Woven in Moonlight | Review // First Read of Hispanic Heritage Month!

Greetings readers!

Today I am excited to share my first review of my Hispanic Heritage Month read. This is one of my most anticipated reads of 2020 and I am so grateful that I was able to get my hands on it!

I would like to thank the Canadian Manda Book Group for sending me an ARC! This is in no way affects my opinions!

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez

Woven in Moonlight
via Goodreads

Pub Date: Jan 7th, 2020
Publisher: Page Street Books
Goodreads

A lush tapestry of magic, romance, and revolución, drawing inspiration from Bolivian politics and history.

Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight.

When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place.

She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princess, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge—and her Condesa.

The Likes:

I really liked the plot of the book, it was very politically charged and dealt with themes of colonialism and revolution. It really shows how grey and complicated it is to discuss this subject, but also how necessary it is. The kingdom of Inkasisa has suffered centuries of conquest and has recently felt the rumbles of a revolt that has the kingdom headed down a rough path. Ximena, an Illustrian, was part of the group that was overthrown by the Llacsans. She had a very one-sided view of how the world worked and she was constantly painting the Illustrians as the victims. What I loved to read about was her growth in understanding that Illustrians were not blameless and that their racism led to this mass schism and eventual revolt. However, the book doesn’t show that the revolt results in perfect harmony either and I loved that Ibañez didn’t shy away from writing about the corruption of power.

I also loved how the author displayed this cycle of violence that persists when people choose to always focus on the differences between groups of people instead of A) embracing the diversity of cultures and B) Seeing the harmony that also exists between cultures. I know that Ibañez was heavily inspired by the political climate in Bolivia, which just makes this book all the more realistic and authentic.

The magic system had to be my favourite aspect of this book. Ximena’s weaving of moonlight (title epiphany!!!) was so cool. And while I don’t want to give too much away, I must say that the cover is quite a revealing piece…..*wags eyebrows* Lots of characters in the book practiced magic and I was super intrigued to see everyone explore their powers.

You’ll honestly probably be hungry after reading this book. Ximena does a lot of eating and there are so many delicious foods described in this book. Luckily there is a glossary at the end for those who want to know more about the tasty treats. Beyond the delicious food, there was a wonderful exploration of culture in the book. There was a lot of talk about traditions, clothing and religion. Most of it fiction, but a lot of it was drawn from Bolivian life. Safe to say that the world building is top notch and you really get immersed into the life and conflict of the people of Inkasisa.

I liked how the ending set up the companion novel. I really, really liked the drama at the end. It was bittersweet because it is a reflection of what happens in real life when opposing views sever bonds.

The Questionable

The characters were just not in it for me to win it. I feel like this is such a cop-out for not enjoying a book, but I cannot lie about how I feel. Ximena, whose name I forgot was Ximena half the time since everyone referred to her as “Condesa”, was a decent character to say the least. I wasn’t totally in love with her but I didn’t mind reading from her perspective. It was actually very interesting reading about her growth from this close-minded, hostile girl to a more open-minded one. I understand that pretending to be someone you are not is pretty much a guaranteed way to lose yourself, so I liked that we got this self exploration plot. I can’t say that I really connected with her. Maybe a little when she would talk about having to unlearn an almost heritable hatred and the discomfort of re-evaluating your whole life, but other than that…meh. There was nothing really exciting to look forward to with her, this feels like such a horrible reason for not enjoying a character…

Rumi fell so flat to me. I…couldn’t. Like I found nothing remotely intriguing about him and I cannot even think of one thing right now that made him interesting. It’s not that he was bad and I in no means hate him, but he was just there. I didn’t connect to him in any way which is upsetting because I really wanted to find him interesting.

The other characters were slightly more intriguing. Like Atoc, the dictator, although he was pretty nasty. The priest guy and Atoc’s sister were also very, very interesting. They had lots to do with the twists which I really like.

The romance, I did not buy. It really tried to sell me this enemies to lovers thing which did happen, but I didn’t find myself involved. It probably has to do with my lack of connection to the characters. I just felt nothing. I had no feels. How do you ship, if you have no feeeeeellllzzzzz.

The pacing was quite slow and there weren’t many action packed moments. The author does kind of make up for it with some twists and secrets. But the single most important twist was so obvious, I just couldn’t.


Overall, this book was good, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for. Maybe I aimed too high with my expectations which is the likely culprit of my disappointment. I hate to call it disappointment though because this book has a really important message and I think that the YA world really needs to read this message.

Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars

Recommend:  Yes, on the basis of the plot and it’s overall meaning.

Let me know what you think! Are you looking forward to picking this up? What politically charged books do you enjoy? Have you ever had the problem of not connecting to characters?

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

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The Dreamer Duology | Series Review // I AM IN LOVE.

Greetings readers!

The following review will probably make no sense. I tried my best to be eloquent and we should all know by now that when Rendz tries to be smart she does not sound smart.

ANYWAYS. WELCOME TO A VERY GUSHY REVIEW. I AM SO EXCITED TO SHARE MY THOUGHTS ON THIS SUPER HYPED SERIES THAT I HONESTLY THINK IS WORTH THAT HYPE.

It is PHENOMENAL.

Strange the Dreamer & Muse of Nightmares
by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1) Muse of Nightmares (Strange the Dreamer, #2)

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Goodreads

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep.


*Many thanks to HBG Canada for sending me finished copies for review! You are the real MVPs in this line of work!*

THIS IS ALL LIKES

Where do I even begin? Gosh. I have had this series in my possession since last fall/winter and yet I had never found the right moment to pick it up. I was always too nervous. Do you know how incredibly hyped this book series is? Laini Taylor is a household name in YA and the first time I read one of her books, it didn’t go as planned. (For many reasons, most of them having to do with my level of maturity)

Well I can safely say that this series is undoubtedly AMAZING. Hella weird, but so, so, so wonderful! This is a story that is so complex and yet 100% comprehensible. Never was there a moment where I was lost or side tracked or doubtful of how things were. I have to applaud Taylor’s amazing writing style and organization. She crafted this story so elegantly that while you consume the words on the page you grow with immense knowledge of the world and it’s history and characters. You get lost in this story and it is a good kind of lost, the kind where you don’t even notice the pages slipping by because you are so incredibly immersed in the story.

The characters were absolutely phenomenal. Lazlo, Sarai and the rest of the gang were incredible. They were fleshed out beautifully, incredibly dynamic and complex. Ruby was hilarious, Sparrow was a sweety pie but also a boss, Feral was clueless but also fun and Minya was the first 6-year old that I called a b*tch and yet wanted to hug close to my chest. Thyon took some getting used to that’s all I will say, but he is also so incredibly interesting and his growth through both books is huge! Eril-Fane, I don’t even know where to start, but his story was so heart-breaking and complex and bitter and seemingly hopeless, but it’s a journey and it’s not easy and it might have spiritually broken my heart. Azareen, was a boss and broken and tough and vulnerable and so so so many more things. My heart ached for her every single time she was on the page!

Lazlo was everything. He is the Soft Boi™. I can’t think of a single other dude who beats his status of softness. I love him. I love him. I love him. I think I might actually be in love with him. Like he is scholarly, compassionate, funny, painfully naive, warm, passionate, he’s got a little bit of a dark side. Truly, I think I’m in love and this is coming from the girl who loves bad bois i.e. Carswell Thorne. Anyways. Lazlo was the perfect star for this series, from his humble origins to his big adventure, every step of the journey was charming and crazy and dangerous with him.

Sarai. People speak of her as if she is a spoiler, but I don’t think so. She was also soft. Like the cutest thing ever, but she can literally make you go insane (?) so like she’s also dangerous! I loved everything about her! From her dedicated love to her siblings to her compassion for dreamers and her love of life! Gosh when things happened to her I felt like sobbing. The end of book one is literally so HORRIBLE (in a good-story kind of way) that I didn’t know what to do with myself. Sarai’s goes through a lot and journeying with her and having to deal with all that she has done is an incredible adventure.

The chemistry Lazlo and Sarai had! *screams* I think it is the only sort of insta-love I will ever accept. INCREDIBLE.

Okay, this world is weird and really intriguing. I have an imagination, but Taylor has an Imagination. I loved Weep and it’s surrounding cities. I loved how complex it’s history was and how much it suffered for it. The creatures of this world are unlike like any others I’ve ever read. When shit gets weird, you know it’s a High Fantasy and this is a prime example of it! Taylor’s exploration of Weep and the world is so amazing and covers a lot of ground. The culture of the people is so beautiful and yet marred by it’s history. Gosh, it is amazing. It actually celebrates a girl’s first menstruation with a tattoo around the belly which is so cool!! And no aspect of the culture is left just to be, it is integral to plot and wow I just LOVED IT.

