Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young | Book Review

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young | Book Review

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young | Book ReviewSky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
Published by Wednesday Books on April 24th 2018
Genres: Action & Adventure, Historical Fiction
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
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five-stars

OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield — her brother, fighting with the enemy — the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother's betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

I am always up for a good and solid Viking type of story! As a part of my studies revolved around studying their culture, I always find it hard to fall in love with these type of books because so many stories don’t really do their culture justice. Lucky for me (and you!) Sky in the Deep delivered, and how!

If you are not into lots of action and (some) gore, this book might not be for you. It is fast paced and action packed from the start, as you’re immediately thrown into a battle between two rival clans. And, for the rest of the story, that fast paced and action-packed vibe doesn’t let up! (Yay!)

Eelyn, the main character in Sky in the Deep, is hard and tough, not because circumstances forced her to be, but just because she is. And guys, you wouldn’t believe how refreshing that is! She develops a lot throughout the story as the foundation of everything she’s always believed in is shaken. She has to rediscover her place in her world and accept that maybe not everything is as black and white as she previously believed to be.

The romance, guys, is a slow burner! (Que fist pump!) I love me a good slow-burner, and THIS BOOK HAS IT! It is so good, it is forbidden, and it is intense. What isn’t to like?

Another thing I really enjoyed is that Sky in the Deep dives into the subject of what makes a family. The concept of which is something Eelyn redefines as she changes throughout the story. View Spoiler » It is all about who you let into your heart. Eelyn might be a badass, but you cannot deny that she has heart!

Fast paced and action-packed until the end! If you love the former and you don’t mind (some) gore, then Sky in the Deep is for you! For all the Viking-type-of-story fans out there: I can’t recommend this book enough!

five-stars
An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson | Book Review

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson | Book Review

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson | Book ReviewAn Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on September 26th 2017
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 300
Format: Hardcover
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four-half-stars

A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

Hello precious, and welcome to my top ten of favorite books this year! An Enchantment of Ravens was SUCH a beautiful book to read: gorgeous writing, wonderful characters, and a great plot. Honestly, I felt kinda desperate when I finished the book and realized it was a standalone novel because if there was more I would have jumped at the chance to dive into this world again.

If you’re a fan of fairy folklore, An Enchantment of Ravens is THE book for you. The story reminds me so much of traditional folklore and holds true to traditional aspects. At the same time, it is so incredibly unique and unlike anything I’ve read before. The various aspects of the story just work so well together; there’s humor, adventure, and lots of traveling. It’s wonderful!

The writing, guys… Margaret Rogerson is BORN to write. Her prose is so expertly crafted. It is creative and imaginative and I can’t wait to read more of her work. The world-building might have been a little on the underdeveloped side, but I found that I didn’t really care as much because the story was just so well-done.

One of my favorite (and main) aspects of the book is the whole concept of crafts; cooking, writing, painting, and so on. Isobel, our protagonist, paints for the faerie folk, who obsessively collect any crafts because they are unable to create any themselves. Then one day, out of the blue, a faerie prince shows up to have his portrait done and THE REST YOU’LL HAVE TO READ FOR YOURSELF. The whole concept is just so freaking awesome and well thought out.

You want to read An Enchantment of Ravens! It is such a gem to read and if you love faerie folklore or fantasy you won’t want to miss this. It is beautifully written and is so original you won’t want to stop reading until it’s finished -and then you’ll want more!

four-half-stars
Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh | Book Review

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh | Book Review

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh | Book ReviewFlame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Series: Flame in the Mist #1
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on May 16th 2017
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance
Pages: 393
Format: Hardcover
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three-half-stars

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

Flame in the Mist was a very enjoyable read, albeit a bit confusing with a plot that was a bit all over the place. Before I start this review, I first need to get something off my chest… Because, honestly, calling it a Mulan retelling seems a bit of a stretch, as one of the few things the two tales have in common is that both protagonists grab a knife and cut off their hair in order to hide their feminity. This too doesn’t really hold, as the idea of genderbending isn’t really exclusive to Mulan… It has been used before by many other authors, one of the most prominent being Shakespeare in Twelfth Night (which is believed to be written in the early 1600s). That being said… I LOVE GENDERBENDING. I need more genderbending stories, so this book is a step in the right direction!

