Review: “Beyond the Shadowed Earth” by Joanna Ruth Meyer

book coverTitle: Beyond the Shadowed Earth
Series: Beneath the Haunting Sea #2
Author: Joanna Ruth Meyer
Publication Date: January 14, 2020
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Pre-order: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Featuring morally gray characters and an intricate plot, Joanna Ruth Meyer’s companion novel to her 2018 debut Beneath the Haunting Sea is a complex tale about vengeance, guilt, and redemption.

It has always been Eda’s dream to become empress, no matter the cost. Haunted by her ambition and selfishness, she’s convinced that the only way to achieve her goal is to barter with the gods. But all requests come with a price and Eda bargains away the soul of her best friend in exchange for the crown

Years later, her hold on the empire begins to crumble and her best friend unexpectedly grows sick and dies. Gnawed by guilt and betrayal, Eda embarks on a harrowing journey to confront the very god who gave her the kingdom in the first place. However, she soon discovers that he’s trapped at the center of an otherworldly labyrinth and that her bargain with him is more complex than she ever could have imagined.

Though not without flaws, Beyond the Shadowed Earth was, overall, an enjoyable read. Set in the world of Meyer’s debut Beneath the Haunting Sea, this book was ambitious in its coverage; expanding on already established elements and exploring characters previously introduced.

The story focuses on book one’s antagonist, Eda. Intent on taking revenge on the baron who stole her inheritance, a grieving nine-year-old Eda makes a deal with the god Tuer: her life in his service in exchange for the crown. Bargaining with gods, however, are tricky transactions and when Eda fails to fulfill her end of it, she realizes, much too late, that the consequences are bigger than her.

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I’m going to be honest. I had a hard time with this book. Yes, the plot was intriguing, and yes, the world building was well done. I loved and enjoyed both elements. I am, however, of two minds about its characters.

Eda, to say the least, is unlikable. She’s selfish, self-centered, naive, and vengeful. She is so blinded by her anger that it clouds her judgment. She bartered with a god, schemed and killed her way to get the crown. She is everything a villain is.

Being unlikeable, though, isn’t the reason why I have conflicting feelings about her.

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All throughout the book, things happen to Eda – tough ones. She lost both of her parents at a very young age, was displaced and betrayed and used. Her best friend, the one person she truly cares for, is taken from her all while her hold on her empire slips, her barons making their own moves to grab whatever power they could. All these are meant and should have made me, at the very least, a little bit considerate if not totally empathetic towards her. But it was so difficult to connect with Eda. Her character was shallowly drawn and one-dimensional. There just wasn’t so much to her, no hidden depths. This also holds true for most of the supporting characters, which, for a character-driven story, is a big problem.

Setting my issues with character development aside, I still found many things to like in Beyond the Shadowed Earth.

The world building was exquisite. From its complicated politics to its intricate religion, Enduena was fully alive and I gladly immersed myself in it. The magical and almost mythical nine gods, the center of this story’s religion, was the most interesting part for me, and, admittedly, it was what kept me reading especially when Eda’s story wasn’t progressing much.

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Ultimately, even with its share of issues, Beyond the Shadowed Earth was a good read. The conclusion to Eda’s story was satisfying, open-ended enough but with clues that she’s on to the right path. This book is the second of the series, but could pretty much stand on its own. YA fantasy readers, especially the ones that love a good redemption arc will love this story.

about the authorJoanna Ruth Meyer

JOANNA RUTH MEYER hails from Mesa, Arizona, where she lives with her dear family, a rascally feline, and an enormous grand piano. When she’s not writing, she’s trying to convince her students that Bach is actually awesome, or plotting her escape from the desert. She loves good music, thick books, looseleaf tea, rainstorms, and staring out of windows. One day, she aspires to own an old Victorian house with creaky wooden floors and a tower (for writing in, of course!)

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook 

 

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Review: “The Never Tilting World” by Rin Chupeco

The Never Tilting World
Title: The Never Tilting World
Series: Never Tilting World #1
Author: Rin Chupeco
Publication Date: October 15, 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves
ARC provided by the publisher through Edelweiss. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Two young goddesses try to right a world gone wrong in Rin Chupeco’s newest fantasy duology The Never Tilting World.

Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by unrelenting sun.
While one sister rules Aranth – a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wrecked sea – her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.
But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses – along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and mouthy desert scavenger – set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.

“A demoness is what men call a goddess they cannot control.”

A strong opening for a strong story, The Never Tilting World blew me away. From the amazing world-building down to all the carefully laid out plot twists, this book had everything I wanted and more. It entertained and made me think: about sisters and that invisible thread connecting them, about power and sacrifice, and of the broken world handed down to us and what we could do to heal it.

Rin Chupeco’s writing really shone through in this book.

