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.

Infinity Son: Review

Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for a chance to review this title ahead of its release date.

So, you’d think my love of Adam Silvera would excuse a little bit of the shortcomings of this book, but alas.

Brighton and Emil grew up in a world protected by Spell Walkers-superheroes who guard the people against spectors and other baddies. All his life, Brighton wished to become a celestial and join the ongoing war. But instead of Brighton, it was Emil who suddenly came into power after a fight on a train. But even though it was his brother now in the heart of the fray, Brighton still did his part with his popular social media accounts where he tried to paint the Spellwalkers as the good guys most people don’t see them as.

This started as a solid book. Two brothers, tight as my pants after a big dinner, and some magical folk with crazy powers, phoenixes, hydrae…I mean, come on. But probably about a quarter in I began to drop slowly off that high, and I just felt kind of BLAH. I got past much of the Steelheart vibes, and the lack of character personalities, and hoped the plot would make up for it. It did not.

Don’t get me wrong, I have loved ALL of Adam’s books. They gut-punched me, had me skipping meals to keep on reading, and broke my bank account for different editions (Thank you Book Depository) This one lacked the heart I’m used to in his books. It felt empty, and a tad cookie cutter for my taste.

I hated that I didn’t fall in love with this book as much as I planned to. My expectations might have been too high. It was a decent read, but certainly not mind-blowing as the cover suggests.

Full Disclosure: Review

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the chance to review this title ahead of its release date.

I was initially drawn to this book because the premise is not one I have read before. Therefore, I was intrigued. I was surprised to read it through and discover that it wasn’t your typical “dying teen girl” novel. Not at all.

This book centers around Simone, who is an HIV positive teenager, who navigates high school, her sexuality, and dating while trying to keep her condition a secret. She’s a first-time theater director for her school’s performance of RENT and a musical buff. When she meets Miles, she enters the world of dating, all while dodging a mysterious person who threatens to out her condition if she doesn’t stop seeing Miles. With gay dads, a broken-ish family life, that with being adopted and a person of color, she still powers through life. Her secret could be exposed, but is that something good or something bad?

I loved Simone’s voice. As someone with limited education about HIV, and musicals, I have to say I learned a few things from reading this. Simone takes her health seriously, and she protects herself at all costs, and I think that is something admirable. She is a good example for teens reading this story. The plot moved smoothly, and all the characters, side, and main were distinct.

Some of the things that irked me, such as the eye-rolling, went away quickly when I reminded myself that I am reading about teenagers. What do you expect? Also, some plot points needed expanding on. The book could have had a higher word count, and I would have been OK with it if it solved these minor things.

I didn’t know until I started to write this review and I researched the author, that Camryn is only a teen, which hypes me up so much about this book. One, because she is young, but she is so talented, and two, that I know she is going to be around for a long time and I am excited to read everything she has to offer the world.

Eight Will Fall: Review

Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for the chance to review this title ahead of its release date.

Contrary to what many of you are posting, this book has only one POV with Larkin. It is written in the third person.

Overview:

EIGHT WILL FALL follows Larkin who, as an Empath, is suppressed by the queen of her kingdom, along with others like her. She and her brother are forced to work the mines to survive. Larkin has a bit of a temper (for good reason) and one day she uses magic against an unfair shopkeeper. She and her brother are arrested and thrown into prison. Queen Melay then makes it known that she is choosing seven inmates (and a guide) to go down into the mines and see if the rumors of a returned dark lord are true or not. Each chosen Empath have a family member held back as leverage, thus making their choice an easy one. Once down in the caves, they encounter terrifying creatures, long-dead cultists, and the truth about themselves and how far they will go to save the ones they love and bring justice to their kingdom.

What I liked:

I loved the world-building in this story. It was fresh and not so complicated that it was hard to follow. I was sucked right in. The creep factor hit me like a brick wall in a WHOA sort of way as I wasn’t expecting it. BUT I love gore done right, and this was done right. I felt like I was in the movie The Descent, which terrified me and I watched, like, five times, because I’m a sucker for punishment.

The magic system was cool. I don’t remember many books with magic like this.

