I didn't ever expect to enjoy a novel whose title began with the words, "Daughter of the...". Those of you who have been reading YA for long enough knI didn't ever expect to enjoy a novel whose title began with the words, "Daughter of the...". Those of you who have been reading YA for long enough know that these titles had their phase and I truly believe that ship had sailed. But, Levenseller's debut, despite its title hearkening to previous YA literature, is wholly unique. Daughter of the Pirate King introduces many tropes we're familiar with, from a beautiful and headstrong protagonist to a cocky, utterly charming love interest but Levenseller spins it into a tale I just couldn't put down.
Alosa, our titular heroine whose red hair gives her away, allows herself to be captured by her enemy ship and sent to their prisons. There are three pirate lords who rule the sea, but only one Pirate King, and he is determined to put together pieces of a map each of the pirate lords own and hunt down a fabled treasure that will make him rich beyond measure. Naturally, he sends his daughter to infiltrate the enemy ship and Alosa's mission is clear: find and steal the missing piece of the map, without alerting the enemy of her plan. But, the first mate Riden makes her job increasingly difficult. If only he would stop pestering her with questions, showing her unexpected kindnesses, or flashing that handsome smile of his...
This story is just pure fun and I read it in a single sitting. Alosa is fiery and smart, a combination I love, and her banter/love-hate relationship with Riden is at the core of this novel. The plot is fast-paced, swiftly making us support Alosa in all her endeavors, from making Riden believe she wants to escape the ship to her stubborn refusal to help the crew, to her ingenious plans to escape her cell. But, the heart of the story lies in her evolving relationship with Riden. Their friendship reveals so much about their pasts and the plot twists are a pleasant surprise. I, especially, love that their romance is drama-free and constantly keeps the reader on their toes.
Of course, this story isn't without its flaws--too many "special redhead" mentions, far too few female secondary characters who take the limelight in this, a strong case of Missing Parent Syndrome--but I suspect a lot of these minor flaws are about to be dealt with in the sequel. This is the first, not of a trilogy but of a duet, and the characters and their journeys are just too much fun to miss out on. The fantasy and lore in this, combined with the world-building, all make me eager to return for more. Believe me, Levenseller is an author I'll be looking out for in the future, off-putting titles be damned! ;)...more
*More a series/joint review of both Nameless and Clanless*
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Clanless was a mixed read for me. Nameless seemed like a promising start to*More a series/joint review of both Nameless and Clanless*
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Clanless was a mixed read for me. Nameless seemed like a promising start to a new fantasy series--fast-paced, slow-burn romance, and plenty of plot twists to keep readers guessing. I loved the world Jenkins had created and, more than that, I enjoyed the secondary characters and the originality of failing to fall for typical YA tropes. But, Clanless was a far cry from the sequel I was expecting after the cliffhanger ending of Nameless.
In Nameless our heroine, Zo, infiltrates the Ram territory to spy and pass on information to her clan, the Wolves. Her plan goes for a toss, though, when her eight-year-old sister, Tess, follows her in. Now, Zo is determined to escape the impenetrable fortress with her sister instead of risk her life for the Allied, an agreement of clans to unite against the Rams. The Ram clan is ruthless, training their young for battle from the start and killing anyone and everyone who doesn't pass their tests. Now, their numbers have dwindled and the territory they've amassed is failing. They don't have enough food and their captured slaves, the Nameless, outnumber the Ram. As they make plans to attack the Wolf and the Raven clans for food stores, the Nameless gather in rebellion and Zo passes on information. But Zo doesn't expect her life to become intertwined with Gryphon, a Ram striker whose father deserted the clan, making him work twice as hard for everything he's achieved.
Nameless works because of Zo and Gryphon, individually. They're both battling with their loyalty to their clans and the new information they're uncovering about each other but I love that Zo never loses sight of her goal and Gryphon allows himself to be open to new ideas. Ideas like realizing that the Ram attack the weak, would kill his best friend's newborn child for a slight lip deformation, and that Ram can fall in love with other clans, too. The secondary characters, namely Gryphon's foster brother, Joshua, are fleshed-out characters in their own right and I loved the large host of characters that accumulated as the story went on.
