Title: The Road Between Author: Courtney Peppernell Type: Poetry Length: 288 pages (pretty long for a poetry book) Published by: Andrew McMeel Publishing Pub date: August 29th, 2017 Format: PDF Source: A digital copy was provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
When I read the synopsis for Courtney Peppernell’s The Road Between, I couldn’t wait to start reading it (plus I love that cover!!). A collection broken into eight parts (the cave, the closet, the sky, the sea, the roads, the mountains, the fields, the home), I expected a book of self-discovery and love through small moments in life. I expected something subtle and nuanced, as self-discovery so often is. I expected to love and connect with this collection of poetry.Read More »
Title: Yvain: The Knight of the Lion Author: M. T. Anderson Illustrator: Andrea Offermann Type: Graphic Novel Genre: Fantasy and/or Historical Fistion Length: 144 pgs Published by: Candlewick Press Pub date: March 14th, 2017 Format: Paperback ARC Source: I won this ARC via a raffle at Rochester Teen Book Fest
Title: And I Darken Author: Kiersten White Type: Fiction Genre: Goodreads has it listed as a YA Fantasy, but it seems more like a gender-swapped Historical Fiction Length: 475 pgs Published by: Delacorte Press Pub date: June 28th, 2016 Format: Hard cover Source: I purchased this book from Amazon.
Title: Quests of the Kings Author: Robert Evert Type: Fiction Genre: YA; Fantasy Length: 280 pages Published by: Diversion Publishing Pub Date: March 14, 2017 Format: Digital Source: A digital copy was provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The short version: This book wasn’t as good as I was hoping. For me, when the main character is a flop, so is the book.
The long version: My Summary: The kings of the realms in this world, instead of gaining influence through war, have decided to send knights and adventurers on a “King’s Quest,” a quest all the kings agree on, but only one can win.
These quests never seemed to have anything to do with sixteen-year-old peasant, Natalie, whose primary focus in life is working as many jobs as she can as often as she can so she can provide for her mother and siblings. All that changes, however, when she has a run-in with a vicious adventurer and tries to deal him the justice she knows he will never see. Soon, she’s on the run, seeking help from friends and strangers alike to protect her from one of the most well-known, and blood-thirsty, adventurers.
After reading the synopsis, I requested Quests of the Kings from NetGalley, hoping that it would be a fun read. But I ended up having to force myself to focus to finish the book.
My biggest issue was the main character, Natalie. If I don’t like a main character, I have a hard time enjoying the book, and she was awful! To me, her only redeeming qualities are that she is independent and devoted to her family, and even these traits get pushed to the side later for the sake of the plot. Other than that, she comes off as incredibly selfish and whiny; through the whole story her friends are trying to take care of her and help her, and instead of being grateful, she snaps at them. For some reason, even complete strangers agree to help her when all she has done is yell and complain at them. (I honestly didn’t understand why her friends were all so loyal and forgiving?) By the end, several of the other characters were saying things like, “Wow Nat, you’re so amazing, we’d love to have you on our team!!” And all I could think was “Why would you ever want that?”
And she doesn’t just complain to other characters, she complains to the reader as well. I had to read all these little thoughts and tirades about how unfair it is being a peasant and how hard it is being a woman. The first couple of times weren’t a big deal; since the story is set in a Middle Ages-type setting, class and gender discrimination are both to be expected. But it happened at least once a chapter in just about every single chapter. At that point, whenever she brought it up, I would actually get a little angry; I get it! Move on already! Even after all her needs had been taken care of, she was still cursing and complaining about the nobility, which starts to get unbelievable, especially since the reader had only seen one adventurer (are they even nobility?) actually harm her in any way, and a knight just gave her enough money to live comfortably for the rest of her life. (I understand class structure and such, but it seemed like most of her financial problems stemmed from the fact that her father died, not just because she was a peasant, and the reader doesn’t actually see much gender discrimination, we just have to take Nat’s word for it.)
