Our Dark Duet Review

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Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity, Book 2) by Victoria Schwab

Synopsis: Kate Harker is a girl who isn’t afraid of the dark. She’s a girl who hunts monsters. And she’s good at it. August Flynn is a monster who can never be human. No matter how much he once yearned for it. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

Nearly six months after Kate and August were first thrown together, the war between the monsters and the humans is a terrifying reality. In Verity, August has become the leader he never wished to be, and in Prosperity, Kate has become the ruthless hunter she knew she could be. When a new monster emerges from the shadows—one who feeds on chaos and brings out its victim’s inner demons—it lures Kate home, where she finds more than she bargained for. She’ll face a monster she thought she killed, a boy she thought she knew, and a demon all her own.

About the Author: Victoria “V.E.” Schwab is the product of a British mother, a Beverly Hills father, and a southern upbringing. Because of this, she has been known to say “tom-ah-toes”, “like”, and “y’all”. She currently lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, and when she is not wandering in search of buried treasure, fairy tales, and good tea, she’s tucked in a cafe, dreaming up monsters.

Genre: young adult, fantasy, dystopia

More Info: hardcover, 528 pages, published by Greenwillow Books on June 13, 2017

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Kate has become a monster hunter in Prosperity. August has become a leader in Verity. Both of them have grown in the six months they spent apart, but while Kate has discovered herself, August has only become more lost.

August has been fighting small battles against the Malchai, Sloan and Alice (Kate’s Malchai), and Fangs (collared, vicious humans). Kate has been fighting small battles against the Heart Eaters (the only monster in Prosperity). That is, until Kate encounters a new monster—the Chaos Eater. She inadvertently leads the new, intangible monster to Verity. So, she heads home.

There she finds a city still separated between north and south: humans vs monsters. She also finds a divided group of FTF councillors and people who are fighting, but making minimal progress.

With new threats to face, the FTF fighters must come together to defeat monsters, before they are pitted against each other by the Chaos Eater.

 

First, I would like to say that I am so happy the cover for This Savage Song and Our Dark Duet match. They are both pretty and look great together. I really don’t like when the cover art changes between books in a series.

Schwab’s writing has captivated me again. Our Dark Duet did not have the same impact on me as This Savage Song, but it was still a great read. The sequel/conclusion to the Monsters of Verity duology was very well handled.

The content, such as details and information, was very consistent with the first book. This consistence applies to the characters as well. (Except for Emily Flynn. To me, she was timid in book one and suddenly became a commanding—almost harsh—presence in book two.) However, the characters still underwent significant character development. For Kate, without her father hanging over her head, I believe she found herself. She still struggles with making connections, but she is a fierce yet less distanced person. August became more monster than human (he wasn’t even keeping track of his tallies!). He seemed numb to me as he attempted to be someone the people needed, but someone who wasn’t himself.

On that note, I was so amazed by Kate’s concern for August. The way that she pushed him to face himself made their relationship so much more powerful. I missed their witty banter, and wanted more scenes between the two. But I think exploring their friendship was one of the best parts of Our Dark Duet. As a result, I loved the evolution of August’s music, and the changes in August and he figured out his identity.

Besides the two stars of the novel, there were new characters introduced into the story. While Kate is in Prosperity, she reluctantly teamed up with a group of “hacktivists” called the Wardens. They are kids her age who find patterns of violence, which helped Kate discover and get rid of hidden monsters. I was sad Riley, Bea, Liam, Teo, and Malcolm weren’t more involved in the book after the first few chapters. I was hoping they would make some miraculous appearance in Verity.

Another new character was Alice. Kate’s distorted look-a-like monster is twisted. Strong, violent and determined, she goes after August, and eventually Kate.

The other new character was Soro. Soro is another Sunai, born from a suicide mission to kill Corsai after Harker fell and the monsters took over. Soro uses ungendered pronouns they/them/their! Despite the fact that Soro is a monster, not a human, I was still very happy to see gender-neutral representation in Our Dark Duet. I did think they were a little too serious. They were so convinced of their purpose to reap sinners, that I was intimidated by them. But they were a good soldier and a good addition to the Flynn family.

This is the final book and I felt some of the plot points were skimmed over. I was left with a few questions, like the creation of the Chaos Eater and a definition of Henry’s illness.

