Book Review | Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim

Title: Spice Road (Spice Road Trilogy #1)
Author: Maiya Ibrahim
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: January 24th, 2023
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“In the hidden desert city of Qalia, secret spice magic awakens affinities in those who drink the misra tea. With an affinity for iron, seventeen-year-old Imani wields a dagger like no other warrior, garnering her the reputation as the next greatest Shield for battling the dangerous djinn, ghouls, and other monsters that lurk in the sands beyond city limits.
Her reputation has been overshadowed, however, by her brother who tarnished the family name after he was discovered stealing their nation’s coveted spice – a tell-tale sign of magical obsession. He disappeared soon after, believed to have died beyond the Forbidden Wastes, and leaving Imani reeling with both betrayal and grief.

But when Imani uncovers evidence her brother may be alive and spreading their nation’s magic beyond the desert, she strikes a deal with the Council to find him and bring him back to Qalia before he can reveal the city’s location. Accompanied by Qayn, a roguish but handsome djinni, and Taha, a powerful beastseer whose magical talents are matched only by his arrogance, they set out on their mission.
Imani will soon discover there are many secrets that lie beyond the Forbidden Wastes – and in her own heart – but will she find her brother before his betrayals endanger the fate of all of Qalia?” (Goodreads)

This is the start of a new trilogy and one that I was excited to be approved for through Netgalley! I feel like I have read books similar to this, like The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah, but it still managed to be unique and surprising read!

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Imani. She is a dedicated Shield that helps take care of her home city from monsters such as the djinn. They know her well as the Djinn Slayer. The one thing that made me impartial to Imani is that she can very much fall into the “I can do everything and survive”. Don’t get me wrong, I did like seeing her come out on top and even stick up for those that couldn’t on their own but I would have liked a bit more struggle on her end as it seems everything comes naturally to her. She still is a great character though since she family is a number one priority and that will give any character brownie points from me.

There is also more to Imani than her job as well. She has lived a sheltered life and through the disappearance of her brother she finally starts to understand the rest of the world that has been kept a secret from her. It isn’t easy for her to understand either as it just brings on more questions about the colonizers and the Council that protects her city. I feel like politics was just surface level and I am sure there will be a lot more in the sequel.

The other characters in this book have been very interesting so far. Qayn is the one I am most intrigued by! He is a djinn who is suave and hides many secrets. What is not to love about that? Haha. I think that Taha and his friends have also been secretive but some of theirs due come to light by the end of the book. I am very conflicted when it comes to Taha though. It’s hard to tell if he is just a good manipulator or cares deep down. I do think that some of the characters will get more page time and I am looking forward to learning more about them and their cause.

Although this book did take me a bit to get into, I did eventually find myself wanting to sit down and pick it up. I thought that it was very adventurous and even with some down times it didn’t discourage me. There are some thrilling plot twists and I can’t wait to see how the story continues in the sequel.

Overall, this was a solid debut!


Book Review | Mysteries of Thorn Manor (Sorcery of Thorns #1.5) by Margaret Rogerson

Title: Mysteries of Thorn Manor (Sorcery of Thorns #1.5)
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Genre: YA Fantasy / Novella
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Elisabeth Scrivener is finally settling into her new life with sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn. Now that their demon companion Silas has returned, so has scrutiny from nosy reporters hungry for gossip about the city’s most powerful sorcerer and the librarian who stole his heart. But something strange is afoot at Thorn Manor: the estate’s wards, which are meant to keep their home safe, are acting up and forcibly trapping the Manor’s occupants inside. Surely it must be a coincidence that this happened just as Nathaniel and Elisabeth started getting closer to one another…
With no access to the outside world, Elisabeth, Nathaniel, and Silas – along with their new maid Mercy – will have to work together to discover the source of the magic behind the malfunctioning wards before they’re due to host the city’s Midwinter Ball. Not an easy task when the house is filled with unexpected secrets, and all Elisabeth can think about is kissing Nathaniel in peace. But when it becomes clear that the house, influenced by the magic of Nathaniel’s ancestors, requires a price for its obedience, Elisabeth and Nathaniel will have to lean on their connection like never before to set things right.” (Goodreads)

This was a cute and lighthearted novella to continue on the story of Elisabeth, Nathaniel, and Silas.

