Once & Future: ARC Review

This ARC was provided to me by the publisher at my request. The following review reflects my unbiased opinion of the story and is no way influenced. Thank you to the publisher, Little Brown/JIMMY PATTERSON Books.

Once & Future
Author: Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy
Publisher: Little Brown/JIMMY PATTERSON Books
Release Date: March 26, 2019
Synopsis: I’ve been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur. Now I’m done hiding. My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.

When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.


Rating: Built on solid bones, filled with inclusivity, but suffers from poor marketing of the humorous nature of the story.
Stars: 2.5

I have to start by saying that this book is directly responsible for my decision to completely revamp my review style (a process I’ll be rolling out once I work out the specifics). Never have I been more conflicted over a book. Because I desperately wanted to love Once & Future, but I was so turned off by the never ending attempts at humor. Not to say that I didn’t find some of the bits funny, but in what I thought would be a mostly dramatic book, the constant lighthearted silliness grated on my nerves.

Let’s start with the good: diversity and inclusivity. This book has it in spades. There is representation of pansexuality, bisexuality, disabilities, gender fluidity, asexuality, characters of African descent, homosexuality, and characters of Arab descent. The sexuality of each character isn’t always explicitly stated and if I over or under represented something from the book I apologize. This is the kind of representation that books need. And O&F doesn’t shy away from calling out the sexism and homophobia in our current time.

Once & Future tackles a lot of serious issues: capitalism, genocide, classism, immigration, oppression, and more. The problem is the execution. The book is riddled with fluffy romance and glib humor that kept me from ever getting emotionally involved in anything that was happening. When something serious happened, there was always someone there with a ridiculous remark or a couple making out in the background. Or both. And that didn’t sit well with me because I wasn’t expecting a romcom story. Yes, from the synopsis I thought there’d be funny moments interspersed in a mostly dramatic story. It was the exact opposite and that really effected my reading.

The other issue is one that is hard to address: plotting/execution of the story as a whole. When I was halfway through the book and I started reading some reviews to see if other people were having similar issues as I was getting through the story. I noticed a few people stating that they had seen the authors mention that A LOT of changes were happening before the final book was released. I’m hoping the changes addressed the flow of the book, because that was another big issue for me. The pace was either break neck action or dragging me down with boredom. I could never find a good rhythm in the story and this also kept me from forming any kind of emotions for the story. I just hate to judge this book by something that was most likely fixed in the final version.

But here’s the deal, I’ll read the next book in a heartbeat. The story is set up to go to a whole different level, and since I’ll KNOW that there is going to be a lot of humor, I’ll be able to read it when I’m in the mood for that style. I won’t say where the next book is going, but I am definitely intrigued.

At the end of the day, Once & Future has some solid bones that I think were mostly likely better used in the final version of this book. If you are looking for an inclusive, humorous space adventure, Once & Future is for you.

Oh, and Morgana deserved better.

Book Review: Scythe

Scythe
Author: Neal Shusterman
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: November 22, 2016
Synopsis: Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.


Rating: OMG this book is so good, why did I wait so long to read it???
Stars: 4.5

Scythe is the kind of book that sinks it’s claws into you and drags you through a world you’ve never seen before and will likely never see again. This YA novel is a hugely underrated utopian thriller that devours its reader with break neck plot twists and intriguing insights into what our world could become if we defeated death.

Neal Shusterman draws us into a future where all the world’s problems have been solved and humanity can live forever under the care of the mysterious Thunderhead. Resources are limitless, and death has been conquered. However, over population is the one thing the Thunderhead could not stop. Enter the Scythes. Tasked with keeping the population in check, Scythes “glean” people for a permanent death. There is definitely no way that system could be corrupted and go horribly, horribly wrong…

I cannot begin to describe how much I enjoyed the world in this book. It is a frightening yet hopeful look at how our world could be if such things were possible. The idea of living forever has always been intriguing for me, but it is usually kept in the fantasy realm of a few vampires and eternal mages. I loved reading a story of immortality for the whole world that was framed through the perspective of two youths training to end the immortality of their fellow humans.

