Review: Waters of Salt and Sin by Alisha Klapheke

Waters of Salt and Sin (Uncommon World, #1)Waters of Salt and Sin by Alisha Klapheke

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really, really wanted to love this book. (C’mon, who doesn’t adore that cover?!?) Unfortunately, this book wasn’t all I hoped it was going to be. (Perhaps it’s partly my fault in the first place for having such high expectations.)

The plot wasn’t what I was expecting: I was hoping for more of a swash-buckling, piratey adventure. Instead, this was more of a (slightly spoilery) let’s-try-to-survive-while-planning-a-jailbreak kind of book. Like another reviewer mentioned, they find the island about halfway through the book, and then it becomes a minor background element. The story is pretty much them escaping from whatever’s trying to kill them at the moment, while attempting to rescue Kinneret’s sister. (end of tiny spoiler) I did enjoy the salt magic and salt wraiths (I thought they were the most believable of the fantasy elements), but I could have used a little more explanation on some other things, like the Fire religion, how salt magic works, and more about Kinneret’s aunt’s magic.

The characters themselves were meh. I liked Kinneret–but that was about it. I felt like the author just scratched the surface of the characters, and I didn’t get a chance to get to know any of them except for Kinneret. I only cared about the other characters because Kinneret cared. Also, some of the characters just fell flat. They didn’t react realistically to situations. The story was told in 1st person narration, when 3rd person might have suited the story better. There was also a lot of characters introduced, right from the beginning, and that may have added to my struggle to connect with them.

The world-building was pretty good: it felt unique, and I was interested in learning more about its history and customs. I liked how the setting wasn’t your generic medieval European fantasy setting, but instead a Mediterranean-type culture. However, the author again could have delved a lot deeper into the world-building. It was a little confusing because the characters jumped around so much, and there wasn’t a whole lot of description about the places they went to, or the cultures they visited.

Overall, I just couldn’t get into this one. While I did finish out the book, I just as easily could have left it. If it had had deeper characters, more world-building, and a little more suspense, I probably would have loved it.

Rating: 3 stars.

Recommended: No.

Age Rating: For Ages 14 and up.

Content guide:
Language: 3/10 (characters start to curse, but are cut off. a lot of inappropriate innuendo bandied about.)
Sexual content: 6/10 (passionate kissing, once while half-clothed, some touching. lots of thinly-veiled innuendo. characters’ relationship seems at times more lust than love.)
Violence: 8/10 (characters are killed and injured, sometimes graphically described. some characters place very little value on human life. a demon attacks the ship, killing several characters.)

*Many thanks to the author for providing a copy to review!*

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Review: The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Beautiful OnesThe Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not a happy story. It is more melancholy than anything; in truth, it would be better titled The Broken Ones. But it is beautiful. It brought to mind the characters and atmosphere of The Night Circus, one of my all-time favorite books.

This book is literary fiction at its finest. Stirring, with incredible depth, and impossibly real characters. I was blown away again and again by themes in this book:

Love, both lost and found
Betrayal
Bitterness
Idolatry
Self-centeredness
Forgiveness

These are only a few of the themes it explores. In fact, if I had to pick just one overarching theme, it would be “human nature.” This book bares the human soul, in all of its grittiness. It shows people as they truly are, and reveals how that differs from who they think they are. It shows life–real, true life.

Since this is literary fiction, the characters are the driving force.

Antonina, better known as Nina, is a young woman who is on the brink of learning hard truths about society, life, and true love. She is being stretched thin between her innocent childhood, and an adulthood that she did not envision.

Valérie is faced with someone she never thought she’d see again. She was denied her chance at a happy ending, and she’s determined to ruin everyone else’s. No one stands in the way of what she wants.

Hector, whose whole life has been consumed by one driving passion, has to come to terms with the death of his dreams. Everything he’d hoped for and counted on, was nothing but a vapor.

It was amazing how much I connected with each and every one of the characters, good and bad. The good characters were not as pure or innocent as they first seemed. None of them is without fault. Likewise, none of the evil characters were unsympathetic. No one is born completely evil–rather, it’s their choices (the ones they’re forced to, and the ones they willfully make) that lead to such an outcome. It’s a broken world these characters live in, and their lives reflect that.

A small comment on setting: yes, the setting is fantasy. Yes, there is an element of magic. But neither of these factors I felt to be main element of the plot. They contributed to it a small bit, but it was primarily the characters that won the day. The book could have just as easily been set in England at the beginning of the 19th century (without magic, of course).

As for plot, there isn’t much to discuss. Since this is literary fiction, the characters and the exploration of human nature take center stage. The plot is driven by the characters, and without this specific cast, there wouldn’t have been any plot to speak of.

