Review | Waiting on a Bright Moon by J.Y. Yang

35395539Waiting on a Bright Moon by J.Y. Yang
Release date: July 12th, 2017
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Science fiction
Format: eBook

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Xin is an ansible, using her song magic to connect the originworld of the Imperial Authority and its far-flung colonies— a role that is forced upon magically-gifted women “of a certain closeness”. When a dead body comes through her portal at a time of growing rebellion, Xin is drawn deep into a station-wide conspiracy along with Ouyang Suqing, one of the station’s mysterious, high-ranking starmages.

I’m always in awe at how some authors are able to craft completely original, fully formed characters and engaging stories in less than 100 pages. I read the novella Waiting on a Bright Moon as part of the Bout of Books read-a-thon after it had been sitting on my Goodreads “currently reading” shelf for ages. I’m not sure what took me so long to finally start reading it, but once I finished the first paragraph I knew I had stumbled across something unlike anything that I’ve read before.

The story is about an ansible (a group of magical women forced into service by the government) named Xin who has been forced to use magic in order to benefit the empire. Its main theme is taking back control of your life no matter the consequences, but the novalla also touches on subjects involving same-sex relationships, independence, rebellion and self-determination.

What made this story unique was the author’s blending of languages and worldbuilding abilities. Although primarily written in English, parts in Chinese (poems and songs) are scattered throughout the story. Although I didn’t understand what they said, I liked how these little snippets added to the feel of the story and really impressed the reader in the setting of the novella. As for the worldbuilding, wow…just wow! The idea was extremely creative and ambitious for such a short piece of writing. Usually sci-fi takes time to develop and is written over hundreds of pages in a series. Nope, not here! The reader is automatically dropped into the story in the first paragraph. There aren’t any long explanations of what is going on…the reader does have to make a lot of guesses and conclusions, but that was part of the fun of reading this short story. The mystery kept things interesting and pushed me to read on and on. It was seriously difficult to put down and I would totally like more please!

Since finishing Waiting on a Bright Moon I have added several of the author’s other stories to my TBR. If they are anything like this novella then I’m in for a real treat. If you’d like to read Waiting on a Bright Moon, you can do so here on Tor.com for free.


About the Author

7106859J.Y. Yang is the author of the Tensorate series of novellas from Tor.Com Publishing (The Red Threads of Fortune, The Black Tides of Heaven, and two more slated for 2018 and 2019). Their short fiction has been published in over a dozen venues, including Uncanny Magazine, Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, and Strange Horizons.

In previous incarnations, they have been a molecular biologist; a writer for animation, comics and games; and a journalist for one of Singapore’s major papers. Currently they are a science communicator with Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).

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Review | The Black Key by Amy Ewing

28512427The Black Key by Amy Ewing
Release date: October 4th, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Young adult, dystopian, fantasy
Format: Paperback

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For too long, Violet and the people of the outer circles of the Lone City have lived a life of servitude, controlled and manipulated by the royalty of the Jewel. But now, the secret society known as the Black Key is preparing to seize power and knock down the walls dividing each circle.

And while Violet knows she is at the center of this rebellion, she has a more personal stake in it—for her sister, Hazel, has been taken by the Duchess of the Lake. Now, after fighting so hard to escape the Jewel, Violet must do everything in her power to return, to save not only Hazel, but the future of the Lone City.

I always struggle with the final book in a series. I completely loved The Jewel and found The White Rose to be alright. I had high hopes for The Black Key…this was supposed to be the big finale. Will the characters succeed? Will any die? What further mysteries will be unveiled? Instead, well…this book was a bit of a let down. Not what I was hoping for at all.

The build-up and plot sounded promising: the trilogy’s hero Violet would lead a rebellion against the oppressive Jewel. However, what I would say 50-60 percent of the book was not about this at all. The beginning moved quite slowly, showing the reader the preparations, how Violet struggled to convince others to join her rebellion and how the surrogates (women forced by rich families in the Jewel to carry their children) received their magical abilities. The action didn’t start until the last 40 percent of the book and all in all it felt rushed, like an afterthought. Wasn’t that the whole point of this book? What everything was leading up to? Also, the conclusion was too easy and clean. In the first two books, the Jewel and its soldiers and absolute control over the inhabitants of the other circles was described as complete, brutal and powerful. Here, it’s like a bunch of little kids playing with toy guns. I don’t know…it just didn’t make sense to me.

