A CROWN OF WISHES (The Star-Touched Queen, #2): Review (ARC)


29939047A Crown of Wishes (The Star-Touched Queen, #2)
by Roshani Chokshi
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin on March 28, 2017
Genres: young adult, romance, fantasy, mythology
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback (ARC)
Amazon Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound

Rating: ★★★¼


Hmm.

I enjoyed The Star-Touched Queen, although I had my grievances with it. It was tastefully-written and a lovely gateway into an enchanting world. I admired Gauri, and so when I heard she was getting her own book, I got super excited. (Also, a tournament of wishes? Sounds cool, right?)

I liked A Crown of Wishes, but I didn’t love it. Just like its predecessor, something seems missing in this book, and here, that missing X factor is time. We just don’t get enough time with these characters. I wanted more funny banter between Gauri and Vikram, more page time with that vanara (who really could have been a cool, humorous sidekick, if he’d been present for more of the story), more external conflict in the Tournament once Vikram and Gauri arrived.  I finished this book, and I still don’t feel I know the characters as well as I could have.

That being said, I enjoyed both Vikram and Gauri. Both are driven, distinct characters with good heads on their shoulders. Gauri is a warrior, but she’s not heartless. Vikram can’t wield weapons, but he’s cunning. It was a cool balance to read, and a nice twist on the stereotypical fantasy gender roles without being overbearing. I just wanted more on-screen bonding time between our two leads so I could root for their romance more enthusiastically. I’ve always been a slow-burner gal, so maybe that’s part of it, but I did feel like the romance moved too quickly.

The plot in this story is easier to follow than The Star-Touched Queen‘s: Gauri and Vikram compete in certain challenges to win one wish each. Maybe it’s because I hear “tournament” and think “Hunger Games,” but I felt the tournament wasn’t as present in the story as it was set up to be in the blurb. Yes, there are competitors and challenges, but we don’t really see much of the other competitors, and, while there are challenges, most are symbolic. Which is fine, just not filled with much action. Again, fine, but not what I expected.

This review makes it sound like I didn’t enjoy this book, but I did. I enjoyed the characters, and the writing is just as beautiful as always (a memo for anyone who might have been turned off by the writing in TSTQ: the prose is more tempered here). This novel is a story about magic and stories themselves–and about how we hold power over both. And, as both a reader and a storyteller, I found that so clever.

In short: This book was magical, vibrant, and clever–much like a folk tale. It just wasn’t quite a home run for me.

Much thanks to St. Martin’s for the ARC. No compensation of any kind was exchanged for this review.

 

 

 

THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN (The Star-Touched Queen, #1): Review

25203675The Star-Touched Queen (The Star-Touched Queen, #1) by Roshani Chokshi
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin on April 26, 2016
Genres: young adult, romance, fantasy, mythology
Pages: 342
Format: Hardcover
Amazon Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound

Rating: ★★★½ 


I had a hard time making up my mind as to whether or not I would read this book. When I first saw the cover, I thought the answer would be yes. Then I read the blurb and wasn’t sure if it would be my thing.

The answer changed to a probable no when I read a few negative reviews on Goodreads. One trusted reviewer was not a fan of the (in their opinion) overly-flowery prose, which they claimed did not make up for the lack of plot. The quotes this reviewer included in their review sounded more stilted than flowery, so I decided on yeah, no thanks.

But then I saw this book at the library, and my answer changed to just try it.

So, with so much going back and forth on this book, what is my final verdict of The Star-Touched Queen? Well, for one thing, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed the writing style. Roshani Chokshi uses very vivid imagery with vibrant, well-chosen words; you can see the sunsets she’s describing; you can taste the food the characters are eating; you can see the magic of this world unravel around you in spools. As a result, I loved the atmosphere of this book.

However, the writing style might not be for everyone, so I’d recommend checking out a sample on Amazon (or another online retail site)  to see if the prose is something you’d enjoy. I liked it, but that doesn’t mean everyone will.

