Now I Rise by Kiersten White

Now I Rise by Kiersten WhiteNow I Rise by Kiersten White
Published by Delacorte Press on June 27th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Retelling
Pages: 471
Goodreads

She has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself.

After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada Dracul is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.

What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won…and souls will be lost.

4.5 Stars

“Do not lose that hunger. You will always have to fight for everything. Even when you already have it, you will have to keep fighting to maintain it. You will have to be more ruthless, more brutal, more everything. Any weakness will undo everything you have accomplished. They will see any crack as evidence that they were right that a woman cannot do what you do.”

If you’re looking for a Young Adult novel that combines a Vlad the Impaler reimagining with a rich historical setting and a glorious feminist storyline, then The Conqueror’s Saga is your address. This series excites with multi-layered characters and fascinating character dynamics, intriguing political/war schemes and engaging personal endeavours. And I Darken was a slow build-up but I was really intrigued, especially by the sibling leads. The book’s ending gave me a hint that I was going to like where Kiersten White was headed with this story, and I was right.

Though Now I Rise is split into Lada’s and Radu’s separate storylines, it does not feel like a filler book. Compared to And I Darken, the sequel is grittier and bloodier. The stakes are raised, as each sibling yearns and fights to be something their harsh world will not permit them to be.

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The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie OakesThe Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
Published by Dial Books on June 9th, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 400
Goodreads

A hard-hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith—and the power of having faith in yourself.

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust. And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it's clear that Minnow knows something—but she's not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

Gorgeously written, breathlessly page-turning and sprinkled with moments of unexpected humor, this harrowing debut is perfect for readers of Emily Murdoch's If You Find Me and Nova Ren Suma's The Walls Around Us as well as for fans of Orange is the New Black.

4.5 Stars

Everyone always assumes it’s with hands that people disobey. The Prophet thought so, too. If only he knew, if only everyone knew, my hands were never the source of my disobedience.

Now that I’ve read it, I wonder why this book isn’t talked about more, but then again, I probably wouldn’t have read it if my friend and co-blogger Chantal hadn’t pushed it on me. She was right to do so, because after reading it, I wanted to kick myself for not picking this up sooner. This book is so, so good.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a masterpiece of packing a punch without overdoing it. The book is based on the tale The Girl Without Hands by the Brothers Grimm and cleverly wraps the tale up in a story of abuse, friendship, love, and beliefs with a sprinkle of mystery.

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Monthly Recommendations: Retellings

Monthly Recommendations is a Goodreads group hosted by Trina from Between Chapters and Kayla from Kayla Rayne. We’re a million years late with this post due to a complete lack of time for blogging at the moment, but better late than never, eh? 😉

Retellings have become quite popular in the last years, and for a while, we were worried that this avalanche of retellings would cheapen their quality and make us grow tired of them. Thankfully, there are plenty of well-written, imaginative retellings out there, which made it almost effortless to put together a selection of recommendations for this category. While you might think books based on pre-existing stories and legends add nothing new, this is not the case with many retellings. Authors will often change or modernise the context, add a new element or a little extra twist, or swap genders. With retellings, you often expect to know the story, yet you find yourself having a novel reading experience. We’d like to share some of our favourite retellings with you – some are rather popular, others may be less known.

As always, they are sorted alphabetically and clicking on the title will lead you to our review if there is one. Of course, we’re keen to learn about retellings that might have slipped our attention, so please let us know if you have any recommendations not featured on this list!

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Mental Illness Awareness Week – blending mental health with fantasy & sci-fi

Hello everyone! As some of you may know, I’m a Clinical Psychology major with a focus on child and adolescent psychology. Hence, mental health is a subject dear to me, and for which I’d like to advocate in relation to books. The rep of mental health, regardless of what form, in books is of utmost importance, because books reach more people than almost any other medium (save for social media and newspapers).

