ARC Book Review: Sword And Pen by Rachel Caine

Book: Sword And Pen by Rachel Caine

Expected Publication Is September 3, 2019 by Berkley|Expected Number Of Pages: 368

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

Series: The Great Library #5

Genre: YA Steampunk/Alternate History

With the future of the Great Library in doubt, the unforgettable characters from Ink and Bone must decide if it’s worth saving in this thrilling adventure in the New York Times bestselling series.

The corrupt leadership of the Great Library has fallen. But with the Archivist plotting his return to power, and the Library under siege from outside empires and kingdoms, its future is uncertain. Jess Brightwell and his friends must come together as never before, to forge a new future for the Great Library…or see everything it stood for crumble.

I absolutely loved Sword And Pen!  It was such a great read, and I’m sad to see this series end, but I’m also really glad to see how everything turned out.

This series is so worth reading, and ever since I started reading Ink And Bone years ago, I loved the series.  The world is amazing, and we see Jess and everyone else try to save the world they’ve lived in their entire lives.  They really are trying to make it a better place for everyone, and while we don’t see all of the changes that are bound to happen, I feel like the library is going to be in a very good place.

I can’t help but think that there will be a lot of really good changes but that there’s also going to be some trouble as well.  I feel like people are going to have trouble with this new library, especially at first, but hopefully things will calm down and be okay.

While I was reading Sword And Pen, I was wondering who was going to make it out alive.  There was no way everyone was going to survive, but that’s what I was hoping.  My hopes were dashed but in this world, I would have been surprised if everyone had survived.  With all of the battles and destruction, it just wasn’t going to happen.  And I think I would have been disappointed too, because I don’t think it would have been as realistic.

The characters were great, and I feel like, years from now, they’ll still be talking to each other.  That’s what I want for them.  I think they all have great things in store for them, and I wish we had some sort of epilogue that shows what happened several years later.  I can imagine, of course, which is fun but I also kind of want to know what Caine imagined for them.

I really liked Wolfe, Santi and Khalila in this book.  Khalila really came into her own in this book, and she’s had a really great story line throughout the whole series.  Wolfe and Santi were protective adoptive dads, and I felt like they saw all of the kids as their own.  Especially Jess.  They seemed especially protective of Jess, which is understandable after everything Jess has been through.  I can’t imagine losing a twin, and you really see how much it affected Jess.  I liked that you saw his grief and how he didn’t want to lose anyone else while also going after the old Archivist.

There’s a lot of action and destruction but there’s also a lot of hope, and I really liked it balanced it was.  I really felt like things would be okay at the end of the series.  Even though a lot of really terrible things happens to the characters, I also felt like they made it through okay.  There may be some wounds and scars for them, but they survived and made it through.

5 stars.  I loved this book, and the world and characters are amazing!  I’m sad to see this series end but I thought Sword And Pen did a great job at wrapping everything up.

Book Review: Smoke And Iron by Rachel Caine

Book Review: Smoke And Iron by Rachel Caine

Published July 2018 by Berkley|368 pages

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

Series: The Great Library #4

Genre: YA Steampunk/Alternate History

To save the Great Library, the unforgettable characters from Ink and Bone, Paper and Fire, and Ash and Quill put themselves in danger in the next thrilling adventure in the New York Times bestselling series.

The opening moves of a deadly game have begun. Jess Brightwell has put himself in direct peril, with only his wits and skill to aid him in a game of cat and mouse with the Archivist Magister of the Great Library. With the world catching fire, and words printed on paper the spark that lights rebellion, it falls to smugglers, thieves, and scholars to save a library thousands of years in the making…if they can stay alive long enough to outwit their enemies.

I really liked Smoke And Iron!  Overall, I’ve really liked this series, and this book was no exception.

I was slightly surprised by how things ended, and I can’t wait for the next book to see how it’s all going to end.  There are a lot of changes in store for the Library, and I just really want to know how everything is going to go.

