Book Review: Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

Book: Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

Published March 2019 by HMH Books For Young Readers|373 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: Bloodleaf #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

Princess Aurelia is a prisoner to her crown and the heir that nobody wants. Surrounded by spirits and banned from using her blood-magic, Aurelia flees her country after a devastating assassination attempt. To escape her fate, Aurelia disguises herself as a commoner in a new land and discovers a happiness her crown has never allowed. As she forges new bonds and perfects her magic, she begins to fall for a man who is forbidden to rule beside her. But the ghosts that haunt Aurelia refuse to abandon her, and she finds herself succumbing to their call as they expose a nefarious plot that only she can defeat. Will she be forced to choose between the weight of the crown and the freedom of her new life?

I loved Bloodleaf!  I loved the world and the characters, and it’s really great YA fantasy!

Aurelia was a great character.  She worked so hard to hide her magic, and I loved the reason why she was able to do it.  She’s in a world that executes people like her, and I was glad she was able to leave.  She’s quirky, but she has a really good heart.  She changed a lot over the course of the book, and she went through a lot.  Things weren’t easy, but I liked her determination to get through it.

I also liked Zan, and while we don’t get enough of him, in my opinion, I still really liked what we saw.  I don’t have as much to say about him as I do Aurelia, but I really like him.  And I really like them together.  I didn’t mind the romance at all, and it felt really natural.

I loved the world and the stories.  The magic was interesting, and I wish we saw more of it, and more of what it could do.  Since Aurelia was still trying to gain control, we learned a lot but I also feel like there’s more to it.  I feel like we’ve barely touched what the magic in her world can do.

I loved the ending, and it had me sobbing.  It really made me wish we saw more of Aurelia’s mom.  It felt a little random, and it was definitely out of the blue, but that didn’t stop me from crying.  I think it would have had a lot more to it had we known her mom a little better.

One thing I’m wondering is what other stories are left to tell in this world.  It’s the first book in the series, and I’m wondering how this story is going to continue because everything was wrapped up really well.  I don’t usually say this with fantasy, especially with YA fantasy, but it would have worked really well as a stand-alone.  The story is so contained that I’m honestly not sure where we’re headed after this.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved this book, and I’m definitely going to read the next book.  I just wish I had more of an idea of where it was headed.

5 stars.  I loved Bloodleaf and thought the world and mythology was really unique.

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Around The Internet #13

Hello and happy Friday!  Here’s this month’s edition of some interesting stuff I’ve come across on the internet.

I’ll leave it there, and have a great Friday everyone!

Book Review: Game Of Stars by Sayantani DasGupta

Book: Game Of Stars by Sayantani DasGupta

Published February 2019 by Scholastic Press|384 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Kiranmala And The Kingdom Beyond #2

Genre: Middle Grade Re-Telling/Fantasy

When the Demon Queen shows up in her bedroom, smelling of acid and surrounded by evil-looking bees, twelve-year-old Kiranmala is uninterested. After all, it’s been four months since she last heard from her friends in the Kingdom Beyond, the alternate dimension where she was born as an Indian princess. But after a call to action over an interdimensional television station and a visit with some all-seeing birds, Kiran decides that she has to once again return to her homeland, where society is fraying, a reality show is taking over, and her friends are in danger.

However, things are a lot less clear than the last time she was in the Kingdom Beyond. Kiran must once again battle witches, solve riddles, and avoid her evil Serpent King father – all while figuring out who are her true friends, and what it really means to be a demon.

Games Of Stars is a really cool book!  I really liked the first one, and knew I had to pick up this one.

It didn’t feel like a middle book at all, and I loved seeing Kiran save her friends and deal with her Serpent King father and a reality t.v. show.  There’s a lot of fun adventures in this book, and I’m glad that continued from the first book.  She really wants to do the right thing, and she’s really determined.  Kiran is a great character, and I can’t wait to see what adventures are in store for her in the next book.

I really liked the world and what we see in this book really adds to the world we were introduced to in the first book.  We see more creatures and myths, and I loved the author’s note at the end where DasGupta talks about her inspiration for the book.

Things are not black and white, and we definitely see Kiran learn that in this book.  While she trusts a few rakkosh, she’s not trusting of all them, but we see that change over the course of the book.  I don’t blame Kiran at all for how she reacts to some of the things in the book, but we see a lot of growth and change in her.  She really does give everyone a chance by the end of the book, and that was nice to see, because sometimes, it seems like books don’t always do that.

