Unboxing: “Gold Spun” YA Fantasy Novel

I finished reading Gold Spun by Brandie June and am getting ready to post the review. In the meantime, I decided to do an unboxing of the book and created a new YouTube channel to share my book unboxing. I don’t get a lot of physical books to review so I’ll probably add reviews (?) or other things related to books on this channel. I hope you’ll subscribe!

Book Review: Scythe

Title: Scythe
Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: YA, dystopian
Year Published: 2017

Date finished: August 10, 2021

Scythe by Neal Shusterman is a young adult dystopian novel about two teenagers who were chosen to become scythes. The setting is far future in a world of chaos where rules were put in to control the people. One of the rules was the creation of Scythes whose jobs are to take lives, and thus putting fear into the people to maintain order.

The two main characters are Citra and Rowan. They were both chosen to learn the role of the scythe and thus were trained in the skills required for the job. Along the way, a mysterious death occurred leading to a bit of chaos. Lies and deception rang among the scythes in power creating disagreements between the leaders. The decisions Citra and Rowan made were difficult because they had grown to respect (and liked) each other.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and loved how it ended. I’m curious as to why it ended the way it did with one of the characters. My only gripe is that because it’s young adult, I found the killings a bit too morbid. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good grimdark with all the things (ASOIAF comes to mind), but this was definitely a young adult leaning more toward the younger end of the age group, so there were moments where I just couldn’t stomach it, because I couldn’t stop thinking about how a young person would deal with it. If this book was adult with a more mature writing style, I’d totally dig it a lot more.

Who should read this book: If you enjoy stories about teenagers put into a challenge with each other in a world where the authoritarian comes from adults who seem a bit clueless and/or who’ve gained power for their own greed, and the teenagers sort of “fix” the problem, then you’ll enjoy this book.

Book Review: For the Wolf

Title: For the Wolf
Author: Hannah Whitten
Genre: Fantasy, Grimdark
Year Published: June 2021

Date finished: May 12, 2021

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten is a dark fantasy about a forest that takes from the living. The main character is a nineteen-year-old girl named Red who has a special power within her and she’s afraid to hurt family with this power she doesn’t think she can contain. The forest is where she thinks she could do more to help her family and the town’s people. Secondary characters are her sister and the Wolf.

At first, I thought this was going to be a retell about Red Riding Hood, but it is far from it. The only thing similar to that story is pretty much Red’s crimson cape. However, there are other fairytales that are depicted in this story in a sort of retell, such as Beauty and the Beast. It’s done well with its own unique twist, so it keeps you curious.

Overall, I thought it was a good read. It’s slightly on the fast-paced side with some excellent world building. At times I felt Red appeared a little younger than her age, so I wasn’t super clear if this was going to be a young adult novel or not. About halfway through, it was clear it wasn’t young adult just by the writing style and the grimdarkness of it.

Who should read this book: If you’re into fairytale retells or just fairytale style stories, this is for you. There is magic, romance, friendship, family. There is also a love triangle but it’s subtle and done very well, I’d have to say.

Note: This book was sent to me for free to review, but the opinion is purely my own.

Book Review: Newdawn Roamers

Title: Newdawn Roamers
Author: Dominique Luchart
Genre: Sci-fi, YA
Year Published: 2020

Date finished: May 3, 2021

Newdawn Roamers by Dominique Luchart is a young adult science fiction novel about an advanced future earth with artificial intelligence. An intelligent entity was located making its way toward earth and scientists think it could be an invasion. They created a team called the Roamers to travel back in time to locate scientists who could possibly help them stop this invasion.

There are multiple main characters but eventually the story focuses in on the girl named Tesh. Her relationship with one of the Roamer takes a backseat until near the end when it leads into a love triangle. Also, the chapters are broken down by time periods and characters, so if you don’t pay attention, you can easily get confused.

I liked the advanced technology, especially the AI. There’s a lot of information to take in which I thought really helped create the world they lived in. I’m glad I came upon this book because it was a hidden gem.

Who should read this book: Anyone who’s into future worlds, advanced technology, time travel, and YA triangle. This book hits all those spots perfectly. In fact, I think it reads a little closer to new adult, but the YA vibe is very much there.

Book Review: The Phantom of Faerie Mountain

Title: The Phantom of Faerie Mountain
Author: E.M. McIntyre
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Middle-grade
Year Published: 2015

Date finished: April 9, 2021

The Phantom of Faerie Mountain, by E.M. McIntyre is a young adult/middle-grade fantasy story about a fourteen-year-old girl named Abby who finds herself in a world of magic and mystery.

This was a really fun read! Abby is a curious girl with a big heart. She’s not afraid of danger and will do whatever it takes to find out the truth. She also learns some secrets about her own family and herself.

This is a great story for young readers. It would also be a great bed-time story to read to the little ones. The dangers, the friendships, the talking dog, etc. all play an important role in Abby’s journey. I really liked Rory’s character. I loved his accent.  

Who should read this: Everyone. It’s the kind of book that takes you away from reality and into a fun magical world. There’s no gore or deadly violence so all can enjoy it.

