Monday, August 27, 2018

The Traitor's Kiss by Erin Beaty Review

Title: The Traitor’s Kiss
Author: Erin Beaty
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Traitor’s Circle, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I was browsing in my local library and the cover of The Traitor’s Kiss caught my eye: mint green, adorned with rich roses of many colors, with a sharp, vicious-looking dagger at its center. I’d meant to read it back when it first came out, but it had gotten lost in my ever-growing to be read stack. So I took it home. When I realized that I couldn’t renew it any more, I pushed it to the top of my stack after I finished Brazen. And I’m so happy that I did! Lush with detail, political intrigue, forbidden romance, and unexpected humor, The Traitor’s Kiss was a fantastic, feminist debut, and I can’t wait for The Traitor’s Ruin! Erin Beaty has become one of my new recent debut authors, and I’m excited to see what she’s got up her sleeve next.

Sage Fowler, unlike other young women her own age, does not wish to get married. Fierce, sharp-tongued and the farthest thing from ladylike, she is deemed unfit for matrimony, and instead is apprenticed to a matchmaker, and is charged with wrangling the fine ladies that her mistress retains as clients, often for making political alliances. But she is so much more than she seems: she often spies on her clients in hopes of garnering information, and that also includes the soldiers who escort them across the countries. As whispers begin of a dangerous political uprising that could mean turning the tides of the war, she is recruited by a mysterious, attractive soldier to infiltrate the enemy’s ranks. But the more discovers as a spy, she soon realizes that it is impossible to know who to trust, and she is trapped in a web of intrigue and danger that will determine the fate of her kingdom…


This book was really strong, especially considering that it was a debut. It seemed to jump several genres, combining lots of different elements to make something completely different. Romance, politically charged spy thriller, fantasy: It never seemed to make up its mind, as far as what it was, but that was one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much. The pacing was brisk and exciting, and I liked the way that the book bounced between several different characters; it provided a lot of perspective to the different events that were happening. And the romance! Oh, my goodness, I was swooning more than once! I loved Sage, and the way that she bucked society’s mores with fierce defiance, wanting to stay true to herself and do what she wished even while she fell in love. Alexander was one of my favorite characters, too, full of secrets of his own, and a bright conviction to his family and eventually to Sage. And that ending! At times, though, there were so many different characters and countries that I had a hard time keeping track of everything; I wish there had been a reference in the back of the book. Despite some little flaws, I can’t wait to see what The Traitor’s Ruin has in store! Erin Beaty has done a fabulous job with The Traitor’s Kiss. Next on deck: The Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Brazen by Penelope Bagieu Review

Title: Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked The World
Author: Penelope Bageiu
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction/Graphic Novel
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

After I finished Down and Across, I wasn’t sure what to read next. Then I spotted Brazen sitting on top of the stack, and figured that a graphic novel would be a good palate cleanser before I moved on to my next novel. Brazen tells the story of many young women who defied the limitations of their times and openly flouted convention. Some of them I knew, and others I’d only vaguely heard of, and still more I had never heard of before. Running the gamut from dancers, art enthusiasts, rappers, activists, performers, and more, Brazen provides snappy snippets of information and combines that with gorgeous, sharp illustrations. This book was wonderful, and I will be seeking out more of Penelope Bageiu’s work as soon as I can, because I’m hooked! I was amazed and inspired, and I loved the prose and the illustrations! Absolutely amazing!


As there were so many women, I won’t be able to talk about all of them, but I’d like to highlight a few standouts. Margaret Hamilton, the woman who portrayed The Wicked Witch of the West on The Wizard of Oz, rejected from being the lead in movies because she was deemed too ugly, and who suffered terrible burns on the set of Oz. Las Mariposas, rebel sisters who worked to unseat a despot ruling over their country. Lozen, the Apache warrior and shaman who helped one of her people give birth on the battlefield. Delia Akeley, fearless explorer who saved her husband’s life on multiple occasions and went on to explore the world after her husband’s death. Agnodice, the world’s first female gynecologist, who went so far as to dress up as a man in ancient Rome in order to practice her trade. Leymah Gbowee, one of the world’s first female social workers, who went on to be an activist and integral in changing women’s rights. Wu Zeitan, China’s first and only female empress regent who ushered in one of the most prosperous periods in her country’s history. Temple Grandin, with one of the world’s first diagnosed cases of autism, animal whisperer and animal rights activist. Therese Clerc, fierce utopian activist who went on to change the whole of France and its women’s rights. Betty Davis, legendary singer and songwriter who went on to change the whole music scene in the 60s. (This one was a particular favorite for me.) Hedy Lamarr, legendary beauty, actress, and inventor. And finally, Mae Jemison, the world’s first black female astronaut. This book was hilarious, wry, beautifully illustrated, and informative, and I loved it! It was nonfiction, but it was so much fun. One of my favorite books of 2018! The bottom line: Funny, smart, snappy, and beautifully illustrated, as well as informative, I loved Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World! Next on deck: The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty!

Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi Review

Title: Down and Across
Author: Arvin Ahmadi
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

Down and Across was our book club’s pick for August, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it or not. But I also didn’t want to go to book club for the third month in a row without reading the book. So, after I was finished with Summer of Salt, I decided to throw my hesitation into the wind and read it. I was very pleasantly surprised! This might be Arvin Ahmadi’s debut novel, but I’m really hoping that it won’t be his last! A story of grit, rebellion, risks, humor and heart, I loved Down and Across! Hilarious, tender, daring and smart, I loved Down and Across, and I will never forget Saaket Fedorwsi, or his crazy, unexpected trip across Washington DC. One of my favorite books of the year for sure!

Saakat ‘Scott’ Fedorwsi has tried many things in his seventeen years, but the only thing he’s really been good at is quitting. His novel he wanted to write only has three chapters, and the summer internship that his father signed him up for only lasted a week. His best friends seem to have everything figured out, while he himself can’t commit to a breakfast cereal, let alone a specific passion. With college application time approaching rapidly, his parents, loving but strict, pressure him to get serious and settle on a career path that will guarantee success. Desperate for help, Scott flees to Washington DC to seek guidance from a psychology professor who specializes in grit, the science of success. He never expects a one day trip to turn into a rollicking adventure. But that’s exactly what happens when he meets Fiora Buchanan, an impulsive and ballsy college student whose dream is to write crossword puzzles. Soon he finds himself sneaking into bars, attempting to pick up girls at the National Zoo, and even trying to write crossword puzzles himself. In the process, his eyes are opened to who he really is and what he wants to be.

This book was such a hilarious and thoughtful surprise! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I really loved it; Scott snuck up on me and held my heart in his hands as I read! The pacing was breakneck, and I was captivated by Scott’s hilarious, honest voice. I was laughing, crying, and cheering, and his character development was wonderful; I stayed up last night so I could finish it before book club on Thursday night. I loved him, especially considering that he was an Iranian-American. Diverse books for the win, forever! I also really enjoyed the other characters, especially Fiora, Trent, Scott’s parents, the lovely (not) Jeanette, Benji, and Fiora’s quirky group of crossword authors. I really liked seeing Washington DC through Scott’s eyes, and all I can do now is hope that I can see it with my own someday! The ending was really nice, too: It was really true to life. Bittersweet, funny, and heartfelt, I loved Down and Across, and it has become one of my favorite books of 2018! I can’t wait to see what Ahmadi has in store next! The bottom line: A tender, hilarious coming of age story full of grit, heart, and humor, I loved Down and Across! My first book from Arvin Ahmadi and definitely not my last! Next on deck: Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu!

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno Review

Title: Summer of Salt
Author: Katrina Leno
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Magical Realism
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

The first book I read by Katrina Leno was The Half Life of Molly Pierce, and I really enjoyed it, so when I found out that she was writing a brand-new book, I was excited. When I saw it sitting on the new book display at my local library, I snatched it, drawn by the story’s description and cover. Told with Leno’s signature, whimsical prose, wit, and wonder, Summer of Salt is one of my favorite books of 2018. Playful, dark, magical, and mysterious, it swept me away like the ocean waves that surround the tiny island of By-the-Sea, until the shocking, bittersweet ending. I can’t wait until her next book!

