Book Review: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Book: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Published March 2020 by Katherine Tegen Books|240 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

The world is not tame.

Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof. So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine. Morning brings the realization that she’s alone – and far off trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive despite the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.

I am glad I picked up Be Not Far From Me!  I really liked Ashley’s story, and I really liked this book!

If you like survival stories, this is the book for you!  I’m amazed Ashley managed to stay alive, but if anyone could, I think it would be her.  She seemed pretty equipped to stay alive, and definitely spent enough time both hiking in the woods and being outdoors to know how to stay alive long enough to get find someone who could get her help.

I knew she’d survive- this is YA after all, but I really liked seeing how she survived, alone in the forest, with an infection creeping up her leg.  I’m pretty impressed she got out of the forest relatively okay.  She has a long road to recovery ahead of her.

The fact that she went through a lot trying to get out of there…I don’t know know that I would have been able to do what she did in order to save herself.  Her recovery isn’t going to be just a physical recovery, but an emotional/mental one as well.

The writing was beautiful and you could tell in the way Ashley thought about the forest.  It was clear she had a lot of respect for the forest and nature and the circle of life.  It was clear she understood nature does what it does, and that the world is not a tame place to live.

The great outdoors is her home away from home, but in her time trying to get back home, she does realize that home is a pretty important place to be.  She realizes a lot, because she has a lot of time to think and appreciate what she has back at home.  I’d probably feel the same way if I were her.

Ashley was pretty easy to relate to, and I thought she handled everything pretty well.  I’m not sure I would have handled it that well, but I’m also not the hiking in the woods type.  I did like that about her, though.  It seems to fit her pretty well, and I think it’s pretty cool she’s into hiking.

I also really admire that she wanted to go back and find her former camp counselor.  I’d like to think I’d go back and get him, just so his family has closure but I think it would also terrify me after going through what she went through.  Ashley is pretty awesome, and she is most definitely a survivor.

4 stars.  I really liked Be Not Far From Me, and I especially liked the moment the title made sense.  It really fits what Ashley went through to survive.

 

Book Review: The Gravity Of Us by Phil Stamper

Book: The Gravity Of Us by Phil Stamper

Published February 2020 by Bloomsbury UK|352 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

In this smart, heart-warming YA debut perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, two teens find love when their lives are uprooted for their parents’ involvement in a NASA mission to Mars.

Cal wants to be a journalist, and he’s already well underway with almost half a million followers on his FlashFame app and an upcoming internship at Buzzfeed. But his plans are derailed when his pilot father is selected for a highly-publicized NASA mission to Mars. Within days, Cal and his parents leave Brooklyn for hot and humid Houston.

With the entire nation desperate for any new information about the astronauts, Cal finds himself thrust in the middle of a media circus. Suddenly his life is more like a reality TV show, with his constantly bickering parents struggling with their roles as the “perfect American family.”

And then Cal meets Leon, whose mother is another astronaut on the mission, and he finds himself falling head over heels–and fast. They become an oasis for each other amid the craziness of this whole experience. As their relationship grows, so does the frenzy surrounding the Mars mission, and when secrets are revealed about ulterior motives of the program, Cal must find a way to get to the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.

I really liked The Gravity Of Us!  I was intrigued, of course, but also not sure if I would like it.  I am so glad I picked this book up!

I really liked Cal, and what I felt for him.  Especially with everything that happened with Kiera, who seemed so cool at first.  But she ended up not being as cool as I thought she would be, and what she did was pretty horrible.  And his life changed because of his dad’s desire to be an astronaut.  Who didn’t want to be an astronaut as a kid, though?

Life definitely wasn’t perfect in Houston, and not how reality t.v. made it seem.  He made fast friends with Leo and Kat, and overall, I liked seeing how the whole community came together to make the Mars mission happen.  There were a lot of ups and downs, of course, and Star Watch really took things out of context.  That wasn’t surprising at all, and it felt very realistic.  I loved how Cal stood up for Mrs. Bannon, and that overall, he wanted people to see things how they really were.  I’d definitely follow Cal, if he were a real person.

I loved that it was about keeping NASA funded and getting to Mars!  I don’t pay attention to NASA enough, but with reading this book, I felt really excited that they got to see people travel to Mars!  I can’t help but wonder if that’s what it was like when we went to the moon decades ago.