With details so vividly described they’re almost tangible, this story’s world-building is just something else. The idea of a world that has stopped spinning, split in two by a great unknowable abyss was a fresh one to me. The two halves – one veiled in the darkness of a never-ending night frozen and battered by tempestuous storms, the other languishing under the heat of a set that never sets – and the element-based magic system reminded me a bit of The Avatar: The Last Airbender and Mad Max.

Having multiple point-of-view characters can be a tough thing to work with. Sometimes it works, others it doesn’t. For TNTW though, it’s the latter. In fact, I think, it’s the best way to tell this particular story.

The two halves of the split world setting of this world is a huge ground to cover. Each side’s widely (and wildly) differing natures create an equally diverse set of challenges for everyone in this book. Chupeco, however, used her characters effectively and maximized the use of the first-person narrative. The four POV characters – Odessa and Lan, Haidee and Arjun – give readers a complete and comprehensive view of the story’s world all while moving the plot.

I must admit, for the first 20% of the book I felt kind of overwhelmed. There were a lot of foundational parts of the world-building thrown in with the narrative in the opening part and it was a sensory overload. Processing and separating the plot while trying to get a feel of what the world looked like and how it functioned became a task. Once things start gelling together though, everything just flowed and those bits laid out at the beginning of the book made a whole lot of sense. Plot twists (especially that ONE involving a supporting character) were deftly foreshadowed without sinking down the surprise factor. This is actually one of the first books I’ve read in a while that I wasn’t able to predict how things will go, and I was all the better for it.

The main characters were a treat to read about. They all have distinct voices and unique personalities, making them easy to tell apart. I enjoyed reading about them – Arjun more than most because he’s just hilarious even when he’s not trying. But, as fun as following their journeys through their world and, in turn, watching them grow as characters, I wasn’t able to really personally connect with any of them. This is not something necessarily bad, it’s just a matter of different experiences. Nevertheless, this difference did not stop me from rooting for all four MCs to succeed (or stay alive and unharmed.)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from beginning to end. It’s an epic adventure featuring young characters who are willing to take on the challenge of righting the wrongs of those who came before them – to break the cycle. It tackles climate change in all its harshness and destruction, but it still carries with it a hopeful note.

The Never Tilting World is a great start to a new series. It tied off a handful of the plot threads it pulled in but left enough to give the sequel a comfortable starting point. I definitely have a number of questions I want to be answered (What exactly did Asteria and Latona do?) and you can be sure that the moment the next installment hits the shelves, I will be making a grab for it. This is a must-read!

about the author

Rin Chupeco

Raised in Manila, Philippines, RIN CHUPECO writes about ghosts and fantastic worlds. She is the author of The Bone Witch series, The Suffering, and The Girl from the Well.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr

Review: “Tiger Queen” by Annie Sullivan

Tiger Queen coverTitle: Tiger Queen
Author: Annie Sullivan
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Publisher: Blink
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC provided by the publisher through Edelweiss. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

 

A fierce young desert princess must win her way to the crown to save her people from the drought in this YA fantasy inspired by Frank Stockton’s 1882 short story The Lady, or the Tiger?

In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought. The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.

But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world – and her heart – upside down. Her future is now behind two doors – only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger.

Last year, I had the lucky opportunity to read and review Annie Sullivan’s debut A Touch of Gold. I loved how she created the story – using a character of her own to sort of continue the well-known legend of King Midas’ golden touch. It was unique and entertaining, more than what I thought it would be. So, when I heard that she was coming out with a new re-telling, I immediately grabbed the chance and requested for a reviewer’s copy.

That said, my expectations may have been set a little higher going into this book.

Tiger Queen was an interesting take on Stockton’s The Lady, or the Tiger with a bit of Peter Pan and Robin Hood elements thrown into the mix. Kateri was a compelling character. Sheltered and wanting validation from her King father, she’s naïve, blind to the real struggles of her people and every bit the privileged princess that she was. She has been taught that physical strength is equal to power, so she – with her father then, later on, her father’s cruel captain of the guard Rodric as her mentors – honed herself as a fierce, capable warrior in the arena ready to literally fight off all her suitors to prove her right to rule.

Tiger Queen.png

Her character growth was the most engaging part of this story. Escaping the palace walls that has for so long both protected and caged her, Kateri’s whole world – her truths, beliefs – was shattered, leaving her to learn the harsh reality of her kingdom and its people, of the betrayal of his father. The girl basically needed to pick up what pieces of herself she could salvage, and that’s a tough thing to deal with. I couldn’t help myself from cheering her on.

However, other than Kateri’s evolution, I just can’t find anything else about this story that really stood out for me. Yes, I was entertained enough that I was able to finish reading this in two days. It was fast paced and very much full of action. The Desert Boys gave this story a little bit more of color with their raids and their mission to help the people Achra the best they could. Obviously, I enjoyed this book, but do I see it making its mark in my brain? Sadly, the answer is no.

