I’ve got four bite-sized reviews today. It’s a bit of a mixed-bag—a YA contemp, a YA fantasy, a book of art and poetry, and an NA contemp. I used to try to combine things more logically, but then I had some reviews that I waited forever to write, which didn’t work out so well. Anyway. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne
Series: Rosemarked #1
Also in this series: Umbertouched
Published by Disney-Hyperion on November 7th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: The Publisher
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)
A healer who cannot be healed . . .
When Zivah falls prey to the deadly rose plague, she knows it’s only a matter of time before she fully succumbs. Now she’s destined to live her last days in isolation, cut off from her people and unable to practice her art—until a threat to her village creates a need that only she can fill.
A soldier shattered by war . . .
Broken by torture at the hands of the Amparan Empire, Dineas thirsts for revenge against his captors. Now escaped and reunited with his tribe, he’ll do anything to free them from Amparan rule—even if it means undertaking a plan that risks not only his life but his very self.
Thrust together on a high-stakes mission to spy on the capital, the two couldn’t be more different: Zivah, deeply committed to her vow of healing, and Dineas, yearning for vengeance. But as they grow closer, they must find common ground to protect those they love. And amidst the constant fear of discovery, the two grapple with a mutual attraction that could break both of their carefully guarded hearts.
This smart, sweeping fantasy with a political edge and a slow-burning romance will capture fans of The Lumatere Chronicles and An Ember in the Ashes.
First off, I want to point out that while this book is set in a fantasy world, there’s no actual magic involved. When the book starts, we learn that Zivah is testing to become a healer, and at first it seems like the potions might have magical properties—but really, they’re basically just medicines. The rose plague is just a plague—though a very interesting one since some people remain carriers even after they’ve seemingly beat the disease (and they eventually die from it when it flares up again). So, while the setting and politics and religion of this world are all fantastical, there isn’t the element of magic that you’d typically see in this sort of series. BUT, the way that Zivah and Dineas end up fighting for their people uses a potion that does something that seems pretty darn magical—so, from that perspective, it’s a perfect fantasy fit.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I’ll just say that I really loved this story. Zivah and Dineas find themselves in an incredibly dangerous situation and find that they have to compromise their own beliefs and morals in order to help their people. Meanwhile, they discover that the enemy is not as one-dimensional as they’d thought—the lines between good and evil get more than a little fuzzy in this book, which is something I always love! The story is full of action, and the romance has such an interesting twist to it—something I’ve never seen before! I highly recommend this one.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Published by Listening Library, Dutton Books for Young Readers on October 10th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Narrator: Kate Rudd
Length: 7 hrs and 12 mins
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Some talk of sex, Mental Illness)
Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.
Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.
In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.
I’ve only read one other John Green book (yes, that one), so I wasn’t as insanely excited for this book as some of my blogger friends were—which was maybe a good thing because I went in with basically no expectations or preconceived notions.
I thought this book was an excellent example of mental illness portrayed realistically—the good, the bad and the ugly. Aza’s illness isn’t watered down or brushed over or magically “fixed” by the end of the book. It causes real issues with her family and friends. And, yet, the book is hopeful too—there’s a sense that Aza may not ever completely conquer her illness, but it doesn’t have to conquer her either. Plus, some of Aza’s philosophical musings are just darn interesting!
I wasn’t as thrilled with the mystery aspect of the book—it never seemed to really go anywhere and the conclusion ended up feeling relatively anticlimactic. It was really sort of just a vehicle for getting Aza and Davis into the same space. Which was fine I guess, but I wanted a little more. Still, since the mystery took a back seat to the issue of Aza’s mental health, I was still able to enjoy the book immensely, even without that payoff.
NARRATION: I listened to the audiobook for this book and, as I suspected, Kate Rudd speaks sort of formally for a contemp novel (she pronounces every syllable a little too perfectly—which works okay for epic fantasy, but feels a bit stilted in a contemp). However, as always when I listen to her, I got used to it, and I actually ended up thinking it worked for Aza’s voice because of the way her thoughts spiral—a bit of oddity to her voice actually worked. I loved her voice for Aza’s best friend Daisy as well.
My Name Is Jason. Mine Too.: Our Story. Our Way. by Jason Reynolds, Jason Griffin
Published by HarperTeen on April 21st 2009
Our story. Our way.
This is a really short collaboration of poems and artwork by author Jason Reynolds and artist Jason Griffin (Reynolds’s college roommate). Honestly, there’s not a lot to it—and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always “get” modern art, so not all the artwork was my favorite. Still, I enjoyed reading poems about their struggles to make a name for themselves and to be seen. As always, Reynolds’s writing is stark and powerful. Reading his work makes me want to sit down and write poetry myself—which I think says something about the sense of inspiration behind his words. If you’re a fan of the author, I’d definitely give this quick little book a read!
