Reviews

The Cruelest Mercy by Natalie Mae: a Review

Hey guys! I don’t know how many of you read The Kinder Poison last year, but it was one of my favorite 2020 releases, and I was so pumped about The Cruelest Mercy! I pre-ordered it, which is pretty rare for me. However, I have some majorly divided feelings about it. This review is definitely going to have spoilers for The Kinder Poison, so you may want to stop here if you haven’t read it yet! By the way, regardless of my mixed feelings about The Cruelest Mercy, I still love The Kinder Poison, and you should totally check it out if you haven’t already!

Summary

After surviving the Crossing, Zahru has sworn off adventures. While crown prince Jet navigates the looming threat of war, she’s content to simply figure out what the future holds for them. But they’re dealt a devastating blow when prince Kasta returns with a shocking claim: he’s the true winner of the Crossing and the rightful heir, and he bears the gods’ mark as proof. Even more surprising–he’s not the only one.

Somehow, Zahru possesses the very same mark, giving her equal right to the throne. The last thing she wants is to rule beside her would-be executioner, but she can’t let Orkena fall into his merciless hands. So Zahru, Jet, and their allies must race against the clock to find a way to stop Kasta, because once he’s crowned, there’s no telling what horrors he’ll unleash to win the war.

Zahru will do whatever it takes to keep Kasta from taking the throne…but to stop a villain, is she willing to become one herself? (from Goodreads)

Author: Natalie Mae
Title: The Cruelest Mercy
Series: The Kinder Poison, book #2
Publication date: June 15, 2021

Review

Ahh, so much to say. I am struggling to organize my thoughts about this one for some reason, but let’s hope I can get my opinion across.

The Pros: I love the cast of characters! I love Zahru and her sense of humor( hearing the animals think is still hilarious), I love Hen (who we got to see a lot more of), and of course I love Jet and Kasta. The characters and their complexity definitely make the story.
I also enjoyed the fantasy, just as I did in The Kinder Poison. We got to see new types of magic and learn more about it, and that is always fun. We were also introduced to other nationalities in this fantasy universe, which was fascinating. Can I just say, even if Zahru’s story doesn’t get a book three (which it totally should), I think there are more stories to be told in this world. I really hope Mae writes prolifically in this universe, because I love it!
This last pro is kind of a mixed bag. There was some very interesting character development and questionable morality in this sequel. It was very intriguing, but also a bit disappointing for me, personally.

The Cons: Ok, some of these are real cons and some are more neutral observations. First of all, I was a bit disappointed by the romance. In a lot of ways, the ending of The Kinder Poison felt like it was setting up some serious romantic drama in The Cruelest Mercy. But there was incredibly little progress in any direction. Which was very disappointing, I think because my hopes were so high.
Aside from that, I found the character development to be a little odd, like I mentioned earlier. In The Kinder Poison, Zahru was a very well defined heroine. She was brave and selfless and kind. Most importantly, she truly wanted to see the best in people. She was a much more morally gray character in The Cruelest Mercy. I’m sure some will argue that this made her more interesting, and I understand why she became more cynical after the events of The Kinder Poison. But it also muddied the waters in terms of plot. I was not always rooting for Zahru, and her victories weren’t nearly as satisfying for me. This was particularly a problem in the ending. The ending resulted in some abrupt and unnatural character development which I found frustrating. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t go into details. Something which should have happened naturally through character development happened through magic, and it was very disappointing. It was a pretty weak and sloppy move for me.

All that being said, I did enjoy this one. I just don’t feel satisfied. I’m going to be very sad if Mae doesn’t write a third book because I think there is a lot more potential for character and world development here.

Following Good

Overall, pretty clean. No sexual scenes, minimal language (all based on fantasy religion), and only fictional religious material. There were fairly frequent LGBT characters, all minor.

Rating

I did enjoy this one, but it did not go in the direction I was hoping for. I guess that’s always a risk when the first book is so good. If this ends up being a trilogy, and the third book goes really well, I think this book will be more satisfying for me. But as the second in a duology, I had some issues with it. 3.5/5 stars.

Alright, thanks for reading! Have you guys read this one? What did you think? I’m dying to talk this sequel over with someone since I am the first of my bookish friends to read it. 🙃

Happy reading, everyone!
Hayden

Book Lists · Reviews · Series Reviews

3 Japanese Mythology-Inspired Fantasies

Hey guys! I originally planned to review my japanese mythology reads separately, but with my hiatus, so much time had gone by that reviewing them together seemed better. I’m going to start with my least favorite and end with my favorite. Also, these are the only japanese mythology-inspired fantasies I have read, so if anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

Summary

In a palace of illusions, nothing is what it seems.

