Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

Now, I realize that when I first read The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi that I never actually wrote a review for it!  So, upon my receipt of an Advanced Reading Copy of the companion novel, Crown of Wishes, I decided to re-read TSTQ in order to prepare myself for more the feels that are going to come along with revisiting Guari and Bharata.

Finally, here is my review of TSTQ!

One of my favorite parts of Chokshi’s novel is the noted difference between the treatment of women in the kingdom of Bharata and how Amar promised to treat her within Akaran while she ruled alongside him.  It was interesting to see through the eyes of a daughter kept within the harem inside her kingdom, and while that wasn’t the focus of the novel, it was so great to see this kind of diversity in a young adult book.  I was a little bothered by the slut-shaming comment upon my re-read, when Maya throws “spreading legs” at one of the meaner harem wives.  But it wasn’t something that was a deal-breaker in this story for me.

Maya has a ton of fire in her personality and I love that she has that spunk and the urge to be as much as an individual as her society allows, and I love that.  She’s quick witted and stronger than she appears.  Now, with these traits, comes negative things: Maya is impulsive and more gullible than I remember from my first read.  I love that Chokshi has created a whole character full of strengths and flaws.  If there’s anything I can’t stand in young adult literature is when a main character is not well rounded and Maya is so well written as a frustrating and lovely character. Such a great character creation by Chokshi.

The world that Chokshi has created in The Star-Touched Queen is complex and wonderful.  The different worlds that the reader discovers alongside Maya, specifically the Night Bazaar (to quote Liz Lemon, “I want to go to there.”), has been beautifully created through flowery and expressive language.  I normally don’t like excessively descriptive narrative (a la Charles Dickens), but Chokshi’s writing is so enthralling that I found myself growing to love it.

As for the love story, I’m looking forward to Amar and Maya’s relationship in the novella Death and Night, because for me The Star-Touched Queen was so much more about Maya’s journey to remembering her past lives and becoming the strong woman she needed to be to restore balance to her world.

Also, is anyone else super interested in their horoscopes after reading this?

Overall, I’m so glad I went to re-read and spent more time with Maya and it makes me look forward to Crown of Wishes so much more! If you haven’t had a chance to read this beautiful book, then order a copy as soon as you can.

4 Bards.

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: March 28, 2017

Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

 

 

Book Review: Windwitch by Susan Dennard

Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…

After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

In my review of Truthwitch, I gave the book some pretty high praise, “Dennard has created something beautiful,” being the top compliment I gave.

I honestly could not have imagined how the sequel, by separating my two favorite characters Safi & Iseult, could possibly live up to the absolute beautiful example of fierce female friendship in Truthwitch.  Well, don’t mind me over here trying to stuff my narrow feet into my ridiculously loud mouth, because Dennard proved me wrong in spades. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted this book to be as good as it turned out to be, I was just scared it wouldn’t be! We all have those fears, right?

Anyway, let me get to the gushing. I 100% support re-reading Truthwitch before you start Windwitch.  Why? Well, for me it had been over a year since I had completed Truthwitch then lent it to someone else, so I didn’t get a chance to renew my knowledge of everything that happened.  I really think it would have saved me the slow start of remembering everything and would have enhanced my experience with Windwitch. So if possible, a re-read is definitely beneficial! *random side note over*

The narrative picks up with Merik, who is serving *fierce* back on the cover, the unlikely survivor of a burning ship and an assassination attempt. He spends the majority of the narrative struggling with his new reality as a “dead man,” (he names himself that, I promise, not a spoiler!) and trying to seek revenge on his would-be murder, while posturing a plan to save his beloved kingdom. He has gone through such a transformation from the first novel through this one, and it’s been such an organic development that I just am so excited to see how he continues to progress. This might be KIND OF spoilery, but if you are hoping for a *certain* reunion, like I was, it doesn’t happen YET. I’m not giving up hope.

While the first novel gave us the beginning of the Merik and Safi ship, this second novel really gave us more insight into the possible connections between Iseult and Aeduan.  While Merik and Safi were a match on the verge of igniting, Iseult and Aeduan are the snow melting slowly on the tip of a mountain top, and it’s just as compelling. Their journey together throughout this book kept me on my toes and wanting more.  I can only assume (and HOPE) that the third installment will continue this, since the title is Bloodwitch!

