ARC REVIEW: The Kingdom of Back – Marie Lu

34213299Title: The Kingdom of Back
Author: Marie Lu
Rating: ★★★½

ARC received through #booksfortrade on Twitter.

“And then one night you realize that you have given him so much of yourself that you are nothing but the curtsy and the smile and the quiet. That you are nothing.”

What is this book about? The synopsis is definitely a bit misleading (at least to me). I was expecting a fantasy story with musical aspects something along the veins of Wintersong. However, The Kingdom of Back is a historical fiction focused on the bond between siblings with some fantasy elements mixed in. The book follows the Nannerl Mozart and her relationship with her brother as they discover and cultivate their prodigious musical talents together.

What did I like? I’m a big enough person to admit that prior to this book, I was unaware of Wolfgang Mozart’s equally talented sister, Nannerl. Once I had read up about her on Wikipedia, I was able to better appreciate Marie Lu’s story. She gave such an important voice to Nannerl and I loved how true to history the book’s events were. Even the mention of the Kingdom of Back was really well done and did a great job giving insight to the possible thoughts and emotions Nannerl might have had about her success and place in the world compared to her brother’s.

What didn’t I like? The Kingdom of Back was a lot slower paced and longer than I had anticipated. Because it was lacking in action and focused more on Nannerl’s inner monologue, I struggled to push through parts of the book.

Overall thoughts: The Kingdom of Back was a totally different type of story than I had been expecting: the book is more historical fiction than fantasy. Marie Lu’s lyrical writing focuses on music and sibling love, however the book’s slower pace and lack of action failed to keep my attention.

REVIEW: Salt to the Sea – Ruta Sepetys

25614492Title: Salt to the Sea
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Rating: ★★★★½

This is actually my third time picking this book up. I had made two previous of attempts, which both ended with me DNF’ing before getting even a quarter of the way through. I am so extremely happy I gave Salt to the Sea another chance, because I really, truly loved it.

What is this book about? Salt to the Sea takes place during WWII and is essentially about a group of characters that eventually all find themselves aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff – a German cruise liner that was supposed to transport military personnel and refugees away from the Red Army. The story follows the point of views of four different characters, all of whom have very different backgrounds and reasons for wanting to board this ship. 

What did I like? I’m a big fan of WWII historical fiction and this was no exception. Ruta Sepetys did an excellent job of grabbing my attention throughout the novel and telling some very compelling stories with the characters. The first time I attempted this book, I hated all the characters and couldn’t connect with anyone. This time, I found myself loving Florian, Joana, and Emilia and was intrigued (although very disturbed) by Albert. 

What didn’t I like? My only issue was that there was really nothing distinguishable between the four voices of the characters. Many time I found myself flipping back to the beginning of the chapter to remember whose POV I was supposed to be reading through. 

Overall thoughts: Ruta Sepetys once again has told a marvelous story about a period of history that is often unremarked upon. Previous to this book, I had never heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff which is very unfortunate considering the astronomical loss of life experienced. Salt to the Sea was a compelling story that kept me hooked from the beginning after easily falling in love with the characters. 

REVIEW: The Fountains of Silence – Ruta Sepetys

43220998._SY475_Title: The Fountains of Silence
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Rating: ★★★★

The Fountains of Silence is a beautiful story about a period of history that I was wholly unfamiliar with prior to reading this. This is my first book by Ruta Sepetys and I can see where all of her high praise comes from. The Fountains of Silence blew me away with it’s gorgeous writing, compelling characters, and thought-provoking story.

The Fountains of Silence is set in Spain 1957 following the end of the Spanish Civil War. This was not a portion of history that I had been familiar with and so it was very eye-opening. Ruta Sepetys did a fantastic job weaving elements of a fictional story with real aspects of history. I was very easily captivated by all of the different plot lines and history lessons.

One of the things about this book I liked the most was the varying points of views. It was especially poignant comparing Daniel’s views as an American tourist to those that were experiencing the effects of Franco’s fascism, such as Ana and Rafa. I think this difference really made point of how things really were in Spain during that time period and how easily the hardships were concealed to the rest of the world.

The Fountains of Silence is a story perfect for fans of historical fiction of any age. The writing was beautiful, the characters were easy to fall in love with, and the story was very moving. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a lovely book to fall into.

