Review: Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

I’d like to thank First to Read and Renee Ahdieh for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Description: 

“From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn, comes a sweeping, action-packed YA adventure set against the backdrop of Feudal Japan where Mulan meets Throne of Glass.

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.”

Review:

Im just going to go straight off the bat and say that I ADORED this book.
It had a spectacular “fight the patriarchy” style and was very feminist whilst being set in a very anti-feminist era. The culture was all-encompassing and (as far as I am aware) had little appropriation. And girls dressing as guys in historical settings? One of my favorite plot devises! The main character actually had INTELLIGENCE that actually MEANS something in the story, as opposed to it just being a reason that the MC is just “not like other girls,” however, it also showed that she still had a lot to learn. The whole “anti-hero struggling with the concept of murder” idea was also very intriguing. The conversations seemed fresh and realistic, not to mention actually humorous sometimes. The author also did a spectacular job representing disability as just a characteristic, not the entire identity of a character. I enjoyed the complicated sibling-relationship dynamic and the policiacas side of the story, as well.
In a world of special-snowflake, Americanized YA heroines, Flame in the Mist stands leagues ahead of the pack. The ending has me begging for another installment, and I will most DEFINITELY be reading more of Ahdieh’s work in the future.

Rating:

9.5/10 hearts

❤️❤️❤️❤️💔

Would I recommend?

To anyone who enjoys YA fantasy or is looking for more diverse YA characters.

Review: The Blazing Star by Imani Josey

Authors note: I AM SO SORRY I HAVEN’T POSTED IN A WHILE! I’ve had lacrosse and lots of schoolwork over the past weeks and blogging got away from me.

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Imani Josey for providing me with this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Blazing Star by Imani Josey

Description: 

“Sixteen-year-old Portia White is used to being overlooked—after all, her twin sister Alex is a literal genius.
But when Portia holds an Egyptian scarab beetle during history class, she takes center stage in a way she never expected: she faints. Upon waking, she is stronger, faster, and braver than before. And when she accidentally touches the scarab again?
She wakes up in ancient Egypt—her sister and an unwitting freshman in tow.
Great.
Mysterious and beautiful, Egypt is more than they could have ever imagined from their days in the classroom. History comes alive as the three teens realize that getting back to the present will be the most difficult thing they’ve ever done. Stalked by vicious monsters called Scorpions, every step in the right direction means a step closer to danger.”

Review:

Okay so I started this book with a lot of high expectations. I’ve also been reading a lot of high fantasy recently so I was ready for a bit of a change, and what better way to do that then to read about twin woC geniuses? My original rating on Goodreads for this book was 3 stars, but after reading my review, I’ve decided on 2 hearts. 
The beginning was a bit rough for me to get through, with lots of awkward adjectives and middle grade-esque style and even a scavenger hunt with a reward of $50 (and the gift cards never end up as a plot device or anything). I also understand that these girls supposedly go to a prestigious school and that Portia’s sister is insanely smart, but like, that never seemed to actually happen in the book. It was more like the author was telling us that she was smart rather than showing us. I understand the author may have been trying to make a point about the pointlessness of “book smarts” but it didn’t exactly work. This book also took “special snowflake” to a WHOLE new level in a way that I wasn’t much of a fan of.  
The story eventually picked up for me about halfway through the book, but purely for plot reasons. I had almost no connection, feelings, or sympathy for these girls that were “stuck” in a world that seems 10 times more interesting than our own.  And the INSTALOVE.  It was so intolerable I almost deleted this book from my kindle library. I also never really felt as though the characters were actually endangered or under attack. 
The redeeming factor was the super unique setting, but I feel like it never really divulged upon or used it to the extent that it could have been. The sheer inclusion of so many female characters (specifically of women in power) was something I really appreciated; as well. All I all, there wasn’t a lot that I hated, but there also wasn’t a lot that I liked. 

Rating: 1.5/5

❤️💔

Would I recommend? 

If you have an interest in Egyptian culture  but you can handle cardboard characters. 

Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Del Rey Books for providing me with this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1) by Vic James (pub 14 February 2017)

Description: 

“Not all are free. Not all are equal. Not all will be saved.

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world. 

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price? 

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution. 

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?”

So you might have had the same reaction that I originally did after reading that blurb; Is this just a Red Queen clone? I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that similar premises do not always equal similar plot lines or writing styles.  

