing more than to turn to Warner for support and guidance. But he shatters her heart when he reveals that he’s been keeping secrets about her family and her identity from her—secrets that change everything.

Juliette is devastated, and the darkness that’s always dwelled within her threatens to consume her. An explosive encounter with unexpected visitors might be enough to push her over the edge.

I LOVED THIS.

Note: May be very mild spoilers (mostly who ends up with who) if you haven’t read any of the Shatter Me series. No spoilers about anything else except for some name changes.

I have been waiting for this book for a year. And it was not a let down. YAYAY. I will admit that it read more like a novella (not that I’m complaining – just an observation).

The entire book is essentially a rescue mission. Our three POVs consist of Juliette (further known as Ella) remembering things, escaping, getting to Warner (further known as Aaron). Then, Aaron: remembering, escaping, and finding Ella. Lastly, Kenji discovering all the information E&A are remembering, trying to find them, and then getting them to the next location. So you see, a lot of overlap and lack of big plot movement. This was more dedicated to character development and a lot of information dumping. I know this will divide the camp on who likes this book, but personally, I was into it.

But what DID happen, were these precious little moments of life. Those small and inconsequential things that make my heart smile most. There were empowering moments of Ella realizing her strength and courage. Moments of Aaron harnessing his darkness to find what really matters most. Watching the loving moments between the two and getting to soak up a bit of light before darkness descends.

Characters

Ella. I didn’t see as much of her as I would like, but I loved watching her character evolve. She learned a lot from those around her and being able to really know who she is. I think she’ll really be back at the forefront come book six.

“Aaron Warner Anderson is the only emotional through line in my life that ever made sense. He’s the only constant. The only steady, reliable heartbeat I’ve ever had.”

Aaron. Y’ALL. I LOVE HIM. I FORGOT HOW MUCH I LOVE HIM. I seriously could not handle his sweet, battered soul. Getting a lot more of his back story destroyed me. Because I’m an absolute sucker for love, these were my favorite parts. Watching him with Ella, calling her love and sweetheart. I could go on and on. I love darkened, cinnamon roll characters. He took the parts he was always afraid to show and gave them to Ella and I melted.

“And up until just this moment, I don’t think I was ever truly convinced anyone would see me as human enough to forgive my sins. To give me a second chance.”

Side-ish thing: I love when couples are together before the series is over. Sometimes the entire series focuses on a pair, just getting together. While I think it’s even better when they are together and take on what comes their way. You can be with someone and still be independent and a force on your own. So I hope this remains the theme for the last book.

Kenji. Totally obsessed with him. He is sassy, loyal, witty, and has the best dialogue. I love that we got more POV with him. His vibe with Nazeera is something I am here for. She really grew on me in this book and I liked her presence.

“Thank you for appreciating my face. I’ve always thought I had an underappreciated face.”

There are a lot of loose ends by the last page. I’m totally fine with it because we still have one more book to go. We met some new characters that will be back. Some characters got what they deserved (and others ARE STILL WAITING THEIR IMMINENT DEMISE). Luckily, this book didn’t end on a dramatic cliff-hanger. It was a lovely, quiet moment where I can peacefully wait for the fate of Ella, Aaron, Kenji and their friends.

“Today is not forever. Happiness does not happen. Happiness must be uncovered, separated from skin of pain. It must be claimed. Kept close. Protected.”

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult dystopia
  • Language: a bit (mostly Kenji, haha)
  • Romance: some kisses, a lightly detailed love scene
  • Violence: guns, physical, torture (and memories of torture)
  • Trigger warnings: child abuse (in the severest forms)

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Book Review

Book Review: Stolen Songbird (The Malediction Trilogy #1) by Danielle L. Jensen

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy
Length: 469 pages
Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Release Date: April 1st, 2014
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the mountain. When Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she realises that the trolls are relying on her to break the curse.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind: escape. But the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time…

But the more time she spends with the trolls, the more she understands their plight. There is a rebellion brewing. And she just might be the one the trolls were looking for…

I SHOULD’VE READ THIS YEARS AGO.

