Book Review: Frostblood by Elly Blake

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a fireblood who must hide her powers of heat and flame from the cruel frostblood ruling class that wants to destroy all that are left of her kind. So when her mother is killed for protecting her and rebel frostbloods demand her help to kill their rampaging king, she agrees. But Ruby’s powers are unpredictable, and she’s not sure she’s willing to let the rebels and an infuriating (yet irresistible) young man called Arcus use her as their weapon.

All she wants is revenge, but before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to take part in the king’s tournaments that pit fireblood prisoners against frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her and from the icy young man she has come to love.

Oh, Frostblood.

This book kind of felt like coming home.

If coming home involves a typical love story between the woman with a secretly powerful ability and a quick wit and sarcastic nature who is forced to spend time with a caustic and aloof man who also has a powerful ability and a secret past. But think about it, for those of us who have been reading young adult for years will recognize this trope and the stereotypical nature of it.  Of course there is a girl who has a power like no other, and of course there is a guy who is her polar opposite (in the case of Frostblood, literally), but they have an undeniable connection.  I will say, I do love a good love story where the love interests start off hating one another and growing to love one another.  That slow burn gets me every time.

Ruby/Taylor

So, all of the above did not mean that this book was bad.  Yes, it followed a lot of clichés and the story at its bare bones is not wholly original, BUT I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.  I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump and have been distracting myself with television, but sitting down and starting this…I read it all in one sitting.  It was fast-paced, which left little to be desired in the way of true character development, but the action was decent!  The world building needed a bit more expansion, in my opinion, mostly because there was just information on superstition and their religion, rather than anything serious.

I think the thing that did stick out to me was the amount of familial relationships that were explored in this novel.  Not just with Ruby and her mother, but with Arcus and Brother Thistle, the monks as a whole, Arcus and his brother, even the very secondary character of the small girl and her family of refugees traveling the countryside; that was my favorite part of this narrative.

The basics of the narrative kind of reflects a bit of a Marxist dichotomy between the bourgeois (the Frostbloods) and the proletariat (the Firebloods), except with even more murder and prejudice.

Overall, I found Frostblood to be a pretty average read. I didn’t absolutely adore it but I liked it just fine.  It’s definitely a story I think I’d actually keep up with, though.

3 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: May 2, 2017

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she’s quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she’s ever known.

 

Book Review: Sad Perfect by Stephanie Elliot


The story of a teen girl’s struggle with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder and how love helps her on the road to recovery.

Sixteen-year-old Pea looks normal, but she has a secret: she has Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). It is like having a monster inside of her, one that not only dictates what she can eat, but also causes anxiety, depression, and thoughts that she doesn’t want to have. When she falls crazy-mad in love with Ben, she hides her disorder from him, pretending that she’s fine. At first, everything really does feel like it’s getting better with him around, so she stops taking her anxiety and depression medication. And that’s when the monster really takes over her life. Just as everything seems lost and hopeless, Pea finds in her family, and in Ben, the support and strength she needs to learn that her eating disorder doesn’t have to control her.

Release Date: February 28, 2017

A couple disclaimers before I get started. Jessica originally agreed to write an honest review of this book in exchange for an advanced copy. As someone in recovery for ED, she jumped on the chance to review a new book with positive representation, especially about a relatively unknown ED. However, before she received the book she read this anonymous review by another ED survivor. We talked about it and decided it might be too triggering for her to read it, so we had the book sent to me instead. Full disclosure, I do not have an eating disorder but I am familiar with Jess’s story and one of my best friends from high school almost died because of her struggle with her ED.

Okay, so I slept on it before writing this review and I’m still angry but I’ll try to keep the yelling out. First things first, I am not a fan of second person narration. While overall it was a quick read, it was irritating trying to get through it. Second, Pea spends this entire book putting down other girls, and even gets this idea reinforced from her boyfriend who says, “Maybe that’s what I expect girls to do, pick girlie colors, but you’re different,” and, later on, the quintessential quote, “You’re not like other girls.” Excuse me while I go scream for eternity that THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH OTHER GIRLS.

And that’s just what I thought was disappointing about this book. But Sad Perfect is more than just disappointing, it’s damaging on so many levels. When Pea first gets her diagnosis of ARFID she immediately starts one on one and group sessions of therapy. There’s not much focus on either of these things as part of her recovery. The things we do see of group therapy are her continued thoughts of otherness. She repeatedly mentions that her ED is different than the other girls (only girls, because obviously only white girls can have ED) and therefore somehow worse. This opinion does not change by the end of the book.

While she does continue therapy throughout the book, it seems that the only real help she gets is from her boyfriend whom she met in the very first chapter. She decides that he helps her so much that she stops taking her anti-depressants. So when they get into a fight, she starts self harming with a safety pin (way to glorify that by putting it on the cover of the book, btw). While self-harm can coexist with ED and other mental illnesses, her self-harm was literally a plot device to get her admitted to a hospital on suicide watch, where Elliot vilifies almost all hospital staff and makes gross stereotypes of the people that “need” to be there.

