ARC Review: The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

30095464Title: The Bone Witch

Author : Rin Chupeco

Publisher : Sourcebooks Fire

Release date : March 7th, 2017

Rating : 3.8/5

☯ Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha — one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

⚜ Review :

As a lasting impression, the book really wasn’t that bad!

The biggest disappointment would be caused by the lack of “exciting” events, if I may say so. One would say it was too boring. Indeed, when reading the summary, or just solely based on how fantasy YA books usually work, one would expect a profusion of “exciting” events. And The Bone Witch didn’t offer much in that department. There was no sense of real danger, no fear about those ominous “dark forces”.

BUT, luckily for me, I came in without much expectation because… I’d forgotten what the synopsis was. I just opened the ebook and started reading, because I was attracted to the cover *woops*. But it saved me quite a few sighs (disappointment) and burnt up neurons (anger). I’ve got to say, though, that the writing wasn’t exceptional. If the book was any less good, I wouldn’t have survived the entirety of it.

So how did my no-expectation attitude get me to be okay with The Bone Witch? As I didn’t know what to expect, I just gulped down every plot line Chupeco offered. As I read on, I came to understand that it was an intricate tapestry of the asha’s world. I’m the kind of person who loves to learn new things, and in this case, I was learning about a new culture, down to the tiniest details… And I greatly appreciated that. I think Chupeco’s main focus with her first-in-a-trilogy was to set the pieces on the board before making us dive into the next books. Therefore, she teaches us about asha’s mores and traditions, and how their social roles and reputation built their way of living. Asha have a strong resemblance to geisha, in the sense that they are professional entertainers, but in addition to that, they are also trained fighters. So, for an informative book, I think there was enough action.

However, at the beginning, I was confused a few times because there were many new words, so there were a few parts that lost me. Also, Chupeco could have taught us more about the other kingdoms, instead of just mentioning them.

If you think real (too?) hard, you could see a hint of love triangle, but by no means an actual one. I know many people will consider it as such, though, but in my opinion, there was ever only one cute, little crush in the works.

Another aspect I thoroughly enjoyed was the alternating chapters between the past and the present, the still-innocent Tea (Tay-uh, 12-15 years old) and her now bitter, older self (17 years old). It’s very interesting to witness how much she changed because of her new life. We spend more time with the young Tea, who didn’t know anything about her abilities before resurrecting her brother Fox. In her ignorance, she is vulnerable, at a disadvantage and therefore, shy. But despite these circumstances, she tries very hard to learn, she is persistent. And the more she learns, the more she strengthens and asserts herself. I agree she’s a special snowflake, but at least she’s intelligent and capable (most of the time).

Some other characters could have been more developed, some others were purposefully mysterious, but I still believe Chupeco could have done a better job at exploiting her characters. She equally often tried to breach certain social issues, such as discrimination and various ethnicities, but she never lingered much on them, so they all passed under the radar rather easily. The only socially relevant subject she actually succeeded in bringing up was the gender expectations/stereotypes, as in the acceptable social roles of women and men.

 Then perhaps we should carve a world one day where the strength lies in who you are, rather than in what they expect you to be.

**I’d like to thank NetGalley and SOURCEBOOKS Fire for providing me with this ebook, in exchange for an honest review!

Book Review: When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

28220826Title: When The Moon Was Ours

Author : Anna-Marie McLemore

Publisher : Thomas Dunne

Release date : October 4th, 2016

Rating : 5/5

☯ Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

⚜ Review :

When The Moon Was Ours was one of the most enchanting books I’ve ever read. ❤

I didn’t know the term for this genre before, but now I do : magical realism. And it’s possibly one of my favorite genres ever. McLemore’s writing is impeccable, and it contributed to give her novel its own brand of magic. I honestly think her prose is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read. It’s light as a feather, soft as a breeze. The way she describes places makes me want to live in her world; her imagery is evocative and dream-like, tickling our understanding with metaphors and imaginative comparisons.

I’m not sure what else could I say to highlight the sheer beauty of McLemore’s writing, without using the same words : dreamy, soft, beautiful, magical. The author invites our senses to the reading, evoking them when describing a place or introducing characters:

Aracely had hair as gold as late afternoon, her eyes the deep brown of a wet, fertile field. Miel’s hair was dark as a starless autumn, a night made brown by fall leaves, and her eyes matched the gold of low twin moons. 

