Title: The Girl King
Author: Mimi Yu
Page Count: 432
Publishing Date/Publisher: January 8, 2019 by Bloomsbury YA
Review: This book falls in the category of well-written with a decent plot, but not as good as I wanted it to be. I should have loved this book. It is a tale of two sisters battling it out for a throne, which in this case means a lot of political intrigue and ancient magic. However, I just could not make myself feel invested in the story or the characters. Though I liked it for the most part, there are a couple things that I found to be problematic.
First, the characters and setting were not nearly as developed as the plot. Although we get some glimpses of the motivation that drives the two sisters, I did not feel like I really got to know either of them beyond a superficial level. This is especially true with the character of Minyi. Although she seemed to have had the greatest character arc, it all still felt very shallow to me and her naivety was annoying rather than endearing.
Second, Lu’s romance was poorly constructed. It did not feel authentic and I personally prefer a slow build over instant love. I think the author attempted to do this by making the characters initially at odds (for a very short period of time), but it just fell flat.
It is unlikely that I will continue reading if this book turns into a series (it most likely will), but there are some positive attributes that made this an enjoyable read. Although I would have liked more from this story, it nevertheless featured strong female leads and closed with some pretty awesome magic.
Series: The Cage
Titles: The Cage (Book 1), The Hunt (Book 2), The Gauntlet (Book 3)
Author: Megan Shepherd
Page Counts: 405 (Book 1), 368 (Book 2), 393 (Book 3)
Publishing Dates/Publishers: May 26, 2015 by Balzer + Bray, May 24, 2016 by Balzer + Bray, May 23, 2017 by HarperCollins
Format: eBook and Hardcover
Review: I decided to review these books as a series because my general feelings about all three are the same. To sum it up, this series was bizarre. I know, I know, you are probably thinking that science fiction in general is bizarre, but this series is on another level.
The first thing that bothered me is the explanation for how these teens end up locked up in an extraterrestrial cage. It makes absolutely no sense, and the reasons why they were chosen for abduction make no sense either.
The other thing that I found supremely annoying was the romance between Cora and her abductor. Why? Because it was extremely anticlimactic (Spoiler alert: so is the ending).
Even with all this weirdness going on, I still liked the series. If you can get past all the absurdity of the backstory, it is an amusing read. I will also say that it is hard to predict where the story will go because the author keeps throwing in new elements that shake up what you know about the universe she has created. I kind of enjoyed the fact that humans, who consider themselves intellectually superior to other species on Earth, are considered primitive by all the other beings in the story. It really makes you ponder how extraterrestrials might view us should we ever cross paths with them in the future.
Title: What’s Left of Me
Author: Kat Zhang
Page Count: 343
Series: The Hybrid Chronicles, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 18, 2012 by HarperCollins
Review: Readers who enjoyed The Host by Stephenie Meyer will probably enjoy this book. It takes the same concept (two souls inhabiting one body, with one soul being more dominant) and adds a different spin to it.
I found the story interesting and I enjoyed the inner dialogue between the two characters, but the book lost me towards the end. The world building was not the best, and I was not convinced as to why the lack of “settling” was such a taboo thing in their society, especially because it seems to be more common than people are led to believe. I suppose this is probably fleshed out more in the next two books of the trilogy, but I did not find the story compelling enough to continue forward with this series.
Title: Hero at the Fall
Author: Alwyn Hamilton
Performer: Soneela Nankani
Length: 13 hr, 21 min
Series: Rebel of the Sands, Book 3
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2018 by Recorded Books
Review: This was a gripping conclusion to a fantastic trilogy. I highly recommend this series to fantasy readers, and really anyone who enjoys YA fiction. It is a clever, action-packed adventure with just the right amount of romance (whew that final love scene was steamy). The author does an excellent job building characters and setting in her first two books, so this final book was deeply satisfying and thrilling as it wraps up the series. I really like the way Hamilton incorporates legend throughout the story because it really highlights the importance of oral tradition and the way that heroes are remembered.
For people who enjoy the audiobook format, I think that you will find this performance enthralling.
Author: Crystal Smith
Page Count: Unknown
Series: Bloodleaf, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 5, 2019 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Review: I found this book to be an enjoyable and quick read. The main character is likeable, and the plot keeps a steady pace.
I did not know prior to reading this book that it is a retelling of a Grimm’s fairytale. After reading the book, I looked up The Goose Girl and read a brief synopsis of the plot and primary characters. My opinion of the book actually went up half a star after doing so, because I thought that the author was very clever in how she incorporated the elements of the fairytale throughout the story. I also liked that the witch hunts and persecution of accused witches was pretty accurate to historical events. This made the story more believable, and gave it an interesting twist.
The reason this book was not quite four stars for me is because I think that the setting and some of the characters, namely Kellan, really needed to be fleshed out more. The plot was well-developed, but it was hard for me to picture events because descriptions of the cities and other locations were not very vivid. As for Kellan, I did not really understand the relationship between him and the main character, Aurelia. I assume his character will get more page time in the next two books, as this is slotted to be a trilogy, but I honestly felt that this book should have been a standalone. The ending provided a lot of closure; so much so that I was actually surprised to find out that the story is going to be extended into two more books.
Title: The Traitor’s Game
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Page Count: 388
Series: The Traitor’s Game, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: February 27, 2018 by Scholastic
Review: This book was good, but for some reason I could not fully invest in the characters and I can’t really pinpoint why. I suppose it may be because I have read a lot of YA fantasy series, and this one just didn’t wow me with anything incredibly new or original. For me to give a high rating in this genre, the book has to really impress me. This book reminded me vaguely of The Winner’s Curse trilogy by Marie Rutkoski, maybe because the names of the heroines are so similar (Kestra and Kestrel). As mentioned previously, however, this is not a bad book. Some people will really enjoy it, but it just was not for me. I do not think I will be reading the next two books when they are released.
Title: Thief of Cahraman
Author: Lucy Tempest
Page Count: 322
Series: Fairytales of Folkshore, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: July 21, 2018 by Folkshore Press
Review: I have to say, I am a little bit shocked that this book has received such a high overall rating on Goodreads. I am a big fan of fairytale adaptations, so I am always excited when I see such a highly rated new series in this category. Unfortunately, this did not live up to my expectations. I personally felt that the characters were flat and the story predictable. I always felt that I was several steps ahead, predicting the events that happen chapters before they actually occur. This was partly because the “reveal” set-up was not subtle, and partly because I have read this story before. This book was marketed as “The Selection meets Aladdin”, but I did not realize exactly how similar to The Selection this book would be. This book lost big time originality points with me for this reason, and I have no desire to read the next two books in the trilogy.
On a more positive note, the cover art for this book is gorgeous!
Review: I actually really enjoyed it, but that could be because I don’t read much fiction anymore, so it’s all new-ish for me. While it was predictable, I thought it was well done and I loved the introduction of the other Disney characters. I thought Adelaide was a well-rounded character and I found her motives to be very believable: when you have nothing and then suddenly have friends that are practically family, you would do whatever you could to protect them. You wouldn’t let them be taken from you without a fight. I’ll be reading the rest of the series when they come out.
This is definitely one of the few times Bekah and I don’t agree when it comes to a book; we’re normally on the same page. I think it comes down to the fact that she’s read more fairytale retellings than I have, but she’s given me a list so I can catch up!