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Review – Ivory and Bone (Ivory and Bone #1) by Julie Eshbaugh

Ivory and Bone (Ivory and Bone #1)

By Julie Eshbaugh

SummaryA prehistoric fantasy—with allusions to Pride and Prejudice.

Hunting, gathering, and keeping his family safe—that’s the life seventeen-year-old Kol knows. Then bold, enigmatic Mya arrives from the south with her family, and Kol is captivated. He wants her to like and trust him, but any hopes of impressing her are ruined when he makes a careless—and nearly grave—mistake. However, there’s something more to Mya’s cool disdain…a history wrought with loss that comes to light when another clan arrives. With them is Lo, an enemy from Mya’s past who Mya swears has ulterior motives.

As Kol gets to know Lo, tensions between Mya and Lo escalate until violence erupts. Faced with shattering losses, Kol is forced to question every person he’s trusted. One thing is for sure: this was a war that Mya or Lo—Kol doesn’t know which—had been planning all along.

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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Review:

Ivory and Bone was incredibly disappointing. 

Jane Austen retelling/reimagining books in the YA world have been extremely dazzling and unique. I expected there to be a reason for the setting in prehistoric times and I expected a story that focused on interpersonal relationships because there was little else for clans to do in prehistoric times but create legends, survive, and carry on. 

To be quite honest, I couldn’t help but feel like the book was a waste of potential. The setting, while boring to some, left a lot of room for real character development. The Pride and Prejudice inspiration seemed like it would be a story that was inspired and passionate. There was even a unique aspect to the POV because Kol, the narrator, spoke to you, a love interest in the story. But none of those things worked well. I almost feel like the prehistoric aspect was a way to strip down a simple story and make it even more simple and to the point. It is a story that could’ve happened anywhere, so I don’t feel like there was real storytelling or character development.

At the end of the book, I didn’t feel like I really knew anyone. Let me be clear, there was next to nothing else aside from characters interacting with one another in the book because that’s all there was. Someone hunted, they moved, they made pelts, they found honey, they told stories. It was a prehistoric setting. So to feel like I didn’t really know anyone meant that the ONLY aspect in the entire book that existed wasn’t very well done.

I just.. I just don’t get why this book exists. It didn’t really work. It was boring, forgettable, and it told a story that could’ve been whittled down to a few sentences because there wasn’t much else going on. Why would anyone do this story in this setting in this way?

To be honest, I would’ve been more intrigued if it was detailed in the way they hunted, made weapons, worshipped, and lived their lives. Chapters full of the hierarchy of each clan, complete with legends told by the fire would’ve made the book worth my time because there would’ve been something MORE to it. 

The POV didn’t work at all. The lack of communication and lack of understanding that everyone had for one another just made the first person to second person narration simple (since Kol only understood his own life and assumed everything else about Mya’s and we never really got into Mya’s head because we were in Kol’s the whole time) and I think I would’ve needed to get into the head or daily life of everyone to have enjoyed myself. 

Star 2

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Review – Caraval by Stephanie Garber

 

Caraval

By Stephanie Garber

SummaryRemember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

Source: I received a hardcover in an Owlcrate

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Review:

I enjoyed Caraval so much. It promised an atmosphere similar to that of The Night Circus and it came in the Run Away with the Circus themed Owlcrate box. It wasn’t quite the same, but I see why the two books are compared or recommended to fans of one or the other.

I enjoyed the mystery and intrigue. Everything that happened from the moment Scarlett awoke to find herself headed to Caraval was a mystery. Who could she trust? Could she even trust herself? What would happen? Is everything just a game? I love books that can surprise me and throw something at me and make me doubt my own instincts. Caraval did a wonderful job with maintaining the atmosphere, surprising the reader, and remaining unpredictable to the very end.

My only real complaint was that I never really cared for Scarlett or her sister and I thought the book could’ve been amazing had they been more likable. But I am one to read books often with characters that are unlikable, sometimes on purpose, and enjoy them, so it wasn’t off-putting for me. Fair warning, if you tend to dislike books as a whole when you don’t like the main character, Caraval may not be the book for you.

I definitely recommend Caraval and I’m glad i finally picked it up and read it. It was exactly what i was in the mood for and did not disappoint. I loved the ride and figuring out what, if anything, I could trust.

Star 4

 

Review – The Black Witch (The Black Witch Chronicles #1) by Laurie Forest

 

 

The Black Witch (The Black Witch Chronicles #1)

By Laurie Forest

SummaryA new Black Witch will rise…her powers vast beyond imagining.

Elloren Gardner is the granddaughter of the last prophesied Black Witch, Carnissa Gardner, who drove back the enemy forces and saved the Gardnerian people during the Realm War. But while she is the absolute spitting image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above all else.

When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren joins her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University to embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother’s legacy. But she soon realizes that the university, which admits all manner of people—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of all Gardnerians—is a treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.

As evil looms on the horizon and the pressure to live up to her heritage builds, everything Elloren thought she knew will be challenged and torn away. Her best hope of survival may be among the most unlikely band of misfits…if only she can find the courage to trust those she’s been taught to hate and fear.

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Source: I purchased a hardcover.

Review:

It’s difficult to review the book without talking about the drama around it. The Black Witch‘s rating is quite low and I feel that it’s unfair. Regardless of how anyone feels about prejudice today, I strongly believe that we will only overcome society’s problems by talking about them rationally on both sides.

I loved The Black Witch

The Black Witch was, in my opinion, a thought provoking book that deals with the prejudices that people hold. I enjoy when fantasy novels handle issues that affect the real world and I thought the book did a fantastic job portraying how prejudice and discrimination happen and the various types of issues that make them worse. 