The writing was stellar. Shusterman writes in a way that makes this story flow effortlessly from the page. I truly loved the journal entries at the beginning of each chapter. Those little insights were gems. I was never bored and always wanted to keep reading. While I loved all the characters, I will concede to the fact that when I stepped back I thought the two main characters lacked a little bit of depth. However, in the grand scheme of the whole story, they had enough for the plot and I still enjoyed their journeys.

I went into Scythe expecting to like this book, but never did I imagine I’d end up loving it as much as I did. This novel has found its place among my favorite books of all time. Do not be like me and let this book languish, unread, on your book shelves for months or years. Pick it up immediately and start reading.

Book Review: The Crown’s Game Duology

I’m going to start this off by saying that there will be spoilers for each book in the reviews. Normally I try to write non-spoilery reviews, but I just couldn’t avoid spoilers when reviewing these. If you just want my quick thoughts with no spoilers you can read my Goodreads reviews of the books (The Crown’s Game and The Crown’s Fate).


The Crown’s Game
Author:
Evelyn Skye
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: May 17th, 2016
Rating: 4 Stars
Synopsis: Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.


The Crown’s Game is a hard book to review. Because I LOVED IT, but when I step back I see the faults with it. I think I’m giving it 5 stars for the entertainment aspect, but 3 stars for critical reasons, and just landing on 4 stars over all.

From the synopsis you’d expect a deadly, fast paced story of two enchanters battling to win the title of Imperial Enchanter. What you get is an addictive story that has very little action but never the less keeps you entranced. While it is a battle to the death, the stakes never feel that dire while each enchanter is taking their turns in the duel. I did love the way they used their magic, but it never felt like they were really trying to kill each other. Granted, that could be down to the fact that these are teenagers and they shouldn’t WANT to commit murder, but the story is about a deadly game. I’ll loop back to that deadly game in a minute.

The characters were all just okay. The only one I really cared for was Ludmila, the bakery owner who acts as a sort of grandmother figure for Vika. Nikolai was good too, now that I think of it, and I liked his background. Pasha was fun, but the whole love triangle between him, Nikolai, and Vika just sort of grated on me. Also, there is insta love and that bothers me in hindsight, though I didn’t care while I was reading the book.

And then we have the culmination of the game. After the Tsar dies (there is a pretty fun twist in how that happens so I won’t tell you how), Pasha is convinced by his sister to force an end to the game, but having Vika and Nikolai fight to the death. Nikolai, being the love stricken gentleman that he is, stabs himself in the heart with a blade given to him by his mentor, Galina, that will never miss it’s mark. Instead of the Nikolai’s heart being pierced, Vika is stabbed through the heart via magic. I LOVE this twist. Love, love, love! Of course, Nikolai then gives Vika all his life force to save her and he seemingly dies. But a part of him remains in the magical realm. While I usually am one for killing off characters and having them STAY DEAD, I loved this ending. It made me immediately want to jump into the next book.

I did love the writing for the most part. While I am certainly no expert on Russia, it seemed like there was good world building and I’m hoping it was based on real world knowledge. Whenever there was talk of the Russian foods I was drooling. And even though the book lacked a lot of action, it was still a book I didn’t want to put down! I don’t know how Skye did it, but her writing is completely absorbing.


The Crown’s Fate
Author:
Evelyn Skye
Publisher: Balzar + Blay
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Rating: 2.75 stars
Synopsis: Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.

Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.

For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.

With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.


Let’s start with something I didn’t mention in my review of The Crown’s Game: Nikolai and Pasha find out they are half brothers, since the Tsar was a scoundrel. Nikolai’s mother, Aizhana, was a healer out on the steppe and had a one night stand with the Tsar, resulting in Nikolai. I mention this now because not only is Aizhana the cause of a lot of strife in this book, but the story focuses a lot on Nikolai trying to over throw Pasha as rightful heir.

The Crown’s Fate was a 2.75 star for me. I don’t want to give it a 2.5, but a 3 feels too high. And I’m going to be very honest, I skimmed a lot of this book. Well, I zoned out on a lot because I read this one via audio (Steve West’s narration was spot on though). This book, though having a bit more action and stakes then The Crown’s Game, failed to grab my attention in the same way that Game did.

