Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin #3), by Robin LaFevers | political and spiritual and still badass

20522640Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.

She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn’t mean she has…

Expecting Mortal Heart to be the most ordinary of the His Fair Assassin series was a grave mistake, and while many signs point toward that expectation, this book contains more surprises and twists than the first two books combined. Dark Triumph still triumphs over it in certain elements, but that one and Mortal Heart both put Grave Mercy to shame. In fact, I can barely remember Grave Mercy.

LaFever’s writing is still sophisticated but never overbearing. It’s always served as some sort of hindrance throughout the series for me because there is such detail to go with the slow pacing, but I admire it anyway. Brittany’s political affairs and increasing turmoil are continued in the story, one of the most fleshed out elements in the series as a whole. I think it’s amazing that LaFevers can create such a layered political plot in a fantasy and still keep it somewhat understandable. While Grave Mercy was more dramatic and romance-heavy, and Dark Triumph was darker and psychological, Mortal Heart is certainly focused on the mythology and spiritual side of the series. There is more talk about the Nine Saints and we even learn about their interconnections and their individual followers. I’m usually not that into mythology, but the vastness and depth of LaFever’s world has made me a fan. Annith’s connection with the Nine and Mortain himself is expressed so poignantly as well, and it is definitely the best part of the book.

Annith totally took me by surprise. I had initially expected her to be the most ordinary heroine (now I think that honor goes to Ismae), but after going through all these trials and tribulations with her, she is on par with Sybella’s complexity. Her story is vastly different from the others (in more ways than one) and the amount of emotion and passion in her character was expressed well. While her personality does not come off as vibrantly as Sybella’s, she is still an incredibly relatable and admirable character, and I loved her growth from the start to finish of the book. Like I said before, her story is largely focused on the spiritual and mythological part of the His Fair Assassin world, and while I can’t reveal too much about it due to spoilers, the amount of twists and turns in this aspect are crazy. Her backstory is fully explored too and it only makes her character even more fascinating.

There is a romance, one that I was not completely on board with at first. Many reviewers say that it felt random and outlandish, and I did have to agree with them even if Annith and her love interest were pretty shippable. However, as the story goes on and Annith’s relationship with her lover fluctuates and grows, wow, it totally makes sense. If I say anything more I would be spoiling, but how LaFevers handled this romance is just amazing.

This series’ writing and pacing can put me in a difficult position at times, but there is no denying the complexity involved in the His Fair Assassin world, characters, and relationships. In the midst of the political, mythological, and romantic discussion, LaFevers still masterfully keeps up the badass vibe of our leading ladies while exploring the psyche of nearly every remaining character. Apparently there are two more books coming out in this series, which confuses but excites me. I’m totally looking forward to reading those and whatever LaFevers decides to write afterward.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Year We Fell Apart, by Emily Martin | a frustrating contemporary on rebuilding relationships

22449806Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.

Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different—he’s taller, stronger…more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from.

As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all.

The Year We Fell Apart contains a combination of elements I usually love in contemporaries, a heartfelt romance and an amount of frustration/angst to challenge the couple together and individually. Unfortunately, while The Year We Fell Apart was engaging enough, the classic combo didn’t work out so well this time around. This book tried to accomplish a number of things, from rekindling a friendship, dealing with problems rattling a family, redeeming oneself, but it all ended up quite directionless ultimately.

The writing was extremely simplistic besides a few moments and I often felt as there were ‘holes’ in the story. The ‘introduction’ of the characters, the relationships, and Harper’s history with Declan was very, very vague and continued to be the same throughout the entire story. It was as if the reader was already supposed to know every thing that took place, and there was very little detail on the things that mattered. There was so much angst with unclear context; Harper and Declan’s past relationship is slowly revealed over time but nothing is ever stated definitely and the order of events is still confusing. This is why the drama and angst feels so forced, there is hardly any context to balance the amount of commentary on Harper’s pain and frustration. I’m sure the cancer subplot was added as another reason for Harper’s constant angsting, but it was entirely useless since it failed to add any message to the story.

