Okay, so I might be exaggerating a little bit with that title—I’m not actually reviewing all of the rest of the books I read in 2016, but I am reviewing most of them. The only holdouts are a couple of books that I plan to review along with future books in the series and a couple that are releasing next week (which I’ll review then). Oh, and I’m still reading and the month isn’t quite over, so … Anyway, hopefully these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson
Series: The Remnant Chronicles #3
Also in this series: The Kiss of Deception
Published by Henry Holt and Company on August 2nd, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
My content rating: YA (Characters have sex, but it's not really shown; Some violence)
Lia has survived Venda—but so has a great evil bent on the destruction of Morrighan. And only Lia can stop it.
With war on the horizon, Lia has no choice but to assume her role as First Daughter, as soldier—as leader. While she struggles to reach Morrighan and warn them, she finds herself at cross-purposes with Rafe and suspicious of Kaden, who has hunted her down.
In this conclusion to the Remnant Chronicles trilogy, traitors must be rooted out, sacrifices must be made, and impossible odds must be overcome as the future of every kingdom hangs in the balance.
This was everything I was hoping for in a series finale. Even though the romance was rocky (and I was very scared for Rafe and Lia), it seemed realistic. After all, these two both had a strong sense of responsibility for their kingdoms (and Lia for Venda as well because of the prophecy). This put them at odds sometimes because it was impossible for them to follow their hearts AND do what was best for their respective kingdoms. My heart broke for them and I kind of wanted to throttle them both at certain points, but I loved how Pearson brought it all together and showed how Lia had grown since the first book. She became a warrior and she learned that sacrifice comes in many forms. Basically, I loved this ending to the series, which means that it remains an All-Time Favorite!
Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen #2
Also in this series: Red Queen
Published by HarperTeen on February 9th, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)
If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.
Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.
The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.
Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.
But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.
Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?
The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.
I started to listen to Glass Sword, but found that I had very little recollection of the first book (which has been happening to me lately—guess I’m getting old), so I went back and did a quick re-listen to Red Queen. I was really glad I did because it established the relationships so much more in my mind.
This book picks up exactly where Red Queen left off—Maven is now king (after Elara forced Cal to kill his own father) and Cal and Mare are on the run, along with her brother, Kilorn, Farley and others in The Scarlet Guard. This installment focuses on Mare attempting to gather the “New Bloods” as they call them—Reds with abilities. But the road is not smooth and Mare finds herself falling at odds with many of the people who have stood beside her as she becomes more and more brutally focused on her goal.
I really enjoyed this book, but I did feel like it had a little bit of a middle book feel to it—where it was all just leading us to the final book in the series and didn’t stand on its own as well. It was necessary because Mare changes a lot in this book (not completely for the good), but I kept waiting for something to really happen with the plot and that doesn’t happen until almost the very end. And then there’s a cliffhanger. Good thing I don’t have to wait long for the next book!
The Narration: I enjoyed the narration for this book and thought Amanda Dolan did a fantastic job. I would definitely be happy to listen to other audiobooks narrated by her.
Cruel Crown by Victoria Aveyard
Published by HarperTeen on January 5th, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
My content rating: YA (Some violence)
Two women on either side of the Silver and Red divide tell the stories no one else knows.
Discover the truth of Norta’s bloody past in these two revealing prequels to #1 New York Times bestseller Red Queen.
Queen Coriane, first wife of King Tiberias, keeps a secret diary—how else can she ensure that no one at the palace will use her thoughts against her? Coriane recounts her heady courtship with the crown prince, the birth of a new prince, Cal, and the potentially deadly challenges that lay ahead for her in royal life.
Diana Farley was raised to be strong, but being tasked with planting the seeds of rebellion in Norta is a tougher job than expected. As she travels the land recruiting black market traders, smugglers, and extremists for her first attempt at an attack on the capital, she stumbles upon a connection that may prove to be the key to the entire operation—Mare Barrow.
I got these on audio from the library and they were worth the listen, but nothing too essential to the story, and I enjoyed Queen’s Song a lot more than Steel Scars.
QUEEN SONG: This one gives us some background on Cal’s mother. It tells us how she fell in love with the king and her slow descent into fear and doubt. It was interesting to see how Elara slowly picked away at Coriane’s sanity and made her doubt herself. I’d give it 4 stars.
STEEL SCARS: I wasn’t nearly as interested in this one. In fact, I think I might have dozed off a little toward the end, but I’m not motivated enough to go back and see if I missed anything. I DID like the parts that involved Shade Barrow, but everything else was a bit boring, honestly. I wouldn’t bother with this one unless you’re really intrigued by Farley. I only give this one 2 stars.
The Narration: I was happy with the narration for both of these. The narrator for Steel Scars uses a British accent, since Farley has a Lakeland accent and a few of the other characters sound almost Irish or Scottish.
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
on March 3rd, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Magical Realism
My content rating: YA (Characters have sex, Abuse implied)
Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?
Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.
As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.
