Book Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Book Review: This Savage Song by Victoria SchwabThis Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Series: Monsters of Verity #1
Published by Greenwillow Books on July 5, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 464
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

Book Review:

THIS SAVAGE SONG is the first in the Monsters of Verity series, a new YA fantasy series from Victoria Schwab. In a destroyed America, monsters rule the dark, and people cling to whatever bits of safety and normality they can find. Well, most people — Kate Harker and August Flynn excluded.

Kate’s father rules half Verity. People pay him for safety, and he keeps the Corsai and Malchai monsters from killing those people. He’s a vicious crime boss, and Kate wants to be exactly like him. She wants to prove to her father that she’s a Harker, worthy of being his heir.

August’s adopted father rules the other half of Verity. His people fight the Corsai and Malchai for safety. But Henry Flynn has a secret weapon: August and his siblings are Sunai. Sunai are monsters too, but different from the Corsai and Malchai. Sunai are avengers.

The worldbuilding is a bit complicated in THIS SAVAGE SONG. I would have liked more about the different types of monsters and how they came into existence. There are mentions of “the Phenomenon,” but I don’t remember an explanation or information about it. I did like the idea of violence breeding violence, and the author doing a little exploring of good versus evil, black and white versus shades of grey. I hope there’s more of that in the rest of the series.

THIS SAVAGE SONG also looks at what it means to be human and what it means to be a monster. Kate wants to be a monster, just like her father. August wants to be a human, but that’s impossible. I quite liked the Sunai, but it would spoil too much to go into why. So I’ll just say I liked what the author did with all three of them.

I was also super happy to find that there’s no romance in THIS SAVAGE SONG! It’s so refreshing to not have an insta-love romance crammed down my throat, distracting me from the other good stuff in the book. I’m so happy the author didn’t go that route here. Yes, Kate and August are thrown together, and must work together to save each other’s lives, but they don’t waste time making googly eyes at each other.

I am eager to see what else Victoria Schwab has in mind for Kate and August, and the other Monsters of Verity. Bring on book two!

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Victoria Schwab:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

Book Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn SkyeThe Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
Series: The Crown's Game #1
Published by Balzer & Bray on May 17, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 399
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
1 Stars
Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love... or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear... the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

Book Review:

THE CROWN’S GAME has a lot of things I enjoy: a historical setting, magic, a strong and determined female character, and a duel to the death. But I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I’d hoped due to the lackluster romance and sloooooow pacing.

THE GOOD:

–The author was very good at describing the setting and the magic of the enchanters. I could easily see imperial Russia and picture the fantastical magic Vika and Nikolai created.

THE BAD:

–Maybe this is just me, but when two characters are in a duel to the death, playing the Crown’s Game for for their life and to be the tsar’s Imperial Enchanter, I expect a little more… danger. And I guess there’s a little danger, because they make an attempt on each other’s life. But the attempts stop very quickly, because Nikolai and Vika forget everything at stake when their magic touches each other. Cue insta-love and using the game to woo each other and renovate Saint Petersburg, because that will impress the tsar.

–The romance. I’m usually picky on romance, but this mess of a love triangle nearly had me fleeing for the hills. I need to believe the characters are attracted to each other. The author just can’t tell me they are because they fell in love at first sight. Here’s what Pasha, the heir, has to say about Vika, “If there were ever a girl a man could fall in love with without knowing, it would be Vika (p. 320, ARC).” Sorry, that doesn’t work for me.

–The magic has very few rules. Yes, I know this is fantasy, but magic has to have a system. As far as I can tell, the enchanters can do almost anything they can imagine. Vika is more talented with the elements and Nikolai with mechanics, but that’s because of their upbringing.

–The story itself was boring and slow. For me, this was partly because there were so many POVs in the book. For example, I would have preferred to read about Vika creating the island, rather than Nikolai waking up and finding it. Because there were so many POVs, good story bits were often just dropped into the text, rather than getting to see them happen. And then that ending… I won’t spoil it, but there’s no way I’ll read book two.

As you can see, THE CROWN’S GAME didn’t live up to the hype for me.

