Review: King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Alexis: Read 3/24/19

I loved the first half of this book. I loved Nikolai’s internal (and sometimes external) battle within himself. I enjoyed learning more about Zoya: her past, her innermost feelings, her motivations. And at first, I rejoiced in Nina’s chapters, especially after her ending in Crooked Kingdom.

King of Scars is told in third person from various perspectives, including Nikolai, Zoya, Nina, and a man named Isaak. I’m glad Bardugo decided on third person, as I think it worked perfectly for the world in Six of Crows, and ultimately served a better purpose than the first person of the Shadow and Bone Trilogy.

I enjoyed the masterful worldbuilding and name dropping of characters from previous books. Bardugo has really cemented the Grishaverse. And I really enjoyed how the plot was building. However, the second half started to meander. Zoya ended up being the primary character, rather than Nikolai himself. The book’s title is literally Nikolai’s nickname, and yet he sometimes gets lost in the sea of other characters.

I honestly wanted to skip over Isaak’s chapters; I felt like his information could have been revealed later and it would have served the book better, even if the the reader wouldn’t get to know him as a character. But I really just didn’t care about him.

Nina’s chapters began to feel drawn out. As much as I enjoy her as a character, I found myself wanting to stay with Zoya and Nikolai’s storylines. I almost wanted Nina’s chapters to be separated from the rest of the story, maybe as its own short book.

My primary concern, besides Nikolai not being as center stage as I wanted him to be, was where the plot ended up. It was building up to such a great place, but then the ending ruined it for me. I’ll avoid spoilers here and go more into that below.

This book definitely felt like a follow-up to the Shadow of Bone trilogy, which I didn’t like nearly as much as the Six of Crows duology. I was hoping for more of a Six of Crows feel, with the masterfully crafted plot and characters. I just wish the book had only switched in POV from Nikolai to Zoya and that the plot was…different. Even with my mixed feelings, I still love the characters and Bardugo’s world, and I flew through this book.

The first half of the book: 5 stars. Second half: 3 stars

VERDICT: 4 stars


I felt like most of the plot reveals in the second half of the book were a little too coincidental. Hanne just happens to be the daughter of Brum? The Saints just happen to be alive with the answers to a greater power for Zoya? And the biggest of all: the Darkling’s comeback. It felt like a cop-out to me. I wanted something as equally as dark to be the main antagonist, but I wanted something different. The Darkling’s story was supposed to be over. With all the tumultuous politics going on, I just felt like the ending could’ve gone in a different and better direction.



Review: Honeysuckle Holiday by Kathleen M. Jacobs

Alexis: Read 3/11/19

*The author sent me a copy of her book in exchange for an honest review.*

Honeysuckle Holiday was such a poignant read. Don’t let the cover fool you: this short book tackles childhood innocence and racism.

The story follows Lucy in two different time periods: 1965 and 1970, when she was twelve and sixteen-years-old. Though Honeysuckle Holiday is categorized as YA, I would describe it more as a bildungsroman/coming-of-age story. When Lucy’s father leaves, not looking back, on Christmas Day, she and her older sister, Caroline, try not to dwell on it too much. But she knows something has changed when her mother refuses to talk about him and when they have to move into a different house.

In her acknowledgements, Jacobs quotes a woman named Peggy Fox: ‘“You captured the voice of a twelve-year-old girl very well.’” And she’s right. Jacobs’ writing flows beautifully, but I was very aware that I was reading in the perspective of a twelve-year-old.

Lucy notices everything around her. She relates things to her Barbie dolls, which she admits she’s starting to outgrow. She is jealous of some of Caroline’s things but also wants to be like Caroline when she grows up. She partly knows why her dad left but is partly left in the dark. She’s curious about the world around her and asks lots of questions. Jacobs’ detailed descriptions mimic Lucy’s curious mind. I also like how she includes a lot of parenthetical phrases, as Lucy has a lot of afterthoughts.

I love all of the references Jacobs includes in her book. Lucy’s mother wears Chanel No. 5. Lucy uses a Velveeta box to hold her collection of found objects. The characters reference It’s A Wonderful Life, The Beatles, and TV shows of the time. These references cemented the story into its setting and time period, bringing it to life.

