The Legend of Akikumo Review

The Legend of Akikumo Review

By Dani Hoots

Publisher: Fox Tales

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Release Date: September 15 2020

Available for pre-order on Amazon

Special thanks to Foxtales Press for providing me with an ARC.

Ketsueki would give anything to find out why her mentor Akikumo, the last wolf in Japan, abandoned her. He left her with other kitsune at the Inari Shrine, but she doesn’t fit in. And now the other kitsune are bullying her and saying Akikumo is dead.

After causing trouble for the hundredth time, the Inari, instead of punishing her, has given Ketsueki a task: she must find out what happened to Akikumo. She quickly agrees, not realizing the delinquent son of the shrine’s head priest must accompany her.

Will Ketsueki be able to make peace with a human? Or will her years of resentment make this partnership impossible? (Goodreads)

Okay, let’s start with the positives of this book: the cover is absolutely gorgeous. It was what brought me into this, at least the primary thing that did. The second was the concept, it’s an interesting concept, one I’d generally be interested in reading. 

The only thing was… this book is bad. Like, really bad. It was almost a herculean task to get through this one. The writing was very inconsistent and the writing told much more than showed. The sentences were stifled by their poor grammar usage and the excessive use of Japanese words throughout this English book. That wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, especially with words that are commonly used in English, such as katana, but words that otherwise would have been translated if this was a translated piece were left in this book. Words with easy translations, such as “baka.”

Honestly, this book reads like a bad anime fan-fiction. The book definitely seems to romanticize Japanese culture in a short-sighted matter. This book just isn’t worth the time.

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Otherworld Review

Otherworld Review

By Jason Segel, Kirsten Miller

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Print Length: 355 pg

Release Year: 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Avg. Goodreads Rating:  3.66

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

The company says Otherworld is amazing — like nothing you’ve ever seen before. They say it’s addictive — that you’ll want to stay forever. They promise Otherworld will make all your dreams come true.

Simon thought Otherworld was a game. Turns out he knew nothing. Otherworld is the next phase of reality. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted.

And it’s about to change humanity forever.

Welcome to the Otherworld. No one could have seen it coming. (Goodreads)

Oh goodness, this book. 

First of all, I have to give this book credit, it is not what I expected. My first impression of it was that it would be sort of similar to Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, which just so happens to be one of my favourite books. This was enough to make me buy this book because I figured even if it wasn’t as good as Ready Player One I would hopefully find it enjoyable. Let me tell you now: I didn’t. 

The one good thing I remember about this book is that I was surprised by the direction it took with the story’s concept. Simply based off my first impression the plot was not what I expected it to be. Sadly, this fact didn’t save the book from being unpleasant to me. 
Mainly, I did not like the main character. I didn’t like the secondary character. The only character I liked in this book was a background character that would eventually end up dead, and even their death wasn’t impactful to me. Additionally, I found the motivations of both the antagonist and the protagonist to be either dumb, confusing, or some mixture of both. In the end, it was the characters that forced me to give this book a low review.

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The Hunger Games, Revisited, Review

The Hunger Games, Revisited, Review

By Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Print Length: 374 pages

Release Year: 2008

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.33

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

WINNING MEANS FAME AND FORTUNE.

LOSING MEANS CERTAIN DEATH.

THE HUNGER GAMES HAVE BEGUN. . . .

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and once girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weight survival against humanity and life against love. (Goodreads)

In a post-civil war United States now called Panem, a battle royale is held among 24 children between the ages of 12-18, chosen in pairs at random from twelve districts. The titular Hunger Games is used as a form of propaganda to remind the citizens of Panem what would happen if they revolt against the countries capital. When a young woman named Katniss finds herself in the arena she is forced to make some hard decisions in order to survive.

When I first read the Hunger Games I was starting middle school and preteen me loved it! Me now– who is not only an adult but a writer– found the book mediocre at best. My primary complaint, which seems to be common, is regarding the protagonist Katniss Everdeen. While rereading the book I found it hard to understand her and her overall personality. It seems as though her personality changes for the convenience of the plot. Though acting differently was crucial for her survival, her mental commentary was inconsistent in its representation of her true personality. She seems to constantly change her mind for the sole purpose of progressing the plot when it starts to fall a little short. Additionally, the use of dues ex machina was often obvious, and could leave the reader thinking: Well that was convenient. 

