REVIEW: The Kingdom – Jess Rothenberg

40864907Title: The Kingdom
Author: Jess Rothenberg
Rating: ★★★½

If you’re expecting The Kingdom to be a fluffier, young adult version of Westworld + Disney World, think again. Jess Rothenberg combines science fiction with murder mystery in this sinister, thrilling story about what it means to be human.

The Kingdom was a lot darker than I had anticipated. The book follows Ana, one of seven Fantasists – girls engineered to be beautiful, subservient, and made to cater to the wishes of visitors of the futuristic amusement park, The Kingdom. As the book goes on, things start to go awry in the park, and Ana (as well as the other girls) start to develop feelings and emotions not congruent with their programming. Eventually, Ana is charged with the murder of one of the park’s employers, Owen.

I really loved the themes present in the novel, especially the question of what it means to be “real” and human. I enjoyed following the journey of friendship that develops between Ana and Owen. Both of them are able to learn from the other and grow in character.

The book is written in a somewhat past and present format. The present are told through Ana’s POV, and the past is told through transcripts from Ana’s trial and other bits of “media” that are placed between chapters. I thought it was really well done and made it easy to fly through the pages.

The Kingdom was a book that never really got on my radar until more recently. I’m really glad I made the decision to read this because it was so good! The Kingdom is perfect for fans of dark science-fiction books with a bit of a murder mystery.

REVIEW: The Dragon Republic – R. F. Kuang (ARC)

41118857Title: The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2)
Author: R. F. Kuang
Rating: ★★★★★

ARC provided by the publisher through Edelweiss.

This review took me forever to write, because I couldn’t quite put into words the perfection of this book. There is no second book syndrome here, and no need to worry that it won’t live up to the hype: The Dragon Republic shines just as bright – if not more – than The Poppy War. Once again, R. F. Kuang has written a masterful fantasy story. 

Grimdark fantasies can be difficult to get through, but R. F. Kuang does an excellent job blending the darker aspects of the novel with lighter elements and some humorous dialogue. There’s a lot more political maneuvering happening in this book, as well as the consequences of actions taken in The Poppy War begin to make an appearance.

I think I enjoyed The Dragon Republic immensely more than The Poppy War for one major reason: the characters. New characters are introduced in this book that are essential to the story, such as The Dragon Warlord (Nezha’s father). I really enjoyed the complexity of his character and found myself easily understanding Rin’s reasoning for supporting him. Along with new faces, a couple of my favorite characters return from The Poppy War: Kitay and Nezha (!!!). The three of them are together for a good chunk of the book, it was amazing to watch Rin’s relationships with each of them deepen and grow. They really take center stage in this book, which I think is why I loved the book so much. Also, I don’t want to get too spoilery, but R. F. Kuang really gave me the fuel for my ship and my shipper heart was so thankful. ❤️

“Fire and water looked so lovely together. It was a pity they destroyed each other by nature.”

My original review was much different than this, because R. F. Kuang pulls a plot twist out of nowhere and nearly destroyed my will to live. The entire book is action-packed and fast-paced, but the tension really builds during the last few chapters with an ending that is going to sucker punch you in the face. Holy shit. I have no idea what to expect in the next book, but it is riding at the top of my list for most anticipated releases for next year. I’m going to spend my wait obsessively thinking about Rin/Nezha and crying into the void.

The Dragon Republic gave me a serious book hangover. Similar to The Poppy War, this stellar sequel is full of non-stop action, amazing morally-complex characters, political intrigue, and worldbuilding unlike any other. The world is not ready for this book.

 

 

REVIEW: The Merciful Crow – Margaret Owen (ARC)

36483378._SX318_Title: The Merciful Crow (The Merciful Crow #1)
Author: Margaret Owen
Rating: ★★★★½

ARC provided by the publisher.

This is quite the impressive debut. With a killer first line to hook the reader in, The Merciful Crow is a fast-face, action-filled story with immersive worldbuilding and a fierce heroine!