Harper herself is indeed a flawed heroine, but is incredibly hard to warm up to and understand fully. I can sympathize with her to an extent, but she keeps repeating the same mistakes and expects comfort from those around her without recognizing her issues. She’s extremely selfish and hardly grows throughout the story, regardless of her comments toward the end of the novel. I suppose her actions would have made more sense if the book delved deeper into her psyche and psychological state, but it decided to focus more on her deal with Declan. In fact, most of Harper’s narration is filled with constant, repetitive comments on Declan’s attitude, his appearance, and whoever he’s hanging out with. It’s annoying and unrealistic, and also amazing how there is so much commentary on Declan yet so little on his history with Harper, through that could just be attributed to bad storytelling.

The most underdeveloped portion of The Year We Fell Apart would be whatever the fuck happened with Harper and Declan, if that isn’t clear already. Like I said before, their relationship is so damn unexplained, and their random up-and-downs get even worse as the story goes on. Harper starts talking all this shit on why she split from Declan and how she was afraid of losing people, and it was all so contrived and nonsensical. If anything, these two just skirted around their feelings and thoughts for each other and decided to finally confront it in the last 10 pages. Those 10 pages where the best part of the book but there is still no depth in their relationship.

I feel as though this book would have been so much better if there was a focus, a central point. Harper’s identity and struggle to make amends, her damaged relationship with Declan, and her mother’s cancer are all interesting plot points but they serve no purpose because they aren’t utilized correctly. If the story focused more on how Harper dealt with her mother’s illness and how family values and dynamics changed due to it, it definitely would have been more well-rounded. If the story also delved deeper into Harper’s psychological state and her issues with fixing herself, that aspect would have gone well with the rest of the themes too. The book definitely took on more than it could handle.

The Year We Fell Apart is a standard angsty romance that is entertaining enough, but there are many better contemporaries out there that explore the same themes deeper yet keep a good balance among all of them.

-Haven

Books, Original Post, YA Fiction

Waiting On Wednesday #1 (6/21/17)

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme created by Breaking the Spine where each week we discuss upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Hey guys! This is my first time participating in this meme and I’m currently scolding myself for picking a terrible time to start. Most of my anticipated upcoming releases have, er, already been released but thankfully there are still more (there’s always more…). This week’s anticipated release is Wild Beauty, by Anna-Marie McLemore! 

33158561

Release Date: October 3rd, 2017

Love grows such strange things.

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

I haven’t read too many magical realism novels but this one sounds quite interesting. The already-great reviews are only hyping me up more. October, where you at?

Thanks for viewing this post, guys. What upcoming releases are y’all excited for? Leave a comment below! 🙂

-Haven

Books, Original Post, YA Fiction

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Series I’ve Been Meaning To Start But Haven’t

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We’d love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

What’s up, guys? So, this week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday is ‘Top Ten Series I’ve Been Meaning To Start But Haven’t’, and wow, there are quite a few for me. The series listed below are and have been quite popular among YA audiences, which simultaneously excites me and pushes me away from them. I will definitely check these out soon though, it seems as though everyone and everything I know is pressuring me, haha.

Mara Dyer – I’d been meaning to begin this series a long time ago (those covers are so pretty) but was slightly turned off by the negative reviews. However, it does seem like a very entertaining series and I’ll definitely jump on it soon enough.

A Court Of Thorns And Roses – I swear, I hear way too much about this series on Goodreads, from my friends, random people I meet, everyone. I can’t go to school without seeing someone talk about this series or actually carry one of the books. It’s become a serious problem and I better hop on A Court Of Thorns and Roses (and SJM in general) before I’m outcasted from the reading community.

Falling Kingdoms – While this series doesn’t seem to be such a staple fantasy collection in YA, it’s still continuing and is actually one of the earlier YA fantasies before Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo took over the genre. I love action-oriented novels with several POVs, so I’ll definitely be visiting this series soon.

The Dark Artifices – Only after seeing all the updates of Lord Of Shadows on Goodreads did I realize I’m so behind on The Dark Artifices and Cassandra Clare in general. There was a time I considered Clare to be my favorite author, and I’m clearly not being loyal by missing out on this and not re-reading her past series at least once. I’ll obviously have to re-read The Mortal Instruments And The Infernal Devices before this one, but I’m totally looking forward to it.

The Darkest Minds – I didn’t have the best experience with Passenger but I’ve heard great things (and terrible things) about this series, and I can’t wait to see what it’s all about.