It’s action-packed and a fast read, and it went by so fast.  But I didn’t mind at all, because I had such a great time reading it.

4 stars.  I really liked the world and the characters, and it really added to the series.  It’s fun and full of adventure.

Book Review: Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Perez

Book: Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Perez

Published June 2018 by Imprint|384 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: Sweet Black Waves #1

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Re-Telling

Not you without me, not me without you.

Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.

As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow, will set Branwen against her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved.

Inspired by the legend of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine. For fans of Graceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.

I ended up really liking Sweet Black Waves.  I wasn’t sure about it at first, but the more I read, the more I liked it.

I’m only vaguely familiar with the story of Tristan and Eseult, and that’s only because of the movie that came ages ago.  I think I was expecting to see things from Eseult’s perspective, and not Branwen’s.  I still liked seeing things from Branwen’s POV, and it did make for a really interesting re-telling.

Knowing how the movie ended- which I know isn’t a great comparison, but the only one I have- I wasn’t sure how things were going to go.  I was surprised by the ending and the fact that there are going to more books.  We haven’t gotten the full Tristan and Eseult story, of course, and I don’t know how much Perez can drag this story out.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m planning on continuing the series, and I really want to know how it all ends.  I’m just a little hesitant, that’s all.

It didn’t go as in-depth as I would have wanted, and it does have quite a bit of drama in it.  Which is fine, but it didn’t really go too much into the Tristan and Eseult story.  I suppose we’ll see that in the other books.  I hope so anyway.  The book does set things up, and it did a pretty good job of that.  With how the book ended, it really made me wish the next book were out to see what happens next.  Branwen is definitely out for blood.

It’s also really well-researched, and I liked the author’s note at the end of the book.  She talks a lot about the choices she made regarding language and the source material.  You don’t need to be familiar with the story to like the book, but I did like that a lot of research went into the book.  It really showed, and I felt like I was really immersed in Branwen’s world.

I loved the magic in the book, and it felt very real.  It blended into Branwen’s life and world so well, and it made so much sense.  It was easy to understand, and it added something to the book.

4 stars.  Even though I didn’t love Sweet Black Waves, I still really liked it!

Book Review: The Fever King by Victoria Lee

Book Review: The Fever King by Victoria Lee

Published March 2019 by Skyscape|375 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Feverwake #1

Genre: YA Sci Fi/Dystopia

In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.

The Fever King is an interesting one!  I’m really glad I read it, and I ended up really liking it!

The setting was really interesting.  It’s a futuristic America that’s been torn apart by a magical virus, and there’s elements of fantasy and sci-fi.  It seems like there’s a lot to explore in Noam’s world, especially since America isn’t the America we know.  At least in terms of geography.  In terms of refuges and immigrants, the world Noam lives in is all too familiar, and very, very real.

I really liked Noam, and he’s such a different character than Dara.  To a certain extent, he’s more trusting of others than Dara.  That surprised me, considering how Noam grew up, but I also don’t blame him.  I feel like I might have done the same thing if I were him.  I do get his decision to stay behind, though.  I mean, no one would ever suspect him, and he definitely seems like the sort of guy who is underestimated.  I can’t wait to read the next book to see how things turn out for him.

I’m not sure how I feel about Dara.  I did feel for him, and it sounds like things weren’t easy for him.  I do get why he acted the way he did, and I did like him a little more by the end of the book than I did when we first met him.

I don’t have anything else to say about The Fever King.  The world is pretty interesting, and I’d love to see more of it.  I really liked how magic was used in this book and I feel like there’s more to it than what we see.  Especially with how everything came about.  I’d love more backstory on that, but I don’t have a lot of hope we’ll see it.  Either way, I hope we get at least a little more with the magic.

4 stars.  I really liked The Fever King, but I didn’t love it.

The YALLWEST 2019 Recap Post

Hey everyone!  Today, I’m going to ramble on about yallwest.  I had a lot of fun, and I knew I had to talk about it with all of you.

I drove up from San Diego, and while I was glad I didn’t get any traffic on the way up, I was also glad when I got there.  After being in my car for over 2 hours, it was really nice to get out of my car and be able to walk around.