Also, the finale felt somewhat rushed. To me, the climax was in the final chapters. The only falling action came from the elegy with no resolution; it felt short. For all of the reveals in the end, I just felt numb…like I didn’t have time to process what was happening. The end was left open. Verity still had problems, just like real life where there aren’t always happy endings. To mimic August, the conclusion went out “Not with a bang, but with a whimper.”

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The Love Interest Review

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The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

Synopsis: There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

About the Author: Cale Dietrich is a YA devotee, lifelong gamer, and tragic pop punk enthusiast. He was born in Perth, grew up on the Gold Coast, and now lives in Brisbane, Australia. The Love Interest is his first novel.

Genre: young adult, romance, LGBTQIA+, adventure

More Info: hardcover, 384 pages, published by Feiwel & Friends on May 16, 2017

3.5

Young adults live in a mirrored, white-walled facility for many years and are trained to be successful, lifelong infiltrating spies. They are chosen based on an algorithm to match with subjects. Their purpose? Make the target fall in love with them and then spend the rest of their life spying on their mark.

When the main character is chosen for a last minute project, he becomes Caden: a blue-eyed, blond-haired, chiseled good boy. Although he doesn’t fully fit the good boy mold, Caden pretends to be the perfect student for the institute members, so that he can finally go into the outside world.

He is paired against Dylan: a tall, dark, and handsome bad boy. They connect instantly and end up spending nights together: drinking, talking, driving. They’d rather spend their time in the real world without excessive worry…until the fight for Juliet becomes very real, and one of them is about to die.

They’re both competing against each other for Juliet’s love and attention. Juliet is a girl genius who has the potential to make new advanced weaponry and technology. She lives her life like a normal teenager, going to high school and starting to fall for boys, except she has wealthy parents and her own lab.

When secrets are exposed, the trio must find a way to escape the endless watch of the Love Interest organization.

 

I loved the premise of the book. Two spies—the bad boy and the good boy—fight for the girl. One will win, one will die. But they fall for each other instead!

This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. It was a good read, but it fell short of the hype.

I think this book would have benefited from multiple point of views. I understand why it was kept to Caden only, to protect secret plot point and surprise the reader. However, I found Caden’s cold-hearted-ness hard to connect to. I didn’t establish any relationship with any of the characters. I had no idea what the other characters were thinking, which made it hard to understand context and links between them. When the characters state something through their mouth or in their mind, I’m like…really? Are you sure? Because I’m not. I have no idea what anyone is feeling or thinking.

This book was corny, clichéd and filled with YA tropes. In the meantime, it skipped over some of the developmental aspects, such as the boys’ transition from the facility to the real world. They’ve never even seen grass before, yet they seem to blend in seamlessly. Yes, they were taught pop-culture references, but seeing and doing are two different beasts entirely.

Caden’s “parents” were also an interesting turn. I thought that they would have more of a purpose than just being annoying dead-beats.

Also, I personally felt like this was two shortened books in one. I almost wish it was separated so that the second half of the book could have been expanded on. The first half was character based and the second, plot based; they were so separated that they felt disjointed. Part one seemed to go nowhere and part two went everywhere in too short a time. The finale felt rushed. And for me, there was no closure at the end in terms of the Love Interest organization. I thought, that was it?! What happened? Where was the fallback?

The book fell flat for me despite its incredible potential. I was somewhat disappointed with character development and plot devices. This book was entertaining, but it’s not in my top favorites.

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Truthwitch Review

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Truthwitch (The Witchlands, Book 1) by Susan Dennard

Synopsis: In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden-lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls’ heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

About the Author: Before she settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor, Susan Dennard traveled the world as marine biologist. She is the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series as well as the forthcoming Witchlands series, and when not writing, she can be found hiking with her dogs, exploring tidal pools, or earning bruises at the dojo.

Genre: YA, fantasy, magic,

More Info: hardcover, 416 pages, published by Tor Teen on January 5, 2016

4.5

Summary – In Truthwitch, readers follow the pov of four main characters: Safi, Iseult, Merik, and Aeduan. Safi and Iseult get into trouble with a Bloodwitch. Safi’s truthwitch powers are discovered so she has to flee a marriage to the Emperor. Iseult comes into trouble with her Nomati people. Merik’s country is devastated and he is desperate for resources to help his people. His sister is against him at every turn. Aeduan is hunting the Truthwitch and the girl without a blood scent. These characters meet and race across sea and land to accomplish their own ends.

