Book Review: Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows

Book: Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows

Published September 2017 by Katherine Tegan Books|496 pages

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

Series: Fallen Isles Trilogy #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

From the New York Times bestselling co-author of My Lady Jane comes a smoldering new fantasy trilogy perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Kristin Cashore about a girl condemned for defending dragons and the inner fire that may be her only chance of escape.

Mira has always been a symbol of hope for the Fallen Isles, perfect and beautiful—or at least that’s how she’s forced to appear. But when she uncovers a dangerous secret, Mira is betrayed by those closest to her and sentenced to the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles.

Except Mira is over being a pawn. Fighting to survive against outer threats and inner demons of mental illness, Mira must find her inner fire and the scorching truth about her own endangered magic—before her very world collapses. 

And that’s all before she ignites.

I was really excited about Before She Ignites, especially since I loved her Incarnate series.  There are dragons, and how can you not love books about dragons?

I could definitely relate to the anxiety Mira feels, and while she counts a lot, it seemed to calm her down.  I don’t know anything about OCD, but the counting seemed more like a way to relieve anxiety than anything else.  I liked seeing how well-written it was, and how she had to deal with crippling anxiety at one of the worst points of her life. Mira really is more than the pretty face that the Council wants her to be, and she is an amazing character.  She’s strong and thoughtful and determined to go back for the people in the Pit.  I also liked that she wasn’t magically cured by the end of the book.  It could still go that way, of course, but I hope it doesn’t.  I want to see her continue to deal with her anxiety and her panic attacks.

I have mixed feelings about the whole timeline.  There was a lot of jumping around in terms of time.  On the one hand, I did really like it.  It gave a lot of insight into Mira, and how she became friends with her bodyguard, the dragon trainer, and two dragons in particular.  You learn how she ended up in prison, and that is important.  But at the same time, I didn’t like it, because it was hard to keep up with at first, and you’d have chapters where it would 7 months earlier, then present time, and then 10 years already.  So the past isn’t exactly linear, which didn’t completely work for me.  It worked well enough, but I didn’t completely love it either.

At first, it wasn’t clear who betrayed her, and I thought maybe it was her two friends or her family.  It turned out not to be the case, but I thought it was boring, who really betrayed Mira.

And how did the Luminary Council have so much control over Mira’s life?  If her father wrote the treaty, and named it after her, why did they have so much control?  It makes no sense, and I feel like things and places and events were mentioned but not completely explored.  I really wanted to know more about the politics of the area and about her family as well, but that wasn’t really explored either.  With two more books to go, I’m hopeful that we’ll get more of the world and what’s going on.  Also, the noorstones and how they were used didn’t make any sense to me.  That seemed more confusing than everything else put together.

Dragons!  I loved Mira’s relationship with the dragons.  They’re clearly important to her, and it seems like they’re very important to the world she lives in as well.  I wonder if the dragons help ease her anxiety.  She did seem more comfortable around them than anyone else.  My other theory is that the abilities we see her display are somehow connected to the dragons.  I don’t think she’s a dragon or anything like that, but I wonder if there is some sort of bond or something really special between Mira and the dragons.  It’s a feeling I have, and I think that it could be interesting to explore.  I want to see more dragons.

And that cover!  It’s beautiful, and it’s not often I want to frame the cover of a book, but this is one of them.  That cover is absolutely amazing, and I can’t stop looking at it.

At first, I thought that there would be quite a bit of romance.  But there really wasn’t any, and I feel like a lot of authors would have gone in the love triangle direction- with Mira, her bodyguard, and the guy in the cell next to her. But I’m glad we don’t really get any of that.  I suppose it’s still possible, but I feel like it maybe would have been introduced if that there the case.  I do feel like there’s enough going on without the romance, but I doubt that’s going to happen.

4 stars.  I really liked it, especially Mira’s anxiety.  That part was really well-done, but I wish we got more world-building and more of an explanation of the political system.

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Book Review: Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott

Book: Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott

Published August 2016 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|468 Pages

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

Series: Court Of Fives #2

Genre: YA Fantasy

Jessamy is moving up the ranks of the Fives—the complex athletic contest favored by the lowliest Commoners and the loftiest Patrons in her embattled kingdom. Pitted against far more formidable adversaries, success is Jes’s only option, as her prize money is essential to keeping her hidden family alive. She leaps at the chance to tour the countryside and face more competitors, but then a fatal attack on Jes’s traveling party puts her at the center of the war that Lord Kalliarkos—the prince she still loves—is fighting against their country’s enemies. With a sinister overlord watching her every move and Kal’s life on the line, Jes must now become more than a Fives champion…She must become a warrior.

