Book Review: Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Book: Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Published August 2020 by Amulet Books|368 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: Raybearer #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

Nothing is more important than loyalty. But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

Raybearer was a book I was really excited about, but it ended up being just okay for me.

I struggled with this book- I’d read a few chapters at a time, and then have to put it down.  I don’t know if I just wasn’t in the mood for this book, or if maybe I needed to listen to it on audio, or what was going on, because I really wanted to like it more than I actually did.

I love the idea of the book, though.  I mean, a council of 11, who help the prince rule the land, and have this magical bond?  It’s pretty cool.  And the fact that they can get sick if they’re too far apart?  That’s really different, but also interesting.  I mean, it forces them to not go running off to do their own thing, and make sure they’re close to the Crown Prince.  The fact that they’re all chosen is children is interesting too.  It’s one way to ensure the council is loyal to the prince.  Easier to form a bond if they’re all children.  It’s a little horrifying, in all honesty, especially given what happens throughout the book, and the task Tarisai is given.

And what we learn about Raybearers makes it a little more horrifying and scary.  It’s amazing what information rulers do (and do not) want out there and how different things could be if that knowledge was known.

I did feel for Tarisai, though.  Things were not easy for her- with her childhood, and everything she learns about her family.  I felt for her, trying to find her own path while also wanting to protect Dayo, and carrying out the task the Lady gave her.  She just wanted to belong, which makes so much sense considering how she grew up.  She wants love and family and friends and people who care about her.  Being part of the council offers her that chance.  We grow up with her, though it felt like we missed quite a few years.

The setting is amazing!  In particular, the sounds described in this book made the book come alive.  And even now, there are things described in the book that I can still picture.  Still, there are a lot of people and places and other bits of information that I had a hard time keeping track of.

I did get through the last few chapters pretty fast- that was when I got really into the book, and I’m a little sad it took me so long to get into this book, especially because of the things I did like.

2 stars.  I really wanted to like this book more, but it ended up being just okay for me.  I’m still looking forward to reading the next book in this series, because I want to know what happens.  Even though it wasn’t for me, I still think it’s worth checking out.

Audio Book Review: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, Narrated by Logan Rozos

Book: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, Narrated by Logan Rozos

Published May 2020 by HarperAudio|Length: 8 hours, 24 minutes

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

FROM STONEWALL AND LAMBDA AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR KACEN CALLENDER COMES A REVELATORY YA NOVEL ABOUT A TRANSGENDER TEEN GRAPPLING WITH IDENTITY AND SELF-DISCOVERY WHILE FALLING IN LOVE FOR THE FIRST TIME.

Felix Love has never been in love – and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but hime to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many – Black, queer, and transgender – to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages – after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned – Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi-love triangle…

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning a self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself. ‘FELIX EVER AFTER’ is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve.

I really liked Felix Ever After!  I’m really glad I read it.

I really felt for Felix, and I hated that someone was so jealous of him that they shared a name and photos that they had no right to share.  I was so angry for him, and the person behind it had no right to do what they did.  I hate that his existence is considering flaunting, and I’m glad that person is no longer around.  All I’m going to say is that people are horrible.  Absolutely horrible.  It’s brutal, and hard to listen to, so please keep that in mind if you pick this book up.  But it’s important to not shy away from something just because it’s hard to listen to.  It’s a big part of Felix’s life in this book.

Even with the messages he was getting, Felix learned a lot about himself.  He learned to recognize that he has a father who loves him, no matter what.  Even though things aren’t easy for them, we see that money isn’t everything, and doesn’t make up for parents who don’t care about their kids, or that his parents didn’t disown him because he’s gay.  Yes, he sees some of his classmates as privileged, but that is definitely challenged as he learns more about them.  Things aren’t what they seem, and I liked seeing Felix see that.

I loved seeing Felix see that he deserves love and letting it into his life.  He’s a good kid, and I just want all of the happiness, joy and love in the world for him.  We all want love, but we also have to accept that we are worthy of it.  It’s not always an easy path, but I’m glad Felix found love.  He has such a great group of friends, and he has a lot of support, even though it was hard for him to accept for a long time.  Still, I’m glad he has some people in his corner.  He really needed it!