I have to give the book credit, though, for being a good battle royale. It introduced many to the concept for better or for worse, as well as sparking a mass interest in YA fiction and dystopian settings. Additionally, the world is well developed and even with the relatively minimal introduction, it is easy to understand. Part of this may as well be due to the fact that Panem is a post-civil war United States– this fact may not always be obvious to younger readers. Character-wise, secondary characters were handled very well and were well written as well as consistent. In fact, I can’t help but believe the book would be overall better if it had been written in some interaction of the third person. 

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The Rise of Kyoshi Review

The Rise of Kyoshi Review

By F.C. Yee, Michael Dante DiMartino

Publisher: Amulet Books

Print Length: 442 pages

Release Year: 2019

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.49

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

F. C. Yee’s The Rise of Kyoshi delves into the story of Kyoshi, the Earth Kingdom–born Avatar. The longest-living Avatar in this beloved world’s history, Kyoshi established the brave and respected Kyoshi Warriors, but also founded the secretive Dai Li, which led to the corruption, decline, and fall of her own nation. The first of two novels based on Kyoshi, The Rise of Kyoshi maps her journey from a girl of humble origins to the merciless pursuer of justice who is still feared and admired centuries after she became the Avatar. (Goodreads)

If you haven’t heard of this book, or only have recently, don’t worry. I don’t blame you. Personally I found this book late 2019 while browsing the Young Adult section of Barnes and Noble. At first, I couldn’t believe my eyes, then I was kicking myself– ashamed to not have known of its existence. I bought the book then and there, knowing it was a must-have for my collection. 

I’ve read this book twice now and was even at my local B&N bright and early for the recent release of the sequel The Shadow of Kyoshi. I thoroughly enjoyed this book both times I read it and definitely see myself reading it many more times (much like the way I rewatch Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra.) With every read, I notice more and more details that add to this vibrant world and its lore. I find myself falling deeper in love with a series that already has a permanent place in my heart. 

The Rise of Kyoshi is a must-read for fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender as it more closely examines the fan favourite past life of Aang. As mentioned above, it only adds to the rich lore of this world, expanding on its histories and people. It includes themes not thoroughly explored in previous instalments in the franchise and in many ways is more accessible than the comics (which, if possible, I recommend looking into as well.)

The only downside to this book lies in the action. At times it seems a bit slow and the fighting described is difficult to understand and subsequently follow. When it comes to the descriptions of bending, I find myself being lax on the author. As a writer myself, I can’t help but imagine how difficult it must have been to describe something so well-suited for more visual formats. 

I wholeheartedly recommend this book. I can’t recommend it enough. Like, really, go get this book because you don’t know what you’re missing out on. 

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Girls of Paper and Fire Review

Girls of Paper and Fire Review

By Natasha Ngan

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books

Print Length: 385

Release Year: 2018

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.82

Available on Amazon, B&N, or you local library/ Libby

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge. (Goodreads)

This review was originally published on my personal blog (crystinaluna.com)

It’s been a while since I’ve read this book, and though my memory of it is beginning to fade I still remember it fondly. It was the first book I had read in a while that I really enjoyed, and was one of the first fantasy books I’ve enjoyed in a few years. I’ve never really been a huge fan of fantasy (until recently), but yet this book had me utterly enthralled in the world. So much so, there were times it overwhelmed me and I was forced to set the book down for a short time. 