Review – The world is so fluidly built and introduced that I felt as if it were real. The fantasy elements were so flawlessly incorporated that they didn’t need extra explanation, and, thankfully, no over-explanation was provided. I can’t wait to see the expansion of this already beautiful but vicious realm. There are various types of witches, threads that connect people, and Origin wells that provide for the realm.

The main drawback for all aspects of the book is missing information. I want more of Safi and Iseult. I want more about the political tension. I need more background. Too much background can significantly drag a story, but I feel that this book is so expansive that I have more questions than answers about the culture, politics, friendships, territories, wars, history, etc..

The plot and characters in this book were also amazing. Dennard focused on the plot at hand in book one, while also hinting and creating tension for other issues in book two. There is a purpose for each mission and the characters act upon the situations to make more chaos. For having multiple third person POVs, the characters are all distinct and developed throughout the book.

Yes to female friendships and girl-power! Safi and Iseult are Threadsisters. They are family. Safi usually gets them into trouble and then Iseult gets them out of trouble. And they always have each others backs. Separation is hard for them, but they promise to find their way back to each other. They might even be the chosen pair (not the chosen one). Whether they are the special Cahr Awen is not defined. And while the twisted trope may be mentioned, it is thankfully not the main plot point of the story.

There is no love triangle. Yay! One is the obvious Safi and Merik. She’s impulsive and he has a temper, what could go wrong? They have an explosive relationship, that builds over time through verbal and physical sparring. There are other pairings to ship, as well. But all romantic relationships are on the back-burner to heighten main plot points/action.

The ending leaves a lot open. While it is a version of a cliffhanger, it doesn’t leave reader’s worried, confused or desperately left on a ledge.

Buy it here:

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A Darker Shade of Magic Review

adsom.jpgA Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, Book 1) by V.E. Schwab

Synopsis: Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

About the Author: Victoria “V.E.” Schwab is the product of a British mother, a Beverly Hills father, and a southern upbringing. Because of this, she has been known to say “tom-ah-toes”, “like”, and “y’all”. She currently lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, and when she is not wandering in search of buried treasure, fairy tales, and good tea, she’s tucked in a cafe, dreaming up monsters.

Genre: young adult, fantasy, adventure

More Info: paperback, 400 pages, published by Tor Books on February 24, 2015

 

Emoji Recap

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Mini Review

  1. The writing is AMAZING! Many times I’ve found myself skimming over excessive details in paragraphs. However, in this book I read every word. The setting, dialogue, and clothes were so awesome that I pictured every description given to me. After I finished the book, I had the intense desire to draw every aspect of Schwab’s worlds. The book is also quite clean; there is no explicit sexual encounters and I only found one excessive swear word. The only dirty aspect is the blood and gore.
  2. The characters are COMPELLING! I loved getting to know Kell, Holland, Lila, and Rhy. I actually want more of their backstories, but then the book would be all background and no plot. 😕 They all had so much chemistry and tension between them. I loved watching the characters grow and evolve with the trials and connections they made.
  3. The world-building is FANTASTIC! A Darker Shade of Magic is set in London. Not just London, England, but four different Londons: Grey London, Red London, White London, and Black London. Each London is different and set in a different world, with different countries. They are all connected and contain similar landmarks, but are very unique in the people, clothes, atmosphere, and monarchs.
  4. The magic is DANGEROUS! The magic literally takes on a life of its own in this story. The uses of magic and its foundations are also very well developed. A reader understands the limitations and consequences of using magic. With Kell being the exceptional at controlling the elements and doors, I wonder how the common folk use the magic on a day-to-day basis. The only other thing that was lacking was more of Kell’s training and some of the language.
  5. It’s all about the ACTION! There is never a dull moment in this book, even in the beginning when the plot is building up to the main conflict. It is also about action rather than romance. While there is flirting, playful banter, kissing and tension between the main characters, there is no romantic relationship fully established. I enjoyed how the book focused on the real peril and formed relationships naturally—without instalove.

DO I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?  ABSOLUTELY!!!  5/5 stars!