Socialize with the author:

Evelyn Skye:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond

Book Review: The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung RichmondThe Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond
Published by Scholastic on July 26, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Never underestimate a pretty face.

My name is Lucie Blaise.

I am sixteen years old.

I have many aliases, but I am none of the girls you see.

What I am is the newest agent of the CO-7.

And we are here to take down Hitler.

After the Nazis killed my brother on the North African front, I volunteered at the Office of Strategic Services in Washington, DC, to do my part for the war effort. Only instead of a desk job at the OSS, I was tapped to join the Clandestine Operations -- a secret espionage and sabotage organization of girls. Six months ago, I was deployed to German-occupied France to gather intelligence and eliminate Nazi targets.

My current mission: Track down and interrogate a Nazi traitor about a weapon that threatens to wipe out all of Western Europe. Then find and dismantle the weapon before Hitler detonates it. But the deeper I infiltrate, the more danger I'm in. Because the fate of the free world hangs in the balance, and trusting the wrong person could cause millions of lives to be lost. Including my own.

Book Review:

At the start of THE DARKEST HOUR, Lucie’s biggest concern is successfully completing a mission and earning her title of “agent” in Covert Ops. But before she knows it, she’s in action up to her eyeballs, debating whether or not to trust a Nazi defector who has deadly knowledge about a new superweapon.

I was originally interested in THE DARKEST HOUR because, female teenage secret agents? I gobble that kind of thing up with a big spoon. I didn’t know what else to expect from the book, because the summary’s sort of vague. I was pleasantly surprised by where the author took Lucie — there were definitely some twists I never saw coming. The action was nonstop.

There was no romance in THE DARKEST HOUR, which I was super happy about. One, ain’t nobody got time for that when you’re trying to take down a Nazi superweapon, and two, not every YA book needs a romance to be complete. I was so happy that Lucie wasn’t swooning over every boy she met, but instead thinking about the best place to stick a knife.

The last third of the book is where things took a downturn for me. I can’t really say why without spoiling everything, but I found Lucie’s recovery, and thus the ending, a bit unbelievable. I wanted to see her process what happened, rather than pick up a few months later and everything’s a-okay. I also saw through the big twist early on, which lessened the dramatic impact of the book for me.

Socialize with the author:

Caroline Tung Richmond:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Safest Lies by Megan Miranda

Book Review: The Safest Lies by Megan MirandaThe Safest Lies by Megan Miranda
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers on May 24, 2016
Genres: Romance, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
Can fear be inherited?

Kelsey was raised to see danger everywhere. Her mother hasn’t set foot outside their front door in seventeen years, since she escaped from her kidnappers with Kelsey growing inside her.

Kelsey knows she’s supposed to keep a low profile for their own protection, but that plan is shattered when she drives off a cliff and is rescued by volunteer firefighter and classmate Ryan Baker.

A few days later, she arrives home to face her greatest fear: her mother is missing. She and her mother have drilled for all contingencies—except this one. Luckily, Ryan is as skilled at emergency rescues as Kelsey is at escape and evasion.

To have a chance at a future, Kelsey will have to face all her darkest fears. Because someone is coming for her.

And the truth about the past may end up being the most dangerous thing of all.

Book Review:

THE SAFEST LIES asks an interesting question. Can fear be inherited?

Kelsey grew up in a house of locks and fences, with a mother who hasn’t set foot outside in 17 years. Her mother was kidnapped as a teen but escaped… with Kelsey in her belly. Terrified they would be taken again, her mom has kept Kelsey on a short leash. Kelsey lives under rules and routines most teens wouldn’t tolerate for 5 seconds, but it’s a life that’s kept her safe.

Until she sneaks out for the first time in her life and returns to find her mother missing. And then men are trying to break into the house. It’s every nightmare Kelsey’s had, all at once.

THE SAFEST LIES kept me hooked for a while, but once Kelsey and possible love interest Ryan got trapped in her house, I started to lose interest. I didn’t realize the book would go so heavily into thriller territory; I thought it would be more about the effect of fear on genes. The subject comes up a lot, but I don’t feel like the author actually answered the question.