This book floated on and off my TBR for years (no really, it was at least 2 years). WHY did I wait this long? I have no idea. Honestly, I think it was the whole troll concept. I wasn’t super into that. Wow though, I was wrong and am so glad I gave this a chance.

I was immediately drawn in. This is the type of book I read most often and the ones I enjoy easily. Having Cécile thrown into an enemies to lovers situation with Tristan was EVERYTHING. Y’all, I never get tired of this scenario.

I was impressed with Cécile for the most part. I feel there was some communication issues between her and others that frustrated me, but I appreciated she didn’t take her situation lying down. I loved watching her have a change of heart and growing and listening to those around her. I hope she is the liberator these people need by the end.

I could have used a bit more action overall. While things did keep happening, I was missing that extra uhmph from some of the scenes. The flow of the story was smooth though. The romance moved at a pace that made sense (which is always appreciative).

There were a handful of heart in my throat moments where I didn’t know what would happen next. I was impressed at the emotion I felt for these characters. I really had a connection with them and learning about the Troll society was heart breaking and interesting. The magical components made sense in the world and never felt out of place.

A lot was unveiled towards the end that I’m excited to get my hands on book two!

Overall audience notes:

  • YA Fantasy with a love story
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: some kisses and a lightly intense make-outs
  • Violence: physical, poison, spears, magic
  • Trigger warning: mention of a past miscarriage

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Book Review

ARC Book Review/Blog Tour: In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton

Howdy! Today I have a special review post because I’m on the blog tour for In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton.

I really enjoyed this book and it was just released. Scroll down for my review and don’t forget to add it to your TBR.

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 
Audience: YA Historical Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Author: Susan Kaplan Carlton
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Expected Release Date: April 9th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

A powerful story of love, identity, and the price of fitting in or speaking out.

After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York City to Atlanta—the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.

Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple Ruth meets Max, who is serious and intense about the fight for social justice, and now she is caught between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes.

Thank you to the publisher, Algonquin Young Readers for the eARC (through Netgalley) and opportunity to read In the Neighborhood of True. All opinions are my own.

FINDING YOUR VOICE.

I loved the perspective this book gave. We often see Jewish related books based around World War II. This instead, brings it past that time into an era where anti-Semitism is still heavily prevalent (especially in the South US). The historical aspects (the hate crime from this novel) really struck a chord.

This book, personally, felt like the first time we all realize that racism is truly around us and how difficult it can be to accept that some people are filled with unfounded hate.

Our main character, Ruth, had to learn a lot in this book. Initially all of our focus was on her fitting in. Wearing the perfect outfit, going to the right school, being in the best circle of friends, dating the cute boy, etc. She was vain and a bit shallow. While tedious at first, you can see how Ruth’s perspective and mindset change over the novel. She felt compelled to hide who she truly was for fear of being ostracized. It wasn’t until there was a glaringly obvious reason that Ruth decided to tell others that she was Jewish. Sometimes, it takes a big push to understand the gravity of the situation.

There was so much research for this book! Carlton seriously did an amazing job of putting me in the 1950s-60s without it being too heavy-handed. What’s funny is I would cringe at certain things characters would say/do because it’s not the way we handle things now. Which I credit as a positive. I loved feeling truly present in the story.

One of the reasons I gave four stars was that it took way too long to get back to the trial. The first chapter is set up with Ruth being a witness to something, then it skips back 6 months. I clocked it at 94% when the trial actually came back into play. I would have loved a bigger expansion on that piece and less on Ruth being in high school and running around with Davis.

