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Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

****

4/5 Stars

Here was a read that flickered with flame edged with a cold and bewildering violence. Here was a YA that was both unoriginal and yet fresh. It took on the Empire vs Rebellion trope and hinted at shattering it in future books.

I really enjoyed reading it. I tore through it fairly quickly, and am about to pop out to the store to get the next installment. That’s always a sign that I’m hooked.

The romance piece was my favourite part. Not because it was cheesy, or spicy, or anything like that…but because it was a little more realistic in the sense that the characters weren’t immediately madly in love and blind to everything and everyone else around them.

I really appreciated how BOTH protagonists were drawn to other people before their relationship began to smolder. And even during, while the sparks were still figuring out how to properly light, they were both noticing and thinking about other potential love interests. It’s so normal. Real world relationships aren’t black and white. You meet so many people, and more than one will intrigue you until your heart grows into the acceptance of a single person.

The writing was a blend of rich and blunt. There were times it took a moment to paint, and others where all that mattered was the action. Quick, concise sentences that snapped through each breath. Honestly, this was one of the best written YA I’ve read in a while. I’ve grown used to repetitive writing, weak phrases, and strange punctuation. Tahir, thankfully, actually spent time honing this book.

Why not 5 stars? Because I felt like the beginning trauma didn’t hit Laia hard enough. Sure, adrenaline does wonders to a body and a mind, and she had to keep moving or die…but surely the horrors of the first chapter would have haunted her a little more than what we were shown. I know the author could have sank into it more, as she does so with Elias, so that’s my main complaint.

Time for book two!

Review: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

****

4/5 Stars

Here was a read that was equal parts frustrating and astonishing.

The world-building was so intelligent. Sharply constructed, intricately thought out, and very, very interesting. A warped mirror of our own societal fractures and earthly toxicity. 

The magic system made meI feel like revisiting my old Geology notes from when I took the class in university. So absolutely wicked how Jemisin blended magic with science. 

I didn’t particularly like the characters. But I get why I didn’t need to – a world so roughly destroyed, so dangerous and gritty, would not have characters that were easy to understand or relate to. 

I had two big issues with this book. The first was the beginning,because it was very difficult to get into. Nothing made sense. The world-building was puzzling. Clearly thought-out and confident, yes, but hard to wrap my head around. I’d say around the mid-way point is when things finally clicked and I was able to just enjoy the story without being absolutely bewildered. I think it was very possible for Jemisin to make the learning curve a little less steep and a little more seamless.

The second issue was the second POV. I simply don’t like reading that type of narrative. Pulls me out of the fictional dream. Feels awkward and bleh. I am so glad the whole book wasn’t written in second person, or I definitely would have DNF’d it.

Because I wasn’t all that attached to the characters, and because it took a long time for me to get a feel of the world, I wasn’t as blown away by this read as some people figured I would be. I definitely enjoyed it, and will likely pick up the rest of the trilogy some day…but it just didn’t hit as hard as I was hoping.

I’m still very impressed with the overall concept and cutting intelligence within the magic system and world. You can almost believe it’s a world we’re driving towards in real life. Total natural catastrophe because of the way we humans treat our home and each other.

Overall, an intriguing read.

Review: The House In The Cerulean Sea by T.J Klune

*****

5/5 Stars

You never know what you’re going to go through when you first crack open a new book.

Sure, you’ve read the blurb, and you have a slight idea of what you’re in for.

But you’re not right every time.

I wasn’t right this time.

I was prepared for a lovely, cute read. For a light story that would cheer me up and make me smile.

Yes, this story carried within it elements of lightness…but also moments of great weight that locked the breath in my throat.

After I turned the last page, tears welled in my eyes and my heart squeezed in my chest. I sat on my couch crying quietly for a few moments, utterly overwhelmed by the lovely emotion this book slowly and laboriously wound within me.

The idea of home is an incredibly important concept in this book. And as I turned page after page, I felt just the way it wanted me to. At home.

The sharp humor, the subtle romance, the slow magic of having your eyes open to change all honed this story into a glittering diamond I was not expecting.

It gave me a fluttering hope. I relate to Linus, of feeling invisible and not noticed by those around me. I have spent many hours in gray, tired and unaware of the grim surroundings I’ve cloaked myself with. But it’s the rare relationships that spark colour, that breathe life within you, that show how you don’t need much more than the few who look right at you and know you. And love you for every bit of what makes you…well, you.

