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02 April, 2019

[Review] Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

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Cover image from the goodreads website.

Series: Strange the Dreamer Duology (#1)
Release Date: 28 March, 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Fiction/Epic Fantasy/Friendship/Romance/Mystery
ISBN: 9781478913054
Edition: Audiobook (also available in Kindle, Hardback, and Paperback)
Rating: ★★★★
Review Written: 18 March, 2019
Summary:The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever. What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving? The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

See more by Laini Taylor at her Website.

19 March, 2019

[Review] Lady Smoke by Laura Sebastian

40702154 Cover image from the goodreads website.

Series: Ash Princess Trilogy
Release Date: 5 February, 2019
Publisher: Delacorte Press/Listening Library
Genre: Young Adult Fiction/Epic Fantasy/Girls & Women Fiction/Fantasy Romance
ISBN: 9781524767105
Edition: Audiobook (also available in Kindle, Hardback, and Paperback)
Rating: ★★★★
Review Written: 18 March, 2019
Summary: The Kaiser murdered Theodosia's mother, the Fire Queen, when Theo was only six. He took Theo's country and kept her prisoner, crowning her Ash Princess--a pet to toy with and humiliate for ten long years. That era has ended. The Kaiser thought his prisoner weak and defenseless. He didn't realize that a sharp mind is the deadliest weapon. Theo no longer wears a crown of ashes. She has taken back her rightful title, and a hostage--Prinz Soren. But her people remain enslaved under the Kaiser's rule, and now she is thousands of miles away from them and her throne. To get them back, she will need an army. Only, securing an army means she must trust her aunt, the dreaded pirate Dragonsbane. And according to Dragonsbane, an army can only be produced if Theo takes a husband. Something an Astrean Queen has never done. Theo knows that freedom comes at a price, but she is determined to find a way to save her country without losing herself.

See more by Laura Sebastian at her Website.

12 March, 2019

[Review] The Wren Hunt by Mary Watson

Cover image from the goodreads website.

Series: N/A
Release Date: 6 November, 2018
Publisher: Bloomsbury/Brilliance Audio
Genre: Young Adult Fiction/Romance/Self-Esteem & Reliance/Contemporary Fantasy
ISBN: 9781681198590
Edition: Audiobook (also available in Kindle, Hardback, and Paperback)
Rating: ★★★★
Review Written: 11 February, 2019
Summary: Every winter, Wren Silke is chased through the forest in a warped version of a childhood game. The boys who haunt her are judges, powerful and frightening pursuers, who know nothing of her true identity. If they knew she was an augur, their sworn enemy, the game would turn deadly. But Wren is on the hunt, too. Sent undercover as an intern to the Harkness Foundation - enemy headquarters - her family's survival rests on finding a secret meant to stay hidden. As the enmity between two ancient magics reaches breaking point, Wren is torn between old loyalties and new lies. And trapped in the most dangerous game of her life. Part thriller, part love story, this captivating debut novel will leave readers spellbound. 

See more by Mary Watson at her Website.

12 February, 2019

[Review] The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

33294200 Cover image from the goodreads website.

Series: N/A
Release Date: 16 March, 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult Fiction/Emigration & Immigration/Social & Family Issues/Coming of Age/Poetry
ISBN: 9781368005845
Edition: Audiobook (also available in Kindle and Hardback)
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Written: 11 February, 2019
Summary: A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo. Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking. But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems. Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent. 

See more by Elizabeth Acevedo at her Website.

14 August, 2018

[Recommendation] Interesting Podcasts

Not exactly one of my normal blog posts, but since Summer Reading was coming to an end, I haven't had a chance to finish any of the books I've been reading on. Instead, to help fill out some of my reading log, I used podcasts to bolster up some of my reading. After all, someone took the time to either write out the script or come up with on the fly, and I could spend 2-3 hours listening to podcasts.

Here are some of my favorites that I'd highly recommend to people. If you have any podcasts you love, I'd love to get suggestions for new ones to check out!

History and Mythology

31 July, 2018

[Review] Furyborn by Claire LeGrand

Series: Empirium #1
Release Date:22 May, 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Young Adult/Epic Fantasy/Political Fantasy/Romance/Time Travel/Magic
ISBN: 9781492656623
Edition: Hardback
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Written: 14 July, 2018
Summary:Follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world...or doom it.

