Book Review: First Sister by Linden A. Lewis

The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis was the third novel I had been accepted for on Netgalley by Simon & Schuster Canada. I chose to apply for this one as the novel is a science fiction one and I was intrigued by the blurb.

Publication Date: 4 August 2020

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

Blurb:

First Sister has no name and no voice. As a priestess of the Sisterhood, she travels the stars alongside the soldiers of Earth and Mars—the same ones who own the rights to her body and soul. When her former captain abandons her, First Sister’s hopes for freedom are dashed when she is forced to stay on her ship with no friends, no power, and a new captain—Saito Ren—whom she knows nothing about. She is commanded to spy on Captain Ren by the Sisterhood, but soon discovers that working for the war effort is so much harder to do when you’re falling in love.

Lito val Lucius climbed his way out of the slums to become an elite soldier of Venus, but was defeated in combat by none other than Saito Ren, resulting in the disappearance of his partner, Hiro. When Lito learns that Hiro is both alive and a traitor to the cause, he now has a shot at redemption: track down and kill his former partner. But when he discovers recordings that Hiro secretly made, Lito’s own allegiances are put to the test. Ultimately, he must decide between following orders and following his heart.

My Thoughts:

I loved this diverse read and see it as a prime example not only of the fantasy genre, but also of science fiction. What I enjoy most about this genre is that often the author is expressing a commentary on the society in which we live – and Lewis is no exception. She explores how a group of people are silenced – both a race, and a gender. In the case of women, their voices are literally taken away; in the case of the marginalised group their rights and ability to speak out are taken away from them by poverty and disempowerment. The author makes references to colonisation and hints at the injustices that it brought about.

In The First Sister, Lewis explores the power the use of technology brings to a group of people; as well as how this power is abused. Linked to this exploration is the corruption of power and how those in power use it to further their own ends. I suspect this exploration will continue in the next book of the series and be expanded even further. I look forward to seeing where Lewis will take this theme.

I enjoyed getting to know Lewis’ characters; and seeing the way in which they interact with one another. I see, too, the potential for their growth which will, I am sure, be expressed more in the following novels. I appreciate the fact that the characters embrace a diverse group of people giving the novel an added richness.

The action of the story ends nicely but the reader is left with some unanswered questions – questions which certainly encourage me to be on the lookout for the next novel in the series. I enjoyed the themes explored in The First Sister as well as the characters. The novel is expertly written and I found it difficult to put aside. If you enjoy fantasy and science fiction novels, this is a novel for you. In addition to reading about a futuristic world, you will also be encouraged to think on our social practices and what is done to silence large groups of people.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 107th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: May Day by Josie Jaffrey

I have enjoyed Josie Jaffrey’s writing in the past and when she was looking for reader’s to review her latest novel, May Day, I sent in my application. I was happy to be accepted and read the novel as soon as it had arrived.

Genre: Fantasy

Blurb:

If the murderer you’re tracking is a vampire, then you want a vampire detective. Just maybe not this one.

It’s not that Jack Valentine is bad at her job. The youngest member of Oxford’s Seekers has an impressive track record, but she also has an impressive grudge against the local baron, Killian Drake.
When a human turns up dead on May Morning, she’s determined to pin the murder on Drake. The problem is that none of the evidence points to him. Instead, it leads Jack into a web of conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the country, people to whom Jack has no access. But she knows someone who does.
To get to the truth, Jack will have to partner up with her worst enemy. As long as she can keep her cool, Drake will point her to the ringleaders, she’ll find the murderer and no one else will have to die.
Body bags on standby.

May Day is the first book in Josie Jaffrey’s Seekers series, an urban fantasy series set in Oxford, England. 

My Thoughts:

I have enjoyed Jaffrey’s vampire stories in the past and looked forward to reading this one which is a little different from her usual as it describe the case of a Seeker – otherwise known as a detective. The author blends perfectly the world of solving a mystery with that of a vampire story. The mystery part of the novel was so well done that I often forgot that I was reading a vampire story!

Jack Valentine is the star of the novel – and I love her! She is sassy, brash, and takes no nonsense. I enjoyed seeing a strong female character in the story – one who makes mistakes and does her best to fix them. Another character that I enjoyed was Killian Drake. I hope to see more of him in other stories alongside Valentine as the connection between the two of them makes for interesting reading.

As with all the other vampire novels that Jaffrey has published, May Day is a well written story with pacing that has been perfectly pitched. I was thankful that I read this one while on break as there was no need for me to begin working. Instead, I was able to sit on the sofa and complete this story in one sitting.