Twins Mary and Georgina Fernweh have lived their whole lives on the tiny, secluded island of By-the-Sea. Mysterious magic has run down their bloodline for generations, and Georgina has impatiently waited for her eighteenth birthday, eager to discover her own magical gift, despite the nagging fear that it may never come. Mary has the ability to defy gravity, literally: She can float off of the ground. No one on the island would dare call the Fernweh women what they are, but if you’re in need for a spot of help, they’re usually the ones to ask. No one questions the unusual weather, an insistent storm that is brewing in the skies above the island. No one questions, either, the allegedly three-hundred-year old bird who comes to roost on the island every summer. When tragedy strikes suddenly, though, the Fernwehs’ special talents cast a shadow of suspicion upon them. Over the course of the summer, Georgina will learn the truth about magic, in its many forms.


This book was a really enjoyable, unexpected surprise! When I first started it, I was expecting a light, playful romp with lots of magical realism elements mixed in. And the first half of it was. But the second half was a compelling, dark mystery that had me constantly guessing, full of magic of every kind. Honestly, this was the perfect book to read for the end of the summer: it was bittersweet, beautifully written, magical, funny, and thought-provoking. I really liked all of the characters, including Prue, Harrison, Mary, Aggie, and Penelope, but Georgie was my favorite; watching her develop from a shy, uncertain girl to a self-actualized, strong woman who refused to take no for an answer was a real treat. I also really liked the Fernweh family and the way their family was magical, but just so. And that ending! Oh, my goodness, what a curveball! Absolutely amazing! There were some times when I was frustrated with Mary and several of By-the-Sea’s residents, but overall, this book was really fantastic! One of the best books of 2018! The bottom line: A fantastically magical, whimsical book that was perfect for summer, I loved Summer of Salt! An absolutely gorgeous feat combining magical realism and a gritty mystery! Next on deck: Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi!

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young Review

Title: Sky in the Deep
Author: Adrienne Young
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I just returned from a vacation to Tennessee last week, and after I got some rest from that, I wanted to dive into my book stack again. My husband chose Sky in the Deep as my next book after I was finished with Long Way Down, and I plunged right in, still a little lost after coming back from vacation and trying to find my stride. It wasn’t perfect, but nonetheless, I really enjoyed it. The pacing was breakneck, the prose gorgeous, and I loved the characters, especially Eelyn, whose development was totally captivating. I really enjoyed the way that the plot changed unexpectedly, and I loved the ending. This book was my first by Adrienne Young, and it most definitely won’t be my last. Violent, heartfelt, and fierce, Sky in the Deep was an amazing debut!

Pitched as half Wonder Woman and half Vikings, Sky in the Deep tells the story of Eelyn, an Aska warrior who helps her people every five years to fight an opposing group, The Riki. She hates them, as they took the life of her brother in the last battle. But when she sees Iri fighting to shed the blood of their own people on the side of The Riki, she’s convinced that she can bring him home. But when she is captured in the process of her rescue mission, she discovers that the people who slaughtered her mother, The Herja—a group that was considered stuff of legends to both tribes—have returned, and that she must ally with her brother, his people, and his best friend, Fiske, even as it goes against everything that she has ever believed. Even as she feels her learned hatred beginning to soften. But now the Aska and Riki have a common enemy. But will that be enough to save them all?


As I said, this book was very good! At times it was hard to keep up with the cast of different characters; I wish there had been a reference in the back of the book to help me keep track. But that was really the only problem I had with it. The pacing was breakneck, and Eelyn’s voice was so distinct that I was immediately drawn into her world, of war, sacrifice, and honor. I really liked following her journey, and her character development was really rich and exciting; the way she changed as a person was what sold it for me. I also enjoyed the other characters, especially Myra, Fiske, Eelyn’s father, Iri, Inge, and Runa. My favorite part of it all was how the Aska and Riki put aside their ancient blood feud to please their gods in order to fight a more dangerous enemy. The action and suspense in this book was another big selling point for me; I was holding my breath and frantically flipping pages, desperate to find out what was going to happen. And the romance between Fiske and Eelyn! Talk about slow burn! I laughed, cried, and screamed throughout the narrative; the tension in this book was insane. The ending really wrapped things up, and I was satisfied. I can’t wait for more from Adrienne Young! The bottom line: A gorgeous, fierce and brutal debut, I loved Sky in the Deep! Next on deck: Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno!

