“The Left Hand” by Jordan Allen, indie author of sci-fi/dystopian YA

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Listening to The Left Hand by Jordan Allen on Audible, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. This futuristic sci-fi/dystopian was a surprisingly fresh and original book involving saber fights, a DNA-based segregated society, and one young man’s realization that it is our actions that define us, rather than any physical attributes.

Plot

When a terrorist group targets Victor Wells, a young noble man, he is forced into hiding with the Sinisters—people whose DNA is supposedly inferior. Joining forces with a fringe Sinister group, Victor reconnects with old friends (and an old crush) and realizes there is more going on in the supposedly perfect Noble society than he ever imagined.

My Thoughts

Predictable, yet surprising, I really enjoyed listening to the book. Personally, I can’t listen to super complicated books because I’ll get confused (I’m a visual learner), but this one was perfect to listen to. Simple, but not overly so, it had plenty of cool twists and turns that kept me engaged through the end and left me wanting more. Plus the writing was good. Good plot+good characters+good writing=good book.

If you like science fiction, or dystopian YA, this is a great book to pick up. It was clean too—no profanity or sex scenes—and so very appropriate for middle grade on up. Definitely give this one a try.

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“The Queen’s Rising,” Rebecca Ross Debuts

4 stars

Summary:

Brienna, a descendent of both Valenian and Maevian blood, is a student at a bording school where she has chosen to master the passion of knowledge and hopefully be chosen by a patron upon graduation. 

However, when she beings having visions of her ancestors memories, she is abruptly offered patronage by a disgraced lord, and pulled into a plot to overthrow the king of Maevana to restore the right queen. As Brienna learns more about her heritage she is forced to choose between blood-ties and the family she has been taken in by.

Brief Thoughts:

The Queen’s Rising is a romantic foray into the renaissance-France inspired country of Velenia and Maevana, about a brave young woman who risks her life to save the two countries of her ancestors.

With themes of belonging to two different cultures, the bonds of friendship, choosing your family, in addition to a slow-burning romantic sub-plot, this was an enjoyable read. The writing was good, the characters were interesting, and the plot was, though somewhat predictable, was creative and well-thought-out.

***Note to the reader: Don’t read the family tree charts on the first couple of pages. They are overly helpful and spoil some of the best potential surprises in the book.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Renegades by Marissa Meyer is a story of Superheroes and Supervillains, a premise that continues to fascinate  and attract people (like me) with each new adaptation of the epic battle between good versus evil.

Because I’d so recently read Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart, I was a little skeptical going into this story. Both are about supervillains, and at first glance the premises seemed oddly similar. But thankfully, Meyer’s Renegades takes this premise for a new spin, with two narrators: one from the villain league, the Anarchists, and one from the hero’s group, the Renegades. These two narrators from opposite ideologies find their preconceived notions of the world and how it should be run challenged, and they begin to find who they are and who they want to be as well as the difference they want to make in the world.

I enjoyed Meyer’s exploration of two opposite ideologies, the roots of which you can see in our own political sphere. I also enjoyed her exploration of themes such as: the importance of family and friends, the connection between freedom and safety, and the value of independence.

While I was very impressed with Meyer’s main characters and the connection I felt to both of them despite their differences, I was a little disappointed with her antagonists. Meyer relied a lot on insanity to explain certain villain’s actions which felt like lazy storytelling at times.

Overall, this book left me with more questions than answers, but I am looking forward to reading the next and final one in November.

Dark and Light in “Three Dark Crowns” by Kendare Blake

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake began much darker than I expected, or cared for. In fact, after the first two chapters I put it down, not expecting to finish it.  But circumstances resulted in me picking it up again a week later because I couldn’t find any of the other book I’d been planning to read that day. And I am so glad I did.

The premise is this: triplet sisters are born to the queen, each with their own special gift, and tradition dictates that only one sister may live to rule, the others must die at the hands of the others.

The basic premise of this story demands a certain gravity, but Blake balanced it excellently with lighter elements that kept the story moving, and gave the reader hope without turning it into a melodrama. It was dark at times, but it also had enough light that I didn’t feel bogged down, but rather pulled in.

