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Book Review: The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

Queen's Rising

The Queen’s Rising

Release date: February 6th 2018

4 stars

When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.
Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.
Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.
With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?

It really didn’t take long for me to fall in love with this book. I really enjoyed the school scenes at the beginning, getting to know Brienna and her fellow students, her sisters, as they all prepared to ‘passion’ in their chosen field(wit, drama, art, music, or knowledge). There was the immediate mystery to why Brienna was accepted to the school when the headmistress has already selected the five students and she didn’t have an aptitude for any of the five passions, as well as who Brienna’s father was and why her grandfather refused to tell her his name.

I really liked Brienna. She was making the most of her situation, knowing she wasn’t fairing well in any of the fields at the school but she always tried so hard. It couldn’t have been easy to find the motivation to try so hard when she was always suspicious that she didn’t get into the school on her own merits but she never gave up. I thought she was really relatable in that way. I also loved seeing her finding out more about her heritage and the growth she showed.

I do wish we’d gotten to see more of the passion sisters after they’d been chosen by their patrons because the beginning scenes at the school were so much fun. But I could understand why it focused on Brienna’s journey. She was the main character and important to the brewing rebellion.

With the inclusion at the beginning of family trees and lists of characters, passions, etc. I was expecting a great, complicated world and it was definitely there. It had history, families ruling over different kingdoms, rebellions, and I can see why it’s been said it’s good for YA Game of Thrones fans, though there was a lot less violence. There was a lot of political intrigue that was interwoven through Brienna’s discovery of her heritage and finding out more about the mysterious patron who’d chosen her.

I’m really excited to see where this series is going to go next.

*I received a copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

Tempests and Slaughter

Tempests and Slaughter

4.5 stars

Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness–and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie. In the Numair Chronicles, readers will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair Salmalín came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.

I loved the Tortall universe when I first read it so I was very excited when I found out Tamora Pierce was going back to it, and giving us insight on Numair’s childhood. As Arram, long before he became Numair, he was a boy with powerful magic at a school where not many understood him. This book brought me right back to a world I love and I was so happy to be re-visiting. And so happy there’s more books coming.

Arram was just as interesting a character as he was as Numair. There were enough similarities so I could see they were two versions of the same character, while still making Arram feel like he was new. I really liked seeing his development and I love knowing there’s so much more to come. His relationships with his masters as they taught him non-standard magic was fascinating as we learned alongside him. I loved his friendships with Orzone and Varice, though it was a little strange knowing the future since this is a prequel.

The supporting cast was great. I loved learning about the school, the magic, and the other characters who shaped Arram into who he is in the future. Tamora Pierce always creates such interesting characters with amazing relationships and this was certainly no exception. I also thought it was great that were was still world building being done after so many books and so many years. Tortall has so much to offer and it’s obviously not finished yet.

As a Tamora Pierce fan, and a Tortall fan, this book was everything I would have expected and more. It delivered. It made me happy to be back in the Tortall world and it made me want to start reading the entire series all over again.

*I received a copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Batman – Nightwalker by Marie Lu

Nightwalker

Batman Nightwalker

Release date: January 2nd 2018

4 stars

Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.
The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list.
One by one, the city’s elites are being executed as their mansions’ security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. Meanwhile, Bruce is turning eighteen and about to inherit his family’s fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Enterprises and all the tech gadgetry his heart could ever desire. But after a run-in with the police, he’s forced to do community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city’s most brutal criminals.
Madeleine Wallace is a brilliant killer . . . and Bruce’s only hope.
In Arkham, Bruce meets Madeleine, a brilliant girl with ties to the Nightwalkers. What is she hiding? And why will she speak only to Bruce? Madeleine is the mystery Bruce must unravel. But is he getting her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees? Bruce will walk the dark line between trust and betrayal as the Nightwalkers circle closer.