As strong as Iseult and Safi are together, I will say the one great thing about keeping them apart in this book was giving them both the chance to shine on their own. That being said, it was definitely the place for Safi to come into her own as an individual and powerful Truthwitch.  Dennard did such a great job of keeping up with her fiery personality while allowing her to grow more mature.  I honestly think Safi might be my favorite of the pair, but let’s be honest my favorite will be Safi and Iseult’s friendship.

Dennard continued the upbeat and pressing plot pace from the first novel, and I can only imagine with the introduction of a few new key characters (OWL! *so cute*) that the story will keep on being exciting.

HUGE props to Dennard for Cam and his storyline throughout this book. Seriously, way to give us feels with this secondary character and for including a transgender narrative. It is such a wonderful moment when the character’s preferred pronouns are accepted and used.  In addition, does anyone else hardcore ship Vivia and Stix? I’m predicting some excellent fan fiction to come out of this pairing.  (*hint* Don’t sell Vivia down the river Styx yet*—*cackles*)

This is by far one of the best sequels I’ve read in a long time! Order your copy of Windwitch, now. You won’t regret it!

4.5 Bards

 

 

 

Special thanks to Tor Teen for providing me with a review copy!

 

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: February 28, 2017

If you want something done right . . .

When the ruthless pirate king learns of a legendary treasure map hidden on an enemy ship, his daughter, Alosa, knows there’s only one pirate for the job—herself. Leaving behind her beloved ship and crew, Alosa deliberately facilitates her own kidnapping to ensure her passage on the ship, confident in her ability to overcome any obstacle. After all, who’s going to suspect a seventeen-year-old girl locked in a cell? Then she meets the (surprisingly perceptive and unfairly attractive) first mate, Riden, who is charged with finding out all her secrets. Now it’s down to a battle of wits and will . . . . Can Alosa find the map and escape before Riden figures out her plan?

 

 

Book Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a church-going black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

Release Date: January 24, 2017

I think one of the best things about the movement in young adult literature to include diverse authors and own voice narratives is that stories like Tiffany D. Jackson’s will become popular. This novel has all the things that make a good crime novel wonderful, it has a likable yet maybe untrustworthy narrator, a vicious and questionable crime, interesting family dynamics, insight into the criminal justice system when it comes to teenagers, and the dynamics of a group home.

Now, I realize that this is still a fictional narrative but there are a lot of similarities between this Mary’s story and that of the real life child murderer, Mary Bell.  Jackson doesn’t really delve into that in this novel, but she does have a secondary refer to Mary as Mary Bell in one interaction, so I thought it would be interesting to point out the similarities between the character and her real counterpart.

Mary Bell was around 10 years of age when she murdered two toddlers, she had a known strange relationship with her mother (who attempted to kill her a few times), it was an extremely sensationalized case, with her only receiving a minimum sentence since she was a child with diminished responsibility (much like our character).  Another part that is taken directly from reality is the last name of the victim, Richardson. Now, the average Young Adult reader probably wouldn’t be aware of these similarities, but I just happened to read a true crime book a few years ago that brought this up.

I applaud Jackson for bringing a story like this to the forefront, because as awful as it is to kill a child in a narrative, it is something that happens.

Jackson did such a great job of keeping the reader in the dark about certain aspects of the crime and of Mary’s life prior to the death of the child.  I think that the questions about Mary and her Mother really provide more mystery than the death itself.  It’s an interesting commentary on emotional abuse and the desperate relationship between these two characters, plus is raises the question of just how far you’d go for family.

In addition, Jackson was amazing at including linguistic representation of accents.  I find it lacking when an author sometimes just mentions that a character has a type of regional accent without showing this to the reader in dialogue. Bravo for including this, I loved it and it really put me IN those characters’ voices.

I’m giving this novel 4 Bards.  There is a very upsetting scene with an animal in this and violence between characters that doesn’t involve the murder of the child, so please be aware of this when purchasing it for your teen.

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Book Review: Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta awakens alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. When help arrives, it comes from the last person Etta ever expected—Julian Ironwood, the Grand Master’s heir who has long been presumed dead, and whose dangerous alliance with a man from Etta’s past could put them both at risk.

Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sophia are racing through time in order to locate Etta and the missing astrolabe with Ironwood travelers hot on their trail. They cross paths with a mercenary-for-hire, a cheeky girl named Li Min who quickly develops a flirtation with Sophia. But as the three of them attempt to evade their pursuers, Nicholas soon realizes that one of his companions may have ulterior motives.

As Etta and Nicholas fight to make their way back to one another, from Imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, time is rapidly shifting and changing into something unrecognizable… and might just run out on both of them.

Holy. Cow.

