The Kindred by Alechia Dow // Book Review

The Kindred by Alechia Dow // Book Review

This was the first book I read by Alechia Dow and I don’t think it will be my last. I was so enamored by this story and it really blew me away! Thanks Get Underlined for the gifted copy of the book.

Here’s more about The Kindred

To save a galactic kingdom from revolution, Kindred mind-pairings were created to ensure each and every person would be seen and heard, no matter how rich or poor…

Joy Abara knows her place. A commoner from the lowly planet Hali, she lives a simple life—apart from the notoriety that being Kindred to the nobility’s most infamous playboy brings.

Duke Felix Hamdi has a plan. He will exasperate his noble family to the point that they agree to let him choose his own future and finally meet his Kindred face-to-face.

Then the royal family is assassinated, putting Felix next in line for the throne…and accused of the murders. Someone will stop at nothing until he’s dead, which means they’ll target Joy, too. Meeting in person for the first time as they steal a spacecraft and flee amid chaos might not be ideal…and neither is crash-landing on the strange backward planet called Earth. But hiding might just be the perfect way to discover the true strength of the Kindred bond and expose a scandal—and a love—that may decide the future of a galaxy.

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My thoughts

Give me a story with an interesting science fiction world and you’ve got me hooked. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect with this one, but then it just kept getting better and better.

The most interesting part for me was the Kindred program; being assigned a kindred at birth regardless of class or sex and have that person be their best friend, lover, sibling, whatever for the entirety of their lives. It becomes a huge component to the rest of the book and really blew my mind to see how deep the bond between Joy and Felix were. It’s interesting because humans have to create those bonds through time and effort of finding someone that can connect with you on that level. These folks are provided a kindred and I love seeing how it’s more than just a friendship to Felix and Joy.

And these two couldn’t be any more different. Felix is a royal who couldn’t care about his position or power. He spends his days going around with a band, drinking and partying without a worry in the world. Joy is the complete opposite who feels a sense of duty to her planet to marry someone she’s not entirely sure she likes. I mean, I wouldn’t like someone if the first thing they commented on was my weight. Ooph, her betrothed was so irritating throughout the story and just really proved how good Alechia Dow is with writing these characters.

The biggest component of this book was the romance. I didn’t expect it to be such a massive part of the book, but I loved watching Felix and Joy quietly pine for each other only to find out the truth in the end. I loved watching their love grow from then on despite the differences in class and their obligations.

Reading these two go through Earth was hilarious. I loved how creatively Alechia Dow tried to explain how the world was like in the small part of Florida and how to explain that to someone who doesn’t share anything remotely similar to us. There were definitely cute moments like when they all watched Black Panther together and it made me happy to see Joy find a love for chocolate-covered raisins. I also loved how open and welcoming Rashid was to Joy and Felix knowing nothing about them and how caring and understanding they were towards him. The book has so many beautiful displays of empathy and kindness that really wowed me.

While I really liked this one, I was still a bit wary with the pace in the beginning. There was a lot of info-dumping, but with good reason because with the focus on Felix and Joy’s time on Earth, meeting people, and figuring out how to clear their names, it makes sense to approach the beginning this way. I do love that the pace fixes itself and you get a pretty great story in the end.

I honestly think this book was a show of how great a writer Alechia Dow is. I’m seriously impressed and I definitely want to read her first book and any other books she writes in the future.

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao // Book Review

Vengeful, kickass females are definitely one of my favorite genres and this one delivers in spades. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into because from the premise, it sounded like a wild fantasy novel, but it is so much more!

Here’s more about Iron Widow

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected–she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way–and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

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My thoughts

I was so shocked by how incredible this book was. Honestly, the story was so creative and blended Chinese history, tradition, and culture seamlessly into this science fiction world of mechs and monsters. It felt like what really good anime should be like; a story overcoming obstacles in a world that’s fitted for a bygone time that doesn’t suit modern thinking and beliefs anymore. I loved it. I love it when authors blend cultures to create new stories that not only uplift the worlds, but also defy it in many ways.

