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Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist by Renée AhdiehFlame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh
Series: Flame in the Mist #1
Published by Putnam Juvenile on May 16th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 416
Goodreads

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn, comes a sweeping, action-packed YA adventure set against the backdrop of Feudal Japan where Mulan meets Tamora Pierce.

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.
Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.

3.5 Stars

Perhaps she was wind. Wind could whip a fire into a frenzy. Make a mighty oak bow. Lash water into the mist.

Having loved Ahdieh’s debut The Wrath and the Dawn, her new project had been thrown onto my TBR before it was even announced what its content was going to be. When I heard it was a story with a feudal Japanese-inspired setting, pitched as  a mash-up of 47 Ronin and my favourite Disney Mulan, I was beyond excited for Flame in the Mist.

Though I can genuinely say I liked the book, Flame in the Mist did not reach the expectations that I had built up for this anticipated release. The book’s strong suit was its character dynamics, its subtle feminist touch, and its world-building. I’m also a tremendous fan of the girl-disguised-as-boy narrative. However, there’s a lot of potential for improvement for almost every element of the book, be it the depth of the characters, the substance of the plot, or the storytelling. Unfortunately, the storyline was unoriginal and shared unmistakable similarities with Ahdieh’s previous work, and I could have lived with that had the plot not been so painfully predictable sometimes.

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The importance of mental health rep in YA

May is Mental Health Awareness Month (also referred to as National Mental Health Month) in the United States. In accordance, it is also Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, having started on the 8th, so May is all about mental health right now. Similar to what I’ve been doing on Instagram, I would like to take the opportunity to dedicate a post on our blog to the mental health representation in YA literature, its importance, and its insufficiencies. Mental health (MH) being an important topic to both Chantal and me, we continue to seek accurate representations in various forms; be it the impact of grief, like in Everything I Never Told You, or the reality of suffering from a psychiatric disorder, like in Made You Up which features paranoid schizophrenia.

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A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. MaasA Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #3
on May 3rd, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult
Pages: 705 pages
Goodreads

Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin's maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

2 Stars

As always, people, this is a review of a book and its content, not the personality of its author. My criticism of the book is not meant as an offence to SJM’s person. If you cannot stomach criticism of your favourite author’s work, please just walk on as though you never saw this 2-star rating flash up in your feed, as I don’t care for fangirls shitting all over my opinion – thank you (I used the magic words, so be nice).

Beware: Minor spoilers.

So, after the two previous instalments had kept me reasonably interested in the story, A Court of Wings and Ruin fell utterly flat for me. A Court of Mist and Fury had been a guilty pleasure read whereas A Court of Wings and Ruin was just guilty pleasure. This was mainly due to a lack of a lot of things I had liked about the sequel. Gone were the grounds for new character development, gone were the exciting political twists, gone was the romantic tension between Feyre and Rhys. I think this instalment could have been a lot shorter, more compact, and more interesting. Though I am by no means a fan of SJM’s work, I expected more from this finale.

“You do not fear. You do not falter. You do not yield.
Remember that you are a wolf. And you cannot be caged.”

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A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani ChokshiA Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
Series: The Star-Touched Queen #2
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on March 28th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 352
Goodreads

Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

4 Stars

I hadn’t read The Star-Touched Queen prior to picking up this companion novel, as the reviews had put me off and the writing in the chapter sampler had completely distracted me from the plot. I was, however, curious about Chokshi’s following work since debut authors tend to improve their skills with each book. Hence, I read this book as a standalone, and though it helps to have read the previous book or the chapter sampler, it is not a requirement. In my case, waiting for the companion novel was the right choice, because I think I enjoyed it a lot more than I would have its predecessor The Star-Touched Queen.

A Crown of Wishes dazzles with its feisty heroine, sizzling romance, intricate world-building, and lyrical writing. From what I’ve heard, the main plot was one of the weak points of her previous work. While this has not changed, the storyline was gripping enough to hook me a few chapters into the book. The romance, though it is borderline overpowering, added to the overall suspension and employed one of my favourite tropes (I am basically a sucker for enemies-to-lovers, I can’t help it).

“Some tales that never end start with something as simple as an act of impulse and end with something as evil as an act of love.”

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The Last Star by Rick Yancey

The Last Star by Rick YanceyThe Last Star by Rick Yancey
Series: The 5th Wave #3
Published by Putnam Juvenile on May 24th, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Science-Fiction
Pages: 338
Goodreads

The enemy is Other. The enemy is us.

They’re down here, they’re up there, they’re nowhere. They want the Earth, they want us to have it. They came to wipe us out, they came to save us.

But beneath these riddles lies one truth: Cassie has been betrayed. So has Ringer. Zombie. Nugget. And all 7.5 billion people who used to live on our planet. Betrayed first by the Others, and now by ourselves.

In these last days, Earth’s remaining survivors will need to decide what’s more important: saving themselves…or saving what makes us human.

2.5 Stars

The Last Star was one of my most anticipated releases of 2016. This book was a complete and utter disappointment, and I cannot even lie to myself about how disappointing it was. This was not the finale I had wanted for one of my hitherto favourite sci-fi series. Hence, the 2.5 stars. Ben Parish was my silver lining, as the Par(r)ishs always are (Raven Boys fans will understand).

Life is a circle bound by fear. The fear of the predator. The fear of the prey. Without fear, life would not exist.

My original review on Goodreads was very detailed and contained minor spoilers, which is why I broke this review down to the basics for the blog. My original (and very ranty) review can be viewed here.

