Category: Reviews (page 1 of 18)

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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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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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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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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The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

The Last Namsara by Kristen CiccarelliThe Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli
Series: Iskari #1
Published by Gollancz on October 5th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 304
Goodreads

A gripping YA crossover series from a spectacular new voice in the genre.

Once there was a girl who was drawn to wicked things.

Asha is a dragon-slayer. Reviled by the very people she's sworn to protect, she kills to atone for the wicked deed she committed as a child - one that almost destroyed her city, and left her with a terrible scar.

But protecting her father's kingdom is a lonely destiny: no matter how many dragons she kills, her people still think she's wicked.

Even worse, to unite the fractured kingdom she must marry Jarek, the cruel commandant. As the wedding day approaches, Asha longs for freedom.

Just when it seems her fate is sealed, the king offers her a way out: her freedom in exchange for the head of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard.

And the only person standing in her way is a defiant slave boy . . .

THE LAST NAMSARA is an extraordinary story about courage, loyalty and star-crossed love, set in a kingdom that trembles on the edge of war.

4 Stars

I decided not to re-read the premise prior to picking up The Last Namsara but go in completely blind, and it was the best decision I could’ve made. This debut took me by surprise in the way it drew me into its world of dragons, gods, and magic stories. I WAS SO DOWN FOR THE DRAGONS. I definitely got some How To Train Your Dragons vibes from this, guys. Move aside Eragon, The Last Namsara has come to claim your place.

At first glance, The Last Namsara seems like your generic Young Adult fantasy, and I thought I’d grown tired of those. However, something about this book pulled me in. I was intrigued by the feisty but troubled main character, the character dynamics, the forbidden romance, and the gripping plot. Objectively, I could give a slightly lower rating due to the issues I had, but The Last Namsara had me so invested, racing through it within a couple of hours, that I cannot but give it 4 stars.

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The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera

The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault RiveraThe Tiger's Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera
Series: Their Bright Ascendency #1
Published by Tor Books on October 3rd, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, LGBTQ+
Pages: 512
Goodreads

Even gods can be slain….

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.

Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.

This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

2.5 Stars

The most valuable member of the clan is the person who tells the best stories around the fire.

Frankly, anything blurbed by V.E. Schwab I expect to love. Alas, this was not the best story told around the fire, albeit showing immense potential.

Mid-book,I feared I was going to end up rating one of my most anticipated releases less than 2 stars. The first half lulled me to sleep, resulting in a lot of skimming. The second half was distinctly better than the first, the last 100 or so pages interesting even. From 5 stars to DNFs, you’ll see everything among this debut’s ratings, as it is a peculiar book and simply subject to individual taste.

The Tiger’s Daughter entailed a beautifully written same sex romance with two heart-winning heroines, but the action-packed fantasy I’d hoped for based on the premise was nonexistent. To me, The Tiger’s Daughter was more an epic love story than an epic fantasy novel. The storytelling – the point of view written in form of a letter – was not to my liking. Though the book ended better than it started, I lowered my rating to 2.5 stars because it couldn’t make up for the earlier amount of bored skimming.

FYI: In my understanding, this book is going to be published as adult fantasy, and its content warrants being shelved as such (or NA), but definitely not YA.

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie ThomasThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 28th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 444
Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

5 Stars

The Hate U Give instantly made the list of my favourite reads of 2017. You won’t find a lot of 5 stars among my ratings but this one was a no-brainer. I’d been expecting great things of Angie Thomas when this release was first announced, as it tackles an emotionally-charged topic in the US, and it did not disappoint.

When I was twelve, my parents had two talks with me. One was the usual birds and the bees. The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me.

This refreshing, daunting new voice deserves all the hype it’s getting. A lot of authors address and confront hard and controversial topics in their works, but Angie Thomas had her finger on the pulse of time with her debut. With its raw, realistic, and authentic narration, The Hate U Give tackles racism and the police violence related to it, but it digs far deeper than that – it uncovers a flaw rooted in our society. It takes a great deal of courage to make us and the world we live in look into a mirror, and Angie Thomas accomplished just that. No wonder so many readers said this book changed their lives.

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Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda FoodyDaughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody
Published by Harlequin on September 7th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 416
Goodreads

A darkly irresistible new fantasy set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, a traveling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires.

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

2.5 Stars

“But you’re an illusion,” I say. “I created you.”
“That doesn’t mean I’m not real.”

I’d been head over heels for this book ever since reading the premise – a notorious festival, charms and jynxes, illusions that can be killed – and I was beyond excited when our blog was accepted for an electronic ARC of this debut. Well, let’s say my heels broke and I fell face-first into the dirt.

Daughter of the Burning City had so much potential, so many brilliant ideas and magical elements which sparked my curiosity, but the execution failed to make those ideas shine. Foody’s imagination is enchanting but she didn’t turn her interesting ideas into a captivating story.

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A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba BadoeA Jigsaw of Fire and Stars Published by Zephyr on September 7th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Pages: 278
Goodreads

A powerful, haunting, contemporary debut that steps seamlessly from the horrors of people-trafficking to the magic of African folklore, by an award-winning Ghanaian-British filmmaker.

Sante was a baby when she was washed ashore in a sea-chest laden with treasure. It seems she is the sole survivor of the tragic sinking of a ship carrying migrants and refugees. Her people.

Fourteen years on she's a member of Mama Rose's unique and dazzling circus. But, from their watery grave, the unquiet dead are calling Sante to avenge them:

A bamboo flute. A golden bangle. A ripening mango which must not fall... if Sante is to tell their story and her own.

Rich in the rhythms and colours of Africa and glittering circus days. Unflinching in its dark revelations about life. Yaba Badoe's novel is beautiful and cruel and will linger long in the memory.

3.5 Stars

I had heard little to nothing about A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars prior to requesting it on NetGalley. I’ve been trying to expand my reading of literature by authors of cultures foreign to my own and the book’s premise spoke to me, so I was more than delighted than we’d been accepted for this novel.

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is pitched as a contemporary but I believe magical or animist realism describes it best. The story combines contemporary themes such as people-trafficking, the flow of refugees from Africa to Europe, and the search for identity and belonging with magical elements of African folklore.

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