Monday, September 4, 2017

ARC Review: Bearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw

Bearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw has been a story that I have been anticipating for quite some time. It's been making the rounds on book twitter with pretty good reviews, which has only made me want to read it more. You can imagine my delight when Emma of Miss Print agreed to send me her copy!

I don't know why, but I didn't realize this book was a novella until I opened the package. I don't hate novella's, but I do think they need to be companions to novels and not stand alones. A lot of the problems I had with Bearly a Lady could have been avoided if it was a novel. There was a serious lack of world and character development. We were told snippets of etiquette and customs but were largely left to figure out the rules of the supernatural community from our own imagination.

I really like paranormal romance books. It's one of my favorite genres. Bearly a Lady piqued my interest because the main character, Zelda, is a werebear. However, the possibility for unique story telling is completely glossed over. We get one look at Zelda transformed but the rest is only mentioned as a vague 'that-time-of-the-month' running gag. Not to mention that all of the worst tropes of paranormal romance are delivered with a straight face (over-sexualized shifters, conniving fae that the main character didn't know about until they outed themselves, swift romance).

I had to give this novella one out of five stars. It was one big cliche that relied way too heavily on sex to drive the story. Bearly a Lady might have been decent if the author had made the story in to a full novel and added more of a plot, but I can only take it at face value.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

ARC Review: The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

Despite being short on time due to work and school, I have been on a serious reading kick for the last week or so. I thought I would slow down after the disappointment that was The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol because I usually hit a kind of a slump after disliking a book so much. That didn't happen though. So I almost immediately picked up The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana, which was also sent to me by the wonderful Emma of Miss Print. I actually finished reading this book on July 2nd and had the review scheduled to post on July 3rd, well in advance of the book's July 18th release date, but technical difficulties interfered.

This lush fantasy has got to be one of my favorite reads so far this year! The vividness that Aditi Khorana uses to immerse readers in the world of her story has got to be it's main selling point. Costumes, settings, customs, tastes, sounds, and smells are all described with a meticulousness that made it seem like I was actually in the story alongside Amrita. The pacing was slow at times, but picked up at all the right places, and the plot was very captivating.

Amrita and Thala, the two main characters, were kind of lackluster. Both of their personalities were very flat overall. Despite moments of minor conflict between the two, neither of these characters faced any real hindrance to their goal, their successes seemed too easy for the obstacles they were facing, and they experienced very little growth. Regardless, the secondary characters of this story really pulled it all together and made the story more than worth continuing with. I especially loved Varun and, for the most part, Arjun,

I did have one problem with a major part of the story; I didn't think the romance between Arjun and Amrita was necessary. In fact, I think their romance took a lot away from the fluidity of the plot. I feel like the story, and Amrita's fullness as a character, would have been better served with Arjun being a best-friend or brother type character with no hint of romance whatsoever.

In the end, I gave The Library of Fates 4 out of 5 stars. Despite not loving one of the main plot points of the story, I think this book is really great. I would love to see more stories set in this universe. I would especially like to see more of Maya's story and more stories set in her version of Macedonia!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

ARC Review: The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol

Hi friends! Long time no see! This last month has been kind of slow reading wise, but I thought it was about time I got started on the ARCs that the wonderful Emma of Miss Print sent me. The first one I picked up was The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol, a Middle-Grade fantasy book being published on July 25, 2017.

I had a hard time even getting in to this book. I was immediately bored with the story because I felt like I had read it before. It didn't take long for me to realize that the plot follows the same tropes as most magical-girl/witch-girl anime and several other young witch stories published. I kept with the story, hoping that the author would have some kind of fresh take or surprising twist to add, but he never did.

Beyond the tried take on an old story line, the characters and dialogue of the story were kind of boring as well. Most of the characters in the book were two-dimensional with little to no real growth over the course of the story. Arianwyn had some development, but her initial characterization was boring (I would really like a character to have a flaw that isn't being clumsy for once). The dialogue is awkward and there is much too much telling and not nearly enough showing.

I would have given this book a 2 out of 5 stars if it weren't for the overwhelming similarity this book has to too many other stories. As such, I have to give this book 1 out of 5 stars. There really wasn't much beyond the beautiful cover to recommend this book.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Girl in Translation Review #AsianLitBingo

I'm so sad, but time has run out on the #AsianLitBingo reading challenge. I really wanted to complete blackout, but starting late and life stuff got in the way. Luckily, I was able to finish one last book on the very last day; Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, fulfilled the Poor/Working Class Asian MC and completed the second row!

This book was caught somewhere in between being really interesting and being really depressing. I was interested in the dynamics between Kimberly and her mother, her and her school/classmates, and her and the workers at the sweatshop. I was also really invested in Kimberly's struggles with English and her school work and how she used math to rise above these issues.

On the other hand, I had a hard time getting over the negative overtones of the story. I realize that the struggles Kimberly and her mother went through are realistic and do happen to immigrants all of the time. In that way, this book was very informative. However, I feel like the focus was overly on the negative. I also do not think fitting two decades into the number of pages in this book was the best idea, many details felt glossed over.

I ended up giving this book 3 out of 5 stars. I liked some aspects of this book and didn't like others. I also think this book would have been better served being longer or covering a shorter period of time.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Swimming in the Monsoon Sea Review #AsianLitBingo

The end of the #AsianLitBingo reading challenge is coming up in the next couple of days. If you've been following along with what books I've been reading, you'll know that I apparently don't know how to play bingo because I have been jumping around the board all willy-nilly. In an effort to actually complete one row, I decided to go ahead and read Swimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai for the LGBTQIAP+ Asian MC category.

I wasn't really sure what to expect going in to this book. The cover is really neat and I love the high saturation of the colors, which really evokes the summer feel for me. The synopsis seemed interesting, but the premise of the book is one that could easily be done really well or really terribly.

Overall, I thought the book was just okay. I liked that Amrith's sexuality was integral to the story, but it wasn't rushed or hyper-sexualized (he's 14 for goodness' sake!). However, the fact that he doesn't come to a full realization of his sexuality until the very end of the book, long after the reader does, made me detach from the story.

There were some really interesting characters in the book, but one of the main ones was Sri Lanka itself. Mr. Selvadurai has a gift at writing a vivid portrayal of his home country. I really enjoyed his descriptions of the sights, culture, and atmosphere of Sri Lanka, but his depictions ultimately detracted from the depth of the main story, which could have used more development. The language he used throughout the book, while good for scenery, was too flowery and plodding for the mood of the story as well.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Listen, Slowly Review #AsianLitBingo

Jumping back in to my TBR for the #AsianLitBingo reading challenge, I grabbed Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai. This one is a middle grade book that I thought would be a good change of pace. I also really liked the cover; the colors are absolutely gorgeous!

I don't know what exactly it is (maybe it's my age or the way I was raised) but whiny, ungrateful main characters make it hard for me to read a book. In the first couple of chapters, Mai comes off as very whiny and she doesn't get much better by the end of the book. I realize that this is partially because of her age, she is twelve, but it still made me want to stop reading.

My favortie part of the book was the little bits of information that Ba (Mai's grandmother) tells her about the places they visit. Call me a sucker, but I love when family members build a stronger relationship with each other! I also love how vividly Thanhha Lai writes about Vietnam. I could almost feel the humidity!

All in all, I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars. The writing was really good but the main character was hard to stick with. I think I would have enjoyed this much more if I was actually middle grade aged.

ARC Review: Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sara B. Larson

I decided to take a break from the #AsianLitBingo reading challenge to read Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sara B. Larson. It officially releases on May 30th and the ever wonderful Emma of  Miss Print was kind enough to pass her ARC on to me. Other than the cover, which is very eye catching, the synopsis sounded interesting.

I had trouble getting in to the story for the first 1/3 of the book. I'm used to fantasy authors making up their own names for countries, races, and people's personal names, but the names in this book were hard to get used to and felt obviously fake. This point was driven home by the fact that the main character had a rather normal name, Evelayn. It was also hard to keep the two kingdoms straight because they were the same race but with different skin and used the same name, Draiolon, to refer to themselves. The fact that the story switched POV's with no warning also made it hard to keep the separate factions straight sometimes.

For all of that, my biggest issue was the world building; there wasn't any. This book would have been better served if it was twice as long and had more world building. As it was, I felt little to no connection with the story because all I ever saw were snippets of the world the characters lived in. Ultimately, I did end up liking Evelayn as a character, which improved my liking of the story a little bit. I gave this book 2 out of 5 stars and passed it on to a friend. I probably won't read the sequel because I'm just not that interested in seeing what happens.