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Tiger Queen was entertaining and enjoyable. It was a good story, but not a solid one. I found a better chunk of it bland – the antagonists were pretty much one dimensional, bad to the core with none of the nuance I was looking for in a fully-formed villain. The romance, too, did not do much for me. It was slow burn, I get that, but even in slow-burn romances you’ve got to layer in the tension, nudge the pairing together here and there where it makes sense – make it memorable enough that readers remember it and yearn (long) for your characters to be together. In Tiger Queen‘s case though, those little nudges were so subtle they were almost ignorable, and by the time Kateri and her love interest did finally get together, all I felt was an underwhelming meh.

Still, even if this book did not do much for me, I’m sure it will find a place in the hearts of other readers. Fans of YA re-tellings will especially love the creativity that went into this one.

about the author

4135488ANNIE SULLIVAN grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. She received her Masters degree in Creative Writing from Butler University. She loves fairy tales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling. Her wanderlust has taken her to every continent, where she’s walked on the Great Wall of China, found four-leaf clovers in Ireland, waddled with penguins in Antartica, and cage dived with great white sharks in South Africa.

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Review: “A Treason of Thorns” by Laura E. Weymouth

A Treason of Thorns (Laura E. Weymouth)Title: A Treason of Thorns
Author: Laura E. Weymouth
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC access provided by the publisher through NetGalley as part of the Fantastic Flying Book Club’s blog tour. All opinions expressed are my own.

A young girl must decide between duty and heart in this enchanting and haunting YA fantasy.

Violet Sterling has spent the last seven years in exile, longing to return to Burleigh House. One of the six great houses of England, Burleigh’s magic always kept the countryside well. And as a child, this magic kept Violet happy, draping her in flowers while she slept, fashioning secret hiding places for her, and lighting fires on the coldest of nights to keep her warm.

Everything shattered, though, when her father committed high treason trying to free Burleigh from the king’s oppressive control. He was killed, and Vi was forced into hiding.

When she’s given a chance to go back, she discovers Burleigh has run wild with grief. Vines and briars are crumbling the walls. Magic that once enriched the surrounding countryside has turned dark and deadly, twisting lush blooms into thorns, poisoning livestock and destroying crops. Burleigh’s very soul is crying out in pain.

Vi would do anything to help, and soon she finds herself walking the same deadly path as her father all those years before. Vi must decide how far she’s willing to go to save her house – before her house destroy’s everything she’s ever known.

With the hectic thing that was 2018, I missed Laura E. Weymouth’s debut A Light Between Worlds so I’m coming into this new book of hers as a total newbie to her words and worlds. If A Treason of Thorns is anything to go by, however, I think I might just have found a new auto-buy author.

Ultimately a novel about family – of inherited responsibilities and the ghosts of the ones before us – and the bonds that bind us, A Treason of Thorns was a thing of beauty. It was poetic and haunting, lush and dark, atmospheric and almost Gothic. I quickly fell in love with this imagined version of an older England fueled by the magic of six great houses.

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Solid world-building and Weymouth’s almost lyrical writing are two of this book’s many aces. The magic system was a fresh one for me. The thought of old, sentient houses running on ancient magic was such an intriguing idea and I gobbled it up. I had so much fun visualizing what was being described: fireplaces lighting up on their own when you enter a room, moments from the past featuring your forebears playing like scenes from a movie right in front of you. The story’s world is fully alive ready to pop up from the pages.

But, as strong as the world-building and as beautiful as the writing, these elements weren’t what kept me reading.

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A Treason of Thornscharacters remains its strongest suit. I found a compelling protagonist in Violet Sterling. Caught up between duty and the desires of her heart, her dilemma was entirely relatable and very human. She started out the story certain of her purpose and goal – to be Burleigh House’s caretaker, to restore the only home she’d ever known and in turn heal the West Country – her duty having been ingrained in her by her father since her childhood. Uncovering hidden truths, though, Violet quickly realizes that things are not as cut-and-dry. Her situation is made even more complicated when she starts to want things for herself, things that aren’t to Burleigh’s benefit.

I loved Violet. Even from the first few chapters, she made a connection to my heart. She’s stubborn, strong-willed, naive and fallible. Her struggle between what she needed and wanted – family and love, home and heart – was something familiar. I think it’s a bridge we all must cross as we come of age, having the power to choose your own way if only you’d be brave enough to claim it.

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Wyn took his time with me, but eventually, I grew fond of him. He was sort of gray at first, gaining depth as the story progressed. He, like the rest of the secondary characters, added more texture to Violet’s story because, in the end, this is still about her.

In all honesty, I am just floored by how the women in this story were written. They embody strength in different ways, one not less than the others. Mira, the Sterling’s longtime housekeeper who stood as Violet’s mother-figure, showed her strength in the form of loyal and her steadfastness. Frey, the owner of Red Shilling where Violet worked and her father’s lover after her mother left them, showed it in her quiet defiance. Esperanza, the Princess of Wales and King Edgar’s heir, navigated the royal court armed with her cunning, wit and resourcefulness. She was one of the nicest surprises in this book for me as I thought she was going to be an antagonist. It was great being proved wrong.