I keep talking about the history of Weep and I won’t say much because you really have to experience it to get the full meaning of it all. But I will say is that it deals with my most favourite, favourite plot-line ever: Divine Intervention. And let’s just say that the gods are not nice in this one. And they wreak havoc. And the consequences of that damage is so monstrous that both gods and humans don’t know how to move on.

The history and whole plot of the story deal with such hard questions. Taylor did not hold back. If I were more eloquent in these reviews I would do a full analysis, but I’m not so I’ll just tell you that it’s hard. It made me question a lot of the notion of heroes. Heroes who do the unforgivable to win. The trauma they might have after “winning” and the shame/guilt that comes with it. The way sorrow consumes a community as much as it does a person. The prejudice and hate that exists because we are taught to hate and choose to pass it down. How we reconcile the unforgivable to move forward, if that is even possible? How all-consuming vengeance can be and how it drains a person of their will to truly live. It’s an endless series of questions. Not all of them have answers, but I just love the way the book explores these themes and challenges the reader to think. 

The endings to both books are so incredible. Book one ends in a shock, that had me speechless! I didn’t know what to do with myself! Book two has quite an ending too! I did not see it going in that direction and there is one little bit that made me sob inside!

On the more technical side. The pace was perfect. Actually book one was a little heavy and slow in the beginning and it takes a while for the adventure to start, but I really liked that we got this full background so that we were fully prepared to take on the rest of the story! Other than that, the pace is great. The suspense had me going wild, it was just right to keep me intrigued all the time. The writing, as I mentioned before, is stunning. It was absolutely beautiful. The action was less fight-y and more of a ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh what the heck are we gonna do now??? kind of thing. Although book 2 has it’s moments and there are lots of flashbacks too!

THE MAGIC. I can’t say much about it. But the powers were quite unique. It gets a 10/10 from me.


Overall, I loved this series. I thought the writing was beautiful. The story was elegant, intriguing, thought-provoking and fun! It’s a story starring a book-nerd and a life-lover. The characters are amazing, the world is lush and horrific and enchanting. Everything about this series is perfectly thought out and wonderful. It’s a thrilling read!

Ratings:

Strange the Dreamer: 5 / 5 Stars

Muse of Nightmares: 5 / 5 Stars 

Recommend: ABSOLUTELY 100% YES.

I definitely look forward to picking up Taylor’s previous series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone and co. I have a feeling I’ll have a better appreciation for it now!

Let me know what you think! Have you read this series? Tell me everything! Who are your favourite characters? Did you like the ending? Do you hope for more? Have you read Taylor’s other work?

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

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The Brilliant Dark | Blog Tour // Review

Greetings readers!

Today I’m very grateful to bring to you my review for the final book in a Canadian YA Fantasy series! The Realms of Ancient series by S.M. Beiko has been a whirlwind of fun to read since book 1! This is one of the few urban fantasies that I’ve read that are set in Canada and well you know how Patriotic Rendz gets!

If you want to know more about my thoughts on book one and two, follow the links!

Scion of the Fox

Children of the Bloodlands (arguably my favourite of the three!)

The Brilliant Dark by S.M. Beiko

The Brilliant Dark: The Realms of Ancient, Book 3

Pub Date: Sept 24th, 2019
Publisher: ECW Press
Goodreads

The highly anticipated final installment in Beiko’s thrilling YA fantasy trilogy

Seven years have passed since the Denizens, people with elemental powers, were unmasked, and seven years since Roan Harken and Eli Rathgar disappeared into the Brilliant Dark.

Marked by Darklings and Death alike, Saskia is a mechanically minded Mundane, raised by Barton and Phae on daring stories about Roan Harken. But the world Roan left behind is in turmoil. The Darklings now hang in the sky as a threatening black moon, and with the order- maintaining Elemental Task Guard looking to get rid of all Denizens before they rebel, Saskia’s only option is to go into the Brilliant Dark and bring Roan and Eli back. But nothing is ever that simple. 

The Brilliant Dark is the final, thrilling chapter in this series about gods, monsters, and the people who must decide if they’re willing to pay the ultimate price to protect the family they found . . . in a world that may not be worthy of saving.


Buy It!

