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

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 💚

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

New-To-Me · Reviews

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare: a New-to-Me Review

Happy Monday, guys! I hope your weekend went well! Do anything fun? I worked and studied a LOT Saturday, but I took Sunday off, which was nice.

Summary Info

What price is too high to pay, even for love? When Jace and Clary meet again, Clary is horrified to discover that the demon Lilith’s magic has bound her beloved Jace together with her evil brother Sebastian, and that Jace has become a servant of evil. The Clave is out to destroy Sebastian, but there is no way to harm one boy without destroying the other. As Alec, Magnus, Simon, and Isabelle wheedle and bargain with Seelies, demons, and the merciless Iron Sisters to try to save Jace, Clary plays a dangerous game of her own. The price of losing is not just her own life, but Jace’s soul. She’s willing to do anything for Jace, but can she still trust him? Or is he truly lost? (from Goodreads)

Review

Ah, this book. It was intense. Since this is the fifth in this series, I think I’m going to skip the whole pro/con bit and just sum up my thoughts.

I know I keep saying how much I love these characters, but every book I just love them more and more. Simon and Izzy and Jace and Clary! I love them all. And Jace! Jace killed me in this book. I didn’t realize how much I loved him until he was some odd zombie version of himself. Ugh, I missed him so much in this book! I mean, he was there…but he wasn’t his awesome, snarky self.

While we are on the topic of Jace’s weirdness, let’s talk about Sebastian. Holy cow, what a great bad guy he is. So dang creepy!! He fascinates and horrifies me, but I think he’s a pretty awesome villain. Way more interesting than Valentine.

I should also point out that the plot really sped up in this book. City of Fallen Angels (book 4), was obviously a little bit of a filler novel, although I still enjoyed it, but the series picked up again in City of Lost Souls. And so did the angst. Oh my word, the emotion was very intense. I expected nothing less, but still. I was very sucked in.

Following Good

I’ve mentioned the majority of my concerns about TMI content issues before, so I won’t go too in depth. I think I will give a recap of my content issues when I review the last book. The only thing I have to add is that the LGBT content has been heavier in the last three books of this series than the first three.

Rating

I did really enjoy this one, although I wish there had been more (real!) Jace. Ah well, lol. 4.5 stars.

Well, I hope you guys have a great week and happy reading!
Hayden

New-To-Me · Reviews

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson: a Review

Happy Thursday, people! (one. more. day. lol.). Have you had a good week so far?

Summary Info

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.(from Goodreads)

Review

So, I really loved An Enchantment of Ravens, Margaret Rogerson’s first book, and I was excited to try this one. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it, so I was surprised to have fairly mixed feelings. Let’s talk about what I liked first.

The Pros: The fantasy world, Austermeer, was so neat! The sorcery wasn’t really elaborated on (it is powered by summoning demons, but not much else), but the grimoires were so cool. They are basically living books that can turn into monsters if not properly looked after. The grimoires ended up playing a much larger part in the story than I anticipated, and I thought the whole thing was very unique and intriguing.
I also loved the humor in this book. Nathaniel was hysterical and continuously cracking me up. Even his demonic servant was subtly funny. It helped break up what could have been a fairly dark book.
Related to that, I did enjoy most of the characters. Elisabeth herself wasn’t my favorite, but I loved Silas and Nathaniel.

The Cons: The plot speed was kind of odd in Sorcery of Thorns. It started out a little slowly for me, which made it hard to get into. Then, it would speed up and lull and speed up and lull. I thought we were getting to the climax a few different times before we actually made it. It just didn’t feel like a steady build, which made it hard to stay invested.
Similarly, I enjoyed the romance, but I did feel like there weren’t really enough scenes with Elisabeth and Nathaniel to make it completely believable. It was cute, but slightly underdeveloped.
Lastly, I couldn’t quite get behind Elisabeth as a heroine, and I’m not sure why. She was somewhat likable, for sure. Very brave, determined, etc. But she was a little…hard-headed? I’m having trouble putting my feelings into words. I guess I felt like there was a subtle feminist message that made Elisabeth a little pushy and not fully lovable. I can’t put it any better, she just wasn’t my favorite character. I didn’t hate her, but I didn’t love her.

Following Good

This one was fairly clean. No language, and pretty minor sexual content. Minimal LGBT content, although it was a main character. No religious content.

Rating

So, I liked aspects of Sorcery of Thorns, but it wasn’t a standout for me. 3 stars. I’m going to have to re-read An Enchantment of Ravens to see if it is as good as I remember. Any excuse for a re-read, lol.

