The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees

(This is the fourth book in The Raven Cycle series. You can also  find my review of the first book, The Raven Boys, the second book, The Dream Thieves, and the third book, Blue Lily, Lily Blue. Spoilers below.)

★★★★★ (5.00)
Genre – Young Adult Fantasy

Summary – Nothing living is safe. Nothing dead is to 17378527be trusted.
For years, Gansey has been on a quest to find a lost king. One by one, he’s drawn others into this quest: Ronan, who steals from dreams; Adam, whose life is no longer his own; Noah, whose life is no longer a lie; and Blue, who loves Gansey… and is certain she is destined to kill him.
Now the endgame has begun. Dreams and nightmares are converging. Love and loss are inseparable. And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path.

Initial Thoughts – I love this series. So much. So, so much. This review is going to be short, because I can’t think of anything negative to say. It was all perfection.
Plot – ★★★★★ I never wanted to put this book down. It perfectly tied together every plot thread and left me with no questions.
Characters – ★★★★★ How does Stiefvater create such amazing characters? Really. I would like step by step instructions.
Story world – ★★★★★ Can I please live in Henrietta and Cabeswater? Thanks.
Style – ★★★★★ I love Stiefvater’s style. She manages to capture the feeling of each scene, whether it be haunting or heartbreaking or hilarious.
Closing Thoughts – I’m so sad to see this series end, but the ending was everything I wanted. I am eagerly waiting for Stiefvater’s next work.
Recommendation – Recommended for everyone. You won’t be disappointed.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

YA Interview with Lori Goldstein

I had the lovely opportunity to interview Lori Goldstein. Her most recent book, Circle of Jinn, just released May 17th. I’ve reviewed her amazing books Becoming Jinn and Circle of JinnFor more information about her publications or general awesomeness, you can visit her website. Without further ado, our interview!

Becoming Jinn and Circle of Jinn revolve around the world of genies. What originally gave you the inspiration to write about genies?

The idea for Becoming Jinn started with a character. Scratch that, it started with a name. A few years ago, there was a horrible earthquake in Turkey. A mother and her infant daughter were pulled from the rubble and both miraculously survived. That baby’s name was Azra, which is my protagonist in Becoming Jinn. It was hearing this beautiful name and picturing this world she would live in that sparked the idea of writing a book featuring Jinn, which for some reason I knew was the term for spirits derived from North African and Middle Eastern lore. A fan of contemporary, I decided to merge the fantasy elements with our modern world and drop Azra and her Jinn family into the world in which I live—quite literally into my home state of Massachusetts. All it takes is one thing to spark an entire book!

Did you research folklore surrounding genies, or did you create many of your own details? What did you want to show when writing about genies?

I definitely wanted to reflect the lore of the Jinn in the book. Because it’s a contemporary fantasy and I mix up the genie tropes we know and toss in some magic, I didn’t want to go completely true to any specific lore or stories of Jinn, but I wanted it to be an influence, with details I could draw upon and toss in. I read through Legends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar, a very academic examination of Jinn, and pulled bits and pieces to add to the book. The same with a book called Encyclopedia of Spirits, which, completely opposite of the first book, details how to summon particular spirits, including Jinn. While nothing is overt, they both added some backbone to the Jinn history I made up. Then the rest was the fun part: creating my own mythology of who the Jinn are.

What was your favorite scene that you wrote in Becoming Jinn?

The last scene in Becoming Jinn is my favorite. It is the culmination of everything that began building with page one. I envisioned the end for so long—the final pages were pulled almost word for word from my outline—that it was not only a culmination for Azra but for me as well. Everything comes together exactly as I hoped and just as I was envisioning to lead into the sequel. There’s no better feeling as an author than ending the book the way you want to.
Can you give us any hints about your future publications?

CIRCLE OF JINN released on May 17 and right now I’m in the middle of doing school visits, book clubs, bookstore events, and writing workshops in support of it. I’m *this* close to finishing the writing of what I hope will be my next book. It’s a straight contemporary about a girl, who, similar to Azra in Becoming Jinn, has an obstacle about herself that she has to overcome in order to succeed and thrive in the “real world.” While it doesn’t have the paranormal or supernatural elements and is realistic fiction, it has a lot of the same themes and issues about finding oneself as exist in the Jinn series. And still has my humor in it. I will always write with humor.

If there was one thing you could tell the readers, in order to get them to read your book, what would it be?