The book follows the point-of-view of Elisabeth in third person narrative. Her mind definitely has a lot of thoughts when it comes to Nathaniel and Silas. She is trying to figure out what her life will be like now that everything has settled down. I can understand her feelings towards love and long term relationships. She always tries to understand Silas a lot more, even if he doesn’t see himself as she does.

There are cute moments between Elisabeth and Nathaniel. I liked the adventure they are set on to make things right at the manor. It all culminates to a surprise at the end which is what I was hoping would happen. I do think that it could have been drawn out a bit more and probably not done at that moment when someone is asking Nathaniel about something but maybe that is just me.

Overall, this was good and it did give me some answers that I had about their futures. I just wish it would have been just a bit longer.

Book Review | Waking Fire by Jean Louise

Title: Waking Fire
Author: Jean Louise
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: January 10th, 2023
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Rating: ⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Naira Khoum has only known life in Lagusa, a quiet village at the desert’s end. But to the rest of the world, Lagusa is a myth, its location shrouded in secrecy. While war rages to the north led by power-hungry Sothpike and his army of undead monsters called Dambi, Naira’s people live in peace.
Until the impossible happens—Lagusa is attacked by a Mistress sent to do Sothpike’s bidding with a hoard of Dambi under her control. The Mistress is looking for something, and she’s willing to let her Dambi destroy Lagusa to get it.
Desperate to protect her home, Naira convinces her twin brother Nez and handsome refugee Kal to join the newly formed resistance with her. Together, they’ll have to figure out what the Mistress wants—before there’s nothing left of Lagusa to save.” (Goodreads)

As an anticipated read, I wanted to love this one. The cover is gorgeous! Orange is definitely a striking color. This could have easily been thrown into the DNF pile but I decided to slug on through in hopes that it would get better. I think my biggest complaint has to deal with the writing style of this author. It reads very low on the YA spectrum and if it wasn’t for the use of the b word I would have thought it could be on the higher side of MG. This could totally be a personal opinion though. Maybe others hadn’t felt the same.

I was very intrigued by the prologue and thought that it was going to go a lot different when it came to the book based on that little part. After getting a couple chapters in I totally lost focus and didn’t really have that feeling to continually pick it up. It is very much an average YA book with the usual tropes, one being insta-love. It’s a trope I just don’t get along with. It didn’t feel like there was any real buildup to this romance.

For me, the plot and characters weren’t much better. I had wished there had been more development for the characters and a better understanding of the world as well. I feel like a lot could have been explored more and it would have made for an even better read.

I feel like there will be those who like this one though, especially if they want something light when it comes to the YA Fantasy genre. So, if you are one of those people then give it a chance!

Goodreads Monday | Star Splitter by Matthew J. Kirby | 1-2-23

Hello Readers!

Goodreads Monday was hosted and created by Lauren’s Page Turners and has now been taken over by Budget Tales Book Blog. To participate, choose a random book from your TBR and show it off.

Title: Star Splitter
Author: Matthew J. Kirby
Genre: YA Sci-fi
Publication Date: April 25th, 2023
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers

Crash-landed on a desolate planet lightyears from Earth, sixteen-year-old Jessica Mathers must unravel the mystery of the destruction all around her–and the questionable intentions of a familiar stranger. Pulse-pounding YA science fiction from award-winning author Matthew J. Kirby.

For Jessica Mathers, teleportation and planetary colonization in deep space aren’t just hypotheticals–they’re real. They’re also the very real reason her scientist parents left her behind six years ago. Now she is about to be reunited with them, forced to leave behind everyone she knows and loves, to join their research assignment on Carver 1061c, a desolate, post-extinction planet almost 14 lightyears from Earth.