Another issue I had was how the supporting characters who had really started to develop and grow in the second book were pretty much ignored. They totally didn’t get the page time that they deserved. Yes, Violet is the main character, but I also would have liked to continue to see the progress made by Raven and Garnet. I really feel that their development was wasted and could have been put to good use here, especially in the first half of the book. Unlike in the other books, Violet kind of annoyed me in The Black Key. Some of her actions were out of character and she came across as being better than everyone else. Maybe this was a reflection of her understanding and mastery of her powers? It just felt forced, like it came out of nowhere and that made me sad because she was one of the few YA dystopian female leads that I’ve liked.

All of this said, I did enjoy the series as a whole. The concept and world building was interesting, it was easy to read and even when the pacing was uneven, I couldn’t stop reading. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I do think that if you are a fan of the dystopian genre and want something that is both easy to read and entertaining, then this series is totally for you!


About the Author

6549285Amy Ewing grew up in a small town outside Boston, where her librarian mother instilled a deep love of reading at a young age. Amy moved to New York City in 2000 to study theater at New York University. Unfortunately, her acting career didn’t quite pan out. She worked in restaurants, as an administrative assistant, a nanny, and a sales representative for a wine distributor before the lack of creativity in her life drove her to begin writing.

Amy received her MFA in Creative Writing for Children from The New School, where she was lucky enough to meet a fabulous community of YA writers who keep her sane on a daily basis. She lives in Harlem, where she spends her days writing, eating cheese, and occasionally binge watching The Vampire Diaries.

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Blog Tour: Monstrum by Kat Ross (Review & Giveaway)

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I received this book for free from Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

MonstrumMonstrum by Kat Ross

Release date: June 15th, 2018
Publisher: Acorn Publishing
Genre: Fiction, fantasy
Format: eBook

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In the third volume of the Fourth Talisman series, the hunt is on for the three daevas whose powers saved the world once before….

On the wave-tossed White Sea, realm of smashers and sea monsters, a ship is carrying Nazafareen and Darius to the Isles of the Marakai, where the wise woman Sakhet-ra-katme has guarded the secret of the talismans for centuries. But another is searching too, a man born in the brutal prison of the Kiln, who plans to use the talismans to free the Vatras and their mad king. Between them stands a young Marakai girl, ignorant of her own powers. From the moonlit treasure vaults of the Isles to the emperor’s lavish palace in Tjanjin, Nazafareen and Darius face their deadliest and most cunning foe yet.

In the mountain fastness of Val Moraine, the Pythia’s minions are on the scent of another talisman, this one from the Danai clan. Trapped behind a thick wall of ice, everyone’s going slightly mad—the perfect cauldron of suspicion and betrayal for Thena, who sees a chance to redeem her failure and bring the talisman back to Delphi. Then she’ll be free to indulge her twisted obsession with Darius—and make him pay.

And in Samarqand, Javid is drawn into the treacherous currents of a royal succession. When the old king dies and his son takes the throne, the depths of the prince’s depravity become clear. A journey north reveals the source of the spell dust he’s addicted to—and leaves Javid with an impossible choice.

I’m at a loss for words…this book was honestly that AMAZING! I’ve adored everything that Kat Ross has released so far, but Monstrum is something truly special. It didn’t feel like the third book in a series and it certainly didn’t act as a bridge or set-up for a grand finale. Even with a fourth book already proposed, this novel did not hold back. It was action packed, fun to read and all consuming.

I don’t want to write too much about the plot here because I don’t want to accidentally spoil anything. Basically, the story revolves around three magical talismans, which in the wrong hands, could lead to world destruction. Like in the previous book, Solis, the adventure picks up right where it left off. That’s one of the things that always stand-out to me with Ross’ books. She wastes no time in setting things up. If you’re reading the third book in the series, then you don’t need a massive recap. You know what’s going on and if you don’t completely remember, she drops hints here and there. Instead, the focus is on driving the story forward. The pacing is relentless and I really enjoy that because it really immerses the reader into the world and situation of the characters. Ross really upped the stakes this time and the characters are forced to make tons of difficult decisions. My heart was beating non-stop the entire time!