I will admit, Batman is not my favourite hero but I love Marie Lu so I was excited to see how she would write a teenage Batman to be. She’s a fantastic writer and the mythology was well handled. I liked the idea of a reckless teenage Bruce having to work at Arkham as community service and also seeing Bruce getting more invested in Wayne Enterprises as he was graduating. My favourite thing was the friendship between Bruce, Dianne, and Harvey.

This Bruce was a lot less broody than I was used to from the movies I’ve seen. He was more open, still secretive, but he seemed more playful with his friends and Alfred. He could be frustrating when he thought he knew better than the adults and wouldn’t listen that Madeleine was dangerous. Even as a teenager, the protectiveness of Batman was ingrained into him as he worried about Madeleine, a girl his age in the asylum, and Harvey, his friend with an abusive father.

The dynamics between characters were so amazing in this book, which was to be expected since it was Marie Lu. She writes absolutely amazing character dynamics. The trio of Bruce, Dianne, and Harvey in their last summer before college were an interesting combo and I really loved their friendship. Bruce and Alfred were great, as always in any Batman medium I’ve seen or read. The dynamic between Bruce and Madeleine was as interesting as it was frustrating. She was playing him and he was letting her but their conversations were intriguing.

The plot focused on the Nightwalkers, a gang, and Bruce trying to get information from Madeleine to help the police put an end to the murders happening in Gotham. It fit it well with a superhero plot and was entertaining. With two DC Icons books in the series down, both have made me excited for the next two to come.

*I received a copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis

Dangerous Art of Blending in

The Dangerous Art of Blending In

Release date: January 30 2018

4 stars

Seventeen-year-old Evan Panos doesn’t know where he fits in. His strict Greek mother refuses to see him as anything but a disappointment. His quiet, workaholic father is a staunch believer in avoiding any kind of conflict. And his best friend Henry has somehow become distractingly attractive over the summer.
Tired, isolated, scared—Evan’s only escape is drawing in an abandoned church that feels as lonely as he is. And, yes, he kissed one guy over the summer. But it’s his best friend Henry who’s now proving to be irresistible. It’s Henry who suddenly seems interested in being more than friends. And it’s Henry who makes him believe that he’s more than his mother’s harsh words and terrifying abuse. But as things with Henry heat up, and his mother’s abuse escalates, Evan has to decide how to find his voice in a world where he has survived so long by avoiding attention at all costs.

This was a hard, emotional book to read but one that, when I was done, felt like I had just read something very important. It wasn’t just a coming out story about a boy finding his sexuality but also about telling the truth about an abusive parent. I believe this was the first book I’ve read with an abusive mother toward a son and it was chilling(as it would be no matter what) to read how much this mother hated her son.

Evan was the type of character who liked to keep everything in neat little boxes. He didn’t like his worlds to mingle. With it becoming harder to hide the abuse and his growing crush on his best friend, Henry, his worlds were starting to mix and it was obviously affecting him. He really just wanted to live his life but he couldn’t, not safely in his own home because of his mother. His father worked so much so he was rarely around and, when he was, he would try to step in but he only ever stopped her for the moment. It was not a healthy situation for Evan.

The book also had a lot of great, positive dynamics. The friendship to more of Evan and Henry was great, not sudden but a slow struggle. Henry’s family was great, funny, and I wish we’d gotten to see more of them. Every person in Evan’s life had some kind of impact of his, even if it was just by staying silent, and all of it was causing Evan’s perfectly separated lines to blend into each other.

What made the book so hard to read was that every time it seemed like something was going right for Evan, there would be something bad right around the corner. The kid couldn’t catch a break. I liked that he was able to have some escape with his art and how connected he was to it. This is a book where I highly recommend reading the author’s notes after because they add a lot to the book as well.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Love, Hate, and Other Filters

Love, Hate, and Other Filters

Release date: January 16 2018

4 stars

A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.
Maya Aziz is torn between futures: the one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter (i.e.; staying nearby in Chicago and being matched with a “suitable” Muslim boy), and the one where she goes to film school in New York City–and maybe, just maybe, kisses a guy she’s only known from afar. There’s the also the fun stuff, like laughing with her best friend Violet, making on-the-spot documentaries, sneaking away for private swimming lessons at a secret pond in the woods. But her world is shattered when a suicide bomber strikes in the American heartland; by chance, he shares Maya’s last name. What happens to the one Muslim family in town when their community is suddenly consumed with hatred and fear?