If you enjoy detective stories and are curious to see how vampires would fit into this scenario, pick up a copy of May Day. You may be surprised by how much you love it.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 89th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Currently Reading: Throne of Glass

On Friday I began the first novel in a series I am reading with a group of people on Instagram. The Throne of Glass series is a young adult fantasy set of books that was written by Sarah J. Maas. This series is continuously referred to in the Bookstagram community and I decided I needed to read and enjoy it as well.

The first book in the series is titled Throne of Glass.

As expected with a series, I did not get to know too much about the characters in the first novel. However by the end of the book, I did want to know more about them – so much so that even though I said I would read the series with others, I could not wait an entire week to begin the next novel in the series. Today saw me opening the pages to the next book: Crown of Midnight.

I suspect I will continue on with the series until I am done – especially as I have all the books on my shelves. My interest in the story has been peaked and I am looking forward to reading the rest. I don’t feel too guilty about not waiting for the others in my group as I know of one other who is also reading ahead.

What are you currently reading?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Currently Listening: Wand Fasted

Currently I am listening to a novel I have previously enjoyed: Wand Fasted by Laurie Forest. My intention is to listen to all of the audiobooks of the series before the next book is available in June.

I am enjoying this revisit of a story and characters that I have previously enjoyed.

What are you currently listening to?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

Book Review: Thorn by Intisar Khanani

When at the OLA Super Conference earlier on in the year, I picked up Thorn by Intisar Khanani out of curiosity. I am always interested in reading fantasy novels and this one contained a retelling of a little known fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retellings

Blurb:

For Princess Alyrra, choice is a luxury she’s never had … until she’s betrayed.

Princess Alyrra has never enjoyed the security or power of her rank. Between her family’s cruelty and the court’s contempt, she has spent her life in the shadows. Forced to marry a powerful foreign prince, Alyrra embarks on a journey to meet her betrothed with little hope for a better future.

But powerful men have powerful enemies–and now, so does Alyrra. Betrayed during a magical attack, her identity is switched with another woman’s, giving Alyrra the first choice she’s ever had: to start a new life for herself or fight for a prince she’s never met. But Alyrra soon finds that Prince Kestrin is not at all what she expected. While walking away will cost Kestrin his life, returning to the court may cost Alyrra her own. As Alyrra is coming to realize, sometime the hardest choice means learning to trust herself.

My thoughts:

I loved this novel and am not surprised that this Indie author’s work was picked up by a large publishing house. Thorn is a retelling of The Goose Girl, a fairy tale that had been written by the Brothers Grimm. Khanani does an excellent job at recreating the story and putting her own twist on it.

Thorn is a commentary on the social structures that exist in our society; and the divide that exists between the rich and the poor. in addition, references are made to the abuse and treatment of women – and how often abuse is ignored. Through the depiction of women abuse, Khanani asks what is Law, and who is meant to benefit from it. This story is more than just about a girl and her experience in a foreign city.

Alyrra is a character who is well-developed and experiences growth i the story. Not only does she realise things about herself, but she also becomes more aware of her surroundings and of the way in which the society she lives in operates. She comes to realise, as well, that she has a responsibility to uphold the rights of its citizens; and that she can do her duty to society with the strength of others. I enjoyed reading of Alyrra’s growth and the path she takes to find her inner strength.

Thorn is an excellent example of the Fantasy genre and I would recommend reading it with no reservation.

PS: There is a short story at the end of the novel which shows how so much can be said in a few pages!

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 40th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Beckonng Shadow by Katharyn Blair

For my third audiobook since the stay-at-home mandate, I chose to listen to The Beckoning Shadow by Katharyn Blair. I chose the novel for a number of reasons: it is a fantasy, the cover is striking, and it was immediately available from the library.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Format: Audiobook

Blurb:

The Magicians meets Fight Club in this heart-stopping contemporary fantasy stand-alone about a teen girl with special powers who seeks redemption through a dangerous tournament that guarantees the winner a chance to undo the past. Perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare and The Young Elites, and written by debut author Katharyn Blair.

Vesper Montgomery can summon your worst fear and turn it into a reality-but she’s learned the hard way that it’s an addictive and dangerous power. One wrong move and you could hurt someone you love.

But when she earns a spot in the Tournament of the Unraveling, where competitors battle it out for a chance to rewrite the past, Vesper finally has a shot to reverse the mistakes that have changed her forever. She turns to Sam Hardy, a former MMA fighter who’s also carrying a tragedy he desperately wants to undo. However, helping heal Sam’s heart will mean breaking her own, and the competition forces her to master her powers-powers she has been terrified of since they destroyed her life.

My thoughts:

I am slowly being converted to the enjoyment of audiobooks as I can enjoy the stories that have been written by authors while being creative myself (I listened to this one while working on my bullet journal). This audiobook, however, introduced me to the fact that the narrator’s voice does have an impact on my appreciation of the story.

