Thursday, January 9, 2020

Children of Virtue and Vengence by Tomi Adeyemi

Summary from Goodreads:
After battling the impossible, Zélie and Amari have finally succeeded in bringing magic back to the land of Orïsha. But the ritual was more powerful than they could’ve imagined, reigniting the powers of not only the maji, but of nobles with magic ancestry, too.

Now, Zélie struggles to unite the maji in an Orïsha where the enemy is just as powerful as they are. But when the monarchy and military unite to keep control of Orïsha, Zélie must fight to secure Amari's right to the throne and protect the new maji from the monarchy's wrath.

With civil war looming on the horizon, Zélie finds herself at a breaking point: she must discover a way to bring the kingdom together or watch as Orïsha tears itself apart.
This was a good book 2. It wasn’t quite as good as I wanted it to be, but it was still pretty solid. It took me a little too long to get my bearings and remember all the characters and where things were left after book 1. Once I finally put all the pieces together, I was there and ready for action, but action was kind of a long time coming.
There’s a lot of slowness and sadness in this book. There’s more death. And poor Zelie is just so tired of failing over and over. It’s hard for her to see all her accomplishments from book 1 because of all of the loved ones she’s lost and the person who’s betrayed her. She’s a bit broken in this second book. She’s less sure. I found myself actually liking Amari more than Zelie for much of the book.
I wanted to slap some sense/strength back into Zelie. And I think Amari and everyone else wanted to do this too. On the other hand because of Zelie’s attitude we get to meet the rebellion. And they are awesome. The magic is awesome. Watching Zelie’s people embrace magic again is just the best.

A lot goes down politically and it felt a little more like a soap opera of a political event than an actual civil war. Everything that happened within the family of the monarchy just seemed over-the-top and cliché. Gone was the scariness of book 1, and it was kind of replaced with an evil Disney villain instead….and not in a good way.
Beside that though, I couldn’t put the book down. I love the mythology and folklore behind it all. I love the cast of characters and how flawed they are. I love seeing them realize each other’s flaws and learn to work around them. It’s not easy sailing for this friendship. The last 50 pages was a whirlwind of action, and oh my goodness that ending! I had to re-read it a few times to make sure it actually happened. It’s going to be a long wait for the last book.
All in all, this was a solid book 2. It wasn’t as good as book 1 (though they usually aren’t). The characters were amazing. The world was even more developed and fascinating than before. I liked the suspense and action (though it did take a hot minute to develop). The monarchy/bad guy situations was a little too cliché for my liking, but who knows what will happen in book 3. I have high expectations for it. I give this one an 8/10.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott

Summary from Goodreads:
Say her name and solemnly vow

Never to forget, or allow

Our sisters’ lives to be erased;

Their presence cannot be replaced.

This senseless slaughter must stop now.

Award-winning author Zetta Elliott engages poets from the past two centuries to create a chorus of voices celebrating the creativity, resilience, and courage of Black women and girls. Inspired by the #SayHerName campaign launched by the African American Policy Forum, these poems pay tribute to victims of police brutality as well as the activists championing the Black Lives Matter cause. This compelling collection reveals the beauty, danger, and magic found at the intersection of race and gender.
I don’t believe I’ve ever reviewed a book of poetry on this blog before. I do sometimes read books that I don’t review. They are often adult fiction or nonfiction, and sometimes they are poetry books. I guess there’s not a lot of YA poetry out there. When I received this book, I was so excited to get a chance to talk poetry here. Not only is this a YA poetry book, but it’s a feminist, Black Lives Matter YA poetry book.
I was going to just read a couple of poems when I first got it, and get back to the rest of the book later (after I finished a couple novels I was reading). But instead, I actually, read the whole book in one sitting. It’s beautiful. And like books of short stories, some poems spoke to me more than others. The poem, “Lullaby” made me cry. The poems “Black Lives Matter” and “Men Made of Glass,” gave me goose bumps. Other poems I’ve read over and over and they just resonate so strongly with me.
Each page is accompanied by these colorful, graphic prints. The illustrations are done by Loveis Wise. And they make the book a celebration. Without them, the whole thing would have a very different vibe. The pictures allow the words to be honored and celebrated, and not just mourned and cried over. And the words deserve celebration. They are seriously goose bump inducing.