Gilded Cage feels, in a way, more realistic than Red Queen, since James has the magic-esque “Skill” take a back seat to politics as opposed to having fight scenes on every other page. The setting is also in England, which is a change of pace from the hundreds of dystopian Americas. The author has a nice balance of both female and male central characters and a knack for artfully using multiple points-of-view in order to show a bigger picture. The villains are EXCELLENT; as in, I love to hate them. There are also no insta love or unnecessary love triangles (GOD BLESS) and the few romantic relationships that do exist feel genuine without making up too large of a bulk of the plot.

It was a LITTLE hard for me to get into this at first, but that was in part my fault. My only other complaint would be the gosh darn cliffhanger ending that we’ll have to wait for until September. By far, my favorite part is that every detail James includes is eventually significant, and I definitely got hit by the plot twist at the end.  

Rating: 4.5/5 hearts ❤️❤️❤️❤️💔

Would I recommend?

Do you like YA fantasy? Do you like YA dystopia? THEN GO FOR THIS BOOK!

Poetry Spotlight 

Hello friends!  I’ve recently become a LOT more involved with poetry.  I’ve also realized its ridiculous power.  How greedy would I be to keep all of my findings to myself?  So from now on, at least once a month, I’ll be spotlighting a particular work that has been written by ANYONE: classics, contemporaries, fellow bloggers, and even annoymous tumblr messages, as well as works about ANYTHING, since life- just like poetry- is ever-evolving and ever-shifting.  I’ll also (try to) stay as unpretentious as possible in my own personal notes. 

January’s poem is “Aubade” from Philip Larkin’s Collected Poems.  I originally came across it in Amy McNamara’s novel, Lovely, Dark, and Deep.  What hit me hardest about the poem was Larkin’s shear placidity about grief.  The root of the speaker’s mourning itself, though, is never mentioned expicility.  The way I see it is as a love song to  everything dies: relationships, dignity, dreams, stories, lifestyles, empires, ideals, and easiest of  all, people.  Loss is still loss; it can’t be romanticized or ever fully “fixed.”

Aubade 

By Philip Larkin

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.   

Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.   

In time the curtain-edges will grow light.   

Till then I see what’s really always there:   

Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,   

Making all thought impossible but how   

And where and when I shall myself die.   

Arid interrogation: yet the dread

Of dying, and being dead,

Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse   

—The good not done, the love not given, time   

Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because   

An only life can take so long to climb

Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;   

But at the total emptiness for ever,

The sure extinction that we travel to

And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,   

Not to be anywhere,

And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
This is a special way of being afraid

No trick dispels. Religion used to try,

That vast moth-eaten musical brocade

Created to pretend we never die,

And specious stuff that says No rational being 

Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing

That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,   

No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,   

Nothing to love or link with,

The anaesthetic from which none come round.
And so it stays just on the edge of vision,   

A small unfocused blur, a standing chill   

That slows each impulse down to indecision.   

Most things may never happen: this one will,   

And realisation of it rages out

In furnace-fear when we are caught without   

People or drink. Courage is no good:

It means not scaring others. Being brave   

Lets no one off the grave.

Death is no different whined at than withstood.
Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.   

It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,   

Have always known, know that we can’t escape,   

Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.

Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring   

In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring

Intricate rented world begins to rouse.

The sky is white as clay, with no sun.

Work has to be done.

Postmen like doctors go from house to house.
Philip Larkin, “Aubade” from Collected Poems. Copyright © Estate of Philip Larkin. Reprinted by permission of Faber and Faber, Ltd.

Source: Collected Poems (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2001)

Review: Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me this eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse (pub 07 Mar 2017)

Description: 

“Anna and the French Kiss meets Before Sunrise in this smart and swoony debut. 

Sophia has seven days left in Tokyo before she moves back to the States. Seven Days to say good-bye to the electric city, her wild best friend, and the boy she’s harbored a semi-secret crush on for years. Seven perfect days….Until Jamie Foster-Collins moves back to Japan and ruins everything.

Jamie and Sophia have a history of heartbreak, and the last thing Sophia wants is for him to steal her leaving thunder with his stupid arriving thunder. Yet as the week counts down, the relationships she thought were stable begin to explode around her. And Jamie is the one who helps her pick up the pieces. Sophia is forced to admit she may have misjudged Jamie, but can their seven short days of Tokyo adventures end in anything but good-bye?” 

THIS BOOK WAS SO ADORABLE!  The setting was what drew me in at first;  reminding me of one of  my all-time favorite contemporaries, When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney, but the stories had completely different conflicts.  The character development was SPECTACTULAR and showed a very realistic portrayal of the “coming of age” contemporary.  Sophia has her quirks, but she was an excellent and, in my opinion, very relatable character.  Jamie is a bit of a stereotypical YA male love interest, (millionaire lifestyle included) however, it didn’t stop me from squealing every time he did something cute for our main character.  The ending is a bit of a hit to the heart, but no spoilers! 