Amazon CA | Indigo


*I was provided an advanced reading copy by the publisher*

The Likes

I did not expect the story to pick up seven years after the events of the last book, and I’ll be honest it threw me in for a loop. It took a while to wrap my head around, but from the very first chapter I understood why it had to be this way. Beiko chose to explore what the world would be like if one day a whole population of magical beings visibly manifested their existence along with the revelation that they had been manipulating how the rest of the world had been working. Us regular folks would find ourselves lost in the balance of the world and having to deal with this “alien race” of people more powerful than us. And as soon as the world “alien” pops up people get scared and then they get defensive. There is fighting, discrimination, oppression all in the name of “peace.” I really enjoyed Beiko’s exploration of this topic and how even perceived to be “peaceful” countries like Canada are not immune to self-destruction.

The magic system in this series is a little complex, but I really like it. It’s animal-based but also element-based with a deity system and we all know how much I love it when the gods come out to play and mess up literally everything. It gets even more complex as the events of the books go by and things gets twisted! I had a lot of fun with it, although I think a diagram or like an index of some sort would have been helpful in keeping track of it all!

The characters were great as usual. Except for maybe Saskia! *hides in shame* She is a super important voice in the story, but I was not feeling her. I couldn’t really connect to her at all and her chapters were really long. The other characters, however, were really great. My poor Phae has had a rough seven years, not to mention the fact that Barton has gone missing. Natti is still a boss and I wish we could’ve gotten more from her.

Now let’s get to the stars of it all. Roan and Eli. Ugh, I love them. Roan is just a great voice through and through. She is a stubborn, lost, unwilling-turned-willing heroine that has sarcasm to last a lifetime. Then there is Eli who honestly started out as a villain in all this and had to work hard to get to where he is now. Together these two create such a wonderful dynamic, a literal force to be reckoned with. They butt heads constantly which is why things take a bad turn during the seven years. There is this one twist between the two that had me shocked, it was fantastic because I honestly didn’t know how they were going to come back from that!

Now the ending has me upset and feeling crushed. But it’s a good kind of crushed that still has me thinking about it which is always a good sign!

The Questionable

Besides the fact that I was not Saskia’s biggest fan, this book is very slow at the start. I think that’s why I questioned the decision to set it seven years in the future. That’s a long time, meaning it’s a new world that has to be built up again which means there are many points of info-dumping. There are also a lot of flashbacks, which some I enjoyed and some I found unnecessary, that stalled the plot further. This book is also in the third person, so we get POVs from anyone and some I just didn’t really care for.

About the Author

SM Beiko credit Teri Hofford

S.M. Beiko is an eclectic writer and artist based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She also works as a freelance editor, illustrator, graphic designer, and consultant in the trade book and comic publishing industries in Canada and the U.S. Her first novel, The Lake and the Library, was nominated for the Manitoba Book Award for Best First Book as well as the 2014 Aurora Award.


Overall, I enjoyed this book. I thought it was a wonderful conclusion to a great fantasy series that is quite unique in it’s setting and characters. Personally, the original characters are the stars of the show and the conclusion to their journey is a bittersweet one so be prepared!

Rating: 4 / 5 stars 

Recommend: Yes! It’s very unlike anything I’ve read before!

Let me know what you think! If you could have an animal familiar, what would you choose? If you could have an elemental power, which would you go for? Have you read this series or are thinking about picking it up?

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

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The Humiliations of Pipi McGee | Review // This is laugh-out-loud funny, it’s truly great

Greetings readers!

Middle school happened a long time ago for me. Maybe not that long, but it’s a while and I don’t think about it often. It’s not that I had a horrible time there, but middle school is tough and sometimes embarrassing stuff happens/did happen and I block those memories out. Still sometimes I reminisce about what it was like and I cringe and laugh at the same time.

Well cringing and laughing was all I did while reading this book and honestly I had an amazing time!

The Humiliations of Pipi McGee by Beth Vrabel

The Humiliations of Pipi McGee

Pub Date: Sept 17th, 2019
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Goodreads

The first eight years of Penelope McGee’s education have been a curriculum in humiliation. Now she is on a quest for redemption, and a little bit of revenge.

From her kindergarten self-portrait as a bacon with boobs, to fourth grade when she peed her pants in the library thanks to a stuck zipper to seventh grade where…well, she doesn’t talk about seventh grade. Ever.

After hearing the guidance counselor lecturing them on how high school will be a clean slate for everyone, Pipi–fearing that her eight humiliations will follow her into the halls of Northbrook High School–decides to use her last year in middle school to right the wrongs of her early education and save other innocents from the same picked-on, laughed-at fate. Pipi McGee is seeking redemption, but she’ll take revenge, too.


