Flame in the Mist by: Renee Ahdieh

Summary:

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

The Review:

This was another book that was one of my anticipated of 2017, mainly because I was fan of her other two books The Wrath and the Dawn, and The Rose & the Dagger.

The story is set in feudal Japan, and already Renee Ahdeih takes full advantage of the world it is set in. She makes a lot of referents to a lot of Japanese mythology and how the feudal system in Japan is presented. The Japanese setting really added a lot of weight to the story and made it a lot more interesting. She makes many references to Samurai’s, Geisha’s. family and honor.

The main story deals with Mariko, who one her way to see the man she is forced to marry, her caravan is attacked by what is seen to be The Black Clan, a group of bandits who live in the forest. In order to figure out what happens she disguises herself as a boy to infiltrate the Black Clan. This plot reminded me a lot of Mulan, just set in Japan. It really provided a lot of great character bits with Mariko trying to figure out her own gender roles.

Mariko was a great protagonist, within the story. Even after being almost assassinated she managed to handle herself rather well, especially since she lived a very sheltered life in the palace, she starts to learn how to take care of herself. I think she started to learn a lot of those too well, but it wasn’t really a problem for me. She realizes that if she goes back home she will just be another commodity and the reason why she looks into the mystery of her assassination herself is to become more independent.

I liked her relationship with Okami, the leader of the Black Clan. He basically trained her on the ways of the Black Clan. I like that it was developed over time and he learned to appreciate her as a male, before learning of Mariko’s secret. While I did feel that the romance was little forced it was well developed to have me at least care for both of them.

There is also Keshimi; Mariko’s brother who is tasked in finding Mariko. While a lot of his POV chapters were very brief, I was able to find his story arc very compelling and also looking into details about his relationship with Mariko. Also his chapters also provides a few key insights into the world from his perspective.

A problem that I had with the book is that I felt that the ending was very rushed, and I kinda wanted a little bit more, and also have the ending a bit more fleshed out. I know a sequel will be coming out so hopefully that will answer some unanswered questions.

In the end, Flame in the Mist was a very good book. It did a good job taking full advantage of it’s Japanese setting. It also had great, fleshed out characters that you want to root for.

Grade: 4/5

Leviathan by: Scott Westerfeld

Summary:

Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

The Review:

This book has been on my TBR for a long time, and I finally picked it up last week, and now I am kicking myself wondering why it took me so long to read this book.

The story is set within an alternative historical take on World War II, with a lot of steampunk elements to it. It makes a few changes such as hanging how the war started. Instead of an assassination it was a poisoning of the Archduke and his wife that started the war. Now Alek is on the run from those who want to kill him, especially with him being an heir to Austria-Hungary.

With the elements of World War I, was really good. Westerfeld added the Clankers vs. Darwinists twist to the story. I really liked the design of the Clankers, they reminded me a lot of the AT-ATs from Star Wars, and it still felt like it was built in World War I. The Darwinists has vehicles lead by animals. Seeing the designs in the book really made it easier to be pictured in my head.

Alek, is one of the main protagonists, and while he is prince, he doesn’t come across as snobby and he always wants in on the action. Throughout the book he is of course on the run, and trying to figure out what happened to his parents. Deryn is another protagonist. She dresses up like a boy in order to join the army. She is very brilliant, and she reminded me a lot of Herminone with a little bit of Mulan in her. I like how you see the war from her point of view, and I also like seeing the Darwinists and their ships. She spends a majority of the time training with them.

I also really like the supporting characters. Count Volger is a great father figure to Alek after his parents die. Dr. Nora Barlow is a British scientist who has a great personality and is very brilliant.

The world building is also really good. Scott Westerfeld does a good job at presenting us with a World War I, with a lot of great steampunk elements to it, and it doesn’t feel like it was out of date, which is a real danger when dealing with steampunk set in the past. It also provided a lot of elements and information about World War I without feeling as if it was info dumping.

In the end, Leviathan was a very good read, that takes Alternative Historical fiction and mixes a lot of steampunk and science fiction elements to it. Both characters are extremely well developed and the plot has you turning the page at every turn.

Grade: 5/5

 

A Gathering of Shadows by: V.E. Schwab

Summary:

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

The Review:

Earlier this year, I had the great pleasure of reading and loving A Darker Shade of Magic, so of course I wanted to continue the story and the characters of both Kell and Lila.

The story picks up four months after the events of the first book and both Kell and Lila are on their separate ways. Lila is a pirate with her own crew on the Night Spire and is aided by Captain Alucard Emery, who acts as a mentor towards Lila throughout the book. Lila also begins to develop her magical abilities and Emery tries to get her to channel her new abilities.

Kell is back with Rhy and their brotherly bond is stronger, especially after being bound to him at the end of the previous book. You really see how they are bounded to one another and it makes their relationship a lot stronger and see each as brothers. But Rhys’s parents, the King and Queen still see Kell as a servant, which also affected his relationship with Rhy. The book added a lot of Rhy chapters, which really aided in his character development, and seeing the Kell/Rhy relationship from his perspective.