Rating: 4.5/5 hearts ❤️❤️❤️❤️💔

Would I recommend? 

If you’re looking for a cute contemporary with a unique setting but also enjoy creating your own unrealistic expectations for romantic relationships, I would recommend this book. 

January Book Haul 

I haven’t had a book haul in so long, so I was SOO excited for this one!  Here’s some of the reasons I was drawn to each book:

Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1) by Susan Dennard

I’ve seen this book on tumblr and goodreads numerous times and the synopsis itself excites me.  I’ve been on a YA fantasy streak and it doesn’t seem like it’s stopping anytime soon!

The Winter Horses
by Philip Kerr

Recently, I’ve been looking into wintery themed books and ever since I read Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Grayson, I’ve been OBSESSED with YA WW II novels.  Plus, who doesn’t love horses?
not a fan. by Kyle Idleman

About a year ago, my church sisters and I were deciding on a reasonable bible study that we could go through together. Although we eventually picked another book, this was a suggestion by one of our leaders. When I recognized it on the on-sale shelf at my church’s bookstore, I realized the premise of the book is something I’ve currently been struggling with. Although (most) bible study/ life-improvement books aren’t always entertaining, I think they’re necessary to help balance oneself out.
Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

This book had me a bit hesistant.  I have read Fitzpatrick’s Hush Hush, and, to put it lightly, I was NOT a fan (haha, get it?). I have friends who still adore her writing; though, so I’ve decided to give her a second shot.
The Wicked Will Rise (Dorothy Must Die #2) by Danielle Paige

I purchased the first book in this series with the intent on reading it along my way back from visiting family a few years ago.  I loved the story, the magic aspects, the grim, “theres more than meets the eye” factor.  Above all, I just adore retellings and I’m super excited to continue this series.
Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Amy McNamara

Okay, okay, I may have fell prey to the pretty cover for this one, but it seriously is BEAUTIFUL.  I also haven’t read much contemporary recently and I’ve missed it.  The price was also such a steal, I couldn’t pass it up.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #1) by Jenny Han

This is another contemporary which I have heard nothing but good about from my fellow YA readers.  The concept is also very intriguing for me, as someone who is constantly writing about people yet whom would be TERRIFIED if they ever read my journals.
The Heart of Betrayal (The Remnant Chronicles #2) by Mary E. Pearson

Although I own the first book in this series, I haven’t got around to it yet. (Curse you overflowing tbr pile!)  However, a friend borrowed it from me a few months back and she was totally psyched to plow through the rest of the series.  I’ve really got my hopes up for this one.
A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird #1) by Claudia Grey

Two words. TIME TRAVEL!  This is another book I’ve seen swimming around social media and the dystopian-but-not-really-dystopian idea really appeals to me.  I feel like I’m not going to get to this for a while, though, which makes me sad.

YA Winter Fantasy

Here are some winter-themed YA fantasy books that are perfect for curling up with during a snowstorm (or any time, really).  I excluded holiday books because I feel like those are no-brainers.  Many of these books are on my own TBR list on Goodreads. If fantasy isn’t your thing, I’ll be posting contemporary, sci-if/dystopian, and historical lists throughout the winter.

Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes #1) by Sarah Raasch

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Okay I ADORED this book and the series, plus the main character comes from the Kingdom of Winter.

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo

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If you’re a YA fantasy freak and you still haven’t read this spectacular series, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING!  It also has a lot of Russian influence and some of the setting is within wintery landscapes.

Frostfire (Kanin Chronicles #1) by Amanda Hocking

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This one is a bit different since it’s more modern fantasy.  If you’ve ever wondered how Nordic trolls that are a part of secret tribe that lives where the temperature is almost never above freezing could ever be attractive, look no further.

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

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As of writing this list, this book has yet to be published, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.  It will be out February 7,2016.

Frostblood (Frostblood Saga #1) by Elly Blake

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Frostblood was published just a few weeks ago and I haven’t had a chance to get my hands on it yet.  I’ve heard it described as Elsa on steroids, and as a reverent Frozen fan, I’m very excited to read it.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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Once again, another recently-published book that I haven’t read, but the premise sounds so magical and I love me some fairytale retellings.  Plus it takes place in Russia, and with Russia always comes snow.