Posted in book review

Red Queen: Reviewed

Red Queen (Red Queen, #1)

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (book one in the Red Queen quartet)

Genres/Descriptors: YA; fantasy; SFF>dystopian

Pages: 383

Check it out on Goodreads


What’s it about?

People are divided into two classes based on the color of their blood. The Reds are normal people, just like us, but the Silvers have silver blood and abilities, kind of like X-Men. Silvers rule over Reds, and they’re not exactly kind overlords.

Mare Barrow is a seemingly normal, seventeen-year-old Red girl, but when she lands a job at the palace, she–and the royal family–find out that isn’t the case.

Somehow, Mare possesses an ability.

To control the situation, the Silver royals come up with a plan to hide Mare’s true nature by giving her a new identity as a Silver orphan, taken in and raised by Reds, and set her up to be a princess, engaged to one of the princes.

Mare has to be very careful, because the world is watching. One wrong move and she’ll be killed to protect the secret. Despite that, she helps the Scarlet Guard, a resistance group determined to bring down the reign of Silvers and free the Reds.

Navigating this world of ballgowns, jealousy, and suspicion isn’t going to be easy, especially when anyone can betray anyone, at any time.


Review

Possibly unpopular opinion alert, but… I really like this book. I’ve read it twice, and I rated it the same both times. Is it my all-time favorite? No. But I really enjoyed it. (If you want a quick overview of my thoughts, instead of the long version, scroll to the bottom.)

Mare is great in this book. She was a badass, and risked so much to protect people she cared about, and Reds in general, and I admire her for that. I also just really liked her as a character. Despite everything, she believed in a better future, saw the good in people, and cared deeply for others. She had flaws, sure, and there were a few times I wanted to scream “Trust no-one!” at her, because that seemed like the best course of action. I wasn’t entirely right or wrong for feeling that way.

I think my favorite character was actually Julian, a Silver. He was kind and scholarly, and I enjoyed him, as well as his relationship with Mare as he tried to help her understand herself and her ability. She really should have taken to heart some advice he gave her, though.

The princes…oh boy, do I have feelings about Cal and Maven. I kind of felt sorry for both of them, for different reasons. Maven really wormed his way into my heart, but I still liked Cal better. Okay, I can’t talk about my feelings about them without spoilers, so I’m just moving on, ugh.

I feel like the world building is where this novel struggled a little. While I didn’t have any trouble visualizing most of what was presented, it was weird trying to put all the pieces together. This is a fantasy dystopian, and I settled on trying not to think of it like our typical YA dystopians (set in our world, in the future) and more like an alternate world or whatever. There were some technological things we have (guns, cameras, etc.), but also things we don’t have…I think. And there were swords. Why? I don’t know, but I’m kind of into it.

Silver abilities, holy crap. That was one of my favorite things about this book and this universe. I was an X-Men kid, and I grew up watching the cartoon and kind of reading some of the comics, as well as a couple of books I had. I loved X-Men, and I still do. The abilities of the Silvers in this book are similar to that, without seeming like a total rip-off.

There were Silvers who could control metal, fire, water, plants, those with super-human strength, or rock-hard skin. Silvers who could move faster than the eye can track, who can bend light to become invisible, those who could control minds, etc. There were a lot of abilities, and they were all super cool in my opinion.

And then there’s Mare. I’m not going to say what her ability is, but it was freaking awesome, and I was so excited about it after it was revealed during Queenstrial. There’s a scene at the end that had me practically screaming with excitement about it.

The plot itself was probably the most trope-y, but I didn’t mind it. I could definitely see why people were comparing it to some other dystopians, but I’ve realized that I haven’t actually read that many. Maybe that’s why it didn’t bother me. I guess, if you’ve read a dozen YA dystopians, this one might not stand out much.

The thing that did stand out to me was how Mare was what I expected, mostly, from a dystopian heroine. She was pretty selfless and all that, like Katniss and Tris. Oh, and the sort of love triangle. But this one…wow. This was a love triangle that surprised me, and I’m still not okay, even though I’ve read this book twice. I’m still shocked by that thing that happened.