The second I started reading this book, it felt like it was very personal and important story for the author. It was a little different than I first thought it would be, with the focus being more on the main character, her family, and the conflict within them than the aftermath of the incident mentioned in the synopsis. It held important messages so relevant to today about not judging someone based on their looks, race, religion.

Maya was caught in between pleasing her parents and doing what would make her happy. They had one view for her future and she wanted another. She loved film-making, loved seeing the world through her camera, and all she wanted was to go to NYU and study film. It created a clash between two generations with different values that was so relatable. I loved her relationship with Hina, her aunt that was more free-spirited than her parents and someone she could turn to for help or for some insight on her parents.

The romance was really sweet, but also another source of conflict between Maya and her parents. They wanted her to be with a nice, Muslim boy but she had feelings for a white boy. Both boys were sweet and she probably could have been happy with either of them if she’d felt a connection with both. Kareem was very sweet and respectful toward Maya, showing her the world outside of her small town, but Maya already had feelings for someone else. Phil was also very sweet and I liked that it was friendship that developed into something more, and that it wasn’t easy for her to go against what she knew she parents expected.

The plot centered mostly on Maya’s struggles to please her parents while also following her dreams, but it also showed how hate and fear can make people leap to conclusions or use it to justify their actions. Maya and her parents were the victims of Islamophobia on multiple occasions and it was a reminder that no matter how long they’ve been a part of the community, no matter how much good they’ve good, or how respected they’ve become, some people will always only see them as their race or their religion.

As mentioned, it was a very important and relevant book. It’s one that deserves a lot of attention leading up to its release and after.

*I received a copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Zenith by Lindsay Cummings and Sasha Alsberg

Zenith

Zenith

Release date: January 16 2018

3.5 stars

Most know Androma Racella as the Bloody Baroness, a powerful mercenary whose reign of terror stretches across the Mirabel Galaxy. To those aboard her glass starship, Marauder, however, she’s just Andi, their friend and fearless leader.
But when a routine mission goes awry, the Marauder‘s all-girl crew is tested as they find themselves in a treacherous situation and at the mercy of a sadistic bounty hunter from Andi’s past.
Meanwhile, across the galaxy, a ruthless ruler waits in the shadows of the planet Xen Ptera, biding her time to exact revenge for the destruction of her people. The pieces of her deadly plan are about to fall into place, unleashing a plot that will tear Mirabel in two.
Andi and her crew embark on a dangerous, soul-testing journey that could restore order to their shipor just as easily start a war that will devour worlds. As the Marauder hurtles toward the unknown, and Mirabel hangs in the balance, the only certainty is that in a galaxy run on lies and illusion, no one can be trusted.

I’ve really enjoyed Lindsay Cummings writing in the past so I was really excited to see she had another book coming out, this time in Sci-Fi, a genre I love and am really happy that there seems to be a lot of books coming out in 2018. I’m less familiar with Sasha Alsberg. I’ve seen a few of her YouTube videos but that was it. Going in, it seemed like it would have a Guardians of the Galaxy vibe or maybe a Six of Crows in space.

There was a huge cast of characters in this book and many, many POVs. I didn’t find it too hard to keep track of who was who, though skimming might make it harder to distinguish the characters. I enjoyed the dynamics of the crew and it really added to the before mentioned Guardians of the Galaxy vibe. There were times when it felt like character development suffered in exchange for having so many POVs but that’s something that can hopefully be rectified throughout the series.