Because of the genre itself, it was at times confusing distinguishing between reality and metaphor, but it is an easy obstacle to surmount as the story progresses, and you realize that yes, roses do grow out of a girl’s wrist, and love sickness can be thrown out the window.

All these curiosities abound in the town in which live Miel and Sam. Though at first these two characters seem pretty bland, their worth starts unraveling as the reader is guided through their experiences, their feelings and their numerous struggles. The relationship between the two is amazing and as solid as rock. The certainty of their bond is felt even when they are apart, or even when it is strained by the heartbreaking secrets of their past and those of their close ones.

As much as the protagonists are interesting, the secondary characters deserve as much praise. Everyone has a rich backstory and an equally great plot line, which unravels their nuanced personalities and makes room for both sympathy and resentment.

But what makes the story itself unforgettable is the diversity and the respect of cultures. Here we have a Latina girl, and a half Pakistani boy, Spanish legends, a wide spectrum of gender identities, and everything that comes with it. Questions of body, of name, of how to support someone you love, are all well-handled. I can’t say with certainty that it was perfectly dealt with, as I have never been in this situation, but I think it was a close-to-perfect LGBT novel that everyone should read.

As I came near the ending, I realized that not many non-contemporary books tackle social issues with such sensitivity. Therefore, I thank McLemore for her awareness and generosity. How lucky we are to have such a talented author take the time to address those subjects!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this book, and to Anna-Marie for writing it.

ARC Review: In the Shadow of the Gods by Rachel Dunne

9780062428134_98a84Title : In the Shadow of the Gods

Author : Rachel Dunne

Publisher : Harper Voyager

Release date : June 21st, 2016

Rating : 1.5/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

Eons ago, a pair of gods known as the “Twins” grew powerful in the world of Fiatera, until the Divine Mother and Almighty Father exiled them, binding them deep in the earth. But the price of keeping the fire-lands safe is steep. To prevent these young gods from rising again, all twins in the land must be killed at birth, a safeguard that has worked, until now.

Trapped for centuries, the Twins are gathering their latent powers to break free and destroy the Parents for their tyranny—a fight between two generations of gods for control of the world and the mortals who dwell in it.

When the gods make war, only one side can be victorious. Joros, a mysterious and cunning priest, has devised a dangerous plan to win. Over eight years, he gathers a team of disparate fighters—Scal, a lost and damaged swordsman from the North; Vatri, a scarred priestess who claims to see the future in her fires; Anddyr, a drug-addled mage wandering between sanity and madness; and Rora and Aro, a pair of twins who have secretly survived beyond the reach of the law.

These warriors must learn to stand together against the unfathomable power of vengeful gods, to stop them from tearing down the sun . . . and plunging their world into darkness.

Review :

I love fantasy, I really do! I have read many fantasy books in my life, and I must say… In the Shadow of the Gods was disappointing.

You know what aspect of epic fantasy I absolutely admire? The writing!! I already described it in other reviews of mine, but I’ll say it again: elegant and polished prose is my kryptonite, in fantasy. Think Tolkien, or Martin. Their writing is absolutely riveting, and draws us in their world, and manipulates our emotions and perspectives at every page.

Now, what kind of writing did Dunne offer in her book? YA prose, that’s what. I’m not saying YA authors write badly; oh no, most of them have pretty decent writing and it’s actually enjoyable. What I’m saying is that Dunne’s composition doesn’t belong in the Fantasy genre. It felt so out of place, that I was immediately turned off. Actually, my turn-off was so definite and complete, that I couldn’t find it in myself to even try to like the book. There was nothing epic about it. What would actually put this novel in Fantasy would be the world (we’ll talk about this later) and the excessive violence.

About what Dunne actually wrote, again, it left to be desired. Each chapter relates events set some years apart, but the author spends so much time referencing what has already happened in previous chapters, that really, I don’t see why I even bothered to read every chapter. The reading is redundant, as she repeats the same information over and over again. And the world. Gosh, such an underdeveloped world. The premise isn’t bad, okay? The gods, and the missing ones, the Twins, and the religion. I really liked the concept of how all of this affected their world. But, it seems like this myth and its impact are the only thing that ever happened in this universe, which is otherwise lacking a history, or culture, or politics. Everything, from the writing to the world, is just…empty. Nothing to keep my interest, apart from the inexplicable magic.

