Category: 5 out of 5 stars

Damsel by Elana K. Arnold Review

Title: Damsel

Author: Elana K. Arnold

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

        I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               Happy International Women’s Day, everyone! I was browsing the shelves at my local library, and I had to return Damsel before I could read it the first time. When I saw it sitting on the shelf of the other library I frequent, I snatched it up. Honestly, what got me at first was its beautiful, gorgeous cover. But the story inside ripped me apart, put me back together, and had me roaring with triumph and rage. With gorgeous, lush prose, a premise that tipped a familiar fairy tale onto its head, and wonderful characters, I will never forget Damsel! One of my favorite books of 2018, hands down! A triumph of heart, audacity, and horror, all juxtaposed together! Elana K. Arnold has outdone herself with this book.

               You think you know the tale of Sleeping Beauty. A prince, a sleeping damsel, and a dragon. But in Prince Emory’s world, a prince can only become king after he’s slain a dragon and rescued the damsel imprisoned by the creature. He rescues a beautiful damsel, who he names Ama and has no memory of her life before being the dragon’s captive. Everything is as it should be… Or so it seems. When Ama discovers that art, thinking, and being anything but a wife and mother are barred to her, she begins to question everything she thought she knew. There are fiery secrets to be uncovered by the lost young woman, and she soon discovers that nothing is as it seems to be…

               I just finished this book last night and I’m still reeling. It was brutal, beautiful, unapologetically feminist, fierce and thought-provoking, and I loved every moment of it. That isn’t to say, of course, that there weren’t times when I was so emotionally overwhelmed that I had to put the book down and do something else. By all means, this book was not easy to get through. It had violence of every sort, but I think by doing so, Arnold was paying homage to the original fairy tale. I am, still, absolutely blown over. The writing was beautiful, and the pacing was breakneck; even when I wasn’t reading, it was still heavy on my mind. I read through half of it the first day I started, and I broke the second half over two days, as I’ve been busy with personal issues. I finished it last night in the tub and was blown away, in the best way! I loved Ama, and her character development from a lost, confused girl into a confident and self-assured young woman. Emory, Pawlin, the queen mother, Tillie, and Alyss helped provide great foils to her. I loved the way that this book called out misogyny and sexism, and talked about consent and agency. And that ending! I’m still thinking about it. Arnold did a fantastic job. The only thing I would say would be to be cautious and give this to older teens, as the violence gets a big focus throughout the book. Nonetheless, this book is definitely one of my recent favorites. Absolutely phenomenal! The bottom line: Dark, gorgeous, and surprising, I loved Damsel, especially the surprising ending! What an amazing book, especially considering the political climate we’re living in currently. Next on deck: Archenemies by Marissa Meyer!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/03/damsel-by-elana-k-arnold-review.html

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi Review

Title: The Gilded Wolves

Author: Roshani Chokshi

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction

Series: The Gilded Wolves, book one

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               Roshani Chokshi captured my heart and imagination with her debut novel, The Star-Crossed Queen, so when I found out that she was writing a new book, I was so excited. I had some space in my library stack, so when I saw it sitting on a shelf at my local library, I snatched it up. I started it as soon as I was finished with Dry, and I just finished it last night, in a mess of emotions and tears. The Gilded Wolves is a fantastic series debut. I’m not sure how to describe it, actually, but I’ll do my best. This book was like a gorgeous, hilarious, dark mashup of Six of Crows, National Treasure, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them; original, lush, and seductive, I loved The Gilded Wolves! Easily one of my favorite books of 2018, and I’m already dying for the sequel!