*Many thanks to Hachette Canada for sending me an ARC*

The Likes

Pipi was an absolutely phenomenal character. I loved almost everything about her. From her tragic, self-pity to her rock hard determination, her guilt and shame to her newfound confidence. She had such a grueling time growing up being *that kid*, the one that everyone either tries to avoid or makes fun of. I just wanted to cuddle her and tell her it’s going to be alright, but obviously that couldn’t happen! Besides all that, Pipi is such a wonderful, authentic voice for this story. She is funny, self-deprecating, selfish and sweet, all in one. Perfectly flawed because she’s still just trying to figure out who she is.

There are lots of other character to talk about. Pipi’s family is one colourful bunch. They are far from the conventional nuclear family and I loved them! There is a lot of hilarity to be had from them and also some really heartfelt moments. Then there are the characters from Pipi’s school and THEY are QUITE and INTERESTING bunch. There are so many antics that happen at school, it is truly cringe-worthy and laugh out loud funny.

The actual plot itself is a revenge story. And like all revenge stories there are some major scenes of “Oh SNAP” and trust me you get those kinds of scenes in this book! Are they perhaps to the same degree as other revenge stories? Maybe not. They are on a whole other level of fun and frenzy. I loved every step of the way as Pipi tried to seek out vengeance for all the embarrassment she has suffered over the years, but of course not everything goes as planned. 

But if we get down to the nitty-grittiness of it all, this is a story about bullying. The cause-and-effect of it and what happens when you try to forgive. Middle school is rough and Pipi goes through some harsh stuff. Like we’ve all had embarrassing episodes, Pipi’s are on another level and Vrabel perfectly captures the brutality of being laughed at for messing up. It’s not funny when it’s you who is being laughed at. It’s hard and I empathized with Pipi and all the she went through. Especially the tragedy of 7th grade, but we don’t talk about that. If I’m being honest though, I experienced something similar to that too although mine was very low-key.

I can’t say for certain if I learned my lesson in forgiveness after reading this. It’s a shameful confession I know. I still wanted to exact vengeance at the last moment there (because it was one of the cruelest things done to Pipi!) But forgiveness and moving forward is a lesson that is constantly being reaffirmed throughout the story which I think is super important for kids to read so they don’t become cynical adults (like me). 

The story is also one of identity. Lot’s of characters in the book are struggling to find out who they are and where they fit in this dysfunctional world. I think a lot of the identity stories will resonate with all kinds of kids who are just trying to be comfortable with who they are.

And the book is just funny okay! It is freaking hilarious. I had the absolute best time with it. (How many times do I have to say this?!) If I had to mention the one questionable thing is that it takes a while for things to get moving, but you almost don’t notice because you are either laughing or cringing from second-hand embarrassment!


Overall, I loved this book! I highly recommend it for anyone really! For those readers in middle school and those who have already past that stage. It’s a heart-wrenching and heart-warming coming of age story. It’s funny, kind of outlandish but also so, so important because bullying sucks and this book politely gives it the finger.

Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Recommend: Absolutely!

Let me know what you think! How was your life in middle school? Do you like reading Middle Grade books that combat themes like bullying? Have you ever had something so truly embarrassing happen to you in school? No need to share if you don’t want to! 😉

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

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The Witching Hours: The Troll Heart | Review // Just in time for Spooky Season!

Greetings readers!

It’s September, so you know what that means? We are approaching Spooky Season! I know some of y’all have been celebrating spooky season since August, but I don’t officially start until the weather has chilled! And basically that’s today!

Last year, I read the first book in this MG series and honestly had the best time with it. So I am very glad to be bringing you my review for the sequel today!

The Witching Hours: The Troll Heart by Jack Henseleit

The Witching Hours: The Troll Heart
via Goodreads

Pub Date: Aug 13, 2019
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Goodreads

The second book in a spooky new series for only the bravest of readers–perfect for fans of The Spiderwick Chronicles!
After their adventures in Transylvania, Anna and Max just want to stay out of trouble. But trouble has other plans…
The Professor takes them to the foggy fields of England, where a new mystery is already afoot: a small boy has vanished near a strange and mysterious river, lost without a trace. Armed with her magical white knife, Anna is convinced that another monster is behind the boy’s disappearance. But when the sinister secret of the river is finally revealed, will she and Max be able to save the missing boy–and themselves?
A deliciously scary modern Brothers Grimm tale, The Troll Heart will keep readers turning pages long after things start to go bump in the night.