As a result of such vivid prose, you get a lovely little glimpse of Bharata. It genuinely felt like  a real place to me, like maybe, if I traveled far away and hoped hard enough, maybe I’d find it. I enjoyed the whimsical feel; it gave this story a very fairy-tale-like atmosphere.

However, I couldn’t help but wish there were more side characters in the story after Maya leaves for Akaran. Amar is intriguing and mysterious and sweet (and I wanted wayyyy more of him than we got), but part of his mysterious identity means he’s absent in many parts of the story.

This leaves readers to accompany Maya in her explorations of her kingdom, which, while interesting in that it offers a few more clues to exactly what kind of kingdom Maya has inherited through her marriage, is not enough to make the plot move forward on its own. In most of these scenes, Maya is alone, and, while she’s a sensitive and compassionate girl I could easily sympathize with and root for, her musings alone are not enough to keep this plot going. The book loses momentum in its middle, and something else—perhaps another, more present side character—might have prevented my interest from meandering. Anything would have worked to keep me invested in the story.

This wandering about means the twist seemingly comes out of nowhere—and, don’t get me wrong, I was ripping through pages to get to the end because I was so concerned about Amar–which made the conclusion a little unsatisfying. I wanted more–about Amar, about Akaran, about Maya and her past. But, when I finished the book, it didn’t seem like I had very many answers to those questions.

Fantastical world-building, luscious prose, intriguing mythology, and an alluring love interest–this book has them all. But, in many ways, while The Star-Touched Queen enticed me with promises of a sweet, delectable fruit of a story, my desires were not fully satiated.

 

Mood & Music Monday: 3/20/17

Hello, friends! I’m back! Welcome this week’s Mood and Music Monday!

Mood and Music Monday is a weekly meme I’ve started, wherein I’ll post a song and talk about how it relates to my day/week, as well as a few other things. (And, in case anyone’s wondering, this meme has no relation to Lauren’s [from Always Me] “Music Mondays.”) Feel free to participate and to leave a link to your posts down in the comments!

Here’s the update for this week:

SONG(S) OF THE WEEK

What are you listening to? I love Daughter, and I love Youth’s guitar, so I went on a search for the backing track and found this. It’s proof that every part of this song is beautiful. (See also: the backing track for “Run.”)

What are you reading? Finished Scarlet. Still reading A Crown of Wishes, and planning on starting Cress tomorrow.

What are you drinking? Kombucha and lots of water. 😛

Any goals for this week? Posting reviews! And getting caught up on beta reading.

How about you?

  • What song(s) are you listening to today?
  • What is your current read? Are you enjoying it?
  • Do you have any plans or goals for this week?

FINDING AUDREY: Review

23305614Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on June 9, 2015
Genres: young adult, contemporary (romance), mental health/mental illness
Pages: 286
Format: Hardcover
Amazon Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound

Rating: ★★★½


I haven’t read the Shopaholic series, I’ll admit, so this was my first Sophie Kinsella novel. But, after reading this, I might consider checking out her other books. Because I enjoyed this a lot.

This book gives us a glimpse into the life of Audrey Turner–a girl struggling with a severe anxiety disorder–and the life of the rest of the Turners. It’s a life full of Mom’s hilarious overdramatics, Dad’s awkward yet heartwarming quirks, and Audrey’s brother’s video-games. It’s a life Audrey’s brother’s friend Linus gets to experience when he starts coming over to the Turners’ to hang out. Linus and Audrey form a connection that allows Audrey to, in turn, connect with the outside world, and delve a little deeper into her anxiety, helping her grow.

There are several things this book did very well, and the first was the portrayal of mental illness. Audrey sees a therapist regularly, and this therapist reminds her–quite accurately–that recovery and progress with a mental illness is not linear; there are highs and lows no matter where you are in your life journey. (For those worried Linus will “fix” Audrey: He tries, thinking that mental illness is something that can be “fixed,” but, while Linus helps Audrey make progress, he doesn’t heal her. There’s a very important distinction there, and it makes for a very realistic portrayal of love and relationships with others: other people cannot fix us, but they can definitely make for smoother sailing.) This book shows us some of those highs and lows, taking a very real issue (anxiety) and giving us a very honest, accurate depiction of it.