Hope you guys have a good end to your week! Talk to you tomorrow about unicorn books (yes, that was a strange post to write, lol).
Happy reading,
Hayden

Classics · Reviews

Mansfield Park: a Classics Review

Happy Monday, guys! Sadly, it is back to school for me, lol, but I really enjoyed my spring break. Did you have a good weekend? Got anything fun going on this week? Anyway, on to the review!

Summary

Adopted into the household of her uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram, Fanny Price grows up a meek outsider among her cousins in the unaccustomed elegance of Mansfield Park. Soon after Sir Thomas absents himself on estate business in Antigua (the family’s investment in slavery and sugar is considered in the Introduction in a new, post-colonial light), Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive at Mansfield, bringing with them London glamour, and the seductive taste for flirtation and theatre that precipitates a crisis. (from Goodreads)

Review

So, I’m back with another Jane Austen. I promise my next classic will branch out a little, but I was in a bit of an Austen mood over my winter break, and Mansfield Park is one of my favorites. And yes, I’m a bit late putting this review up, lol. Again, I’ll give my standard classic review disclaimer: I am by no means a literature expert. I just like what I like. So, on to my thoughts about Mansfield Park.

From what I can tell, Mansfield Park is actually one of most people’s least favorite Jane Austen novels. I think this is partially because Mansfield Park is one of the slower, longer Austen novels, but mainly, I think it is because of Fanny Price.

Fanny is a very unique heroine. She is very quiet and gentle. She doesn’t make sassy remarks or push her own desires onto other people. She is selfless and grateful. However, she is also very timid. She gets embarrassed easily. She’s very sensitive, and all of these qualities make her a difficult character to understand or empathize with in the twenty-first century, in my opinion. I certainly don’t know many young women like her. But honestly, that’s what I like about her. She may not be obviously strong or clever or interesting, but she is good and true. She stands up for her principles, even when it’s hard and upsetting for her. And yes, clever and strong protagonists, like Lizzie Bennet, are much easier to read about. But there is just something about Fanny I like. She has good qualities I wish I had, but she still seems so human. However, I can see that she wouldn’t be a heroine that everyone would love.

Also, the “villains” of this story are so intriguing. Mary and Henry Crawford are selfish and spoiled and have very questionable morals. However, they’re not evil. You don’t hate them. In fact, I think the Crawfords are probably more relatable than Fanny herself, in some ways. But they make such great foils to Fanny and Edmund (her cousin). Where Fanny and Edmund are considerate and wholesome and old-fashioned, Mary and Henry are self-centered and frivolous and fashionable. It makes Mansfield Park a picture of morals and family that is so interesting to me, regardless of how many times I re-read it.

Okay, I could probably go on and on about this. But since the characters are really what sell this for me, I’ll leave it at that. I don’t think this is the easiest Austen book to read (it is pretty long), but it is definitely worth a read if you can make the time!

Following Good

This is a Jane Austen book, which means it is squeaky clean and emphasizes morality. No language, no LGBT characters, no sexual content. Christian religious content, but it’s not preachy or emphasized. More like Christian morals are woven into the story.

Rating

I love this one, although maybe not quite as much as Persuasion. 4.5 stars.

Hope you guys are doing well! Have you read any Jane Austen books? Have a favorite?
Happy reading,
Hayden

Reviews

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho: a Review

Happy Thursday! Are you guys having a good week? Ready for the weekend? I’ve been on spring break this week, so honestly…I’d rather the week last a little longer, lol. Ah well. All good things must come to an end.

Summary Info

Eighteen-year-old Gu Miyoung has a secret–she’s a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who must devour the energy of men in order to survive. Because so few believe in the old tales anymore, and with so many evil men no one will miss, the modern city of Seoul is the perfect place to hide and hunt.

But after feeding one full moon, Miyoung crosses paths with Jihoon, a human boy, being attacked by a goblin deep in the forest. Against her better judgment, she violates the rules of survival to rescue the boy, losing her fox bead–her gumiho soul–in the process.

Jihoon knows Miyoung is more than just a beautiful girl–he saw her nine tails the night she saved his life. His grandmother used to tell him stories of the gumiho, of their power and the danger they pose to humans. He’s drawn to her anyway.

With murderous forces lurking in the background, Miyoung and Jihoon develop a tenuous friendship that blossoms into something more. But when a young shaman tries to reunite Miyoung with her bead, the consequences are disastrous . . . forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon’s. (from Goodreads)

  • Title: Wicked Fox
  • Author: Kat Cho
  • Publisher:  G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
  • Publish date: June 25, 2019
  • Series: Gumiho, book #1

Review

Ok, very mixed feelings about this one. Let’s get into the pros first.

