Book Review: Sky in the Deep

Trigger/Content Warnings: Violence, graphic scenes of torture, animal sacrifice/death, sexual assault, discussion of sexual assault/rape.


41s62HDbBcL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Official Blurb:

OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient, rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield―her brother, fighting with the enemy―the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

“We find things, just as we lose things.” ~ Adrienne Young

SKY IN THE DEEP, for all its violence, is a bit of a quiet read. It moves quickly with its short chapters, but digs deep into the main character’s emotions. It deals with subjects that are heavy but poignant: family; loss; and most especially, the idea of othering. Who is really other, the book seems to ask.

At the core of the novel is an enemies to lovers romance trope, one of my favorites, but it goes beyond that, too. The story is about sacrifice and learning to realize how we define “enemy” and how flimsy that concept can be sometimes. It is a quiet reflection on the bias we hold because we were raised to hold it, a tough yet important subject set in a high fantasy world inspired by Viking lore, where it is perhaps easier to examine.

Sky in the Deep isn’t necessarily a book I would traditionally give five stars, because quiet books tend not to be my personal favorite, but this one was buoyed by a character who struck me deeply for one simple fact. She was not afraid to cry. Eelyn is a warrior, trained to kill her enemy without mercy since she was a toddler. Yet she cries on page–well, a lot–for lack of a more delicate way to say it. At first, I found it irritating, then I realized that by allowing her character this sensitivity, this vulnerability, Adrienne Young was doing something quite spectacular — she was giving us more than a warrior. She was giving us femininity in many of its possible forms, which is something I often find lacking in high-powered fantasy featuring lady warriors. Women warriors in literature tend to mirror their male counterparts by refusing to shed a tear. When they do cry, they are frequently critiqued by readers for doing so (NOT that I think that’s how men should be instructed to act, either), and I’ve often questioned this tendency. Are we being good feminists by making our females mirrors of men? Or are we being reactionary by saying, “I can do anything you can do.” Which is true, women can, but in my opinion, they should also do it in their own way. They should be strong in a way that is true to them. And Eeyln, remarkably, was.

So for this quiet book with a lot to say, I raise my glass and say well done. I cannot wait to read the next.

Question of the day: What’s the last quiet book you read and loved?

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❤ Aimee

Book Review: Spin the Dawn

Trigger/Content Warnings: War, PTSD, disabilities caused by war, fire, general mild violence.


51s0ENhtkLL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Official Blurb: Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

“Don’t become the kite that never flies.” ~ Elizabeth Lim

This review is long overdue because SPIN THE DAWN, Elizabeth Lim’s stunning debut, was my favorite read for the month of August. I was originally attracted to Spin the Dawn because of its beautiful cover but also the fact that it was blurbed by Tamora Pierce. Tamora Pierce is one of my favorite authors of all time and she does not blurb many books, so my curiosity was piqued seeing her praise of this one. So, even though I wasn’t 100% sure on the blurb (due to the fact that I’m not so into fashion), I grabbed a copy on sale at Barnes & Noble.

Guys, this book is not really about fashion. I mean, it IS. The main character’s main goal is to become the royal tailor. Problem is, she’s a girl, and only a man can occupy that position. But there is SO much more going on in this book than a Project Runway styled competition. This book is SO much more than a Mulan retelling (although it is that and it’s such an interesting take). When I was about one third of the way through, I understood why Tamora Pierce had blurbed it: the book is paced like one of hers. And if you don’t know what I mean by that, I mean it is FAST. Elizabeth Lim has a way with handling time. She manages to put a lot of information and time and action and adventure into not a lot of pages. It’s definitely what I admired most about this book.

My second favorite aspect of Spin the Dawn was the heart-pumping, butterfly-inducing, swoon-worthy romance. If you’ve been around here long enough you know I am a SUCKER for a good romance, and this one was excellent. I don’t want to spoil it, so I won’t go into details, but trust me, it was good.

Overall, I’d recommend this book to fans of Tamora Pierce and Sarah J. Maas, or anyone who loves Project Runway, or anyone who enjoys a great, high-paced fantasy with lots of romance, orrrrr anyone at all, really. Seriously, it’s good, go get it!

Question of the day: Who is an author you admire for his/her/their skills when it comes to pacing?

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❤ Aimee

Book Review: Nevernight

Trigger/Content Warnings: Extreme violence, gore, death. Violence toward children, child death, animal abuse and death, extreme brutality, sexual content, and prostitution. Emotional manipulation, use of sex as a weapon, torture, and slavery.