Daughter Of Smoke And Bone – Laini Taylor has been constantly raved about in the YA community and is recently popping up on my Goodreads feed once again with the publication of Strange The Dreamer. I’ve heard nothing but great things about the Daughter Of Smoke And Bone series, which makes me nervous but undeniably excited. Will certainly see what it’s about soon.

Red Queen – I actually checked out Red Queen a while back from school but never ended up reading it, and I know exactly why. I wasn’t interested and heard way too many things about it, which seemed to drive me away. It’s hard to repress your expectations when there’s already so much being said, but I’ll have to read this series eventually, or at least the first book. Got to see what the hype (and hate) is about.

The Remnant Chronicles – The Kiss Of Deception has been on my TBR list ever since Liz reviewed, and I hate that I haven’t touched on it since. It sounds like a guilty pleasure series and I always have time for those. Plus, those covers are absolutely gorgeous.

The Young Elites – I can’t tell y’all how many times I’ve started this book and had to put it down due to the library and it just being constantly overdue. I’ve also heard a number of things on it, specifically on Adelina’s anti-hero character and the overall darkness present in the story. Hopefully, the next time I check it out I’ll be able to finish the damn thing.

Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children – I actually have the Miss Peregrine’s Home Peculiar Children at home, but I haven’t ever picked it up. My sister has actually read the book before me, which is a rarity and something that I don’t want happening again. It seems as practically everyone has read this series, so I’m definitely looking forward ti checking it out soon.

Thanks for reading, everyone. What are some series that you’ve been meaning start but haven’t? Leave a comment below!

-Haven

Books, Reviews

A Conjuring of Light, By Victoria Schwab

5 Amazing, Amazing, Stars

Witness the fate of beloved heroes – and enemies.

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED…
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

Many of you out there know that last month, for high schoolers, was AP testing season. I personally, had five AP tests to take, and a whole bunch of stress that came with it. So instead of studying, what did I do? I picked up A Darker Shade of Magic for the second time. And then I picked up the next book. And the next one. And my soul (and hopefully not my test grades) cried with the wrenching knowledge that I had just, within the span of a week, finished what is perhaps one of the most expertly crafted YA series of all time.

This isn’t a great book. This is a phenomenal one. For all the filler and buildup of the previous book, this blew away all my expectations for what the final book in this series should be, and I can probably go as far as to say that this third installment is probably the best one out of the three.

A Conjuring of Light picks up immediately after the previous book, and I have to say, the stakes were high. From the very beginning the pace is fast and action-filled, and did not relent until the end. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, and spent a solid five hours (that I personally couldn’t afford to spend) flipping pages faster than I could read them.

Lila and Kell are back, and as awesome as ever, but what I didn’t expect was how much I would yearn for moments with Alucard and Rhy, both of whom I mistakenly assumed were side characters but absolutely are not. They are layered and likable in their own ways and really add depth to the story. Although there is character development, the personalities of all the characters does remain constant throughout, and I adore each and every one of them.

But the one person who stole my heart was Holland. Holland is the epitome of a tragic hero, someone forced into terrible situations that left him more than a little mangled, and I was drawn to him most of all. We get a lot more backstory on Holland’s end in this book, and it added so much to an already extremely layered character. Holland goes from villain to background character to something in between hero and villain in these three books, and in my opinion, that kind of complexity makes for the best kinds of characters. I definitely shed a tear at the end because I love his character so much.

I mentioned this in my review of the previous book, but in addition to the exquisite world building, the Schwab’s style of character romance is on point. Romances in real life don’t take precedence over all other more pressing matters, and it absolutely does not intrude even a bit on the plot here. Romantic endeavors are pushed aside to be pursued in calmer times, and that made me cherish the few ship-worthy moments. Nobody likes it when the main characters finally get together after multiple books of teasing, only to lose their capacity to keep their mouths off each other as soon as their relationship becomes official.

If I had to point out a flaw, I would say that I would have liked some answers with regards to Kell’s past, as well as a bit more dimensionality to the main villain, but these are minor in the grand scheme of the book.

Overall, the Shades of Magic series, and particularly this last installment, are phenomenal by many standards, and if you haven’t read it yet, I would suggest you get your hands in a copy as soon as humanly possible.

~Aliza

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Lola And The Boy Next Door, by Stephanie Perkins | an adorable and charismatic contemporary romance

22247695Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion… she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit – the more sparkly, more wild – the better. And life is pretty close to perfect for Lola, especially with her hot rocker boyfriend.