Buy it here:

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Flame in the Mist Review

flameinthemistFlame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist Series, Book 1) by Renée Ahdieh

Synopsis: The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.
Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and track down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

About the Author: Renée Ahdieh is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger. In her spare time, she likes to dance salsa and collect shoes. She is passionate about all kinds of curry, rescue dogs, and college basketball. The first few years of her life were spent in a high-rise in South Korea; consequently, Renée enjoys having her head in the clouds. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and their tiny overlord of a dog.

Genre: young adult, fantasy, romance

More Info: hardcover, 416 pages, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers on May 16, 2017

4.5

Just like The Wrath and the Dawn (also by Renée Ahdieh)(review) I read this book within 24 hours. The release date was May 16, 2017, I bought the book on the morning of the 16th, and finished it on the morning of the 17th.

First, the cover is gorgeous!

Second, this novel is set in Feudal Japan and filled with Asian history. Samurai warriors followed the “Way of the Warrior” (Bushidô), a system of honor and loyalty. Weapons, clothes, food, etc. represent Japanese culture. There is a fight for political power with the emperor, head of military, lords, and peasants. The manipulation and betrayal of the past generation impacts the lives of the main characters in Flame in the Mist. There are so many vocabulary words that there is an index at the back of the book.

Third, the world-building is based off of the setting but contains a hint of magic, as well. Ahdieh’s writing was painting beautiful picture in my head; the most vivid aspect for me was the Black Clan’s camp in the Jukai forest. Places the the “haunted” forest contain blood-sucking vine trees and nightbeasts. The characters too contain some magical powers. However, these elements are not explained in detail—they simply exist, like magical realism.

Fourth, the characters are shrouded in mystery. Mariko is a daughter of a lord, raised to be a marital pawn. She seems accepting of her fate in the beginning, but after someone attempts to kill her, she takes her life into her own hands. Her agency leads her to the Black Clan, the dangerous group of thieves who she suspected had tried to murder her. To fight against the patriarchy and escape female constrictions, she disguises herself as a boy. Mariko is not physically powerful since she never trained with her Samurai brother or father. But she is strong in spirit and mind. Mariko is an inventive and intelligent.

She meets the gang and is sucked into their world. There is the leader of the Black Clan, a determined problem-solver. He is also the best friend to Ōkami. In return, Ōkami is loyal to his leader. They have a long, hard past together that both bonds them and silently rips them apart. There is also Yoshi, the kind-hearted, one-legged cook. Ren is Mariko’s tormentor, but he is also plagued by his own demons. There are other members, but only a few are explicitly mentioned in the book. Readers get some of their history, but not nearly enough. There is so much baggage to be uncovered, especially for Ōkami. For this reason, I didn’t feel very connected to anyone other than Mariko. I never felt the urge to fangirl over the characters and relationships like I usually do with well-developed characters. I have hope for book 2 that I will become more invested in their lives.

All of the characters have some incredibly philosophical conversations. They play off of one another’s strengths and weaknesses. Mariko realizes the Black Clan is much more than she expected: protectors and family. Also, by the last 2/3 of the novel, a romance develops. It is a somewhat silent relationship. The couple is not flaunted in the book, but the occasional thoughts and desires between them made me grin. With a hate to love trope, the love is burning and content. The only drawback was how fast-paced the relationship came about. I blinked and they went from glares of hatred to glances of longing. I’m still trying to figure it out.

Fifth, this book includes some serious self-discovery and feminism. Mariko finds that she longs for freedom. Freedom of her body, her mind, and her actions. She find this freedom through her experiences and relationships. The characters also talk about feminine restrictions. Mariko, as a woman, belongs to herself and has her own power. I think Cait from A Page with a View put the strength of women best in her Flame in the Mist review.

Sixth. The ending was not really an ending. It’s like Netflix buffering in the middle of a movie. I want more! Thank goodness there is second book.

vague plot spoiler in last section

Lastly, there is one reason I almost didn’t give this book five/five. Mariko doesn’t achieve the one thing she set out to accomplish!!! There is still a gaping hole in her understanding of who tried to kill her. Readers can assume and maybe this will be addressed in the Court intrigue in book two, but I feel like the book loses some of its power. Like I said, the finale is like a bridge to the next book, which is the reason I can forgive this plot gap.