What I didn’t like:

Hmmmm. Not much, but maybe that I didn’t truly connect with all the characters as much as I hoped. That is what knocked it down a star, but honestly, it didn’t affect the story as a whole. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Read if you like:

Claustrophobic atmospheres
Thrill rides
A strong heroine
Good vs Evil
Stand-alone books (as far as I know)

A Heart so Fierce and Broken: Review

Thank you to Edelweiss for having the glitch of the century and allowing me to yank this book to download for my own greedy hands.

**THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS. Sort of. **

A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY was one of my favorite books of 2019. I couldn’t put that book down and when I was done, I kept walking by my bookshelf admiring it. It gave us a great protagonist with Harper, a complicated king in Rhen, and a broody man of Grey. It had everything. Unfortunately, this one did not live up to the first book.

Before you get all, this-is-not-the-first-it’s-a-sequel-and-doesn’t-have-to-be-the-same, hear me out. The book opens with Harper’s POV, and that is all we get out of her. Whomp whomp. Then we get to Grey and I happy squeal. But Grey’s character seemed off. He was smiling and talkative, and didn’t seem like the Grey we knew and loved. Next, we have a new character in Lia Mara, daughter of the Shallow queen whom we met in the first book. She’s OK, I guess. So, the whole novel is Lia and Grey. No Rhen, (until the very end) and no Harper save for the opening chapter.

OK, so the story follows Grey in his attempt to thwart Emberfall from knowing he’s the rightful heir. Lia is there to show us that her mother is as cruel as we thought, and along with Jacob (Harper’s bro), Noah (Jake’s boyfriend), and a new character Tycho, they journey to make alliances. All the while, falling love, being angsty, and mostly depressed.

I’ll go into what bothered me most, besides Grey’s character 360. Harper. She stood by while some horrible things happened. SHE STOOD BY. “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you,” is what she says. I read that as, “I’m sorry I DIDN’T help you.” As strong as a character as she was, I wanted more out of her, and her supposed love for Rhen felt so…wrong. I kind of hate her now.

That brings me to Rhen AND WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU? He wasn’t my favorite, to begin with, but he took my dislike to a whole new level. So, I hate him too.

Without Harper or Rhen (and how boring Grey became) the story dragged on and on. Lia Mara was a yawn. The only redeeming character was probably the human-like creature who accompanies them on their journey. The story lost its heart, and it lost its direction. I was waiting for the fierceness, but all of it fell flat. I’m pretty sure the next book will answer a lot of questions and make me feel better about the things that happened, but until then I shall scream like a spoiled child who’s ice-cream cone just fell onto the pavement.

Resurrection Girls: Review

Do you know the feeling when your world goes off of its axis? Things don’t feel right. The sky doesn’t look as blue. People talking sounds like it’s muffled underwater. The wind is all wrong. That is how I felt after reading this book. I felt destroyed.

Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for the chance to review this title ahead of its release date.

This book seeps in grief. It follows Olivia and her parents three years after the accidental drowning of her three-year-old brother. We see them coping in their ways, her mother keeps herself drugged enough to numb the pain, and her father is just…absent. When a new neighbor moves in across the street, Olivia begins to come out of the cave she’s banished herself to. The new neighbors consist of only women, a daughter her age, a mother, and an elderly blind grandmother. Olivia is drawn to Kara and her outgoing ways that ultimately reunite Olivia with her former best friend, whom she distanced herself form after Robby’s death.

Slowly, Olivia begins to feel alive, more than she has in years. In this journey, we find out what happened to Robby and the part that Olivia played in it. This is where the book goes from heart-breaking to completely obliterating. Olivia blames herself. Her mother once blamed her. In Kara, she sees the Olivia she used to be. Even when Kara reveals her unusual hobby of writing death row inmates. Eventually, things come to a crescendo and everyone begins to realize to take a step back and care for the living, and not dwelling on those who were gone.

This book hit me particularly hard because I have lost not one, not two, but three pregnancies. I could feel the grief in Ava’s words, and as I read, my mind kept going to my now four-year-old miracle child and how…oh I don’t even want to think about it anymore. I will die.