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The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave by Rick YanceyThe 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Series: The 5th Wave #1
Published by Putnam Juvenile on May 7th, 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Science-Fiction
Pages: 457
Goodreads

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth's last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie's only hope for rescuing her brother-or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

5 Stars

The alien invasion had never been a storyline that excited me until I read Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave roughly three years ago, which threw me into squealy fits of fangirlism. The 5th Wave excites with an imaginative apocalyptic scenario, an adrenaline-inducing plot, and engaging characters whose storylines of struggle, loss, and loneliness shook me down to my bones. Though I have become a more critical reader since I read this book, I’m positive that The 5th Wave is still right up my alley (read my thoughts on the series as a whole at the end of this review).

But if I’m it, the last of my kind, the last page of human history, like hell I’m going to let the story end this way. I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running but facing. Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.

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Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Golden Son by Pierce BrownGolden Son by Pierce Brown
Series: Red Rising #2
on January 6th, 2015
Genres: Science-Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 430
Goodreads

With shades of The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, and Game of Thrones, debut author Pierce Brown’s genre-defying epic Red Rising hit the ground running and wasted no time becoming a sensation.

Golden Son continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies. Now fully embedded among the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his work to bring down Society from within.

A life-or-death tale of vengeance with an unforgettable hero at its heart, Golden Son guarantees Pierce Brown’s continuing status as one of fiction’s most exciting new voices.

4.5 Stars

Red Rising was a fascinating start to a sci-fi that could be described as The Hunger Games meets Rome, yet I remember struggling with the dense writing. The plot had me curious for its sequel Golden Son, though, and so I continued my journey with my favourite buddy reader Simona. And boy, we were in for a surprise.

Golden Son was absolutely golden, so to speak. Pierce Brown moves the plot away from a feisty children’s playground and turns the heat up a notch. Golden Son equals fireworks of character development, epic plot twists, and a gut-wrenching cliffhanger ending that will rip your heart out and leave it there to dry. It is a multi-layered cake with politics, scheming, rebellion, alliances, friendship, and a sprinkle of romance. The word ‘Second Book Syndrome’ does not seem to exist in Brown’s vocabulary. 

“I’ll be Odysseus. You be Achilles.”
“Achilles dies in the end.”
“Then learn from his mistakes.”

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The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky AlbertalliThe Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 11th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back.

There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

3 Stars

I know, this is a disaster. The Upside of Unrequited – a novel I’ve been looking forward to for months – only received 3 stars from me. I’ll need some Oreos to get over this. Overall, I liked it fine but I’m so disappointed I didn’t like it more. This is Becky Albertalli, after all. I feel like she wanted too many things with this book. The Upside of Unrequited and I just didn’t click. That spark I had with Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda? Inexistent. There was no chemistry between me and this book. That’s a real case of unrequited love right there.

But there’s this awfulness that comes when a guy thinks you like him. It’s as if he’s fully clothed and you’re naked in front of him. It’s like your heart suddenly lives outside your body, and whenever he wants, he can reach out an squeeze it.
Unless he happens to like you back.

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The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas

The Perilous Sea by Sherry ThomasThe Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas
Series: The Elemental Trilogy #2
Published by Balzer + Bray on September 16th, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Pages: 414
Goodreads

After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.

Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.

3.5 Stars

Sequels are often compared to their predecessor(s), especially when with regard to deciding on a fitting rating, but I can tell you that this did me absolutely no good at all. Because The Perilous Sea seems so fundamentally different from The Burning Sky in many aspects.

The Perilous Sea was an exciting, gripping read and a worthy sequel for this series. The book excelled in taking the tension, the danger, and the action to the next level. Some of the plot twists in this book had me practically gaping.  But I also felt like the overall drama factor was turned up a notch as well, and I don’t know how I feel about that, especially where that puts me with the rating. 

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A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. SchwabA Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab
Series: Darker Shade of Magic #3
Published by Tor Books on February 21st, 2017
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 624
Goodreads

Witness the fate of beloved heroes - and enemies.

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED...
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell - once assumed to be the last surviving Antari - begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace - but never common - thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

5 Stars

Writing reviews for your favourite books is difficult, which is why I have a hard time accurately expressing my feelings for A Conjuring of Light. One one hand, A Conjuring of Light was a masterpiece of action, magic, and romance. On the other hand, I feel incredibly biased towards this book, because I justify my 5 stars largely due to 1) feels and 2) having liked A Conjuring of Light better than A Gathering of Shadows which I awared 4.5 stars. Do you see my problem? Technically, A Conjuring of Light would’ve been a 4.5-star read, but by giving it 5 stars, I’d like to acknowledge that the issues I had with A Gathering of Shadows have disappeared into thin air in the final instalment. So now, let me introduce you to my feels.

Magic ran between them like a current, a cord, and he wondered who she would have been if she’d stayed in Grey London. If she’d never picked his pocket, never held the contents ransom for adventure.
Maybe she would never have discovered magic.
Or maybe she would have simply changed her world instead of his.

Well, I can tell you something for sure: I’d have missed out on a unique, epic, and swoon-worthy adventure if I hadn’t picked up A Darker Shade of Magic a couple of years ago. And it all started with my fascination for Kell’s coat. I enjoyed the first book, but was missing some more character depth and background. I enjoyed the second book, which improved in character-building, but at the expense of the plot. I enjoyed the third book, which got both of those right.

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