Otherwise, there was never much of a dull moment. I was captured the whole way through the book. The book was written in third person and shifted between a myriad of characters, which was somewhat disorienting. While some books evenly split the attention between the main personas, this book stayed focused on Mariko, and then her brother. Because of this, I did not start skimming over sections to get back to the protagonist that interested me most (like I do in some novels 🙈). Finally, this book is a separate entity from the Wrath and the Dawn series. Yet, if you liked Flame in the Mist, I would recommend The Wrath and the Dawn.

Buy it here:

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1st Blog Anniversary + Giveaway

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IT’S MY 1ST BLOGIVERSARY!

Wow. I can’t believe I have been blogging for 1 year at Pore Over the Pages. I started this blog to share my love of young adult books and to establish an online platform for my book obsession. Writing blog posts, discovering new novels, and connecting with other book lovers has been the highlight of my year on this blog. My numbers aren’t extreme and my blog isn’t the top YA destination, but I’m happy with my little slice of the internet.

Since it has been a year, I’m going to change the theme of my blog . . . for something new. My blog will be under construction for the next few days. 🙂

I want to thank every one of my followers. And I want to express my gratitude to every person who has visited Pore Over the Pages. 

Stats for the past year:

  • 116 blog followers
  • 2,508 blog views
  • 1,160 blog visitors
  • 67 countries to visit blog
  • 208 blog posts
  • 257 Twitter followers
  • 854 Tweets
  • 76 Instagram followers
  • 66 Instagram posts

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Giveaway-

Rules: Giveaway Policy

US Only

Enter Here: Rafflecopter Giveaway

Winner: Alex

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The Kiss of Deception Review

kissofdeception.jpgThe Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles, Book 1) by Mary E. Pearson

Synopsis: She flees on her wedding day.

She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor’s secret collection.

She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father.

She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan.

The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can’t abide. Like having to marry someone she’s never met to secure a political alliance.

Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia flees to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—secrets that may unravel her world—even as she feels herself falling in love.

About the Author: Mary E. Pearson is the author of many novels for teens, including the popular Jenna Fox trilogy and the New York Times bestselling Remnant Chronicles. She writes full-time from her home in Carlsbad, California, where she lives with her husband and two dogs.

Genre: young adult, fantasy, romance

More Info: paperback, 492 pages, published by Henry Holt on July 8, 2014

4.5

Emoji Recap

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Mini Review

This book was great! I regret not having picked up this series until now. I saw the hype for the release of the third and final book, The Beauty of Darkness, so I decided to give The Remnant Chronicles a chance. I am happily surprised.

The writing is almost haunting in a way: very poised, descriptive, and . . . real.

The second half of the book was amazing, and definetly worth the trek through the first part to get there. The slow beginning and drawn out festival is my main reason for not giving this book 5 stars. The start caught my attention, but it dragged on afterward, waiting for drama and having minor action/movement.

Running away from her own wedding, with very little thought for the consequences, marks Lia as bold and maybe melodramatic. However, seeing her in her role as a barmaid and seeing her take on the Assassin in the second half, bring her into new light. She is fierce and protective. Her encounters with the Vendens and the vagabonds are incredible, and she is obviously respected – not just for her position as a princess.

There are heart-wrenching scenes(possibly triggering) in this book that certainly caught my attention, and Lia’s reactions only heighten them. Certain aspects, like identity and death, created twists and turns that gave this book life and interest.

There are traditions, myth, well-developed characters, rich world-building, political intrigue, secrets, and fluid identity. Sadly, there is a love-triangle of sorts and insta-love, but I honestly didn’t mind. The cliffhanger is there, but book 2 is readily available.

DO I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?   YES!

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Wintersong Review

wintersongWintersong by S. Jae Jones

Synopsis: Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

About the Author: S. Jae-Jones (called JJ) is an artist, an adrenaline junkie, and the author of Wintersong (Thomas Dunne 2017). When not obsessing over books, she can be found jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, co-hosting the Pub(lishing) Crawl podcast, or playing dress-up. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she now lives in North Carolina, as well as many other places on the internet, including Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, and her blog.