I really liked seeing that Cal’s family wasn’t perfect.  Leo’s family wasn’t perfect either, but I felt like this book really highlighted that things aren’t what they seem, and that we put people on a pedestal only to tear them down.  It was sad that this mission almost lost funding because of some things that came out about this particular mission.

Cal worked so hard to make things right, and it really made me believe in this mission and what they were trying to do.  There were so many people involved in making this happen, and I didn’t want anyone to lose their dream or their job because of some pretty terrible people.

I thought the romance was really cute, and I like Leo and Cal together.  I really hope it works out for them and that Leo figures out what he wants to do.  I’m also hoping things work for Cal, and that he gets to be the journalist he wants to be.

4 stars.  I really liked The Gravity Of Us, and I really recommend it, especially if you like cute romances or space!

Book Review: Woven In Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez

Book: Woven In Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez

Published January 2020 by Page Street Kids|384 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: Woven In Moonlight #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

A lush tapestry of magic, romance, and revolución, drawing inspiration from Bolivian politics and history.

Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight.

When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place.

She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princess, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge—and her Condesa.

I liked Woven In Moonlight!  The description and the cover caught my attention, and I’m glad I read it!

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I feel like arranged marriage is starting to become a thing in YA fantasy.  Granted, characters aren’t actually getting married.  I can definitely think of a few books where characters are sent to the court of someone they’re supposed to marry.  For the most part, it’s not being demanded that they come to court to get married or their people will be destroyed.  This book is not as subtle where that is concerned.

The decoy Condesa concept was interesting.  I don’t get how Ximena’s people don’t know that she’s not the real Condesa.  Was she hidden away her whole life and no one knew what she looked like?  That was a little strange to me, but there’s nothing I could do about it.

I did like seeing how Ximena went from wanting the real Condesa on the throne to Atoc’s sister being on the throne.  The real Condesa didn’t make a big impression on me, to the point that I can’t remember her name. I do get why she felt betrayed by Ximena but I also get why Ximena acted the way she did.  Things aren’t what Ximena thought, and what she grew up knowing and experiencing as an Illustrian were completely different than Atoc’s people experienced.  Though I didn’t like Atoc, or agree with how he did things, something about how his people were treated seemed very familiar.

I liked how Ximena’s weaving came to life, and how the moonlight changed things in her pieces.  I crochet, so I definitely appreciated the work Ximena put into her craft.  I loved seeing the different animals from her tapestries on the cover, which is really beautiful.  It makes me wish I could see the tapestries in person.  The cover is partly why I picked this book up- the colors are pretty and bold but also muted.

Things felt very resolved, but it also felt like there is the possibility of a sequel.  I’d be interested to see where a sequel would go and the story it would be.  I could definitely think of a few directions it could go and I’m curious to see what life is going to be like for all of the characters.

3 stars.  I liked Woven In Moonlight, though I couldn’t begin to tell you why I didn’t love it.  Still, I can’t wait to read what Ibanez writes next!

Book Review: Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin

Book: Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin

Published January 2020 by Crown Books For Young Readers|352 pages

Where I Got: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Fantasy

One girl must make a name for herself–or die trying –in this royal fantasy where an unknown peasant becomes the ultimate ruler. But how long can she keep the crown if everyone wants her dead? Perfect for fans of Furyborn, Red Queen, and Everless.

Everyone expected the king’s daughter would inherit the throne. No one expected me.

It shouldn’t even be possible. I’m Nameless, a class of citizens so disrespected, we don’t even get names. Heck, dozens of us have been going missing for months and no one seems to care.

But there’s no denying the tattoo emblazoned on my arm. I am queen. In a palace where the corridors are more dangerous the streets, though, how could I possibly rule? And what will become of the Nameless if I don’t?

I thought Nameless Queen was okay.  I really wanted to like it more because I really liked the idea.  I definitely had my issues with it.

One of the things I didn’t like was how fast the book moved.  It looks like this is a stand-alone, and I felt like there was too much going on for it to be a stand-alone.  You definitely get an idea of the history and what Coin’s world is like but there’s so much that could be explored.  Like the divides between the Nameless, the Legals and the Royals.  There’s so much more that could have be described and focused on, and I really felt like we were getting the Cliff Notes version.

