Book Reviews · Netgalley · New Releases

Book Review: The Boundless (The Beholder, Book 2) by Anna Bright

The Boundless

(See my review for Book 1 – The Beholder, here)

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, HarperTeen, via Edelweiss+ for an honest review. 

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling

Plot: When Selah found true love with Prince Torden of Norway, she never imagined she’d have to leave him behind. All because the Beholder’s true mission was a secret Selah’s crew didn’t trust her to keep: transporting weapons to the rebels fighting against the brutal tsarytsya, whose shadow looms over their next port of Shvartsval’d. A place Selah hoped she’d never go.

But gone is the girl who departed Potomac filled with fear. With a stockpile of weapons belowdecks and her heart hanging in the balance, Selah is determined to see the Beholder’s quest to its end.

Opinion:

Assuming you read my review of The Beholder (book 1), you will have quickly realized how much I was LIVING and BREATHING for this world.

The messy romances, the adventure, court politics and gowns, propriety, sensibility, duty, folklore and fairy tales

AMAZING!

But when I was knee-deep in The Boundless and sloshing around in enemy territory with a very odd tension/competition dynamic, and a heroine that seems to have blossomed into a badass over night, I was just a bit…

…well…

Le sigh.

After being rushed out of Norway and back onto The Beholder, Selah and the crew are forced to continue the tour to find Selah a husband. But the next stop on the list is the one place they have all been dreading since they embarked on their journey – Shvartsval’d. Within the territories of the Imperiya Yotne and the feared tsarytsya, whom they refer to as Baba Yaga, dangers are lurking around every corner and their moves are closely monitored. The crew plans to get in and get out as quickly as possible, but with Lang having trouble contacting the rebels to unload their weapons, Selah must take matters into her own hands. But even after having to leave the boy she fell in love with, and a confusing romantic spark growing, Selah knows that one wrong move could bring her entire world crumbling down.

This wasn’t horrible by any means, but it was just a little too dull and I was rolling my eyes a liiiiiittle too much.

The intense and emotional roller coaster I was on in The Beholder didn’t cross over into The Boundless, by any means. In the first book, I had practically ever other sentence highlighted, I was overwhelmed with feelings and dazzled by the constant misleading directions the author threw me into. I was smiling like an idiot one moment, squealing like a schoolgirl the next, and gasping like a nun at the sheer audacity and turmoil ensuing. But with The Boundless, I was left feeling like the author missed the mark.

In comparison with book one, these are pretty different books. The Beholder focused on the Selah’s stepmother shipping her off to various countries and eligible Prince’s, so it was very much a Bachelorette styled story that felt like The Selection series, with pirate-like vibes. There was court politics, wooing, and romance. But in The Boundless, the story shifts focus more towards the rebellion and the Imperiya Yotne – the “bad guys” of this tale.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a rebellion series and the shift in the focus isn’t what is irking me about this installment. It’s that the shift between YA Romance to YA Fantasy-Rebellion-Badass Female Lead felt…bumpy? In book one, Selah is SO new to being courted. She had only one crush her entire life, and she had never even kissed the guy. So obviously our girl is shy, awkward, innocent and sort of fumbling through what is expected of her. She has no idea what she’s doing, is too trusting of those around her, and seems to just rush headfirst into every emotional situation.

So when we get to The Boundless, it’s like she suddenly just figured everything out and is now wholly confident, strong, brash, forceful and a master schemer?

I know, I know.

“Those experiences helped her unlock her potential.”

Maybe so, but the transition just didn’t feel organic, and I think it’s because there wasn’t enough focus on building Selah’s character. These books are LONG and there is a lot that happens, but what I was really needing was some extra attention put towards molding Selah so that we, the readers, could actually form a strong connection with her.

After reading book 1, I didn’t completely love Selah but I felt like I had a good understanding of who she was. But now? I can’t really stand her. Her strength felt forced, her wit and quick-thinking seem to have appeared out of nowhere, and she suddenly knows how to put her emotional entanglements aside and focus on taking a dictator down?