I absolutely could not stand Pasha or his sister, Yuliana. Pasha had zero back bone (not something you want in a future Tsar) and Yuliana was an awful human being. Vika and Nikolai (who is definitely alive) spend a lot of time thinking the other doesn’t care about them, to the point where I was rolling my eyes way too much. The romantic angst in this one definitely started to bother me.

I did enjoy the more political scheming plot line of this story. Though Nikolai’s darker side was kind of grating. The revolution kinda fizzled out towards the end but I mostly enjoyed getting there. The writing was good, but this book just felt lacking compared to the first.

I will say that I liked the ending. I’m normally one for death and tragedy, but the happily ever after felt right for this story. I wont give any details past that, but just know that things tie up quite nicely for everyone.


At the end of the day, The Crown’s Game’s and The Crown’s Fate were fast reads that would be good for people who are just looking to get into fantasy books or who need a break from heavier fantasy novels. I am certainly interested in reading more from Evelyn Skye.

ARC Review: To Best the Boys

This ARC was provided to me by the publisher at my request. The following review reflects my unbiased opinion of the story and is no way influenced. Thank you to the publisher, Thomas Nelson Publishing.

To Best the Boys
Author:
Mary Weber
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: March 19, 2019
Rating: 4 Stars
Synopsis: Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.


To Best the Boys is the kind of book that I want to give to every young girl I see. The themes of empowerment woven through this story are wonderfully timed and thoughtfully executed. We follow Rhen Tellur, a scientifically minded young woman, who lives in a town where girls are expected to learn only to be good wives and boys are the only ones allowed to attend college. After her concerns about the deadly, crippling disease that is plaguing the poor parts of her town are once again dismissed by the rich elitist men of parliament, Rhen decides to take matters into her own hands. She disguises herself as a boy and enters the yearly competition thrown by a mysterious Mr. Holm for a full-ride scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University.

This story was oddly fast and slow paced, but it is intriguing enough that I finished it in less than a day. The build up to the competition took a little over half the book, but it was necessary for setting up the tension and stakes. Even though the world building was a little light for my usual tastes, I LOVED what I did learn of the town and its inhabitants. There was some solid characterization and growth for the main and secondary characters, especially considering the book is only 311 pages. I think my favorite character was actually Seleni. She really shines and she says some truly empowering things about being a strong woman AND a strong wife. Another thing I really liked about this story was it wasn’t the traditional “put a sword in a girl’s hand to make her strong”. I love strong sword wielding women, but I also like women who win the day with their minds.

If you are looking for a fast, empowering fantasy read, look no further than To Best the Boys.

The Backlist: Charlotte Holmes

This week I am doing a backlist review of the Charlotte Holmes books from Brittany Cavallaro. I am stoked to get my hands on the fourth and final book in the series, A Question of Holmes, which was released on March 5th. One of my dear friends is getting me a signed copy, so until she gets a chance to send it to me, I will satisfy myself with reliving these books through reviews. The synopsis for A Question of Holmes is at the very bottom of the page for you to check out!


A Study in Charlotte
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Rating: 5 Stars

Here’s the deal: I strongly dislike contemporary novels, especially YA contemporaries. But a Sherlock Holmes inspired YA contemporary? I couldn’t buy this book fast enough. The story is about the descendants of the original Holmes and Watson (yes, they are real in this universe), Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes. Jamie transfers to the same Connecticut private school that Charlotte attends and from there the games is afoot. Yes, I am also disappointed in myself for going there.

Jamie and Charlotte very obviously come together to solve a murder, one that they are being framed for. The whole mystery behind the murder is wild to say the very least. This book is far darker than I was expecting. Not only is there the whole murder thing, but drug addiction and rape. While these are very difficult topics, I felt they were handled respectfully. I am far from being a teen these days, but I think it’s important have YA stories that deal with harder topics.

