Venturess – By Betsy Cornwell

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Goodreads Synopsis: Nicolette’s Cinderella story is over, and she’s finally living her own fairy tale happy ending. She’s a successful inventor now, free of her horrible stepfamily, and content in her loving friendship with Caro, a palace servant, and Fin, the prince of Esting.

Then she receives a message from her long-lost housekeeper, now a revolutionary, begging her to bring the prince to Faerie for a diplomatic meeting. Nicolette fears a trap, but decides that the chance to end the bloody war waged by their kingdom is worth the risk.

Together with Fin and Caro, she ventures across the monster-filled ocean to the lush continent she’s always dreamed of visiting. There, mechanical armies and dark magic await as they uncover devastating secrets about the past and fight for a real, lasting happily-ever-after for two troubled countries—and themselves. 

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I was given a copy of this book by Tara in Digital Marketing and Publicity Specialist with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. Which made me super excited because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to read it this soon!  I did a review of the first book in this series earlier in the year, Mechanica, you can find that post here.

Venturess is another fun adventure story from Betsy Cornwell.  Again I found that the writing was a little bit young for the intended genre. Most of the book I found that Nic, Fin and Caro sounded (and sometime acted) like they were closer to 12, than around 17 which is what I thought they were. I found that it made the book hard for me to read, I was a little bit bored I have to admit.  But the characters are still fantastic, and well developed. The plot is good as well. Just don’t go into reading this thinking that you’ll be able to relate to the trio as people on the verge of adulthood.

That said I still think the book was really great! I love the bisexual and polyamorous representation. I loved that Nic loves both Fin and Caro, equally and in different ways. It was also great because they all loved each other, but they never went beyond kissing and sleeping in the same bed. I thought it was great that Venturess doesn’t make sex out to be some huge life-altering deal. They loved each other, supported each other, and their friendship and love was so adorable.

I gave this book 3.5 stars on Goodreads.

 

 

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Three Dark Crowns – By Kendare Blake

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Goodreads Synopsis: When kingdom come, there will be one.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown. 

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This is a book I got in one of my very first OwlCrate boxes, and because I’m a terrible person I haven’t read it until just this month. It seems to be a theme with me to like the start of stories, but then to have with or get bored by the half way point.  Three Dark Crowns is no exception.

The story starts with chapters going from one queen to the next, starting with Katharine, then Arsinoe, and then Mirabella. Each sister was fairly well defined and unique. Mirabella was my favorite for the longest time, she was kind and thoughtful and I liked that she didn’t want to kill her sisters.  I appreciated Katharine’s character, as she seems weak but underneath it all she wasn’t, and she grew the most as a character. She was definitely my favorite towards the end. I never cared for Arsinoe, she was the least developed character in my mind, and she never really did much.

I could never make up my mind about the writing style. At times I would really like it, and at other times I would hate it.  I also disliked it when the author started switching the POV from the queens to random people, this didn’t happen till half way through the book! I like consistency above all in books.

The story gets set up really well, and then around the half way point it starts to drag.  It builds up to the sisters fighting each other for the throne, and then it never happened. That really bugged me.  The one thing that kept the book interesting for me was the fact that I honestly couldn’t see the plot twists coming. Especially the one with Katharine at the end, I thought that part was brilliant.

The end left me with wanting more, I was definitely excited to see what happened in the second book.  There were enough negative things that I ended up giving the book 3.5 stars, but don’t let that stop you from reading it. Three Dark Crowns is definitely one of the better YA Fantasy stories that I’ve read this year.

The Valiant – By Lesley Livingston

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Goodreads Synopsis: Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.

When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.

Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.

Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier. 

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I picked this book up from the library almost solely based on it’s cover. 😀

The Valiant starts off really well. I throughly enjoyed the writing, and was easily swept into the world in the time of Julius Caesar. I always enjoy books where I can easily imagine the world in my head, and feel like I’m apart of the story.