I definitely admit to re-reading this one pretty recently (and not too long after originally reading it), so hopefully my review for this one is okay!

I really like this series, and this book was better than the first one.  We see more of the world that Jessamy lives in, and even though we don’t see much of the Court Of Fives in this book, we do see how her training and the Court has helped her.  I’m curious to see how it will continue to help her in the next book, especially with everything that happened in this book.  It seems like she has the support of the commoners, and I’d really like to see if that has more of a role in the next book.

I was a little disappointed that we didn’t see any of the games, but I know that the book can’t revolve completely around it.  Still, I want to see more of it, and how it will help her in the rest of the series.

I like how nothing seems to affect her, at least as far as insults go.  She’s not ashamed of who she is or where she came from, and it’s certainly easy to see why the Commoners seem to love her.  She’s fighting for her family and herself, though I could do without her father.  He’s not going anywhere, of course, but this is a man that I do not like. And I’m not sure about her one sister either, but we shall see in the next book what is going on with the sister and the dad.  I feel for her mom and only one of the girls is still with her, plus having twin infants.

I really liked seeing the divide between the Efeans and the Saroese, and the divide seems bigger than the ever in this book.  But then again, the book seemed more focused on class than the previous one.  Or maybe I was paying attention to it more in this book (or just noticed it more).  And it makes me sad that Jes is seen as less of a person, not only because she is a woman, but because of her parents and where they came from.

4 stars.  I did like the world-building in this book a lot more than the previous one, and I can’t wait to read the next one.

Book Review: Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel Jose Older

Book: Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel Jose Older

Published September 2017 by Arthur A Levine Books|368 pages

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

Series: Shadowshaper Series

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

The extraordinary sequel to the New York Times bestseller Shadowshaper is daring, dazzling, defiant.

Sierra and her friends love their new lives as shadowshapers, making art and creating change with the spirits of Brooklyn. Then Sierra receives a strange card depicting a beast called the Hound of Light — an image from the enigmatic, influential Deck of Worlds. The shadowshapers know their next battle has arrived.

Thrust into an ancient struggle with enemies old and new, Sierra and Shadowhouse are determined to win. Revolution is brewing in the real world as well, as the shadowshapers lead the fight against systems that oppress their community. To protect her family and friends in every sphere, Sierra must take down the Hound and master the Deck of Worlds …or risk losing them all.

 

I really liked Shadowhouse Fall!  I do wish I had re-read Shadowshaper first, because I didn’t remember anything from it, but I still managed to follow what had happened.  There were times where I was slightly confused about what was going on, and that was mainly with keeping up with the characters and the Deck Of Worlds.  I’m not sure if it was not remembering anything from the first book, or if maybe it had to do with the series.  A little bit of both, I think, thought it seems to be more of not remembering much of anything from Shadowshaper.

I did like the relationships Sierra had with her friends and her family, and she really worried about their safety.  Her relationships really gave her strength, and I liked seeing how much they relied on each other.  It really is about the group, and how they’re stronger together than they are apart, and I think that’s a really nice change from a lot of other characters who might try to handle things themselves.  And characters who seem to accept help but would rather not have it.

Some of the moments that really stand out to me, however, have nothing to do with shadowshaping and the Deck Of Worlds.  The interactions Sierra and her friends have with the police are all too real, and it didn’t take away from the novel at all.  In fact, it added to it, because while Sierra and her friends are a part of this world that honors their culture and heritage, they also have to deal with people who don’t, and who would do everything in their ability to take their power and voice away.

The magic really is expanded in this world, and I liked seeing that there’s more to it than we thought.  It really added to the book, because it makes the world come alive in a way I didn’t think was possible.  We see how music and art really come alive, and there’s something about it that really drew me in.  Shadowshaping is so unique, but I love how the characters are able to use art in a really cool way.

4 stars.  Even though I didn’t completely fall in love with this book, I still think this series is amazing and a must-read.  I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book.

Book Review: Like A River Glorious by Rae Carson

Book: Like A River Glorious by Rae Carson

Published September 2016 by Greenwillow Books|432 pages

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

Series: The Gold Seer Trilogy #2

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Fantasy

After a harrowing journey across the country, Leah Westfall and her friends have finally arrived in California and are ready to make their fortunes in the Gold Rush. Lee has a special advantage over the other new arrivals in California—she has the ability to sense gold, a secret known only by her handsome best friend Jefferson and her murdering uncle Hiram.

