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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Book Reviews

Book Review: The Beholder (Book 1) by Anna Bright

The Beholder

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling

Plot: Selah has waited her whole life for a happily ever after. As the only daughter of the leader of Potomac, she knows her duty is to find the perfect match, a partner who will help secure the future of her people. Now that day has finally come.

But after an excruciatingly public rejection from her closest childhood friend, Selah’s stepmother suggests an unthinkable solution: Selah must set sail across the Atlantic, where a series of potential suitors awaits—and if she doesn’t come home engaged, she shouldn’t come home at all.

From English castle gardens to the fjords of Norge, and under the eye of the dreaded Imperiya Yotne, Selah’s quest will be the journey of a lifetime. But her stepmother’s schemes aren’t the only secrets hiding belowdecks…and the stakes of her voyage may be higher than any happy ending.

Opinion:

What is this…sensation blossoming inside me?

*claws at face and chest*

It’s…

It’s unBEARable!

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“You tend to gardens and fields with the women and to the stock with the men. That makes you one of the people. That does not make you their leader.”

As Seneschal-elect of Potomac, and daughter to the current leader, Selah will soon have the responsibility of her country of Potomac resting on her shoulders. And being Eighteen she is expected to marry, to present a strong and united front as she leads her people. But when Selah extends an offer of marriage to Peter, a boy she has always yearned for from afar, and he rejects her proposal, her step-mother and the council take matters into their own hands. She is forced to travel across the Atlantic by ship with a crew of misfits, stopping in several countries and courting the eligible Princes, each for two weeks, in the hopes of proposals. Heartbroken, embarrassed, and only agreeing out of duty, Selah and her crew set off. But the royalty Selah meets is far from what she could have expected, and countless secrets and games are lurking around every corner.

“I didn’t want his proposal. I didn’t want to be a princess. I was never born to wear a crown.”

“Do not waste your efforts on good-for-nothing boys. Do not cast your pearls before swine.

“You are everything you ought to be.

When I started The Beholder…I’ll be honest, I didn’t think it would be that great. I had been debating purchasing it since it released a year ago, and every time I was about to buy it, I found myself not able to. The reviews from other readers have been super conflicting, some sprinkled in praise and others feeling luke-warm, but I was especially weary that it would be dull or completely lacking.

Well.

Curse me for second-guessing myself because…

This was everything.

“No mortal wounds, perhaps, but the scars these boys had left me would remain.

“The weight of the chaos was going to flatten me.”

This isn’t just a YA Fantasy retelling with a few Cinderella and Odyssey elements. And honestly, even calling it a Fantasy is a bit of a stretch. This world is a mix of fictional and real places. Europe plays a huge role, but peppered throughout are fictional countries and cities – like the one our dear heroine hails from. Also sprinkled within these pages are countless folklore and fairy-tales from all over the world, and each lends a hand to the plot and the direction our main character is thrust towards.

“. . . and if ye will listen but a little I will tell it you with tongue As I have heard it told, In a story brave and strong, In a loyal book of old, In the land it has been long.” —Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Selah is a sweet and a fairly dainty young woman with a great work ethic, and someone who is easily likeable. She is wrapped in innocence and her eyes bubble over with hope and sincerity for those around her, even when their eyes unfortunately do not. Upon the first few chapters, you are instantly heartbroken for her already. Not only is she woefully rejected by a boy she has loved from afar since she was a wee lass, but it is done so in front of EVERYONE. And THEN, to make matters worse, the fate of her love-life is discussed and decided by council members and her evil stepmother – “smother”, Alessandra.

And oh my sh, is this woman a piece of work.

“If Alessandra came down and caught me crying in the dark, she’d lean into my weakness, press on my bruises in front of the others until they thought me as spineless as she did.

If an author want’s me to feel heartbroken within the first 30 pages of a book, all you have to do is make a young girl feel entirely alone, while her sickly father stands by and does nothing.

Shatter me, why don’t you.

But this is just the beginning of heartbreak in The Beholder.

It was kind of him to pretend I wasn’t drowning.