The main plot of the book is dealing primarily with the Essen Tach, a magical tournament, which pits magicians from different Londons against one another. Both Lila and Kell spend a majority of the book training for that tournament and both have different reasons for entering. It is because of that tournament they were finally reunited.

Both Kell and Lila spend a majority of the book apart from one another, which was one of my main gripes with it, mainly because I love both of them together, but I think it was needed to further develop them separately. But I did like the scene when Kell found out he was fighting Lila in the middle of the fight.

I also really liked the concept of the Essen Tach tournament, and you got see many of the different Londons and how magic is used in those Londons. There was also the development of Holland, while it wasn’t a huge shocker that he was still alive but he spent most of his time planning his return. even though his chapters were very brief it did explain a lot about his character. Also the climax was also really good and it had so many twists and turns. It also had a really a really good cliffhanger, that makes me so excited to read A Conjuring of Light.

It would also feel like I am repeating myself with how great the writing. But the writing was extremely well done, and VE Schwab keeps proving why she is one of my favorite authors. Every word she makes is extremely well done and she also does a good job at keeping the pace up. I was never bored when reading the book.

In the end, Gathering of Shadows was a really good sequel, and while it was not as plot driven as A Darker Shade of Magic, it did a good job at developing characters that I already love and also the world it is set in.

Grade: 4.5/5

Anna and the French Kiss by: Stephanie Perkins

Summary:

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris–until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all…including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

The Review:

I have seen this book around the blogosphere as a good summer/beach read, mainly because it was a YA contemporary romance novel, and I also needed a break from the SFF books I have been reading.

The book deals with the fact that Anna is forced to go to a boarding school in France which of course she hates a lot because she is going to be away from her friends, especially during her senior year. Anna is a great character, mainly because she was a normal teenage girl going through teenage things in another country without the friends and family to support her

She also deals with trying to make new friends such as Meredith, Rashimi, Josh and St. Clair, and all of the supporting characters are also pretty well developed, and they didn’t go into the cliche high school character stereotypes.  While St. Clair may come across as the YA romantic lead, especially with a British accent. But he also had a good arc dealing with his father and his girlfriend, who he didn’t really mention to Anna. So there was a sort of love triangle but it wasn’t one of those bad love triangles.

Anna and St. Clair’s romance was really well done and it felt like a good love story, and while he did act like to typical YA romantic lead, his soft side was actually well developed. I liked that he wanted to know more about Anna’s life in the states. While there was some aspects of insta-love in the beginning, I liked how their relationship blossomed.

I also like some scenes spent in Paris and that it wasn’t just set around the boarding school, and the author did a good job at taking advantage of the setting.

The supporting characters were also good, mainly Rashimi and Josh. Both had a little bit of story with their characters, and I like that it wasn’t just about Anna and St. Clair. I also found a few Easter eggs with some other characters from other Stephanie Perkins books.

In the end, this was a great summer read, and a good addition to my YA contemporary reads. Anna and St. Clair was a good relationship that you would love to root for. I have also heard great things about Stephanie Perkins other books and I will be adding them to my TBR.

Grade: 4/5

Empress of A Thousand Skies by: Rhonda Belleza

Summary:

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, RHEE has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

ALYOSHA is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

In this exhilarating debut for fans of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles and Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy, RHODA BELLEZA crafts a powerful saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

The Review:

This book was on my Top 5 Wednesday: Debuts I am Excited For, mainly because I am a fan of sci fi epics, and judging by the blurb it looked like that what I was in for.

The story takes place on several different points of the galaxy, and is told through two perspectives Rhee, the heir to the empire and Alyosha or Aly, a refugee and star of a very popular TV show or Drone vision. I am of course a fan of books with duo perspectives because it gives a us a closer look at the world the book takes in from different sides. As the story starts off both characters are basically fugitives on the run, and it really dives right into the plot. It starts when Rhee almost getting killed, and realizing that she has been betrayed. Aly, is the one who is blamed for it, mainly because of he is a Wraetan, and was also set by someone he trusted.

Throughout the book, both of them are trying to figure out what’s happening and why. With Rhee, she suspects that it has something to do with a Treaty that was suppose to be ratified in order to keep peace among the galaxy. It was also because of the peace deal, that her family ended up being killed. Aly is trying to clear his name, and figure out why the assassination took place.

I like both characters of the book. Both of them have good arcs to their story and you could see them changing throughout the book, also they also don’t actually cross paths in this book, which is a strange choice by the author, but I think they will in future.

One of my main problems with the book, is how the world building was handled. With world building I want to feel as if I am in space, and I feel that a lot of the back story was kinda glossed over, and in a SFF book world building should have been better. I also felt a lot of the plot was very rushed , and the action didn’t take its time to breathe or slow down. I also felt that the supporting characters were also very thinly developed, and just sort of came and went with the plot. I think some may have a bigger role in the next book.

