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Photo Review – The Fate of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #3) by Erika Johansen

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The Fate of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #3)

by Erika Johansen

Summary: In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.

And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies – chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.

To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable – naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.

So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea – and the Tearling itself – will be revealed…

With The Fate of the Tearling, Erika Johansen draws her unforgettable story full of magic and adventure to a thrilling close.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy

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Review:

The Queen of the Tearling trilogy has to be one of the most unique and strange, but somehow compelling fantasy (or is it fantasy?) stories I’ve read. I loved the weirdness, the jumps through the past and future, and the characters.

The Fate of the Tearling was a strong conclusion and the ending was mind blowing. Saying much else would just be giving too much away. I did enjoy getting to see a glimpse of the beginnings of the Tearling, with William Tear still alive and the next generation beginning, when we start to see the problems bubble up.

I highly recommend the series.

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Star 4

Photo Review – The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser

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The Book Jumper

by Mechthild Glaser

Summary: Amy Lennox doesn’t know quite what to expect when she and her mother pick up and leave Germany for Scotland, heading to her mother’s childhood home of Lennox House on the island of Stormsay.

Amy’s grandmother, Lady Mairead, insists that Amy must read while she resides at Lennox House—but not in the usual way. It turns out that Amy is a book jumper, able to leap into a story and interact with the world inside. As thrilling as Amy’s new power is, it also brings danger: someone is stealing from the books she visits, and that person may be after her life. Teaming up with fellow book jumper Will, Amy vows to get to the bottom of the thefts—at whatever cost.

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Source: I purchased a hardcover

Review:

The Book Jumper was a fun middle grade fantasy about literature. The cover is absolutely gorgeous and was the sole reason I purchased the book.

I enjoyed the premise, but I felt that it wasn’t as great as I’d hoped. A lot of the lessons to be learned are done by the Inkheart trilogy and I feel that the Inkheart trilogy was able to convey the same type of message with a much better story that gripped me regardless of my age. I think the biggest think lacking in this book was the character development. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters and I found even the mom to be kind of ridiculous and unbelievable.

This is a good story, so for kids who have perhaps exhausted the middle grade category and love books (and have already read Inkheart), perhaps this book is a great suggestion!

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Star 3

Fox and Wit Challenge – Book I bought because of the cover

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge – Book I meant to read in 2018

Photo Review – The Invasion of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #2) by Erika Johansen

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The Invasion of the Tearling

(The Queen of the Tearling #2)

by Erika Johansen

Summary: Kelsea Glynn is the Queen of the Tearling. Despite her youth, she has quickly asserted herself as a fair, just and powerful ruler.

However, power is a double-edged sword, and small actions can have grave consequences. In trying to do what is right – stopping a vile trade in humankind – Kelsea has crossed the Red Queen, a ruthless monarch whose rule is bound with dark magic and the spilling of blood. The Red Queen’s armies are poised to invade the Tearling, and it seems nothing can stop them.

Yet there was a time before the Crossing, and there Kelsea finds a strange and possibly dangerous ally, someone who might hold the key to the fate of the Tearling, and indeed to Kelsea’s own soul. But time is running out…

Erika Johansen’s fierce and unforgettable young heroine returns in this dazzling new novel of magic and adventure, set in the beguiling world of the Tearling.

Source: I purchased a kindle copy

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Review:

One of the interesting aspects of the first book was that, while it was a fantasy as I expected, it actually took place in the future. The Invasion of the Tearling felt more futuristic since Kelsea was able to see visions of the past, which resemble a futuristic world to us where things fell apart, technology was used to control people, and a man named William Tear had a better vision of the world.

I loved the twists and turns in the sequel and how it sort of opened up the big picture so we weren’t just concerned about the fate of Tearling or Mortesme, but how the past has shaped it and how the Queen can use those visions to better her present world.

I cannot figure this trilogy out and I love not really knowing what will happen since I’m not even certain what genre it fits into. I highly recommend it!

