Permanent Record Review

Permanent Record Review

By Mary H.K. Choi

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 

Print Length: 400 pg. 

Release Year: 2019

Genre: Contemporary Young Adult

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.45

Available on Amazon, B&N, and Libby

After a year of college, Pablo is working at his local twenty-four-hour deli, selling overpriced snacks to brownstone yuppies. He’s dodging calls from the student loan office and he has no idea what his next move is.

Leanna Smart’s life so far has been nothing but success. Age eight: Disney Mouseketeer; Age fifteen: first #1 single on the US pop chart; Age seventeen, *tenth* #1 single; and now, at Age nineteen…life is a queasy blur of private planes, weird hotel rooms, and strangers asking for selfies on the street.

When Leanna and Pab randomly meet at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn, they both know they can’t be together forever. So, they keep things on the down-low and off Instagram for as long as they can. But it takes about three seconds before the world finds out… (Goodreads)

Permanent Record is one of those books you pick up cause its absolutely gorgeous and keep cause it’s just as good. I had mixed feelings going into, having had mixed feelings when going into Choi’s previous book Emergency Contact. When I first read Emergency Contact, I adored it; but the second time I picked it up not so much. So I was justifiably scared about picking up Permanent Record, but in the end, it worked out. 

Choi writes relatable romance with genuine issues that young couples often face. Permanent Record steps a bit farther away from most peoples reality by being a romance between a multifaceted pop star and once-internet-viral college drop-out. In a way, this book plays on many peoples fantasies of somehow running into a celebrity and falling in love. But, regardless of the circumstances of the romance, it is still very relatable and realistic. Pablo, our protagonist, really likes Leanna (his popstar love interest) but is embarrassed by his own shortcomings as a college drop out. He can’t communicate this to her and feels his only option is to lie. This critical failure in communication causes an invisible wall between them, that is only fortified with the struggles that come with dating someone in Leanna’s field of work. Choi manages to write this outlandish and rare situation in a very relatable and easy to understand manner, making it just as easy to relate to Leanna as it is to Pablo. 

Overall, the writing in the book is standard for YA contemporary, but as mentioned above, extra points to the author for being able to craft such relatable character even when they have less-than-relatable circumstances. In the end, I found that I enjoyed this book quite a bit, even more than its predecessor. If this trend continues, I have high hopes for Choi’s next book (which I believe is titled Yolk).

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Ruinsong Review

Ruinsong Review

By Julia Ember

Publisher: Darrar, Straus, and Giroux

Print Length: 368 pages

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Release Date November 24th 2020

Available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Special thanks to Macmillan for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Her voice was her prison…

Now it’s her weapon.

In a world where magic is sung, a powerful mage named Cadence has been forced to torture her country’s disgraced nobility at her ruthless queen’s bidding.

But when she is reunited with her childhood friend, a noblewoman with ties to the underground rebellion, she must finally make a choice: Take a stand to free their country from oppression, or follow in the queen’s footsteps and become a monster herself. (Goodreads)

Ruinsong is a delightfully dark and sapphic fantasy retelling of Phantom of the Opera that boast exceptional writing and a unique take on magic. This book is refreshingly queer and uses every page to its advantage. I devoured this book, and foresee myself wanting to do so again. 

I picked up this book because of its gorgeous cover and promise of a sapphic relationship. The latter is delivered and then some, as the author throughs in world-building details that illustrate a world more accepting (in some, but not all) of queerness. As a queer individual, I was b=both charmed and delighted at even the smallest of details representing under-represented communities. The sapphic nature of the book was particularly refreshing, do to the tendency of gay male relationships being seemingly favoured in publishing. The relationship is a slow-burn enemies-to-lover sort of romance, which, on its own, is swoon-worthy. Throw in two girls, both powerful in their own right, rebelling against the injustice of the crown… Well, you get a damn good book.

This book is a relatively short read, but for what it lacks in page count, it makes up with it’ well-crafted world. Not a single detail of this book is unnecessary, as every page is used wisely. We get a glimpse into a world that is so well developed it may as well be real. While reading this book, you are transported into this world, being slowly destroyed by a tortuous dictator, and you see the contrast of the palace and city. 

The only criticism I can offer is in regards to the villain of the book. While she is captivating, her motivations and methods of evil aren’t particularly unique. Regardless, she still manages to be terrifying, holding her power with elegance. Even when she cracks, she does so with a rare sort of grace. 

