Mini Reviews · Reviews

April and May Mini Reviews

Hi friends!

I know in my last post, which was quite a while ago now, I said that I’d be moving back to my more traditional format of full-length reviews and book summaries. While I have been reading quite ravenously over the last two months, I haven’t actually read anything hugely intense that I felt like warranted a full-length review, and I also haven’t read anything that didn’t have a sequel already out, so I didn’t have to write a full summary for when the sequel does come out. Mostly I’ve been working through a lot of books on my TBR that I purchased back in 2020 or earlier. However, I do think I have some newer books that are coming up that will be getting more robust reviews and summaries, so if that’s the kind of content you like, stay tuned, and I appreciate you checking in.

However, for now, I present mini-reviews for all the books I’ve read in the last two months. As always, mini-reviews are spoiler-free!

1. Ashes of Gold by J. Elle

This is the second and final book in the duology that started with Wings of Ebony. I have to say that I enjoyed this one more than the first one by a pretty wide margin, because this book picks up right where the first one left off and abandons the odd non-linear storytelling style from the first one. Also a major turn-off for me from the first book was that it felt as though I was thrown into a sequel without having read the first one, and due to this book actually being a sequel where I HAD read the first one, I didn’t have that whiplash feeling either. I felt that this book wrapped up the series well, though there is a bit of a love triangle, which is not my favorite trope. And I also feel like something that I kinda liked about the first one was that it blended the story along the “real world” and the magic island that is Rue’s heritage well, whereas the sequel is pretty much all magic island all the time, so I was kind of bummed that the blend didn’t continue. Overall, an read I enjoyed. 4/5 stars.

2. Lobizona by Romina Garber

Alright, I had no idea what to expect from this book, but it was absolutely incredible. As an elevator pitch, it’s about a girl named Manu who has had to hide her whole life with her mother in Miami because they are undocumented. They fled from Argentina when Manu was a small child because her father’s family made it too dangerous to stay after he was killed. But when her mother is tracked down by ICE and Manu has to go on the run, she finds that there is more to her heritage than she has ever known, and trying to hunt down the truth leads her right into the world of Argentinian folklore. This book was a beautiful exploration into Argentinian culture and a cutting, real-world look into how fucked up immigration policies are in the US. Plus it has a very cool magic-school element, and works through themes of deep-rooted, cultural sexism. Overall, it’s a masterpiece, and I can’t wait to read the sequel and finish the duology. 5/5 stars.

3. Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova

This was another one I picked up on a whim at a long-ago B&N trip, so I had few expectations here as well. Do you ever get the feeling that a book was too long? Like I feel like almost everything that happened in this book could have happened quicker. I wasn’t bored reading it, per say, but I just felt like each step in Ren’s journey could have taken about half the time. It was a cool fantasy world with an interesting magic system, but Ren wasn’t particularly the most interesting protagonist, to me at least. I was engaged by the end and definitely want to know what happens in this duology, so I liked it well enough, just think that the pacing was not that great. Oh, and I think I’m going to be unhappy with how the love-triangle works out. 4/5 stars.

4. Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller

This is a non-fiction book about relationships and attachment styles that was given to me to read by my therapist. This was the first such book I’ve ever read, and it was an interesting experience. While I thought the research to be interesting and definitely found that most people I know (myself included) fall into the three categories of attachment: secure, anxious, or avoidant, I feel that the book was a little dated and that everything was spelled out very black and white, as if psychology doesn’t have tons of grey area. I also found the stereotypes to be a bit over-the-top, and the example scenarios that they gave so cringy sometimes that they made me laugh out loud. Overall I feel like I learned something, but I’m sure there are much better books on the subject out there. 3/5 stars.

5. The Camelot Betrayal & 6. The Excaliber Curse by Kiersten White

These are the final two books in the Camelot Rising trilogy that I started quite some time ago. I think these books are just a blast! Kiersten White is one of those authors that I’ve enjoyed every book she’s ever written. This was a retelling of Arthurian legends, with a huge focus on the women of the tales: Guenivere, her lady’s maids, other ladies of Camelot, and White even gender-bends one of the knights, which was so cool and fun. I know pretty much nothing about King Arthur or any of the knights of the round table, so I didn’t have any idea what was coming next in terms of the story, which was a big part of the reason why I enjoyed them. Though I’d be interested to know the opinion of someone well-versed in Arthurian legend. Overall, great characters, lots of action and suspense. The only thing I’ll say is the romance didn’t wrap up quite the way I expected/wanted, but I wasn’t mad about it at all. All of these books are 5/5 stars.