The author does a write-up at the end to explain the inspiration for her work. A lot was inspired by famous black women poets, some I recognize, some I don’t.  Now, I want to go look up the ones I don’t know. A lot of her words came from her reactions to recent events of racism and violence. And seeing what inspired the poet to write gave even more power to her words. All in all, I loved this book. I plan on keeping it nearby so I can go back and re-read these beautiful poems whenever I need to. I give it a 10/10.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater

Summary from Goodreads:
The dreamers walk among us . . . and so do the dreamed. Those who dream cannot stop dreaming – they can only try to control it. Those who are dreamed cannot have their own lives – they will sleep forever if their dreamers die.

And then there are those who are drawn to the dreamers. To use them. To trap them. To kill them before their dreams destroy us all.

Ronan Lynch is a dreamer. He can pull both curiosities and catastrophes out of his dreams and into his compromised reality.

Jordan Hennessy is a thief. The closer she comes to the dream object she is after, the more inextricably she becomes tied to it.

Carmen Farooq-Lane is a hunter. Her brother was a dreamer . . . and a killer. She has seen what dreaming can do to a person. And she has seen the damage that dreamers can do. But that is nothing compared to the destruction that is about to be unleashed. . . .
I don’t know why I was weirdly hesitant to start this book. Maybe I felt like I really said goodbye to the characters of the Raven Cycle and I wasn’t prepared to enter back into this dark, magical world yet. Or maybe I knew this would be a little tough to read because Ronan was a little tough to read. Or maybe I was just in denial. This book was everything. Maggie Steifvater is a genius.
She somehow combines a tragic love story, with top-notch family drama, supernatural darkness of epic proportions, art, heists, fairy markets, nightmares, and creatures and places I haven’t even begun to understand yet alone have ever seen before. They say all stories are basically taken from stories that have already been told. I feel like everything Stiefvater writes is something that has never been done before. She shocks me in her ingenuity. Even in a genre (paranormal romance) where I have read each trope before and there are millions of tropes, this just reads as new.
I was hooked from page one. I was even hooked on the characters I didn’t think I’d like (aka: the new ones). I was fascinated by the new characters and glad to have some more females in the story. I’m also so interested in learning about the dreams. There’s so much to what Ronan can do that I don’t even think he knows yet. And I can’t wait to read about him discovering it.
And then there’s Adam! Ahhh. I love the love story! I ship them so hard. All the mistakes and awkwardness and moments in Boston were just pure gold. Also amazing were the texts with a certain favorite character from the series before. I definitely recommend reading the Raven Cycle books first. This one won’t make that much sense without the knowledge given in the previous books.
The suspense in this book is amazing. The stakes are high. Everything is life or death. And I loved every second of it. This author is a master at tying all the little pieces together, and I cannot wait to see where everything goes. I cannot wait for the next one. This gets a 10/10.

Monday, January 6, 2020

A Good Week in Books (212) / Where I've Been Lately

Happy New Year! What a crazy, remarkable, love-filled, heartfelt year. 2019 was both one of the best years of my life and one of the hardest ones. I got married to my best friend. We went to Paris on our honeymoon. I celebrated with friends and family. I had my first married holiday season.
I was also diagnosed with severe migraines (added to some other GI health issues I’ve been diagnosed with in the past couple of years, and my health became more challenging). I’ve seemed to have finally found some help in dealing with the pain though, so that’s good news. I lost 35 pounds this year, which is good for my health, but I still have a long way to go.
I also lost a family friend (granted one I haven’t spoken to in a long time) to suicide and this hit me hard. I always really loved this person and even writing this now, brings tears to my eyes. I have now lost two people to suicide.
Any way, my reading this year took a bit of a hit. Migraines make reading super hard. I did get more into audiobooks than ever before. But, I think I’m finally back on track to where I want to be. I only read 75 books last year (compared to my normal 100). And a lot of those books were graphic novels. I’m aiming for 100 again this year. We’ll see what happens! I’ve read 7 books since my last blog post, so I guess I need to play catch up here too.
I received 1 new one for review (thanks Freeform Books), I bought 1 new book for myself as a holiday present, and I received 1 other book as holiday present from a good friend.