Her “I’ll do it myselfattitude wasn’t consistent with who the author had been writing about. In one instance Selah just takes charge and says she doesn’t need anyone. But then she is always waiting to be saved. Waiting for “you know who” to come and save her. Well, which is it? Are you wanting to be saved, or are you doing your own saving?

And speaking of emotional entanglements

Wtf was going on with that weird little almost, but not quite, love triangle?

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I’m going to keep the details on the DL, but I will say this: it felt like the author was trying to emulate a Bella-Edward-Jacob situation, but the execution was just weird and left my face all scrunched up and stuck in a state of annoyed confusion. There was no connection between Selah and “he who must not be named“. In The Beholder, I was hardcore panicking about them getting together, especially after I fell in drooly love with the “you know who” guy. But the fear of it going the way I didn’t want was exciting, and he had an allure and bad-boy/NAGC/mystery sort of aura about him.

But in The Boundless, I just wanted to smack him.

Their relationship got competitive and made even less sense than before, and I was hating every second of it. He was NOT a desirable character in this sequel, and I found their banter and interactions totally strange. THANKFULLY, things turned out how I hoped. But even so, those romantic reunions were so anti-climactic. I wanted to be punched in the face with emotion, not gently handed my wishes on a silver platter by a butler.

Like c’mon, make me beg for it!

Anyways. Once again the names of places and people’s names were confusing and I had a horrid time trying to connect things. I was hoping that was going to be ironed out in this sequel, but it wasn’t. But I am pleased with the book’s outcome and the added levels of intricacies that the author wove in. I just wish there would have been more of this type of plot in the first so that there could have been a seamless transition between the books, but even so, it works.

One of my favorite aspects of this series has been the blending of this new fantasy story with a few other classic fairy tales. We had mentions of The Odyssey, similar elements to Cinderella, and the obvious comparison of Baba Yaga. In Boundless, we get a few extra tales as well. There are a few Little Red Riding Hood mentions, but my favorite was the ode to the The Twelve Dancing Princesses. This gave the story intrigue, mystery and a means to connect certain plot points.

Overall, I liked it, but I definitely didn’t love The Boundless as much as I loved The Beholder. I was riding high on swoon clouds in book 1, and sitting in an even-paced horse and carriage in book two. It was a great story that had a ton of exciting adventure and turmoil happening, and even blended in some new fairy tales that readers will recognize. I guess I just wasn’t ready for the switch in story style, and was expecting a bit more focus and attention on the romance

3 Stars

 

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Binding of Bindings · Book Promo · Books · JKS Communications · New Releases · Reviews · Wrap-Up

Binding of Bindings #28: August Book Wrap-up

Look August
It was fun and all.
We had some good times, some bad times.
But, like, I just can’t anymore.

 

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~* August Book Wrap-Up *~

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1. Terrible Lizard: A Memoir of My Time in the Police Dinosaur Unit by Doug Goodman

Terrible Lizard

Terrible Lizard is an Urban Fantasy that tells the tale of former law enforcement officer, Oak Jones, who spent 7 years in the Police Dinosaur Unit. This fantastic book is a collection of memories and action-packed moments that Oak experienced alongside his partner Banshee, a velociraptor with a tumultuous past.

I have read a lot of books by Doug Goodman, and each time I am more and more impressed with his attention to detail and superb storytelling. This book is suitable for ALL ages, so feel free to read it on your own or with your little dino-loving munchkins.

4-5-stars

(Click here to see my review)

 

2. Forsaken Wrath (The Scorpio Files, Book 1) by Alexander Ferrick

Forsaken Wrath

Forsaken Wrath is the first book in the adventure short story series called The Scorpio Files. It centers on the tales of fortune hunters Nick Reed, known as Scorpio, and Bartimaeus as they embark on an adventure around the world that will lead them to treasures and deep history.

If you were a big fan of National Treasure, The Da Vinci Code or even Pitfall (a game that was released on Atari, but revamped for Wii) then you will absolutely love this book. The writing is excellent, and it kept my attention for its entire 70 pages!