7. Fable by Adrienne Young

This is a BookTok darling that I’d been so looking forward to reading, and I was very pleased we picked it for our May book club. Fable was just what I needed at the time: an easy, breezy, light-hearted fantasy with low stakes. The book was short, so it was nice and quick with the pacing, and our protagonist Fable is instantly someone you want to root for. The rest of the cast is a crew of lovable, somewhat morally-grey merchant (read pirate) youths. Is it predictable? Sure, it’s filled with classic YA tropes. Did I love every second of it? Absolutely! Just because a book is predictable, doesn’t mean it’s bad (unless it’s a suspense/thriller or something, then you probably want less predictability). Fable was a breath of fresh air from reading lots of heavy fantasy. 5/5 stars.

8. Queen of Volts by Amanda Foody

Queen of Volts is the conclusion to a trilogy that I started I’m not even sure how many years ago. I’m trying to be better about it, but I have the bad habit of shoving books I’m not as excited about further down on my TBR, meaning sometimes I have too-long gaps between books. This is unfortunate, because I have a bad memory and if more than a year goes by in-between reading two books in a series, I will forget almost everything. Which, unfortunately, is exactly what happened here. The books are sizable, so I in no way had the inclination to go back and re-read the rest of the series, I just wanted to get it done with. This series is full of beautiful, complex world-building and a huge cast, so it took me quite a while to get back into it. But Amandy Foody is a great writer, and I ended up feeling totally satisfied by the end of the series. Only rating it less than perfect because of my own knowledge gaps, but I do think I’ll probably rate it higher some day when I go back and read them all together, as I highly recommend the series as a whole. For now, 4/5 stars.

9. The Nemesis by S.J. Kincaid

This is another one that I believe I read the previous book in the trilogy at least 3-4 years ago. And I didn’t have much love at ALL for the previous two books, but the previous book did have a cliff-hanger as such that I couldn’t NOT finish the series. So I finally did. This is a YA sci-fi trilogy, which is typically not my genre at all, but I purchased the original book in a long-ago effort to branch out a bit. The first book had almost everything I hate about sci-fi (slow to start, info-dumpy with worldbuilding/technology, etc.), but was objectively well-written. And honestly, despite the long gap between when I’d read the last one, I liked this one the best of them all. It had a satisfying conclusion and was generally packed with more action/intrigue/betrayal than the other two combined. I don’t think I’ll necessarily read them ever again, but I would recommend them to someone who likes sci-fi, especially one with truly morally gray/”inhuman” protagonists. I’d give the series somewhere between a 3 and a 4, but the last one was definitely a 4/5 for me.

10. We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

I’ve had multiple friends recommend this one to me, plus BookTok loves it, so I was very excited for this start to a fantasy duology based on stories from One Thousand and One Nights. Zafira the Huntress is everything you want in a YA protagonist: brave but vulnerable, bold but imperfect. Also I love a story with absolutely no real love triangles (my least favorite YA trope), and the romance that blossoms in this book is a slow burn but totally sweet. As much as I want to give this book full marks and as excited as I am to read the sequel, the book had quite the slow start, and though the stakes were high, they did a lot of sitting around and talking for a journey supposed to be fraught with peril. So while I think this book is absolutely incredible, the pacing in the first 1/3rd was a bit off for me. So 4/5 stars with full expectations that the sequel will be a 5.

11. Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf

This book was a Christmas gift from a dear friend, I’d never heard of it before (though neither had she). I’ll just straight up say, after the first chapter, I did not want to like this book. I almost DNF’d a few times, but it ended up getting me by the end and I will be finishing the trilogy. I just have to say that our protagonist Zera has absolutely the most obnoxious “Pick Me” girl energy I have ever witnessed. She comes out of the gate strong, and not in a good way. I was supremely irritated with her as a character, which I feel like gives the whole book an unfair advantage, because since I didn’t really like her I had a hard time (while I was reading it) seeing past that to the good qualities of the book, which I was able to see a bit later with some reflection. Besides Zera, I would say the overall vibe is “just fine” for the rest of the book. And she DOES get less annoying at the very end, so I have hope for the next two books in the series. I can’t say I recommend it, though I am forcing the friend who bought the book for me to read it as well, just to see if she’s of the same mind (because I can be wrong sometimes). Anything that I end up finishing is at least a 3/5, so that shall be its mark.

We Do by Stan Tatkin (DNF)

This was another non-fiction, relationship book given to me by my therapist. At about 80 pages in she asked for it back, since she needed it for something else. She promised I could have it back the following week, but I told her I wasn’t that interested. Even though I only read the first 80 pages out of about 200, I liked this one even less than the first one she gave me. This one felt really heavy on the science and inaccessible to me. Not as many example scenarios, which even if they were bad in the other book were at least interesting. The author touts this book as a necessary manual to read with your partner before marriage, but if I couldn’t even get through it, I have no doubt my non-bookish partner wouldn’t have stood a chance if asked to read it. Unless you’re interested in the science of psychology, I’d give this one a pass.

Thanks everyone! I will have a full-length review/summary coming out shortly, so stay tuned if that’s the kind of content you’re looking for, though I do enjoy the mini-review format and will likely be keeping that up as well.

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