Mini Reviews: March Reads

March was pretty intense with work which doesn’t mesh so well with my night owl tendencies and rambunctious kitten. Thankfully Quarter 1 is officially over and we have some time off around the Easter Holiday to relax and recharge.

Chihiro’s also had a busy month and is very good at pestering the humans. She even got to explore the top of one bookshelf earlier this week which was quite entertaining. Despite (or maybe due to) all her napping, she yawns quite a bit which is super cute.

Is it too much to ask that no one speak to me in the morning?

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia, page 5

This quote from Eliza was just too fitting, and something I think most mornings when people try to engage in conversation before I’ve had my tea. It doesn’t seem to matter just how much sleep I’ve gotten, I’m just not a morning person. I can typically function well on low sleep, but that doesn’t mean I want to have a conversation, especially a deep one, first thing.

I’m extra picky about audiobook narrators when reading them in the morning. This month I listened to quite a few audiobooks, but mostly in the evening while multitasking cleaning, building a puzzle, or playing video games.

Monthly Reading Stats!
6231 pages – 21 books finished – 88% monthly TBR met
0 reread – 11 owned TBR books read – 11 owned books read
8 comics/graphic novels – 9.5 audiobooks

Favorite read of the month?
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna. This debut is not for the faint of heart. The first book in a new YA trilogy, this story challenges societal norms, a woman’s role and the concept of purity. It is brutal and unapologetic. It is violent and beautiful. It is such a wonderful and powerful read. I look forward to rereading it and seeing what I missed the first time around.

This book had caught my eye sometime last year and a beautiful edition came in the February OwlCrate. I really look forward to continuing the series which is planned as a trilogy.

Other 5 star reads for me this month were the Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang and Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia.

Readathons/Challenges: This month I participated in OwlCrateAThon 2021! For more about the readathon, see my TBR post. I completed all of the bingo squares by reading from 6 different books and participating in Instagram challenges/reading sprints.

I finished my TBR of 4 books, 1 additional book, and 50% of two other books. Looking at the entire month, I started and finished 8 OwlCrate or OwlCrate Jr books (or sequels)!

6231 pages: I read almost 2000 more pages this month than last month, thanks mostly to audiobooks. I was able to borrow or own a large chunk of the books I read this month via audio which really helped. I also had the extra motivation of the OwlCrateAThon (aka my favorite annual readathon)!

88% TBR: aka I read all but 1 book on my monthly TBR. This month my TBR was 4 books I wanted to read and 4 books for the OwlCrateAthon. I’ve seen some people move from a TBR (to be read) list to a possibility list instead and I am considering taking that approach instead. For now I’m going to try to keep it to a shorter list of books, such as 4-5, with one pick being something less common for me.

For April that’s Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley. It’s a YA thriller about a Native Teen. I’m not a big reader of thriller’s, but this book has gotten some really good reviews and I want to read more stories by Indigenous authors. I also am trying to read my Illumicrate and OwlCrate books when they arrive.

Legend is what humans call the things they do not understand”

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna, page 370

Now for the books!

A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire by
Jennifer L. Armentrout –
⭐⭐⭐
The sequel to from Blood and Ash continues where the previous story left off. Now that Poppy isn’t trapped in her rooms, the stakes (and romance) are dramatically increased. The story ends on a bit of a dramatic note, but the third book is scheduled to release later this month (April 20th).
Full Review of From Blood and Ash
Adult/New Adult – Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal – From Blood and Ash #2

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah –
⭐⭐⭐⭐
A wonderfully written historical fiction about the dust bowl and the great depression. Perhaps not the easiest read given the pandemic, but also a good reminder about the cyclical nature of history and our resilience.
The story brings into question the American dream during difficult times while also dealing with many topics that are still issues in today’s society.
As with I think all of her books, this story pulled on my heart and definitely required a few tissues.
Adult – Historical Fiction – Stand Alone

Anne of Green Gables by
L.M. Montgomery –
⭐⭐⭐
Anne is a spunky and precocious girl with a big imagination. This classic is set in Avonlea, Prince Edward Island, Canada and was first published in 1908. The closemindedness of some of the community really got under my skin, but I’m glad to have finally read this story and can see why it’s been so popular.
All Ages – Classic: Contemporary – Anne of Green Gables #1

The Desolations of Devil’s Acre by
Ransom Riggs –
⭐⭐⭐⭐
The last novel in the Miss Peregrine’s series wrapped things up nicely. This story focuses on the secret world of the Peculiars who exist alongside our modern world. Most Peculiars live in loops, places literally stuck in time, because of how hard it was for them to live in the real world, but lately the loops are having their own problems.
YA – Fantasy: Urban, Paranormal – Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #6

Bridge of Souls by Victoria Schwab –
⭐⭐⭐⭐
Cassidy Blake’s parents film a paranormal TV show where they essentially hunt ghosts and highlight haunted cities/locations. Little do they know that Cassidy can actually see ghosts and her best friend just happens to be one. This time they are filming in New Orleans which is full of it’s own kind of magic.
MG – Fantasy – Urban, Paranormal – Cassidy Blake #3, OwlCrate Jr

City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda –
⭐⭐⭐⭐
This adventure story based on ancient Mesopotamian mythology takes place in New York City. Sik, a child of Iraqi immigrants, just wants to go to school and help his parents at the deli, but he is fated for a bigger adventure. Weaving in important topics such as being an immigrant in a Western society, this story is both informative and perfect for readers of all ages.
MG – Fantasy: Urban, Mythology – Stand Alone

The Girl the Sea Gave Back
by Adrienne Young
⭐⭐⭐
A bit of a sequel, a bit companion novel, this story takes place after the events of Sky in the Deep and follows Tova and Halvard. Be sure to read Sky in the Deep first to avoid a major spoiler, but if you’re looking for a fun viking-esque story, this could be your next pick.
YA – Fantasy: Vikings
– Sky in the Deep #2

Witchy by Ariel Slamet Ries-
⭐⭐⭐⭐
My new favorite webcomic, Witchy is a full color fantasy series where your magic strength is determined by your hair length. Hair too short and you’ll be mocked, hair too long and you could be declared an enemy of the Kingdom. Chapters 1-4 were included in this volume by OniPress from a past OwlCrate, but more is available at WitchyComic.com
YA – Fantasy: Witches – WebComic, ongoing series
, OwlCrate

The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars Part 2 & 3 by
Michael Dante DiMartino
and Irene Koh –
⭐⭐⭐⭐

This series picks up where the animated show left off. Asami and Korra come back from their trip and find Republican City in complete political turmoil. If you liked the series, I suspect you’ll enjoy the comics but I recommend reading all 3 parts together, as part 1 by itself did not capture my attention so much.
YA – Fantasy – Legend of Korra Series #1

Katara and the Pirate’s Silver by
Erin Faith Hicks, Peter Wartman and
Adele Matera – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This was a new standalone adventure, taking places during the main series. Katara gets separated from the team and has to use her skills to find her way back. Perfect addition to the main series.
MG – Fantasy – Avatar the Last Airbender

The Legend of Korra:
Ruins of the Empire, Parts 1-3 by
Michael Dante DiMartino, Michelle Wong, and Vivian Ng
⭐⭐⭐⭐

This series takes place after Turf Wars and takes a deeper look at the fate of the Earth kingdom after the events of the animated series. A strong addition!
YA – Fantasy – Legend of Korra Series #2

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna –
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
An important read that does not shy away from harsh reality, it’s a brutal tale which tackles the topic of purity, a women’s role and the patriarch. Girls are to avoid injury until their coming of age ceremony where in front of the village they will see if they bleed red (pure) or gold (impure). She’s going to find out what happens to those deemed impure.
Content warning: abuse, death, violence, war and misogyny.
YA – Fantasy – Deathless#1, OwlCrate

Eliza and Her Monsters by
Francesca Zappia –
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Eliza is the teenage creator of a widely popular webcomic and works hard to keep her identity a secret. At school she may be the bottom of the social ladder, but online is where she thrives and has her community. The story addresses several mental health issues and teen me would have greatly appreciated a story like this.
Content warning: anxiety, panic attacks, depression, talk/thoughts of suicide
YA – Contemporary – Stand Alone, OwlCrate

How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories
by Holly Black –
⭐⭐⭐⭐
This gorgeous illustrated novella takes place after Queen of Nothing. There is an incident in present day that causes Cardan to reflect on his past life and we learn a bit more about his upbringing and perspective on some moments from the other books. A must read for fans of the series!
YA – Fantasy – Folk of the Air #3.5, OwlCrate

Lore by Alexandra Bracken –
⭐⭐⭐⭐
A modern-day Greek myth, full of the brutality and backstabbing of your classic Greeks, but now with cell phones and technology to go with the magic and pride of the ancient days. Lore (Melora) tried to leave the Greek world, but this year during the Agon (a 7 day hunger games with Greek gods as the main target) she’s getting pulled back in.
YA – Fantasy: Urban, Mythology – Stand Alone, OwlCrate

