Review: All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

allrightsreservedAll Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

My Rating: 1/5 TARDISes

Series: Word$ #1

Date Published: August 29th, 2017

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Pages: 400 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: In a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted, patented or trademarked, one girl elects to remain silent

Speth Jime is anxious to deliver her Last Day speech and celebrate her transition into adulthood. The moment she turns fifteen, Speth must pay for every word she speaks, for every nod, for every scream and even every gesture of affection. She’s been raised to know the consequences of falling into debt, and can’t begin to imagine the pain of having her eyes shocked for speaking words that she’s unable to afford.

But when Speth’s friend Beecher commits suicide rather than work off his family’s crippling debt, she can’t express her shock and dismay without breaking her Last Day contract and sending her family into Collection. Rather than read her speech—rather than say anything at all—she closes her mouth and vows never to speak again, sparking a movement that threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them.

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This is a spoiler-free review.

I had been so eager to read this book ever since I first heard about it, so I am really sad to say that I did not enjoy it. The concept for the plot is very interesting and there were many aspects of this novel that were quite creative. However, the negatives severely outweighed the positives in this case. There was so much potential here for a riveting and powerful story about freedom of speech, and the subject itself is very topical in our world today. But what could have been both exciting and enlightening was ruined by too many tropes and an extremely unlikeable main character.

This novel takes place in a dystopian future, reminiscent of settings like Orwell’s 1984 and The Hunger Games trilogy. This society brings new meaning to the term free speech. Every single word and gesture is copyrighted or trademarked and there are few things a person can do that do not cost them money. In this story, we follow a young girl named Speth who is about to reach the age at which this system of payment for communication applies to her. When she witnesses the tragic death of her friend right before her “Last Day” speech, she is overcome with sadness at the unfair and restrictive situation they have all been forced into. So instead of reading her speech, she vows to never speak again, inadvertently starting a dangerous but crucial revolution.

I really did not like this book. Though there were some unique parts, much of it felt like a copy of other dystopian young adult novels, relying on far too many overused tropes. My number one problem was the main character, Speth. She is by far one of the most infuriating characters I have ever come across and as this is written in first person, there is no escaping her. Her actions throughout the story are consistently enraging, causing tons of unnecessary pain to everyone around her. She could have been a strong heroine, standing up for what she believes in and fighting for free speech. However, almost everything she does is highly irresponsible, not well thought-out, and is more damaging to society rather than helpful.

Though she does end up inspiring people within her society to fight for their rights, Speth herself does not even seem to actually know what she is fighting for exactly. As the plot intends, her initial refusal to speak inadvertently starts a bit of a revolution. This choice comes from the deep grief she feels in the moment, and that is completely understandable. But as the story progresses, she comes across as increasingly immature and she does not grow at all.

Standing up for what you believe in can be an extremely daunting task and requires a huge amount of courage and strength. But Speth is stubborn in the wrong way and she constantly fails to see how much she is hurting innocent people who are close to her. This calls into question the plausibility of so many people following and looking up to her.

Most of the other characters in the novel are far more likable than Speth and I thought Katsoulis did a very good job creating them. They are definitely multi-dimensional and it is interesting to learn their backstories and get a picture of how they live in this bleak societal state. Since Speth does not speak to anyone during the narrative, it is hard to get a handle on her relationships with the other characters, but for the most part, the characterization of the side characters is a decently strong aspect of the book.

Another aspect of the novel that I quite liked was the creativity of the different corporations that run every part of society. Katsoulis comes up with some very clever and sometimes hilarious ideas for these companies and the advertisements they put forth. There is this sort of dark comedy feel here due to the mixture of humor with a frighteningly realistic dystopian world. I particularly liked the concept of the placers, and I actually wish there had been even more of a focus on them.

I think the main problem here does not stem only from Speth’s recklessness and lack of consideration for other people and their wishes but also from the way the story is approached. It is clear that Katsoulis wanted this to be an action-filled narrative that shocks the reader with its many twists and turns. However, he just goes way too far. Rather than add to the strength of the underlying message of the story, these twists only become a massive detriment to Speth’s character. These events also serve to make the story less and less believable as they transpire. There was one situation in about the final quarter of the narrative that was the final straw for me and there was no redeeming itself after that.