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Star 4

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge – book told in multiple POVs

Photo Review – The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

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The Queen of the Tearling

by Erika Johansen

Summary: An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom’s haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea’s forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen’s Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen’s vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen’s Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as “the Fetch.”

Kelsea’s quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea’s journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her.

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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Review:

I really enjoyed The Queen of the Tearling.

It had a slow start and wasn’t quite as action packed or romantic as I’ve come to expect from YA fantasy, but then I realized that I wasn’t reading YA fantasy at all. It was an adult fantasy, but since the author is a woman and the protagonist is 19, I think there’s a lot of confusion on where to place it. There wasn’t a ton of violence or sex, so it’s not inappropriate for YA, it just lacks the familiar formula of a YA fantasy, fortunately.

I absolutely loved how the book was written. Each chapter had quotes from works set in the world, presumably in the future, that talked about the Glynn Queen, the True Queen, and even the Red Queen. We knew in the present that she was traveling to the capital in order to claim her throne and we knew that it would likely upset the Mort Queen in the neighboring country due to the last war and the treaty that prevented it. I had no idea what would happen and I liked not being able to predict anything. Occasionally, the author would shift to different perspective, like that of the Mort/Red Queen and the traitorous Gate Guard.

I realized quickly that I wasn’t reading just another formulaic fantasy with a would be queen who would likely be super naive and change things and then fall for a handsome guy. Kelsea was smart, angry, and not used to being pampered, so when she made changes and rash decisions, they were often things that needed to be done. And while it could be argued that she did indeed fall for a guy, it was not at all romantic or even a major plot point whatsoever, nor did she make decisions based on her love interest. The more Kelsea began to understand her kingdom, the more the reader began to understand the world and I loved how it all unfolded.

As an interesting twist, the book was a fantasy, with horses and armor and long journeys, but yet was set in a future where the modern world somehow collapsed and many technologies were lost during an event called the Crossing, so it’s like civilization starting fresh. I can’t wait to know more.

I highly recommend the book and I can’t wait to read the rest of the books.

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Star 4

Fox and Wit Reading Challenge – A book with foil on the cover

2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge – A Debut novel

Photo Review – The Last Namsara (Iskari #1) by Kristen Ciccarelli

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The Last Namsara (Iskari #1)

by Kristen Ciccarelli

Summary: In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

Source: I purchased a kindle copy

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Review:

I enjoyed The Last Namsara and liked that it was a YA fantasy about dragons. Asha was a fierce character who slayed dragons and wasn’t afraid to break laws and tell the old stories to gain an advantage. She was more stubborn about other things, which made her somewhat realistic.

I enjoyed the political plot, but I wished that Asha was not so reluctant to involve herself in the schemes of everyone else. It made her seem clueless and selfish, and therefore much more of a teenager, which is fine because it’s YA, it’s just frustrating as an adult reader.

I was not a fan of the insta-love. I felt that the original slave love story was sufficient enough to serve as a warning and Asha’s brother’s story was enough of an example that the book could have avoided throwing Asha into a relationship of her own. It didn’t advance the plot much more other than make Asha appear more selfish and clueless.

I rated the book three stars because I was bouncing between loving it and disliking it all at the same time. It was fun and I love dragons. YA fantasy has been so hit or miss for me throughout the past year or so, and sometimes I feel that I’m not quite fair, but then I’ll read a YA that floors me and regret throwing so many 4 stars out to books that just didn’t quite grip me.

If you love YA fantasy and dragons, you’ll enjoy this one and I highly recommend it.

If YA or YA fantasy isn’t really your cup of tea, this isn’t the book that will blow your mind.

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Star 3

2019 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge – book about an extinct or imaginary creature (dragons)

Fox and Wit Reading Challenge – A book with a sword on the cover

Photo Review – Air Awakens (Air Awakens #1) by Elise Kova

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Air Awakens (Air Awakens #1)

by Elise Kova

Summary: A library apprentice, a sorcerer prince, and an unbreakable magic bond…

The Solaris Empire is one conquest away from uniting the continent, and the rare elemental magic sleeping in seventeen-year-old library apprentice Vhalla Yarl could shift the tides of war.