This review has been waiting to be written for such a long time, but somehow I just couldn’t bring myself to write it. My main problem is that I have such mixed feelings about Flame in the Mist. I enjoyed the story quite a bit and I know I want to read the sequel, but I’m just not blown away by the story and a part of me expected to be blown away by it.

The romance was good… but it wasn’t great. The thing is, though, it was a slow burn romance and I’m usually ALL over that. But I think my annoyance stemmed from the fact that the love interest was simply the only ‘available’ love interest in Flame in the Mist. That, and I didn’t feel like this story necessarily needed a love interest. I think instead of focusing on the romance the story should have focussed more on who tried to kill Mariko. That way the plot would have been a little less all over the place and kept some focus.

Another plot element that I wasn’t sure about was the fantastical part. More than anything, that part confused me. I realize that this can very easily be solved in the sequel, but it doesn’t change the fact that it was ‘just there,’ and none of it is explained. The end of the story was pretty damn awesome, but it felt rushed and as a result, it left me unsatisfied and I really didn’t know what to do with it all.

Flame in the Mist was enjoyable but confusing. The story was really interesting, but the plot was all over the place and it left me unsatisfied as a result. I need that sequel to find out what happens next and to explain the leftover vagueness its predecessor left! I guess what I am trying to say is: Flame in the Mist had some awesome bits and some unsatisfactory bits, but I am not giving up on the story!

 

three-half-stars
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi | Sister Review

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi | Sister Review

 

This review is a combined effort between me and my sister. Every month we will read a book that is outside our comfort zone and review it by asking each other questions related to the title we are reviewing. The idea is to provide you with two different perspectives: that of an English student and a medicine student.

This review might contain spoilers, as we may discuss any part of the story (sometimes the questions we ask each other might be general, while other times they might touch upon something specific about the ending, etc). If you have not read the book and do not wish to be spoiled you might want to avoid this post.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi | Sister ReviewWhen Breath Becomes Air Published by Random House on January 19th 2016
Genres: Non-fiction
Pages: 208
Format: Hardcover
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five-stars

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade's worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi's transformation from a naïve medical student "possessed," as he wrote, "by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life" into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. "I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything," he wrote. "Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: 'I can't go on. I'll go on.'" When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

The English student to the med student:

What did you think about the medical jargon of When Breath Becomes Air? To me, a non-med student, the medical terms appeared to be very easy to understand. Was the explanation too oversimplified in your opinion?

I think Paul Kalanithi wrote his book in a perfect way. It was easy to read because of the beautifully written prose he used and I think it was approachable for both medically and non-medically schooled people. Personally, I don’t think that he oversimplified anything. Of course, he explained some terms, and his personal course of his disease was written in a more simplistic way, but I think that that’s what made the book so strong. His story wasn’t just a case he saw passing by, he had to live it, and therefore he wrote the book in such a personal and less medical manner. There were quite a few terms that he didn’t explain further, but even when he did it wasn’t something that stood out or I was bothered by. At the end of the day, it is impossible to know the exact definition of every diagnosis and having something explained only proves helpful.

Did the situation Paul finds himself in, and his narrative of all he endures, scare you? You study so long to work in this field, only to perish from something that you study to treat. 

I think in a way, everyone is afraid to die and, more specifically, everybody is afraid to die a long painful death. So, in that way, yes. When Breath Becomes Air, Paul’s story, is so beautiful and raw that you feel everything and the thought that this might happen to me, or to someone close to me that I love is something I don’t even want to think about.

As a med school student, you get trained to recognize what they call ‘alarming symptoms’, and they drill it in that you always have to check for these complaints. I think that doctors feel like they will be able to catch such a disease before it can have a fatal impact, but at the end of the day we are all people, and when things get scary we try to make them less scary. Not to mention that it is almost impossible to catch this kind of disease before it has wrecked havoc on your body.

I think When Breath Becomes Air did open my eyes in some ways. Med school is a long trajectory and when I look back at the past years I notice that I postpone certain things because I am busy. Med school takes so much of your time, but at the end of the day you only have one life to live and as Paul’s story showed you don’t know how long you get to live it. I made the decision to stop postponing social events and meetings with friends for when I have more time. I love med school, but it shouldn’t define me like it almost did Paul at certain moments. So now I do try to meet up more with friends more often and do the things I want to do without pushing them back for ‘when I have the time’.

