The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

*This review is spoiler free*

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This is another I came across at library (a recent “random find”). Of course the cover is what grabbed my interest at first (they are all gorgeous!). Though if I’m being honest I almost put them back since the synopsis hinted at a ton of romance, which I’m not all that into at the moment. But of course as usual the covers eventually won out.

Synopsis: This book takes place in an alternate universe where everything mirrors life as we know it, except for the addition of magic, mages, and an entire magical kingdom (known as the Domain). Split between two POV’s are main characters Iolanthe and Tintus. Iolanthe is a talented female mage living a peaceful life in the Domain on Little Grind-on-Woe…if you can call her guardian, Master Haywood’s, fall from grace and addiction peaceful. 

Tintus, on the other hand, lives miles away in the privileged life of royalty…except for the heavy weight of ruling the entire kingdom, engaging in a political battle with Atlantis (almost like the Catholic church in the Medieval Period, but with magic), and eagerly awaiting the beginning of his late mother’s prophecy. A lighting summoning, unveiling of dark secrets, and magic battle later, these two meets, sparking the start of an adventure filled prophecy.

Rating: 7/10 Unicorn Horns!

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I have mixed feelings about this one. The beginning didn’t do much to catch my attention, or give me reasons to expect much. Iolanthe wasn’t an appealing character, and I couldn’t figure out what the heck was happening since it was difficult to piece together where it was happening. I believe this is Sherry’s first YA (she’s primarily an adult romance writer), and it shows. Even after passing the initial confusion of the first few chapters, there were still more than a few awkwardly pieced together scenes. Ironically the romance itself, generally a plus in this book, at times felt strangely…off, and disappointingly cliched.

But of course, I kept reading for a reason. While the world building could use some more description, the magic system is nothing short of fascinating. Most notably the use of elemental (controlling natural forces) and subtle magic (using a wand to bend natural laws- Harry Potter style). Sherry explains all this in a pretty unique way; by including footnotes at the back of the book (set up as footnotes from a few magical texts available in the Domain). Though there were times flipping to the back would have been too much of an interruption, I found that around the mid-point you could usually leave the extra reading till later without becoming confused.

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Then there are th characters and story line. Admittedly, the story becomes awkward here and there (especially the pacing), and I can’t say it’s original, but for the most part it’s a pretty good one. I was invested in finding out how things would turn out, and even when I could see events coming from a mile away the execution would often be surprising.

For the characters, things really start to pick up once, Iolanthe Seabourne, with the help of Titus, begins attending an all boys school as a guy: Archer Fairfax. Is it wrong that I enjoyed her more as Archer than Iolanthe? She played her part beautifully, and getting to know more about her through this experience is another part of what made this book for me. Diving further into the past and motives of Prince Titus, a pleasantly complex character, was another major plus. Actually, both ended up being somewhat complex characters in their own right. There were even a couple side/supporting characters that stood out. Lastly, well…unfortunately I can’t say the antagonists were the best out there, but they did their part.  

Even with the negative points, I’m actually curious to the point of being exited to see where this goes after the way things ended. It’s a complete trilogy so at least I don’t have a wait ahead. If the synopsis interests you, I highly recommend you check this one out for yourselves despite my mixed feelings.

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The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

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Lucy Hutton hates her co-worker Joshua Templeman, with a capital H. The hate is mutual and the two stop at no lengths to make sure the other never forgets. Lucy and Josh are the executive assistants of the Co-CEOs of a publishing company. When the new executive position of chief operating officer is created by their bosses Helene and Mr. Bexley, both Lucy and Josh are determined to win, because how could either of them bear to work beneath the other. Thus begins a story that reminds us just how thin the line between love and hate truly is. As Lucy begins to realize that they may not harbor as much unadulterated hatred for each other as she once believed they did. 

I have been hearing about The Hating Game for a few months now and I never foresaw myself ever giving it a read because I’m not the biggest fan of adult contemporaries. I finally decided to give it a chance because, 1) I had heard such great things about the novel from Chelsea from ChelseaDolling Reads on BookTube (you should totally check her out) and, 2) It was available in ebook format at the library on a day when I wasn’t interested in reading the physical book I had brought with me to work. Lol, I feel like every “how I ended up reading this book”  story involving a book I wouldn’t normal read has some mention of the library. What can I say…I’m a mood reader lol.