Each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules are simple. Survive the palace’s enchanted seasonal rooms. Conquer Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Marry the prince. All are eligible to compete—all except yōkai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to enslave and destroy.

Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it would be, if she weren’t hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yōkai with the ability to transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit. As she struggles to keep her true identity hidden, Mari’s fate collides with that of Taro, the prince who has no desire to inherit the imperial throne, and Akira, a half-human, half-yōkai outcast.

Torn between duty and love, loyalty and betrayal, vengeance and forgiveness, the choices of Mari, Taro, and Akira will decide the fate of Honoku in this beautifully written, edge-of-your-seat YA fantasy.

Review

Pros: I loved the variety of yokai included! In my other reads, mainly a couple of types, like kitsune, are focused on, but Empress of All Seasons mentioned a lot of more obscure yokai. There was also a lot of background mythology included, which I enjoyed.
Additionally, Jean did a good job of incorporating a message about beauty and female empowerment into her story. Mari is a less attractive outcast among her family, and her story of self-acceptance is an intriguing one.

Cons: I didn’t like the love triangle at all! There just wasn’t enough development to make it believable. I think if this had been expanded to a series, the relationships would have made more sense. As it was, all the romance felt kind of sloppy and shallow. I couldn’t get invested in any of it.
Similarly, the plot felt very choppy at times. If there had been more time, or more books, it could have been less abrupt. As a standalone, the timing was a little awkward.
Finally, I hated the ending. I guess it was supposed to send a feminist message, but it mainly felt rushed and kind of depressing.

Rating: 2.5 stars

Shadow of the Fox trilogy by Julie Kagawa

Summary

One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.

Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.

Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.

There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.

With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.

Review

Ok, since this is a series, I’m going to skip the pro/con thing and share some thoughts from each book.
Shadow of the Fox (book 1): This was my favorite one by far! I loved seeing the team assembled, I found Yumeko and Kage’s relationship really adorable from the start, and the build up of the overall conflict was so interesting. 4/5 stars
Soul of the Sword (book 2): Sadly, this was my least favorite of the series. The main couple spent most of the time apart and the plot was very slow and drawn out. It felt like a filler. 2/5 stars
Night of the Dragon (book 3): I was hoping this would make up for the disappointing second book, but it had its own problems. After very little romantic development in the 2nd book, the romance was incredibly rushed in the first half of this one. Very little had happened in the first novel either, so this did not make a ton of sense and felt very fast. The second half of the book, which was one huge conflict, felt rushed in a different way. All these problems appeared and had to be solved very quickly. It was a little corny, like the rushed ending of a tv show that’s just been cancelled. A bunch of sad and unnecessary things also happened, which made the overall ending unsatisfying for me. 2.5/5 stars

Red Winter trilogy by Annette Marie

Summary

Emi is the kamigakari. In a few short months, her life as a mortal will end and her new existence as the human host of a goddess will begin. Carefully hidden from those who would destroy her, she has prepared her mind, body, and soul to unite with the goddess-and not once has she doubted her chosen fate. Shiro is a yokai, a spirit of the earth, an enemy of the goddess Emi will soon host. Mystery shrouds his every move and his ruby eyes shine with cunning she can’t match and dares not trust. But she saved his life, and until his debt is paid, he is hers to command-whether she wants him or not. On the day they meet, everything Emi believes comes undone, swept away like snow upon the winter wind. For the first time, she wants to change her fate-but how can she erase a destiny already wrought in stone? Against the power of the gods, Shiro is her only hope… and hope is all she has left. 

Review

Although this is also a trilogy, the books read more like three parts of one story, so I’m just going to give it an overall review.

Pros: I could rave and rave about the romance, but I’ll try to keep it brief, lol. I love Shiro. So. Dang. Much. Shiro and Emi had such an awesome relationship, and their romantic development felt very steady and realistic. There are just so many moments when I couldn’t help squealing a bit. Any lovers of fantasy romances are seriously going to love this one. I’ve already gotten a few friends addicted, so I can attest to that.
Anyway, the plot is also very well written with a nice build. None of the books end on a cliffhanger, but I was completely hooked until the end of the trilogy. The battle scenes are so intense! I was on the edge of my seat a lot.
Another thing I loved was how well-defined the fantasy was. Although yokai were described in the other two I read, Red Winter has an entire hierarchy, and the differences between yokai and kami are clearly explained. I really liked this structure and detail, although it did make the first book a little info-heavy.