I was wondering what would happen in this book with the plan that Jess had in place.  We definitely find out but considering what the plan was, I had to remind myself of who was who and what was going on.  I think if people had been made aware of what the plan was, some things could have been avoided, and maybe even turned out differently.  But maybe not.  We’ll never know.  Either way, there were a lot of twists and turns in this book, and I liked seeing how the plan actually worked out.

I really liked seeing so many people narrate, especially because our band of fugitive scholars are split up.  It worked really well because we saw what was going on with everyone and it was great once everyone was together.  Hopefully, it will stay that way for the next book, but we shall see.

I really liked seeing more of the Obscurists, especially since this is the most we see of them.  Morgan just wants to be free, and while she wants that for the other Obscurists, I also like the perspective that it would be hard for a lot of the Obscurists because they don’t know anything outside the tower.

Khalila was amazing in this book and she’s just awesome.  I want good things for her- well, I want good things for everyone- but she’s pretty amazing.  She’s grown into someone who would make a great leader, and she’s strong and one of my favorite characters in the series.  She really wants the library to be the best version it could be, and she really believes in the library and what it can do.  It was really obvious in this book that she wants the library to exist, but not in it’s current form.

There’s a lot of action, and the book moves along pretty quickly.  There are some unexpected deaths, and one in particular was really hard.  I’m actually surprised that our main group of characters have survived so long, and I’m terrified that one (if not more) will die in the last book.  As long as it’s not Wolfe, Santi or Khalila, I think I’ll be fine.  I hope so, anyway.

4 stars.  I really liked Smoke And Iron, and while there’s a lot of resolution in this book, things are still hanging in the balance.  I can’t wait to see how Caine wraps everything up.

Book Review: Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

Book: Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

Published July 2018 by Thomas Nelson|448 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Alternate History/Fantasy

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

I really liked Fawkes!  There’s a lot I really liked about the book, and I’m glad I read it.

For starters, I liked that cover.  It’s different, and it definitely got my attention.  I definitely wanted to know what was going to happen, though I probably could have solved that simply by reading the book jacket.  I did like how it connected to the story.

I also liked how Brandes mixed history and fantasy.  It’s the Gunpowder Plot, but with color magic.  There’s a plague that turns people to stone.  How can you not like that?  It’s not completely factual, of course, so if you like your historical fiction accurate, this is not the book for you, since this is more of an alternate history than anything else.

I liked that it focused on something I wasn’t too familiar with.  I had heard of Guy Fawkes (in relation to Guy Fawkes Day), and I had heard of the Gunpowder Plot, but wasn’t too familiar with the details.  So I liked reading about something I wasn’t too familiar with.

And when you add in magic and masks, and control of color, it becomes even more cool.  So instead of Catholics versus Protestants, you have Keepers (control over one color) and Igniters (control over all colors using White Light).  And there are masks they wear, and it shows the color that’s most dominant for you, plus there’s a school and testing.  Oh, and masks are made by their parents, so if your parent doesn’t make you one, you’re out of luck.  Which means Thomas has to go to his father in order to get a mask, since his dad didn’t make him one.  I like the idea that it’s the only way to connect to the magic, and to be able to use it.

I did wish that we saw more of how the magic worked.  What is it’s place in society, and how does it make society better (or worse)?  Clearly, magical factions replaced religion, but what do each of the colors represent?  Only a few colors are mentioned, and it could be interesting to see how different shades affected things.  Like, is there a different between ruby red and cherry red, or is it all the same, regardless of shade?

I mean, I know that book is the Gunpowder Plot with magic instead of religion, so it’s only going to be a stand-alone (and not a series).  There’s only so far you can take it.  There’s no way to stretch it out, especially if you’re sticking with history.  It would have been cool if the king had been assassinated, and there were more books that could go into detail about the history.

Still, I get (and appreciate) that maybe the author was trying to keep things simple.  Especially if magic is a stand-in for religion.  Generally, I don’t read past Elizabeth I, so I’m not too familiar with her successor, but just based off of that, there was a lot of back-and-forth on religion, so I can see wanting to have a basic structure in place.