The book was just so short, and just when I really started to get into it, the book was over.  I really did assume it would be a series, because most fantasy series are in YA, and this book was too short for me.  I wish Nameless Queen was a little longer, just because there were things I wanted to know more about.

I am curious about Esther and why she didn’t say anything about her tattoo when her father died.  I know she knew a lot more than Coin, who didn’t get why or how she was chosen when she didn’t know her name.  And even though everything becomes clear later on in the book, it was still strange that she didn’t speak up about it.  I get why she didn’t but I still thought it was weird.

I did like Coin, but I especially liked her relationship with Hat.  I don’t know why, but it reminded me of Katniss and Rue.  I love what she represented, and how she was a voice for all of the Nameless- those on the outskirts of society, who didn’t have rights or say in things.  She was definitely aware of it too, and how much leverage she had.

I also wanted to know more about the magic in this world, and how it worked.  I could not tell you how it worked, or why it needed to be restrained.

Basically, the theme of this review is that I wanted more information than what we got.  It’s sad, because there are some really good ideas and something longer would have helped expand on those cool ideas.

2 stars.  Nameless Queen was okay and I really wanted more from it.

Book Review: The Map From Here To There by Emery Lord

Book: The Map From Here To There by Emery Lord

Published January 2020 by Bloomsbury YA|368 pages

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

Series: The Start Of Me And You #2

Genre: YA Contemporary

Acclaimed author Emery Lord crafts a gorgeous story of friendship and identity, daring to ask: What happens after happily ever after?

It’s senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions. Weighing “the rest of her life,” Paige feels her anxiety begin to pervade every decision she makes. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to be–how can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to experience after high school. But in her heart, is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?

Emery Lord’s award-winning storytelling shines with lovable characters and heartfelt exploration of life’s most important questions.

I loved The Map From Here To There!  Her books always get me emotionally, and this book was no exception.  I’m definitely glad I read this book!

I loved seeing Paige and Max deal with things.  And they deal with a lot of things in this book.  There’s a lot of ups and downs for them, and things did not go how I expected them to.  I really hope that things are okay for them, if not now, then in the future.

Paige had so many big choices to make- it’s her senior year, and college is looming over her.  Deciding which school she wants to go to, and which degree she wants to get.  Max is a pretty big factor in her decision, and I think it’s a big reason why there are so many ups and downs for them.

It really did bring me back to my senior year, and wondering what was going to happen.  There’s a lot going on for Paige- personally, with Max, with her friends…it felt very real, and me being me, I couldn’t help but cry my heart out, especially towards the end.  I really felt for Paige, and I loved being there for every part of her journey.  I could definitely relate to the anxiety she felt, and Emery Lord did a great job at showing what Paige was thinking and how she dealt with it.

Even though this book is a sequel, you can read it without reading The Start Of Me And You.  I hadn’t re-read it prior to reading this one, and I can honestly say that you know what happened before but you can still follow the story.  It’s a great book, and I do recommend reading it first.  I think Paige will make a lot more sense and have a greater impact if you read The Start Of Me And You first.

Part of me wishes I had re-read it first but I can’t do anything about that know.  Either way, I loved this book, and it’s worth reading, especially if you like contemporary!

5 stars.  I loved this book, and I can’t wait to see what Lord writes next!

Book Review: Tears Of Frost by Bree Barton

Book: Tears Of Frost by Bree Barton

Published November 2019 Katherine Tegen Books|480 pages

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

Series: Heart Of Thorns #2

Genre: YA Fantasy

The electric second book in the Heart of Thorns trilogy explores the effects of power in a dark magical kingdom—and the fierce courage it takes to claim your body as your own.

Mia Rose is back from the dead. Her memories are hazy, her body numb—but she won’t stop searching. Her only hope to save the boy she loves and the sister who destroyed her is to find the mother she can never forgive. Pilar is on a hunt of her own. Betrayed by her mother, and plagued by a painful secret, she’s determined to seek out the only person who can exact revenge. All goes according to plan… until she collides with Prince Quin, the boy whose sister she killed.

As Mia, Pilar, and Quin forge dangerous new alliances, they are bewitched by the snow kingdom’s promise of freedom and opportunity. But with the winter solstice drawing near, they must confront the truth beneath the glimmering ice, as lines between friend, foe, and lover vanish like snowflakes on a flame.

