Sunday, 20 September 2020

Imprudence by Gail Carriger

 

The Custard Protocol
Publish Date: July 19th, 2016
Series: The Custard Protocol
Format Reviewed: Audiobook
Author: Gail Carriger
Author’s Website
Author's Twitter
Wikia
(has spoilers!)

Introduction

The Spotted Custard has returned from their adventure in India. Queen Victoria is, understandably, miffed with Rue. Dama is, also understandably, upset with her. The London werewolf pack is falling apart and something must be done about her father. Prim keeps getting engaged. Further, Rue's birthday means that she has come of age and has lost protection as a metanatural. To top it all off, Percy and Quesnel begin fighting over academic impoliteness, but the squabble unknowingly put the werecats in jepordy. To put it mildly, things could be going better for Rue. 

The Spotted Custard and crew goes off to warn the werecats. They are pursued by an unknown group, and Rue suspects it has something to do with a mysterious piece of equipment Quesnel has in the boiler room.   

Romance 

As Alexia puts it, her daughter is "progressive". She takes "French lessons" from Quesnel, if you know what that means. You know what I could have done without? All those French lessons. It was awkward listening to "first time" experiences in detail, over and over again. That's really my only criticism of the whole book. I just felt yucky listening to it, and if I wasn't gardening, I would have skipped those portions. 

Final Verdict

Perfectly fine fare, if you are alright with detailed passages about first sexual experiences. 

Saturday, 19 September 2020

The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

 


Publish Date: October 10th, 2017
Format Reviewed: Audiobook
Author: Amy Reed
Author’s Goodreads
My Review on Goodreads

Quick Review

Introduction

When Grace moves into a new town, she learns about a high school girl who was raped about a year prior. Horrified, she digs deeper. Nothing was really done about it. There were no consequences. She and her family moved away. Misogyny runs deep in the high school, and with her friends, Rosina and Erin, they start the collective known as the Nowhere Girls, in hopes of changing sexist culture. 

Characters

This book has a tonne of interesting characters. Grace comes to town because her mom was a former southern Baptist preacher, but after she fell off a horse and hit her head, she became more liberal and took up a position in this new town. Erin has Asperger's and loves marine biology and thinks she may be an android. Rosina is a lesbian and clashes with her conservative Mexican immigrant family. While the book starts off with three perspectives, it eventually does add more voices of various girls, some of the other Nowhere Girls, and some girls who have not joined. 

Overall Thoughts/Verdict 

This book does deal heavily with sexuality, consent, rape culture, and family dynamics. Ultimately, I recommend this book to older teens. However...I think we need to have these conversations with teens before they are ready to read this book. So in a way, this book affirms beliefs we (probably) already hold. If someone doesn't hold these beliefs, I don't see why they would pick this up, and I don't see this as changing anyone's mindset. It's still a fabulous book worth reading, though it does try to do a lot of things at once. I would have liked for the school to have changed in some regard, but it doesn't. With the exception of one teacher, we only see negative reactions from the school. The principle is a cartoonish villain besides the concept of generational misogyny. I still highly recommend it, though some readers may be put off by the themes.   

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

King of Always by Juno Heart

Black Blood Fae

Publish Date: August 24th, 2020
Format: ebook
Series: Black Blood Fae
Author: Juno Heart
Author’s Goodreads
My Review on Goodreads

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

Introduction

Taking place after the first book, King of Always brings another romance from the land of Faery. Isla, a baker with a stubborn and independent personality, has decided to take a vacation in the land of Faery. Raff is the current crown prince and is seeking his fated mate. In the last book, he is so carefree and friendly, but now, the curse runs through him. He has become colder, meaner. When Raff and Isla meet, it's obvious they are meant to be together, but Raff isn't exactly likable all the time, and Isla doesn't like being ordered around by anyone. To top it all off, they are in the land of Faery, a dangerous place for humans, no matter how independent they are. 






Relationship

I really enjoyed reading about their relationship dynamics. Can you imagine having a smouldering hot crown prince with fire magic trying to woo you? Poor Isla, though. She doesn't want to stay in Faery. She wants to be a baker and she has dreams she wants to fulfill in the human world. Plus, she wants to marry for love! But there's something unique about Isla and her baking and her link to fire that can't be ignored.



Final Verdict

I definitely recommend this book to people who like happily-ever-after romances, enemies-to-lovers, and faeries. It was just as addictive as the first book, and we get to see Lara and Ever again as well. Also, this book makes me want to bake. I have been told I make a mean apple pie. So, snuggle up with some baked goods and enjoy this fabulous book! 


