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.

ARC REVIEW: Ashlords – Scott Reintgen

42281865Title: Ashlords
Author: Scott Reintgen
Rating: ★★★½

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley. 

What is this book about? Ashlords follows the point of views of three characters from three very different backgrounds as they enter an annual competitive race featuring phoenix horses. Is it as awesome as the premise sounds? Yes.

What did I like? The premise of Ashlords is unlike any other I’ve read. Scott Reintgen did such an amazing job creating the plot and the world in this book. The entire concept of phoenix horses and using alchemy to rebirth different breeds of the horses was so well-developed and extremely interesting. Once I got into the meat of the novel, it was hard to pull my attention from its pages.

I also really loved the characters. The story follows three different protagonists from very different backgrounds. Ashlords focuses on more than just the horse race, but also on the political intrigue and the unrest brewing between the different people of the empire. The characters–Imelda, Adrian, and Pippa–become important pieces in the war and revolution to come.

What didn’t I like? Pippa’s POV was told through second person, which was hard for me to get into in the beginning of the book, but after a while I became accustomed to reading her chapters. I understand that it was done to help distinguish from the other POVs, but Scott Reintgen did such a great job making each voice unique that I didn’t think it was necessary.

Overall thoughts: Ashlords was a fun, fast-moving story about phoenix horses, a troubled empire, and meddlesome gods. Once the plot got going, it was hard to put this down and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel!

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 Away. 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. 

WWW Wednesday #24

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!🎄 WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words in which the three W’s stand for:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

25614492WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

 

 


48341787._SY475_WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters

 

 


42867745._SY475_WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

Husband Material by Emily Belden

REVIEW: Diamond City – Francesca Flores (ARC)

Title: Diamond City (Diamond City #1)
Author: Francesca Flores
Rating: ★★★½

ARC received through #booksfortrade on Twitter. 

What is this book about? Diamond City follows Aina, an assassin working for one of the worst crime bosses in Koshima. When presented with an opportunity to break away from the Blood King and start her own establishment, she takes on a high-profile assassination job. Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned and she gets caught up in a game of politics, conspiracy, and murder.

What did I like? This is a case where the book started out so amazingly but slowly lost steam as the story went on. I thought the world-building was clever: a world caught between industrialization and religion. The struggles between the two sides felt very believable and added depth to the story.

I also really loved Aina! It was refreshing to have an assassin that actually commits murders without qualms. Orphaned at a young age, she struggled to overcome poverty and homelessness, and is eventually “saved” by the Blood King, the leader of a ruthless gang. Speaking of the Blood King, Francesca Flores did an excellent job exploring the kind of power and emotional control people like Kohl have over impressionable younger girls such as Aina. Aina transitions from romanticizing him and their relationship to finally opening her eyes to the kind of person he truly is.

What didn’t I like? Towards the end of the book, the story started to lose a bit of steam. The action really picked up, but the conflicts were resolved quickly and without much fanfare. There were also a few aspects and “plot twists” that felt a little forced and a bit too clean for the kind of story this started out as.

Overall thoughts: I highly enjoyed this debut book from Francesca Flores! The world-building was unique and different from what I was expecting for a novel about a young assassin, and the heroine was truly the heart of this book. I look forward to reading the rest of the series!