The voice of the narrator for this audiobook I found to be too forceful. Her tone often felt aggressive and I felt myself wondering whether I would have received the impression of aggression if I had read the text of the novel instead of listening to it. There were times, too, when I felt the narrator did not pause at the correct moments in her reading of the text.

While listening to the story, I felt the main character came off as whiny – and the storytelling to be a bit repetitive. Again I wonder if I would have felt this way if I had read the novel myself. I felt I could not connect with the main character as, on some level, I had the sense that she was immature and did not grow at all during the story.

The Beckoning Shadow was an ordinary story for me and did not capture my imagination. It is not a story I will listen to again and am not that interested in reading/listening to the sequel.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 38th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold

When I saw that Elana K. Arnold had brought out another book titled Red Hood, I purchased a copy without even looking at the blurb. I had enjoyed her previous novel and looked forward to reading this one.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Retellings

Blurb:

Since her grandmother became her caretaker when she was four years old, Bisou Martel has lived a quiet life in a little house in Seattle. She’s kept mostly to herself. She’s been good. But then comes the night of homecoming, when she finds herself running for her life over roots and between trees, a fury of claws and teeth behind her. A wolf attacks. Bisou fights back. A new moon rises. And with it, questions. About the blood in Bisou’s past and on her hands as she stumbles home. About broken boys and vicious wolves. About girls lost in the woods—frightened, but not alone.

My thoughts:

Red Hood is a fantasy retelling of the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. The novel was the second I had read by this author and I loved it! So much so that I completed it in one sitting.

The entire story is told in the second person – as if someone is recounting the story to the main character. It is an unusual technique but one that works for the story – it is almost as if we are seeing the events through the eyes of another person (as we would if we were watching a film).

The references in the novel are symbolic: the Wolf is the symbol men who prey on women and abuse them; the Hunter is the symbol of the women who stand up for and protect these women. It is interesting to note that, unlike in the original story, the Hunter is a woman and not a man whose role it is to save the woman.

The thread running throughout the story is that women are the ones who can save women – women are the ones who have the interests of other women at heart. The story also shows that women can band together to support one another and fight against the abuse of their kind.

I loved this book for its symbolism as well as for its reflection of women’s empowerment. Red Hood is the second Young Adult novel I have read by Elana K. Arnold – and it won’t be my last.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 33rd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: All The King’s Traitors by Keylin Rivers

My final read during February was All The King’s Traitors by Keylin Rivers. The novel is a fantasy story written by an indie author who contacted me to read and review her novel. I did so with no reservation as I do like to support independent authors.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Dystopian

Blurb:

Over a thousand years have passed since the first Godstones ripped through the skies and mangled the earth. With their fall came centuries of chaos and destruction, but also immense power.

Power that separates humans from Gods.

Now, in the Kingdom of Azanthea, two adoptive brothers flee from unjust conscription.

A fugitive struggles to truly be free.

A double-crossing warrior must choose where his allegiances lie: with his wife or with his daughter.

A traitorous heir to the Kingdom’s throne roams the lands in search of an army to call his own.

A prodigy in the House of Historian competes in a grueling trial to prove her loyalty.

And one God-King rules over them all.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed reading this novel from the fist chapter as I got to know the world and the characters that inhabit it. I did wish for a map insert when I began reading but was soon able to familiarise myself with the world described without it. The story does have a dystopian feel to it as characters often refer to the life humans previously lived.

Rivers creates vivid images with her use of words which enabled me to imagine the world in which her characters live. As with all fantasy series, there are a number of characters to learn about. At no time, though, was I confused and instead grew curious as to how they would all connect. The author’s pacing is perfect as she slowly shows the connections throughout the novel. The connections make sense and left me wondering how they would all pan out.

The novel ends on a cliffhanger – and has left me wanting more! The story slowly builds towards it and leaves the reader with so many questions. These questions are generated naturally and are in no way forced.

Will I continue reading the series? Yes, I definitely will. Not only because the story has left me with unanswered questions, but also because the story is well written. I look forward to the publication of the second book in the series and to my continued enjoyed of the Highwings series. This novel is perfect for fans of Fantasy fiction and for those who enjoy reading series. In addition, you would be supporting an independent author.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 18th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

First Read of 2020

For my first read of 2020, I chose a Young Adult Fantasy novel by Courtney Alameda and Valynne E. Maetani titled Seven Deadly Shadows. The story is set in Japan and embraces Japanese mythology. I am loving the story and the snapshot of a culture that is so different to what I know and experience every day.

Yesterday I met up with a friend and while travelling on the public transit, I took the opportunity to delve a little into the world of yokai, kitsanes, and shinigamis.

My first read of 2020 is a perfect fit for me and hope that Seven Deadly Shadows will be the first of many good stories I enjoy this year.

What is your first read of 2020?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

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)