I felt a connection to the children of the island in a way I never thought was possible. I wanted to help soothe Lucy, let Chauncey take my luggage, give Theodore something shiny, garden with Talia, feel the earth with Phee, and write with Sal. I wanted to witness Arthur’s strength and gain Zoe’s trust. I wanted to protect each and every one of them and make the world see how absolutely perfect they are.

A book this profound is so wonderfully rare. Thank you, TJ Klune. You’ve given me a comfort I didn’t realize I needed.

Review: From Blood And Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

***

3/5 Stars

Phew. Okay. Wow.

The idea of this book is very interesting. Sure, vampires and werewolves and forbidden love are nothing new. But that doesn’t bother me. Go ahead and write tropes, just do it well. And the plot Jennifer has pieced together (so far) is a neat, steamy spin.

But the WRITING. I struggled to get through the first 70% of this lengthy book. It was fraught with over-explanation, pointless phrases, odd comma placement, modern real-life teenager language (totally!), and an irritating…amount…of… ELLIPSES. OH MY GOD I WILL FOREVER FLINCH AT ELLIPSES FROM NOW ON.

Honestly, the writing strongly reminds me of my own writing when I first began university. A lot of the mistakes are very, very common, and seen in most first manuscripts. But this author has written a plethora of books. Who workshops her writing? Cuts it down? Helps her polish it?

There are tiny glimpses of excellent writing tucked in this book. Most of the action scenes and smutty scenes are much stronger than the forsaken long-winded info dumps and character development. Ugh. The info dumps were so brutally bleghghgh, and I really did not enjoy reading Poppy’s internal blathering.

I feel bad about the negativity, but the sheer amount of high ratings boggles my wee brain. But I’m also fairly convinced most YA best-sellers (in smutland, anyway) are ruined for me now that I’ve been through workshop after writing workshop.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m 100% positive my writing has the same mistakes Jennifer’s does. I just would assume her editors would catch the issues and fix them, but I guess they saw ‘vampires’ and ‘wild sex’ and their eyes turned into money symbols.

Yes, I know this sounds more like a 1 or 2 star review rather than a 3 star, but my ridiculous self enjoyed the romance and the (last 30%) plot. So 3 stars it is.

Review: Lore by Alexandra Bracken

****

4/5 Stars

This book was a bloody good time.

I may be biased. Whenever someone says ‘Greek mythology’ I perk up and immediately hone in. I swear, Greek mythology is the cure to my ADHD. Ahah. Does that mean I’m a demi-god?

Let’s see…parallels….what did this book remind me of? Percy Jackson (I uh, still have to read most of that series. I’ve only read the Lightning Thief), Hunger Games (but even GRITTIER, say whaa), and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (the game that took over my life for way too many hours).

Percy Jackson because of the obvious. Hunger Games because of the gruesome fights to the death. Odyssey because, well, Greek mythology and the concept of the bloodlines, which honestly had me thinking about all of the cult members I still need to assassinate in my file of the game.

I digress.

There were still heavy YA elements, of course. This story wasn’t particularly unique. Outside of the above comparisons, I was also reminded of the Mortal Instruments because of the hunting in New York aspect.

The romance wasn’t very heavy, and I can’t decide whether or not that’s a good thing. Have I been corrupted by the guilty pleasure reading of Sarah J. Maas? Am I just a filthy person now? I’m not going to think about it too hard, or else I’ll get concerned. But I do think there could have been a teensy bit more. Nothing too steamy, but just…more. Although I do recognize that this story was more about Lore and her development than a silly romance, and that’s a GOOD thing, and my smutty mind needs to kindly calm down.

Bracken’s writing style was a balm. I was still recovering from my frustration with my last read, which was so painfully simple I honestly think my own writing suffered from it. But Bracken has a bit more of a hold on in-depth, flowing writing, and thank goodness.

Flashbacks normally aggravate me. One is fine. Maybe even two. But when a story relies heavily on flashbacks, I tend to growl WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST WRITE A PREQUEL INSTEAD. In this book, however, the flashbacks lent strength. Emotion. Plot twists. They were done perfectly right.

Why not 5 stars? Because I didn’t like how Athena was portrayed. Especially in the beginning. Her cruelty was fine, but her almost childish behaviours did not sit right with me. She’s been lodged in a mortal body every 7 years for CENTURIES, and yet she’s still surprised by modernity. I’m sure it’s not a big deal, I just didn’t like it. Although the Athena at the end of the book was an excellent character. That’s all I’ll say in interest of spoilers.

I was also a little disappointed by the ending. The arcs were neatly tied up, but there were still a few questions I would have liked answered.