While the world building and magic is amazingly well written, what has always made the author’s books standout for me are the characters. I feel like Nazafareen and Darius are old friends of mine. This is the sixth book to feature their relationship and I love them to pieces! While I’ve read about these two for quite sometime now, Ross never lets them stand still. They are always developing and changing. Nazafareen has always been my favourite character…she’s impulsive, inquisitive and strong willed. Her storyline has been by far the most interesting and I would love for her to have even more page time than she already does. That said, I do appreciate how Ross is slowly making me feel for the “evil” characters. The villains are “bad” and do things that are morally questionable, but she slowly strips away their layers and reveals why they do or believe certain things. It makes it so difficult for the reader to takes sides, and this makes for a complex and interesting reading experience.

Finally, FINALLY…a lot of my unanswered questions were finally addressed in this book. Of course I have even more now, but I was fascinated by the magical people called the Avas Vatras. They were mentioned in the previous book, but not much was revealed. Here we learn more about them and they are honestly much more frightening than I thought! Basically, this book is fantastic and one that you don’t want to miss out on. If you haven’t started the series yet do so now!!! I can’t wait for the fourth book in the series. Right now, there isn’t any information up on Goodreads and the wait is already making me suffer. I NEED THE NEXT BOOK ASAP PLEASE!


About the Author

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKat Ross worked as a journalist at the United Nations for ten years before happily falling back into what she likes best: making stuff up. She’s the author of the dystopian thriller Some Fine Day, the Fourth Element fantasy trilogy (The Midnight Sea, Blood of the Prophet, Queen of Chaos), and a new gaslamp mystery series that opens with The Daemoniac and continues with The Thirteenth Gate. She loves myths, monsters and doomsday scenarios.

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Giveaway

Click the link to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway. The give away is open internationally and you could win ebook copies of Nocturne and Solis, as well as a The Fourth Element boxed set. Good luck!

Review: My Name is Victoria by Lucy Worsley

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

36095350My Name is Victoria by Lucy Worsley

Release date: May 8th, 2018
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: Middle grade, historical fiction
Format: eBook

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By turns thrilling, dramatic, and touching, this is the story of Queen Victoria’s childhood as you’ve never heard it before.

Miss V. Conroy is good at keeping secrets. She likes to sit as quiet as a mouse, neat and discreet. But when her father sends her to Kensington Palace to become the companion to Princess Victoria, Miss V soon finds that she can no longer remain in the shadows. Her father is Sir John Conroy, confidant and financial advisor to Victoria’s mother, and he has devised a strict set of rules for the young princess that he calls the Kensington System. It governs Princess Victoria’s behavior and keeps her locked away from the world. Sir John says it’s for the princess’s safety, but Victoria herself is convinced that it’s to keep her lonely and unhappy. Torn between loyalty to her father and her growing friendship with the willful and passionate princess, Miss V has a decision to make: continue in silence or speak out. In an engaging, immersive tale, Lucy Worsley spins one of England’s best-known periods into a fresh and surprising story that will delight both young readers of historical fiction and fans of the television show featuring Victoria.

I love Lucy Worsely’s documentaries on British history. She’s such an engaging speaker and I devour them whenever I can find them online (I wish I lived in the UK so I could actually watch them when they air on TV). So, I jumped at the chance to review her middle grade novel My Name is Victoria when it was posted on NetGalley.

My Name is Victoria tells the story of a young Queen Victoria and what her life was like living in seclusion in Kensington Palace. The young princesses’ life is highly controlled by which makes her feel sad and lonely. Her life changes when she meets Miss V. Conroy, another girl around the same age as her. Things get off to a rocky start, but soon they are close and inseparable companions. While much of the book is historically accurate, it does deviate to a “what if” plot that allowed the author to take a different route and get creative. I thought it was interesting and it totally took me by surprise. I thought the book would be a straight up review of history due to the author’s academic background. I do have to say that I liked it! It kept things interesting!

What I enjoyed most about the book was seeing Victoria as a young girl. Every movie or TV show that I’ve seen has been based on her life once she’s ascended to the throne. At first I honestly had a difficult time imagining her as a young girl but it got easier as her story was unveiled. I totally felt for her, how could I not? I can’t imagine being so restricted, overly guarded and unhappy all of the time. I thought the story was well paced and interesting, although not much really happens. It’s just Victoria’s life and her budding friendship with Miss V. in the palace. So, while the setting doesn’t change a lot, the focus and drama of the book is created through the relationship between the two girls. I thought their friendship developed naturally. They initially weren’t sure what to do with each other, but as time went on, they became close as sisters…loyal and willing to put their own needs aside for each other.

Overall, this book was a fun, quick read with a twist. I think this book is great for middle grade readers and especially those interested in historical fiction. I will definitely be picking up Worsely’s other books in the near future!