In Clanless, Jenkins continues to prove that she is an expert at action, never losing the fast-pace that she has set in Nameless. But, where Clanless falters for me is in its portrayal of male and female roles. Early in the story, Zo and Gryphon are separated and believe that the other is dead. This drives the entire plot of the story forward as Zo fights for Joshua and Tess and Gryphon sets out to fulfill Zo's desires for him. While I continued to enjoy their individual story arcs, particularly because the world-building is so well-done in this sequel, I grew annoyed by the very stereotypical gender roles.
For me, the best aspect of fantasy is the fact that it isn't our world. Not our world, not our rules, and it doesn't have to be our gender stereotypes, either. This was such an incredible opportunity for Jenkins to use Zo and Gryphon's independence from one another to build their individual characters for the first time. Instead, I felt as if so many key moments in this plot became Zo fighting off unwanted attention because of her beauty (again), Zo falling and crying and breaking apart because Gryphon wasn't there, Gryphon having to nearly yank up a tree to express his grief, etc. This world is far more patriarchal than it needed to be, especially because it's fantasy. All of these clans have different customs, religions, languages, and fighting styles. They all look different and have different builds and skills. But they can't have different gender rules? I didn't buy it.
The world-building expands significantly in this novel and though I am quiiiite sure I've predicted a "major plot twist" in the final novel, I'm still planning to pick it up. I love the concept of this world and especially the way that the differences between clans and the misunderstandings about clans are a mirror of the way we misunderstand and stereotype other cultures and races in our own world. But, I do feel like Clanless is a huge missed opportunity for Jenkins, despite the action of the plot and the expanded world. If you're not as critical of fantasy or gender roles, though, I suspect this is going to be a hit. If I recommend the series remains to be seen with the release of Book 3, but so far, it's a mixed bag of high highs and low lows. ...more
I really, really enjoy Zapata's writing, but The Wall of Winnipeg and Me was nowhere near as good as Kulti. For me, the biggest problem I had with thiI really, really enjoy Zapata's writing, but The Wall of Winnipeg and Me was nowhere near as good as Kulti. For me, the biggest problem I had with this novel is that the main character is just too quiet, shy, reserved, and unwilling to speak up for herself. She's constantly surprised when others stick up for her and I couldn't find myself warming up to her character because I wanted her to fight for herself, not simply allow people to treat her the way they did or wait for others to solve the issue for her. Anyhow, the romance won me over--somehow, by the end--and I am invested enough to pick up the companion novel also set in this universe. But, if you're going to read one Zapata novel, make it Kulti. ;)...more
Kulti was such an unexpected gem. Jasprit brought this to the top of my TBR with her review and I have to echo her sentiments: I loveRating: 4.5 Stars
Kulti was such an unexpected gem. Jasprit brought this to the top of my TBR with her review and I have to echo her sentiments: I loved this book! Sal Casillas is a professional and soccer is her life. When her absolute favorite soccer player ever, Reiner Kulti, becomes her coach, she is prepared for the best season of her life. What she finds, though, is that Kulti is uninterested, brings a whole lot of unwanted attention to her team, and downright rude when he deigns to coach. Sal, seeing her idol fall off the pedestal she had built for him years ago, isn't about to be silent as Kulti ignores fans (like her father) and targets specific players (like her) on the field.
But, of course, there is so much more to Kulti than what Sal saw on television as a child or even in front of her now, as an adult. Zapata's prose is distinct and un-put-down-able. She is a lover of detail and Kulti is a comprehensive tale, following Sal before Kulti enters her life and showing us just how determined, hard-working, and dedicated our heroine is. Sal is a woman of principles and her patience, resilience, and moral compass are admirable. It's impossible not to love and root for her, first as she gets over her star-struck awe of Kulti to confront him, and then later as the two become fast friends.