He’s not sure about his gender identity but takes the time to think and learn and question it.  He is comfortable and okay with who he is, even if he’s not always sure who he is.  Honestly, I just wanted to give Felix a hug.  I know it won’t make things better for him, and I know transphobia will always be a part of his life.  I know people are judgmental as hell, and not willing to looking part surfaces to who people really are.  Felix made a lot of decisions out of anger, fear and hurt, and that’s something I think I would have done as well.  He reaches out to others, though, and that’s a huge step because he realizes he’s not alone.  There are people going through something similar, and he has people he can lean on if he has questions or needs some support.

I love the cover!  It’s absolutely beautiful, and I really hope it’s one of Felix’s self-portraits.  If I could have that cover hanging on my wall, I absolutely would.

And Logan Rozos did a great job narrating.  I will say, since I did go for the audio book, it was sometimes hard to distinguish between Felix’s thoughts and his conversations with someone.  I’m sure it would have been a lot more clear if I read it in print (at least, I hope so), but it wasn’t something that was really clear when I was listening.  Still, it’s great on audio, and I really recommend this book, regardless of how you read it.

4 stars.  This is such a great book, and worth reading!

Audio Book Review: Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer, Narrated by Reba Buhr

Book: Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer, Narrated by Reba Buhr

Published September 2020 by HarperAudio|Run Time: 8 hours, 48 minutes

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: Crownchasers #1

Genre: YA

A deadly race across 1,001 planets will determine more than just the fate of the empire. This explosive first book in a duology jam-packed with tension and thrills is perfect for fans of ‘The Hunger Games, ‘Aurora Rising’, and ‘Three Dark Crowns’.

Alyssa Farshot has spent her whole life trying to outrun her family legacy, even leaving behind the Kingship and her uncle, the emperor, for a life of exploring.

But when her dying uncle announces a crownchase – a search for the royal seal hidden in the empire that will determine the next ruler – Alyssa is thrust into her greatest, most dangerous adventure yet.

I really liked Crownchasers!  It was really interesting, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book.

This is a story that’s pretty familiar- a race across the galaxy to see who will rule the empire.  Still, it’s in space!  We get to see the galaxy and the people living in it!  There’s a lot of adventure and outrunning the past!  It was exciting and I always wanted to know what happened next.

I also liked seeing Alyssa’s memories, and they were pretty important in how we see the present, and the other people involved in the crownchase.  I get why she doesn’t want to be empress, but at the end of the book, I felt like that might be in her future.  It might not be, but with everything that happened at the end of the book, I feel like it’s an option for her.

So, for the life of me, I cannot remember what happened to her parents that she had to live with her uncle.  I believe they died, but obviously, any details that might have been mentioned did not stick with me.  Her mom did come up a little bit, and it seems like her mom wanted to change things, but we don’t get a lot of detail.  And I’m really curious about her dad, because I feel like we don’t hear about him at all.  I really shouldn’t assume he was around, because maybe he wasn’t, and that is perfectly fine.  I’m just really curious, that’s all.

I just want to know what’s going on!  Who are the cloaked people, and what are they up to?  What on earth do they really want?  I hope we find out in the next book, because otherwise, what’s the point in bringing them up?  Anyway, they are very suspicious, clearly up to no good, and I want to know why.

I liked Alyssa.  She certainly likes to run into danger and has no sense of self-preservation.  She also wants to do her own thing, even though being her uncle’s heir would make a lot of sense.  It makes me wonder if he knew that she wouldn’t want to be forced into it, and I doubt he could have known everything that would end up happening during the chase.

It seemed to me that she was only involved in the chase because of her connection to the former emperor, but I can’t help but wonder if he thought that maybe she want it, but had to choose that role on her own.  Or not, and it’s just protocol or whatever that she’s involved.  She clearly didn’t want it, considering she makes an alliance with one of her competitors, but I am looking forward to see if that changes, and it does (or doesn’t) change.