I liked Tears Of Frost, but I didn’t like it as much as the first book in the series.  I don’t know if there are more books- I feel like there’s probably one more- but I would keep reading just to see what happens.

I finished this book pretty recently but I’ve already forgotten a lot of what happened.  It was interesting to see Mia come back to life and try to find her mom.  I really felt like her mom was built up to be this amazing person and she turned out to be someone who wasn’t as great as she was made out to be.  It was like she was on a pedestal because she was gone.

I don’t know that I particularly cared for Pilar and Quin.  Pilar had a lot to deal with and there was a part when they’re in the snow kingdom that reminded me of the scene in the first Fantastic Beasts when Newt and Tina go to MACUSA and are about to have their memories removed.  That scene really stood out to me, and I’d love to see that particular scene on screen.

I am glad we got to see more of this world.  There’s a lot more that we see and it was nice to travel a little bit.  Having a world get bigger in a series is always cool, but I know there’s a chance we’ll be staying in places we’ve already seen.  I’m fine with that, because there’s a lot that needs to happen before these characters can move on with their lives.  I just hope that Angelyne is no longer queen because there’s been a lot of destruction because of her.  Actually, I can’t remember if she’s still queen at the end of this book, but if she is, I hope she’s not queen by the end of the next book.  So many details are not sticking with me, and I can’t remember what’s what.  I think that means I should wrap this up.

3 stars.  I liked it, but it’s a hard book to remember, even writing this a couple of days after finishing it.

Book Review: Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell, Illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks

Book: Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell, Illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks

Published August 2019 by First Second|211 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: None

Genre: YA Graphic Novel- Contemporary

Deja and Josiah are seasonal best friends.

Every autumn, all through high school, they’ve worked together at the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world. (Not many people know that the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world is in Omaha, Nebraska, but it definitely is.) They say good-bye every Halloween, and they’re reunited every September 1.

But this Halloween is different—Josiah and Deja are finally seniors, and this is their last season at the pumpkin patch. Their last shift together. Their last good-bye.

Josiah’s ready to spend the whole night feeling melancholy about it. Deja isn’t ready to let him. She’s got a plan: What if—instead of moping and the usual slinging lima beans down at the Succotash Hut—they went out with a bang? They could see all the sights! Taste all the snacks! And Josiah could finally talk to that cute girl he’s been mooning over for three years . . .

What if their last shift was an adventure?

Beloved writer Rainbow Rowell and Eisner Award–winning artist Faith Erin Hicks have teamed up to create this tender and hilarious story about two irresistible teens discovering what it means to leave behind a place—and a person—with no regrets.

I LOVED Pumpkinheads!  I wasn’t sure what to expect, because overall, Fangirl is the only book of Rowell’s that I’ve liked.  At least from the ones I’ve read, so even though I was intrigued, I wasn’t sure if I’d like it.

But I loved it just as much as I loved Fangirl, which really surprised me.  This graphic novel is hilarious and nostalgic, and I had so much fun following Josiah and Deja as they had adventures all over the pumpkin patch.  Everything that could go wrong did, and the names for the fudge girl were really funny…I mean, Fudge Judy, Vanessa Fudgens, Cornelius Fudge…I wouldn’t expect anything else from Rowell, because she is good at incorporating pop culture in her books.

I loved the nostalgia factor of one last night before everything changes.  I wasn’t expecting to cry at the end but I did.  I loved the moment Josiah realized something important, and I’m glad he had one last adventure at the pumpkin patch.  It’s March, and Halloween is months away, but I really, really want to go to a pumpkin patch.

Especially this pumpkin patch.  I would love to go to this one, and I loved that we were able to see so much of it.  It really came to life in this book, and Hicks did a great job with the illustrations.  I really could see everything that was happening, and being able to see what was going on was great.  The story really is suited to a graphic novel format, and I really hope they work together on another project one day, because I’d love to see what they come up with.

5 stars.  I loved Pumpkinheads and it’s a great story with great visuals!