The romance is under-stated and left off until the very end of the novel, but the story is no less rewarding for that and I loved reading the ups and downs of Kulti and Sal's friendship. Theirs is a relationship I couldn't see happening at all in the beginning of the novel but, of course, half-way through I was dying for them to get together. If there are any flaws with the story, it is only that the explanation that Kulti and Sal are best friends is flimsy, frankly, and the concern he has for her, and not for any of the other players, is a little frustrating. After all, he is her coach and the coach to the rest of the players on her team, too.
Still, the secondary characters are so well fleshed-out, from Sal's friends and family to Kulti's fellow players. For a monster of a book, I absolutely flew through this and I only wish there was a novella or two to accompany it because I'm not ready to say goodbye to this dynamic couple. Zapata is definitely an author I'll be looking out for--after all, her novels feature sports, diversity, and romance in equal parts, so what more could I ask for?...more
This book was so highly anticipated by so many readers and I'm glad I chose to dive into the series just as the final book released. But, I have to adThis book was so highly anticipated by so many readers and I'm glad I chose to dive into the series just as the final book released. But, I have to admit, I'm not a die hard fan. I really, really enjoyed Wolf by Wolf. For those of you who are new to the series, these books are set in an alternate history, re-imagining what would have happened if Hitler hadn't been defeated during WWII. There's a dash of SFF in that our main character, Yael, can change her appearance after having been experimented on in the concentration camps. It's also what makes her the perfect assassin and Wolf by Wolf is a fast-paced adventure as Yael impersonates a female motorcycle driver to participate in the Axis Tour which spans the entirety of Hitler's conquests--well into Africa, across Europe and into Asia--because if she can win, she can finally get close enough to kill Hitler.
Wolf by Wolf is immensely gripping, the story and action sequences propelling us forward until we're almost surprised it ends. Yael is such an incredible, inspiring heroine and her struggles to impersonate a German girl, the difficulty she has in keeping her world black and white as she gets to know her fellow racers, and the lies she must tell are all wonderfully written. Blood for Blood picks up directly where the previous book left off and, told from the third-perspective of three main characters, it makes for a fascinating character study. The last quarter was emotional and heart-breaking but the ending is perfect and I doubt anyone can close this book unsatisfied.
But, it was so long. Did we really need all those flashbacks/memories? Was it absolutely necessary to be in a forest for so long? Or flit back-and-forth between being captured/almost captured and escaping? Somehow, this book just didn't do it for me the way Wolf by Wolf did. It dragged. It's clear Graudin wanted this to be the more introspective, slower sequel--and I love those books!!--but the emotional impact that made the last quarter so special was side-by-side with action and that, I think, is where Graudin shines. The plot device she tried to use, the whole slow journey with plenty of character development that draws the reader in, didn't succeed for me.
But, I would absolutely recommend this series. It's original, gripping, and makes you think. It raises some important questions--most of which are sadly relevant in the post-Trump world we live in--and these characters will not leave you easily. This wasn't a duology that lived up to all its hype for me, but I can't deny that I'm eager to see what Graudin writes next. ...more
I didn't really feel like this book went beyond the title or its opening essays regarding the title. There are a lot of other important subjects touchI didn't really feel like this book went beyond the title or its opening essays regarding the title. There are a lot of other important subjects touched upon in this, but many of those topics are reduced to statistics or simply not explored as deeply as I wanted them to be. For instance, the Delhi rape and Steubenville rape case are brought up, repeatedly, and I've followed and studied (in an actual class) and debated and discussed these two rape cases so often because they've been so formative to my ideals of feminism and as an Indian woman that I was confused as to why they were brought up without being further dissected. Anyway, not a bad collection--and certainly a quick read--but not the type of depth I wanted, either. ...more
My shameful weakness is the hate-to-love trope, especially when it's done in an office setting and involves elevator kisses--all of which The Hating GMy shameful weakness is the hate-to-love trope, especially when it's done in an office setting and involves elevator kisses--all of which The Hating Game promised. But while it sounds like it could be another Practice Makes Perfect, Thorne's debut sadly doesn't even come close.