There are many great things about the book, but what made it stand out to me (other than the LGBT representation) was the exceptional world-building. I found the caste system in this book particularly interesting, with its heavy ties to species dictating the hierarchy. An allegory for race, that was inclusive and relatable to all readers. The real surprise was how well-developed and easy to understand it was upon first reading. It was easy to catch on the customs of this society without the book becoming lengthy to the point of absurdity. YA has a reputation for underdeveloped world building, the focus often put on the characters and the situation. While this book is very character heavy, it does a very good job of creating a realistic and understandable world. Not so fantastic that it’s unimaginable, but fantastic enough to allow the reader to escape the clutches of reality. The only downside is, especially at the beginning, the story seemed very info-dumpy. After reading the first few chapters I found my brain a little tired from absorbing so much. Regardless, I enjoyed the world.

The true downside of the story, for me, was the characters. They were not bad, in the sense that I enjoyed reading about them, but they were not the best. The protagonist particularly often came off as inconsistent. She constantly went back and forth between being empowering and annoying in her indecisiveness. To be entirely honest, I found her love interest far more interesting, with a backstory more prone to action and with a certain amount of finality in her decisions and fate. Lei, the protagonist, on the other hand, lacked this. And though I understand why the author chose to focus the story on her, I struggled to relate to her constantly going back and forth between deciding to try to live happily and rebel. It is not an easy decision, I understand, but her belief that she had no hope of escaping her reality made her indecisiveness all the more annoying.

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Kind of a Big Deal Review

Kind of a Big Deal Review

By Shannon Hale

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Print Length: 304 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fantasy

Available for pre-order on Amazon and B&N

Special thanks to NetGalley and MacMillan/Roaring Brook Press for providing me with an ARC.

Josie Pie was born to be a star. So she dropped out of high school to pursue her Broadway dreams, but after months of failed auditions, she finds herself broke, beaten-down . . . and nannying in Missoula, Montana. Lonely and directionless, Josie checks out the local bookstore, looking for the ultimate escape.

And escape she does. Literally. She falls into the plots of her books, including a bodice ripper, a dystopian thriller, a YA romance, and more, all filled with swoony co-stars who just make her yearn to repair things with the boyfriend she left behind in NYC.

As her reality begins to unravel, what starts as a welcome break from her lackluster life soon begins to feel like a stifling nightmare—but is it too late for Josie to get back to the real world? (Goodreads)

Kind of A Big Deal is a short entertaining read that plays on the idea of books being a getaway for faraway fantastical worlds. It’s a fun concept that I’m sure every reader has daydreamed about but in a book form. Though, from my point of view, this story probably would have benefitted from being released in another form, such as a television series or film. In the form of a book, the effect of being transported into all these different stories fall short as the author doesn’t do the best job distinguishing the transitions even with the use of chapter breaks. 

Overall, the writing is lacklustre. The style of writing is stagnant throughout the book, which wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that some of the sections are meant to be from other fictional books. The writing is simple, which is good for a quick read but not much else. 

Honestly, for me, this book is one of those you pick up for a short bit of fun. It’s a way to break up the monotony of ones TBR with a quick and relatively lighthearted contemporary that can be read in one sitting. Will you read it more than once? Likely not. Will you regret reading it? Probably not.

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Ironspark Review

Ironspark Review

By C.M. McGuire

Publisher: Swoon Reads

Print Length: 336 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBT

Available for pre-order on Amazon and B&N

Special thanks to Netgalley and Macmillan/Swoon Reads for providing me with an ARC.

For the past nine years, ever since a bunch of those evil Tinkerbells abducted her mother, cursed her father, and forced her family into hiding, Bryn has devoted herself to learning everything she can about killing the Fae. Now it’s time to put those lessons to use.

Then the Court Fae finally show up, and Bryn realizes she can’t handle this on her own. Thankfully, three friends offer to help: Gwen, a kindhearted water witch; Dom, a new foster kid pulled into her world; and Jasika, a schoolmate with her own grudge against the Fae.

But trust is hard-won, and what little Bryn has gained is put to the test when she uncovers a book of Fae magic that belonged to her mother. With the Fae threat mounting every day, Bryn must choose between faith in her friends and power from a magic that could threaten her very humanity. (Goodreads)

Ironspark is a fun adventure story with action at every turn. It’s a refreshing addition to the fae-centric fantasy sub-genre of YA, with it being heavily inspired by the more traditional fairy lore. It includes some creatures we don’t often read about in modern YA fantasy, primarily due to the fact that they aren’t the ethereal beauties that are unseelie fae nor are they the complete terrors lurking in the deep forest. Additionally the depiction of magic is evidently inspired by real-life practices and the fantastical depiction we often get.  