Genre: young adult, fantasy, retelling, romance, historical

More Info: hardcover, 448 pages, published by Thomas Dunne on February 7, 2017

3.5

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♪ Above: The Family Inn was crowded with spectators for Josef’s performance. The market was also filled with people and hidden goblins alike. I feel that these settings don’t play too much of a part, except for the introduction of urgency and the loss of Lisel’s sister.

♫ Below: The Underground is like a labyrinth, confusing and hard to escape from. There are instances in which the Underground is filled with Goblin King’s subjects and times where no one is to be found. I thought the dynamic of other characters fluctuating from minimum to maximum was fittingly disturbing. The Goblin King, Twig and Thistle are the most prominent figures below. But, there are also changelings and their introduction into the novel was abrupt.

♪ In-Between: The Goblin Grove in instrumental to the connection between human and goblin. This magical space is set out in the forest. It’s a small wood where Lisel first met the Goblin King. It’s one spot she and Josef play their music freely. The goblin grove is a classic YA setting with both fantasy and modernity.

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♫ On and Off Action: Wintersong is not particularly plot driven. Part 1 is the most action based, with trips around the above world, events, and Liesl attempting to save her sister. Part 2 is mostly focused on self-discovery. The second half of the book is filled with description, dialogue, and drawn out explanations of emotion and music.

♪ Unexpected: This was not the story I was expecting when I picked up this book. As a YA, I was ready for romance and adventure. While I don’t dislike the turn this novel took, I feel this novel is geared more towards an older audience.

♫ Focused on Music and Identity: Liesl’s self-discovery was the basis of this novel. The music too, is a crucial and highly integrated aspect to the plot. As I am not much of a musical person, many of the instances involving music and expression were lost on me. The scenes were beautiful, but, I guess, over my head.

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♪ Liesl: Liesl is the oldest of her siblings and the least noticed. Kathe outshines her in beauty and Josef has taken the stage for music, as a male prodigy. I feel that her oppression was partially self-made. Yes, her father constrained her, but she also gave her musical focus to her brother. She was slightly oblivious, which left me frustrated with her character. I appreciate the love she has for her sister, despite her jealousy. I wish her relationship with her sister was developed more, face-to-face. In the second half of the novel, she goes through a transformation. However, to find herself she must be broken by sex, not liberated. This along with her obsession with sex afterward, leave me feeling disturbed.

♫ Goblin King: There were some phrases like “the austere young man” that were repeated way too much. However, the Goblin King was a very complex and multidimensional character; at times he seemed like two different people (a reflection of both his human and goblin counterparts). He was hot and cold towards Liesl, which bothered me, especially after the extreme lengths to which he went to trap her. He is religiously devout, musically practiced, and mischievously inclined. By the end of the novel, I came to respect him a little more.

♪ Liesl’s Family: Liesl’s father is a patronizing drunk. I disliked him for lowering Liesl’s self-esteem and influencing Josef’s music in almost detrimental ways. Kathe is whimsical and beautiful. She hides her true emotions behind her smile and secretly longs for freedom. She cares more for her family than she lets on. Josef is scared musician. Without Liesl, he would not be as successful as he is. He is a gay character, and through his love he finds stability. Kathe’s fiance is also Liesl’s crush at the beginning of the book. I was afraid there would be some love triangle, but don’t worry that crisis is averted. His purpose is superficial and I don’t particularly enjoy his character because of the mess he made in Liesl’s family.

♫ Twig and Thistle: Twig and Thistle are interesting additions to the Underground. They are Liesl attendants. Sassy and filled with gossip, they add humor and background to the story.

♪ Connection: I personally didn’t connect with the characters in this novel.

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♪ Bipolar: I found out that Liesl is considered to be bipolar. I can see some of the signs looking back and am glad that mental illness is represented in a main character in this YA book. I stumbled upon this information through Once Upon a Bookcase’s Wintersong Review who discovered the representation for the author’s, S. Jae Jones’, blog.

♫ Dark: This book had a dark, sexy, menacing, vibe to it. It is not your typical, fluffy YA.

♪ Cover: The cover, which is absolutely gorgeous, is what first got my attention to read this book.

♫ Incredible Writing: The writing is fluid, detailed, and lyrical. I can understand the obsession with this debut writer, because her writing style is unique and amazing.