I did get a pretty good sense of what was going on, and the disagreements on color magic, so it did its job pretty well.  I think I just wanted a little more detail than what we’d get in a stand-alone.

4 stars.  Overall, I really liked it, but I wish there was a little more with the magic system.

Book Review: The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye

Book Review: The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye

Published May 2017 by Balzer + Bray|415 pages

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

Series: The Crown’s Game #2

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/YA Alternate History/YA Historical Fantasy

Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.

Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.

For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.

With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.

I didn’t like The Crown’s Fate as much as I thought I would.  I wanted to like it more, but I just wasn’t as interested in this story as I was with The Crown’s Game.  I did end up skimming a good portion of it, but at the same time, I was really curious to see how things ended.

I had a harder time getting into this book than I did with The Crown’s Game.  Now that we have an imperial enchanter, I just wasn’t interested in what came after the events of the game.  It has some consequences, and while I did like seeing how Nikolai tried to return to the real world, but I also liked him less in this book.  He wasn’t the Nikolai we knew from the previous book, though I understand why he was much different in this one.

I didn’t really care about Vika or Pasha in this one, and it was a struggle to get through it.  Oddly enough, I initially tried the audio book but switched to print because I couldn’t stand the narration.  So that was out, but I was so determined to see this through, even though it didn’t have the same pull that The Crown’s Game did.

I think I would have been fine not reading it.  I mean, we do see the Imperial Enchanter in action, and it’s this alternate Russia where magic exists, and it’s a cool concept.  But The Crown’s Game worked pretty well as a stand-alone, and while we see more of that world, I don’t know that this book really added anything to it.

It didn’t really have the same direction the first book did, and a lot of the things I loved about the first book were gone in this one.  I just didn’t care about what happened to Russia or the fact that the crown is at stake.  I was just…bored.  While I was initially excited to see how things turned out, by the end, that excitement was long gone.

2 stars.  It was okay, and I think I would have been fine not reading this one.  Everything I liked about the first book wasn’t there, and I just didn’t care about the story as much.

Book Review: Ash And Quill by Rachel Caine

Book: Ash And Quill by Rachel Caine

Published July 2017 by Berkley|368 pages

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

Series: The Great Library #3

Genre: YA Steampunk/Alternate History

 Words can kill.

Hoarding all the knowledge of the world, the Great Library jealously guards its secrets. But now a group of rebels poses a dangerous threat to its tyranny…

Jess Brightwell and his band of exiles have fled London, only to find themselves imprisoned in Philadelphia, a city led by those who would rather burn books than submit. But Jess and his friends have a bargaining chip: the knowledge to build a machine that will break the Library’s rule.

Their time is running out. To survive, they’ll have to choose to live or die as one, to take the fight to their enemies—and to save the very soul of the Great Library…

I really liked Ash And Quill!  This has been a really cool series to read, and it really is amazing what the Library will do to keep their power.  For some reason, I’m reminded of the Catholic Church and how huge it is- the Great Library feels like the library version of the Catholic church.  I’m not sure if anyone gets the same vibe, but I really felt it in this book, more than the previous two books.

America really does have it’s own thing going on, and I really am curious about why there seems to be more dissent in America.  Maybe because it’s further away, or it’s just what we do over here, but after this book, I’d really like to see more of what’s going on over in America, and if they’d be of any help to Jess and his friends.  I doubt we will, but who knows what is in store for Jess and everyone else after the way the book ended?

I can honestly say that I really think Jess needs to keep an eye on his dad.  I don’t trust his dad at all, and I half expected him to turn on his son.  There is something awfully shady about him, and if he doesn’t make it, I’ll be happy.  I really like the letters we see throughout the book, and it really shows what the library will do to keep certain things hidden and away from the general population.  They’ll do anything to keep printing presses suppressed, and it was interesting to see how people reacted to the idea that they could print books themselves instead of going through the Library for books.