Ryan was a good part of the book. I don’t usually say that about guys in YA, but I liked him. He was nice and supportive and protective, and could realize when he was being a jerk. Ryan did do one big bad thing; I wish Kelsey hadn’t forgiven him so easily. But other than that, thumbs up for Ryan.

Otherwise, I was bored by THE SAFEST LIES. I’m not a huge thriller fan, so that might have contributed. I thought there was too much angst on Kelsey’s part and that the book dragged on for too long. I didn’t feel the danger because the characters were in lukewarm danger for so long that I just didn’t care anymore.

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Megan Miranda:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Riders by Veronica Rossi

Book Review: Riders by Veronica RossiRiders by Veronica Rossi
Series: Riders #1
Published by Tor Teen on February 16, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
Nothing but death can keep eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does.

While recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can’t remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen—Conquest, Famine, and Death—are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence.

They fail.

Now—bound, bloodied, and drugged—Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he’s fallen for—not to mention all of humankind—he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger.

But will anyone believe him?

Book Review:

I really enjoyed Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky trilogy, so I was excited to check out the start to her new series, Riders. If you’ve read her first series, don’t expect RIDERS to be anything like it. They are 100% different, which was both good and bad for me.

RIDERS takes a new spin on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Here, the horsemen are four teenage boys, all of whom wake up with strange cuffs on their wrists after dying. But their attempts to return to normal life don’t work. Gideon, our narrator, realizes he can make others feel anger. Days after his death and awakening, he’s off on a roadtrip with Daryn, a mysterious young woman who insists she knows what’s going on, but can’t tell him anything yet. Oh, and can they drive around the U.S. and pick up the other horsemen? Because they have to be together to save the world.

Most of RIDERS is told in Gideon’s flashbacks. At the start of the book, he’s being interrogated by unknown parties after some unknown big stuff went down. I was very meh on the first 70% or so of the book. There didn’t seem to be much of a plot. It was somewhat boring, having Gideon recount the past few weeks, his painful attraction to Daryn, and so on. I wasn’t a fan of the blunt, disjointed writing style, although I did really like Gideon’s voice. He read and felt like a real guy, not wish fulfillment.

The last 30% of the book is where I liked RIDERS a whole lot more. I was tempted to put it down before I reached that point, but here is one time where continuing was actually a good thing. Finally there was action (and a lot of it). I liked seeing the guys and their horses interact, the guys bond, and also learning more about the Kindred and the big secret.

For me, RIDERS was just okay. I was hoping for more, given how much I enjoyed Under the Never Sky. I liked the end of RIDERS, but I shouldn’t have been meh on so much of the book to get to that end.

Socialize with the author:

Veronica Rossi:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh

Book Review: Ivory and Bone by Julie EshbaughIvory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh
Series: Ivory and Bone #1
Published by HarperTeen on June 7, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
2 Stars
A prehistoric fantasy—with allusions to Pride and Prejudice.

Hunting, gathering, and keeping his family safe—that’s the life seventeen-year-old Kol knows. Then bold, enigmatic Mya arrives from the south with her family, and Kol is captivated. He wants her to like and trust him, but any hopes of impressing her are ruined when he makes a careless—and nearly grave—mistake. However, there’s something more to Mya’s cool disdain…a history wrought with loss that comes to light when another clan arrives. With them is Lo, an enemy from Mya’s past who Mya swears has ulterior motives.

As Kol gets to know Lo, tensions between Mya and Lo escalate until violence erupts. Faced with shattering losses, Kol is forced to question every person he’s trusted. One thing is for sure: this was a war that Mya or Lo—Kol doesn’t know which—had been planning all along.

Book Review:

IVORY AND BONE originally caught my eye because, historical fiction set way, way, way in the past? With mammoths and saber cats and the Ice Age? Gimme. I’m always on the lookout for historical fiction set in different eras than the popular ones.

Author Julie Eshbaugh did a good job of making me feel like I had gone way, way, back in time. She described the camps, clothing, food, kayaks, setting, etc. The prehistoric setting of IVORY AND BONE was probably my favorite part of the book.