*deep breath to reign things in because this is getting long*

Okay, let me try to summarize my thoughts:

  • Mare was a great character, and I was rooting for her from the beginning.
  • I love the Silver abilities, and Mare’s. I want to know more about how Reds and Silvers…happened. (That’s at least hinted at in a later book, but I’ve only read halfway through King’s Cage so far.)
  • I liked that there wasn’t any info-dumping, at least as far as I remember. Even by the end, there’s still so much we don’t know, and I like that. I think this was a pretty solid (although not totally perfect) start to a series.
  • This book was really fast-paced and a fun read, but you probably won’t like it as much if you’ve read a ton of YA dystopians. However, having a more fantasy dystopian than sci-fi dystopian was an interesting change, at least in my opinion.
  • The world building could have been a bit better, but I was fine with it.
  • The plot was semi-predictable, but there were still twists I didn’t see coming.
  • I don’t know what to say about the writing. It was really good, in my opinion, but not in a way that really stands out. I actually kind of like that. I get tired of really poetic and lyrical writing sometimes, and it’s nice to read something that flows well, but isn’t really flowery.
  • After finishing my re-read, I immediately grabbed Glass Sword because I had to know what happened next.
  • It’s not absolutely mind-blowing, but I really enjoyed it.

Both times I read it, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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Posted in book review

Sky in the Deep: Reviewed

Sky in the Deep
cover links to goodreads

Description from goodreads:

OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient, rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

Review:

Mmmkay. I’ve wanted to read this book since before it came out, and I feel like I was on the Overdrive waitlist for years (it actually just came out eight months ago). Scroll to the end if you don’t want to read my babbling.

When I finally (finally) got it, I was in a tiny slump. I ended up finding the audiobook on Overdrive (miraculously available) and checked it out, too, because my ebook loan was ending in like 2.5 days. I finished it in almost exactly one day.

If I’m honest, I’m slightly disappointed because of my genre expectations. I kept seeing this shelved as fantasy, so, you know, I kind of expected some fantasy. Dragons, or maybe magic of some sort, other creatures, something. Maybe I’m being too picky about this, but really the only “fantasy” element was that it was set in a not-quite-real, but probably-Scandinavian-like place. Kind of like Ravka or Kerch from the Grishaverse (minus all the magic).

This reminded me a little of The Valiant by Lesley Livingston (reviewed here). That one was also a female warrior story (gladiators!), marked as fantasy, but it was (imo) historical fiction. Historical fiction is the closest thing I could think of to shelve this one. I mean, I don’t think the gods from this are taken directly from any Norse names (or other pantheons), but I haven’t studied the mythology so extensively as to know the name of every god from every region, so… Ok, if a couple of gods were invented for this, maaaaybe it counts as fantasy?

Anyway…

I really liked this book. I didn’t love it enough to add it to my favorites shelf, but I did enjoy reading it, and I read it super fast. Once things got going, I didn’t want to put it down.

I liked Eelyn. I think she reacted the way a young warrior would react to the situations she was placed in, and we weren’t spoon-fed things about her character and her life. Things might have been said or otherwise pointed out by another character, but it was after we’d already seen those things in multiple incidents. So, the showing and not telling was good.

The worldbuilding was great, at least for me. I felt like I could see the mountain, the fjord, the villages, everything. It wasn’t super heavy with the descriptions, but it was just enough for my imagination to create the scenes. The character descriptions were a little more vague, I think, but good enough for me to be able to kind of “see” the characters. I do remember there being descriptions of things like their hair, scars, and maybe some clothing. Basically, I never got characters confused because they were all distinct, I just couldn’t imagine what they looked like in perfect detail.