In summary, Lore is a good read for anyone who likes YA urban fantasy and Greek mythology.

Review: Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston

***

3/5 Stars

This book disappointed me. The premise and the book cover drew me in – I was ready for a lush, romantic fairy tale to hold me spell-bound.

Unfortunately, it was not lush, and the romance was quite childish. The writing style is what really turned me off of this book. It was so simple. The sky is blue, the trees are green, the clouds pink.

I genuinely thought this book was catered to a younger audience, and then WABAM. F**ck made a random appearance, and it felt so out of place I was giggling.

I tend to gauge how much I like a book by the inspiration it gives me. I’m the type of writer who is fueled by excellent story-telling. When a book (or film) gets my heart pumping and my mind whirling, I suddenly have the urge to pump out 5,000 words of my own novel. I want to give people the same glorious rush that they have given me with their stories.

Saying that…this book didn’t do that for me. It was a simply written fairy tale that had me feeling meh the whole time.

The main character is your run-of-the-mill stupid character. Not heeding advice. Making the same mistakes over and over again. Something screamed over there? I’ll check it out! AH, I ALMOST DIED!!!! the next night something screamed over there! I HAVE TO CHECK IT OUT. Almost dies again.

The romance is quite immature, reminiscent of romance found in shows meant for children.

I’m not saying children’s literature is bad. Far from it. I actually love good children’s books. But they don’t feel like children’s books when you read them. Howl’s Moving Castle? The Golden Compass?

I really don’t want to come across mean. There IS heart beating faintly in this story. It just…fell flat. The writing was so simplistic, the romance boring, and the end!? It didn’t really…end? The action grew, and grew, and

****SPOILERS IF YOU ARE STILL WANTING TO READ IT**

Suddenly we’re six months later after the curse was broken????? We didn’t see anything happen????????????????????

Much confusion.

Honestly, this book reminded me of my years in creative writing school, where I was consistently reading works in progress. This book has potential, it just needs a solid rewrite. And a target audience. Are you aiming for children? Okay, let’s tone down a couple of the darker scenes and cut the ONE (!?) swear word. Are you aiming for 17 year olds? Well, let’s make this darker and more fleshed out and if you’re gonna add some expletives, let’s dot a few more in there! Aaaaand let’s use different descriptions for the primary colours, please.

Based on the author photo and the light-heartedness of her story, I get the feeling that the author is a complete sweetheart. I bet she can really write. Unfortunately…this book does not showcase it as well as I was hoping.

Review: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

****

4/5 Stars

From ash we come, and to ash we return.

The beginning of this brutal book was intriguing. Rin’s development was well done, honed and sharp. The middle…well, the middle fell flat for me. I disliked Rin. Couldn’t find myself cheering for her at all. But perhaps we’re supposed to not like her. Either way, I found myself struggling through the siege chapters. Once the Cike moved and things began to get really violent is when my interest was piqued once more.

Although the violence was flinchingly violent. I’m a strange person. I can’t watch bloody movies, but I can read and write gore. Yet this book had me squeamish and uncomfortable. That was new for me, and honestly…good job to the author. At first I wasn’t impressed, but when I sat and thought about it I realized that she was writing about very real war. It’s not honourable and clean, with quick jabs to the heart and bloodless coups. No. War with the enemy sweeping through your land means a detached violence. Blood dripping from every surface, every snarling face. The death in war is not pretty. Is not kind. And The Poppy War makes damn sure you know that.

As for the writing, I felt like it was very cut and dry. The style lent itself to the power of certain passages, such as the ones detailing combat or the gods, but during more world-buildy paragraphs I felt like I was reading a textbook. What can I say, I prefer lyrical writing over blunt writing. But for the most part, the style really worked for this book.

Rin is bewildering to me. There are moments I really like her character, but more often than not I was incredibly annoyed by her. I wanted to slap her as hard as Altan did.

I want more of the Pantheon. The Phoenix is so absolutely savage, all furious energy, and I’m curious to see what else the god will do to the world.

The ending was all fire and blood. Violence and wrath. Cold-blooded vengeance. And it’s why I gave this book 4 stars. I’m not sure when I’ll read the next installment, but I plan to. I have a feeling it’s even more brutal than this one, and I need time to steel myself for it.

Review: House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City, #1) by Sarah J. Maas

****

4/5 Stars

I’m feeling so many confusing things.

Exasperation. Amusement. Sorrow. A flare of respect.