               The Gilded Wolves opens in Belle Epoque Paris, with a group of lovable misfits working to right the wrongs of the past. But they are led by Severin, a young man with many scars and even more secrets. Desperate to reclaim the birthright that was so cruelly taken from him, he jumps at the chance to acquire true power and avenge his late mother. Enlisting his friends to help him, Severin finds himself drawn into a deadly game of monsters, gods, forbidden magic and secret loves. But he is hellbent on becoming who he’s always wanted to be, even if it means risking everything and everyone, he cares about…

               This book was a total knockout! I was blown over. There wasn’t a thing I didn’t like about The Gilded Wolves, except for the fact that I’m going to have to wait for over a year for the sequel! Beautifully written, expertly paced, with lovable, diverse characters, it felt like after I read this book, I was losing a beloved group of friends. I’m so excited for the sequel! The format was really cool; I liked the way that the author broke the narrative apart with different ‘case files’ and worldbuilding tidbits. I also adored the way that Chokshi took a time period that I thought I was familiar with and insert magic, mystery, and romance into it. I loved all of the characters, especially Zofia, Hypnos, Tristan, Laila, Enrique, and Severin, but I can’t decide who is my favorite! I loved them all so much; they felt like a family to me. And that ending! I was an absolute mess. All the ugly crying. All I can say is that I hope the sequel comes soon, because I am dying here! A beautiful, twisty puzzle wrapped in a mystery with more than one surprise in its center, I loved The Gilded Wolves! The bottom line: Gorgeous, surprising, and hilarious, I loved The Gilded Wolves! One of my favorite books of 2018, and I can’t wait for what’s coming next! Next on deck: Damsel by Elana K. Arnold!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/03/the-gilded-wolves-by-roshani-chokshi.html

Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman Review

Title: Dry

Author: Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               When I heard that Neal Shusterman was writing a brand-new book with one of his sons, I was so excited! Shusterman is one of my favorite authors, and even though I had to return it to the library a few times, I pushed it straight to the top of my stack when I realized I couldn’t renew it anymore. As soon as I finished How to Fracture a Fairy Tale, I started Dry, and this book blew me away, especially considering how dire the current climate change situation is. Timely, searing, thought-provoking and beautifully written, Dry is one of my favorite books of last year, and I can’t wait to see what this father-son author pairing has up its sleeves next!

               The Tap Out happens, an event that leaves many across the United States without one of its most vital natural resources: water. Alyssa Morrow and her brother Garrett must journey across the country to find their parents, who have gone missing in their quest to find drinkable water. They must team up with their weird doomsday prepper, Kelton, in order to survive. But other obstacles get in their way: water zombies, marauders, fires and rockslides and the utter destruction of human civilization as they know it. Because when things go completely dry, everyone is out to survive, by any means necessary…

This book is hard to describe. I finished it on Monday and I’m still trying to untangle my thoughts to put them down on paper. Part of the reason I picked up this book was because it was about something very important to me and my generation: climate change. That, and the cover was just gorgeous. I didn’t want to return it to the library again without reading it, so I was eager to start it as soon as I was finished with How to Fracture a Fairy Tale.  The pacing was breakneck, and the prose was so compelling that I was spellbound from the beginning. I loved the way that the view point went from Alyssa, to Kelton, to a drifter that they pick up, Jacqui, Alyssa’s little brother, Garrett, and Henry, who uses the disaster to his own ends. Sharp, brutal, thought-provoking and dark, I was neck deep in this book; it lingered in my thoughts even when I wasn’t reading it. I also loved the way the authors were constantly showing both the brutality and altruism of the human race, even in the face of terrible tragedy. What really got me, though, was the ending; my heart was pounding and I was either crying with sadness or ready to rip my hair out, I was so afraid! I loved the way that it ended, on a knife’s edge. I loved this book, and it deserves every single one of its five stars. I cannot wait to see what this dynamic duo has in store for us next! The bottom line: Sharp, brutal, cutting, and thought-provoking, I loved Dry, and it’s become one of my favorite books of 2018! Next on deck: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Choksi!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/02/dry-by-neal-and-jarrod-shusterman-review.html

How to Fracture a Fairy Tale by Jane Yolen Rev…

Title: How to Fracture a Fairy Tale

Author: Jane Yolen

Age Group: Adult

Genre: Anthology/Short Story Collection

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               Jane Yolen is one of my favorite authors; I’ve read several of her young adult books in the past, and when I saw a new short story collection sitting on the shelf at one of my local libraries, I snatched it up, eager to take it home and read it. When I realized I couldn’t renew it anymore, I pushed it to the top of my stack and began it immediately after I was finished with The Boneless Mercies. How to Fracture a Fairy Tale is a set of fairy tale retellings, told with lyrical prose and the wry humor that is Yolen’s signature. I was utterly delighted by this collection and devoured it in less than two days. This is easily one of my favorite collections of 2018, and I will be on the lookout for more of enchanting storyteller Jane Yolen’s work!