My mom read Bone Gap and wasn’t a fan—she just found it a little too strange and got bored—but since I had the audiobook from the SYNC summer listening program, I decided to give it a try anyway. And I’m really glad I did. I DO think this might be the type of book that works better (for me) as an audiobook because parts of it are a little slow plot-wise. The mystery of what happened to Roza kept me interested, though, and I was fascinated by Roza’s kidnapping and who (or maybe even what) her captor is. Oh, and it turns out that one of the main characters has a condition I’d only recently heard much about View Spoiler »(prosopagnosia, which I read about recently in Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven) « Hide Spoiler and I was very surprised when it was revealed—though there were definitely clues.
The romance in this book was a bit slow-burning at first and some of the background information was doled out a bit sparingly in the beginning, but overall I really enjoyed this book and found the fantastical premise incredibly intriguing.
Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick
Published by Scholastic Press on September 27th, 2016
Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary
My content rating: MG (Deals with a serious illness)
It’s not easy being Claire. (Really.)
Claire’s life is a joke…but she’s not laughing. While her friends seem to be leaping forward, she’s dancing in the same place. The mean girls at school are living up to their mean name, and there’s a boy, Ryder, who’s just as bad, if not worse. And at home, nobody’s really listening to her—if anything, they seem to be more in on the joke than she is.
Then into all of this (not-very-funny-to-Claire) comedy comes something intense and tragic—while her dad is talking to her at the kitchen table, he falls over with a medical emergency. Suddenly the joke has become very serious—and the only way Claire, her family, and her friends are going to get through it is if they can find a way to make it funny again.
I recently went to a YA Lit Conference at Anderson’s Bookshop and Sonnenblick was one of the keynote speakers. His keynote speech was incredibly humorous and I knew that his books would be written in the same wry style, so my mom and I checked out the library to see if they had his latest book in audiobook format. They did, so we listened to it while we drove to and from the conference the next day. (I also bought a few of his books to share with my kids later, but I haven’t read those yet.)
Sonnenblick said that this book was written in his daughter’s snarky pre-teen voice, and I think he captured it quite well. It was fun to listen to this story because I knew a lot of the scenarios in the book were based on the author’s real life and family (though, obviously, not the fact that the dad has a stroke). The story was poignant and sweet and full of life lessons for a middle grade audience. As an adult listener, I sort of wished I’d felt a little more attached to the characters than I ended up being, but I really enjoyed the story overall.
Highland Raven by Melanie Karsak
Series: The Celtic Blood Series #1
Published by Clockpunk Press on July 1st 2015
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Retellings
Source: Audiobook Blast!
My content rating: 18+ (Explicit Sex)
Destined to become Queen of Scotland.
Bound by blood to the Celtic gods.
Scotland, 1026--Gruoch, descendant of the line of MacAlpin, should have been born into a life of ease. But fate is fickle. Her father's untimely death, rumored to have been plotted by King Malcolm, leaves her future uncertain and stained by the prophecy that she will avenge her family line.
Escaping to one of the last strongholds of the old Celtic gods, Gruoch becomes an adept in arcane craft. Her encounters with the otherworld, however, suggest that magic runs stronger in Scotland than she ever imagined.
Haunted by dreams of a raven-haired man she's never met, Gruoch soon feels her fate is not her own. She is duty-bound to wed a powerful lord, if not the Prince himself; however, she's not sure she can stop her heart when she meets Banquo, a gallant highlander and druid.
Fans of Outlander and Mists of Avalon will relish this sweeping Scottish Historical Fantasy that tells the tale of Gruoch, a woman struggling to escape her fate without blood on her hands.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. I knew that it was about Lady Macbeth, but that was about all I knew. That was enough to intrigue me.
The story starts with Gruoch’s birth. Her father is the Scottish king, and her mother dies in childbirth. She is raised by her aunt, her father’s sister (who calls her Corbie). The early part of the book focuses on her life with her beloved aunt and her aunt’s abusive husband. I found myself drawn into the story right away and wondering what would happen with these characters. But then, Corbie is sent off to learn magic and the ways of the old Gods. She discovers that the old Gods are still strong in Scotland and that they want their revenge for being cast aside. A good portion of the book focuses on Corbie learning the magic of the old Gods and finding that she is connected to the Weird Sisters in some way.
Corbie (who is eventually renamed to Cerridwin, but I’ll keep calling her Corbie for ease of understanding) falls in love with Banquo. The relationship is definitely insta-love, but there are mystical reasons for this, so I was able to accept their instant connection. She is also drawn to one of her fellow female adepts. View Spoiler »(There’s a threesome involved–not my favorite part of the book, but that’s just me. I prefer monogamous relationships in life and in my books.) « Hide SpoilerBut, considering who Corbie’s father is, she can’t simply choose who to love or, especially, who to marry. Plus Corbie discovers that the old Gods might have plans of their own for her. She has very little say over the direction her life will take.
I found it interesting to see Lady Macbeth as a protagonist and to imagine the path that could have eventually led to her becoming the villain in Shakespeare’s play. I did find the book to be a bit slow, but that’s probably just because I wasn’t as engaged with the parts that focused on the magic as I was with the characters themselves (especially Corbie). Overall, I give the book 3.5/5 stars.
The Narration: Lesley Parkin is an excellent narrator, and her Scottish Brogue was a joy to listen to. This is one narrator I would actually seek out when I’m looking for audiobooks!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the author via Audiobook Blast in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***