For last spring’s Mental Health Awareness Week, I talked about good MH rep in contemporary books and posted a list of recommendations. For this month’s Mental Illness Awareness Week, I’d like to take a step away from contemporary, and ask you: Why aren’t there more mental illnesses depicted in fantasy & science fiction? If it’s alright to depict mental illness in a contemporary, but not for a character in a fantasy realm or a futuristic sci-fi setting to suffer from the same illness, then we’re still upholding a partial amount of the stigma mental illness faces. Where are the wizards and cyborgs suffering from Panic Disorder? Where’s the (space) pirate struggling with OCD? Why aren’t there any depressed vampires, schizophrenic mermaids, anorexic dragon hunters, autistic faeries, or shapeshifters with ADHD? There are still remarkably few books which blend genres like fantasy, sci-fi, or dystopian with everyday mental health issues.

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They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End by Adam SilveraThey Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
Published by HarperTeen on September 5th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Goodreads

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They're going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they're both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There's an app for that. It's called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.

3 Stars

“Entire lives aren’t lessons, but there are lessons in lives.”

They Both Die at the End is my first book by Adam Silvera and although I can see he is a great writer who has a deep understanding of people and their relationships, I found this novel somewhat underwhelming. Not bad by any means but just a bit…meh. In part that is certainly due to the genre of the book: despite the sci-fi element – in an alternate 2017 a company called Death-Cast calls people to tell them their last day has come – this novel is a contemporary. As we all know by now, YA contemporaries are difficult for me to love.

Nevertheless, the book should have had more of an emotional impact on me than it did. Though I sympathised with both Mateo and Rufus and felt they were well-developed, likeable characters I did not find myself attached to them and thus the ending, which as the title suggests should have been devastating, left me a bit cold. I am very appreciative of how little angst this book contained, especially in regards to the love story, however, I didn’t feel the chemistry between the two boys and wasn’t invested in their romance. They were cute but nothing more.

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A Guide to Being a Busy Bookworm at University

So as you might’ve figured out from our descriptions or the many, many, many times we apologize during the year for university-caused absences, Chantal and I are hard-working students in two competitive fields of study. The ton of recreational reading we got done during school was a luxury we parted with when we enrolled at uni. Those of you who are in similar positions know what we’re talking about, I’m sure. The further into my studies I got, the less reading I was able to get done. Whereas I easily read 60 books a year during my undergrad studies, I’m now struggling to manage 50 books. During my internships, I also noticed how much less I was at home and yet got more reading done. The thing is: At uni, you always have some assignment to complete or studying to do, but I had no post-work obligations during my internships. Honestly, being back at uni pulled a break on my reading last semester. I am not surprisingly behind in my GR challenge, and I assume Chantal is, too. We don’t care about meeting the challenge per se but it allows for a direct comparison with our previous reading years which brings on nostalgia of times when we had more time to read.

At this point, you’re probably asking yourself whether this is going to be a page-long rant about how university has taken over our lives and so on. Actually, it is not.

Over the years, we’ve had to re-organise ourselves with regard to being bookworms – which means reading, reviewing, blogging, and bookstagramming. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. This post focuses on how to juggle one’s studies (or work) with reading which do not always go well together. We have to compromise a lot where book-related activities are concerned but we’ve found ways to get some reading (or blogging) done nonetheless. We’d like to share some of our tips and ideas with you. Please feel free to leave your own in the comments! From two bookworms to another, we’re always grateful for advice on squeezing in recreational reading into our busy schedules.

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Invictus by Ryan Graudin

Invictus by Ryan GraudinInvictus by Ryan Graudin
Published by Orion Children's Books on Sept 21st, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Sci-fi
Pages: 464
Goodreads

Time flies when you're plundering history.

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far's birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he's ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far's very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

In this heart-stopping adventure, Ryan Graudin has created a fast-paced world that defies time and space.

