Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Afterward by E.K. Johnston Review

Title: The Afterward
Author: E.K. Johnston
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.
                E.K. Johnston is one of my favorite authors, so when I heard that she was writing a brand-new book coming out in February, I ordered it from my local library. After I finished Archenemies, I pushed it right to the top of my stack; I renewed it once and didn’t want to have to return it without reading it. And this book… It’s probably one of the most unique in her entire body of work. It is an adventure story, told from two points in time and three points of view. It was full of brave, courageous female knights, a just queen, forbidden love, thievery, magic and mayhem, and I really enjoyed it! It wasn’t entirely perfect, but it is easily one of my favorite books of 2019. I’m almost wishing that it was a series, waiting for a sequel, so I don’t have to say goodbye to all the friends I’ve made!

                A group of female knights set out at the behest of a young prince, in hopes of eradicating an ancient, untold evil. After defeating the Old God and stopping his tyranny from spreading across the world, they return to their old lives. But the girls, save their leader, Sir Erris, are having troubles readjusting, particularly Kalanthe Ironheart, a knight-in-training burdened by debts and doubts and the futility of her future, and Olsa Rhetsdaughter, a ne’er do well thief who longs for freedom, in every sense of the world. But it turns out that even though they’ve finished their epic quest, other problems arise, and this time, it’s possible that more than hearts will be broken…


                I really enjoyed this book! I loved the way that it took the classic adventure trope and turned it on its head. I also really liked the format, and the way that the book went back and forth between the before, during the actual quest, and the after, where the women had to deal with the aftermath. This book has everything that I love in a fantasy novel: tough girls who take no prisoners and are strong and feminine at the same time, forbidden love, magic, war, (lady) knights, and strong friendships! It was a wonderful novel. The pacing was breakneck, and I loved the way that the different times were shown. I also adored Kalanthe and Osla’s distinct, authentic voices, and the way the narration was made more interesting by both of their perspectives. I’m also such a sucker for a good love story, and this book delivered several times over on that score! I loved the ending, too. The only thing that really bothered me was that several of the side characters weren’t sketched out very well, and there were so many to keep track of that I wish there had been a dramatis personae at the front of the book. It also got confusing when the time periods switched; but after rereading some passages, it got easier. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed The Afterward; it’s probably my favorite book in Johnston’s extensive body of work. Easily one of my favorite books of 2019! The bottom line: Rich, enchanting, funny and heartfelt, I loved The Afterward! Next on deck: Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer Review

Title: Archenemies
Author: Marissa Meyer
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Renegades, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                Renegades, the first book in this projected trilogy, was one of my favorite books of last year. I’d checked out Archenemies three different times, but was never able to read it before it went back to the library. I went to book club a few weeks ago and saw it sitting on the shelf, and I couldn’t resist! Archenemies is a great sequel, and though it took a little while for me to remember what was happening, I loved it. I can’t wait for Supernova! It wasn’t perfect, there were some things that had me confused and frustrated, but overall, Meyer did a really great job, and I can’t wait for the last book! I was absolutely blown away. Superheroes are one of my favorite classic tropes, and I loved Meyer’s dark, morally gray take on it. Aside from Heartless, the Renegades series has become my favorite series in Meyer’s repertoire.

                Archenemies picks up where Renegades left off, with Nova finally infiltrating the Renegades and waiting for an opportunity to destroy them from the inside. But things swiftly become even more complicated as she struggles to hide her true identity. Even worse, her loyalties are muddled the longer she stays with the heroes, and with Adrian, the boy she is undeniably attracted to. When a deadly new weapon being created to neutralize prodigy’s powers, Nova must decide where she truly stands, with her family, the Anarchists, or with the heroes, the Renegades. For war is coming once again, and everyone has something to hide…
      
          This book was amazing! Sequels always freak me out, to be honest. All too often, they don’t live up to the hype. Though there were some slight issues at times, I really enjoyed it overall. The prose was sharp and cutting, the pacing breakneck; I especially loved the moral dilemmas that were happening throughout the book, and not just for Nova. I loved the way Meyer ratcheted up the tension throughout the novel. It took me a little while to remember what was happening, but it was really easy to get caught up as the story went on. The romantic tension between Nova and Adrian had me absolutely riveted. All the slow burn feels! I also enjoyed all of the characters, but especially the Anarchists and Renegades. And that ending! Oh my God! How am I supposed to wait until November for Supernova?! I am dying here. What an amazing sequel, and I can’t wait for the last book in this dark, thought-provoking trilogy! The bottom line: Thought-provoking, shocking, and action-packed, I loved Archenemies, and I can’t wait for Supernova! Next on deck: The Afterward by E.K. Johnston!  