*I was provided an ARC by HBG Canada!*

The Likes:

The characters were phenomenal, just like in the first book! We have the lovely, spunky and curious Anna and the ever-so-loyal, mischievous Max! They make such a wonderful pair because they act like real siblings! One minute they’re annoyed with each other, the next minute they are joined at the hip ready to conquer the shadows that lurk in the corners.

There were other quirky characters to be had in this book, like their Professor/father, the hotel owners, farm animals, the creepy and horrifying creatures and others who make this story a lot more interesting. I wish we could get more time exploring who they are, but these are adventures all about Anna and Max!

I thought the setting in a cold, isolated foggy English town was perfect for the story. Much like the first, the atmosphere was perfectly chilling and smoggy. There were so many shadowy corners and very creepy corners. I was so invested in the town and characters that I felt transported!

The plot was very interesting. I liked that despite the fact that it was a new setting, a new fairy tale that the repercussions of the previous novel were still very much pertinent! Anna and Max are still reeling from their previous adventure and have to garner up enough courage and cunning and wits to face a new foe. They’re adventure is a spooky one no doubt, but also full of little funnies, suspense and is fast-paced. The troll was absolutely remarkable! I loved the way he was depicted and the fear he instilled in the characters.

The illustrations, while sparse, were perfect for the book. I loved the scenes that were depicted and obviously wish for more!

The Questionable

It’s a minor one. I think this book was less horror and more mystery. It was scary in some parts, but I felt like throughout the whole story revolved around a riddle to solve that required more wits and brains. I still liked it, I just didn’t get those intense horror-vibes.


Overall, I enjoyed the book very much. It was the perfect follow-up to The Vampire knife and I think lots of middle grade readers will love the series. It’s fun, fast-paced and perfect for the oncoming spooky season!

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Recommend: Yes!

Let me know what you think! Have you read this? What spooky books are you looking forward to this fall season? Would you be brave enough to face a troll?

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

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MINI REVIEWS! | Library Reading Round Up! // Dealing in Dreams & Kingdom of a Blazing Pheonix (These are long overdue)

Greetings readers!

It’s time to do some wrap-up on my first (of only two) library haul. I was hoping to get my hands on these two books and I was so glad that they were both available at the library the day I went! I wish I had gotten these reviews out a lot sooner, but better late than never right?!

So Imma cut the intro short and just get to it…

Dealing in Dreams by Lilliam Rivera

Dealing in Dreams

Pub Date: March 5th, 2019
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Goodreads

At night, Las Mal Criadas own these streets.

Nalah leads the fiercest all-girl crew in Mega City. That roles brings with it violent throw downs and access to the hottest boydega clubs, but the sixteen-year-old grows weary of the life. Her dream is to get off the streets and make a home in the exclusive Mega Towers, in which only a chosen few get to live. To make it to the Mega towers, Nalah must prove her loyalty to the city’s benevolent founder and cross the border in a search for a mysterious gang the Ashé Ryders. Led by a reluctant guide, Nalah battles other crews and her own doubts, but the closer she gets to her goal, the more she loses sight of everything—and everyone— she cares about.

Nalah must do the unspeakable to get what she wants—a place to call home. But is a home just where you live? Or who you choose to protect?

***

  • So the world building is great. It’s totally clear, I get the history and geography of it (even though there is no map). It’s a matriarchal futuristic society with girl gangs running the streets, yes it sounds as cool and scary as it seems. I would not, 100%, I would not survive in this world. It doesn’t allow girl to be soft and I am softtttt
  • The characters…I enjoyed reading from Nalah’s POV. I thought she had such a rich voice and her determination to keep her family safe is admirable, although she does not always make great decisions
  • Reading about characters who have to challenge the thinking they have been always told to do is always eye-opening because it is not easy, it is uncomfortable, but ultimately important
  • The dreaming aspect of the book was really cool. I loved how it acted as a currency and literally embodied the idea of money as a drug because it is a drug.
  • The tension, action and twists were great. I pretty much expected most of them, but they were still quite enjoyable
  • I was not the biggest fan of the writing style…I know it was styled to fit how these teenagers would talk with their slang and colloquialisms but I just wasn’t a fan. It’s not that I wanted them to talk in giant complex sentences, but I felt like it was all super choppy and cut. I missed the flow. it just wasn’t for me…
  • The ending isn’t conclusive and I get why it’s not, but I maybe would have liked a little more closure
  • I just felt mellow the whole time, like I never truly, fully felt immersed into the story. There was a lot of down time where the characters were just travelling. I was invested but still absent in a way.