The magic system in this book is one of its strongest aspects. There are defined limits and defining aspects of power. The decision to make the magic music-based is truly genius, and its application is so well done. 

I fully intend on acquiring a physical copy of this book, because I thoroughly enjoyed it and see myself wanting to reread it. I recommend this book to anyone who loves dark fantasy and overthrowing tyrannical matriarchies.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

A Court of Wings and Ruin Review

A Court of Wings and Ruin Review

By  Sarah J. Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Print Length: 699 pages

Release Year: 2017

Genre: New Adult, Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.44

Available on Amazon, B&N, and Libby

Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all. (Goodreads)

While I totally love the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, A Court of Wings and Ruin was honestly the hardest for me to get through. I initially began reading it early in the year only to put it down around chapter thirty-something. Later in the year, I picked it back up, this time with the intent of finishing it. I don’t think it was an issue of as to whether I was going to finish it, but when. With Maas’ writing, I tend to get so utterly engulfed in what’s going on that I sometimes have to set the book down solely to recover emotionally from the events of the story. And let me tell you, A Court of Wings and Ruin is an intense read that had me going through a rollercoaster of emotions. By the end of the book, I had laughed and sobbed. It was simply… a lot. 

A Court of Thorns and Roses is one of those series that is book bad and good in ways that are almost impossible for me to articulate. You can spend a lot of time picking them apart, but you can spend just as much time praising them. Really, I can’t tell you where this series is for you, because of how polarizing it is. All I can say is that its 1000% for me. 

Read the first book, if you enjoy it, or at the very least have mixed feeling read the second. If you like the second you are guaranteed to like the third.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Objective Ratings

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Goblin King Review

Goblin King Review

By Kara Barbieri

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Print Length: 320 pages

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Release Date: November 17, 2020

Available on Amazon and B&N

Special thanks to Netgalley and Wednesday Books for providing me with an ARC.

The Hunt is over, but the War has just begun.

Against all odds, Janneke has survived the Hunt for the Stag–but all good things come with a cost. Lydian might be dead, but he took the Stag with him. Janneke now holds the mantle, while Soren, now her equal in every way, has become the new Erlking. Janneke’s powers as the new Stag has brought along haunting visions of a world thrown into chaos and the ghost of Lydian taunts her with the riddles he spoke of when he was alive.

When Janneke discovers the truth of Lydian and his madness, she’s forced to see her tormentor in a different light for the first time. The world they know is dying and Lydian may have been the only person with the key to saving it. (Goodreads)

Goblin King is a worthy sequel to White Stag. The book follows a very similar format of its predecessor, Goblin King includes a fair amount of action, but is ultimately an examination of emotion and healing. This book is much more character-driven than many other fantasy books. Still, it excels at integrating fantastical elements in a story that is ultimately the story of a young woman healing. 

The plot of the book is considerably formulaic and is very reminiscent of the first book. The characters head out on a grand journey with high stakes, they get quite beaten up, but they ultimately pull through. The action is entertaining enough, but the story isn’t really about the sheer brutality of goblin-kind. Barbieri presents a fantastical book about healing from significant trauma, heavily inspired by her own struggles. For readers who’ve gone through similar struggles, there is a specific power in being able to see yourself reflected in a powerful character such as the protagonist Janneke.

The writing overall is very well done. There is evident growth in the authors writing since her first book, and this book, while not having quite the bite as the first, is the better written of the two. The plot is straightforward and well-paced, and the underlying message is just as evident. 

For those who have read White Stag, and those who are fans of Norse Mythology, this is a worthwhile read. There is a handful of trigger warnings, so be sure to research that beforehand. As mentioned above, this book is heavily about healing and maybe an intensely emotional read for some.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Deal with the Elf King Review

A Deal with the Elf King Review

By Elise Kova

Publisher: Silver Wing Press

Print Length: 338 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, New Adult

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.99

Available on Amazon

Special thanks to Elise Kova for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

The elves come for two things: war and wives. In both cases, they come for death.

Three-thousand years ago, humans were hunted by powerful races with wild magic until the treaty was formed. Now, for centuries, the elves have taken a young woman from Luella’s village to be their Human Queen.

To be chosen is seen as a mark of death by the townsfolk. A mark nineteen-year-old Luella is grateful to have escaped as a girl. Instead, she’s dedicated her life to studying herbology and becoming the town’s only healer.

