YA Book Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

YA Book Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare BlakeThree Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Published by HarperTeen on September 20th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 398
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Fans of acclaimed author Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood will devour her latest novel, a dark and inventive fantasy about three sisters who must fight to the death to become queen. 

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose...it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.
The last queen standing gets the crown. 

 

Three Dark Crowns is about three princesses, each with a different “gift/power”. In order to become Queen, one princess must kill her other two sisters in cold blood. Pretty dark right? That’s what I thought when I first read the synopsis which completely sparked my interest.

I LOVE the way this book starts, it is probably the reason why I like Katherine so much. The group of people in charge of raising her poison her every day. I cringed at their treatment of Katherine but I also appreciated how it added to the darkness of the story. Katharine’s gift as a poisoner is weak and nonexistent. Even so, she is forced to eat poisonous food, which reeks havoc with her thin body.

Katharine is considered to be the weakest and smallest of the potential Queens. Even her keepers don’t think she stands much of a chance. I, on the other hand, am completely on #TeamKatharine. She is strong-willed, determined and cunning. Katharine also has a type of viciousness to her that I can’t help but love. She also has the most adorable pet snake named Sweetheart that she sometimes wears as a bracelet. Freaking adorable.

Arsinoe also has a “weak” gift (she’s a naturalist). I can’t quite say why exactly she is not one of my favorite, but her best friend Jules I love completely. Arsinoe does not seem interested in being Queen. Jules and her family are in charge of Arsinoe and they try their hardest to help Arsinoe awaken her power. Arsinoe might have a few things up her sleeve and with how things ended I can’t wait to see how things turn out for her.

Mirabella is the sister with the most powerful gift. Her gift allows her to call on all the elements bring down storms and control fire. I feel like she is the most mysterious because we do not see as much of her storyline. Her keepers are almost as bad as Katherine’s, but in her case she could totally kill them by calling on lightning to strike them dead. However, she does not do this. Mirabella tries to abide by the rules, but it seems like there is more to Mirabella than this first book can handle.

Besides the three princesses, Three Dark Crowns had a variety of characters. From the keepers of the princesses to the other islanders and the main landers/suitors. As I mentioned before, Jules is one of those secondary characters that I love and feel deserves a book of her own. I love the intricate web Kendare Blake weaves around all the  characters in this book and how she connects them.

The world building in Three Dark Crowns is complex. It does take a while develop. Though this might have dragged the pacing of the book a bit, I think it does set up all the groundwork for the following books in the series. When I first started to read Three Dark Crowns I could have sworn it did not say anything about it being a multi-book series. I even started to get worried (as I got closer to the end of the book) that my digital ARC was missing pages or chapters (I still feel like it did miss a few things). Also, there are a few romances in this book, but they are strange and maybe unnecessary. It’s probably my least favorite part of the story. Both left me feeling a bit heartbroken and angry.

Was Three Dark Crowns as dark as I expected? It was fairly dark, but then again maybe for the average person, the premises of one sister killing her other sisters in order to be Queen is dark enough (I like things a bit more twisted and morbid). I would not mind a little more blood, or maybe a bit more poisoning. Overall, Three Dark Crowns left me wanting more. The ending blew me away and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. Hopefully, the series will get even darker, and have even more twists. If anything, Three Dark Crowns has convinced me that I need to read more of Kendare Blake’s books ASAP.

If you are already a fan of Kendare Blake’s books, you will want to pick this up right away. Lovers of YA fantasy who want a well developed, dark and intense read, you should definitely read Three Dark Crowns. Remember to give the world-building time to take shape because the last third and ending of this book makes it totally worth it.