One of the main themes, I believe, is strength. Not just a physical strength because our main character didn’t have much of that (having bound feet, she’s not capable of walking without pain), but mental strength. Zetian’s ability not only to push her limits, but also her qi power to kill her male counterparts makes her one of the most interesting characters in the entire story. Honestly, I loved Zetian. She’s one of those main characters you want to see charging into the scene and kicking ass. I also loved that she had Shimin as well, who has a secret past within the military and unlike any of the other male characters in the story. I think it says something when I want to punch every man in the face.

I was totally surprised by the romance as well. I don’t want to give it away, but I thought it was going to go one way and it went a completely different way. Not mad about it, but intrigued by why Xiran went that route. I hope that the romance starts to get deeper in the next few books!

The action was so good as well! I loved how the mechs worked and the mechanics of the Hundun and how the yin and yang of their qi powers come together on this ethereal plane to power up the chrysalises. It really felt like I was watching an anime and I can’t complain about that.

As much as I loved this story and will be following the rest of the series, I felt like there were two major issues with it: it was too fast paced and it introduced a lot of information with very little explanation. I felt like if Xiran took their time to really pace the novel, they could have material for several books throughout the series. But for some reason, it was all mushed into the final 100 pages and that felt…weird. The pacing throughout had some really good themes with the way women are portrayed in this world, especially when the truth is finally revealed. It felt a bit abrupt that even more pieces were being introduced that could have been used in other books in the future. Even the ending ended with a cliffhanger that surprised me because it was so soon to be introducing something, but also delighted me because it makes me ache for the next book.

Overall, a really good start to a fantastic new YA series. I’ll definitely be following along and seeing what happens to Zetian, the world, and the secrets!

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson // Book Review

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson // Book Review

If you’re a fan of YA or if you want to get into Brandon Sanderson, I highly recommend this series. Because this just keeps getting better and better. Thanks to the publisher for a gifted copy of the book. My opinions have not been influenced by the author or the publisher.

Here’s more about Cytonic

Spensa’s life as a Defiant Defense Force pilot has been far from ordinary. She proved herself one of the best starfighters in the human enclave of Detritus and she saved her people from extermination at the hands of the Krell—the enigmatic alien species that has been holding them captive for decades. What’s more, she traveled light-years from home as an undercover spy to infiltrate the Superiority, where she learned of the galaxy beyond her small, desolate planet home.

Now, the Superiority—the governing galactic alliance bent on dominating all human life—has started a galaxy-wide war. And Spensa’s seen the weapons they plan to use to end it: the Delvers. Ancient, mysterious alien forces that can wipe out entire planetary systems in an instant. Spensa knows that no matter how many pilots the DDF has, there is no defeating this predator.

Except that Spensa is Cytonic. She faced down a Delver and saw something eerily familiar about it. And maybe, if she’s able to figure out what she is, she could be more than just another pilot in this unfolding war. She could save the galaxy.

The only way she can discover what she really is, though, is to leave behind all she knows and enter the Nowhere. A place from which few ever return.

To have courage means facing fear. And this mission is terrifying.

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My thoughts

If you’re a fan of the Skyward series and you’re wondering if Cytonic is worth the read, I will say yes. Unequivocally, yes. Because this is the book that will get you all the answers you need. Each book in the series explores a different world. Skyward explores the planet Detritus. Starsight explores the planet ship. Cytonic goes deeper and explores the world where people hyperjump through space, where cytonic beings go when they hyperjump themselves, where the Krell get their resources for flying, and the location where the Delvers exist. It’s the Nowhere and Spensa is exploring the whole thing.