I liked watching Eelyn’s development through the book. It didn’t feel forced or rushed. Maybe a tiny bit fast at times, but there were reasons, and those reasons were good reasons for her to change her mind about things as quickly as she did. And, even after she changed her mind, it wasn’t immediately the exact opposite of her previous beliefs. She still had doubts and questioned whether or not she was doing the right thing.

The romance was just meh. I don’t have anything against romances, but honestly I get tired of it being in so many books sometimes (this is all me, and sometimes I love romance in books, it just depends on my mood). It’s fine. I don’t hate it, I don’t love it. It wasn’t quite insta-love, so that was good, but it just seemed weird and unnecessary to me. (While it wasn’t insta-love, there were definitely bits early on that were like flashing neon signs saying, “Hey! These two are going to have a thing!” Honestly, if I’d re-read the description before picking this up, I might have passed on it because the romance is mentioned there, I just forgot about it :/ )

My personal “meh” feelings about romances in books aside, it was handled pretty well. It wasn’t insta-love, as I said, and it felt pretty natural. There weren’t any tropes like the two being separated by some BS reason, or driven apart by miscommunication, which I appreciated. So, I’m not crazy about the romance in here, but it’s honestly probably one of the best I’ve read in a while.

Even though I liked Eelyn, and most of the characters we got to know for more than a few scenes, I think Halvard was my favorite. He’s an adorable and sweet kid, and I loved how the story ended for him oh my gosh.

I think if you’re wanting to read this because you want non-stop action, you should adjust your expectations, though. The very beginning drops you straight into battle, and then last maybe 20% or so of the book are pretty fast paced (it actually ended a lot faster than I would have liked), but the rest of the book is not as action-packed. The middle is pretty character focused, which I liked. I never felt like the pace was too slow.

Possible spoiler alert for the trigger warnings that follow: Also, this book can be brutal. Definitely trigger warnings if you have issues with battle scenes, blood, sacrificial animals, physical violence descriptions, and (kind of) sexual assault. That last one, there was no rape. But one character made it pretty clear that they were strongly considering raping a character, and then bound her–half naked–to a tree, and left her to freeze to death.


The short version:

I really liked this book. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting (no mythical creatures or magic or other things I would associate with “fantasy,” the characters weren’t exactly Vikings, but Viking-inspired, and there was a romance thrown in), but I still enjoyed it for what it is.

The beginning and end are pretty fast paced, with the middle being slower, but not in a bad way. It held my attention, and watching the characters develop and go through stuff was interesting, for me.

It wrapped up a little abruptly, but it wasn’t horrible. It just went from super-action-packed scenes on one page, to normal, everyday life on the next. But, I don’t think anything was left unaddressed, so it’s fine.

I didn’t love the romance, I didn’t hate it. I just feel like it was unnecessary :/


I gave it 4 out of 5 stars, and I would probably recommend it.

Posted in book review

Book Review: It’s All Fun and Games by Dave Barrett


Genres/Descriptors:
YA; Fantasy

Why I read it: I won a copy in a goodreads giveaway.

Who I’d recommend it to: If you liked the movie Knights of Badassdom, or if you think you’d like reading about LARP-ing gone wrong, check this out.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ (maybe 3.5 stars)

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books a Million | Book Depository | IndieBound


Description (from goodreads):

When Allison’s best friend, TJ, convinces her to come along for an epic game of LARP (live-action role-playing), she reluctantly agrees despite her reservations about the geeky pastime. TJ’s weekends are filled with powerful wizardry, mystical creatures, and intense battles with his LARP group. Each adventure is full of surprises, but the goal is always the same: to defeat the monsters and find the treasure. 

Not long after their quest begins, the friends discover that something has gone wrong. The fantasy world they’ve built has transformed, and the battle they’re in the midst of is no longer make-believe. 
Now they must fight for survival against brigands, kobolds, and other deadly mythical creatures that come to life. Fortunately, the group’s once-fictional magical powers have also become real – including Allison’s newly acquired gifts as a healer. They’ll need everything in their arsenal if they hope to make it home alive.