Thank you, Harper Teen and Edelweiss for providing me with an advance copy in return for my honest review.

four-half-stars

YA Book Review: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

YA Book Review: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnisThe Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on September 20th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Goodreads
five-stars

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.
While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.
But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.
So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.
Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

The Female of the Species is such an important, honest and brutal book about all the darker things that DO happen to kids every day somewhere out there in the world. It isn’t an easy book to read and it will make you uncomfortable. Many will even say it should come with a trigger warning. Author Mindy McGinnis doesn’t sugarcoat anything in her story. There is foul language, drinking, drugs, sex, and violence (animal, people and sexual).

At its core, The Female of the Species is a book about rape and all the many ways rape culture manifests in our everyday lives. It is also a story about friendship, loss, rage, and love. There are so many “lessons” all teens (girls and boys) NEED to learn in this story. I would love to be able to hand out copies to everyone I meet because this book needs to be read.

At its core, The Female of the Species is a book about rape and all the many ways rape culture manifests in our everyday lives. It is also a story about friendship, loss, rage, and love. There are so many “lessons” all teens (girls and boys) NEED to learn in this story. I would love to be able to hand out copies to everyone I meet because this book needs to be read.

“You see it in all animals – the female of the species is more deadly than the male.”

fem

The Female of the Species is told through the first-person POVs of three characters:

Alex Craft- her older sister Anna was raped and murdered and whose killer walked because of the lack of evidence. This injustice causes Alex to give in to her darker impulses and seek her own form of justice. She also cuts herself off from social interactions.

Peekay (Claire)- She is the preacher’s kid, representing the “every girl” in us. She is also a representation of the many females that instead of rallying around one another actually do more harm than good, without even knowing it.

Jack- The jock/golden boy, handsome, smart, popular, with a long list of sexual conquests, but who is now interested in Alex. There is more to Jack though than all of these labels, he wants to be a better person.

Mindy McGinnis did a fantastic job with the development of these characters (as well as the minor characters too), and in how they connect to one another. The unlikely friendship built between Alex and Peekay only doubles when Alex saves Peekay from what could have been a really bad situation. Alex helps Peekay see how she without meaning to, contributes to the ideology that “boys will be boys”. In return, Peekay helps Alex come out of her shell and interact more with the other teens around her. For however brief a moment, she helps Alex almost feel normal.

I really like Alex. I know not everyone will feel the same way, but I do. She is a strong, complex, and definitely broken. However, I couldn’t help liking this anti-hero, this girl who calls herself “vengeance” and happens to be a killer (with criteria). We all have a part of us that might go a bit further, a bit darker if pushed to our limits (at least I believe we do). To me, even if Alex did turn out to be a complete monster , she still has redeeming qualities.

The use of animals in certain scenes by the author was a really great way to connect how much pain and violence humans are capable of doing to all living things, including themselves. For as much animal abuse shown in the book, you also get to see the love and care that Alex gives to these animals. You get to see a completely different side to Alex full of compassion and love.

The author has a valid reason for including what some might find to be offensive or troubling. This is all done to create a lasting impression, a way to connect with the reader and make the point stick. Questions will arise while reading The Female of Species and that is a good thing. Questions like: Why shame someone for doing exactly what you also want to do?

“You shouldn’t be that way about her,” Alex says. “I hear what people say and I bet half of it isn’t even true. And even if it is – fine. She’s no different from you and me; she wants to have sex. So let her…She likes boys, and she can get them. You were hurt by that, but it wasn’t Branley who hurt you. It was Adam.”

The Female of the Species questions why society normalizes the kind of behavior/talk where boys speak about girls as if they are non-human, or just things to be used.

“Tonight they used words they know, words that don’t bother people anymore. They said bitch. They told another girl they would put their dicks in her mouth. No one protested because this is our language now.”

It is in accepting these thoughtless remarks/language where girls turn against each other out of jealousy or anger, or where boys aren’t accountable for their actions or words that lead us to the present issue we have with rape-culture. This is one of the many reasons why The Female of the Species is such an important book.

On a lighter note, there are lots of good things that happen in this story. Watching the relationships of all the girls in the story change and blossom was one of the most beautiful parts of this story. I loved the romance between Alex and Jack and how their relationship actually helped each of them grow and become better individuals. So it’s not all about violence and swearing.

The writing is splendid and so beautifully done. The story becomes lyrical and poetic. Here is one of my favorite heartbreaking quotes (keep in mind this comes from an uncorrected proof copy…as do all the other quotes in this review:

“Sometimes I forget for one second and it hurts. It’s a different kind of pain than the constant, the weight that hangs from my heart. It swings from twine embedded so deeply that my aorta has grown around it.  Blood pulses past rope in the chambers of my heart, dragging away tiny fibers until my whole body is suffused and pain is all I am and ever can be. “

Seriously, how can one not swoon to a passage like that?

Yes, The Female of the Species will linger in my mind and my heart for a long time to come. I did not want to put this book down. From the first sentence, I knew I was hooked. What’s not to love about a book that reminds girls to have self-respect? Or to respect one another too? Or one that calls guys out on their BS while also reminding them to be respectful of girls? I highly recommend this story to all teens and adults alike. It is a MUST read. It will not disappoint.

~Thanks to Katherine Tegen Books and Edelweiss for providing me with the arc in exchange for an honest review~

Signature

five-stars

Graphic Novel Review: Hilda and The Stone Forest by Luke Pearson

Graphic Novel Review: Hilda and The Stone Forest by Luke PearsonHilda and the Stone Forest by Luke Pearson
Published by Flying Eye Books on October 4th 2016
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Middle Grade
Pages: 64
Goodreads

Hilda may be grounded, but that won’t stop her from heading off on another daring adventure! But everything is thrown off course when her mother catches her and is dragged along for the ride. Furious with each other, the bickering pair find themselves lost in the land of the trolls, forced to embark on a dangerous journey to make their way home. And to make matters even more difficult, Hilda has to do so . . . as a troll? Buckle your seatbelts for a crazy body-swapping adventure!
Luke Pearson is the artist and writer of the Hilda series of graphic novels. He has fast become one of the leading talents of the United Kingdom and United States comics scene, garnering rave reviews from the New York Times and the School Library Journal. He was the winner of the Young People's Comic category at the British Comic Award in 2012, and he has been nominated for the Eisner Award's Best Publication for Kids and Best Writer/Artist in 2013. He has recently written and storyboarded multiple episodes of the cult classic show Adventure Time. He lives in Bristol, United Kingdom.

Hilda and the Stone Forest is a fast paced, fun and vivid graphic novel. This was my first time reading one of Hilda’s stories and I was completely charmed by her inquisitive nature. In many ways, the curious Hilda reminds me a little of my younger self. I probably didn’t sneak off to as many adventures as Hilda. In this book, Hilda’s mom has had enough of Hilda always being late for dinner. She warns Hilda to not go off again, but when Hilda doesn’t listen her mom decides it’s time for a grounding.

However, grounding Hilda really doesn’t do much to stop her from going off on a new adventure. Things go a little askew when her mom catches her about to jump into a magical portal. They both end up getting sucked in and thrown out of a different opening. Hilda and her mom end up in an eerie stone forest filled with trolls. Together with Twig (Hilda’s adorable pet), they must find their way home. With no magic portal insight though will they ever be able to get home?

I really love how Luke Pearson is able to capture the vitality and curious nature in Hilda. The fully illustrated pages (all the way to the very edges of the page) is visually stunning. These fully illustrated pages really helped to immerse me in the story. The bold and colorful illustrations also gave the story movement and a good pace. As you start to read it, you can already sense from the drawings that Hilda is on the move and on a mission.

Hilda and the Stone Forest is all about bravery, adventure and of the comfort in knowing that our home will always be there to return to no matter how far off we wander. I am so glad I found this story, and I will definitely be checking out the other Hilda books. I highly recommend Hilda and the Stone Forest to readers that enjoy graphic novels full of excitement, adventure, and odd creatures.