I’m honestly hoping these turn into full-length books, because I NEED!

5-stars

(Click here to see my review)

 

3. The Surface Breaks by Luoise O’Neill

The SUrface Breaks 2

Guys!

THIS one.

My poor heart, is still breaking in two and filling over the brim from the sadness and strength I got from this book!

The Surface Breaks is a feminist re-imagining of The Little Mermaid, and it is EVERYTHING that you, your mother, your sister, brother, father, daughter and son need!

The amount of quotes I inserted in my review for this book was…slightly embarrassing, and honestly, I could have just written a review in quotes. Because I highlighted that many, and it was that good.

This rendition is dark, gritty, and gets real AF. This isn’t a fluffy twist on mermaids and young love. It hits you where it hurts, yanks those heartstrings, and makes you rethink how much of yourself you are willing the shred apart in the name of love.

If you do anything after reading this post, buy this book.

5-stars

(Click here to see my review)

 

4. The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon

The First gIrl Child.jpg

Okay, my review for this isn’t up yet.

So I’ll be brief.

THIS is a newly released Adult Fantasy about a kingdom that becomes cursed to no longer bear daughters, after a chieftain denies his unborn child.

The First Girl Child tells the story of Bayr of Saylok, a bastard son of a cruel chieftain and the woman who cursed the Kingdom, and a daughter named Alba that was born 7 years after the curse went into effect. Bayr is blessed with in-human strength, and has been tasked with protecting Alba and acting as her guardian.

This book was NOT what I was expecting, but I’m not mad about it at all! THIS WAS SO GOOD! The writing, the story-building, the characters, descriptions, EVERYTHING was perfection!

I will have my review posted this weekend or early next week, so look out for it!

 

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So honestly, yea, my August was a little slow. I have been in a distracted slump and finding it hard to read, but I’m back on it.

I have 100 books to read this year, and I am NOT very far, so I have to get it into gear like…yesterday!

Stay Witchy, my loves!

 

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Books · Edelweiss+ · New Releases · Reviews

Book Review: The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill

The SUrface Breaks 2

 

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Scholastic, via Edelweiss+ for an honest review. 

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling/Feminism

Plot: Deep beneath the sea, off the cold Irish coast, Gaia is a young mermaid who dreams of freedom from her controlling father. On her first swim to the surface, she is drawn towards a human boy. She longs to join his carefree world, but how much will she have to sacrifice? What will it take for the little mermaid to find her voice? Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairy tale is reimagined through a searing feminist lens, with the stunning, scalpel-sharp writing and world building that has won Louise her legions of devoted fans. A book with the darkest of undercurrents, full of rage and rallying cries: storytelling at its most spellbinding.

Opinion:

“’How much you are prepared to give up for one you know so little.’”

This isn’t The Little Mermaid tale you know and love.

It’s dark.

It’s painful.

It’s every hurt, wound and fear in your soul that you’ve been unable to express in words.

This book is for the girls who need to know their worth.

For the women who need reminding.

For the boys who must learn to be gentle.

And the men who need to be shown.

 

“A Woman’s no can so easily be turned into a yes by men who do not want to listen.”

 

These waters are dark and deep, so tread carefully.

 

“Either I am silent above the surface, or I spend the rest of my life screaming for mercy down here, the water muffling my cries.”

Gaia knows what it means to live in silence. To listen and obey her father, the Sea King, for his word is law and he is generous. To only speak when spoken to, to keep her tail and physique in pristine condition, and to never deny the wants of a man. But what Gaia truly yearns for is to know why her mother left them for the human world. What it is like above the surface, and how to escape her arranged marriage to a brutal man who looks at her with dominance and greed in his eyes.  As her fifteenth birthday nears, like all mermaids, Gaia will have the chance to break the surface and glimpse at what resides above the water. But when her desires to be free of her tail and to escape her future turns to desperation, she makes a deal that will change her life forever.

