Sunday, November 12, 2023

Navigating Love: A Candid Review of 'The Revenge Game' by Jordyn Taylor

The Revenge GameThe Revenge Game by Jordyn Taylor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Year read: 2023

"The Revenge Game" by Jordyn Taylor is a mixed bag that delivers thought-provoking elements and frustrating dynamics. On the positive side, the book bravely tackles feminist themes, engaging in honest conversations about relationships, sex, and bodies while skillfully dismantling toxic masculinity. However, the characters Riggs and Alyson, flawed in their own ways, make it challenging to connect with or sympathize with them even as the narrative unfolds.

One significant drawback for me was the narrative structure. The foreshadowing of a future event from the beginning and intermittent updates weren’t engaging for me. Instead of building anticipation, it created a sense of detachment, making it difficult to immerse myself in the present story without constantly pondering the impending incident.

The predictability of the climax was disappointing, and despite my wishful thinking, the story unfolded as suspected. The "rescue" scene, while believable in terms of the rescuer and their actions, felt implausible in execution.

As a fan of YA fiction, this novel has left me hesitant about exploring more stories set in high school. While the book had its moments, character dynamics and narrative structure flaws impacted my overall enjoyment. "The Revenge Game" offers a unique blend of feminist exploration but falls short of delivering a genuinely satisfying and immersive reading experience.

I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. My opinions are 100% my own.

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Sailing the Seas of Whimsy: A Review of 'Tress of the Emerald Seas' by Brandon Sanderson

Tress of the Emerald Sea (The Cosmere)Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Year read: 2023

"Tress of the Emerald Sea" is a breathtaking departure from the familiar realms of Brandon Sanderson. Yet, it captures the essence of his storytelling brilliance in an enchanting and refreshing way. As a newcomer to Sanderson's work, I was captivated by the whimsical fantasy tale that unfolded within the emerald-green ocean.

The narrative, reminiscent of the classic romance in "The Princess Bride," takes an unexpected turn as Tress, a seemingly simple island girl, embarks on a daring adventure to save her love, Charlie. The audaciousness of Tress's journey, combined with the unlikely-to-succeed nature of her quest, kept me on the edge of my seat, eagerly anticipating each twist and turn.

The choice to listen to the audiobook proved fantastic, as the narrator skillfully brought the characters to life. Hoid, a character in Sanderson's Cosmere universe, took on the role of the narrator—albeit in a different guise than fans might expect. The narration added an extra layer of magic to an already enchanting story.

Sanderson's world-building prowess is fully displayed in "Tress of the Emerald Sea," expanding his Cosmere universe with finesse. The spore oceans filled with pirates and the perilous Midnight Sea created a vivid backdrop for Tress's journey, making every moment feel immersive and full of wonder.

This novel's ability to balance whimsy and depth makes it truly stand out. Initially portrayed as a simple islander, Tress's character undergoes remarkable growth throughout the tale. Her courage and determination in the face of danger inspire, and the story's emotional core resonates long after the final chapter.

"Tress of the Emerald Sea" is a delightful introduction to Brandon Sanderson's work, even for those unfamiliar with his usual writing style. It's a testament to his versatility as an author, showcasing his ability to craft an engaging and unique fantasy experience. This novel is an absolute must-read if you're a fan of adventure, romance, and the unexpected. Sanderson has once again proven his mastery of storytelling.

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Unveiling the Supernatural Layers: The Skinny on the Jinni

The Skinny on the Jinni (Paranormal Case Files #1)The Skinny on the Jinni by Gloria Lesher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Year read: 2021

I received a free copy of the ebook from BookSirens in exchange for my review. All opinions shared are 100% my own.

Blythe Golightly is a retired professor researching the paranormal. It used to be purely academic research until a tragic accident left her with an ability to connect with the paranormal personally. Now, while one of her best friends is dying, Blythe finds herself in the middle of a non-custodial parent kidnapping, international intrigue, and aiding a young woman possessed with a jinni. 

