Posted in Reviews

Review: Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He
Verdict: excited for the next book! If it ever comes…

Summary

Descendant of the Crane

Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

In this shimmering Chinese-inspired fantasy, debut author Joan He introduces a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggling to do right in a world brimming with deception.

Thoughts

Four stars because it felt a little slow at times and I knew from the start who to trust and who not to trust. Four stars because I will absolutely be reading the sequel and am in fact really excited about where this one left off and promised to go. I loved the characters having complex motivations, and few if any are who they seem to be on the surface.

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Review: The Key To Fear by Kristin Cast

The Key to Fear by Kristin Cast
Verdict: eh. The second book would probably be better

Summary

The Key to Fear (The Key Series Book 1)

 To Health.To Life.To the Future.

We are The Key.

‘No touching today for a healthy tomorrow.

Elodie obeys The Key. Elodie obeys the rules. Elodie trusts in the system. At least, Elodie used to…

Aidan is a rebel. Aidan doesn’t do what he’s told. Aidan just wants to be free. Aidan is on his last chance…

After a pandemic wiped out most of the human race, The Key took power. The Key dictates the rules. They govern in order to keep people safe. But as Elodie and Aidan begin to discover there is another side to The Key, they realise not everything is as it seems.

Rather than playing protector, The Key are playing God. 

Thoughts

This was better than I expected, because for some reason I kind of expected this to be a B-tier book. I thought it would have somewhat subpar writing, and maybe kind of flat characters, and the plot would be kind of predictable. I guess I forgot that Kristin Cast wrote this, and they have a lot of experience writing books (which I used to love as a teen). So the writing was definitely better than I thought it would be going in!

The rest of it, though….

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ARC Review: You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao (11/9)

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao
Expected Release Date: November 9, 2021
Verdict: I would have DNFd if this weren’t an ARC 😶😬

Recommended: if you think you’re interested
For folks who read the premise and think they’ll like it, for a very singular dive into one person and issue

Summary

Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes.

Heartbroken, Julie skips his funeral, throws out his things, and tries everything to forget him and the tragic way he died. But a message Sam left behind in her yearbook forces back memories. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail.

And Sam picks up the phone.

In a miraculous turn of events, Julie’s been given a second chance at goodbye. The connection is temporary. But hearing Sam’s voice makes her fall for him all over again, and with each call it becomes harder to let him go. However, keeping her otherworldly calls with Sam a secret isn’t easy, especially when Julie witnesses the suffering Sam’s family is going through. Unable to stand by the sidelines and watch their shared loved ones in pain, Julie is torn between spilling the truth about her calls with Sam and risking their connection and losing him forever.

Thoughts:

For such a normal-length book, this felt like it flew by. In this case… that’s not exactly a good thing (or a bad thing). This book sets out to tell the story of Julie’s guilt and grief over Sam’s death, and that’s exactly what it tells. The weird thing is that it’s also the only thing that it tells. This book has a very tight focus on the issue it aims to address. While, again, that’s not a bad thing, it was strange in that it ended up reading more like short story for me since there was only one thread to the plot.

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Posted in Reviews

Review: Idol Gossip by Alexandra Leigh Young

Idol Gossip by Alexandra Leigh Young
Verdict: others did it better

Recommended: no
I have some other suggested titles in the review for books that tell this same story, but much better. This one was pretty generic and brought nothing new to the trope.

Summary

Every Friday after school, dressed in their new South Korean prep-school uniforms — sweater vests, knee-highs, pleated skirts, and blazers — seventeen-year old Alice Choy and her little sister, Olivia, head to Myeongdong, brave a dank, basement-level stairwell full of graffiti, and slip into a noreabang. Back in San Francisco, when she still had friends and earthly possessions, Alice took regular singing lessons. But since their diplomat mom moved them to Seoul, she pours herself into karaoke, vamping it up in their booth to Lady Gaga while loyal Olivia applauds and howls with laughter. Alice lives for Fridays, but when an older woman stops her on their way out one day, handing Alice a business card with a bow, singing turns serious. Could the chance encounter really be her ticket to elite status at Top10 Entertainment’s Star Academy? With a little sisterly support, backed by one of the world’s top talent agencies, can Alice lead her group on stage before a stadium of 50,000 chanting fans — and just maybe strike K-pop gold? Not if a certain influential blogger and the anti-fans get their way.

Delicious gossip squares off with genuine heart in a debut about standing out and fitting in, dreaming big and staying true — for avid K-pop fans and those just discovering the worldwide cultural phenomenon.

Thoughts

I came into this fully expecting that it would be very similar to other k-pop based books that have come out in the past few years. I was correct. If it were just similar, that wouldn’t be so bad. Unfortunately, this whole book was… meh.