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds Review

Title: Long Way Down
Author: Jason Reynolds
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

Jason Reynolds won my heart last year when he wrote a book for Marvel Press, focusing on Miles Morales, who becomes Spiderman sometime after the classic Peter Parker era. So, ever since, I’ve been seeking out his work. Long Way Down came out last year, and I had to return it to the library twice before I could actually get to it. It was sitting on top of my library stack when I returned from Tennessee for vacation, and before I got ready for the day, I made myself comfortable on the couch and began to read. This book is somewhere around three hundred and twenty pages, and I finished it in an hour and a half. Painful, timely, raw and ripped from the headlines, Long Way Down is unforgettable, and now I’m not sure which Jason Reynolds novel is my favorite. One of the best books of 2017! Haunting, beautiful, and absolutely unforgettable. Honestly, I’m kind of upset that I only just now got to reading it; it’s not hard to see why everyone is talking about this book, and why it won a highly coveted award.

Told in sparse, sharp and snappy prose, Long Way Down tells the story of Will, whose older brother, Sean, was murdered by a gang member in their neighborhood. Or so he thinks. Nonetheless, he’s fixed on revenge, on settling the score. He’s in an elevator, armed with his brother’s gun, headed from the seventh floor, thinking about what brought him to this path of violence, rage, and blood. He knows The Rules. No crying. No snitching. And always, always make retribution a priority. When he gets to the sixth floor, though, he ends up hitting a snag. Buck, his brother’s best friend, steps into the little box, and turns out that he’s the one who gave Sean the gun in the first place. He tells Will to check if it’s loaded, and he discovers that one bullet is missing. As far as Will knew, Sean never even used the weapon. And he realizes that Buck is dead. So how, exactly, is he standing in the elevator with Will? Buck is soon followed by a teenage girl, one that Will has known since childhood. The whole way down, Will is haunted by ghosts, both real and imagined, and he begins to piece together the truth about his beloved older brother’s death, bigger than anything that he thought he knew. And the story might just have an ending, if Will gets off that elevator before he does something he regrets.


This book was, in a word, powerful. It flew, the pacing was breakneck, due to the prose being so short; it finished it in an hour and a half. It’s been two days, and I’m still absolutely amazed. Jason Reynolds is one of my inspirations, because he’s so good at conveying great amounts of emotion in just a handful of words. I can see why this book won an award; it was raw, brutal, timely and shocking, and I loved the narration; I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what was real and imagined in Will’s traumatized, grieving mind. As the book moved forward, I was desperate to see if Will would carry out his bloody deed, or turn back before it was too late. It felt like I was being torn apart from the inside out: the loss and grief and rage seemed to jump off of the page and grab me by the throat until the ending. I loved all of the characters, but Will was my favorite: his voice was so distinctive, and reading his words made me feel like I was internally bleeding. I flew through this book, and the prose, electric and real, is tattooed onto my brain, even two days later. And that ending—oh my goodness! Jaw-dropping. Easily one of the best books of 2017, and I will never forget it. Gorgeous, brutal, sharp and cutting, a tale of family, grief, and revenge, Long Way Down is a great achievement, and I’m in awe, both as a reader and a writer! Amazing! Next on deck: Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young!

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas Review

Title: The Cheerleaders
Author: Kara Thomas
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

Kara Thomas caught my attention last year when I read her sophomore novel, Little Monsters, and loved it. So, when I found out that she was writing a new book that was coming out in July, I immediately put it on hold at my local library. When it came in, there were several holds on it, so as soon as I was finished with Emergency Contact, I pushed it to the top of my stack. I finished it in two and a half days; creepy, more than a little bit claustrophobic, The Cheerleaders was a mystery that I was dying to unravel, rife with red herrings and secrets; It was impossible to figure out who to trust, because everyone has something to hide, and Sunnybrook is a town where darkness hides in plain sight. I’m not sure if I like this or Little Monsters better, but it doesn’t really matter. The Cheerleaders was a dark, frightening mystery that constantly kept me guessing, until the jaw-dropping ending. One of the best mysteries of the year, and I can’t wait to see what Thomas has up her sleeve next!