I also liked Hell Monkey, and I’m glad he’s sticking around.  I’m glad Alyssa has someone she can trust and rely on, because it seems like the number of people she cares about is shrinking really fast.  She can’t do this alone, and she’s going to need all the help she can get.  I don’t know if things will become more romantic between them- it would be weird, because I didn’t particularly notice or care about a romance for Alyssa, much less with Hell Monkey.

I don’t know that I’m necessarily hoping they’ll get together, because Alyssa has a lot going on.  I honestly like them as friends, and I think they have a pretty good working relationship.  I’m really glad they made it through the book relatively unscathed, though it didn’t always look that way.

This was a book that I was glad I did on audio.  I don’t know if I would have gotten through it had I read it in print, but I enjoyed listening to it.  Buhr did a great job narrating and I hope she’ll narrate the next book.  I mean, she probably will because series usually stick with the same narrator, but still.  I enjoyed her narration.

4 stars.  I really liked Crownchasers, and I really, really hope some of my questions from this book get answered in the book.

Book Review: Rent A Boyfriend by Gloria Chao

Book: Rent A Boyfriend by Gloria Chao

Published November 2020 by Simon Schuster Books For Young Readers|400 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before meets The Farewell in this incisive romantic comedy about a college student who hires a fake boyfriend to appease her traditional Taiwanese parents, to disastrous results, from the acclaimed author of American Panda.

Chloe Wang is nervous to introduce her parents to her boyfriend, because the truth is, she hasn’t met him yet either. She hired him from Rent for Your ’Rents, a company specializing in providing fake boyfriends trained to impress even the most traditional Asian parents.

Drew Chan’s passion is art, but after his parents cut him off for dropping out of college to pursue his dreams, he became a Rent for Your ’Rents employee to keep a roof over his head. Luckily, learning protocols like “Type C parents prefer quiet, kind, zero-PDA gestures” comes naturally to him.

When Chloe rents Drew, the mission is simple: convince her parents fake Drew is worthy of their approval so they’ll stop pressuring her to accept a proposal from Hongbo, the wealthiest (and slimiest) young bachelor in their tight-knit Asian American community.

But when Chloe starts to fall for the real Drew—who, unlike his fake persona, is definitely not ’rent-worthy—her carefully curated life begins to unravel. Can she figure out what she wants before she loses everything?

I really liked Rent A Boyfriend!  I really liked Chloe and Drew, and I really felt for both of them.

As much as I liked this book, and (some of) the characters, I found that I was angry at Chloe’s parents for most of the book.  I know they want to make sure she’s okay and taken care of and happy, especially in the wake of her dad’s illness.  She’s more than capable of taking care of herself, and she doesn’t need a guy to take care of her.  Of course, love’s important, but it’s sad they’re pushing her to someone she doesn’t want and who is pretty terrible person.  I’m angry that they didn’t tell her why they were pushing so hard for her to get married, I’m angry that her virginity was a selling point, and that not being a virgin would ruin her, and I’m angry that she had to rent a boyfriend so they’d leave her alone, only for them to still push her towards Hongbo.

It also makes me sad that this is something she needs to worry about and deal with.  She eventually tells her parents about Drew, and while it makes things really difficult between them, they do come around.  I understand why she feels like two different people and being ourselves around family can be really hard.  Especially with her parents, but she figure out what she wants and becomes honest about it, even though it’s really hard and it gets complicated along the way.

I like her and Drew together.  I loved their random conversations, and their text messages, and they’re just really cute together.  Meeting each other ended up being a really good thing for both of them.  It’s a really cute romance while also dealing with some pretty serious things.  There was a really good balance between everything.  If you like the fake relationship turning into a real one trope, this is a great book for you!

I’m glad we got to see his POV, because I really liked seeing how he saw things.  Don’t get me wrong, we spend plenty of time with Chloe, and I’m glad we do, but it was also nice to get a different take on things, and see how he saw her.  Also, I’m sad for Drew.  Chloe has her own issues to deal with, but so does Drew.  And it just made me sad that his parents cut him off just because he’s an artist, and wants to pursue that.  Also, the comparison to someone he didn’t know made me sad for him as well.

I totally want to use sleep loose from now on, by the way.  It’s totally random, but true!