This review will never do justice to just how good A Treason of Thorns was. It was spellbinding, enchanting. It’s one of the best books I read this year and will surely stay in my head for a long, long time. Teen readers and adults alike will all find something they can relate to in this book. YA fantasy readers will surely eat this story up just like I did. This comes with my wholehearted recommendations. (Also, I’m going to finally pick up A Light Between Worlds after this.)

about the author

Laura E. Weymouth

LAURA E. WEYMOUTH is a Canadian living in exile in America, and the sixth consecutive generation in her family to immigrate from one country to another Born and raised in the Niagara region of Ontario, she now lives at the edge of the woods in western New York, along with her husband, two wild-hearted daughters, a spoiled cat, an old soul of a dog, and an indeterminate number of chickens. She is represented by the inimitable Lauren Spieller of TriadaUS.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

 

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Win signed copies of Laura E. Weymouth’s book: The Light Between Worlds and A Treason of Thorns (US/CAN only)

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Review: “Kingdom of Souls” by Rena Barron

Kingdom of SoulsTitle: Kingdom of Souls
Series: Kingdom of Souls #1
Author: Rena Barron
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Content Warnings: Blood magic, self-injury for a ritual, challenging familial relationship, psychological torture, death of children, mind manipulation, animal possession, animal sacrifice (mentioned), violence
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC access provided by the publisher through NetGalley as part of the Fantastic Flying Book Club’s blog tour. All opinions expressed are my own.

Built on a world based on West Africa, Rena Barron debuts with a compelling story about a girl with no magic in a world teeming with it.

Magic has a price—if you’re willing to pay.

Born into a family of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah yearns for magic of her own. But each year she fails to call forth her ancestral powers, while her ambitious mother watches with growing disapproval.

There’s only one thing Arrah hasn’t tried, a deadly last resort: trading years of her own life for scraps of magic. Until the Kingdom’s children begin to disappear, and Arrah is desperate to find the culprit.

She uncovers something worse. The long-imprisoned Demon King is stirring. And if he rises, his hunger for souls will bring the world to its knees… unless Arrah pays the price for the magic to stop him.

With all intents of being forthright, I will tell you that I have very complicated feelings about this book. There were definitely parts that I loved and parts that I didn’t. Writing this review took just as much time as reading it with me having to parse through said complicated feelings. This post is an extension of that dissection.

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When this book is at its strongest, it doesn’t only put its best foot forward – it goes all out. Nothing is done by half-measures, which works well half the time playing up strengths to a maximum. It’s brave and something that I really admire in this story.

A world built as strong as it is vast

Kingdom of Souls is an ambitious work and its larger-than-life world attests to it. With West Africa at its foundation, Barron’s world is a lush, colorful one with unique characteristics that’ll separate it from other stories in its genre.

I love how clear the story’s world was described – the dynamics between its peoples, the Five Tribes and the Almighty Kingdom: their belief system, the gods they worship, political hierarchy, and general way of living. They are fully alive within the pages of this story, even the Northerners and Kefu, though I have a feeling there’d be a lot more from those last two in the coming books as they’ve only been discussed in relation with the former.

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Mythology weaved into the narrative

I love mythology and I love that many books have a bit of it included in their narrative. I most especially love when the mythology and lore in a book go outside the usual Greek and Roman ones that have already inspired a handful of earlier YA titles.

But, that’s not the case with Kingdom of Souls.

Mythology and lore are not added as a mere layer to Arrah’s story – it’s tightly woven into the narrative with a life and purpose of its own independent from Arrah. Heka – the god of the peoples of the Five Tribes – and the Orishas – the gods of the Almighty Kingdom – all add something to the whole story. Powerful but fallible and unpredictable, their intentions are not entirely pure and their actions aren’t always for the good of everyone. They are the wild cards of this story and I just have a feeling they will continue to serve up surprises in the coming sequels, which will be really interesting especially given the way things ended in this one.

A compelling heroine

This is one of the biggest selling points of this book for me. Kingdom of Souls is a character-driven story, and it needed a strong character to carry its weight through.

Arrah proved to be more than capable for the part.

KoS 3

She is a compelling heroine, one that you will root for from beginning to end. She’s tough, fierce, and determined but she’s also plagued with frustration, disappointment, and feelings of inadequacy at her lack of magic, at her mother’s disapproval and condescension. Arrah is loyal and dedicated to her family and her friends, unhesitatingly making sacrifices – crossing lines she set for herself – in the belief that it will save those she loves.

With a solid cast of characters behind her – the charming Rudjek, steadfast Sukkar, and Hassana, her loving father Oshe and her paradoxical mother Arti – Arrah grow by leaps and bounds within the pages of this book and it was such a joy reading about her. I found it easy to empathize with her, despair with her – basically to feel whatever it is that she is feeling. It takes a special kind of character to do that and, if anything, I will be reading the sequels just to find out what happens to Arrah.

breaker

As it is with any book, I had a number of issues with Kingdom of Souls. Some of these I would have easily overlooked but, in the case of this book, they just greatly affected my enjoyment that I had to take note of them.