There are no more cheerleaders left in the small town of Sunnybrook. First, there was the car accident: two girls gone after hitting a tree on a rainy night. A few weeks later, the murders followed, two more girls slain by the man next door. The police shot him, and the case was seemingly put to rest. Monica’s older sister, Jenny, was the last to die, taking her own life. Five years later, the faculty and students of Sunnybrook High want to remember the fallen girls, bright candles blown out before their time. But for Monica, moving on isn’t as easy as all that. She longs to forget, for things to go back to the way they were before her life was blown apart by a shattering loss. But she’s sure that there’s something more to the old story, and her world begins to unravel all over again. There are mysterious letters in her stepdad’s desk, a years-old cell phone with texts still on it, and a strange new friend at school. Monica knows that whatever really happened, it isn’t over, and she’s at the center of all of it. The cheerleaders are all gone, but that doesn’t mean that anyone else is safe.


This book was amazing! It wasn’t perfect, but one of the reasons that I love Kara Thomas’s work is that I can never quite figure out who is the bad guy. Chances are good that if I can figure it out before a hundred pages are up, I’m not going to finish, which is why mysteries and thrillers are really hit and miss with me. Monica’s voice was what drew me in, but at times her narration was a little shallow; it was slightly off-putting and took my mind off of the mystery at hand. But nonetheless, Kara Thomas’s third novel delivered, told in sparse, sharp prose, with breakneck pacing and characters that had everything to hide; it felt like secrets were lurking even in the seemingly carefree fabric of Sunnybrook. I was captivated, spellbound, and I was desperate to get to the end, to see who was behind it all. I didn’t really like Monica as a character; she seemed a little poorly drawn in comparison to the rest of the characters in the book, including her parents and sister, the mysterious texter on Jenny’s phone, Ginny, who has her own secrets even as she helps Monica solve the mystery of her sister’s death, Carly, who was friends with several of the deceased cheerleaders, and Brendan, Monica’s old flame in the wake of Jenny’s suicide. Nonetheless, this book was fantastic, and true to form, I had no idea who had done everything; when I did find out, I was thrown for a loop. Explosive, dark, and frightening, this book had me questioning everything: How well do we really know our loved ones, friends, and neighbors, and even ourselves? I was blown away by The Cheerleaders, and Kara Thomas has cemented her place as one of my favorite mystery authors with it. The bottom line: A twisty, dark thriller that had me questioning everything, waiting impatiently for the other shoe to drop, The Cheerleaders was fantastic, despite the main character being a bit lackluster. Next on deck: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds!

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi Review

Title: Emergency Contact
Author: Mary H.K. Choi
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

Penny Lee is a misfit whose high school experience was lackluster, to say the least. She’s friendless and lonely, and her grades were just okay, nothing spectacular; she even managed to land a boyfriend, even if he doesn’t seem to understand a thing about her. When she moves to Austin, Texas to begin college, she’s looking forward to the fresh start, for the opportunity to remake herself and fulfill her dream of being a writer. Sam is stuck, in every way. He works at a cafĂ© and sleeps there also, holding on to the hope that this awful chapter of his life will be the inspiration for an award-winning film. But for right now, he’s only got seventeen dollars in his pocket, a crazy and magnetic ex-girlfriend that he can’t seem to stay away from, and a broken laptop. When Sam and Penny’s lives collide in an explosion of awkwardness, they swap phone numbers and stay in touch through text messages, and soon become inseparable digitally, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams, all without the weirdness that comes with a real relationship. But Penny and Sam soon realize that they may want to actually get to know their emergency contact outside of their phones, even if it comes with more than a few wrinkles.


This is the first book I’ve ever read by Mary H.K. Choi, and I can promise that it will not be the last. She’s written for magazines and wrote comics for both Marvel and DC (Kind of geeked out a little bit over that!), and it shows in her style. The prose was snappy, smart, and witty, and if I wasn’t crying, I was laughing. I was drawn in to the book immediately, and I really liked the way that Choi went between Penny and Sam, providing important and often hilarious details. I also loved the fact that both of them were pursuing a career in a creative field: Penny, writing, and for Sam, filmmaking. (I’m always such a sucker for nerds falling in love!) The format was unusual, but I really liked the way that a lot of the book was communicated through text; it made it go by quickly, and by the time I was invested, I didn’t want it to end. I loved the characters that Choi created: Penny and Sam, of course, were my favorites, but the supporting characters were hilarious too: Sam’s beautiful, careless ex, Lorraine, Penny’s mom, Celeste, and her roommate, Jude, even the prickly, slightly pretentious Mallory. I loved the ending, too; it was bittersweet, surprising, and really true to life. There were also many surprises that I wasn’t expecting; I was really expecting this to be light, but it was shockingly realistic. Emergency Contact is easily one of my favorite books of 2018; I wish I had a copy of my own so I could read it again, this time more slowly. I really loved it, and I’m looking forward to more from Mary H.K. Choi; I’m especially curious about the comics on her impressive resume. The bottom line: A smart, hilarious, and true to life love story that had me laughing, crying, and screaming with joy, I loved Emergency Contact! One of the best books of 2018, easy! Next on deck: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas!

