Review: Unraveling by Sara Ella

Unraveling (Unblemished, #2)Unraveling by Sara Ella

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh. My. Goodness. I think I just died. This book, people–if you’re going to preorder a book in 2017, then make it this one. It is so worth it.

Okay, this review is going to sound totally fan-girly, and will probably contain spoilers from the first book. You’ve been warned.

SQUEAL! I loved this book so much. It has the best romance since Parvin and Solomon, and some of the swooniest scenes in all of romance history. The best part? It’s totally clean!! That makes me so happy. 😀 There is a few content issues, which I will mention in the content guide below, but nothing to cause me to rate it under 5 stars. (view spoiler) I loved most of the characters in this one. The author did an amazing job with their character arcs, transforming them just enough without making it seem unbelievable. (view spoiler)

I am amazed by all the worlds–or rather, Reflections–that Sara Ella keeps coming up with. It’s so cool how she ties them altogether as well! She mixes all sorts of cultures, real and imagined, in her world-building. Like El says in the book, perhaps we ought to already be expecting the unexpected. (view spoiler)

The plot kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I raced through it in record time. Unfortunately, that also means I have to wait for book 3, which isn’t even on the horizon yet! The life of a reader. Sigh. Anyway, I was curious where Sara Ella could go with this one. After all, Crowe is dead, the Reflection saved, and El is about to be crowned queen. What could possibly go wrong? (Hint: the answer is anything and everything, my friends. Anything and everything.) The only part I didn’t care for a whole lot out of this book (view spoiler) was the allegorical aspect. I’m not totally sure where the author is going with this. It’s not a Biblical allegory, so far as I can tell. Or if it is, it’s a twisted one. And those always make me a little twitchy. Regardless, I can’t wait to see what happens in the next (and last!) book.

Overall, I adored this book. I loved it even more than the first one! (Which is very rare–the only other sequel I liked more than the first is A Time to Speak by Nadine Brandes.) I highly recommend this one (and it’s definitely a buy-it-instantly kind of book)!

Rating: 5 glowing butterflies

Recommended: Yes. 14 and up. (Too confusing for younger readers, and some content issues.)

Content guide:

Language: 0/10 (that I can recall)
Sexual content: 5/10 (some non-sexual nudity, desire to kiss or touch, heavy kissing, some touching, innuendo, one scene could be interpreted the wrong way)
Violence: 7/10 (quite a few injuries and deaths, but most non-graphic. definitely some darker content in this one.)

*Many thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy to review!*

For more book reviews, or to request your own book to be reviewed by yours truly, visit gabriellenblog.wordpress.com

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Review: Unblemished by Sara Ella

Unblemished (Unblemished #1)Unblemished by Sara Ella

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Holy cow, that was intense. I wasn’t expecting Unblemished to be that good. I saw all the rave reviews on Goodreads, and felt skeptical. “Well, might as well give it a try, I suppose.” I’m glad I did.

I’m normally not a fan of allegories–I suppose that only contributed to my skepticism. However, it was really well done here. Very subtle, and not in your face at all. I’m interested to see where the author takes it in following books. The entire story kept me riveted, and I couldn’t wait to see what happened to Eliyana next. I found the world-building to be believable, and very fascinating. I’m not normally of fan of alternate reality stories, but…this book is an exception to a lot of my dislikes.

But not all of them. (Warning! Warning! Minor spoilers ahead!) This book does have a love triangle. And yes, it is very frustrating. It was convincing at the beginning–the author had me rooting for one guy, until the tables turned and I was rooting for the other, just like Eliyana. Unfortunately, I remained rooting for that one character for the rest of the book. Guy #1 totally and completely lost my vote by acting like a total jerk. ‘Nuff said. Most of the characters were well-rounded, and sympathetic. Eliyana was especially endearing, as we spent the most time in her head, experiencing her every emotion. Her character transformation was excellently done.