Lucy mentions To Kill a Mockingbird multiple times, and even relates herself to Scout. I found this fitting, as the story reminded me a lot of To Kill a Mockingbird. Both are told from a young perspective, but are really told for a more mature audience. Both deal with racial tensions and divides, as well as the horror of the KKK. I loved Jacobs’ inclusion of descriptions of food. The book is set in the South, and I enjoyed reading about Lila’s apple pies, okra, and Lucy’s love of steak.

While I liked how Lucy describes the honeysuckle vines ( as well as the smell) outside of her window, I don’t think the title of the story sums it up very well. Though the story itself was impactful, the title was not. To me, the honeysuckle symbolizes Lucy’s childhood innocence, and the book is about coming-of-age and losing that behind. I’m also not sure why the first couple of chapters are in Caroline’s POV.

Overall, if you’re looking for a quick read that’s packed with vivid details, that will draw you into the 60’s and 70’s, and whose message will stay with you, then I definitely recommend it.

VERDICT: 4 out of 5 books

Review: The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

Alexis: Read 2/27/19

The Night Tiger is a fascinating blend of magical realism, historical fiction, romance, and murder mystery. It follows two main characters: Ji Lin and Ren. Ji Lin is the apprentice of a dressmaker who is also secretly a dance-hall girl. Ren is an eleven-year-old houseboy who recently switched masters due to his old master’s death. Their lives come together when Ji Lin finds a severed finger and tries to figure out where to return it.

I love that the book is set in 1930’s colonial Malay, now modern Malaysia. This makes for a rich and cultural setting, and I loved reading about the different languages spoken and the foods eaten. I loved Choo’s descriptions of clothing from Ji Lin’s point of view, and how she showed England’s rule and influence over the culture of Malay.

Throughout the book, Choo focuses on the superstitions based on chinese numbers, as well the folklore of weretigers. She even includes a section explaining these at the end of the book, which I wish were placed before the book as pretext, but I still appreciated her including them at all.

The first 30 pages were a little slow, and I had to get used to Choo’s writing style and tone. But then I was hooked. This isn’t a fast-paced book, and the mystery is revealed slowly. Though the main plot is fairly slow, there were enough subplots to hold my attention.

I loved Ji Lin as a character. She’s a classic modern day heroine in 1930’s Malaysia, yet she also fits in perfectly in the time period. She’s intelligent and clever and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Yet, unlike where a lot of strong female characters seem to fail, she is still feminine and caring. I also really enjoyed Shin, her step brother’s, character. I found he and Ji Lin to have a lot of chemistry, and I found their relationship moved in a natural direction.

What I didn’t like about the book: the switching POVs. Ji Lin’s chapters were first person, past tense, while Ren’s chapters were in third person, present tense. And every once in a while, I was thrown into William Acton’s POV (Ren’s new master). It would have served the book better if both Ji Lin and Ren’s chapters were in first person, or, honestly, if the whole book was in Ji Lin’s perspective. Sometimes Ren felt like an afterthought.

I really enjoyed The Night Tiger’s setting, atmosphere, and characters. I wish the ending had tied up some of the loose ends, but overall, this was an interesting and unique read. Just don’t read it if you get queasy at the mention of severed fingers!

VERDICT: 4 out of 5 books



I’m not really even sure how to address the twin issue. Why do authors always feel like one of the twins has to be dead? I enjoyed Ren’s “cat whiskers” sense, but Yi’s role in the story was kind of “eh” for me.

I actually really liked the fact that Ji Lin and Shin fell in love. Their relationship, and the progression of their relationship, felt very real to me, and I loved the dynamic. I didn’t find it weird because they were so close and important to each other and not actually related.

However, I wasn’t a fan of how Shin’s character progressed. He professed his love for Ji Lin, only to beg her to have sex with him…? It felt completely out of character, as Shin was nothing but respectful towards Ji Lin, and even though he was portrayed as a womanizer, I knew from the beginning that it was obviously just a front. I felt like their almost-bedroom scene could have gone very differently. But, in the end, I was glad Ji Lin stood up for herself and decided to wait on marriage and pursue a career. It felt true to her character.