I don’t even know how to describe the amount of sorrow I was feeling alongside Selah as she experienced betrayal after betrayal. Here is this beautiful soul, thrust into a duty of having to flaunt herself in front of princes and impress them enough to be offered proposals, all in the hopes of returning to her country to care for her sick father…and in the midst of being completely rejected! I felt her embarrassment, her loneliness and every wave of uncertainty that rolled through her. She is a shy introvert who just wants love. Not a title, a crown or a prince as a husband.

“He’d left me burning brighter than the candles.

Now I just felt burned.”

The Beholder is the name of the ship that Selah voyages on to meet her suitors, and the crew running it are a smattering of beautiful souls with various ethnic backgrounds, ages, and personalities. The author gives you just enough information and dialogue from them to instill a sense of trust and comfortably, but also withholds enough to keep you constantly wondering. Though I was a little surprised at how quickly these crew members become protective of Selah, I also found it entirely endearing.

“I imagined having a job onboard the Beholder, instead of being a job myself. Imagined being one of their friends, instead of cargo.”

And even though these crew members are fiercely loyal to Selah and always put her protection first, the reader quickly learns that there is something more going on when Selah isn’t looking. Most mysterious of all, is our dear Captain Lang. A VERY young captain in his early twenties (and dashing, I might add) riddled with secrets and complete intrigue. And even now, I am STILL wondering about this guy! With overly concerned glances and notions towards Selah, a tuck of hair behind an ear here, or an accidental lacing of fingers there…suffice it to say, I was being thrown in a million directions wondering WHO THE LOVE INTEREST IS!!!

“Would I ever learn what seeds he sowed that bloomed in bruises on his cheeks?”

Speaking of love interests

If there were ever a story to bloat me with so much love, and just as quickly drop my heart to the floor through my stomach

…it would be this one.

“You are making a mistake.”

“You are making a mistake.”

“You are making a mistake.”

How do I even explain the sheer mind messery that the love in The Beholder invokes? It is twisted, quick, fleeting, meddlesome, loaded, passionate, dark, light, achingly sweet and crushingly wretched. There are games layered in secrets layered in maneuvers and countermoves. Selah is a pawn in so many maps and boards, it’s devastating to witness. Her unwavering trust in people is endearing, yet wholly painful. Her desire to forgive and forgive is admirable, and the way she propels herself onward is empowering. The girl launches herself at the chance of love and being loved, and it makes me both happy and sad.

“My heart was a lit candle, a forest fire, a burning star. Doomed, but smiling.”

But her fear and lack of confidence in herself is truly the most sorrowful of all.

“I realized I’d been waiting for this moment, this inevitable point when he would look at me—soft, scared, unremarkable—and see that he could do better.”

I so SO badly want to dive into the romance angle, but I will spill all the beans of everything, and the unraveling of this story is just too good for me to do that to you. Just know that this is going to be an emotional whirlwind if you’re ready for it, and if you can understand/tolerate quick love.

But let me just say this: the siblings of Asling Fortress make my heart sing.

On another note, the world building.

There is a LOT of world building explaining in this, and let me not be the first to say, it’s damn confusing. Never have I encountered so many names that I didn’t even attempt to sound out. Call me lazy, but geez…those jumbles of letters were daunting. So in terms of making sense of the world – what was real and what wasn’t – yeah, I was pretty little lost. There was an excessive unloading of fictional names and places that I could not make sense of, try as I might. And even the land of Imperiya Yotne (that’s…the land, right?) which acts as “the villainbarely made much sense to me. All I know is there is something about the tsarytsya, they’re evil, and some mutterings of Baba Yaga – an old Russian folklore, sort of like the Boogeyman

“When Baba Yaga locks the door, Children pass thereby no more.”

“Baba Yaga’s land, there is no safety.”

So in that regard, I had to knock a star down. Because if this world and the cities/countries were cleaned up a bit, this book would be stellar. I am hoping book two, The Boundless, will really cut these loose strings and sew up some holes in terms of the setting and the story of the Tsarytsdafjfbdsf…you know, the bad place.

