Contemporary · Fiction · Magical Realism · Young Adult

Home Is Not a Country

Title: Home Is Not a Country

Author: Safia Elhillo

Page Count: 224

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: March 2, 2021 by Make Me a World

Format: Hardcover

Review: I could have never predicted the direction of this story based on the cover or the synopsis. There were many aspects of the story that were beautiful – the title, the emphasis on friendship, and the mother/daughter relationship – but where it started to get a little sloggy for me was when the elements of magical realism were incorporated. There was a turning point about halfway through where the author lost me and never really roped me back. I kept being reminded of A Christmas Carol after this point, and the conclusion was about what I would expect knowing how that story ended.

The style of poetry that this author uses has recently been trendy in the YA sphere. I understand that the spacing, use of symbols, and lowercase letters are all creative choices. I assume they have a purpose, but I don’t know enough about poetry to figure out what that purpose is. Sometimes I found it distracting because I would spend a lot of time trying to glean why these choices were made. Hopefully I will find somebody who can explain it to me, because Google cannot.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
Fantasy · Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

Dark Shores

Title: Dark Shores

Author: Danielle L. Jensen

Performers: Jeanette Illidge & Jeremy Arthur

Length: 12 hr, 21 min

Series: Dark Shores, Book 1

Publishing Date/Publisher: May 7, 2019 by MacMillan Audio

Format: eAudiobook

Review: I didn’t dislike this book, but for some reason I could not fully connect with it. I finished it a couple of months ago and for some reason I have been dragging my feet in reviewing it. Perhaps it is because I have had a hard time pinpointing just what it is that didn’t jive for me. To be honest my memory has already started to erase the finer details of the story. There was nothing particularly memorable that stands out to me about the storyline, but I do remember feeling a sense of anxiety regarding many of the choices that the characters made. I found the villain to be flat, and his motives unclear. One storyline was dropped completely, which I thought was odd until I read the synopsis for the second book in the series and realized this plot point is the basis of a concurrent storyline. I liked the concept of the Rome influenced setting and the Maarin as a seafaring people who act as the go between for the East and West. I don’t regret taking the time to finish this book, but I probably won’t continue with the series.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
Fantasy · Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

Soulswift

Title: Soulswift

Author: Megan Bannen

Page Count: 480

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: November 17, 2020

Format: eBook

Review: Megan Bannen ripped my heart out in the best possible way with The Bird and the Blade, so I was very curious when I saw she had published a new novel. After reading this book, it is very apparent that Bannen enjoys breaking the hearts of her readers into a million pieces. She has a very distinct writing flow, so the tone was very similar to The Bird and the Blade though the characters and setting were entirely different. Even though the book was based in a fantasy setting, it felt like I was reading historical fiction. The author has stated that this book is not based on any existing story, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she was heavily influenced by real events in history, particularly religious crusades.

There is a lot to enjoy with this story. Gelya in particular is a smart and witty character, and I couldn’t help but like her. Her relationship with Tavik is in equal parts funny and serious. Bannen seems to have a unique gift for achieving this kind of balance, and it adds a lot of depth to her characters.

Despite everything that impressed me about this book, the story itself was not particularly compelling to me. If it wasn’t Bannen writing it, I probably would not have picked it up based on the synopsis alone. The subject matter just really isn’t my cup of joe.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
Fiction · Historical · Young Adult

Rebel Daughter

Title: Rebel Daughter

Author: Lori Banov Kaufmann

Performer: Ellen Archer

Length: 10 hr, 32 min

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: February 9, 2021 by Listening Library

Format: eAudiobook

Review: I checked out this eAudiobook from the library primarily because I love reading about this time period in history. It’s a fictional story, but the author based much of it off of real historical events and people. It is meticulously researched, and I really appreciated the author’s note at the end that explains many of her creative choices.