Things are getting a lot worse, and this is the darkest book we see yet.  I think it’s a result of everything that’s happened in the series so far, and considering they’re prisoners in America, it’s also not surprising.  I’ll admit that I am intrigued by what Morgan can do, but she seems to have this…vibe about her.  Everyone wants to control her, and I still don’t completely understand why.  I mean, it seems like there’s not a lot of people who can do what she can do, but I’m not completely convinced of her special snowflake-ness.  Also, I don’t love her and Jess together, and it feels like they have zero trust and chemistry.  At least Wolf and Santi are an amazing couple, and they really do see this group of kids as their own.  Like it or not, they are a family, and they really are bound together.

It just goes to show that we can choose our family, at least to some degree, and that family isn’t always people we’re related to by blood.

I just want to know what happens next.  What is Jess really up to with that plan of his, and how on earth does he think it’s going to work?  It’s going to be a long wait for the next book.

4 stars.  I really do think this is the best book.  At least so far.  I don’t find Jess and Morgan believable as a couple, but no one can compare to the awesomeness that is Santi and Wolfe.  There’s a lot of twists and turns, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

ARC Book Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

Book: Gilded Cage by Vic James

Published February 2017 by Del Ray|368 Pages

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

Series: Dark Gifts #1

Genre: YA Alternate History/Fantasy

A darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule, and commoners are doomed to serve—for readers of Victoria Aveyard and Susanna Clarke

NOT ALL ARE FREE.
NOT ALL ARE EQUAL.
NOT ALL WILL BE SAVED.

Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years.

But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty—but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

I remember hearing about this book and being so excited about it.  It’s an alternate London, where commoners are basically slaves for 10 years to those in power.  It seemed up my alley, but I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.  And for some reason, I never got around to reviewing this book, and since I was looking forward to it, I did want to talk about it.

It was really hard for me to get into, and I don’t know that I’m interested enough to keep going with the series. The origin of slave days seemed really confusing, and not explained very well.  It’s the same with the origin of those with skill, and for the life of me, I cannot remember how it started.  It just didn’t seem like the world was explained- you were immersed in the world, which was different, but I found myself wondering what the history was, and I hate that whatever was explained isn’t sticking.

I do wonder when it’s supposed to take place- there were times when it felt like the technology was modern enough, but at the same time, it felt like an alternate Victorian London.  I did like that, the alternate Victorian London feel, and now that I think about it, it is sort of a steampunk London, which worked pretty well with the concept of a slaveday.

Still, I feel like this book is another book in the wave of books where the upper class has powers that the lower class doesn’t have (or isn’t supposed to have, but does).  Maybe I’m just jaded about this type of book already, but for me, there are better books in this genre to read.  Maybe if I had read this book before some of the other similar books out there, I would have felt differently.  Or maybe it’s just not my cup of tea.  Either way, it’s not for me, but maybe you’ll like it.

2 stars.  For me, this one was okay, and I don’t know if I’ll be continuing the series.

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

Book: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, Narrated by Justine Eyre

Published March 2014 by Listening Library|8 hours, 24 minutes

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

Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #1

Genre: YA Fantasy/Alternate History

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction.

Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

This has been on my TBR for a while, and it seemed pretty popular, so when I saw the audio book at the library, I figured it would be a good time to check it out.

What I liked the most was seeing the privilege and power the Valorians have, and how they don’t care about the way the come in and conquer people.  They take what they want, because they can, and they enslave an entire country because they think they can.  You also get a sense of how the two different cultures are, and I liked that we get this really amazing immersion in their world.  It didn’t feel forced, and I liked that there was no info-dumping.

I wasn’t a big fan of the romance- it was so problematic for me, because Arin is Kestrel’s slave, and I feel like he can’t truly be in love with her, or have feelings for her, because she’s in a position of power and authority over him.  It’s a very unbalanced relationship, and I will be disappointed if they end up with each other in the end.

The relationship between them was my main problem, but I also disliked some other things about the book.  There are hints that the slavery we see in the book is really brutal, but unfortunately, it’s only hinted at.  And I don’t know if it’s just me, but I assumed that Kestrel had fair skin, while Arin had dark skin.  Something about the book reminded me of slavery in the U.S., and…now I have no idea where I’m going with this, or what point I’m trying to make with this.  I did not give this enough thought, and I’m sure people with more knowledge about slavery in the U.S. could say it a lot better than I ever could.  I was also reminded of the Roman empire, and I think this book, and An Ember In The Ashes would make really good read-a-likes.