I absolutely loved how this story takes place in the Nowhere, exploring the grounds within, the wild way things work in there, and the people who are captured and thrown in there. There’s pirates and even a new sidekick named Chet. I loved Chet and the clues hidden behind who Chet is. Of course, there’s a new group of alien races to also follow along as well, which is so much fun because I loved it in Starsight. And exploring the Nowhere was really interesting. I loved the different adventures Spensa goes on with M-Bot in this world.

And of course, it’s Brandon Sanderson so there’s a lot of details to the world that I really loved. I’m really trying not to spoil this book, but let’s just say that the details Brandon Sanderson put into this book really pay off and make it just a world you want to stay inside for a really long time.

There were also a few themes throughout the story that really drew me in. One of the biggest, I think, were the emotions or how we react to certain things and despite the way we feel, we continue to push ourselves beyond our boundaries (in a healthy way, mind you). It reminds me that sometimes we come across some scary moments in our lives and while we can easily run away, these are also the moments that can push us and our courage. I really loved that theme and how that plays out throughout the book.

It’s incredible how Brandon Sanderson is able to introduce you to these new characters in each book and you immediately latch onto them. While there were a few surprises when it came to characters, I really loved Chet and the story behind him. I had my doubts about him and wondered if he would turn out to be the villain in the end, but as the story moves on and you learn more about all the characters, you realize that it’s about survival, about redemption, and about personal growth.

I think the only thing I wasn’t a huge fan of is Spensa going to this world and kind of forgetting about what’s happening in the somewhere while she’s in the nowhere. It doesn’t go into what’s happening on the other side (only a few times), and the fact that she leaves right in the middle of a war felt strange. I assume we’ll be getting an idea of what happened while she was in the nowhere, but it definitely left me wondering while I read.

Overall, a fantastic read and definitely my favorite in the series so far. I can’t wait for the next book!

Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong // Book Review

Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong // Book Review

The sequel to These Violent Delights will dazzle you with its action-packed retelling of both Romeo and Juliet and the Shanghai Massacre of 1927. Filled with mystery, political intrigue, and romance, this one will keep you reading all the way to the end.

Here’s more about Our Violent Ends

The year is 1927, and Shanghai teeters on the edge of revolution.

After sacrificing her relationship with Roma to protect him from the blood feud, Juliette has been a girl on the warpath. One wrong move, and her cousin will step in to usurp her place as the Scarlet Gang’s heir. The only way to save the boy she loves from the wrath of the Scarlets is to have him want her dead for murdering his best friend in cold blood. If Juliette were actually guilty of the crime Roma believes she committed, his rejection might sting less.

Roma is still reeling from Marshall’s death, and his cousin Benedikt will barely speak to him. Roma knows it’s his fault for letting the ruthless Juliette back into his life, and he’s determined to set things right—even if that means killing the girl he hates and loves with equal measure.

Then a new monstrous danger emerges in the city, and though secrets keep them apart, Juliette must secure Roma’s cooperation if they are to end this threat once and for all. Shanghai is already at a boiling point: The Nationalists are marching in, whispers of civil war brew louder every day, and gangster rule faces complete annihilation. Roma and Juliette must put aside their differences to combat monsters and politics, but they aren’t prepared for the biggest threat of all: protecting their hearts from each other.

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My thoughts

I read the first book only last month, so it was pretty fresh in my mind and made the experience for this one even richer. I felt like the first book was good, but it definitely had a few flaws that many readers brought up. However, I saw this sequel as flawless and I would highly recommend checking it out if you read the first one and liked it. I’m probably bias because I loved it so much and overlooking some smaller issues, but it really blew me away.

The biggest components that I adored was using real Chinese history during the early part of the 20th century to help tell this tale. The communist and nationalist parties working in tandem with the gangsters was so intriguing. Incorporating them into creating Chloe’s own retelling of those events really made the story way more interesting! Of course, the gangs working alongside these two parties really brought another dynamic level to the story that really reminded me of Fonda Lee and her Jade City trilogy.

