GLBTQ

Book Review: Soul of the Sword

Soul of the Sword cover
Author: 
Kagawa, Julie
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Soul of the Sword picks up directly at the end of the events of the first book in the series, Shadow of the Fox. If you haven’t read Shadow of the Fox, and you like Japanese mythology, what are you waiting for? Pick it up now! Also, skip this review, because spoilers.

If you liked the first book, you’ll like this one too. I did not remember the first book that well as I read it last summer, but Kagawa writes this in such a way that it’s easy for the reader to jump right back in. Most of our characters (save Tatsumi, because he’s mostly a demon now) get further development, and Yumeko in particular really seems to have grown a lot throughout the course of the book. My favorite character, the ronin Okame, has an exceptionally fun development. The worldbuilding, which was fantastic in the first book, continues to be alluring as Kagawa further fleshes out what was already a well-drawn world. The plot, like the first book, is fast-paced and while this is definitely something of a bridge book, it’s a bridge book that is really fun to read.

Readers of Rick Riordan who are looking for something a little more grown-up, or folks who like their fantasy to be steeped in mythology, you won’t go wrong with this series. I’m excited for the next one to come out. 4 stars – I really liked it!

Thanks to Harlequin Teen & Netgalley for the advance copy which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Soul of the Sword will be available for purchase on 18 June or you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: The 57 Bus

The 57 Bus
Author: 
Slater, Dashka
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The book, The 57 Bus, by Dashka Slater, is quite the moving novel. The author does a great job of solidifying the main characters, Sasha and Richard, and develops there characters in a beautifully realistic way. The sudden transition for just normal everyday life to a calamity also flows well with the book. The fact that this story actually happens is also very interesting. Overall, The 57 Bus is a fantastic book and I would recommend it to anyone. The novel is a decent length but will have you engrossed in it until the end.

Reviewer's Name: 
Steven L

Book Review: Immoral Code

Immoral Code
Author: 
Clark, Lillian
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

"Immoral Code" tells the tale of five seniors in high school planning something even bigger than Homecoming. When Bellamy's billionaire father refuses to pay her college tuition at MIT, the gang gathers together to right the wrong, her friend Nari in particular. Under the code name d0l0s, Nari and the rest of Bellamy's friends search for the much needed money- and revenge.

The story's plot circles around a small hiccup in their plan: to get the money, they'll have to sneak into the Foster Inc. building! This story is full of suspense, humor, and 3-dimensional characters each struggling through their own adolescence problems simultaneously. Lillian Clark does a fantastic job of weaving multiple view-points together to tell this memorable tale. I would recommend t it to anyone my age!

*Note: This story does contain a good amount of profanity. Definitely for older readers.* Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: 
Adia R.

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: 
Saenz, Benjamin Alire
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This book is about a complicated relationship between two boys, in which one finds it difficult to accept himself and his family, which translates into him bring unable to understand or accept love from the other boy. It develops the ideas of self-criticism and self-acceptance, as well as the multiple forms that love can take on. Aristotle and Dante are the two main characters, who begin as friends and slowly fall in love. Aristotle, Ari for short, deals with a father with PTSD and a delinquent brother who is the black sheep of the family. Dante has a peaceful and accepting family, which causes tension between the boys; while Ari has learned to speak with his fists or remain silent, dante has learned to be diplomatic and express himself at all times.
The fact that they are total opposites is very interesting, because the plot then revolves around a complicated process of trying to understand each other. It is a good read if you are looking for something that is about mental health, love, and how relationships require compromise. It is also written in a nice style, in a sort of blocky, thought-like manner. I would give it four out of five stars.

Reviewer's Name: 
Molly Q

Book Review: All Out

All Out: the no-longer secret stories of queer teens throughout the ages
Author: 
Mitchell, Saundra
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

All Out is a collection of short stories from different times in history.
These short stories keep you on the edge of your seats with every page. Being a LGBTQ+ Short story book I was delighted with detailed stories keeping with historical values and cultures. Everything from Pirates to Runaway Brides this book has it. Lovely storylines and flow. Definitely a must read for teenagers.
Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: 
Lizzy B
Awards: 

Book Review: The Devouring Gray

Devouring Gray Cover
Author: 
Herman, Christine Lynn
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

After the tragic, premature death of Violet’s older sister Rosie, Violet and her mother move back to her mother’s home town in the sleepy little town of Four Paths, NY. But Four Paths has more going on than originally meets the eye: it’s secretly the prison of a nefarious beast. Captured by the founders of the Four Paths, the beast lives in a shadow world on top of the regular world, called the Gray. As more and more people get pulled into the Gray and are violently, Violet and her new friends are called to use their newfound magical powers to stop the beast at any cost.

The book is being marketed as “Stranger Things” meets “The Raven Boys”, and I would say that is a pretty spot on comparison. The Gray is not unlike The Upside Down or Cabeswater. The difference, really, is that this book is lacking in a few areas where Stranger Things and The Raven Boys succeed: detailed characterization, nuanced worldbuilding, and extremely good writing. The characters in this one were one dimensional; Violet and Harper, two of our four main characters, were fairly interchangeable to me. The book fluctuates between following the children of the four main founders, and as a result, we only get to know a few of them really well. They are still interesting – they all have to deal with quite a bit of pressure from their parents and the town, but I wish they had each been developed more.

