Fantasy, Young Adult

Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy, #1)Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Out April 2nd! Preorder from Amazon here.

Game of Thrones meets Children of Blood and Bone in this action-packed YA fantasy novel. Nadya is a girl of the gods. Her country is at war with Tranavia, a land that loathes the gods and relies on blood magic for power. The two countries will come crashing together when the prince of Tranavia infiltrates Nadya’s home, setting in motion a chain of events that neither country saw coming.

I always love a good fantasy novel, and this was no exception. The originality here by Emily A. Duncan shone through, going so far as to create new languages and concepts specific to this world. I really liked Nadya as a main character and related to the internal struggles she grappled with throughout the book, not knowing whether she should have faith in her gods or realign her actions with what she felt was right regardless of the gods’ will.

I struggled slightly in the beginning of the book to grasp what was going on, just because this is an entirely new world that the author creates, so it took some time to gain enough understanding of the two countries and their motivations. But once I got 20 – 30% of the way through, I was fully on board. The names of some of the characters were a tad difficult to pronounce as they were long and foreign, with many consonants together that we wouldn’t typically see in English. I would be very interested to listen to this one on audio just to hear how the narrator pronounces some of the names and words that were new to me.

Overall, would recommend this to most people that enjoy the fantasy genre. Like I said, it was reminiscent of Game of Thrones in that there are multiple kingdoms fighting for ultimate power, with lots of magical elements thrown in the mix. It was a fun read, and I’m excited to see what the next book in the series holds.

P.S. The author does leave you on quite a bit of a cliffhanger in the end, so don’t be disappointed when everything isn’t wrapped up nicely with a bow on top by the last page.

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Emily A. Duncan, and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to review.-

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Science Fiction, Young Adult

Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young

Girls with Sharp SticksGirls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

What do I say about this book other than that I loved it? Well here’s my best shot!

Girls with Sharp Sticks is a young adult book focused on the lives of several girls living in an elite boarding school. They are taught to uphold the highest standards of behavior and grace, striving for perfection in all things. But things aren’t what they seem to be at Innovations Academy. And the girls must band together to discover the truth.

I truly don’t want to give anything away with this book because it’s a great journey of discovery from start to finish as the story unravels. I adored the girls at Innovations Academy. Despite the pressure to be perfect, they all exhibited their own human elements that made them likable and relatable.

The only reason it didn’t receive 5 stars from me is that it seemed just a tad too long. There were a few points in the middle where I felt like there was a lull or I felt like the story was dragged out just a littleeeeee too much. Just a tiny bit of editing would have gone a long way for me here.

I had no idea when I started this book that it would be the first in a series. And now I cannot wait to read the sequel. The last 100 pages really hooked me, and the book ended on a wonderful cliffhanger that will keep any reader coming back to find out what happens next. I also adored the way Suzanne Young announced the name of the sequel at the end of the book (super clever touch!).

Girls with Sharp Sticks reminded me of a cross between Vox and The Hunger Games/The Maze Runner. It had that same young adult feel with a mistreated group organizing an uprising against their oppressors. After I was done reading Girls with Sharp Sticks, I could see the way in which the author used this first book in the series to set up future books. It was definitely more of a background set up type of book so I cannot wait to see what the second book holds as I think it may be more action packed now that the groundwork has been laid.

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Suzanne Young, and Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for the opportunity to review.-

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Audiobook Review, Fantasy, Young Adult

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Children of Blood and Bone has been on my list for a while. Tomi Adeyemi won the award for Goodreads Choice Debut Author this year for her work on this book, so I’ve been very excited to get my hands on it.

Children of Blood and Bone is very much a young adult fantasy. I would place it in the same genre as The Hunger Games, Divergent, and any other young adult series with heavy fantasy elements. It is the story of a young girl named Zélie, the daughter of a magi. Magi once populated the land, harnessing various magical powers. But, the magi were murdered by a ruthless king, thirsty for power and desperate for magic to disappear. Zélie has one chance to bring magic back, but her journey will be filled with obstacles and barriers.

————————————–

From the publisher:

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

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I really loved the creativity and thought that Tomi Adeyemi poured into this novel. It was so unique and different, with some extremely creative elements. The concept of the book was superb and I loved the fact that it was kept as a young adult book with a “coming of age” theme.