               This collection of tales contains many different stories, all different interpretations of fairy tales, some well-known, and others, not so much. I loved the variety of the stories; there was something for everyone in this volume. Because of how many stories were in here, for clarity’s sake, I cannot review every piece. So, I will give the book an overall rating and choose a few pieces that I really enjoyed.

               Godmother Death: 5 out of 5 Stars. I really enjoyed this one! I loved the tone; it read like an original fairy tale. Finding no one else to be godmother to his child, a poor villager asks Death in disguise. But as the child grows, Death follows in his wake, indifferent to the plights of humans. But things quickly change when the godson attempts to fool one of the oldest forces on earth. Wry, darkly funny, and beautifully written, it is one of my favorite stories in the volume!

               Sun/Flight: 5 out of 5 Stars. Another favorite of the collection. I loved this hopeful, passionate retelling of one of my favorite Greek mythology stories, Icarus! Given a job in a noble’s house, he falls in love with his proprietor’s daughter, after being saved from drowning in the ocean, he is heartbroken when she moves on to a better lover. Sad, lyrical, and beautifully told, I loved this spin on a tale I thought I knew!

               Allereirauh: 5 out of 5 Stars. I loved the way that this story went back to the fairy tale Cinderella’s dark, bloody roots. Bound by a promise to his dead wife to marry someone as beautiful as she, a king goes mad and pursues his own daughter to wed. Not many people know this version of the story, and the disturbing way that Yolen ended it both had my jaw on the floor and is still lingering in my mind, two days after I finished it. Dark, vicious, with hidden teeth, I will never forget this retelling!

               Granny Rumple: 5 out of 5 Stars. I loved this spin on Rumplestiltskin, infused with Yolen’s own Jewish culture and faith. Rumplestiltskin is one of my favorite fairy tales, and I loved the way that Yolen turned it on its head so that Granny Rumple, the fairy’s widow, came out on top. A hilarious, darkly funny romp that I really enjoyed.

               Mama Gone: 4 out of 5 Stars. What’s a story full of retellings without vampire horror somewhere in the mix? I really liked this story; it was sad, fast-paced, and bittersweet. A young woman loses her mother, and because her father cannot bear to cut off her head and feet, she comes back as a vampire and soon begins terrorizing the small town, tucked up against the mountains. The narrator must try to figure out how to stop her mother’s reign of terror, even at the risk of her own life. Dark, creepy, and bittersweet, I loved Mama Gone!

               Jane Yolen is one of America’s greatest storytellers, and for good reason. She is sharp, honest, funny, witty, and lyrical, and frankly, I’ve enjoyed every bit of her work that I’ve come across. This book was a fantastic literary palate cleanser in between novels, and I loved every moment of it! The bottom line: Fanciful, sharp, dark and honest, I loved How to Fracture a Fairy Tale! Next on deck: Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/02/how-to-fracture-fairy-tale-by-jane.html

The Crimes of Grindelwald: The Original Screen…

Title: The Crimes of Grindelwald: The Original Screenplay

Author: J.K. Rowling

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Screenplay

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               When I heard that there was a new series of Harry Potter movies being made, I was skeptical at first, to say the least. And I have to say that I wanted to love Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but honestly, my reaction was just lukewarm. I loved Newt, but as for the rest, I didn’t know how to feel. But I was looking forward to The Crimes of Grindelwald, if only because I was very curious about Dumbledore’s evil nemesis. I saw the movie the day after it first came to theaters, and ever since, I’ve been stewing over it. I ordered the screenplay right after I went to the movie, and it’s been sitting in my library stack ever since. As soon as I was finished with The Light Between Worlds, I pushed it to the top of my stack, as I couldn’t renew it. As it’s been lingering in my mind since I saw the movie, I was eager to read the screenplay, and I have a better perspective on the film now, even as I have more questions than answers. But nonetheless, I really enjoyed it!