When in Rome by C.J. Duggan
Published by Hachette Australia on November 26th 2017
Genres: New Adult, Romance
My content rating: New Adult (Explicit sex)
What's the saying again . . . when in Rome, do a Roman?
How did a self-orchestrated gap year turn into a less-than-enthralling lifestyle as a couch potato at her parents' house? Determined to get motivated and join life again, Sammi Shorten books a budget Bellissimo Tour to Rome, the Eternal City. What she hadn't signed up for was being stuck with an eclectic group of binge-drinking foreigners in a bed-bug-infested hostel from hell. Things in Rome really couldn't get much worse . . . could they?
When plans go completely awry Sammi's left with only one place to turn, and it's the one place Sammi really doesn't want to turn - to the man who might very well get her into the worst trouble of all: the gorgeous local tour guide, Marcello Bambozzi.
WHEN IN ROME is the fourth standalone book in CJ Duggan's sassy, sexy new adult series, Heart of the City.
Without a doubt, this is my favorite book I’ve read from this series! I found Sammi so incredibly relatable. She wants to be independent and adventurous, but she doesn’t quite know how. When she books a dream trip to Italy, she soon regrets the decision—there are more than a few bumps in the road, and she doesn’t feel like she fits in at all. In fact, she kind of wishes she could just go back home and sink back into her comfort zone. But the romance that develops between her and Marcello is both unexpected and entrancing, so it isn’t a total loss. There are some great scenes that make you feel like you’re getting to know Rome right along with Sammi, which is really delightful. The book is fun too—lots of things go wrong for Sammi, and you can’t help but laugh even as you feel sorry for her.
This book had some cameos by characters from the first book (one of them is Sammi’s sister), and I thought the way Duggan tied them into the story was really cute. If you’re a fan of the series, you definitely won’t want to miss this one. If you’re new to Duggan, you could jump right in with this book and be just fine!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
That’s it for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think?
Great reviews! I felt the same way about Turtles. I expected the mystery to be a bigger part of the book, but then it just kind of went nowhere.
Yeah, it felt pretty anticlimactic. If it weren’t for the fact that I don’t tend to get terribly invested in mysteries anyway, that could easily have ruined the book for me.
I still need to read Turtles, but I’m glad you liked it. I hear the mental health rep was done well, which makes sense since John has OCD. I’m a big fan of his work though so I’m sure I’ll love it overall. haah
thanks for all the mini reviews!
Yes, you could tell that Green has struggled with OCD himself in his portrayal. That makes it that much more truthful.
I am starting Turtles tonight. I have read all JG’s books, and I am a fan, so I hope I enjoy this one. I am glad to hear you found the book hopeful, because that is really important to me.
I hope you loved it!
I’ve been seeing such good things about Rosemarked. I like the fact that good and evil aren’t so clearly defined. Definitely makes things interesting. I have no plans to read the new John Green any time soon. After three of his books I came to the conclusion that his writing style (and characters) just aren’t for me. It’s great that Turtles is getting such great reviews, though – from readers and critics, alike.
I haven’t read all that many Green books (I think just this one and Fault). I still plan to try some others, but I’m not as enthralled with him as some other people seem to be.
Rosemarked sounds amazing and I’m so glad you loved it! I have it on my tbr and I can’t wait to meet Zivah and Dineas. Everything I’ve read and heard about them intrigue me. And I’m super excited it’s just a duology, I love those!
I love duologies too—totally avoid middle book syndrome!
I have seen Rosemarked around a whole lot recently but how is it only now I’m discovering what it’s about!? I want to read, it sounds so good and just the type of book which would suck me in. I am definitely reading that it sounds so good and your review has me convinced too. I think I only heard of CJ Duggan because of you and this sounds like another good book so When in Rome has been added to the TBR.
I’m glad I could introduce you to both Rosemarked and CJ Duggan!! 🙂
So we have pretty similar feelings for Turtles, and not that I am surprised really, but it makes me extra excited for Rosemarked because if you loved it.. well, I likely will too, yay! Great reviews, glad this was a pretty solid bunch 🙂
I know—I always look at your reviews, and with a few very specific exceptions (which I can usually identify ahead of time), I feel like I always agree with you.
Great mini reviews! I have been seeing Rosemarked around more and more and it has caught my eye. Especially as it is a magical realism/fantasy that doesn’t actually include magic itself? Sounds interesting to me! I haven’t had much interest in John Green’s book because I’ve disliked everything of his I’ve read thus far but I am glad to hear this one is such good mental health representation.
Highly recommend Rosemarked!