I really liked Chloe, and I can relate to how insecure she is.  It’s no wonder she is, with all the things she’s heard over the years.  Words have more of an impact than people think, and though people might not mean to be hurtful or think they’re actually helping, it doesn’t mean that words don’t hurt, and that we don’t internalize it and start to believe it.  I think it’s part of why I was so angry on her behalf.  I really do hope that things get better between Chloe and her parents, and that they (but especially her mom) are more accepting of her.

4 stars.  I really liked Rent A Boyfriend.  I was angry and sad but also happy and this is a cute romance with some seriousness as well.  I’m glad I picked this book up!

Book Review: The First 7 by Laura Pohl

Book: The First 7 by Laura Pohl

Published March 2020 by Sourcebooks Fire|384 pages

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

Series: The Last 8 #2

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

The thrilling conclusion to The Last 8 duology that follows the Last Teenagers on Earth as they head home to a now-hostile planet.

Clover Martinez and The Last Teenagers on Earth are busy exploring the galaxy after leaving earth behind…even if they can’t help but be a little homesick.

So when their ship receives a distress signal from their former planet, they hope against hope that it means other survivors. But as soon as they arrive, they realize something’s deeply wrong: strange crystal formations have popped up everywhere and there’s some sort of barrier keeping them from leaving.

Seeking the origin of the formations and the reason for the barrier, the group discovers a colony of survivors hidden in the mountains. But the survivors aren’t who they seem…

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I really liked The First 7, and thought it was much better than the first book!  It’s a great sequel, and I’m glad I read it.

I liked the first book, enough to pick up the sequel.  This book picks up several months after the last book, and we see our young survivors travelling across space.  Because of Andy, they get this warning that they are not safe anywhere, and find themselves back on earth because of a distress signal.  Earth is not the same place it was when they left it.

It turns out that they were gone for years, instead of months, so clearly, time moved differently for them than it did in space.  That part got my interest, and I wanted to know more about that.  They have more pressing things to deal with, like the fact that there are survivors hidden in the mountains, crystals everywhere, and Andy not being the same Universal that she was in the first book.  Once they land on Earth, and come across the crystals, she changes drastically, but in the end, she’s the same Andy that we knew from The Last 8 and the beginning of this book.

It turns out that Andy is not the last Universal, and there was a time when I thought it was Violet.  It’s not, but the thought crossed my mind, considering what Andy did to bring Violet back from the dead.  I actually wish we saw more of Andy.  This is Clover’s story, through and through, but that’s not going to stop me from wanting more with Andy.

Speaking of Clover, I really liked her.  She’s still struggling, which is understandable.  She’s been through a lot, and there are some surprises for her in this book.  I wasn’t expecting one particular surprise, but I’m glad she’s not alone.  She never was, of course, and she has some great friends.  But this surprise…I think it will be good for her.  It won’t bring back her grandparents, Adam or Noah but I think, in time, she’ll open up and start to heal.  That’s what I hope happens for her.  This book doesn’t shy away from her struggles, and I love that there’s a content warning at the beginning of the book and some resources at the end of the book.

I’m just glad they were able to go back to earth, and that they were able to make sure things were okay.  Not everyone wanted to come back, of course, but I think, in the end, they were glad they did.  Space isn’t for everyone, but this book really shows that earth, and the life that inhabits it are strong and refuse to die in the face of really terrible aliens with crystals that could change the planet and destroy everything on it.

I also want everyone to be okay.  I’ve already talked about how I want Clover to be okay, and I want that for everyone else too.  They deserve after thinking they were the only ones left on earth, and what they had to do to save it.  I’m sure they’ll settle into a slightly more normal life.  As normal as it can be on a planet that survived an alien invasion, and I hope they are able to find other survivors.  This little pocket of survivors can’t be the only ones left, and I hope, over time, earth is at least a semblance of the place they knew before everything happened.

4 stars.  I really liked The First 7, and it’s a great sequel.  I kind of want another book, just to see how things turn out for everyone, but I also think it ended on a really good note, so I’m also okay with it ending how it did.