I really enjoyed the worldbuilding at first, but then a few details were introduced that clearly just served as plot devices. For example, if the children of the founders date each other, they will lose any magical abilities they may have inherited – there’s no need for this aside from generating romantic tension that could have been generated in a number of other ways. There were a few other plot points (like the rituals) that were never explained in a satisfying way. That said, I raced through the book. As I got closer to the end and realized there would be a sequel, I got a little less interested (this did not need to be a duology).


TLDR: While it’s not quite as good, folks who enjoyed Stranger Things or The Raven Boys will find a lot to like here too. Despite its many problems, it was a creative, compelling read, and I did end up enjoying it! 3 stars. I liked it. I’d read another book by this author.


Thanks to Titan Books and Netgalley for the advance electronic copy which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Devouring Gray will be available for purchase on 02 April, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: In Other Lands

In Other Lands
Author: 
Rees Brennan, Sarah
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This books follows Elliot Schafer as he leaves behind the modern England and travels instead into a magical land where he enrolls in a sort of a school.

Students, called cadets at the camp/school, can choose between war training and council training, meaning fighting or diplomacy. He befriends Luke Sunborn, the fan favorite of the camp and a promising soldier, through a truce that they made regarding the third member of their group, Serene, the only elf who joined the human army and who they both try to help by offering extra lessons. Elliot’s mission slowly becomes peace in the Borderlands, the name of the magical place he now lives in, because he doesn’t like their dependency on war as a means of existence. The book then follows the three friends as they navigate treaties and violence and meet many magical creatures. This is by far the best book I’ve read this year. There is a sense of empathy for all the characters, realistic romances, delicate friendships, and other harsh realities that rarely appear in young adult literature, not to mention the reverse gender stereotypes and raging pacifism that become center points of the plot. I loved the detail in the story and how everything in the story in interconnected. I could barely put it down, and would highly recommend it. I would give it five stars out of five.

Reviewer's Name: 
Molly Q

Book Review: Kingdom of Copper

Kingdom of Copper
Author: 
Chakraborty, S. A.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Kingdom of Copper is the sequel to City of Brass, and there are spoilers for that book ahead.

Kingdom of Copper picks up about five years after the events of City of Brass. Nahri is married to Muntadhir and is navigating court politics and learning to use her skills as magical healer. Ali, after getting exiled from Daevabad following the events of City of Brass, has managed to survive several assassination attempts and has made a life for himself in a small village. Forced to return to Daevabad, Ali quickly returns to his post as resident trouble maker/possible emir (which in this case means heir to the throne), and Nahri finds her world rocked once again.

The complex, Middle Eastern inspired world and world-building that were the best part of City of Brass are still present in this book, while they are less of a focal point. Overall, I much preferred Kingdom of Copper to City of Brass. My short review of City of Brass read as something like: "great worldbuilding, annoying characters, promising ending." But because we had that time jump of five years, our characters have separated, matured (at least a bit), and the love triangle that brought down the first book died a satisfying death. The worst part of the first book to me was the romantic angst, and little of that exists in this sequel to the betterment of the book.

TLDR: If you liked the first book, you’ll love this one. If you were on the fence about City of Brass as I was, know that the sequel is much improved.

Kingdom of Copper would appeal young, new and other adults and fantasy readers who like rich world building and a unique setting. 3.5 stars.

Thanks to HarperVoyager for the advance edition, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Kingdom of Copper is available now!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: Four Dead Queens

Four Dead Queens
Author: 
Scholte, Astrid
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

This book was not for me, but I think a lot of young adults will really love it. The following is essentially a laundry list of my issues. First, the worldbuilding was pretty weak. The fours quadrants are fairly reminiscent of those in Divergent, but they rarely interact and the farming sector basically works on Amish rules while the technological sector has holographs and advanced biosuits and all sorts of stuff. It does not make a ton of sense. And neither does the “queenly law” or really anything to do with the rules the palace or kingdom operates under – it all seemed pretty transparently created to serve the story that was written. Moving along. The characters really left something to be desired. Most were one-dimensional. The main character, Keralie, couldn’t make a good decision if her life depended on it and falls squarely into the snarky and ostensibly clever thief trope. We do get to hear from the queens a bit, but as I knew they’d end up dead and we only spent a little time with each of them, I didn’t find that it added to the story. And, of course, there is instalove between Keralie and our extremely boring male lead, Varin.

Some components of the book are pretty enjoyable. I think the premise is really cool (if executed poorly). The first queen’s murder took me a bit by surprise, and was deliciously gruesome. There were a few twists that I didn’t see coming. I quite liked the last 50 pages or so – the author, a debut, clearly has some really great ideas. Unfortunately, they didn’t come together in this book, though I’d try another book by this author pending favorable reviews.

TLDR: Readers who loved The Red Queen and Divergent will probably enjoy this one as well. I couldn’t get past the weak characters and worldbuilding, but I think a lot of readers will likely devour this one nonetheless. For me, it was just ok. 2 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley and G. Putnam’s Sons for the advance copy which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Four Dead Queens will be released on 26 February.

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: Wild Beauty

Wild Beauty
Author: 
McLemore, Anna-Marie
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The book Wild Beauty is a vibrant tale of the cursed Nomeolvides women who are able to grow plants using magic. Their curse is that they are unable to leave their home at La Pradera without dying. This book is a wonderful exploration of love, family, life, and lies. Wild Beauty includes exploration into sexuality and the bonds we share with our family. Wild Beauty is one of the best books I've read in a long time because of it's depth and true dive into the human soul. This book is great for readers who want to pick up a book for a colourful story and not have it continued in a series (I personally have gotten tired of every book being a series).

Reviewer's Name: 
Maddie K.

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