Blanca & Roja

Blanca & Roja by Anna-Maria McLemore is a magical-realism novel targeted toward young adults.

In the del Cisne family, every generation births two girls–one of which is destined to become a swan. Blanca, sweet and graceful, and Roja, feisty and wild, are as close as two sisters can be but they’ve also grown up as rivals. Together, they have kept the swans at bay longer than an of the del Cisne’s before them. But the swans will not wait forever and the game is about to begin.

When two boys, with troubles of their own, are drawn into the game, the rules change and the stakes are higher than ever. With four fates on the line, instead of two, will Blanca and Roja finally give in to their fate or will the fight a battle that no del Cisne has ever won before?

McLemore’s writing has always been magical and yet believable; this is why her body of work is such a great example of magical-realism. You see the magic, you feel it, and yet the world is still grounded in fiction, in reality. The genre makes the ordinary, extraordinary, which is why I love it so much.

This wasn’t my favorite book my McLemore but I liked it better than some of her others. A lot of what McLemore writes has the same themes and many of the characters have the same problems and personalities, with a few changes here. Sometimes it feels like only the “magical” element changes from book to book. So if you are looking for the familiar, then McLemore’s books are for you.

There’s a familiar fairy-tale aspect to this book. A combination of Snow White, Rose Red, Swan Lake and the Ugly Duckling. But there is also more to this book. We look at different stereotypes and the assumptions people make. Ultimately, this book is about finding the truth–the truth about oneself and understanding, accepting, other peoples the truths.

This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

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Dry

Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman is a YA fictional novel about what would happen is California literally ran out of water.

All the signs were there–rising prices, restrictions like being unable to water the lawn, take long showers or even throw water balloons–and yet no one could believe it when the State of California’s water ran dry. The “Tap-Out” wasn’t like other natural disasters, which get lots of new and media coverage, this was a slow, quiet beast that no one was prepared to handle.

When Alyssa and her family first noticed that their pipes had run dry, they did what most families did, they planned on stocking up and riding it out. Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street turns into a warzone. Neighbor against neighbor. Friends against friends. No one is safe when on the hunt for water.

As the situation escalates and help is no where in sight, Alyssa must make impossible choices to save herself and her brother before they too, turn into water zombies or worse.

This was such a crazy read. It was baffling for me to think that an entire state could run out of water and no one really knew about it. Were the politicians that successful in hiding the issue that things could get this bad. That being said, I loved how we glimpsed the one reporter who made the connection that no one would take the tap-out seriously until the bodies started adding up and because the destruction isn’t immediate and in your face, it isn’t “hot” news. It’s scary to think of how true this is.

The narration was a little weird for me at times but not necessarily in a bad way. Although this was Alyssa and her groups story, we did get side narratives that were connected in the grand scheme of things. Some of them were dark and awful and some of them were never resolved. But, I think this was purposely done to show how bad things could get and the narrative that weren’t finished, weren’t finished for a reason.

Again, what a crazy read when you really think about it. I bet a lot of people are going to buy an extra case of water when they finish this one. This book gets a high 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Fury

Fury by Rachel Vincent is the third and final book in the Menagerie series.

Pregnant and on the run with her fellow escapees, Delilah Marlow is determined to bring her baby into the world safely and free. But the odds are against them as more and more cryptids are being caught and slaughtered. Delilah, her protector and the father of her child, Gallagher, the shifters, sirens and other cryptids with her must hide their identities or risk being separated or worse.

But the noose around them seems to be tightening as mass killings pop up closer and closer to where they are hiding and of course, they are being blamed. This rag-tag family must work together to stay safe and figure out what new evil it is they are actually up against.

Will Delilah be able to bring her child safely into the world? And if so, is it a world Delilah even wants her daughter to be a part of?

I really wish I could have read the un-edited version of this story. It felt like there might have been a few sections edited out because the ending really needed another 20 pages to really flush out the conflict and it’s solution. The part of the story we wanted, the answers to those questions we had, felt really rushed and I think so much more could have been done. There were also a few unfinished plot holes that could have been solved with just a sentence here or there. The whole thing just started slow and then ended quickly and could have used a better balance.

All that being said, I did really enjoy this series. It was unique and dark; it was a world you wanted to witness but never be part of. This series was really built up in three parts. The first book set the stage, the second gave you all the brutal injustice and conflict, and the third was the resolution.

I’m glad I stuck it out with this series even if the ending left me wanting. This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Iron Flower

The Iron Flower is the second book in the Black Witch Chronicles by Laurie Forest.

Elloren Gardner and her friends were only trying to do what was right but what’s right has brought them head to head with the Gardnerian’s. The Gardnerian’s are quickly gaining power and every day it seems like a new law or rule is being enforced to pure the world of the “evil one”–non Gardnerian’s.

Elloren has found herself caught in the middle of a world on the brink of war. Her heritage as a Gardnerian and granddaughter to the Black Witch, may have bought her a certain amount of safety. But at what cost? Her friends are in danger, her family is being torn apart and her heart is weighed down by her powerlessness.

Will Elloren find the will to fight for what her heart tells her is right? Or will the brutal weight of her peoples might, suppress any hope she may have?

Wow this one was hard to summarize… with or without spoilers. Phew!