Paul describes and approaches parts as med school very lightly. It almost feels like he brushes over them whereas he mentions small things, small events in his study, that have a big impact on him as a person. It seems like those small moments are the ones that almost seem to break him at times. Can you relate to this?

I think this is something that every medical student can relate to. By learning about all kinds of disorders, a lot of them deadly, you somehow learn to tune out the part where you realize that a lot of people suffer from a particular disease. However, sometimes it does hit you… I remember a particular case about a woman that had a pregnancy wish and even though we had discussed these kinds of cases a million times, this one hit me hard, and I sat in class to thoroughly saddened and wishing that there was something that I could do for her (this was a paper case; I had never even met the patient). I think this is a way of coping with everything you see as a med student. Sometimes this mechanism shuts off the small things, the things that seem insignificant, and then that small thing ends up being the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Then, 15 minutes later you’re ready to go at it again.

The med student to the English student:

Even though When Breath Becomes Air was about Paul’s last months and his transition from a doctor, to a patient, to a dying man, he always had the dream to write and publish his own works later in life. As an English literature student, how did you perceive Paul Kalanithi’s writing?

His writing, to me, was incredibly memorable. It was fast-paced, which was evidence of how fast his time was running out, yet incredibly poetic with a beautiful flow to it. The way he spoke, or more accurately wrote, conveyed that he was an intelligent man. At the same time the subjects he touched upon somehow felt easy to understand through his literary explanations. I always have trouble with medical jargon. It feels distant and I always find myself unable to follow, but Paul Kalanithi combined his passion for medicine and literature and turned it into beautiful prose. It is perhaps one of the most memorable pieces of writing I’ve ever encountered for that very reason. He uses literature to describe certain medical issues and I found myself completely engrossed.

In the beginning of When Breath Becomes Air, Paul describes his youth and how his mother tried so hard to keep them on the straight and narrow, all to give them the best chance to get into some great colleges. While doing this she made him read certain books. He says that this was the most dangerous thing that she could have done, for his love for literature started there. Can you relate to this?

I can always relate to a fellow bookworm. Although, my parents never truly had to make me read books, really, I did that all on my own. My parents never really pushed for great colleges. They encouraged us to learn, but they never forced us. They encouraged by taking trips to the library (and taking home way more books than the limit that was set beforehand) or by giving us a small allowance and taking us to the bookstore when we saved up enough money to buy the next Harry Potter installment. While I have always loved to read, I never was the kind of child that read ‘classic’ literature.

I finally fell in love with the classics during high school when I discovered a fondness for Jane Austen’s wit and sarcasm. This opened the way for me to explore the classics and fall into the world of poetry and led me to discover the wonders (and hardship) of Shakespeare, Dickens, T.S. Elliot, and more. I always loved to read, but I learned to love literature at a later age and I have been obsessed ever since. I think I can most definitely relate to what Paul Kalanithi calls the dangers of literature. If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that it’s a love that’s never truly satisfied. There are always more books, more words, and sentences to be read and enjoyed. You’re never truly done.

Unfortunately, Paul couldn’t finish his autobiography. His wife did this for him by writing the epilogue and telling us readers how his final days were spent, the following funeral, and how she managed to move on. To me, this was very touching as you could read the love she still felt for her late husband. How did you perceive the epilogue? Was it structurally as good as the rest of the book written by Paul himself? Or did you have some difficulties with her way of writing?

The way this book ended, with the epilogue this way, is what makes the ending so powerful. Her writing is incredibly powerful and emotional. Her words are what broke me down. When you start reading When Breath Becomes Air you know the way it is going to end. There’s this sense of impending doom throughout the entire book and Lucy brought a measure of peace with her words. I felt quite hopeless near the end of the novel and, although her unflinchingly honesty was sometimes hard to take, the grief in every word, Lucy brings a spark of hope to the story as well. That, to me, was beautiful. Her prose, too, was beautiful and I think you’ll find her touch upon Paul’s work infused throughout the entire novel as Lucy was the one to bring When Breath Becomes Air to completion.

While reading Paul’s last chapter I had a certain moment thinking ‘this would be the perfect ending.’ It’s a sad and terrible ending, but it’s almost like he’s concluding his story here, without knowing that this was actually the last chapter that he would ever write. Did you feel the same way?