I think the basic concept here is pretty solid and I definitely do see what Katsoulis is going for. Unfortunately, the execution was rough and, in my opinion, did not produce the desired effect. The positive message of championing freedom of speech is mostly lost due to the lack of a strong main character. Katsoulis also throws in too many events that take place purely for shock value and feel somewhat pointless within the actual narrative as a whole. I do intend to read the next book in the series to see if any of the issues I found in this one are fixed.

1.0 TARDIS

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Review: The Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren

thevirtueofsinThe Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: June 25th, 2019

Publisher: Philomel Books

Pages: 432 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Miriam lives in New Jerusalem, a haven in the desert far away from the sins and depravity of the outside world. Within the gates of New Jerusalem, and under the eye of its founder and leader, Daniel, Miriam knows she is safe. Cared for. Even if she’s forced, as a girl, to quiet her tongue when she has thoughts she wants to share, Miriam knows that New Jerusalem is a far better life than any alternative. So when God calls for a Matrimony, she’s thrilled; she knows that Caleb, the boy she loves, will choose her to be his wife and they can finally start their life together.

But when the ceremony goes wrong and Miriam winds up with someone else, she can no longer keep quiet. For the first time, Miriam begins to question not only the rules that Daniel has set in place, but also what it is she believes in, and where she truly belongs.

Alongside unexpected allies, Miriam fights to learn–and challenge–the truth behind the only way of life she’s ever known, even if it means straying from the path of Righteousness.

A compelling debut novel about speaking out, standing up, and breaking free.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

There are so many aspects of this story that appealed to both the book nerd and psychology nerd in me and I was completely absorbed from the start. This is the story of two teenagers who have spent their entire lives in a cult and how they deal with their newfound clarity about their situation as they are thrown into adulthood in the community. It is a novel that portrays the importance of not always taking what people in power say at face value, fighting for equality, and learning to accept others—and oneself—for who they are.

I absolutely love anything to do with psychology—I am actually currently a forensic psychology major—and the psychology of cults is particularly interesting to study. Seeing the mindsets of both the members and the leaders is both fascinating and chilling. This novel primarily demonstrates how the beliefs and laws a leader comes up with are drilled into members. We see how this warps a person’s thoughts and view of the world and how incredibly challenging it is to break free of these beliefs. Schuren’s depictions of these elements of a cult are very accurate, enraging, and heartbreaking.

The primary subject dealt with in this novel is the unequal and extremely poor treatment of women within the cult. We see how the men silence them and do not allow them to make their own decisions. There are also other elements of the unfair treatment of minorities in the plot. The importance of standing up for these types of injustices, whether you are part of that minority or not, and of treating others with respect are shown through this story.

I was surprised at how many twists there were in this novel that I did not see coming. And I liked every single one. Schuren takes the narrative in a number of unexpected directions. There are so many secrets spilled and revelations that propelled me through every chapter. This is a true page-turner.

One of the only issues I feel the story has is that it does become a bit repetitive. I somewhat conflicted about this because it does make sense in context to some extent. The process of changing ones’ mindset and beliefs about something or someone—particularly in such a severe situation—takes a lot of time. Miriam actually does come around and see the lies of the cult’s leader fairly quickly in terms of the number of days over which the story takes place. However, I did feel that facts potentially did not need to be repeated to the reader after the first few times hearing them. Overall, this is just a very minor problem I came across.

Miriam is an incredibly strong female lead right from the very beginning of the novel. She does not want to put up with the suppression and ill-treatment of women that the men of the cult have turned into an accepted way of life. She gradually finds her voice and stands up for not just herself and the other women, but for everyone who is under the control of the Prophet. Headstrong and intelligent, Miriam makes a wonderful protagonist.

This story is not just told from Miriam’s perspective but also from Caleb’s, the boy she’s sure she is meant to marry. Alternating between these characters and seeing every situation through two different sets of eyes made this an even more intriguing plot. Schuren writes these narrators well, making their voices distinct from the other, which can be a challenge when working with more than one point of view.

Both main characters and side characters alike are multi-dimensional in this story. They are clearly carefully crafted and they evolve and respond realistically to their environment and the events of the novel. They don’t feel flat—they are the driving force of the plot. I felt that I got to know many of the characters well, no matter what size part they play in the grand scheme of things. Just like the worldbuilding, the characters are equally as vivid, detailed, and fully fleshed out. Aaron’s storyline is probably my favorite out of all of them.