               The Crimes of Grindelwald picks up where the last film left off, with Newt having to deal with the consequences of what happened in the last film. The immensely powerful Grindelwald in the American Ministry of Magic’s possession, thanks to Newt’s help. But he makes good on his threat and escapes his detainment, beginning to gather followers, most of whom have no idea what he really wants: to raise pureblood wizards up above all, most especially non-magical beings. In an effort to thwart his former friend’s plans, Albus Dumbledore asks Newt for help, once again, and Newt reluctantly agrees, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn and bonds are put to the ultimate test while the wizarding world becomes ever divided.

               I really enjoyed this screenplay; upon reading it, I realized that there were many, many things I missed; often, I had to go back and reread what I had just read. I devoured it in less than a day, and as a result, I am most eager to dive back into J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world; I’m so sad that the last movie in the trilogy won’t be coming out for a long while. The illustrations of the screenplay were beautiful and gave me hints as to what was going on in the screenplay, before I’d even started writing. As I said before, this movie answered a lot of questions that I had about the last film and the state of the wizarding world during this turbulent time, but for all my answers, I had even more questions. It’s been more than a month since seeing the film, and several days since I finished the screenplay, and I’m still reeling, and I can’t help but wonder what J.K. Rowling has in store for the last movie! If you guys have seen the movie and read the screenplay, what did you think? I know that this movie has mixed reviews, to say the least. Nonetheless, I really liked it! The bottom line: The original screenplay to The Crimes of Grindelwald, this book was fantastic, giving more depth to a world that has felt like home to me ever since I was a child, and I have so many questions! Next on deck: Fire and Heist by Sarah Beth Durst!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/01/title-crimes-of-grindelwald-original.html

The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth …

Title: The Light Between Worlds

Author: Laura E. Weymouth

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               The Light Between Worlds was found through a recommendation list, and I ordered it from my local library. It’s been sitting on my stack for a while, and after I did a complete overhaul, I chose to keep it, since the cover was so pretty and the premise was interesting; honestly, it reminded me of a sort of reverse Narnia: What would happen if you came back from a magical world? I loved the way that one of my favorite trope was turned on its head. As soon as I was finished with Pulp, I pushed The Light Between Worlds to the top of my stack. I finished it in less than a day, and I really enjoyed it. With its unique premise, gorgeous, lyrical prose, and relatable characters, I loved it so much, and I can’t wait for what Laura E. Weymouth has in store for us next!

Siblings Jamie, Evelyn, and Philippa Hapwell were somehow whisked away to a magical world called The Woodlands five years ago, while they were cowering in a London bomb shelter, fearing for their lives. Creating lives as heroes and healers in this mysterious place, populated by all manner of fantastical creatures, they hold a brief refuge in The Woodlands. When they finally returned home to London, nothing changed, except themselves. Now Evelyn spends her days longing for the peace and purpose she found in The Woodlands, and she vows to return, no matter the cost. Her sister, Philippa, meanwhile, just wants to forget what transpired there, determined to find her place in the real world. Flawless and perfect on the outside, she has many friends and a coveted scholarship to a school in America. Tired of always keeping her sister from breaking into pieces, she escapes, intent on making her life her own. But when Evelyn goes missing, she has to return home, forced to confront everything she’s been running from. As she follows paltry clues that her sister has left her, she begins to wonder if Evelyn did indeed find her way back to the one place that feels like home, or if the pull of their two lives ripped her apart…