That is, until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket return to the neighbourhood and unearth a past of hurt that Lola thought was long buried. So when talented inventor Cricket steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally face up to a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door. Could the boy from Lola’s past be the love of her future?

Fall in love with the international bestseller from queen of young adult fiction, Stephanie Perkins.

I’m half embarrassed to say I actually liked this book, but I believe there was no way I couldn’t have fallen for this book eventually, at least a little bit. Even with its flaws and occasional cheesiness, Lola And The Boy Next Door is undeniably charming.

Plot + writing: The book got off to a somewhat slow start, but quickly fell into a pattern that I could recognize and follow. The writing was delightfully sweet but not saccharine, and there is just a very light, happy vibe to it even when something stressful is taking place (and trust me, there are a lot of stressful moments). Perkins also has a great talent for combining the most relatable feelings when it comes to crushes and liking someone with the fun maintained throughout the book. All the confusion, heartache, and butterflies are so subtly and perfectly conveyed, creating a great balance between deeper subjects concerning love and the mindless entertainment that Perkins does so well. I will admit that elements of this book can come across as somewhat unimaginable, from Lola’s outlandish apparel to the overall outlandishness of some events that take place. However, Lola’s feelings and struggles with being herself and finding love are so realistically told and the romance is so positively swoon-worthy, that these elements don’t do much to hinder the overall message of the story.

Characters: The characters are actually quite likable, despite the occasional eccentric behavior they display in the commonly eccentric situations presented. Lola is a witty, quirky, realistic teenage girl who I’m sure any teenager could relate to. It is easy to presume her personality as being childish or immature (her ornate wardrobe could play a part), but despite all the wacky situations she stumbles into, Lola remains a likable character who is positively and negatively affected by her hormones just like the rest of us. Cricket is a fairly fleshed-out and realistic character as well, and I definitely liked him more than St. Clair in Anna And The French Kiss. Speaking of Anna And The French Kiss, both Anna and St. Clair make cameos in this book, which was absolutely great. I think they stuck around for a good amount of time without taking the spotlight away from Lola’s story, and even shared details of their future after leaving Paris.

One thing I have to comment on is the amount of side characters in the book, which is significantly lower than Anna And The French Kiss. While I do like this, I wish the main secondary characters were more fleshed-out and three-dimensional, similar to the leads. Rashmi and Josh from Anna were pretty layered side characters, and Lindsay (Lola’s best friend) and Calliope (Cricket’s twin sister) don’t really match up to their amount of depth. Max is a bit confusing, because while he was a flawed person and boyfriend, I thought the sudden change in character toward the end and the lack of resolve in his relationship with Lola … well, lacked resolve. I do feel as though his character and many of the secondary characters could use some work. Lola’s dads are great though.

Romance: The romance obviously takes center stage in this story, and it is just as adorable and fuzzy yet angsty as one might imagine it to be. Cricket and Lola are a charming pair and aren’t short of any chemistry. While there is a substantial dosage of cheese, it’s not too much to make you cringe (well, not always at least). The angst factor is similar to any real-life situation dealing with young love (young being the key word), and I loved the angst because I could totally feel where Lola was coming from. Coming to terms with your feelings for someone, experiencing heartbreak, and discovering your self-worth are all such relatable feelings and Perkins depicted it all so realistically. Cricket and Lola’s relationship is full of ups and downs, but the ride is so worth reading about.

While I enjoyed Anna And The French Kiss, Lola And The Boy Next Door was definitely and surprisingly more engaging to me, and I’m so looking forward to the next installment and whatever Perkins decides to write next. Would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a fuzzy romance with the right amount of depth to match it.

-Haven

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Radio Silence, by Alice Oseman | a beautiful read on happiness and discovering your true self

30653843You probably think that Aled Last and I are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and I am a girl.

I just wanted to say—we don’t.

Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying. When she’s not studying, she’s up in her room making fan art for her favorite podcast, Universe City.

Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As. But no one knows he’s the creator of Universe City, who goes by the name Radio Silence.

When Frances gets a message from Radio Silence asking if she’ll collaborate with him, everything changes. Frances and Aled spend an entire summer working together and becoming best friends. They get each other when no one else does.