Too much

I appreciate complex stories, I really do. Sometimes though, when you add one thing after another, it just gets to be too much. This was my main problem with Kingdom of Souls.

Barron served up plot twists like dishes on a banquet, and it became too much, too hard to digest. All the plot threads she pulled into this book alone could easily write a trilogy. It created an imbalance that in turn affected the story’s pace.

KoS 6

Wonky pacing

This is probably my biggest issue.

Being a character-driven story, I already expected the pace of this book to run a bit slower. But, with all those blocks of story pieces thrown into the plot, the pace just crawled.

This problem was most prevalent in the book’s middle parts. It just sagged, felt unbalanced and repetitive. Characters would go on about something one chapter only to repeat talking about the same thing a few chapters down. I put down the book a handful of times because it just got too exhausting. It was a good thing that the first and last parts of the book were more even-tempered.

breaker

Kingdom of Souls is an imperfect but still sets the beginnings of what sounds like a really promising series. Its strength lies deeply in its character and Barron’s rich world-building. I would definitely come back for the sequels because I’m just too curious (and, honestly, too attached to the characters.) YA SFF readers will find something to love in this book, and hopefully, the whole series.

about the authorRena BarronRENA BARRON grew up in small-town Alabama where stories of magic and adventure sparked her imagination. After penning her first awful poem in middle school, she graduated to writing short stories and novels by high school.

Rena loves all things science fiction, ghosts, and superheroes. She’s a self-proclaimed space nerd. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading or brushing up on her French.

Website | TwitterInstagram | Tumblr

 

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Justbusyreading – Review
Flying Paperbacks – Review

SEPTEMBER 9TH

Moonlight Rendezvous – Review + Favourite Quotes
Confessions of a YA Reader – Review + Favourite Quotes
TBR and Beyond – Review + Playlist + Favourite Quotes

SEPTEMBER 10TH

Wishful Endings – Review
Jessica Writes – Review + Favourite Quotes
The Reading Life – Review + Favourite Quotes
Devouring Books – Review
Flipping Through the Pages – Review + Favourite Quotes

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: “A Treason of Thorns” by Laura E. Weymouth

Can't Wait Wednesday

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted Tressa at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted Jill at Breaking the Spine.


Happy mid-week Wednesday!

For this week’s edition of CWW I’ll be sharing my current read. It’s a book that I’m pretty excited to come out and I just feel lucky that I get to read it ahead before it hit shelves.

A Treason of Thorns (Laura E. Weymouth)
Title: A Treason of Thorns
Author: Laura E. Weymouth
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

Violet Sterling has spent the last seven years in exile, longing to return to Burleigh House. One of the six great houses of England, Burleigh’s magic always kept the countryside well. And as a child, this magic kept Violet happy, draping her in flowers while she slept, fashioning secret hiding places for her, and lighting fires on the coldest nights to keep her warm.

Everything shattered, though, when her father committed high treason trying to free Burleigh from the king’s oppressive control. He was killed, and Vi was forced into hiding.

When she’s given a chance to go back, she discovers Burleigh has run wild with grief. Vines and briars are crumbling the walls. Magic that once enriched the surrounding countryside has turned dark and deadly, twisting lush blooms into thorns, poisoning livestock and destroying crops. Burleigh’s very soul is crying out in pain.

Vi would do anything to help, and soon she finds herself walking the same deadly path as her father all those years before. Vi must decide how far she’s willing to go to save her house—before her house destroys everything she’s ever known.

I’m only about 10% into this A Treason of Thorns and already I am in love with it. It’s deliciously atmospheric, I might just gobble it up.

Follow the Tour

I’m set to post my review of this book next week, September 15th as part of the Fantastic Flying Book Club‘s A Treason of Thorns blog tour. If you’d be so inclined, please do check out the rest of the stops.

September 10th

September 11th

Utopia State of Mind – Review  + Favourite Quotes
The Book Bratz – Review + Favourite Quotes
The Book Dutchesses – Review + Favourite Quotes
The Hermit Librarian – Review + Favourite Quotes

September 12th

Rockin’ Book Reviews – Guest Post
Sometimes Leelynn Reads – Review + Dream Cast
Librorum in Sempiternum – Review + Favourite Quotes
The Baroness of Books – Review + Favourite Quotes
Synopses by Sarge – Review

September 13th

Kait Plus Books – Interview
Moonlight Rendezvous – Review + Favourite Quotes
Books of Teacups – Review
Chrikaru Reads – Review
A Few Chapters ’til Love – Review + Favourite Quotes

September 14th

Morgan Vega – Review + Playlist + Favourite Quotes
Luchia Houghton Blog – Review + Favourite Quotes
Jrsbookreviews – Review

September 15th

NovelKnight – Guest Post
The Reading Corner for All – Review + Favourite Quotes
Novel Nerd Faction – Review + Playlist
In Between Book Pages – Review + Favourite Quotes
Sincerely Karen Jo – Review

September 16th

Wishful Endings – Interview
A Court of Coffee and Books – Review + Favourite Quotes

 

 

First Line Fridays: “Kingdom of Souls” by Rena Barron

First Line Fridays (feature photo)

First Line Fridays is a weekly feature hosted by Hoarding Books.


