Mirage–A Gem Among Political Space Romance

Genre: Young Adult Romance/Science-fiction32768520

Rating: 5/5

I have greatly been anticipating this book, especially after actually meeting Somaiya Daud while she was in conversation with Veronica Roth on The Fates Divide tour. Daud is an amazingly fun, friendly, exuberant person who also loves Star Wars. Mirage is her debut novel, and boy what a fantastic novel it is! I was already planning on buying it, having it pre-ordered since April 2018, but listening to Daud talk about the novel (not giving too much away, of course), I just couldn’t wait!

And I am still sold on this novel and am extremely excited to add it to my collection. I would like to thank NetGalley, Somaiya Daud, and Flatiron books for the opportunity to read this book in advance for an honest review. Did I mention I am definitely buying this book?

I love space novels and romance. Some of my favorites include These Broken Stars, Illuminae, and Zenith (among others), and this fits right in! When I first heard about this book, I was like “Huh, sounds somewhat like one of the subplots of Turn A Gundam,” which is likewise sci-fi. For those who don’t know, one of the plots in the anime involves a moon princess trading places with a girl on Earth who looks just like her. They do it for fun at first, then it becomes an act of political safety and scandal to keep the princess safe.

Mirage is similar in that eighteen-year-old Amani is taken from her home moon to its mother planet where the royal family lives. The planet was taken over by the Vath and aims to hold its power over the planet and its moons. Amani doesn’t know why she was taken from her home until she sees her own face reflected in that of Maram, the princess. Maram uses Amani as a political double, training her to be and act like Maram in every way so that Amani can be her body double for various events, in case of assassination attempts and the like.

In the process, Maram’s fiance, Idris, sees right through Amani’s guise. A romance buds between the two, but how far can they go without getting caught? And what happens to their relationship when it comes time for Maram and Idris to marry?

This novel is beautifully written and full of both romance and political intrigue. It’s a page-turner from start to finish. And…it appears there will be a second book (and a third?)! I am disappointed that I have to wait, but I am so excited that there is going to be more to Amani’s story and the world of Mirage by such a fantastic new writer in the world of young adult literature!

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War Storm (Red Queen #4)–Is It a Worthwhile Finale?

27188596Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Dystopian

Rating: 5/5

War Storm is the fourth and final major installment in Victoria Aveyard’s best selling Red Queen series. I was lucky enough to be at her publication party at Diesel, A Bookstore in Brentwood, where well over 100 people came to celebrate the release of this book, along with Victoria Aveyard in Conversation with Marie Lu. What an amazing event.

Nearly a month and a half later, I finally finish this 657 page beast that is War Storm.

More political and war/battle-filled over anything, the politics, strategies, and battles keep this novel fast-paced and full of constant action, which is generally always a good thing. Not only do Mare, Evangeline, and Iris return as leading ladies and perspective characters, but we finally get perspective chapters for both Cal and Maven (two chapters each). This shows Aveyard’s craft and ability as a writer by being able to take on these different perspectives and have these characters stand out from each other, and we can also see some of their reasons for doing things.

Some of my personal comments:

  • Iris is a SCARY lady
  • Evangeline is my favorite character (love her attitude and style)
  • I root for Cal

The ending is not quite what I imagined, and it is open in a way that there could be more short or side stories, or maybe even a little novella to show what some of the characters are doing in future. Overall, it is conclusive, and I feel that the ending is what it needed to be, whether it’s what I was expecting, or what I wanted, or not.

We, the reader, are taken all over the country in this book, and get to see different political sides to things and how different sets of people are living with this war going on. Montfort is very interesting, and we can blatantly see many political aspects in this novel that shout at what the U.S. is experiencing in 2018, something to help young readers look at and connect themselves with current issues through the reflections in the novel they read.

I don’t particularly want to give away any plot, so I leave you with this: War Storm is a fantastic read to match Red Queen. While Glass Sword and King’s Cage feel a bit droll, this wraps the series up nicely. I highly recommend finishing the series, even if you have been annoyed or frustrated with previous volumes, or picking up the series for the first time, to reach this final point. I also leave you with this promotional image from the publisher. Even after finishing the book, I still can’t figure out what some of these might be!

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P.S. A worthwhile finale!

