Book Review: The Bird and the Sword.

Book 34 of 2020

The Bird and the Sword. Written by Amy Harmon

The Bird and the SwordWow. This is a book that was recommended to me last year, and that I even bought and downloaded last year to go to Europe, but never got round to reading it. At a loss for books that interested me this week I scrolled through my Kindle Library looking for books that I had not read. Finding this one I decided I may as well read it since I had already purchased it!

I am so pleased that I did! I almost wish I had even read it earlier!!

I really enjoyed this story, I was worried at the beginning that it was going to be a little cliche, what with the forbidden magic, and king that executes people on a whim. However I was pretty stoked to realise there was so much more to the book than that. The twists and turns, the grey area about who was good and who was not was absolutely phenomenal. What I liked the most though, perhaps as I have discovered it is something I look for – was the sense of hope!

I thought the main character – Lark – in this book was really well written, and being able to join her for her journey of self discovery was really fantastic. However I would have liked to have seen a bit more development of the main male character – it was there, as was the development of his brother, but it was not quite as clear cut as the main protagonist story – and that will always be the way when you have a book from just one perspective but I perhaps would have liked it more with a little more understanding of motives.

I also really enjoyed the ending, not everything was wrapped up into tiny little bows which I thought was awesome!

“You don’t need wings to fly.”

Interesting, so as a side note I just got momentarily distracted by reading some of the good reads reviews, and how fascinating that many people did not like Lark. Finding her stupid and without thought for consequence. I can see why they thought that, but as I said above for me it is about her journey of discovery, of realising that words have power and that she can wield them in a way that works for her. That everyone can be of use and can have power.  If you read reviews avidly before reading – don’t be put off! I think this book is well worth the read!

Mrs K

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult, Magic, Paranormal, Fiction, Fantasy Romance, High Fantasy

Book Review: Ballad

Book 32 of 2020

Ballad. Written by Maggie Stiefvater.

BalladSo given that I did not really enjoy or feel any connection to the first book, it is perhaps not surprising that the second book also did not really grab me at all. Where as the first book I sat on the fence, this book I just straight out did not like.

It was told from James’ point of view, which was fine, he was a character I really liked in the first book, however this book did not have any real link to the first book, Dee, when we did meet her came across a little crazy, and in general there was very little to like about the characters.

While the description is really well done, and I really like the way the lore of the Faeries that Stiefvater writes, however the story itself lacks depth, and the characters just are not compelling, I feel little to no connection to them.

Overall – while I did not enjoy, this series would be appropriate for years 9 and 10. Also – could be agood intro to a world of Fae.

Mrs K

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Teen, Faeries

Book Review: Lament

Book 31 of 2020

Lament. Written by Maggie Stiefvater

lament red coverSo this is a book that I had had the sequel to for a long time, (without realising it was a sequel) and so got it out of our school library during our lockdown thinking I would use that time wisely. However I never got to it. Fast forward to being sick this week and having more time to read!

I am 100% on the fence about this book. I liked the idea, and thought that there were many aspects of this book which could serve as something of an introduction to the world of Faerie.

However, what really frustrates me in teenage or young adult fiction is the way that girls in particular are portrayed as being realitvely helpless and ultimately being wooed by a hot body. These girls are usually quite academically smart, and have a lot going for them. However then when they are presented with a dangerous situation it is almost like they have instant stockholm syndrome. The male character in this book legit says that he cannot be trusted and is not a good guy yet she defends him against all odds.

I worry about what sort of message this sends to young impresionable young girls about Lamentwhat sort of boy or man they should be with.

The actual book is well written, and has some nice moments, although the pace felt a little bit off – we moved extremely glacially slowly at the start and then all the action happened very quickly at the end.

Mrs K

Genre: Fantasy, young adult, paranormal, teenage, Faeries, Romance

Book Review: The Gender Secret

Book 24 of 2020

The Gender Secret. WThe Gender Secretritten by Bella Forrest.

