Book Review – Spin the Dawn

Title: Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1)

Author: Elizabeth Lim

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Publication date: July 9th, 2019

392 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.

Review

“Seize the wind,” I whispered. “Don’t become the kite that never flies.”

Elizabeth lim, spin the dawn

Spin the Dawn follows Maia, the only daughter of a renowned tailor. Her three brothers did not have her talent for tailoring, but women are not allowed to have jobs or run a shop, so she would never be able to fulfill her dream. After her mother dies, her father falls into a great depression and she must keep the shop alive by completing all the work. Her brothers are drafted into the army and she is left alone to run the family. When two of her brothers die at war and the third comes back unable to walk, she knows something must be done. A Crown messenger shows up at the door requiring her father to enter a competition to be the new future Queen’s personal tailor, but he is in no shape to go. Ala Mulan, Maia knows what she must do – she must go in her father’s place and win the competition, or die trying.

Y’all, Mulan was always my favorite Disney movie. It was the first that portrayed Princesses and women as anything but helpless, waiting for a man to come save them. I also used to be obsessed with Project Runway during the early seasons. So when I saw this book billed as Mulan meets Project Runway, I knew I needed to read it – and it did not disappoint. Shoutout to Owlcrate for knowing I needed this and including it in a monthly box.

Maia goes through such a journey during this book to find herself and her worth. She is sent on an impossible quest with a man that will try her every nerve, but also soften every edge. She will give up anything to save her family and those she loves, even if it is from herself. I loved her character.

One thing I will note about this book is that I felt the love story happened too quickly. The trope was enemies to lovers, but the transition went wayyy to quickly in my opinion. I felt it was rushed and really didn’t need to be.

I cannot wait for the sequel, Unravel the Dusk, to be released. I must know what happened to my baby Maia after that ending!!

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eARC Review – Marrow Charm

Title: Marrow Charm (The Gate Cycle #1)

Author: Kristin Jacques

Publisher: The Parliament House

Publication date: October 1st, 2019

364 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

‘In his pursuit of the occult, the Third Reich opened the Gate to a realm of magic and brought the world to ruin. The Gate was eventually closed, but They were already in our world and They were hungry.’

-The Lost History, Library of Avergard

Azure ‘Azzy’ Brimvine lives in a world decimated by magic, where humans have retreated underground from the overwhelming dangers of the surface. But Below is no safer than Above.

Magic borne plagues continue to eat away at the remaining human cities, a sickness that doesn’t merely kill, but creates aberrations from the stricken: people twisted by magic into something dark, dangerous, and powerful. It is an existence of fear and constant dread. When Azzy’s brother, Armin, is infected and cast out into the Above, she sets out after him, determined to be there for him no matter what he becomes.

The world Above is full of monsters, both wild and cunning, some more human than Azzy was led to believe. Armin is captured and bound for the Auction block of Avergard, a ruthless city of inhuman lords and twisted creatures. To reach him, Azzy must brave the perils of the Above and the chaotic life forms created by the Gate. To reach him, she must find allies and forge new bonds in this broken world.

And Azzy must reach him, before Armin’s new power is used to open the Gate once more. 

Review

**Thank you to The Parliament House, Netgalley, and Kristin Jacques for providing me a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Marrow Charm is set in a world where magic is not a desired gift, but a feared and malicious curse. Magic entered the world and twisted humans and animals into beasts that forget who they are and who are very dangerous. The world has moved underground, as the “Above” world is too dangerous to live in. When a human is “tainted” with magic, they are banished to the “Above”, as there is no stopping magic’s hold that dooms the human to either death or life as a monster.

Azzy is the daughter of a witch, living in one of the last human settlements below the surface. She is spending her life trying to protect her brother from the magic in his blood threatening to overtake him. A string of unfortunate events finds her brother cast out to Above, with her chasing after him to try and save him from herself. Her adventures take her across many miles, working with an eel lady, witch, and man/wolf. She has her own brand of magic, which isn’t really clearly explained throughout the book, just hinted at.

Marrow Charm is the first book in The Gate Cycle, a new series by Kristin Jacques. A high fantasy novel with monsters, magic, apocalyptic plagues, some light romance, and some slight cannibalism – Marrow Charm is exciting and well written for those who really enjoy fantasy. It has an interesting take on magic that you don’t generally see. Magic in books is something normally considered a gift or talent, something people should want to have. Marrow Charm creates a magical world where humans are begging to remain unaffected by magic. It creates an interesting dynamic.

