Book Review: Unblemished by Sara Ella

I was browsing the discounted stacks at my local bookstore when I came upon Unblemished by Sara Ella. I read the blurb with interest when I saw that it was a fantasy fiction read. The story piqued my interest so I decided to take it home with me.

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Blurb:

Eliyana has always recoiled from her own reflection in the mirror. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world existed where her blemish could become her strength?

Eliyana is used to the shadows. With a hideous birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her as normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.

But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird.

Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly.

Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself? 

My thoughts:

I enjoyed Ella’s story in another Reflection of our world – especially her description of the environment (for which some original vocabulary is used). Her description of what she calls a “trome” reminds me a little of a book by Enid Blyton that I reread many times as a young child – The Folk of the Faraway Tree. As expected, the connection resonated with me and I wished to read even more of them.

The romance in the story is set within the format of a love triangle. Eliyana has come to love Joshua and, in the beginning of the story, I was hoping that the two of them would get together. However once Ky comes into the story, I realise that another type of person may be better for her. He seems to bring out the inner strength in her. Does she come to that realisation herself? You would have to read the story to find out! 😀

Unblemished is a romance story; but it is also an adventure story. Eliyana is forced to move out of her comfort zone and, once she does, she learns more about her past as well as about herself. Throughout the novel, our heroine slowly finds an inner confidence that she never thought she possessed. With her confidence, she becomes braver and more willing to stand up for what she believes is right. The gradual unfurling of her confidence is perfectly paced.

The pace of the story kept me interested throughout – though it was not so intense that I was too eager to turn the pages. Unblemished is a fantasy read that incorporates romance and adventure as well as the magical qualities of this genre. I enjoyed this novel and have ordered the rest of the series to read.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 108th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

When I first heard of Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin at a Frenzy Presents event, I knew that I would have to read it. A group of bookstagrammers planned on reading it during November so I thought it would be a good opportunity to read the novel with others who enjoy Young Adult Fantasy fiction.

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Blurb:

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all.

My thoughts:

I absolutely loved this novel! From the beginning, I could see the subtle undertones of Mahurin’s critique on marriage as well as the Church’s historical view of women. I always enjoy a story that is more than just a story and I enjoy novels that encourage my mind to think of my own experiences as well as what I have read in other books. This novel resonates with the patriarchal view of women – a view which the women (portrayed as witches) fight against. It subtly critiques the expected role of women in a marriage. And it encourages the reader to think of the Church’s role in the subjugation of women in a relationship.

Not only did I enjoy the critique on marriage and the Church, I also enjoyed the characters in the story. I love the sassy Lou who ran away from home and who has survived on the streets. And I just can’t help but enjoy Reid’s character – a man who has been brought up within the strict confines of Church doctrines. His world is turned upside down with the advent of Lou becoming a part of his life. The slow-burn romance between the two is fun to read – and caused a smile or two during my enjoyment of the novel. I also enjoyed reading the antics of Coco (Lou’s friend) and of Ansel, a chasseur-in-training who unexpectedly shows compassion for Lou.

Shelby Mahurin’s novel has all that I love in the Fantasy genre: magic, complicated relationships, a subtle critique of social issues, and interesting characters. Serpent and Dove was a perfect read for me and I cannot wait to read the sequel.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 107th in my book pledge for 2019)

Teaser Tuesday: Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

I have read Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin as part of a book discussion on Instagram.

Serpent and Dove is a Fantasy novel that pits the Church against witches. I enjoyed the themes that run through the novel and there were so many passages that I ticketed as I was reading. I have chosen to share with you an extract from a conversation between Lou and Ansel (a witch and a witchhunter-to-be) when discussing changing Reid’s opinion on witches:

“There are some things that can’t be changed with words. Some things have to be seen. Some things have to be felt.” (p 252, 2019, Harper Teen)

This quote is definitely one of my favourite from the novel. It resonates with me as I have often seen that people’s prejudices do not change unless it impacts their own life.

What do you think of the statement? 

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2016

(This post is linked to Ambrosia’s Teaser Tuesdays at The Purple Booker)

Phoenix Lines

On Friday last week when I arrived home, I was so excited to see that I had received an ARC of Adam Silvera’s upcoming Fantasy release Infinity One from the team at Harper Collins Canada. Fantasy fiction is my favourite genre and when I heard about this series, I knew that I wanted to read it. On Friday, I admired the cover and loved the lines of the Phoenix. The ARC looks beautiful and I expect the cover of the finished hardcover will look absolutely stunning.

I have started reading the novel – I set aside my October TBR piled with no compunction. I am loving it so far! The story explores sibling relationships, being comfortable in your own skin no matter what your sexual orientation, and (I suspect) finding your inner strength. I look forward to seeing what the magical battle in New York will bring.

Have you read any of Adam Silvera’s books?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is linked to Becky’s Square Challenge for which we will be posting square photos featuring lines during the month of October)

ARC vs Final Copy

Have you ever wondered about the difference between an ARC and the final published copy? One of the differences may be the cover.