I really enjoyed the way that Jamie and Charlotte were similar to the original Watson and Holmes (or at least what I can remember of the original stories. My brain also remembers the TV/movie version too well so I’m sure I’m leaning more towards those interpretations), but in a perfectly modern way. Charlotte is highly intelligent and though she can be abrasive at times, I felt she does care. From past traumas and her harsh upbringing (which you learn more about in later books), it is just hard for her to care for people in traditional ways. And then there is Jamie. The boy is kind of a doof sometimes, but he’s a teenage boy who has been brought up with stories of all the great Holmes and Watson’s before him. We can hardly blame him for diving head first into a not so healthy and fairly co-dependent friendship with Charlotte.

A Study in Charlotte is so vastly different from any YA contemporary that I’ve ever read, and I am so happy I picked it up. If you like Holmes/Watson, wildly dramatic murder mysteries, layers of secrets and betrayals, and high levels of snark, A Study of Charlotte is for you.

The Last of August
Release Date:
February 14, 2017
Rating: 3 stars

The tag line for this one is “Watson and Holmes: A match made in disaster.” This describes the relationship of these two characters so perfectly I cannot even. I thought A Study in Charlotte was twisty and turny, but The Last of August dials the chaos up to 11.

I loved that the story is based in England and Berlin this time around, so we get a nice scenery change. I loved the art forgery aspect to the case. We get more background on all the families, most importantly the Moriartys. The three families are endlessly fascinating and dysfunctional.

While I still enjoyed this one, I had two problems: the ending and the Charlotte/Jamie dynamic. The ending was chaotic, and I found myself not really following what was going on. It feels fast paced, but then you suddenly realize you are lost in the plot, but you are reading so fast you feel as though you can’t stop and go back. I felt like I needed a flow chart of how everything came together in that ending.

Then we have Charlotte/Jamie. Look, I love a good angsty romance, but this book took it to the point of me not enjoying it. Its been a while since I’ve read the book, but I just remember having an overwhelming sense that Jamie wanted to fix Charlotte and the PTSD she suffers from her rape. And this is NOT OKAY. The almost love triangle that goes on is not fun either. August Moriarty is probably one of the more sympathetic characters in this whole book and Jamie constantly needing him to be the villain was annoying.

While I still mostly enjoyed this when I read it, looking back I see a lot more problems with it. I originally rated this a 4 star but I’m going to knock it down to 3.

The Case for Jamie
Release Date:
March 6, 2018
Rating: 4 stars

Where The Last of August was kind of a mess for me at times, The Case for Jamie really drew me back in. None of the characters miraculously turn into better people, but the writing and plotting was better and I think having Charlotte and Jamie apart for a while was a good idea. Getting more of Charlotte’s POV really helped too. I still kinda want to smack Jamie through the whole book, but he is a teenage boy so that doesn’t really surprise me. Looking back on this book and the series as a whole, I feel like Charlotte and Jamie are my original trash children (current trash kids are Jude and Carden). Like, I love them, but also, they are so terrible. But the author isn’t going for a perfect, healthy relationship with these two. It’s hard because, I’m reading this as an adult, so I know that relationships like the one between Charlotte and Jamie are not great, but I can revel in the drama because the relationships in this book aren’t shaping my views on relationships. I like that the author shows the ugly sides of the relationship and how Charlotte and Jamie work through it. No person and no relationship is ever perfect, so I don’t want them written that way, but toxic relationships shouldn’t be glamorized to teens. I think these books walk that line, though sometimes they are a little too close to the edge. And I’m going to hop off this slippery slope rant I’ve sudden found myself in.

At the end of the day, The Case for Jamie is a vast improvement on the second book. Each book in this series is like pulling back the layers on these families and seeing the flawed humans they are. But like I’ve said, no one is perfect. I really feel like the characters in these books are all too human in a way we try to pretend we aren’t. I cannot wait to read the final book in the series, A Question of Holmes.

A Question of Holmes
Release Date:
March 5, 2019
Synopsis: Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson think they’re finally in the clear. They’ve left Sherringford School—and the Moriartys—behind for a pre-college summer program at Oxford University. A chance to start from scratch and explore dating for the first time, while exploring a new city with all the freedom their program provides. But when they arrive, Charlotte is immediately drawn into a new case: a series of accidents have been befalling the members of the community theater troupe in Oxford, and now, on the eve of their production of Hamlet, they’re starting all over again. What once seemed like a comedy of errors is now a race to prevent the next tragedy—before Charlotte or Jamie is the next victim.