I was a bit confused from time to time during some of the action scenes, and when Azzy’s specific powers were being discussed. It wasn’t very clear throughout the book what her powers are, as they don’t adhere to the normal rules. I’m assuming this will be more fleshed out and explained in a sequel.

Overall, a very good book and I would definitely check out a sequel.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eARC Review – The Memory Thief

Title: The Memory Thief

Author: Lauren Mansy

Publisher: Blink YA

Publication date: October 1st, 2019

4.5/5 stars

368 pages

Goodreads Synopsis

In the city of Craewick, memories reign. The power-obsessed ruler of the city, Madame, has cultivated a society in which memories are currency, citizens are divided by ability, and Gifted individuals can take memories from others through touch as they please.

Seventeen-year-old Etta Lark is desperate to live outside of the corrupt culture, but grapples with the guilt of an accident that has left her mother bedridden in the city’s asylum. When Madame threatens to put her mother up for auction, a Craewick practice in which a “criminal’s” memories are sold to the highest bidder before being killed, Etta will do whatever it takes to save her. Even if it means rejoining the Shadows, the rebel group she swore off in the wake of the accident years earlier.

To prove her allegiance to the Shadows and rescue her mother, Etta must steal a memorized map of the Maze, a formidable prison created by the bloodthirsty ruler of a neighboring Realm. So she sets out on a journey in which she faces startling attacks, unexpected romance, and, above all, her own past in order to set things right in her world.

Review

**Thank you to Blink, Lauren Mansy, and Netgalley for providing me a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Etta lives in Craewick, one of four territories where memories are the currency used, and the method of keeping people in line. Some individuals are Gifted, meaning they have the ability to take and share memories with others just by touching them. Ungifted folks are not able to do this. Within the Gifted population, there are variations and differing strengths of the gift, which is used as a status symbol. Sifters are the most powerful of the Gifted, they are able to take memories without needing to touch the person. Powerful Sifters rule each territory, but none are worse than the ruler of Craewick. Madame using her gift for torture, so a secret group called the Shadows work to oppose her. Etta was a Shadow, before she sold out the leader in order to save her mother from certain death. When Madame decides to break their bargain and begin the process of killing Etta’s mother, Etta must decide how far she is willing to go to save her mother, and the people of Craewick.

I loved this new take on powers. I think these days it’s hard to write about a “superpower” that hasn’t been used already, but memories is a new one for me and I LOVE The Memory Thief for that. Lauren Mansy did an excellent job building a world that is fueled by people’s memories, the good and the bad. The main character has a difficult go of life and is thrown into many tough spots. She has struggled so much. I loved the plot twists and I did not see them coming, which is always super fun.

The love story was not a true enemies to lovers, and frankly the love interest did not end up being the person I expected it to be. The writing style was great because it felt like you were getting enough information from the story, that you didn’t even realize certain aspects and facts were being withheld to be revealed later in the book.

I only wish that the story could have been longer, or at least a duology. I feel like this would have been well suited to being a two book series. Also, the ending sequences were a touch confusing and unclear with what was happening, so I feel like the writing could have been better at the end. Overall, I truly enjoyed this new story and would suggest it for fans of the Everless duology.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eARC Review – Michigan vs. The Boys

Title: Michigan vs. The Boys

Author: Carrie S. Allen

Publisher: Kids Can Press

Publication date: October 1st, 2019

304 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

When a determined girl is confronted with the culture of toxic masculinity, it’s time to even the score.

Michigan Manning lives for hockey, and this is her year to shine. That is, until she gets some crushing news: budget cuts will keep the girls’ hockey team off the ice this year.

If she wants colleges to notice her, Michigan has to find a way to play. Luckily, there’s still one team left in town …

The boys’ team isn’t exactly welcoming, but Michigan’s prepared to prove herself. She plays some of the best hockey of her life, in fact, all while putting up with changing in the broom closet, constant trash talk and “harmless” pranks that always seem to target her.

But once hazing crosses the line into assault, Michigan must weigh the consequences of speaking up – even if it means putting her future on the line.