I received an ARC of Crier’s War by Nina Varela at the last Frenzy Presents event that I attended. I loved the start to this series so much that I knew I would want to continue reading it. When I picked up a copy of the book this weekend, I fell in love with its beautiful cover.

The ARC shows the sketched outline of the proposed cover but does not do true justice to its final lines and the embossing on the book’s dust jacket.

Have you noticed any other differences between ARCs and final published copies?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is linked to Becky’s Square Challenge for which we will be posting square photos featuring lines during the month of October)

Book Review: A Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth

At the Frenzy Presents event at the end of August, I was lucky enough to receive one of the books that interested me: A Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth. This is her second novel and I wanted to compare the second novel with her debut.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy

Blurb:

Violet Sterling has spent the last seven years in exile, longing to return to Burleigh House. One of the six great houses of England, Burleigh’s magic always kept the countryside well. And as a child, this magic kept Violet happy, draping her in flowers while she slept, fashioning secret hiding places for her, and lighting fires on the coldest nights to keep her warm.

Everything shattered, though, when her father committed high treason trying to free Burleigh from the king’s oppressive control. He was killed, and Vi was forced into hiding.

When she’s given a chance to go back, she discovers Burleigh has run wild with grief. Vines and briars are crumbling the walls. Magic that once enriched the surrounding countryside has turned dark and deadly, twisting lush blooms into thorns, poisoning livestock and destroying crops. Burleigh’s very soul is crying out in pain.

Vi would do anything to help, and soon she finds herself walking the same deadly path as her father all those years before. Vi must decide how far she’s willing to go to save her house—before her house destroys everything she’s ever known.

My thoughts:

As I began reading A Treason of Thorns, I was pulled right into the story. I loved the magical thread running through the story; and the fact that a house was imbued with a magic of its own. So much happens in a house and so many secrets occur within it walls. I love that this fact is transformed into magic in this story. While reading it, I could imagine the large houses in England of centuries past and the power that they used to have within society.

I felt a connection with the characters in Weymouth’s second novel much more than I did with the characters of her first. The reason could be that I enjoyed the inner strength of Violet – as well as the fact that she is loyal both to her House, Burleigh, and to her childhood friend, Wyn. In the novel, Violet has a series of choices to make and it is not always obvious what it is that she will choose. In order to make her choice, she comes to a few realisations about herself and what is important to her. I am tempted to say that Weymouth’s character development of her heroine is far stronger in A Treason of Thorns than it was in her first novel.

I enjoyed the magical quality of this novel and it is a perfect story for fans of fantasy fiction. The fantasy, however, is not too far removed from human history: readers can make a connection to the not too distant past (or even the present) when thinking of the influences of the Great Houses in society. It is a story that reminds us of the magic of the Great Houses in England. I enjoyed Weymouth’s storytelling and I look forward to reading her next offering.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 89th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Crier’s War by Nina Varela

At the Frenzy Presents event at the end of August, I was lucky enough to receive one of the books that interested me: Crier’s War by Nina Varela.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, LGBT

Blurb:

After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.

My thoughts:

Goodreads describes Crier’s War by Nina Varela as a Fantasy novel. While reading it, however, it had more of a science-fiction feel to me as it describes a world that is overtaken by human-made creations. The novel describes a possibility in a far distant era on Earth, and not on a mythical land.

The story describes a contrast between the Human and the Automae: two creatures that are at odds with one another and who both want their freedom – the Humans from enslavement of the creatures they created; and the Automae from their dependence on the humans. The politics of the Automae reflects the ideology followed by many humans in today’s world; a worldview that centres on keeping one’s culture and race separate from others.

Crier’s War is not just a story set in a possible future. It is a story that deals with separatism, as well as with being different. It is a story that reflects a realisation – and then acknowledgement – of difference within one’s self. It is a story that hints at the possibility of living in harmony (a possibility that I guess will be explored more in the second novel of the series). And it is a story that explores humanity and what it is to be human.

The two main characters in the story – Ayla and Crier – experience a growth throughout the novel. I enjoyed seeing their own self-realisation unfold as I turned the pages. The more I read about them, the more I grew to understand them and to like them as characters. It is a beautiful thing to see a young person come into their own and Varela describes their unfurling subtly and gently.

I enjoyed the world created by Varela as well as the characters that people her world. The novel ended on a cliffhanger and at that perfect moment. Now I need to wait for the release of the next in the series – and I am hoping that it is not a long wait. I need to know what happens next!

If you enjoy fantasy and science fiction stories, you will enjoy this one. In addition, it is a queer story with beautiful character development of young people. This is a series that I have every intention of completing.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 88th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

This year I plan to re-read The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling and during February I read the second book in the series: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This novel is available in a beautiful illustrated edition and this is the edition I read for my revisit into the Hogwarts world of magic.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy

Blurb: 

The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls’ bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone — or something — starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects . . . Harry Potter himself?