Definitely, I think part of what makes this book so powerful is its ending. Paul had his life taken away at such a young age, but When Breath Becomes Air isn’t a story about dying, it’s a story about living. Paul Kalanithi was an incredibly talented and inspiring individual who had some incredibly important things to say about life and about living life. I think the ending of When Breath Becomes Air conveys this view: even in that last chapter Paul Kalanithi wasn’t focused on death, he was focused on living and that’s what makes the ending so powerful.

five-stars
The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine | Book Review

The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine | Book Review

The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine | Book ReviewThe Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine
Series: Ravenspire #1
Published by Balzer & Bray on February 16th 2016
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance
Pages: 387
Format: Hardcover
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four-stars

Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

If you know me at all, you know that I’m all for fairytale retellings, and The Shadow Queen was all that a fairytale should be! A fantasy story with magic and dragons. You can sign me up for that anytime.

I think what I loved most about The Shadow Queen was that while it was gory and hard at times it also had that classic fairytale feeling to it. Like most fairytales, the story was brutal and choices were made that had to be made. There were plenty of plot twists and turns that I didn’t see coming (and frankly… I’m quite good at figuring out plot twists before they happen).

The protagonist, Lorelei, is calculated and kickass. I like how she’s a planner and has carefully got herself to a point of challenging the antagonist. Together with her brother Leo and Gabriel, who sort of became a father figure to them, they form a great team and have a great dynamic going. Trow a recently crowned king and his entourage into the mix and you got what I deem a recipe for a solid story. Kol is a Draconia, which means he can shapeshift into a dragon (COOL!) and he meets Lorelei early on without knowing who she is which causes plenty of problems for the both of them later on.

Although it is quite obvious early on who is going to end up with whom, I love that there was no instalove to be found. They slowly get to know each other (and themselves) and their relationship slowly blooms into something more. The fact that they’re both trying to save their respective kingdoms give them that something important in common that is the beginning of so much awesomeness.

Even more awesome is the fact that the antagonist isn’t just a villain for the sake of needing a villain in the story. Irina actually has a lot of depth and I enjoyed the chapters from her perspective as they provided an insight behind her motivations. She’s very well-written and a part of me actually felt for her as her past was filled with pain. Her narrative was confusing, but this only added to the whole vibe she had going on.

The Shadow Queen might not be the most impressive fairytale retelling, but it was a VERY enjoyable read and a solid read. In fact, I love how Lorelei and Kol’s story got resolved within this story. It was a fun book, with tons of great fantasy elements and very enjoyable characters! If you, like me, love fairytale retellings I suggest you give this one a go.

four-stars
Roar by Cora Carmack | Everything and More

Roar by Cora Carmack | Everything and More

Roar by Cora Carmack | Everything and MoreRoar by Cora Carmack
Series: Stormheart #1
Published by Tor Teen on June 13th 2017
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 380
Format: Hardcover
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five-stars

In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.

Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage.

She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.

I’ve read some of Cora Carmack’s previous work, which mainly consists of swoon-worthy New Adult books. As this is her first Young Adult novel, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Roar, except that the premise sounded amazing. After finishing that very first chapter I knew it was going to be good, and the story did not disappoint for one single second. From that first chapter and onwards I was hooked. Roar blew me away!

The plot is complex, layered, and really well done. When I thought I’d finally figured something out, new parts were exposed that were a whole new mystery. The slow reveal allows for lots of anticipation suspense. I love how I had to crack my brain to see if I could find out what was going to happen next during the entirety of the story. There was a lot of action as well that made it really well paced and left me unable to stop reading.

The world Carmack portrays is rich and unique. This fantasy realm is unlike anything that I’ve ever read before. There are so many details and so many new lands to discover, I was enthralled by it all! The premise of a few lineages being able to control storms, and those storms having a “heart” was so incredibly intriguing. There is so much to this world Cora Carmack created and I just want more and more and more (can I please have more soon). The idea that I have to wait for more makes me want to sob.

The protagonist of the story is smart and determined and oh so awesome. She’s struggling to find out who she is and what part to play in her world. She develops a lot throughout the story and even at the end you know she’s going to continue growing and become even more of a badass. I love how she fights for what she wants and believes in. Her determination and her spirit make her character very likable.

All you fantasy lovers out there, rejoice! Roar is everything you need in a book and more. This book has jumped right to first place as my favorite book of the year. This is a must read and if it isn’t on your TBR yet I wholly recommend adding it. You will not regret it!

five-stars