Let me start by saying, that I love time travel. However, time travel gives me a headache because it makes me think too much and ask too many questions. That being said, that only happened like three times over the course of these two books. This sequel is incredible. There’s always so much that’s going on but it never feels like too much. And at the same time, it’s at a pace where you can grasp how the mechanics of traveling work, without questioning it too much because you’re too invested in what’s going to happen next.

I was lucky enough to meet Alex Bracken (and Susan Dennard) on the WayWitch tour, and something that Alex said about how she constructs her characters really stuck out to me, “what about your world has caused you to be this way?” She does an excellent job of portraying that on the page, and for me, the biggest example of that is Nicholas. Not only in his motivations for independence and freedom from the Ironwoods, but in how Etta, and later Sophia and Julian, see him and how the recognize their privilege (the word privilege is actually used multiple times and it’s glorious).

I was so excited to get more of Sophia’s story in this book. Honestly, I loved her in the first one, even though she was always getting in the way. To me, it definitely always felt like there was more to her, and I am so so so glad that Bracken decided to expand on her character. And I’m even MORE glad that she explicitly says that she prefers women and always has. Nicholas’s response was also amazing. I love that they grudgingly come to rely on each other and even care about each other. Their journey and friendship is one of my favorite parts of the book.

In a book about time travel with ruthless people taking the idea of “the ends justify the means” a little too far, for me, this book was more about family. Every single character is on a journey that connects them with family, whether it is blood or found. But at the same time, it shows that family is messy and not perfect and sometimes you have to confront the fact that your parents can make mistakes.

I could talk about this book all day, honestly, I loved it a lot, 4.5 bards.

Book Review: Roseblood by A.G. Howard

In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known. 

Release Date: January 10, 2017

As much as I love Phantom of the Opera, I wouldn’t 100% classify myself as a Pham, but I do enjoy the musical and the original novel by Gaston LeRoux.  Yeah, yeah, I was one of those obnoxious kids who absolutely had to read the original novel before ever seeing the play or the movie (the book is amazeballs, guys).

ANYWHO, anyone who has followed Midsummer for a while will know that I’m a giant fan of A.G. Howard’s Splintered series and *cough* MORPHEUS, so when it was announced that she was doing a modern retelling of Phantom I got pretty psyched. Now, I’d probably steer away from calling it a retelling after reading it all the way through, it’s more of a modern continuation of the story.  Erik (yes, that is the phantom’s name from the original novel) is STILL haunting the opera house, albeit he is pretty old and a bit creepier in a whole new way thanks to Howard’s take…I refuse to spoil this for you. It’s pretty brilliant.

So, I will admit to you that the novel does start off a bit slow as it seemed that the pacing just wasn’t 100% there at the beginning.  We immediately see our new Christine (Rune) arriving to her new boarding school, which we all know means some shenanigans will happen when the parents are gone!

Rune has some pretty deep mental scars, I mean her grandmother tried to drown her and set her house on fire, but music has always helped her get through.  She has a strange compulsion to sing upon hearing certain songs, and it honestly sounds like she is capable of hypnotizing those around her while she is singing (that’s important).

Low and behold, she finds the phantom haunting her….except her phantom is Thorn.  He’s crush worthy and described as absolutely beautiful. I immediately imagined Dominic Sherwood, but I think he will always be in my fan cast for Wintersong. Either way, their fates are clearly intertwined, and sometimes I absolutely love the fated couples trope, while other times I find it ridiculously cliche…but this one was one I was absolutely here for. Rune x Thorne…Rorne. RORNE STAN.

Anyway, I’m sure this book won’t be for everyone, but I really enjoyed reading it. (In a 5 hour period..worth it)

4.5 Bards for my love, A.G. Howard.

 

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: February 28, 2017

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas’s searing debut about an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

 

 

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: February 28, 2017

For sixteen-year-old Pea, eating has always been difficult. Some people might call her a picky eater, but she knows it’s more than that, and it’s getting worse. And now there’s a monster raging inside of her, one that controls more than just her eating disorder. The monster is growing, and causing anxiety, depression, and dangerous thoughts.

When Pea meets Ben and they fall crazy-mad in love, she tries to keep the monster hidden. But the monster wants out, and as much as she tries, she can’t pretend that the bad in her doesn’t exist. Unable to control herself, a chain of events thrusts Pea into a situation she’d never imagine she’d find herself in.

With the help of Ben, her family, and her best friend, Pea must find the inner strength to understand that her eating disorder doesn’t have to control her.

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