So this is the second book, which I read only a day or two after the first one. (Definitely trying to get back into the habit of reading before sleep!)  I did not like this book as much as the first one. The pace was quote diffferent, with the whole book taking place over a very short time frame. There were some things I did like about this book, for example I always appreciate a squeal that picks up right where the first book leaves off. I also really appreciated the twists and shocks that kept on coming. I wanted to move onto book three, but got distracted by a couple of other books that came my way!

I find it harder to review sequeals – as I never want to give spoilers. So if you are interested – you would be better to read my review of the first book in the series.

Mrs K

Genre: Science fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, young adult, teenage fiction.

Book Review: The Gender Game

Book 23 of 2020 

The Gender Game. Written by Bella Forrest.

The Gender Game

So I stumbled upon this book while looking for something to read while I waited for my daughter to finish cheerleading. I have SOOOOO many books – but it was dark, and I had a while to kill, so did not want to risk my car battery going flat. It was advertised as For fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent
comes a story like no other…  
I figured I liked those two books so what did I have to lose!

So I would like to start by saying that I did enjoy this book, it kept me guessing and there was at least one twist which totally took me by surprise.

However – the concept is super cliche! Down to even the name of the civilizations. Matrus and Patrus – there was not even an attempt to do something a little bit different with them. You can also, from those names along probably pick the dominating gender in each civilization. The second predictable aspect is that there is going to be a battle of the sexes… woah! Finally there are other cliche characters within the book, such as the person with sympathetic tendancies, and the person who was born in the middle of teh river dividing the civilizations and so as such does not call either one home.

I think though – that we read for two reasons. Sometimes we read for pleasure, and in that case we can overlook a lot of different things, things like cliche characters, and cliche concepts. Othertimes we read more analytically, then these aspects tend to get in the way of reading.

For me – Gender Games was reading for pleasure. Yes it was cliche and to a point predictable, but that is ok as well. Sometimes reading is an escape from everything that is happening in the world, and as such we don’t need the text to be a mirror to society.

If I was reading with a more critical point of view there is a lot more that I would like from this text, I would like more discussion about those who did not fall into a traditional gender option, I would like to see more interesting characters who differed from the expectation and I would like to see a lot more teamwork.

However, taking this book at surface level I enjoyed it. It was a good book that kept me engaged. I have downloaded the second book, it makes for a great time killer for the next week that I find myself sitting waiting for my daughter to finish her activities!

Mrs K

Genre: Fantasy, Dystopian, Young Adult, Fiction

 

Book Review: The Dividing

The Dividing: The Adamic Trilogy Book 1 Written by Devin Downing.

The DividingSo this book is written by one of the writing prompts IG that I follow. It has quickly become one of my favourite, and as a teacher I regularly use the prompts with my writing groups and classes at school. Lately I have really enjoyed his own short stories that he posts. When I found myself checking IG more than normal to see if the next installment of his short story was out I decided that I should order his book.

I was 100% not disappointed. I read the book in 24 hours, reading until about 3am in the morning! Not many books can engage me past my bed time!

So I thought this book was AMAZING. I enjoyed that it was a really new concept and was super engaging. I have found myself lately really frustrated by an increasing amount of books about royalty in a dystopian world where nothing kind of changes. I was a little worried about this book in terms of that however he really nails that balance between royalty and rebellion taking the book to a place where not much YA fiction goes. (Vague I know but I don’t want to give any spoilers!)

Ok – lets talk about the world building. This world is totally engaging, all the details have been thought about the world is phenomenal. I also really liked that the world of the book had a place within our world. I thought this was a really nice element that made the book more relateable as well.

The characters were really well thought out and their individual motivations were fantastic. I really felt for each of them. I thought all the characters balanced each other out well and I really enjoyed them struggling with that line between being good or not – doing the right thing or not. I really think that it is those shades of grey that make a book so facinating and characters so real.