Lee and her friends have the chance to be the most prosperous settlers in California, but Hiram hasn’t given up trying to control Lee and her power. Sabotage and kidnapping are the least of what he’ll do to make sure Lee is his own. His mine is the deepest and darkest in the territory, and there Lee learns the full extent of her magical gift, the worst of her uncle, and the true strength of her friendships. To save everyone, she vows to destroy her uncle and the empire he is building—even at the cost of her own freedom.

The second epic historical fantasy in the Gold Seer trilogy by Rae Carson, the acclaimed author of The Girl of Fire and Thorns.

I really liked this book!  I really liked the first one as well when I read it, and I don’t know why it took me so long to continue reading the series.  At the least the last one is out, and I can start reading it soon.

I loved seeing Lee and her friends build up a community.  It really is built on friendship, and I really liked that, because I feel like it doesn’t come up in historical fiction a lot.  I also liked that she let them in on her secret, because it means she really trusted them.

I really hate her uncle Hiram.  He’s a horrible person, and what he did was not okay.  I am curious about whether a particular revelation is true- I hope it’s not, and that he was just lying in the hopes that it would get Lee to help him. I was glad to see her handle it the way she did.  However, this book is more of trying to escape Hiram.  In the first book, I knew we hadn’t seen the last of him, but with how this book ended, I am curious to see if we’ll see him again, or if there will be a different villain.  Things were pretty tied up in this book, I thought, so maybe there will be another adventure for our characters.

The slavery of Chinese and Native Americans was really hard to read.  I can’t speak to the representation of either group, but I wonder if maybe the book did play into the white saviour trope.  I really wish I had paid more attention to that when I was reading the book, but I may have to re-read it again.

I also am not a big fan of the romance between Lee and Jefferson.  It seems really forced, and she, to me, doesn’t seem very interested in him romantically, but he still keeps asking her to marry him.  Like she’ll eventually change her mind if he asks her enough.  I know that was a time when being married would probably give her a lot more protection that being unmarried would, but I don’t blame her one bit for not wanting to be married.  I can’t see her married, and I think she and Jefferson really are better off as friends.

It did seem a little slow at times, especially at the beginning.  It did pick up, but even then, it seemed like it was dragging a little.  Still, I do want to read the next book to see what happens.

4 stars.  I did really like it, even though I’m not sure about how some of the characters are represented.  And even though it seems like things are pretty resolved, I do want to know what’s going to happen next.

Book Review: You Bring The Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

Book: You Bring The Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

Published September 2017 by Farrar, Straus And Giroux|320 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story. You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture–for better or worse. Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve Bengal tigers and her Bengali identity–award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

I really liked this book!  I’ve heard really good things about her books, and I happened to be browsing e-books on Overdrive, and knew I had to read it when I saw it.

I really liked seeing how connected all three generations of women were.  The multi-generational aspect shows up more in adult fictions, at least in my experience.  I really liked seeing it in YA, and I’m hoping we’ll see more multi-generational stories in YA in the future.

I really liked seeing how different all of them were, but being family really connected them in a way that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.  I thought Ranee was the most interesting- she really embraced American culture while still holding on to her Indian culture.  I really liked Anna as well, especially with her relationship with Ranee.  Anna really seemed disappointed that Ranee became an American citizen, and started adopting American customs and dress, but she still loves Ranee no matter what.

Something else that I absolutely loved was that they all identified as Bengali, but that there was no one way to be Bengali.  Each woman had their flaws but also their strengths, and they all had their own experiences with who they were and their own place in the world.

I will admit that the shift to Ranee was sudden, when the book, to that point, focused more on her daughters.  But I also liked that the book shifted to her because seeing more of her story really brought the stories of her daughters and granddaughters into focus.

I really appreciated the look at how to blend two different cultures- holding onto the culture of the place you grew up in while also trying to blend in and assimilate to a new culture.  I really liked seeing this aspect of immigration, and how moving to a different country can really change things.

I didn’t enjoy Chantal and Anna’s chapters as much as Sonia and Tara’s chapters, but I still liked them a lot, and how they still dealt with some of the things their mothers and grandmother did.  I loved the focus on family and family relationships and how much those family relationships can change over decades.