The Pros: I am a big fan of Kdramas, so when I found out that this was set in Seoul and focused on Korean mythology, I was so excited! And I did really enjoy hearing about Seoul, Korean culture, and the Korean myths. In fact, reading (kind of) Korean words and learning more about Korean culture was definitely the highlight of Wicked Fox for me.
I also did really like Jihoon. He’s a cute, cheeky little brat, but I liked him. I enjoyed the supporting characters too, although they didn’t have a ton of development.

The Cons: So, my pros kind of have flip sides. I did really enjoy the Korean culture, language, and mythology. But I do wish there had been a little more to the fantasy development. We got some historical flashbacks about the history of the gumihos, which was neat, and we (EVENTUALLY) learned about gumiho’s beads. But seriously, what is described in the summary took about half the book. I was expecting more, but that was basically all there was to the fantasy. Which was a little disappointing.
Now, the characters. I’m not sure about Miyoung as a heroine, or her and Jihoon as a couple. She was kind of a jerk to him for quite a while, and then they were (very briefly) friends, and then they loved each other? But why? I just didn’t get it, and even though it took half the book, I never felt very invested in their feelings for each other. I also felt conflicted about Miyoung. I didn’t hate her, and at times I pitied her, but I also couldn’t fully understand or root for her.
Lastly, the plot. Like I mentioned, there was mainly the summary information, which took about half the book. The rest of the book was spent in twists and drama that didn’t make a ton of sense and seemed to be present solely for the purpose of drama. The ending was so-so, kind of bittersweet with only mediocre resolution.

Following Good

Wicked Fox was fairly clean. No clear LGBT content, no language, minimal sexual content. The religious content mainly focused on shamans, but also included Taoism and other brief mentions of some traditionally eastern religions. Christianity was present in only one character, and I found it a little frustrating that it ended up being a villain. The other religious characters were more morally gray.

Rating

I didn’t dislike this one, but it was a little disappointing and meh. 2.5 stars. The sequel that just came out is about some of the supporting characters, so I was tempted to check it out, but I think I’m going to pass on it. I just wasn’t invested enough in this series to continue it.

Hope the rest of your week goes well!
Happy reading,
Hayden

Reviews

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik: a Review

Hey guys! I hope you’re having a great start to your week! I’m kind of behind in my reviews, but I’m really excited to finally be getting this one up! I think I’m going to have to put Naomi Novik on my awesome authors list. I’ve read two of her books now, and they’ve both been 5 star reads! I’ve already bought Uprooted, lol. But I’m postponing it…I want to make it last.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik book review cover image

Summary Info

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold.

When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk–grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh–Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.

But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love. (from Goodreads)

Review

Okay, I’ve mentioned this in several different posts, so you may know that I LOVED A Deadly Education, also by Naomi Novik. It definitely inspired me to check Spinning Silver out, but I must say, I was skeptical. It is pretty unusual for me to completely love a lot of things from the same author. But Naomi Novik has officially become one of my favorite authors because I have fallen in love with both of the books by her I have read. 2/2, especially when they are in entirely different fantasy worlds, is pretty dang rare for me, and I am very excited to check out Novik’s other books. Not to mention the second Scholomance book coming out in June! (Whoop, whoop!). Anyway, on to the actual thoughts.

The Pros: There are just so many, where to begin. I think I will start with the world-building. Spinning Silver is set in a Russian-inspired fantasy world with magical demons and Staryk (I think they are like elves). The fantasy world was incredibly well-developed and detailed. I felt like I was there, and the magic was believable without being overdone. The entire setting felt so real to me. It was constantly snowing, and I almost felt like I could feel the cold. Which is ridiculous, but I’m trying to show you how completely immersed in this world I was.
But way better than the setting or the world building was the characters. I thought, going into Spinning Silver, that Miryem was going to be the main character. And she is; the book starts and ends with her. But we also get to know Irina, plain and disliked by her father and stepmother, and Wanda, uneducated, poor, and and abused by her violent father. Spinning Silver is a book about brave and strong women. Women who transform themselves from fairly helpless girls to powerful, influential people. It is SO DANG AWESOME. And can I just say, books like Spinning Silver are why I get so fed up with obvious, heavy-handed feminism messages. Yes, women have been oppressed. Yes, there are a lot of sexist jerks in the world. But I really hate reading books that spend so much time ranting about it. Don’t tell me about how strong women are, show me! I honestly cannot think of a book that better demonstrates such strong, brave, and resourceful women (at least not in the fantasy I typically read, lol). So, Spinning Silver is well-worth a read, if only for its amazing heroines.
Aside from the fantasy and characters, I did enjoy the romance. Make no mistake, Spinning Silver is not a romance novel. But there is just enough of it to make me squeal a little and be completely and thoroughly invested. And I don’t want to give any spoilers, so that is where I will stop. Just know that the love interests are both hateful and lovable, and I wanted to hug them and shake them at various times.