The characters were a huge part of why I loved this book. Roma and Juliette, of course, were so interesting and very different from each other. Roma is more of a lover than a fighter, but has no problems with pulling the trigger when needed. Juliette is always fighting for approval as a female heir to one of the biggest gangs in Shanghai, so she tries to keep a pretty stern air about her. But I love that you see all of that change for both of the characters throughout the second book. They grow and change into the people they’re supposed to be, which I loved reading throughout the process.

I think another surprising set of characters were Marshall and Benedikt. I loved seeing their friendship grow over time and although I don’t want to spoil anything, the book definitely dives further into that for you. And I think my favorite character of all was Alisa. In the first book, there wasn’t much about her. She was more the naive younger sister who was infected by the bugs, but in this book, she grows exponentially.

I did want to touch on Romeo and Juliet and how it plays out in this part of the book. If you’ve read the first book, then you know exactly where the story kind of leads you, but ultimately this second half of the book is no way similar to the play. And honestly, I preferred it. Chloe Gong has created something special here with her story and I don’t think the play was necessary. It was fun to see the nods to the play and see how she’s used the components within her own story, but I wouldn’t go into reading this series thinking you’re going to get a verbatim retelling. It’s way better than that!

Finally, the bugs aka the sci-fi element in the story that drew me to the book in the first place. It felt like it took a backseat in the second book and didn’t play as big of a role as it did in the first book. My anxiety thanks Chloe Gong for that. However, I think she did a good job incorporating into the story and making it a part of the bigger plot. I loved that the bugs formed a riff in power within Shanghai and subsequently led to the people wanting to move away from gang rule, but aside from that I like that she kept the bugs to a minimum (gross).

Overall, I absolutely loved this ending. The story wrapped up beautifully, surprised me all the time, and really captured the tragedy of the massacre days before it happened. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better sequel.

Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer // Book Review

Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer // Book Review

It’s the final book of October! I know this review is coming a little way after the month ended, but it’s been tough for me to write blog posts lately. Just feeling a little creatively drained, but that has nothing to do with this book. I’m just letting you know lol.

If you like space operas, space drama, and the chase to claim the throne of a 1000 planets, then this is the one for you.

Here’s more about Crownchasers

Alyssa Farshot has spent her whole life trying to outrun her family legacy. Her mother sacrificed everything to bring peace to the quadrant, and her uncle has successfully ruled as emperor for decades. But the last thing Alyssa wants is to follow in their footsteps as the next in line for the throne. Why would she choose to be trapped in a palace when she could be having wild adventures exploring a thousand-and-one planets in her own ship?

But when Alyssa’s uncle becomes gravely ill, his dying wish surprises the entire galaxy. Instead of naming her as his successor, he calls for a crownchase, the first in seven centuries. Representatives from each of the empire’s prime families—including Alyssa—are thrown into a race to find the royal seal, which has been hidden somewhere in the empire. The first to find the seal wins the throne.

Alyssa’s experience as an explorer makes her the favorite to win the crown she never wanted. And though she doesn’t want to be empress, her duty to her uncle compels her to participate in this one last epic adventure. But when the chase turns deadly, it’s clear that more than just the fate of the empire is at stake. Alyssa is on her most important quest yet—and only time will tell if she’ll survive it.

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My thoughts

I love a good space opera, but over the past few months I haven’t had much luck with finding a space opera that really kept my attention. I read two books prior that were good, but weren’t the kinds of books I like to read. Honestly, if I kept on reading those books then I would have hated them and the reviews wouldn’t have been truthful to how truly good they are. There’s an audience for those books, it’s just not me.

That being said, I was so thankful to pick up Crownchasers at the last moment. I had a long flight back home and I wanted to read something as fun as the book I read on the way out. This was really good, really fun, and still had a deeper story that kept me going. The ride itself was filled with suspense and the challenges they came across while getting to the royal seal were so good. I love exploring different worlds and facing big challenges and fighting your way to get to the next clue.