Thank you Flying Eye Books for providing me with a review copy in return for my honest review.

Blog Tour + Review+Giveaway The Storybook Knight by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty

Storybook Knight

The Storybook Knight

By:Helen Docherty, Thomas Docherty

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Pub. Date: Sept 6th, 2016

My Rating: FIVE Stars!

Goodreads|B&N|Amazon

Goodreads: “Even dragons can’t resist a good story…

Even though Leo would rather sit at home and read, his parents send him out into the world in the hopes that Leo will become a famous knight. But when Leo comes up against the land’s most fearsome beasts, he soon discovers that scary monsters enjoy a good book as much as anyone…” 

I am really excited to be participating in the blog tour for The Storybook Knight by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty. I previously reviewed this gorgeous book here, but I wanted to do a little something special for this tour to help promote and celebrate this enchanting story.

The Storybook Knight centers around Leo, a cute little mouse who happens to love reading over swordplay and being a knight. Even when he is sent off to find fame and glory by his parents, he still manages to take some books with him. As he reluctantly sets off to find adventure, he starts to come across a variety of fearsome beasts.

Luckily, Leo is able to befriend them all by sharing with them a story. He uses his imagination to alter some of them to fit his needs. In the end, he is able to convince each of the creatures not to harm him. He also inspires them with his stories and books, and by doing so lights the joy of reading in their hearts.

I am so glad I was able to read this beautifully illustrated and charming story. There are some lovely lessons is this book, especially these:

code-of-honor-storybook

Want to join Leo and become a Storybook Knight too? Pledge your alliance here to receive a certificate of membership, Storybook Knight news, and more!

I highly recommend The Storybook Knight to anyone who loves beautifully detailed picture books with a strong and important lesson. I would also recommend it to anyone who likes stories with knights, dragons and a bit of silliness in them. A must read for lovers of reading and books.

I would like to thank Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for the beautiful finished copy they sent me in return for participating in the tour, and Netgalley for the e-ARC I was sent a few months ago in return for an honest review.

FullSizeRender (51)Remember: A Story is Mightier than a Sword…


ABOUT THE AUTHOR and ILLUSTRATOR

helen-and-thomas

 

Helen Docherty has spent most of her career as a language teacher, most recently specializing in Spanish. Her website is helendocherty.com.

Thomas Docherty studied metalwork and sculpture at college before becoming an illustrator of children’s books. His website is thomasdocherty.co.uk.

Helen and Thomas live in Wales with their two young daughters.

Author / Illustrator Links:

Thomas Docherty: www.thomasdocherty.co.uk

Twitter: @TDIllustration

Helen Docherty: www.helendocherty.com

Twitter: @docherty_helen


GIVEAWAY:

Enter for a chance to win an original sketch of Leo and Ned by illustrator Thomas Docherty!

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Blog Tour + Giveaway + Review : Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner

Blog Tour + Giveaway + Review : Phantom Limbs by Paula GarnerPhantom Limbs by Paula Garner
Published by Candlewick on September 13th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Goodreads
five-stars

How do you move on from an irreplaceable loss? In a poignant debut, a sixteen-year-old boy must learn to swim against an undercurrent of grief—or be swept away by it.
Otis and Meg were inseparable until her family abruptly moved away after the terrible accident that left Otis’s little brother dead and both of their families changed forever. Since then, it’s been three years of radio silence, during which time Otis has become the unlikely protégé of eighteen-year-old Dara—part drill sergeant, part friend—who’s hell-bent on transforming Otis into the Olympic swimmer she can no longer be. But when Otis learns that Meg is coming back to town, he must face some difficult truths about the girl he’s never forgotten and the brother he’s never stopped grieving. As it becomes achingly clear that he and Meg are not the same people they were, Otis must decide what to hold on to and what to leave behind. Quietly affecting, this compulsively readable debut novel captures all the confusion, heartbreak, and fragile hope of three teens struggling to accept profound absences in their lives.