BECOMING JINN is truly a contemporary fantasy. It has so much of the “real world” in it, that it reads very much like a realistic book at times. Then the fantasy and magic elements weave their way in as the story goes on and this develops even more fully in the sequel, CIRCLE OF JINN. The series has the ability to capture readers who enjoy both styles of book and has much to offer for each. In addition, whether a character is a genie, a vampire, or a “normal” person, every good story is about that character finding themselves and their path in life. I wanted to explore what it would be like to be the one granting the wishes of others while your own remain unfulfilled. I wanted to write a strong female character, who, though not on the run from the government or some evil corporation, has her own battles to fight from within herself as she struggles to discover where she truly belongs. As a teen and even as a young adult, this was something I dealt with, and though I didn’t have to learn to use magic on top of it, the emotions are something I can identify with—something I think most readers, especially teen readers, can identify with.

Finally, what is one question you wished you were asked more?

Surprisingly, few people actually ask if I’d be a good genie. And I want them to ask it because, the turret is, I’d make an excellent genie! As Azra leans when she begins to grant wishes, using magic in the modern age comes with challenges. Everyone with a cell phone has the ability to out her and her powers. She can’t grant someone’s wish overnight without risking exposure. If a guy’s suddenly flush with cash, the IRS will come a’ knocking. Granting wishes is less a glamorous, snap of the fingers thing and more of a gradual, research-based task. I’m extremely practical and organized and I love research. I’d be a great modern-day genie!

Thank you so much, Lori Goldstein! 

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees

★★★★★ (5.00)
Genre – Young Adult Fantasy

Summary – After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of En7896527dovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Initial Thoughts – I had heard a lot of good things about this series, and I decided it was finally time to read my first Sarah J. Maas book. So I did. And I LOVED it.
Plot – ★★★★★ I never wanted to set down this book. It immediately intrigued me with the story of an assassin and never let me go after that.
Characters – ★★★★★ I loved Celaena. She’s everything that I want in a MC. She was an intelligent badass. Then there’s Chaol and Dorian, who are both too adorable and helpless for their own good. Maas put together the perfect cast.
Story world – ★★★★★ Maas managed to sneak in a lot of details to her story world. There was the history, the war, the magic, and much more that I learned about, yet no prologues or monologues.
Style – ★★★★★  I was enchanted by Maas’s fun and witty style throughout this novel.
Closing Thoughts – I can’t wait to read the next book in this series and the rest of Maas’s books.
Recommendation – Recommended for fans of mystery and badassary.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

Half Lost by Sally Green

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees

(This is the third book in the Half Bad Trilogy. You can also  find my review of the first book, Half Bad, and the second book, Half Wild. Spoilers below.)

★★★★★ (4.75)
Genre – Young Adult Fantasy

Summary – This is the final battle.20814993
The Alliance is losing the war, and their most critical weapon, seventeen-year-old witch Nathan Byrn, is losing his mind. Nathan’s tally of kills is rising, and yet he’s no closer to ending the tyrannical rule of the Council of White Witches in England. Nor is Nathan any closer to his personal goal: getting revenge on Annalise, the girl he once loved before she committed an unthinkable crime. An amulet protected by the extremely powerful witch Ledger could be the tool Nathan needs to save himself and the Alliance, but this amulet is not so easily acquired. And lately Nathan has started to suffer from visions: a vision of a golden moment when he dies, and of an endless line of Hunters, impossible to overcome. Gabriel, his closest companion, urges Nathan to run away with him, to start a peaceful life together. But even Gabriel’s love may not be enough to save Nathan from this war, or from the person he has become.

Initial Thoughts – I was really excited to start this book, because I loved the other two books in the series.
Plot – ★★★★★ This  book kept me turning the pages. I never was bored while I watched Nathan and the Alliance prepare for war, all while Nathan made things more complicated than they needed to be.
Characters – ★★★★★ I absolutely love Nathan and Gabriel, even though they are complete opposites. Nathan is a very complicated character, with good intentions hidden beneath twisted morals and agendas. Gabriel is truthful and sweet, all the way through. And yet, those two get along perfectly.
Story world – ★★★★★ I love the story world in this series. As I mentioned before, Green has the talent of sneaking in the setting without the reader actually realizing it. I can still picture the scenes were the novels took place.
Style – ★★★★☆  Green’s style still isn’t flawless in my opinion. I adore how we are stuck completely in Nathan’s head, however, there were times when I felt like the writing pulled me out of the story.
Closing Thoughts – This ending was everything I could have wanted. It tied up all loose ends and left me feeling satisfied. Broken, but satisfied.
Recommendation – Recommended for those who wants a fast paced adventure, and then their hearts ripped out.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

The Graces by Laure Eve

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees

Publication Date: September 6, 2016
★★★★★ (4.75)
Genre – Young Adult Fantasy

Summary  Everyone said the Graces were witches. 25365584

They moved through the corridors like sleek fish, ripples in their wake. Stares followed their backs and their hair.