My only issue with the characters is that a couple characters are rather unclear or inconsistent, mainly early on. I felt they became clearer pretty quickly, but I had a little trouble connecting with them at first. For instance, in Aaron’s case, I would think I was getting a handle on his personality and then he would do something that seemed out of character, causing me to become confused. There were times when I did not quite understand the motives for a character’s actions and those events were not always cleared up. Again, this is just a very minor issue I had.

Tying in with what I said about the characters being multi-dimensional, Schuren does a good job of clearly indicating how they develop over the course of the story. They learn and grow and evolve. The events that take place and the upheaval they experience consistently affect each character, their actions, and their views of life and the world around them.

Schuren’s writing style is definitely one of the strongest aspects of this novel. I found it very easy to get into and it had a very captivating quality to it. It was not just the story but the way she told it and worded it that held me in the narrative. The writing and the message it sends are both beautiful.

I found Schuren’s worldbuilding to be absolutely fantastic. She creates this extremely detailed and frighteningly realistic picture of what living in a cult is like. She forms both the physical world and the psychological world of these characters through her words. It feels like you are there in the desert—in the supposed safety of the community. You experience the raw emotions and the sinister atmosphere. She really brings this story to life.

This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it absolutely did not disappoint. It was so easy to become engrossed in this novel and I found it extremely hard to put down. I read through it so fast, just intending to read a couple chapters and realizing a while later I read over one-hundred or more pages. Schuren brings so many interesting elements together to create a story that will quickly draw in readers and open their eyes to topics that are very important and timely. I highly recommend picking this up and giving it a read.

4.0 TARDISes

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Review: Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker

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zenobiajulyZenobia July by Lisa Bunker

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: May 21st, 2019

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers

Pages: 320 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Zenobia July is starting a new life. She used to live in Arizona with her father; now she’s in Maine with her aunts. She used to spend most of her time behind a computer screen, improving her impressive coding and hacking skills; now she’s coming out of her shell and discovering a community of friends at Monarch Middle School. People used to tell her she was a boy; now she’s able to live openly as the girl she always knew she was.

When someone anonymously posts hateful memes on her school’s website, Zenobia knows she’s the one with the abilities to solve the mystery, all while wrestling with the challenges of a new school, a new family, and coming to grips with presenting her true gender for the first time. Timely and touching, Zenobia July is, at its heart, a story about finding home.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

This was an incredibly enjoyable read. There are so many intriguing aspects of this novel that captivated me right from the start. At its core, this is a story of love, compassion, and finding ones’ place in the world. It is a story that shows the amazing strength a person can have when standing up for what they believe in and doing what is right. All of these themes are made all the more interesting with the element of mystery that is thrown in here. Zenobia July is an all-around uplifting and poignant novel.

In this novel, we follow a young transgender girl named Zenobia July. Zenobia has just moved from Arizona to Maine to live with her aunts. This, coupled with the many recent discoveries she has made about her true self and who she is meant to be, means that she is beginning a new and very unfamiliar life. She is finally starting to open up and discover a supportive group of friends while also getting the chance to live openly as a girl. When offensive and intolerant memes from an anonymous poster begin to appear on her school’s website, Zenobia gets to put her hacking and coding talents to good use in order to solve this mystery and stop the poster.

The characters were a very strong part of this story. Bunker does a great job of fully building each one and presenting them in a realistic and three-dimensional way. She clearly shows how each person and their relationships with each other grow and evolve throughout the course of the narrative. Every character has a unique voice and personality, and seeing how they all blend into each others’ lives is a lot of fun.

Zenobia is an absolutely beautiful person and an extremely strong protagonist. She learns many important lessons about life and, in turn, teaches these same things to the reader. This cast of characters is very diverse, which intensifies the deep and meaningful messages that can be found in this novel. Zenobia and her friends and family are so loveable and a joy to read about.

One of the only issues I ran into while reading this was with the writing itself. I found it to be a bit choppy and, in the beginning, this made it slightly difficult to follow. It took me a while to become fully immersed in the story. However, I think this was mainly a case of me not completely clicking with the author’s writing style. It is very obvious that Bunker is a talented author, and she creates a vivid and engrossing narrative. As I mentioned already, the characters are beautifully and uniquely crafted. She addresses many important and timely topics and does so in a clear and widely accessible way. Every element is woven together seamlessly.

