Friday, February 28, 2020

Havenfall by Sara Holland

by Sara Holland 
Publication Date: March 3rd 2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Find This Book: Havenfall 
Rating: 4/5

I was given an ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Can we take a second to stare in awe at this gorgeous cover??? Havengall is an inn at the top of a mountain with tunnels deep under it that facilitate traveling between realms in relation to the cycles of the seasons (particularly equinox's). It's so gorgeous and also captures so much meaning in relation to the plot! I didn't even notice the face/neck/shoulders of a person until my 7th time looking at the cover!

Havenfall is about an in that is the heart of all the realms, one of which being Earth where our main character Maddie is from. She arrives for the summer to visit the inn, run by her uncle, which hosts an annual convention of inter-realm relations and trade. Hoping for a romantic summer with her childhood friend Brekkan, she instead walks into the political turmoil of the century!

I really enjoyed the fantasy world that Holland creates for us, and the way that the Havenfall inn must maintain impartiality towards each of the three realms. The role of Innkeeper is something Maddie hopes to step into one day, when her uncle wants to retire, but turmoil, violence, and betrayal leads to her unexpected ‘promotion’ before she’s been trained and prepared for it. Will she maintain order? Or are the worlds about to destroy all alliances?

I love love LOVE Maddie as a character. She’s got a Tragic Past™ that for once is actually used to create depth in not only herself but also in the narrative going forward. Her interactions with love interests are very cute, and this is the first time I’ve read about a character who was bisexual and comfortable with that knowledge. A lot of times, I feel like sexuality is portrayed as a struggle and an identity crisis, and while that can certainly be the case it felt so positive to see a model who’s already confident in who she is, even if she’s not confident in her new political Innkeeper role.

How the different realms interacted and the power dynamics of the different delegations (and all their magical powers) were so cool to read and felt really well thought-out as magical systems go. I can’t say too much without getting into spoiler territory but I’m so excited for the sequel already! I need more Taya in my life.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday #9

The 10 Most Recent Additions to My Bookshelf

1. Open Fire by Amber Lough


2.  Dictee by Theresa Has Kyung Cha



4.  Becoming Unbecoming by Una


5.  Rebel by Marie Lu


6. The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish 


7. The Tyrant's Tomb by Rick Riordan


8. The Weight of a Soul by Elizabeth Tammi 


9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison


10. Prophets of the Ghost Ants by Clark Thomas Carlton


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Open Fire by Amber Lough

Open Fire
by Amber Lough
Publication Date: March 3rd 2020
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Find This Book: Open Fire 
Rating: 3.5/5

I was given an ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for honest review.

I don’t know much about early female military groups, or even much about the Russian front in basically any wars because of how the US school system always frames history, so I jumped at the chance to read a YA book starring the first female Russian battalion. I loved getting to learn about Katya and her complex relationships, her family history gets teased out chapter by chapter as we learn about her mother, father, brother, and best friend Masha. Her disagreements and ultimate understanding with her brother was beautiful as they both navigate the consequences of war and current political upheaval. Weaving through Katya’s story is a beautiful bedtime story about Saint Olga, told to Katya by her father years before all of the events that take place. Characterizing her father and visualizing her attachment to this saint in particular was a great way to add layers and emotions to both Katya and her absentee father who is, during the events of the book, stationed indefinitely on Russia’s warfront. The writing was captivating and seemingly well researched. I certainly learned a lot, and was sitting on the edge of my seat when the battalion ends up on the front lines!

Some other reviews have mentioned that the book falls a bit flat, which I can understand from the perspective of a ‘climax’ but a believe that is essential, if not inherent, to a World War I novel. Yes, Katya trained extensively and didn’t accomplish much while on the battlefield; but that is what trench warfare was. It was a grueling, thankless, task of taking the opponent’s trenches that inevitably was lost again. It was an endless stalemate, and it’s hard to make trench warfare interesting. That all being said, I didn’t find this ending to necessarily be about the setting, and more about how Katya started off the book trying to figure out who she was and if she would be brave or a coward when facing down death, and she found her answer. I found the climax to be this sudden understanding of the self, and it was quite beautiful.