51PXn+wAl2LOfficial Blurb: In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, a sixteen year old Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic — the Red Church. Treachery and trials await her with the Church’s halls, and to fail is to die. But if she survives to initiation, Mia will be inducted among the chosen of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the only thing she desires.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

“The books we love, they love us back. And just as we mark our places in the pages, those pages leave their marks on us.” ~ Jay Kristoff

Mia Corvere, the main character of Jay Kristoff’s NEVERNIGHT, is the anti-heroine any writer worth his/her/their salt salivates over. Mia is feisty, strong, powerful, and murderous, yet she never loses her humanity (or her charm). Her motivation is clear, as are her goals. She is focused, but not mechanical. She makes mistakes and wrong choices. But we never stop rooting for her.

From almost the first page—actually—from the first page, I was hooked. Kristoff is a master of his craft. His writing is descriptive but not wordy, blunt but not boring, and darkly humorous. It sucks you in and spits you back out begging for more. More Mia, more Mr. Kindly, more violence and brutality and blood.

Nevernight was so good that as soon as I closed my Audible app on book one, I immediately began book two, Godsgrave. Yes, I did listen to it, and yes, I did love the narrator, though I have heard mixed reviews on him with this book. Personally, I thought Holter Graham gave the story a bit more magic and mystery. I felt like I was listening to a grand narrator of a play. He made it sound like theater, and for this particular story, I thought it was more than appropriate.

I will make a special note for this book, however, as I’ve seen this come up on multiple occasions. Nevernight is NOT young adult. It is an adult book with a protagonist who is a young adult. These are not the same thing. This book is incredibly violent, has explicit sex scenes, and is full of cursing and dark jokes. If these are not your cup of tea, I promise you, you will not like this book. Be warned.

As for me, September 3rd and the release of the final book of the trilogy, Darkdawn, cannot come soon enough!

Question of the day: What’s your most anticipated fall release?

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❤ Aimee

Book Review: The Hunger Games

Trigger/Content Warnings: Violence, violence toward children, child death, child mutilation, sexual assault, war, poverty, starvation, depression, suicidal ideation and thought, PTSD.


41ir9m8QQnL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Official Blurb: In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.

 

My Take: 5/5 Stars for overall series, 5/5 for The Hunger Games, 5/5 for Catching Fire, 4/5 for Mockingjay.

Stupid people are dangerous.

~ Suzanne Collins

I know, I know, I know. What rock have I been hiding under? To be honest, I hesitated to even post this review because … old news, seriously. However, I am a little lean on five star books these days (partly my fault for not making the time to read and partly a bit of a slump I think) and this series is really very good, so I wanted to post a Five Star Series Review.

The thing that works the best for me about this series is the subtlety of the evolution of Katniss’s character. It’s like a slow burn character arc that by book three makes you feel completely wrung out, right along with Katniss. But it’s magical the way it works because it sneaks up on you so you don’t even really notice it’s happening. With all the violence in this book, the character arc is very light-handed. It works brilliantly which is good because honestly, with all the violence this series brings to it, if a single other thing was heavy handed, I don’t know that the series would be readable.

In addition to the character arc of the whole series, The Hunger Games in particular, but also Catching Fire are brilliantly paced. I read them both in one day each because I could hardly put them down (even having watched the movies and therefore knowing what was coming). The world building is equally as interesting and dynamic, again, even having watched the movies. The contrast between the Districts, and the Capitol, and then the arena, is striking. I honestly wish we had a spinoff though that took me on a tour of some of the other Districts, particularly four and seven (Finnick and Johanna’s Districts). I guess this is what fanfiction is for!

But everyone who follows this blog knows the final word on “good book” is whether you have a book hangover when it’s all said and done. And let me tell you, by the time I got to the end of Mockingjay I felt like I might not be in any shape to read for at least a week. It was SUCH an intense ride. And if a series can do that to you when you know how it all ends, then it’s definitely doing something right!

What’s an older backlist series you really want to read but haven’t gotten to yet?

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❤ Always,

Aimee

 

 

 

Book Review: Furyborn

Trigger/Content Warnings: Violence, parental neglect, emotional abuse (parental), sexual assault.