REVIEW: Dangerous Alliance – Jennieke Cohen (ARC)

Title: Dangerous Alliance: An Austentacious Romance
Author: Jennieke Cohen
Rating: ★★★★★

ARC received through #booksfortrade on Twitter.

Dangerous Alliance was absolutely DELIGHTFUL. I had such a fun time reading this book! It was witty, smart, full of romance and a little dash of mystery. I’m a huge fan of reading Regency romances, so the fact that this is a YA historical novel coming tropes of a Regency romance + Jane Austen elements + an actual mystery? This was a combination I never knew I needed in my life but I completely devoured this glorious tale.

I’ve read other YA historical fiction books with similar premises, but not that have been written as excellently as Dangerous Alliance, or that have capture my attention as fully. From the very first chapter, we are introduced quickly to both the capable protagonist, Vicky, and the nonstop action. There is a lot of different types of conflict present which kept me constantly turning the page to find out what happened next. And I loved the mystery aspect as well! It kept me guessing until late in the game which made it all the more enjoyable.

The romance aspect was constructed perfectly as well. Some of my favorite tropes from Regency romances were at play: heroine needing to marry quickly to save her family, estranged childhood friend back in town, slow-burn romance. I also think the decision to have both Vicky and Tom’s POV worked extremely well for this book. I was surprised at first, but not necessarily disappointed. One of my favorite parts of reading historical romance novels is reading the mutual angst and tension from both points of views.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction, Jane Austen, the Regency-era, or the fun elements of historical romance books. Dangerous Alliance is a well-crafted, wonderful story full of non-stop action and fun!

Monthly Wrap-Up: July 2019

#ARCJuly was a success! I made a decision at the end of June that I would dedicate the month of July to catching up on the massive pile of ARCs I had that needed to be read, and I’m really proud of the number of books I managed to get through! There are some really fantastic releases coming out soon in the fall and I can’t wait for more people to read them!


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THE TOLL: When I found out I had won this giveaway, I was in disbelief. After reacclimating myself to the plot and setting, it was easy to get lost in the pages. The timeline in this book is a little tricky, but eventually it begins to unfold and it becomes easier to understand. Although there is less of Citra and Rowan’s POVs, I really enjoyed all the other storylines and think they really contributed to the overall story. This is a fantastic final installment to the series with an ending that is both bittersweet and hopeful! ARC provided by the publisher through a giveaway.   ★★★★

36483378._SX318_THE MERCIFUL CROW: This is quite the impressive debut. With a killer first line, Margaret Owen hooks the read into a fast-face, action-filled story with immersive worldbuilding and a fierce, capable heroine. 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. Instead of the dreaded love triangle, we are blessed with a perfectly paced slow-burn romance that was one of my favorite things about the book. ARC provided by the publisher.  [review]  ★★★★½

42587433ON THE CORNER OF HATE AND LOVE: I enjoy the finer things in life and literature: slow-burn romance, hate-to-love romance, a healthy dose of angst. Thankfully, this book delivered everything I wanted in this fun, witty, charmingly romantic story. Unfortunately, I think this is going to fly under the radar of so many readers simply because the cover–which is not bad!–is not bright or fun enough to attract the eye like other similar adult contemporary romances. But if you’re reading this and enjoy a fun hate-to-love summer romance, please check this one out! ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.  [review]  ★★★★½

42118210BEASTS OF THE FROZEN SUN: I saw this being hailed as Sky in the Deep set in Ireland, so I was instantly hooked. At the time that I was reading this, I really enjoyed it and was totally engaged in the plot. The writing was great, the characters were interesting, and I thought the plot was compelling. I wish it would have made a bit more of an impact on me, but overall it was a fun read! ARC provided by the publisher.  ★★★½

40864907THE KINGDOM: If you’re expecting this 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. I really loved the themes present in the novel, especially the question of what it means to be “real” and human. The book is written in an alternating past and present format: the present is told through Ana’s POV and the past is told through transcripts from Ana’s trial and other bits of “media”. I thought it was really well done and made it easy to fly through the pages.  [review]  ★★★½

40024139SERPENT & DOVE: This book set in 17th century French inspired world, in which there is an ongoing enmity between cults of witches and the Church. The descriptive writing and the careful details woven into the worldbuilding really shine. Shelby Mahurin does an excellent job crafting and describing the society and the magic systems in a way that is believable and compelling. And also, this book contains the holy trinity of my favorite tropes: a forced/fake marriage, enemies-to-lovers, and slow-burn romance. ARC provided by the publisher.  [review]  ★★★★★