Review

**Thank you to Kids Can Press, Netgalley, and Carrie S. Allen for providing me a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Michigan starts off her school year ready to play hockey with her girls. Her plans come crashing to a halt when she’s told her team has been disbanded due to budget cuts, along with the boy’s swim team. She loves hockey, but doesn’t have the same opportunities others from her team have to find a new team. Instead, she decides to try out for the boy’s hockey team at her school. She knows there will be some push back, but she can handle it… right?

Not so much. When one boy in particular starts taking hazing to a whole new level, Michigan is in over her head. With a new boyfriend she’s trying to impress, a friend group she’s trying to keep together, and school – she knows she just needs to put her head down and get through it. She’s tough, and able to sweep a lot under the rug in the name of hockey, but when she starts getting too good, that one boy works to keep her off the ice for good.

Michigan vs. the Boys has some content that could be triggering for some people. Hazing, assault, underage drinking. However, this story is one that is so necessary in today’s social climate. It continues the conversation of what is appropriate and what is too far. As more females work to enter a male dominated sport or field, the events of this book become less fiction and more fact. All genders can read this book and learn a lesson from Michigan, and the Boys.

I really enjoyed reading Michigan’s story. She is a strong, female character, everyone can respect for her story. You hurt when she hurts, and you’re happy when she’s successful on the ice. With some great supporting characters, Michigan vs. The Boys is a great story that will resonate will all audiences.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

Book Review – Five Dark Fates

Title: Five Dark Fates (Three Dark Crowns #4)

Author: Kendare Blake

Publisher: HarperTeen

Publication date: September 3rd, 2019

452 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

After the battle with Katharine, the rebellion lies in tatters. Jules’s legion curse has been unbound, leaving her out of her mind and unfit to rule. Arsinoe must find a cure, even as the responsibility of stopping the ravaging mist rests heavy on her shoulders, and her shoulders alone. Mirabella has disappeared. 

Queen Katharine’s rule over Fennbirn remains intact—for now. But her attack on the rebellion exacted a high price: her beloved Pietyr. Without him, who can she rely upon when Mirabella arrives, seemingly under a banner of truce? As oldest and youngest circle each other, and Katharine begins to yearn for the closeness that Mirabella and Arsinoe share, the dead queens hiss caution—Mirabella is not to be trusted. 

In this conclusion to the Three Dark Crowns series, three dark sisters will rise to fight as the secrets of Fennbirn’s history are laid bare. Allegiances will shift. Bonds will be tested, and some broken forever.

The fate of the island lies in the hands of its queens.

Review

The Three Dark Crowns series was one I was very interested in, it seemed like a newer, darker, Hunger Games-esque story. I love a book that pits people against each other to the death, what can I say? As I continued on in this series I became less and less enthused with how the story progressed. I didn’t agree with a lot of what Kendare Blake decided to do and where she decided to take the story. By the end, I just wanted to finish the story to give it a chance to change my mind with the ending. I’m going to keep this review as free of spoilers as I can, since it is the fourth book in a quartet.

I was disappointed, I’m not going to lie. I wish I had enjoyed Five Dark Fates more as I was so excited for it for so long. Queen Katharine is my fave of all time and all I wanted was a good storyline for her. I do feel like her arc got cleared up pretty well, but I didn’t feel that way about all the characters.

One serious issue with these books is the amount of information and set up required to keep it moving. I was legitimately bored for the first 200 pages and had to put it down and read something else for awhile before going back to it. There is just so much build up and set up where next to nothing is happening, until brief spurts of action come by.

Do I recommend this series? Heck yes. It is dark and mysterious and twisty, will religion, magical powers, politics, etc. I think everyone should try this series because even though I would have preferred a different ending, there are people out there that will love this. Kendare Blake is an amazing writer and I would gladly read more of her work.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

Book Review – The Kingdom

Title: The Kingdom

Author: Jess Rothenberg

Publisher: Henry Holt & Company

Publication date: May 28th, 2019

352 pages

4.25/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Welcome to the Kingdom… where ‘Happily Ever After’ isn’t just a promise, but a rule.

Glimmering like a jewel behind its gateway, The Kingdom is an immersive fantasy theme park where guests soar on virtual dragons, castles loom like giants, and bioengineered species–formerly extinct–roam free.

Ana is one of seven Fantasists, beautiful “princesses” engineered to make dreams come true. When she meets park employee Owen, Ana begins to experience emotions beyond her programming including, for the first time… love.

