Review – A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom of Fire #1) by Jessica Cluess

A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom of Fire #1)

By Jessica Cluess

SummaryI am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city–and the one she loves?

Add to Goodreads

Source: I purchased a hardcover.

Review:

 A Shadow Bright and Burning was full of magic and adventure. Henrietta possessed the power to use fire and it often ignited out of anger. Reports of the frequent fires led a sorcerer to check out her school to find the witch. She thought, based on the history of magical women, it was to execute or imprison the culprit for possessing magic. But it turned out to be about a prophecy of a young female sorcerer and she was the Chosen One. Or was she?

Henrietta struggled to fit in and train as a sorcerer and her life got pretty complicated as a result. 

I wish the story was as gorgeous as the cover, but for me, it fell short. It sounds so amazing and it’s one of those books that I didn’t enjoy, can’t really figure out why, and when I reread the synopsis, it makes me want to read the book, so what went wrong? I felt off for the entire story. I never really connected with Henrietta and so many of the scene changes just felt abrupt. So much happened and I never felt like I was fully introduced to everything. Henrietta was off doing lessons, exploring London on her own, making friends, making enemies, becoming an apprentice, and yet I felt bored and disconnected somehow. 

I think I expected a different style of writing to accompany the magic and setting and I just didn’t get it. It read more like a boarding school book than one of magic and London and wonder. 

I have an ARC of the sequel, so I’m likely to continue the story, but I’m not sure that I would if I didn’t feel obligated to. 

Star 3

Top Ten Tuesday – Book Recommendations

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Book Recommendations for 90’s Lovers

 

1. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

2. Landline by Rainbow Rowell

3. Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas

4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

5. That Summer by Sarah Dessen

 

Review – Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh

 

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1)

By Renee Ahdieh

SummaryThe only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.


Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy from my local library

Review:

Flame in the Mist has been compared to Mulan, but it takes place in Japan, not China, and aside from the girl dressing as a boy to fit into a group of boys, it’s an entirely different plot. It was clear that the author did her research while creating the setting and it was a gorgeous story full of magic and adventure that was rich in Japanese folklore and history. In many ways, her writing shined.

I enjoyed Flame in the Mist, but it was not without flaws. One of the biggest flaws was Mariko herself. She didn’t really do anything or have much of a purpose aside from a few scenes when she stood out as something more. Yet, throughout the story, we are constantly told how she’s so smart and ingenious. It was frustrating because she felt very much like a spectator. Every other character was so well fleshed out and interesting, but Mariko’s character felt flat.

I really enjoyed the plot. I even enjoyed the romance, though it seems it was hit or miss for many reviewers. I liked that it wasn’t the main focus, too. I also enjoyed the bigger conflict between the different groups. 

I wish the book had more of a focus, but I tend to blame Mariko because she never really admitted to herself about her intentions once she found the Black Clan and so the book sort of lost focus while she fit in with them. I was also a little disappointed by the amount of telling vs showing in the book. I didn’t get that sense at all from her other series, so I can’t help but feel that, if I’m comparing them, this book falls short of my expectations. It’s not nearly as good as The Wrath and the Dawn, but it was good and I’d continue reading, but I’m glad I didn’t buy the hardcover. 

Star 3

Book Blogger Hop – August 11

Book_blogger_Hop.png

Book Blogger Hop

Hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer

Do you participate in readathons and/or reading challenges? 

(submitted by Kristin @ Lukten av Trykksverte)

 

Yes! I love the POPSUGAR Reading Challenges that come out every year. 

I also set a Goodreads reading goal each year to challenge myself since I track all my books on Goodreads, anyway. 

See my challenges here and my progress halfway through this year here.

Review – Rant by Chuck Palahniuk

Rant

By Chuck Palahniuk

SummaryBuster “Rant” Casey just may be the most efficient serial killer of our time. A high school rebel, Rant Casey escapes from his small town home for the big city where he becomes the leader of an urban demolition derby called Party Crashing. Rant Casey will die a spectacular highway death, after which his friends gather the testimony needed to build an oral history of his short, violent life.

Add to Goodreads

Source: I purchased a paperback

Review:

Rant was weird. Obviously. 

It was told as an Oral History from multiple perspectives. 

It’s very difficult to review the book because I wasn’t really sure what I was reading for most of the book. Like any Chuck Palahniuk books, it was kind of gross, really weird, completely f’ed up, and made many jabs at society and human nature and people.

I mean, does anyone pick up a Chuck Palahniuk book for any other reason than to experience all of those things at once?