Teleportation is safe and routine in the year 2198, but something seems to have gone very, very wrong. Jessica wakes up in an empty, and utterly destroyed, landing unit from the DS Theseus, the ship where she was supposed to rendezvous with her parents. But Jessica isn’t on the Theseus orbiting Carver 1061c. The lander seems to have crashed on the planet’s surface. Its corridors are empty and covered in bloody handprints; the machines are silent and dark. And outside, in the alien dirt, are the carefully, and recently, marked graves of strangers.

Questions of self-determination and survival collide in this expertly crafted science fiction novel from Edgar Award-winning author Matthew J. Kirby. Kirby builds spine-tingling tension page-by-page in this imaginative and haunting story that spans both space and time.” (Goodreads)


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Book Review | Song of Silver, Flame Like Night by Amélie Wen Zhao

Title: Song of Silver, Flame Like Night
Author: Amélie Wen Zhao
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: January 3rd, 2022
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“In a fallen kingdom, one girl carries the key to discovering the secrets of her nation’s past—and unleashing the demons that sleep at its heart. An epic fantasy series inspired by the mythology and folklore of ancient China.
Once, Lan had a different name. Now she goes by the one the Elantian colonizers gave her when they invaded her kingdom, killed her mother, and outlawed her people’s magic. She spends her nights as a songgirl in Haak’gong, a city transformed by the conquerors, and her days scavenging for what she can find of the past. Anything to understand the strange mark burned into her arm by her mother in her last act before she died.
The mark is mysterious—an untranslatable Hin character—and no one but Lan can see it. Until the night a boy appears at her teahouse and saves her life.

Zen is a practitioner—one of the fabled magicians of the Last Kingdom. Their magic was rumored to have been drawn from the demons they communed with. Magic believed to be long lost. Now it must be hidden from the Elantians at all costs.
When Zen comes across Lan, he recognizes what she is: a practitioner with a powerful ability hidden in the mark on her arm. He’s never seen anything like it—but he knows that if there are answers, they lie deep in the pine forests and misty mountains of the Last Kingdom, with an order of practitioning masters planning to overthrow the Elantian regime.
Both Lan and Zen have secrets buried deep within—secrets they must hide from others, and secrets that they themselves have yet to discover. Fate has connected them, but their destiny remains unwritten. Both hold the power to liberate their land. And both hold the power to destroy the world.
Now the battle for the Last Kingdom begins.” (Goodreads)

I’ve been curious about this one ever since I first laid eyes on the cover. I love the dragon on it! I also have read her first series, liked it for the most part, and I think that’s another reason I wanted to read this one. It is a good start to a new series about Chinese Folklore, but I wasn’t able to fall in love with it.

The book is told from multiple point-of-views, Lan and Zen. They come into contact with one another and realize that in some way, shape, or form they are connected with certain goals that align. I did like learning about both of them and their pasts. Lan is coming with a lot of baggage that deals with her mother and it’s hard for her to deal with because of what she had seen. It comes into play a lot and I don’t blame her for her actions because of it. Zen is a bit of a harder shell to crack and I think that describes his personality well. He has a soft side but doesn’t show it very much. I would say that these two characters stood out the most and the minor ones were fine but I don’t feel like I ever got to know some of them well.

There is a lot of info dump in this book, especially in the beginning, and it did take me out of the story. It felt like paragraphs on top of paragraphs. There is a lot about politics and the magic system. This could have easily been why it felt like it was slower paced. The book does pick up further in.

I will say that this author’s writer has definitely improved from her first series.

Overall, this one was kind of a mixed bag for me. There are some great elements to it but not enough for me to continue on. I do think that others will enjoy it and I’d definitely recommend for those who enjoy the YA Fantasy genre.

Arc Review: Crown of Bones (Amassia #1) by A.K. Wilder

Title: Crown of Bones (Amassia #1)
Author: A.K. Wilder
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: January 5th, 2021
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher for sending out an arc box! All opinions are my own.

