Review: A Song of Salvation by Alechia Dow

A Kindle with A Song of Salvation rests on a gray blanket next to a READ notepad, a white hat with a puff ball, and a dilute calico cat

Alexis:

A Song of Salvation is my first Alechia Dow read, and umm, wow! I’m going to have to check out her other books!

A Song of Salvation is a YA space opera. It has two primary POVs. The first is Zaira, the last of her species known as nightweavers…oh, and she’s also the reincarnation of a god named Indigo. The second is Wesley, an empath and a smuggler who loves ditching school to fly his ship. When Zaira and Wesley’s fates collide, alongside a celebrity podcaster named Rubin Rima, the fate of the universe rests in their hands as they vow to help Zaira defeat the god of destruction named Ozvios and the tyrannical Ilori Emperor. 

This is such an adventurous and heartfelt read. The worldbuilding is honestly phenomenal. All of the different planets and species are so well fleshed out.

I love how it feels like a classic YA read, as all of the characters have tragic backstories and a lot of angst, but it also tackles colonization, genocide, and war. On top of the main theme of handling and embracing your emotions, this book focuses on love, togetherness, family and friendship, fate, and justice. 

A Song of Salvation has a found family, romance, including a gay romance, and plenty of song magic and space travel! It even has a cute octopus-like alien named Blobby. It was a fun, fast-paced story with lovable characters and a hard-hitting heart and soul. 

I know Dow’s other two books take place in the same universe and probably ease the reader into the world(s) more, so I’m looking forward to checking those out.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to Inkyard Press and Netgalley for providing me an ARC for review!

Pub Date: July 11, 2023

Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Alexis:

Spoilers Below!

Overall, A Court of Wings and Ruin, the third book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy, was a 4 star read. It was more along the lines of the first book than it was the second book. However, I did have a list of issues with it that I will explain below!

I’ll start with what I liked. Maas’ writing shines when she writes action scenes. I loved reading the war scenes. I thought she did a great job with their pacing and descriptions.

I also loved that Rhysand fully transformed in the final battle. I was like, “Heck, yes!”

I also enjoyed having all the High Fae in the same scenes. Their histories and abilities were very interesting all pooled together.

As for what I didn’t like as much, for some reason, Maas’ writing is just a little bit worse in this book. She has a tendency to lean towards the occasional cheesy line, but this book seemed to bring her cheesiness out just a little more.

This book felt like Maas had been rushed, that she had a deadline that her publisher wanted her to keep, so she wrote this book quickly. And then it wasn’t edited enough. The pacing felt slow. This book is about war, and war does drag on, but the plot doesn’t flow as nicely as it did in A Court of Mist and Fury. Everything just felt slowed down.

And…the sex scenes did not fit as well in this book as they did in A Court of Mist and Fury. They felt cringey and all of them were basically a carbon copy of each other. There’s also a scene where Rhys tells Feyre, “You smell like blood,” after they fought in a battle. And then they have sex. Hmm. I don’t know about that.

And, my biggest issue. I am all for diversity, but not just for the sake of diversity. Mor’s reveal as bisexual was a complete cop-out from Maas. Mor’s been hiding that she’s bi…for 500 years?? Just so she won’t hurt Azriel’s feelings?? Her hiding this from her family for that long did not feel true to character.

As for the plot, I had issues with the fact that Feyre is insanely powerful and yet she HARDLY FOUGHT. Obviously, Rhysand has significantly more war experience, but Feyre is his equal, so they should’ve fought together. Her mention of, “You know, I don’t really like war,” was not a good enough reason for her not to fight.

As for the whole new cast of characters at the end, this also felt like a cop-out from Maas. When Rhysand asked why they couldn’t find them, their answer was, “Oh, I guess we hid too well, so even our friends couldn’t find us.”

If they had been such good friends/allies during the last war, they definitely would’ve found a way to keep in contact with Rhysand and his crew.

As for my last complaint, Armen should’ve died. Rhysand coming back from the dead made sense, but there’s no way Armen could’ve come back after all that.

Despite my issues, I enjoyed the book overall! I definitely think the trilogy is worth a read, just be aware that it isn’t perfect.

VERDICT: 4 stars

 

Review: Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

Anna: Read 12/13/18

I have mixed feelings about this book. I really enjoyed the beginning, which follows siblings Rachel and Nathaniel after their parents mysteriously leave them in the care of a guardian. I love a good coming-of-age story. The beginning is also when the relationship between the characters had the most tension and intrigue.