The premise itself sold me; a group of royals chosen to find the royal seal and claim the throne of this massive empire. It had that heist vibe, which I really love and the characters were so much fun to follow. Hell Monkey had to have been my favorite because who doesn’t love a brooding silent type that’s the MC’s side kick?

I loved the way this book was laid out. It jumped from past and present, but it explained a lot about the royal families and their relation to Alyssa in the story. She doesn’t want the Empress position, so she helps her close friend who’s also up for the job to win the throne. It was such a good chase story with the villains being villainous and the protagonist thwarting the odds to make it through each round. I honestly I had a lot of fun reading this one.

It also read really young. I normally don’t complain about these kinds of things because I know a YA story is written with an intended audience in mind, but it did bother me how young the writing felt. I just wasn’t a fan.

Overall, definitely a quirky space adventure filled with intrigue and suspense. It really broke me from my space opera funk.

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong // Book Review

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong // Book Review

This was definitely a very loose interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, but I loved every single moment of it. It reminded me a lot of Jade City by Fonda Lee except set in 1920s Shanghai and the magical components were a tiny bit different. However, I loved it and I cannot wait for book two come out!

Here’s more about These Violent Delights

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

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My thoughts

I absolutely loved Juliette and Roma. While they were nothing like their characters in Romeo and Juliet, I loved how compassionate Roma was and how headstrong Juliette was. Their personalities clashed, but both being the heirs of their respective gangs, I can only imagine much of that is colored by the ruthless blood feud between their families.

Of course, the other characters surrounding Juliette and Roma had similar names to the characters in Romeo and Juliet, so you get an idea that maybe certain things will happen to certain people, but if you’re looking for a straightforward retelling you’ll be sorely disappointed. It’s also not a fantasy story. In fact, I would put this as a genre-bending book with historical fiction (the rise of the communist party in China is a major component to this book) with a tiny bit of mystery, science fiction, and very little romance.

But I loved it. I loved that Chloe Gong was able to take this story and make it her own. In all honestly, this is one of the best retellings up there with Legendborn by Tracy Deonn where you’re not getting an iteration of the story, but something completely different and so well imagined that you’re just blown away when it does reference the other book. It was action packed filled with suspenseful moments, skillful surprises, and just really made me excited to keep reading.

I loved that the romance between Roma and Juliette wasn’t that obvious. It was actually after their romance that the story takes place, so all that was left is the bitter rivalry of their families that seems to affect Juliette more than it did Roma. Both of them have something to prove as well. In the wings, Juliette’s cousin, Tyler, is waiting for her to make a mistake so that he can take over the business. Meanwhile, Juliette is constantly trying to prove herself worthy enough to be called a Scarlet.

Roma doesn’t feel like he’s as dedicated to his gang, The White Flowers, as much as Juliette is. In fact, he gets queasy with murdering people and doesn’t sit well with violence. But his father doesn’t really respect him as heir either and relies mostly on another person to do the dirty work. But both Roma and Juliette definitely have the best in mind for their people and want to do their best to keep the peace and also solve what’s happening.

Because there’s a weird madness going around where people are literally ripping their own throats out and it looks to mostly affect both the gangs. This was the weird science fiction part, which really blew my mind at the end. I was so grossed out by the madness the entire time and Chloe Gong has the writing chops to make things just so vivid. It was definitely the central plot of the book, but I also absolutely loved learning more about Juliette and Roma. In many ways this is how the book reminded me of Jade City. There’s a big plot happening in the city they both run, but in the meantime there’s so much to divulge about the characters and their worlds.

I absolutely loved that Chloe Gong kept a lot of details close to the chest and as you read the book, it just unfolded and really showed you what she’s capable of. I will admit it does drag a little. There were parts where I thought it would be obvious to the characters who did it and having them come to realizations and truths much faster than they did in the book, but the slow burn is very much worth it. However, I would just trust Chloe Gong and her writing ability to explain everything, show you why she wrote the book she did, and just capture you in this weird little world.