               This book was a lovely, thought-provoking debut! I really loved it. I enjoyed the way that Weymouth turned the magical world trope on its head; it was really interesting. The pacing was breakneck, and I also liked the way that the book went back and forth between the past and present, between wartime London and the dangerous, seductive setting of The Woodlands; it provided a lot of perspective and context to the Hapwell siblings’ relationship. I only wish that Jamie had had a first-person point of view, as well, because I was left wondering how he was dealing with the transition. I also loved both Evelyn and Philippa’s points of view; they were so similar and so different all at once. The prose was lovely, almost breathtaking, and more often than not, I was going back to reread. One of my favorite things about this book was how prevalent art and poetry was at the forefront of the novel, particularly in Evelyn’s narrative. And the ending! Oh, my goodness, I cried so much throughout this book. Especially over the ending! The only thing that really bothered me was that I wished all three siblings had an equal voice throughout the story. Nonetheless, this debut was really strong, and I will never forget the Hapwell siblings. What an amazing book! Enchanting, seductive, and poetic, The Light Between Worlds knocked me flat. Absolutely fantastic! The bottom line: Gorgeous, emotional and tender, I loved The Light Between Worlds! Absolutely amazing, one of my favorite books of 2018! Next on deck: The Crimes of Grindelwald by J.K. Rowling!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-light-between-worlds-by-laura-e.html

Pulp by Robin Talley Review

Title: Pulp

Author: Robin Talley

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Historical Fiction/Contemporary Fiction

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I first read Robin Talley’s books when I came across As I Descended, a modern lesbian take on one of my favorite Shakespearean plays, Macbeth, so when I found out that she was writing a new book, this one going back and forth through sixty years to tell the story of two lesbian young women, I was sold. I devoured Pulp in two and a half days, absolutely spellbound. The prose was snappy and sharp, and I loved the characters; this book seemed to take my heart and wring it out completely. A novel of self-discovery, true love, writing in all of its forms, and staying true to yourself at all odds, I loved Pulp! Easily one of my favorite books of 2018! Robin Talley has outdone herself with this meticulously researched and beautifully written novel; I will never forget Abby or Janet, and how they changed each other’s lives.

               Janet Jones and Abby Zimet are two queer teens, separated by sixty-two years, and bound by the power of storytelling. Janet Jones, eighteen years old in 1955, shares a love that is forbidden by law and society with her best friend, Marie. It’s most certainly not easy, being gay in the time of McCarthyism, but when she discovers books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens a fierce desire to tell her own stories. Combine that with a romance that must be kept under wraps at all costs, and Janet is risking far more than her heart; she could endanger the woman she loves as well. Sixty-two years later, in 2017, proud lesbian Abby Zimet can’t stop thinking about her senior project and its subject: lesbian pulp fiction. All to happy to escape her real-life problems and anxieties, she finds women just like her in the books she studies, but the one she most cherishes is a book by a woman who goes by the pen name ‘Marian Love’. Determined to track down the woman who so inspires her, Abby embarks on a journey of self-discovery and realizes that she is capable of more than she ever could have realized.

               This book was really a breath of fresh air! I really, really enjoyed it. It was meticulously researched and beautifully written; after I finished the book I went down a historical rabbit hole of sorts, searching for the sources that Talley used in the novel. The pacing was breakneck, and I really liked the dual points of view, giving a lot more depth to the story, as well as the time periods that the young women lived in. Abby and Janet felt similar, but not so much so that they weren’t strong characters in themselves. I also enjoyed the portrayal of both of the girls’ families, but especially Abby’s; it was surprisingly true to life and incredibly painful. And the character development was to die for. This book made my heart break, soar, and sew itself back together again; it was remarkably tender, funny, and thought-provoking, and I loved every single moment of it. I loved As I Descended, but Pulp is definitely my favorite book by the immensely talented Robin Talley. A gorgeous, groundbreaking triumph of young adult literature, and I will never forget Janet or Abby; they will stay with me forever. Fantastic, I cannot recommend it enough. The bottom line: Meticulously researched, nuanced, and thought-provoking, I loved Pulp! One of my favorite books of 2018! Next on deck: The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/01/pulp-by-robin-talley-review.html

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by M…

Title: The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy

Author: Mackenzi Lee

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Historical Fiction

Series: The Montague Siblings, book two

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               One of my favorite books of 2017 was The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, so when I heard that Mackenzi Lee was writing a sequel to it, this time featuring Monty’s headstrong sister, Felicity, I was so excited. This book has been sitting in my library stack for a while, and when I realized I couldn’t renew it any more, I pushed it to the top of the stack as soon as I was finished with Outrun the Wind. This book is one of my favorites of 2018; I loved it so much. Full of hilarity, swashbuckling pirates, adventures that lead across the globe, dark secrets, and new friends, I didn’t realize just how much I missed Felicity, Monty, and Percy until I was plunged into their world once more. I finished the book in three days; I was that invested. It’s very bittersweet for me; I didn’t want to say goodbye to the friends I’d made in this book, familiar and otherwise.