Cons: Well, it’s hard to say. The first book is definitely the hardest to get through (although it’s still not bad), because the world building is so in depth. Other than that, I’m having a hard time coming up with something…my main flaw is that there is only this trilogy. I need more books set in this world!!

Rating: 5/5 stars! I love this series💚

Ok, that is it for the reviews! I really loved exploring these fantasies, and Red Winter is definitely an all time favorite. Have you read any of these? What did you think? I’m going to finish with a brief Following Good section for each of these, so if you’re not interested, you can stop here. Happy reading!

Following Good

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

This one was fairly clean. A minor LGBT couple, minimal language or sexual content. The religious content in all of these books is related to japanese mythology.

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

This series started out very clean, but there ended up being heavy LGBT content and moderate sexual content. Minimal language.

Red Winter

Minimal language, no LGBT content, and some moderate sexual content near the end of the series.

Thanks for reading to the end! Hope you have a great day and happy reading!
Hayden

Monthly Recaps

I’m Back! Hiatus Recap

Hey guys! So, I have not really been reading or writing blog posts for the past couple of months. It was not a planned hiatus (I originally planned for a week…), but I was a lot more overwhelmed with other responsibilities than I realized. I needed books to just be something unstructured and with no time limits, but I have missed writing and commenting and seeing what you guys are reading! So I’m really excited to be back.

I am trying to get into graduate school, so I do think I’m going to aim for fewer, but still regular, posts. Are there any posts you guys prefer to read? I’m still trying to decide which are my favorite to write, lol. Anyway, I thought a recap of what I’ve been reading for the past few months might be a good way to ease back in. If any of these books are ones you’d like full reviews on, let me know! Otherwise, I probably won’t bother reviewing most of them, other than the mini reviews below.

Books Read

Beauty by Robin McKinley is a succinct but very well-written beauty and the beast retelling. I like that it’s an easy read, I like the main character, and I love Robin McKinley. 4/5 stars

Need by Carrie Jones is a YA fantasy about pixies and were-creatures. Interesting combination of fantasy elements and take on pixies, but I felt kind of meh about it. Undecided on whether I’ll read the sequel or not. 3.5/5 stars

Of Beast and Beauty by Chanda Hahn was a beauty and the beast retelling, but gender flipped, which was interesting. Unfortunately, I thought the execution of the idea was just so-so. The romance development was strange…he was kind of a jerk. 3/5 stars

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick was also very meh for me, unfortunately. It seemed a little cliche. And unfortunately, I didn’t care for the main characters or the romance, so it was hard to finish. 2/5 stars.

I re-read Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, which is a comfort read for me. I like watching Bella’s everyday life, and I like the unique (and totally cheesy) take on vampirism. 4.5/5 stars

I re-read the Red Winter trilogy by Annette Marie, which I will give a bit more of a review when I talk about Japanese mythology fantasy soon. But can I just say, I love these books. So. Dang. Much. 5/5 stars

I read The Falconer by Elizabeth May, and its sequel, and I’m currently working on the third and final book in the series. To be honest, I’m quite conflicted about this series as a whole, and I haven’t completely sorted through my feelings. I do think it is pretty unique, and I enjoyed the first book. 4/5 stars

I read Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean and was pretty disappointed, although it wasn’t awful. Pretty unique, but just not my thing. I’ll talk more about it when I discuss Japanese mythology fantasy. 2.5/5 stars

Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa was the last in her Shadow of the Fox trilogy. I won’t go into details yet, but I have very mixed feelings about this trilogy. 2.5/5 stars

I listened to His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik, mainly out of curiosity. It is not really my thing, but I wanted to give it a shot since Naomi Novik is pretty dang awesome. I enjoyed it more than I anticipated, but I doubt I’ll continue with the series. 4/5 stars

I read The Iron King by Julie Kagawa, and I am confused. It, again, just seemed like a pretty generic YA fantasy to me. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that, but there was nothing that stood out to me from the multitude of YA fantasy out there. I wasn’t a huge fan of the MC or romance either, so I doubt I’ll read the sequels. 3/5 stars