I am now already devouring The Boundless in anticipation for it’s release on Tuesday, June 9th. But I am still pretty early into it. So…

Pray for me.

“What fortune was mine.”

4 Stars

 

 

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Additional quotes I loved, because there were just too many.

“I was struck suddenly with the feeling of desperately needing to ask him a question and at the same time not being sure exactly what it was I needed to ask—the feeling that the question didn’t matter, so long as the answer came from him.”

“He is so very handsome, and we are so very, very unwise.”

“‘It’s not what you look like, it’s how you see,’ she used to always say, and she believed someone who didn’t read only ever saw through their own eyes.”

“We were doomed, but I was smiling.”

“‘I just wish you’d told me when it was just the two of us’

‘It never was just the two of us.'”

“No one knows how many years he has, Seneschal-elect. Life is short and death is certain.”

“So every moment I am aboveground and not below it, I want to feel the difference. We’ll all be in our graves soon enough.”

“I will fight, if I have to. But if I have to break another’s body, I deserve at least to feel his suffering in my own arm. I think the powerful would love less the fruits of violence if they had to deal it out by hand.”

 

 

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Binding of Bindings · Book Promo · Upcoming Releases

Binding of Bindings #47: My Top 10 Anticipated June 2020 Book Releases

 

It’s almost June.
Get those jeans high and tight ladies and gents, there are some EPIC upcoming releases.

 

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~* My Top 10 Anticipated June 2020 Book Releases *~

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1. Again Again by E. Lockhart
Release Date: June 2, 2020
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Romance

Again Again

Again Again has the most vague description, and the most guarded reviews ever, and all they do is make me want this even more.

From what I can gather, it’s the story of a girl being able to experience moments over and over, and trying things differently each time. Either changing her reactions, her decisions, or what she says and does.

Basically it’s this:

You know how you think back on all those situations wishing you said something wittier? Or stood up for yourself? Or were more compassionate?

Well that is what this story is about, and apparently, it’s powerful.

 

2. The House Guest by Mark Edwards
Release Date: June 3, 2020
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Psychological

The Guest House

A psychowomanstalkerstranger?!

The House Guest is about a couple who begin house-sitting a home for the summer in New York. But when a woman named Eden shows up on their doorstep claiming to be a friend of the owners, the couple decides to trust her.

And with her charming personality and gorgeous looks, it’s hard not to!

But this wouldn’t be a good story if our girl wasn’t just a liiiiiitlllleee bit unhinged.

 

3. The Boundless (The Beholder, Book 2) by Anna Bright
Release Date: June 9, 2020
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling

The Boundless

The Boundless is book 2 in The Beholder series…which…no…I haven’t read yet…

But I have it ready to read before the release date of The Boundless nears!

The Beholder is a tale with both Cinderella and The Odyssey elements that follows a princess as she sets off across the Atlantic to find a suitor, after being brutally rejected by a childhood friend. It’s a tale of adventure, romance and gallivanting across the sea and I am SO ready!

 

4. The Anti-Virginity Pact by Katie Wismer
Release Date: June 16, 2020
Genre: YA/Contemporary

The Anti-virginity Pact

The Anti-Virginity Pact.

If that title doesn’t make you want to read it, I don’t know what will.

A preacher’s daughter who is an atheist.

With a pact to lose her virginity by the end of her senior year.

Meredith has gone through her high school years silent and shy, but when she writes out a pact to herself that she MUST lose her virginity by the end of the year and a fellow student gets a hold of it, her is no longer invisible.

She begins being bullied in school and even when she meets a boy who doesn’t know of her goal, the pact threatens to bring in all crumbling down.

 

5. The Kinder Poison (Book 1) by Natalie Mae
Release Date: June 16, 2020
Genre: YA/Fantasy

The Kinder Poison

THIS is one I just stumbled across today and I am wondering why the hell I hadn’t seen it until now?!

It’s like The Hunger Games had a love child with every fantasy tale I’ve ever loved, and I just want to puke I’m so excited.