Happy Friday!

I’m going to be sharing the first few lines of my current read today, Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron.

Kingdom of Souls

Be still, Little Priestess.

My father kneels before me with a string of teethe threaded between his fingers. They shine like polished pearls, and I square my shoulders and stand a little taller to make him proud. The distant echo of the djembe drums drowns out his words, but it doesn’t tame the twinkle in his eyes as he drapes the teeth around my neck. Tonight I become a true daughter of Tribe Aatiri.

Magic of all colors flutters in the air as gentle as wingbeats. I can’t be still when it dances on my father’s dark skin like lightning bugs. It flits along his jaws and leaps onto his nose. My hands shoots out to catch an ember of gold, but it slips through my fingers. I giggle, and he laughs too.

I’m just at about 10% into this book, but already it’s showing lots of promise. I can’t wait to see what happens to Arrah and her friends because I’m sure it’s going to be exciting.

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I’m going to be part of the Kingdom of Souls blog tour hosted by the amazing ladies at The Fantastic Flying Book Club. Check out the blog stops below:

September 4th

September 5th

Phannie the ginger bookworm  – Review + Favourite Quotes
Jrsbookreviews – Review
Kait Plus Books – Review + Favourite Quotes

September 6th

In Between Book Pages – Review + Favourite Quotes
Utopia State of Mind – Review + Favourite Quotes
Camillea Reads – Review
Artsy Draft – Review + Favourite Quotes

September 7th

Frayed Books – Review
The Layaway Dragon – Review + Favourite Quotes
NovelKnight – Review
Charis Rae – Review
Novel Lives – Review

September 8th

Luchia Houghton Blog – Review + Favourite Quotes
Justbusyreading – Review
Flying Paperbacks – Review

September 9th

Moonlight Rendezvous – Review + Favourite Quotes
Confessions of a YA Reader – Review + Favourite Quotes
TBR and Beyond – Review + Playlist + Favourite Quotes

September 10th

Wishful Endings – Review
Jessica Writes – Review + Favourite Quotes
The Reading Life – Review + Favourite Quotes
Devouring Books – Review
Flipping Through the Pages – Review + Favourite Quotes

 

Review: “Wild Savage Stars” by Kristina Pérez

Wild Savage Stars (Kristina Perez)Title: Wild Savage Stars
Series: Sweet Black Waves #2
Author: Kristina Pérez
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
Publisher: Imprint
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC provided by the publisher through Edelweiss. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Kristina Pérez picks up where she left off in Wild Savage Stars, her second installment in her Tristan-and-Isolt-inspired series.

Branwen has a secret powerful enough to destroy two kingdoms.

Her ancient magic led to a terrible betrayal by both her best friend, the princess Essy, and her first love, Tristan. Now this same magic is changing Branwen. Adrift in a rival court, Branwen must hide the truth from the enemy king by protecting the lovers who broke her heart – and finds herself considering a darker path.

Not everyone wants the alliance with Branwen’s kingdom to succeed – peace is balanced on a knife’s edge, and her only chance may be to embrace the darkness within…

I read Kristina Pérez’s debut Sweet Black Waves last year and fell in love with her story. It’s one about love – love for your motherland and its people, love for your family, of the sister of your heart, and of love found unexpectedly. Pérez put her own spin on a legend that has been repeatedly told and romanticized over the centuries, breathing fresh life into it by focusing on a different character. It was an exciting start for a new series, and with the way it ended, I knew that I just have to get my hands on its sequel or else my curiosity will kill me.

Well, reader, I got my wish and boy, it was everything.

Brutal, magical, romantic and tragic – Wild Savage Stars was both the sequel I expected it to be and a surprising follow-up to its predecessor. It starts off almost immediately after the events of Sweet Black Waves with Branwen, Tristan and Eseult arriving at Iveriu’s enemy country of Kernyv. Pérez places her original trio in a new land, introduces new characters- both allies and foes – and ups the stakes in this installment.

Wild Savage Stars quote #1

Despite all these additions though, the story felt instantly familiar and I was quickly drawn back into this series’ world. Pérez’s writing is as strong as ever with lush descriptions and dramatic prose that is sure to coax an emotional response even from the most stoic of readers – be it anger, sadness or horror. Her scholarly knowledge of medieval legends, as it has done in her first book, continues to provide a solid foundation for her version of the story. It’s actually one of the things that originally pulled me to this series.

But it wasn’t why I stayed.