4 stars.  I didn’t love You Bring The Distant Near, but I did really enjoy it, and I think it offers something you don’t see a lot of in YA.  I loved the family and their relationships with each other.

Book Review: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L Sanchez

Book: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L Sanchez

Published October 2017 by Knopf Books For Young Readers|352 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role. 

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

I really liked I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter.  I could relate to Julia, and how she felt like no one accepted her for who she was.  I can also relate to how everyone wanted to her be someone else, and to live up to the memory of her older sister.  Granted, I have no siblings, but there were a lot of times where I really related to Julia.

Her family seemed really different after the death of Julia, which isn’t surprising because that’s a huge thing to happen.  If there was no effect on the characters, I’d be slightly worried.  The mom did act like how I thought she would- unable to deal with it by staying in bed all the time, but eventually getting out of bed and turning her attention to her other daughter.

One thing I thought was odd was when Julia ended up in the hospital.  One minute, she’s taking a walk, and the next thing you know, she’s waking up in the hospital.  It was really confusing, and I did find myself reading the end of the one chapter and beginning of the other one multiple times to see if I could figure out what was going in.  It didn’t make sense at first, and I thought maybe part of it somehow didn’t end up in the e-book or if I was massively missing something.

We later learn what happened in between those two moments, so it was definitely a decision on the author’s part to have things be fine one minute, and the next thing you know, things aren’t okay.  It does fit with the loss of Olga, and how things are fine and normal until they’re not.  But everything following the hospital incident seemed sudden and random, and there wasn’t any indication that things were that bad for Julia.  I know things aren’t always obvious, and Julia was having a hard time after Olga’s death.

Julia’s hospitalization really changed things for her.  She really did understand her parents better, and how hard they worked to give her and Olga a good life.  One where Julia realizes that she can be herself, and also to take control of her own life.

I wasn’t a big fan of the secrets that Olga had- it does seem very much the opposite of the person Julia and her family thought Olga was, and maybe that was the point.  That people aren’t always who we thought they were.  It certainly is true of her parents.  I think I was expecting something different from Olga, that’s all.

Julia, for some people, might be an unlikeable character.  She’s confrontational and brash, and fights with her mom a lot.  She’s very angry, especially in the beginning, but she really does mature and grow and learn how to deal with everything that happened with Olga.

I also really like that there was dialogue in Spanish, and that it wasn’t italicized or (if I’m remembering correctly) translated.  It wasn’t treated any different because it wasn’t English.

4 stars.  I really liked seeing how much Julia changed and matured throughout the book.  There was one moment that was really confusing, and I wasn’t completely thrilled about Olga’s secret, but overall, I think I think this book is a really great one to read.

Book Review: Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

Book: Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

Published February 2017 by HarperTeen|422 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Fantasy

The Girl of Fire and Thorns meets The Queen of the Tearling in this thrilling fantasy standalone about one girl’s unexpected rise to power.

Freya was never meant be queen. Twenty third in line to the throne, she never dreamed of a life in the palace, and would much rather research in her laboratory than participate in the intrigues of court. However, when an extravagant banquet turns deadly and the king and those closest to him are poisoned, Freya suddenly finds herself on the throne.

Freya may have escaped the massacre, but she is far from safe. The nobles don’t respect her, her councillors want to control her, and with the mystery of who killed the king still unsolved, Freya knows that a single mistake could cost her the kingdom – and her life.

Freya is determined to survive, and that means uncovering the murderers herself. Until then, she can’t trust anyone. Not her advisors. Not the king’s dashing and enigmatic illegitimate son. Not even her own father, who always wanted the best for her, but also wanted more power for himself.

As Freya’s enemies close in and her loyalties are tested, she must decide if she is ready to rule and, if so, how far she is willing to go to keep the crown.

I liked Long May She Reign.  It’s a really cool combination of fantasy and mystery.  It’s strange, because it had the feel of a fantasy, but had a lot of mystery elements too.

I really like the idea of a girl becoming queen after the 22 people in line for the throne ahead of her die.  In that sense, it reminded me a lot of Designated Survivor.  But in a completely different, fantastical world.  On top of that, you have Freya trying to find out what happened to the king and many others at the party.

I also liked seeing Freya try to find her way as queen, and deal with her advisors, who want to deal with things differently than she does, and who make decisions on her behalf that maybe she doesn’t agree with.  She really wanted to do the right thing, and she really wanted to do things her way, and I really liked that about her. She was such a determined person, who was more interested in science and research until she had to step and become queen.