“In a world on the brink of the next Great Dying, no amount of training can prepare us for what is to come …
A young heir will raise the most powerful phantom in all of Baiseen.
A dangerous High Savant will do anything to control the realms.
A mysterious and deadly Mar race will steal children into the sea.
And a handsome guide with far too many secrets will make me fall in love.
My name is Ash. A lowly scribe meant to observe and record. And yet I think I’m destined to change us all.” (Goodreads)

Edit: Finished rereading this one as an audiobook so I am ready for the sequel! It was as good as the first time I read it.

As an anticipated read, this did live up to a lot of the hype for it. I can only think of a couple things that didn’t fully work for me but honestly, they were very minor and I had a fantastic time reading this book!

One of the things I enjoy seeing in a book is multiple point-of-views. It helps build the characters and gives us different perspective to each situation. In this book there are five point-of-views. Some get more pages than others but each one weaves into the full picture nicely. I will say that one left me a bit confused at first but as the story progresses there is clarification as to why that character is important.

Ash is a scribe that we are introduced to pretty quickly into the book. I loved her spunk even if others didn’t like her because she is non-savant (explained later in review). She didn’t let that stop her though and is amazing at her job. Although she easily trusts, sometimes it works out in her favor!

Marcus is the heir to his father’s throne because he was born savant. He does have a brother who seems like a dillweed but I’m a sucker for brothers so I’ll let it slide, haha! Marcus has a lot to live up to since his father’s phantom is very strong and that puts a lot of pressure on their relationship. He may not always be the smartest but he does want what is best for his people and he just seems very kindhearted all around.

There are other characters but some are better to be left introduced on their own when you read the book. You’ll also fall in love with one because I know I did, haha.

In the book, we do get hints for relationships and at times it does seem like a love triangle but one party isn’t really ever jealous so I’m not sure what’s going on. I guess that would be my biggest gripe of the book is that I don’t really understand the relationship dynamics that Ash finds herself in. I also felt like one was a bit rushed and didn’t have a lot of development but I am willing to see where it all goes in book two.

The magic system isn’t quite like anything I have read before. Each person is either born savant (phantom wielder) or non-savant. Each savant has a phantom that they control. It takes on a shape of a creature, like wolves, leopards, or even a gazelle. I thought this was really cool and the author does a great job of explaining it all so it is never confusing.

The savants get categorized based on robe color and each color signifies how powerful they are. There are ones called the bone throwers and they give readings by bones. I wasn’t sure how much this would play a part in the overall plot and was pleasantly surprised that it comes into play quite a bit and even the opening lines before the prologue gave information I didn’t realize until the end of the book!

There is so much adventure wrapped into the book that I never got tired of reading it. From traveling adventures, whether on sea or foot, there is never a dull moment for these characters. Seriously, they can never catch a break! Even though a couple things felt a but obvious before the reveal, there were still plot twists that surprised me. And that ending, I’m going to need the next book asap.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one and the world the author created. It is full of interesting magic, loveable characters, and plot twists that will have you wanting to come back for me. I’d definitely recommend adding to your tbr if it isn’t on there already!

Arc Review: Curse of Shadows (Amassia #2) by A.K. Wilder

Title: Curse of Shadows (Amassia #2)
Author: A.K. Wilder
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: December 6th, 2022
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Amassia teeters on the brink of the next Great Dying.
The second sun has returned as our Bone Throwers foresaw–casting the nine realms into war.
My name is Ash, and I fell in the battle for Baiseen. But I’m awake now, slowly putting the pieces back together.
My Heir has lost his throne.
My sailor is gone.
And there is an emptiness inside me I can’t explain.
Amid the chaos, someone must collect the original twelve whistle bones from all corners of the world. Marcus is named to lead the cause, but with his volatile phantom, he’ll need diplomacy as much as his sword. And we are not the only ones to seek the bones.
Yet succeed we must.
Because if we don’t, it will be death to all…” (Goodreads)

I was excited to dive back into this world after the initial shock from the cliffhanger of the first book. It was such a thrilling book filled with humor, adventure, and plot twists. Who wouldn’t want to continue on?