Now to the story itself. I found the whole plot to be rather dry. I’m not sure if it was the characters or the author’s writing style that didn’t really appeal to me. Perhaps I compare it too much to other books I have read and enjoyed based in this time period, but I just didn’t find any aspect of it to be especially compelling. I do, however, think the right reader would really enjoy it, so I will keep it in my back pocket as a possible book recommendation.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
Fantasy · Fiction · Romance · Science Fiction · Young Adult

Secrets of the Starcrossed

Title: Secrets of the Starcrossed

Author: Clara O’Connor

Performer: Jan Cramer

Length: 13 hr, 17 min

Series: The Once and Future Queen, Book 1

Publishing Date/Publisher: January 21, 2021 by One More Chapter

Format: eAudiobook

Review: This was probably one of the most frustrating books I have ever read. I liked the author’s writing style, and enjoyed the setting – a sort of futuristic reimagining of an alternate history. I also thought the author very cleverly blended science fiction with fantasy as she pitted scientific advances against magic.

The story was good, but fell short of great. The story is told from the single point of view of a girl named Cassandra making the story entirely character driven. I really felt like I was in her thoughts, which became downright annoying when she would just have the same circular line of thinking over, and over, and over again. The actual plot could be summed up in a few minutes and was highly predictable, yet it took over 13 hours of listening time to get to the inevitable conclusion.

The romance in this story is perhaps it’s greatest failure. Cassandra harps on and on about the connection she feels to the mysterious boy Devyn, who is constantly pulling her in and then pushing her away with no explanation. Honestly I just wanted to reach through the pages and slap them both across the face, and tell them to just get. to. the. point. I really wish there had been some POV chapters from Devyn’s perspective, because his portrayal through the eyes of Cassandra was not at all flattering. Perhaps if I had some backstory and clearer motivators for him, I would have been willing to root for him.

By the end I had no answers and no clear picture of where the story is going. Considering how long this book was, I probably won’t be picking up the next one. I highly suspect that the three books in the trilogy could have easily fit into a duology if all the repetitive filler was cut out.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
half star
Fantasy · Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

A Sky Beyond the Storm

Title: A Sky Beyond the Storm

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Performers: Fiona Hardingham, Katharine Lee McEwan, Steve West, Maxwell Caulfield & Nikki Massoud

Length: 17 hr, 9 min

Series: An Ember in the Ashes, Book 4

Publishing Date/Publisher: December 1, 2020 by Listening Library

Format: eAudiobook

Review: This was a highly anticipated read for me. I was extra patient waiting for the audiobook format to become available at my library, because I so enjoy the casting for this series. The cast did an incredible job again, so no complaints there.

I really hyped this book up in my mind after reading A Reaper at the Gates, so I was sorely disappointed when it didn’t quite deliver for me. There were several aspects of this book that I found frustrating:

  • The romance between Elias and Laia just lacked that luster that it had before.
  • Poor fricken Helene. She remains my favorite character in the series, but I did not like the trajectory of her story at all.
  • The origin of Laia’s magic is revealed, but the explanation felt convoluted.
  • I was surprised by how little page time any of the main characters actually had together.

Despite my criticisms, I did enjoy the book and I still loved the series as a whole. Perhaps it wasn’t the conclusion I was hoping for, but I would still recommend it.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
half star

Contemporary · Fantasy · Fiction · Young Adult

Among Thieves

Among Thieves

Title: Among Thieves

Author: M.J. Kuhn

Page Count: N/A

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: September 7th, 2021, Saga Press

Format: eBook/ARC

Review: M.J. Kuhn is definitely an author to watch. With this hell of a debut novel, Kuhn sets the stage for what I hope will be a series full of anti-heroes, powers, and crime. The characters are the “hate to love them” type, but you really do root for them despite the fact that they are smugglers, thieves, and cons. They also have good reasons for doing what they are doing, which really helps.

There were a few things here and there that I wished lasted longer in some places and shorter in others, but overall it was incredibly enjoyable. They pulled me in by saying it was like Six of Crows, but I also wish they didn’t, as I had to stop myself from comparing the two all the time, which is unfair: they are two different books that just happen to both be based on heists. But I also see why they would market it that way, so fair play.