Book Review: Heartless

Heartless
Author:
Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: November 8, 2016
Rating: 4 Stars
Synopsis: Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.
Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.


FYI: while I try not to say spoilers out right, this review could be viewed as mildly spoilery.

Heartless is a beautifully written origin story for the Queen of Hearts. Knowing what we know of the Queen of Hearts, we can surmise that this doesn’t end well. While I was anticipating some good heartbreak, I found myself oddly unfeeling at the tragic plot twist. But that disappointment in not shedding a tear (I like it when books make me cry), did not overshadow the brilliant and often scrumptious writing.

Cath is a nobleman’s daughter with dreams of opening her own bakery with her maid and friend, Mary Ann. Cath is…not my favorite character. At least not until the end when she evolves into the Queen of Hearts (don’t @ me, that isn’t a spoiler). Cath is wishy-washy and reminds me of those rich girls whose lives are just so terrible, even though they have all the money and boys in the world. I don’t know what it says about me that I only liked her when she became a full on, hardcore B. I will say that she does have a lot of terrible people in her life *glares in the general direction of Cath’s parents*, but homegirl just needed to grow up, drop that toxicity, and do what she needed to do to make herself happy. Also, maybe heed creepy prophecies given by creepy little girls.

Just as Cath is about to get betrothed the wimpy King of Hearts, she meets Jest and suddenly she wants more than just a bakery in her life. Jest is mysterious and snarky and all things I love in a book boyfriend. His backstory is really interesting and I love what we find out about his life. And while I really liked him, I just didn’t feel much for him. His courtship with Cath was tortured, which I love, but Cath’s inability to make a damn decision for herself kinda killed it for me, so I was never able to get fully invested in their relationship.

I absolutely loved all the side characters. Heck, I was more emotionally impacted by a early death of a side character than I was for the big tragic twist. Hatta is sheer perfection. His descent into madness and the reveal of his hidden feelings were the hardest thing for me. I was endlessly fascinated by the different creatures and characters of Hearts, from the flamingo croquet mallets to the cards. Everything was so perfectly whimsical.

Even through all my disconnects with Cath and the tragic plot twists, I will say that the writing in this book was stellar. I am fully surprised that I didn’t gain weight while reading this because I constantly wanted to eat desserts every time Cath baked. I don’t know much about Lewis Carroll’s original story of Wonderland, but I’ve gathered from other readers that this novel was respective of, but built more on, the original Wonderland. Based on Meyer’s writing in Heartless, I am now even more excited about starting her Lunar Chronicles series.

Heartless is a damn fine book and I can see why so many of my friends recommended it to me when I asked for tragic book recommendations. But looking back, I was walking myself straight into the trap of hype. I think because I guessed how things would end, I never let myself get too invested in the romance, and that left me feeling…well, heartless.

I buddy read this with the awesome Sabreena @ Books and Prosecco, who also posted her review of Heartless today. Her reviews are always amazing and well written, so I recommend checking it out!

ARC Review: Last of Her Name

This book was provided to me by the publisher at my request. The decision to review this book was entirely my own. My review is in no way influenced and all opinions are my own.

Last of Her Name
Author:
Jessica Khoury
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: February 26, 2019
Rating: 3 stars
Synopsis: Sixteen years ago, rebellion swept the galaxy known as the Belt of Jewels. Every member of the royal family was murdered–down to their youngest child, Princess Anya–and the Union government rose in its place. But Stacia doesn’t think much about politics. She spends her days half-wild, rambling her father’s vineyard with her closest friends, Clio and Pol.
That all changes the day a Union ship appears in town, carrying the leader of the Belt himself, the Direktor Eminent. The Direktor claims that Princess Anya is alive, and that Stacia’s sleepy village is a den of empire loyalists, intent on hiding her. When Stacia is identified as the lost princess, her provincial home explodes into a nightmare.
Pol smuggles her away to a hidden escape ship in the chaos, leaving Clio in the hands of the Union. With everything she knows threading away into stars, Stacia sets her heart on a single mission. She will find and rescue Clio, even with the whole galaxy on her trail.