I liked how it started in our world, before transitioning into the fantasy realm. All the pop culture references were really fun. It was neat to watch El transition into the new realm, and start to unconsciously use 2nd Reflection phrases in her thoughts and dialogue. I also loved the idea of Callings, and Thresholds. However, quite a bit of the world-building was very confusing. What, exactly, happened to Reflections 5-7? (Is that correct? There are 7 Reflections total, right? Ugh. See, it’s totally confusing.) And I’m not sure I totally got the concept of what the Verity and the Void are, and what they can do. Things only got messier towards the end, and I’m still not sure what happened. I can’t share much more details, as I’ll only spoil the plot.

Overall, I’d rate the book 5 stars, minus 1/2 for confusion, and another 1/2 for the love triangle. I can’t wait to start Unraveling, as Unblemished left me with a bit of a cliffhanger. Let’s hope it’s just as good–or dare I say, even better–than the first!

Rating: 4 stars

Recommended: Yes. 14 and up. (Too confusing for younger readers, and some content issues.)

Content guide:

Language: 2/10 (at least one bad word and unfinished sentence that implied foul language)
Sexual content: 6/10 (frequent non-sexual nudity, desire to kiss or touch, heavy kissing, some touching, innuendo, implications of rape, adultery, fornification)
Violence: 6/10 (quite a few injuries and deaths, but most non-graphic)

*Many thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy to review!*

For more book reviews, or to request your own book to be reviewed by yours truly, visit gabriellenblog.wordpress.com

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Review: Twinepathy by C.B. Cook

Twinepathy (IDIA #1)Twinepathy by C.B. Cook

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one was really fun! Though it did have some writing issues, such as plot holes, logic problems, and iffy characterization, it was very entertaining and kept my curiosity. A solid 3.5 stars.

What I liked:
1. Blaze. C’mon, how can you not like him?
2. Superpowers. ‘Nuff said. But really, there was a good variety of different kinds of powers. Very creative uses of those powers as well–a lot of them I wouldn’t have thought of. I wish some had been better explained (like Anvil’s), but maybe the next book will clear some things up.
3. IDIA. I found it interesting how it was set up in a hierarchy of sorts. I’d like to learn some of the backstory of how it got set up.
4. The narration. This was kind of a mixed bag for me, as sometimes I enjoyed Albany’s narration, and other times it got annoying. However, I liked it more than I didn’t, so I’m putting it under the “like” category.

What I didn’t like:
1. Lack of information and/or explanation. I NEED ANSWERS! Ahem–please?
2. Denver’s character. He just seemed to behave kind of oddly for an older brother.
3. All the lying. I really wish they would have just told the parents the truth in the first place. And they didn’t seem to have a whole lot of problems with lying, either.
4. (view spoiler)
5. (view spoiler)

Wrap up: While I did have some issues with the writing quality and content, I found the book to be very entertaining on the whole. I’m looking forward to reading the next addition in the series–Lightporter–and I’m hoping that it will give me some answers to the many, many questions I have after reading Twinepathy.

Rating: 3.5 stars.

Recommended: Yes. Ages 8 and up.

Content guide:
Language: 0/10
Sexual Content: 0/10
Violence: 6/10 (battle–both good guys and bad guys die. little value placed on human life. some injuries–non-graphic.)

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

For more book reviews, or to request your own book to be reviewed by yours truly, visit gabriellenblog.wordpress.com

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Unboxing The Book Drop

Looky looky what arrived in my mail box today….

 

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That, my friend, is The Book Drop YA Box. It’s a subscription book box run by the folks at Bethany Beach Books. They also have a box for children, and two different boxes for adults. Here’s what they have to say about The Book Drop:

Our mission is to spread the love of reading by exposing people to really amazing books. We all have busy lives and unless you are surrounded by books all  day (like us lucky folk), it’s a bit overwhelming to pick out one REALLY  good book when there are so many options. That’s what we are here  for… to pick out the best of the best and mail them your way, to be dropped on your doorstep or mailbox.