I kind of loved Rant, but it was annoying and frustrating and it took some help from the internet to figure out what the F I just read. But then I also appreciated how crazy it was. 

I think I might need to reread this one now that I know who everyone really is and how the time frames work. 

I don’t recommend this book because I can’t recommend any Chuck Palahniuk books to any strangers or friends because as soon as they open one they’d just assume I’m a deranged psychopath and never speak to me again. But if you’re already a fan, then sure, I recommend it.  

Star 3

Review – Firestarter by Stephen King

 

Firestarter

By Stephen King

SummaryFirst, a man and a woman are subjects of a top-secret government experiment designed to produce extraordinary psychic powers.

Then, they are married and have a child. A daughter.

Early on the daughter shows signs of a wild and horrifying force growing within her. Desperately, her parents try to train her to keep that force in check, to act normal.”

Now the government wants its brainchild back for its own insane ends.

Add to Goodreads

Source: I purchased a paperback from a used book store.

Review:

When my husband and I started watching Stranger Things, he said that Eleven’s story reminded him of Firestarter. Amazingly, I had never seen the movie, but it just took a few bits of research to realize it was based off of the Stephen King novel. Stories like this are right up my alley, so I began the hunt for the book (which wasn’t easy, actually). I finally found it a few months later and dug right in. 

Firestarter was interesting. And like most Stephen King novels, it was pretty in depth in regards to exploring who people are and what makes them tick. I loved the concept. I’m already intrigued by government conspiracies, especially those that involve strange drugs and testing because there is some truth to that in American history and I love seeing the aftermath had any of those tests been successful. What if someone gained some sort of mental power because of top secret testing and weird serums? It’s such a great idea that anyone can build on.

In Firestarter, two test subjects gained slight mental powers. And then they fell in love, got married, and reproduced. Their child, Charlie McGee, was the firestarter, with the ability to create heat and flame, from small to large and explosive.

For much of the book, Charlie and her father, Andy, were on the run. Her mother had been murdered by the agency called The Shop, and found them after they got careless and settled into a place. Andy could “push” people and make them believe different things and influence them. But it wasn’t easy and it gave him headaches that sometimes took him days to recover from.

I don’t really want to give any of the plot away, but I do have to admit that for a book with such a cool concept, it wasn’t as exciting as I’d imagined. There was just a lot of running, a lot of Andy being worried about stuff, a lot of him trying to comfort his daughter, and a lot of near misses. Some sections switched to agents working for The Shop as well. The second half of the book was a little more interesting because Rainbird was interested in getting Charlie to unleash her abilities and he was playing both her and The Shop, but I was mostly just intrigued by his insight into human nature.

It’s difficult to rate because it came out in the early 80s and there have been hoards of fiction regarding the same topics that I feel have better expanded upon some of the aspects of conspiracies, testings, abilities, etc. For its time, Firestarter was probably pretty awesome, but today it just didn’t impact me as much as I’d hoped. There wasn’t a lot of emotional connection to the characters and ultimately, that’s what made it fall kind of flat. I would’ve rather seen through the eyes of Charlie, I think. I would’ve liked a more complicated agency and more of a complicated plot, but I did enjoy the book.

 Star 4

Review – The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

 

The Love Interest

By Cale Dietrich

SummaryThere is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: the boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: the brooding, dark-souled guy who is dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose the Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be—whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both. 

Source: I purchased a hardcover as part of the Book of the Month Club

Add to Goodreads

Review:

It’s kind of difficult to rate The Love Interest. It was awful and made zero sense, but it did an amazing job at making fun of tired YA tropes and if that was the point, then it was kind of awesome.

Basically, The Love Interest was a dystopian novel in which a secret organization takes kids and makes them into Love Interests. Every important person will have one, but in order to ensure he or she chooses the spy, they create a Bad and a Nice in order to appeal to the person. Whoever she doesn’t pick will die. It’s outrageous and makes no sense, but I’ve read enough awful YA to be entertained by the premise. In The Love Interest, Caden started to fall for the wrong person: the Bad guy. Which was also kind of awesome because it’s about time the idiot heroine who keeps bouncing between two guys loses both, right?

Caden narrated the story and he didn’t believe he was really Nice, but played his part in order to not die. He was kind of bland and awful, as was nearly all of the dialogue, but the book makes fun of so much wrong in YA, I can’t help but wonder if it was all on purpose. 

I’m not really sure if I read a brilliant parody of every YA dystopian novel ever or another awful addition to that pile, so I gave the book three stars because it’s either really good or really bad and I shot for the middle. 

Star 3