Last of Her Name is a solid YA science fiction inspired by the story of the Romanovs. The story follows Stacia Androva as she finds out the truth of her heritage and runs away from the revelation across her galaxy (wonderfully named the Belt of Jewels) with Pol, one of her best friends. But when Stacia realizes Clio, her other best friend, has been taken by the Union and its violent leader, Alexi Volkov, her only thought is to save Clio, no matter the cost.

All told, I liked this book, but it almost never evoked any strong emotions from me. I kept getting to the precipice of LOVING the story, but nothing ever pushed me over the edge. The story moves at a fairly fast pace, but the writing style is simple. Looking at all those “but”s, I realize there was just something missing from this book for me. I wanted to reach in and draw out more depths to the story.

I feel like Last of Her Name is a YA book truly meant for young adults. Stacia is seventeen, just found out she isn’t who she thought she was, her best friend is taken from her, and she’s running away with her other best friend who, thanks to a well-timed step into manhood, is suddenly very attractive. Stacia is driven by her emotions, as confused and illogical as they are, and I’ll be damned if that isn’t how many teens are. But with the exception of a few scenes, I never felt much emotion for any of the characters. While I tend to try and balance my YA character opinions by considering that I am not a young adult, I still was not able to bring myself to care much for anyone in the story.

However, I loved loved loved the world building! The idea of how the humans left earth and came to find the Belt of Jewels, the prisms and how they function, the different planets: LOVED IT! I want other stories told in this universe!! Just with slightly older characters. This story didn’t have the most in-depth world building I’ve ever read in SF, but the world I built from Khoury’s words was dazzling.

I cannot speak for any solid connections to the story of Anastasia because my knowledge of the Romanovs extends to that cartoon movie that wasn’t actually a Disney movie, but I always thought it was. I did find the history of the Leonovas very interesting and I liked the twists that we get when we learn more about them.

The big reveal was a surprise to me in some ways, but I know sleuth-y readers will probably figure it out. As far as I can tell, this is a stand-alone book, so take what you will from that about the ending. Some aspects of the ending were a little too easy for me, but I was happy with what I got.

I think that a lot of people will really like this book, but it never quite connected for me. I was talking to a friend about this book the other day and I described it as a good palate cleanser book between heavy fantasy novels. I hope that doesn’t come off in a negative way, but that’s just what this book was for me. The book was fun and it never took too much from me to read. Some books demand your soul, but Last of Her Name asks you to just relax and come along for the ride.

ARC Review: Enchantée

This ARC was sent to me by the publisher at my request. The decision to review the book was my own. All thoughts and opinions in the following review are my own.

Enchantée
Author: Gita Trelease
Release Date: February 5, 2019
Publisher: Flatiron/Macmillan
Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis: Paris in 1789 is a labyrinth of twisted streets, filled with beggars, thieves, revolutionaries—and magicians…

When smallpox kills her parents, Camille Durbonne must find a way to provide for her frail, naive sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on petty magic—la magie ordinaire—Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy the food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille must pursue a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

With dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into the ‘Baroness de la Fontaine’ and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for la magie. There, she gambles at cards, desperate to have enough to keep herself and her sister safe. Yet the longer she stays at court, the more difficult it becomes to reconcile her resentment of the nobles with the enchantments of Versailles. And when she returns to Paris, Camille meets a handsome young balloonist—who dares her to hope that love and liberty may both be possible.

But la magie has its costs. And when Camille loses control of her secrets, the game she’s playing turns deadly. Then revolution erupts, and she must choose—love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, freedom or magic—before Paris burns…


Enchantée is an alluring debut novel from Gita Trelease that weaves its spell around the reader and transports them to the richly imagined magical Paris of 1792. From the small, run down family apartment on the poverty-stricken rue Charlot to the dangerously decadent parties and treacherous gambling tables at Versailles, we follow Camille Durbonne as she struggles to shed the weight of her misfortunes and create a better life for her sister and herself…at any cost.