Since I listened to the audio book, let’s talk about that!  I liked it as an audio book, and I think that’s why I finished the book, because I’m not sure I would have finished if I had gone with the print/e-book version.  I liked the narrator, but didn’t love her either.

3 stars.  I really liked the world, but I had some issues with the possible romance between Kestrel and Arin.  I have the 2nd book on audio from the library, so I’ll at least try out the 2nd book to see if I l’m more interested in the series.

Book Review Round-Up: Crooked Kingdom, My Lady Jane And Tumbling

Since I’ve finished a few books recently, I thought I’d share some of the books I’ve been reading!

crooked-kingdom-coverBook #1: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Published September 2016 by Henry Holt & Co|448 pages

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

Series: Six Of Crows #2

Genre: YA Fantasy

What It’s About: Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets—a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.

What I Thought: After reading Six Of Crows, I knew I would be anxiously waiting for the sequel!  It didn’t disappoint, and even though I didn’t love it, I still really liked it!

It’s such a roller-coaster and I was glad that I was along for the ride.  There’s a lot of craziness, but in a good way, because I wanted to see what happened next.  There’s a lot of action and adventure…which I expected, considering it’s fantasy and a heist novel.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I swear, her writing is getting better and better.  And the world is completely amazing.

I loved the banter and it made me laugh, and yet, my heart broke a couple of times.  So many feels!

I will admit that I was surprised by how complete the story felt.  I honestly went into this book assuming that it was the 2nd book in a trilogy, and was surprised to find that there is no book 3 planned.  I really wanted (and was expecting) more to this story.  At the same time, though, she wrapped up the story really well.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked the story, and I’m a little disappointed there are only 2 books, because I really wanted more books!

my-lady-jane-coverBook #2: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows

Published June 2016 by HarperTeen|512 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Alternate History

What It’s About: The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.

Like that could go wrong.

What I Thought: I had really high hopes for My Lady Jane.  I love the time period, and I love Hand and Meadows. I have yet to read anything by Ashton.  But I was really disappointed in the book, and I hate that I didn’t like it, because I really wanted to.

It felt like it dragged on, and the pacing seemed insanely slow.  It felt like it took forever for me to finish the book, and there were a lot of times where I didn’t want to pick it up.  It seems like they were going for a Princess Bride sort of feel with the book, but it felt more like an alternate history than fantasy.  I wasn’t particularly amused by anything that happened, even though I feel like they were trying to be funny.

For me, I don’t know that using history as a springboard necessarily worked for the story they were trying to tell. It’s an interesting idea, and I can see why people like the book so much.  It makes me wish that this book were for me.  I am curious to see how this book would work if it were entirely made up of original characters.

My Rating: 1 star.  I wanted to like it but it didn’t work for me.

tumbling-coverBook #3: Tumbling by Caela Carter

Published June 2016 by Viking Books For Young Readers|432 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: Work harder than anyone.
Be the most talented.
Sacrifice everything.
And if you’re lucky, maybe you will go to the Olympics.

Grace lives and breathes gymnastics—but no matter how hard she pushes herself, she can never be perfect enough.

Leigh, Grace’s best friend, has it all: a gymnastics career, a normal high-school life… and a secret that could ruin everything.

Camille wants to please her mom, wants to please her boyfriend, and most of all, wants to walk away.

Wilhelmina was denied her Olympic dream four years ago, and she won’t let anything stop her again. No matter what.

Monica is terrified. Nobody believes in her—and why should they?

By the end of the two days of the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials, some of these girls will be stars. Some will be going home with nothing. And all will have their lives changed forever.

What I Thought: Gymnastics is my favorite thing to watch when the Summer Olympics on, so when I saw this book, I knew I had to read it.