I thought the plot was good, maybe a little cliche at times, but still a fun read. There were some times when the plot felt a little slow and it did have a bit of predictability to it. It was a good start to the series and I look forward to seeing where it goes. There was a lot of good things happening, definitely enough to outweigh the bad or my nit-pickiness. I thought the descriptions was where the book really shone and it made me very excited to see what these two do next with their characters and world.

*I received a copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Siege of Shadows by Sarah Raughley

Siege of Shadows

Siege of Shadows

Release date: November 21st 2017

3.5 stars

There’s nowhere to hide.
Not when you’re an Effigy. No matter where they go, Maia and the other Effigies can’t escape the eyes of the press—especially not after failing to capture Saul, whose power to control the monstrous Phantoms has left the world in a state of panic. It’s been two months since Saul’s disappearance, and there’s still no sign of him, leaving the public to wonder whether the Sect—and the Effigies—are capable of protecting anyone.
When Saul suddenly surfaces in the middle of the Sahara desert, the Sect sends Maia and her friends out after him. But instead of Saul, they discover a dying soldier engineered with Effigy-like abilities. Even worse, there may be more soldiers like him out there, and it looks like the Effigies are their prime targets.
Yet the looming danger of Saul and this mysterious new army doesn’t overshadow Maia’s fear of the Sect, who ordered the death of the previous Fire Effigy, Natalya. With enemies on all sides and the world turning against them, the Effigies have to put their trust in each other—easier said than done when secrets threaten to tear them apart.

This sequel to Fate of Flames picked up not long after the first book left off and it showed right away that there was still plenty of story and action to tell in this series. There was more character growth and world-building added to the overall story, and it definitely added more twists. I really liked seeing how the bond between the four Effigies was developing and the group had such an interesting contrast. There was Maia, the main character, as the newbie; Lake as the girl who was afraid to fight; Chin Rae who was always ready with a sarcastic comment; and Belle, the leader who seemed fearless.

The book was all in Maia’s POV again, and it really showed how far she’d come from the beginning of the first book when she was an Effigies fangirl. Now she could hold her own in their missions and, even if she sometimes got a little over-exuberant, she was willing to learn and try. Sometimes she made the wrong decision in dealing with things she’d discovered but it was always to protect someone from getting hurt or because she thought she was doing the right thing. This book did feel a little Maia heavy compared to the first where the other three girls seemed more present, but Maia was the main character so it made sense.

I thought the pacing and plot reveals were nicely done. Every time it started to feel like the book was slipping into a slower pace, maybe a little middle book syndrome, something would happen to pick things up again. It kept my mind from wandering while I was reading and it managed to surprise me a few times, which is always a plus. Overall, I did enjoy it a little more than the first book so hopefully the third keeps up the trend.

*I received a copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Cruel Prince

The Cruel Prince

Release date: January 2nd 2018

3.5 stars

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

It’s been a while since I a book set in the world of the fae so I was interested in taking a trip back to Holy Black’s world. It was new characters, a new plot, but the same feel as previous books. It started off with a bang but then I found it slowed down quite a bit before picking up again right at the end. It was well balanced between lighter and darker moments with plenty of twists. I did find a lot of the twists to be predictable, which I was hoping my theories would be wrong just so I would be surprised.

Jude was an interesting character. She was human, born in the human world to human parents but after an incident with her half-sister’s fae father, she found herself with her sisters in their world. She was determined to prove herself to the court, to earn a place among the fae, and to make her adopted father proud of her. She was extremely protective of her twin sister and leery of trusting any of the fae, especially the youngest prince and his friends. She could be smart but she also made some reckless decisions, usually when it came to defending herself or her family.

There were a lot of interesting character dynamics in the book. Jude and her twin sister were so opposite, very close, but where Jude was fiery and in your face, her sister was quiet and more passive. The relationship she had with her adopted father was an interesting power dynamic. She was always trying to gain his approval and he always seemed to hold her at arm’s length. I wasn’t a big fan of the dynamic between Jude and the youngest prince, Cardan. He bullied her and was cruel to her in ways I can’t easily forgive just because he might turn out to be the love interest. A few of their scenes were ones that, on a re-read, I would skip over.