51cl1gq0zuL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Official Blurb:  When assassins ambush her best friend, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing herself as one of a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light, and a queen of blood. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven elemental magic trials. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

One thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a fairy tale to Eliana Ferracora. A bounty hunter for the Undying Empire, Eliana believes herself untouchable―until her mother vanishes. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain and discovers that the evil at the empire’s heart is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world―and of each other.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

Some say the Queen was frightened in her last moments. But I like to think that she was angry.

~ Claire Legrand

Those who know me know that I am a sucker for elemental magic. My own books are about elemental magic. The very first manuscript I ever wrote, at the tender age of twelve, featured a mage who could wield all six elements within my magic system, so when I read the blurb of FURYBORN, I was all in.

Furyborn turned out to have so much more intricacy than simply its magic system, though. The storytelling was impressive. The book is written from two points of view, two women with powers who live a thousand years apart. Yet, as their stories weave in and out of one another and start to come together, the reader has no choice but to find herself in awe of the net she’s been pulled into. It’s a book that unravels itself, and leaves the reader thinking about it long after the pages are done. One of those books that almost demands a reread now that you understand it in its entirety. It’s spectacularly well done.

In addition to the magical way the story unwinds itself, the characters are unique and dynamic. Their development through book one is smooth and well-integrated. Even knowing what the reader knows about the characters at the outset, she can’t help but be sucked into the dramas of their lives (and trust me, their lives ARE dramatic). Legrand pulls the reader along, wending through the twists and turns of the character arc of each of her point of view characters as they crisscross one another like comets shooting in opposing directions. As a reader, you want to know more about these characters. You want to follow them, so as a writer, Legrand definitely knocked this one out of the park.

Furyborn is dark, though, definitely at the upper spectrum of young adult into the new adult territory. But if you’re into elemental magic and inspired plotting, this book is for you.

If you could have only one elemental power, what would it be?

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❤ Always,

Aimee

Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone

Trigger/Content Warnings: Violence, sexual assault, physical assault, murder, themes of racism/brutality against black bodies, emotional abuse, parental abuse, slavery.


A1agLFsWkOLOfficial Blurb:

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

I teach you to be warriors in the garden so you will never be gardeners in the war.” ~ Tomi Adeyemi

I feel like I have to premise this post by telling you about how much I admire Tomi Adeyemi. Number one, she’s a Harvard grad which always impresses me (I’m a snob, I’ll admit it). Number two, she was only 24 years old when this book, her debut, came out and hit the NYT Bestsellers List at NUMBER ONE. It’s been on The List for 61 consecutive weeks. And she was even YOUNGER when she landed her record-setting, three-book deal. Also, I’ve listened to her on several podcasts and the like, and she’s brilliant and inspirational.

So why did it take me so long to get to this read if I admire her so much and KNEW this book would land on my Five Star list? Well, because I’m kind of a jerk about big books these days (I know, it’s ridiculous, I used to adore big books but as I get older I just… hesitate), and this book was a TOME on my front door. I had it pre-ordered (naturally) and was so excited when it arrived. Then I opened it and… it was bigger than I expected.

Anyway, I have been trying to break myself of this stupid, new fear over big books by getting them on audiobook, which I did for CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE, and I’m actually SUPER glad I listened to this one. It’s narrated by Bahni Turpin who is one of my favorite audiobook narrators in general, but this was the best performance of hers I’ve heard thus far. It was magical. Bahni SINGS in this book, and I seriously never wanted her to stop. I wanted her to sing me the entire book. I wanted someone to put her on a stage and make this into a single-player performance. It would be long, I admit, but maybe we could do like a fifteen-part series? Please? I know the book has sold movie rights, but can someone cast Bahni? It was such an amazing listen. Also, I just looked Bahni up to see who I’d cast her as, and she’s gorgeous and would TOTALLY be an amazing mom to Zélie, just saying. If anyone at Fox 2000 stumbles upon this gushing rant, you can take this idea.

Ahem… back to the book. Children of Blood and Bone was as magical as Bahni’s performance of it, naturally. It had me from page one. One of the hardest things about writing a book, somewhat weirdly, is finding the right place to start it. This book had about the best starting point of anything I’ve read in recent memory, which made my writing brain happy.

That wasn’t all, either. Stylistically, this book was smart. Because I don’t do spoilers here, I won’t get into anything too complicated, but I will say that there are creatures in Adeyemi’s book that are constructed in a way that had me going, “Wow, that’s really brilliant what she did there.” The way she constructed her world, and her characters, had me really thinking about how much work she put into the writing of this novel.