The ending made me pause as the title clicked into place. Ruth had made some choices and had continually only told portions of the truth. She at last realized she was tired being in the neighborhood of true, and wanted to live and experience life without having to hide behind her own omissions.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: a kiss, make-outs, a glossed over love scene
  • Violence: hate-crime
  • Trigger warnings: underage drinking/smoking, description of a lynching, hate-crime, racism, anti-Semitism

SUSAN KAPLAN CARLTON currently teaches writing at Boston University. She is the author of the YA novels Love & Haight and Lobsterland. Her writing has also appeared in Self, Elle, Mademoiselle, and Seventeen. She lived for a time with her family in Atlanta, where her daughters learned the finer points of etiquette from a little pink book and the power of social justice from their synagogue.

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: Again, but Better by Christine Riccio

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Contemporary (+romance)
Length: 384 pages
Author: Christine Riccio
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Expected Release Date: September 18th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

From one of the most followed booktubers today, comes Again, but Better, a story about second chances, discovering yourself, and being brave enough to try again.

Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents…sounds ideal—but Shane’s made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance…what’s that? 

Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time’s a ticking, and she needs a change—there’s nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She’s going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure! 

Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart. 

Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic—the possibilities are endless.

Note: Thank you to the publisher, Wednesday Books, and Netgalley for the e-ARC and opportunity to read Again, but Better. All opinions are my own.

I HAVE A LOT OF THOUGHTS.

I was really nervous going into this book. I had heard time and again that Shane is essentially a fictionalized version of Christine. I have only seen a few videos of hers and honestly, you can’t miss the similarities. I tried my best to keep my bias about this at bay (which is why I have maintained a 4* rating), but it did sway me on the character originality. I luckily don’t know her channel that well which helped me to overall enjoy this book.

This is what I consider a book version of a TV Hallmark movie. We have the girl trying to find herself, a cute boy, some traveling and a hint of magic. I thought this worked well for this debut rom-com. I loved the wanderlust aspect and about packed my bags while reading because it gave me the travel bug (and we’ve established, I hate flying).

Shane is definitely…quirky. She struggles with social anxiety (my life). I was able to connect with most of her inner dialogue about deciding what to do in a given situation. Putting yourself out there is hard. I liked that this was in a college-aged setting because a lot of self-discovery happens in this part of our lives.

Now, while I understood her inner dialogue most of the time, it got annoying at other times. It was extremely repetitive and a little sporadic. It was too much inside her mind. I like when a book generally cuts some of that rambling down so we get what we need for being in their thoughts. This felt as if every single thought was put to the page.

I adored Pilot (hate his name though *shrugs*). He was cute and sensitive. I loved most of the banter between he and Shane. They were simple and sweet and reminded me of Anna and the French Kiss. The one real iffy thing I didn’t appreciate was this gray area cheating. He’s definitely in a relationship when things fire up with Shane (that even lead to a kiss at one point).

This book had its struggles. It’s a booktuber turned debut author. Again, but Better reads that way. At times it was naive and I think over time her future books will have a more mature sound. There were absolutely way too many pop culture references. I got so tired of reading about HP, Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball, Angry Birds, etc. We don’t need all of that to understand the change in time periods.

I wasn’t expecting the magic element. It was peculiar, but once I’ve considered the entire novel, makes sense. The novel needed this change of pace, and I enjoyed seeing the characters in a new light. I thought they had grown a bit and were more understanding of the situation. I can’t imagine we all, at one time or another, haven’t considered starting something over.

Is it funny that I liked that the parents were alive and present? I feel in a lot of YA they aren’t often represented (or they are already killed off). While this can add some character complexity, I think there was plenty present by having Shane’s parents alive and in her life. I really found this a quick and easy read. I flipped the pages continually and realized I liked the story at its core. I really appreciated watching Shane find what her passion is and seeking out how to have that continually in her life.

Overall audience notes:

  • YA Fiction with romance
  • Language: some, not heavily present
  • Romance: some kisses and make-outs, an almost love scene, a skipped over night spent together
  • Violence: a slap
  • Trigger warnings: gray area cheating (which does lead to a kiss), assault (forced and unwanted kiss)

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