“Muireann of the Green Sea cursed me with wanderlust and a thirst for dry air that could not be quenched.”

The Surface Breaks is the heartbreaking feminist re-imagining that I have been needing all year. It beautifully details the sorrows, desperation and fear that women feel on a regular basis. That they are less than, that they are only wanted for their looks, and that they must strip themselves bare in order to be pleasing, worthy or loved. It portrays the life of a young girl and her sisters who have been taught that they are decoration for the pleasure of men, and that their desires are wrong and unnatural if they do not fit into the opinions of men that have been made into law.

“Please don’t touch me, I want to say, but I know that a woman’s body may always be touched if so desired. I am blessed to attract such attention. Everyone says it, so it must be true.”

Gaia is a sweet, gentle, innocent and delicate young girl who yearns to understand why her mother abandoned her. Just like Ariel, she is deeply attracted to the human world by the trinkets and baubles that she has been able to collect on the ocean floor. Her father tells the girls that their mother was weak and gave into her obsession to reside with the humans, and it resulted in her eventual death and capture at their hands.

It was incredibly difficult experiencing Gaia’s sadness and feelings of hopelessness as she went through the motions of her life. She is one of several sisters who are forced to be subservient, to attain a certain level of constant beauty and appeal, and who are married off by the desires and convenience of their father.

“I am the diamond in my father’s crown, and he is determined to wear me as such.”

This book has a dark and nauseating undertone that is necessary to the story, but still very hard to sit with. Gaia is betrothed to a man who is beyond creepy, inappropriate and vile. He treats her as if she is nothing but a doll that has been made for his pleasure and amusement, and she has no say in the matter. I felt suffocated and sick watching her character be treated so horribly. This book touches on some VERY serious themes that may be disturbing for some, so be weary. After all, Gaia was ONLY TWELVE when her father arranged her marriage to a man in his 60’s!

“His lips against my check, too close to my mouth. It is as if he wants to peel my skin away from my body and taste it on his tongue.”

“The nausea might subside when we are bonded”

But the theme of Gaia and the women in The Surface Breaks having zero control over their own lives is a constant! If a mermaid isn’t pretty, thin or appealing enough to the Sea King or any men in the kingdom, they are banished. Gaia is forced to give up her voice in order to be near the man she loves, and the Rusalka girls are treated as vile creatures hell-bent on bringing out destruction. The despair that these beautiful women feel is screaming through these pages, trying desperately to be heard. My heart was aching throughout this read, and I still feel a sense of loss and anger as I sit here typing away.

“’And the pain?’” I ask. ‘Will that go away?’

‘Oh no,’ she replies. ‘But women are meant to suffer.’”

The romance in this story is also an unconventional one. It has honestly left me feeling hopeless for romance in real life, and just reinforces my opinion that book boyfriends are the ONLY boyfriends you should EVER allow in your home. Because the feelings and relationship that Gaia has with Oliver will be able to resonate with EVERY female. That feeling of giving everything about yourself away to gain the attention of a boy. How we so quickly and easily shred, distort and disfigure ourselves in order to feel a glimpse of love from another.

“…I sewed my own mouth shut in the hopes that a boy I barely knew could kiss it open again.”

“All the things that I have ignored about this man in order to make the narrative of true love and destiny fit. I tried to make him as perfect as I needed him to be.”

I am so blown away by the love and intent that was put into this book. Every sentence is purposeful, every feeling, detailed and poetically written. I had SO many emotions racing through me while reading! I wanted nothing more than to reach into my kindle and wrap my arms around these girls. To protect them and tell them it will be okay…even when sometimes, it wouldn’t be okay. This book REALLY hits home and strikes hard.

To be honest, I could probably write this review with only quotes that I highlighted from this book, and that would be reason enough for you to want to buy it immediately. It is a beautiful and distressing tale, but it is a tale with an immensely important message. To know your worth and to stand up for yourself. To care for one another. To treat women with respect. To not shed who you are for the pleasure of another.

Please read this.

“’A woman needs to be strong to survive.’”

 

5-stars

 

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