 

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Light Mage by Laurie Forest

The Black Witch Chronicles
The Shadow Wand 

Publish Date: August 1st, 2018
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Format Reviewed: eBook
Series: The Black Witch Chronicles
Author: Laurie Forest
Author’s Goodreads
Author's Twitter
Author's Website
My Review on Goodreads


Trigger Warning for Sexual Assault

Introduction


Before the White Wand was given to Elloreen Gardner, Sage Gaffney was its protector. Sage comes from an extremely tight-laced family who are deeply entrenched in their religion. After a terrible event and the fallout, she flees. Outside in the world for the first time, alone, she comes across those willing to help her -- some of the very people she was raised to look down upon.

Sage is a light mage, capable of rare magic, but she didn't think she could do anything with her power. She was destined to marry, raise children, run a house, and nothing else. Now with the world open to her, she decides to make a difference.

Quick Thoughts

The romance was fairly instant, which I can almost forgive because this is a novella. But...she did move on from traumatic and life-altering events fairly quickly. This might irk some readers.

More amazing characters are introduced and more world-building unfolds.

Sage goes through her own personal growth and it is very satisfying. However, she is much like Elloreen in her thoughts at the beginning, and she becomes more "woke" as the story progresses.

To be honest, I could have not read this book. It didn't really tell me anything I was dying to know. Though I suspect characters/issues from this will resurface in book 3 (which I am on the waitlist for at the library).

Final Verdict 

Read it if you are a super-fan. It may not be for you if you have a hard time reading about sexual assault. We already know about this event from the other books in this series. The author gives you a warning in the beginning, and honestly, you can skim it or skip the whole scene if you would like. The fall out with her family was difficult to read as well, though victim-blaming happens far too often in real-life.  

Friday, 15 May 2020

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

Publish Date: April 5th, 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format Reviewed: Audiobook
Author: Monica Hesse
Narrator: Natalia Payne
Author’s Goodreads
Author's Twitter
Author's Website
My Review on Goodreads


Introduction

World World II, Amsterdam, 1943. The Germans have invaded the Netherlands. 18-year-old Hanneke procures black market goods right under the German's noses and delivers it to clients. Mrs. Janssen asks an unusual request--she is looking for a Jewish girl named Mirjam who she had been hiding in her home. Hanneke is not in the business of finding people, and after losing her boyfriend to the war, she knows that going against them in any way is beyond dangerous. Still, Hanneke is intrigued and begins digging into the missing Jewish girl, the girl who owns a beautiful blue coat. 

Hanneke

The protagonist presents herself as cold and stoic. To the Germans, she is flirtatious but deflecting. She does her job of transporting goods without getting too friendly with the clients. Initially, her focus is on keeping herself and her family safe. When the resistance confronts her with the truth of what the Germans are up to, she slowly opens up to them. The reader slowly gets to understand that Hanneke wasn't always this reserved, and in her memories, we can see that she used to be a very different person. But with the German occupation, sweeping changed effected everyone who remained. I greatly enjoyed her character, as she has many stages of herself. Spirited, broken, determined, processing her grief, and caring. Ultimately, she is a strong character who thinks for herself, acts when she can, and carefully unravels the mystery by being observant.  

Supporting Characters

There is a wide cast of secondary characters here. This book is also part mystery (what happened to Mirjam) so we need enough people to be suspicious of. What I liked is that a good portion of the secondary characters come off as unlikeable at first because they don't trust Hanneke. Snitching on neighbours was a huge issue at the time, so that Hanneke is not accepted at first is completely understandable. In here you'll meet the resistance, persecuted Jewish people, German supporters, people who want to keep their head downs and not die, and a tiny bit of the LGBT community.    

Final Verdict

This is a fabulous book about a terrible stain on human history. I'm not an expert in history, so if there are any errors, I didn't notice. Natalia Payne is the narrator for this story and I really enjoyed listening to her. I noticed that the pacing is a little slow for a YA book, but it wouldn't hinder all teens. If teens (or adults) are looking for books about WWII in a place OTHER than Germany or England, this may pique their interest. This is also not a love story, just in case you are tired of historical romances. 





The internet tells me this is Amsterdam.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

The Iron Flower by Laurie Forest

The Black Witch Chronicles
The Shadow Wand 

Publish Date: September 18th, 2018
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Format Reviewed: eBook
Series: The Black Witch Chronicles
Author: Laurie Forest
Author’s Goodreads
Author's Twitter
Author's Website
My Review on Goodreads

Introduction

The rebellion is secretly trying to right various wrongs while Gardneria is busy forcing the Western Realm to their will. As much as she tries to save all of her friends against her own people, Elloren is running out of time. Society is volatile and politics are rapidly changing, creating a dangerous world. To top it off, Aunt Vyvian is closing in on Elloren to wandfast to Lukas Grey. While there is undeniable chemistry between them, Elloren does not know if she can trust him, or if she should dare to use him for her own gain. 