The Cons: My only major con is partly a content issue and may be more of a personal preference than an actual problem with the story. Miryem is Jewish, which would be awesome if this wasn’t a fantasy universe with magical Staryk. I’ve mentioned this in reference to Christianity, and it holds true for Judaism. I do not like when fantasy and real, true religions are mixed; I think it treats the religion as fiction. I’m not saying this was the intention in Spinning Silver, I’m just saying that it confused and frustrated me to have Bible stories referenced in the same book as magical creatures.
My second con is pretty minor, and definitely a personal preference. I know I said that Spinning Silver would be worth reading if only for the awesome strong women in it, and that is true. But I am a great lover of romance, and I wish there had been just a tad more. I wouldn’t want it to overtake the story by any means, but I would have liked just a little more resolution. I mean, a couple kiss scenes thrown in at strategic points would have been nice. That’s all I’m saying.

Following Good

My main content issue was mentioned in the cons; I don’t like how the religious material was handled. Otherwise, Spinning Silver was quite clean. Minimal language, minimal sexual content, minimal LGBT content.

Rating

If you couldn’t tell from my ranting, I really loved this one. It might be my favorite of this year so far. 5 stars! I can’t wait to read more Novik.

Has anyone read her Temeraire series? I am very curious, but it is just so long. I’m not sure I have the attention span for such a long series…
Happy reading, guys, and I hope you have a great week!
Hayden💚

Reviews

Heir to the Sky by Amanda Sun: a Review

Happy Thursday, guys! (One more day until the weekend, yay!). This week has been pretty crazy, but next week is Spring break, which I’m very excited about.

Heir to the Sky by Amanda Sun book review cover image

Summary Info

As heir to a kingdom of floating continents, Kali has spent her life bound by limits—by her duties as a member of the royal family, by a forced betrothal to the son of a nobleman, and by the edge of the only world she’s ever known—a small island hovering above a monster-ridden earth, long since uninhabited by humans. She is the Eternal Flame of Hope for what’s left of mankind, the wick and the wax burning in service for her people, and for their revered Phoenix, whose magic keeps them aloft.

When Kali falls off the edge of her kingdom and miraculously survives, she is shocked to discover there are still humans on the earth. Determined to get home, Kali entrusts a rugged monster-hunter named Griffin to guide her across a world overrun by chimera, storm dragons, basilisks, and other terrifying beasts. But the more time she spends on earth, the more dark truths she begins to uncover about her home in the sky, and the more resolute she is to start burning for herself. (from Goodreads)

Review

Okay, I haven’t really heard about anyone talking about Heir to the Sky. I borrowed it from the library because I had seen it at my bookstore. I’m wary of buying books I haven’t heard much about, so I thought, I’ll read it, and if it’s good I’ll buy it. Well. I haven’t bought it. Which is too bad, because I think it is a pretty book.

The Pros: The main pro for me was the love story. Which is sweet. Underdeveloped, yes. But sweet nonetheless. Griffin is not a stereotypical brooding hero, which is what I was expecting. He’s selfless and smart and kind, and I enjoyed him as a love interest for Kali a lot.
Secondly, I did think that the fantasy development was neat, and fairly appropriate for a standalone. There are all these interesting creatures, and we get to meet a lot of them. The fantasy was definitely the most original and enjoyable part of Heir to the Sky.

Sadly, that’s about it for the pros.

The Cons: Heir to the Sky is a pretty short book (less than 300 pages, I believe). And it’s a standalone. So you’d expect a lot of action, right? Well, you’d be partly right. There is a lot of action…which does very little for the actual plot. There are all these battle scenes with Griffin and Kali and the monsters, and I honestly don’t know what they did for the story. Introduce more fantasy? Build Griffin and Kali’s relationship? I don’t know! It felt pretty dang pointless to me. So although there is always something happening, nothing is actually HAPPENING (in the broader sense of the plot, I mean). All the actual plot progress was squeezed into the beginning and the end, and it was mainly very predictable.
It was so predictable, in fact, that I kept expecting the heroine to finally clue in to what was happening. Sadly, she was a bit of a dunce (at least when it came to that) so I almost inevitably figured out things before she did and got irritated that she was so slow.

Following Good

Heir to the Sky was extremely clean. No language, very minimal sexual content, no LGBT content, minor (and fictional) religious content.

Rating

Obviously, this wasn’t a favorite of mine, and although I didn’t hate it, I feel so meh about it that I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. So, I’ll give it 2 stars. Points for cool fantasy and a good original idea, though.

Ugh, Thursdays. I’m glad I save all my negativity for near the weekend. 😂
Hope your week is going well and happy reading!
Hayden💚