Should You Read It–Honorable Mentions Part 23

Untamed: The Psychology of Marvel’s Wolverine by Suzana E. Flores

Genre: Marvel Comics/Psychology

Rating: 4/5

Image result for Untamed: The Psychology of Marvel's WolverineThis is a nonfiction book that takes different elements of psychology and applies them to the Marvel Comics character, Wolverine. Wolverine is very iconic in society today, and many people know him from the X-men movies, and some know him from the comics. For those that aren’t familiar with his story beyond the cinematic universe, this book summarizes various aspects of Wolverine’s origins and history as he is written in the comics, applying major psychological foundations to his behavior and analyzing why this anti hero does what he does.

Wolverine aside, this book definitely has a textbook feel to it, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some of the topics discussed in relation to Wolverine as the subject in question are the Absent Mother (which we see in numerous  pieces of fiction), The Five Stages of Grief, The Psychology of Torture (in which various types of torture and what they do to the body are written therein), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Dissociation Identity Disorder, and a whole slew of other psychological topics that can be analyzed as they relate to Wolverine’s development as a person. I found this book interesting in that, while I knew quite a few of these things from college, I learned quite a bit more about psychology that I did not know, and applying these concepts to a character that I am familiar with and have empathy for helps focus these complex ideas. If you are a psychology major or a Wolverine fan, this book may just interest you. If I were a psychology professor, I might select this as the course textbook because it not only hits major areas of psychological study, but the subject of interest (Wolverine) may connect better with the younger generations and would make learning psychology more interesting than not having a contemporary and well-known example to draw the reader in. Overall, a bit of a heavy read, but vastly interesting!

 

Tokyo Tarareba Girls (Vol. 1) by Akiko Higashimura

Genre: Manga/Romance

Rating: 5/5

34296854First of all, thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book for free for an honest review, and thanks to Miss Akiko Higashimura, author of one of my all-time top favorite manga series, Princess Jellyfish! What an exciting honor!

Being a lover of Princess Jellyfish and its unique story line that avoid most of the tropes and cliches seen in many manga, I was excited to learn about this never series being serialized in English. After seeing some of the reviews about it, as well as getting a chance to sample it, I was a bit unsure at first if it would be quite on par with Princess Jellyfish. While the stories are both very different (and rather unique), after finishing this volume, I am definitely invested! I will be adding this one to my Higashimura collection and already have the second volume in my shopping cart!

This book is about a girl named Rinko, 33 years old, who works as a scriptwriter for various web series. Oh and she’s getting to that age where she worries about not ever getting married, and her friends are in a similar boat. When a young man begins to point out that they are “ladies” and not “girls,” and that they are just a group of “What if’s,” Rinko falls even further into her slump of aging. “Tarareba,” as defined in the novel, means “what if,” and that’s where Rinko’s problems lay. She wonders “what if I dated this guy” “What if I didn’t go out with the girls,” “What if” this, and “what if” that. She soon finds that questioning things is a lack of taking action, and not taking action is what puts her in the situation she finds herself in as a 33-year-old woman!

While the beginning was a bit off-putting (I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this manga), I was quickly immersed and some of the twists I was hoping for went in the right direction. The end of this manga has me itching for more, and also wondering if Rinko will ever find happiness in life without marriage…or perhaps one day she will find the right man!

 

Sota’s Knife (Vol. 1) by Kei Honjo and Yuichiro Sueda

Genre: Manga/Food/Cooking

Rating: 4/5

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eceived from NetGalley and the publisher for an honest review—thank you!!

Sota’s Knife was a fun food-filled manga. Sota is a young man who leaves his hometown to gain experience in food practice to one day bring his family’s own small restaurant to be the best it can be. Although just a helper and dishwasher, in his spare time, Sota practices cooking at home with different forms of the same ingredients, as well as using his knife in the most intricate of ways to make the food perfect.

I thought this food manga was very interesting. It had quite a few translation notes that related to the type of cuts, food, bentos, and restaurants therein relating to both current culture and history. I get the sense of a well-researched writer and learned quite a few fact about different types of restaurants in Japan–what makes something fancy, and what doesn’t?

I thought the art was pretty good and liked Sota’s attitude towards learning new things in the kitchen. His motivation and strive to constantly be better makes the character fun to follow and root for. I definitely wouldn’t mind reading the next one!

 

The Mirror and the Mountain by Luke Aylen

Genre: Children’s Fantasy/Adventure

Rating: 3/5

38588898Thank you NetGalley, Luke Aylen, and Monarch books for the opportunity to read this book for an honest review.

This book is like a mesh of Narnia and The Hobbit, with a sprinkle of Spirited Away.

Jonah and Summer are both eleven years old. When exploring in a building, Summer finds herself whisked to another world through a mirror, and Jonah soon follows. With they way back destroyed, Summer and Jonah embark on a quest to find a mirror that can take them home, making quite a few interesting friends along the way.

This is perfect for readers ages 10-12 (maybe younger or older, depending on the reader of course) and is a classic fantasy: children find themselves embarking on a quest, and there are dwarves, dragons, and elves, all classic fantasy creatures.

I thought that the story was very dialogue heavy and lacked more detail where it could have been added. It was hard to picture the world since the scenes felt low-key, but since I’ve read so many books with a similar feel, my mind was able to paint what wasn’t there. The use of mostly dialogue does help the story move faster, but I also didn’t feel much of a connection to any of the characters. They felt somewhat flat and went through very little development by the end, and what bits were obviously pointed out as a change in character felt unrealistic and rushed.

As a story to read for fun, especially for the age group, it was a fun little adventure. The dragon is my favorite character, for sure, which is what drew me into wanting to read this in the first place.

 

Karate Heat (Vol. 1) by Eiichi Kitano

Genre: Sports Manga/Middle Grade

Rating: 4.5/5

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Thank you NetGalley, Kodansha Comics (one of my favorite manga publishers), and Eiichi Kitano for he opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

I never expected to adore a karate book so much! Karate Heat features two boys: Shinya, a boy who knows nothing about karate, and Takumi, a boy who is a young karate national champion who has adored the sport since childhood. On a chance meeting, Takumi finds that Shinya might just have what it take to match up to his own special strength and stamina…one day. Together, the boys enter junior high and join a karate club where they strive to be the best. As long as Shinya has a set goal, he can accomplish anything he sets his mind to.

This is an excellent middle-grade novel that’s not only about karate, but friendship and self-determination as well. The art is excellent and the story is very engaging and fast-paced. The characters are interesting and likable, and I want to root for Shinya as he begins to move from the basics of karate in his own unique way as the series moves forward. Recommended for middle-grade, sports lovers, and manga lovers of all ages!

The Door to the Lost–Should You Read It?

Image result for the door to the lostGenre: Children/Teen Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5

First of all, a huge thank you to NetGalley, Random House Children’s, and Jaleigh Johnson for the opportunity to read this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Jaleigh Johnson’s new novel for younger readers, The Door to the Lost, is an amazing gem among fantasy novels for younger readers. From what I can tell, it is a stand-alone, but there are potential opportunities for future adventures with the characters…maybe?

This book contains multiple worlds/dimensions, and in Talhaven, magic suddenly disappeared. In Vora, a magical war leads to the adult wizards sending their children to Talhaven. Hundreds of children find themselves in a world they don’t know with no memories of their names or families, but they all have different magical abilities. As these exiles learn to control and use their abilities, the people of Talhaven want to use them for their own needs, since the society that so heavily relies on magic can no longer replenish their own magical resources.

Since the children cannot remember their birth names, they each give themselves their own names, often based on their abilities. The main character of this story, Rook, is able to open gateways to any place in the world…just not to other worlds, like her homeland of Vora. But her doorways keep opening up to the same place against her best efforts, and she can’t seem to find out why. Her best friend, Drift, can use magic to fly, manipulating wind currents and air in various ways. The two aim to live a simple life in seclusion until two things happen: a giant magical Fox appears, and an adult wizard claiming to need their help to save the town the children temporarily occupy.

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I vastly enjoyed this book, and for 304 pages, it goes by in a flash! The story is told from Rook’s third person limited perspective, and her age resonates with a young adult. Readers both middle grade and high school will find enjoyment in the magic and adventure found in this book. It also deals with the thematic ideas of finding one’s own identity and what family means. A book that I would like to have in my classroom, this is a great read for a young adult audience.