I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling, and it was so good! I can’t believe I haven’t read these before. A major oversight on my part. 4.5/5 stars

I listened to Three Mages and a Margarita and Warping Minds and Other Misdimeanors by Annette Marie. They make intriguing, but fairly light, audiobooks. 4/5 stars

I read Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, and oh my goodness. It was so good, but so help me, if the romance doesn’t go the way I want it to, I will be mad. I anticipate a lot of anger throughout this series, lol. 4.5/5 stars

I FINALLY read Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo. Holy cow, it was so good! Excited to get to watch the show (I’ve been waiting and waiting). 5/5 stars

Finally, I re-read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It is a favorite of mine, and I enjoyed my re-read. 5/5 stars

Ok, that was a lot! And I have so much I want to read this summer. What have you guys been reading? Any of your favorites up here? Am I the only one just now getting to some of these YA classics, lol? Hope you guys are doing well, and I am excited to be back to book blogging!

Happy reading!
Hayden

Book Lists · Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday: Old Books Still on my TBR

Hey guys! We made it through another week! Got any exciting plans for the weekend? My plans? Spend as little time doing homework as possible, lol.

Anyway, Flashback Friday is a weekly meme hosted by my friend Maya @ HerBookishDesires where we get to talk about oldie but goodie books. Honestly, there are so. dang. many. old books on my TBR, that I’m going to have to narrow it down somehow. So instead, I’m going to focus on older books my friend Grace has been telling me to read for years. Even that isn’t narrowing it down enough, lol, but I’m picking the ones I really do plan on reading.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Inside little blue envelope 1 are $1,000 and instructions to buy a plane ticket.

In envelope 2 are directions to a specific London flat.

The note in envelope 3 tells Ginny: Find a starving artist.

Because of envelope 4, Ginny and a playwright/thief/ bloke about town called Keith go to Scotland together, with somewhat disastrous though utterly romantic results. But will she ever see him again?

Everything about Ginny will change this summer, and it’s all because of the 13 little blue envelopes. (from Goodreads)

This looks so cute, right? My only excuse is that I have to be in a very specific mood for a romantic comedy.

The Falconer by Elizabeth May

One girl’s nightmare is this girl’s faery tale

She’s a stunner.
Edinburgh, 1844. Eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, has everything a girl could dream of: brains, charm, wealth, a title—and drop-dead beauty.

She’s a liar.
But Aileana only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. she’s leading a double life: She has a rare ability to sense the sìthíchean—the faery race obsessed with slaughtering humans—and, with the aid of a mysterious mentor, has spent the year since her mother died learning how to kill them.

She’s a murderer.
Now Aileana is dedicated to slaying the fae before they take innocent lives. With her knack for inventing ingenious tools and weapons—from flying machines to detonators to lightning pistols—ruthless Aileana has one goal: Destroy the faery who destroyed her mother.

She’s a Falconer.
The last in a line of female warriors born with a gift for hunting and killing the fae, Aileana is the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity. Suddenly, her quest is a lot more complicated. She still longs to avenge her mother’s murder—but she’ll have to save the world first. (from Goodreads)

This one looks so neat, I’m not sure why I haven’t tried it yet. But it is very high on my list, so maybe this summer?

Well, those are the big ones! What are some older books on your TBR? Hope you guys have an awesome weekend and happy reading!
Hayden

ARCs · Reviews

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman: an ARC Review

Happy Monday, guys! This is the beginning of my last month as an undergrad student, so I am just in buckle down and hold on mode. Wish me luck, please! What is your April looking like? Hope this week is a great one for you!

Summary Info

Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years.

The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there.

When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all.

As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human. (from Goodreads)

Review

Ok, I had so many ups and downs with this book. Let’s see if I can get my thoughts organized. I actually want to start with the cons this time.

The Cons:

My big complaint was with the love interest. It is one of those hate to love things, and I just really couldn’t buy it. He is, frankly, a huge jerk to her for the vast majority of the book, but there is a miraculous turn around near the end. I really hate this particular plot trope, personally, so I couldn’t get behind him. That being said, I did think their relationship took a positive turn near the end.

Secondly, the timing was just a bit awkward. We spend very little time with Nami’s family before Nami’s death, but so much of the motivation for Nami is making the afterlife a better place for her younger sister. Which is sweet, but would make more sense if we had either more flashbacks or a better set up in the beginning.