Still, as much as I liked Freya, and the premise of the book, it didn’t quite work for me.  It had a lot of potential, but it didn’t completely match the expectations I had going into the book.  I think part of it is because it’s a standalone, so there were times when it seemed like everything had to fit into a few pages.  But it also meant that not everything got the attention it should have.  Like the culture, and I felt like the Forgotten were never really explained.  I wonder, had the book had been at least two or three books, if the book and idea could have reached its potential.  Maybe not, and it’s possible that things could have felt more drawn out.

I was surprised that it was a stand-alone.  Then again, I’m always surprised when I stumble across a stand-alone fantasy.  I have mixed feelings about it, because on the one hand, I do wonder what the book what have been like if we had more time with Freya and this world.  At the same time, though, I don’t know that there’s enough for more books.  I think I’m just going to leave it there, because I feel like I’m starting to repeat myself.

3 stars.  I liked it, and it was a really interesting idea.  I particularly liked Freya, and the world seemed interesting enough.  But it also didn’t reach it’s full potential, and it seemed like something was missing.

Book Review: Origin by Dan Brown

Book: Origin by Dan Brown

Published October 2017 by Doubleday Books|461 pages

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

Series: Robert Langdon #5

Genre: Adult Fiction/Thriller/Mystery

Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.

As the event begins, Langdon and several hundred guests find themselves captivated by an utterly original presentation, which Langdon realizes will be far more controversial than he ever imagined. But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch’s precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Reeling and facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape Bilbao. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.

Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon and Vidal must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace itself . . . and who will stop at nothing to silence Edmond Kirsch. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon and Vidal uncover clues that ultimately bring them face-to-face with Kirsch’s shocking discovery . . . and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.

I randomly saw this book at the library on one of their displays, and I was intrigued so I figured I’d check it out.  I’ve enjoyed Brown’s books to varying degrees, and even with the ones I didn’t completely like, they’re still pretty quick reads and usually entertaining.  They’re certainly not boring, though they always seem to start off slow.  Origin was no exception to this.

It did take a while for the story to get set up, which I expected.  Still, it was slow-paced at first, but there was more action once things got going.  It wasn’t as action-packed as I thought, especially in comparison to his other books. It has been a while (years probably) since I’ve read a Dan Brown book, so maybe I’m remembering things differently.

There were a few connections to history (we are talking about Dan Brown here).  In this case, Spanish history, since the book is set in Spain.  I swear, Robert Langdon spends more time traveling than teaching.  I do like that Brown incorporates a lot of real places, people and artwork, and it felt like he put a lot of thought and research into the people, places and things we see in the book.  It is sort of topical- we see mentions of Uber, Disney, and fake news, and I did like the updates from the conspiracy website.  That seemed very timely as well.  Does that mean the book will be a little bit dated in a few years?  Probably, but for now, some of the pop culture references are pretty timely.

I am half tempted to see if that website goes anywhere, or if it’s made up.  It would be awesome if it did go somewhere, like a website for the book or something.

Is this book the typical Robert Langdon book?  Of course it is, so if Dan Brown isn’t your thing, you’ll probably want to stay away from this book.  On the other hand, if you’ve even remotely enjoyed his books, you’ll probably like it. While I don’t necessarily love his books or run out to get them, I always end up liking them and enjoying them.

One thing I wondered about is the lack of reference to the virus that was set loose in Inferno.  It’s like it never existed, and considering the revelation that Kirsch wanted the world to know, you’d think that would be incorporated into his presentation.  But it wasn’t, and that was a little strange to me.  The Da Vinci Code is referenced, though, which wasn’t surprising given that what the book is actually about.

It is sort of weird how all of the Robert Langdon books don’t really reference the other books.  They’re pretty contained, and with each book that comes out, it’s like the previous ones don’t really happen.  I’m willing to overlook it, though, because each book has enough going on as it is.

3 stars.  It’s not my favorite Dan Brown book but it’s not my least favorite either.  It was entertaining and a quick read, and I liked the setting and places we see in the book.

Book Review: The Education Of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Book: The Education Of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Published February 2017 by Simon & Schuster|296 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.

THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES:

Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
This supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot Sánchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts. 