Reader: Kymberly

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold

Fantasy · Fiction · Paranormal · Romance · Young Adult

The Folk of the Air Trilogy

Book 1
Book 2
Book 3

Title: The Cruel Prince, The Wicked King, & The Queen of Nothing

Author: Holly Black

Page Count: 370, 336, & 300

Series: The Folk of the Air, Books 1-3

Publishing Date/Publisher: January 2, 2018 – January 8, 2019 – November 19, 2019 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Format: eBook

Review: I was never quick to pick up this book series for two reasons:

  1. I read the Coldest Girl in Cold Town by this author and though I enjoyed it, I wasn’t terribly impressed.
  2. The book synopsis for The Cruel Prince does not do it justice.

I have seen this book series mentioned enough times now that I finally decided to read it. As a result, I am going to do something I never do and review all three books together. Why you ask? Because I ripped through them so fast it doesn’t even make sense for me to review them individually. This was a book series that kept me reading late into the night and each book took me about 2 days to finish. I simply could not put them down. The romance is a slow burn (which I always appreciate), but it was the political intrigue and endless scheming that truly kept me glued to the pages. Jude is a very strongly written character, and it was fascinating to watch her turn her vulnerabilities into strengths. The pacing of this book series is excellent, and I was never once bored. Great cliffhangers and a great ending really cemented this as one of my favorite YA series of all time.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold

Contemporary · Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

Born Confused

Title: Born Confused

Author: Tanuja Desai Hidier

Performer: Marguerite Gavin

Length: 14 hr, 47 min

Series: Born Confused, Book 1

Publishing Date/Publisher: 

Format: eAudiobook

Review: This was a very fun, coming-of-age novel. I really enjoyed the author’s writing style. She finds humor in the mundane, and she paints a vivid picture of family and culture. I liked most aspects of the book, but the way the central romance unfolded annoyed me tremendously. It was a very believable premise leading up to the declaration of feelings, but the fall out that would of resulted feels a bit underplayed. Perhaps I have strong feelings about this because I personally don’t care for romance arcs where the relationship with the close friend is thrown to the wayside in favor of a romantic one.

Although it predates the Netflix series Never Have I Ever by a few years, I think that people who enjoyed that show would enjoy this book tremendously. It explores a lot of similar themes such as building a cross-cultural Indian/American identity, marriage, love, sexuality, family, and friendship.

I did not like the casting for this audiobook. The performer had a melodic voice, but she sounded way too old to be believably portraying a teen girl. Also, I am always a little leery of the accuracy of accents when a person is not from that culture.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold

Fantasy · Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

The Kinder Poison

Title: The Kinder Poison

Author: Natalie Mae

Page Count: 416

Series: The Kinder Poison, Book 1

Publishing Date/Publisher: June 16, 2020 by Razorbill

Format: eBook

Review: This book was a pleasant surprise. Sometimes when I am waiting for books that are on hold, I will browse our “Available Now” eBook collection for something to read in the interim. The description of the book sounded interesting, but to be honest I almost passed it up because of the cover. The cover looks like something someone with photoshop slapped together on an offensively bright purple background. It certainly does not do the story within it’s pages justice, so I’m glad I selected it despite my initial hesitation.

Zahru was a character I found to be likeable and funny. I enjoyed watching her maneuver through the complexities of her situation (a situation of her own making, mind you). The “villain” of the story was complex, which I can always appreciate. After reading the synopsis for the next book, I think I can predict the direction this story is headed in, and I am on board.

I’m honestly surprised I have never heard of this book. It has a good balance of adventure, intrigue, and romance. I’ve seen other reviewers describe this book as character driven, and I would say that is a very fair assessment. The author hasn’t done a huge amount in the way of backstory for the world she has created, but she has done well in creating a protagonist worth rooting for. I’m looking forward to continuing her story in the next book.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold
All_Star_Gold