Book Review: A River Of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy

Book: A River Of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy

Published October 2019 by Putnam|368 pages

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

Series: A River Of Royal Blood #1

Genre: YA

An enthralling debut perfect for fans of Children of Blood and Bone set in a North African-inspired fantasy world where two sisters must fight to the death to win the crown.

Sixteen-year-old Eva is a princess, born with the magick of marrow and blood–a dark and terrible magick that hasn’t been seen for generations in the vibrant but fractured country of Myre. Its last known practitioner was Queen Raina, who toppled the native khimaer royalty and massacred thousands, including her own sister, eight generations ago, thus beginning the Rival Heir tradition. Living in Raina’s long and dark shadow, Eva must now face her older sister, Isa, in a battle to the death if she hopes to ascend to the Ivory Throne–because in the Queendom of Myre only the strongest, most ruthless rulers survive.

When Eva is attacked by an assassin just weeks before the battle with her sister, she discovers there is more to the attempt on her life than meets the eye–and it isn’t just her sister who wants to see her dead. As tensions escalate, Eva is forced to turn to a fey instructor of mythic proportions and a mysterious and handsome khimaer prince for help in growing her magick into something to fear. Because despite the love she still has for her sister, Eva will have to choose: Isa’s death or her own.

A River of Royal Blood is an enthralling debut set in a lush North African inspired fantasy world that subtly but powerfully challenges our notions of power, history, and identity.

I liked A River Of Royal Blood!  It’s like a combination of Children Of Blood And Bone, Throne Of Glass, and Three Dark Crowns.

It’s definitely an interesting book, and I really want to know more about Eva’s magic.  Hopefully, we’ll see more of her magic and learn more about it.  Her magic seems like the sort of magic that people are wary of it, and that makes me want to see it more.  I totally get why we didn’t, and I’m hoping there’s a way for Eva to use her magic without too much trouble.  Honestly, it’s not looking good, but hopefully, things will work themselves out.

Isa’s magic actually scares me more than Eva’s.  The control she has over people, and the way she’s able to bend them to their will is much more terrifying than killing.  I mean, it seems like that’s what Eva’s magic is, but it’s hard to say because I feel like we get so little about it.  But for now, what Isa can do is a lot more scary.  I really want to see what any challenge or battle would look like between the two.

I did feel bad for Eva, because it seems like she was kept in the dark about so many things.  I can’t imagine being close to a sibling and then finding out that one of you won’t survive the fight for the throne.  It made me sad for Eva.  And finding out that my magic was bound, and can only be removed by someone who’s no longer around to do it?  That would also be a terrible thing to know.  I can get why these things would be kept for her, but it made things harder for her, especially at court.  But I also felt like, in the end, she also decided she had to fight for her life.  Hers is a world where it’s killed or be killed, and I feel she really made the decision to fight after everything that happened.

Not that it wasn’t there before, but it seemed like she lived in Isa’s shadow.  It was like she accepted that Isa was going to be queen, and was everyone’s favorite.  I think it took a while for Eva to believe in herself, and hopefully, she’ll continue to do so.

This book is definitely Eva’s journey, but there is part of me that wanted to see more of Isa.  I’m not always a big fan of multiple narrators, but I think seeing a few chapters from Isa’s POV would have been interesting.  Still, I’m glad we got to follow Eva, and I definitely find myself rooting for her.

3 stars.  I liked A River Of Royal Blood.  While I don’t think I’ll be rushing to read the next book in the series, I’m still interested enough to see what happens next for Eva.

Book Review: Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

Book: Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

Published October 2019 by Knopf Books For Young Readers|290 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

In a community that isn’t always understanding, an HIV-positive teen must navigate fear, disclosure, and radical self-acceptance when she falls in love–and lust–for the first time. Powerful and uplifting, Full Disclosure will speak to fans of Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon.

Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…

I liked Full Disclosure!  I really felt for Simone, who’s pretty amazing.

It can’t be an easy diagnosis, and you see how much it affects her.  Whether it’s telling friends, or a guy she likes, it’s not an easy thing for her to share.  When it does get out to the whole school, people are completely horrible to her.  People just don’t want to take the time to truly understand what it means.

Miles, Claudia and Lydia are pretty supportive, and even though Simone has her issues with them, they do care about her, and it’s clear they support her and still want to be around her.  It’s especially important with Miles, since they’re pretty into each other.  Being HIV positive is a pretty big deal in any romantic relationship, but he was great because it honestly didn’t seem to bother him or scare him away.  It seemed like he was willing to take things slow and wait.

Her dads are pretty awesome too, and I love the relationship she has with both of them.  It’s obvious they love her and would do anything for her.  It’s also nice to see a YA book where the parents are around and involved in her life.  A lot of times, it feels like the parents are absent or barely there, so it’s nice that they actually show up more than once or twice, if at all.

I also liked that we got the whole story with Sarah.  It’s interesting that there was no flashback, but I thought it’s inclusion was well-done.  And I get why it’s hard for Simone to trust people because of what happened with her.  I really felt for her when it happened again.  Because people can be horrible, especially with things they don’t understand.  But she has a great support system with her dads, her best friends, and Miles.  And even her support group was pretty cool too.  They definitely understood what she was going through when no one else did.

It’s definitely an important read, and I’m glad I read it.  I think Positive by Paige Rawls is a good read-alike for this one.  Positive is a memoir, but I was reminded of it the whole time I read this book.  Simone is more than her diagnosis, and she really came to life in this book.  I’m not a musical person by any means, but for some reason, I feel like I’d get along with her.  I thought it was interesting that Rent was the school musical, though I got really angry when one of the teachers involved with the musical was hoping that Simone, as a student director, would win the school a lot of theater awards.  I hated she would try to use a student like that, but thankfully, the other teacher involved wasn’t about to let her do that.