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ARC Review: Lupina Book One: Wax by James Wright

Lupina Book One: Wax by James Wright
Expected Release: October 26, 2021

Recommended: sure
For an intro into a series that promises to give more (next time), for an interesting art concept (that you might have to squint at), for characters well-portrayed even in their silence

Summary

In the coastal town of Kote, recently brought under the yoke of the Addalian Empire, four-year-old Lupa spends her days getting bullied by her older sister and hiding behind her mother’s skirts. But when tragedy strikes, Lupa finds herself alone in a new world… alone until she’s found by the she-wolf, Coras, and sets off on a journey of discovery… and revenge.

Thoughts

I’ve come out of this book feeling like I’m more interested in the next installment. This one was a lot of setup and not much actually happening. I know the summary is all like, “she’s out for revenge with a badass wolf by her side” but that is more of a future thing it seems. Definitely no vengeance here.

I kept going because there were some interesting elements worked into the story and world lore, and the art intrigued me. It’s a little bit of a love / hate with the art though, because there were an unfortunately large amount of scenes where I truly could not decipher what was occurring. It was difficult to distinguish the amount of greys, blacks, and shadows to figure out what the scene was showing, which really took me out of the moment. On the bright side, it made me focus a lot on the art?

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Posted in Book Talk, Reviews

Skyhunter has convinced me!

Hey y’all!

I’ve been (finally) reading Skyhunter by Marie Lu. When it was first out, I kept wavering on it, thinking I might love it or hate it. Indecisiveness was rough on this one. I left it to fate’s hands and entered a Goodreads giveaway for it. Amazingly, I actually won it from a Goodreads Giveaway about a year ago (although I didn’t realize it at first)! So I was set to give it a shot!

Ah, but… COVID 19 was in full swing, but not far enough in that people had kind of worked out how to do things despite it. This resulted in a month passing after winning without receiving a book, and then another, and then the release date passing me by, and then ANOTHER month without it…. I did finally get it a while after once I had reached out. By that point, though I was already deep into some other books and my excitement had dimmed for this one.

I did try to start reading it, but the first few chapters didn’t really pull me in right away. And so it has been almost a full year since I won it, and yet I’m only just now reading it!

AND IT HAS BEEN PRETTY GOOD!!! Look, I know I’m a little late to this train, but I’m still excited about it! I went through a lot with this book, and now I’m actually enjoying it. It’s enough to bring a beautiful tear to my eye. 🥰

Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: Replenishing the Sea of Galilee by Wagih Abu-Rish

Replenishing the Sea of Galilee: A Family Saga across Ethnicity, Place, and Religion: A Novel by Wagih Abu-Rish
Release Date: August 17, 2021

Recommended: yup!!
For folks interested in historical Palestine, for a novel about embracing female sexuality and equality, for sparse language that says a lot

Summary

Replenishing the Sea of Galilee: A Family Saga across Ethnicity, Place, and Religion: A Novel

Replenishing the Sea of Galilee is a sweeping story of love, loss and the power of loyalty in the face of conflicting ideologies and religious beliefs. The story begins in 1940s Palestine where twins Rasheed and Rasheeda Dinar work in their family inns. Educated by a Jesuit priest about the essence of his own Muslim religion, relative to love and sex, Rasheed follows closely the teachings of his mentor and includes Rasheeda, so that she learns those teachings as well.

When Rasheed falls in love with Natalia, a Jewish woman, he is able to apply what he learned from the priest to his budding relationship. However, it is the 1940s, and relations between Arabs and Jews are tense. Before long, those tensions come to a breaking point. Natalia mysteriously disappears, and Rasheed and Rasheeda are chased out of Palestine to Beirut, Lebanon.

Years pass, and though Rasheed continues to miss his beloved Natalia, he gets word of a surprising visitor—someone he didn’t even know existed. Rasheed’s life is upended, but in the most wonderful way.

As the Dinar family expands and enters the 1970s, their convictions are tested. In a dramatic final scene, the family reunites and proves once again that the thin line separating people because of their differences is powerless against the strength of family, love, and loyalty.

Thoughts:

Attracted by the historical aspect that I don’t know much about, and made all the more relevant by the forever present conflict between Palestine and Israel, I grabbed this book right up. I worried that it might be a little too literary and highbrow for me, but that was not the case. It’s a thoughtful story that spans a long period of time. I got to know the characters so so well, and I cared so much about all of them.

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ARC Review: Reasons for Avoiding Friends by Megan Leavell (9/14)

Reasons for Avoiding Friends by Megan Leavell
Verdict: fine for a diversion, nothing that blew me away on it’s own
Expected Release Date: September 14, 2021

Recommended: Sure
For a quick contemporary read, for a female-friendship story, for a look at alcoholism and falling into patterns even when they don’t make you happy and how to break out of it

Summary

Growing up, Gwen and Iris were the best of friends, even if they couldn’t have been more different. Now Gwen is living her hometown dream, or so she reminds herself while juggling endless parenting drama, an unemployed husband, and a neighborhood pyramid scheme. Never mind that at age thirty-nine, her social circle still resembles middle school. Her life is everything she ever wanted it to be, but nothing like she had planned.

