Review: It’s no secret I am a huge Sarah J. Maas fan and will read just about anything that is compared to her work. In this case, it was a very appropriate comparison. Similar characters, similar love triangle, similar setting, similar premise…but hey, I’m all for it. It was angsty, but not too much so. Even though it gives me anxiety, I like when characters have to navigate impossible choices in creative ways. Oh and also love steamy love triangles, even though those also give me anxiety….So needless to say, even though this book is not perfect, I am the perfect audience for it. I hope there is more to come.
Publishing Date/Publisher: June 2, 2020 by HarperAudio
Review: DidRebel of the Sands have a love child with The Selection and Children of Blood and Bone??! If so, I’m pretty sure it’s this book. But in all seriousness, this book contains bits and pieces of a number of YA books I have read, including another book I just reviewed: Witches Steeped in Gold. It wasn’t entirely original, but I really loved the way magic was incorporated into the story. I was far less enthused about the romance. It just felt…weak. I don’t really have any other way to describe it. The chemistry between Karina and Malik was extremely lackluster. In fact, for some reason I just found Malik’s character to be lackluster in general. We know he is faced with an impossible choice – kill the princess or let his sister die – but he kind of just accepts it lying down (though I do like what the author did at the end with his character). Karina, on the other hand, also has a difficult choice, but shows so much more strength of character, despite her reluctance to accept her future role as queen. Maybe the author will change my mind about this in the sequel, because the relationship between the two will undoubtedly play a key role in the trajectory of the story. I hope so because I like the world she has created and wish to see more of it.
Publishing Date/Publisher: April 20, 2021 by HarperTeen
Review: I have been dragging my feet when it comes to writing this review, not because I didn’t like the book, but because it has so many similarities to two other books I have recently read. This is a very strong readalike for Children of Blood and Bone and A Song of Wraiths and Ruin. It has been hard for me to draw any clear distinctions between my feelings about the three, though I can say that I enjoyed them all. I can’t help but note that white hair on magic users seems to be a very popular trend in YA fantasy fiction that is inspired by African and/or Caribbean folklore. I thought this striking imagery was very distinct to the Legacy of Orisha trilogy, but it seems to have made it’s way into other series as well. One repeating trend I have also noticed (that I actually quite like) is the finely drawn line between hero(ine) and villian(ess). A line that is often crossed by both the former and the latter in such a way that these distinctions become meaningless. Life is messy, and I like when I can relate to both the protagonist and the antagonist in equal measure. It tickles me even further when these roles reverse at some point in the story. I think this series has quite a lot of potential, and it is very possible I might love the second book…we will just have to wait and see.
P.S. If I had to rate the cover of this book it would be 5/5 stars.
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 3, 2020 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Review: The more I read books by Cassandra Clare, the more I draw similarities between her style and the style of Sarah J. Maas. Both write sagas with lengthy tomes that are riddled with relationship angst. Both have predictable plot formulas they follow, and they always manage to pair off nearly every character into a romantic relationship. Clare in particular really has a penchant for relationship triangles and drama, and it seems that she repackages her storylines with different characters and settings. Despite this, I find some comfort in knowing what I am getting into when I pick up one of her books, and I often find myself enjoying them. In some ways it is just mindlessly pleasant reading. The Shadowhunter world is very engrossing, regardless of how many different ways the same story is presented to me. I find that in general I like her historical fiction series more than her contemporary ones. I don’t know how historically accurate her settings are, but the afterword in this book implies that she does put a little research into her craft. I’ll definitely keep reading when the next book is published, if only because the covers in this series are so dang gorgeous.
Publishing Date/Publisher: April 13, 2021 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Review: This book is being marketed to fans of Sabaa Tahir and Sarah J. Maas, so it was an obvious pick for me. And I have to say, for the first book in a series, this was a real slam dunk for me. Right from the beginning it had an engaging storyline and characters. The setting seems to be rather heavily inspired by Russian gulags, which combined with magic, creates a rather appealing combination of history and fantasy.