Furyborn by Claire LeGrand Review

Title: Furyborn
Author: Claire LeGrand
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Empirium, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

Claire LeGrand and I: We have a bit of a love/hate relationship. The first book I read by her was Winterspell, a dark fantasy retelling of one of my favorite stories: The Nutcracker, and I wasn’t blown away. The idea was better than the execution. But I read that she was writing a new book, a feminist fantasy that was sweeping, scary, and beautifully written, so I ordered it from my library. Honestly, I was very pleasantly surprised. With fantastic pacing, strong, fascinating characters, political intrigue, original mythology, and an explosive ending that had my jaw on the floor, I loved Furyborn, and I can’t wait until the sequel comes out!

Furyborn tells the story of two young women, centuries apart, who hold the ultimate power, the power to either save the world, or doom it entirely. When assassins attempt to take her best friend’s life, who also happens to be the crown prince of the land, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her dangerous and unheard of ability to wield all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only two people able to control all kinds of magic are a pair of legendary, dead queens: The Sun Queen and the Blood Queen. To prove that she is, in fact, The Sun Queen, she is forced to endure seven trials to test her skills. But if she fails, she could lose everything. A thousand years later, the story of Queen Rielle is nothing but legend to the bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When The Undying Empire took over the kingdom, she embraced violence reluctantly, driven to keep her family alive. But when her mother and dozens of other women disappear without a trace, she is forced into a corner, entering a fragile alliance with a rebel captain. And in teaming up with him, she discovers that the evil she always suspected lies deeply in the heart of her home, more terrible than she could have ever imagined. The two women’s stories intersect and bring with them shocking revelations that will determine the fate of their world, and of themselves.


As I said, this book was really surprising. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue, because it took a little while to get into, but I’m really glad that I stuck with it. Claire LeGrand has fully redeemed herself in my eyes with Furyborn. It was a fantasy unlike any others that I had read, and I really enjoyed it. She also gets bonus points for the indexes and charts in the back; it was really nice to have references for when I got lost. The pacing was breakneck, and it didn’t hurt that the prose was beautiful and captivating. Once I really got invested, I was constantly flipping pages, desperate to put the pieces together. Rife with political intrigue, romance, and more than a handful of twists, turns, and secrets, overall, I really liked Furyborn. I couldn’t give it five stars, though, because it took me a little while to understand the intricate worldbuilding, and at times both girls seemed distracted by their own thoughts rather than what was happening around them. But it was the ending that was one of my favorite things; my jaw was on the floor by the end of the book! I can’t wait until the sequel! The bottom line: A meaty, surprising and feminist series opener, Furyborn, despite some minor qualms, is one of my favorite books of 2018, and I can’t wait for the sequel! Next on deck: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin Review

Title: A Wizard of Earthsea
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Earthsea Cycle, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

My husband received a recommendation to read this book and begin this series, so he read it before I did it. He enjoyed the story, but the prose seemed a little long-winded to him. I was finally able to get to it in my library stack, and I finished it in a day and a half. Reading this start to The Earthsea Cycle, I can see why the late Ursula K. Le Guin was a legend in the science fiction and fantasy genre. A Wizard of Earthsea is unlike any other fantasy book that I’ve ever read, and honestly, I’m kicking myself for being so late to the party! She was a titan in her genres and I’m awed by her storytelling skills! Despite some slight flaws, I was blown away by the first entry in one of her most famous works. I can’t wait to continue this intriguing, poetic series!

A Wizard of Earthsea tells the story of Ged, who went on to be the most powerful wizard in Earthsea. But this story tells of his youth and rise to power, when he was called Sparrowhawk. Hungry for power, knowledge, and dominion over all, he tampered with the forces of the world without knowing that there was a steep price to pay: In his arrogance, he released an evil shadow upon the world and upset the natural balance of the world. This is the tale of his youth and his quest to right his grave mistake, how he mastered the dangerous and mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and risked death itself to restore the balance of everything.