There was a lot going on in this cozy. I loved the older, more self-assured Blythe as the main protagonist in a book that was about 50/50 on characters you will love and characters you will not. Overall, though, I felt like it suffered a lot of first-in-a-series issues, such as trying to hurry through world-building, not fully developing characters, and some timeline errors. For example, a character is said to leave the room to talk to the police but then is still in the room talking to Blythe, then returns from talking to the police! That was definitely missed in editing. I stopped and reread it several times, trying to figure out what was going on in the scene.

The storytelling and writing were clumsy at times as well. A romantic relationship materializes mostly out of thin air toward the end of the book, and some of the descriptions were odd, such as repeatedly referring to a character’s ethnicity long past when the reader should have internalized who that character was and odd turns of phrase such as “beaming at me with indifference”.

That being said, I’ve seen many a cozy series grow and develop over the course of several books. The characters, especially Blythe, Soledad, and Najia, are all likable enough and intriguing enough that I want to know what happens next for them, so I will read the second book, In a Black Monk Funk. I like to give series at least two books before abandoning or committing to them. At this time, there are only two books published in the series.

If you love an older protagonist and a new paranormal entity - a JINNI - then I think you will enjoy this cozy. I have hopes for the series since I think there is a lot of potential for future stories.

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Friday, November 3, 2023

A Tasty Slice of Mystery and Quirkiness: Ashes to Ashes, Crust to Crust

Ashes to Ashes, Crust to Crust (Deep Dish Mysteries, #2)Ashes to Ashes, Crust to Crust by Mindy Quigley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Year read: 2023

I recently delved into the world of Mindy Quigley's "Ashes to Ashes, Crust to Crust," the second installment in the Deep Dish Mysteries series, and I must say, it was a delightful journey through the picturesque town of Geneva Bay, Wisconsin. While I can't quite give it a full five stars, several aspects of this book kept me eagerly turning the pages.

First and foremost, Delilah's character development is a notable highlight. In the first book of the series, she was a bit hard to warm up to, but in this installment, her independence and hard-headedness began to take on a more endearing quality. She's far from your typical sugar-coated heroine, which is a refreshing change. You might still want to smack some sense into her at times, but that's what makes her a compelling protagonist.

The supporting characters also shine in this story. We learn more about Auntie Biz and Sonya, adding depth to the ensemble cast. These characters bring their unique quirks and charm to the narrative, making the book richer and more engaging.

The central mystery, involving poison and a culinary contest rivalry, is intriguing and keeps you guessing throughout. However, the poison's portrayal might require some suspension of disbelief, as it doesn't entirely match reality. Nonetheless, it's a minor issue that doesn't significantly detract from the overall enjoyment of the story.

The way Mindy Quigley weaves the town's gangster history into the narrative is a fun and unique touch. It adds depth and flavor to the setting, making Geneva Bay feel more alive.

One minor complaint is that I wished for more appearances from Butterball the Cat, who has quickly become a beloved character in this series. Butterball's antics add humor and heart to the story, and I hope to see even more of this furry sidekick in future installments.

In conclusion, "Ashes to Ashes, Crust to Crust" is a worthy addition to the Deep Dish Mysteries series. While it may not be a perfect five stars due to minor quibbles, it offers an engaging mystery, well-developed characters, and a unique setting. If you're a fan of cozy mysteries with a dash of humor and a slice of quirky characters, this series is worth sinking your teeth into. I'm looking forward to what Mindy Quigley serves up next!

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Enchanting Adventures and Unlikely Love on Sinner's Isle: A Five-Star Fantasy Tale

Sinner's IsleSinner's Isle by Angela Montoya
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Year read: 2023

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book. My opinion is my own.

Sinner's Isle by Angela Montoya is an enchanting and action-packed adventure that had me hooked from the very first page. This fun and lighthearted read is a breath of fresh air in the world of YA fantasy, and it deserves every one of these five stars!

The story revolves around the spirited and powerful witch, Rosalinda, trapped on the remote and mysterious Sinner's Isle. Under the watchful eye of the power-hungry Doña Lucia, Rosa is preparing to be the centerpiece of this year's Offering, where the wealthy will choose a Majestic to serve them for life. The captivating blend of found family, friendship, and love weaves throughout the plot, making it a heartwarming and emotionally resonant tale.

The fated love elements in the story may be a bit heavy-handed, but strangely, they make you root for the pirate and the witch even more. Mariano, the charming and swashbuckling pirate, is a character that's impossible not to love, and Rosa's strength and determination are admirable.