Don’t get me wrong, I did like the book but when compared to other books such as Red Rising, and Starflight, it just kinda feel flat.

In the end, Empress of a Thousand Skies, was good but a bit disappointing. It had good main characters but the story was very rushed and lacked a lot of the world building I like from other SFF books.

Grade: 3/5

Some Boys by: Patty Blount (TW: Sexual assault)

Summary:

When Grace meets Ian she’s afraid. Afraid he’ll reject her like the rest of the school, like her own family. After she accuses the town golden boy of rape, everyone turns against Grace. They call her a slut and a liar. But…Ian doesn’t. He’s funny and kind with secrets of his own.

But how do you trust the best friend of the boy who raped you? How do you believe in love?

A gut-wrenching, powerful love story told from alternating points of view by the acclaimed author of Send.

The Review:

This was a book on my TBR for about a year, but since it was at my library I decided to pick it up and read it. (Also TW; this book does discuss sexual assault.

The story takes place after a young girl. Grace was sexually assaulted at a party by the town golden boy Zac, and when it comes out she is branded as a slut, or someone who was asking for it, and a liar who wants to get revenge on Zac for a break up. After her assault she was ostracized by her friends and most of school because of it.

Grace, is a very strong character, especially for someone that has been through sexual assault. There was so many scenes in the book that got me saying “you go girl”, mainly the part of her owning some dude in class who tried to mansplain “slutiness” to her. Throughout the book she tries to not be defined by her assault, even if she loses friends in the process she never backed down. She also goes through many panic attacks, especially during times of stress.

Ian, was a character I felt wasn’t really as needed. Okay, I get that the author’s intention was to show the other side of the story and Ian’s relationship to Zac and the other lacrosse players. Grace and Ian both meet during a detention of cleaning lockers during spring vacation, while they do strike up a friendship it basically gets ruined by the peer pressure of the other lacrosse players, and I really hated what he did to her at lunch. While towards the end of the book he did finally grow a brain, he wasn’t the character I thought he was going to be.

I did some of the parent characters, mainly Grace’s mom and Ian’s dad. Grace’s mom was very supporting of her daughter’s assault and trying to be a good mother that I know she was trying to be, and making sure that Grace was okay. Ian’s dad was the one that basically schooled Ian on what sexual assault is and to stop being an ass towards Grace.

The main strength about this book is how it handles sexual assault. It deals mostly with the aftermath bu it also deals with the how other students reacted. There was a few students who Grace befriended who actually believed, and I kinda wish they had more development. It also kinda paints a grim reminder of what happens when a girl comes forward along with the sexism and misogyny that goes with it. According to the author it was suppose to be about Stubenville rape case, and how it focused primarily on the “poor boys” rather than the actual victim. Grace also dealt with harassment from the other lacrosse players, calling her a slut who was asking for it. Also it talked about how when she first went to the police they kept asking; what were you wearing? How many drinks did you have? Are you slept with him before?. Those all add up to how rape culture is defined.

In the end, Some Boys was a very great read. It highlights a pretty compelling issue with rape culture and how it affects the survivor, which is also added by a great and developed main character which could also add to the discussion.

Grade: 4.3/5

The Bone Witch by: Rin Chupeco

Summary:

Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.

Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

The Review:

This is another book I kinda picked up on whim, and I kept seeing the book everywhere and since it is a fantasy book I of course will read it.

I also didn’t know much about the author, I heard of the other books she written but never actually read them.

First let’s discuss the characters. Tea is a great protagonist. While she does ask a lot of questions she clearly wants to know what is going on, and how to become a better asha. Her kinda finding out that she is a bone witch comes at a complete surprise to her when she resurrects her dead brother and now has be trained to become an asha. The book switches from 15-year old Tea to a 17 year old Tea, and you see her character progress through her training.

The supporting characters were also good. I did like Tea’s relationship with Fox and I kinda wish there was a lot more scenes with them. You don’t see a lot of brother-sister relationships in YA, so I am glad that it was there. I also did like her mentor Lady Mykeala who basically served as an Obi-Wan role and their relationship was also well done.

The world building was also really good. The book did a good job at giving us backstory and lore with the kingdom it is set in, but I kinda feel that it was almost too much world building. The book is roughly 400 pages, the problem with too much world building is that it takes away from building up the plot The book has such a rich lore to it, in which is describes all the witches, how Dark ashas came to be and the conflict within the kingdoms but throughout the book nothing really happens. Tea mainly goes through her training, and the main conflict feels a bit tacked on at the end in which after reading the book I kept saying “that was it?”. I think there will be more plot development in future books.

In the end, despite my problems with the plot, I thought The Bone Witch was great book for world building and giving us a magical world. Hopefully in future books with the world building out of the way it could focus a lot more at character and plot development.

Grade: 3/5