The plot was mostly Jude dealing with Cardan and her wanting to prove herself worthy to be a part of the fae court, not just a human who lived there. Once the political intrigue and court betrayals began, things picked up but these were the twists I found to be predictable. It could create some interesting plots in the next book but I’m more interested to see how the dynamics between Jude and Cardan is dealt with.

*I received a copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Everless by Sara Holland

Everless

Everless

Release Date: January 2nd 2018

4 stars

In the land of Sempera, time is extracted from blood and used as payment. Jules Ember and her father were once servants at Everless, the wealthy Gerling family’s estate, but were cast out after of a fateful accident a decade ago. Now, Jules’s father is reaching his last hour, and she will do anything to save him. Desperate to earn time, she arrives at the palace as it prepares for a royal wedding, ready to begin her search into childhood secrets that she once believed to be no more than myths. As she uncovers lost truths, Jules spirals deeper into a past she hardly recognizes, and faces an ancient and dangerous foe who threatens her future and the future of time itself. (less)

This was one of my most anticipated releases for 2018 and once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. It definitely lived up to the hype. The concept was very interesting and this was a world with such an amazing mythology that if Sara Holland wrote a prequel based on the Sorceress and the Alchemist, I would be very eager to read it. I fell in love with the world, the characters, and the dynamics created by the ever-changing relationships.

Jules didn’t have an easy life but she and her father did what they had to in order to get by. She was very concerned and protective over her father, who was running low on time-literally. She was determined to find a way to save him, even if it meant returning to a place where she could be in danger. I liked that she was willing to work in order to get close to the people who might provide answers, to find out why her father wanted her to stay away from the queen.

I enjoyed the different dynamics that were created as Jules got to know the other characters, or in some cases reconnect with them. It was interesting to see the difference in her relationship with Roan and Liam, two brothers she knew from her childhood at the palace who had also changed over the years. Roan was much more open and friendly while Liam was colder, harsher, and seemed to be hiding something. I also really liked the friendship that developed between Jules, Roan’s fiancée, and her handmaiden.

The plot with the mystery of Jules and the strange way time sometimes reacted around her was at times pushed to the background as other plot lines took precedence but it was never forgotten. There were many little things going on in the plot but they were all working together and I thought it was well done. I didn’t feel overwhelmed by all the information and I thought the pacing was good so it didn’t feel too slow.

As mentioned, the world building was really interesting and I really hope we get even more in the next book. If there was ever a prequel or a “World Of” type book for this universe, I would definitely read it.

*I received a copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: 27 Hours by Tristina Wright

27 Hours

27 Hours

Release date: October 3rd 2017

3 stars

Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.
But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.
Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon’s darkest secret.
They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.
During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.

Even after reading the synopsis, I wasn’t too sure of what to expect going into this book. I’ve been reading a lot of sci-fi lately so my hopes were high, maybe a little too high. The concept was very interesting and is a topic that is talked about today. The setting was the moon which had been colonized by humans and they were heading toward a war against the species that had inhabited the moon before them. All the POVs were from human characters and it might have been nice to see a POV from a Chimera so it felt more balanced.

The four main characters were very diverse. There was Rumor, Jude, Nyx, and Braeden. I really liked seeing the relationships, both romantic and platonic, develop between these four, plus Nyx’s best friend Dahlia. It did feel like it took me a long time to connect with the characters, longer than I’m used to, but that could be because I haven’t read a multi-pov book in a while and was a little impatient to find out which would be my favourite character. It was Jude.

I loved how inclusive the book was. There was so much representation and it was a huge positive. What I found hurt the book the most was the time frame. 27 hours is so short that any character development or deep connections/relationships seemed to happen very fast and I wasn’t very convinced that it would last. I will be reading the next book to find out what happens, the concept was what pulled me in initially and I’m curious to see how things turn out.

*I received a copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music in exchange for an honest review.

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