It is always so wonderful to see more LGBTQ+ novels coming into the world, especially in middle-grade literature. This is a story that many people could learn a lot from, especially a younger audience. It makes important and complex topics understandable to any age and spreads a very positive message. It is one of those books that definitely has the potential to have a profound impact on a reader’s life and broaden their view of society and the world itself.

The true meaning of family—that is does not only apply to blood relatives—and the support and love they can give are such powerful things to learn about and we are given a great example of both within these pages. Zenobia’s story displays the importance of being true to yourself no matter what and encourages readers to remember to listen to their heart. Figuring out who you are is a challenging experience—presenting that person to everyone else in your life even more so.  However, remaining strong and sure of yourself will get you over the many hurdles life puts in your path. This novel is a shining example of that very message and is a fantastic addition to the literary world.

4.0 TARDISes

Author Bio:

14153366Lisa Bunker lives in Exeter, New Hampshire. Before taking up writing full time, she had a thirty-year career in public and community radio. In November of 2018, she was elected to represent her town in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. She is married and has two grown children. Her geekeries include chess, piano, gender, storycraft, and language.

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Review: Second Lives by P.D. Cacek

secondlivesSecond Lives by P.D. Cacek

My Rating: 2.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: April 11th, 2019

Publisher: Flame Tree Press

Pages: 256 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: When four patients unexpectedly wake after being declared dead, their families are ecstatic and the word “miracle” begins to be whispered throughout the hospital. But the jubilation is short lived when the patients don’t respond to their names and insist they are different people. It is suggested all four are suffering from fugue states until one of the doctors recognizes a name and verifies that he not only knew the girl but was there when she died in 1992. It soon becomes obvious that the bodies of the four patients are now inhabited by the souls of people long dead.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

I had very mixed feelings about Second Lives. I also feel like it is going to be a little on the tricky side to explain as there is a lot of jumping around between various storylines. It is not particularly challenging to follow when reading it by any means. But having such a variety of perspectives has made it hard for me to pin down all of my thoughts about the novel as a whole. This was incredibly different from what I had expected going in. It is a very character driven novel and focuses less on the sort of sci-fi aspects—the explanations for why these unbelievably strange events are occurring. And though I do like when the development of the characters takes the lead, it felt like there was a lot missing from the plot.

In this novel, we follow eight different people’s stories, which technically pares down to four after the first part of the book. To set up the story, we get a brief view of every main character’s background and how they get into the situations they end up in. Four of these characters have died at some point in the past and the other four, in the present, have fallen into comas or are in some way very near death. However, something extraordinary happens when each of these patients suddenly wakes up after they have been declared dead. But what seems like a miracle soon becomes a nightmare for their loved ones when it is determined that the souls of others who have passed away many years before have taken up residence in these four peoples’ bodies.

Of course, this is a very fictional story, so it does seem a bit silly to comment too much on the plausibility of what occurs. To some extent though, having some amount of believability is crucial in order to allow readers to connect with and become immersed in the narrative. For me personally, there is a huge absence of this here. It is not the idea of other’s souls inhabiting the bodies of the recently deceased—that is a completely common and very interesting theme in science fiction. My issue is with both the lack of focus on how these events occur, as well as the way the characters’ loved ones handle their unique situations.

The portrayal of the main characters is, for the most part, the strongest aspect of this novel. Nora was, by far, my favorite of the bunch. I connected with her immediately and her storyline felt the most realistic. Her actions throughout the narrative—particularly the difficult decisions she has to make—were the most understandable. She is the most fleshed out of all the characters and Cacek puts a lot of detail and time into forming her and her life. The main themes dealt with in Nora’s part are actually ones that I tend to avoid due to personal experiences that make it too painful to read about. However, this is one of the very few exceptions I have come across in my life and, though it was still incredibly emotional, I really did like how things were handled.