That is, until the Elf King unexpectedly arrives… for her.

Everything Luella had thought she’d known about her life, and herself, was a lie. Taken to a land filled with wild magic, Luella is forced to be the new queen to a cold yet blisteringly handsome Elf King. Once there, she learns about a dying world that only she can save.

The magical land of Midscape pulls on one corner of her heart, her home and people tug on another… but what will truly break her is a passion she never wanted. (Goodreads)

My heart is not okay.

I’m at a point in my reading journey that if you tell me a book even vaguely resembles A Court of Thorns and Roses, I’ll shamelessly pick it up. When I saw Elise Kova, who is one of my most favourite writers, was coming out with a book with the words “[…] for fans of A Court of Thorns and Roses[…]” I was ecstatic. 

And when the opportunity arose for me to apply for an ARC… well, can you blame me? And let me tell you, I devoured it. Devoured it. I literally had to delay this review for two days cause I needed to recover from reading this book emotionally. 

Kova is definitely a master of making her readers overwhelmed with anticipation. She is one of the few authors that can have me so enraptured that I forget to breathe. I don’t know how many times I had to take a break, even over the smallest developments. This book, in particular, throws you headfirst into the story, not giving you time to prepare for the coming events. You know how the book ends, but the journey is what makes it worth it. Kova is undeniably talented when it comes to making you fall in love with her characters quickly, making it impossible to complain about the predictive nature of her writing. It’s one thing to know what is going to happen, but another to actually watch it unfold with all the excellent character development and swoon-worthy relationship development. 

Picking up this book, you can tell A Deal with the Elf King is a passion project. As a writer and reader, you can feel the love that went into this story. It was written as an escape and subsequently worked very well in letting the reader escape as well. This book, while having essential themes, A Deal with the Elf King, manages to be a feel-good read; something you can snuggle under the blankets and escape with. 

I’m inclined to call it a guilty pleasure, but the thing is: I’m not guilty whatsoever. 

Ms. Kova, if you happen to stumble upon this, let me tell you: if you write it I’m buying it. 

And you should too. There really isn’t anything to complain about with this book. As mentioned, the romance is absolutely swoon-worthy, and the magical world-building is fun and does its job well. These books aren’t hard to read, and that’s what makes it so wonderful. All the fun of fantasy without the overwhelming amounts of world-building information. 

I truly recommend checking out this book, whether it be for a little escapism, or just to have something to read. And while you’re at it, check out other works by the author as well.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Faithless Hawk Review

The Faithless Hawk Review

By Margaret Owen

Publisher: Henry Holt & Company

Print Length: 400 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.43

Available on Amazon, B&N, Libby (availability may vary by region)

As the new chieftain of the Crows, Fie knows better than to expect a royal to keep his word. Still she’s hopeful that Prince Jasimir will fulfill his oath to protect her fellow Crows. But then black smoke fills the sky, signaling the death of King Surimir and the beginning of Queen Rhusana’s ruthless bid for the throne.

Queen Rhusana wins popular support by waging a brutal campaign against the Crows, blaming them for the poisonous plague that wracks the nation.

A desperate Fie clings onto a prophecy that a long-forgotten god will return and provide a cure to the plague. Fie must team up with old friends? and an old flame? to track down a dead god and save her people. (Goodreads)

Special thanks to Henry Holt for providing with an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Faithless Hawk is the conclusion to one of the best duologies I’ve ever read. If you haven’t read the first book in the duology, The Merciful Crow,  you should definitely do so as it is one of the most unique and well done young adults books I’ve read in a long while. This series is a good entry point for many fantasy readers, as it definitely teaches you to keep track of certain details; because while the books look short they are packed with world-building. For those who have read The Merciful Crow you may even find yourself needing to revisit it before, or after, reading its sequel. There is so much that can be missed, that I’m sure when I pick up this series again I’ll discover something I didn’t the first time. 

The writing continues to be exceptional, and a true experience to read as the stylization enhances the reading experience. The characters, the world, all of its is so well realized that it’s hard to believe this story fits into two relatively thin books. When I read the first book I noticed there was definitely a heavy focus on world-building, and while this book achieves a lot in that realm, this sequel definitely takes its time to further delve into its characters. I found myself much more emotionally invested in what happened to the characters and certain events held more weight as a result. It’d be interesting to see if this changes how I view the characters in the first book when I get a chance to reread it (if you haven’t already noticed, I definitely plan on rereading this series.)