We understand that you can get a better deal on that site-that-shall-not-be-named, but this box isn’t about getting the cheapest price, it’s about having a small independent bookstore hand-select the perfect book and sending it your way once a month. It’s about helping people discover fantastic reads and putting marvelous books into the hands of readers, books they probably would never have discovered  otherwise. If you’re looking for the cheapest box or the cheapest book,  then this box isn’t for you… we don’t deal in cheap, we deal in fantastic, fabulous, & marvelous books.

The Book Drop is a subscription for those who would choose a local indie bookstore over Barnes & Noble. It’s for readers who love to hunt for a hidden gem in the stacks, but may not have the time to do so. That’s what The Book Drop is for–to seek out those fantastic reads that are flying under the radar, and deliver them straight to your mailbox. If you want more information on who they are, and how they select their books, look here. Now for the unboxing!

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Upon opening the box, I was greeted with a gorgeous, brand-new paperback. This month’s selection is Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman. Here’s the synopsis:

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves?

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I can’t wait to dive into this book. It looks like the perfect book to take with me to the pool. Or maybe the beach.

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I pulled the book out, and underneath was tucked a small pamphlet with tons of suggestions for books to read over the summer. All of the recommendations come with a short endorsement from employees at various indie bookshops around America.

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Inside the book was a bookmark, a signature from the employee who packed my box, and a short note from Amanda Zirn, the creator of The Book Drop, talking a little bit about what the book is like. Very nice–I like the personal touches.

 

While this may not be the cheapest book box, and while it may not have the newest releases, it’s definitely still worth considering. What makes this subscription stand out from the rest is its loyalty to hidden gems. The Book Drop is dedicated to promoting books that are worth reading, even if they haven’t made the bestseller list. They actively select books that you could only find in an indie bookstore, or by talking to a fellow book lover. It’s all about the book community, not the book business.

If you’re a fan of unusual authors and independent book stores, then The Book Drop is for you. I highly recommend looking into this one.

 

Cheers!

*A HUGE thanks to Amanda Zirn and the rest of the folks at The Book Drop for sending me a complimentary box to review!*

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!*

For more book reviews, or to request your own book to be reviewed by yours truly, visit gabriellenblog.wordpress.com

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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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Review: Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey

Duels and DeceptionDuels and Deception by Cindy Anstey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Miss Lydia Whitfield, heiress to the family fortune, has her future entirely planned out. She will run the family estate until she marries the man of her late father’s choosing, and then she will spend the rest of her days as a devoted wife. Confident in those arrangements, Lydia has tasked her young law clerk, Mr. Robert Newton, to begin drawing up the marriage contracts. Everything is going according to plan.

Until Lydia—and Robert along with her—is kidnapped. Someone is after her fortune and won’t hesitate to destroy her reputation to get it. With Robert’s help, Lydia strives to keep her family’s good name intact and expose whoever is behind the devious plot. But as their investigation delves deeper and their affections for each other grow, Lydia starts to wonder whether her carefully planned future is in fact what she truly wants…”–from Goodreads

Delightful. Absolutely delightful. Those are the first words that come to mind when I think about this book. The whole story was just one rollicking, playful adventure from start to finish, and I enjoyed every minute of it. It’s not quite ‘fluff,’ not quite serious romance, but all fun. One of the best parts was how the whole narrative kept up a tongue-in-cheek style of humor. I highly recommend this one, preferably with a glass of lemonade on a nice spring day.

Plot: Start with two dashes of witty characters, add in a scoop of mystery, and stir with a healthy dose of comedy. Voila! You have Duels and Deception, fresh and original. The mystery part was alright (I was in it for the characters), intriguing enough to keep me reading, but not nail-bitingly exciting. I did guess who might have perpetrated the kidnapping before the characters found out, but I wasn’t for sure. It was interesting to see how everything worked out. However, I was more interested in the blossoming relationship between Lydia and Robert. Oh, those two. They are absolutely adorable together. All those grins. The ending, while predictable, wrapped things up in a neat bow.

Characters: I’m sure you’ve realized I adore these characters. Lydia and Robert. Robert and Lydia. The sensible, practical young lady who loves her estate and irritating family gets kidnapped along with the equally sensible but slightly more impulsive apprentice-in-waiting. Oh, the fun that ensues. Their relationship is most definitely giggle inducing, as both are in love almost immediately, but it takes them most of the book to realize it. Plenty of swoon worthy moments keep the fire burning between them, even though it seems like anyone and everyone (including themselves) are conspiring to keep them apart.