Pea’s stay in the hospital was her catalyst for wanting to get better and taking responsibility for her “monster.” She talks at length about how she created this monster and that really the monster is her and that her ED is her fault. She then goes on to say that she doesn’t deserve to be in the hospital when she has her family and Ben (who she has known for approximately 10 seconds) who love her. But these stereotypically low-income people need to be in the hospital because they don’t have anyone who loves them. There were multiple times that I wanted to throw this book, but during her whole hospital stay I had to physically restrain myself from actually doing so.

At the end of the book, we’re left with the message that Pea is still different from everyone else and that the power of a boy loving you will make you want to get better. I understand that Elliot’s daughter suffers from ARFID and she wanted to shed light on what her daughter and her family went through. However, it’s glaringly obvious that she has no knowledge whatsoever about any other ED and doesn’t care to.

For a better look at ED, check out Jessica’s review of Elena, Vanishing. And for more information about eating disorders and treatment visit the National Eating Disorder Association.

If I could give this zero bards, I would, but I guess I’ll settle for one.

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: May 30, 2017

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
    Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
    Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
    Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
    Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
    And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
 
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
 
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

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: April 4, 2017

Noemi Vidal is a teen soldier from the planet Genesis, once a colony of Earth that’s now at war for its independence. The humans of Genesis have fought Earth’s robotic “mech” armies for decades with no end in sight.

After a surprise attack, Noemi finds herself stranded in space on an abandoned ship where she meets Abel, the most sophisticated mech prototype ever made. One who should be her enemy. But Abel’s programming forces him to obey Noemi as his commander, which means he has to help her save Genesis–even though her plan to win the war will kill him.

Together they embark on a daring voyage through the galaxy. Before long, Noemi begins to realize Abel may be more than a machine, and, for his part, Abel’s devotion to Noemi is no longer just a matter of programming.

 

 

Vlog Review: Be My Galentine

 

 

 

Book Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

 

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

Release Date: February 7, 2017

I remember when I first heard about this novel.  It was in an email from one of the publicists at St. Martin’s, and she was trying to get us excited about the upcoming titles for Fall 2016, but she included a quick preview of Wintersong; it was the first five chapters.  I was enraptured from the first sentence.

I grew up on Labyrinth, Terry Jones and Monty Python, Bowie, and Jim Henson, so even the marketing of her saying that we’d “get introduced to the Goblin King,” peaked my interest back in September.  Side Note: I’m actually watching Labyrinth while I write this review…

First things first: S. Jae-Jones is such a strong writer. Not only did she provide such a succinct world, it honestly makes it feel like this was the story that should have been told in the movie.

In a lot of ways, I think that this is the story that David Bowie wanted to tell about the Goblin King.  This might be a slight spoiler, but a quote from Bowie prior to the release of Labyrinth is particularly fitting for the character of the King in the novel, “…(he) is, at best, a romantic; but at worst, he’s a spoiled child, vain and temperamental (sic)…I think he has inherited his Kingdom of Goblins reluctantly, and runs it under duress.”

I know I keep talking about the movie, and I will more later, but let me focus specifically on the novel itself.  Jae-Jones weaves music into the narrative as if it gives the story its soul.  The German roots of the story and the use of it’s language give it so much authenticity and contributes so much to putting the reader immediately within the story world.  Jae-Jones has truly created something extraordinary and a narrative that will stay with you.  This is a novel that I’d want to live in regardless of the peril and darkness. Her lyrical word choice and the eloquent sentence structure is that of true beauty and art. It’s been a long time since a novel has touched me as deeply as Wintersong.

While, yes, it pays deference to the movie and the original story, Jae-Jones’ take has made it so much more beautiful with a side of painful feels. I’m so glad that Jae-Jones expanded upon this enigmatic world and the Goblin King, who was such a sensual character.

Let me talk about Elisabeth.  She was everything that I wanted in a reluctant heroine/love interest.  She was talented, frustrated, and loyal as hell. If only Toby had Elisabeth instead of Sarah, Toby (Kathe) would have been saved much sooner. So many praises to Jae-Jones for creating this character and for making me adore her, flaws and all.  Those are the best types of characters, after all.

Jae-Jones’ Goblin King is a handsome, cruel lithe blonde man with dual colored eyes. Sound familiar? I’m so glad she had this homage to Bowie.  Please, please don’t think that this is all the novel is: a basic re-telling. It is SO MUCH MORE. I just really don’t want to give too much away, because I’d rather you read and fall in love on your own.  I just love both so much; so for me, knowing the movie really enriched my reading of the novel.

