Kingdom of Back: review

Thank you to Edelweiss and publisher for the chance to review this title ahead of its release date. Please note that this may contain slight spoilers.

I resent that it took me so long to finish this despite it being amazing. Life got me by and was nothing to do with the book itself. Moving from Italy back to the States has been a whirlwind. Regardless of all the boxes everywhere, I had this gem of a book to keep me sane.

Marie Lu surprised us all with the news that she was publishing a historical YA about none other than the Mozart siblings. I have only ever read the Legend series, and while I was not a fan, this one GOT ME. The writing….omg the writing. Lu has truly shined in this one. I’ve watched the evolution of writers and their works (Leigh Bardugo, for example) and while it makes me happy to see them flourish, THE KINGDOM OF BACK is a masterpiece of the craft. Sorry, Leigh.

KINGDOM OF BACK follows the Mozart children as they tour Europe playing for royalty alike. In a world where it’s forbidden for women to compose, older sibling, Nannerl has to hide her music while their father pays closer attention to the much younger Wolferl. Nannerl feels that she may be forgotten in life. With her brother’s talent nourished by the world, she was born into, she is suddenly vulnerable to a mysterious visitor who claims to be from another land. In exchange for her help regaining his kingdom, he will grant Nannerly wish of never being forgotten by the world. But soon, things take a more sinister turn, and Nannerl begins to wonder how badly the consequences of her actions will affect her family.

Lu character development is strikingly astonishing, but also patient. Nannerl is such an engrossing character, even more so when you remind yourself that she existed in the world. The story is tragic in the sense that Nannerl’s only wish is to be remembered by the world, and as you read, you recognize that not only is she not remembered for her work, but not many many people know she even existed. The tension between the real world and The Kingdom of Back leak into each other making both world frightening, and heartbreaking.

Marie’s writing was a joy to read. I was truly blown away by this one.

Gravemaidens: Review

Thanks to Netgalley for the chance to review this title.

Well, this was a big fat NOPE.

Ok so, the story was unique. Three girls are chosen as maidens for their ruler. In this case, the ruler is dying. Therefore, the three girls will die with him, which is a huge honor apparently. Healer Kammani’s sister is chosen, and Nanaea is all gung ho about it. But sister is like, nah, you aren’t dying today, sis, and takes her father’s place as a healer to keep the ruler from dying, thus saving her sister.

I think what frustrated me the most was that the story started really promising. The premise is unique, and I think I was expecting something creepier than what it was. By the second quarter, it began to turn into your cookie-cutter YA fantasy with an unlikeable protagonist who makes questionable decisions. Kammani did not have a distinct personality. She’s just a typical YA heroine who wants you to think she’s smart but instead makes you roll your eyes at the things she does for plot’s sake. I wasn’t feeling it.

The love interest was another negative aspect for me. As in, there WAS NO LOVE INTEREST. Though the plot set us up for one, maybe two, nothing comes out of it. There is no payoff. Maybe if I felt some tingles, I would have enjoyed this part a bit more. Instead, I felt numb to it every time he came “on screen.”

The writing was fine. Some dialogue was hard to follow, and some phrases seemed out of place. The twist was no so much a twist. I was truly hoping for someone I did not suspect, but alas.

GRAVEMAIDENS could have been the twisted and dark tale I thought it was. Instead, I won’t remember it come tomorrow.

Here There Are Monsters: Review

Thank you Edelweiss and the publisher for the auto-approval. It makes me feel so cool in the book review world.

So, let me first say a few things about this book before getting in the nitty-gritty.

A missing girl
Creepy woods
Secrets
Inner (and outer?) demons

There’s a thin line between what is real, and what is not in this book. When Skye’s little sister Diedre goes missing, her entire family life goes into an uproar. With several small clues, Skye discovers that the imaginary worlds her sister created may have come to life, and with a vengeance. To get her sister back, she must complete specific tasks that include spilling her innermost secrets and coming to terms with her demons. Underneath the missing girl plot is a story of violence and inner demons that are just as scary as real ones. If, you know, demons were real, and you believe in that sort of thing. Or you could only imagine that dude from Legend with the horns. Inner turmoil can be just as horrifying as seeing that guy come around a corner on a dark, abandoned street. I digress.

But with all that, I found myself wondering if I missed something. Much was not explained, and maybe left up to interpretation? I was waiting for some big reveal, maybe Skye as an unreliable narrator would have been sweet.

This was a real creepy, atmospheric read. Amenlinda’s writing is subtle, and not overly flowery, with enough to give you a sense of panic and fear. Skye, as an MC, had her faults, and some of her actions had me scratching my head. That with the sense that nobody learned a damn thing by the end of the story. Maybe I look too deep into things, but I like my stories to at least have something that the MC’s learned. Maybe Skye learned not to take her sister for granted. Perhaps it was something as simple as Diedre just wanting to be in her fantasy world forever, which brings me to the mental illness aspect of this book. It’s treated kinda flippantly with, “Maybe she needs to see a therapist.” Parents don’t seem to care. By the end, they still don’t. I know. It just felt sort of wobbly.

All in all, I did enjoy the book’s first half. I couldn’t put it down. But things took a nosedive after that. The story shifted so quickly and drastically, I felt jarred which made my rating fall. 3.5

Warnings: animal death, violence, and mental illness.