Thirdly, the plot speed was a little unsteady. Fast or slow, but not great steady building.

The Pros:

First of all, the premise of The Infinity Courts is so cool! A shifting landscape and using your consciousness to shape reality in the afterlife? Very neat and unique. But what was really cool was the introduction of artificial intelligence and the questions that theme raised.

Nami was not a perfect heroine, but what made her likable was her willingness to question things. What does make a being human? So many of the other people were constantly saying that AIs were not alive; but in the afterlife, what makes a being alive? The Infinity Courts did such a great job of exploring these deep themes and really making me think. And that challenging aspect of this book made it really unique and worth reading, in my opinion. While we’re on this topic, I should mention that it reminded me of Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis, which also explores life and what being alive means (see my review here).

Thirdly, I really loved the ending. With my mixed feelings about the love interest, I wasn’t sure if I would continue with this series, but the ending blindsided me a bit, and it definitely improved my opinion of the book. Honestly, I feel like I need to re-read it with the ending in mind.

Following Good

The Infinity Courts had some violence, but otherwise, it was very clean. Minimal language, minimal sexual content, some minor LGBT content. No religious content, other than the obvious lack of God or any other spiritual elements in the afterlife.

Rating

I honestly thought that this book would top out at about 3 stars, but like I said, the ending really improved my opinion of it, so I’m giving The Infinity Courts 4 stars. I’m really excited to see where Bowman takes this series!

Well, I hope you guys are having an awesome Monday, and happy reading!
Hayden 💚

Monthly Recaps

March 2021 Wrap-Up

Happy Easter, guys! I hope you are getting some awesome relaxing and/or family time today. 🙂 Well, another month has come and gone. One more month left in my undergraduate career!! I’m so, so ready for graduation at the end of this month. Sadly, this wasn’t my best reading month, but I was just a couple short of my TBR, so it wasn’t a total fail. I did have a pretty good spring break this past month, but honestly, the stress of school, more work, and getting ready to apply to grad school is really starting to wear me down, lol. How was March for you? Anyway, on to the books I did manage to read!

Books Read vs. My TBR

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa
Covet by Tracy Wolff
The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Wings of Ebony by J. Elle
The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa
An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa ✅
Covet by Tracy Wolff ✅
The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman ✅
Wings of Ebony by J. Elle ✅
The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge ✅
Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa ✅
An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson ✅
Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean ❌
Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa ❌

Best and Worst Reads

I have to say, I didn’t expect An Enchantment of Ravens to be my favorite read this month! I’ve read it before, and my re-read did not disappoint! I loved it every bit as much as I remembered, which is always nice. Unfortunately, several of my other reads were a bit of a bust, so I had a harder time picking a least favorite read. Ultimately, it did have to come down to Wings of Ebony (see my review here). I thought it was a really interesting premise, but unfortunately, there was a major political agenda which left some elements kind of underdeveloped.

April TBR

Okay, I always say that I’m not a big formal TBR person, but when I actually write a TBR down, I feel some pressure to get through it, you know? And last month, I ended up getting into a major slump because I was trying to stick to a TBR that wasn’t working for me, lol. So I’m going to try giving myself an abbreviated TBR, and seeing how it goes.

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Beauty by Robin McKinley
Sing Me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olson
Red Winter by Annette Marie
Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa

Ok, if I finish half of these, I’m considering it a success! Seriously, this is my last month of school, and it will be intense, so three books may be all I get to anyway, lol.

What are you guys doing this month? Got any big plans? Have anything fun on your TBR? I hope April is a great month for you. 🙂
Happy reading,
Hayden

Book Lists · Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday: Trickster Characters

Happy Friday, everyone! Excited for the weekend? Got any plans? I’m camping, so that’s going to be fun. Anyway, Flashback Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Maya @ Her Bookish Desires. This week, we talk about trickster characters, in honor of April Fool’s. To be honest, I kind of blanked, but I’ll share what I’ve got.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Well, I hate picking books that everyone is familiar with because you probably don’t need reminding of them, but Fred and George. I love them.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

I love the movie for this one, and I got the book out of a free stack a while back. I really need to read it! Because Matilda definitely pulls some epic tricks on her terrible parents.

Well, that is it for this week’s Flashback Friday! I know very well I’m overlooking some awesome trickster characters, but I totally blanked! Had to google for inspiration for Matilda, lol. Does anyone have some to remind me of?