Written from multiple perspectives, this story switches between several characters, each one brilliantly developed, relatable, likable, and unappealing in their own ways. Each perspective forms a puzzle piece that fit perfectly between all the others to create a wonderful piece of work.

Blake infused this book with of feminist themes such as the objectification of women, equality within love, and respect in relationships. The first theme I found particularly interesting as Three Dark Crowns is based in a largely matriarchal society, and the way each female character encounters and deals with objectification is very interesting.

If you are looking for a story about family, sisters, feminism, love, and heartbreak, and you aren’t scared of a story infused with a more serious and darker tone, this is a good book for you. Brilliantly written, and very engaging, I really am so glad I read this one. 5/5.

“The Crown’s Game” in Imperial Russia

I was surprised when I read the premise of The Crown’s Game at how similar it sounded to a book I read a couple of months ago called The Night Circus (see review here). I loved The Night Circus and I was interested, and a bit worried, to see how The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye would compare.

My verdict is this: The Crown’s Game is much too-familar if you have read The Night Circus, but you will still find an enjoyable story that interweaves new elements into setting, character, and plot. It felt like a younger version of The Night Circus with a heavier emphasis on character relationships.

In The Crown’s Game, two enchanters, Nikolai and Vika, are pitted against each other in a deadly game to see who will be the Tsar’s Imperial Enchanter. As the two young enchanter’s try to outdo the other in magical feats, they find themselves irresistibly drawn to each other even as they fight to the death.

I loved the premise of course, but I also enjoyed the elements I wasn’t expecting. The setting in particular was something that set it apart as excellent. I loved the idea of placing a magic duel in Imperial Russia. The magic fit perfectly into an alternate and idealized version of such a place. It provided just enough newness to the story that I was held in wonder for the magical place Skye had created that was so new to me.

I loved the magical elements, and the characters too. Unlike Morgenstern’s The Night CircusThe Crown’s Game delved more deeply into helping the reader get to know the main characters. I loved the relationships between said characters and the attention Skye paid to help the reader feel, and not just observe, the love, jealousy, friendship, and disgust between them.

There was no clear villain in this story, something else that I enjoyed. I find that some of the best stories are like life: they are complicated, messy, and have no true villains. Instead, every person has elements of good and bad, and cycle somewhere in-between, often in shades of gray.

While I am disappointed that The Crown’s Game was so similar to something I’d just read (and I do prefer The Night Circus overall), I was pleased with the execution of this story in the YA fantasy genre with a rating of 8/10.

YA Fiction from Germany: “The Book Jumper”

I picked up The Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser on a whim while at the library. Honestly, that’s how I find most of my books with varying results. In this case, I was thoroughly pleased. A book about living in books was just what I wanted to read.

An award-winning German author, Gläser makes her debut into English readership with The Book Jumper, a book about a girl who discovers that she can jump into books and interact with the stories and characters. As she learns more about her unusual ability, she also discovers that someone is stealing from the stories she visits, damaging and changing beloved classics such as Alice in WonderlandPride and Prejudice, and The Wizard of Oz.

Perfect for anyone who loves reading, has felt ostracized or betrayed by someone they love, or loves reading books set in Scotland with romantic sub-plots, this book is a solid 8/10 in my mind. Gläser beautifully imitates characters canonized in time like Sherlock Holmes, and Alice from Alice in Wonderland and I loved how many famous books Gläser incorporated into The Book Jumper.

While reading it was a fantastic journey that I wish I had written myself, I have to say I was not satisfied with the ending. It felt too easy and too predictable. Such an amazing story deserved an amazing ending. Instead, we got an okay ending. Which was . . . okay.

Overall, this is a book I would love to add to my collection. It felt fresh, vibrant, and yet so familiar (what book-worm doesn’t feel at home in a book about books?). And I loved the characters, the adventures and the setting. It is definitely a book I could see myself reading again as soon as I add it to my own little library.