Camille works la magie ordinaire to turn simple metal pieces into coins to support herself, her sister, and her drunkard brother. When her situation deteriorates, as tends to happen when you have a wasteral brother, Camille decides to work the darker magic of glamoire to transform herself into the Baroness de la Fontaine, thus gaining access to the gambling parties at Versailles. The more time Camille spends with the nobles at Versailles the harder it becomes to keep her two lives separate.

Some have said this book is predictable, and I will agree that at times it is. But this book reads so beautifully that it did not matter to me. I felt like I was walking through this novel with rose tinted glasses, everything was so deliciously described and exquisitely laid out that I didn’t notice any cracks in my path as I went along. One thing I’ve come to realize now that I’m done with the book is that there wasn’t a lot of character development in the side characters. Though I liked all the sides, they all lacked depth. Even the villain was pretty easy to spot and lacked the depth to make him truly villainous. But again, rose tinted glasses kept this from being bothersome to me.

I will say that the short chapters were the perfect fix for the pacing in this one. If the chapters had been 20 – 30 pages long like some books, I feel this novel would have felt like a slog. When I stepped back from the book after finishing it I realized that there was not much action in this book. But the quick chapter turnover gave the sense of urgency that kept me intrigued. There is also the slow build of revolution in the background of this story that pops in every now and then. And while I think it was well researched (I can’t say for sure how accurate the historical points were. I was stealthily reading paranormal romance books during my history classes in high school), the revolution honestly felt anticlimactic.

I think what surprised me most about Enchantée was the underlying current of addiction that ran throughout the story. Camille constantly has a running internal monologue about how much the glamoire takes from her and how she will stop once she has enough money. But as is usually the case with addiction, there is always another excuse to use again. (FYI: I have personal experience with addictions in various forms. I am not making this generalization lightly or without a base of knowledge.) Though there wasn’t a lesson learned about addiction and the resolution to the addiction in this novel was far too easy, it was still interesting to read Camille’s descent into the addiction of magic. I do wish that addiction could have been explored a little more in the story, but at the same time this is not the book to tackle the stark depths of addiction.

Enchantée is, at its core, a story about how hope and love can survive even through the darkest points in our lives. People make mistakes and hide truths and find themselves slowly draining away their souls to addictions, but there is still hope and love to be found.

I personally find Enchantée to be a strong debut novel from a promising author. Trelease weaves her words in such a way that one feels they are surrounded by the world they are reading. I thoroughly look forward to reading more from her in the future.

Book Review: The Armored Saint

The Armored Saint
Author:
Myke Cole
Release Date: February 20, 2018
Publisher: Tor.com
Rating: 4.5 stars
Synopsis: In a world where any act of magic could open a portal to hell, the Order insures that no wizard will live to summon devils, and will kill as many innocent people as they must to prevent that greater horror. After witnessing a horrendous slaughter, the village girl Heloise opposes the Order, and risks bringing their wrath down on herself, her family, and her village.

How does such a big story come in such a small book? The Armored Saint clocks in at just over 200 pages, but Myke Cole proves that you don’t need an epic length novel to pack a serious emotional punch and some stellar world building.

The Armored Saint is what I consider to be my first real foray into the grimdark realm. I didn’t much know what to expect. I certainly didn’t think I’d be crying over a mouse or gasping quite so loudly when a certain plot twist occured or having a sudden distaste for the word “knitting”. This little book dragged me through hell and I kinda liked it all the more for that. To steal a quote from the great Captain Hammer, “Not my usual, but nice.” (side note: if you do not know what Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog is go look it up NOW!)

Heloise is the heroine we need in books these days. She is isn’t perfect, but she, like so many of us, is trying to find their place in this crazy, messed up world. The world Heloise lives in is brutal in every sense of the word, but she has hope, even through all she suffers. She finds her strength to fight in the most badass yet tragic way. I’ve read books twice the length of The Armored Saint that didn’t have half as much character development for the main character.

