Month: October 2017

Roar by Cora Carmack

Roar by Cora CarmackRoar by Cora Carmack
Series: Stormheart #1
Published by Tor Teen on June 13th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 380
Goodreads

In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.

Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage.

She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.

2 Stars

Instead of writing a YA fantasy, perhaps Cora Carmack should’ve written a handbook on ‘How To Ruin a Good Magic Concept With a Mediocre Plot And an Insufferable Romance 101’. Because, for me, that’s exactly what went wrong with Roar. Yet another female author who tried to pass possessiveness in men off as sexy, and I’m having none of it. 

When I picked this up, I knew I was not going to like the portrayal of men. So, I purposefully decided to focus on something else. The main character Aurora Pavan seemed interesting at first. A girl born without magic in an ancient royal family of Stormlings (= people who control the deadly storms ravaging the lands). Carmack gave me something I could work with: A princess who didn’t immediately receive the ‘special snowflake’ stamp from me. Unfortunately, I couldn’t connect with Aurora aka Rora aka Roar much otherwise. Aurora was entirely too naive and too reckless for her to appeal to me as a heroine. Her plans weren’t thought through, which brought much annoyment about, and she didn’t have any distinctive spark. Towards the ending, I had to give up the notion that Aurora was anything else but speciuuul, so unfortunately, that’s just another negative point I now have to add to this review.

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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.

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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