Tag Archives: book review

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 Last Cigarette on Earth by Benjamin Alire Saenz – Book Review

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“I was a man who had lived in drought for so long that what I desired most was rain. But the rain never came.”

This book of poetry was heart-wrenching. Saenz always writes the most profound words that create the most impressive sentences. I read this slowly because I didn’t want to feel overwhelmed. There’s always so much emotion packed into his poetry, and the subjects are never easy. But I really loved every moment I spent reading it.

“How many people can you love anyway? Love may be infinite but the human heart has its limits. That’s why they’ve built a wall between us and Mexico.”

This collection is full of personal accounts, including a drug addiction. I was surprised to hear Saenz talk about this in person during a book reading, but I was curious as well. I think it’s really brave of him to write about such a difficult topic. I’m glad he did. He’s mentioned many times how therapeutic writing is for him. I’ve felt the same way.

“One day, an angel will arrive to lead me into paradise. I will send the angel away.”

Saenz also wrote about the border between the U.S. and Mexico, which is a topic he often writes about. I’ve read so many of his books: fiction, short stories, poetry, children’s book, you name it. And in so many of them, he’s talked about the dangers and terrible deaths that happen in Juarez. But it never gets easier reading about it. Mexico is my country. I hate to be reminded of its cruelty.

“Work is a word he knew. It was what he was born for. Work his future, his fate, his destiny.”

I was also really touched to read about Saenz’s relationships. He wrote about a few important men in his life. I loved his raw honesty. But there was also a not-so-subtle gilt throughout that comes from his sexual orientation. I don’t know if I’m interpreting it right because I’m not him, but it hurts to think he holds guilt because he’s attracted to men. I know he was a priest once, and that religion isn’t very accepting. But there is such a thing as accepting your sexuality while maintaining your faith and/or religion. That just really hit close to home.

“To think that once my love for you was fire and now my heart has leapt beyond desire.”

I think it’s obvious how much I enjoyed this book. It left me thinking, but that’s a good thing. I’d recommend Saenz’s poetry to anyone. His poetry is beyond beautiful.

Fat Angie by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo – Book Review

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Fat Angie is about a girl in her freshman year of high school dealing with some difficult stuff. Angie refers to herself as Fat Angie because she thinks that’s all there is to her. I should mention trigger warnings for self-harm and suicide, bullying, abuse, and homophobia. Due to all of these reasons, I found it hard to read it at times, but I pushed through it. Despite all the bad stuff, there were sweet moments to balance it out.

There are two lovely characters in this book: KC Romance and Jake, both very different people, but they are probably the only two decent people in Angie’s life. I liked that KC was a “bad girl” who shows up to a new school and is immediately drawn to Angie. It felt like a little twist to the “bad boy” trope. I loved that KC and Angie fall for each other (Not a spoiler, this is amazing). I love that Jake is the jock who always has Angie’s back, and works to help her achieve her goals. I loved all of those things.

That being said, I really hated Angie’s mom and brother. Angie’s mom was just awful. Again, it’s a really common trope in YA whenever young people have totally neglectful, verbally abusive parents, but I am so sick of it. The mom had no reason to treat Angie so poorly, and yet she did. Angie was probably abused way more at home than at school, and that’s just terrible. I didn’t want to read about Angie’s mom anymore, but she just kept showing up and ruining the peace that Angie found with KC and Jake.

Overall, this was a good read. The storyline of Angie’s sister who went off to war, was taken captive, and disappeared for months was really touching. I really felt for Angie. I understood why her world seemed to be crashing down on her the entire time. And the ending wrapped things up nicely. So, I think this book is definitely worth checking out.

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.  

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

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“Why not just have the kids play one of your other games?” a parent suggested. “Why all this fuss?”

“Because, my dear friends, these twelve children have lived their entire lives without a public library. As a library, they have no idea how extraordinarily useful, helpful, and funful- a word I recently invented- a library can be. This is their chance to discover that a library is more than a collection of dusty old books. It is a place to learn, explore, and grow!

Kyle Keeley loves board games. Mostly the ones from Mr. Lemoncello’s Imagination Factory. So when there is a contest that is happening in Mr. Lemoncello’s name to win a chance to spend the night at the new library, he does everything in his power to be one of the winners. Even if he thinks the library is going to be lame.

The sleepover at the library turns into a lot of mini games. The biggest of all revealed the morning after. The doors are all locked, and they have to find the secret alternative exit. There’s clues and riddles hidden around the library, and the first one to find the exit wins a lot of prizes.

I found this book to have a slow start. My mom had read this book in two days and sang its praises so I expected to fly through it. But in the first 100 or so pages, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this book at all. But after those 100 pages is when the actual game started, and I really enjoyed that part of the book.

This book needs a lot of suspension of disbelief to get through it. All of the add ons to the library, holographic librarians, basically a hover board ladder, a tiger, are a lot to take in. But if you can push past that and take the story for what it is, it is very entertaining. 

The riddles and clues in this book are a lot of fun. It’s nice to see Kyle and his friends solve them while learning to love the library. I really loved how at the end Kyle has a list of books he wants to check out when in the beginning of the book he doesn’t think that highly of them.

There isn’t much diversity in this. Mr. Lemoncello himself is a first generation immigrant from Italy, and Kyle’s best friend, Akimi Hughes, is half Asian, half white. If there are others it isn’t explicitly stated. 

I ended up giving this Middle Grade mystery four stars. It’s a fun, light read. There are two other books in this series that I think I will definitely pick up eventually.