About the Author

for-front-page-229x309Lucy Worsley was born in Reading, studied Ancient and Modern History at New College, Oxford, and received a PhD in art history from the University of Sussex. Since 2003, she has been the Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces. She has written a non-fiction book for adults called Jane Austen at Home, and a novel for younger readers called My Name is Victoria. Her latest BBC series is Lucy Worsley’s Nights at the Opera.

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Mini Review: Ivy in Bloom by Vanita Oelschlager

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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Ivy in Bloom: The Poetry of Spring from Great Poets and Writers of the Past by Vanita Oelschlager
Release date: April 1st, 2009
Publisher: Vanita Books
Genre: Poetry
Format: eBook

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Ivy in Bloom captures the weariness of a young girl tired of a long winter. “I stare out the window,” she says on the first spread of brown and gray, “looking for birds or flowers / or even warm showers / but I don’t see any such thing.” But then Spring comes when “March is out of breath snow melting to flowery waters and watery flowers spring rose from its wintry rest.” And Ivy’s “heart dances with daffodils.” As these words also dance across each spread, Ivy’s world erupts into a riot of color.

Ivy in Bloom introduces the poetry of Dickinson, Longfellow, Browning, Wordsworth, Frost and others. Excerpts from their writings, as seen through Ivy’s eyes, will open up poetry as a way for children to express their own feelings about the changing of seasons. This book includes longer excerpts and brief bios of each author.

I really enjoyed reading Ivy in Bloom. I probably wouldn’t have requested it on NetGalley because it was listed as being for children (a category I never check) if I didn’t need a spring themed book for the Spring Fling read-a-thon. However, it surprised me and it’s further proof that I shouldn’t judge a book based on its listed age group. Teenagers and adults can most definitely appreciate this sweet little book as well.

Ivy in Bloom was an adorable illustrated children’s poetry book that used excerpts from famous poems to highlight aspects of spring. The drawings were fantastic! The poetry snippets could have been longer in my opinion, but since it’s for children, it’s perfect because it provides them with a snapshot of some classic poems by authors such as Emily Dickinson and E.E. Cummings. It acts as a good introduction to poetry for children and even older people who haven’t explored the genre before.

I think the book is perfect for people of all ages, but especially children 4 years old and up. The blending of images and parts of poems was wonderfully done. It made me smile and want to pick up the full length poems of the authors featured. I highly recommend it! 🙂


About the Author

vanita_meetvanita_largeVanita Oelschlager is a wife, mother, grandmother, former teacher, current caregiver and, for almost ten years, author and poet. She was born and raised near Pittsburgh. She is a graduate of Mt. Union College in Alliance, Ohio, where she currently serves as a Trustee. She has also supported and helped Jim as he built Oak Associates, LTD. into a successful investment management firm.

Today, as an accomplished author, Vanita shares openly the experiences that she, Jim and their families have had with multiple sclerosis. She has likened MS to living with an elephant, one that won’t go away or be ignored. Together, she and Jim have found ways to live with this “elephant”, and to share some of the larger lessons about life they’ve learned through the disease.

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Mini Review: Sisters’ Entrance by Emtithal Mahmoud

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

36374394Sisters’ Entrance by Emtithal Mahmoud

Release date: May 29th, 2018
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Genre: Poetry
Format: eBook

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2015 World Poetry Slam Champion and Woman of the World co-Champion Emtithal “Emi” Mahmoud presents her hauntingly beautiful debut poetry collection.

Brimming with rage, sorrow, and resilience, this collection traverses an expansive terrain: genocide; diaspora; the guilt of surviving; racism and Islamophobia; the burdens of girlhood; the solace of sisterhood; the innocence of a first kiss.  Heart-wrenching and raw, defiant and empowering, Sisters’ Entranceexplores how to speak the unspeakable.

It’s been a while since I read a poetry book and this one knocked me off of my feet. It truly was that good! Author Emtithal Mahmoud has constructed such a powerful collection of diverse and hard hitting poems…you really need to pick this book up for yourself.

Throughout the collection, Mahmoud never holds back. She’s brutally honest, open and explicit. Her poetry explores topics related to war, genocide, feminism, Islamophobia and discrimination. At times her wording can be quite jarring, a slap in the face, but I appreciate her ability to write as she sees or feels it. Isn’t that what poetry is? An honest outpouring of emotion? Her words are truly powerful as she has this ability to make what she’s writing about come to life. It also provided me with a perspective on life during war. I have taught about the genocide in Darfur, but have always read books or watched videos from a primarily male point of view. It was refreshing to her a woman’s voice. I hope that we will soon have more of these available. Also, since conflict in Sudan is ongoing, I really hope that this helps to highlight how many more people are impacted by war and conflict. 