Happy reading and hope your weekend is great!
Hayden Warren

Reviews

Wings of Ebony by J. Elle: a Review

Happy Monday, everyone! This Monday is slightly better than usual since this week is a four day week. How is your week looking so far? Got any big plans this week? Anyway, I’m procrastinating a bit since I’m a little nervous to post this review. But here goes.

Summary Info

“Make a way out of no way” is just the way of life for Rue. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue’s taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghizon—a hidden island of magic wielders.

Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death, Rue breaks Ghizon’s sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother’s life.

Worse still, evidence mounts that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghizon—an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from her and everyone she loves. Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighborhood before the gods burn it to the ground. (from Goodreads)

Review

Ok, first I just want to point out how beautiful this cover is. Seriously, it’s so pretty! Between the description and the cover, I was really looking forward to this one! I even got a signed copy in a book box. So, to sum it up, I really wanted to like this one. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a disappointment for me. However, let’s talk about what I did like first.

The Pros: I thought the Ghizoni world was really interesting. A hidden island? A secret history? Fascinating! I did wish it had been more elaborated on, but this is the first book in the series, so I’m not too worried about it. I found what was included really interesting and unique, and I think the author has a lot of room for growth in the fantasy.
I also really enjoyed the representation. The author does a great job of making us empathize with Rue as a member of a minority; not just as an African American in Houston but also as a black half-human in Ghizon. I do wish more of Rue’s lifestyle and culture would have been shown. We had brief mentions of a few details, but I think there is still room for more detail about Ghizoni culture and Rue’s culture and lifestyle on her block.
I also loved the emphasis on family in Wings of Ebony. Rue is a heroine I have mixed feelings about, but I did appreciate her passionate love and protectiveness for her younger sister. There is also a strong sense of community present, which I thought was awesome.

The Cons: Firstly, the sequence of events in Wings of Ebony is really weird. It starts a year after some major events in Rue’s life (the death of her mother and her removal to Ghizon), and the story of her start in Ghizon and her first year there is told in a series of flashbacks. I understand that the author was trying to start us off with action, but I don’t really understand why the timeline was done how it was. I think starting when Rue’s mother died and she moved to Ghizon would have made more sense and eliminated the slightly confusing (and sometimes unnecessary, in my opinion) flashbacks. Anyway, the odd timeline made it kind of difficult for me to connect with Rue at first.
Another thing that bothered me, and this may be a totally personal pet peeve, was the writing style of dialogue and narration. Rue is from the hood (her terminology), and she and the people who live on her block speak in a very specific way. This in itself didn’t bother me, obviously, but the way it was written felt odd. Like text speech or something I’d read in a wattpad story. There were a bunch of purposefully misspelled words, which I felt was kind of unnecessary to represent their speech patterns. The writing just felt a little unpolished for a published novel. I could have lived with it, though, if it had been consistent and confined to dialogue. However, it was pretty inconsistently done, and it kept bleeding into the narrative. The story is first person, and told from Rue’s point of view, so I guess the narrative that sounded like her dialogue was supposed to be her thoughts, and the more typically written narrative was just narrative. But the distinction was never very clear or consistent, and it felt very all over the place to me. The inconsistency bothered me more than the lack of polish, but I do think the dialogue could have been written in a style that read more smoothly.
Finally, and again, this may be a personal pet peeve of mine, but I really didn’t appreciate the stong political agenda in Wings of Ebony. I felt at times that it was more of a Black Lives Matter speech than a natural part of the story. All of the villains are white people, and there is not a single blameless white person in the book. There wasn’t a black villain, and there are constant, and not very subtle, references to the prejudice of authority and racism of white people in law enforcement. There is a very clear, heavy-handed political message, and honestly, I read fantasy fiction to get AWAY from politics. Regardless of if I agree or not, I really don’t appreciate such clear agendas in fantasy fiction. It takes away from the plot and character development, in my opinion, and really distracts me from the story. Maybe not everyone feels this way, but I was disappointed that I picked up a book for the fantasy and plots and ended up constantly distracted by the politics of the author.

Following Good

Wings of Ebony was fairly clean. Very little religious content or sexual content. No LGBT content and minor, but consistent, language.