Love Triangle

I usually detest love triangles, but here, it's a bit different. Yvan is mostly distant and clearly on the side of morally good. Lukas clearly wants her, and he is on a murky almost darkside, temping her. In this book we get to know more about the two, and Yvan's mysteries are all laid out for the reader. Lukas, however, still remains a bit of an unknown. He isn't necessarily evil or an enemy, but he is not actively fighting against his country's atrocities. 

Final Verdict

This book is much like its predecessor, so if you enjoyed The Black Witch, you'll enjoy this one as well. Here there is more doing, as the rebellion is in full swing and Elloren is firmly enmeshed. However, I did notice that there is a lot of repeating themes that we have already hashed out, so I didn't have much patience for those passages. We also get to see more of the other cultures in this book, which fleshes-out the world some more. This installment also has some tearjerking moments as well, so don't expect everything to be all sunshine and rainbows.

Also, this was another instance of me finishing a book and getting up immediately to get the next one. IT ISN'T EVEN OUT YET.

Sunday, 5 April 2020

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

The Black Witch Chronicles
The Shadow Wand  

Publish Date: May 2nd, 2017
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Format Reviewed: Hardback
Series: The Black Witch Chronicles
Author: Laurie Forest
Author’s Goodreads

Introduction

Elloren Gardner lives in a world that prizes those who can use magic, and she has no magic ability whatsoever. To make matters worse, she is the granddaughter of the famed Carnissa Gardner, the Black Witch with immense power who saved the Garderian people in a war. She goes to school that admits all manner of students, including those she was raised to have prejudices against. As the year goes on, she learns that what she, and all Garderians, have been taught is incredibly biased in favour of the belief that Garderians are the "pure" race. As the truth of their world's history is revealed to her and political tensions rise, she has to see past the discrimination she was raised with and stand with the downtrodden. 

Story 

This is a story of overcoming prejudices that one is raised with. The reader knows that it's racism and it is bad, but we get to see the MC and those around her unravel their previous preconceptions. We can see from the beginning of the book that she is a good person in other ways, and she slowly comes around, even when her circumstances are difficult. If you stopped reading 1/4 of the way through, you miss out on her growth and how she learns the truth. This isn't the first book ever written to have this plot. 

World Building/Characters

I greatly enjoyed being in this book's world. There are many different kinds of people from mythology with histories and religions of their own. The politics were a bit difficult for more to keep up with, but in the end, it isn't too complicated. There are a variety of lands that we hear about, but we don't see. I'm hoping that in the next installments we get to see some of the places that were mentioned. Magic is a key component in this book, yet we don't get to see much of it happening until the later bits of the book. Magic is facilitated with wands which I'm not the biggest fan of (maybe because it reminds me of Harry Potter). 


All of the characters in this book are so detailed. We are told about where they come from, some of their cultures, and then we glean their personalities from their actions/dialogue. There are a lot of flawed characters, which I appreciate. There is the standard "bully", who isn't going to learn anything at least in this book, but there are other characters who are also flawed and they grow. It is so heartbreaking when you learn that characters want something, but it cannot be accomplished because of a cultural/religious restraint.  

Writing

The only negative thing I can say about this is some of the writing. Everyone says Elloren Gardner's name in just about every third sentence. No one talks like this. The main character is also crying every five-ish minutes so the act of crying loses its impact. 

Final Verdict

I greatly enjoyed reading this book. This is a flawed fantasy world full of racism and dogma. We have young characters who get to know one another and who band together to make a difference before everything gets much, much worse. I'd run out and buy the next books that are already published, but pandemic. Now I have to wait. 


(extra gif below, if you dare.)
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.









Sunday, 22 March 2020

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke & Bone Series


Publish Date: April 8th, 2014
Publisher: Hachette Audio, Audible Audio | Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format Reviewed: Audiobook
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Narrated By: Khristine Hvam
Author’s Goodreads
Author's Website

My Review on Goodreads

Introduction

The chimaera and seraphim war spills over into the human world, causing chaos on earth. An unsteady alliance is formed, and Karou and Akiva's long-ago dream of peace is rekindled. Meanwhile on earth, Eliza, a 24-year-old researcher, has dreams of monsters flooding the sky. Her occupation entangles her in the chimaera/seraphim conflict, but her past threatens to complicate her involvement. 

Side Story 

This book also starts out with new characters and a story that does intersect with the main story eventually. Until the first "twist" of Eliza's story, I didn't care too much. She does become very important later on, which has a bigger payoff to the side story than the second book's side story. Overall though, it weighted down on the main story. Listening to the audiobook in my car as I drove, I can't fast-forward through it (a sin, I know. If I was reading it I would have skimmed).