From an audiobook perspective, the narrator’s accent lended an element of believability and authenticity. I really enjoyed her portrayal of the various characters. I did feel at times that the voices of each character weren’t very distinct and there were a couple of times that I had to reorient myself to which character was talking. And as the book has a lot of action and excitement, the narration is at times loud and intense. Let’s just say it’s not a book you would want to listen to if you had a headache.

I was extremely surprised to find out that this book was written in response to incidences of police brutality and the author’s feeling of helplessness. While I didn’t feel like there were overt references to that accord, looking back I can see the connection and applicability.

I will definitely be checking out the second in this series when it comes out. It’s worth the read if you haven’t checked it out already.

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Audiobook Review, Mystery, Young Adult

Sadie by Courtney Summers

SadieSadie by Courtney Summers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Randi DuBois for the audiobook recommendation!

If you are looking for a truly unique audiobook, here it is! This was a mix between a podcast and an audiobook. The premise? Sadie, a young girl, goes missing and her family is trying to track her down. The book bounces back and forth between Sadie’s journey (the audiobook portion) and a fictitious podcast detailing the disappearance of Sadie (the podcast portion). There’s a murder in there somewhere and some other disturbing stuff a la Investigation Discovery.

I honestly thought I was listening to the wrong book when I first turned on this audiobook. The podcast sounded so real that I checked my phone to make sure I had downloaded the right thing! There was an introduction by the podcast narrator and introductory music to this fictitious first episode. The dialogue was legitimately people talking to each other in podcast fashion. It was so authentic. I’ve never quite listed to an audiobook like it.

I’ve had lots of friends ask for recommendations for a really great audiobook for a road trip. If you’re into crime podcasts at all and have interest in mystery/thriller books, Sadie is something truly unique and worth giving a listen.

That being said, while the audiobook was a full 5 stars (more stars if I could give them), the story itself for me was only 4 stars. It was engaging and held my attention, but it wasn’t anything mind blowing. I was waiting for a surprising twist or jaw dropping moment, and I never really got it. But, it was like listening to a good episode of Dateline. It’s nothing you’ve never seen before, but it’s still good.

Would totally recommend this one, particularly for my audiobook people out there!

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Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult), Young Adult

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had been hearing about this book everywhere and knew the movie was coming out soon (just came our Friday) so hurried and got on the wait list at my local library. After waiting a few months, it was finally my turn!

The Hate U Give is the story of Starr, a young African American teenager caught between two worlds. One night, her and her friend Khalil are stopped by a police officer. Khalil is shot in the back three times by the police officer and killed. The police officer claims he was reaching for a gun (which turned out to be a hairbrush). Meanwhile, Starr attends a mostly white school and her parents encourage her to keep her involvement in the shooting private. But her world starts to crumble when her mostly white friends begin talking about Khalil’s death, unaware that he was her friend.

Unfortunately, this story is not unique. But, seeing the story through the eyes of a young, African American girl was unique for me. Having grown up in a white, middle class family in suburbia, I’ve never experienced some of the struggles Starr lives with on a daily basis: the drive by shootings, the drugs, the gangs. But this book transported me into Starr’s world and gave me a glimpse into her life.

Books like this are always thought provoking and give new perspective to heated social issues. It makes you think about how the media and justice system portray the victim in relation to the perpetrator. In police brutality cases, the media can frequently portray the officer as the victim and we often lose sight of the true victim – the African American men and women who have lost their lives.

This book reminded me very much of Beartown but with a different underlying social topic. While Beartown discussed issues of rape and sexual assault, The Hate U Give focused on police brutality. But the underlying theme in both books is how the community responds following the incident and people begin to take sides, further perpetuating the divide.

I should also mention that the audiobook is fantastic. It was one of those audiobooks where you feel like you’re listening to a movie. And I could absolutely feel and hear Starr’s struggle and strife. Incredible narrator.

I think this would make a great discussion book for a book club meeting, especially those clubs looking for something told from the perspective of a person of color. I cannot wait to see the movie.

My review for Beartown #1 here and Beartown #2 here.

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