The result is some great messages about anxiety, mental illness, and recovery in general:

I think what I’ve realized is, life is all about climbing up, slipping down, and picking yourself up again. And it doesn’t matter if you slip down. As long as you’re kind of heading more or less upwards. That’s all you can hope for. More or less upwards.

Another:

We don’t have to reveal everything to each other. It’s OK to be private. It’s OK to say no. It’s OK to say, ‘I’m not going to share that.’

It really hits anxiety and depression right on the mark. I can’t even begin to describe how accurate this is:

The trouble is, depression doesn’t come with handy symptoms like spots and a temperature, so you don’t realize it at first. You keep saying “I’m fine” to people when you’re not fine. You think you SHOULD be fine. You keep saying to yourself: “Why aren’t I fine?”

So, yes, I loved the way this book handled mental illness. I wish we had more books like these.

I also love the Turner family. They’re so strange, but so normal, too? Whose mom doesn’t freak out over the smallest things sometimes? Whose Dad doesn’t make awkward jokes? Whose parents don’t have more than their fair share of awkward moments? Whose children don’t roll their eyes at their parents when their parents are overracting (and aren’t they always? Love you, Mom. 😉 ) This book was so relatable, giving us a flawed, messy family in all its humorous glory. I laughed out loud for over half the book.

Linus is sweet, too. He’s understanding, relaxed, and, well…normal. He’s a normal boy, just like the Turners are a normal family. But somehow that makes all of them more special. I enjoyed Linus’s interactions with the Turners and with Audrey and her brother, specifically; they were fun to read. His romance with Audrey was also cute, if a bit rushed at the very end.

One thing I wish this book would have done (besides making the romance a liiiittle slower at the end) was dive a little deeper into what sparked Audrey’s anxiety. We know there’s an incident at school, but we don’t know much about it. The ending felt kind of abrupt, and I was left wanting more closure on how Audrey’s learning to cope with her disorder, just a tad more on how she’d come to accept it as a part of her. (And that acceptance is a constant process.) I felt a little cheated when I closed the book, because I didn’t get the opportunity to understand/experience Audrey’s anxiety as much as I’d hoped. The book could’ve dug just a little deeper, but we didn’t get there, which left me kind of bummed.

All in all, this is a funny, sweet story with an honest look into mental illness and family life. Pick it up if you’d like a heartwarming contemporary read, or you’re in the mood for a good laugh.

Mood & Music Monday: 3/13/17

Hello, friends! I’m back! Welcome this week’s Mood and Music Monday!

Mood and Music Monday is a weekly meme I’ve started, wherein I’ll post a song and talk about how it relates to my day/week, as well as a few other things. (And, in case anyone’s wondering, this meme has no relation to Lauren’s [from Always Me] “Music Mondays.”) Feel free to participate and to leave a link to your posts down in the comments!

Here’s the update for this week:

SONG(S) OF THE WEEK

What are you listening to? I’m listening to the movie score for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which is really enchanting (and pleasing to the ears without being run-of-the-mill). “Only the Beginning of the Adventure” is my favorite so far.

What are you reading? Finished Unravel Me, and I’ve started Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. Still reading A Crown of Wishes, and we’re getting to a good place; I’m eager to read on. 🙂

What are you drinking? Kombuchaaaaaa.

Any goals for this week? Actually posting here. Goodness gracious.

How about you?

  • What song(s) are you listening to today?
  • What is your current read? Are you enjoying it?
  • Do you have any plans or goals for this week?

March 2017 TBR Pile

It’s a little late for this post, I know. But I’m writing it anyway, because we’re still in March, aren’t we?

Here’s my TBR (TBR = TBRead) for March.