My thoughts:

I loved Harry Potter’s world the first time I read the series and my enjoyment was not diminished with a second reading. I smiled at the mischief Harry and his friend Ron got up to, and enjoyed reading about their stealthy adventures in the corridors of Hogwarts.

My enjoyment of this book was amplified by the paintings by Jim Kay in the illustrated edition. The paintings are beautiful renditions of favourite characters and he does them great justice. Like a young child, I ‘read’ the images in the book and admired the detail in Kay’s work.

I am reminded again of why children love this story so much: it is full of magic, adventure, as well as relatable characters. I look forward to reading the next installment in the story.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 15th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

I was lucky to receive an ARC for Julie Kagawa’s novel Shadow of the Fox. I had heard from someone who had read the novel that it was an excellent example of fantasy fiction and I could not wait to begin reading it.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Blurb: 

One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.

Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.

Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.

There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.

With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.

My thoughts: 

I love reading fantasy novels and opened this one with glee. Within the first few pages, I was entranced by the Japanese lore that is intricately woven into Yumeko and Tatsumi’s story. Even though I do not know much of Japanese culture and myths, my enjoyment of this story was not hampered. The unknown is subtly explained to me; and the cultural practices Are shown to me by the actions and words of the characters.

While reading the first novel in this series, I grew to love the characters: the innocent Yumeko, the battle-hardened Tatsumi, the humorous Okame, the noble Daisuke. I thrilled at the battle scenes and smiled at a budding romance. The intrigues captured my interest, and the descriptions of the world described in the novel absorbed my imagination. I enjoyed reading Shadow of the Fox and was happy that I had chosen to read it over the weekend – I would have had difficulty putting it down to go to work! I look forward to reading the next installment in the series – and I am sure to go and purchase myself a final print copy.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 69th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: The Iron Flower by Laurie Forest

At the Frenzy Presents Event hosted by Harper Collins Canada to which I was invited, I received not only a copy of The Black Witch by Laurie Forest, but also an ARC of the second book in the fantasy tale – The Iron Flower. After reading the first volume of The Black Witch Chronicles, I was eager to read the second and dove right in. I had quickly become a fan of Laurie Forest and was eager to read more on the world she had created, and read the stories of the characters I had come to love.

Genre: young adult, fantasy

Release Date: 18 September 2018

Blurb:

Elloren Gardner and her friends were only seeking to right a few wrongs, but their actions have propelled them straight into the ranks of the realm-wide Resistance against Gardnerian encroachment. As the Resistance struggles against the harsh rulings of High Priest Marcus Vogel and the Mage Council, Elloren begins to realize that none of the people she cares about will be safe if Gardneria seizes control of the Western Realm.

With tensions heating up in Verpacia, more and more Gardnerian soldiers continue to descend upon the university…led by none other than Lukas Grey, now commander of the newly rebuilt Fourth Division base. Though Elloren tries to keep him at arm’s length, Lukas is determined to wandfast to her, convinced that she has inherited her grandmother’s magic—the prophesied power of the Black Witch. As his very nearness seems to awaken a darkness inside her, Elloren finds it more and more difficult to believe that she’s truly powerless, as her uncle always claimed.

Caught between her growing feelings for the rebellious Yvan Guriel and the seductive power offered by Lukas Grey, Elloren must find a way to stay true to what she knows is right and protect everyone she loves…even if that means protecting them from herself.

My Thoughts: 

I absolutely loved the first volume in this epic saga (The Black Witch)  and hoped that Forest would continue with all that I loved of her first novel in the second. I was not disappointed. The representations of the characters I had grown to love were just as rich; the attacks on society just as subtle. The germinating seeds of the Resistance in Elloren as described in the first novel in this series, begin to flower in the second. Our protagonist grows even more as a person in this volume in spite of – or because of – events out of her control.

I do not want to tell you too much of the story as I would not want to spoil it for you. What I will tell you is that Forest’s descriptions of those peopling Gardenia once again entranced me. I could see the detail in my mind as I was reading: the hair and colour of skin, the dress, the beauty enhancements. While reading, I held my breath with Elloren; and my heart raced for her as she worked towards the safety of her friends. I was invested in the story and hoped that the outcome for her and her friends would be a positive one.

I read book 2 of The Black Witch Chronicles in two days over the Labour Day weekend (and the tome is not short). I could not put the book down and immersed myself willingly in a fantasy world filled with dragons, selkies, and fae people. The grandeur of this world is an epic one and one which – when I turned the last page – left me wanting more.

The Iron Flower  by Laurie Forest is an excellent read and a perfect sequel to the first. If you are looking to start a new series, or you are looking for an epic read, I do suggest reading The Black Witch Chronicles – you will not be disappointed.

Review of Book 1: The Black Witch  by Laurie Forest

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 5 stars with no hesitation.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 60th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)