Setting: I’m a Janeite, and as such, I whole-heartedly approve of the English setting. Particularly since it takes place in Bath. (Too bad we didn’t see any cameos from Jane Austen’s characters!) It was well written: clearly, the author had done her research, and it came through. It seemed authentic and believable, and was the perfect setting for the plot.

Overall, I give this book 4 stars. While not terribly life-altering (it leans more to the ‘fluff’ side than the profound), it was a delicious read, and as such, merits my approval. Fellow Janeites looking for a quick, easy read will enjoy this one.

Age Rating: 14 and up

Content guide:
Language: 3/10 (name-calling–appropriate and archaic in type)
Sexual Content: 4/10 (mentions of ruining a woman’s honor–how and why is not alluded to, hugs, touches, and embraces, along with a few kisses–slightly detailed)
Violence: 4/10 (threats of duels, peril, kidnapping, being knocked unconscious, etc)

*Thanks to Netgalley for providing a copy to review*

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Review: Swim Season by Marianne Sciuccio

Swim Season

by Marianne Sciucco (Goodreads Author)
 
“Sometimes winning is everything.

Champion swimmer Aerin Keane is ready to give up her dreams of college swimming and a shot at the Olympics. As she starts senior year in her third high school, Aerin’s determined to leave her family troubles behind and be like all the other girls at Two Rivers. She’s got a new image and a new attitude. She doesn’t want to win anymore. She’s swimming for fun, no longer the freak who wins every race, every title, only to find herself alone.

But when her desire to be just one of the girls collides with her desire to be the best Two Rivers has ever seen, will Aerin sacrifice her new friendships to break a longstanding school record that comes with a $50,000 scholarship?”–from Goodreads

Swim Season is a contemporary novel set in Two Rivers, New York. It covers the swim season of Aerin Keane’s senior year, detailing from start to finish her wins, losses, and struggles with the team. A long haul (clocking in around 600 pages), it was interesting, but not thoroughly engrossing. It was a bit of a push to get this one finished–some of which was the length, and some of which was problems or errors within the book itself.

I used to be on a club swim team myself, so some of what this book covered was not totally unfamiliar to me. However, that was a long time ago, and club swimming is quite different from competitively swimming for a high school. There was quite a few things in this book I had trouble following, such as the seeding at meets, what’s a good time/bad time for a race, etc. For someone completely unfamiliar with competitive swimming, this book would throw them headfirst in the deep end. (See what I did there?) I have a feeling it would be difficult to follow the plot and hard to relate with the characters unless the reader already had a background in competitive swimming. So readers, you are forewarned: this book is for a very selective audience, so I suggest you know your swim stuff before diving into this one. (Sorry–love the swim puns. 😉 )

The characters were fairly good, but I didn’t feel like I got to know any of them super well. While they weren’t flat per say, they weren’t exactly rounded out either. Even Aerin (the main character–it’s 1st person POV) I didn’t really understand. I didn’t totally sympathize with or understand her decision to hide her talents in the first place, so that made it a struggle to get through the first part of the book. And she just felt a little–bland, I guess. She didn’t seem to desperately want/need much in the book, and seemed like more of a passive character than an active one. Another character I had a problem with was Justin–sure, he’s great, and has a fantastic personality and everything, but that’s just it–he’s too perfect. Especially for a high school boy. Give the guy some flaws, okay? He didn’t seem real, because he was too perfect.

We didn’t get to see much of the setting in this one–it was mostly confined to the pools that the meets and practices were held at. Though there was a bit of description, I didn’t get a good feel for what Two Rivers looked like or what was in the town, or such. The descriptions of Two Rivers was pretty much limited to what the characters said Two Rivers was like. The girl’s trip into the city was better–we got more description, and got to look around the place where Aerin used to live.

