Book Review: Captive Prince Trilogy by C.S. Pascat

Summary: After Damen’s half-brother takes his throne from him, he gifts him as a pleasure slave to the prince of an enemy nation. Caught in the middle of a manipulative court, Damen must hide his identity from Prince Laurent because if there is one person Laurent hates, it is the Prince of Akielos, Damen, who killed his brother in battle.

Thoughts: Ahhh, where do I even start? I love this book so much I’m thinking of rereading it right now as I type this review. The first book was really a 4/5 for me but by the end of the second one, I was more hooked than I was after the first. The plot follows Damen as he’s sent off to Vere as a slave to the manipulative and sadistic Prince of Vere, Laurent. There he struggles to hide his identity in a court full of violence and lies and constant manipulation and back-stabbing. *sighs* What’s not to love, right? Add to that combination the one and only villain of his kind – Laurent. I want to wrap Laurent in bubble wrap and hide him from the world. I have so much love for that well-developed psychopath. Both Laurent’s and Damen’s character growth is amazing for a series as fast paced as this. The world-building in this book is flawless. It feels like you’re reading a historical fic and not a fantasy novel. I won’t say more, because really, these books leave you speechless, but I highly recommend you read them. If you haven’t read many m/m fics, this and The Song of Achilles are really good books to start with. Of course the latter will leave you crying into a bucket, so I’d start with the Captive Prince Trilogy and then move to TSOA. Happy reading!
Stars: 5/5!!

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: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Summary: Disguised as a boy, Amani escapes her oppressive desert town on the back of a mythical horse and accompanied by a foreign stranger called Jin. Her plans of reaching the capital of the Empire to strike out on her own are thwarted when she gets pulled into Jin’s world of espionage and rebellion.

Thoughts: I have so many mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I loved the mythology and the mythical creatures introduced in this book. I loved the slightly steampunk take on a Middle Eastern fantasy, which is very rare to see. But, it read so much like a western forced into a Middle Eastern setting. And that’s not the part that knocks off a few stars. What I didn’t like was the most likely unconscious stereotyping of oppressed females and sexist patriarchal figures. Amani was supposed to counteract that as this strong-willed, stubborn and very kickass main character. And that she was, but Amani had very little flaws to sympathize with. She wasn’t as complex as I was hoping she would be. While I read, there were parts that were so fast paced I wouldn’t be able to put the book down for eighty pages or so, and then the pacing slowed down and I didn’t pick the book up for a day. I think the first eighty pages of the book and the last eighty pages were my favorite. And now moving back to the good stuff… One of the things I did enjoy was Amani’s constant banter with Jin. I loved their chemistry, even if it wasn’t very showy. Alwyn Hamilton’s writing was beautiful, and there were times where I read and re-read her sentences just to let the pretty wording and sentence structure sink in. I think with more research, better characterization and a faster paced plot, this book would have been almost flawless.

Stars: 3/5

Book Review: Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

Summary: Naila’s conservative immigrant parents allow her to make her own choices, except one. In following with their cultural traditions, they will choose her husband for her. But Naila breaks their rule and falls in love with Saif. And when her parents find out, they take her to Pakistan to remind her of her roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when her parents marry her off. Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.

Thoughts: This book wasn’t what I expected, it was so much better! This is the kind of book you read in one sitting. I thought it’d be a light read about a girl who falls in love with a boy and disapproving parents wanting her to strongly marry someone else, but I didn’t expect her to be actually forced into the marriage. Like forced, forced. Really forced. This wasn’t about an arranged marriage, this was about a forced marriage. I was so shocked and horrified, and it was so heartbreaking having to watch Naila go through this, knowing that this is something that happens in the world. I live in a  culture where arranged marriages are the norm, more or less, but there is always a choice. Otherwise, it’d be illegal. This was different, and you can check out Aisha Saeed’s guest post on YA Highway explaining the differences between Arranged Marriages and Forced Marriages, where she goes into more detail on the differences between the two for those of you interested. The writing was very straight-forward, without any fancy prose, and I liked that it was that way because the focus was on other more important things. I felt like I wanted more from the ending. It all wrapped up very nicely, and maybe that’s part of what made it a 4 star instead of a 5 for me. Nevertheless, the ending was more realistic than the explosive one I had mind. I loved Naila’s hope throughout and her stubbornness to keep trying to escape and not give in to this life that was forced on her. Her struggle to reclaim her own life and make her own choices was hard, and her perseverance really made this book as beautiful and hopeful to read as it was sad and tragic.

Stars: 4/5

Book Review: A Drop of Night by Stefan Bachmann

Summary: A modern day group of teenagers are chosen to participate in an all-expense-paid trip to France where they will explore the underground Palais des Papillons, which has been hidden since the French Revolution. In 1792, Auriele flees the revolution and hides in the Palais des Papillons. The story alternates between past and present as the teenagers try to uncover the secrets of the palace.

Thoughts: This is one of the strangest books I’ve read in a while. It’s a mix of genres: Horror, paranormal, science-fiction, thriller, historical – and they meshed together really well. However, this book gave me the creeps. I had to turn on all the lights in my room and push the doors wide open to read this comfortably because I just didn’t know what to think. I loved that the book kept surprising me and it never took the turn that I expected it to take, but that very thing also kept throwing me off because I had to constantly stop and readjust my focus. I think my favorite thing about this book was Anouk, the main character. Her narration made the book enjoyable to read. Her sarcasm and cynicism and dark humor somehow made the book lighter. I loved how self-aware she was and how her mind kept trying to figure out what was happening. Every time I’d wonder: but why is that? or how come? and this doesn’t make sense she’d point it out and ask the right questions at the right time to dispel my confusion. So even when things seemed to come out of nowhere, her narration made sense of it. I loved how the setting shifted from Anouk to Auriele, and how one person’s discovery complimented the other person’s problem and made sense of it. The one thing I couldn’t wrap my mind around was how easy some of the explanations for the weird things that were happening were – and I just couldn’t believe that it was just that easy. This had to knock a star off my review. I’m not sure if this vague review will convince you to pick this up because half the charm of this book is that you go in expecting one thing only to be hit in the face with something else. If you’re into that, then I recommend you read this. It’s a fast-paced page-turner and it took me a day to finish it, so if you’re looking for a quick read that will keep you on your toes, then look no further.

Stars: 3.5/5

Book Review: Front Lines by Michael Grant

Summary: Set in an alternate WW2 where young women are called to fight alongside men, the story follows three girls who have to prove themselves through boot camp and then survive the gruesome reality of the front lines.

Thoughts: I enjoyed reading through every page of this book, but what I loved most was character diversity. You have your farm-girl tomboy, and the sharp and ambitious analyst, and the kind and naive medic and all those characters come together to create a very heart-felt story. The bloody and gruesome aspects of the war are still there, but there’s a lot of heart and courage at the center of the book – despite all the grief. I loved that Grant showed the difficulty of being girls in the army, and all the sexism they had to deal with and had to prove themselves against. But what I loved most, is that the men’s sexist behavior differed from girl to girl (as is usually true in real life) based on background and ethnicity. I loved that Grant, staying true to the reality of the times (1940’s) chose to portray the sexism, racism and anti-semitism in a way that made me cringe and feel kind-of uncomfortable. But I appreciate honest and uncensored truths and I loved that he didn’t hold back.

Stars: 4/5