3 stars.  I liked Full Disclosure, though I didn’t love it.  I’m not sure why, but regardless, this is a must-read!

Book Review: Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews

Book: Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews

Published August 2019 by Avon|400 pages

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

Series: Hidden Legacy #4

Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance

In a world where magic is the key to power and wealth, Catalina Baylor is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, and the Head of her House. Catalina has always been afraid to use her unique powers, but when her friend’s mother and sister are murdered, Catalina risks her reputation and safety to unravel the mystery.

But behind the scenes powerful forces are at work, and one of them is Alessandro Sagredo, the Italian Prime who was once Catalina’s teenage crush. Dangerous and unpredictable, Alessandro’s true motives are unclear, but he’s drawn to Catalina like a moth to a flame.

To help her friend, Catalina must test the limits of her extraordinary powers, but doing so may cost her both her House–and her heart.

I liked Sapphire Flames a lot more than I thought I would!  I mean, I liked the previous books in the series, so I was expecting to just like this one.  But I liked it a lot more than I thought I would!

So, this book focuses on Catalina, Nevada’s younger sister.  This book is set several years after the third book on the series, and it’s clear that Nevada’s story is pretty much over.  She does pop up, by way of phone calls, but this book is clearly centered on Catalina as head of house and navigating the family through hard times as their three-year grace period comes to a close.

I really liked Alessandro and Catalina together.  I didn’t spend the whole book waiting for something to happen between them, and I felt like there was more of a something between them than I did with Nevada and Rogan.  I like them together, and there are certainly going to be challenges in terms of them getting together, but I have no doubt it will happen.  I feel like they’re evenly matched, more than Nevada and Rogan.  I’m interested to see how their story plays out over the next few books, and if there will be more books but featuring other characters.

I’m also curious to see how things will go now that they’re past their grace period.  Catalina has a lot in store for her, and I’m sure she’ll rise to the challenge of steering her house in the right direction.  I just hope she can balance that with finding love.  Hopefully with Alessandro, because I do like them together, and I feel like it’s being set up for it to happen.  It’ll be an adventure getting there, I think.

It’s weird how shifting a series to a different set of characters reset the series for me.  I liked Nevada, and I liked her story but maybe I wasn’t super into her story.  Still, her story led to Catalina’s, and that is something I’m happy about.  I’m glad we get to see her abilities, and I really want to see more of them.

4 stars.  I really Sapphire Flames, and I can’t wait to read what happens next!

Book Review: DEV1AT3 by Jay Kristoff

Book Review: DEV1AT3 by Jay Kristoff

Published June 2019 by Alfred K Knopf Books For Young Readers|448 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: Lifelike #2

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

Lemon Fresh has seen better days.

After the climactic battle in Babel, she finds herself separated from Ezekiel and Cricket in the wastelands. Lemon’s abilities to manipulate electricity mark her as a deviate, and deadly corporate operatives are hunting her to use as a weapon in the war between BioMaas Incorporated and Daedelus Technologies. Instead, Lemon finds herself falling in with a group of fellow deviates—a band of teenagers with astonishing abilities, led by an enigmatic figure known as the Major, who may hold the secrets to Lemon’s past.

Meanwhile, Cricket finds himself in possession of the puritanical Brotherhood, a religious cult set for a head-on collision with the Major and his band. Searching for Lemon, Ezekiel finds a strange ally in an old enemy, and uncovers a plot that may see him reunited with his beloved Ana.

And inside Babel, a remade Eve hatches a plan to bring an end to the world.

Honestly, I don’t know what I think about this book.  I felt the same about the first book in this series, and that continued with this book.

I liked Lemon Fresh, and she has an interesting time in this book.  It was the same with Cricket, but I didn’t really care about what happened with Eve.  It was interesting to see how the groups that Cricket and Lemon Fresh ended up had so many connections to each other.  Personally, I wish we saw more of that but with how things went with Lemon Fresh, I’m not that surprised we didn’t.  And I did feel for Lemon Fresh, because I wanted a different story for her.

I think Lemon Fresh was my favorite to follow.  Hers is the one I remember more, though Cricket had his own challenges.  I felt like we didn’t get enough of Eve for me to have strong feelings either way.

I know people love Jay Kristoff, and this series, but I had a really hard time getting through this book.  I could only read a couple chapters at a time before needing to put it down and do something else.  I felt like it took me forever to get through this book.  I struggled to get through Lifelike when I tried to re-read before this one, and I remember having a hard time getting through it when I read Lifelike for book club ages ago.

I think I read this one because I wanted to know what happened next.  For some reason, Eve’s family made me think of the Romanov’s, and how people think Anastasia survived her family’s execution.  Part of me is wondering if it’s just coincidence, or if there is some inspiration there.  Either way, I wanted more about that, and it didn’t happen.  Which is fine, because I’m glad we followed Lemon Fresh and Cricket.  Still, I would have liked a chapter or two from Eve’s perspective.

Both Lemon Fresh and Cricket narrate, but it didn’t really work for me.  I thought it was confusing and their chapters sounded exactly the same.  It took a while to figure out who was narrating, and by the time I got settled into who was narrating, it switched, and I’d start the process all over again.  Maybe I’m just really used to books where it’s obvious who’s narrating.

I’m not sure if I’m going to going to finish the series.  Part of me does want to know what happens next, but I don’t know that I’m invested enough to keep going.  It’s an interesting world, and I wish we knew more about what life was like before this world started, and what life is like everywhere else.  It seems pretty contained to a Southern California-type area, at least from what I can gather from the map.  So it makes me wonder what it’s like everywhere else in the U.S.

2 stars.  Overall, Deviate is just okay.  I really liked Lemon Fresh’s story, but I don’t know if it’s enough to keep me reading.