Publishing Date/Publisher: March 16, 2021 by Henry, Holt and Co.
Review: A beautifully written portrayal of a bi-racial young woman navigating through the complexities of identity, family, and the social issues plaguing both of her communities. There are a lot of difficult topics broached in this novel, and Boulley deftly tackles each one as she uncovers the mystery at the heart of the story. I have to admit that I especially enjoyed the time period this book takes place in. Daunis is roughly the same age as I am and grew up in the same era. I experienced some level of nostalgia with the pop culture references and other time period identifiers. I was also delighted by the mention of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, my very own alma mater.
Some readers may feel that the pacing of this “thriller” is too slow, but I personally enjoyed the gradual unfolding. This book is packed with social commentary, so I think it was appropriate for Boulley take her time and dive deeply into the subject matter. I look forward to future works by this debut author.
Publishing Date/Publisher: December 7, 2021 by Wattpad Books
Review: This is one of those times when I feel like I am reading a different book than most other reviewers. Unlike a lot of other readers, I felt this book had an overdone plot with no depth or real backstory for any of the characters. I think there was supposed to be a love triangle, but I’m honestly not sure. Gabriel made no sense as a character, so he was an uninteresting “villain.” Ara and Kaden? The reader surmises that they have all these deep conversations in order to justify their connection, but we are not privvy to any of the details. Plot twists? I guess, but they don’t go anywhere. The cliffhanger at the end implies that this story is going to go on a whole new tangent. No questions are answered, only more questions. You can draw a lot of comparisons to other books in the genre, but this one is nothing special.
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 4, 2021 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Review: I really enjoyed Lee’s The Downstairs Girl, so I was surprised by how little I enjoyed this book. The heroine, Val, felt like a regurgitation of Jo in a different setting. Not a whole lot actually happens in this book until the end, and her charade as the Merry Widow seems highly implausible throughout. There are a bunch of jumbled subplots that don’t add much to the story overall, and the relationship building between characters fell flat for me. I appreciate what Lee is trying to do with this novel, but the slow pacing and convoluted storyline made it hard to get through.
Publishing Date/Publisher: February 2, 2021 by Wednesday Books
Review: Looking for a cliché and utterly predictable book about cults? Look no further, because this is your next read. Don’t get me wrong, the author is not a bad writer, but if you have seen any movies/tv series/documentaries or read any books with cults as a theme, then you know exactly how this story is going to play out. I wish I could say there was even one plot twist that caught me off guard, but I can’t. I have heard really good things about the author’s book Sadie, so this was a bit of a disappointment for me.
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 2, 2021 by Make Me a World
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.
Publishing Date/Publisher: May 7, 2019 by MacMillan Audio
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.
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.
Publishing Date/Publisher: February 9, 2021 by Listening Library
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.
Publishing Date/Publisher: January 21, 2021 by One More Chapter
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.
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
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.