Audio Book Review: Juliet Takes A Breath by Gabby Rivera, Narrated by Lillian Claire

Book: Juliet Takes A Breath by Gabby Rivera, Narrated by Lillian Claire

Published July 2016 by Audible Studios|Run Time: 7 hours, 35 minutes

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.

Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle?

With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself.

I liked Juliet Takes A Breath!  Juliet’s pretty cool, and I loved seeing her as an intern in Portland.  She learns a lot about herself and others, and it was great to be along for the journey.

I was pretty angry at her family when she came out to them.  I was angry that they saw it as a joke, and didn’t take it seriously.  I was angry that they saw it as a phase she’ll grow out of.  I know not everyone has supportive families, but I still found myself angry at them and their reaction, because Juliet deserves so much better than that.

She had quite the summer in Portland.  She’s a world away from New York, and her time in Portland wasn’t what she expected.  We see social justice, feminism, race, sexuality, and how they do (or do not) intersect.  We see that the people we look up to are flawed, and that meeting our heroes can be hard, and that they’re not who we thought they were.  That the words they write can be hard to separate from the person writing them, and that they can get some things wrong, while also getting some things right.  That people can be allies in some ways, but ignorant in other ways.  I can see why Juliet clung to Harlowe’s book- we all have that something we hold onto for dear life, that thing that means the world to us, and the realization that we can’t put the creator of it on a pedestal.  Still, I’m sad that Harlowe was great in some ways, but horrible in other ways, and that Juliet had a front row seat for it.

Still, I loved some of the people Juliet met over the course of the summer, and I hope that she stays in contact with some of them.  Like Kira, and Harlowe’s ex.  And the women from the workshop that wanted Juliet to submit her story to the anthology she was putting together.  I wish I could remember their names, but they seemed really cool and supportive, and I hope Juliet talks to them long after the book is over.  I also hope Juliet’s family comes around as well, and they’ll be more accepting of her and whoever she brings home to meet them.

Honestly, I just enjoyed seeing Juliet figure things out and what she learned about life, other people, and herself.  She has a clear, honest voice, and I found myself rooting for her the whole time.

3 stars.  I didn’t love Juliet takes a breath, but I still liked it!  Juliet had an interesting summer, and I was glad I was there for it.

Book Review: Rebelwing by Andrea Tang

Book: Rebelwing by Andrea Tang

Published February 2020 by Razorbill|355 pages

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

Series: Rebelwing #1

Genre: YA Sci-fi/Dystopia

Business is booming for Prudence Wu.

A black-market-media smuggler and scholarship student at the prestigious New Columbia Preparatory Academy, Pru is lucky to live in the Barricade Coalition where she is free to study, read, watch, and listen to whatever she wants. But between essays and exams, she chooses to spend her breaks sweet-talking border patrol with her best friend, Anabel, in order to sell banned media to the less fortunate citizens of the United Continental Confederacy, Inc.

When a drop-off goes awry, Pru narrowly escapes UCC enforcers to find that her rescuer is, of all things, a sentient cybernetic dragon. On the one hand, Pru is lucky not to be in prison, or worse. On the other, the dragon seems to have imprinted on her permanently, which means she has no choice but to be its pilot.

Drawn into a revolution she has no real interest in leading, Pru, Anabel, and friends Alex and Cat become key players in a brewing conflict with the UCC as the corporate government develops advanced weaponry more terrifying and grotesque than Pru could have ever imagined.

I wasn’t sure about this book at first!  It took me a while to get into, and at one point, I was pretty close to not finishing it at all.  But I’m glad I kept reading and I ended up really liking it!

This is a future I can easily imagine- the U.S. is split up into different territories, and not everyone can access banned media.  It’s a scary future, and the world was frighteningly familiar.  Mechanical wyverns and dragons are pretty cool, I have to admit, and the weaponry is pretty horrifying.  Pru, of course, gets drawn into this revolution that she had no idea was even happening, and with how the book ended, she has a lot to deal with.  I’m curious to see how things go, and how she’ll deal with a corporate government and the terrifying things they can come up with.