I got a few books signed- I was really excited about getting Girls Of Paper And Fire by Natasha Ngan signed, and I was super-excited about getting The Hate U Give and On The Come Up signed.   I didn’t think to actually get pictures with them, and I honestly didn’t feel like taking a picture of the actual signed pages.  But it was great meeting them, and all three books are great, so it was nice to get them signed.

I also went to a couple of panels.  I went to one that was sci-fi vs fantasy, and it was really fun.  There were definitely some surprising answers to some of the questions asked, but it was really interesting to hear the panel talk about what they like about both sci-fi and fantasy.  Veronica Roth moderated, and Jay Kristoff, Robin LaFevers, Nafiza Azad, Melissa Albert, Tochi Anyebuchi, and Brandon Reichs were on that panel.  I’ve heard that Jay Kristoff is really tall, but I didn’t realize how tall until I saw him on the panel.  I’m 4’10, so everyone is tall from my perspective.  Anyway, I really loved Nafiza Azad’s answer about why she loves fantasy, and it makes me want to read her book even more.

Oh!  I ended up with an ARC of The Tenth Girl.  They were giving them away to the people who went to the Sci-Fi Vs Fantasy panel, and it looks interesting.  I don’t know if I would have picked it up otherwise, but I’m excited to read it.

Right after that one, I went to a panel that focused on writing mysteries and thrillers.  I don’t read a lot of mysteries but it was still really interesting to hear the panel talk about writing and where they got the inspiration for their current project.  Alexia Bass, Gwenda Bond, Sara Farizan, Karen McManus, Matthew Modine, and Gretchen McNeil were on the panel, and it was moderated by Peter Stone.  I’ve only read Gretchen McNeil and Sara Farizan and while I didn’t love their books, I definitely liked hearing everyone talk about how they write.

There’s a lot going on, and as a first-timer, it was really overwhelming.  I didn’t really know where to start or go first, so I wandered around feeling a little lost and confused.  I was okay by the time I ended up leaving, but it was very much deer-in-the-headlights.  At least for a while.  It was pretty well-organized, though, and putting something like this together can’t be an easy task.

I’m definitely appreciative of all of the work that went into it, and I very much appreciated all of the authors who came out and the volunteers who took the time to be there answering questions and keep things going.  I’m glad yallwest is around and close enough for me to go to.

Now that I know where to go, it’ll be easier for future festivals, but for the first time?  It was a little hard navigating, and even with a map and program, I had a hard time with figuring out where everything was.  It’s user error, though, because I can be directionally challenged sometimes.

I didn’t buy a lot- I already had copies of the books I wanted signed, and that actually made things a lot easier.  That’s something I’m definitely doing again next year.  Even though Mysterious Galaxy had a booth right next to the signing area, it was a lot easier for me to not worry about needing to buy the books I wanted signed.

I did get this really cool bag from the Book Beau booth.  It’s a travel size pouch, and it’s super cute.  I would definitely buy a couple bigger sizes from them and in different patterns.  I just fell in love with it, and it’s just so pretty!  Not that I don’t love what I got from them, because I do, but all of the samples they had were really cute.  I kept seeing people walk around with them all day, so I was glad when I actually saw where they got them so I could get one for myself.

I also made a stop at the Owl Crate booth, and got a tote bag and a signed copy of Pride by Ibi Zoboi.  I ended up moving my books from my bag to the tote bag, which made it a lot easier to carry it around.

The only other things I ended up getting were an enamel pin and a water bottle…which got a lot of use, because I ended up getting really thirsty throughout the day!  At least there were water fountains so I could get more water.

I had a lot of fun, and I’m definitely going back next year.  It’ll be easier now that I know where things are and what to expect.

Here are my takeaways from this year:

  • I’m wearing/bring sunscreen.  I didn’t realize I’d be outside pretty much all day, so I ended up with some pretty nasty sunburns on my arms and my face, so sunscreen is a must for next year!
  • I’m using a backpack next year.  Walking around with a yarn bag full of books (I left the yarn at home this time) meant my arms and shoulders were killing me by the end of the day, so a backpack will be a lot better for me.
  • I’ll definitely be buying any books I want signed/personalized ahead of time so I don’t have to worry about buying them there
  • On a related note, I really need to remember to have my own sticky notes with my name on them if I want them personalized.  It’s a lot easier than trying to flag someone down so I can get my books personalized
  • The drive home was pretty rough.  I was tired, sore and sunburned.  I did stop about halfway home to stretch my legs, take a bathroom break and eat something, and that was a good idea.  It’s something to keep in mind for next year.  I’m glad I left when I did, though, because I wasn’t sure I could have made it until everything was over
  • I’m totally printing out the schedule for next year.  It’ll be easier than looking at it on my phone

Overall, I had a lot of fun, and I’m glad I went!

