Our Dark Duet by: Victoria Schwab

Summary:

THE WORLD IS BREAKING. AND SO ARE THEY.

KATE HARKER isn’t afraid of monsters. She hunts them. And she’s good at it.

AUGUST FLYNN once yearned to be human. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

THE WAR HAS BEGUN.

THE MONSTERS ARE WINNING.

Kate will have to return to Verity. August will have to let her back in. And a new monster is waiting—one that feeds on chaos and brings out its victims’ inner demons.

Which will be harder to conquer: the monsters they face, or the monsters within?

The Review:

As a fan of the previous book, This Savage Song this book was of course one of my anticipated books of 2017. I am also a new fan of Victoria Schwabs work and she is one of my new auto buy authors.

The book picks up several months after the events of the first book, with both Kate and August separated from one another after what happened at the end of the book. Kate is basically living life as a nomad going from place to place and never really settling down. You can already tell that Kate has been through a lot and she is not the same person as she was at the beginning of This Savage Song. That is one of the strength of Victoria Schwab’s writing is how she can write characters and their development. Kate spends most of her time hunting monsters.

August is also going through some changes as well. He is still reeling from the events of the previous book, and he is not the same sweet, brooding boy from the first book. He realizes that he has to take the lead when some stuff is going down. He spends most of his time using his violin to reap souls, and every time he does so, it always pains him to do it.

The main plot deals with a new monster causing humans to turn on one another and the monster feeds off of that. It first comes to Prosperity, where Kate has started a new life for herself and than moves on to Verity which forces Kate to go back. I would say that the beginning of the book is a little slow, but I wasn’t bored by it. Kate and August are great characters and I loved seeing them together in This Savage Song, and when they were reunited in Our Dark Duet, that is where the story really picks up in the best way possible.

There are also some new characters that I liked. Soro, who is a gender neutral character who acts as a sort of sidekick for August. They were such a great character, and I kinda wish they were a bit more fleshed out.

I also thought the villains were good as well. The main villain was Sloan, who had his own POV chapters, and you really get a sense of his psyche. There is also Alice, who serves as a mini-boss character.

I felt the ending was a bit rushed. A lot of things were going on at once and I wish it was a bit slowed down in order for me to process a lot of the information, because a lot of emotional stuff does happen. It was an emotional whirlwind, in the best possible way.

In the end, Our Dark Duet, was a great conclusion to an already great duology. It really felt as if it was a final book. The characters go through so much and the ending is an emotional one.

Grade: 4.7/5

 

Want by: Cindy Pon

Summary:

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?

The Review:

This was one of my anticipated reads, mainly because I was of Cindy Pon’s other book Serpentine, and I always felt she was very underrated within the book community.

First of all, I love how Cindy Pon takes advantage of the setting which is in Taipei, Taiwan set in the distant future, and from what I was told this is the first Sci Fi book set within that area. It also deals with pollution and how it affects the population. The main aspect of the book is how it deals with class. The upper class gets special suits in order to protect them from diseases and the bad pollution, while the lower class has to fend for themselves. It really reminded me of Legend by Marie Lu in the aspect.

“Mei” means without and “You” means to have. That’s the terminology that Pon uses to describe the social classes.

Jason Zhou is the main protagonist,and he reminded me a lot of Day in which he was someone who wanted to change the system by any means necessary, and of course with the death of his mother he feels as if it is his duty. He goes undercover to become a you, in order to destroy the Jin Coproaration, the company who manufactures the suits from within.

During his undercover mission he befriends Dairu, the daughter of the CEO of Jin Corp. Jason and Daiyu relationship I thought was very well developed. Its starts with them befriending one another and than an actual relationship begins to blossom. While it does feel a bit of a cliche,it was a well developed cliche. I kinda wish that Daiyu had some POV chapters as well just to get some of her side of the story, mainly because I really did like the character. She had a lot more agency with her, she more than just a girl that the main character has to woo, she was very smart in her own right.

If I were to point out a negative is that I wish some of the secondary characters had a bit more developed, and were better fleshed out. An example was a friend of Daiyu, whose basic story arc revolved around him telling Jason to stay away from Dairu. But I did think that the characters from Jason’s crew were fleshed out, and they reminded me a bit of the crew from Firefly. Hopefully as sequel will flesh out a lot of the characters.

I also like the twists and turns that the book went through, while yes some of it was very predictable there was a few that I didn’t really see coming, but then when you think about it the twists made some sense.

In the end, Want was a very good book delivered by Cindy Pon. She created some great characters and took advantage of a great setting. She created a great world that I want to see more of in future sequels..

Grade: 4.3/5

 

Wintersong by: S-Jae Jones

Summary:

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

The Review:

This was another book on my TBR and also one of debut authors I was excited to read about. What also excited me was that it was a sort of retelling of the movie Labyrinth, one of my favorite movies.

This book is very character driven. Liesl, is someone who is sort of the odd person out in her family, and usually has to play second fiddle to her younger brother and sister, who are more musically talented than she is. The book also focuses on the fact that she doesn’t fit the conventional beauty of the world., and I like the fact that she wasn’t given this huge makeover to become beautiful. Also despite everything she still loves her sister in order to free her from the Goblin King, and would do everything for her.

The Goblin King, while not exactly the Goblin King from the movie Labyrinth, he reminded me a bit of earlier seasons Rumple from Once a Upon a Time. While as the legends say he is suppose to be the monster you stay away from. I feel the story really picked up when The Goblin King was introduced. His back story was also really well done, without giving too much away you see why he takes an interest in Liesl.

While the relationship with Liesl and The Goblin King, seemed very wrong at first as the book went one in reminded me a lot of Beauty and the Beast. You find out that The Goblin King has a desire for music, which is why he chosen Liesl to begin with. I also liked the relationship was gradual over time and not completely rushed like other YA novels.

A negative I would have to point out is the pacing. I felt the pacing was way to fast in the beginning and I wish I saw more of the trials of Leisl trying to find her sister in the Underground. While the Underground scenes were very good I just wanted to see more of it, especially as a fan of Labyrinth.

I also felt that the ending was very rushed an anti-climatic. It just felt as if it was added at the last minute to add some conflict to the plot. I think there’s another book so hopefully it will add more to the story.

In the end, I enjoyed Wintersong, while it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, it was an enjoyable with a great leading protagonist, a good retelling of the story of the Goblin King. While it was very character driven, the characters added a lot to the book.

Grade: 3.9/5


 

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