The only time I found this story lacking was when it came to the trials. I was hoping for something a little more realistic. It is clear that these trials are not survivable without magic, and I would have liked if she could have survived at least one using her wits alone.
The ending though made up for any minor disappointments. I thought I knew how it would end, and though I wasn’t entirely wrong, it played out very differently than I expected. It’s rare to completely catch me off guard with a plot twist, and I have to admit I was a little surprised that the author so masterfully pulled a sneaky on me with her unreliable narrator gambit. With that cliffhanger of an ending, I am really looking forward to a sequel.
Publishing Date/Publisher: January 5, 2021 by Disney-Hyperion
Review: Greek mythology is a theme often requested when I do Reader’s Advisory, so I was thrilled when I read the synopsis for this book on NetGalley. I was even more thrilled when my request was granted, and the book turned out to be just as good as I hoped it would be. This story is not for the faint of heart. It has a very Battle Royale vibe, but with mythical characters. This being the case, the story is action-packed and never boring. The romance in the story does not take center stage, which I am perfectly alright with. It did, however, lend the perfect balance of heartwarming content to counteract the violence. The ending of this book wasn’t entirely unexpected, but there were a couple twists leading up to it kept it fresh and interesting. It wraps up pretty nicely, so I assume this is a standalone, which is great for reader’s who don’t want to commit to a series.
Publishing Date/Publisher: April 13, 2021 by Del Ray
Review: I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that I love a good villain origin story, and this is certainly that. It explores the evolution of the tormented becoming the tormentor as the line between “good” and “evil” blurs into non-existence. The author was very clever in how she twisted various elements of Sleeping Beauty adaptations into her story, and by the end, you could fully empathize with Alyce and her descent into darkness. This is a character who really has nothing left to lose, and it is tragic to watch her become the monster that everyone says she is. It really makes you reflect on the power of love, and how it has the capability to both redeem and destroy. It’s frightening to think that one choice can determine which.
My only real criticism of this book is that although the author did a fantastic job building Alyce’s character, Aurora’s character felt a bit flat. I would have liked to see more character development for her because I think it would have added more dimension to her relationship with Alyce.
Publishing Date/Publisher: October 13, 2020 by Random House Graphic
Review: It is rare for me to read a graphic novel, and even more rare for me to review one. In this case, however, I felt a review was entirely necessary because I was so impressed by the creator’s work. Nguyen managed to convey both time and place entirely through the use of color and wardrobe – a feat that allowed him to seamlessly weave together the present, the past, and the fantastical into one cohesive story. Just…wow.
Another thing I rarely do is save quotes from books, but I couldn’t help but screenshot the line, “They’re only stories. They’ll change when they need to.” I don’t know why, but this little epiphany completely blew my mind and changed the way I now look at retellings and adaptions of classic stories. I also think it sums up this graphic novel fairly well. At it’s core, it’s about a family who communicates through stories when they cannot find the words to express something important to one another. I have always believed in the power of stories, and the execution of this message is just played out so beautifully in this format.
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 22, 2020 by Dreamscape Media, LLC
Review: I personally did not find this book to be a thrilling read, however, I will most certainly be recommending it to young readers. Aside from a few curse words scattered here and there, it is actually a pretty “clean” book. It read more like middle grade fiction, despite the fact our amateur sleuth is an older teenager. Because the main protagonist, Elatsoe, is asexual, there is no romantic angle whatsoever. The setting is interesting and would likely appeal to young readers – kind of a re-imagined United States where the paranormal is considered normal. All things considered, I think I probably would have enjoyed this book a lot more if I had read it as a pre-teen.
Publishing Date/Publisher: January 12, 2021 by Flatiron Books
Review: In my glowing review of The Hazel Wood, I mentioned that I hoped for more tales of the Hinterland in the second installment of this series, The Night Country. I was sorely disappointed when this did not happen, but Albert has more than made up for this disappointment by releasing this anthology of dark and fascinating fairy tales. If you were a fan of the first two Hinterland books then this is a must-read. If you have not read the books, but are interested in short stories reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm, then this is a must-read for you as well. If you like stories with happy endings, do not, and I repeat, do NOT pick up this book.