Roar

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Hello folks! I’ve been MIA for a little while, I know. My best friend has given birth to a beautiful baby boy, and I’ve been helping out as an honorary auntie. Luckily, I had some reviews waiting for approaching publication dates, so you’ll still be getting some posts!

Though I’ve been looking to expand my reading horizons, I do still love YA and read it consistently. I had a lot of hope that this early June release would be wonderful, and I was really looking forward to a romp in a cool new fantasy setting.

Cue letdown music.

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Princess Aurora is due to be married to a handsome prince to secure the safety of her kingdom in a land ravaged by sentient storms. When she discovers that she may have other options, she decides to take her fate into her ow hands and runs away with a group of storm hunters.

With these talented individuals by her side, Roar (Aurora’s chosen new persona) is ready to discover all that she has missed during her sheltered life.

Here’s the thing: this concept was so freaking cool.

Sentient storms? City-states? Different forms of magic and magic systems co-existing? Various cults and religious groups?

Sign me the fuck up.

It really pains me to say that I didn’t really enjoy this book.

Despite the cool concepts this book falls flat onto its underdeveloped face.

The meat of the fantasy setting was practically non-existent. What I got instead was an overabundance of storm descriptors and metaphors when speaking of other things, and a very unfortunate case of insta-love. (TWO cases, actually. Yes, really.)

The perspective changes were pretty useless, considering the majority of the plot focused on Roar’s feelings for Locke rather than her future or that of her people. Thus, the small glimpses of Nova’s perspective, and Cassius’ perspective, and the Stormlord’s perspective were strange and out of place little inserts.

This book felt far more like an unsatisfying romance novel than it did fantasy fare. Considering it only gave any truly useful or interesting info in the last forty or so pages, the 300 page length was honestly ridiculous. The romance itself was not fun to read about, as it contained: pining, angst caused by misunderstandings (that would be easily solved through communication), and falling in love with virtual strangers.

This would have been a much stronger story had it been half the length and more focused on the world-building or the plot rather than the romance. If Roar and the crew had learned more about each other, had they learned more of their world, had they been able to actually accomplish anything throughout the length of this novel it would have been a lot more engrossing.

The secondary characters were quirky in appearance and surface personality, and we learn absolutely nothing of substance about them. The politics in the book aren’t well developed enough to be the kind of plot point the author seemed to reach for, and I was just rolling my eyes a lot while reading.

Though I want to learn more of this world and it’s denizens, I can’t bring myself to sit through pointless (and pathetic) romance story lines when I was promised fantasy. I certainly won’t be reading the next book in this series.

Do you intend to pick up a copy of Roar? Do you agree or disagree with my points? Let me know in the comments below!

Ruin and Rising

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So, I’ve finished reading the Grisha Trilogy.

I’m so sad it’s over.

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If you remember my reviews of the first two books, then you already know that I loved them. This final book didn’t disappoint me in any way.

The first book was a sunny dream of opportunity and happiness compared to this book. It basically tore out my heart and ate it. Terrible things continuously happened with no seeming end in sight.

My heart broke continuously for Ravka, for Alina and Mal, for Nikolai, and even for the Darkling. The beauty of Bardugo’s writing was that she made me care about everyone she introduced me to. I felt for the Stag and the Whip in the previous books, and for the unnamed peasants that are killed to prove a point. It’s a mark of skill that she’s able to make her reader care for even the most reprehensible character: the Darkling.

We learn more of him in this book. It humanizes him to an almost uncomfortable degree. How could a man, even one with such power, come to such an end? Well, you’ll damn well find out.

The reader sees more of Genya, Baghra, and Nikolai, which I was very happy with. Character development was at an all-time high, bringing out new facets of Zoya and Sergei, Tolya and Tamar, and characters we didn’t see much of in the previous books. More is learned of Baghra’s past – and man did I read those parts breathlessly.

The cult of Sankta Alina is rather strongly featured and is interesting – as are Alina’s feelings about it. Ravka is broken, at war with itself while trying to keep outside forces at bay as well. Alina must dig deeper than she thinks herself capable of to try and salvage something of her country and its people.

I found the development of Alina’s character to be very satisfying. In any other character, the self-doubt and constant questioning of motives would be annoying – but here, they simply weren’t. As I mentioned in previous reviews, Alina’s voice seemed so real to me that I couldn’t find her a nuisance, or foolish. In any case, I thought choices were very realistic for someone put in so many impossible situations. Even to the end, she isn’t perfect – never the Sankta that the Apparat wished for. While I always suspected she would come to a tragic end, the way that Bardugo handled it was absolutely flawless.

I find myself at a loss to discuss just why exactly I loved this book so much. I spoke about it to someone when I finished it, and there was a lot of hand flailing and eye-widening to get my point across.