 

“People see what they expect to see,” he says sharply. “Through a filter of their own hatred and prejudice.”

 

The book contains just about every prejudice and bias there can be in the world on its pages. It is not easy to read a book that so shockingly displays those things, often without anyone questioning the offender. However, a book that contains awful material does not mean that a book condones or promotes those awful things. The scenes serve to shock and offend and are a part of crafting the world. The scenes that occur are supposed to be uncomfortable for the reader because we know better. And we hope that the main character realizes it. (The good news is she does, but it does take her awhile. It takes her going to University and intermingling with people of various backgrounds in order for her to question everything she ever thought was true.)

The Black Witch sparks controversy where it should’ve sparked real conversation. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a book that did such an incredible job at grasping the intricacies of prejudice and the book had the intent to show how wrong prejudice was. It saddens me that people see the book as something that supports racism when I feel that it serves to show us just how wrong anyone is for judging another group of people for their race or culture or background. 

I’ve always thought that people need to be shocked and offended sometimes in order to wake up and realize they are wrong, so everything about The Black Witch was great. I also appreciated the fact that it displayed prejudices in all forms and not just those of the cruel elite. It was a story about how everyone should stop judging others, while also being a story about how it’s wrong to oppress others for being poor or different. 

I cannot wait to read the rest of the series and watch the cruel Gardnerian rule fall and the Resistance win. 

Star 5

  

 

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?

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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

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

Review – A Crown of Wishes (The Star-Touched Queen #2) by Roshani Chokshi

 

 

A Crown of Wishes (The Star-Touched Queen #2)

by Roshani Chokshi

SummaryAn ancient mystery. An unlikely union. For one young princess in a state of peril, a dangerous wish could be the only answer…

She is the princess of Bharata—captured by her kingdom’s enemies, a prisoner of war. Now that she faces a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. But should she trust Vikram, the notoriously cunning prince of a neighboring land? He promises her freedom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together they can team up and win the Tournament of Wishes, a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor. It seems like a foolproof plan—until Gauri and Vikram arrive at the tournament and find that danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans, mischievous story birds, a feast of fears, and twisted fairy revels. New trials will test their devotion, strength, and wits. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

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Source: I received a digital copy from Netgalley

Review:

The Star-Touched Queen was one of my favorite 2016 debut novels. It took me awhile to finally pick up the sequel because I wasn’t sure if I wanted there to be one. The story ended, but I realized that the book wasn’t about Maya, though she did make a couple appearances. It was about Gauri, her sister. Still, it took me forever to finally read it.

A Crown of Wishes was beautifully written and poetic, with a lavish setting and romance you couldn’t help but root for. 

So why did I rate it three stars?

A Crown of Wishes was too much. I liked the romance and I liked Vikram and Gauri as characters, and I even liked the setting and weird adventure the two went on to participate in the tournament. There was magic and mystery around every corner, but it was over the top. The writing that I appreciated so much in book one was just dripping with poetry and magic and it slowed the pace of the story to the point of being too slow. 

This is one of those examples of why I prefer standalone books. When we want more of something, sometimes more isn’t really what we want. A Crown of Wishes had a good plot and romance, so if you’re prepared for lyrical writing and a majestic setting and you don’t compare it too much to The Star-Touched Queen, it’s a great read. 

Star 3

Review – Fire Study (Study #3) by Maria V. Snyder

 

Fire Study (Study #3)

By Maria V. Snyder

SummaryThe Apprenticeship is Over Now the Real Test has Begun.

When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder able to capture and release souls spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena’s unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the Council debates Yelena’s fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before….

Honor sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself and save the land she holds dear.

Source: I purchased a kindle copy.

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Review

Fire Study was the third book in the Study series and took place right after Magic Study ended. It concludes the Study series, but there is also a spinoff trilogy that involves some familiar characters and extends this series. Yelena discovered she was a Soulfinder and so did the Council, which raised some eyebrows of concern. The last Soulfinder was power hungry and awful and Yelena’s knack for acting without thinking was a dangerous trait for someone so powerful. She was set to pair with a Magician who hated her in order for Yelena to better hone her skills. 

I really enjoyed Poison Study and gave Magic Study a lot of slack because it switched settings and was definitely different from the first book. But Fire Study tried my patience and left me feeling frustrated and annoyed. The plot was over the top and I found myself unable to care about any of the characters anymore. Fire Study could’ve bridged the gap between the amazing first book and the second book that suffered from second book syndrome, but instead, it continued along the downward spiral of the series. Not even Kiki the horse could cheer me up or make me care about anyone or anything.

The plot was full of crazy theories and plans, holes, leaps of logic, and shockingly convenient solutions. Yelena’s go-get-em attitude didn’t seem to evolve and just started to get old. Even Valek was watered down and lame, always swooping in to save the day and whisper sweet nothings instead of being the strong character he was in book one. The whole story was full of convenient actions and started to feel like one of those series where suddenly this one person has all of this influence with two warring countries in a way that makes absolutely no sense. Also, I hated that all of the good guys were always on Yelena’s side and all off the bad guys were people she just couldn’t get along with. It was so juvenile for the actual bad guys to be conveniently people that she just couldn’t seem to like or didn’t like her. That’s not how the real world works and I would’ve preferred to see the story take the path it was supposed to with her training and have her actually learn stuff instead of galavanting into the wilderness to save the day. 

The spin off Soulfinder series has much better reviews, so there’s no telling whether I’ll continue at this point, but I know it won’t be anytime soon. I have no idea what happened to the amazing story from book one, but it got so ridiculous. 

Star 2