Branwen is a complex character. Dutiful to a fault and loyal to the bone, she oftentimes falls victim to her own schemes: making decisions that she thinks will best protect the ones she loves and overplaying her hand in preserving peace for her beloved Iveriu. She is not easy to like – most of the time she’s actually quite unlikeable – but there’s just something so ineffably human about her, in her struggle between what her heart’s wants and her mind’s idea of what is right, in being cleaved in half by love and hate, being caught up in between anger and forgiveness.

This series may be inspired by Tristan and Iseult’s legends, but this is Branwen’s story and she commands this book, dictating its tone and pace like the wildfire that she is. Wild Savage Stars is darker, more complicated than its predecessor. It mirrors Branwen’s growing powers and her new life in a new land – one that she has long seen as an enemy.

Wild Savage Stars quote #2

Indeed, while Tristan (annoyingly repentant to the point of self-flagellation) and Eseult (still selfish, immature, irresponsible, petty and, just so completely, wholly unworthy) remained stagnant, Branwen flourished. She falls in headfirst into Kernyvak politics, faltering at first but quickly became more adept as she gained her footing. She also, finally, comes around to accept her ancient magic – scaling up another level after vacillating between denial and reluctance in SWB and the first third of this second book.

Shifting the focus on new characters – the fair and kind King Marc and the cagey Ruan – instead of meandering on the broken pieces of the Tristan-Branwen-Eseult triangle was actually a godsend as it gave Branwen and the story a depth that the first book lacked.

Wild Savage Stars quote #3

I enjoyed reading this book so much and not just because it pushes the series on. Wild Savage Stars can very well stand on its own and even improves on its predecessor – something that a lot of sequels fail to do. With the way this installment ended, (Gasp! Another betrayal!) the series closer is bound to be an exciting one, and I’m in this ride come what way. Historical fiction buffs, Fantasy lovers, Romance readers and fans of retellings will all find something to love in this book. I definitely, definitely recommend this whole series and if you see a girl pushing this book into people’s hands, that’ll be me.

about the author

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KRISTINA PÉREZ is the author of The Myth of Morgan La Fey (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). She holds a Ph.D. in Medieval Literature from the University of Cambridge.

She has lectured at the National University of Singapore on vampires in Western Culture and was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Hong Kong University’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre. As a journalist, her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal Asia, Departures, L’Officiel India, Condé Nast Traveller, CNNGo and the South China Morning Post, among others.

Her debut YA Fantasy, Sweet Black Waves – a Tristan and Iseult retelling – was published by Imprint/Macmillan on June 5th, 2018. The sequel, Wild Savage Stars was published on August 27th, 2019.

Writing as K.K. Péerez, her first YA Sci-Fi, The Tesla Legacy was published by Tor Teen on March 12th, 2019.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr

Review: “The Merciful Crow” by Margaret Owen

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Title: The Merciful Crow
Series: The Merciful Crow #1
Author: Margaret Owen
Publication Date: July 30, 2019
Publisher: Henry Holt (BYR)
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Pre-order: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC provided by the publisher through Edelweiss. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

A solid story from start to finish, debuting author Margaret Owen tackles discrimination head-on in The Merciful Crow.

A future chieftain
Fie abides by one rule: look after your own. Her Crow caste of undertakers and mercy-killers takes more abuse than coin, but when they’re called to collect the royal dead, she’s hoping they’ll find the payout of a lifetime.
A fugitive prince
When Crown Prince Jasimir turns out to have faked his death, Fie’s ready to cut her losses – and perhaps his throat. But he offers a wager that she can’t refuse: protect him from a ruthless queen, and he’ll protect the Crows when he reigns.
A too-cunning bodyguard
Hawk warrior Tavin has always put Jas’s life before his, magically assuming the prince’s appearance and shadowing his every step. But what happens when Tavin begins to want something to call his own?

This book took me by surprise in all the best ways.

Rich and immersive, The Merciful Crow is everything I wanted in a Fantasy and more. An intriguing story set in a unique universe starring diverse characters in an epic quest – this is the kind of book that’ll take you by the scruff your shirt and drag you inside its world not caring if you’re ready for it or not.

Margaret Owen writes with a razor-sharp and unyielding – which fits TMC. From the get-go, she immediately sets the tone and pace of the story with a punchy first line, sustaining it right to the very end. Her characters, all from diverse backgrounds, appearances, and gender identities, take readers on a high-stakes quest across their kingdom. It was a frame after frame of action that kept me on my toes (and kept me turning the pages.)

But more than those obvious bits, there’s just so much more to The Merciful Crow and it’s these elements that make this book stand out.

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A well-built world and a unique magic system

This is the first thing that really stood out for me. It was obvious the careful planning that went into the making of this story’s universe. Owen crafted an expansive kingdom of diverse peoples; a kingdom where a person’s birthright determines their fate – caste, trade, and magic included.

The Merciful Crow quote #1

It’s a fictional world that still feels pretty much like ours. You could easily draw out real-world parallels – the Hindu caste system and the bubonic plague immediately came to my mind when I started this book – which helped with filling out the minute details.

