Book review: "Aerie" by Jon Keys

Aerie  

I requested Aerie from NineStar Press, LLC on NetGalley based on the description and the fact that it is a blend of fantasy and LGBTQIA+ genres.

Description

 

Askari, Dhala, and Gyam grew up as childhood friends during happier days for the Chinjoka, an Iron Age people with the ability to shapeshift, but now they must learn their place among the tribe while dealing with both a devastating plague and war with the Misiq.

 

Ena is a young warrior for the more savage Misiq, a tribe whose cruelty exemplifies their deity—the Angry God. The Misiq, also shifters, have declared a genocidal war against the Chinjoka, blaming them for the disease devastating both tribes. As a result, they are locked in a battle for survival. But when Ena is shown compassion by those he means to harm, he begins to question all he’s ever known.

 

A chance meeting changes their lives, and maybe their tribes, forever.

 

Review

 

Aerie sort of throws you in the world with little exposition. It took me a second to understand what was happening and why it was relevant. The writing is solid enough, however, lacks the descriptions that would have enriched the experience for me as a reader and made the world easier to comprehend.

 

The fantasy world of Aerie is set in Iron Age, which is not something that is very common for this genre, much less LGBTQIA+ romance. However, one of my favourite indie series has a similar setting and has set the bar pretty high, and, unfortunately, Aerie didn’t live up to my expectations.

 

I was a bit confused about what kind of creatures the characters shifted into: perhaps, some versions of prehistoric animals and birds and dinosaurs? I would have preferred more explanations concerning the magic system and how the gods fit into it as well. The world seemed a bit undeveloped, and most things were explained as “this is how things are”, and that was it.

 

My biggest problem was with the feud between Chinjoka and Misiq which was a big part of the plot. The author failed to fully explain why the war had begun, skipping over details and mentioning briefly that Misiq blamed the other tribe for the plague but never clarified why or how. The use of the world “genocide” in the book which is set in Iron Age was ridiculous. I would have understood “blood feud” or “blood war” or whatever else, but inserting a contemporary term into the narrative was a mistake.

 

The writing was not too bad, and once I familiarized myself with the world, I began to enjoy the story. I did find that the relationships were not as well developed, as I would have preferred. I do, however, appreciate the fact that the sexuality in this world was never an issue and the only conflicts resided either in the war between tribes or within the characters themselves.

 

The book ends with the issues resolved for the characters but not the tribes. I am rather curious to know whether this is supposed to be a stand-alone or not, as the plot certainly can be developed into a series.

 

However, I did enjoy Aerie to a certain extent and I would be interested in reading a sequel if there is ever one.

 

Rating: 3 stars

 

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Book review: "Ibuki" by Kathryn Sommerlot

Ibuki  

I have requested a copy of “Ibuki” from NetGalley. It was marked as LGBTQIA and Fantasy read, which is one of my favourite genre combinations.

Description

 

Ibuki: the gift of healing through breath. Chiasa has possessed the ability since childhood and shares it with her father as they care for their Inuru community. Chiasa has never doubted the stability of her simple life. That is, until Namika, a water-gifted priestess, shows up outside the Ibuki shrine gates with information promising Chiasa’s doom.

 

With Namika’s help, Chiasa is determined to find the secrets behind the ritual that will claim her life, but her growing feelings toward the other woman reach beyond her control, adding to the confusion. Time is rapidly running out, and Chiasa can’t seem to sort out the lies woven through the magic of Inuru and its emperor.

 

Caught in a tangled web of immortality, betrayal, and desire, Chiasa must find the right people to trust if she hopes to stop the ritual—or she will pay the consequences.

 

Review

 

“Ibuki” is a novella long story set in a semi-alternative version of Imperial Japan. The magic in this world is elemental, and only few priests and priestess possess it. It reminded me a lot of various anime series that I watched years ago. The magic system is integrated seamlessly into the narrative and I liked the depictions of the life and everyday tasks that Chiasa had to do.

 

However, the story lacks depth, and the narrative is rather bland, once you look past trite metaphors and cliches. Even the big twist at the end of the story was obvious from ahead and made me only roll my eyes. There was almost no tension or suspense, and the ending didn’t surprise me at all.

 

“Ibuki” is a sweet story if you are okay with cliches and glaring plot holes. I did not find the relationship believable but it was not the worst I read in a short story.

 

I love Japanese culture and language and I studied it for some time years ago. It was lovely to read a story set in Japan, however, I did have issues with the writing.

 

In spite of my opinions on the writing, I am thankful to the publisher for giving me an opportunity to read and review “Ibuki”.

 

Rating: 2.75 stars

 

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Book review: Petra by Marianna Coppo

Petra  

Petra by Marianna Coppo

 

Publication Date: 06 Feb 2018

Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada, Tundra Books

Genre: Children's Fiction

 

Description

 

The humorous adventures of an irresistible little rock who finds herself in constantly changing circumstances, Petra is a picture book that celebrates the power of perspective and believing in yourself.

 

Review

 

I rarely read picture books and, more so, request them for review but Petra looked too cute to pass on. I requested a digital copy from NetGalley and was very happy to be approved for it.

 

I loved Petra! It is an adorable narrative about a little rock that dreams of being many different things. The art looks like it is done with watercolours and has a very simple and clean design. It made me want to a have a sticker with Petra, the rock. It is short but, nevertheless, meaningful in its message: you can be anything or anyone you want if you dream of it! I thought it was well executed. If I had any kids of the appropriate age, I would definitely be buying a copy of the book.

 

My only complain = the book is too short! Would love to read more about Petra’s adventures and learn what else she can be!

 

Definitely recommend.