Yet with all its smart style and flashy world building, what resonates probably the most with the reader is characterization. Adeyemi’s characters stick with you. They’re delightfully messy, fully rounded, and totally relatable. Even the villain. This book is written in three points of view and each one brings you a different worldview, all as understandable and complicated as the next. Through the different lenses she uses, Adeyemi brilliant fleshes out the complications of her world, and ours. Again, smart.

Needless to say, I adored this book. But forewarning, it did end on an aching cliffhanger. Good news though, the next book Virtue and Vengeance, is slated to release in December of this year. And yes, I have it preordered already!

Tuesday’s Question: Who is your favorite audiobook narrator?

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❤ Aimee

 

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes

Trigger/Content Warnings: Violence, rape/sexual assault, physical assault, domestic violence, slavery.


27774758Official Blurb: Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

There are two kinds of guilt: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.

~ Sabaa Tahir

I am late to this party, I know. AN EMBER IN THE ASHES has been on my TBR for so long that the book I own still has the above cover. It was bringing me actual shame to pass by it on my shelf, but I was also daunted because my days have been busy lately and it seemed so… large. But I finally decided to tackle it and WOW.

In some previous blog posts, I talked about a few of my automatic five star rules. I said if a book makes me cry it gets an automatic five-star review. I also said if a book makes me want to create it gets an automatic five-star review. Now, I introduce you to rule number three: the book that makes me stay up past my bedtime to binge read. Because despite the fact that An Ember in the Ashes initially daunted me with its size, I read it in one sitting, staying up well past my bedtime to finish it.

Dynamic. That’s the word that kept running through my mind as I raced through this book. It’s dynamic. This book moves. I could barely wait to get to the end of each page, desperate to turn another, to follow these characters, to know more about them. When we talk about a character-driven story, we should certainly talk about An Ember in the Ashes. The two main characters of this book push it forward in a fast-paced whirl of a song. And I loved every single second of it.

What seemed daunting at first didn’t turn out to be in the least. It was a quick read, if only because I became lost in it. It took me to a place where time no longer mattered. A brilliant story crafted by a brilliant writer. My only regret is that it took me so long to jump on this train!

Tell me about a hyped book that lived up to its hype!

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❤ Aimee

Book Review: Muse of Nightmares

Trigger/Content Warnings: Child abuse, discussion of systematic rape, child neglect, child murder, physical violence, domestic violence, homophobia.


41c28whhx5L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Official Blurb:

Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old.
She believed she knew every horror, and was beyond surprise.
She was wrong.
In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.
Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice–save the woman he loves, or everyone else?–while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of.
As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?
Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this gorgeous sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer.
My Take: 5/5 Stars
Laini Taylor’s first book in this duology, Strange the Dreamer, was a slow starter for me. I had to pick it up and put it back down three times before I tried it on audio. I had heard AMAZING things, and I wanted to give it the chance it deserved. It took me probably between 6-10 hours of listening before I started to REALLY care. But by the end, I was so hooked I could barely click on the download button for MUSE OF NIGHTMARES fast enough.

The slow start made me waiver between 4 and 5 stars for Strange the Dreamer but by the end of it and the beginning of Muse of Nightmares, I was fully committed. I wanted to know everything there was to know about this world Laini had created. I wanted to know more about the gods, about the magic, about the landscape. I wanted to know the backstory of every single morally gray character she created. I wanted so much more Minya. And Laini Taylor did not disappoint.

I loved this book so freaking much, that on the first day I downloaded it on audiobook, I stayed at the gym for TWO HOURS just so I could listen. Then, limping up my apartment steps, I kept it on. I found odd jobs around the house to do so I could continue listening. I finished the 15-hour audiobook faster than any I’ve listened to before: in just two days.

Laini’s characters are complex, deep, interesting. I was rooting for them, ALL of them. Because an interesting thing about these books is that there are no living villains in this world, just people who make bad decisions. That concept is simple and in its simplicity is brilliant and beautiful. I was swept away into her dreamscape, and into Lazlo’s.

Yet by the end, I found myself sated. I don’t want or need a spinoff. A Muse of Nightmares told me everything I wanted to know. This book (the duology really) is buttoned up. It’s as though Laini knew every question I might have and answered it right there on page. As an author, I found that more than impressive. In one word, I found it magical.

This series is magical, and comes highly recommended from me.

Buy Links for STRANGE THE DREAMER:

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Buy Links for A MUSE OF NIGHTMARES:

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What was the last book you read that left you feeling truly satisfied?