They had friends, but they were just distractions. They were waiting for someone different.

All I had to do was show them that person was me.

Like everyone else in her town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and apparent ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? And are they more dangerous than they let on?

Initial Thoughts – When I received this ARC, I was so excited. I loved the cover. I loved the idea. I loved the magic. And this book certainly did not disappoint.
Plot – ★★★★★ This book kept me captured throughout the story. I was just as entranced with the Grace life as River was and I would have never predicted the ending.
Characters – ★★★★★ I absolutely loved the Graces and River. They all are broken people pretending to be whole. All of the characters had real flaws, and I found a part of myself relating to each of them.
Story world – ★★★★★ Laure Eve perfectly captures the small gossiping town, the beautiful, haunting Grace house, and so much more.
Style – ★★★★☆  I enjoyed Laure Eve’s style for this book. I think it matched pretty well with the genre, however it was just missing that little something.
Closing Thoughts – I really, really enjoyed this book. I was in need of a haunting and magical story, and this book was just that.
Recommendation – Recommended for someone who loves magic, mystery, and the underdog.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

Circle of Jinn by Lori Goldstein

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees

(This is the sequel to Becoming Jinn. You can also  find my review of the first book, Becoming Jinn. Spoilers below.)

Publication Date: May 17th, 2016
★★★★★ (4.50)
Genre – Young Adult Fantasy

Summary – Being Jinn is Azra’s new reality. As she 18046383grants wishes under the watchful eye of the Afrit council, she remains torn between her two worlds—human and Jinn. Soon, secrets spill. Zars are broken. Humans become pawns. And rumors of an uprising become real as the Afrit’s reach extends beyond the underground world of Janna.

Straddling the line becomes impossible. Aware of her unique abilities, Azra must not just face but embrace her destiny. But when the role she must play and those she must protect expand to include a circle of Jinn greater than her own, Azra will be forced to risk everything. A risk that means there’s everything to lose, and at the same time, everything to gain—for herself and her entire Jinn race.

Initial Thoughts – I received this book as an ARC and I dived in immediately. After reading (and loving) Becoming Jinn, I couldn’t wait to read this.
Plot – ★★★★☆ The plot was just little a slow in the beginning, but about a quarter of the way through, things really sped up. After that, I was sucked into the world of Jinn.
Characters – ★★★★☆ In this book, we were reintroduced to the wonderful characters of before and then some more. All of them were endearing and lovely,  but I felt a few of them could have used just a little more detail.
Story world – ★★★★★ In Circle of Jinn, we were introduced to Janna and learned more about the Afrit. I love the world of Jinn. Genies is something I’ve never seen done before this series, and Goldstein masterfully weaved their world in with our own.
Style – ★★★★★  Goldstein’s witty style  managed to make me smile on almost every page. That is, when I wasn’t already sobbing.
Closing Thoughts – I’m sad to see this series end, but I can’t wait to see what Goldstein writes next.
Recommendation – Recommended for someone who needs more fantasy, girl power, and romance in their lives.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees

★★★★☆ (3.75)
Genre – Young Adult Fantasy21393526

Summary – Aza Ray is drowning in thin air.
Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live.
So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn’t think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.
Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia.
Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?

Initial Thoughts – First of all, look at that cover. It’s gorgeous. I want to own this book, just so I can stare at it all day.
Plot – ★★★☆☆ In the beginning, the plot is great. It kept me turning the pages. But in the middle, something happened and I was just confused. At the end it began to pick up again, but the middle lost me.
Characters – ★★★☆☆ I didn’t really connect with Aza. I loved her voice in the beginning, but it got lost along with the story. However, I absolutely adored Jason. I wish he had gotten to tell more of the story.
Story world – ★★★★☆  As far as a fantasy novel goes, the story world in the clouds was pretty unique. I fell in love with all the different creatures that lived in the clouds.
Style – ★★★★★  Headley has that style that slips in little facts seamlessly into the novel, so that you learn while you read. I absolutely love when authors do this, so it earned a lot of bonus points with me.
Closing Thoughts – This story had an interesting story world and one fantastic character, but the plot and the rest of the characters fell flat. Recommended for those who want to explore the clouds and the creatures living among them.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)