There were also a few times where she would think/say/do something, and my brain would just stop short going, “That’s not how girls think!” For example, after yelling at everyone because she doesn’t believe they’ve been helping her enough, she turns to the guy she’s been rejecting for years and basically yells “I’m afraid for my life! Doesn’t anyone care that my life is in danger?!?” And then the very next sentence, she’s telling the reader that maybe she does have feelings for him, maybe she’s been wrong this whole time. It was like emotional whiplash that kind of made it seem like the author was trying too hard to make her sound feminine.
She did seem to get better during the last few chapters of the book. (Even though a lot had to happen for her to get there.) I’m not sure if I’ll read the next book, but if I do, I’ll be interested to see if she keeps her new found sense of independence.
Despite how much I dislike Natalie, I actually did enjoy most of the other characters. Reg would definitely be my favorite! I wish we had gotten to see more of the those characters instead of focusing so much on Natalie. There was a lot of potential for some great female friendships, but once the actual adventure started, Nat was the only girl we heard about, and she was always so careless with the people around her.
(This is a very non-specific spoiler, but better safe than sorry)It really bothers me that so many of these people she cared about died and we never really see her mourn them. There’s a sentence at the very end that was like, “Oh yeah, she cried a lot.” But other than that, she doesn’t really seem affected by the deaths at all. Unfortunately, neither was I. We never actually see anyone die, so there’s very little emotion behind it. A random character will tell Natalie, and vicariously the reader, about the death(s) and then the story just plows ahead. The deaths didn’t leave a big enough impact, either as an event or as a catalyst for Nat, to really make me feel anything about them. (end spoiler)
Long story short, I thought the story had a lot of potential, and some of the characters were great, but because I disliked the main character so much, I had a hard time enjoying this story. Even though I think the story could go in some interesting directions, I’m still undecided about whether I’ll actually read books later in the series.
Overall, I gave this book 2 stars:
Thanks for reading! If you plan on reading or have already read this book, let me know why and what you think in the comments below!
Title: Neon Soul Author: Alexandra Elle Type:Poetry Length: 162 pages Publishedby: Andrews McMeelPublishing Pub Date: March 21, 2017 Format: PDF Source: A digital copy was provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Short Version: I was not a fan. It might be okay if you’ve never read poetry before, but if you’re already acquainted with the genre, I’d look for something else.
In her forward for this collection, Alexandra Elle explains, “Truthfully, sometimes I worry that I can’t grab onto my colors because I’m not broken anymore. There’s a lingering fear that being whole threatens my creative voice.” This collection is an exploration of whether being whole, in fact, improves her life and voice, instead of diminishing them.
In my view, poetry should deal with abstract topics through concrete means. There were a few great poems with a few great lines that actually did this. One of my favorites was in “sixteen-year-old self,” where, when talking about love, the speaker says, “love does not require/you to misplace your map or directions/or identity–/it is not permission to lose your way home.” I loved lines and poems like this because, while I am not a huge fan of any sort of love poetry, it presented love in a unique way and let us view love through the very real and relatable sensory feelings of maps and being lost. If all of her poems had been like this, Neon Soul would have easily been at least four stars.
Unfortunately, they were not. Out of 143 pages of poetry, I liked about 30. At the risk of seeming insensitive, the rest seemed like angsty-teenage Facebook posts. To me, a poet’s job is to take a feeling we’ve experienced, and put it into words we never had to describe that feeling, so that when you read it, you kind of go, “YES! That is what I was feeling, but I never knew how to describe it until now.” That doesn’t happen often in this collection.
At one point, a page is dedicated to a poem where the entire poem is just, “there will be many–/or maybe a few…/who won’t ever love you./ and then there will be one/who will.” That was the entire poem. And I just wanted to shout “I KNOW THAT!! I could’ve written that! Explain it to me with words and images I wouldn’t see or use myself!” The only way I know how to describe it is to say that I can’t start asking questions about the stars until I have seen the night. You can’t expect me to go along on an emotional exploration of love until you give me a sensory explanation of it. Because most of the poems were like this, I couldn’t really get into it, and couldn’t bring myself to give this book higher rating.
The end of this book had several poetry prompts, so if you are looking for your very first book to get you into reading or writing poetry, I could understand choosing this one. But if you’re someone who is already acquainted with the poetry genre, I would probably give this one a pass.