I really enjoyed this book! It’s essentially a classic in the fantasy/science fiction genre, and I’m really upset that I’m getting to The Earthsea Cycle just now. It was unlike any fantasy book I’ve ever read, and it was really refreshing to be reading about a magical world that’s not in the midst of a vicious, bloodthirsty war. I really liked Ged, a boy whose ambition and pride often gets the best of him; his character development was one of my favorite parts of the novel. The writing was gorgeous, poetic, punchy, and purposeful; I could see what my husband was talking about, with the prose being a bit long-winded, but I didn’t mind it much; it kind of gave the whole book a fairy-tale type of feel. The pacing was really nice; there were lots of action-filled moments, but there was plenty of exciting worldbuilding moments and less tense scenes to nicely contrast with that; it had a really good balance. I really liked the ending, too; it wrapped up a lot of loose ends, but it was still enough to keep me guessing. Unfortunately, there were so many different characters that at times, it was hard to keep up. Nonetheless, this book is definitely a favorite, and I can’t wait to continue this wonderful classic fantasy series! The bottom line: The first book in the bestselling Earthsea Cycle series, I loved A Wizard of Earthsea, and I can’t wait to read the next volume! Next on deck: Furyborn by Claire LeGrand!

War Storm by Victoria Aveyard Review

Title: War Storm
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Series: Red Queen, book four
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I’ve had War Storm on my list since before it came out; I was a little late to the party, concerning Red Queen, but I really enjoyed it, and after King’s Cage, I was desperate to finish the series. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a few weeks, and I pushed it to the top of my stack after I finished Dread Nation; I dived in immediately and finished it on Thursday. This review is kind of late, but I had so many feelings that I needed the weekend to process just how I felt. First of all, I just can’t believe that it’s all over; I’m so sad. But I’m also angry, confused, and more than a little upset. I mean… Just ugh! Even now, three days later, I’m still not sure how to put my feelings into words. But here we go. I’ll try not to say too much about the plot, for my readers that haven’t read it yet.

Mare has at last achieved victory, but it comes at a steep price. Cal has walked away from her, feeling that his calling lies with taking the throne of the broken country of Norta. Meanwhile, Maven is ripping the country apart with an ill-conceived civil war. Mare is resolute in her cause: she will overthrow the King of Norta, no matter who holds the crown. But unfortunately for her, a war cannot be won alone, and Mare must side with the man who broke her heart to finally defeat the one who almost broke her completely. Forced to join forces with Cal and his Silver allies, they all present a powerful force. But Maven’s obsession with Mare is so deep and driving that he will stop at nothing to have her, even if it means destroying everything. War is on the horizon, and everything Mare has risked hangs in the balance. Will she win the war at last? Or be silenced by her own demons forever?


This book was, in a word, intense. The pacing was breakneck, the political intrigue breathtaking, and I couldn’t put it down. Granted, there were a few times that I simply had to, because it got too intense and emotional. The book was also narrated from several people’s points of view: Mare, her archenemy Evangeline, Cal, Maven, and Maven’s wife, Iris. It was a little hard to follow at first because of it, the pacing tended to stutter and I had a hard time keeping everything straight. But I will say that the multiple points of view, once I got the pacing down, was a really nice touch: I really got a good feel for what everyone was feeling. The twists and turns were numerous, and I was either gasping, crying, or screaming in frustration as the book went on. As far as last books go, this one was really satisfying: all the loose ends were tied up, and the ending was shocking, heartbreaking, exciting, and more than a little bit terrifying. The large cast of characters was hard to keep track of; I almost wish Aveyard had put an index in the back so it was easier to keep track of. But one thing is for certain: I will never forget Mare, Maven, and Cal, and what they all went through, and I’m so sad that it’s all over. Red Queen is one of my favorite series of recent years, and I’m so sad that it’s all gone! I can’t wait to see what Victoria Aveyard has up her sleeve next! The bottom line: The final book in the bestselling Red Queen series, I loved War Storm: shocking, scary, heartbreaking, and unforgettable! I’m so upset that it’s all over! Next on deck: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin!