York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby Review

York The Shadow Cipher by Laura RubyYork: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby (York #1)

Publisher: Walden Pond Press

Release Date: May 16, 2017

Pages: 476

Available Through The Book Depository: York: The Shadow Cipher

Summary: It was 1798 when the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-seven years later, the enigmatic architects disappeared, leaving behind for the people of New York the Old York Cipher—a puzzle laid into the shining city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By the present day, however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is little more than a tourist attraction.

Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment house—until a real estate developer announces that the city has agreed to sell him the five remaining Morningstarr buildings. Their likely destruction means the end of a dream long-held by the people of New York. And if Tess, Theo and Jaime want to save their home, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. Which means they have to solve it.

*Received book 1 of this series as part of an upcoming Blog Tour* 

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Shadow Cipher is an immersive and clever middle-grade novel that melds fantasy, steampunk, & history set in an alternate modern-day New York! When they’re soon to be evicted from their apartment, the famous Moringstarr tower, Tess Biedermann, Theo Biederman & Jamie Cruz try solve the famous Old York Cipher to save their home before its too late! Ruby’s novel is a captivating tale filled with mystery, adventure, and clever puzzles!

York: The Shadow Cipher is a book that had been on my TBR for years–I’d actually started it a couple years back, but sadly hadn’t gotten around to finishing it. But, now that I’m going to be reviewing the sequel for an upcoming blog tour, I’m so glad I was given another chance to return to it!

If you didn’t know, Laura Ruby also wrote a wonderful YA magical realism book back in I think 2015 (?) called Bone Gap (which was one of my favorite books back in 2015–I highly recommend it!!). As I read York: The Shadow Cipher, I realized something about Ruby’s books:

Her tales deliver such unique reading experiences for me personally, that I can only get from the first read-through! The atmosphere, characters, and immersive quality of her stories/writing is what draws me in with each page and allows me to connect with the plot and her unique cast of characters!

Twins Tess & Theo get tangled up in a centuries-old cipher so with the help of their classmate/neighbor Jamie, they attempt to solve the riddles and save their home! The clues lead them back to uncovering the answers to the impossible cipher hidden within their apartment–The Morningstarr Tower and the city of New York.

What really kept me surprised was the ciphers/puzzles throughout the book. There’s riddles that lead the crew to different places across New York, but are also focused on history. I never really knew where the journey was headed next, but that kept me reading because I just loved being surprised at where the next piece in this puzzle was coming from.

The Shadow Cipher is told through various POVs (3 mainly), but they all had distinct voices and the writing flowed well all throughout the book! The writing-style was descriptive, unique, but also incredibly fun to read.

Although there’s an overarching story here, I loved that there were many underlying themes that journeyed across the novel as well. From family, friendship, & having a place of belonging to name a few, were just some of the wonderful themes explored in this book!

I loved that each of these were tackled through different characters from Theo, Jamie, to Tess.

I found tat the adventurous atmosphere of the story really allowed me to picture everything from the setting to the inventions, and plot itself so vividly and overall, it really came to life on the page–it was incredibly cinematic!

The characters are all so well developed and though there are some who we never really meet or pass in & out of the story, I found that they all felt incredibly real and I could picture them throughout the book.

Its hard to say which character was my favorite, because I enjoyed them all in different ways, but I have to say Jamie Cruz was one of my favorites! I loved how his adoration of comics and superheroes really added another layer of depth to his story and how he viewed the world! His POVs were definitely my favorites! He was almost always looking towards the positives and was just a really uplifting character to read from–he also had a hobby of sketching/drawing which he used to draw out certain locations or parts of the cipher along the way, which was fun to read about.

The Shadow Cipher is also an incredibly character-driven story! Tess, Theo & Jamie all have their own personal journeys and its great they each had their own time away from the main story at points, just so us as readers could get to know them more as characters! overall just really felt developed as characters and I found they really grew little by little over the course of the book.

The alternate New York was fun to explore also because of the unique inventions! I loved how Ruby really built these unique inventions from the Mornigstarrs into the cipher/puzzles in ways I wasn’t really expecting, but found fun all the same. There’s just so much creativity to this world that although its based on a real place, there was just that spark that made New York feel like a completely different world.

The plot was just really unexpected and overall I enjoyed being invested in the Cipher just as much as Theo, Tess & Jamie! There were some plot twists and secrets that I didn’t see coming, but overall the story left me curious as to where the plot is headed in the sequel.

I did rate it 4 stars because although this book was such a fun read, I did feel the pacing was a bit slow at points and the pacing seemed to vary throughout the story as well. The ending itself also just also left me feeling like I needed a little something more. Overall though, I loved the main cast, the humor, and thought-provoking ciphers and I can’t wait to see what happens as the series continues!

York: The Shadow Cipher is the first book in what sets up to be a great middle-grade series with clues, puzzles, and mysteries to solve that weave together in a unique way! The great cast of characters, clever puzzles, and fascinating world are all explored through such an immersive and dynamic atmosphere! The ending will leave you interested in seeing whats next for Tess, Theo, & Jamie in the sequel!

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi {Reading Playlist}

Hey, 24hr.YABookBlog here (~˘▾˘)~💞✨📚 To celebrate the release of Roshani Chokshi’s newest book, The Gilded Wolves, I have a reading playlist to share today!

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani ChokshiIt’s been so long since I’ve done a Reading Playlist and I found that these songs really fit well with the atmosphere, magic, and theme of friendship throughout the book!

The Gilded Wolves is dazzling, incredibly atmospheric, and such an immersive read that I quickly found myself listening to these songs on repeat as I was reading it!

If you have yet to read The Gilded Wolves, I’d definitely recommend reading it alongside these awesome songs!

Tracks featured in today’s playlist are from: Kingdom Hearts II, Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, Kingdom Hearts 3D, & a track from the film Atonement 🎧📚

Songs:

• Briony (Atonement) • • Working Together (Kingdom Hearts II) •

•La Cloche (Kingdom Hearts 3D) • • Le Sanctuaire (Kingdom Hearts 3D) •

• Black Garden (Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep) •

• Extreme Encounters (Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep) •  • Friends In My Heart (Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days) •

Honestly I’m such a huge Kingdom Hearts fan so creating this playlist was not only lots of fun, but also super nostalgic because the 3rd installment is finally being released this month! 😭💖❤

Hope you enjoyed this playlist & I’d love to know your thoughts! 😍🎧✨📚

If you’ve read or are currently reading The Gilded Wolves what are your thoughts on this playlist? ✨🎧💞

Fierce Fairytales: Poems And Stories To Stir Your Soul by Nikita Gill Review

Fierce Fairytales Poems And Stories To Stir Your Soul by Nikita GillFierce Fairytales: Poems And Stories To Stir Your Soul by Nikita Gill

Publisher: Hachette Books

Release Date: September 11, 2018

Pages: 176

Available For Purchase Through The Book Depository: Fierce Fairytales

Summary: Traditional fairytales are rife with cliches and gender stereotypes: beautiful, silent princesses; ugly, jealous, and bitter villainesses; girls who need rescuing; and men who take all the glory.

But in this rousing new prose and poetry collection, Nikita Gill gives Once Upon a Time a much-needed modern makeover. Through her gorgeous reimagining of fairytale classics and spellbinding original tales, she dismantles the old-fashioned tropes that have been ingrained in our minds. In this book, gone are the docile women and male saviors. Instead, lines blur between heroes and villains. You will meet fearless princesses, a new kind of wolf lurking in the concrete jungle, and an independent Gretel who can bring down monsters on her own.

Complete with beautifully hand-drawn illustrations by Gill herself, Fierce Fairytales is an empowering collection of poems and stories for a new generation.

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts:Fierce Fairytales is a collection of poems and short stories that transform classic tales into inspiring messages with deeply complex themes! If your new to poetry or looking for your next poetry read, Gill’s collection is one worth checking out!

I love starting out each new year with a poetry book as my first read! I’d been wanting to read Gill’s collection when it released last year, but hadn’t gotten to it, so I felt it would be a great read to start off 2019!

The first 10 pages begin with an introductory to the universe and explore the importance of self, which I found was a great start to the collection.

Then the collection progresses into poems and short stories inspired by fairytales!

I love how Gill transforms fairy tales and classic fairy-tale elements and makes them her own. You can see the originality with each poem and short-story (I also loved the illustrations that were alongside some poems & stories).

Some of my favorite poems were those that incorporated real-life elements and contemporary issues from mental health, loneliness, war, etc., which were then weaved in with fairy-tale imagery.

For example, Hunger: The Darkest Fairytale explored eating disorders while with Badroulbadour, I found it to be symbolism for the affect of war.

Through those stories and poems, I found Gill evoked so much emotion with her writing!

I love how inspiring the poems and stories are, all while exhibiting important messages of finding one’s inner strength & happiness, overcoming obstacles, and the importance of one taking charge of their own destiny.

I found those messages to be seen throughout the poem, Take Back Your Fairytale and the short stories Waking Beauty and Rapunzel, Rapunzel!

What also brings a unique twist to this collection is how Gill weaves in current and important messages of escaping abuse, overcoming hardships, and finding one’s own destiny through the origin stories of classic fairy tale villains like Captain Hook, Ursula, the Evil Queen, Cinderella’s step-mother/sisters, and many more!

However, there’s definitely moments within the collection where I clearly see the messages she’s weaving into her writing, but the writing-style itself is very direct and makes the messages appear very abrupt.

There’s definitely build-up of emotion to the message or theme of each poem/story, but its delivered in a way where its just plainly stated and with that, the feel/emotion of the poem doesn’t have as much impact.

The writing itself is also in a sense “plain” because its very easy to read and the execution of it makes the messages abrupt and forgettable as you move onto the next story or poem.

From the collection as a whole, I’d have to say the poems were my favorites compared to the stories!

I had some favorites of this collection for sure: Thermodynamics, Boy Lost which explored youth and promises, Badroulbadour, Shoemaker’s Son, Rapunzel Rapunzel & Moon Dragon to name a few <3!

The ones I mentioned above are some that I found showed the strength in her writing and imagery!

Overall though, I think there were some that were just hit or miss for me, but it was definitely a nice collection to read!

My other issue also involves the pacing, mainly seen through the short stories. While I really enjoyed reading them, I felt some just dragged a bit too long for me personally.

But I’ve been interested in reading more of Gill’s work and will definitely be checking out her additional collections in the future!

Fierce Fairytales brings a modern spin and weaves inspiring messages into the classic tales we’ve become familiar with! Gill transforms her poems and stories with a unique, original spin all while evoking emotion and beautiful imagery! If you’re looking for a magical and inspiring poetry collection, Fierce Fairytales: Poems And Stories To Stir Your Soul is one to check out!

2018 Wrap-Up & 2019 Book Blog Goals {Bookish Goals}

Bookish Goals 2019Hey, 24hr.YABookBlog here (~˘▾˘)~ 💞✨📚 Today’s blog post is all about my 2019 Book Blog-related goals & wrapping-up some bookish accomplishments/surprises in 2018!

2018 came and went, but there were so many amazing things that happened last year on the blog such as: 

Getting ARC’s for new releases such as: Love Hate And Other Filters, To Kill A Kingdom, The Poet X, Legendary, & many others of books I loved or am really looking forward to reading!

Having the opportunity to interview some amazing YA Authors such as Maura Milan (Ignite The Stars), Astrid Scholte (Four Dead Queens), & Janelle Milanes (Analee, In Real Life) 😍💞📚🎉

Still shaking because of this, but I was mentioned in the acknowledgements of Tricia Levenseller’s Daughter Of The Siren Queen!! 😭❤❤📚🎉 (Thank you so much Tricia)

Alongside that, I was also mentioned in FeedSpot’s Top 100 Young Adult Book Blogs!

Teamed up with HMH Teen to promote Grim Lovelies & got a really cool book box!

There were so many wonderful + spectacular bookish things that happened in 2018 and I can’t wait to see what’s in-store for 2019! 

With that said, I’m also excited to be sharing some 2019 Bookish Goals today! 😍🎉📚

1. Reading Goals

The main ones are highlighted in my 2019 Reading Goals Post! But above all, I just want this year’s reading to be memorable and also challenge me to read differently!

In addition to that, I also really want to try & keep up with reviewing ARCs early!

2.Expand On Blog Features

Literary TravelsI’ve had so much fun creating blog posts for my features such Literary Listens and my newest one Literary Travels (where I create a fictional guide to fantasy worlds)!

I want to continue posting for them in 2019 because they are some of the most creative features on my blog that I love & have so much fun writing for!

*I also have some upcoming bookish features I’m bringing to the blog in 2019 & I can’t wait to share them! 😍🎉📚

3. 2019 Bullet Journal

Around Thanksgiving break in 2018, I started planning out my 2019 Bookish Bullet Journal and I want to keep up with it in the new year!

I plan to fill it with bookish collages, track my book buying, podcasts, library book loans, & so much more!

If you’ve done a bookish bullet journal I’d love to hear any page ideas or tips you have!! 😄💞✨

4.Keep Up With Bookstagram

I noticed near the end of 2018, that I hadn’t really been having as much fun with my bookstagram as I had in the past!

I began to see it as a chore, but in 2019 I really want to find my bookstagram “theme” which will hopefully motivate me to post more & keep up with it!! (Maybe weekly?)

5.Continue Reading Diversely

Now at the end of each year, I track how many books by authors of color or diverse books I’ve read! I love supporting diverse books & #OwnVoices authors and want to continue that even more in 2019!

As of 2018, I read 43 books out of 63 books by authors of color, books that feature diverse characters, or are #OwnVoices! I’m incredibly proud that over 50% of the 2018 books I read were diverse books! 😍💜📚

In 2019 I want to continue to do that not only by reading/reviewing diverse books, but also promoting them as much as I can!

6.Writing

There’s an #OwnVoices YA Fantasy Idea of mine that’s been explored and written in fragments here and there for about 2 years at this point and I really want to try and get it written in 2019!

To help, I also have 2 other ideas on the back-burner that I’ve started and will hopefully inspire me to get back to my main idea when I can! 😄💞✨📚📝

7.Review More Critically

This one is something that I’ve really been thinking about in 2018! My reviews are mainly positive because I know what kinds of books I like/love and stick with those kinds of stories. However, in 2019 even with books I know I’ll enjoy I want to be able to review with a more critical lens because I feel its not only important to me as a reader, but also aspiring writer!

8. Be More Social On Twitter

After creating a blog post about engaging more in bookish content this past year and seeing my own Twitter feed throughout 2018, I noticed that while its kind of hard for me to be social on twitter, I really should try more!

There’s honestly so much book news & interesting discussions that go on in the bookish community that I know of, but am just kind of shy to comment on! But I really want to make more of an effort to communicate more on my platform!

If you follow me on twitter too, please feel free to chat with me! I know there’s more I can do to spread more bookish love on Twitter, but some days its just not all that easy for me 😅😭✨

I’m making it a goal to talk more about upcoming books, create interesting bookish threads & just chat more!

9.Feature More Author Interviews

As I mentioned above in my 2018 bookish wrap-up, I had a lot of fun interviewing authors about their books and writing!

This year I really want to take the opportunity to interview even more YA authors (debut or non) about books, their craft, and other book-related things! 😄💞📚📝

10.Change My Book Reviewing Style

This is something I’ve also had on my mind for a few months! I’ve been thinking about how I can change my review style to go beyond just the plot of a book! In 2019 its my goal to bring a unique exploration/depth to reviews with each book I read! It may take some time, but I’m hoping to really accomplish this goal with at least a couple books!

And those are my Bookish Goals for 2019! What are your bookish goals for the new year? Any similar to mine? Let’s Discuss! 😍📚🎉✨

If you’d like to support me & my content, I also have a Ko-Fi

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

This Cruel Design by Emily Suvada Review

This Cruel Design by Emily SuvadaThis Cruel Design by Emily Suvada (This Mortal Coil #2)

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: October 30, 2018

Pages: 394

Summary: The nightmare of the outbreak is finally over, but Cat’s fight has only just begun.

Exhausted, wounded, and reeling from revelations that have shaken her to her core, Cat is at a breaking point. Camped in the woods with Cole and Leoben, she’s working day and night, desperate to find a way to stop Lachlan’s plan to reprogram humanity. But she’s failing—Cat can’t even control her newly regrown panel, and try as she might to ignore them, she keeps seeing glitching visions from her past everywhere she turns.

When news arrives that the Hydra virus might not be as dead as they’d thought, the group is pushed into an uneasy alliance with Cartaxus to hunt down Lachlan and fix the vaccine. Their search takes them to Entropia, a city of genehackers hidden deep in the desert that could also hold the answers about Cat’s past that she’s been searching for.

But when confronted with lies and betrayals, Cat is forced to question everything she knows and everyone she trusts. And while Lachlan is always two steps ahead, the biggest threat to Cat may be the secrets buried in her own mind.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: This Cruel Design is a sequel that will keep you guessing till the very end! Suvada’s latest book delivers even more twists, new characters, intrigue, action, and a complex plot that changes everything you thought you knew about This Mortal Coil!

Okay–so I loved This Mortal Coil when I read it last year, was on the edge of my seat till the very last page and I wasn’t entirely sure how I’d even manage to wait for This Cruel Design!

So, its safe to say I went into this book with extremely high expectations.

Sequels aren’t easy, but the way Suvada builds on the world and technology all while making the plot go in such unexpected directions is what really surprised me!

It goes into even much more depth and exploration in such a more centralized way (focusing more on Cat) than in This Mortal Coil which made it incredibly unique!

Cat and the crew find themselves in Cartaxus’s grasp and still have hope they can find a solution to the virus that keeps on mutating faster than they expected. So, they find a lead that sends them on a journey to a city of genehackers in the Nevada desert!

They are given 3 days to seek out Regina, the leader of Entropia (city of genehackers) and continue their search for Lachlan and find an antidote!

Cat is coming to terms with the secrets she uncovered in This Mortal Coil, but isn’t losing hope that humanity can still be saved!

There’s new characters and even more development on the fascinating technology explored through the panels and what they are capable of!

The panels from what we know in This Mortal Coil, can be home to a variety of apps and code that can manipulate a person’s appearance and abilities! However, what Suvada does in This Cruel Design is that that she seamlessly introduces numerous hidden facets to these panels that leave us questioning this idea of power and the capabilities of what people can do with them, but also how it can also link people together!

Suvada leaves you thinking about the ramifications of this advanced technology, even with all the benefits it has and I loved how it showed both the dark and light side to the tech she introduced in This Mortal Coil!

If your looking for even more exploration to the intriguing technology–this sequel delivers on that and so much more!

What also makes This Cruel Design such a fascinating sequel is how it explores so many different sides to the characters and world in ways you don’t really expect.

As memories begin to resurface, Cat is coming to terms with a past she barley knows, but that’s inevitably forcing her to question all her choices that’s led her there and what it means for her and those who knew her as Jun Bei.

That conflict was explored through different moments and characters throughout the story, really builds a past we can fully see and realize as This Cruel Design develops.

Which leads me another one of my favorite parts of this book–Mato (aka Somata Watson)! He’s one of Cartaxus’s soldiers who joins the team because he actually used to work in Entropia and knew Cat as Jun Bei!

With his knowledge of Entropia, he’d be able to try & get them a meeting with Regina!

He was such a fascinating character–the development between him & Cat was one of my favorites throughout this book! He’s mysterious, witty, but also kind as he also tries to help Cat better understand her past and what he can do to help her now!

Overall, I really loved Mato, he’s definitely one of my new favorite characters in this series and I won’t spoil anything, but his development throughout the book really surprised me and I’m so interested to see where his story is headed in book 3!

We see him as a friend Cat can really rely on as she’s figuring out the glitches in her tech and as she begins to feel this sense of loneliness as she soon sees that her past as Jun Bei now mostly gone, she can’t really connect with the people that once saw her as a close friend. So I loved seeing how Cat knew she wasn’t entirely alone as she spends her time in Entropia!

There’s also even more development given to basically the entire main cast in ways I really did not see coming and I loved how their depth goes just beyond what’s necessary to the plot and they just felt so real!

The intrigue of this novel is present as Cat meets Regina, learns more about Entropia, her panel tech, and the mutating virus. Overall, there’s this complex web that develops and it just builds till the very end!

Speaking of Regina, I don’t want to spoil too much, but as she takes Cat under her wing we learn more about her and the connection she has with Cartaxus and even some of the main characters!

Even though I adored Cat & Cole + their dynamic in This Mortal Coil, Suvada really leaves the reader thinking of where their relationship is headed when secrets are uncovered and Cat finds herself feeling unsure of being able to trust him!

This leads to a very interesting dynamics that Cat develops throughout the book, not only with Cole, but the other main characters and I really loved that.

Onto the world-building! Where with This Mortal Coil, I felt the world could have used just a little more development, this sequel delivers even more than I was expecting! Not only is there more expansion to the dynamics of this technology in another state, but also the government as a whole and the different view we have of it now that we know Cat has a mission to complete while being sided alongside (but also not?) with Cartaxus!

There’s so much intrigue as Cat is learning more about her past and people who knew her as Jun Bei–so, we are left filling in the gaps alongside with Cat as to what happened between those 6 months of her as Jun Bei and when her life as Cat began!

As I mentioned above, this leads to very interesting dynamics that really build between Cat throughout the book that really build into Cat as a character and the loneliness/grief she feels for not remembering and wanting to find that connection with those that knew her!

The intrigue allows for this really unique and more personal atmosphere to develop as we read from Cat’s 1st person POV! Its more character-driven and especially driven by Cat’s struggles with all that she knows now and still has yet to learn as she uncovers more of her past!

While my rating in no way takes away from my absolute enjoyment of this book and how much a fun read it was, I did want to get into and discuss why I rated This Cruel Design lower than Book 1 (;´༎ຶД༎ຶ`)(;´༎ຶД༎ຶ`)!

With the fact that This Mortal Coil its an entirely new world, we don’t really know what to expect and because of that the pacing is really quick. Sadly for me personally, because we know the end goal–the crew finding Lachlan and looking for a way to eradicate a mutating virus before the end of their deadline set to them by Cartaxus–it felt like a lot of the story itself was already laid out, so I was just hoping for the pacing to be much more gripping, even though I truly did love the story!!

So hopefully what I’m saying makes sense??–But basically because we have a goal and know all the things we do after first book and through the first few chapters of This Cruel Design, it made this novel feel much more different in terms of pacing, which I wasn’t really expecting.

There’s also one character (which I don’t want to spoil) who is present later in the book and while it was great to see this character, I found that they took away from the route the book was already taking because they didn’t get too much development & came in somewhat late into the story!

Aside from what I said above however, I truly did have fun reading this book and those last few chapters–just wow!! I’m still in shock and cannot wait for book 3!

This Cruel Design is a fantastic sequel! Suvada delivers on a page-turning and intriguing story! Weaving in continuous development to the world, technology, and cast of characters, even more than in This Mortal Coil, this sequel leaves you with so many answers & even more questions, wondering when Book 3 will arrive!

Empress Of All Seasons by Emiko Jean ARC Review

Empress Of All Seasons by Emiko JeanEmpress Of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

Publisher: HMH Books For Young Readers

Release Date: November 6, 2018

Pages: 384

Summary: Each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules are simple. Survive the palace’s enchanted seasonal rooms. Conquer Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Marry the prince. All are eligible to compete—all except yōkai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to enslave and destroy.

Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it would be, if she weren’t hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yōkai with the ability to transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit. As she struggles to keep her true identity hidden, Mari’s fate collides with that of Taro, the prince who has no desire to inherit the imperial throne, and Akira, a half-human, half-yōkai outcast.

Torn between duty and love, loyalty and betrayal, vengeance and forgiveness, the choices of Mari, Taro, and Akira will decide the fate of Honoku.

*Received ARC through Yallwest*

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Empress Of All Seasons is a character-driven YA Fantasy inspired by rich, deeply woven Japanese mythology, great cast of characters, a plot filled with intrigue, politics, action, & adventure!

Empress was a book that had such a unique premise and what really made it shine, was the characters and their development!

Set in the country of Honoku, there’s strict rules against yokai, or those who have the ability to transform in to monsters or other supernatural creatures. They are treated as a lesser class and for those that are caught, are enslaved and forced to wear an iron collar that subdues them and their powers. More importantly, if any are found anywhere near the palace, they are either tortured or killed.

Mari is a Yokai. She lives in the all-female village of Tsuma, hidden away in the mountains of Honoku. She has been trained all her life by her strict mother, who along with all the other women in the village, are Animal Wives!

Animal Wives are women who use their Yoaki abilities to trick men into marrying them & take their fortunes.

Because Mari is assumed to never have the capability of becoming an Animal Wife, her mother has trained her in combat to ready herself for the competition that takes place in the Imperial City, mainly the Palace Of Illusions where all female contestants must battle within the 4 seasonal rooms for the prince’s hand in marriage!

Though she has never felt quite at home in her village, she does have one friend who she cares for deeply, Hissa! She is reminded of what it could mean for her and the yokai, but more importantly herself if she wins the title of empress.

Now a part of the competition, she must lie and deceive the court, pretend she is human and win the competition.

Within Mari’s village, we learn of a boy named Akira, who’s mother was a ghost yokai and father was human, he is known as the Son Of Nightmares. He has the ability to disappear and is one Mari’s other best friend!

They both care for each other, but its clear Akira really loves her!

When he learns she’s left for the competition, he takes charge to ensure she’s safe and tries to convince her to run away with him. He gets told to find a Weapons Master, which quickly leads him towards a new path and fate when trying to look after Mari!

Little does he know, he gets caught up in a rebellion, where there is a secret Yokai resistance, ready to destroy the system that keeps them enslaved. The rebellion is led by Hanako, aka Snow Girl, a yokai who has gathered a rebel army in secret + hiding to free the yokai!

Prince Taro, doesn’t want anything to do with the upcoming competition and spends his days in his workshop, creating and inventing. One of his favorite inventions is a mechanical bird! However, when Mari finds herself hiding behind a palace wall, she without knowing, ends up meeting prince Taro.

He becomes intrigued by her and the two have this almost unsaid crush on each other. What I loved about Jean’s development to the “romance” is that its never really a central aspect to the story. Mari is focused more on herself and where her goals will lead her & those she loves throughout the competition. Though its clear that Taro & Mari are interested in each other.

Akira becomes part of the rebellion to bring about a better world for Yokai, while with Prince Taro we are shown that he is not okay with how the yokai are treated (which started with his father, the Emperor), but still wants nothing to do with the throne.

I loved how these characters are so different than when the book begins and seeing them develop in such unique ways really kept me invested!

Empress is presented as a single and linear story focusing on a competition within seasonal rooms, but its so much more than just that! The summary really leaves out the different sides to this story, but it works so well, because you don’t really expect it!

Now I don’t want to spoil the end, but it really weaves together all these different plot threads and leaves on such an unexpected, but overall really satisfying note!

This novel is told through 3 POVs: we have Mari, Akira, & prince Taro! I loved how the differing POVs were not only distinct, but explore the world of Honako and the incredibly layered story.

I loved all 3 povs equally! Each character goes through so much development and undergo such unexpected journeys throughout the book.

There were also so many great side characters, like Asami who is alongside Mari w/ the other competitors to win title of Empress. She was so incredibly developed and I loved the interesting friendship they form when they both agree to be allies in the competition.

Asami is a character who is a bit of an enigma, but I love how there’s so much more to her reasoning for entering the competition + overall just her personality shines so much in this book. She was definitely one of my favorites!

Also aside from this novel being #ownvoices for Japanese rep./culture, was also the hint to Hanako being a lesbian (& that she loved Asami). 

Now as to why I’m rating this 4 stars, is due to the uneven pacing, a couple elements to the writing-style, & development in regards to the seasonal rooms!

  *TBH though, I find the rating on this to be super difficult for me to state because on an enjoyment scale its a 4.5, but if I’m looking at it overall, 4 seems to make the most sense? Ratings can be super difficult for me! 😂📚🌟

As the story progresses, the pacing becomes a bit slow especially throughout the middle and nearing the end. Yet, its also fast-paced near the end. So, above all the pacing fluctuated all throughout.

I did read an ARC so, this may have changed a bit, but the writing-style at points was rather direct and simplistic? So a lot of what what was introduced (in regards to characters, what they were feeling/development) did seem more like it was being told rather than shown.

I also loved the seasonal rooms within the palace, but I wish there was more even more development and inclusion of them with the overall story. Though with the background we do learn about them, it was fascinating– the rooms have a mind of their own and the extreme weather or obstacles the girls encounter within them, are a way of bringing balance to the rooms (which was so interesting!).

But, what I really loved about Empress Of All Seasons is that it accomplished what I expected more of in Forest Of A Thousand Lanterns, in terms of delivering a morally grey main character & the world-building!

Mari, to me seemed to be a bit of an anti-hero, there’s this dark side to her because she’s on this journey not just for her village, but along the way she learns its okay to go after things for yourself! She is showing these two differing sides and with the palace intrigue, its a mystery whether she’ll be able to keep her secrets!

Same goes with the world-building! The world isn’t just stated by the names of places, many elements to the world are explored, developed, and its incredibly immersive! I found myself picturing the world each and every moment I picked the book back up!

Overall, Empress Of All Seasons surprised me in many ways I was not expecting and ends on a note that really subverts tropes and expectations.

Empress Of All Seasons is a unique YA Fantasy, which is very character-driven, filled with intrigue, action, and adventure! If your looking for a standalone YA Fantasy with Japanese mythology, a competition, politics, & a rising rebellion, this is a fantasy you definitely want to check out!

August 2018 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 4

A Thousand Beginnings And Endings by Ellen Oh and Elise Chapman1.A Thousand Beginnings And Endings edited by Ellen Oh & Elsie Chapman

Library | Started July 28 + Finished August 2 | Rating: ★★★★☆ | A Thousand Beginnings And Endings Full Review

Overall Thoughts: This is a wonderful YA anthology that contains 15 short stories inspired by East & South Asian Folklore/Mythology! There are stories inspired by myths/folklore from Korea, the Philippines, China, India, Vietnam, & much more! Every author’s story delivers its own unique spin to their favorite tales. Within each story, the writing pulls you in! While there were some stories I enjoyed more than others, this is not an anthology to miss! While I loved so many of the stories, these were some that were definitely my favorites: Forbidden Fruit, Olivia’s Table, Land Of The Morning Calm, The Smile, Bullet Butterfly, & Daughter Of The Sun!

Interludes From Melancholy Falls Vol. 1 by Jeff Heimbuch2. Interludes From Melancholy Falls Vol. 1 by Jeff Heimbuch

Owned | Started August 3 + Finished August 6 |Rating: ★★★★☆ | Interludes From Melancholy Falls Vol. 1 Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Fans of the Return Home podcast do not want to miss out on this short story collection! Filled with 16 short stories, Heimbuch expands on the world of the Return Home podcast, by centering the stories around the lesser known settings and characters! Told through different mediums, each story builds into the world or even an episode of the show! Because the stories are more character/plot-driven, there are moments when the descriptions were a bit minimal! However, this is a great addition for readers looking to learn more about the world of Return Home!

Shadow And Bone by Leigh Bardugo3.Shadow And Bone by Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha Trilogy #1)

Owned | Started + Finished August 14 |Rating: ★★★★★ |Tattered Sundays feat. Shadow And Bone

Overall Thoughts: Not much to say other than I loved it even more than when I read Shadow & Bone the first time! What I loved about this re-read was how I focused more on the characters & their development! I just found myself loving the characters even more (like The Darkling, Alina, etc.) and connected to the story more on a level of characters & world-building/development than just the story as a whole. I picked up on little details I forgot the first time around that also helped me as an aspiring YA Fantasy writer! 

Ace Of Shades by Amanda Foody4. Ace Of Shades by Amanda Foody (The Shadow Game #1)

Library | Started August 9 + Finished August 22 | Rating:★★★☆☆ ¾ | Ace Of Shades Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Ace Of Shades is an immersive YA Fantasy that delivers such unique and different elements through its world! What I loved the most about this book was the main characters, Enne & Levi! The dual POV really built them both as characters, but also how they see the world of New Reynes. However, there were elements that made this book fall a bit flat for me: Pacing, made-up swear words, repetition of phrases, & lack of expansion on the world + some characters! Aside from that however, the way Foody crafts her stories makes it unexpected & immersive! The journeys that Enne & Levi have ahead, is what will definitely keep me invested in  book 2!

Additional Posts From This Month:

Podcasts In Publishing feat. Sadie by Courtney Summers {Literary Listens}

Book Bytes #14

Sacred Lies Mini-Series Review

YA Contemporary Books That Need Netflix Adaptations {Book Blog Discussion}

Tattered Sundays: Shadow & Bone + My Heart And Other Black Holes

Plans For September:

~ Catch up on ARCs & read more! I was a bit disappointed at the lack of ARCs I was able to get through this month, so next month I’m really planning to catch up + read/review upcoming ARCs & ones from a week ago! 💖📚📚🎉

~ Post TBR Lists! I’ve been drafting a couple TBR lists that I’ve had in the works for a while, but just haven’t had the chance to share yet! I’m definitely planning to share them & recommend some great upcoming books! 📚✨💖💕

~ I’ve also been planning another Literary Listens post & I’m really looking forward to sharing this one! 😍💕🎙✨

~If I make time for it, I definitely want to finish up my summer reading bullet journal & talk about it on the blog! ☀📝✨📚

What books did you read this month? 😍📚