3 Stars

I’ve only read one other book by Ryan Graudin so far, and I experienced similar issues with Invictus as I did with The Walled City. I haven’t yet read Wolf by Wolf, which is supposed to be amazing, but so far, Ryan Graudin has not made into onto my auto-buy list. I was cautious going into this, as time travel is difficult to impress me with. There’s always a flaw in the logic but this was not what fell flat for me in this book.

Invictus is based on an interesting concept and Graudin knows how to infuse her stories with scraps of knowledge, like ancient treasures long forgotten and slivers of foreign languages. Her characters, albeit not generic, have little life to them, and this makes it very hard to connect with the story on an emotional level. It is this, far more than the sci-fi element I had difficulty wrapping my head around, that makes Invictus forgettable for me.

“Did you know there’s a German curse that literally translates as ‘heaven thunder weather’? Himmeldonnerwetter?”
“Germans have the best words.”

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Anticipated Releases of Autumn 2017

Greetings, fellow bookworms! It’s been a year since we created this blog and wrote our first post on our most anticipated releases for the coming season, and it’s still one of our favourite posts to do. There’s just something exciting about browsing our TBRs on the lookout for upcoming releases. On the northern hemisphere, autumn is approaching fast, and you know what that means right? Lots of windy, rainy, and sunny days with golden leaves which makes for the perfect reading weather (naturally, if it’s turning spring where you live, that’s a lovely time to read as well). Now, we’re sure you have just as many physical or ebooks you already own which you should get around to reading, but what service would we do for the community if we didn’t point out more books to add to your never-ending TBR, am I right? Hence, we’ve put together a list of our most anticipated releases of autumn 2017 (autumn being September, October, and November where we live). The books are listed in order of publication date (as stated on Goodreads) and clicking on the titles will direct you to the respective Goodreads page (unless, of course, we were lucky enough to get an ARC and review it). We hope you find some intriguing books to keep you cosy with a cup of tea!

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Wonder Woman by Leigh Bardugo

Wonder Woman by Leigh BardugoWonder Woman by Leigh Bardugo
Series: DC Icons #1
Published by Random House on August 29th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Sci-fi
Pages: 384
Goodreads

She will become one of the world’s greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . .

Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.

Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

4 Stars

‘‘Sister in battle, I am shield and blade to you. As I breathe, your enemies will know no sanctuary. While I live, your cause is mine.’’

Going into Wonder Woman, I was both excited and apprehensive. Leigh Bardugo is one of my all-time favourite authors but I had hitherto only read fantasy novels written by her, never an urban fantasy/sci-fi and a superheroine origin story, at that.

Though Wonder Woman doesn’t read like Shadow and Bone or Six of Crows, I’m now convinced this woman can write any genre. Her magic for writing multi-layered characters, sassy dialogue, and electrifying plot twists will never cease to amaze me! Leigh Bardugo can do no wrong. 

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The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

The Library of Fates by Aditi KhoranaThe Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana
Published by Razorbill on July 18th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 354
Goodreads

A romantic coming-of-age fantasy tale steeped in Indian folklore, perfect for fans of The Star-Touched Queen and The Wrath and the Dawn.

No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn't enough.

The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos of a palace under siege. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?

2 Stars

I read an excerpt on NetGalley and it captivated me immediately, so I decided to read the book. I am a puddle of disappointment, to say the least. I was unbelievably bored and the opposite of invested in the characters’ fates and the world. With the tale of the trees being chopped down at the start, Khorana also clearly advocates for climate change and nature awareness, which sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, this book was a balloon of hot air – there is no other way to describe it.

The Library of Fates plays with an intriguing concept, namely the mash-up of a fantasy kingdom with the historical world, and entails a lot of elements from Indian mythology. The intriguing storyline I discovered within the first five chapters, however, turned into a wild goose chase with little substance. Instead of a captivating story, I got me some insta-love, underwhelming plot twists, and a rushed climax. I wish I could say I liked this more, as I was so excited for this coming-of-age fantasy with Indian falklore, but The Library of Fates was not for me, at all.

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