While reading, its easy to become absolutely engrossed in what is happening, the book is quite hard to put down. I recommend for readers looking for a shorter fantasy series, this one 100 times! You really won’t regret it. And for younger readers, or those who just aren’t used to fantasy this book is definitely a good gateway book into the broader genre.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

A Court of Mist and Fury Review

A Court of Mist and Fury Review

By Sarah J. Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Print Length: 626 pages

Release Year: 2016

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Romance

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.64

Available on Amazon, B&N and check your local library/Libby

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights. (Goodreads)

Okay, I’m going to be completely honest… I’m total Maas trash. I’m absolutely in love with the A Court of Thorns and Roses series and will accept any opinions that follow. This is a series I can read over and over again. 

A Court of Mist and Fury marks A Court of Thorns and Roses official departure from the retelling-realm as it pushes the series in its own unique direction. Now our protagonist is a resident of the fairy realms and we follow her as she becomes a more reliable narrator as she becomes more knowledgeable of the world around her. We watch a sort of coming-to-self story with relativity relatable internal struggles (of course, no matter how abstract you look at them some of the experiences are not relatable.)

Oh.. and Rhysand. He’s annoyingly perfect, but let’s just be real, he’s so damn loveable. He still manages to make my queer heart swoon. 

You can’t talk about A Court of Mist and Fury without mentioning the covet-worthy friend circle depicted throughout. Maas does such a good job creating a diverse (albeit racially stagnant) group who are truly complementary to each other. With witty banter, realistic disagreements, and a tight knit found-family the characters are to die for. 
You can already tell that I love this series and at some point, I plan on writing an in-depth analysis of the original trilogy. Until them, I’m going to be (im)patiently waiting for the upcoming A Court of Silver Flames.

Subjective Rating

Objective Rating

Final Rating

White Stag Review

White Stag Review

By Kara Barbieri

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Print Length: 368 pages

Release Year: 2019

Genre: New Adult Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.70

Available on Amazon, B&N, and be sure to check your local library/Libby

As the last child in a family of daughters, seventeen-year-old Janneke was raised to be the male heir. While her sisters were becoming wives and mothers, she was taught to hunt, track, and fight. On the day her village was burned to the ground, Janneke—as the only survivor—was taken captive by the malicious Lydian and eventually sent to work for his nephew Soren.

Janneke’s survival in the court of merciless monsters has come at the cost of her connection to the human world. And when the Goblin King’s death ignites an ancient hunt for the next king, Soren senses an opportunity for her to finally fully accept the ways of the brutal Permafrost. But every action he takes to bring her deeper into his world only shows him that a little humanity isn’t bad—especially when it comes to those you care about.

Through every battle they survive, Janneke’s loyalty to Soren deepens. After dangerous truths are revealed, Janneke must choose between holding on or letting go of her last connections to a world she no longer belongs to. She must make the right choice to save the only thing keeping both worlds from crumbling. (Goodreads)

This review was previously published on my personal website crystinaluna.com

Considering I am not super acquainted with fantasy it probably isn’t surprising that I found the concept of this book considerably unique and subsequently interesting. And though I must admit I don’t think the writing is the best, what it achieved is admirable. Aspects of the story aren’t outright told and action scenes are handled well and are easy to follow. 

Arguably, poor writing can be excused due to the fact that this is the writer’s debut novel. And by no means is the writing horrible, it just shows that this writer still has some growth ahead of them and honestly don’t we all? My main problems with the story come from the characters and the fact that they often come off as two dimensional with very basic motivations. The romantic subplot comes off as undeniably forced and is unnecessary to the story. The romantic subplot could have been reduced to a platonic relationship and the dynamic between the characters would have remained largely unchanged.  

For a debut novel, this book is surprisingly well-done. The author definitely has talent, though she definitely has room for growth (which makes me all the more excited for her future works. In the end, I gave this book a primarily subjective rating heavily due to my relatively low expectations with not only book but the genre. In the end, I was left with an appreciation for higher fantasy I did not prior have. Though I am curious about how my opinion will change as I become more acquainted with similar storylines.

After Re-reading in 2020

My general opinions of this book haven’t really changed, even now that I am much more acquainted with fantasy than I was a year ago. I’m looking forward to the upcoming sequel.

Subjective Rating

Objective Rating

Final Rating