At the beginning of March, this was my TBR:

IMG_7687

Five books. Manageable, right?

Well, the plans have changed since the beginning of this month.


Books I Plan(ned) to Read This Month

27883214Caraval (Caraval, #1) by Stephanie Garber

I was looking forward to reading this book this month after having waited forever for it to come from the library. But I got 150 pages into it before I put it aside. Scarlet was painfully naive, Tella was a brat, and I just wasn’t invested in anything. I was too bored to enjoy what I had read so far, and I figured why keep reading, if I’m not enjoying the read?

 

 

 

 

29939047A Crown of Wishes (The Star-Touched Queen, #2) by Roshani Chokshi

This book comes out this month, and I’m reading it early, because I have an ARC! 😀 So far, I’m enjoying it. Roshani’s descriptions and atmospheric world-building are as luscious and vibrant as always. Gauri and Vikram make quite the team; I’m looking forward to seeing how they write their story in the coming pages. 🙂

 

 

 

 

22297294Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

This book looks really cute, but also heartfelt and meaningful. I don’t normally go for contemporaries, but I’m interested in this one, so hopefully it’ll be good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

13104080Unravel Me (Shatter Me, #2) by Tahereh Mafi

 

I didn’t like Shatter Me as much as I hoped to (the book as a whole felt lacking to me), but I’ve checked out the other two books from the library, so I’ll probably just continue with the series. (Also, the covers are gorgeous.) I just finished this one today, and, ehhh, it was  all right. Still going to read Ignite Me, as well as the novellas (which were also at the library. Maybe someone else was binge-reading?).

 

 

 

13188676Ignite Me (Shatter Me, #3) by Tahereh Mafi

Aaaahhh, this cover is gorgeous. See my blurb for Unravel Me. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


But Plans Change

I ended up snatching a few more books at the library this month, so I hope I’ll be able to read the ones that need to go back ASAP before they’re due.

28818314RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

I was so excited for this novel; I love Phantom of the Opera, and I would love to see more YA retellings of such a fabulous story. This finally came in at the library this month, and I started it almost immediately. But I barely made it to page 50 before quitting. This book was painful for me to read in every way; the prose was boring, the characters were boring–even the plot was boring. (How does one manage to make Phantom boring? Come on!) I kept trying to push myself into continuing and convince myself that I liked it, but, eventually, I stopped lying to myself. Hesitant to pick up Howard’s future books (and, judging by the reviews I’ve read, I wasn’t missing much with that twist).

 

13206760Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2) by Marissa Meyer

Luckiest of lucky finds! I found this at the library, and so I snatched it up.  I just started it today. Hopefully I’ll enjoy it more than Cinder; many reviewers I know who didn’t enjoy that book loved this one.

 

 

 

 

 

13206828Cress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3) by Marissa Meyer

Again, I’m lucky, folks, because this book was sitting right next to Scarlet. It’s long, though, so I’m hoping reading this won’t throw my reading schedule off. :/ Again, hoping I like this more than Cinder.

 

 

 

 

 

22489107Fairest (The Lunar Chronicles, #3.5) by Marissa Meyer

I’ll say it one more time: Lucky. Because guess what else was at the library? 😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

30258320Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts, #1) by Vic James

This finally came in from the library! If I can renew this book, I will; that way I have less on my plate. Otherwise, I’ll try to read it this month. I’m excited. 🙂



27827203Frostblood (
Frostblood Saga, #1) by Elly Blake

Another library request has found its way to me! Just like with Gilded Cage, I hope to renew this one so I don’t have to rush through it, but we’ll see what happens.

 

 

 

 

 


Eleven books is a lot, but I’ve already read one, DNF’d two, and am reading two, so that leaves…six? That doesn’t sound too bad. I’m hoping this is a good reading month for me. 🙂

What about you?

  • How many books will you be reading this month?
  • Which of those books are you most looking forward to reading?