Unfortunately, although I liked parts of the sequel I didn’t find myself having the exact same feeling as the first book. Things just felt a bit different. I will say that it could potentially be due to my mood since Fantasy hasn’t been my top genre lately.

The book is told from multiple point-of-views just like in the first. I always like seeing this and was surprised to see a couple more point-of-views as well. It made for interesting developments and added to the overall plot to help have everything come together. I did like some characters more than others. Marcus was a good one and had a lot going on when it came to his family as well as learning what his new role meant. Ash also had more going on for her, mostly at the end though which was kind of disappointing especially not knowing if there will be another book. I haven’t heard anything so I can’t confirm. It does have a cliffhanger so who knows!

There were a lot of plot twists happening as the book progressed. I felt like some were more dramatic than others and that could be due to one happening to a character that hasn’t been present until this book and even then he didn’t have much page time. It makes it hard to connect and feel something when I don’t know much about him.

I feel like this book lacked the humor the first one had. Kaylin was very charming and had a very swoon-worthy persona. It could be due to wanting more from his relationship with Ash but there wasn’t much development there either.

Overall, this was a decent sequel. I didn’t love it but I liked aspects of it. I am curious to see if there is going to be another book because of the ending. Only time will tell!

Arc Review: The Poison Season by Mara Rutherford

Title: The Poison Season
Author: Mara Rutherford
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: December 6th, 2022
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Rating: ⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review. All opinions are my own.

“Leelo has spent her entire life on Endla, coexisting with the bloodthirsty Forest and respecting the poisonous lake that protects her island from outsiders who seek to destroy it. But as much as Leelo cares for her community, she struggles to accept that her younger brother will be exiled by his next birthday, unless he gains the magic of enchanted song so vital to Endla.
When Leelo sees a young outsider on the verge of drowning in the lake, she knows exactly what she’s supposed to do. But in a moment that will change everything, Leelo betrays her family, her best friend, and Endla by making an unthinkable choice.
Discovery could lead to devastating consequences for both Leelo and the outsider, Jaren, but as they grow closer, Leelo realizes that not all danger comes from beyond the lake—and they can only survive if Leelo is willing to question the very fabric of her society, her people, and herself.” (Goodreads)

I keeping going back and forth with this author. Although I liked her debut duology, the last two books (this one is included in that) she has written have just not been for me. I don’t know if it is because they are standalones or the writing. It could honestly be both. The writing, especially for this one, felt on the younger YA side and I’m just not a fan of that.

The book is told from multiple point-of-views but done in third-person narrative. The point-of-views came more from Leelo though than Jaren. It does make sense as to why it is done this way since they are from different areas but she is the one who lives on a mysterious island where outsiders are not welcome.

I don’t think the characters were bad. I just didn’t connect with them. They do go through some harsh things, especially Leelo. She has to maneuver her feelings and still try to be there for her family even though it feels like some of them belittle her. A lot of the side characters had very little page time and were mostly there for certain plotlines. Leelo very much as the “not like other girls” vibe going on and it’s one trope I just can’t do.

Even though the setting was interesting I felt like the world-building lacked overall and I still had some unanswered questions. I wouldn’t say that this book was any different than others I have read with similar styles. It was just average. 🤷‍♀️

Overall, this wasn’t for me. I wanted to like it but it is hard when the writing doesn’t work for you and you can’t connect with the characters. I love the cover though!