I couldn’t rate this a full 4 or 5 stars because it felt like too much was being squished into the story by adding Sergei as a character. I understand that historically a lot was going on with the start of the Bolshevik revolution during this time period, but I think this lost a bit of my focus. I’m  not sure if I would have enjoyed it more if the Bolsheviks had been cut, or if their presence had been more fully developed. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

Down the TBR Hole #4

Created by Lia @Lost in a Story

It works like this:
Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
Order on ascending date added.
Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if youre feeling adventurous) books.
Read the synopses
 of the books
Decide: keep it or should it go?
My Goodreads TBR currently has 819 books on it, and this post is all books I added in 2012, so I'm really looking forward to cleansing my list!

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1)

This is a huge series that I'm still hearing fantastic things about, so I will definite have to keep this on my tbr list. I'll get there eventually!!!

Decision: Keep


I honestly don't even remember adding this book to my list, but I read so few horror books that I can't bear to part with this one. Now that we're getting into the winter months I see myself settling down with a  cup of tea and reading this spooky book soon!

Decision: Keep

Tiger's Curse (The Tiger Saga #1)

This might be a bit controversial because I feel like everyone I know ever has read this series, and the cover is soooo gorgeous, but 2012 me was super into prophecies and spells and I'm trying to cut down a bit this overload of fantasy. I found myself not too curious about what curse had to be broken, and that's when I knew this book wasn't making the cut.

Decision: Go

Tiger Lily

Jodi Lynn Anderson wrote one of my all-time favorite books, Midnight at the Electric, and I am definitely reading her Peter Pan retelling before I die.

Decision: Keep

A Touch Mortal (The Sider Series #1)

Eden and Az form some sort of supernatural romance here that cringed reading about, but teen me would have adored this book I'm sure. I just have a quota of how many weird "unique" white people names I can handle and Az was too much for me to handle lol

Decision: Go


I actually own this book and it's taken me year and years and years to get to, but one day I WILL read this. The world-building I've heard is amazing. Essentially, abortion is illegal  but between the ages of 13 and 18 a legal guardians can choose to have their child 'unwound' and reduced to organs to be donated. Wild, right?

Decision: Keep

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)

While having never had this book (obviously) I've seen the cover so often is gives me warm fuzzy feelings for Bookstagram. The plot of leaving an arranged marriage for a pagan sisterhood intrigues me immensely, so it's definitely a keeper!

Decision: Keep


I feel like this is yes another series every expect myself has read, and honestly I'm totally fine with things staying that way. I'm sure it's got some heartfelt body image discussions that some people truly need to hear, but by 2020 I personally feel that's kind of beating a dead horse.

Decision: Go

Stormdancer (The Lotus Wars #1)

The description (a child of the Fox clan sent on a quest to capture a Thunder Tiger) reminds me a bit of The Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee, with fox mythology. I'm ~always~ up for more mythology retellings!

Decision: Keep

I've finally made it to a book on my tbr that I added in 2013! It only took going through about 300 books to get through my 2012 tbr list >.<  This is the story of Alina who finds out she has magical powers and is going to be trained to be a member of the Grisha. The goodreads reviews are pretty strong, and this book still makes the rounds on Bookstagram occasionally, so I'll be keeping this one as well.

Decision: Keep

Did I make the right decisions?? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Song of the Crimson Flower by Julie C. Dao

Song of the Crimson Flower
Julie C. Dao
Publication Date: November 5th 2019
Publisher: Philomel
Find This Book: Song of the Crimson Flower
Rating: 4/5

I was given an ARC of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

As you can see, the cover is STUNNING and I was so excited to get an ARC of this after how much I enjoyed Dao's Evil Queen retelling in Forest of a Thousand Lanturns. Song of the Crimson Flower takes place in the same universe, which means an awesome myth and magic system that I'm already familiar with frames the story. The best part? Stone-hearted girls with swords have taken over the YA industry recently and this book is NOT one of them! The main character is Bao, the physician's assistant, and Lan, a noble woman with basically zero skills but an amazing sense of right and wrong. My soft children strike out on a quest to break a curse and get more than they thought they signed up for. 