For romance lovers, this book promises a queer love triangle, and while it delivers the romance often takes the backseat to the action. Which is a bit refreshing in itself as romance tends to overshadow the overarching plot. As a result, though, the romance tends to feel less real, but this book isn’t meant to be a romance; hence in my opinion it’s action focused tendencies are warrented. Additionally, this book includes a rarely represented group, with the character Dom being canonically asexual. The way his asexuality is decribed in the book is probably one of the more realistic versions I’ve ever read and therefore am grateful for. 

The book ends in such a way as to set up a sequel with the potential to have an even more riveting adventure, this time in the fae-lands. I’m interested to see more of this author’s depiction of the fairy world because of their already quite traditional rendition of the fae-folk.

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Bone Crier’s Moon Review

Bone Crier’s Moon Review

By Kathryn Purdie

Publisher: Kathrine Tegen Books

Print Length: 480 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.79

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

Bone ​Criers have a sacred duty. They alone can keep the dead from preying on the living. But their power to ferry the spirits of the dead into goddess Elara’s Night Heavens or Tyrus’s Underworld comes from sacrifice. The gods demand a promise of dedication. And that promise comes at the cost of the Bone Criers’ one true love.

Ailesse has been prepared since birth to become the matriarch of the Bone Criers, a mysterious famille of women who use strengths drawn from animal bones to ferry dead souls. But first she must complete her rite of passage and kill the boy she’s also destined to love.

Bastien’s father was slain by a Bone Crier and he’s been seeking revenge ever since. Yet when he finally captures one, his vengeance will have to wait. Ailesse’s ritual has begun and now their fates are entwined—in life and in death.

Sabine has never had the stomach for the Bone Criers’ work. But when her best friend Ailesse is taken captive, Sabine will do whatever it takes to save her, even if it means defying their traditions—and their matriarch—to break the bond between Ailesse and Bastien. Before they all die. (Goodreads)

For me, this was one of those books that you by not because you know what it’s about and curious about it, but because the title is cool and the cover is gorgeous. As I’m starting to do more and more, I went into this book not knowing what to expect, and I don’t regret it whatsoever. I ended deeply enjoying this book, and can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel. 

This book plays on the whole enemies to lover trope in an interesting way. Setting up a predictable circumstance only for it twist in another direction as the book comes to a close. I found myself so emotionally involved in what was going on that every twist and turn was made so much more exciting (even in retrospect I should have seen so many of them coming). 

The book includes such interesting mythologies and a magic system unique to itself. There is definitely a trigger warning for those sensitive to the literary deception of animal sacrifices, but I personally believe the author handled it quite tastefully. The system of belief is what really makes this book shine as it is quite unique and refreshing, though at times a little underdeveloped. It being underdeveloped may likely be a result of the characters own lack of understanding regarding it though, something I hope to see remedied in the sequel. 

The female relationships depicted in the book was quite refreshing with its depiction of sisterhood and familial bonds. The only thing I would ask to see is this series tackle romantic relationships between two of the women, rather than all the women being depicted as heteronormitive. 

For fans of young adult fantasy who want to get there hands on something new and entertaining and absolutely full of angst I recommend this book. Let me warn you though, the book is going to play with your emotions. Whether it be an annoyance with the characters or relating to them; it’s an emotional ride.

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From Fire and Shadows Review

From Fire and Shadows Review

By J.F Baptista 

Publisher: Independent 

Print Length: 347 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Special thanks to NetGalley and the author for providing me with an ARC.

A girl with a dangerous power.

A warrior they call the shadow of death.

A world divided and slowly dying.

Six-year-old Theodora grew up at the House, a place for girls born without power. Abandoned as a baby, she has no memory of her past beyond the melody that invades her dreams. So when an ancient presence starts whispering in her ear, she answers.