Audiobook

The narrator of the audiobook, Khristine Hvam, is fabulous. Liraz was previously pronounced "lah-ratz" and now it's more like "lee-raz", which is probably more accurate, but I listened to two books with the first pronunciation and now it's jarring. Other than that, I'm going to miss hearing this amazing narrator.

Ending

Ouch, that ending. I feel like it cut off when an even BIGGER conflict was introduced. I expected there to be another series about this mega scary terrible threat but...not as of now. That was disappointing.

Final Verdict

The end of the trilogy still held me as did the other books, though I wasn't too interested in Eliza's story until maybe about half-way. The writing is still beautiful, though it gets a bit repetitious with the constant reminds that Zuzana looks like a doll. I was also hoping to learn more about the Stelians, especially after they come off as some kind of nefarious force. The ending also cut off by introducing a great threat and leaving the reader hanging, so that was not very cool. But overall, we got to see the ending to the big plot points and we got to see the conclusions to a lot of characters, and it was great.


Saturday, 21 March 2020

Odriel's Heirs by Hayley Reese Chow


Publish Date: March 1st, 2020
Format Reviewed: ebook
Series: Odriel's Heirs
Author: Hayley Reese Chow
Author’s Goodreads
Author's Website

My Review on Goodreads


I received an advanced review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.


Introduction

Kaia is the Dragon Heir, as was her father before her, and yields flame to protect the land of Okarria. A necromancer's undead army is threatening the world and she, along with the Time Heir and the Shadow Heir, must defeat him and his hordes of the undead. But they are missing an Heir and must continue on, hoping to find him along the way. They meet a large cast of characters, including a talking cat and a magus, and they gather allies and head to the final showdown.





Characters 

This book sports a vast cast of characters, my favourites being Shad (a talking cat) and Gus (her loyal fire-proof canine). There are some interesting fantasy creatures who become allies, plus Kaia's infuriating twin brother Bram, a magus, and more humans. I usually dislike large casts of characters but I managed here easily, perhaps because everyone had their own personalities and it was easy to remember who everyone is. 

Protagonist 

The main character wasn't perfect, and I can see exactly why she is a bit abrasive. She has been hated since she was a child, and then she was expected to sacrifice everything and go save them? I also like characters with faults, because you know...everyone has faults. No one is perfect. In real life, we don't toss a person in the bin if they have a flaw. People are complex and that's awesome. She has the power of fire that is linked to her emotions. At seventeen, that's a lot to handle, and there's a war going on.

War

It's war. People die. Characters that you have grown attached to die. And stay dead. And I very much like that this story didn't shy away from that. I appreciated that when they fight, they hare injured and exhausted and need a lot of time to recover. It drives me bananas when characters go through so much and go directly into the next battle like it's nothing, even when they suffer huge injuries. We also get to see Kaia's grief at a few points in the story, and that was great. She's young and in her first battles, you don't walk away from that all sunshine and rainbows.


Final Thoughts

I loved this book and I highly recommend it. It was an engaging read that held my interest. If you like fantasy with life-or-death battles with consequences, I think you will enjoy this book.




*~*Below is a spoiler, so don't read it if you haven't read it!*~* 
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.



Ending Spoiler:

I was nearing the end of this book, cuddling my dog, when the scene with Gus happened. I gasped "Nooo!" AND THEY DID IT BECAUSE THEY HAD TO AND I COULDN'T EVEN.

If Gus didn't get a good ending I would have lost it. I was afraid this book was going to do me dirty, but it saved me right at the end. All is well in the world now, I'm fine.


Friday, 21 February 2020

Night of Cake & Puppets by Laini Taylor


Publish Date: November 26th, 2013
Publisher: Hachette Audio, Audible Audio | Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format Reviewed: Audiobook
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Narrated By: Khristine Hvam & Kevin T. Collins
Author’s Goodreads
Author's Website

My Review on Goodreads

Introduction

This novella details Zuzana courting Mik and their first date. This is alluded to in the main series, but this small book delves into how she was able to make a map that led to herself as the prize (hint: magic). It starts with a story about Zuzana bringing Karou to her family's workshop, and we get to hear more about her family life. In the audiobook, Mik is voiced by a male when the chapters are in his POV.

Final Verdict

This is very quirky and sweet, devoid of the seriousness of the series. does have some magical elements and some comedy. If you have read up to the second book in this series, you already know the basis of what happened. The writing is still fantastic, so if you like Taylor's writing style, it does not disappoint. According to the author's website, the ebook and physical copy has illustrations inside, some of which are on her website. If you don't like romance or overly sweet scenarios, this may not be for you, as it is a departure from the tone of the rest of the series. However, it is only 2 hours and 46 minutes long, so it's not a huge commitment.

Fun fact: Marionettes creep me out.