I then struggled through the second half of the book, which focuses on Nathaniel uncovering his mother Rose’s backstory. This is where I lost interest, as the narrative completely lacked the suspense of the first half. The complete lack of characterization of Rose, coupled with the lack of empathy we feel for her as a reader in the first half when she leaves her children without explanation, made me uninterested in her life and career.

Something that surprised me about this book, and something that I liked, is the fact that it is set in the near-immediate aftermath of World War II. Going into reading this, I had assumed it was set during the war. I enjoy World War II fiction, but feel that this is an important and overlooked time period, especially since none of the characters were soldiers so it featured no war scenes.

Perhaps I would have enjoyed this more if the second half mimicked the dark and atmospheric half of the first. I just didn’t connect with any of the characters, besides Nathaniel. I just couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried, feel any connection to their lives. And I particularly disliked the twist about the Darter near the end. The story also left a couple loose ends, which felt like an attempt at depth; however, it just further highlighted how undeveloped the characters felt to me.

VERDICT: 3 out of 5 books

Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Alexis: Read 12/10/18

This is a hard book for me to rate. The story, as are all Holocaust stories, is dark, harrowing, and resonant. This is a story of survival and love. It focuses on Lale and Gita, who manage to fall in love amidst the horrors of Auschwitz.

Parts of the novel hit me hard. It’s impossible to read a book about the Holocaust and not come away emotionally affected by it. The knowledge that this was not only based on a real historical event but also on the lives of two very real people played in the back of my mind as I read. I liked that it was written in present tense, which propels you into the story.

But how do you rate a book like this? The perspective is one of the most interesting parts of the book. Lale, as the Tattooist, has a higher position than most of his fellow prisoners. I was wholly involved in his storyline of using his position in order to barter jewelry for food, help feed other prisoners, and help save other prisoners’ lives. His feelings of revulsion at tattooing his own people conflict with his instinct to do what he must to survive.

Yet chunks of this book still fall flat. The writing style is awkward in places. Half of Lale and Gita’s relationship feels real and raw, and half feels stitled. In the “about the author” section of the book, it’s mentioned that Morris originally wrote this story as a screenplay, and this seems to fit with the style of some sections of the book. Near the end, it’s mentioned that Lale’s way of dealing with the horrors of his imprisonment is emotional detachment. This could be the reason for the stiltedness, as the writing could reflect Lale’s repressed emotions. However, I don’t think this was a purposeful choice on Morris’ part.  

VERDICT: 4 out of 5 stars

 

Review: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

Alexis: Read 11/22/18

Yesterday, I finished The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang.

I loved the first half. It reminded me of a mix between The Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, and Avatar: the Last Airbender. On her website, R.F. Kuang even mentions that ATLA and Game of Thrones were some of her inspirations.

This brutal book deals with every heavy theme you can think of: genocide, addiction, experimentation, rape, death. Despite being a high-fantasy book, I found many aspects of the war in the latter half of the book to be extremely realistic.

This is because Kuang is a genius. She graduated from Georgetown and is now studying at Cambridge. She’s studying Chinese studies, and you can tell. I was amazed at her worldbuilding. Kuang knows everything about the world she’s created. The book describes the hierarchy, the history, the mythology, you name it. She talks about it. She describes it in detail. She fully understands the world she’s created, and I admired that from the very start of the book. I love the way she based the world off of Chinese history. This includes fascinating aspects like martial arts and mythology. But it also includes the dark side of history. And I love a good dark book.

I generally like the main character, Rin. She is established out-right: we know what she wants and how she’s going to get it. We know her motivation. But Jiang is my favorite character. His personality is the most well-defined, and I love all of his quirks. I love a good quirky, underestimated character. To be honest, I didn’t really care about any of the other secondary characters, though Altan annoyed me in the second half of the book.

Something is lacking in the second half. Even though the plot is still well-defined, too many new elements are thrown together too fast. A whole new crew of characters are introduced. Characters from the first half come in and out. And some huge decisions are made. It isn’t rushed; it takes place over a couple hundred pages. Yet for some reason, it feels jumbled. To be fair, the entire second half is war. War is a mess; war is a jumble. This Poppy War is brutal and messy and isn’t for the fair-hearted reader. But the way Rin acts in the second half almost turned me off from her (I mean that was kind of the point, but still). Her actions and way of thinking are justified in the world, but that doesn’t mean I like the direction her character is going. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I loved the messy history and the mythology of the world. I will definitely read the rest of the series in the future, but it just wasn’t a 5 star read for me.

VERDICT: 4 out of 5 books