The biggest problem I had with IVORY AND BONE is the way it’s written. The author took a risk by having Kol narrate to Mya. On one hand, it makes sense, since there was such a big tradition of storytelling back then. But at the same time, Kol’s telling distanced me from the story and from the characters while slowing the pacing to a crawl.

I was bored for the majority of IVORY AND BONE, because I just didn’t care about anyone or what was happening. Halfway through the book, I was still waiting for something big to happen, something to keep my attention. I only kept reading because the author didn’t stick to traditional gender roles — a leader of one clan is a woman, other women hunt with the men, and so on. Historically improbable I’m sure, but I liked it.

Overall, I liked the idea of IVORY AND BONE, but the risk of Kol narrating the story to Mya (you speak, you disappear, you are rude) just didn’t work for me. The writing style kept me too distanced from everything, and I thought Kol sounded like a whiny girl for a lot of the book, making lover boy eyes at Mya. Maybe some of that is the Pride and Prejudice allusions, but I’m not a fan of that classic, so I can’t say for sure. IVORY AND BONE is the first in a trilogy, but I can’t imagine where the series will go from here.

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Julie Eshbaugh:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

Book Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen OakesQueen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes
Series: Queen of Hearts Saga #1
Published by HarperTeen on May 3, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.

When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

Part epic fantasy, part twisted fairy tale, this dazzling saga will have readers shivering as Dinahs furious nature sweeps Wonderland up in the maelstrom of her wrath.

Familiar characters such as Cheshire, the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter make their appearance, enchanting readers with this new, dark take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Book Review:

QUEEN OF HEARTS is … well, a fantastical journey into Wonderland. It’s whimsical, dark, and more than a little crazy. But what else would you expect from the future Queen of Hearts?

Dinah is stubborn, feisty, and prone to fits of anger. She knows she’ll be queen of Wonderland one day, and she can’t wait for that day, to kick her father off the throne. Beheadings? She can watch them without batting an eye. But if someone’s cruel to her brother, Charles the Mad Hatter, she’ll get them back.

Some of Dinah’s attitude can be attributed to her difficult relationship with her father. Dysfunctional doesn’t begin to describe it. The King of Hearts hates his daughter — his heir. So when he introduces an illegitimate daughter to the court, and tells Dinah to accept Vittiore as her new sister, it’s just one more way of showing his dislike for Dinah.

Whatever. When Dinah’s Queen, she’ll put Vittiore and her father in their places. But will she be Queen?

QUEEN OF HEARTS is a delightfully quirky book. At first the amount of detail on Wonderland is almost overwhelming, but you get used to it quickly. And as a reader who loves to dive into new worlds, I really appreciated all the touches, little and big, that the author put into Wonderland. The snow is pink. Tarts are a favored delicacy. The palace is an architectural wonder, surrounded by an iron wall made of hearts. There’s so much creativity in this book. I will say that if you’re having trouble getting into the book, give it about 30 or 40 pages, and then it really gets going. I do wish a bit more had happened in the book though, as it’s mostly an introduction to Wonderland and Dinah.

Dinah grows quite a bit during the book; by the end, she’s not the same spoiled princess she was in the beginning. I think I liked Dinah so much was because her reactions were real to me. When presented with a new sister and told to love her, Dinah’s like, “I hate her. I’m never talking to her,” and she doesn’t. And though she’s a princess, she’s still nervous (but also kind of confident) when interacting with her crush.

Aside from Dinah, there are lots of other interesting characters, including the Mad Hatter, Cheshire, and even the King of Hearts himself. They’re sympathetic and creepy by turn. The ending sped by, and I really want to get my hands on volume two, so I can find out what happens to Dinah and another of my favorite characters, Morte the Hornhoov. I also can’t wait to see Dinah say, “Off with their heads!” and mean it.

I’m not super familiar with ALICE IN WONDERLAND, so I probably missed a couple of connections, but there’s plenty here that even the casual reader will recognize from Lewis Carroll’s classic. I love books that are about villains, and I can’t wait to see what else will happen to Dinah to turn her into the Queen of Hearts. Alice isn’t in this book, but I’d rather have Dinah. The villains are always so much more interesting!