Book Review: Internment by Samira Ahmed

Book: Internment by Samira Ahmed

Published March 2019 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|387 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.

I absolutely loved this book.  It was heart-breaking and terrifying but I loved Layla’s story.  I don’t do this often, but if there’s one book you’re going to pick up this year, make sure this is one of them.

Layla’s story was terrifying because it felt so real.  I can see this happening, and Ahmed really drew from real-life/current events with this book.  Throughout the whole book, it was clear that Ahmed was drawing on everything leading up to the election and everything that happened after.

I did like the author’s note at the end of the book, and how she gave some additional resources to check out about the Japanese interment camps.  It gave a lot of insight on what inspired the book and it really added to the book.

I really loved Layla, and though she was really trusting at times, I understood it.  I didn’t always agree with it, but I did understand it.  She was determined to fight for what was right, and she wasn’t willing to stand by and let things happen to her friends and family, even if that would have the easier path.  So many other people in her camp were willing to go along with everything but she wasn’t.  Even when things went very, very wrong, it felt like she became more determined to make things right.

It went by really fast, and it felt like it happened over a really short period of time.  I’m curious about the time period, and if it happened over a few weeks or few months.  Especially in the internment camp.  The book seemed a lot shorter than it really was, and while it wasn’t really in-depth, you got a clear picture of what was going on.  It did skim the surface at times, which is the only thing I didn’t particularly care for.  But it also wasn’t enough to get me to dislike the book, or warrant a lower rating.

5 stars.  I loved Internment, and though it was heart-breaking and all too real, it’s also worth reading.

Book Review: Tell Me Everything by Sarah Enni

Book: Tell Me Everything by Sarah Enni

Published February 2019 by Point|288 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Your secret’s safe…until it’s not.

Ivy’s always preferred to lay low, unlike her best friend Harold, who has taken up a hundred activities as sophomore year begins. But Ivy has her own distraction: the new anonymous art-sharing app, VEIL.

Being on the sidelines has made Ivy a skilled observer, and soon she discovers that some of the anonymous posters are actually her classmates. While she’s still too scared to put her own creations on the app, Ivy realizes that she can contribute in an even better way — by making gifts for the artists she’s discovered. The acts of kindness give her such a rush that, when Ivy suspects Harold is keeping a secret, she decides to go all in. Forget gifts — Harold needs a major party.

But when her good intentions thrust her into the spotlight, Ivy’s carefully curated world is thrown into chaos. Now she has to find the courage to stand out… or risk losing everything and everyone she loves most.

I really liked Tell Me Everything!  I was definitely intrigued and I wasn’t sure what to expect but I definitely got pulled into Ivy’s world.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Ivy, and Harold was definitely more supportive than she was with him.  It was hard to like her, and it felt like she didn’t give people a lot of chances.  She’s definitely of those characters who needs one friend and no one else.  Hopefully, she’s more open and willing to give people a chance at the end of the book.

I feel like she made a lot of progress throughout the book.  I think Ivy had good intentions and I really do think she meant well, but at the same time, the app was anonymous for a reason.  People shared things to the app for a reason, and I was bothered by how she tried to figure out who people were.  It had some major consequences for her, and she really did have to decide what was important to her.  At least she realized that she hurt people with what she did, and before it was too late.

The app was pretty cool, and it reminded me a lot of PostSecret but tied to a specific location.  I don’t know if that’s where Enni got her inspiration from but that did cross my mind as a possibility.  I really wish we had seen some of the art from the app.  I know art doesn’t pop up in YA but if we can get texts and letters and emails, I don’t know why we couldn’t get a few pictures.  It would have been really interesting to see the things that inspired Ivy, and it would have been a nice addition to the book.

