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Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

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Ada had told Corinne that together they could do it, because that’s what she was supposed to say. That was always the way of things between them. Ada made the promises, and Corinne found a way to keep them. But this time Ada wasn’t so sure. 

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria is a standalone young adult fantasy novel that takes place in 1919 Boston. Told in duel perspective by Ada, who is Portuguese and Swahili, and Corinne, who is a privileged heiress. They are both hemopaths, people of afflicted blood that can create illusions through art. The problem with that is that is that is looked down upon and practically illegal. Ada and Corinne work at this pub called Iron Cast which is a safe haven for people like them. But the pub is having problems because of hemopaths practically being illegal, and with prohibition being of the verge of happening.  

With that short summary, I feel like I’m doing this book a disservice. It’s so much more than that, but it’s so complicated to explain. There is friendship, romance, betrayal, and mystery. It’s so much yet I can only give a lackluster summary about the pub so I don’t give away spoilers.

The main thing I can see people disliking about this book, that even I disliked a little bit as I was reading it, was the pacing of the novel. It starts off with a bang. Ada had just been caught during a con gone wrong, and Corrine has to bail her out. It’s fast paced and exciting until they make it to safety. Then the story slows to almost a complete stop. The book builds up the world, the magic, the characters, and all their relationships. And then slowly, slowly the action starts happening again until the ending where it’s nonstop fast paced action again. During the slow bits, I got a little annoyed, but after the book ended I came to appreciate them. It really helped build up the world and characters so everything seemed very fleshed out and real.

Now, I must warn you the rest of this review will be a complete gush fest because I completely fell in love with this book. Let me start with the representation. Like I mentioned before, Ada is biracial. She’s in a relationship with a black man who came from the south.  They aren’t only stated to be black, but they talk about it. It has consequences from the other white people in the novel. It’s not glossed over. They talk about how bad the south is. Corinne is white, but her privilege is mentioned. Not just because she is rich, but because she is white. It’s acknowledged that she can not understand all of Ada’s struggles despite the fact they are both hemopaths. There is also a male/male romance. It’s with two side characters, and mostly hinted at, but it is definitely there and acknowledged. I haven’t read much historical fiction, but usually it is completely white and straight so the diversity in this novel really caught me by surprise.

I’ve seen mention in other reviews that the romance in this book isn’t much. I don’t understand that because I thought there was plenty. That might be because I am not usually a big romance reader, but I thought the romance from this book was balanced perfectly with all the other elements of the book. Ada and Corinne each have a romantic storyline that doesn’t takeaway from their friendship or the action of the story at all. Ada’s relationship in particular is nice because they began their romance before the book started. So it’s a nice change from the usual romance seen in books. They have different struggles, mainly on whether to fully commit to each other. Corinne’s romance is more of the usual type, but I surprised myself by really liking it.

Don’t get me wrong though. The romance is not the focus of this book at all. The main thing is friendship, mainly between Ada and Corinne. They love each other so much. It was refreshing. They are both strong, complex women, and their banter was always fun to read.

It should come to no surprise that I gave this book five stars. I was so disappointed to learn it was a standalone when I finished it. It’s even more disappointing to know this was Soria’s only book. I think this book doesn’t get as much love as it deserves, and everybody should go out and give it a chance. 

 

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Serpentine by Cindy Pon

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There was no use fighting fate, fighting the lot you were given in life. But she refused to be ignorant and helpless, halfling demon or no.

Serpentine by Cindy Pon is a young adult fantasy novel inspired by Chinese mythology. It follows sixteen year old Skybright who is the handmaid of Zhen Ni, the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. Skybright deals with becoming a serpent half demon, changing relationships, her mysterious past, and the breach of Hell.

There is a female/female relationship in this story. Not the main pairing, but it’s given significant page time. I feel I must put a warning that if you want a fluffy happy romance, it isn’t in this book. Homosexuality isn’t accepted, and when the romance is found out it is met rather violently. 

While this book has really long chapters which I usually hate in books, the pace of the novel is so fast that I honestly didn’t notice much. The writing was easy to read, and the world was rich and lovely to sink into. I loved the characters and the complex relationships they had with each other. Skybright was a lovely main character to read. Practical, loyal, and smart. I think she’s a new favorite character.

I truly loved my time with this book which was a pleasant surprise. I wanted to check out this novel out for a while now ever since I saw Cindy Pon speak at a festival a couple years ago. However I hesitated because while I love fantasy and magic, a half serpent demon seemed a little out there for me. So I put it off for a long time, but it really wasn’t hard to grasp at all.

I gave this novel five stars. It’s the first in a duology, and I will definitely be picking up the last one.

