Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races

HORSES! 🐎 I’m such a fangirl for horses, but would you believe that the first time I met a horse and tried to feed it, I was terrified? Like, what if it decided to eat my hand?? Anyway, I read a lot of horse books as a kid, and have always lamented the fact that there aren’t as many young adult or adult fiction books about horses. In comes The Scorpio Races with horses AND magic! It’s a fantastic tale based on mythological water horses, with a little bit of violence, romance, and horse-rider bonding. (When I say a little bit, I mean a LOT bit.)

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Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted

I had a mini breakdown halfway through this book because I was intrigued by what had happened, scared of what was going to happen next, and terrified of all of my emotions being all screwed up after finishing the entire book. I’m happy to say that Uprooted is more simple than it seems with all its fantasy and magic and princes, and although it did get all my feelings twisted into knots, it had the perfect ending that brought everything together. Cheers to all books that take pity on the readers’ feelings! 🍸

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Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

ViciousVicious is, undoubtedly, extremely vicious. I’ve read books like this one before – ones that made me feel horrified, disgusted, but still intrigued and unable to look away. But the beauty of Vicious is that it keeps me hoping, and it LEAVES me hoping, despite the hopelessness that I feel throughout the story. My first Victoria Schwab book has already torn me apart, for better or for worse, but I know I WANT MORE!

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Review: Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier

Dreamer's Pool
 
Good books are like good food – not only do you need the right ingredients, but you also need some technique and flair. Dreamer’s Pool has magic, romance, and mystery, as well as some great narratives and foreshadowing (albeit sometimes a little too much of the latter). It seems like I’ve been reading a lot of books about evil woods these days (with Uprooted and Messenger), but I really enjoyed the fairy tale/folklore elements in this one.
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Valentine’s Day: Feel the Love!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! I hope you’re enjoying this day with a loving heart and a content mind, whether you’re spending it with loved ones or by yourself. As I grow older, I enjoy Valentine’s Day a lot more because it’s a day I spend appreciating myself. (Which just means a day of lazing around and eating chocolate and not having to feel guilty, cue Bruno Mars’ The Lazy Song.)

2016lovequote

Mini Reviews: Sea Glass & Spy Glass by Maria V. Snyder

As much as I liked the first book in this series, the rest of the Glass series is a total WTF-fest. (I’m hesitant to call this a trend in Maria V. Snyder books, but that’s my personal experience with both this series and the Study series.) Excuse me while I rant.

Sea Glass

 

Title: Sea Glass
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Series: Glass #2
Publication Date: August 18, 2009
Category: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 
 
After all that’s happened in Storm Glass with Opal’s newly discovered powers, she is no longer trusted by the Sitian Council. No one (not even Yelena) believes her story about two souls swapping bodies, so Opal decides to investigate on her own. I still like this second book quite a bit because the magic is so intriguing, and Opal is still likable despite her growing distrust and cynicism at the people around her. In Sea Glass, Opal’s independence is impressive, but what’s lacking in this book is the continuing relationship developments that started in the previous book.
Spy Glass

Title: Spy Glass
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Series: Glass #3
Publication Date: September 1, 2010
Category: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 

My bad decisions outweighed my good ones by two to one.

Why yes, Opal, I’m glad you realize that. Soooo much WTF-ery in this book! Needless to say, I don’t approve of Opal’s poor decision-making skills. She realizes it of herself too, as she’s constantly groaning about how she’s made “the worst decision ever.” Like probably most readers, my concentration is immediately broken when my OTP doesn’t end up together, but this is so much more than that. People can change, and I’ve read other stories in which my opinion of certain characters changed for the better when I see that they’ve made an effort to change themselves. But based on the history and backstory of the characters in the Glass series (where there’s so much abuse, torture, and death involved), there are certain people that just shouldn’t become intimate with each other. No “I’ve changed for the better” reassurances can solve an abusive relationship, and that’s one of the things I didn’t like about Spy Glass.

