April Book Review

April Book Review

April showers bring book reviews! And what do book reviews bring? Dedicated online followers! (Please?)

1). Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys – This book was incredible. The story was heartbreaking, the language was beautiful,  and the use of perspective was thorough and pointed and powerful.

2). A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab – Even though I only recently started this series, it felt like I was waiting for its conclusion forever. And it was worth every second the metaphorical wait. The book wandered a bit, but it eventually lead to a character-consistent conclusion (alliteration!) for all of the wonderful characters.

3). The Black Lotus by Claire Warner – This was a self-published RC that I received in exchange for an honest review. Check out my thoughts here and find the book on Amazon!

4). Blood Orchid by Claire Warner – This was a self-published RC that I received in exchange for an honest review. Check out my thoughts here and find the book on Amazon!

Happy spring to everyone, and good luck on finals to all my fellow students. We will prevail.

XX. Shelby Jo

‘Blood Orchid’ Review

‘Blood Orchid’ Review

Blood Orchid is a YA fantasy novel by Claire Warner. It’s the second in the Night Flower series (read my review of The Black Lotus here) and picks up immediately where the first let off.

I’ll admit, that’s one of my favorite tropes; if the immediacy is done well, it multiplies the suspense without the reader catching on. It was hard not to catch on in Blood Orchid. It begins with the same wandering perspective as the first book, briefly touching each character’s mind to remind the reader of “tragic” at the end of Black Lotus.

And then Warner proceeds to dwell on those events for the first half of the book. Without warning, at that halfway point, the narration jumps forward twenty years. The characters are still single-mindedly focused on one task, but have yet to have any rational discussion about that task on the page.

As a reader, I don’t generally mind being left in the dark about the protagonist’s intentions — it can often lead to engaging discoveries down the road — but when those characters continue to make the same mistakes and have the same conversations over the course of twenty years, I start to wonder what the plan is.

More so than The Black Lotus, it seems that Warner, too, lacked a plan for Blood Orchid. Like many middle or sophomore books, it was simply a string of events, without an overall arc to the plot.

Full of copy errors and without well developed characters to make those events interesting or entertaining, the book as a whole falls flat.

The Black Lotus left room for redemption and possible success for the Night Flower series, but Blood Orchid  failed to seize that opportunity.

XX. Shelby Jo

‘Black Lotus’ Review

‘Black Lotus’ Review

The Black Lotus by Claire Warner is a YA fantasy novel following protagonists Justin and Melissa as they uncover secrets in the English court of 1752.

Warner’s story shows great creative potential, but the execution falls flat, pulled down by cliche characters and repetitive writing.

One of the central issues of the book — the first in the “Night Flower” series — is Melissa struggling with the idea of an arranged marriage while simultaneously dealing with her debut season in court. Warner explicitly resurfaces the issue countless times, when it is already evident in Melissa’s dialogue and actions. Melissa’s family is sympathetic to her feelings, but the conversation about her rights as a woman never ventures beyond complaining.

In the same glossed-over way, Justin and Melissa fall into a love-at-first-sight relationship; they continually mention their deep feelings, but never delve into what those feelings actually mean.

They’re the typical characters to fall in this supposedly passionate and inexplicable way: the fiery young woman, who is upset at her situation and just cannot seem to fit into her role, and the mysterious, handsome rake (every character in “The Black Lotus” has apparently agreed to repeatedly call Justin “a gamester and a cad”) with a bad reputation. It makes their dialogue effortless, sure, but that’s about it; Justin and Melissa’s characters don’t affect the plot in any natural way, and they hardly inspire any curiosity from the reader.

Warner’s description’s of decadent court life are rich and elaborate, moving the story along more than any other element of the book. They are just exotic enough to hint at the fantasy to come, a subtlety that Warner would do well to expand into the other elements of “The Black Lotus.”

I don’t doubt that Warner’s name could be among other celebrated YA authors before long, but this book bears all the marks of a debut, and does not wear them well.

XX. Shelby Jo

March Book Review

March was another month full of travel, so I got plenty of reading in; hopefully my streak won’t end now I’m back to my normal, boring life.

#1) The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons – I loved the story of this book (even some of the cheesier bits!) but the almost elementary voice just kept it dragging on and on.

#2) The Star-Touched Queen by Roshki Chokrati – There were parts of this book, mostly the mythology and the poetry, that I loved and wish were better woven into the story, because the plot felt flat and confusing when combined with the more artistic elements of the book.

