Bite-Sized Reviews of Legendborn, Ana on the Edge, Furia, The Mystwick School of Musicraft, and Amal Unbound

March 4, 2021 Reviews 12

Today I’ve got some bite-sized reviews of some of my recent reads: A YA fantasy, a YA contemp, a MG fantasy, and a MG contemp. I hope these bite-sized reviews are enough to feed your fiction addiction!


Bite-Sized Reviews of Legendborn, Ana on the Edge, Furia, The Mystwick School of Musicraft, and Amal UnboundLegendborn by Tracy Deonn
Series: Legendborn #1
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on September 15, 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Retellings
Pages: 501
Source: The Publisher
Cover Artist: Hilary Wilson
My content rating: YA (Some violence, Themes of racism, Loss of a parent)
My rating:
5 Stars

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.

She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.

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This YA paranormal reimagining of King Arthur’s court is utterly addictive! The book goes deep into the world of secret societies when sixteen-year-old Bree goes to her late mother’s private school and discovers that demons are running amok—along with a select group of people who can see them and have the magic to fight them called the Legendborns. When Bree suspects that these people had something to do with her mother’s death, she’s bound and determined to find out what happened; and the only way to do that is to make her way into the Legendborns herself. She uncovers secrets of an ancient magic, legends who live forever, and the people who serve them. But she also discovers truths about her mother—and herself—that she never imagined.

Race relations is a theme that’s threaded throughout the story seamlessly—the book doesn’t feel like a book just about race, but the inequities of both today’s society and the past are woven into the plot in important ways. The book also explores themes of loss, evolving friendships, and anger that holds us back, even when we feel like it’s fueling us. All of this in a story that’s action-packed and full of surprises. The twists at the end blew me away, and I can’t wait to read more!!! 

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


Bite-Sized Reviews of Legendborn, Ana on the Edge, Furia, The Mystwick School of Musicraft, and Amal UnboundAna on the Edge by A.J. Sass
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on October 20, 2020
Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Pages: 380
Source: Library
Cover Artist: Ellen Shi
My content rating: MG
My rating:
4.5 Stars

For fans of George and Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World, a heartfelt coming of age story about a nonbinary character navigating a binary world.

Twelve-year-old Ana-Marie Jin, the reigning US Juvenile figure skating champion, is not a frilly dress kind of kid. So, when Ana learns that next season's program will be princess themed, doubt forms fast. Still, Ana tries to focus on training and putting together a stellar routine worthy of national success. Once Ana meets Hayden, a transgender boy new to the rink, thoughts about the princess program and gender identity begin to take center stage. And when Hayden mistakes Ana for a boy, Ana doesn't correct him and finds comfort in this boyish identity when he's around. As their friendship develops, Ana realizes that it's tricky juggling two different identities on one slippery sheet of ice. And with a major competition approaching, Ana must decide whether telling everyone the truth is worth risking years of hard work and sacrifice.

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This book explores gender in a way that I’ve never seen in a middle grade book, and I loved every minute of this important story. Ana is a highly competitive figure skater, a sport that (like most of society) is strictly split into genders. She’s always felt uncomfortable with the elements of figure skating that make people see her as a girl, but she doesn’t quite understand why or what it means. Then one day she meets a transgender boy who, through a case of mistaken identity, thinks she’s a boy too, and she realizes it doesn’t feel wrong exactly. But it also doesn’t feel exactly right? And because of this experience, Ana goes on the sometimes confusing journey of figuring out that she may not be either boy or girl at all. Ana’s emotional journey is grounded in her figure skating training. The details of Ana’s training are a big part of the book, and kids who are interested in figure skating will be fascinated by all that goes into learning a new skill and a new routine. It’s quite obvious that the author is an accomplished figure skater himself and he understands the rigors (and financial burdens) of training at elite levels. Ana is torn: she loves skating and wants to do anything she can to succeed, but can she do that while still being true to herself and her new understanding of her identity? I love that the book shows Ana’s struggles—Ana doesn’t immediately understand who she is and what it all means, which is often (though not always) typical of kids who are non-binary or transgender. And, best of all, the ending gives her room to continue to figure herself out—there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to gender (or “two sizes”?). Ana doesn’t have all the answers by the end of the book, and that’s okay.


Bite-Sized Reviews of Legendborn, Ana on the Edge, Furia, The Mystwick School of Musicraft, and Amal UnboundFuria by Yamile Saied Méndez
Published by Workman Publishing on September 15, 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 368
Narrator: Sol Madariaga
Length: 8 hours and 52 minutes
Source: NetGalley
Cover Artist: Rochelle Baker
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Some violence)
My rating:
4 Stars

An #ownvoices contemporary YA set in Argentina, about a rising soccer star who must put everything on the line—even her blooming love story—to follow her dreams.

In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life.

At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father.

On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university.

But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her.