Was the plot well paced? Yes. Was it unpredictable? Yes. Were the characters interesting? Yes. Was the world-building on point? Yes. Was the ending satisfying? Yes.

Plenty of books have those factors and I don’t love them.

Really, it all boils down to this: I felt so much.

I laughed with Alina, and cried with her. I felt her confusion, her conflict, her desire. I felt sympathy for the Darkling and for Baghra, and Mal, and Nikolai. I wished fervently with Baghra (and Alina) that the Darkling could be redeemed. I felt Alina’s stricken pity and understanding as Morozova’s legacy is revealed – and her pain as it was truly understood.

Any books that can make me feel so deeply with and about their characters deserve my love.

Ruin and Rising was, in my opinion, an excellent ending to a fantastic series. While I’m sad to be finished, I’m incredibly pleased that Bardugo has written another series in the same world. Sadly not in Ravka, but you can’t have everything. Even still, her short stories (available on Tor.com) give even more insight into the culture of Ravka for those left wanting more.

I can’t wait to pick up Six of Crows, but I think I should have a cool-down period first.

Have you read the Grisha Trilogy? Did you love it, hate it, or not really care either way? What other books made you feel deeply with and for their characters? Let me know in the comments below!

Siege and Storm

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So immediately after I finished devouring Shadow and Bone, I practically ran to the library to pick up Siege and Storm. I was wary of this second book, but it exceeded all of my expectations.

This review contains spoilers from the first book.

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I devoured this book, eager to read more of Ravka, of Alina, and of the Darkling. I somehow loved this book even more than the first one.

After Alina and Mal’s escape at the end of Shadow and Bone, I was expecting this book to be one of those intermediate ‘on the run’ books, where the main characters are chased from place to place. Thankfully, this was not that book. It was so much better than that.

The Darkling surfaces with a new and horrifying power that ratchets up the fear and tension present throughout this entire novel. Though I was hoping he died in the Fold, he’s an extremely hateable villain and I admit that his personality and motives make him very compelling. His presence throughout this book was creepy and introduced a kind of doubt in Alina that makes her story even better.

I love Alina’s narrative. As someone who generally dislikes first person stories, Alina’s voice is a breath of fresh air. She reacts to things in ways that seem realistic to me. Her emotions aren’t contrived – and though they may not make sense to other characters, the reader really gets a great sense of who she is. After the events of the first book, she’s less trusting of others. Her love for Mal never wavers, but her relationships with Genya and the Darkling have affected her expectations and perceptions of him. Her character evolves in a way that is totally plausible.

All actions in this series clearly have consequences, and that was fantastic. The little insets of things the Darkling said in the first book were a nice touch that really illustrated that.

Sturmhond was introduced in this book – a Ravkan privateer with an interesting past and a loyal crew. His character turned out to be a favourite of mine. Without giving too much away, his big reveal was crazy but worked really well. I loved his inventive spirit, and his laisse-faire attitude. His patriotism was admirable, especially once you learn more of him.

I generally dislike when multiple potential love interests are introduced, but not here! The possibility for romance is not overt, but it’s suggested. Instead of a love triangle (or quadrangle), Alina is simply given choices.

In this book, readers see the rise of the cult of Sankta Alina, guided by the Apparat, who has gone into hiding. Pilgrims are everywhere, searching for the hope the Sun Summoner can bring them. The politics of Ravka are explored from up close, preparations for war taking center stage.

We get to see more of David, Baghra, and Genya, though their fates aren’t always pleasant or expected.

Without spoiling the whole novel, I thought this was a fantastic continuation of Shadow and Bone, and I’ve already started to read the final book in the trilogy. The world-building is deepened, characters become more complex, and relationships are wonderful and awful – as they can be in real life.

I really can’t overemphasize how much I’m enjoying this series.

What are your thoughts on Siege and Storm, or the Grisha Trilogy? Let me know in the comments below!

A Darkly Beating Heart

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Though things have been busy lately, I really have been remiss in posting here consistently. So I have for you today another book review! Yet another NetGalley pick, I chose this one because of its cover and the interesting blurb on the back.

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This book follows Reiko, a Japanese-American teenager, after she’s shipped off to Japan to stay with her cousin’s family in the hopes that it will help her learn to control her emotions.

Reiko is a character who is filled with anger. Its pretty much brought up on every page, which has led some reviewers to give this book a pretty hard knock. They find it annoying and unrealistic (poor little rich girl, sent off to Japan…) and couldn’t sympathise or identify with her character.

I don’t agree.