Joros’ character was okay. I didn’t really know where I stood regarding him, as I sometimes liked him, sometimes disliked him entirely. I really liked Scal, though. His story is filled with loss and loneliness and revenge, but it is so rich that Dunne could write an entire book about him. But apart from him, I could’ve used some other interesting characters, some that would spark up some life in this otherwise miserable world.

All in all, In the Shadow of the Gods is an okay book for fantasy beginners, as it lacks many things that would make up a great fantasy read.

** Thank you to Edelweiss and Harper Voyager for providing me with an e-copy of this book!

Picture sources : 1, 2

Book Review: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Invisible Library Cover ArtTitle : The Invisible Library

Author : Genevieve Cogman

Publisher : Roc Trade Paperback Original

Release date : June 14th, 2016

Rating : 3.5/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.

Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.

Review :

The Invisible Library’s world isn’t perfect, but in my bookworm’s opinion, it has so much potential that I could drown in it!

This trilogy (yep, already two books are out in Europe) bathes in a pool of possibilities; possibility to go deeper into each character, possibility to expand this series and generate spin-offs à la Mortal Instruments, possibility to explore all the alternate worlds mentioned throughout the book. I am positively amazed at the potential of this world Cogman created! However, all this potential had me realizing that there was, in my opinion, too much action and not enough substance; all my unanswered questions and some loose ends left me unsatisfied. But still I cannot wait to read the second book!

From the summary, I thought this would be a classic fantasy read, you know? It would have meant an elegant and solemn prose, precise and extended vocabulary, but that’s not what I encountered when I turned on the first page. It remains, after all, a YA series. It was, first of all, pretty clear that this was Cogman’s debut novel, as the writing is a bit inconsistent and disorganized. But just a bit, though, no more. The protagonist Irene’s voice dominated the novel, and considering how “young” she is, Cogman felt the need to add those YA-typical unnecessary bits of thoughts and “attitude” or, like we call it these days, sassiness. Unfortunately, Irene’s voice took away the mystery and the foreignness of what this book could have been, considering the highly intriguing concept of an out-of-this-world Library, alternate worlds and espionage.

After I got over my disappointment, though, I was quickly drawn in by the spy thing. The author demonstrates many spy reflexes and techniques, while not being too heavy on the stuff, but just enough to make it exciting and feel like you could pull off those tricks and look totally badass. What also drew me in was the world. Can you imagine? Alternate worlds, an Invisible Library existing between them, Library agents going in those worlds to take precious books and encountering fictional creatures, like werewolves and vampires and faes. However, the way Cogman presented her world left to be desired. “Slowly but surely” would apply here; I could even add a “too slowly”. It was so slow, even, that I got confused many times at the beginning, and even nearing the middle. Needless to say, my frustration flared up quite a few times.

For the characters themselves, what I liked most was their imperfection. Kai got my heart beating on his first appearance, not because he’s good-looking, but because he’s a novice: he’s inexperienced, curious, eager to learn, eager to come up with smart ideas and solutions to please his mentor. Just a little puppy wagging his tail! Irene is a spy, but a junior spy, prone to mistakes, and not always the best. She’s not a Bond or a Bourne, she’s still learning, and sometimes lets her emotions have the better of her. Most importantly, she learns to trust herself and to tackle difficult questions about her circumstances and the Library. Their imperfection creates perfect moments of laughter, moments to enjoy and cherish because their situation is quite dark indeed. The tension between Kay and Irene was unnecessary, but very entertaining and helped to add some lightness in their mission.

The Invisible Library’s was a thrilling adventure, where dragons and faes and other creatures mingle, and anything can happen at the turn of a page!

Picture sources : 1, 2

ARC Review : Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay

25332566Title : Children of Earth and Sky

Author : Guy Gavriel Kay

Publisher : New American Library (NAL)

Release date : May 10th, 2016

Rating : 6/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.

The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif—to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.

As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world…

Review :

Thank you to NetGalley and to Berkley Publishing Group for providing me with this one!

Children of Earth and Sky was wonderful, but is a hard book to review.

It reminded me a lot of Game of Thrones, and was just as genius (or even more so?) as George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series. The plots are complex, intertwining economics and politics and religion, and the characters are less psychotic than in GoT, but they are just as realistic and admirable. The story is told in their third-person perspective, shifting from narrator to narrator within the same chapter, so we have different point of views on same events.