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moisés—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

I really liked this book!  I really liked Margot, and how I can relate to wanting to fit in.  Not to the degree that Margot wants to fit in, and I never went as far as Margot did, nor can I see myself going to the lengths she did, but I can understand why she did what she did.  After seeing her friends, though, part of me wonders why she was friends with them, since she couldn’t really be herself when she was with them.  It seemed like she tried too hard, and she definitely needed to figure out who she was.  I think that’s pretty normal, though.  Sometimes I still feel like I’m trying to figure out who I am, and I’m a lot older than Margot.

I did like seeing her work at her dad’s store, and there are definitely some characters.  I think, though, her dad and brother were the most frustrating.  Her dad didn’t seem to care what her brother did, and I thought her dad and brother not wanting her to be around Moises was a little hypocritical.  Especially considering her dad had affairs with a lot of the girls at the store (and why they felt uncomfortable talking around her), and her brother dealing drugs.  Being concerned is fine, but it was hard for me to take them seriously, especially once I found out what I found out.  And their behavior for most of the book made a lot more sense at the end of the book.

I really liked seeing her at the supermarket, but at the same time, I really wish we saw more of her with her prep school friends and her with her old friends.  Or more with Moises and the community organizing.  I would have liked to see Margot navigate those friendships a little more, and I think it would provided some interesting context for what lead up to her working at the family store.  And also what happened with her friends (old and new) after the summer was over.  And the community organizing Moises was doing- things were clearly changing for the neighborhood, and I would have liked to see more of how different things were.

I really wish it were longer!  It felt really short, and I think adding in something with Moises and with her friends could have added something really special to it.

4 stars.  I really liked it, but I think it could have been longer, and gone more in depth with a few things.

Audio Book Review: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski, Narrated by Justine Eyre

Book: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski, narrated by Justine Eyre

Published March 2015 by Listening Library|Length: 10 hours

Where I Got It: I borrowed the audio book from the library

Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #2

Genre: YA Historical Fantasy

A royal wedding is what most girls dream about. It means one celebration after another: balls, fireworks, and revelry until dawn. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement: that she agreed to marry the crown prince in exchange for Arin’s freedom. But can Kestrel trust Arin? Can she even trust herself? For Kestrel is becoming very good at deception. She’s working as a spy in the court. If caught, she’ll be exposed as a traitor to her country. Yet she can’t help searching for a way to change her ruthless world . . . and she is close to uncovering a shocking secret.

This dazzling follow-up to The Winner’s Curse reveals the high price of dangerous lies and untrustworthy alliances. The truth will come out, and when it does, Kestrel and Arin will learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

I really liked The Winner’s Crime.  I definitely liked it more than The Winner’s Curse, and I’ll definitely be listening to the last book in the trilogy because I want to see what happens next.

The Winner’s Crime picked up where The Winner’s Curse left off, and we see what’s been going on with Kestrel after the events of the first book.  We definitely get more of this world and the different cultures, which I really liked because it expands the world so much.  There’s a lot more to this world than the Valorians and the Harani, and I hope we see more of this world in the next book.

There is a little part of that’s worried we won’t, because of everything that happened with Kestrel, particularly towards the end of the book.  But if the series continues to be narrated by Kestrel and Arin, then maybe we will see more of the world they live in.

We really see Kestrel in a different way.  Dealing with the emperor and his son and everything else going on- she has more to worry about than her romance and flirtations with Arin, which wasn’t frustrating the way it was in the first book.  Partly because of everything Kestrel is dealing with in this book, but also because it does slip in the background in this book.  I’m still not a fan of Arin, and while I might end up liking him in the next book, I doubt that will change.

As much as I liked this one, it did move pretty slow.  I definitely took random breaks when I was listening to it, so I’d listen to it on my way to work, and then switch over to the radio or podcasts for a couple of days.  Or I’d randomly listen to it on the way home from work, and then switch over to the radio or podcasts.

It also seemed more political and there was a lot more intrigue, which was nice.  Especially after the romance of the first book, which I wasn’t a big fan of.  It went in a different direction than I thought it would, and I feel like the next book is going to go in a completely different direction as well.  Hopefully in a good way.  It was an unexpected surprise in this book, but it was a good surprise, and it made a series I was unsure more interesting, and one I want to finish.

I’m definitely reminded of the Roman Empire, for some reason.  I don’t know why, but it has that feel to it. An Ember In The Ashes comes to mind as a possible read-alike, and I’m not sure why.  But it could be interesting to pair the two books together.

3 stars.  It’s almost 4 stars, but not quite.  It did move a little bit slower than I would have liked, but I did like it more than the previous book.