Rating

I thought the premise of Wings of Ebony was really neat, and I enjoyed the representation. The fantasy was also pretty unique, and I loved the family and community values. I did not appreciate the lack of consistency in the narrative styles, the odd timing, or the heavy political agenda. So I’m giving this one 2.5 stars. It was just so-so for me.

Well, that was a lot, lol. I’m bummed I didn’t enjoy this one more! But it was a debut, so I shouldn’t be too harsh. Have you read this one? What did you think? How do you feel about political messages in fantasy books?

Hope your week is beginning well!
Happy reading,
Hayden Warren

Book Lists · Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday: Historical Fiction

Hey guys! Praise God it’s Friday!! I am very ready for the weekend, lol. How has your week been? Got any fun plans for the weekend? Today I am back with another Flashback Friday, which is a fun weekly meme hosted by Maya @ HerBookishDesires, where we get to talk about older releases. This week’s topic is historical fiction novels, which I must admit is not my favorite genre. However, I do have 1(?) on my TBR, and a couple that are old favorites. If you want more historical fiction novels, you should check out Maya’s post! I’m excited to see what books she picked. 🙂

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. Desperate for money, she takes a job at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown entrusts her with the task of burning a secret bundle of letters. But when Grace’s drowned body is fished from the lake, Mattie discovers that the letters could reveal the grim truth behind a murder. (From Goodreads)

I own this one, so I have no excuse. I really need to prioritize it on my TBR!

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen and Bahija Fattuhi Lovejoy

In an ancient Arab nation, one woman dares to be different. Buran cannot—Buran will not—sit quietly at home and wait to be married to the man her father chooses. Determined to use her skills and earn a fortune, she instead disguises herself as a boy and travels by camel caravan to a distant city. There, she maintains her masculine disguise and establishes a successful business. The city’s crown prince comes often to her shop, and soon Buran finds herself falling in love. But if she reveals to Mahmud that she is a woman, she will lose everything she has worked for. (from Goodreads)

Ugh, I love this one! Revenge and romance and an awesome heroine. It is short and very sweet.

They Loved to Laugh by Kathryn Worth

16-year-old orphan Martitia Howland has been transplanted into a Quaker farm family of five intimidating sons and one disapproving daughter. As Martitia runs their gauntlet, she suffers their teasing but finally begins to bloom. Valiantly she acquires the skills they expect of her, and discovers other gifts all her own. Her achievements earn respect in the end and more, her heart’s true love. (from Goodreads)

Another old favorite of mine. The heroine has such a big journey, and I also love the sweet romance. It’s a great coming-of-age story.

Ok, I guess that sums it up, lol. What is your favorite YA historical novel? Have any recommendations for me?
Hope you guys have a great weekend and happy reading!
Hayden

Book Lists · WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday 3/24/21

Happy Wednesday, guys! Hope you’re having an awesome week so far. My school has been insane this week, so I’m posting less (and reading less), but if I can just make it to Easter, I think I’m going to be okay, lol. Anyway, WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, where we get to talk about what we have been reading lately.

What I Just Finished

So, I finished The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman, and I was pleasantly surprised by the ending. I’m waffling on my rating for this one, but the ending raised it at least a half star. I’m actually pretty excited for the sequel now, which I didn’t expect.

I also finished Covet by Tracy Wolff. The second half definitely drug for me, but I enjoyed that one overall. That series is definitely my junk food series. Guilty pleasure is a bit extreme, but it’s complete fluff with lots of plot holes, lol. I love it for the drama and fantasy, let’s be honest here.

What I Am Currently Reading

I’ve bit in a bit of a slump, to be honest, because of my crazy school stressing me out. I’ve been skimming all these fluffy kindle unlimited books…but we’re not counting those, lol. What I’ve actually made some progress on is my audiobook, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I’m really enjoying listening to those! Very awesome narrator.

I’ve also started Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. Northanger Abbey is definitely on the back burner, but I wanted to read one more classic this spring. I’m not far into Night of the Dragon, but I’m enjoying it so far. I’m thinking about reviewing this entire series in one post instead of three. I’m having a hard time thinking about them separately, lol.

What I Want To Read Next

Empress of All Seasons is the final book on my TBR this month, and I’d really like to finish it before the end of March, but I must admit my chances are looking slim. Not a lot of free time in the next week’s schedule, sadly. But I will read it next, probably, even if it’s not until April.

Ok, I guess that is it for this week! What are you guys reading? Have you read any of these? Hope the rest of your week goes well and happy reading!!
Hayden