One of the sources of my greatest trepidation going into this story is because the novel is presented as an enemies-to-lovers, office romance. When it comes to literary tropes, the ‘enemies-to-lovers’ is one of the least enjoyable for me to read because it plagues sooooo many contemporary/romance/new adult novels. So, needless to say, I wasn’t expecting much better from The Hating Game. The story surprised me, or I should say, how much I ended up enjoying it surprised me. The dynamic between Lucy and Josh is golden. Granted there are moments where I had to roll my eyes, muttering “How did you not foresee ‘that’ getting lost in translation.” Also, there’s another trope that’s in this novel that if it wouldn’t be a spoiler I would mention, but spoilers are a thing, and the rest of the story makes up for it. 

The Hating Game is incredibly funny, witty and smart. It was fun reading a story that is largely set at a publishing company. Lucy is a reader, has a large smurf collection and grew up on a strawberry farm. She’s a dynamic, layered quirky female character without the author dragging her into “manic-pixie dream girl” territory…which I greatly appreciated. Josh is a smart, difficult, and uncompromising love interest. He’s a great character to be opposite Lucy and their characters complement each other in numerous ways. The two are able to challenge each other and bicker in the most entertaining ways. Although Lucy and Josh have spent so much time hating each other, their descent into their romantic feelings for each other is believable. I give this novel a rating of 8-out of-10 unicorn horns. Although this is Sally Green’s debut novel, it feels that the novel accomplishes what it set out to do, and that comes through during the reading experience.  

 

 

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

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During the month of June I read exclusively LGBTQIA+ books in celebration of Pride Month. I aimed to read as much own-voices fiction as possible, and in my search, it did not take too long to come across Queens of Geek, especially considering that it was a fairly new release. I was immediately drawn to the premise because felt like this story would be a romp of fun and celebrate fandom. The premise promised many different points of interest and definitely did not disappoint.  

Queens of Geek, follows a group of three friends who have journeyed from Australia to San Diego to attend SupaCon in celebration of one of them making their film acting debut. The story is told in alternating POV between Charlie, a Chinese-Austarlian, Bi-sexual female YouTube star who has made a cross-over to film and, Taylor, a plus-sized cosplayer, who’s got anxiety and autism spectrum disorder, romantic feelings for one of her best friends Jamie, and has a Tumblr following to be jealous over. I appreciated going into this reading experience knowing very little about the story besides the information I provided above, so I will not delve any further into the plot to provide a more detailed synopsis.  

Queens of Geek was an incredibly fun read. There is so much within this story for readers to nerd-out over. The story feels a bit rushed towards the last quarter of the novel; however, I didn’t mind the change in pace too much as it actually adds a sense of authenticity to the atmosphere of the book. Anyone who has ever attended any sort of Con (books, comics, movie, fandom, cosplay) knows that the experience is incredibly fast paced and rushed. There is an overload of events, signings, panels etc, and the book delivers in giving you a feel of that. 

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

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I have been aware of Anna and the French Kiss since 2012 when I first started watching Booktube videos. I can admit that I was incredibly uninterested in ever picking these novels up. There was way too much hype surrounding the books, everyone seemed to LOVE them, and I couldn’t go onto any bookish social media without having them paraded in my face. Lo and Behold, I ended up picking up the series this year. I felt I was finally ready to give them a try because I wouldn’t be going into reading this novel with overly high expectations due to the numerous recommendations I’ve received.  

Anna’s famous Author father sends her from her family home in Atlanta to study abroad at the “School of America in Paris” (SOAP) for her Senior year of High School. Anna is devastated that she will be away from her best friend, Bridgette and Toph, the guy she has a crush on and finally got to kiss before leaving Atlanta. Anna resigns herself to communicating via email with the friend and crush she left behind, but finds herself having a hard time and breaks down on her first night at SOAP. Anna is eventually fortunate to find herself a group of friends and even a best friend in the charismatic and charming, Etienne St. Clair. As the school year progresses Anna feels that her friendship with Etienne could possibly evolve into something more than platonic. Problem is, Etienne in already in a relationship with his girlfriend Ellie.  

I will preface the ‘meat’ of this review by saying that I didn’t absolutely hate the story, but I for sure was not in love with it by any stretch of the imagination. Honestly, if I had read this novel when I had been younger I may have enjoyed it much more than I did. It is difficult to overlook the blatant emotional cheating that occurs during the story and the incredible display of double standards. The writing is very easy to read and the story has a consistent flow. The story is not disjointed until the end where certain issues that cause a certain level of conflict are not resolved in a realistic manner. Due to the fact that this story is a YA romance/contemporary fiction there is a certain level of teen angst that is to be expected; however, there are areas where it is difficult to relate to and/or understand Anna’s train of thought in regards to her “friendship” with Etienne and also with her bestfriend Bridgette from Atlanta. There is a well balance cast of side characters, some of whom the reader will get to see in subsequent books. For the most part the secondary characters were well developed and didn’t seem to be there just to take up space on the page. 

Overall I was underwhelmed with the story and with Anna as a character. She was wishy-washy and had a separate set of rules for herself than she did for others. Anna was fairly self-absorbed while managing to not have a very great level of self-awareness and not know what it is that she wants. I would recommend this novel to people who love YA romance reads and that would not be put-off by having a storyline that uses cheating to drive the plot forward and/or a main protagonist that is emotionally unreliable and unsure of themselves in an off-putting way. I give Anna and the French Kiss a rating of 4.5 out of a possible 10 Unicorn Horns. Happy Reading!

 

 

Seiho Boys High School, Vol. 1 by Kaneyoshi Izumi

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I still question my decision to do a review on this 8 volume manga series, and not because I didn’t wholly enjoy it. In fact, my hesitation comes from the fact that I not only enjoyed it, but from time to time found myself suffering from convulsions of laughter. Normally that’s simply a good thing, but I must admit that some of the often vulgar and at best inappropriate humour may have crossed lines here and there.

Synopsis: Seiho Boys High School is more or less exactly what the name implies. Despite being a shojo manga (Japanese comic targeted for young adult girls), the story centers a group of young males at an all male boarding high school in the middle of nowhere. The POV starts with a young 16yr old named Maki, but often switches between the small group of friends as the lament and curse their fate of being stranded without any female in sight. Worrying about forgetting how to talk to girls, past issues, grades, and getting caught with their secret stashes during inspections are just some of the typical things these boys get themselves caught up in as they search for love…or simply to get laid.

Rating: I rate this hilarious contemporary 8/10 Unicorn Horns!

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This ‘crossing of lines’ is something to be expected when a genre challenging series such as this hits the shelves. This shojo challenges it’s typical predecessors in two ways; It’s entirely male centered cast of characters, and it’s incredibly ‘inappropriate for it’s genre’ type of humour. Personally, with the exception of one character’s actions when it came to women, I didn’t see much wrong with the blunt sexual humour, but can easily say that many could find the more…unapologetic and inappropriate scenes/comments offensive. So a big warning to those that would be put off by raunchy humour.

The only negative thing I have to say about this series, other than a couple personally line crossing comments, is that this hilarious contemporary read does loose momentum in later installments as things begin to feel a bit repetitive here and there, or seemed to lack direction (something I believe the author pointed out themselves). Otherwise I loved the characters and the humour even more than I did the overall episodic story of a group of boys struggling to find love and keep it (though that was pretty funny in and of itself). 

I recommend this to anyone looking for some good romantic comedy, with an emphasis on comedy of the inappropriate kind.

Talon by Julie Kagawa

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I’ve been waiting to read this series since the first time I heard the premise. A book about dragons in a modern day setting? Count me in! So of course I dived in the moment I saw the last book in this 5 book series set to publish next year. Overall I enjoyed the read, but unfortunately I have to day I may have over-hyped the series a bit.

Synopsis: Talon is set in modern day California and follows main character Ember Hill as she and her twin brother, Dante, are finally set free to complete the final part of their training to successfully infiltrate human society for a few months in incognito. Ember and Dante must learn about the outside world of dangerous humans, how to act and be one of them, all in order to continue to provide and keep safe their secret society of ancient dragons masquerading as humans (known as Talon). And of course, there is the evil society of dragon hunters of watch out for. But things aren’t what they seem. After Ember comes across a dangerous rogue dragon named Cobalt begins to question everything she’s been taught and been training for her whole life.

Rating: 6.5-out-of-10 Unicorn Horns.

Overall I enjoyed this story and the magical otherworldly aspects. The way the dragons have evolved and adapted over time in order to assimilate into human society is something that has kept me interested enough to keep picking up the next in the series. Normally this is the kind of story I love to pieces; ancient dragons, secretive societies, mysterious-not-what-they-appear characters, and a defiant, strong heroine, but the characters seemed to fall a bit flat. I kept recognizing them in the many other similar Y.A characters I’ve come across, and so found them all a bit too predictable for my liking. The only characters that really stood out to me were a couple antagonists.

Even though the story is interesting, I felt that the characters brought things down for me, that and everything seemed to be heading down an all too predictable road. I’d still recommend this book to teen urban fantasy lovers as the story begins to grow more complex in later installments, but would warn away those looking for stories with unique characters/character driven stories. 

Romance Read: Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 1 by Mizuho Kusanagi

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This story, wow, I was genuinely surprised at the twists and turns within the first couple chapters. I did NOT at all expect for this story to turn out the way it did. This was intended to be a novel review but… I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately, and haven’t been able to finish/pick up most of the books I’ve set out to read. So have totally been coping out of doing intended book reviews with tons of manga and graphic novels! It still counts right? Yes? Well let’s pretend it does even if it doesn’t! Hahaha! Anywho, as someone who isn’t a big fan of shojo (manga for young/teen girls) in general I never really thought I would not only pick-up the manga Yona of the Dawn, but begin collecting it. Despite my continuing overall apprehension towards most romance this is now one of my very few shojo favorites. 

Synopsis: Yona of the Dawn is a fantasy set in a kingdom called Kohka. The story centers around main character princess Yona as she prepares for her 16th birthday. Yona, the only child of widow King IL, is a pampered young lady but things quickly change. Very quickly. As most know nothing good happens for royalty on their coming-of-age birthdays. 

Rating: 8.5/10 Unicorn Horns.

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To be honest, I was considering dropping this after the first couple pages as even though I was enjoying the comedy. The whole love struck pampered princess scene really wasn’t doing anything for me. But then came the plot twist and suddenly I’m 4 volumes deep and searching up the next release date. I loved this story and the unexpected action. The fight scenes were really well done and nothing I’ve ever come across in shojo (the art in general was really good). And the characters! I loved even the antagonist as a character, the character dynamics, and the often hilarious bantering and interactions. So far the major players are complex, and each had a side to him/her that was mysterious and at times unpredictable. For some what most caught my attention was the revelation of past or hidden thoughts/motives, for others it was major character development, and for the main protagonist Yona it was both in leaps and bounds.

As the 1st volume mainly dishes out the events that lead to her transformation so you won’t get to see the real results till the second volume. But I can promise watching this fiery spirited princess transition into a determined warrior with open eyes to the reality of her kingdom is every bit worth it. I can’t get too into it without spoiling something, but I loved the deeper fantasy aspect that arises once the mystery behind Yona’s red hair is revealed, as well as love how this questions the idea of right and wrong (Vol. 2-3). Safe to say I’ll be checking out the 24 episode anime adaptation available on both Crunchyroll and Funimation.

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As for the romance…well, there are some tantalizing scenes here and there, but overall I’d say this actually doesn’t have a strong enough overall romantic theme to actually be considered a straight up “Romance Read“. It plays an important role, but Yona’s adventures with new/existing comrades soon take center stage most of the time. Yet…once again- cop out. Since I’m technically only reviewing the first volume, which has a stronger focus on the romantic elements, I’m going to conveniently pretend it still counts! Yay me!