The Hating Game is a cute, fun read. It takes awhile to really get off its feet, but once it does, it's certainly entertaining. It's impossible not to fall for Lucy and Josh and their all-too-familiar game of hating one another. But where this novel falters, for me, is in the mere fact that it is all so slow. Lucy takes forever to realize that Josh really, really doesn't hate her, even when it's so freaking obvious. Even when these two are together, it's really only by the end that all this sexual tension comes to fruition and I felt as if, with characters this combustive, this story should have been so much more sexier than it actually wound up being.
I'll admit that the drama is kept minimal, which I liked, but this book is merely a romance. Josh and Lucy have no other friends, barely speak to their family members (except when used as a plot device) and they have all the time in the world to spend thinking about only each other--and they do! It made me worry that, when all was said and done, they'd become bored constantly spending every waking moment of their time with each other when they went through such little personal growth, particularly inner development that manifested itself in any way except a thought or two.
Sadly, Thorne isn't going to be a new romance favorite. If you're looking for a fun, flirty, and sexy office romance that features kick-ass females with friends and lives outside of their love stories, look no farther than Julie James and Lauren Layne. I don't mind a protagonist who is struggling and lonely, but I need her to take control of her life and pass that damn Bechdel test! If you aren't as picky as I am about such things, I guarantee The Hating Game is for you....more
Princess of the Sword is such a wonderful conclusion to this series--surprising, action-packed, and satisfying. This finale is plot-driven, from the sPrincess of the Sword is such a wonderful conclusion to this series--surprising, action-packed, and satisfying. This finale is plot-driven, from the start, which is an interesting turn from the character and emotion-heavy stories we've come to expect from Kurland. But it's impossible not to be swept off your feet as Miach and Morgan infiltrate a mage academy (within the first few pages) on their quest to defeat evil. From start to finish, this book flies by with even more plot twists (can we please talk about HOW Kurland manages to keep doing this?!?!), a showdown that doesn't disappoint, and a romance that keeps getting better.
What really stood out to me about this installment is that we see Miach, for perhaps the first time in the series, really braving the odds against him. Miach has always been an oasis of calm and reason; he's Morgan's mentor when she needs him to be or her confidant and best friend when the occasion calls for it. What makes their relationship work so well is that they balance each other--Miach standing by and radiating peace while Morgan reacts and runs and flounders, giving her the time she needs to get her bearing. But in Princess of the Sword we see how Miach's life is upturned, causing him to rely on Morgan in a way he's never had to before. Now it is his entire future, not Morgan's, that changes in the span of days and I really enjoyed seeing him work through those hurdles.
Miach's decision to set aside some of his duties as archmage and win back Morgan sets a series of events into motion that we aren't privy to until this installment. We're given a sudden burst of politics, war, and magic and I loved getting to see a completely different side to this world and its characters. Morgan is finally comfortable in her skin and though she's still adjusting to the different parts of herself, she's becoming the woman she was meant to be. Her presence is invaluable to Miach, especially as he battles the demons within himself and the calling to darkness that beckons to him, too, as a powerful mage. I especially liked, though, getting to see what happens as the dust settles. Kurland doesn't jump to an epilogue without giving us a chance to see the messy repairs of the realm--or how costly the sacrifices have been to attain this peace--and I really enjoyed that. Overall, this trilogy is underrated, pure magic. I can't imagine not falling in love with it....more
The Mage's Daughter is even better than its predecessor, to my surprise. Without a doubt, this is the most romantic novel of the trilRating: 4.5 Stars
The Mage's Daughter is even better than its predecessor, to my surprise. Without a doubt, this is the most romantic novel of the trilogy. After Kurland's painful cliffhanger ending, wherein the entire realm as we knew it was in utter chaos, The Mage's Daughter is an emotional and difficult tale. Miach must repair the damage he has caused Morgan by concealing his true identity as the archmage of Tor Neroche, Morgan must face the truth about her past and true parentage, and the two must overcome impossible odds to restore the kingdom to peace.