Book Review: Song Of The Crimson Flower by Julie C. Dao

Book: Song Of The Crimson Flower by Julie C Dao

Published November 2019 by Philomel Books|288 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: Rise Of The Empress #2.5

Genre: YA Fantasy

From the acclaimed author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns comes a fantastical new tale of darkness and love, in which magical bonds are stronger than blood.

Will love break the spell? After cruelly rejecting Bao, the poor physician’s apprentice who loves her, Lan, a wealthy nobleman’s daughter, regrets her actions. So when she finds Bao’s prized flute floating in his boat near her house, she takes it into her care, not knowing that his soul has been trapped inside it by an evil witch, who cursed Bao, telling him that only love will set him free. Though Bao now despises her, Lan vows to make amends and help break the spell.

Together, the two travel across the continent, finding themselves in the presence of greatness in the forms of the Great Forest’s Empress Jade and Commander Wei. They journey with Wei, getting tangled in the webs of war, blood magic, and romance along the way. Will Lan and Bao begin to break the spell that’s been placed upon them? Or will they be doomed to live out their lives with black magic running through their veins?

In this fantastical tale of darkness and love, some magical bonds are stronger than blood.

Song Of The Crimson Flower was just okay for me.  I really wanted to like it more but I just wasn’t really into it.

That makes me sad, because I loved Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns so much, and the more books I read in this series, the less I like it.  The world is amazing, and the writing is really pretty but it wasn’t enough for me to like the book.

I didn’t like Lan, and even though she realizes she cares for Bao, she was pretty horrible to him.  She does regret how she treats him, but she does come across as selfish, spoiled and unable to see what’s in front of her.  She does change but even with those changes, I just didn’t care what happened to her.

I did really like Bao, though.  He seemed like a good guy, and I really felt for him.  I thought (some) of his family history was obvious, and so I wasn’t surprised when it was actually revealed.  I was glad things worked out for him in the end.

I was glad to see what happened with both Wei and Jade.  They seem to be doing really well, and it was nice to catch up with them and see how things were working out for them.

2 stars.  Song Of The Crimson Flower was okay for me, and I really wish I liked it more because this series started off so strong for me.

Book Review: Verify by Joelle Charbonneau

Book: Verify by Joelle Charbonneau

Published September 2019 by HarperTeen|320 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: Verify #1

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

Meri Beckley lives in a world without lies. When she turns on the news, she hears only the facts. When she swipes the pages of her online textbooks, she reads only the truth. When she looks at the peaceful Chicago streets, she feels the pride everyone in the country feels about the era of unprecedented hope and prosperity over which the government presides.

But when Meri’s mother is killed, Meri suddenly has questions that no one else seems to be asking. And when she tries to uncover her mother’s state of mind in her last weeks, she finds herself drawn into a secret world full of facts she’s never heard and a history she didn’t know existed.

Suddenly, Meri is faced with a choice between accepting the “truth” she has been taught or embracing a world the government doesn’t want anyone to see—a world where words have the power to change the course of a country, and the wrong word can get Meri killed.

I didn’t like Verify at all!  Don’t get me wrong, the idea is cool, and as a reader, I loved the message that words are powerful, but the story didn’t work for me.

I wasn’t particularly interested in Meri, or what happened to her.  She seemed to come around to rebellion pretty fast, even though she really struggled with it.  I wish she had struggled with a little bit more, because it felt really rushed and fast.

It also felt like it happened over the period of a few days, and if that’s the case, she went from knowing absolutely nothing about this group to being the leader of a revolution in a matter of days.  I really wish it were more clear the period of time in which this book is taking place.

I had no sense of the timeline, and when this book was supposed to be taking place.  It seems to be taking place decades later, but it was not clear how far in the future we were.  It also wasn’t clear how we got to the point that they were able to erase words to the point that no one knows how they’re pronounced, and all in the span of a few decades?  How were they able to change history that quickly, especially because there are going to be people who remember words like verify?  Something about that didn’t sit quite right with me.

Clearly, anything having to do with time didn’t make sense to me.  I feel like I didn’t miss anything as far as that goes, but I feel like a lot more could have been explained in this book.

Also…how is there no bookish black market in this world?  Like, I love the Great Library series by Rachel Caine, where the Library Of Alexandria is around and in control of all books and knowledge.  There’s a black market and burners, and it’s just so weird to me that people were so willing to give up prized editions of books instead of said books circulating some sort of black market.