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Furia follows Camila, an Argentinian teenager whose dream is to play professional fútbol in a society that’s wholly focused on men in the sport. She believes she has what it takes, but she has to play in secret because she knows that her parents would never allow their daughter to play seriously. It’s her brother that’s supposed to be the fútbol star, and he’s the one who has her parents’ attention and support. To complicate things further, she’s in love with Diego, a local boy who has gone off to find his own fame on the fútbol field. She has to balance her parents’ expectations, her budding relationship with a superstar player, and her own love for the game and her ambitions. These things don’t always play well together, and she’s often left choosing between her dreams and her relationships. The story puts a spotlight on a misogynistic society, and how women are often expected to fill very specific roles in a family and in their careers. The book put a bit more focus on the romance than I expected, but I loved the way it all worked out in the end, and I think the book gives an important perspective on what it truly means to choose yourself over what others might want for you.

NARRATION: I loved that the book was narrated authentically by Sol Madariaga, a native speaker. Her voice added depth and realism to the character.

***Disclosure: I received this audiobook from the publisher for review via NetGalley. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


Bite-Sized Reviews of Legendborn, Ana on the Edge, Furia, The Mystwick School of Musicraft, and Amal UnboundThe Mystwick School of Musicraft by Jessica Khoury
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on January 21, 2020
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Pages: 368
Source: The Publisher
Cover Artist: Federica Frenna
My content rating: MG
My rating:
4.5 Stars

Humor and heart shine in this middle grade fantasy about a girl who attends a boarding school to learn how to use music to create magic, perfect for fans of Nevermoor and The School for Good and Evil series.

Amelia Jones always dreamed of attending the Mystwick School of Musicraft, where the world’s most promising musicians learn to create magic. So when Amelia botches her audition, she thinks her dream has met an abrupt and humiliating end—until the school agrees to give her a trial period. Amelia is determined to prove herself, vowing to do whatever it takes to become the perfect musician. Even if it means pretending to be someone she isn’t. Meanwhile, a mysterious storm is brewing that no one, not even the maestros at Mystwick, is prepared to contain. Can Amelia find the courage to be true to herself in time to save her beloved school from certain destruction?

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I was surprised by how utterly and completely this book won me over with its beautiful magic system based on music. The story itself focuses on Amelia Jones, who accidentally gets into the magic school of her dreams when a girl with her same name dies and the dead girl’s acceptance is delivered to the MC in error. Amelia is determined to prove that she’s good enough to attend but often doubts if it could possibly be true. Meanwhile there is a bit of a mystery element to the story because the school has been under a sort of mystical attack and no one knows where the destructive magic has come from. Khoury’s descriptions of the magic through music are what truly wowed me—I was entranced every time magic was used in the book, which was a lot. Amelia has to learn to discover her own worth and find her place among the elites of music and magic, and I enjoyed every step of that journey with her!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


Bite-Sized Reviews of Legendborn, Ana on the Edge, Furia, The Mystwick School of Musicraft, and Amal UnboundAmal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books on May 8, 2018
Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Pages: 240
Source: Won It!
Cover Artist: Shehzil Malik
My content rating: MG (Some violence)
My rating:
4.5 Stars

The compelling story of a girl’s fight to regain her life and dreams after being forced into indentured servitude.

Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when–as the eldest daughter–she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens–after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.

Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal–especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.

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Amal Unbound tackles the tough topic of indentured servitude without ever falling into the depths of despair, which can be a difficult and important balancing act for a middle grade novel. Amal’s Pakistani village is under the thumb of the rich (but cruel and controlling) man who has financed most of its citizens. Almost everyone owes him in one way or another. When Amal unknowingly crosses him, he calls in her family’s debts—they either pay (which they can’t) or they give him Amal, who will work off the money owed. Amal goes to live in his home and finds herself amongst a whole group of servants, most of them indentured. She soon realizes that her dreams of leaving and becoming a teacher are probably never going to happen. The life she now leads is not easy to escape, and schooling is no longer an option. Even though Amal’s circumstances are bleak, there’s always an undercurrent of hope to the story (it helps that Amal works directly for the matron of the household, who is much more kind than her son). Middle grade readers will learn some truths about the world without being overwhelmed by them.


That’s it for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think? I wanna know!

 

12 Responses to “Bite-Sized Reviews of Legendborn, Ana on the Edge, Furia, The Mystwick School of Musicraft, and Amal Unbound”

  1. Nicole @ BookWyrm Knits

    Great mini reviews! I really enjoyed The Mystwick School of Musicraft as well, and I’m looking forward to reading Legendborn (hopefully next month). The rest of these sound great, too! I haven’t heard of a middle grade book that deals with gender issues the way Ana On the Edge does, and that sounds like an especially neat read.

    Nicole @ BookWyrm Knits recently posted: Writing Wednesday ~ February 2021 recap
  2. Sam@wlabb

    Anna on the Edge is one I really want to read, and am glad to hear the author created something special here. Did you see the tweets for this book? It was very cool seeing the author ice skating with the book.

    • Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

      I’m not sure why I didn’t love Furia as much as everyone else seemed to, but I definitely really liked it! I actually listened to this one at the end of last year while painting, and my reading slump last year was hardcore.

  3. Dianthaa

    As someone who’s been screaming about Legendborn since last September, I’m so happy you liked it!
    Anna of the Edge sounds very good too.

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