A COURT OF MIST AND FURY (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2): Review

17927395A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)  by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on May 3, 2016
Genres: young adult/new adult, romance, fantasy, retellings
Pages: 624
Format: Hardcover
Amazon Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound

Rating: ★★★★½ 


AHHH. I’m so glad I stuck with this series. This book was so good. In fact, so far, it’s the only Fae book I’ve read and enjoyed.

After reading ACOTAR, I was apprehensive about reading ACOMAF. So many people liked the first book, but I didn’t, so if they loved the first book, would I?

I was worried the answer would be no. I didn’t love Tamlin and Feyre as a couple, but I was all right with them by the end of ACOTAR, so, going into ACOMAF I wasn’t sure about Rhysand as a love interest—both because my first impression of him was less than stellar, and because I don’t like change.

Don’t get me wrong: The first 100 pages or so of this book was boring. Feyre is preparing for her wedding to Tamlin (or, more accurately, watching other people prepare for her wedding to Tamlin), and both of them are still processing the trauma they experienced under the mountain—trauma that is driving a wedge between them and making Tamlin overprotective and uncaring. I commend Maas for being willing to show this trauma; characters are people, guys; if they go through something traumatic, it’s not like that trauma just disappears after the traumatic experiences ends. But I was still very uninterested in the story, and I wondered how I would get through 500 more pages of this. For the slightest moment, I doubted I’d finish the book.

But I pushed through, and now I understand why this book is so long. It pulls you in, slowly immersing you in a fascinating, cleverly-developed world full of culture and customs I loved reading about.

This book is an amazing insight into Maas’s Fae culture, and I loved every bit of it. I want to disappear into this world and become Fae, you guys. I would love it. And I can picture my life here, because I can picture the Day and Night courts, Rhys’s house, the cabins, Starfall. I said in my review of ACOTAR that I wanted more world-building, and here, Maas gives it in abundance.

I also loved the slow development of Feyre and Rhys’s relationship, both as friends, and as lovers. I liked how it wasn’t instant attraction, how each of them have burdens they’re struggling to bear and trauma to get over, but how they challenge each other in small ways —and big ones—so one helps the other become a better person.

I loved how Rhys was patient with Feyre, how he never forced her to do what she wasn’t comfortable with and how he trusted her to judge circumstances fairly. He listened to her opinions, respected her needs, and deferred to her for important decisions she needed to make about herself. He respected her and did not try to undermine. He was supportive of her choices, and I loved that. He treated her like a woman, not a girl. It’s a rare sight to see in YA fantasy—not that all male love interests in YA fantasy are actively working to subjugate their female protagonists, but seeing Rhysand instead actively working to help Feyre and others recognize her own power and influence–and honoring that power and influence—was refreshing.

But aside from that, I love Rhys. He’s cocky sometimes, sure, but he’s definitely not the corny bad boy I thought he was when I read ACOTAR. No, Rhys is a man (or, as much a man as a High Fae can be, I guess). He’s a ruler who cares about the safety and wellbeing of his people—a ruler who would made the ultimate sacrifice for his subjects, and, in many ways, already has. And, on top of that, he’s sensitive and caring and merciful, but strong, too. To me, Rhysand is the perfect example of a happy medium for a male love interest somewhere between “I man you woman” and “sobbing pile of gook.” He’s just so well-balanced, and I love how he pushed Feyre to come into her own—without undermining her needs and without dictating who she will become. The level of trust there is, again, so refreshing and wonderful to read. (I’ll never stop talking about this, will I?)

Also, Rhysand’s inner circle? I love them. Each member is just wonderful in their own way, all fierce, but all compassionate. I wish I had a group of friends like that—friends just as deadly as they are loyal.

There were a few scenes I felt were excessive in content, and the length to which Maas vilifies Tamlin was a bit much for me, but overall this was a wonderful read. It took some time for the book to grow on me, but once I was in, I was slowly submerged in something vivid and engaging and fun. The world-building, character relationships, and even the plot were all constructed so thoroughly that this book didn’t feel (more or less) 700 pages long. I almost wish there was more of it.