Of Ice and Shadows by Audrey Coulthurst –
⭐⭐⭐
The sequel to Of Fire and Stars follows Denna and Mare on their next adventure. Denna is eager to explore more lands and hopefully learn more about her magic. Mare’s on a diplomatic mission to help her kingdom. What could go wrong?
YA – Fantasy – Of Fire and Stars #2

A Thief Among the Trees by
Sabaa Tahir-
⭐⭐⭐⭐
Revisit the world of An Ember in the Ashes with the first in a new prequel graphic novel series. Taking place while Eliza and Helene are fivers, we learn a little bit more about their past school days which have been hinted at throughout the series. Currently 2 more books are listed in the series but without any release dates.
YA – Fantasy – An Ember in the Ashes Graphic Novel prequel #1

The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang –
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
An intensely good, but brutal follow up to the Poppy War. It’s 20th Century China with shamans who channel gods (or are they monsters?) and yield devastating results. It’s a large book, full of lots of pain and adventure and characters you will both love and hate. Strongly recommend but not for the faint of heart.
Full Review: The Poppy War, The Dragon Republic
Content Warning: Drug use, addiction, general brutality, violence, war, rape
Adult – Fantasy: Historical – The Poppy War #2, Illumicrate

Thanks for reading this far!

Please note:
Cover images are from Goodreads/my own collection.
Books listed as Stand Alone were not considered part of a series at time of writing this post.

Book Review: The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: The Dragon Republic
Author: R.F. Kuang
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Audience: Adult
Series/Stand Alone: Trilogy, Book 2
Format read: Audiobook
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Date read: 31 March 2021
First published: 8 August 2019
Content Warning: Drug use, addiction, general brutality, violence, war, rape

Mini Review:
An intensely good, but brutal follow up to the Poppy War. It’s 20th Century China with shamans who channel gods (or are they monsters?) and yield devastating results. It’s a large book, full of lots of pain and adventure and characters you will both love and hate. Strongly recommend but not for the faint of heart.

Full thoughts:
As the second book in a series, it’s hard to speak about the book without giving some sort of spoilers for the first book. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend reading my spoiler free review of The Poppy War instead.

At the end of the Poppy War, Rin is on the run. Her main goal is to murder the Empress, but she has to figure out how she can do that and who is really on her side and will listen to her. She’s relying on opium to escape her god but that’s likely to lead to her destruction before too long, if she doesn’t go mad first.

In the Poppy War, I felt things started out somewhat bleak, but with lots of hope. For a while, things were kind of crappy for our main character, but overall improving from the beginning of the story. Rin started to find her way, and seemed to know where she fit in. Then things came to pass and everything was just utterly devastating and I ended the story with my emotions feeling very raw. Probably that was my fault for listening to the book over a span of I think 2 days.

With the Dragon Republic, my emotions didn’t get to quite the same level of broken, but I felt even more invested in the story. It was hard to be too happy with how things were going, as every time there was some forward progress, there were also some strong disappointments. Everything was hard going in, and Rin (and I) knew it wasn’t going to be easy as things progressed. That being said, a certain scene towards the very end did really hit me hard in the feels with a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.

I spread the reading of this story out over almost an entire month due to some other deadlines, so that may have helped me not be at total wreck cause of it as well. I listened to probably 3/4 of the book via audio but switched to ebook or physical copy in some cases when I couldn’t listen and to double check the spelling of some names.

I plan to read The Burning God this month and finally see how this journey ends for Rin. I’ll keep my tissues nearby.

Cover photo is from Goodreads of the Illumicrate Hardback edition released November 2020.

Mini Reviews: February Reads

February was rather long for the shortest month of the year, but despite working a bit longer than I should, thanks to audiobooks I still read 9 books, including some new favorites!

“Friends don’t eat friends. Dragon or not.”

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston, Page 67

Monthly Reading Stats!
4,413 pages – 9 books finished – 66.7% monthly TBR met
3 reread – 3 owned TBR books read – 7 owned books read
0 comics/graphic novels – 5 audiobooks

Favorite read of the month? Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston This book is one of my new favorites. It’s an adventurous and magical middle grade read, the perfect one to recommend or gift to everyone!

Readathons/Challenges: I only participated in one challenge this month, the Allies Along the Way Bingo hosted by the First Riders. I got one bingo by reading 5 books! The First Riders account is run by the Council of our First Riders Street Team for Nicki Pau Preto’s Crown of Feather’s series. Book 3 comes out in July and I’m excited for what all is planned before then!