Book Review: Married by Fate by Jenny Hickman

Title: Married by Fate
Author: Jenny Hickman
Genre: YA Fantasy / Romance
Publication Date: September 16th, 2022
Publisher: Indie
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“He’s a Prince bound by duty.
She’s his brother’s fae bride.
Until fate intervenes.
Lady Roisin knew her fate was to marry a human prince, helping to heal the rift between the humans and the fae. Luckily, she fell desperately in love with her betrothed, the dashing heir to the Vellanian throne, Prince Alrec. One day soon, she will be his queen. A day Roisin has been looking forward to for as long as she can remember.
As the king’s youngest son, Prince Caiman knew his fate was to live in his older brother Alrec’s shadow. One day soon, Alrec will be crowned king. A day Caiman has been dreading for as long as he can remember.
When tragedy strikes the kingdom, Caiman is forced to ascend to the throne in his brother’s stead. But becoming King of Vellana means upholding the alliance with the fae by marrying his brother’s betrothed. And marrying a woman who has despised him for years cannot end in happily-ever-after . . .” (Goodreads)

I don’t always like short books but when I do, I definitely do!

This book is told from two point-of-views and they come from Roisin and Caiman. Roisin is a fae who was told she would be contracted to marry a prince from the human world. Caiman is the second son/prince who wasn’t what she wanted and would be in the shadow of his older brother. This pair was to die for! I loved their banter and the sweet moments they shared together as they learned to rely on one another. It just made my heart melt.

Plus, I just love books with brothers. I am addicted!

It is very fast paced but I feel like I had a good grasp on the characters, plot, and world-building. Like with most short books, I needed more because I enjoyed it so much.

Overall, this was a good stand-alone and I will be checking out this author’s books since this was my first time reading a work from her and I enjoyed her writing.

Arc Review: A Wilderness of Stars by Shea Ernshaw

Title: A Wilderness of Stars
Author: Shea Ernshaw
Genre: YA Fantasy / Romance
Publication Date: November 29th, 2022
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young
Rating: ⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

If magic lives anywhere, it’s in the stars…
Vega has lived in the valley her whole life—forbidden by her mother to leave the safety of its borders because of the unknown threats waiting for her in the wilds beyond. But after her mother dies, Vega begins to see stars falling from the sky. It’s an omen she can no longer ignore, forcing her to leave the protective boundaries of the valley. But the outside world turns out to be much more terrifying than Vega could have imagined. People are gravely sick—they lose their eyesight and their hearing, just before they lose their lives.
What Vega keeps to herself is that she is the Last Astronomer—a title carried from generation to generation—and she is the only one who carries the knowledge of the stars. Knowledge that could hold the key to the cure. And so when locals spot the tattoo on Vega’s neck in the shape of a constellation—the mark of an astronomer—chaos erupts as the threats her mother warned her about become all too real.
Fearing for her life, Vega will be rescued by a girl named Cricket who will lead her to Noah, a boy marked by his own mysterious tattoos. On the run from the men who are hunting her, Vega, Cricket, and Noah will set out across the plains in search of the cure the stars speak of. But as the lines between friend and prisoner begin to blur, Vega must decide whether she will protect the sacred knowledge of an astronomer. Or if she will risk everything to try to save them all.” (Goodreads)

I need to tell myself that this author just isn’t for me but I keep coming back when I see the blurb of the latest book by her.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Vega. There are a couple chapters that are past tense from a different astronomer which is what Vega is as well. I wouldn’t say that there is too much to her character or even the others in the book. I have said this when reviewing her other books and I will say it again, the character development was lacking. I thought the romance was fine. They weren’t bad together and they felt bonded due to their jobs, but it’s also hard to feel anything when you aren’t connecting to the characters.

I do think that the plot was very unique. I have not read a book that was filled with astronomy and I liked the details here and there about it. The problem is that the plot is very slow in the beginning and nothing exciting really happens until you get farther into the book. A lot of secrets and breadcrumbs but I just needed more to be hooked by it.

As always, her writing is beautiful and it’s one thing that keeps me coming back. I just wish there was more substance to it all.

Overall, this okay but ultimately it ended up being a miss. Even though that was the case for me, it could be for you! Give it a try if it piques your interest.