Overall, I think my expectations were too high and my hype too much for this book. It was good but just not that jaw-dropping story I was hoping for.

Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars

Recommend: Yes! I still think it is a very relevant and timely read!


Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix (Rise of the Empress #2)

Pub Date: Nov 6th, 2018
Publisher: Philomel Books
Goodreads

This fairy tale retelling lives in a mystical world inspired by the Far East, where the Dragon Lord and the Serpent God battle for control of the earthly realm; it is here that the flawed heroine of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns finally meets her match. An epic fantasy finale to the Rise of the Empress novels.

Princess Jade has grown up in exile, hidden away in a monastery while her stepmother, the ruthless Xifeng, rules as Empress of Feng Lu. But the empire is in distress and its people are sinking into poverty and despair. Even though Jade doesn’t want the crown, she knows she is the only one who can dethrone the Empress and set the world right. Ready to reclaim her place as rightful heir, Jade embarks on a quest to raise the Dragon Lords and defeat Xifeng and the Serpent God once and for all. But will the same darkness that took Xifeng take Jade, too? Or will she find the strength within to save herself, her friends, and her empire?

Set in an East Asian-inspired fantasy world filled with breathtaking pain and beauty, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is filled with dazzling magic, powerful prose, and characters readers won’t soon forget.

Fans of Stealing Snow, Red Queen, and The Wrath and the Dawn will hungrily devour this page-turning read.

***

  • It is about time I get to this read! I loved Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, an Evil Queen origin story, which was great!!! And I am so glad that this book is the Snow White retelling!
  • Jade was awesome! I really enjoyed her shyness, her courage (which she worked hard to find) and her will! I know lots of reviewers complained about her, but I thought she was amazing!
  • In the last book, I complained about not knowing a lot about the mythology of the world, but this book brought all the magic and myth and legend to life! It was truly epic!
  • DRAGONZ
  • The romance was maybe still a bit out of no where but the LI was so sweet!
  • The fact that I loved Xifeng in book one and then in this one…girl…she uh she uh she is definitely an evil queen.
  • This book made me sympathize for the Emperor after I called him a bitch who knows how many times throughout book one!
  • That scene with Xifeng and a certain someone…AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
  • This was a fabulous quest book!! It held a lot of suspense and action and lots of things went wrong!!!
  • The ending was a little too rushed, I wished we could have had a little more time to develop it.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book! I loved Jade and reading her story unfold in contrast to Xifeng’s was quite fun! I cannot wait to read Dao’s next book which is set in the same world but new, original characters!

Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

Recommend: Yes! This is honestly a great series to diversify your retelling lists!



Let me know what you think! Have you read either of these? Are you more of a dystopia fan or fantasy fan? How about a mix of both?

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

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The Caged Queen | A Canadian Dragon Tales Buddy Read Review

Greetings readers!

It’s time again for another round of Canadian Dragon Tales, A Buddy Read Review starring me and the wonderful, Sha @ Book Princess Reviews.

Sha and I have had a fabulous time buddy reading different books together, although not all of them feature dragons! And we are so happy to bring you the review for this book today! A few months ago we read The Last Namsara by Kristen Cicarelli (an actual Canadian Dragon tale!) which we both adored and this past month we had the chance to read it’s companion novel!

So without further ado, we present…

The Caged Queen (Iskari, #2)
via Goodreads

Title: The Caged Queen (Iskari #2)
Author: Kristen Ciccarelli
Pages: 400

Release Date: September 25 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Format: Paperback

Genre: Fantasy
Goodreads Rating: 4.11 (of 1,983 ratings)

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Once there were two sisters born with a bond so strong that it forged them together forever. Roa and Essie called it the hum. It was a magic they cherished—until the day a terrible accident took Essie’s life and trapped her soul in this world.

Dax—the heir to Firgaard’s throne—was responsible for the accident. Roa swore to hate him forever. But eight years later he returned, begging for her help. He was determined to dethrone his cruel father, under whose oppressive reign Roa’s people had suffered.

Roa made him a deal: she’d give him the army he needed if he made her queen. Only as queen could she save her people from Firgaard’s rule.

Then a chance arises to right every wrong—an opportunity for Roa to rid herself of this enemy king and rescue her beloved sister. During the Relinquishing, when the spirits of the dead are said to return, Roa discovers she can reclaim her sister for good.

All she has to do is kill the king.