There are aspects of this book I didn’t like, but Reiko’s anger wasn’t one of them. I was happy to see a character in her situation, that is, struggling to comprehend and express her emotions (or lack of). In reading, it was my understanding that Reiko was dealing with a mental illness – something she struggled to refute as she was medicated and committed to a psychiatric facility. In her mind, she simply wanted revenge – to hurt those around her as she perceived she had been hurt.

Reiko’s anger leads to an interesting supernatural situation as she and her companions visit the historic village of Kuramagi, preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period. After discovering a strange stone in a hidden shrine, Reiko finds herself living the life of Miyu, a young woman living in the Edo period itself. As Reiko struggles to piece together what is happening she bounces between bodies and timelines.

Her actions are often foolish, her impulses upsetting, her attitude reprehensible. But guess what: she’s a teenager.

I really enjoyed the supernatural aspects of this story, and I would have loved if that were expanded upon. As it was though, I didn’t like that the convergence of Miyu and Reiko was given as the cause of Reiko’s anger. It seemed like an easy out for the author and I really expected something more. Living happily ever after without emotional labour, consequence, or therapy seems very unlikely to me.

I also wished to see more of Miyu’s life, and to know what happened to her when Reiko inhabited her body. It seemed a bit laissez-faire for time-travel, though I did like that people in Reiko’s life noticed the strangeness about her later on in the book.

If you’re looking for an okay quick read with a character in a state of emotional upset that also involves time travel, this is the book for you.

Have you given this book a try? Have you read any fantastic books set in Edo-period Japan? Let me know in the comments below!

Bone Gap

 

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Despite the age-old adage to not judge a book by its cover, I often choose books based on their jackets. Lovely and interesting covers draw me in – an homage to the illustrators and graphic designers who create them. When buying a book the blurb on the back and occasionally the first page is what I use to make my decision. But when I have the freedom of borrowing a book (or browsing titles on NetGalley) I often choose books based entirely on their outer beauty and allure.

That’s how I came to find, read, and love Bone Gap.

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Magic realism has always been a genre that fascinates me. Whether done well or badly it’s something that has always stuck with me. I love stories where odd things happen and the characters accept it as the norm, or when strange beings or peoples coexist silently in the world already familiar to the reader.

Bone Gap is kind of both of those things and neither of them.

This book tell the tale of an abduction that the majority of side-characters don’t believe actually happened.

Alternating chapters tell the story from the perspective of several characters. While usually a writing device that I hate, I found it wonderful here. Every character was nuanced enough to seem real, and I wanted to hear more from all of them. No matter who I was with, I was always deeply engaged in the story.

The characters we see the most of are Finn, who is called ‘Moonface’ among other unflattering names by those in Bone Gap, Roza, a captivating young woman whose beauty is not her most important quality, and Petey, who struggles with an undeserved reputation.

Set in a small town where different often means outcast the magical elements of this book were subtle but pervasive. Though seemingly normal, the entire setting of the book was magical – the strange occurrences that spurred the plot along only proved it. The very subtle inclusion of a familiar myth made it all the better for me, especially as more of Roza’s backstory is revealed.

Through the eyes of different people, both good and bad, this book explores love. What it means, how it works, and what it does to us as individuals, families, and communities. Because of the subject matter, I found the villain of the book particularly chilling and excellently characterized.

Laura Ruby’s writing was powerful and beautiful, and I think she tied up all the loose ends of the story perfectly. I will gladly seek out more of her books.

Is there an excellent tale of magical realism that has stuck in your head?

Cease & Desist

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I received an e-book ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

While this is my first review of a novel that is yet to be released, it will certainly not be my last. When I discovered that NetGalley existed I felt supremely lucky to be able to read and review books that haven’t yet hit the shelves.

I decided to stick with some comfortable territory and check out a Young Adult title that looked promising.

Cease de Menich is a rising star, whose fame has arisen due to a gene that has been passed on to her from generations of ancestors. She discovers this truth as she is cast in a ‘reality-drama’ in which she plays Jeanne D’Arc. As events in the show begin to reflect those hidden in her family history, Cease must decide what to do with her budding fame.

Claiming to be a ‘dark contemporary thriller with a supernatural twist’, I was excited to read something with a potentially unreliable narrator.

Unfortunately, this book didn’t live up to its description.

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Akata Witch

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After a rather long hiatus I’ve returned after hitting up my local library for some reads!

All too often, I find that books found in the Children and Young Adult sections are ignored and overlooked by adults. While certainly not marketed towards adults there are many wonderful and unique experiences to be found within their pages. They’re immensely readable, and not too juvenile or simple as some would fear.

The mark of a good Children’s or Young Adult novel is this: the writer knows that kids are people. They’re smart, versatile, and unique individuals, and a story doesn’t have to be dumbed down to appeal to them.

This is where Akata Witch comes in.

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