Title: Blood and Sand
Author: C.V. Wyk
Performer: Brittany Pressley
Length: 8 hr, 58 min, 58 sec
Series: Blood and Sand, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2018 by MacMillan Young Listeners
Review: I really enjoyed the first half of this book because I thought the author did a great job introducing the time period, setting, and characters. The second half of the book is where she started to lose me. I would say that this book is more strongly categorized as historical fiction rather than fantasy. I typically enjoy both genres immensely, but I hesitate to even call this fantasy. It’s more like unrealistic historical fiction. The only thing that could qualify this series as fantasy was how preposterous the fight scenes were in the second half of the book. One scene in particular, the most pivotal in terms of driving the direction of the story, was a monumental disappointment because quite frankly it made no sense. The fallout of this particular scene was equally disappointing. A lot gets thrown at you at the end, and the puzzle pieces just fit together too perfectly to be realistic.
All criticisms aside, I think that Wyk is a talented writer and I enjoyed enough things about this book to continue with the series when the next book is published.
Finally, I thought the reader for this eAudiobook had a nice voice, but in my opinion wasn’t well suited for this particular book. I’ve heard her narrate other books and liked those performances far more than I did this one. Perhaps this is because I did not care for the character voices and accents she chose for some of the main characters, particularly Attia.
Title: Throne of Glass
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Page Count: 404
Series: Throne of Glass, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: May 7, 2013 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Review: Well I finally read it, and it did not disappoint. I don’t know how this book stayed off my radar for so long. It really had all the elements of everything I love in YA fantasy. Admittedly, the storyline was predictable, but for the first book in a series, it had a surprising amount of action and I remained engaged the whole way through. The main character of the story, Celaena, serves as both a heroine and an anti-heroine. She manages to be both a total badass and a relatable young woman. This is a difficult mix to achieve in YA fiction and I have rarely seen it done so well.
As I noted above, this book was relatively predictable, so I knocked a star off of my rating; however, after perusing reviews for the second book in the series, it seems that Maas’ character building and plot development improves dramatically in the next installment. I am really looking forward to continuing with this series!
Author: Samira Ahmed
Page Count: 386
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 19, 2019 by Atom
Review: This is one of those books that readers seem to either love or hate, but I actually fall somewhere in the middle. It is a speculative novel that heavily draws on current events (more than a few jabs directed at the current administration) and links it with the Japanese-American Internment camps of the 1940s. In this imagining, Muslim-Americans are targeted as enemies of state and relocated to internment camps on American soil.
I thought the concept for this book was interesting, and I could appreciate the historical tie-ins, but I think it fell short of being great. My biggest issue with this book was the villain. “The Director” is portrayed as a cruel man who easily loses his cool and throws violent tantrums. He was incredibly one-dimensional, and was really a caricature of the “racist middle-age white man” that has become so vilified by our culture. Of course, all the prison guards were also white men, because apparently there is no diversity in the National Guard.
The cover art for this book is gorgeous, and that really drew me to the book more than anything. I think it appropriately captures the essence of the story and I imagine it has drawn in a lot of other readers as well. I think that this book will really appeal to teens and it would be a great discussion book for teachers to assign when studying World War II and the Japanese-American internment camps because it offers a fresh setting that they may better relate to.
Title: How to Build a Heart
Author: Maria Padian
Page Count: 352
Publishing Date/Publisher: January 28, 2020 by Algonquin Young Readers
Review: There are so many things about this book that I love. It is a very thoughtfully written book and it feels very authentic. I have very little in common with the main character, but I could totally relate to her. There was a lot about her that reminded me of myself at her age.
I recently reviewed another book that had very similar themes to this one; a biracial girl navigating grief and struggling to define herself. I personally felt that this book did a much better job of tackling these topics and I was honestly disappointed when it ended. This is not to say I wasn’t happy with the ending, I just wanted to follow her life longer! I look forward to reading more books by this author.
Title: I’m Not Dying With You Tonight
Author: Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal
Page Count: 272
Publishing Date/Publisher: October 1, 2019 by Sourcebooks Fire
Review: I was eager to read this book because the two authors have done something that Kym and I have talked about at great length, and that is co-authoring a book from two different character perspectives. It worked well for this story, and I thought it was appropriate that the two characters were written with very distinct voices.
This book isn’t very long, so it was a quick read. In fact, the whole story takes place over the course of a single night. The conflict is established quickly, and the “action” is pretty consistent throughout the story. I was never bored and I would say this is a pretty timely novel considering our current political climate.
My biggest criticism is that I had hoped for a stronger character arc with both characters, so when the end came, my first thought was, that’s it? After undergoing such a traumatic experience, I had expected there to be more discussion of the aftermath and what it meant for each of the characters. I really think this story would have a greater impact on readers if this aspect was more thoroughly explored.
Title: The Financial Diet: A Total Beginner’s Guide to Getting Good with Money
Author: Chelsea Fagan & Lauren Ver Hage
Page Count: 208
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 26, 2017 by Regan Arts
Review: Money has always been a mystery to me. Though I understand the concept of budgeting and saving, I have always had a difficult time determining how best to save and invest my money in order to make it grow. I decided to get my feet wet in the world of finance with this beginner’s guide and found it surprisingly enjoyable. Fagan’s writing is relatable and humorous and Ver Hage provided adorable illustrations and an aesthetically pleasing layout. Of course not all the information was pertinent to me, but I was able to glean a few gems to get me started on the path to financial wellness. Overall, I really enjoyed the author’s frankness regarding finances, and it really made me wonder why we are not more transparent about it with our spouses and other loved ones. It really changed how I think about money and made me reevaluate my financial goals. I’ve already discussed some of these ideas with my husband, and put some of these ideas immediately into practice. Other strategies will require further research, but I feel confident now that I am moving in the right direction.
Title: The Distance Between Us
Author: Kasie West
Performer: Jorjeana Marie
Length: 6 hr, 42 min, 13 sec
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2014 by Tantor
Review: This is a classic tale of opposites attract. Caymen is poor, and Xander is rich, so what could they possibly have in common??? Is it possible that Caymen is unfairly judging Xander because of his nice clothes and fancy cars?? Read the book and find out! Sarcasm aside though (sarcasm is a theme in the novel by the way), this was a wholesome romance that follows a tried and true formula. I really enjoy books like this when my life gets stressful because it does not take a lot of brainpower to follow the storyline and the outcome is predictable. Sometimes you just want a feel good romance, and for me this did the trick.
I personally thought that the reader of this book sounded a bit too old for the character, but she did a good job and had a pleasant and consistent tone.