Emily A Duncan: Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1)

Title: Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan
Format: Hardcover, 385 pages, 978-1-25019-566-1
Published: April 2nd 2019 by Wednesday Books
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Rating: 5/5

Summary: A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.
A prince in danger must decide who to trust.
A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.
Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. (via Goodreads )

Duncan’s debut is a delicious dark, Gothic, and haunting start to what gears up to be an immersive new fantasy series. I fell in love with the lyrical writing, the depth of her world-building and character development, and the unique culture and magic system in the world she’s created.

I love when fantasy worlds are built upon the intertwining of religion and magic, because aspects of religion are indeed fantastical in many aspects (like the saints in this volume). This addition also adds a sense of relatability and realism to the world in the pages. The writing also felt more mature and higher quality than a lot of YA fantasy, and I really loved that about Duncan’s work. There was no “writing down” to the intended audience, nor to the actual audience.

Furthermore, the fluidity and quality of this novel makes it one that both young and seasoned readers will love (even the aged 30-something like me). I can’t wait to buy a hard copy on April 2, and I plan on re-reading this book as soon as I do. I highly recommend you check out Duncan’s blockbuster debut!

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Jessica Leake: Through the White Wood

Title: Through the White Wood by Jessica Leake
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages, 978-0-06266-629-1
Published: April 9th 2019 by HarperTeen
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

Summary: When Katya loses control of her power to freeze, her villagers banish her to the palace of the terrifying Prince Sasha in Kiev. Expecting punishment, she is surprised to find instead that Sasha is just like her—with the ability to summon fire. Sasha offers Katya friendship and the chance to embrace her power rather than fear it.

But outside the walls of Kiev, Sasha’s enemies are organizing an army of people bent on taking over the entire world. Together, Katya’s and Sasha’s powers are a fearsome weapon. But as their enemies draw nearer, will fire and frost be enough to save the world? Or will Katya and Sasha lose everything they hold dear? (via Goodreads)

Leake’s sophomore installment, Through the White Wood, takes on Russian mythology as she crafts a fantasy fit for fans of the Frost Blood and Grisha series. Leake’s prose is as lush, lyrical, and fluid as ever, and she brings a world based on Imperial Russia to life in a highly immersive, three-dimensional, and descriptive way.

Characters are well-developed, emotionally relatable, and each have their distinct personalities and flaws. Katya has her flaws and her vices, so she makes for a great narrator and heroine–her reluctance to involve herself in war, and her love for her adoptive family, are things I love about her. Fans of the Frost Blood series will recognize the magic system–built on the natural elements, we get the same fire/ice dichotomy. This is also similar to the light/dark comparative magic system in the Grisha series. These magic systems set up interesting contrasts between the characters that wield this magic–for good and ill.

My only real issue with this book is that the mythology wasn’t as readily recognizable or integrated into this novel like it was with Leake’s debut Beyond a Darkened Shore (which dealt with Celtic and Viking myths). I appreciated the appearance of Golems, which was a nice nod to an ancient Jewish myth that I’ve not seen done too often. I felt less connected to the atmosphere Leake tried to foster, a fantastical mythical Imperialist Russia at a time when the land would have been believed to be steeped in magic. It didn’t have that deep, pulling magical feel of of her first work.

Finally, the romance is sweet and authentic, and I enjoyed watching it develop and blossom without it overtaking the action and main plot lines of the book. However, overall, this was a spectacular book, and I loved it tremendously. Leake is turning out to be one of my favorite writers, and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review; my opinions are my own.

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Tomoyuki Hoshino: ME

Title: ME
Author: Tomoyuki Hoshino
Genre: Literary Fiction, Postmodernism, 21st Century Japanese Literature
Publisher: Akashic Books
Date Published: 2017
Source: Publisher in exchange for a review
Format: Paperback; 978-1-61775-448-7;
Pages: 236
Rating: ♥ ♥

Summary:

This novel centers on the “It’s me” telephone scam—often targeting the elderly—that has escalated in Japan in recent years. Typically, the caller identifies himself only by saying, “Hey, it’s me,” and goes on to claim in great distress that he’s been in an accident or lost some money with which he was entrusted at work, etc., and needs funds wired to his account right away.

ME’s narrator is a nondescript young Tokyoite named Hitoshi Nagano who, on a whim, takes home a cell phone that a young man named Daiki Hiyama accidentally put on Hitoshi’s tray at McDonald’s. Hitoshi uses the phone to call Daiki’s mother, pretending he is Daiki, and convinces her to wire him 900,000 yen.

Three days later, Hitoshi returns home from work to discover Daiki’s mother there in his apartment, and she seems to truly believe Hitoshi is her son. Even more bizarre, Hitoshi discovers his own parents now treat him as a stranger; they, too, have a “me” living with them as Hitoshi. At a loss for what else to do, Hitoshi begins living as Daiki, and no one seems to bat an eye.