Fallon is a great character. Easy to sympathize with. Her initial capture was written better than I feared it would be, and her time in the gladiator school was also well written. I really enjoyed the side character Elka, I almost liked her more than Fallon and I wish she would have had more time to develop. The rest of the side characters were all fairly well written as well, with the exception of the Roman love interest. I was never convinced that Fallon would have fallen in love with her enemy, plus his personality was pretty bland.

The thing that made me rate this book lower than four stars was the overall plot. I found that while there were a couple of surprise plot twists, everything else felt very coincidental. I won’t say too much so as not give away spoilers, but two characters return in a manner that I just found ridiculous.

In the end I found this book held my attention for the first 2/3, and then the ending was not quite as interesting. Things tied up a little too nicely for me. Still I think others would enjoy reading it, after all I am a very harsh critique. I say read for yourself and see if you like it. It’s not often you can read about female gladiators.

I gave this book 3.5 stars on Goodreads.

Parable of The Sower – By Octavia Butler

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Goodreads Synopsis: In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, disease, war, and chronic water shortages. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others. When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind.

Find on Amazon and Goodreads.

This was actually a re-read for me. Originally I’d read it in 2014.

Parable of the Sower is a dark book, it’s set in the middle of an apocalypse and the characters have to do whatever they can to survive. The book terrified me the first time I read it, this time around it wasn’t so bad.

Lauren herself makes an interesting character. She’s strong, logical, and a natural leader. I love her character and plan on reading the next book in the series soley because of her. Lauren is a writer and also the founder of a church. She has a way of talking to people that makes them want to follow her. She also has a disease (I’m not sure if that’s the right word for it) that causes her to physically take on the pain of others around her. All of these make for a very well rounded character.

The plot is fast paced, it is (like I said before) at times frightening. This book does not shy away from the apocalypse and just make it a backdrop. The Parable of the Sower shows just how shitty the world and people can be. I really liked that even if it was disturbing.

The other characters are great as well. Most of them are people of color, I think there was one white guy in the main characters. It made the book very realistic to show the racial divide and how it added to the tension of the apocalyps.

The one thing I didn’t like about this book was the constant talk of religion. Lauren’s father is a christian pastor and Lauren ends up creating her own religion. It was annoying how much she went on and on about it. The book even shared bits of the religious text she wrote and to be honest I skimmed those parts. It just felt preachy and I didn’t want to read it.

Overall though I did like the book. I’m not sure it’s right to say that I enjoyed the book, seeing as it’s the end of the world. But I did think it was a well written book. Very thought provoking. I gave it 3.5 stars on Goodreads.

NetGalley Reads – 3 Books

The Bone Witch – 3 stars: Find on Amazon and Goodreads. 

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Goodreads Synopsis: Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.

Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

I really wanted to fall in love with this book, I have heard a lot of good things about it!

So the writing of this book is amazing, there were times when I was absolutely blown away by the beauty of everything. Rin Chupeco has created one of the most beautiful worlds that I have ever come across. It felt inspired by Asian culture, so that was really cool as well. But beautiful worlds alone aren’t enough to make this book a five star, and for the first half of the book I enjoyed it immensely.

The Bone Witch is also really long, and sort of slow. It takes awhile for anything to happen.  You’re caught between loving all the words on paper, and then realizing you’ve been reading for two hours and very little has happened.

As far as the characters go I enjoyed Tea (pronouced Tay-uh), her powers to raise dead beasts were badass, her life was interesting.  The book is told in flashbacks and present time. In present time Tea is telling her story to a bard, and I had a hard time seeing how Tea from the past became Tea in the present.  It was confusing, but I also wanted to know more.

Things I wasn’t quite as happy about were just some minor details, and a lot of confusion in the second half.  I felt like the bond between Tea and her brother wasn’t explained until way into the book, and it should have come a bit sooner.   I also felt like the romance between Tea and the prince was a little weird because it just sort of was, but Tea hardly ever spent time thinking about him or even really seeing him. Maybe it was supposed to be more of a crush on her part, but then the book compared it to her teacher’s love and so I wasn’t sure.

And then the end. What happened in the end? I’m not sure, I felt like it was a mixture of not explaining clearly what was going on and making a few things too easy.
That said, I do want to read the next book in the series because I feel invested in the world and in Tea.  I want to see her burn the world down. 😀

I give this book 3.5 stars.