I cannot wait for book two. There’s enough at the end to make you reach for the second book for answers and I definitely want to know what happens.

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee // Book Review

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee // Book Review

I went into this book was very different expectations than what came out of it. Dark academia is my favorite kinds of stories and I thought A Lesson in Vengeance had it in spades. There was an interesting and inclusive cast of characters, a big question mark around one Felicity, and a story that really caught me off guard at the end.

CW: mental abuse, physical abuse, animal death

Here’s more about A Lesson in Vengeance

Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.

Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.

Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.

My thoughts

I’m not a huge fan of thrillers. Most of the time, I either figure out the murderer by the end or the ending is so convoluted that I end up throwing the book across the room. This time, I was totally thrown off guard. I was expecting one thing and it went in a completely different way that I didn’t even imagine. There were definitely clues to it throughout the story, but it just doesn’t hit until the truth comes out.

The setting of the book was my favorite; an old home with tons of history. I loved how generations of girls went there and most of them study literature. There’s a few references to some great horror books written by women while you read along. I also loved the whole underground “skull and crossbones” style coven that’s mainly for girls who come from affluent families. While I’m not a huge fan of books where everyone is super well off, super rich, and super entitled, I thought it was interesting with a character like Felicity who’s dealing with the loss of her best friend/girlfriend, Alex.

The plot itself moved slowly digging more deeply into Felicity’s psychosis rather than having her chase clues across campus to find out some truth. I loved the usage of witchcraft and its presence in young people’s lives. The school with the underground coven, the witchcraft practiced by the founders of the school, the tradition that’s passed on from generation to generation of students, and the stories that get passed down as well. It was interesting to see how steeped Felicity was in that reality; how she truly believed there was dark forces at the school, how the author makes you believe it too.

Ellis was so determined to prove that magic didn’t exist while you’re constantly reminded through Felicity that it does. There were moments in the book where I was so worried for Felicity because there was something about Ellis that you couldn’t put your finger on. You couldn’t tell if Ellis truly liked Felicity or if this was all a ploy to have Felicity play into Ellis’s hands. Because you’re reading the book through Felicity’s perspective, that’s the only perspective you get. You want to know more about Ellis and you think that there’s something going on there that you didn’t see before, but you only know as much as Felicity does. That unreliable narrator really made it more intriguing to figure out what’s really going on.

I thought it was interesting that all these characters were way beyond their years. They’re all supposed to be seniors in a private school, but they lived and acted way older. It surprised me the most to find out that Ellis was a 17-year-old Pulitzer Prize winning author who smoked cigarettes and drank bourbon while using a typewriter to write her stories. But there was still a level of naivete within all of them. They were still young in so many ways despite it. I wish the other characters, (Leona, Kajal, and Clara) were a bit more fleshed out. You get glimpses into their worlds and who they are, but then the plot reverts back to Felicity and Ellis’s relationship. I would have loved if their involvement in the story was a bit deeper.

The only things I didn’t like about this story was that it didn’t end with a paranormal trope. I was hoping for some ghosts to come out and stir things up or magical witches coming down to bring their vengeance, but they’re used in a different way than I imagined. I won’t go into it because it will definitely spoil the story.

Overall, it’s a spooky one with some atmospheric vibes, a lot of unanswered questions that get the most unique answers at the end. It’ll keep you reading and then it will slap you in the face.

I received a copy of A Lesson in Vengeance from the publisher. My opinions haven’t been influenced by the author or the publisher.

Small Favors by Erin A. Craig // Book Review

Small Favors by Erin A. Craig // Book Review

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

A haunting YA fantasy story about a young girl who’s way smarter than her peers, falls in love, saves her family, and watches her town descend into chaos. Oh, and she’s a bee keper too. I was super excited to read this one, especially when the box arrived with a bell, some forest floor (the box literally had twigs in it), and a handwritten note from the author. I’ve been meaning to read her first book, A House of Salt and Sorrows, but alas, the world is cruel in that way. I guess now I’ll read her first book since I loved her second book and anticipate more from her.