Miach may have hard to work for Morgan's heart, but he had mine from the beginning. In a lot of ways, Lynn Kurland walks a fine line between Gary Stu and Miach, Mary Sue and Morgan. After all, both of these characters are beautiful, powerful, and deadly. Miach has an arsenal of spells at his disposal that he likely shouldn't know, Morgan has honed her fighting skills to the point where she is unbeatable, and they both claim lineages from famous mages and elves. But The Mage's Daughter excels simply because Kurland walks that fine line--and proves that Miach and Morgan are not cookie cutter characters.
Certainly, they are perfect in many ways. But they are also both terrified. Despite the fact that they have each other, the future is bleak and they are not above seeking comfort in each other and relying on the other's strength when their own fails them. Morgan, especially, has her entire life upturned in this novel. She is not who she thought she was, her parents are not who she thought they were, and her place in the Nine Kingdoms is not so insignificant after all. Her emotional upheaval was difficult to read, only because we care so deeply for Morgan at this point, but her resilience is what makes her her. I loved Miach for being there for her, constantly, and their relationship is such an exemplary one of respect, love, and understanding.
This story focuses mostly on Morgan and Miach--their journey, the confrontation of Morgan's past, and their plans to defeat the evil that is brewing. Once again, these two find themselves to be traveling companions but this time, the host of secondary characters is vastly expanded and I found myself enjoying witnessing different kingdoms, types of magic, and beings. The plot twists never end as Kurland keeps expanding this world and complicating matters. But, with Morgan and Miach, I am confident that the Nine Kingdoms is in a capable pair of hands. Until Princess of the Sword....more
I love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED talk, titled "The Danger of a Single Story," and I thought of it often while reading Homegoing. In fact, the absI love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED talk, titled "The Danger of a Single Story," and I thought of it often while reading Homegoing. In fact, the absolute best aspect of this novel is that it doesn't fall into the trap of the danger of a single story; instead, this a novel told from fourteen different perspectives, over seven generations of a family whose half-sisters are separated from birth and whose consequent lives take them down very different paths. Effia, who marries a white man, stays on in her homeland, the consequent generations of her family witnessing the rise and fall of colonization, all while playing a large part in the slave trade themselves. Esi, meanwhile, is sold into slavery and her lineage continues, in America, living a completely different life from their counterparts in Ghana.
It's a striking, beautifully written story. It took me a long time to read, not because it was slow or boring, but rather because it was so incredibly thought-provoking. Gyasi makes me care for each of her characters, wishing that I got more than just one chapter from their perspective before jumping years into the future onto the next generation. But, I'd feel the same sense of loyalty and care for the next character I encountered. Gyasi has a talent for weaving these fourteen perspectives together in such a way that it never felt as if a large chunk of time or ocean was missing as we went back and forth between Ghana and the United States.
As an American, the chapters told from the perspectives of Esi's descendants, first slaves and then black men thrown in jails and then victims of segregation, struck hardest. To be frank, the scariest part of reading them is that, in so many ways, not much has changed: black men are still thrown into jails, they are the victims of police brutality and hate crimes, their lives are dominated by the sole aspect that they are black. It's a rude awakening that America has so much farther to go, to change.
The chapters set in Ghana were a fascinating look into the lasting effects of colonialism, even well after the white man had left. What I appreciated most about these chapters are that Gyasi never writes stereotypical characters. Her characters are gay, disabled, angry, confused, labeled crazy, victims of their pride or ego, etc. She doesn't make it easy for them, even if they are in Ghana and seem, at first, to be the luckier half of this family tree.
There is so much more to say about this novel but, mostly, it simply demands to be read and pondered over. Homegoing is an incredible, ambitious debut. In the wake of this election, at a time when hate crimes are surging and the lives of minorities seems most fragile, Homegoing offers a much-needed perspective that prides itself on being not just a single story, but many stories, over many generations and through many eras of history. It is incredible. ...more