I really liked that this book takes place over the span of 2 days, and you follow several gymnasts in their quest to go to the Olympics.  I really liked seeing their stories, but some stood out more than others.

I really felt for Wilhelmina, who missed going to the Olympic trials 4 years prior because she wasn’t old enough. You can see how much she wants, and for a while, you’re not sure if she’s going to make it onto the team because of politics.  Which is completely horrible, but not that surprising.

Monica’s story also stood out to me- it seems like she has a coach who isn’t at all interested in coaching her because he pays a lot of attention to his daughter.  I really hated that he didn’t seem to be a good coach to her, and with all of the time and money that’s going into her training, it seems like a waste of time.  She could be great if she had a better coach.

I felt like Grace and Leigh were the typical mean girls, and I didn’t care for Grace’s story.  She felt very flat, and not as rounded or developed as the other characters.  I also felt like the fact that Grace doesn’t eat a lot was super-stereotypical.  I felt that to a certain degree with Leigh and her secret, although I felt like that was understandable, given Leigh is lesbian, and she’s worried about people finding out.  We do see some of her thoughts, but I wish it had been explored more.  Given how the book focuses on 5 different people, each character could be developed more if the book had focused on less of them, but all things considered, they were more developed and had more depth than you’d think.

Oh, Camile!  I almost forgot about her.  I did like her story and how she wanted to make her mom happy, but at the same time, I’d place her in between Grace and Leigh as one of my least favorite stories.

The one thing that kept me from loving this book was how drama there was behind the scenes.  I have no idea how accurate this was, but it seemed like there was some research put in, if the lengthy glossary at the end of the book is any indication.  I get that these girls are under a lot of pressure and one little mistake can cost them the dream they’ve been working so hard for, especially given female gymnasts seem to peak at around 16 or 17. And I get that it’s a way for the reader to be invested in these girls, but something about rang a little bit true, but not completely true.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked it, but with 5 different narrators, you didn’t get to spend a lot of time with each of them.

Book Review: Paper And Fire by Rachel Caine

Paper And Fire CoverBook: Paper And Fire by Rachel Caine

Published July 2016 by NAL|368 pages

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

Series: The Great Library #2

Genre: YA Alternate History/Steampunk

Blog Graphic-What It's About

In Ink and Bone, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine introduced a world where knowledge is power, and power corrupts absolutely. Now, she continues the story of those who dare to defy the Great Library—and rewrite history…

With an iron fist, The Great Library controls the knowledge of the world, ruthlessly stamping out all rebellion, forbidding the personal ownership of books in the name of the greater good.

Jess Brightwell has survived his introduction to the sinister, seductive world of the Library, but serving in its army is nothing like he envisioned. His life and the lives of those he cares for have been altered forever. His best friend is lost, and Morgan, the girl he loves, is locked away in the Iron Tower and doomed to a life apart.

Embarking on a mission to save one of their own, Jess and his band of allies make one wrong move and suddenly find themselves hunted by the Library’s deadly automata and forced to flee Alexandria, all the way to London.

But Jess’s home isn’t safe anymore. The Welsh army is coming, London is burning, and soon, Jess must choose between his friends, his family, or the Library willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the search for ultimate control…

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

This was such a great book!  I’ve loved everything I’ve read by her, and this book was no exception.  You really can’t go wrong with a steampunk world where the Library Of Alexandria still exists, and is in control of, well, everything.

There’s a lot more to the library than I remembered from Ink And Bone, but it’s also been a while, so it’s a little hard to tell if it’s because I remember almost nothing from the first book, or if it’s because we learn more about the Library, or even a combination of both.

I did enjoy it, though, and it’s a lot more simple than I expected it to be.  I think it’s because this book is basically a rescue mission, with a lot of trouble along the way.  It’s definitely a 2nd book, and I’m wondering about certain things that have yet to be answered, and there’s some excitement and magic, but not the way Ink And Bone was exciting and magical.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a really interesting concept, and I like a lot of the ideas we see in the book.