Like I mentioned above, these characters live in a broken, sinful world. Their lives are a product of that, and their choices contribute to it. They are by no means models of how to live. But they do teach us important lessons. The one that stood out the most to me was “Do not put your hope and trust in a fallible human.” I would even go a step further than that: “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” (Psalm 118:8)

With that being said, I’d like to leave you with one more passage of Scripture that I feel expresses my feelings about this book:

Micah 7:5-8
“Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms; for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house. But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.”

Rating: 4 stars–5 stars, minus 1 star for content issues

Recommended: Yes. 17 and up, due to mature content.

Content guide:
Violence: 2/10 (some minor injuries, not overly detailed.)
Sexual Content: 9/10 (kisses, embracing, touching, thinly veiled references to adultery, marital duties, and fornification. it is clear that characters have sex several times (before marriage), sometimes on page, though very few details are given.)
Language: 6/10 (several obscene words scattered through the pages. references to fornification and suggestions of adultery)

*Thanks to Netgalley for providing a copy to review*

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Review: The Fate of Arcrea by Nicole Sager

The Fate of Arcrea (The Arcrean Conquest, #2)The Fate of Arcrea by Nicole Sager

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Bad: Less amazing creatures in this one. Only dragons.
The Good: DRAGONS.

Okay, so like the first book, it was a little slow-going until you got into the story. But holy cow–that ending! Sager can seriously write battle scenes. I’ll give you a brief summary of setting, characters, and plot before diving into some critique.

The setting: We got to see more of Mizgalia and Dragon Coast (two locations touched on in the first that I was very curious about), but I would have enjoyed a little more information about life in Mizgalia. It brings to mind the Blades of Acktar series, so I was very interested in learning more about that land. (How cool would a crossover between these two series be?) Also, I like how the village for the deposed lords and their families was set up. It was neat that we got to see how they had adjusted to their new lives, instead of them disappearing altogether.

The characters: Trenton is the main character in this one, though we still see quite a bit of Nathaniel, Drew, Falconer, and a few of the original gang. Trenton was probably the most fleshed out of all of them, and was my favorite. (Drew still felt too perfect, and Nathaniel’s near-constant “Ho mate” got on my nerves.) I liked watching him develop as a character, but I have some caveats, which I’ll get to later. I’m very curious about Falconer–we got to see a lot more of him in this book, but he still maintains a shroud of mystery. I have questions. 😉

The plot: I’m sorry, but it was very predictable. A few surprises added a spark here and there, but for the most part I knew what was going to happen to the characters before they did. I loved the how the plot zeroed in on dragons though–it was really cool to see more interactions with them. I thought it was very unique how Sager portrayed them as more of a pest, or scourge on the land, then as a noble beast. I feel like many YA and middle grade novels lately are trying to de-vilify (is that a word?) dragons, and turn them into pets, or friends, or what have you. It was refreshing to read a good, old-fashioned, dragons-are-bad fantasy.

Some of the critiques I have for this book:
-Nathaniel’s constant “Ho there, mate.” This really annoyed me. I know it was for characterization, but it would have been better if he had said it less frequently and added some other unique phrases to his vocabulary.
-The faith elements: now, I’m all for introducing faith into books, but I think one has to be very careful about how they do it. The character’s faith needs to seem real, and not preachy. (view spoiler)
-About halfway through, the town of Dornay became Dormay with no explanation. Typo?
-I think the characters could use more depth overall.

Okay, so that was my critiques. Now let me tell you what I loved about this one:
-The action/battle scenes. These were fantastically written–especially the one towards the end. It doesn’t get much more epic than this, folks.
-The dragons. Again, good old evil dragons. And the Death Chalk was brilliant as well–very unique. Sager’s best talents are action scenes and unique flora and fauna, so I loved reading about her spin on dragons.
-Sager is also excellent at adding a touch of mystery to each book. Such as Falconer. And the cliffhanger ending.
-CLEAN CONTENT. Seriously people, this is a huge issue these days. Just look up the content in the bestsellers on the New York Times list for both YA and middle grade, and you’ll see what I mean. Or take a look at this study done by a professor at BYU: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/76…

That wraps up my thoughts on The Fate of Arcrea. Highly recommended as a read-aloud for families, or for kids 8 and up. Thanks for reading!

Content guide:
Language 2/10 (mild name-calling)
Violence 4/10 (several injuries, some serious, but handled well. Not gory or overly graphic)
Sexual Content 1/10 (relationship between couples–again, very cleanly represented)

Rating: 4 stars
Recommended for 8 and up.

*Many thanks to the author for providing a copy to review!*

For more reviews, see gabriellenblog.wordpress.com and fullofbooks.com

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