I’ve been sucked into this series. Despite the controversial reviews, I have to know what happens. So, I am here for the long haul. And I will admit, The Iron Flower sucked me in just as much as The Black Witch. I love the relationships that have been built or are building and I like that they are not easy–that there are major conflicts and hesitations. And not just the relationships between “lovers” but also the relationships between friends, enemies, allies, etc.

I’m still a little mehhh that this is a teen book. The characters feel very teen-y but boy, does a lot go down in this book. It is harsh in some respects. Genocide, ethnic cleansing, prejudices, arranged and forced marriages… those are just a few of the triggers this book will hit. But it also feels realistic to me, which is also very, very sad.

It’ll be interesting to see where this one is going. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Muse of Nightmares

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor is the sequel to YA novel, Strange the Dreamer.

We pick up right where we left off. Lazlo has learned that he is actually Mesarthim and can control their impervious metals; Sarai is dead and yet, still alive; and both of them are at the mercy of a vengeful young woman, trapped in the body of an eight year old. Minya has given Lazlo a choice, he must choose between the women he loves and the people he has sworn to protect.

Weep itself is in an uproar after the citadels fall and the confusion of finding out that not only are the Mesarthim still alive, but that their friend is one of them. Worlds that were once separate will now collide in this conclusion to Strange the Dreamer.

I thought Strange the Dreamer was a really great book. A different world from anything I’ve ever read and the story was really well told. Muse of Nightmares was equally as good, but I think there was a different feel, a different dynamic to it. There was this desperation throughout that didn’t really exist in the first book. The first book was full of revelation and discovery, magic and dreams. This one was shot through with conflict and frustration, despair and tension. And yet the two stories still fit together really well.

I wasn’t sure I was going to like the sister’s story in this one, but ultimately, I think it added another layer to the story and allowed it to progress. If the story were only about Lazlo and Sarai and Minya’s control over them, well, it would have been a novella instead of a sequel.

My only negative comment about the book, was that it ended too cleanly for me. For a book that was filled with fear and desperation from it’s characters, I expected a bit more trauma at the end. I don’t know if that makes sense but I felt like just about everyone got their happy ending and although that is nice sometimes, I would have liked a little more drama.

Taylor did a great job building these worlds. This one gets a high 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Vengeful

Vengeful by V.E. Schwab is the sequel to Vicious Schwab’s first adult novel.

EO’s or Extra Ordinary’s exist. They are people who have died or have had near death experiences but wake up different–powerful. EO’s like Sydney can raise the dead, like Eli can heal, like June can shapeshift, they can ruin, shield, destroy and save. And all of them are being hunted.

When Sydney raised Victor from the dead, he didn’t come back entirely himself. His powers are running hot and he is running out of time. Now Victor, Sydney, Mitch and Dol are looking for a cure while on the run from a secret sect of the government that wants to capture all EO’s.

What is to become of Victor? Will all the EO’s have to run forever? And what will happen when faces from the past, surface?

I have to admit, this story probably deserves more than 3.5 stars but I just couldn’t get as sucked in as I feel like I should have because I could barely remember what happened in Vicious. This is totally my fault, I should have re-read the first book or at the very least searched for a good synopsis but I didn’t and so I didn’t have all the fun details that were probably in the first book and would have made this one that much more enjoyable. But I did enjoy the book, I just kept having those “oh yeaaa” moments, that sort of slowed my progress. This was also really, really hard to summarize, which again, tells you something.

I did really like the story behind this world. The idea that people who almost die might come back as something more then they were, isn’t a new concept but Schwab really writes it in a new way. And Victor is such an interesting character. He’s not a good guy but he’s not all bad either. I remember really liking him in the first book.

That’s really all I have for this one. A good read, but definitely read the two back to back–you won’t be sorry. This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kirsten White is a young adult retelling of the classic Frankenstein told from the perspective of Elizabeth Frankenstein, an orphan taken in by the Frankenstein’s as a young girl.

Elizabeth Lavenza was an abused orphan until she was taken in by the Frankenstein family as a companion for their strange, all-but genius, son Victor. In Victor, Elizabeth finds a safe haven and salvation from lonely hunger of her childhood and she will do anything to stay in his good graces. Soon the two are inseparable. Elizabeth teaches Victor to control his emotions and in return he keeps her safe.

That is until his studies takes him away from her. Left without news for months, Elizabeth is determined to track down her Victor. But what she finds is depravity, death and mystery. Elizabeth must use all her wits to protect Victor from societies wrath but who is she really protecting and at what cost?

I really enjoyed this one. White really knows how to spin a tale and I love it! It’s been a long, long time since I’ve read Frankenstein but this was definitely a new take on the story. One of the things I really liked was that I thought the story was heading in one direction and about two-thirds of the way through, it went a completely different way than I was thinking and it was better for it.

Elizabeth and “evil” Victor really make this story. Elizabeth’s mind, her ability to adapt to any situation, makes her such an interesting character and although there is supposed to be this sort of discovery of her true self, I felt that she was extremely self-aware. And the moment when Victor drops all of his carefully learned pretenses, he just became this dark sociopath and the story itself got darker for it.

I really enjoyed this retelling. Keep ’em coming White! This one gets 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-