What sets Sinner's Isle apart are the unexpected twists and turns that left me cheering and shedding happy tears. The whirlwind of the plot keeps you on the edge of your seat, and the diverse cast of characters, both likable and despicable, adds depth and complexity to the story.

This book reads like a Disney movie brought to life in the best way possible. The action is thrilling, the romance is swoon-worthy, and the plot twists are both surprising and satisfying. Angela Montoya's writing feels fresh and original, and this standalone fantasy novel marks a promising start to what I hope will be a new series. I can't wait to dive into this captivating world again and see where the author takes us next.

In summary, Sinner's Isle is a delightful gem of a book that delivers adventure, romance, and unexpected twists. If you're ready for an exhilarating journey filled with magic, intrigue, and unforgettable characters, this is the perfect choice. Angela Montoya has crafted a story worth celebrating and falling in love with. Don't miss out on this fantastic read!

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Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Enchanting and Whimsical: Sorcery of Thorns Delivers Pure Fantasy Magic

Sorcery of Thorns (Sorcery of Thorns, #1)Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Year read: 2019

"Sorcery of Thorns" by Margaret Rogerson is an extraordinary fantasy novel that transported me to a world of enchantment. From the very first page, I was captivated by the imaginative setting and the concept of "hero books" – books with personalities and whims that add a unique charm to the story. The book's blend of whimsy, flirtation, and humor makes it a delightful and emotionally resonant read. Rogerson's characters, especially Elisabeth, are brilliantly crafted, and her evolving relationship with Nathaniel Thorn is filled with complexity and intrigue.

The story's plot is rich with twists and turns, keeping you on the edge of your seat as you follow Elisabeth's journey from a foundling in a library to a heroine battling a powerful sorcerer. As her alliance with Nathaniel deepens, the book becomes a powerful exploration of self-discovery, challenging preconceived notions and the enduring power of love. "Sorcery of Thorns" is a must-read for fantasy lovers, offering a spellbinding tale that will make you laugh, cry, and believe in the magic of storytelling. Margaret Rogerson has genuinely delivered a five-star masterpiece. Bravo!

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Enchanted Escapades: A Journey Through 'The Girl in the Tower' by Katherine Arden

The Girl in the Tower (The Winternight Trilogy, #2)The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Year read: 2023

"The Girl in the Tower" by Katherine Arden, the second installment in the Winternight Trilogy, is an enchanting masterpiece that deserves every bit of its five-star rating. This book takes us on a breathtaking journey through the mystical, snow-laden landscapes of 14th-century Russia. This experience leaves a lasting imprint on the reader's heart.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this book is the character development of Vasya, the spirited and independent heroine we fell in love with in the first novel. Older and wiser, she is a character who has evolved beautifully, but she remains far from perfect. Her questionable choices and their inevitable consequences make her relatable and incredibly human. As a reader, you can't help but root for her and empathize with her struggles.

The blend of magical realism with historical Russia is a true marvel. Katherine Arden's gift for painting vivid and intricate landscapes in the reader's mind is unparalleled. Her descriptive prowess places you right in the heart of ancient Moscow, whether it's the bathhouses, the winding streets, or the imposing castles. It's a sensory experience that immerses you completely in the story.

Morozko, the frost demon, stands out as a captivating character. In many ways, he is one of the most human characters in the narrative, and the dynamics of his relationships with Vasya and others are enthralling. The tensions and intrigues within these relationships, combined with the constant fear of Vasya being discovered, create a gripping narrative that keeps you turning the pages with bated breath.

The Publisher's Description captures the essence of the story beautifully. Vasya's impossible choice, her daring adventures dressed as a boy, and her reunion with her loved ones in Moscow's inner circle set the stage for a tale filled with political intrigue, danger, and the ever-present threat to the city itself.

"The Girl in the Tower" is a book that will linger in your thoughts long after you've turned the last page. It's a testament to Katherine Arden's storytelling prowess and ability to transport readers to a bygone era filled with magic, mystery, and unforgettable characters. If you haven't already, this is a series you must embark on, and I, for one, cannot wait to dive into the third and final book.

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