Finally the plot – the thing I can probably talk the least about – because I legit think anyone reading this jsut needs to go and buy the book! The plot was full of twists and turns, some I was able to see coming, but some really surprised me as we went. By the end of the book I would have liked more answers than questions – but also the second book had better not take too long to come out!  I thought the pace of the book was perfect, which I think is particularly challenging in a first book where you are trying to balance the need to fill the reader in on the world, but that was beautifully done, as was the book switching between the two main characters points of views. I really liked later in the book where their views often overlapped so we were able to see the same event from both points, but I am pleased the whole book was not like this!

I get really pissed off these days that no books can be a stand alone and everything is a trilogy. Often I finish the first book and make a decision that I will not be reading the trilogy as it is not a world I want to go back to. That is NOT the case with this book – I cannot wait to fall back into this world, and will happily buy the next two books.

Honestly – if you enjoy YA fantasy then you need to go and buy this book. It was cheap – which does not by any means reflect the quality of the writing! You are able to see the influences of other YA fantasy and YA dystopian literature on this author but the concept and story his very uniquely his. I really cannot recommend this enough!

Mrs K

Genre: Fantasy, Magic, Speculative Fiction, royalty,

 

Book Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely

Book 19 of 2020

A Curse so dark and lonelyWow. So it has been a very long time since I a book kept me so engrossed that I read through the night. But that was what happened wit this book. I had read the first maybe 100 pages, and then I started reading as I went to bed and then just kind of kept reading! Finished up about 3am!

NZ has currently been in lock down for 11 days, and I thought that I would read a lot more than I have – but another friend also commented that she had not quite been in the mood for reading either – so it could be about the situation rather than just me!

Anyway – so

A Curse So Dark and Lonely is written by Bridget Kemmerer.

It  is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and it is absolutely fantastic! I am not normally a massive retelling kind of person – I find them a little frustrating. However I will most detinitely make an exception to that rule for this book. I guess to start with I should be upfront – Beauty and the Beast is probably my favourite Disney story anyway – I love the classic Disney version that I grew up with, and I even enjoyed the more recent live action that Disney released. SO based on that theory there is probably no surprise that I loved this retelling.

I was talking to my husband when I finally woke up after my night of reading about the book, and he made the point that the fact that we all already know the story, and that the author knows the story means that there is perhaps more room to play with in terms of world and character creation. I think that definitely was the case here – the beast – was not quite the same as the beast in the Disney movie – instead you got a lot more back story and a lot more information, and almost a sense of acceptance from him.

The Beauty was fiery and determined and everything that I love about an epic heroine. She had cerebal palsy too – which I thought was a nice addition, she talked quite a bit too about how she was not weak or injured she was simply born that way.  I loved her determination, and the fierceness that she showed that was more than what Belle showed in the original.

However I also liked the classic moments that were offered – my all time favourite scene in the original Disney Beauty and the Beast is the bit in the garden where yuo see the beast starting to feed the birds – it is the moment of the start of teh relationship – in this book – it is dancing under the stars.

One other thing that I really really liked was throughout the text they way that neither of them had ever been in love before – so they talked quite a bit about not knowing if this was real, if they were falling in love, or what it was that they were feeling.

This has been one of these books that I have struggled to let go of. I see that there is a book two – thank goodness because there are definitely answers that I still need!! Perhaps I will give in and purchase the e-book and stop trying to leave the world!

Mrs K

Genre: Fantasy, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult.

Book Review: The Binding

Book 18 of 2020

The Binding. Written by Bridget Collins.

The BindingSo after my post about the Carnegie short list things esculated very quickly in New Zealand, and libraries shut and then we ended up on lockdown. So despite my best intentions and efforts I have only got my hands on a couple of the books from the list. I cannot even order the rest from book depository as couriers in NZ are only delivering essential goods.

In the meantime though I went to my school library on the day that it closed and picked up a whole range of fantasy to keep me occupied during these four weeks in isolation.

The first of these books was The Binding. People had been telling me about The Binding for ages, so I do feel a little behind the ball here – but man am I pleased that I finally read it! It was so good. It was written in three parts, and each of the three parts was very different. My favourite part was definitely the first part, this is where you uncovered the world of the text and began to understand the importance of the binding, and the craft, and then later the secret. The second part unravelled the forgotten story and then the third part, perhaps predictably was the conclusion to the story.