I’m not sure how I feel about Pru.  Or anyone else that we see.  I get why Anabel kept things from Pru, but I also get why Pru didn’t take it well.  They work through it, of course, and they’re really going to need each other.  Especially with everything that Pru went through in this book…particularly towards the end.  I feel like Alex gets it, since he went through the same thing she did.  I know they’ll be fine, but it will be hard, especially for Alex.  With what he learned about his family…I can’t imagine learning that.  I felt for both of them, because no one should have to go through what they did.  In all honesty, there’s not a lot I remember about them, other than the basics.

There’s a lot of action, adventure and politics, and the further I got into the book, the more I wanted to know what would happen next.  I was interested to see what was really going on in this world, and how we even got to this point.  Pru’s pretty lucky, but still trying to figure out her place in the world.  And of course, she’s doing it while bonding to a mechanical dragon she has to pilot because it imprinted on her, instead of Alex, the person it was supposed to bond with.  I am pretty interested to see how she changes in the next book and to see her really decide what she wants in life.

Rebelwing gets 4 stars- I really liked this one.  It took me some time to get into the book, but I’m glad I kept reading and didn’t give up on it.

Book Review: A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe

Book: A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe

Published October 2020 by Wednesday Books|352 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.

While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.

But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.

I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve written any reviews…or even picked up a book!  I’m feeling a little rusty after so long, but A Golden Fury was a good book to get back into reading and reviewing.  I liked it, and I thought the concept was really cool!

The whole idea of the Philosopher’s Stone cursing people is really cool, and that was, hands down, my favorite thing about the book.  People lose their sanity if they get far enough along, and it was both frustrating and not at all surprising that no one believed Thea when she told everyone who wanted the Stone what would happen.  I don’t blame her for not wanting her loved ones die, and sacrificing your sanity is a terrible way to get them back.  If no one knew that her mom made it, had notes, and that Thea could make it, she’d be fine.  But we also wouldn’t have a book, so there is that.  Or, at least, it would be a very different book.

It’s scary to think that the Stone takes what it wants from you once you get to a certain step in the process of making it, but I also really liked that.  Yes, there’s immortality and turning metals into gold and silver but trying to get that comes at a price.  Cohoe does a great job at showing what that price is, and how some people are willing to sacrifice everything for their chance to have something so powerful.

I’d rather keep my sanity, thank you very much.

But for some reason, the Stone really likes Thea, and she ends up being fine.  She starts to have a relationship with the father she never knew, and her relationship with her mother changes drastically by the end of the book.  To live in her mother’s shadow must have been horrible, and not a great person to have as a mother.  Now that the Stone is not in the picture, maybe things will be better.  Maybe Thea just needs to be away from her mother, and they can write letters with the occasional visit.  They have a lot of things they need to work through, and it seems like doing that away from each other is a good move.

We don’t see much of Thea’s relationship with her father, and her going to Oxford was quite the surprise for him.  I do get his concern, at least initially, that saying she was his daughter could change things for him career-wise.  Though I understand why he’d say she was his niece, it was also frustrating that he wouldn’t acknowledge her.  He does change his mind about that, in the end, and I hope they end up having a good relationship.

I didn’t care for Will at all.  He ended up being pretty terrible, though, and in the end, I just didn’t get why she went to such lengths to protect him.  Granted, there was a lot about him that she didn’t know, but considering he told people she could make the Stone…that was the first of many things that he did that was absolutely terrible.

I haven’t really talked about Thea much.  I liked her, and she really was determined to do what she had to for the people she cared about- whether it was her mother, Will, or Dominic, she wanted to make sure they were okay.  She was willing to sacrifice so much for them, even when it wasn’t deserved.  In my opinion, anyway.  Still, I want things to be okay for her, and hopefully, they will be.

3 stars.  I liked A Golden Fury, and it was entertaining and interesting.  It was a good book to start of the year and get back into reviewing!

Book Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Book: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Published July 2020 by Flatiron Books|336 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: YA Fantasy

A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse…

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

I liked Girl, Serpent, Thorn!  It’s definitely different but in a good way.

I felt for Soraya, who lived hidden away from everything and everyone.  For a lot of the book, we get bits and pieces of the story, but it’s not until we get close to the end that we get the whole story.  I get why her mom did what she did, but at the same time, I think a lot of the book could have been avoided if Soraya knew the whole story from the beginning.  But that’s just how things go, I think.