The Kinder Poison is set in a world where magical abilities seem to decide rank. As a Whisperer to animals, Orkena is forced to work in the royal stables until her magic dries out. But when a ruler invokes the Crossing in order to decide which one of his heirs will take the throne, everything changes.

It’s a death-defying race across the desert where an heir must kill someone as a sacrifice at the end, and unfortunately, Orkena is presented as tribute.

 

6. Seasons of the Storm (Book 1) by Elle Cosimano
Release Date: June 23, 2020
Genre: YA/Fantasy

Seasons of the Storm

I got THIS little hottie from Edelweiss+ and YES I did click on it for the cover, but I requested for the plootttttt.

Seasons. KILLING. Seasons!

Seasons of the Storm follows Jack Sommers, who was given the choice to live forever or die. He chose life, but he was then forced to become Winter and act as the physical embodiment of the season.

But the seasons aren’t a casual breeze or gentle snowfall, every year he must hunt down the season that went before him, and kill them.

Summer kills Spring.

Autumn kills Summer.

Winter kills Autumn.

Spring kills Winter.

Also…why did the author give him the last name of Sommers if he’s mister Winter…?

 

7. Sisters of Sword and Song by Rebecca Ross
Release Date: June 23, 2020
Genre: YA/Fantasy

Sisters of Sword and Song

If there’s a scorpion on the cover, your girl needs it.

Sisters of Sword and Song has another little Hunger Games vibe, but more in the sense of sisters volunteering for sisters.

It has been eight years since sisters Evadne and Halcyon (FFS, these names) have been together, as Halcyon has been away serving in the Queen’s army. But when she returns earlier than expected, her sister learns that she is on the run and being charged with murder.

As Halcyon’s punishment is brought down upon her, Eva volunteers as tribute…*cough*…wait…volunteers as tribute to take part of her sister’s sentence. But what the girls are sentenced to is apparently

 

8. I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick
Release Date: June 30, 2020
Genre: YA/Mystery/Thriller

I killed zoe spanos

SO excited for this murder/mystery thriller I got from Netgalley!

I Killed Zoe Spanos is about two teens who become linked after one confesses to murder, and the other fights to reveal the truth.

Anna Cicconi is in the Hamptons for a Summer nanny job, but when she arrives, she finds that the community is in uproar after the disappearance of a local girl named Zoe Spanos. And what is odd, is Anna has a striking resemblance to Zoe, so the residents are more than unhinged to see her walking around.

But two months later, Zoe’s body is found, and Anna is charged with manslaughter after confessing.

 

9. Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh
Release Date: June 30, 2020
Genre: Science-Fiction/Dystopian

Blue Ticket

I know Dystopian novels have kind of gone by the waste-side in recent years as YA Fantasy took over, but for me, this type of eerie Uptopian/Dystopian book is ALL I EVER WANT!

Blue Ticket will be my first Sophie Mackintosh read (thanks Edelweiss+), but from the reviews I’m seeing, it won’t be my last.

It’s set in a world of a Lottery deciding the fate of a woman.

 

Upon a woman’s first bleeding, she has the chance of becoming a Blue Ticket woman or a White Ticket woman. The White Ticket grants you marriage and children, while the Blue Ticket grants career and freedom.

“You are relieved of the terrible burned of choice.”

When Calla, who has a Blue Ticket, begins to question her fate and her desires as she becomes pregnant, and wonders if the Lottery truly knows what is best for her.

 

10. Goddess in the Machine (Book 1) by Lora Beth Johnson
Release Date: June 30, 2020
Genre: YA/Science-Fiction

Goddess in the Machine

There is currently a giveaway for this on Goodreads, so go enter!!

Goddess in the Machine is all about cryonic slumber, waking up in the year 3102 and the descendants of a girl’s family and friends thinking she’s a deity.

Andra knows she is no deity, but goes along with the charade as she tries to figure out what has happened to the world in the thousand years that she was asleep. But for an exiled bastard prince named Zhade

all he wants is to get his hands on Andra in the hopes that she will be the key to giving him the throne he desires.

 

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Stay Witchy

 

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