But when Aled’s identity as Radio Silence is revealed, Frances fears that the future of Universe City—and their friendship—is at risk. Aled helped her find her voice. Without him, will she have the courage to show the world who she really is? Or will she be met with radio silence?

You guys. THIS BOOK.

Image result for yes gif

While Radio Silence already has a number of 5 star reviews under its pocket and was was one of my top anticipated novels of the year, I was still completely taken by surprise by how enchanting this book was. The pacing was great, the characters were extremely charming and relatable, and the messages involved were so relevant and important among youth specifically. By now y’all should know I don’t throw 5 star ratings around casually, but Radio Silence is incredibly deserving of it.

Radio Silence follows the ambitious and intelligent Frances Janvier, who’s determination to get into Cambridge University is only topped by her love for Universe City, a science-fiction podcast series narrated by the enigmatic ‘Radio Silence’. After Frances is contacted by the creator to incorporate her fanart into the visual aspect of the podcast, Frances discovers that Aled Last, the quiet, studious kid that she had always ignored, is in fact Radio Silence. From there, Frances and Aled develop an unlikely yet strong friendship, bonding over their love for all things nerdy and the parts of them they are accustomed to hide from everyone else. However, after Aled’s identity  is unintentionally revealed and their relationship takes a turn, Frances realizes she needs to come to terms with who she really is to move forward. As Frances delves into her passions and her past, she discovers a multitude of secrets about Aled, Universe City, and herself.

The wonderful writing and definite plot: Radio Silence is told in a very casual and informal way, which surprisingly works for a book carrying such heavy themes. There’s actually a perfect balance between dialogue and commentary, and all the characters’ personalities shine through so easily. The pacing is absolutely perfect, despite the book being 410 pages (which seems to exceed the typical length of a contemporary) it never drags or loses its direction due to the short chapters and wonderful storytelling. There was an incredible amount of diversity, we have characters of all races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations who are represented in a relatable and respectful way.

The lighthearted, relatable atmosphere was so lovable and consistent throughout but the book itself never shied away from more serious topics, such as depression, suicide, emotional abuse, and exploring one’s sexuality. In fact, the whole book is centered on these issues many face, along with much subtle discussion on growing up and staying true to yourself. We read the book in the perspectives of those that excel in academics, and therefore considered ‘smart’ (Frances, Aled, Daniel, etc.) and those who particularly don’t, and are considered ‘not smart’ (Carys, Raine, etc.). As someone who comes from a culture that puts extra emphasis on academic accomplishments/success and college, I could totally understand the characters’ struggle with societal and familial pressures, as well as their own inner conflicts on what they want to do and who they want to be. I feel as though I read this book at the perfect time, as I will soon be applying for college and choosing a path myself.

The realest characters ever: The characters were absolutely brilliant. Frances is so lively, funny, and understandable through all the emotions she experiences in this book. Her main conflict surrounds the divide in who she really is and how people around her see her, and her struggle with staying true to herself was so, so real. Frances’ determination and ambition concerning her grades and academic accomplishments, as well as her fear and doubt towards her future and who she truly wants to be, is conveyed with such sincerity and honesty. Aled is the most precious character ever and I just wanted to give him a hug throughout reading this book. He was also incredibly relatable (I’m saying that word way too many times in this review, but guys. Seriously.), and I adored his friendship with Frances. There are hardly any male-female non-romantic relationships in YA that don’t have romantic undertones, but Oseman just nailed it with Frances and Aled’s adorable, genuine bond.

Even the minor characters, such as Daniel, Raine, and Carys all had their own distinct personalities yet were realistic and completely fleshed-out. I don’t want to delve into their characters too much, I will probably say too much because I adore them all. But, guys. THE CHARACTERS ARE A WIN.

There was also a slight mystery element incorporated into the novel, through Universe City and Frances’ interesting past with Aled’s twin sister, Carys Last. Thankfully, this aspect only captured me more and never caused the original plot to lose direction. Instead, Oseman masterfully interconnects the Frances’ past and present with the mystery making for an incredibly engaging and surprising read.

Radio Silence is a gem that deserves to acknowledged among the masses of new YA fantasies getting all the hype right now. If you can relate to dealing with college, stress, hormones, nerdy obsessions, making friends, making difficult choices, discovering yourself, an identity crisis, or anything and everything that has to do with being a regular teenager, read this damn book. It will do you some good in a number of ways.

-Haven