 

Rating: starstarstarstar

 

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Book review: "Long Way Down" by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds  

I received this book from NetGalley. I requested it after reading the description and thought it would be very interesting to read. I didn’t have much hope for getting the ARC as I am not always successful with big publishers, and Long Way Down is published by Simon & Schuster Canada.

 

Long Way Down is the first book by Jason Reynolds that I have read, even though I heard about All American Boys before.

 

Short synopsis

An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this is National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller Jason Reynolds’s fiercely stunning novel that takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother.

 

This novel is written in verse and is saturated with grief, anger, and pain. I read it in one sitting - and this is how you are supposed to read it, in my opinion - because I couldn’t put it down. It was a very raw and emotional read that was making me more and more uncomfortable and horrified.

 

ALERT: Do not read the full synopsis on NetGalley or GoodReads as it will spoil you the whole thing. And it is too wonderful to be spoiled. I didn’t read past that first paragraph and found the prose to be very profound.

 

 

This book is a cry for help; an angry shout-out. It talks about gun violence, gang violence, poverty, loss, grief. The narrative is both heartbreaking and brutal. It strong enough to leave the mark. It sure did leave the mark on me. It is a hard to describe because it has to be experienced.

 

Read it. And weep. Because this shouldn’t be our reality in this day and age.

 

Publication Date: 17 Oct 2017

 

Links

 

Jason Reynold's website
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Book review: "Black Bird of the Gallows" by Meg Kassel

 

"Black Bird of the Gallows" is a stand-alone, young adult urban fantasy novel with lots of supernatural and even slight horror notes. Let me start the review by saying that this is the most gorgeous cover I have seen this year! I was definitely attracted to the book based on the cover and the prospect of an urban fantasy (because crows and harbingers of death? Hell ya!) and was extremely lucky to receive a NetGalley copy from Entangled Teen. The book is officially coming out on September 5th, and I will provide the links at the bottom of my review.

 

Here is the official synopsis:

 

A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.

Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.

What's more, she knows something most don't. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.

 

I was rather excited to read this book, but, unfortunately, it did not live up to the hype. It is not a bad debut novel, but it lacked depth and solidness of the plot and characterization. The idea of the crows being the supernatural creatures and harbingers of death is not a new one but Meg Kassel takes an interesting spin on it, adding more supernatural forces into the mix. However, a lot of the explanations of the magic and the rules of it were vague, undeveloped, and the ending had a very rushed and ‘Deus Ex Machina’ feel. (Considering how many of YA books tend to have an ending that can be summarized as “well, this happened because it happened”, I am starting to think that a lot of people have never read any classic literature. Go and read the Greeks. It has all been done before.) It was not the worst ending ever but I could tell that this was going to happen a mile ahead.

 

I did not like the fact that the author decided to title every chapter - it is my personal preference not to know what is going to happen in the chapter that I am about to read as all of those titles were basically spoilers. It sometimes took out the fun out of reading the story.

 

I liked all of the characters in the book, which is rare. Well, almost everyone - I am not counting the bullies at school. Angie is lovely, and her father is one of the best supporting characters in YA, as he has both a distinctive voice and is not just a plot device, as it often happens with parents or relatives in the genre. Angie goes through some serious character development, that was well-written and thought through. Her friends are great too - they were both funny, and reliable, and supportive, and everything about them was great for the story. The relationship that they had with Angie was great and I loved how close they remained throughout it all.

 

Let’s talk about Reece now. Okay, first things first: I love angsty and dark characters. I can live off angst. However, in case with Reece it was a  bit overdone. I liked the way he was introduced in the story, as well as his background, his family, etc. But as the book progressed, we were not given any new information or anything else, the author just recycled the same facts over and over again. The plot concerning Reece, his family and the curse can be summarized in a couple of sentences. It is a very alluring plot, but it lacks depth and, ultimately, originality.

 

Have you ever watched the movie "Meet Joe Black" with Brad Pitt? Reece sometimes reminded me of Joe. The Fernandez family had a very strong vibe of Edward Cullen’s family, just on a less violent side. Overall, I did get occasional Twilight vibes from the book (a lonely, angsty girl, who comes to live with her father; a supernaturally attractive and dangerous boy; “the death follows me around” sort of thing, etc), but I guess it can be said about a lot of supernatural or urban fantasy YA books that came out after Twilight Saga (by the way, I am not fan of those books at all).

 

I am not a huge fan of “insta-love” either but it somehow worked in this book. The amount of romance was a bit too much but it was not overly too sweet. I did, however, roll my eyes whenever those kids wanted to make out when the world was basically going to an end around them.

 

I found a couple of copy-editorial mistakes, where things disappeared or appeared out of blue, but since I was reading the ARC, I can not tell if those made it into the final version.

 

I have always loved crows but this books just reinforced my love for these birds. I will never look at the bees in the same way, though.

 

I would have been able to deal with all of those if the style was more solid. The author’s writing suffers from a very common mistake of ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’. The details of the curse are repeated over and over, as well as descriptions of things that happen at school, during the day, etc. Even with the first POV, it is still possible to avoid that. There was a whole passage almost at the very end of the book which was the repeated information, almost word to word, to what the characters had said just a page ago. It was glaringly obvious and redundant. A lot of things that happened during “the tragedy event” were told instead of described, and some of the details were so vague that I felt as if the author rushed through this part, when it should have been one of the major parts of the book.

 

Like I said, "Black Bird of the Gallows" is a debut novel, not the worst but not the best either. I found it cute, but not too original. It was refreshing to read a stand alone novel though. I do feel that the author has a potential to produce great stories, but lacks the skill at this point. Will definitely keep an eye on her future projects.

 

In spite of my opinion of the book, I do appreciate the opportunity provided to me by Entangled Teen to read and review the ARC.

 

Personal rating: ~ 3 stars

 

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Black Bird of the Gallows