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-

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-

Kingdom of Ash

Kingdom of Ash is the 7th and final book in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas.

In this final book, we pick up where we left off. Our allies have been thrown to the four corners of this world, all working in their own ways, toward defeating Erawan and bringing about a better world. But with Aelin Maeve’s prisoner, the missing third key and an army sweeping the land, will there be anything left to save?

And we did it! We reached the end of this massive fantasy series. That in itself is an accomplishment. Way to go Maas! And double kudos for keeping to a deadline and not leaving us hanging forever.

Ultimately, I enjoyed this book. It wrapped up everything that I wanted to see and there were no glaring threads left hanging. The first 3-4 books will still be my favorite but I was impressed that these last books were able to keep everything straight and actually address each plotline, especially with so many characters. Because goodness, there were so many characters!

**Potentially spoiler-esq but not really** So many pairings and I didn’t know how Maas was going to be able to end this series with any, let along all of them intact. I swear, after the ending of the last ACOTAR book, which, lets be honest, was a magical ending where everyone lives happily ever after… I really, really thought we were in for a hell of a lot more heartbreak here. I also enjoyed the nod to ACOTAR toward the end there.

Did anyone else feel like the writing in this one, read a little different? Maybe it was just me but something read a little differently then the other books in the series. I can’t put my finger on it right now.

Many will be sad to see Aelin and her snarky spark go but I think Maas did a good job of ending this series and satisfying fans who stuck with it until the end. 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-

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-

Wildcard

Wildcard by Marie Lu is the sequel and conclusion to Lu’s Warcross.

Emika Chen only made it out of the Warcross Championships with her mind in tact by the skin of her teeth. Now that Hideo’s algorithm has been uploaded to everyone using the NeuroLink, she has been left with only a few allies.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s flawed plan to keep evil from the world, Emika must put aside her own safety and risk everything to save… everyone. Can she stop the Blackcoats and Zero from taking over the NeuroLink? Can she destroy the algorithm and give everyone back their freewill? And finally, will she be able to bring Hideo back from the ledge that led him to this course of action?

Well, I will say off the bat that I wasn’t as impressed with Wildcard as I was with Warcross. I just couldn’t get into the story as easily as I did the first one. Warcross sucked me in and I couldn’t wait to learn more. But there was just something missing here for me.

A major part of what was missing for me was the relationships. I felt like we built up these really great characters, who had dynamic relationships, in the first book but they just weren’t as strong in the second. Emika was a lot weaker and not nearly as interesting as before. Tramaine was probably my favorite character in this one actually.

That being said, I did love this world of virtual reality. I think Lu did a fabulous job building a world where technology is literally in every part of our lives. Makes you think about where we are heading. And I just loved the quote that once technology has been created that you can’t un-make it. This is very true.

I did also like the twist. I sort of saw it coming with the various hints the author put in, but it was still a neat little surprise. I also like that things were wrapped up in a way that we suspected what would happen but weren’t actually told.

This duology kept me entertained. Warcross was stellar but Wildcard was only so-so. I hope we see more of these virtual reality type fiction books in the future–and ones as well built as this one. This book gets 3 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-