The reward is fire; the price is the destruction of the only life she has ever known. Yet from the loss comes a chance at a better future… if she can learn to control a power that no one seems to understand.

Across the ocean, Death’s Arm warrior Kai struggles with the changes forcing him out of the shadows. With the neglect of those in power breeding dissent, he is called to do his job as their occasional assassin: cut it at the root.

But when a strange restlessness makes him question an order for the first time… he finds himself on the path he never wanted, but can no longer avoid. After all, he may be the only one capable of stopping what is coming—a war where death is just the beginning. (Goodreads)

From Fire and Shadows is an interesting introduction to a curious series. I describe it as such because after reading this book I can’t be entirely sure what is to come from this series. 

The first book does boat excellent world-building and generally charming characters. The magic in this world is interesting and dream-like. The book as a whole has a dreamy tone with a fantastical world that is made even more fantastical by the reader’s imagination. While I find that this book isn’t for me, I can’t ignore that I enjoyed reading the descriptions of the world.

The writing in this book leaves quite a bit to be desired. It often came across as disjointed and– after a while– quite boring as well. My main issue with this book is that it took a long time for me to realize the point of this book. The book spends an excruciatingly long time setting up the world and circumstances that could lead the story in so many different directions. By the time the book starts setting forth its plot I was growing tired of reading it. I don’t mind character-driven stories, actually, I quite enjoy them, but the buildup to revealing the final plot just took too long. 

I don’t know if I can recommend this book to anyone other than a reader who truly loves character-driven stories. For now, I’m just going to leave this book on my Kindle’s read shelf and accept that I spent a little too long reading it.

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The Darkest Minds Review

The Darkest Minds Review

By Alexandra Bracken

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Print Length: 488

Release Year: 2012

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.19

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

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.

When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living. (Goodreads)

Superpowers. Sounds fun right?

Well, when you have to survive an unknown and extremely deadly disease in order to get these powers only to be segregated from society and essentially kept in concentration camps is far from fun.

Bracken’s The Darkest Minds Series begins with a very X-Men-esque scenario, as described above. After an unknown disease kills off the majority of the State’s children, only a relatively small percentage are left, but there were after effects to this illness. Those who survived would develop one of a five of abilities ranging from telekinesis to powerful telepathy. These abilities are assigned colours, which are later used to segregate its users, separating them into groups based on their potential threat level. Greens (those with enhanced intelligence) are considered the least dangerous, while the most dangerous include the Red (those with pyrokinesis) and the Orange (telepaths). The most dangerous of the group were often killed on the spot. 

The follows an Orange, who against all odds, has survived many years in a “rehabilitation” camp under the guise of a Green. Upon rescue from the camp, she not only realizes just how much the outside world has changed, but she realizes for any true change to occur there are hard decisions ahead of her. 

I enjoyed this book, for the most part, though I often found it to be a slower than usual read for a YA novel. This book also differs quite a bit from other dystopian YA in that it tends to take a bit more of a political standpoint on the subjects it presents, while still pandering to the action-filled expectations of its intended audience. With many parallels to the ever so popular superhero genre, this book does a good job setting itself apart from other superhero-based stories and succeeds in creating characters who are multi-dimensional. The book spends a lot of time on character development, a lot more than you would expect from a YA novel coming at what some may consider the current fall from grace of Dystopian Sci-Fi. 

As I’ve already sort of alluded to I found the book to be a little slow at times with scenes that I did not find entirely necessary (though they did achieve what they were meant to.) My most notable problems with the book are subjective: because when it comes down to it I simply did not find many of the characters likeable. I often found that the protagonist tended to be inconsistent. The inconsistencies are, for the most part, excusable due to the circumstances of the driving plot. Regardless, I often became a little annoyed because the character seemed to have sudden unexplained bursts of a newfound confidence that didn’t quite seem appropriate. 

This book was a pretty good book but to be honest I ultimately enjoy it as much as others. I’m glad I read the first book, but as of right now I don’t intend to read the rest of the series.

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