I want to thank S. Jae-Jones so much, for giving me back the Goblin King, and for giving the Goblin King so much more than the original story ever did. I always felt sympathy and love for him, but her novel makes everything so wonderfully complex and beautiful. I know at this point I’m repeating myself, but it is worth it to showcase how much I adored this book.

I’ll end this on the quotes from the book that saluted the movie:

“I’ve given you everything you’ve ever wanted.  I’m tired of living up to your expectations.” – The Goblin King, Wintersong
“I am exhausted from living up to your expectations.” – Jareth, Labyrinth

“I am a generous soul, Elisabeth…” The Goblin King, Wintersong
“I have been generous up until now.” – Jareth, Labyrinth

“I see the echoes of it within you.” – Elisabeth, Wintersong
“I can’t live within you.” – Jareth, Labyrinth

Seriously do yourself a favor and fall into the pages of Wintersong. You won’t regret it, I promise…or curse me to the Underground with the Goblin King.

5 Bards.

 

 

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

S. Jae-Jones (called JJ) is an artist, an adrenaline junkie, and erstwhile editrix. When not obsessing over books, she can be found jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, co-hosting the Pub(lishing) Crawl podcast, or playing dress-up. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she now lives in North Carolina, as well as many other places on the internet, including Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, and her blog.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia, neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending- one that will rock his life to the core.

Well, if you’ve followed Midsummer at any point on Instagram or Twitter, you’ll realize that Lyv and I are fans of Jeff Zentner. I mean, who wouldn’t be?

To celebrate Zentner’s win of the William C. Morris award for 2017, I decided it was time to revisit The Serpent King and finally do a review.

Let me preface this review/fangirling with the fact that I grew up in the South. I dated a member of a pentecostal church. I grew up with one of my best friends coming from a more prominent family than mine. I was the nerd who lost herself in books constantly. I also worked a part time job while going to school full-time.  So there are a lot of things that I have in common with these characters and there are things I understand from my personal experiences. I think this is why I enjoy reading this novel as much as I do. Yes, there are very fundamental differences, but it takes me back to growing up in a school with just a couple hundred kids in my class.  Not going to lie, Lydia’s thoughts on Nascar are almost identical to mine.  Although I can’t hate on them too much anymore, because they employee one of my best friends.

So, if you haven’t had a chance to read this or even if you aren’t a giant fan of contemporary, I implore you to give Zentner’s AWARD WINNING, wait, did you catch that? AWARD WINNING NOVEL.

Now, on to my fangirl weird head canon theory:

Upon revisiting Dill, Travis, and Lydia I was distinctly reminded of one of my favorite television shows from high school, The OC. Now, other than the obvious differences between the super rich Orange County area of California versus the lower income small town in Tennessee, I’ve kind of fan cast the characters as the main three:

For all intents and purposes Dill is Ryan Atwood.  Why? Well, look at it from a factual standpoint.  Both characters’ fathers are in prison for an undetermined amount of time.  Their mothers work jobs to try and get by and are both high school dropouts. Not only are both Dill and Ryan struggling for money, but they both are musical. Don’t forget that Ryan was in musicals, and Dill is a musician.  Both are ashamed of their backgrounds and are vilified in their communities because of said background. Let’s see, both harbor feelings for a woman that they feel is out of their league, and neither of them think they are worthy of college.

Travis = Seth Cohen.  My first major reason for equating them to one another is because they were both my favorites. But look at it this way, Travis was the only person his age that was a fan of the fictional book series that he constantly talked about, and Seth was the founding and only member of the comic book club at his school.  He was considered the weird nerd for the way he dressed, much like Travis. In addition, his only friends for most of the first season were Ryan (Dill) and Marissa (Lydia). Also, like Travis, a beautiful girl that they didn’t expect to come into their lives and change it, did.

 

I’ll fully admit that my Lydia = Marissa Cooper comparison is much more of a stretch, but here we go: Marissa was considered to be one of the richest of the rich because of her father, just like Lydia was one of the wealthiest members of Forrestville.  Marissa was also a fashionista who set trends and was always wearing some awesome outfits, Lydia is a fashion icon on her website and to the blogging world.  Marissa eventually stopped caring what everyone thought of her after a tragic event in her life, subverting her whole persona, and Lydia also stops caring what her readership thinks of her after a tragic event as well. In addition, Marissa and Lydia both just wanted to escape the cage of their cities so they could be who they truly were. 

And that is my OC-Serpent King fan comparison. Sure, it isn’t a fool-proof comparison, but during this read I just couldn’t get these comparisons out of my head!
4 Bards to The Serpent King!

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 7, 2017

When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.

Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up.

Out in the ’burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off—and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war.

 

 

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 7, 2017

Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican-American family, and his best friend, Samantha. But it’s senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself.

If Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he? This humor-infused, warmly humane look at universal questions of belonging is a triumph.

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