♪ Missing Information/Confusing: Throughout Wintersong, I got confused. I felt like I was missing information, or new elements were suddenly thrown at me. There were sections where I felt that I lost pieces of time, so I didn’t always understand the time frame. The book was also cliffhanger-ish, which left me hanging and wanting a full resolution.

♫ Influences: Inspiration for this book include Labyrinth, David Bowie, “The Magic Flute”, and Phantom of the Opera (source)

♪ Overall: This book is not for me, but I can understand the appeal for other readers.

Waiting on Wednesday: Wintersong

 

Buy it here:

amazon

 

 

Barnes-and-Noble

 

YA Books + Food

Ok, so I was hungry when I started this post. It was also National French Fry Day (July 13) and I was reminded of Layla from Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen. {Here is my Saint Anything Review.}

Sometimes, food makes either a rare appearance in a book or a frequent appearance in a book. There really isn’t much of an in between. Despite that fact that food is what keeps (specifically) humans alive, there is minimal representation. On occasion, you do get that character who is obsessed with food, or a certain snack in particular.


Saint Anything + Fries and Lollipops

Layla and her love for french fries knows no bounds. Her trifecta is so crazy brilliant. She takes her potato slices seriously. If you want to join in with her obsession, try these awesome recipes. Her family’s restaurant also serves lollipops at the cash register. If you are feeling adventurous, try making suckers instead of buying them in bulk at the store.

Perfect French Fries

Perfect French Fries

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Classic French Fries

Homemade Lollipops - (c) Elizabeth LaBau

Lollipops


Tiger’s Curse + Cookies

Kelsey’s mentions her deceased mother’s cooking quite a few times in Tiger’s Curse. One that she mentions multiple times are chocolate-chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies.Double-Peanut Double-Chocolate Chip Cookies

Double Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter

Double Peanut Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

 

 


The Girl of Fire and Thorns + Scones

Elisa-Lucero is a princess with a Godstone. She loves food and has the figure to prove it. When she is forced to marry a king and move to this capital city in the desert, she convinces the palace chef to use honey and make her favorite scones. It becomes her signature dish, and an enemy even uses the pastry to try and poison her in book 2. These scones from home won’t be as dangerous but they will be just as delicious.

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Coconut Scones from Sister Bakers via Epic Reads

Honey-Coconut Scones from The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson via The Book Lounge

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Poison Study + Criollo

I have always imagined criollo/theobroma as chocolate. Which is correct! I was proud of myself for guessing. The scientific name for chocolate is Theobroma Cacao. I also have to give HUGE props to Maria V. Snyder. Her subtle incorporations hinting to the taste, smell and appearance are so realistic that most (if not all) of her readers know what the substance is. This goes to show how the process of “show vs. tell” works in writing.

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I pictured it as pieces of fudge. However, looking back at descriptions in the book, criollo is more flakey. Here are two recipes that match criollo. Experience the book without the mind control.

Fudge Bites

Fudge Brownies

 

 


Divergent Crown of Midnight + Cake

I’m not the first to breach this topic. The Divergent movie sadly focuses on the hamburger, not the cake that is the main food element in Divergent. Here are some recipes for the famous, Dauntless Chocolate Cake.

Celaena in Crown of Midnight also loves chocolate cake. She treats it as a delicacy, stuffing her face in one sitting. She devours the cake faster than she demolishes her prey.

Divergent Food

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Dauntless Chocolate Cake

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Rich Chocolate Layer Cake from Country Living via Epic Reads


Heartless + Lemon Tarts

Best Lemon Tart Ever

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Easy Lemon Tarts


The Truth About Forever + Meatballs

Wish, the catering service that Macy joins for the summer, has a variety of foods and drinks. There is one in particular that is most popular among the party-goers: meatballs.

“‘Everybody loves meatballs.'”

Meatball Nirvana

Easy Meatballs

Meatball Nirvana

 

 

 

 


Wintersong + Chocolate Torte

Lisel’s favorite dishes are chocolate torte and strawberries. Food doesn’t compare to her love of music but after her experiences, I’m sure these treats are comforting and delicious.

Flourless-Chocolate-Torte-Recipe

Flourless Chocolate Torte


Here is a similar article from Epic Reads that I found during my recipe search: http://www.epicreads.com/blog/ya-inspired-recipes/