In a brilliant probing of identity, and employing a highly original style that subverts standard narrative forms, Tomoyuki Hoshino elevates what might have been a commonplace crime story to an occasion for philosophical reflection. In the process, he offers profound insights into the state of contemporary Japanese society.

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Kosoko Jackson, A Place for Wolves, and more YA Book Drama

So, here’s your summary of what was gearing up to be debut author Kosoko Jackson’s, brilliant and blockbuster debut, A Place for Wolves:

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets Code Name Verity in this heartbreaking and poignant historical thriller.

James Mills isn’t sure he can forgive his parents for dragging him away from his life, not to mention his best friend and sister, Anna. He’s never felt so alone.

Enter Tomas. Falling for Tomas is unexpected, but sometimes the best things in life are.

Then their world splits apart. A war that has been brewing finally bursts forward, filled with violence, pain, and cruelty. James and Tomas can only rely on each other as they decide how far they are willing to go―and who they are willing to become―in order to make it back to their families.

I’m not even going to dignify my short write-up here by rehashing the toxic comments surrounding A Place for Wolves. It’s baseless tripe. If you wish to read more about the nonsense, read this poignant artcle from reason.com (aptly named resource). What I will say is this:

All the whining from the YA SJWs just makes me want to read this book more. Everyone needs to take a fucking literature class and learn the difference between depicting something to dismantle ideas and explore them, verses actually being a hate-filled person that falls into some kind of “-ism”. Y’all are fucking overly-sensitive, illiterate babies. Stop trying to “save” YA or writers/readers. You’re actually ruining it, and you’re ruining what is supposed to be a safe space for TEENS. TEENS should be the ones curating their canon–YOU don’t have the right to gatekeep for others. You’re just censoring freedom of artistic expression. If you don’t like it, close the book.

This is particularly sad because Kosoko Jackson used to run in the same circles as the people now hurling abuse at him for his book, even L.L. McKinney (who woulda thunk it?!). See, they’ll even turn Thanos and sacrifice one of their own for their agenda.

At least they don’t have the Infinity Gauntlet.

Colleen Oakes: The Black Coats

Title: The Black Coats
Author: Colleen Oakes
Genre: 21st Century Young Adult Literature
Release Date: February 12, 2019
Source: Publisher in exchange for a review
Publisher: HarperTeen
Format: Hardcover; 978-0-06267-962-8; $17.99
Pages: 400
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Summary:

The enigmatic Black Coats have been exacting vengeance on men who have hurt girls and women for years. The killer of Thea’s cousin went free, and Thea has just received an invitation to join the Black Coats’ balancings—acts of revenge meant to teach a lesson. Justice for Natalie has never felt so close.

But as the balancings escalate in brutality, Thea’s clear-cut mission begins to unravel and she must decide just how far she is willing to go for justice.

Because when the line between justice and revenge is paper thin, it’s hard not to get cut. (via Goodreads)

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The YA Book Community Has Lost Its Mind

January is supposed to be a month of change, of learning, of growing, and 2019 was off to a good start–the book world was drama-free. I thought it learned after Keira Drake and Laurie Forest’s novels survived their social justice trains–until YA Book Twitter exploded a few days ago regarding Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao.

Zhao’s novel is (or I should say ‘was’) a highly anticipated start to what promised to be a blockbuster Young Adult (YA) fantasy series, complete with dark magic, a beautiful Russian-inspired world, and themes based on the author’s native China. However, all of that is now indefinitely on hold. Zhao became the next target in YA publishing accused of “problematic” content in her book. She’s being accused of racism, representing harmful views of slavery, and committing plagiarism. These are serious and alarming accusations, and as with Drake and Forest, I am leery of the accuracy regarding such claims. Let’s take a look at why I am skeptical.

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Hiro Arikawa: The Travelling Cat Chronicles

Title: The Travelling Cat Chronicles
Author: Hiro Arikawa
Genre: Literary Fiction, 21st Century Japanese Literature
Date Published: October 23, 2018
Publisher: Berkley Books
Source: Purchased
Pages: 288
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Summary:

Nana, a cat, is devoted to Satoru, his owner. So when Satoru decides to go on a road trip one day to find him a new home, Nana is perplexed. They visit Satoru’s old friends from his school days and early youth. His friends may have untidy emotional lives but they are all animal lovers, and they also wonder why Satoru is trying to give his beloved cat away. Until the day Nana suddenly understands a long-held secret about his much-loved owner, and his heart begins to break. Narrated in turns by Nana and by his owner, this funny, uplifting, heartrending story of a cat is nothing if not profoundly human. (via Goodreads)

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