Anyhow, this book navigates the stages of grief and how Olivia and her family needed each other to get through it. The supernatural aspect of Kara and her family drew me in. Honestly, I thought it was strange at first,but quickly realized how well it fit into the topic of death and new life.

This book is unlike anything I have ever read. And it breaks me to know the author has also dealt with child loss. I hope she finds sunshine in the darkness. It’s there, and sometimes it takes longer to see it. But it’s there.

The Girl the Sea Gave Back: Review

Thank you to Netgalley who approved the e-arc the same day I received my Goodreads win of the same book. All comments are my own.

I am going to start this review by saying how disappointing this book was. It did not make the impact I was expecting it to given the author’s debut. This book was not fun. It was not fast-paced. It was not interesting. It was missing the heart that SINTD had-the relationships that made me fell in love with it. Most of it dragged, and I slogged through the ending with all the gusto of me getting up in the mornings. That is to say, sluggish and swearing at the gods as to why this was happening.

This story takes place ten years after the events of SKY IN THE DEEP, but do not directly coincide with that book so much. Fiske’s younger brother, Halvard has center stage, as well as a new heroine named Tova who is a soothsayer in a way. She and Halvard are part of two warring clans. Honestly, that is all I got out of it. There were no emotional ties to either character. I feel personally attacked at how pumped I was to get not only one, but two copies of this and feel as let down as I am.

The major things were lack of world-building, lack of character-building, and lack of story-line. The romance fell flat. So, in other words, there was nothing keeping me from talking good about this book. Nothing stood out. Mostly, I wanted it over so seeing as it was short, that was one plus to it all.

The Lady Rogue: Review

Huge thanks to Edelweiss and Simon Pulse for the chance to review this title ahead of its release date.

This book was everything I was looking for, which is to say I was looking for a sassy protagonist, a sexy Irish lad, and an Indiana Jones-like adventure. I sure got it.

Theo’s dad is a treasure hunter who suddenly finds himself wrapped up in a mystery and goes missing. Along with the boy named Huck who broke her heart years before and a journal, Theo sets out to find her father, as well as crack the secrets of a ring, reportedly worn by none other than Vlad the Impaler. Or Dracula for you simpletons. What starts as a simple task, their journey takes them deeper and deeper into some shady and dangerous stuff. All while running from a weirdo with a wolf and dodging feelings, Theo and Huck take their travels through Romania and into some creepy places to find both the ring and Theo’s dad.

So, when I said this book was like Indiana Jones, it WAS like Indiana Jones, but for the YA crowd so I was here for it. I mean, I was there before the line even formed. We got an angsty teen and the boy who left her, for reasons we come to know, who have to team up together. I mean, this is GOLD. We’ve got train rides, and boat rides, and camping, and lots of hiding. We have protagonists who bounce dialogue off each other like it’s nothing. I loved it all.

Theo was an unapologetic go-getter; she likes what she likes and she finds a way to get what she doesn’t. Huck was also adorable. They have a tumultuous history which adds to the tension. I probably would have liked a little more about their history as it did seem a little vague, but that wasn’t a deal breaker. I would have liked more of a character arc for both of them, especially Huck. One bug that I kept having to swat was the history with these two and why Huck had left Theo before. For some reason, it was sort of strange seeing as they had lived together and decided to take their relationship a step further, which resulted in Huck’s banishment from the household. There’s some immaturity in the situation, which this is a book about teens, so it’s whatever.

The treasure hunting had a Da Vinci code feel to it, and Bennet did take liberties with some aspects of Vlad The Impaler history, but that was all good.

What I didn’t feel like I was completely sold on was the ending. I felt like Theo’s dad was glossed over a bit, even though he was the main reason (as well as the ring of course) for the journey. I wanted him to have a bigger part. I wanted Huck to hash it out with what her father had done to him as well as to Theo, and I felt it was glossed over a bit. Maybe I’m asking for too much. I don’t know…

Other than those minor issues, I loved reading this book. I love European settings, funny banter, and romance so I give this book 4/5.