My only issue with this collection is that at times it sounds repetitive. Perhaps different words could have been used? However, this didn’t take away from its raw emotion and power. I will definitely be looking for more from this author in the future.

** I highly recommend checking out Mahmoud’s TEDMED talk on Darfur and this video from the Individual Poetry Slam Championship.


About the Author

96e487713d87f342620abe6c5b6ae0a5d459573c_254x191Emi Mahmoud is the reigning 2015 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion and 2016 Woman of the World Co-Champion. One of BBC’s 100 Most Inspirational Women of 2015, Emi studied Anthropology and Molecular Cellular & Developmental Biology at Yale University and is a Darfur native from the heart of Philadelphia. A UNHCR High Profile Supporter, a Yale Global Health Fellow and Leonore Annenberg Scholar, Emi dedicates her time to spreading understanding through poetry and advocacy, particularly for the cause of refugees and disadvantaged communities the world over.

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Review: The White Rose by Amy Ewing

24585267The White Rose by Amy Ewing
Release date: October 6th, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Young adult, fantasy, dystopian
Format: eBook

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Violet is on the run. After the Duchess of the Lake catches Violet with Ash, the hired companion at the Palace of the Lake, Violet has no choice but to escape the Jewel or face certain death. So along with Ash and her best friend, Raven, Violet runs away from her unbearable life of servitude.

But no one said leaving the Jewel would be easy. As they make their way through the circles of the Lone City, Regimentals track their every move, and the trio barely manages to make it out unscathed and into the safe haven they were promised—a mysterious house in the Farm.

But there’s a rebellion brewing, and Violet has found herself in the middle of it. Alongside a new ally, Violet discovers her Auguries are much more powerful than she ever imagined. But is she strong enough to rise up against the Jewel and everything she has ever known?

As soon as I finished the first book in The Lone City trilogy I had to start this one right away. The cliffhanger at the end of The Jewel had my heart in my throat. I had to know what would happen next. So, if you haven’t read the first book in the series, this one is most definitely not for you. As hard as it is to write reviews for sequels, I promise not to disclose any spoilers related to the plot or characters.

This book picks up right where its predecessor left off. It starts off all action packed and full of drama, but then unfortunately falls into the second book slump. I totally enjoyed it but not as much as the first. It lacked the urgency and pacing of The Jewel. The first half of the book was the reader being told what the characters were doing. They went here…now they will try to go here… I was bored and kept wondering how this could have been written by the same author? However, things do get better in the second half. A lot of the questions I had about the world were answered and a new magical dimension was added to the story. Also, some scenes from the first book that I didn’t blink an eye at where connected to others and I just love when authors do that. Everything is mentioned for a reason and impacts something later on. This really saved the story for me and setup the action for the finale in book three.

While Violet is still very much the focus of the book, I really enjoyed how in The White Rose many supporting characters had their backgrounds and personalities fleshed out. I honestly didn’t care about Ash in the first book, but here he becomes much more than the love interest. His story broke my heart and I wish I could’ve given him a huge hug. Raven, Violet’s best friend, also features more and I just loved how brutally honest and upfront she was. Several other interesting characters were also introduced in the book. I also enjoyed how they weren’t just there to be there, but added another dimension to the conversation on choices and free will, two of the main themes of the series.

So, while this sequel wasn’t what I expected, it was still an enjoyable read that added some interesting twists to the storyline. Things are now really, really interesting for the finale. I have so many questions and guesses as to what will happen next. Bring on book three!!!!


About the Author

6549285Amy Ewing grew up in a small town outside Boston, where her librarian mother instilled a deep love of reading at a young age. Amy moved to New York City in 2000 to study theater at New York University. Unfortunately, her acting career didn’t quite pan out. She worked in restaurants, as an administrative assistant, a nanny, and a sales representative for a wine distributor before the lack of creativity in her life drove her to begin writing.

Amy received her MFA in Creative Writing for Children from The New School, where she was lucky enough to meet a fabulous community of YA writers who keep her sane on a daily basis. She lives in Harlem, where she spends her days writing, eating cheese, and occasionally binge watching The Vampire Diaries.

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