Following Rook on her adventure was exhilarating, and despite the fact that this is definitely a conclusive volume, I wouldn’t mind seeing further adventures with these characters. Even if you are beyond the years of middle or high school, if you like a quick read and are a lover of fantasy, put this one on your list! This is a must-read book for all ages!

Falling Kingdoms (Falling Kingdoms #1)-Should You Read It?

Image result for falling kingdomsGenre: Young Adult High Fantasy

Rating: 4/5

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes is the first book in a high fantasy series of the same name. This book has multiple perspective characters written in third person limited. Three kingdoms seemingly have peace: Auranos, the southern kingdom flourishing with game and crops, with two young princesses; Limeros, the northern kingdom covered in snow, but likewise flourishing; and Paelsia, a kingdom stuck in the middle, unable to access resources from its two bordering countries because the borders are guarded.

Cleo, younger princess of Auranos, finds herself venturing with her not-so-nice, soon-to-be fiance to Paelsia for some whine, his hot temper begins the entire conflict that drives the events of the novel. Always getting his way, he stabs an innocent man in the street, and all Cleo can do is stand by and watch.

Jonas is from a Paelsian family of wine sellers, and his brother has just been murdered in front of him. While Auranos may not think much of this murder, Paelsia will begin to gather forces and unite with Limeros against the Auranos king.

In Limeros, a whole different expanse of events is going on. Magnus is the prince, and his father is known as the King of Blood. Magnus finds that he is slowly following in his father’s footsteps, especially when he is asked to capture Cleo, and his blade tastes blood for the first time on that journey. Meanwhile, his sister, Lucia, finds that she is gaining magical abilities. The book starts with a girl being taken from her crib by a witch, and Lucia is the prophesied girl who will help reshape the world, and her “father” aims to use her as a tool. Oh, and let’s not forget that Magnus is in love with her, but she can’t see him beyond being a brother!

The original murder of Jonas’s brother has sparked an entire war, the first battle of which someone will definitely win by the end of the book, but which country will it be? And what will the losing side do to fix things?

This book definitely has a bit of a Game of Thrones feel to it, but on a more accessible level for a teen audience. There are a lot of elements I didn’t mention either, such as the Watchers, people who live beyond the plane of mortality and can only appear in the form of animals (hawks only, I think?). They are waiting for something, but what could it be? And Why? This book also has a beautiful writing style and a structure that takes the reader through a different character perspective every chapter. Albeit third person limited, the reader still gets a really good look inside the character’s heads. The character development is superb, and I expect even more from the next book.

This book is fast-paced, exciting, fun, full of risks, blood, princes and princesses, broken hears, and malice. I would recommend it for not only a teen audience, but anyone who finds enjoyment out of high fantasy that has well crafted plot, characters, settings, and unique world-building. Oh, and let’s not forget the magic! This is definitely one of the better fantasy novels I have read in quite some time, and I am already itching to read the next one! Let’s just say…I went out and bought the whole series after reading this book–that’s the promise the Falling Kindoms series shows!

The Shield Breaker (Book One in the Enclave Saga)–Should You Read It?

Image result for the shield breaker enclave sagaGenre: Young Adult Fantasy

Rating: 4/5

First and foremost, I would like to thank NetGalley and the author, Scott Beckman, for the opportunity to read this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

One of the fun thing about this book was that it was sent directly to my Kindle, and I can take notes on it. Some of the concepts and ideas were a bit hard to follow at first, but were explained later, so I am going to write about some of the things I noticed about this book full of magic. But first…

This book is about Cait, a girl who lives in a post-apocalyptic world in which magic was its downfall. Now there are a few wizards, but magic is so dangerous, wizards need to be trained and kept in check. When Cait finds a book of magic, she teaches herself with the guidance of a spectral wizard against the wishes of her own city’s guiding wizard.

Vitoria, the guiding wizard of Denver, finds that Cait’s meddling with another wizard is dangerous and that she should not meddle with this outsider again. This other wizard tells Cait all of these horror stories about Vitoria. But who is telling the truth? Who should she choose to guide her magic training? Who can be believed?

With only the Shield to protect the city from the devastation of the outside world, Cait has some serious choices to make.

One of the main aspects of this novel is that the main city’s name is Denver. I don’t recall the book ever explicitly saying that it is the same Denver we know in Colorado, but perhaps this is a potential future to our society where magic becomes prominent and deadly. The other thing it reminded me of was The Maze Runner series’ The Death Cure and how the main city is Denver. Why is Denver such a popular place for post-apocalyptic settings? Another thing that actually reminded me of The Maze Runner series were these creatures called vorazi, described in a way that is reminiscent of Cranks, but later we learn even more about these creatures that separates them from that type of “undead,” as it were.

In this world, technology once used to be a prominent thing. Now generators are run by magic from the few wizards living in the city. People live in tends strewn about as various communities. Cancer is as real as ever. And there are different types of wizards. Some can see through the eyes of animals while others can control minds.

I find Cait to be a pretty interesting character, although her internal conflict doesn’t seem too strong about some of the choices she makes. When a friend tells on her, she seems to be mad for too short a time. With this in mind, the end leaves room for some fun character and relationship development, as well as opening up to a longer adventure for Cait, so that will be fun to read.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it pretty fast compared to some other books I have picked up recently. It’s not too complicated, and things get explained more than once, which seems warranted for some of the more complex ideas that might not stick in the reader’s head right away. I would definitely recommend this for readers 12-18 (or anyone who loves a good story about magics and wizards in a post-apocalyptic world), and I find that the next book will be even more fast-paced and exciting than the first!

Scythe-Should You Read It?

Image result for scythe shustermanGenre: Young Adult Fiction/Almost Dystopian?

Rating: 5/5

While the world of Scythe is set in a far future society, the world is almost like one giant utopia. Almost.

Citra and Rowan have grown up in a society hundreds of years beyond the Age of Mortality. Science and medicine have come so far as to be able to revive a person from things such as jumping off buildings (known as “splatting” in this world), a knife to the heart, and even beheading! The only thing that people cannot be revived from is a flaming death–the remains are too far gone to be able to revive.

People grow up with nanites withing their bodies, little machines that can emit pain killers, balance one’s fat ratio, and control one’s emotions, making every human perfect in terms of peace.

In this society where people can no longer die, murder isn’t even a contemplation. It just doesn’t exist. But the population of humanity could reach a high point, and then the entire world would be in poverty, running out of resources. That’s where the Scythedom comes in. The Scythedom is an organization that ordains people–called scythes–to select people at random to glean (their society’s word for kill), for population control and peace. There are only a number of scythes per region in the world, and they are responsible for gleaning a certain number of people every year, a quota to meet to keep the population in check in a world of immortality. How a scythe selects their target, their meathods of gleaning (weapon of choice), and where are completely up to them as long as they follow the ten commandments of the Scythedom. Scythes cannot kill based on any form of bias, such as race, gender, of popularity. Their selections should be random.

Citra meets Scythe Faraday when he visits her home for dinner only to glean her next door neighbor. Rowan meets Scythe Faraday when he comes to a school to glean a student. The two show traits that would make a good scythe: schythes shouldn’t want to be a scythe, shouldn’t enjoy killing.

Faraday takes the two on as apprentices, but a scythe who enjoys killing and wants to change the Scythedom for the worse, claims he shouldn’t have two apprentices. Now Citra and Rowan must both strive to be selected as a scythe, but only one can get the scythe ring. And their first act will be to glean the loser.

First and foremost, you should read this book! It is an utterly amazing and unique take on population control as well as future technology and what people can do with it. It also has a number of controversial issues regarding some of the ways people are killed, especially Scythe Goddard’s methods which involve mass gleanings–reflecting all too well the events of society today. A book that can highlight these issues is important to bring forth discussions, especially in young people. This book is recommended for readers age 12 and up for these reasons.

One of the other things I really like about this book is that it has reading group discussion questions and activities–both of which can be applied to fit the needs of a classroom. As an educator, I see an exponential amount of promise in this book and using it in the classroom. Because of the questions and activities–which can be easily adapted for any grade level 7-12–this book can be easily made into a current events unit because of how much it reflects many of today’s controversies. I also think students should have more of a variety in what they are required to read at school, rather than just the “great literary canon,” because some of those ideas might not fit with a certain generation of students, although many elements can still be applied today. It’s important to find something that relates to student passions, and students today follow current events now more than ever before, once again making this a viable book to bring into the classroom.