But the fairytale becomes a nightmare when Ana is accused of murdering Owen, igniting the trial of the century. Through courtroom testimony, interviews, and Ana’s memories of Owen, emerges a tale of love, lies, and cruelty–and what it truly means to be human.

Review

In the end, it does not matter what a story is about. It only matters who gets to tell it.

Jess rothenberg, the kingdom

The Kingdom is a futuristic Disney World concept where there are robotic “Princesses” that are programmed to be perfect customer service employees, basically. They are forced every day to provide cheer and perfect experiences for their guests in the park, because the outside world is so bleak and the people deserve to have a perfect time at The Kingdom. Ana is a Fantasist that comes to recognize the faults of her pretty, perfect life and starts to fight back slowly, as much as she is capable of.

Owen is a park employee that Ana meets one day. Ana falls in love with him after several interactions where Owen shows her kindness. As the reader you know there is more to his interaction with her than Ana sees in the moment, which lends a deeper level of intrigue to this already interesting human/robot relationship.

Y’all this book is DARK. I put off reading The Kingdom for awhile because the synopsis made it feel somewhat fluffy for my tastes but I was SO WRONG. Immediately you are presented with Ana in the present and the past. The chapters switch between before she is accused of Owen’s murder, and during her trial for Owen’s murder. This provides you with SOME context, but really it doesn’t give anything away as you read the book. It somewhat like the Illuminae Files in how half the chapters are structured.

Also, when I say this book is dark, I mean it is SUPER FREAKING DARK. There are themes of memory tampering, sexual harassment/assault, violence, animal torture, etc. It seems The Kingdom is meant to be a Black Mirror-esque take on Disney World and how far our society could go to create amusement parks. It also brings up an interesting discussion about what rights robots have in society and what their moral compass is.

If you are looking for a light, fun, easy read; The Kingdom may not be for you. If you want a dark, serious, thought provoking take on society and our pitfalls; definitely pick up The Kingdom. And seriously, if you watch Black Mirror, read this.

Happy reading, bookish friends!

Book Review – Merged

Title: Merged

Author: Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl

Publisher: Month9 Books

Publication date: September 17th, 2019

300 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Seven of our country’s most gifted teens will become Nobels, hosts for the implantation of brilliant Mentor minds, in an effort to accelerate human progress. 

But as the line between what’s possible and what’s right, draws ever blurrier, the teens discover everything has a cost. 

Scientists have created an evolved form of living known as Merged Consciousness, and sixteen-year-old Lake finds herself unable to merge with her Mentor. 

Lake, the Nobel for Chemistry and Orfyn, the Nobel for Art, are two from among the inaugural class of Nobels, and with the best intent and motivation. But when Stryker, the Nobel for Peace, makes them question the motivation of the scientists behind the program, their world begins to unravel. 

As the Nobels work to uncover the dark secrets of the program’s origins, everyone’s a suspect and no one can be trusted, not even the other Nobels. 

As the Mentors begin to take over the bodies and minds of the Nobels, Lake and Orfyn must find a way to regain control before they lose all semblance or memory of their former selves.

Review

**Thank you to Month9 Books, Jim Kroepfl, and Stephanie Kroepfl for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

Merged is a new novel by the author duo, who also happen to be husband and wife, Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl. Merged is about a futuristic world where scientists have discovered how to “merge” one consciousness with another. Mostly, they want to put brilliant individuals of various disciplines into 16 year olds (Nobels) with a proclivity for their topics of expertise. The merged consciousness will be able to communicate with their Nobel in their dreams. The Nobel would then continue the work left behind by the deceased genius.

Lake and Orfyn are two Nobels, Chemistry and Art respectively. They begin to notice that not everything is as it seems with the organization that has started this experiment. When other Nobels begin to suffer negative effects from the merged consciousness, they begin to investigate and unravel the plans of adults with far more power than they have.

I really enjoyed reading Merged, and I thought the plot was well conceived and well executed. Chapters are told from 3 different Nobels points of view, and then also from the Darwinians (the organization running the experiment). It was really interesting to be able to have the insider information provided by the Darwinian chapters, especially as it coincided with what the Nobels were experiencing.

My only critique is that I want MORE. No spoilers, but that ending doesn’t seem to wrap up the book well, and I desperately want to know what happens to Lake, Orfyn, and Stryker after the fact. If you are interested in science fiction, definitely go check out Merged!

Happy reading, book friends! 🙂