Book Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

Summary: After a failed assassination attempt on the day of her coronation, Crown Princess Rhiannon vows to reclaim her thrown and seek vengeance on the person who led to her family’s murder years ago. Alyosha is the star of a reality show and a war refugee who is framed for the alleged death of the Crown Princess Rhiannon. Both Alyosha and Rhiannon travel across the galaxy in search of answers.

Thoughts: I have so many mixed feelings about this book. For starters, it’s a beautiful blend of science-fiction and fantasy, with great and complex world-building that is boosted by a diverse cast of characters facing real-world problems (like being refugees and immigrants in a place they’re not wanted). The book is fast-paced and full of daring adventure and it’s this very thing that made it so hard to connect with the characters. There’s scarcely a moment where they stop running to take stock of themselves and one another. Everything is happening so fast, that by the end of the book, I was more familiar with the plot than the characters. There were a few things that I found repetitive like Rhiannon’s determination to seek vengeance. It just pulled me out of the story every time she mentioned it, and I think it reads repetitively because there was more “telling” than “showing” her need for vengeance. Despite what the blurb said, the fugitive and empress don’t actually join forces to do anything. The one scene where they met was when they spotted each other across a crowded room, for one second, and used each other’s presence to make their own individual escape. I was sort of let down by that because I kept waiting for them to cross paths and join forces. The big spoiler at the end wasn’t a spoiler, really. I saw it coming, and I think the ending would have been much stronger if it wasn’t so obvious. Nevertheless, Belleza’s prose was very beautiful and aside from characterization, repetitiveness and a sort of misleading blurb, this was an enjoyable read with great world-building and high stakes.

Stars: 3/5

Book Review: The Next Together by Lauren James

Summary: Set in alternating historical and future time periods, the story follows Katherine and Mathew as they are born again and again only to fall hopelessly in love every time before being tragically separated.

Thoughts: You know that feeling when you’re reading a book and every page is better than the one before and you can’t stop reading and you’re just following an upward trajectory of awesomeness but then you reach the end, and that trajectory slopes downwards so suddenly? That’s what it felt like. The book was so amazing, almost perfect enough to get five beautiful stars of awesomeness, but then the ending happened and I wasn’t satisfied with the answers I was getting. Despite that, this was a beautiful story about the power of love and its ability to transcend time and hardships. It was unlike any time-travel story I’ve ever read because of its focus on the romance more than the other aspects that kept pecking at my brain (time-travel, reincarnation – how is this happening?). Wanting the answers to these questions and wanting to reach a time period where Catherine and Mathew weren’t terribly separated, was another thing that kept pushing me to finish immediately. The story followed Mathew and Catherine through 4 different time periods, but they were woven together so flawlessly and the attention to historical detail was very well-done. The history geek in me has to praise this. As for the futuristic time-line, it read very realistically and a bit like modern-times rather than the super technological future you’d probably have in mind. Catherine’s voice was so real and funny that it lightened whatever dark and sad road the story was about to take. Overall, if you’re a fan of historical novels, or romance novels, or light sci-fi novels, then I highly recommend you read this book (it being a brilliant mashup of all these things). However, bear in mind that the ending may not go as far as you’d hoped.

Stars: 4/5

Book Review: Proxy by Alex London

Summary: Syd is Knox’s proxy, meaning that he will take the punishment for anything that his privileged patron, Knox, does. On the run from Knox’s father and the society that will have Syd pay for Knox’s infractions, they both flee across the country in hopes of finding a secret society of rebels where they can both find freedom.

Thoughts: This review is long overdue!! I read Proxy a while back, and ever since, I’ve been recommending it to anyone who asks me “what should I read?” and even buying it for my friends and forcing them to read it. This is one of my favorite books ever, and not only because of how awesome and well-written it is, or because it made me cry. This book brings to light such an interesting concept of debt and punishment and how whatever privileges you’re offered, there is someone out there paying the price for them. I loved Syd and Knox, even though I wasn’t a huge fan of Knox at the start. By the end, his character development was a perfect arc from rich-boy asshole to a human being ready to stand up and claim personal responsibility for his past and actions. Proxy is thought-provoking and action-packed and funny yet intense. I appreciated the racial diversity and the LGBT elements and I highly recommend you read this book. I’d go so far as to say it should be required reading for everyone. If you don’t know what a brain feels like when it cries, then you will after you’ve read Proxy. That’s all I’ve got to say. Happy reading!

Stars: 5/5

Book Review: Poison Princess by Kersley Cole

Summary: Despite the nightmares and hallucinations, sixteen-year-old Evie lives a pretty charmed life until the apocalypse decimates the world. She soon finds herself fighting alongside her “bad boy” classmate to survive, while journeying across the country to find her grandmother – who may or may not be alive – since she had once prophesied the apocalypse and Evie’s role in saving the world.

Thoughts: I really wanted to DNF after the first couple of chapters. The story wasn’t the kind of story I usually enjoyed reading, and Evie wasn’t my kind of heroine and I was very thrown off by the many cliches, mainly that of the “good girl crushes on bad boy” romance thing that was about to go down. Until the apocalypse hit, and I was so glad I didn’t DNF! I really ended up enjoying the story way more than I expected. So much so that Evie started to grow on me by the end and I was really sorry when the story ended the way it ended. Poor Evie, but excellent character development. As for Jackson, the bad boy love interest – what I loved most about him was that he was Cajun French. Not something I find a lot in YA. What I didn’t enjoy was the way that the Cajun French students were stereotyped in the book as poor, uneducated and rude. I understand they’re coming from the other side of the bayou, but really??? I couldn’t help but draw parallels to Gambit from the X-Men animated series at some points. Which I loved when it worked, not so much when Jackson fell short of the mark. He read like Gambit but without the charm and with extra spoonfuls of useless violence and anger. Despite all these things, the story has solid world-building and excellent pacing. If you make it past the first 30% of the book, and bear in mind that Evie will at some point stop sounding like an annoying spoiled brat, you will get to enjoy this book because the ending is worth it and the premise is actually very interesting despite the fact that some scenes made me laugh and roll my eyes.