The control of knowledge that we see in Paper And Fire, and how the Library hides so many advancements- it’s really scary and disturbing what lengths they’ll go to in order to control everything.  And what’s sad is that it’s something I can picture happening all too well.  And with the Black Archives, and seeing the Iron Tower and the little snippets of messages and letters before each chapter…the Library has a lot of power, and they may have started off with good intentions, but those in power have changed what the Library should be.

I liked seeing what was going on with Jess and the other characters, but there were a couple points where I found myself wishing that we had chapters narrated by someone other than Jess.  There’s a lot that happens off-the-page, and I think another narrator, even if it’s one or two chapters, would have given another perspective on what was happening.

It also took a while for things to get going, but I’m willing to overlook that (at least a little) because we’re picking up a little bit after where things left off in Ink And Bone.  But once things got going, it got INTERESTING, and there were one or two things that took me by surprise.  Because THEY WEREN’T AT ALL EXPECTED.  At least for me.  Well, maybe one of them might be a little bit obvious, now that I think about it.  But it was hard to tell with this book, because sometimes, you had no idea who to trust.  And I didn’t think it was possible, but Paper And Fire seemed darker and a little more frightening than Ink And Bone, and I think it’s because we learn more about the Library, and how the characters react to some of the things they learn.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

4 stars.  I really liked it, but I would also re-read the first one if it’s been a while, because the details from Ink And Bone will help a lot with Paper And Fire.

Book Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

The Crown's Game CoverBook: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

Published May 2016 by Balzer + Bray|416 pages

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

Series: The Crown’s Game #1

Genre: YA Fantasy/Historical Fiction

Blog Graphic-What It's About

Vika Andreyev can summon the snow and turn ash into gold.

Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air.

They are enchanters, the only two in Russia and, with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, a duel of magical skill. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter, even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has.

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

Imagine The Night Circus, set in Russia, where the “winner” of a magical duel becomes the adviser to the tsar, and the loser dies, because only one enchanter can access the magic source…and you have The Crown’s Game. The Night Circus is a magical book, and this book was pretty magical, with a touch of politics.

I really liked learning more about Nikolai’s family, but I wish we knew more about Vika’s family.  I know that learning about Nikolai’s parents is much more important to the plot than Vika’s parents, but still.  I’m holding out hope that we learn more about them in the next book.

I really liked both Nikolai and Vika, and how different, but also complementary, their magic was.  It makes me a little sad that only one could survive but only one enchanter surviving makes a lot of sense.  I also feel pretty hopeful we haven’t seen the last of both Nikolai and Vika- I only say both because I don’t want to spoil what happens, because it took me off-guard.

And that leads me to Pasha, who I hate with a passion.  He is a complete idiot, and I hate that he became tsar. Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time someone made bad decisions, and that people who aren’t good leaders become leaders anyway.  Still, his actions caused a lot of hurt for a lot of people, and while I get that he didn’t fully understand the consequences of his actions, he did get a very horrible wake-up call when he finally realized the effect his decisions had.  I hope he doesn’t try to get Vika back, because I don’t think she’ll have it. At all.  And even if he does, I hope she doesn’t give him another chance.  She deserves a lot better than the spoiled brat that is Pasha.

I also love that we have a fantasy novel set in Russia.  Shadow And Bone is the only other Russian-inspired fantasy I can think of, and Russia is the perfect setting for the book!  I love the story behind the magic and the Crown’s Game and the enchanters, and it all works really well together.  Skye did such a great job with the research, and she blends fantasy and history really well.  It’s such a believable story, and there were times where I forgot that magic wasn’t real because it blended so well into this world.

I expected something slightly darker to the duel, but the way that things went (at least initially) is what reminded me so much of The Night Circus.  For some reason, they are very good read-alikes, and I recommend it to anyone who loves The Night Circus.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved the magic, and everything about it the duel (again, initially), but based on the summary, I thought it would be a lot more cutthroat than what we got.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

4 stars.  I didn’t love it, and I did want something darker/edgier than what we got but I also loved seeing the magic, and I liked the blend of history and fantasy.