What’s new this month

302267232/7 – King’s Cage – by Victoria Aveyard

This series captured the YA world with its blend of superpowers and dystopian elements. The conflict between commoner Red-bloods vs the elite Silver-bloods with extraordinary abilities has finally come to a head, and Mare is a powerless prisoner caught between the royal boys she loved. The rebellion struggles on without their symbol and Cal plots to get Mare back at any cost. Twists and betrayals abound in the first two books so my advice is to be prepared for a torturous ending and a long wait for the next one!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

250264032/7 – Starfall – by Melissa Landers

In the sequel to last year’s Starflight, we follow new characters Cassia and Kane through space and bouts of politics. The estranged princess returns home to claim her birthright, but allying herself with Kane will not advance her new ambitions. I have yet to get to the first book (but I need to, YA sci-fi is so small right now!) but this sounds like a fun and fast-paced adventure with strong-willed characters. The crew of the Banshee returns in this installment. Don’t be like me–read both of these now!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

247636212/7 – Wintersong – by S. Jae-Jones

My goodness the more I hear about this book the more intrigued I become! JJ is one of the hosts of the Pubcrawl podcast (which is excellent, go subscribe!) and I heard about her project from that. Liesl knows of the Goblin King like everyone else, but when her sister is taken by goblins, she finds herself face to face with the mythical monarch. To save her sister, she offers herself as the Goblin King’s bride. But humans aren’t meant to live underground, and even as they grow closer they must figure out what else they are willing to sacrifice. I’m so excited to see what this unique worlds holds in store!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

303127472/14 – Not Quite Narwhal – by Jessie Sima

This adorable debut captured my heart with it’s cover and summary! Kelp has always known he’s not quite like the other narwhals. He looks different, he doesn’t care for the food, he’s not a strong swimmer–but that’s all right. But when a storm sweeps him to the surface and he sees a creature like him, he learns he’s actually a unicorn! Can he learn to be a part of both worlds? This sounds like a completely adorable story about belonging and family. I want it on my shelf!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

303125622/21 – Blacksouls – by Nicole Castroman

For everyone (including me) who finished Blackhearts and said “Wait, that’s it?!” here is the sequel to Teach and Anne’s story! We saw how Teach’s ambitions are tending towards piracy, and how Anne desperately hopes he’ll find her again in Nassau. Separated but making their way to the Caribbean, Teach tries to figure out how to save his crew from Spanish pirates. Anne struggles to build a life in Nassau when it seems everything and everyone are full of corrupt and dangerous plans. Given the previous book’s ending I’m not confident in how this will turn out but I am very curious!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

299392302/21 – A Conjuring of Light – by V.E. Schwab

The conclusion is finally here! I fell in love with this series from the first line. I mean fell in love so hard it shocked me. Now we finally get the fates of Kell the Antari (a magician traveling between the parallel worlds), Lila the pirate, and Prince Rhy, who isn’t inclined to be too proper as a monarch. Kell, Lila, Rhy struggle to keep the balance between the four Londons as magic spirals out of control and old enemies resurface. Another set of twists and inventive magic and stress is sure to await you here!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

320756712/28 – The Hate U Give – by Angie Thomas

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this story tackles the issues of police violence and racism. The excerpt released a few months ago was unflinching–this is going to be a tough but timely read. Starr Carter’s life is divided between her poor neighborhood and her prep school. When she witnesses the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, she is drawn into a national debate and a series of protests as everyone demands to know what really happened. Starr’s statement will affect her community and could endanger her own life. This is already optioned for a film–pick this up now for an #ownvoices look at these divisive and tragic events.

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


Red Queen

17878931by Victoria Aveyard
YA Fantasy
2 of 5 stars
Debut novel – February 10, 2015

I finally picked up this book based on all the good reviews, but unfortunately I can’t add my own. Points for good cover art and a couple of good buzz lines…and that’s about it. It’s marketed as a YA fantasy novel but it felt more dystopian in actuality. The “fantasy” aspect was more political than anything.

Mare Barrow is a dumb protagonist. I hate saying that, but what is it with all these characters growing up on the streets and yet knowing nothing about how to survive? How does she have no people skills whatsoever? She can’t charm anyone or read anyone either? Despite repeating the mantra “Anyone can betray anyone” a million times, she’s still shocked that the Silver royalty has its own agenda. Worse, she’s the kind of dumb that hurts her allies–anyone who tries to help her ends up dead.

The world-building is the typical shallow realm of the rich vs. the working-class poor that supports them, and that isn’t the worst cliche. We also have the best friend with slight romantic leanings who joins the rebel cause that becomes too extreme. We have the rebel HQ in a land “destroyed” by radiation. We have the perfect younger sister whom everyone loves (no doubt slated to die near the end of the trilogy, possibly leaving the best friend at fault). And finally we have the “sentinels,” a police security force that highlights how unjust the justice system is. Additional lost points for having no-name maids that Mare doesn’t bother speaking to.

The story was slow to start, hard to get through, and the ending failed to engage me despite its chaotic attempts at drama. I was just relieved it was over. It’s clear that the author grabbed some key bits from The Hunger Games, Divergent, and the X-Men but this felt like a bad, boring mashup instead of a blockbuster.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Red Queen is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – The narration and political intrigue are highly similar here. Katniss is an unwilling pawn in the game of government and it’s her internal struggle to do what she feels is right not just for herself but for the world that resonates. This is a bleak book, and while I didn’t necessarily enjoy its length, seeing how the machine of war, politics, and media works is invaluable for broadening your perspective. See my review here.
  • The Named by Marianne Curley – Time-travelers trying to subvert the Order of Chaos’ attempts to change time meet up and struggle to outwit the evil alliance. Again, the similar narration and the characters coming to terms with their various powers are in the same vein as Red Queen.
  • Dragonfly by Julia Goulding – A somewhat typical character pairing of opposing monarchs are brought together to fight a common enemy. I remember enjoying the world-building and the character development of Tashi and Ram as they learn to understand one another and what they can do to save their kingdoms.
  • Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – Another teenage girl discovering her powers and identity against the backdrop of war must fight to free her kingdom, even if it means giving up her own dreams. See my review here.
  • Allegiant by Veronica Roth – Another teenage girl at the center of a revolution must decide what to do with the information that explains divergence. Equally full of political intrigue and power struggles.
  • The Selection by Kiera Cass – This features a girl chosen for a competition to win the prince’s hand (Queenstrial anyone?). It has a similar premise and narration, though I personally haven’t read it yet.

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