Vhalla has always been taught to fear the Tower of Sorcerers, a mysterious magic society, and has been happy in her quiet world of books. But after she unknowingly saves the life of one of the most powerful sorcerers of them all–the Crown Prince Aldrik–she finds herself enticed into his world. Now she must decide her future: Embrace her sorcery and leave the life she’s known, or eradicate her magic and remain as she’s always been. And with powerful forces lurking in the shadows, Vhalla’s indecision could cost her more than she ever imagined.

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Source: I purchased a Kindle copy

Review:

I’ve heard so many great things about Air Awakens and it’s been on my TBR for awhile. It’s come highly recommended and was one of the suggestions in a facebook book group when I asked about really good YA fantasy when I was tired of the same old woe-is-me-now-I’m-magical-or-important YA heroines. The cover is absolutely gorgeous, as are all the covers to the series. They are very eye catching.

I enjoyed the plot, premise, and overall magic structure of the world. I thought the story was interesting, compelling, and I definitely considered purchasing the sequels when I finished to see what would happen to the characters as the series progressed. However, I’m only rating the book 3 stars because it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped and was ultimately not very well executed or well written compared to what I expected. To be quite honest, it was unpolished and a bit simplistic, which probably wouldn’t have mattered to me 5 years ago, but nevertheless matters to me now. I just can’t ignore the awkward dialogue, starry eyed main character who gapes and hems and haws about everything, or the plain common girl with suitors lined up everywhere and has no idea she is desirable trope. The same group of people who recommended this book also raved about The Remnant Chronicles, which was an absolutely amazing YA fantasy series and one that I found to be really well written, so I’m kind of disappointed overall.

For the price and the fact that it’s also a part of Kindle Unlimited, it was great, but it just doesn’t feel right to rate the book any higher than 3 when I’m pretty stingy with 5 star ratings and have rated some amazing books 4 stars this year. This book just doesn’t belong among those other books. With a better editor and some fine polishing, the story could be absolutely spectacular and I did enjoy it and consider whether to buy the rest or just let it go. I definitely recommend it if you aren’t as picky when it comes to the writing level of your books, if you don’t delve much into adult fantasy, and prefer YA.

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Star 3

Fox and Wit Reading Challenge – A book about a prince

2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge – a two word title

Photo Review – The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

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The Poppy War

by R.F. Kuang

Summary: When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.
But surprises aren’t always good.
Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.
For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .
Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy

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Review:

I really enjoyed The Poppy War, much more so than I expected. I think I bought it randomly when I saw a sale for the Kindle, knowing nothing about it. I started reading it to complete the prompt for the 2019 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge for a book with POP, SUGAR, or CHALLENGE in the title.

The Poppy War was a well told fantasy. It was well written, dark, featured a female protagonist, involved magic, but was in no way YA, full of romance, or remotely fluffy or magical in a light way. It was a book about war. (When I say dark, I really do mean it. There was drug use, bullying, death, violence, genocide, etc.)

I would recommend it to fantasy fans and anyone who enjoys Enders Game or Red Rising since those are other books that deal with the problem of war, strategizing, figuring out the truth of those you are fighting for, etc, though it’s in no way a science fiction like those.

The Poppy War was so good that I feel a little blindsided by it. It’s always such a great feeling to pick up a random book and it just hits you in the face with how great it is. The world building was rich, the politics were intriguing, and Rin’s evolution as a character was fascinating.

This is definitely must read for fantasy fans and I can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

The only reason that it’s not a five star rating is because I’m angry at Rin for her decisions towards the end. Maybe that’s not the greatest reason, but I couldn’t help but close the book feeling like the whole thing was utterly pointless if Rin was just going to feed into the vicious cycle. (No spoilers)

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Star 4

2019 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge – Book with POP, SUGAR, or CHALLENGE in the title