This society’s issues and their importance are all put on the table, and we know exactly what needs to be done and how. The only uncertainty is the characters’ actions, and they surprised me quite a few times, always keeping me on the edge of my seat. Our protagonists’ names are Danica, Pero, Leonora and Marin. They are all delightful! Even the minor ones, like Neven or the Emperor, shone through during the (kind of) short time they were mentioned. Every dialogue involving one of these characters is witty and clever, and it brought out from the story a lot of liveliness. Their personalities were very distinct and well described through their actions, and nothing ever felt out of character. I was always entertained when they spoke, and enjoyed their cleverness immensely. I didn’t expect romance, but there was some, though it never took too much space in the storyline. My romantic heart did ask for more, but I knew it couldn’t be done this way, or it would take something away from the essence of the story.

One of the things that happen to me a lot when I read epic fantasy like this, is I get overwhelmed by the number of foreign names. Characters, kingdoms, social roles, alliances, and so on. It’s always hard to keep track, and truthfully, I only grasped all of it by the first half of the book. Thankfully, Kay had the bright idea to include a map and a list of all the characters, so it did help, and wasn’t all that bad. Also, there weren’t many confusing times, so I’m ready to dismiss this inconvenience (and partly because I’m used to it by now). Kay’s world is so vast and rich, there were bound to have a lot of characters, you know? If you have read Game of Thrones, Children of Earth and Sky will be just as easy to understand.

Finally, the real star in Kay’s novel is the writing. The author deserves a standing ovation and all my praises. As it seems to be the custom for epic fantasy authors, Kay writes in a… dignified way, very elegant and subtle and polished. But with Kay, he adds wittiness to his writing, not just in dialogues but even in the descriptions (appearance, events, etc.). It feels like a very smart erudite is talking to you. It’s true story-telling, in all its beauty. Kay writes with solemnity, bringing forth the enormity of every event. The book isn’t nearly as heavy as Game of Thrones, thankfully. It’s a much more enjoyable read. Its cutting precision and cleverness had me devouring the pages. The timeline doesn’t go from event to event. If I could compare the author’s writing style, I would say it is like taking twists and turns amidst a colorful, dynamic little market, where merchants give you little items in order to reach your destination. Or, I could compare to solving a puzzle. Every piece finds its place, eventually.

In conclusion, Children of Earth and Sky was a delight to read! I will certainly read other works of Kay’s, but I only recommend this book to seasoned fantasy readers!

Picture sources : 1, 2

Book Review : The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

9361589Title : The Night Circus

Author : Erin Morgenstern

Publisher : Doubleday

Release date : September 13th, 2011

Rating : 6/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.

Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves.

Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way–a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a “game” to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.

As the circus travels around the world, the feats of magic gain fantastical new heights with every stop. The game is well under way and the lvies of all those involved–the eccentric circus owner, the elusive contortionist, the mystical fortune-teller, and a pair of red-headed twins born backstage among them–are swept up in a wake of spells and charms.

But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration. With no knowledge of how the game must end, they innocently tumble headfirst into love. A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

Their masters still pull the strings, however, and this unforeseen occurrence forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance.

Both playful and seductive, The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern’s spell-casting debut, is a mesmerizing love story for the ages.

Review :

For those of you who are wondering what to read next, The Night Circus has become one of my favorite books.

The summary is misleading, though : no, it’s not an action-packed novel, it’s not a steamy, passionate love story. This novel revolves around a circus, its influence on everyone involved, its development. I don’t say this to turn you off, but it felt much more like a description than an actual story. Yes, there are characters, each very interesting in their own way, mysterious and curious and amazing, and they have their own plot lines and secrets and revelations to make (it’s all wonderful, really). But they’re all HERE, to contribute to the circus, you know what I mean? They handle blueprints and paperwork, and influence our protagonists to improve the circus itself. I say this again, it ALL REVOLVES AROUND THE CIRCUS.

But boy, was it imaginative. Erin Morgenstern has created the circus of my dreams, filled with magic and amazement and awe-inspiring descriptions. You WISH you were there, walking around the tents and satisfying your curiosity at every turn. Your mind will be blown away by all the dreams this book inspires you.

The characters are lovable enough, the “duel” referred to in the summary will leave you confused most of the time (until you completely understand it), but really, her writing is worth the trip. The atmosphere is incredible. You won’t find intricate plot lines and character development. After all, it remains Le Cirque des Rêves, the Circus of Dreams, and dreams don’t need logic and reason.

If you love to dream and to imagine and to wonder, then this book is FOR YOU. Enjoy!

Picture sources : 1, 2