If you're looking for a story with kind, relatable characters, THIS is the book for you. If you're looking for a cool magic system with witches and curses and an awful lot of boating and horseback riding, THIS book is for you! Don't get me wrong, this book will have action and tension in it!! But the characters are gentle and emotional and it makes alllllll the difference. I found Bao and Lan so easy to connect to and this change up from the current genre trope made for very compelling and vulnerable scenes.

The only reason this book isn't getting 5 stars is because there was no doubt in my mind how the book was going to end and nothing in the last 40 pages or so provoked the thoughts or emotions I expected to be feeling after how amazing the lead up was. It's a sweet story, but I thought I'd be on my toes a bit for the finale and I wasn't.

That being said, I would highly recommend this book about heartwarming characters who are passionate about helping others, politics (we do have a war about to break out after all), and of course love.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Quests and Quandaries by Alda Yuan

Quests and Quandaries 
By Alda Yuan 
Publication Date: December 16th 2018 
Publisher: N/A 
Find This Book: Quests and Quandaries
Rating: 3.5/5 

I was given a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

In this case, definitely don't judge a book by its cover! Alda Yuan's self published book Quests and Quandaries holds a treasure trove of fantasy tropes just waiting to be poked fun at, which a nice philosophical thought process about how much control the characters (and perhaps the readers themselves) have over their own lives. 

I really like the sort of self aware, satirical angle this book took. It was refreshing to see a character acknowledging how things turn out a specific way, because that's how quests and epics always go in the stories! The characters and different lands were lots of fun as well. I particularly enjoyed when Rahni watched how her world came to be (a beetle created her land, and the world is suspended by wires). Cementing a mythological story as "truth" was very cool.

The only thing I didn't enjoy was all the footnotes. There were 324 footnotes and they're very hard to open and read on a kindle device. I was curious to what they contained, so I read them all. Unfortunately, only about 10% actually answered a question a reader might have in the relevant scene. Most of the footnotes did not add anything to the story, and some of them even confused me more by mentioning characters not in the book! Furthermore, it would have been nice if the 4 rules *were* footnoted whenever they were mentioned, but they were not important enough to get footnotes I guess. The rules are read once towards the beginning, and rule #4 isn't brought up again until the end. I had no clue what the rule was by then!

That being said, the footnotes only brought this book down by one star. It's still a hilarious fantasy book that I would recommend to those who don't take their tropes and cliches too seriously.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Spin the Dawn
By Elizabeth Lim
Publication Date: July 9th 2019
Publisher: Knopf
Find This Book: Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1)
Rating: 4/5 

I was given an eARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Spin the Dawn is a precious pearl of a book. The only reason it doesn’t have 5 stars from me is because the pace wasn’t quitewhat I prefer. The gorgeous cover and Mulan description made me want to read it ASAP and I was so excited when I was approved for this arc. The book itself was just as awesome as the cover! Lim takes us into an East-Asian inspired fantasy world with a setting very similar to China, and mythology that seems lightly based in Shintoism (the sun goddess Amana/Amaterasu is upset by a and the sun goes away, creating the cycle of night and say. There are even mythical decedents of Amana, though they are not royalty like in Japan.

The novel is about a girl named Maia, who is “enlisted” like Mulan to replace a male figure. In this case, she is taken to compete to be the new Imperial Tailor, as the Emperor’s old tailor just died. The book Is broken into three parts, all with their own intrigues. In the beginning you’re learning about how the Summer Palace works, how the social hierarchy is laid out, and how the book understands and defines magic. Later on, Maia has to prove herself by going on a thrilling and dangerous adventure to make mythical dresses out of the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of the stars. Are these ingredients even real, and does Maia have what it takes to collect them???

The book didn’t ‘twist’ persay, as I feel twists include a bit of a jolt in the narrative, but the ending was certainly unexpected. There were many parts of it I didn’t see coming, but it all flowed together perfectly- the ideal balance! If you’re looking for fantasy, magic, and/or #ownvoices rep- Lim spins the perfect tale with Spin the Dawn!