CW: violence, homicide, suicide, arson, blood, and alcoholism

Here’s more about Small Favors

Ellerie Downing is waiting for something to happen. Life in isolated Amity Falls, surrounded by an impenetrable forest, has a predictable sameness. Her days are filled with tending to her family’s beehives, chasing after her sisters, and dreaming of bigger things while her twin, Samuel, is free to roam as he wishes.

Early town settlers fought off monstrous creatures in the woods, and whispers that the creatures still exist keep the Downings and their neighbors from venturing too far. When some townsfolk go missing on a trip to fetch supplies, a heavy unease settles over the Falls.

Strange activities begin to plague the town, and as the seasons change, it’s clear that something is terribly wrong. The creatures are real, and they’re offering to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand, for just a small favor. These seemingly trifling demands, however, hide sinister intentions. Soon, Ellerie finds herself in a race against time to stop Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves from going up in flames.

My thoughts

This was the first book I read from Erin A Craig, and I have to say, color me impressed. The story was beautiful with a dark and haunting vibe all throughout. From the cover, I was imagining this story to be a bit more light-hearted, but the town’s descent into madness, definitely gave you a completely different vibe. It didn’t take long for the atmospheric writing to set in and I was creeped out by things at night. It’s not a scary book, per se, but it’s definitely got the atmosphere. I might have had some goosebumps .

I was a little skeptic at first. The story starts off pretty quaint, but when Ellerie mentioned that her life will be pretty boring and how she’s just going to get married off to someone, it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I was worried this would be a theme throughout the book or something she focuses way too much time on. However, I was changed as the book continues to move.

This read like you were reading the origins of a fairy tale. A young girl who’s pretty bored with her life meets a young fellow in the woods. He’s mysteriously, but provides a sense of reprieve from the humdrum of her life. And then things start happening. Ellerie sees a mysterious woman in white from the corner of her eye, her baby sister is speaking with an imaginary friend, the townspeople inexplicably starting to fight each other and then do unspeakable things to each other.

Ellerie was definitely my favorite character. While I tried to like her sisters and her brother, I just couldn’t. They weren’t as smart as Ellerie, but it was obvious they were sucked into the madness of the town. Of course, you see that with Ellerie as well, but I guess reading the book from her POV helped with understanding her thought process. I also liked Whitaker, the strange boy who comes out of the woods one day and somehow instantly falls in love with Ellerie. I know, not everyone’s a fan of insta-love, but it doesn’t bother me! I kind of guessed what was happening with him pretty early on, but I loved watching how Erin A Craig writes him into the story.

The madness was really the part that I enjoyed the most. You watch it slowly start to happen. First, it’s a finger pointed at one person from another. It’s completely irrational, but maybe you think it’s just some small town thing people do .But then you see more things happening up until the point where they’re killing each other and it becomes chaos. I love watching it grow from such a single entity and bloom into something bigger. Oh, I wonder if that makes me a part of the villains in the story.

I won’t get into the villains, though. It’s quite a surprise the way Erin A Craig presented them and truly, I don’t want to give this away because this was the part that felt most like a fairy tale to me. You know, when you’re making deals with someone you shouldn’t be making deals with? That’s exactly what I got from this book and it truly captured me in this world.

The story itself is slow burning all the way up to the end. It felt like such a good pace up until all the action started taking place. Then, it just kept moving so quickly that I was worried I’ll be left with a lot of questions without any answers. And this being a standalone novel, if the questions didn’t get answered then they’ll never get answered. But they did and thankfully I loved the ending.

Overall, fantastic! I’m super impressed with Erin A. Craig’s writing, especially since this is the first book I’ve read from her. I cannot wait to read more from her in the future (including her first book).