The Reading Quest Final Update

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Nicole:

In the last update, I was unsure of which book I would continue. I ended up reading, finishing, and loving Serpentine by Cindy Pon. It was 274 pages, and a complete five star read for me.

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Out of the five books and 1,964 pages I had in my TBR, I finished three books and 1,083 pages. While not living up to my hopes, I finished books I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. Plus, all the books I read I enjoyed. So I will have to consider this a success on my part.

Isis:

I was under the impression that the read-a-thon was over a week ago, but apparently it wasn’t. I did read, but it was not one of the books on my list. However, I’m still counting it. I read The Last Cigarette on Earth by Benjamin Alire Saenz. It was 130 pages long. I wrote a review on it. 

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I also read 10 pages in After the Quake by Haruki Murakami. I’m really not feeling this book of short stories anymore. I loved the first story, but I couldn’t even finish the second one. Maybe I’m not in the mood for this book right now.

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So, in total, I read 471 pages and two books during the read-a-thon out of the five books and 1,200 pages from my TBR. I blame it on my recent obsession with Friends. It happens every time I decide to rewatch it. But come on, it’s the best show!

The Reading Quest Update #2

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Nicole: First, I have to apologize since there hasn’t been any posts for two weeks now. I didn’t put up an update last week because honestly I didn’t open up a book at all. And since I didn’t finish anything, I didn’t have a review to put up. This week however was much better. I read all week, and finished The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan on Thursday.

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It was 312 pages, and a five star read. Since then I’ve been bouncing around books again. I’ve read 10 pages of Serpentine by Cindy Pon and 44 pages of Asylum by Madeleine Roux even though that wasn’t on my TBR for this.

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I’m not sure if I will continue one of those, go back to The Bone Witch, or start something new. There’s one more week of this Reading Quest, and I hope to finish at least one more book.

Isis:  This week I had a lot of health issues that stopped me from reading a lot, but I still managed to get some reading done. Thanks to goodreads, I was able to monitor the pages I read in Fat Angie. I got to page 108 on 8/27, and then to page 161 on 8/29, and this was my favorite moment because the romance started kicking in. And let me tell you, I was rooting for this romance. It was very sweet. Today I managed to finish the entire book, so I read 263 pages for this book. 

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I have some mixed feelings about Fat Angie. Although it was mostly good, there was a lot that bothered me. The writing style was odd. I liked Angie, but didn’t like the way she narrated the book. I didn’t like KC’s dialogue, as much as I liked her. Their lingo just didn’t make much sense. Overall, I did appreciate the themes in the book, and the romance between Angie and KC. I also really liked Jake, Angie’s friend. He was so sweet and supportive. I wish I’d managed to finish other books during this time, but I’m glad I got one done at least. Counting the bit I read from the other books, I read 331 pages total.

Reading Quest Update Week #1

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Day 1:

Nicole: I decided to start by reading Reckless by Cornelia Funke. All I knew was it involved fairies in some way so I thought it’d be a good book for researching a little for the book I’m writing with Isis. I got to 70 pages.

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Isis: I had a busy day Sunday, so I didn’t read anything.

Day 2: 

Nicole: I continued the read Reckless, and read 69 pages.

Isis: Didn’t read on Monday either. Go me!

Day 3:

Nicole: I was deep in the book, and decided to devote more time for reading. I ended up read the last 255 pages to finish the book. I also wrote a review for it already. You can read it here. This completed the read a book set in a different world challenge.

Isis: I started by reading Fat Angie by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo and read two whole chapters. I read up to page 28, and let me tell you, I was tired from all my hard reading.

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Day 4:

Nicole: The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco was my next pick. I had a busy day, and unfortunately only managed to read 12 pages.

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Isis: I went to the doctor this day, and couldn’t even get out of bed most of the day. I read a few more pages until I made it to page 32 of Fat Angie.

Day 5: 

Nicole: I had appointments again, but I arrived early and read 40 more pages. 

Isis: I don’t think I read on Thursday at all.

Day 6:

Nicole: I think I read another 10 pages, but I had enough time to read more. I just choose to do other things.

Isis: I read up to page 40 of Fat Angie on Friday. I’m an excellent reader.

Day 7: 

Nicole: I didn’t read anything. I’m struggling with The Bone Witch, and it really sucks. I’ve been so interested in it for so long, but it’s a slower paced fantasy. In general, I struggle with those more. I’m thinking of setting it aside, and picking up another book but I’m not sure. It makes me feel guilty.