Iris was never destined for the ordinary. When she moved to Manhattan, she shed her old life for a better one—but not without a cost. From a distance, Iris’s life couldn’t be more charmed, but no one knows about the cracks in the image she’s worked so hard to cultivate. No one knows the real Iris at all. Except for Gwen. But Iris and Gwen haven’t spoken for years. Until…

When Iris’s past catches up with her, she turns to the one person she could always count on—but she isn’t the only one keeping secrets, and as Gwen scrambles to preserve an illusion of domestic bliss, she finds herself wondering when they went from telling each other everything to sharing nothing. Now, a little wiser, and most certainly a little older, Gwen and Iris discover that the truest of friends accept you just as you are, and that loving yourself is sometimes the best way to find happiness.

Thoughts:

I went for this book because I had been reading a lot of heavy topics and depressing novels, and I wanted a bit of a break. I more or less got it with this, but it did have more serious issues than I expected. One of the main characters is DEFINITELY an alcoholic, and it’s painful to watch the many terrible decisions she makes. And somehow never admits or recognizes. DAMN, GIRL. It’s really not a whole lot easier to watch the other MC live in her sad rut of a life without galvanizing to do anything about it.

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Review: Hématite by Victoria Maderna

Hématite by Victoria Maderna

Recommended: not really?
Because the plot seemed to take unnecessary and unexplained turns, because the mood was far more grim than anticipated

Summary

Hematite is a young vampire who is trying to find her way. As a member of the illustrious Blackwood family, she faces pressure to conform to high society standards, but such grandstanding isn’t for
her. And neither is drinking blood—she’d rather have vegetable soup!

So it is that she opts for the more diverse Wolven School, rather than joining the ranks of her fellow vampires at the Diaemus Academy. Being different can be hard, though, and doesn’t always help to make friends. Luckily for Hematite, she has her poetry, as well as Drunela—a draugr who won’t let their differences keep them apart—and Emile, a human boy fascinated by the occult who would just love to take a peek at the Blackwood’s private library. Unfortunately, bridging societal divides isn’t always easy, and can lead to terrible
consequences…

Thoughts:

You know, at first I was quite enjoying it. Learning about the powers each character has and how they all interact with each other in this world was fun and full of promise. Now that I’ve finished it, though, I’m left feeling confused about why I just read that.

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ARC Review: The Tenets in the Tattoos by Becky James

The Tenets in the Tattoos by Becky James
Release Date: August 9, 2021

Recommended: yes!
For a lengthy, epic tale that grows and grows and grows, for emotional messages and themes carried throughout the book, for humour and action and reflection all nicely balanced

Summary

FYI: I wrote this blurb, because the one for the book is AWFUL, as I mention in my review! This one is better representative of what you can look forward to in this fantastic book. 😁

Thorrn is an accomplished swordsman desperate for his promotion, but he is considered only half a person until he finds his soul companion. Unfortunately, Evyn, Thorrn’s newly found soul companion, is… distinctly underwhelming. But when his king is deposed and the usurper demands Evyn to be used for the power of her Earthian blood, Thorrn is forced to fight against everything he’s ever stood for in order to save her.

Aubin is sick of missing out on happiness. Chafing at injustices piled on him for his position as an apothecary, he’s ready to quit. When Aubin’s timing takes him into the path of Thorrn, Evyn, and the new king, he has to decide what he will risk for a chance at what he’s always been missing.

Sharing their worlds and learning how to work together, Thorrn, Evyn, and Aubin have to figure out a way to save not only each other, but possibly the whole fragile peace of Thorrn’s world from the threat of magical war.

Thoughts:

The first thing I think after finishing this book is that the blurb for it does not do it justice at all for how the story goes. The blurb sounds like there’s a soldier struggling with the morality of an order, and an apothecary seeking immortality who decides to commit treason in a last-ditch effort to seek something better. What’s very much missing from this is any mention of what a soul companion actually is or why it’s significant, or the fact that his female soul companion is an integral part of this whole journey — and yet not once is she mentioned! Awful blurb, but a pretty good book.

I was most surprised by two things in about equal measure: the careful attention to the growth of each character and their relationships, and the sheer complexity and length of the story. It’s about 400 pages, which is on the longer side, but it felt like a complete epic story of Tolkien’s style (minus the details in extreme). There is just SO MUCH to the story! From the start to the end, so much happens that it really sucked me in with the characters. I was invested and I cared a lot about each of them. And yet, the pace was never too fast or too slow. I was always interested and entertained. I learned about the characters, but that happened through action and conversation blended evenly.

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