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo // Book Review

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo // Book Review

Oh Leigh Bardugo, you are such a treasure for me and one of my all-time favorite authors. I’d been feeling a bit of a Shadow and Bone hangover, so I knew I needed to pick up where I last left off in Leigh Bardugo’s books. Now, I don’t know what the future will hold for the Grishaverse, but I can definitely say there’s a lot more story to tell.

Spoilers ahead, so please read with caution!

Continue reading “Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo // Book Review”

The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He // Book Review

The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He // Book Review

I first fell in love with this book because the cover was gorgeous. I think I could spend a lifetime just staring at the cover and how beautifully it came out. But then I read the book and it blew me away in so many different ways.

Here’s More about The Ones We’re Meant to Find

Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay, and it’s up to Cee to cross the ocean and find her.

In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara lives in an eco-city built for people who protected the planet―and now need protecting from it. With natural disasters on the rise due to climate change, eco-cities provide clean air, water, and shelter. Their residents, in exchange, must spend at least a third of their time in stasis pods, conducting business virtually whenever possible to reduce their environmental footprint. While Kasey, an introvert and loner, doesn’t mind the lifestyle, her sister Celia hated it. Popular and lovable, Celia much preferred the outside world. But no one could have predicted that Celia would take a boat out to sea, never to return.

Now it’s been three months since Celia’s disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But nevertheless, she decides to retrace Celia’s last steps. Where they’ll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own.

My Thoughts

This wasn’t the typical YA SFF story that I usually read. I mean, it has the tropes. It has the bits and pieces of a YA SFF story that you want, but it was so much more for me. It read like literary fiction. It had that Kazuo Ishiguro Never Let Me Go vibe and it really surprised me. This was definitely one of those stories where it was less important how the world worked, how the science of everything turned out, and how Kasey eventually figured out how to save the world. It’s more about Kasey and Celia; their fractured relationship, their need to find each other, and the world that they grew up in and how that affected both of their lives in very different ways.

Of course, there’s some explanation, but for most of the book there’s a level of trust you need to have in Joan He to guide you towards the inevitable ending. However, if you’re looking for a book with detailed information on how the world is saved from climate change and pollution, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. The main focuses of this book are Celia and Kasey making this much more than just another SFF novel. This makes it literary. It makes it character-driven and elevates the book to a more mature level. Honestly, I think this will be the perfect book for those literary fans out there.

Celia and Kasey are really different from each other and the author shares that in several different ways. It’s there in the text as you read, but it’s also in the different POVs the characters’ perspectives are written. It’s in the way each chapter header begins and how they speak about each other. It really made you think that these two sisters couldn’t be any more different, but the one theme that both of them carry is this love for their sister and finding them.

The twist that eventually came in this book was so surprising and I felt like something was on its way towards that reveal while we were reading. The timelines didn’t make sense or something Kasey said wouldn’t align with what Celia said. It was an interesting play to keep the twist as hushed as possible, but the twist still got me and surprised me.

I will admit, this book isn’t perfect. There are some confusing parts and for much of the book I was wondering where all of this was going. It wasn’t too bad because I knew the author would take care of me, but it still bummed me out when the timelines jumped a lot and some of Kasey’s sections were a little over my head because they weren’t explained well. When I mentioned that the story is more literary, it also meant that there’s some of the classic SFF components that are lost like world-building. Like I mentioned, there’s a lot of trust involved with the author. You have to let her tell the story in her way and follow along the best you can. Then, you’ll see the overall picture and make you think much deeper than what’s happening in the story.

Overall, a captivating story about two sisters on the search for each other. Knowing these sisters is a whole other level as you’re learning not only who they are, but how they think, how they understand and perceive the world, and how much they truly love each other. This was my first book from Joan He and I’m honestly excited to try out more from her in the future.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. My opinions have not been influenced by the author or the publisher.