Margaret Owen did a masterful job with the setting and the worldbuilding. From the complicated political system and magic castes, to the unique writing and verbiage, it’s impossible not to fall into this book and imagine yourself in the world created.

The characters were wonderful. First of all, Fie was such a strong, capable heroine! It’s easy to root for her and I found myself agreeing with many of the hard choices she made along her journey. I also loved how Margaret Owen flipped the script with the other two main characters, Jasimir and Tavin. How often in YA books do we find a cocky prince and the quiet, brooding bodyguard? And yet The Merciful Crow offers a breath of fresh air with an unassuming prince and his charming, talkative bodyguard. It was such a change of pace for YA fantasy novels, and one I greatly enjoyed! And for those wondering: there is no love triangle! Instead, we are blessed with a slow-burn romance that was perfectly paced and realistically built. It was one of my favorite things about the book.

Technically, this is now a duology, but I loved that there was no cliffhanger and that the story was summed up nice enough to be a standalone. That being said, I’m super excited for the sequel and can’t wait to revisit this world and these characters! The Merciful Crow is an gripping debut and very compelling characters that I hope is one everyone’s radar!

 

 

REVIEW: On the Corner of Love and Hate – Nina Bocci (ARC)

42587433Title: On the Corner of Love and Hate
Author: Nina Bocci
Rating: ★★★★½

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

I enjoy the finer things in life and literature: slow-burn romance, hate-to-love romance, a healthy dose of angst. Thankfully, On the Corner of Love and Hate delivered everything I wanted in this fun, witty, charmingly romantic story.

I don’t often comment on book covers in my reviews, but I really think this book is going to fly under the radar undeservingly. I don’t hate the cover and I don’t think it’s terrible, but I really think having a cover that was brighter and more fun would attract the eyes of more readers (think along the lines of Christina Lauren’s The Unhoneymooners or Tessa Bailey’s Fix Her Up).

The crux of this story is a frenemies-to-lovers romance, so obviously I was all onboard. Emma and Cooper have a rocky relationship: they were childhood best friends who had a bit of a falling out later in life, and now work together in the same department. The two of them seem to be constantly bickering and arguing, but it’s still obvious that they care about each other.

I don’t think there was a single thing I didn’t love about this book. I adored the characters, the writing was fantastic, and the plot was super compelling. When a book gives me, the reader, a series case of butterflies during the first kiss scene, that’s when you know it’s done a tremendous job building the tension!

On the Corner of Love and Hate is the perfect summer read. It has a great blend of humor, politics, anst, and romance. I’m so thankful the publicist reached out to me about this title because I absolutely adored it. Nina Bocci has another book coming out this fall and I will definitely be keeping my eye out for it!

REVIEW: House of Salt and Sorrows – Erin A. Craig (ARC)

39679076Title: House of Salt and Sorrows
Author: Erin A. Craig
Rating: ★★

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

The premise of this sounded amazing and it has so many great reviews, so I was pretty bummed when it didn’t live up to my expectations. House of Salt and Sorrows is an eerie thriller full of fantasy elements. Unfortunately, the book just didn’t wow me.

I was impressed by the atmospheric setting. She managed to create a very spooky/eerie vibe, and yet there was a slight fairytale quality to the writing. Erin A. Craig also did a great job with the horror descriptions; had I been reading this had night, I definitely would have gotten some goosebumps.

While I found the descriptive writing and the mystery intriguing, for whatever reason the book has trouble keeping my attention. Maybe it was because I didn’t feel too much of a connection to Annaleigh. Maybe it was because it took awhile for the plot to start to really pick up. But whatever I was enjoying about the book, the romance kind of ruined the rest of it. The love triangle was super unnecessary and the relationship Annaleigh has with the love interest was basically insta-lust.

The ending and plot twists were not terribly unique, and I was able to guess a few of them very, very early on in the story. I also thought the way everything wrapped up was not only a little rushed compared to the more leisurely pace of the rest of the story, but came together a bit too neatly and conveniently. I was really looking forward to House of Salt and Sorrows but I couldn’t seem to enjoy the story as much as everyone has.