20958632THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST: Honestly, this rating is really generous because if I could describe my reading experience for this book it would be: meh. No one is more saddened than I am that I didn’t enjoy this more. The Folk in the Air series is one of my favorites so I thought I would be blown away by this one as well. I was hoping this would hold me over until Queen of Nothing comes out, but for the most part I was just kind of bored.  ★★★

37777083CROWN OF CORAL AND PEARL: What I liked about this book was the strong sibling relationships and the protagonist, Nor. It was easy to sympathize with her and her plight, and I rooted for her the entire time! She was selfless, kind, and intelligent. My only issue with the book was that the pacing felt off. Plotwise, I felt like I was only halfway through the story, and yet when I checked my kindle I was already 77% through the book. Originally, when I read the book I was under the impression that this was a standalone, so the pacing bothered me a lot, but I’ve since checked again and apparently there is a sequel so I’m looking forward to reading the conclusion to the story! ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.  [review]  ★★★

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THE LADY ROGUE: This reminded me a lot of Hunting Prince Dracula, in a good way! I really loved all the adventuring and the second chance romance trope. The story was fast paced and the plot moved along nicely. The book almost reads like a historical fiction with a bit of paranormal thrown in? I don’t know, it’s hard to explain but it was very enjoyable! ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.  ★★★½

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THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY: This is the kind of story that reminds the reader of the magic of reading. Underneath this gorgeous cover lies a book about self-discovery, fun adventures, story-telling, and the bonds that form between people. Besides the main plotline, there’s also a smaller storyline told between chapters that left me breathless. . The way the author constructed these two separate stories and wove them together was absolutely beautiful. ARC provided by the publisher.  [review]  ★★★★

43263520._SY475_THE GRACE YEAR: I’m glad I stuck with this, because after accidentally reading spoilers about the ending, it was almost a DNF. I’ll admit that the first portion of the book was really hard to get into and dragged a lot. I think the biggest reason is because the book is split into four parts, but there’s no chapters. So it became really hard to find a good stopping spot since it seemed like the book would just go on and on and on. The middle got much better, and I started to enjoy the story by the last third of the book.  ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.  ★★★½

BOOK COVERSONG OF THE ABYSS: I love these books and I really wish they were not so underrated! Seriously, this is such a well-written YA fantasy series and they need more exposure to the book community. I will 100% admit that I picked up this ARC because the main character’s name was Reyna. But I’m glad I did, because it forced me to read the first book–which I loved!–and I thought this was a great story as well! I definitely recommend these books to anyone looking for a fun fantasy with amazing characters and great writing.  ARC provided by the publisher.  [review]  ★★★★

42265183THE BEAUTIFUL: A dark and decadent fantasy that captures the reader’s attention from the first page. The mysterious, atmospheric setting really provides the perfect backdrop for a paranormal vampire book. And yes, the vampires themselves may not be as present throughout the book as one would expect, but the thrilling, horror vibe really makes up for it. Besides, it’s very obvious that vampires will have a starring role in the sequel! ARC provided by the publisher through a giveaway.  [review]  ★★★★

36524503THE BONE HOUSES: The story follows a gravedigger and a mapmaker on an epic adventure full of family, magic, and the undead. The book heavily features elements of Welsh mythology, meanwhile other parts were reminiscent of The Black Cauldron. The eerie, atmospheric settings gives a haunting feel to this mesmerizing story that reads as if it’s a dark fairytale.  ARC provided by the publisher.  [review]  ★★★★½

41716322._SY475_TREASON OF THORNS: This was an entertaining story and I liked it, but for some reason it didn’t captivate my attention as much as The Light Between Worlds. The premise is really cool: this is a story about magical, sentient houses. I think I wish the actual magic part had been a bit more developed, especially regarding how the houses work with their Caretakers. Overall, it was a fantastic idea that I think just didn’t deliver all the way.  ARC provided by the publisher. ★★★

OTHER

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Made Me Cry #ARCstravaganza: Gravemaidens | #ARCstrvaganza: The Girl the Sea Gave Back| The ABC Book Challenge – L | 2019 Mid-Year Book Freakout | #AGameofBooksathon Progress Update #1 | #ARCstravaganza: American Royals