#3) A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir – This book started out very slowly, and I was afraid that it would suffer from sophomore book syndrome, but it really picked up once the individual plot threads came together in the narrative.

#4) The Young Elites by Marie Lu – The story here was interesting, and certainly had potential, but the syntax was so repetitive and the voice didn’t seem well thought out.

#5) Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys – This book was pretty incredible; I could hardly believe it when I found out it was Sepetys’ debut novel. It truly speaks to the power of historical fiction.

XX. Shelby Jo

February Book Review

#1). Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – Outlander turned out to be unexpectedly well-plotted and thoughtful; I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Though I won’t continue with the saga (there’s just so much to read!), it’s definitely a notch in my belt.

#2). The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein – I picked this book up because I love Elizabeth Wein’s historical fiction, and I was intrigued by the idea of a retelling of the Mordred myth – one of my favorite elements of the Camelot legend. However, the detached, lyrical voice detracted from the story, in my opinion, and is my main reason for deciding not to continue with the series.

#3). All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – This was a beautifully told story, with rich and full characters. In some ways it felt inconclusive, but perhaps that’s the best solution, given the subject matter.

#4) The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon – This book was a lot. I was definitely impressed with the sheer amount of lore and world building, but it seemed to impede the plot in a lot of respects. Also, the blend of sci-fi and fantasy didn’t particularly appeal to me.

XX. Shelby Jo

January Book Review

January Book Review

January was wild y’all. But, I spent half the month on trains, planes, and buses, so I got a lot of reading in!

1). Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books, so you can understand why I waited to read the sequel. All in all, I didn’t get the point of this book. The voice was interesting, but the plot was aimless and didn’t add anything to the first book.

2). Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris – This is the first Sedaris work I have ever read, and it was underwhelming. The connections in the essays were insightful, but the tone was not always engaging.

3). A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab – Okay, I didn’t love A Darker Shade of Magic, but I loved A Gathering of Shadows. It’s one of the best “middle books” I have ever read; it was gripping and unique, but still successfully set up the final installment in the series.

4). Going Bovine by Libba Bray – I despise books about teenagers dying, but this was fantastic. Complete with less than thrilling sex and the world being saved by pop music, I could not ask for a better teenage odyssey.

5). Atlantia by Allie Condie – I honestly don’t know what this was. It was like three books combined into one, with terrible pacing and confusing characters.

XX. Shelby Jo

 

December Book Review

December Book Review

Congratulations, you survived 2016! (Unless you are an infant who learned to read and use the internet in the past 10 days, but I guess that’s an achievement, too.)

I read a total of 42 new books this year, which is close enough to my goal to satisfy me, because I re-read some and read plenty of comics, too. I’m not going to do a year in review this year, but in general, 2016 was good to me. It seems like it was rough for a lot of people, but, even though I can’t brag about a super fun year or anything, 2016 was full of massive change and achievements for me, and I will celebrate that over stagnation any day.

BUT, to put a cap on 2016, here is my December book review!

1). How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon – This book was some how interesting and boring at the same time. I understand that it’s very relevant and necessary, but at the same time the actual writing and plot felt somewhat aimless. I probably wouldn’t have finished it if I wasn’t reading an audiobook version.

2). Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – Just know that the characters in this book fall right into my favorite category of character in the world, so I was bound to be picky. But, I didn’t love Six of Crows like the rest of the YA world. It was incredibly fun and a great team-up episode, but it lacked a “something more,” a consequence or meaning, that could have made it great.

3). The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh – OK. O-K-A-Y. We all know how I feel about The Wrath and the Dawn, right? WELL. I didn’t realize that The Rose and The Dagger was the final book in the series (I have a history or not doing research on things I read, see The Passenger Incident), so I was broken by the amazing and unexpected conclusion. The plot took a few detours on the way there, but it was a strong conclusion to the characters and world. ALSO: Dance party for the championship of Young People Knowing What They Want! ALSO ALSO: Title game on point, here. Seriously.

4). Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo – Wowza, Crooked Kingdom completely delivered in the area – shall we call it righteous comeuppance? –  that Six of Crows lacked! I loved this book way more because the stakes were higher, but the plot was very erratic and didn’t make a lot of sense. Thankfully, that was passable because the characters remained true.

5). Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton – This was just a really fun read. Fantastic world-building, adventure, and a truly badass heroine. I hope the depth of this series continues to develop because it has a lot of potential.

XX. Shelby Jo