The plot was a bit predictable, to be honest. There was never a moment when I felt like Aerin wasn’t going to eventually show her competitive streak and win the Singer scholarship, so I didn’t feel like there was a whole lot of high stakes here. Some of it was just plain unbelievable: for example, (minor spoiler ahead) Aerin is immediately breaking records and beating everyone as soon as she reveals she’s fast? In fact, she even states “My intentional slacking had done no damage.” Any athlete knows that this is simply not true–you can’t slack off and compete at a lower level of exertion than you’re used to for an extended period of time and then return to record-breaking type exertions. That’s a good way to seriously hurt yourself, if it’s even possible. I also found some other misc. errors in the text as well:
–Aerin makes a lot of references to her step-sisters being spoiled brats. But when we finally get to meet them, they seems so sweet! They are excited to have Aerin around, and want to do things with her. It seems like Aerin is closer to acting the spoiled brat than her step-sisters are.
–I like details in my fiction. I really do. But in this case, do I really need to know every single fact about each match? It got old quick, and I found myself skipping over the details often. Especially towards the beginning, when at least two meets were summarized in a dry, newspaper-style sort of record.
–Another thing that bothered me was when Mel freaked out as soon as Aerin started swimming up to her potential. For Pete’s sake, Mel was pushing for it and insinuating it the whole time! And now she’s angry because she was right all along?
–While the book has a small element of faith–Aerin and a few of her friends attend Mass and plan on going on a missions trip together, their faith didn’t seem personal, and Aerin’s relationship with God was hardly even mentioned till end–then, it seemed more on the mystical side of things. She prayed before her big meet, and “soon a calming peace spread through me, and I knew I had connected.” I was not comfortable with this representation of faith, and was honestly disappointed on how the author handled it throughout. It seemed thrown in ‘just because.’

Overall, I can only give this book 3 stars. I liked it, and read the whole thing, but I don’t have any strong feelings about it–other than wanting to go join a swim team. It was just kinda ‘meh.’

Rating: 3 stars

Content guide:
Violence: 2/10 (vague threats, cyberbullying, etc)
Sexual Content: 2/10 (one kiss, some cuddling)
Language: 2/10 (only mild name-calling that I can recall)

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

For more reviews, or if you are interested in having your own book reviewed, see gabriellenblog.wordpress.com

Review: A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

A Crown of Wishes (The Star-Touched Queen, #2)A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.”–from Goodreads

I wasn’t totally sure how to review this book when I had finished it. So, I gave it three stars–not bad, but not great. Three stars is my “undecided” rating. Since I’m not totally coherent on how I feel, my review of this book is going to look a little bit different from my usual review. Here’s some of my thoughts on the book:

What I liked:
–One Thousand and One Nights atmosphere.
–The world-building: seriously, it was amazing. I loved the locations that the author created. They were very well fleshed out, and full of magic and mystery.
–Gauri. Because who doesn’t love a break-your-heart-or-maybe-your-arm type of heroine?
–Aasha. The sweet, poor, poisonous little darling.
–Magic. I like magical fairytales, so this is no surprise.

What I didn’t like:
–Demons.
–Creepiness. Like the whole undead monster valley thing.
–The intensity of the love/lust relationship. (They didn’t get beyond kissing/cuddling, but it got pretty heated. And it was brought up. Overall, it made me uncomfortable.)
–All the violence.

What I wasn’t sure about:
–Vikram. I haven’t decided whether I like him or not.
–The Lord of Wealth. I wasn’t sure whether he was a good guy, or a bad guy–maybe that was the point?
–All the deep, philosophical points made. For example, “Desires are dangerous” was repeated almost ad nauseam. Yes, I like my books to have a theme. One or two is good. Maybe even three. But the book was liberally sprinkled with insight, and a lot of it becomes lost when there is that much.

That sums up most of the things I’ve been thinking about. I know it’s not super clear, but I hope it helps you a little bit in deciding whether or not to read this one.

*Many thanks to Netgalley for providing a copy to review!*

For more reviews, or to have your own book reviewed, see gabriellenblog.wordpress.com

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