Sorcery of Thorns
by Margaret Rogerson
Reverie by Ryan La Sala
What I want you to see by Catherine Linka

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

Summary from Goodreads:
Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity…

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black, comes the highly anticipated and jaw-dropping finale to The Folk of the Air trilogy.
As I mentioned on Goodreads, this is the kind of book and the kind of series I already want to reread all over again. I wish I owned this one, instead of getting it from library. I might have to go buy it. Holly Black is a master. I literally spent my first half of my day off in bed, reading this in one sitting. I didn’t even get up for bathroom or snack breaks!
I was nervous I’d have trouble remembering the previous book, but as soon as I started the first page, I got sucked right back into the story. I just love Jude so much. I love how flawed she is. She is so stubborn, but so strong. I love that she just has to know about things back at the court and because of this she gets roped into a fight she doesn’t expect to win. I love that she knows what her flaws are, but it doesn’t stop her.
There was so much I was hoping for in this installment. My inner optimist wanted all the love to happen, but was terrified there was no way all the love I wanted possibly could. And as the ending was getting closer and closer, and it seemed that I was guessing the darkest of all endings was drawing nearer, I almost put the book down, dreading what was to come. But, I’m glad I kept going in one full swoop. Holly Black is just a master at what she does. She gets the darkness, but also the magic and the romance of fairytales in a way no other author does. She makes me both terrified and also entranced and in need of going to this dark, terrible place as much Jude needs to.
I also have come to love Jude’s unique, and growing family of misfits. I love her sister in the mortal world (and her girlfriend). I love her little brother (and heir). I love her twin even though she’s betrayed her in book’s past. I love her spy friends. And I love the weird fairy creatures she befriends and brings to her cause with her strange sense of strength and justice. Jude is just a force. Watching her become the character she finishes the book as, is just a treat. And like I said, I kind of want to go back to the beginning and start afresh. That’s how much I got into this. Oh, and Cardan! He’s grown so much too! It was nice to see some of his character growth as well.
This book is loaded with plot twists, surprise magical moments, romance, family drama, battles, political war, and random moments of humor. I literally was gasping in shock one moment, sobbing tears the next, biting my nails a few second later, and leaping with joy a few seconds after that. You feel all the feels in this one. I loved the end. It felt like a great, dark fairytale ending. These books would make amazing movies. Just saying. I can’t wait to see what Holly Black does next. I give this a 10/10.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo

Summary from Goodreads:
10 00 p.m.: Lucky is the biggest K-pop star on the scene, and she's just performed her hit song "Heartbeat" in Hong Kong to thousands of adoring fans. She's about to debut on The Tonight Show in America, hopefully a breakout performance for her career. But right now? She's in her fancy hotel, trying to fall asleep but dying for a hamburger.

11 00 p.m.: Jack is sneaking into a fancy hotel, on assignment for his tabloid job that he keeps secret from his parents. On his way out of the hotel, he runs into a girl wearing slippers, a girl who is single-mindedly determined to find a hamburger. She looks kind of familiar. She's very cute. He's maybe curious.