Do you believe it when evil characters change for the better?

Review: The Program by Suzanne Young

The Program
This book is 80% romance + 20% sci-fi. I love the premise and the real-life issues that The Program builds upon, but the pacing was a bit too slow for my liking (because of all the romance). But this series is begging me to finish it, and I JUST WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS UGH. I’m still trying to educate myself on trigger warnings, but I think it’s good to mention that they seem applicable to this review, as I will touch on depression and suicide in the context of this book.
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Mini Reviews: Gathering Blue, Messenger, & Son by Lois Lowry

The first book of a series is usually the most famous (or infamous) one, and the same can be said for Lois Lowry’s The Giver quartet. Instead of sequels, Lowry calls the next three books “companions”, and that’s how I view them: I can do with or without them, and some of them really enhanced my understanding and appreciation for the world that she’s created, while others are a little too bizarre for my liking.

Gathering Blue
 

 
Gathering Blue is set in a society that does not tolerate physical flaws – with a deformed leg, Kira is the exception to that rule solely because she has the embroidery skills to mend a very important robe. While housed in a nicer place than she’s ever been in before, Kira discovers the secrets that the Council of the village has been hiding from the rest of the people. Like in The Giver, this dystopian world seems normal from the main character’s eyes because it’s the only thing they knew, until they start seeing the cracks and shadows in which secrets are hidden. I thought Gathering Blue was okay because it still had an interesting premise, but it does lack character development and relationship-building. I also thought that it would be connected in some way to the setting and characters from The Giver, and was disappointed when this felt like an entirely new world. It makes more sense after reading all four books, but at this point, I wasn’t too excited after Gathering Blue.

Messenger
 

Title: Messenger
Author: Lois Lowry
Series: The Giver Quartet #3
Publication Date: April 26, 2004
Genre: (Young Adult) Dystopia / Science Fiction

 
Finally, the link between the first two books is made! In Messenger, which is set in the Village that welcomes all rejects from other communities, Matty – Kira’s friend from Gathering Blue – is our protagonist. As the Village starts showing signs of evil (ex. villagers being not as welcoming to new folks and who, for some reason, start becoming less friendly and good in general), Matty plays a key role as a messenger in delivering and retrieving messages from the outside world because he is one of the few people who can go into the woods that surround the Village and not get lost. Characters from The Giver also show up in Messenger, and it’s interesting to see the concept of “magic” come up again. What I didn’t really like is the ending. There’s probably some sort of symbolism in what happened and what Matty and the other characters stood for (ex. good vs. evil, strengths and weaknesses of humanity, etc.), but it requires too much thinking. As a story, it’s abstract, but also somewhat magical – Messenger was also super short, where I would’ve preferred something lengthier with more analyses/reasoning behind certain events.

Son
 

Title: Son
Author: Lois Lowry
Series: The Giver Quartet #4
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Category: (Young Adult) Dystopia / Science Fiction

 
Son is my favorite follow-up/companion story to The Giver. It connects all of the characters and settings in the previous books while also providing new characters and new settings that really complement what Lowry had created previously. In another writer’s hands, this story could’ve definitely become a more modern standalone dystopian piece with full-blown romances and conspiracies and sci-fi/fantasy elements – but in Lowry’s hands, the simplicity and nuances in the imagery and the characters are very characteristic of her writing, and they force the reader to think a lot more (this is a good thing!). Good imagination is key to reading this!

bird

Overall, I think The Giver Quartet is a series that blends science fiction and fantasy in an interesting way. These stories make you think, whether it be analyzing how symbols and motifs play a role or imagining and embellishing the scenery and people in your mind. Lowry provides a simple skeleton on which you can build your own ideas upon, and I think it’s good to have these types of stories once in a while.

Have you read the rest of the Giver quartet?
Have you read any books that combine fantasy and sci-fi elements?

Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (fun plot & quirky characters)

Howl's Moving Castle
What a charming book! I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with this book, but I am. My namesake is pretty awesome, the story is magical, and it just holds together so well. There’s also something incredible about an older book that’s risen to fame, and DWJ’s writing is so quirky and clever, her plot in this book creative but not too absurd… overall, very happy with what I just read!
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Mini Reviews: The Circle Opens Quartet by Tamora Pierce

Another amazing series from Tamora Pierce, in which all of my favorite characters grow up. *wipes away tears* (Well, okay, they’re still only fourteen, but THEY GROW UP TOO FAST!) This time, Tris, Briar, Sandry, and Daja are off traveling with their teachers (except for Sandry, who remains in Emelan). They’re about to meet their own students, ahhhhh!

The Winding Circle kids all grown up, via minuiko.

Magic Steps
 

Title: Magic Steps
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle Opens #1
Publication Date: March 1, 2000
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 
Sandry meets Pasco, a young dancer who comes from a family of Harriers (otherwise known as the Provost’s Guard, basically policemen… who thinking dancing is no big deal), and takes him in as her student since she was the one who discovered his magic. A murderer is also in town, and Sandry is multitasking with trying to catch the murderer and teach the impatient Pasco. TP’s writing is effortless as always, and I can get the sense of Sandry’s own youthfulness despite her powers. It’s amusing to watch her try to teach Pasco, when he’s not that much younger than her. There are also a lot of funny moments in Magic Steps amidst the seriousness of the murderer situation.

Street Magic
 

Title: Street Magic
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle Opens #2
Publication Date: April 1, 2001
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 
There are cats in this one! (I love reading about horses and cats!) Briar and his mentor, Rosethorn, travel east of Emelan to the hot and dry city of Chammur where Briar discovers a young stone mage, Evvy, owner of a gazillion cats. There’s a gang war going on in the city that sucks both Briar and Evvy into its mix, and it’s interesting to learn about the culture of Chammur through it. Briar and Rosethorn’s magic is my favorite (most of the time) because they’re plant mages, so I love seeing them talk to plants! 🌱 The finale of this book is also very refreshing, as Briar gets to show off his true powers. (I really like it when the four Winding Circle kids use big magic!) We’ll see this trio more in the Circle Reforged series, but I like them as they are here a lot more.

Cold Fire
 

Title: Cold Fire
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle Opens #3
Publication Date: April 1, 2002
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 
Daja always gets the short end of the stick. She and her teacher, Frostpine, travel to the empire of Namorn, wayyy north of Emelan. (There’s something hilarious about smith mages going into the cold…) There, Daja makes friends with a firefighter, and also discovers not one, but TWO mages in need of a teacher. Luckily, it’s Daja and not one of the other three, so she’s patient and mature and willing to look after them, despite some rough times. One thing that I liked about this series is that there are more narrative shifts, where we get to follow the story through someone else rather than the Fearsome Foursome.

Shatterglass
 

Title: Shatterglass
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Circle Opens #4
Publication Date: January 1, 2003
Genre: (Young Adult) Fantasy

 
Aaaand of course Tris would get an older student who can’t handle her age nor her lightning-based magic! Tris and her teacher, Niko, travel wayyyy south to the city of Tharios, where there is a caste system among other differences that irk Tris. (I also love seeing the different cultures from all the places that the Winding Circle kids travel to!) One rule in Tharios is that anything that touches a corpse needs to be cleansed immediately, which makes catching criminals very difficult. Tris and her student, Keth – along with the glass dragon that Keth accidentally created – must try to control Keth’s magic while providing tools needed to capture the latest murderer. It’s interesting how the setup is the same as that of Sandry and her student’s, but they’re two completely different stories.

In all four of the Circle Opens series, I really enjoyed seeing the relationships between the new students and new teachers develop. There’s so much humor in TP’s books despite the serious plotlines, and the worldbuilding is detailed and diverse. How many TP books do I have left to review? I feel like I’m mentioning the same things over and over again, yet I’m not bored yet! (I hope you’re not either… *gulps*)