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The Likes

Sha: We finally got context on the deep hatred between the Scrublanders and the Firgaardians. The enmity was explained in detail, drawing on decades of unfair taxing and regulations. I appreciated this strength of Ciccarelli’s in Book 1 (focused on slavery) and I continue to love it in The Caged Queen: she weaves in these topical issues, giving an otherwise fantasy novel real-world weight. 

Rendz: Having the expanded knowledge of the world was definitely a plus in this book. Not only did we get a better understanding of who these new people were but we get more history and more tales of myth! I loved the lore of the story and even though this book is not really a Divine Intervention plot, the stories of divine figures are very important! There was also boatloads of intensity and action! I was stresssesssed!!!! Every single time I opened this book my blood pressure soared! It was a great feeling because it meant I was super into the book!

Sha: Another love I had in this book was the return of beloved characters from The Last Namsara. We got to see newly-appointed commandant, Safire. (I would have liked to see a bit more on her struggles fitting in to her job, but it was still touched on and I *know* it’s not her book). The cuteness and fire himself, Torwin, barely had a page worth of time but his lines make me want to reread The Last Namsara immediately.

Rendz: Ugh every time Torwin stepped onto the page, I got heart eyes in my eyes! I wish we had gotten to see more of him and Asha, but what we got was truly magical! As for the other characters…hmm let’s see. I enjoyed reading from Roa’s POV. She was brash, angry and vengeful but also full of heart. I got frustrated with her at times (many times) because this girl needed some major perspective!!!! However, I still enjoyed her ferocity! As for Dax. He turned out to be more questionable than I imagined. On the Rendz Love Interest hierarchy scale…he is definitely a Boy Toy.  As for Theo…….ugh. Just ugh.

Sha: I know, like, 100% am positive that Rendz will agree with me that the shining star (heh heh if you read the book you get that little pun) in this book is not the romance. Not the dragons (I know!!). It’s the absolutely beautiful and I mean BEAUTIFUL relationship between Roa and her sister. Correct me if I’m wrong, we didn’t know the entire story behind Roa’s hawk in Book 1. It was just, “Yeah, this girl likes her hawk a lot.” In The Caged Queen, that is expanded and the bond between the two is absolute heart eyes. 

Rendz: Hehe *gets pun* I do, I do 100% agree. I had such a hard yet not-so-hard time between the relationships with the story. On one hand I absolutely adored the sister relationship! It was exactly what a sister-relationship is. It’s long lasting, it’s rocky, it’s magical! Having two sisters myself made me sympathize a lot with Roa and Essie! On the other hand the romantic tension was killing me. And on top of that there is Love Triangle nonsense—that honestly we didn’t really need to worry about, but still. I found it unnecessary! 

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The Questionable

Sha: This is a very unique and personal “negative” experience I’m about to share. But a few times I forgot I was reading The Caged Queen and thought I was actually reading The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. There were some character resemblances, a similar love triangle, and the journey our MC Roa goes on mimics Shazi’s. I’m NOT saying this book is a copy. Please don’t think that. The ending is completely Ciccarelli’s own. But in my head I found myself comparing the two books or flat-out mixing them together. 

Rendz: I need to reread The Wrath and the Dawn to see the similarities because I am slacking! As for me, I think my biggest pet-peeve was that the politics and romance clashed for me. I felt like the politics were so intriguing to read about, but Roa’s thoughts always went back to romance. I know Sha feels differently about this, but I feel like it was a major distraction for me. Then again it could just be my own brain distracting me. Ugh, Rendz. 

Sha: The ending was a bit rushed for my taste. We spent a lot of time building up the story (which I didn’t even realize was a build up) and when the real climax hit, I was three-quarters through the book. Does anyone else get a bit stressed seeing the “left to read” pages dwindle but the stack of problems facing our MC are only going up? That was me. 

Rendz: Yes, I agree! The ending needed more meat. I was stressed the whole way through reading. Literally I was tearing my hair out and swearing at the characters (which in this case was a very good thing–because I was always in it to win it with this story). However, the final scenes were just not enough to fully satisfy me. I was hoping for I don’t even know what. Just more. I mean, it was sweet, but I want moreeeeeeeeeee. 


Ratings:

Sha: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Rendz: 4 / 5 stars 

Overall rating: 4.25 / 5 stars

Do we recommend?: Um YES. OBVIOUSLY YOU NEED TO READ THE LAST NAMSARA FIRST BECAUSE IT IS SUPERIOR. But this one is lots of fun and intense too!



Let us know what you think! Have you read this? Are you interested in reading it? Do you have any recommendations for us to buddy read together? 

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

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