12:00 a.m.: Nothing will ever be the same.
This was not my favorite book. There were things in it that really spoke to me. I love YA books that take place in other countries, particulatly ones I’ve never been to –like China. I love that it was described as a Roman Holiday type story. I love travel romances. Something has just always called to me about them.
I also loved the idea of reading a book from the perspective of a K-pop star! I don’t know a ton about K-pop. But, I’d love to learn more. I took a Korean class in high school, and I’ve always been a little fascinated by the culture. So, I was excited to learn more. I was a little sad that Lucky was pretending to be normal the whole time, and I didn’t really get to see her as herself. I wanted to see her be the K-pop version of her true self. And I didn’t really get to see that until the end. So, it wasn’t the learning expereience I was hoping it would be.
Still, that doesn’t make or break a book for me. And it looked like the book had enough other cuteness going for it. Oh, and the food! I love how much Lucky loves food! I was starving reading this. I want dumplings and noodles so bad, even writing this review! And maybe a hamburger, too.
I guess my real problem stems from the fact that Lucky was drugged up for her big romantic day. And because she was on sleeping pills and anxiety meds (that should have put her to sleep), she wasn’t in the right frame of mind. And this made me hate Jack. Jack mistook her for being drunk…But still, it just felt like he was taking advantage of her. And I never shipped them. Their whole romantic night in the city was just spoiled by this icky feeling of him taking advantage her in this state…and is this the best message for a YA novel? That girls should be falling in love and making huge life–changing decisions while on drugs that are meant to put you to sleep?
And Jack is also working for Tabloids, which is also supposed to bother me. That didn’t really bother me though like the whole Lucky not being in the right frame of mind for the whole night, thing did…And if you’re going to mention anxiety medication, can you then explain why she is on the medicine? It’s never brought up. Her anxiety is brushed aside. Her eating disorder is brushed aside. Her mistreatment by her managers is pushed aside. And then Jack thinking she was drunk is also pushed aside. Nothing is taken seriously enough in my opinion. I would have rated this book so much higher if she was in a more stable state of mind for her romantic night. And if things were taken more seriously. All in all though, I give it a 4/10.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Toll by Neal Shusterman

Summary from Goodreads:
It’s been three years since Rowan and Citra disappeared; since Scythe Goddard came into power; since the Thunderhead closed itself off to everyone but Grayson Tolliver.

In this pulse-pounding conclusion to Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe trilogy, constitutions are tested and old friends are brought back from the dead.
I wrote on Goodreads that I haven’t been this invested in a dystopian story in years. This book is insane. The twists, turns, darkness, and world building are unbelievable. It’s one of the best final books of a series I’ve read in a very long time. To say that Neal Shusterman blew me away again would be an understatement.
Shusterman has this uncanny ability to write both deeply thought-provoking narratives, and not so far-fetched dystopias rooted in current dark political climates. Unwind came from the Woman’s’ Rights movement. This series comes from several things: mass climate change, overpopulation, AI, and government corruption. And wow, can Shusterman connect the dots of a futuristic society to today. There are moments when the evil dictator character is so clearly a shadow version of Trump. But, I don’t even think its’ the tongue and cheek satire a lot of people will read that as. I feel like it’s the author saying: power is power. And anyone with absolute power is corrupt. And isn’t that the theme of almost all dystopias, even the classics like 1984?
There are elements here that remind me of the classics. There are hints of Fahrenheit 451, 1984, and Animal Farm. But, also, I saw little inspirational tidbits from The Hunger Games, The Giver, and The Handmaid’s Tale. This author did his research. He respects the dystopias of the past, but also makes a story completely his own. And the book becomes very sci-fi at the end. I will not go into detail about why because I would seriously spoil things if I did. And somehow, remarkably, so much is left out of all descriptions/blurbs/summaries I’ve come across online. And trust me, it’s better to go into this blindly.
Just know that the book is loaded with religious extremism, violence, mass murder, mass prejudice, dangerous law changes in regards to the changes in leadership, insane plot twists, conspiracy theories, computer hacking, underwater scavenging, scythes from around the world, grief, sadness, perseverance, rebellion, and hope. It was hard to put this book down. I had to know what the Thunderhead was planning. I had to know when the characters would all meet up and how. I had to know what on the earth the conspiracies were! And I absolutely had to know what on earth happened to Rown and Citra, really (which I must warn you, does not get addressed for a very long time!).
There were a few moments where things might have seemed a little too convenient for me at the end. And if I thought about things too closely, there might have been a loophole or two, but I honestly don’t care. I was so engrossed in the story, in the world, in the characters, and the outcome. This is the kind of book that first brought me into the YA universe. And it is the kind I crave and hope for all the time. I highly recommend this series. I give it a 10/10.