For a lot of the book, I thought there was going to be a love triangle.  It definitely seemed like that was a possibility, but it never happened.  Romance is hinted at, but it wasn’t really a thing in the book, and I actually really liked that.  I don’t really have anything else to say about romance, but I did want to through that out there.

4 stars.  I really liked Tell Me Everything, but I didn’t love it.  It was hard to completely get behind Ivy, even though I understood why she did what she did.

Book Review: The Wicked King by Holly Black

Book: The Wicked King by Holly Black

Published January 2019 by Little, Brown & Company|322 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: The Folk Of The Air #2

Genre: YA Fantasy

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself that strong.

Jude has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were biddable. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her, even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a faerie world. 

I liked this one!  Not at much as The Cruel Prince, but I still liked it.  I haven’t been in a huge mood to review books lately, so I’m really fuzzy on the details of this one because of the gap between when I read it and when I’m actually writing it.

The ending surprised me, and I’m not sure why.  I kind of feel like I should have seen it coming after everything that happened in the book, but at the same time, it makes me curious about what’s going to happen next.  After everything that happened and with everything Jude did…maybe I should have realized there would be consequences.  Either way, I was along for the ride, and not expecting it did get my attention.  It definitely makes me want to read the next one.

I really like the world Jude is living in.  I feel like there’s so much more to it than what we’re seeing, and I’m a little sad we don’t see enough of it.  It’s definitely cutthroat and manipulative, but I feel like there’s a lot more world to see and explore.  Who knows what we’ll see with how everything ended?

The characters were okay but mostly didn’t stand out to me.  I’m not sure if it’s because we know them already or I just can’t remember anything at this point.  Jude was pretty interesting in this one, and I’m really interested to see what she’ll do next.  She’s going to have to be pretty careful in the next one.

3 stars.  I liked The Wicked King, and it was a pretty enjoyable book.  I just wish I remembered more than the ending, and that I could talk about the book more.

ARC Book Review: Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo

Book: Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo

Expected Publication Is May 7, 2019 by Farrar, Straus, And Giroux|Expected Number Of Pages: 320 pages

Where I Got It: I received an e-ARC from netgalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

10 00 p.m.: Lucky is the biggest K-pop star on the scene, and she’s just performed her hit song “Heartbeat” in Hong Kong to thousands of adoring fans. She’s about to debut on The Tonight Show in America, hopefully a breakout performance for her career. But right now? She’s in her fancy hotel, trying to fall asleep but dying for a hamburger.

11 00 p.m.: Jack is sneaking into a fancy hotel, on assignment for his tabloid job that he keeps secret from his parents. On his way out of the hotel, he runs into a girl wearing slippers, a girl who is single-mindedly determined to find a hamburger. She looks kind of familiar. She’s very cute. He’s maybe curious.

12:00 a.m.: Nothing will ever be the same.

I really liked Somewhere Only We Know!  I swear, Goo writes the cutest books, and this one was no exception.

I will say, it took me a while to get into it.  Jack and Lucky both narrate, and I think that’s why I had a hard time with the book at first.  It was hard to get into each character, but as the book went on, I got more settled into things, and I ended up really enjoyed the story.

It happens over a pretty short period of time, and it’s quite the adventure for both Jack and Lucky.  There really isn’t a lot of romance- it’s more hinted at than anything else, and while father-daughter relationships are pretty important in her other books, it’s not something we see in this book.  It has the same feel as her other books but it doesn’t have some of the same elements I’ve seen from her.  Still, it was really fun and really cute, and I really liked seeing them explore Hong Kong together.

The Sun Is Also A Star is a pretty good read-alike for this one, in the sense that it’s the one-day romance where they’ll never see each other again…or find each other years later as adults.  Even though we get an epilogue, and see what happens after the events of the book, part of me wonders how things worked for both Lucky and Jack.  Romantically, of course, but also in their personal lives.

As for Jack and Lucky, I really liked Lucky but I was not a fan of Jack.  I think having his perspective really hurt, because we see and know things Lucky does not.  It made it really hard to like him and even though we see him change, it was really hard to get behind it knowing what we, as readers, know.

4 stars.  I really liked it, and it’s a cute book.  I wasn’t a fan of Jack, but I really liked Lucky.  I also wish I had more to say about this book, but I don’t.  It’s definitely worth reading, especially if you like K-Pop.