Some may argue that the world building and characterization of the secondary cast was lacking. But I feel there was not a word wasted in this book. I called the world building stellar at the beginning of this review because in it’s simplicity, it is damn near perfect. Sure, I don’t know what the currency is in this world, but I can tell you that you certainly do not want to be a wizard and that the religion is super twisted. My imagination was able to weave quite the mind movie with the material it was given and that’s what matters to me.

My final thoughts are that this book is certainly not for the faint of heart, but I definitely recommend it to YA readers that are looking to maybe branch into something a little darker. I’ll definitely need a couple of fluffy books where there aren’t any horrific deaths before I start the second book in this series, Queen of Crows.

ARC Review: Warrior of the Wild

This book was sent to me by the publisher per my request. I chose to review it on my own and all views and opinions expressed are my own and are not influenced.

Warrior of the Wild
Author:
Tricia Levenseller
Release Date: February 26th, 2019
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Rating: 1.5 stars
Synopsis: How do you kill a god? As her father’s chosen heir, eighteen-year-old Rasmira has trained her whole life to become a warrior and lead her village. But when her coming-of-age trial is sabotaged and she fails the test, her father banishes her to the monster-filled wilderness with an impossible quest: to win back her honor, she must kill the oppressive god who claims tribute from the villages each year or die trying.

Warrior of the Wild really missed the mark for me and a lot of it had to do with the main character. And the world building. And the side characters. And the romance. I guess I just need to say it: I really did not like this book very much.

Let’s start with Rasmira, the main character. I was expecting a fierce, feminist female main character because that’s what the hype around this book was saying. What I got was a girl who by page two of this book was obsessing about a boy kissing her. And sure, fierce warriors can want romance, but it grated on me because there was nothing about Rasmira that seemed fierce to me at all. Rasmira, to me, is the equivalent of a rich white girl who excels at a school sport and receives nothing but praise because her parents are donors to her private school. I got so annoyed whenever she was thinking her “poor me” thoughts. I never connected with her and found her to be whiny, immature, and unlikable.

And then there was the world building. The whole premise of this book is how Rasmira is banished to *The Wild* and must survive to win back her honor. The Wild…isn’t that scary. It’s basically a forest with some wild creatures in it (creatures that never attack unless it is important to the plot, which is basically never). Color me unimpressed. Like, how have so many of the “warriors” from villages been banished to the Wild and then died? Sure, if you go poking around the dwelling of the Peruxolo, the “villain” of the book, you might find yourself at the wrong end of a knife, but by and large the Wild seems like a place where you could take your family camping as long as you have some mild campsite fortifications. And outside of the very not scary Wild, there wasn’t much to be learned about this world. There are a couple villages, we get their names…and that’s about it.

I’m going to mash my issues of side characters and romance into the next paragraph but first a spoiler warning because the next paragraph definitely has some spoilers:

Okay, I will admit that I like romance in my books. At bare minimum I need one longing glance between two characters to enjoy a book. But never, in all my reading, have I been more annoyed and put off by a romance than I was in this book. When Rasmira is banished to the wild she find two boys who have been living in the wild for the last year. Which I thought was cool at first. And then I got to know the boys. Iric and Soren are from the same village and were basically brothers (by choice, not blood). But Soren is basically a selfish pretty boy and manipulated Iric to go out for the warrior trial, which he failed and was subsequently banished, and Soren decided to get himself banished as well because he felt guilty. The friendship and animosity between the two boys felt wooden at the best of times. Then we come to one of my big issues: the “romance” between Rasmira and Soren. The whole basis of their relationship is the fact that they are the only two hetero characters in the wild and the author even writes this observation into the story. It kinda disgusts me that Rasmira learned to trust again by falling in love with another dumb boy, but I guess we can’t all learn our personal strength outside of relationships with men [insert sarcastic eye roll here].

End spoilers.

So all that being said, I did like certain parts of this book. I thought the revelations about Peruxolo were interesting. I liked that this book went in a direction I was not anticipating. While the writing style wasn’t perfect, I was a least consistently drawn into the story, even though I never connected with it. And…I think that’s about it. This book just missed the mark so hard for me. For a book that has been so hyped as a fierce, feminist story, I felt incredibly let down.