Review:

I still remember when I came across the giveaway for this book on goodreads. I read the description and knew I wanted to read it, and since the Kindle edition is only $0.99, I figured even if I didn’t win a copy, I would still end up getting it.

The description reminded me a lot of Knights of Badassdom:

This movie was not amazing and awe inspiring or anything, and honestly, when I first came across it on Netflix, I was not impressed by the description. It sounded pretty stupid. And it was, in the best possible ways. Husband and I watched it together and it was a fun time. I recommend checking it out if it’s still on Netflix.

Back to the book, though…

The book didn’t blow me away, but, like Knights of Badassdom, it was a fun read. I was a little annoyed by the main (and only, I think) female character–Allison–being a newbie to all the LARPing stuff (and by the thing that finally persuaded her to go with TJ), because it felt so cliche, but honestly it could have been much worse. Allison, in the beginning, kind of served as a way for those of us who haven’t participated in stuff like this to get a quick breakdown of how it works and what the rules are, as things happened, without it being overwhelming or boring.

I appreciated that a lot because I haven’t LARP-ed before (is that even right? “LARP-ed?” sorry :/ ), but I do have a vague idea of how it works because of people I follow online. Dave Barrett didn’t really make Allison into the damsel in distress that she so easily could have been, or anything else like that, and I ended up really liking her character at times. She was pretty smart, caught on to things quickly, and the boys in her group didn’t treat her very different from each other just because she was a girl.

Things start off pretty normal and innocent, with the group assembling and getting acquainted, hearing their mission from the “king,” and setting off. At first things are just a pretty normal LARPing experience (as far as I can tell), but then all hell breaks loose. The shift from our world to the game world was not my favorite transition. It was so sudden and jarring that it broke my immersion in the story and it took a few pages for me to get back into it. Once I did, it was pretty much smooth sailing for the rest of the book. I ended up finishing this in a day during a read a thon because it’s short and fast paced.

I don’t want to talk much about what happens with the characters, and their LARP characters, because ~spoilers~ and all that, but I thought it was an interesting idea. I think we get pretty equal times getting to know most of the characters, and I liked them all well enough. I think my favorite was probably Chuck, though. I think he was the most interesting and I kind of wish this book had been longer, with more of his backstory.

What I did not know, going into this book, is that it was meant to be the first in a series. I have no idea if there ever will be a sequel or not (I hope so), but I haven’t been able to find any info about it if it’s in the works. Because it’s an opening novel, we don’t really get the whole story. There are a lot of unanswered questions at the end, including **potential spoiler alert** exactly how these kids ended up in this other world. 

This was a fun, quick, action-packed read. But, I never got very attached to any of the characters, and I think that lessened the impact of the potential danger. While I was flipping pages as quickly as I could to find out what happened next, I never felt too concerned with anyone’s fate like I did with, for example, Six of Crows.

I would definitely read the sequel, if it came out before I’d completely forgotten this first book, and I feel like this was a solid 3-4 star read (I’m giving it 3.5 and rounding up to 4). But I won’t cry if I never get to find out what happens next.

Posted in book review

Book Review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Genres/Descriptors: contemporary; YA; poetry (a novel in verse)

Why I read it:  A novel about poetry/a poet, written in verse? How could I not pick it up?

Who I’d recommend it to: If you’re into poetry at all or have enjoyed verse novels in the past, and/or if you enjoy YA contemporary stories, I highly recommend this one. Even if you’re not sure if a novel in verse is for you, I’d still recommend checking it out.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books a Million | IndieBound


What it’s about (from Goodreads):

A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.


Review:

Are you screeching in excitement yet? Folks, I don’t know how this evaded me for so long (ok, I do know, it’s because I intentionally pulled back from the bookish world because I knew I couldn’t buy books for a long time, and I didn’t want to be sad). I didn’t hear anything about this until….well, actually until I happened across it on Over Drive and looked it up on Good Reads. Seriously, did I just miss all the buzz because I was getting my hermit on, or was there just basically none?