4,413 pages is a pretty solid amount for me for a busy work month, so I’m pretty happy about it. I wouldn’t have read nearly so much if audiobooks hadn’t been options however.

66.7% TBR this month is not so strong compared to my 100% last month, but it was bound to happen! I’m thinking of making a plan to only set a 4 book TBR each month, since I don’t typically stick to it anyway, and see how that goes.

Other Thoughts: I started and finished two series this month, We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal and Cursebreakers by Brigid Kemmerer. Both were fantasy stories but with very different settings and I look forward to rereading them!

“Do not think of it as hiding. Think of it as … strategic positioning.”

A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer page 91

Now for the books!

From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout –
⭐⭐⭐
If you’re looking for a paranormal fantasy with a heavy dose of romance, this may just be your pick! There’s a mostly sheltered maiden who wants to fight to protect those she loves and a mysterious but gorgeous guard who makes her question everything. Don’t worry, it’s just the future of the kingdom of riding on their actions. Full Review
Adult/New Adult – Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal – From Blood and Ash

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by
Brigid Kemmerer –
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Did this book still make me tear up a little in parts despite this being my third read through? Yes, yes it did. This is one of my favorite beauty and the beast retellings. It’s a great blend of real world and classical fantasy. A place of magic and kingdoms with princes who are cursed and need to learn a lesson. There’s also a fierce loyal captain of the guard trapped in the mix. I read the entire trilogy this month.
YA – Fantasy, Retelling – Cursebreakers Triology #1

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston –
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Amari is smart, spunky and willing to put herself at risk to find her brother and the truth about his disappearance. Little did she know she would discover a secret magical world full of supernatural abilities and magicians. First step, get into the magical summer program; next step, find out what really happened to her brother.
MG – Fantasy, Urban, Paranormal – Supernatural Investigations #1 – OwlCrateJr

We Could be Heroes by Mike Chen –
⭐⭐⭐
This was a fun super hero story, where both the hero and villain were suffering from long-term memory loss. The story is told in a mix of both person’s POV and questions the idea of what it is to be a hero and how ones uses their own abilities. The title has had the Bowie song stuck in my head for ages!
Adult – Fantasy, Super heroes, Urban – Stand Alone

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong-
⭐⭐⭐⭐
Don’t miss out on Romeo and Juliet with creepy plague monsters in gangster-led 1920’s Shanghai. Reading about a plague in today’s climate maybe felt a bit too real, but it was a really interesting spin on the story and I look forward to seeing how it all pans out in the sequel. Juliette and Roma are children of the opposing gangs with very real blood feuds who must decide if they can work together to address this plague on both their houses (sorry couldn’t resist!)
YA – Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Retelling – These Violent Delights #1 – OwlCrate

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal –
⭐⭐⭐⭐
This duology is set in an ancient Arabia kingdom and full of wonderful mythology. The story is told from two very different and engaging POVs. Both trapped by their circumstances, although very different, they find themselves on the same quest and will have to decide if they will work together and to what end.
YA – Fantasy – Duology, Sands of Arawiya – OwlCrate

We Free the Stars by
Hafsah Faizal
⭐⭐⭐⭐
The sequel to We Hunt the Flame, this story takes place immediately after the first book. As in many cases, the first quest brought more questions than answers which are then explored and resolved in this story, while tugging at my heart strings a bit. Full of sassy characters, dangerous archers, deadly assassins and awesome mythology, it’s a good read/listen. The audio narrators, Steve West and Fiona Hardingham are two of my absolute favorites.
YA – Fantasy –
Duology
, Sands of Arawiya

A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer
⭐⭐⭐
This story picks up after the events of A Curse So Dark and Lonely, but is the curse truly broken? We start with Harper’s POV, but most of the story is told in the POV of Grey and a new character character from Syhl Shallow, Lia Mara. She’s quite clever and figures out Grey’s predicament early on. The book ends fittingly with a POV from Rhys.
YA – Fantasy, Retelling – Cursebreakers Triology #2

A Vow So Bold and Deadly by
Brigid Kemmerer –
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The conclusion to the Cursebreakers trilogy, this story has POV’s from all of our main characters and the stakes are quite high between Emberfall and Syhl Shallow and the secrets exposed in the second book. This series read as an adventurous fairy tale and I look forward to continuing to reread it.
YA – Fantasy, Retelling – Cursebreakers Triology #3

Thanks for reading this far!

Please note:
Cover images are from Goodreads or my own collection.
Books listed as Stand Alone were not considered part of a series at time of writing this post.