Friday, March 8, 2019

Damsel by Elana K. Arnold Review

Title: Damsel
Author: Elana K. Arnold
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
       
         I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                Happy International Women’s Day, everyone! I was browsing the shelves at my local library, and I had to return Damsel before I could read it the first time. When I saw it sitting on the shelf of the other library I frequent, I snatched it up. Honestly, what got me at first was its beautiful, gorgeous cover. But the story inside ripped me apart, put me back together, and had me roaring with triumph and rage. With gorgeous, lush prose, a premise that tipped a familiar fairy tale onto its head, and wonderful characters, I will never forget Damsel! One of my favorite books of 2018, hands down! A triumph of heart, audacity, and horror, all juxtaposed together! Elana K. Arnold has outdone herself with this book.

                You think you know the tale of Sleeping Beauty. A prince, a sleeping damsel, and a dragon. But in Prince Emory’s world, a prince can only become king after he’s slain a dragon and rescued the damsel imprisoned by the creature. He rescues a beautiful damsel, who he names Ama and has no memory of her life before being the dragon’s captive. Everything is as it should be… Or so it seems. When Ama discovers that art, thinking, and being anything but a wife and mother are barred to her, she begins to question everything she thought she knew. There are fiery secrets to be uncovered by the lost young woman, and she soon discovers that nothing is as it seems to be…


                I just finished this book last night and I’m still reeling. It was brutal, beautiful, unapologetically feminist, fierce and thought-provoking, and I loved every moment of it. That isn’t to say, of course, that there weren’t times when I was so emotionally overwhelmed that I had to put the book down and do something else. By all means, this book was not easy to get through. It had violence of every sort, but I think by doing so, Arnold was paying homage to the original fairy tale. I am, still, absolutely blown over. The writing was beautiful, and the pacing was breakneck; even when I wasn’t reading, it was still heavy on my mind. I read through half of it the first day I started, and I broke the second half over two days, as I’ve been busy with personal issues. I finished it last night in the tub and was blown away, in the best way! I loved Ama, and her character development from a lost, confused girl into a confident and self-assured young woman. Emory, Pawlin, the queen mother, Tillie, and Alyss helped provide great foils to her. I loved the way that this book called out misogyny and sexism, and talked about consent and agency. And that ending! I’m still thinking about it. Arnold did a fantastic job. The only thing I would say would be to be cautious and give this to older teens, as the violence gets a big focus throughout the book. Nonetheless, this book is definitely one of my recent favorites. Absolutely phenomenal! The bottom line: Dark, gorgeous, and surprising, I loved Damsel, especially the surprising ending! What an amazing book, especially considering the political climate we’re living in currently. Next on deck: Archenemies by Marissa Meyer!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi Review

Title: The Gilded Wolves
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Series: The Gilded Wolves, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                Roshani Chokshi captured my heart and imagination with her debut novel, The Star-Crossed Queen, so when I found out that she was writing a new book, I was so excited. I had some space in my library stack, so when I saw it sitting on a shelf at my local library, I snatched it up. I started it as soon as I was finished with Dry, and I just finished it last night, in a mess of emotions and tears. The Gilded Wolves is a fantastic series debut. I’m not sure how to describe it, actually, but I’ll do my best. This book was like a gorgeous, hilarious, dark mashup of Six of Crows, National Treasure, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them; original, lush, and seductive, I loved The Gilded Wolves! Easily one of my favorite books of 2018, and I’m already dying for the sequel!

                The Gilded Wolves opens in Belle Epoque Paris, with a group of lovable misfits working to right the wrongs of the past. But they are led by Severin, a young man with many scars and even more secrets. Desperate to reclaim the birthright that was so cruelly taken from him, he jumps at the chance to acquire true power and avenge his late mother. Enlisting his friends to help him, Severin finds himself drawn into a deadly game of monsters, gods, forbidden magic and secret loves. But he is hellbent on becoming who he’s always wanted to be, even if it means risking everything and everyone, he cares about…


                This book was a total knockout! I was blown over. There wasn’t a thing I didn’t like about The Gilded Wolves, except for the fact that I’m going to have to wait for over a year for the sequel! Beautifully written, expertly paced, with lovable, diverse characters, it felt like after I read this book, I was losing a beloved group of friends. I’m so excited for the sequel! The format was really cool; I liked the way that the author broke the narrative apart with different ‘case files’ and worldbuilding tidbits. I also adored the way that Chokshi took a time period that I thought I was familiar with and insert magic, mystery, and romance into it. I loved all of the characters, especially Zofia, Hypnos, Tristan, Laila, Enrique, and Severin, but I can’t decide who is my favorite! I loved them all so much; they felt like a family to me. And that ending! I was an absolute mess. All the ugly crying. All I can say is that I hope the sequel comes soon, because I am dying here! A beautiful, twisty puzzle wrapped in a mystery with more than one surprise in its center, I loved The Gilded Wolves! The bottom line: Gorgeous, surprising, and hilarious, I loved The Gilded Wolves! One of my favorite books of 2018, and I can’t wait for what’s coming next! Next on deck: Damsel by Elana K. Arnold!