Book Review: The Alchemyst’s Mirror

Title: The Alchemyst’s Mirror
Author: Liz Delton
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Middle Grade
Year Published: October 27, 2020

The Alchemyst’s Mirror by Liz Delton is a fantasy story about two sisters who are on a quest to find their kidnapped brother. At the same time, there is a missing object/item that’s very dangerous and needs to be found before the wrong person gets to it. 

Petra and Maisie own a bakery and are very happy in their lives. The only thing that worries them is their missing brother. They both want to find him, so they set a plan to find him. Maisie gets kidnapped before they began the search leaving Petra to go without her. While Maisie is gone, Petra and an explorer named Evan commence the mission to find the brother. During their search, they find clues to a dangerous secret society, and before they know it, they get tangled in a trap. Maisie, while kidnapped on a ship outsmarts the person who kidnapped her and finds her way back to save her sister and Evan.

This was a really fun read. The two sisters were strong and knew what kind of life they wanted to live. Even though they had lost their parents and their brother was kidnapped, they kept it together. They were very protective of each other and you can feel the love between them. The action was wonderful, and the villain was well done. This story was a little fast-paced and there were lots of telling/describing things (that were unnecessary), but otherwise, it was a great read.

There was one thing I found a little annoying and I hope this changes in the following books, but I found Petra somewhat unlikable in the sense that she was often verbally abusive to Evan, who happened to really like her. She bossed him around and yelled at him when he made mistakes. I’m not sure why he stuck around or why he’d like someone like that. I was confused. I think that’s the only issue I had. I secretly wanted Evan to stand up to her.

I’d say this book would be great for those who enjoy a middle grade level of reading. It reminds me a little of Harry Potter in writing style.

NOTE: This book was given to me to read and review, but the opinion is purely my own.

Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Title: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Sci-fi, YA, Dystopian
Year Published: 2020

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins is a dystopian sci-fi about a young Coriolanus Snow before he became President Snow. The story takes place many years earlier, before The Hunger Games trilogy, when Coriolanus was seventeen and climbing his way up in the Capitol in Panem.

We follow Coriolanus through the 10th Hunger Games in which he is a mentor to a tribute named Lucy Gray Baird from District 12. It’s tough in the arena and Coriolanus does whatever he can to help Lucy Gray win. Outside of the Games, Coriolanus begins to fall for Lucy Gray and starts showing his attraction for her. She notices and reciprocates.

After the Games, it was revealed to a higher up that Coriolanus assisted Lucy Gray in unethical ways so that she would win. He was forced to become a Peacekeeper but was allowed to choose which district to work in. He chose District 12 to be closer to Lucy Gray.

In District 12, Coriolanus learns that Lucy Gray, along with a few others, including Lucy Gray’s ex-boyfriend, were planning an escape. One of the other members in the plan was Sejanus Plinth. Sejanus was originally from District 2 but moved to the Capitol as a young kid and became good friends with Coriolanus. Sejanus was also a Peacekeeper in District 12. After having seen how poorly the District people were being treated, he vowed to help the small group escape. A crime occurs during the planning in which Coriolanus took part in, thus causing the escape to terminate.

Lucy Gray still wants to run away so Coriolanus agrees to go with her. He was also afraid the crime would catch up to him and didn’t want to be hanged. On the day he was to sneak out to run away with Lucy Gray, he gets a promotion and is required to head to District 2 the next morning. He has to choose between his future and the girl he loves. He chose love, but while they were out of District 12 in an area where the Peacekeepers were not monitoring, he finds the weapon he used during the murder and attempts to discard it. He also learns that Lucy Gray had betrayed him and goes after her to kill her, but he couldn’t find her. He returns to District 12 and leaves for training the next day.

During the flight to District 2, they made a stop at the Capitol. It turns out that the Head Gamemaker, Dr. Gaul, wanted to train Coriolanus at the university because Dr. Gaul found Coriolanus brilliant with his Games ideas.

In The Hunger Games trilogy, Coriolanus is the antagonist and someone we detest because of his cold-heartedness and brutal ruling. In The Ballad, he is the protagonist and someone we are supposed to like and feel sorry for. He does come across as a decent person in Ballad. His love for Lucy Gray was real. He went out of his way to help her win, even doing things he shouldn’t be doing. It felt as though he wanted her alive because she meant so much to him. Even if he never saw her again, at least she’d be able to live her life in the District. However, because he was found out, he got the opportunity to be with her and to really know her. She was all that she said she was: a singer and song writer; a free spirit. She was also very clever. In the Games, her cleverness helped her survive and it also, at one point, helped save his life.

The story goes much deeper than a dystopian story about a young adult falling in love and learning about who he is. I read the QA, which included the idea behind the story, and was completely surprised. I did get the sense of a struggle between an authoritarian world and a romanticism or “freedom” ideal. It wasn’t about which character I liked better or who I should like more than the other. It was more about understanding people’s behavior based not only on their upbringing but also the environment they’re exposed to. It was a very powerful book with so many hidden messages and meanings.

I wasn’t expecting to say this, but I’m totally shocked by how great this book was.