Note: I read the original version of QUEEN OF HEARTS published by SparkPress in 2014. I compared the HarperTeen version to that one, and aside from some editing, I didn’t see any changes. I do like the new cover, so thumbs up, HarperTeen!

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Colleen Oakes:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani ChokshiThe Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 26, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you're only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire...

But Akaran has its own secrets -- thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . .including herself.

A lush and vivid story that is steeped in Indian folklore and mythology. The Star-Touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget.

Book Review:

THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN is a beautifully written book. The author has a lush, dreamy, descriptive writing style that goes hand-in-hand with her story. The whole time I was reading, I was swept into the different places Maya visits: Bharata, the Night Bazaar, and Akaran.

The book is a bit Beauty and the Beast, a bit Hades and Persephone, with Indian mythology. Maya grows up under the shadow of a deadly horoscope, which forecasts that she’ll bring death wherever she goes. When her father uses her marriage ceremony as a way to try to stop endless war, Maya doesn’t expect that he’ll tell her to kill herself. At the last second, she’s rescued by Amar, Raja of Akaran. Akaran is an empty land, but the palace is full of wonders and secrets.

While reading the book, I was caught up in it. In Maya’s time in Akaran and then her journey afterwards, her struggle to learn the truth about herself. But after I finished THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN, I was left feeling a bit… empty. I feel like the author focused too much on making every sentence beautiful and descriptive at the cost of describing the various Indian mythological creatures, developing Maya and Amar’s romance, and just telling me more of the story, instead of showing everything.

I needed more from THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN. I needed the author to tell me more about the various creatures Maya sees and interacts with. Kamala the pishacha, aka demon horse who wants to eat everyone? Kamala was awesome. One of the best parts of the book, hands down. I understand not every creature can be given that same development, but I would have liked to know a little more about various creatures that were mentioned. What’s a pey? What’s a raksha? And so on. There might be a glossary in the finished copy of the book; I read an early review copy. But still, I wanted more detail in the text. Most readers likely won’t be familiar with Indian mythology, and who wants to be pulled out of a story to Google something? And so on, with other elements.

Overall, THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN showed promise, and it was good while I was reading. But when I finished, I was left wanting more substance and explanation.

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– leeanna

Book Review: The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

Book Review: The Passion of Dolssa by Julie BerryThe Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers on April 12, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 496
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
I must write this account, and when I have finished, I will burn it.

Buried deep within the archives of a convent in medieval France is an untold story of love, loss, and wonder and the two girls at the heart of it all.

Dolssa is an upper-crust city girl with a secret lover and an uncanny gift. Branded a heretic, she’s on the run from the friar who condemned her mother to death by fire, and wants Dolssa executed, too.

Botille is a matchmaker and a tavern-keeper, struggling to keep herself and her sisters on the right side of the law in their seaside town of Bajas.

When their lives collide by a dark riverside, Botille rescues a dying Dolssa and conceals her in the tavern, where an unlikely friendship blooms. Aided by her sisters and Symo, her surly but loyal neighbor, Botille nurses Dolssa back to health and hides her from her pursuers. But all of Botille’s tricks, tales, and cleverness can’t protect them forever, and when the full wrath of the Church bears down upon Bajas, Dolssa’s passion and Botille’s good intentions could destroy the entire village.

From the author of the award-winning All the Truth That’s in Me comes a spellbinding thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final page and make you wonder if miracles really are possible.

Book Review:

THE PASSION OF DOLSSA is a hard book to categorize. It’s labeled Young Adult, but I feel it’s slanted more to an older audience. I love historical fiction and always have, but my teenage self wouldn’t have gotten far past the religious aspects of the book. I guess I should have expected a focus on religion, as Dolssa’s a runaway heretic, but somehow my mind just didn’t make the connection.

