ARC Review- Yvain: The Knight of the Lion

Yvain
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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

My Rating: ★★★★☆

See other ratings and reviews at Goodreads, then check out the author’s and illustrator’s websites!


The short version: This was a fun, easy read. If you’re looking to break into graphic novels or Arthurian Tales for the first time, this is a great place to start.Read More »

Mixed Feeling About This Historical Gender-Bend

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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.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

See other ratings and reviews on Goodreads, then, checkout the author’s website!


The short version: For the most part, I enjoyed Kiersten White’s book. A sort of gender swap historical fiction, And I Darken kept me wanting more from beginning to end.Read More »

Another Great Addition to a Great Series

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Title: Empire of Storms
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Type: Fiction
Genre: YA Fantasy
Length: 693 pages
Published by: Bloomsbury Publishing
Pub Date: Sept 6th, 2016
Format: Harcover
Source: I purchased this book for myself via Amazon.

See other ratings and reviews on Goodreads, then checkout the author’s website!


*This review will contain unmarked spoilers for the rest of the series (otherwise, everything would be a spoiler)

**One quick disclaimer: I would definitely recommend reading the novellas before this book. A lot of the favors called in and many of the people visited are introduced in the novellas, and having read them will definitely make this book more enjoyable.**

The short version:
I LOVED this book. There are very few things I would change, and I think it makes a great addition to the Throne of Glass family.Read More »

“Wow” Doesn’t Begin to Cover It

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Title: Filthy Labors
Author: Lauren Marie Schmidt
Type: Poetry
Length: 104 pages
Published by: Northwestern University Press
Pub Date: Apr 15, 2017
Format: PDF
Source: A digital copy was provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

See other ratings and reviews at Goodreads, then check out the author’s website!

 


The short version: If you only read one book of poetry this year, let it be this one. As someone who loves poetry, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It was beautifully written, and provides incredible insight to those who feel most forgotten in the course of humanity.

The long version: Let me first say, I am in awe of this book. The last poetry book that I read, I finished in a day. It was a quick, easy read that left me feeling pretty good about myself afterward. But Lauren Schmidt’s Filthy Labors, with its poems on family, religion, and the Haven House for Women and Children, didn’t allow me to do that.

Despite the fact that this book had less than a hundred pages of poetry, it took me four days to read it. It wasn’t that it was difficult to read or unenjoyable. The reason I read so much slower than usual was because so many of the poems were so beautifully written, that I was afraid of reading this book too fast; I didn’t want any of the poems to get lost amidst the rest.

When I say these poems are some of the most well-written poems I’ve read, there’s a lot that comes into play. Each section of poetry is prefaced by a quote from Walt Whitman, which sets up the perfect framework for the following poems. The lines are full of musicality and lyricism; there’s so much rhythm and internal rhyme and assonance that I actually had to read many of them out loud, because I just wanted so desperately to hear them instead of just read them. The structure of the poems is involved, too. There’s a healthy balance between free-form poems and poems that are more traditionally structured; you’ll see a smattering of villanelles, pantoums, and other poem formats. Line and stanza breaks are in the perfect places to imply double meanings, or to set the speed and tone of the poem. Even the order in which the poems are printed worked its magic on me, pushing me to read more right up to the end.

Despite how amazingly well-written these poems are, this is not a book to read if you’re looking for something that will allow you to sit there and feel good about yourself afterward. This is much more a call to action and, at the very least, contemplation. Schmidt doesn’t come across as preachy or judgmental, but in her explorations of her own dealings with family members and other people in her life, she challenges her readers to question how they themselves have treated and thought about their fellow humans. (There were several times when I was just sitting there thinking something like, “I can’t believe you would say that about your own grandfa– Listen, I may have thought it before, but YOU’RE the one who wrote it down and published it!!” But, of course, that’s pretty much what she’s getting at.) She also questions why we sometimes think of helping others as a sort of filthy chore, and what we are doing to change those thoughts.

Long story short, this was an amazing collection of poetry, and I can’t wait for its publication date so I can buy a hardcopy to keep on my poetry shelf. If you have any interest in reading poetry, I would definitely find a copy of Filthy Labors for yourself!

Overall, I gave Filthy Labors 5 stars:

5-stars


Thanks for reading! If you plan on reading this book, let me know why, or, if you’ve already read it, let me know what you think in the comments below!

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Pleasant Poetry Collection

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Title: the princess saves herself in this one
Author: Amanda Lovelace
Type: Poetry
Length: 208 pages
Published by: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Pub Date: First published April 23, 2016.
Format: PDF
Source: A digital copy was provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Check out other ratings and reviews on Goodreads, then check out the author’s website!


The short version: If you like poetry, read this book. Many of the poems were ones that would be covered in red had I handed them in to my poetry professors, but I still loved these poems, and as subjective as it is, I feel a little more myself after having read them.Read More »

Lost in the Allusion

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Title: With Paper for Feet
Author: Jennifer A. McGowan
Type: Poetry
Length: 96 pages
Published by: Arachne Press
Pub date: Feb 23, 2017
Format: PDF
Source: A digital copy was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

See other ratings and reviews at Goodreads, then check out the author’s website!


The short version: If you enjoy poetic re-imaginings of folklore, Shakespeare, and religion, I would recommend this book.

The long version: Jennifer McGowan’s With Paper for Feet challenges the way we have viewed people, specifically women, in our stories, religion, and history. Broken up into five sections, this book deals with women in folklore, Greek mythology, Shakesperean plays, history, and Christianity. In short, this was a book that I really, really wanted to love.

Instead, I didn’t really know how to rate this book. It was difficult for me to read it all the way through to the end, but not because of poor writing.

The poems in this collection are actually pretty well-written; there is a lot of musicality within each line, so that the poems themselves are easy to read and enjoyable. I appreciated the way the sections were broken up by context; a section for folklore, one for Shakespeare, one for religion, etc. I think, more than anything else, I loved the feminine re-imaginings of traditionally male perspectives; the re-writings of Helen of Troy and Lady Macbeth were among my favorites.

That being said, I had a difficult time finishing the whole book. You could probably say my biggest issue stemmed from myself: I didn’t know where about a third of the references came from. I would have a rough idea of, “Yeah, this is Shakespeare,” or “I’m pretty sure this has something to do with Greek mythology,” but there were so many times when I had to stop reading so I could look up who I was even reading about, it took a lot of the fun out of it for me. There were so many that I had to look up that I finally just gave up and hoped for the best without the context. Which is unfortunate, because, with a lot of the poems, they lose a lot of significance if you don’t understand their context. I would have loved to see some epigraphs or something with some of the poems just to help situate the reader with the speaker. Make it possible for me to still enjoy the poem, and then sate my curiosity later.

A perfect place for context would have been at the division between the sections, which, at the risk of sounding petty, is one place I was hoping for more creativity. Instead of just “With Paper for Feet: Section Three,” I was expecting something like “Section Three: With Ink for Ears” (I’m bad at this, I know) or anything other than a robotic “Section Three” to signal we were changing perspectives, and to help situate us in that new perspective.

Long story short, this book is full of some great poems! It didn’t work well for me, but if you know a lot of literary women (or are willing to put in the time to do some research), I would definitely recommend this book.

Miserable MC Ruined it for Me

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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.

See other rating and reviews on Goodreads, then checkout the author’s website!


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:

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!

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