Waste of Space – 1 star: Find on Amazon and Goodreads. 

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Goodreads Synopsis: Cram ten hormonal teens into a spaceship and blast off: that’s the premise for the ill-conceived reality show Waste of Space. The kids who are cast know everything about drama—and nothing about the fact that the production is fake. Hidden in a desert warehouse, their spaceship replica is equipped with state-of-the-art special effects dreamed up by the scientists partnering with the shady cable network airing the show. And it’s a hit! Millions of viewers are transfixed. But then, suddenly, all communication is severed. Trapped and paranoid, the kids must figure out what to do when this reality show loses its grip on reality.

Okay…Wow. I was expecting this book to be silly, I mean, just read the synopsis! But I wasn’t expecting it to be so stupid that I could barely finish reading it. I wanted satire! Not this.

Sigh. I don’t even know where to start with this book so I’ll keep it short. Nothing in this book is worth your time. The characters are idiotic, the plot even worse and the writing. Huh, don’t even get me started on the writing!

In short I hated this book, I would give it .5 stars on Goodreads if  I could.

Hour of Mischief – 3 stars: Find on Amazon and Goodreads.

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Goodreads Synopsis: Born in a whorehouse in the slums of Fortuna and burdened with a prosthetic arm, seventeen-year-old JANET REDSTONE doesn’t think she owes the Clockwork Gods anything—which is why she makes a living stealing from their temples. But when she lands her team in prison, making a pact with the God of Mischief, ITAZURA, is the only way to right her wrongs and free her friends.

Janet doesn’t trust Itazura as far as she can punch him, but with her soul in his hands, she has no choice but to do what he says. The clockwork gods and the bad-tempered elder gods of the ancient past are locked in a game of cat and mouse and the human realms are caught in the middle. If Janet can’t somehow convince the gods to step in a save the world, humanity is in an abyss of trouble.

Well this was an interesting read. I just finished it last night and I still don’t know how to feel.

Hour of Mischief is funny, it’s fast paced and it has decently interesting characters. At times the writing felt like the book could have been for a younger audience, even the character’s and their reactions felt like this too. Janet would say things like ” Why did my cheeks get warm? I did not give them permission to do that.”And though I laughed, the writing felt more middle grade than YA. Save for the few uses of the word “fuck” and the PG13 mentioning of Janet’s mom being a prostitute.
Also the plot was pretty predictable, which that’s the other reason I found it sounded like a younger book.

Janet herself was a good character. Strong, sarcastic, and a great thief. Everything I needed to be interested in her. Sadly the author threw in some problematic ideas that made me take off a full star. Janet, in response to a question about having relationships says she’s never had any, and then says she’s probably “broken” because of this. Unfortunately nothing was ever said to contradict this and I felt very uncomfortable with this. It would have been one thing if this was just her own musings, but it felt like the tone of the book said it was a bad thing that she hadn’t had relationships yet. It was sort of one of those “when she finds the right guy she’ll good.”

The rest of the characters were good. There’s an unnecessary romance between Janet and Itzura, but besides that I enjoyed reading the two’s interaction.

In the end I gave this book 3 stars, I wish I could have given it more.

 

Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell

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Goodreads Synopsis: Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home.

But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.

Find on Goodreads and Amazon.

I picked up this book because I’ve been hearing some cool things about the second book Venturess.

Mechanica is cute book overall, I enjoyed the character of Nicolette. I loved the steampunk world, and I loved that Nicolette was an inventor. The incorporation of magic and steampunk is always cool. All of these things made for a fairly easy read.

I found the prose a little odd at times, it made the book feel like it was more middlegrade than YA. Thankfully it didn’t bother me too much as I found myself continually sucked into the plot.

Despite being a retelling of Cinderella, romance is not a huge part of this book! I found myself really enjoying that.  I loved that Nick was friends with both the guy and the girl in the love triangle, and the ending set things up very nicely for the second book.

I gave this book 3.5 stars on Goodreads.