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!
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 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.
Title: Six Goodbyes We Never Said
Author: Candace Ganger
Page Count: 416
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 24, 2019 by Wednesday Books
Review: Loved the cover, loved the title, even loved a couple of the characters *cough Dew and Violet cough cough*, but did not love this book. The writing felt very disjointed to me, I did not care for one of the main characters (Naima), and the ending just didn’t carry the weight that I thought it should given the subject matter. There was a lot about this book that confused me, and I am not sure that I liked the way that mental illness is portrayed. I got the impression that Naima is supposed to be this prickly and guarded, yet lovable individual, but for the most part, I thought she was cruel and hurtful and incredibly selfish. I tried to like her, I really did, it just didn’t happen. Maybe this book will really resonate with someone, but that someone wasn’t me.
Title: The Belles
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Performer: Rosie Jones
Length: 13 hr, 2 min, 45 sec
Series: The Belles, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2018 by Blackstone Audio
Review: This book knocked my socks off. I have been eyeing it for some time due to the beautiful cover art, but kept passing it over in favor of other fantasy novels. That was my mistake, because this book blew me away with it’s originality and spectacular character development. Camellia is not by any means a perfect heroine, and this makes her all the more relatable. The antagonist of the story made my skin crawl, and was a total psychopath. This made for a very interesting story chock full of political intrigue, manipulation, and mystery.
What I find truly fascinating about this book, and what really sets it apart in my mind, is the author’s commentary on beauty through the story. Beauty standards are fickle and ever changing in today’s world, and it is no different here. All over the world people are obsessed with achieving impossible standards of beauty, and are never satisfied because beauty is perceived differently by everyone. This is reflected in the world Clayton has created, where physical appearance can be changed in a matter of minutes, but at great personal and financial cost. People are constantly changing their appearance to match changing beauty trends and endure a great deal of physical pain to make it happen. The parallels this draws to real life make this a wholly believable story despite its fantastical elements.
I deducted a half star from my rating because there were a couple things that I did not feel were fully explained, but these minor plot hiccups may very well be ironed out in the second book in the series. I have already requested it from the library and look forward to listening to it.
The performer for this story was perfection. She easily ranks as one of my top favorite readers after listening to this performance. I can’t wait to hear her in other works.