I am glad things worked for Soraya, and it was definitely a journey.  I don’t blame her for doing what she did.  It makes a lot of sense, considering she didn’t have the whole story until it was too late.  It was pretty predictable at times, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying the book.  I liked seeing her figure things out, and be okay with the fact that her touch can kill people.  Something about the fact that her touch is poisonous seemed really familiar, but I have no idea why.  I’m sure I’ll figure it out at some point, but that time is definitely not now.

I really liked the world, and there’s part of me that wants more books set in this world.  It feels like there are so many stories to tell.  At the same time, though, I thought that the story was contained in the book pretty well.  We don’t get every little detail, but that’s fine because it felt like we got enough of the world to know what’s going on.  I was reminded of Sleeping Beauty when I was reading it, and I think it’s because she’s hidden away for such a long time because of a prophecy.

I know this is completely random, but I can’t help but wonder how she was taken care of as a child.  She killed her nurse when she was a few days old, and I’m really curious how they manage to take care of someone who could kill them just by touching them.  It’s definitely not important in the grand scheme of things but it is something that I thought about a lot while reading the book.

3 stars.  I liked Girl, Serpent, Thorn and I enjoyed reading it, but I didn’t love it.

Book Review: The Crow Rider by Kalyn Josephson

Book: The Crow Rider by Kalyn Josephson

Published July 2020 by Sourcebooks Fire|368 pages

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

Series: The Storm Crow #2

Genre: YA Fantasy

The thrilling conclusion to the epic Storm Crow duology that follows a fallen princess as she tries to bring back the magical elemental crows taken from her people.

Thia, her allies, and her crow, Res, are planning a rebellion to defeat Queen Razel and Illucia once and for all. Thia must convince the neighboring kingdoms to come to her aid, and Res’ show of strength is the only thing that can help her.

But so many obstacles stand in her way. Res excels at his training, until he loses control of his magic, harming Thia in the process. She is also pursued by Prince Ericen, heir to the Illucian throne and the one person she can’t trust but can’t seem to stay away from.

As the rebel group prepares for war, Res’ magic grows more unstable. Thia has to decide if she can rely on herself and their bond enough to lead the rebellion and become the crow rider she was meant to be. 

I liked The Crow Rider!  After reading the first book for book club last year, I knew I wanted to read this book to see what happened next.

I didn’t like this book as much as The Storm Crow.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I read it.  I’m glad we got to see what happened to Thia and Res, and that Razel is no longer in the picture.  I’m glad we got to see the neighboring kingdoms, and that things are going to be better for everyone.

I think I just wanted more from the book, but I don’t know what.  We learn about an entirely new, mysterious group that no one thinks exists.  But not surprisingly, they really do exist.  It was even less of a surprise was that Thia was connected to them.  In this book, we see how special Thia and Res really are, and while it makes sense for this book, I wasn’t overly enthused about it.  If you hate the super-special chosen one trope, this is not the book for you.  I usually don’t mind it, but it really bothered me in this book, for some reason.

Everything with the crows and their magic felt really superficial, and I wanted more of that.  I wanted more of hatching the crow eggs and seeing them grow the way we saw it with Res.  It wasn’t going to happen until Razel was deal with, of course, and I know this series is about what happened to Rhodaire after they lost their crows.  But I felt like we barely got anything about them, which is weird considering the fact that they’re so important to Rhodaire and how Rhodaire functions.

With The Storm Crow, and with this book, I love how Josephson dealt with Thia’s depression.  It felt very real, and very natural, and I really liked seeing that over time.  I also really liked Res- though I didn’t love how he had all the powers, I thought Res was awesome, and he really had quite the personality.  He made it pretty clear what he thought and what he wanted.  And he does have a good bond with Thia.

In all honestly, this is a series that would have benefited from another book.  With two, things felt really rushed, and it would have been a really good bridge between The Storm Crow and a non-existent third book.  I think having some time to let things develop naturally would have been good.

Still, I’d recommend this duology for the depression representation and Res alone.

3 stars.  I liked The Crow Rider, but I also have some reservations about it.