Phantom Limbs is an exquisitely written debut novel by Paula Garner. It gives us an in-depth and heart-wrenching look at grief and loss, as well as how “phantom limbs” (either as body parts or people) effect the lives of the characters in her story. I loved how intricate and complex every single one of the characters in the story were. They felt “alive” and their voices completely authentic. Otis and Dara were my absolute favorites. They were sort of a “ying-yang” when it came to their personalities. Otis is the dearest! He is everything I ever wanted in a real life boy best friend, (especially back when I was in high school). He is a sweet, hopeless romantic with the heart of a poet, yet still completely believable because he has all the usual “teen angst and “guy thoughts”. Dara is older than he, a bit “harsh”, complicated and definitely a bit cynical when it comes to life and romance.

I thought their friendship to be very complex, at times frustrating/irritating but ultimately beautiful in how they were always truly there for one another. Their bond goes deeper than just regular a friendship, it’s almost like they could sense the damage and hurt radiating from one another. As for the romance is this book was done more as memories, or how one remembers their first love or an especially meaningful relationship.

I loved that Phantom Limbs also explored more than just romantic love, but all the many different types of love there is. From the type of love you have for your family to the type of love you feel for your friends this book covered it all. I really also liked the importance placed on the friendship between a male and a female not only between Otis and Dara but also Otis and Meg. Before any love transpired between Otis and Meg they were at their core best friends and that is important. They understood and truly knew each other. It is why when Meg moved away it was so much harder for Otis to let go. It wasn’t just his girlfriend, but also his best friend leaving him. When Meg does return (after three years of complete silence between them), he is confused, hurt but yet hopeful. He wants to feel that part of him again, have his best friend back and hopefully maybe his girlfriend back too. They both need to communicate and listen to each other to move forward, but we all know how the words “we need to talk” can be scary sometimes.  I really appreciated how the author handled and developed of this fragile relationship, especially as Otis and Meg each come to terms with the new people each of them have become and with the ghosts of their past. I think it was handled perfectly.

I couldn’t put this book down, and when I had to (due to life) I could almost feel it calling me to read it, like my own “phantom limb” in a way. This book broke my heart in so many different ways and times but it still left me with hope. Even days after reading it I find myself still completely stuck on it. I can’t wait until it is published and I can get my very own copy to love eternally. It was just that lovely of a book. The subject matter is a hard one to write about, but Paula Garner was able to tell the story how families and individuals deal with grief, loss and letting go in the most delicate and stunning way. Phantom Limbs has sealed Paula Garner as one of my favorite authors, and I will forever be a fan of her books, even if they make me cry and cling to my heart as much as Phantom Limbs has.

I highly recommend this coming-of-age story to all lovers of splendidly written books. This would be the perfect book for people who are either new or semi-new to the YA contemporary genre. The story is breathtaking, vivid and heartfelt, and flawless. Definitely one of the best YA contemporary books of 2016. You will not want to put it down and when you come to the end, you will be left feeling like a part of you is missing. Then you will understand the agony that is to have your own phantom limb pains.

Special thanks to Candlewick Press, and Hannah of the Irish Banana Reviews for providing me with an e-ARC and the chance to participate in this blog tour for Phantom Limbs in return for an honest review.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Paula Garner spends most of her time making food, drinks, and narratives, despite being surrounded by an alarming TBR pile and a very bad cat. Her debut YA novel, Phantom Limbs, comes out from Candlewick in 2016. Paula is represented by Molly Jaffa of Folio Lit, and lives in the Chicago area with her family.

LINKS: Website | Twitter


FOLLOW THE TOUR:

Week 1:

9/5: Such A Novel Idea – Guest Post

9/6: The Litaku – Review

9/7: The Irish Banana Review – Top 10

9/8: Pretty Deadly Reviews – Review

Week 2:

 

THE GIVEAWAY:

3 Finished Copies of PHANTOM LIMBS (US Only)

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five-stars