Isis: On Saturday, I made it to page 66 of Fat Angie. I decided this book relied too much on bullying and too little on the f/f romance, which is what I was interested in. So I thought I should read the beginning of all of my books to try them out. So, I read up to page 16 in The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, which was very intriguing. I’m enjoying the narrator, and I want to get back to it soon. I read up to page 28 in After the Quake by Haruki Murakami. This is a collection of short stories, so I read the first one, and started the second one. It was really good. Then I read up to page 18 in A Monster Calls. It’s already feeling quite sad, so I feel like I’ll need to take it easy with that one. And finally, I read up to page 6 of A Kiss in Time, which was only the first chapter. This one was just okay, it’s your typical Sleeping Beauty retelling. Nothing special so far.

 

Reckless by Cornelia Funke

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The night breathed through the apartment like a dark animal. The ticking of a clock. The groan of a floorboard as he slipped out of his room. All was drowned by its silence. But Jacob loved the night. He felt it on his skin like a promise. Like a cloak woven from freedom and danger.

Reckless by Cornelia Funke is the first in a series of five books. Only the first three are out now, and there hasn’t been any information on when the fourth is coming out. It mainly follows Jacob, an expert treasure hunter in this mirrorworld he found when he was young trying to find clues as to why his father had left. He’s kept this magical, dark world a secret for years, but one day his brother finds out and quickly learns how dangerous this world is. Now Jacob has to find a way to save his brother while also keeping his brother’s girlfriend, Clara, safe.

This world is very creative. It has fairies, goyls, dwarves, vixens, and witches. Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Rapunzel all are real people in this world. It’s interesting and complex and surprised me at every turn. It drew me in, and kept me wanting more even as other parts of the book made me question if I was enjoying myself. I did come across this review talking about some the tropes in this book connecting to Jewish stereotypes if you want to take a look at it.    

The action takes off and never really stops. The plot takes you into the deep end without showing the inciting incident which is a little jarring, but now that I’ve finished the book I kind of like that the story didn’t begin a little earlier. I think it might have ruined the flow of the story, and have the beginning be slowed down a lot. With how the world is and even with one the main characters being a fox shape shifter, it was a lot to take in, and I think it would have put me off of the whole book.

Talking about the characters, I’m very undecided about them. It’s mainly why my rating was brought down. Jacob is interesting and complex. Fox was cool but didn’t get as much attention. A side note, both of these characters were abused as children. It’s only mentioned in passing, and not brought up, but I figured I should mention it just in case. Clara and Will, Jacob’s brother, had an emotionally intense time as they navigated this world they both didn’t know about. Jacob and Will had a very interesting and strained relationship. The other characters equally had good motives. The problem with them all was that the emotion wasn’t there. I couldn’t feel the character’s pain, and trust me there was a lot of it, and I honestly wasn’t as connected as I want to be to them. If their life is in danger, I want to be on the edge of my seat, unable to stop reading until I know they were safe, not be fine with stopping to make Alfredo.  

The writing I really liked. I don’t know if it is because this book is translated from German, or if its just how Funke writes, but I felt it was unique. Almost lyrical in some parts, and taking heavily from fairy tales. Even in parts of the story I didn’t like as much, the writing still made it a joy to read.

In the end, I had fun reading this, but I’m still unsure about it. I’ve heard the next book is better in all the things I’ve complained about, but I feel that people say that about all series of books. I do think I will pick up the next book because I do want to know what will happen to Jacob, but I don’t know when that will be.

The Ghost of Fossil Glen by Cynthia C. DeFelice

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For as long as she could remember, she’d been hoping for something really exciting to happen. She’d believed in the unbelievable, expected the unexpected. She’d wanted it to be true that there was more to life than the everyday world people saw. But now that something totally inexplicable seemed to be happening, and happening to her, she felt partly thrilled and partly afraid.

The Ghost of Fossil Glen is a Middle Grade mystery that I had read partially in elementary school and never finished. It’s a story about Allie, an 11-year-old girl with a lot imagination and a love for fossils. She is dealing with her friends calling her a liar, a voice in her head, and her parent’s concern for her.

This was a lot different than I remember. Not necessarily a bad thing but not a good thing either. I remember this being fast paced, terribly scary, and innovative. Now that I’ve read it now I found it to be more than a little cliche and convenient while still being fast paced. By convenient I mean that a lot of the times things happen to Allie. She falls onto a lot of clues accidentally instead of doing anything to move the plot forward. 

The mystery itself is very simple, and very simply solved. I can complain a lot about this book, but in the end I still enjoyed myself. It might be nostalgia talking, but I needed to know what would happen next.

I don’t think this is the best written book, but I do think it’s a lot of fun. I ended up giving it three stars. It’s the first in a series of four books, and I’m not against picking up more in the future.