First up, let’s talk about that cover. So pretty, right?! That caught my eye first, followed quickly by the word “poet” in the title. The artist was Gabriel Moreno and I’m kind of obsessed. It’s just so gorgeous and perfect and I feel like it really goes with the book. Check out more of Gabriel’s art here, if you’re interested (I was, and I’m really loving it).

Ok, onward to the book itself!

As most novels in verse are, this was a pretty quick read. It’s a little over 350 pages, but I could have easily read it in one afternoon if I’d been able to sit long enough. (Don’t  you hate it when you’re really loving a book but things like laundry keep interrupting?) I tore through this book and I’m really thinking about buying a copy. I feel like I could re-read this one a few times.

Xiomara…oh gods, where do I start? This girl is a fighter, in more ways than one, and I feel like this book is very timely. I think teenagers today need more books like this in their lives, and I wish I’d had this book when I was 10-12 years younger, because it would have hit me even harder and inspired me even more. I can honestly see this making it onto reading lists at some point (I’m really not sure how that works, but I know it’s going to be on my kid’s reading list in a few years).

The home life Xiomara had really hit close to home for me in some ways. She grew up with a Catholic family, while I grew up in a Protestant home, but her relationship with her mother reminded me of my life a bit. I didn’t actually expect to relate a lot to anyone in this book, because their life experiences are very different than mine in pretty much every way, but it happened anyway and broke my heart. But Xiomara, wow. She handled things so well (I can’t think of a better way she could have handled anything, really), definitely better than I would have, and I felt so proud of her. There was this one scene with her mother that made me go cold all over because it brought back memories, and my heart ached for her. I had to take a break for a while after reading that bit.

I had so many feelings while reading this. I seriously laughed and cried, I cringed a little, I whispered “oh no,” I cheered internally (and might have had a little fist pumping at some point). So many feelings. It was a journey, and it was wonderful and so real. I felt inspired by Xiomara, and I feel like this book would have been amazing for teenage me. (It was amazing for adult me, but it would have been more amazing for teenage me.)

I enjoy more flowery writing with novels in verse sometimes (or poetry, or novels, in general, honestly), but the contemporary and sometimes very blunt writing in this novel, mixed with metaphors and imagery was refreshing and very well done. Which I guess shouldn’t be surprising considering Elizabeth Acevedo is an award-winning slam poet herself. This book was kind of a diary, and I feel like it read like that, if that makes sense. Like, this could have been a real diary, just written in verse. It felt very personal and raw a lot of the time, and it definitely (as I’ve said) gave me feelings

This book was just so good and I think I’ll be recommending it a lot.

Posted in book tags/memes

Must Read Mondays: August 14th

must-read-mondays

Must Read Monday is a weekly thing I do here to recommend books I’ve read and enjoyed. I might sometimes throw in something I gave 3 stars to, but for the most part they’re books I gave a 4-5 star rating to. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily amazing literature, but it does mean I liked them enough to recommend them to other people.


16068905
cover; links to goodreads

When I read it: July 2014 and June 2016

Genres: YA; contemporary; romance

Recommended for: This is probably  the only contemporary I’ve liked enough to recommend to lots of people. I’d suggest it for older high school/early college students, especially if you have anxiety and/or are into things like fan fiction.

Trigger warnings: alcoholism/alcohol abuse (I think); mental illness. Let me know if I should add to this, please!

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


What it’s about:

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?


Eeeek, I’m so late posting this!

I’m not a great lover of contemporaries, so finding one that I actually adored was kind of a surprise for me. I got the Kindle edition of this back in ’14 because it was on sale and I’d never read any of Rainbow Rowell’s books before, and ended up loving it so much I bought the special edition hardcover.

Even though I don’t have a twin and I didn’t have the typical college experience, I related to this book (especially Cath) so much, and I wish this book had been out when I was younger.

Now, I recommend this a lot to people, even people who–like me–don’t really get into contemporary novels ever/very often.