Why the respect, you ask? Well, most of this book had me roll my eyes (as Maas would say if she were writing me as one of her characters…heh), but the last few chapters shone furiously. It was wonderfully action-packed, beautifully written, emotionally charged, and absolutely entertaining. Sure, I found myself laughing at the logistics of certain things (it sure was a great day at the movie theater for many of the characters), and sure, having everything bluntly explained through factual dialogue isn’t really that great of a story-telling tool, but overall I absolutely loved the ending of this book. The respect is because I did not see the power in the ending coming.

The beginning was…fairly average. The middle was quite silly, with far too much emphasis on the rated R freedom Maas gleefully grabbed at (seriously, a lot of the more ‘mature’ content felt forced). However, I get why people love this author’s work. It’s escapism at its finest. It’s so absolutely silly and entertaining. I don’t even know how many times Bryce’s toes curled in her heels or her flats or her slippers.

The world building felt…eh. I mean, it was interesting, just…eh. The characters didn’t read like powerful adults, more like hormonal teenagers. But I didn’t hate it as much as I expected lol.

I am looking forward to the next book, only because of how Maas ended this one.

Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

*****

5/5 Stars

This book is a treasure. A shining gem that ignites within me a bottomless anger. 

I went into this read expecting a harsh telling of Afghanistan’s dark, merciless shadows. I knew there would be descriptions of unspeakable horror, of grief accompanied by baffling violence that is only possible within human nature.

I knew that as I read this book, I would feel at a loss. Confused. Thoroughly nonplussed by the lurching evil that exists within human hearts. No matter the depths psychological studies go, I don’t think we will ever understand how utterly wrong humans can become.

I was not prepared for the soul that shines unapologetically within A Thousand Splendid Suns pages. A soul tethered with sorrow, pockmarked with violence. But a soul nurtured by love nonetheless.

Throughout this book I became aware of something I’ve always known, but didn’t truly realize in its entirety. Why would I have? I’ve never had to withstand such awful things. I’ve never had to live in a home that could be bombed at any moment. I’ve never had to lose a family member to a civil war that also thoroughly shattered the beauty of my birthplace.

I realized how women have such deep wells of grace, of fortitude. They are able to handle daily beatings and constant injustices, only to raise their chin and show resilience for their children. They are able to hold onto their pride and yet hide it from those who will harm them simply for being equal to men. 

The women in this book are astounding. They absolutely shattered my heart. Hosseini’s tale shows how hope can flicker and yet never be true to one’s situation. That sometimes a peace will settle on you as you breathe your last breath, even if the life you were given was cold and unforgiving in so many ways. How injustices still pile up even after you’ve left the realm of the living.

This book showed to me the call of home. That no matter how surrounded by bruises, by shattered buildings caused by bombs, of ghosts of broken children and parents, home is still home. Accompanied by a listless hope that clings to the corners of a city wracked by pain both physical and buried deep in the aura of the place.

Home always calls to those with hearts that yearn to wipe away the filth.

All I’ve done is read a book about fictional characters who suffer so much yet still step with unwavering determination. I simmer with rage because our world allows such beautiful souls who are very real experience things worse than what’s told within these pages.

I hate that all I know how to do is write a blathering review on a blog that only a few people read. But words are the main things I have to give, so here they are.

Hosseini’s works always make me wish I was able to do more. 

Review: An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

***

3/5 Stars

This book was like a mansion you see in a magazine – stunning, polished, with intriguing ideas, but missing something, some integral semblance of attachment.

Rogerson’s writing was lovely. The world she created was rich. I loved how she detailed the fair ones, how nature gorges itself on them and eventually rots.

Yet the story was lacking a sense of completeness.

I never felt like I knew Rook. I didn’t understand the way the fair ones worked – Rogerson tells us readers that they feel no emotion, yet nearly all of them did at some point. Their odd immaturity with things broke my belief in Rook and Isobel’s romance. How could their relationship possibly progress? I had SO MANY questions at the end that weren’t answered. I also had no attachment to Emma or the goat twins (lol).

The strongest parts of the story were the beginning and the end. The plodding middle was meh. The journey piece felt lackluster. There were so many ways this book could have been astounding, but it missed its mark.

Honestly, I think it could have been another 20, 000 words, full of world building, character backgrounds, relationship developing, and more. There were lovely moments (the Alder King descriptions were amazing), but the end itself felt brutally rushed to me. I was also unconvinced with the romance.

I didn’t hate this book, and I did recognize its strengths. But I wasn’t blown away like I was by Rogerson’s other book, Sorcery of Thorns.