Review: Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst

Alexis:

This is my third five star review in a row. This is so rare for me! Clearly, I did a good job choosing books from the library.

I found Race the Sands to be a complex book, full of politics and magic.

In Becar, everyone is reincarnated based on how you act in your current life. The lowest of the low are reincarnated as kehoks, savage monsters. Tamra is a kehok trainer, trying to save up enough money to fund her daughter’s education. And Raia is a seventeen year old trying to make her own life by becoming a kehok rider. She ends up riding a black, metal lion kehok, and together, Tamra and Raia work hard to win the Races.

Overall, I loved the characters, especially Tamra. This book felt unique from other young adult fantasy books that I’ve read lately.

Durst manages to balance several POV’s very well. I’m not normally a fan of books with more than two different perspectives, but it worked well for this world.

I enjoyed reading about the races, and all of the different kind of kehoks. I enjoyed reading about the augurs, the almost monk-like figures who read other people’s auras to determine how they will be reincarnated. I also enjoyed reading from Dar, the emperor-to-be’s, perspective.

There were only two small apects that I wasn’t a huge fan of, but they didn’t deter me from enjoying the book. The first is that one of the main mystery plot points in the beginning of the book is extremely predictable. Thankfully, the plot got more complicated as the book went on. The second is that a lot of the minor characters felt pretty one dimensional and had similar voices, but because they were the minor characters, it didn’t bother me too much.

While this book is still YA, it felt more adult to me than the average YA fantasy, especially since it features the POV of several adult characters.

If you’re looking for a book with great worldbuilding, strong female characters, racing monsters, and politics, then I recommend giving this one a try.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

An Independence Day Read: The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close

Anna: Happy Independence Day! Here’s a recent read, The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close. A young couple, Matt and Beth, move to DC so that Matt can pursue his dream to work in politics. This book is at its core about the complexity of hope and good and greed and corruption in American government. It’s also about how friendships change over time. I found The Hopefuls character-driven and an interesting insight into a world I don’t know much about, even though I live in the Metro DC area.

VERDICT: 4 books

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I’ve spent the day off binging the new Stranger Things, I went to a brewery, and we’re going to watch fireworks tonight if it’s not rained out. I hope you’re enjoying your fourth!

Review: Shadow and Bone; Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Alexis:

I’ve dedicated this past week to reading the first two books in the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, and hopefully I can get the last book from the library next week!

I read the Six of Crows Duology last year and I absolutely loved it, so I was looking forward to reading the first books in Bardugo’s Grishaverse.

I seem to agree with everyone else (at least on Goodreads) that the second book in the trilogy is better than the first. I was surprised to find that the first book relied on some tropes, the most prevalent of which is the love triangle. However, I thought that Shadow and Bone did a great job when it came to worldbuilding and introducing the Grisha’s powers. 

The second book’s plot is much more intricate than the first. It honestly reminds me of The Hunger Games. Politics come into play, and Alina starts to become a powerful symbol of hope. I enjoyed the new characters that were introduced, but I felt like Mal’s character wasn’t as strong as he was in the first book. However, Bardugo’s keen sense of humor comes out more in the second book.

Minor spoilers below:

One of the biggest issues I have with the two books is the way that male characters interact with Alina, which, unfortunately, only gets worse in Siege and Storm. Multiple male characters touch and kiss Alina without her consent, and the way the Darkling interacts with her makes me sick. In Siege and Storm, no one respects that Alina and Mal are in a relationship, and she gets kissed and even gets marriage proposals. I understood all of this happens for plot reasons, but here Alina is, in a different love triangle than in the first book, and she even enjoys the attention from Nikolai.

I feel like I say this in every review, but despite my issues with the books, I did enjoy reading them. I love the Grishaverse and I’m interested to see where the third book goes. I just can’t help comparing this series to the Six of Crows Duology. It’s interesting to see how much Bardugo’s writing has evolved.

Shadow and Bone: 3 out of 5 books

Siege and Storm: 4 out of 5 stars

Review: In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende

Alexis: Read 2/1/19

In the Midst of Winter is a story of grief, guilt, and love. The book focuses on three main characters: Lucia, a lecturer from Chile; Richard, a professor; and Evelyn, a caregiver from Guatemala. Half of the book is set in 2016, explaining how the three characters meet and become involved in each other’s lives, while the other half explores their complicated, and often depressing, pasts.

I adored the first half of the book, which opens on Lucia’s life in New York City during a snowstorm. It’s such a promising premise. As the reader, you are immediately thrown into the minds of Lucia and Richard, and I enjoyed reading about their contrasting personalities. I love that Lucia has a bug-eyed old Chihuahua, while Richard has four cats that he simply calls one through four in Portuguese. Though I found Evelyn’s life and story interesting, I felt like her dedicated chapters didn’t reveal her character or thoughts as well as Lucia’s and Richard’s.

As usual with Allende’s writing, I love her descriptions in this book and I think they serve the story and the characters well. I also enjoyed reading about the tumultuous histories of Chile and Guatemala, as well as Richard’s time in Brazil.

This book went in a different direction than I expected, however. The morbid reason the three characters go on a journey together works at first, but I found that it didn’t work the further I got in the story. I correctly guessed the twist towards the end. When I finished the book, I was left underwhelmed. It addresses such deep and interesting histories and emotions, yet it ends on an almost “oh, well!” and weirdly cheery note, which dragged down my review.

VERDICT: 3 ½ out of 5 books