Stars: 3/5

Book Review: Nemesis by Anna Banks

Summary: Princess Sepora escapes her kingdom and her cruel father only to find herself in the court of a rival kingdom and falling in love with the young king. She tries to hide the secret that could save his people from a fatal plague, but the cost will come at the price of her own kingdom.

Thoughts: Let me start by saying that I really really like Anna Banks as a writer and a person who I’ve never met, and her twitter account is one of my favorites. And I hate it when I end up not loving books by authors that I like and admire. I was expecting so much more action and much higher stakes from this story. Be prepared, because this is a statement I will be repeating a lot throughout this review. I read Banks’ previous series – Of Poseidon – and I really liked it. Awesome setting, original take on an old myth, swoon-worthy romance. Nemesis, however, started off at a very slow pace and then it fell steady without increasing. The writing was clear and to the point, but at the same time, some descriptions were lacking. The story took place in a vibrant and very intriguing world, but because the setting wasn’t fully described, I found it hard to visualize some places. Basically, while it was informative and packed with emotions, it was lacking in sensory detail. I felt Banks went easy on her characters, which is one of the reasons why the story wasn’t as action packed as I’d hoped. And the ending of the story was too easy for my liking. While I did enjoy reading this book at times, I’m not quiet sure I’d be picking up the next one unless the pacing really increases and the stakes become much much higher. If you liked Graceling or the Wrath and the Dawn, you might enjoy this book if you keep in mind that this isn’t a story with high stakes and perilous adventure with an added mix of dangerous court politics and a looming war. It’s more of a simple love story between a King and a Princess of rival kingdoms and the slow work they do to ensure that both their kingdoms don’t go to war against one another.

Stars: 2/5

Book Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Summary: The world is divided between Reds and Silvers, the latter are an elite who are in possession of god-like powers. When Mare Barrow, a Red, accidentally displays a set of stunning Silver powers in front of the King and Queen and their court, they have no choice but to proclaim her as a long lost Silver heiress. Mare accepts this role and uses her newly gained position to spy for the Scarlet Guard, a Red rebel organization working on overthrowing the monarchy. Mare is thrust into a world of power and jealousy where anyone can betray anyone.

Thoughts: I really loved this book, YA cliches and all. The one thing that really ruined this whole experience for me was that the MAJOR plot twist in this book was spoiled for me before I read the book. Basically, I read this book knowing what was going to happen, but hoping it wouldn’t and tricking myself into thinking that I read that spoiler wrong. I didn’t. The less you know, the better your experience will be. Half the time I was reading the book, knowing what was going to happen, all I could think was WTH MARE!! You were warned so many times, why didn’t you listen????? But even though I really enjoyed this book, I can’t say that it’s unlike anything I’ve read  before because I’ve read many similar books that if they were meshed together would result in Red Queen. The social structure of Red and Silver reminded me of the social structure in Red Rising though much less complex. At the same time, it also read like Divergent and The Hunger Games but set in a world like Mistborn’s but not. I do recommend you read this. The writing is excellent and Mare is a very relatable character. The story will be slow at the start, but the plot twist is worth it because it will blow your mind (if it hadn’t been spoiled for you). I’m still bitter over that!

Stars: 4/5

Book Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Summary: Safi, a witch with the ability to tell truths from lies is hunted by nations on the brink of war. Her best-friend, Iseult, is on the run with her, but a dark shadow that turns people’s blood to acid haunts Iseult’s dreams that could mean the end of the world.

Thoughts
: Why do I have so many mixed feelings about books that I love lately!? I loved this book!! That’s for sure even though there were things that could have been improved. We will get to that. My favourite thing about Truthwitch was the world building because it was unlike anything I’ve read before. It reminded me a little of the Legend of Korra in the best way possible. This story is told from the perspective of four people. Safi is a Truthwitch. Iseult is a Threadwitch. Merrick is a Windwitch tasked with getting Safi to safety from the Emperor who wants to marry her and use her for her powers. And Aeduan is a Bloodwitch hired by the Emperor but who also has his own agenda and is on the hunt for Safi. Even though I hated Aeduan at the start because he read very scary, I ended up loving him the most by the end and I feel like there is still so much I want to know about him. I think out of all the four characters, his character development was the best because there was a very stark change from the Bloodwitch first introduced to the one that I got to know by the end. First and foremost this is a story about friendship and I haven’t read a lot of (or any) fantasy books that revolve around female friendships. I loved Safi and Iseult’s relationship and how they kept finding each other after getting separated and how they tried to help each other at the cost of their own lives. I really wanted to know more about them in this book but the plot was very fast paced and it didn’t really settle down long enough for me to get to know the characters as much as I would have wanted to. The ending was very dramatic but it also felt a bit rushed. So many things were happening and I just kept feeling like I forgot to read a few chapters leading up to the showdown. Not that it wasn’t clear because it was but I would have liked a chapter or two that would have prepared me for what was to come. For a fantasy this was a very fast read and a very enjoyable one and I will be picking up Windwitch when it comes out!

Stars
: 4/5