Felicity Montague is a woman who seems to want too much. She longs to be a doctor, despite the medical field being closed off to her because of her sex. She knows what is expected of her: to marry, have children, and keep a wealthy man’s house, but she doesn’t care about convention or the society she was born into; all she wants is to follow her dream. When she is offered a chance to meet her idol, Alexander Platt, she leaps at the chance, and soon finds herself mixed up with most unsavory folk: pirates, scientists with secrets, magical creatures, and along the way, she discovers more about herself than she could’ve ever realized, and that it might take help in order to become a renowned physician.

               I absolutely adored this book! Sequels make me nervous; all too often I seem to forget everything that happened in the first book, so it takes me a while to get back into the swing of things. But that wasn’t the case with this one: Almost immediately I remembered what happened, and I was laughing, cheering, and seething through the whole book. Feminist, fierce, and funny, Felicity’s voice was wry, sharp, and hilarious, and I loved the way she was more comfortable with science and anatomy of the human body rather than talking to people. The pacing was breakneck; I was spellbound from the very first sentence of the book; I finished it all in three days, I was so enthralled. I also loved the way other characters from the last book came in, and the new characters were fantastic, particularly Sim and Johanna. The ending was amazing; I was so satisfied, but it was bittersweet as well; I’d had so much fun with Monty and Felicity! One of my favorite things about her was that she was asexual, and was not shy about letting people know about it. This book, as well as its predecessor, is one of my favorites, and I can’t wait to see what Mackenzi Lee has up her sleeve next! Absolutely amazing! The bottom line: Gorgeously written, hilarious, full of action, adventure and self-exploration, I loved The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy! Next on deck: A Thousand Endings and Beginnings by Elsie Chapman and Ellen Oh!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-ladys-guide-to-petticoats-and.html

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao…

Title: Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix

Author: Julie C. Dao

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Rise of the Empress, book two

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns was one of my favorite books of last year, so I was so excited when the sequel finally came out. After yet another library haul redo, I decided to keep Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix: I didn’t want to take it back to the library before I’d had a chance to read it. I was richly rewarded for my patience, and Julie C. Dao has become one of my favorite authors with this spellbinding, lush duology! It picks up where Forest of a Thousand Lanterns left off, with Xifeng’s stepdaughter, Jade, coming of age. With beautiful prose, magic, secrets, folktales, and more than one magical creature, I loved Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, and I was so happy with how these two wonderful books ended! I can’t wait to see what Julie C. Dao has in store for us next!

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix picks up where Forest of a Thousand Lanterns left off, with Xifeng’s stepdaughter, Jade, coming of age to eighteen. I loved how this book brought Jade, as a young adult, into the spotlight. Forced away from court and her father at the young age of four, she is forced to navigate the glittering, treacherous arena that is her stepmother’s court. All the while, she is trying her best to deny what is her true birthright: the throne that her stepmother has stolen, through wicked magic, murder, and deceit. Forced again to leave her rightful home, Jade of the Great Forest must reach deep inside of herself to claim what is hers by right and law, even if it means confronting all of her deepest fears and fiercest demons…