I thought that this book was really well written, I would have liked more information in the first part, and I ultimately would have liked Emmet to stay in the cottage and learn the skill from a true binder, however I understand that from a story perspective that needed to happen.

While I really enjoyed the premise I did feel that the characters were not as well developed as I would have liked – I certainly wanted to feel more strongly towards Emmet than I did in the end, which was a pity. Perhaps though that was just me. I would certainly pick up another book if there was to be a second one in the series, but I did not love this book as much as I had hoped.

Mrs K

Genre: Speculative Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, LGBT,

Book Review: Five Dark Fates

Book 17 of 2020

Five Dark Fates. Written by Kendare Blake

five dark fates 1 This is book Four in the series of Three dark Crowns. I have absolutely loved this series – I lost a little of my interest in book two, but it definitely pulled me back. This book, the finale continued to take me by surprise, but also did not quite give me what it was that I was after.

I really wanted an ending that offered a strong queen and an obvious solution. However this book did not do that. I saw lots of evidence of strong characters. I liked that the characters worked together to battle challenges that they were able to overcome.

I liked the characters in this series immensly. I really liked the way that they grew and developed in response to the problems that they faced. I say this too – not just about the main characters, but all characters, even those side supporting characters were able to change and grow as was needed. The characterisation was definitely one of the strengths of the book.

I also continued  to like the setting, particularly with the development of the mist as more than just mist, but a protector and enemy of sorts. I liked the connection to the land that the various groups of people on the island had. Also – ultimately the way that the island in many ways was alive with the magic.

What I did not like was the lack of what felt like a cohesive ending. I wanted a really five dark fatesdefinitive answer and solution, instead, while it felt like we got close to one, in the end we did not. To be honest, I would even have accepted ultimately more evidence in the epilogue about how exactly things were working. Instead – with this lacking – the end of the series felt very much like an anticlimax – made worse in a way because it took me four books to get to that point.

Overall – I still enjoyed this series, I really liked that it felt different to a lot of the other royal fantasy books that are on the market at the moment. Perhaps I need to read some fan fiction in order to get the resolution I felt I needed.

Mrs K

Genre: Fantasy, Sepculative Fiction, Magic, Romance, Sisters, Fiction, Young Adult.

 

 

Book Review: Ember Queen

Book 13 of 2020

Ember Queen. Written by Laura Sebastian.

Ember QueenWOW!! This whole series took me by surprise. This last book was no exception. I keep coming back to one of the reviews written on the back of the book which is by Virginia Boecker – which says “A smart, feminist twist on a traditional tale of a fallen heroine.” I thought about this heaps as I read the book and it is so true. I loved the way that Theo grew into her role, I loved the way that she grappled with her past, with her relationship with her mother and the crown. I loved so many things!!

I also really liked the relationship that Theo had with Cress, and the complications that that brought to the battle for her.

I thought as a character Theo was quite admirable, and I really liked the people that she chose to surround herself with – although if we are honest, they were not all her own choices.

There was a certainl component of her winning at the end of the day which felt a little bit like luck, which was a little frustrating, but I can also appreciate that the parts that I felt like were glossed over were probably done so so that the book was not 4000 pages long!

While I would 100% recommend this to others to read, and I 100% loved it as a series, I feel like it is important to acknowledge that it is not anything significantly new. It is a similar type of book of many of this dystopian royal books in a class society. In all these books there is a surpressed character, who stands  up agains all odds and changes the world.

What I liked about this particular one was probably that sense of identity and that sense of coming into herself. I also – like with The Queen of Nothing (which I read directly before this) really liked that at the end of the book there was a massive focus on netting out a fair and just punishment, and in this book, the focus was on doing this so as not to have a repeat of the situation that they had just had. Which I thought was fantastic, and a really good aspect to have in young adult fiction.

Mrs K

Genre: Fantasy, Speculative Fiction , LGBTQ, Young Adult.