The bigger elements though, like the details about each group’s magic and how it works, were seamlessly woven into the narrative and it made for a smoother flow of the story. No info dump here, whatsoever!
A story that bites

The Merciful Crow takes an unflinching look at discrimination and systematic prejudice. The kingdom’s caste system provides a rich ground for inequality to grow and fester, with people thinking their caste being above others by basis of birthright alone. The Oleander Gentry – something that just reminds me so much of the KKK with their white cloaks and masks – and the power-hungry Queen Rhusana capitalizes on their people’s prejudices to advance their own agendas.

The Merciful Crow quote #2

TMC hits close to home, probably too close. A hard truth as it is, the things that the Crows – being the lowest caste – suffer in this story is the reality of a lot of people in our world. I very much appreciate how the author handled these topics. She was harsh when the story called for harsh and empathetic when the story called for empathy, never sugarcoating anything. It was this that made this story more real to me.
A feisty female protagonist you can rage with

Hands down, Owen did a great job with her characters. All of them are fleshed out, their mannerisms and actions, the way the relationships between characters developed were very organic – realistic. Still, somehow, Fie just really sets herself apart.

Fie is one angry lady and, I say, she has every right to.

The Merciful Crow quote #3

Being a Crow, Fie has seen and experienced just about all the injustices the higher castes threw down their way. Her mother was brutally murdered by the Oleanders, the same people who seek their help with the plague won’t even pay them their due. Nevertheless, despite these, Fie’s spirit remains unbroken. She refuses to accept things as they are and will do her damndest to change the status quo for herself and the Crows.

Fie’s such a powerful character, one you’ll root for to win. In a plot-driven story, she broke through and made me feel whatever she was feeling, and that’s a testament to how Owen wrote her character.

breaker

I absolutely loved The Merciful Crow. It’s a unique story that just feels so real perhaps because of the hard issues it tackled.

This one read like a standalone with pretty much of the plot threads tied up as cleanly as the author could have, but I’m happy to get another installment next year. The ending leaves enough space for a continuation. I certainly want to see how things pan out for Fie and Tavin, Jasimir, and the Crows. This is definitely a must-read!

about the author

m-owen-headshot

Born and raised at the end of the Oregon Trail, MARGARET OWEN first encountered an author in the wild in fourth grade. Roughly twenty seconds later, she decided she too would be an author, the first of many well-thought-out life decisions.

The career plan shifted frequently as Margaret spent her childhood haunting the halls of Powell’s Books. After earning her degree in Japanese, her love of espresso called her north to Seattle, where she worked in everything from thrift stores to presidential campaigns. The common thread between every job can be summed up as: lessons were learned.

Fortunately, it turned out that fourth-grade Margaret was onto something. She now spends her days wrestling disgruntled characters onto the page and negotiating a long-term hostage situation with her two monstrous cats. (There is surprisingly little difference between the two.) In her free time, she enjoys exploring ill-advised travel destinations and raising money for social justice nonprofits through her illustrations.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: “Wild Savage Stars” by Kristina Pérez

Can't Wait Wednesday

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted Tressa at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted Jill at Breaking the Spine.


Happy Wednesday everyone!

I missed CWW for a couple of weeks. Life has been keeping me busy, I’m afraid. There were a few changes at my work. Nope, still doing the same thing – being a nurse and all that – but I was given a new clinic to establish and manage, which is a good thing though I haven’t gotten to feeling excited about it yet. I’ll get there eventually, I think.

Anyway, to get me back to the CWW track, I’m featuring a sequel to a book I loved last year.

Wild Savage Stars (Kristina Perez)Title: Wild Savage Stars
Series: Sweet Black Waves #2
Author: Kristina Pérez
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
Publisher: Imprint
Pre-order: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

Branwen has a secret powerful enough to destroy two kingdoms.

Her ancient magic led to a terrible betrayal by both her best friend, the princess Essy, and her first love, Tristan. Now this same magic is changing Branwen. Adrift in a rival court, Branwen must hide the truth from the enemy king by protecting the lovers who broke her heart―and finds herself considering a darker path.

Not everyone wants the alliance with Branwen’s kingdom to succeed―peace is balanced on a knife’s edge, and her only chance may be to embrace the darkness within…

I really loved Kristina Pérez’s take on Tristan and Iseult Sweet Black Waves when it came out last year. She created such an interesting character in Branwen – someone still coming to grips with her newfound power, someone divided between her duties and her own wants. The first book ended in a sort of cliffhanger and I’m excited to see how things pan out for her, for Tristan, maybe a bit about Iseult as well, (but if you read my review of the Sweet Black Waves you’ll know how I feel about her.)

I was lucky enough to get a chance to read an ARC of this book. I can’t get to it right now because I still have a couple more books on my schedule, but you bet I will get to this book as quick as I can.

💗💗💗

Rachel

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What book/s are you excited for this week?