I really enjoyed this book! It took a little bit to get into it, since it had been a while since I’d read Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. But Dao returned with gorgeous prose, breakneck pacing, strong, well-drawn characters, magic, shocking twists and thrills, more than one awesome magical creature, and an amazing ending! Sequels make me so nervous; I call it sequel anxiety, because there have been so many times where I’ve loved a book and was so exciting for the next one, and got let down. But that wasn’t the case with Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. I loved how, in this book, it was Jade in the spotlight, fighting for her rightful place on the throne and the broken land of Feng Lu. Her character development was wonderful; it was my favorite part of the novel for sure. I loved watching her transition from a sheltered, naïve girl into a strong, courageous young woman, and I also adored her friends, Wren and Koichi. I really liked the way that the story felt like a classic folktale; I’m such a sucker for anything that feels like a fairy tale. And that ending! It was so fulfilling and exciting; that, too, was one of my favorite parts. My feelings are bittersweet, but overall, I really loved The Rise of the Empress duology, and I can’t wait to see what Julie C. Dao is going to do next! Absolutely stunning! The bottom line: Gorgeous, thrilling, and courageous, I loved Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, and I’m so sad that it’s all over! More please! Next on deck: My New Crush Gave to Me by Shari Petroff!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2018/12/kingdom-of-blazing-phoenix-by-julie-c.html

Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore Review

Title: Blanca and Roja

Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy/Romance

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I’ve been a huge fan of Anna-Marie McLemore’s work since I read her debut novel, The Weight of Feathers, and I read her third book, Wild Beauty, for my book club a few months ago. So, when I heard that she was writing a diverse, mashup retelling of Snow White, Rose Red and The Wild Swans, I was so excited. I ordered it from my local library and it’s been sitting in my library stack for a while; after I couldn’t renew it anymore, I dove into it right after I finished Muse of Nightmares. (Well, after I was finished mourning the painful end of that series. But moving on.) I wasn’t sure quite what to expect, as I haven’t really read either of the fairy tales that the story was inspired by, but I was blown away. With lush, gorgeous prose, diverse characters that felt so real that I felt that when I finished, I was saying goodbye to a beloved group of friends. Blanca and Roja is the most brutal and beautiful of McLemore’s novels, captivating and tender and full of every kind of love you could possibly think of. A deliciously bittersweet exploration of sisterhood, first love, and sacrifice, I will never forget Blanca and Roja; I feel like they’ve burrowed into my heart and soul.

Blanca and Roja are two sisters, best friends, and rivals, because ever since they were tiny, the women in their family have been cursed: One sister is doomed to become a swan, taken by the flock that live nearby, and she must live out the rest of her years as a bird, while the other is untouched. This is the way things have always been, and how it always will be. Blanca is sweet, gentle, delicate, everything that her sister, Roja, is not. Roja is sharp-tongued, tomboyish, brash, loud, and curious. They know their fate, even when it means sacrificing everything. But things become even more complicated when two different people emerge from the wood near their home: Yearling, who has spent the last year as a bear, and is drawn to Roja in spite of hiding his own secrets, and Page, someone whose identity is as unclear as their motives. As the time draws near for one of the girls to gain wings and the other to remain human, the girls begin to wonder if they can, in fact, change their destinies, and find everything that they’ve denied themselves.

This book; it was amazing, a beautiful, bittersweet triumph of family, especially sisterly bonds, love in all of its forms, magic, and most importantly, agency, and the courage to change your fate, even when it seems that all the odds are stacked against you. The pacing was breakneck, the prose so gorgeous that more often than not, I was rereading lines, absolutely in awe over it, but even more than that, I was head over heels for the characters that she so lovingly created. I was utterly spellbound by this book, and I was so happy to finally be reading a diverse, gender-nonbinary fairy tale retelling; this is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life! I also really enjoyed the way that the point of view bounced between Blanca, Roja, Yearling, and Page; I loved that everyone was giving perspective on what was happening. I also liked the other characters: Roja and Blanca’s parents, Page’s loving, if confused, family, Yearling’s grandmother, mother and father, and cousins; each character was fleshed out beautifully and I was captivated. But honestly, the ending was what really got me. I cried through most of the book, but it was the worst when the book ended. It was so bittersweet, shocking, and unexpected; my heart was broken and then stitched back together all at once. Easily one of the best books of 2018, and I will never forget Blanca and Roja! The bottom line: A tender, beautiful, and brutal fairy telling retelling involving forbidden love, diverse and non-gender binary main characters, and the bonds of family, especially sisterhood! My favorite book by Anna-Marie McLemore, and one of the best books of 2018! Next on deck: For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2018/11/blanca-and-roja-by-anna-marie-mclemore.html