❤ Aimee

Book Review: Graceling

Trigger/Content Warnings: Child abuse, child molestation, incest.


3236307Official Blurb: Graceling tells the story of the vulnerable-yet-strong Katsa, who is smart and beautiful and lives in the Seven Kingdoms where selected people are born with a Grace, a special talent that can be anything at all. Katsa’s Grace is killing. As the king’s niece, she is forced to use her extreme skills as his brutal enforcer. Until the day she meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, and Katsa’s life begins to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

Awards: Winner of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, winner of the SIBA Book Award/YA, Indies Choice Book Award Honor Book, ALA Best Book for Young Adults, 2008 Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, 2008 School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Amazon.com’s Best Books of 2008, 2008 Booklist Editors’ Choice, Booklist’s 2008 Top Ten First Novels for Youth, 2009 Amelia Bloomer List, BCCB 2009 Blue Ribbon List

My Take: 5/5 Stars

When a monster stopped behaving like a monster, did it stop being a monster? Did it become something else? ~ Kristin Cashore

GRACELING, Kristin Cashore’s 2008 debut novel has been on my to be read list for about three years. Maybe more. Allowing it to linger there for so long turned out to be a mistake. I berated myself almost the entire read for taking so long to actually read this book. I couldn’t put it down.

This book did young adult fantasy right. The main character was strong and well-rounded, someone you could connect with and root for right away. The story was well-crafted and high-paced, a real page turner. The romance (because if you know me, I like my fantasy with a heavy dose of romance) was the best I’ve read since Kaz and Inez (yes, technically this came first but I didn’t get there first). But I think the thing that blew me away the most was how revolutionary this book was for its time.

Graceling debuted in 2008. To some people that might not seem that long ago, but in terms of publishing and where publishing has come in the past decade, it’s AGES ago. Honestly, the feminism in the book smacks of 2019, not 2008. I mean here we have a character who is in her late teens who says, with certainty, that she does not want to get married or have children, and she is never convinced out of it. I swear, the entire book I kept waiting for that moment when she would cede this decision, or hedge. I waited for the collapse I was certain was coming.

When it didn’t? I seriously almost whooped with joy. We made it through an entire book from a decade ago without the main (female) character ever renouncing her desire to not get married and not have children. For teens today, that may not seem revolutionary, but in 2008? It sort of was. Even more so that the love interest was 100% okay with that decision and never once questioned it. I mean… wow.

My only regret is that I loved it so much I finished it in a day. Wait, I take that back, I have two regrets: not reading it sooner, then reading it too fast. Still, if you haven’t read it and are worried you’ll be disappointed because it’s “old,” don’t worry. You’ll love it.

Buy Links:

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<a href="http://Graceling – Kristin Cashore“>iTunes

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Question: What’s the last book you had on your TBR for ages then read it and was like, “Why did this take me so long to get to?” Because honestly, I want it on MY TBR 🙂

❤ Aimee

Book Review: Girls of Paper and Fire

Trigger/Content Warnings: Sexual abuse, sexual assault, rape, physical abuse, slavery, and homophobia (which is addressed on page)*.

*Please note that this is an own voices book, I am not a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, and I will make no determinations as to what the homophobia makes someone of that community feel except to say you should look to own voices reviewers (most of whom seem to love the representation).

girls of paper and fireOfficial Blurb: 

In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

“I know what it means to dream about the past. To dream about things you have loved, and lost.” ~ Natasha Ngan

From only a few sentences in, I knew I was going to love GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE. I was so sure this would be one of my five-star reviews that I basically started crafting this post right around Chapter Three. Natasha Ngan’s stunning, Asian-inspired fantasy grabbed me with both its content and its characters. Ngan’s world building is unique and rich,  her characters multi-faceted and complex. There wasn’t a single person (or demon) I met that I didn’t want to know more about, who I didn’t want to sit and imagine.

But more than anything, I loved the fact that this was a book about girls saving girls, in every way imaginable. There was no knight in shining armor, because there didn’t have to be. There was plenty of courage and magic and badassery in Paper House. There were strong female friendships and romances, but there were also complicated rivalries; something I love seeing on the page. Ngan’s characters are complex, and that complexity makes them messy. Anyone who knows me knows I love a little mess in my literature. Because messy is emotional, and emotions will have me coming back for more, which is a good thing, since this is only book one!

Buy Links:

Amazon

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

Who else read this one? And who else feels like it didn’t get the hype it deserves??

❤ Always, Aimee