THE PASSION OF DOLSSA is set mainly in 1241, in Provensa, just after the Crusades. A dangerous time to be alive if you went against the Church in any tiny way. Dolssa is a young woman accused of speaking heresy by preaching in her own home because non clerics don’t speak of God, especially not women. But Dolssa sees nothing wrong with spreading the word of her beloved — Jesus — and so she refuses to repent. When she’s sentenced to burn at the stake, she escapes, only to be hunted down by a very determined friar. Dolssa is rescued by Botille, one of a trio of sisters who run a tavern in Bajas. But sheltering Dolssa leads to danger for Botille and her family.

Some of the religious tension of the time is evident in the narrative, and the author provides a lengthy explanation at the end of the book. But I wish that material at the end had been at the beginning of the book, or better explained in the story itself. I might have enjoyed THE PASSION OF DOLSSA more had I known what I know now about the religious history of Provensa. There’s also a glossary of the Old Provencal words.

Here’s the thing. I’m not really sure of the intended audience for THE PASSION OF DOLSSA. As I said above, my younger self would have put this book down as soon as it got too deep into religion, heresy, and churchmen using their faith to kill innocents. It’s just not something I’m interested in. I’m know there are teens who want to read about religion, but the book doesn’t really feel like a YA book. It’s more… literary YA, if that makes any sense. It’s somewhat open-ended (especially the ending), and it’s a book you’re supposed to think about and draw your own conclusions.

I’m sure this book will be up for awards, and I did like some things, such as the strong female friendships, strong family relationships, and the strong characters of the sisters. But overall, I didn’t enjoy the reading experience. I didn’t get invested in the story or the characters or their dilemmas. This wasn’t a book I wanted to keep reading. I’m starting to think Julie Berry just isn’t an author for me, as I wasn’t a huge fan of her other YA, ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME.

Socialize with the author:

Julie Berry:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Kingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon Thomas

Book Review: Kingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon ThomasKingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon Thomas
Series: A Wicked Thing #2
Published by HarperTeen on February 23, 2016
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
Asleep for a hundred years, awoken by a kiss. Aurora’s life was supposed to be a fairytale.

But since discovering that loyalty to the crown and loyalty to her country are two very different things, Aurora knows she can only dream of happily ever after. Once the enchanted princess, savior of her people, she is now branded a traitor.

Aurora is determined to free her home from the king’s tyrannical rule, even if it means traveling across the sea to the kingdom of the handsome and devious Prince Finnegan—someone who seems to know far more about her magic than he should. However, Finnegan’s kingdom has perils of its own, and any help he gives Aurora will come at a price.

As Aurora and Finnegan work together to harness her power—something so fiery and dangerous that is as likely to destroy those close to Aurora as it is to save them—she begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding the curse that was placed on her over a century before…and uncover the truth about the destiny she was always meant to fulfill.

Brimming with captivating fantasy and life-threatening danger, the sequel to A Wicked Thing takes Sleeping Beauty on an adventure unlike any she’s ever had before.

Book Review:

KINGDOM OF ASHES is the second book in the A Wicked Thing duology. It picks up right after the end of A WICKED THING, with Aurora on the run from the mad king. In case you missed the first book, this series wonders what happens after Sleeping Beauty wakes up.

I wasn’t entirely sold on A WICKED THING last year; my rating was 3 stars, which is an average book for me. But I was intrigued enough to want to see what else the author had in store for Aurora.

It took me a while to figure out my rating for KINGDOM OF ASHES. I was bored for a lot of the pages, just like with the first book. There’s almost no recap of previous events, and I couldn’t remember a lot of what had happened. So I was confused and ehhhh for some of the book.I needed a reminder of why Aurora was running away from her country.

However, I really liked the ideas the author tried to explore, such as the expectations placed upon Aurora by the people of her country. How she’s supposed to save them from their unhappy lives simply because she woke up. But if she tries to take power into her hands, they’ll eventually hate her, like her country turned on their first female leader/founder.

But… KINGDOM OF ASHES just didn’t keep my interest for the majority of the story. For me, the dragons didn’t seem to fit. They kind of came out of nowhere; I was much more interested in Aurora and Celestine’s connection. I didn’t need the dragons, and I’m a reader who usually loves magical beasts. Give me more Aurora and Celestine!

Socialize with the author:

Rhiannon Thomas:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna