Friday 56 – House of Salt and Sorrows

house of salt and sorrowsThe Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The rules are simple – turn to page 56 in your current read (or 56% in your e-reader) and post a few non-spoilery sentences.

This week’s quote is from the brand new House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig. It’s based off the fairytale of the dancing princesses – where the girls mysteriously wear out their shoes every night and their family doesn’t know why. It’s a lovely gothic novel and my full review will be up tomorrow!

This quote is a bit of dialogue between two sisters; one around young adult age, the main character and the one whose viewpoint the book is told from, and one much younger. They are discussing two of their older, tragically dead, sisters.

I squeezed her shoulders. “We haven’t forgotten her. We need to move on, but that doesn’t mean they don’t miss and love her.”

“She doesn’t think so.”

I frowned. “What do you mean?”

“She thinks everyone is too busy with their lives to remember her.” She glanced back out into the hall as if worried our conversation was being overheard. “Elizabeth says so too. She says we all look different now. But she doesn’t.”

“You mean when you remember her?”

She shook her head. “When I see her.”

Advertisements

Series Review: The Hundredth Queen

The Fire QueenThe Fire Queen
The Rogue Queen
The Warrior Queen
by Emily R. King
Young Adult Fantasy / Myth Retelling
~300 pages each
Published 2017 / 2017 / 2018

I reviewed The Hundredth Queen a short time ago, and mentioned it was possibly a little culturally appropriative for a book written by a white woman, but I was invested enough in the characters to finish the series. While the culture resembles some time periods in India, the religion is inspired by ancient Sumeria, and much of the fourth book is reminiscent of the Inanna myth. I’ve only included the description of the second book, below, because the descriptions are full of spoilers for the series, as is often the problem for series reviews!

So I can’t really say how much the series is or is not appropriative; I’m not Indian. I don’t get to make that call. Regardless, it is something to be aware of before you read.

The Rogue QueenThat said, I enjoyed this series more than I expected to! Kalinda and Natesa are both awesome female fighters, and both of their love interests, while capable, are definitely cast in the “supporting character” role, to help show how badass the girls are.

One thing I did not like is how much they emphasize “sisterhood” and “sister warriors” yet turn around and fight each other – to the death! – to win a man or a position. Somehow Kalinda is the only woman to see how contradictory this is?

Kalinda’s nickname is also Kali, and, for a series with a disclaimer right up front basically saying “THIS IS NOT INDIA” maybe she should have picked a different name for the main character?

So I have a lot of questions about this series. There are contradictions, and plot holes, and improbable coincidences. I enjoyed the magic system. At its heart, it’s your basic elemental magic – earth, air, water, fire – but what the bhutas (magic wielders) can actually do with their elements is intriguing. In particular, the four directly-damaging uses – winnowing, leeching, grinding, and parching – are unique. Burners – fire-wielders – can parch people – literally burning their soul, basically. Tremblers – earth – can grind peoples’ bones together. Galers – air – can winnow, pulling oxygen out of the blood, tissues, and lungs of an enemy, and Aquifiers – water – can leech, pulling the liquid out of a person. All four magic wielders can control their element to do various tasks, but it’s the directly offensive uses that seem original.

The Warrior QueenOverall the plot is – fine – but it actually goes to the other end of the extreme that I complained about in Queen of Ruin. Obstacle after obstacle after obstacle. Ridiculous speedbumps, stupid mistakes, people acting out of character in order to throw another wrench in the works. I think the story could have been condensed down to three books and been far better for it.

A Spark of White Fire is a far better book with a similar feel to it, written by an Asian author. Read that instead.

From the cover of The Fire Queen:

WITH THE POWER OF FIRE, SHE WILL SPARK A REVOLUTION.

In the second book of the Hundredth Queen series, Emily R. King once again follows a young warrior queen’s rise to meet her destiny in a richly imagined world of sorcery and forbidden powers.

Though the tyrant rajah she was forced to marry is dead, Kalinda’s troubles are far from over. A warlord has invaded the imperial city, and now she’s in exile. But she isn’t alone. Kalinda has the allegiance of Captain Deven Naik, her guard and beloved, imprisoned for treason and stripped of command. With the empire at war, their best hope is to find Prince Ashwin, the rajah’s son, who has promised Deven’s freedom on one condition: that Kalinda will fight and defeat three formidable opponents.

But as Kalinda’s tournament strengths are once again challenged, so too is her relationship with Deven. While Deven fears her powers, Ashwin reveres them – as well as the courageous woman who wields them. Kalinda comes to regard Ashwin as the only man who can repair a warring world and finds herself torn between her allegiance to Deven and a newly found respect for the young prince.

With both the responsibility to protect her people and the fate of those she loves weighing heavily upon her, Kalinda is forced again to compete. She must test the limits of her fire powers and her hard-won wisdom. But will that be enough to unite the empire without sacrificing all she holds dear?

Library Loot Wednesday

I picked up several books this week – the last three books in The Hundredth Queen series came in via Marina, since my library didn’t have them.

In addition, I picked up Hollow Kingdom, a zombie apocalypse tale from the perspective of a pet crow, House of Salt and Sorrows, a fairy tale retelling of the dancing princesses story, and Periodic Tales: A Cultural History of the Elements, from Arsenic to Zinc. It’s supposed to be in the vein of A Short History of Nearly Everything, which I adored.

I’ve actually already raced through the rest of the Hundredth Queen series, so I will post a review of those shortly!

Book Review: Small Town Hearts

small town heartsSmall Town Hearts
by Lillie Vale
Young Adult / Contemporary Romance
324 pages
Published March 2019

This was a perfect summer read. Set in a tourist town on the coast of Maine, this was friend drama and summer romance and summers at the beach, mixed with coffee and baked goods and sand castles. Babe is that rare teen in a small town who has no desire to leave it; she loves her little community, lives in the lighthouse overlooking the town, and dreams of buying the coffee shop she works in and spending the rest of her life right where she’s always been. Her friends, however, are not so content with their lives, and her best friend’s narcissistic drama plays a large part in the plot of this charming little book.

I definitely wanted to shake Babe a couple of times, and tell her that her friend Lucy is SUCH a better friend than Penny, her “best friend” from high school. It’s definitely the boy in their little group of three that is responsible for messing it all up, but Penny blames Babe for it all, which is completely unfair.

But the friend drama is not what I loved about this book. What I loved was the charming romance that blossoms between Babe and Levi, the artist in town for the summer. He is sweet and direct and just perfect.

I also really liked how this book treated Babe’s bisexuality. So many books with bi main characters have the 95/5 version of bisexuality; where they’re basically interested in one gender, except one or two people of another gender. Some of them are a little more open, where the MC has been with many genders but is still primarily interested in one. I feel like it’s rare to see one that’s truly 50/50. Bisexuality does cover that spectrum of attraction, I just enjoyed seeing a book about this particular aspect. Babe falls in love with a boy in this book, but an ex-girlfriend plays a significant role. I really liked this passage:

I had gone on a handful of dates that never led anywhere beyond awkward “See ya arounds” and fended-off kisses at the end of the night. Most of them had been nice, cute and witty. Local boys who were salt of the earth, sunny girls who collected kisses like seashells.

I also really enjoyed the subtle theme of consent. In at least two instances, an action done with consent “Is this okay?” “May I…?” is received with enthusiasm, whereas the same action, done by someone else and without asking, meets with shock and betrayal. That’s a nice thing to see in YA.

I really enjoyed this charming little book, and it’s a great read for summer time. The bisexual main character is done really well, and issues of consent and being closeted are explored. Definitely recommend this one!

From the cover of Small Town Hearts:

Fresh out of high school, Babe Vogel should be thrilled to have the whole summer at her fingertips. She loves living in her lighthouse home in the sleepy Maine beach town of Oar’s Rest and being a barista at the Busy Bean, but she’s totally freaking out about how her life will change when her two best friends go to college in the fall. And when a reckless kiss causes all three of them to break up, she may lose them a lot sooner. On top of that, her ex-girlfriend is back in town, bringing with her a slew of memories, both good and bad.

And then there’s Levi Keller, the cute artist who’s spending all his free time at the coffee shop where she works. Levi’s from out of town, and even though Babe knows better than to fall for a tourist who will leave when summer ends, she can’t stop herself from wanting to know him. Can Babe keep her distance, or will she break the one rule she’s always had – to never fall for a summer boy?

Friday 56 – Small Town Hearts

small town heartsThe Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The rules are simple – turn to page 56 in your current read (or 56% in your e-reader) and post a few non-spoilery sentences.

This week’s quote is from Small Town Hearts by Lillie Vale, recommended to me by Rachel Strolle on Twitter. It’s an adorable YA book about a summer tourist town on the coast of Maine.

Days passed, Thursday morning sneaking up on me in the blink of an eye. It was the summer of everything and nothing. Sleepy starts and sleepy ends.

No one was in a hurry to do anything because we all knew these were the last few days of summer when the town belonged to us, the people who had been here all along.

But soon, the mornings began with the peppering of hammer falls all over the town as local businesses started getting ready for the tourists. HELP WANTED signs went up, gift shop windows filled with new displays, and flowers bloomed in the streets.

Even Busy’s did our part with newly painted trims and soaped and shined windows overlooking boxes of geraniums and lavender. A faint smell of paint lingered, so we’d put on our fans on to clear the air.

Book Review: Queen of Ruin

queen of ruinQueen of Ruin
by Tracy Banghart
Young Adult
325 pages
Published July 2019

This is the sequel to Grace and Fury, a book that surprised me with how much I actually really liked it. Picking up immediately where the first book left off, we’re thrust right back into the oppressive kingdom of Viridia and the women fighting for their freedom. I can’t say a whole lot about the plot in this second book without spoiling things, but the sisters find each other, split up, and find each other again, each collision shaking their beliefs and convictions, as well as those around them. The battles are bloody and visceral without being unnecessarily gory, the action kept the plot moving at a good pace, and the oppression was appropriately infuriating.

My only complaint would be that the overall plot was too easy – but these are short Young Adult books. You can’t give them too many obstacles to overcome or you’ll exceed your allotted pages, so I can give that a pass here.

Everything is wrapped up nicely by the end of the book; I appreciate that this was a duology and not a trilogy (though a trilogy would have allowed for more obstacles). I do enjoy the recent trend in YA towards duologies, though.

So – if you enjoyed Grace and Fury, this is a satisfactory conclusion. The first book was by far the stronger of the two, though.

From the cover of Queen of Ruin:

RESILIENCE
RESISTANCE
REVOLUTION

When the new, brutal Superior banishes Nomi from Bellaqua, she finds herself powerless and headed toward her all-but-certain death. Her only hope is to find her sister, Serina, on the prison island of Mount Ruin. But when Nomi arrives, it is not the island of conquered, broken women that she expected. It is an island in the grip of revolution, and Serina – polite, submissive Serina – is its leader.

Betrayal, grief, and violence have changed both sisters, and the women of Mount Ruin have their sights set on revenge beyond the confines of their island prison. They plan to sweep across the entire kingdom, issuing in a new ages of freedom for all. But first they’ll have to get rid of the new Superior, and only Nomi knows how.

Separated once again, this time by choice, Nomi and Serina must forge their own paths as they aim to tear down the world they know and build something better in its place. 

The stakes are higher and the battles bolder in Tracy Banghart’s unputdownable sequel to Grace and Fury.