Book Review: Caraval

Title: Caraval
Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: YA Fantasy

I first read Caraval in 2017. Last month, my 13-year-old daughter wanted to read this together so we read it at bedtime. She loved it! I really enjoyed it the first time I read it and enjoyed it again this time. The great thing with rereading is you always find new stuff about the characters or the story and that’s exactly what happened. We are now reading the second book in the trilogy, Legendary, and it’s turning out pretty exciting.

Here’s the review from 2017:

The story is about a girl who’s been trying for years for a chance at watching a magical performance. She gets the opportunity eventually and learns that it’s not what she had expected. It was no secret that the performance was a game and you either choose to watch or choose to play but there are real consequences if you play.

This was a very fun read with humor and some serious issues that made it realistic. The author did great at fooling even the reader as to what was real and what wasn’t. It was written very simply but done well. I really enjoyed the relationship between the MC (Scarlett) and Julian…it was cute. The only thing I wasn’t too fond of was how unintelligent Scarlett was. I get that these are YA, but I think I would love a YA story where the girl is at least as intelligent as her age and had more depth to her.

The second time around, I liked Scarlett a lot more. I may have been a little harsh with my review of her because there were parts where she just wasn’t smart enough, but I can see now why it felt that way. She was only concerned about finding her sister and protecting her sister and seemed “klutzy” in that sense. I also didn’t see how powerful the magic was. Scarlett was completely under a spell and found it very hard to break. Knowing that now, she was a pretty well-developed character. Sometimes, it takes a reread to really understand a character, and I’m so glad I did.

January 2017 Book Reviews

A goal this year is to only read about 12 books.  One book per month or around there.  I’ve really reduced it because I want to focus more on writing than reading.  I know I’ll probably end up reading more than 12 books but if I do, that’s okay.  I don’t want to stress out over trying to hit my numbers.  So far, I’ve read two books this month.  It wasn’t expected but once I learned Veronica Roth’s book, “Carve the Mark,” was out, I had to buy and read it.  Below are the reviews for the books I’ve read this month.

Behind Closed Doors
Author: B.A. Paris
Genre: Fiction, Psychological Thriller

behindcloseddoors_350This story is about a couple whom everyone thinks has the perfect relationship but deep down there are secrets.

Although the pacing is fast, the story starts out a bit slow.  There is a tenseness in the beginning especially when one of the supporting characters, Esther, questions their “perfect” marriage.

The characters were well developed and stayed true to themselves. The back stories to the main characters really helped in shaping them. The setting was clear and done well. The story line was interesting and kept me in suspense and intrigue, which was what kept me reading.

What bothered me most about the story was the protagonist and the main antagonist. Grace didn’t seem very smart or wise and Jack wasn’t as evil as he could be. I felt that Grace could have easily gotten away from Jack and even reported him but she let it go on for too long, doubting herself all the time, and not trusting her own intuition. She was so strong and determined at taking care of her little sister, I didn’t get why she suddenly gave in to Jack and put her sister on the sideline. As for Jack, I wanted him to be even more evil than he was but he seemed to also give in. There was no explanation why he gave in to Grace so much since his back story made him to be this person who enjoyed torture/pain, etc. If it was because he was afraid he’d get caught, then that fear should have somehow made it into the story or the back story.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. The suspense stretched out further than I had anticipated which almost led me to stop reading because it got to the point where I almost just didn’t care what happened (because as mentioned, Grace wasn’t very smart) but Esther got me hooked. She was the person who made the story interesting. I was annoyed by her at first but I was also curious as to why she was always prying. I was surprised by her at the end, and have to admit, I cried. She was amazing.

Carve the Mark
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: Fiction, Sci-fi, Fantasy, Young Adult

carvethemark_350This story is about…I’m not even sure exactly what it’s about, to be honest, but I’ll do my best to describe it.  I believe it’s about two families who are enemies, where the evil family gains rulership and tortures the other family in hopes to continue ruling.

The story was interesting and the powers the characters had were unique. I liked the idea that it took place in outer space and other planets.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t as good as I had expected. It was pretty fast paced. Too many characters were introduced so I couldn’t feel for the main characters. Some characters were introduced and then only had small, almost irrelevant, parts. I tried to visualized the world they lived in and found it difficult because I felt as though there were pieces of Dune by Frank Herbert and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Every time I came across the word “Benesit, ” (the name/title of one of the families) I kept wanting to say “Bene Gesserit” from Dune.

As for the relationship between the two main characters, I felt very little for them. As mentioned, because it was so fast paced and so much information was being thrown in, I really couldn’t relate to the relationship or to their situation.

What was very obvious was the pain the protagonist felt and how she learned to deal with it. I think if the focus was solely on this as the story, how she was chosen to have this type of power that would cause herself pain, and how she learned to control or manage it, would have been a great story on its own.

I really wanted to like this story. I love sci-fi and fantasy combined and I love Veronica Roth’s style. The scenes merge seamlessly and the transition from first to third person was well done.  I’m just a bit bummed that there was so much thrown into it and it felt rushed.