When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed...unless the trials kill her first.

A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable--until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world--and of each other.

See more by Claire LeGrand at her Website.

24 July, 2018

[Review] Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Series: Ash Princess #1
Release Date: 24 April, 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult/Epic Fantasy/Princesses/Political Fantasy/Prisoners/Romance
ISBN: 9781524767068
Edition: Audiobook, Hardback
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Written: 14 July, 2018
Summary:Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia's family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess--a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.

For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She's endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.

Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn't always won on the battlefield.

For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.

See more by Laura Sebastian at her Website.

Ash Princess intrigued me when I first read the description. It felt like a new spin on the normal teenage romances and epic fantasies that have flooded the YA market in recent years. Theodosia was six when her mother was killed and she’s been held prisoner by the Kaiser, the ruler of the Kalovaxians, ever since. Trapped in a life where she’s punished for every slight against the Kaiser by rebel Astreans, Theodosia lives by a simple rule: keep her head down and stay in line, and the Kaiser will keep her alive. Though in her earlier years Theo daydreamed of leaving her life behind and escaping with any of the remaining Guardians (elemental guards and advisors to her ill-fated mother and previous queens, and seemingly priests of her people), at sixteen she’s come to acknowledge the simple truth. No one is coming to save her.

Her last hope of rescue is dashed by the capture of Ampelio, the last of the free Guardians that Theodosia knows to be still living. Forced to translate between him and the Kaiser, Theo is placed into a difficult position as she realizes a horrible truth, Ampelio is her father and she’s going to be the one to kill him. At this one simple act of brutality forced upon her, something inside of Theodosia breaks, and she cannot simply be Lady Thora, a Princess of Ashes like the Kaiser has trained her to be. With the appearance of Blaise, her childhood friend whom Theo hasn’t seen since before the siege of her country; Theo steps into a role she’s never anticipated taking, becoming the Queen of Astrea.

Sebastian’s worldbuilding is excellent, and the hardback copy includes maps of the countries so you can get a feel for where things are. Given that Astrea is an island nation, the amount of nautical information provided in the book was fantastic. Ash Princess expands slowly, giving readers an overview and history lesson; granted vaguely flawed through Theo’s point of view and can be unreliable. Throughout the book, Theo works with Blaise and two other rebels who have replaced her “shadow” Guards to begin plotting a way to free Astrea and work on freeing the people in the mines. Though she longs to hang onto her friend Crescentia, she grows to realize that Cress has seen her more as a pet or a living doll than an actual living person. The realization, that comes after Crescentia admits that marrying the Kaiser is the best thing for Thora/Theodosia, finally pushes Theo into going forwards with the plan to poison Crescentia and her father the Theyn.

With twists and turns, Ash Princess leaves readers with a growing sense of dread and curiosity to see what will happen next. Will Theo escape with Blaise and meet the famous pirate Dragonsbane? Will her plot to murder Crescentia and the Theyn actually succeed? Will she be able to remove Elpis from the palace too after the murder? Readers will find the answers they seek within the pages of Ash Princess though perhaps not the ones they’re hoping for. As with every book that holds a love triangle, I’ll admit I rolled my eyes a bit at Theo’s growing feelings for Søren, especially when she spends a fair amount of the book trying to seduce him for the purpose of getting close enough to kill him. It was inevitable that she start feeling things for the Prinz of Kalovaxia. It was almost as predictable as Blaise being a long lost childhood sweetheart. Thankfully, beyond a few scenes in the book where Theodosia goes on a date or two with Søren and a kiss with Blaise, romance is not at the forefront of the book.

Despite the light airiness of the romance and initial chapters with Crescentia in them, this book is not for the faint of heart. It mentions and depicts several graphic scenes, including Ampelio’s death at the beginning of the book and Thor’s whipping later on. It mentions rape on several occasions, including the rape of Theo’s maid Hoa which resulted in a half-blooded bastard of the king. If you have triggers with violence, rape, or other dark themes; I recommend reading with caution.

Sebastian’s world is a captivating one, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next as Theo steps in to her role as Queen and tries to figure out exactly how to save what’s left of her nation.
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