I know there’s this group hiding things like The Federalist papers, and it’s possible there are other groups doing the same thing, to varying degrees of success.  But no black market for books?  Really?  I find that a little disappointing.

And the revolution Meri finds herself in charge of?  It was really thrown together, and it’s no wonder it didn’t seem to work.  It felt like they wanted to do something but didn’t want to put a lot of effort or thought into it, and just went with the first thing that came to mind.

I really feel like I can’t make sense of this world.  I am having a hard time getting over that, because it didn’t feel like it was put together very well.  Or at least, in a way that got me interested.  I feel like my review is all over the place…much like this book, so I think I’ll wrap it up with my rating.

1 star.  This definitely wasn’t the book for me, though I liked some of the ideas in it.

Book Review: Kingdom Of The Blazing Phoenix by Julie C Dao

Book: Kingdom Of The Blazing Phoenix by Julie C Dao

Published November 2018 by Philomel Books|356 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: Rise Of The Empress #2

Genre: YA Fantasy/Fairy Tale Re-telling

This fairy tale retelling lives in a mystical world inspired by the Far East, where the Dragon Lord and the Serpent God battle for control of the earthly realm; it is here that the flawed heroine of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns finally meets her match. An epic fantasy finale to the Rise of the Empress novels.

Princess Jade has grown up in exile, hidden away in a monastery while her stepmother, the ruthless Xifeng, rules as Empress of Feng Lu. But the empire is in distress and its people are sinking into poverty and despair. Even though Jade doesn’t want the crown, she knows she is the only one who can dethrone the Empress and set the world right. Ready to reclaim her place as rightful heir, Jade embarks on a quest to raise the Dragon Lords and defeat Xifeng and the Serpent God once and for all. But will the same darkness that took Xifeng take Jade, too? Or will she find the strength within to save herself, her friends, and her empire?

Set in an East Asian-inspired fantasy world filled with breathtaking pain and beauty, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is filled with dazzling magic, powerful prose, and characters readers won’t soon forget.

Fans of Stealing Snow, Red Queen, and The Wrath and the Dawn will hungrily devour this page-turning read.

I liked Kingdom Of The Blazing Phoenix but not as much as I thought I would!

I really wanted to like this one more than I did.  I LOVED Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns, which was a great Evil Queen origin story, but this follow up didn’t interest me as much.

I mean, I liked Jade.  She definitely had to get her kingdom back from Xifeng, and she went on quite the quest to do it.  This book is set over a decade after Forest, and it was interesting to see how much Xifeng changed.  Especially when we came across people who knew her as she made her way to being Empress of Feng Lu.  I know it put it out of the realm of YA, but I really want to know what happened in Xifeng’s life between the end of the first book and the start of this one.  You get little bits and pieces, of course, but I wanted more.  I really did like Xifeng’s story.

I felt for Jade, and she had a lot going on.  It seems like things will change in Feng Lu, and for the better.  It seems like it will take a while but I feel like they’ll get there eventually.  She wasn’t my favorite character, but she definitely came into her own by the end of the book.  She had a lot of support, even if she came across people who didn’t want to give her support.  Some seemed hesitant, especially at first, but I also felt like they eventually knew it was the right choice for the kingdom.

It’s just…Jade didn’t interest me as much as Xifeng.  She was so good that it was sometimes annoying and mostly boring, and she didn’t seem as complex as Xifeng.  Gone are the court politics and people doing these crazy things to get what they want.

Actually, I kind of take that last part back.  Jade is a somewhat unwilling Empress but she does do what she needs to for the sake of Feng Lu.  It’s just a very different story of than what Xifeng does to get what she wants.

This is more of a Snow White re-telling, and I think it stands on its own pretty well.  While you don’t need to read the first book to know what’s going on in this book, it is also a wonderful book, and it definitely gives you more backstory on Xifeng, and why she does what she does.  It’s not that hard to figure out, especially if you’re at all familiar with the Snow White story, but it really is a good starting point to this story.

It was slow at times, though there are little pockets of action and excitement.  This is a journey novel after all.  I just wasn’t super-excited about the journey, though I did like some of the characters we come across.

3 stars.  Overall, I liked this book, but Jade, for me, wasn’t as interesting as Xifeng.