On the opposite side of this, the other three perspectives are less detailed and go in directions that are pretty unbelievable. I never felt like I could picture these people as clearly—it is hard to get a handle on their personalities and relationships with others. Because of this, I could not connect with any of them particularly well. The choices they make in the end are odd and, honestly, a few are a bit uncomfortable. One huge plus though is that Cacek does a wonderful job of making each person very distinct. Having so many separate perspectives can oftentimes lead to a lack of definition between the various voices and behaviors of the individual characters. She avoids this pitfall very well.

As far as the actual text itself, Cacek’s writing is very good. She is clearly a talented and imaginative writer. I think the biggest issue is that she just took on way too many topics in too short a novel. Under these circumstances, it is impossible to fully address and expand on the most important areas. A lot of problems might have been solved if she had stretched the narrative out a little more. Also, the science fiction aspect of it could have transformed into something clearer and very captivating instead of feeling like a loose end. Despite the issues I had with it though, this was still an interesting read overall, and I would recommend giving it a try.

2.5 TARDISes

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Review: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

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wickedsaintsWicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Something Dark and Holy #1

Date Published: April 2nd, 2019

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Pages: 400 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Wicked Saints was one of my most anticipated novels of the year, though I was a combination of excited and wary to read it. This seemed like one of those plots that I would really get into or just not enjoy at all. And while I didn’t absolutely love it, it still ended up falling into that first category and I had a pretty good time with it. From the vivid characterization to the unique and intriguing magic systems, I was sucked into this novel very quickly. A dark tale full of diverse characters and a vividly depicted setting, this proved to be an interesting read.

The countries of Kalyazin and Tranavia have been locked in a war that has spanned nearly a century and there still seems to be no end in sight. Nadya, an orphan who has lived within a monastery all her life, is not only there for training but also for her own protection. She is the first Kalyazin in many years to possess magic—a magic that allows her to communicate with the gods and goddesses and receive powers from them. If she were to fall into the hands of the Tranavians it would mean the downfall of Kalyazin. As she runs from the Tranavians, desperate to survive and determined to keep the religion of Kalyazin alive, she must draw on her great bravery to try and end the war while accepting the help of some people she is hesitant to trust.

The narrative starts off extremely fast-paced—perhaps a bit too fast-paced. We are thrown into the action immediately and while I do like books that really get into things quickly, I felt that it would have been nice to have a just little bit more exposition in the first few pages. There is not a whole lot that lets us know who the characters are, their relationships, nor what their situation is. Also, we know very little about the initial setting before we are thrown out of it. This made it a little hard to form my first connections with the characters and I felt that the scene that ensues definitely needed that.

That being said, when Duncan begins to reveal more information and backstory throughout the following chapters, she does a good job of working it into the narrative. I found things to be a bit confusing for a little too long at the beginning, but I felt that everything was cleared up at some point. There are no major info dumps or any slowing of the pace as she reveals these facts, which is a trap that is quite easy to fall into.

Each piece of description about the characters and the magic system fits into the moment—they are relevant to what is taking place in the main narrative and are seamlessly sewn throughout the plot. Formatting the story this way also allows Duncan to show rather than tell while building the world. She does a great job of giving the reader knowledge of an aspect such as the characters’ personalities through showing their exchanges with each other and how they interact with the environment.

Speaking of the characters, they were a very strong element of this novel. She does a good job of not only creating three-dimensional characters but also depicting how they change and evolve over the course of the narrative. The good guys were easy to love and the villains were fun to hate. I particularly liked the portrayal of the gods and goddesses and how Nadya interacts with them. I also really liked Serefin and how Duncan built his character (at this point, I’m fairly sure I just have a thing for bad boys). I found him to be a particularly interesting and complex character who captured my attention right from the start. My only complaint character-wise was the romance. To be fair, I am extremely hard to please when it comes to romance in novels and this was one I was just not sold on.

Duncan builds the world in which this story unfolds very well. Her descriptions are very vivid and detailed—they truly pull the reader in. She has a wonderful talent for writing. Her words flowed beautifully and easily carried me all the way through to the final page. Very lyrical and captivating, her words were so enjoyable to read. I absolutely loved the Russian and Polish influences in all aspects of this book. Duncan clearly put a huge amount of time and effort into incorporating these cultures into the creation of everything from the setting to the magic systems.

The magic was one of my absolute favorite parts of the plot. Nadya’s magic as a cleric particularly caught my attention. As I said early, I found it to be extremely unique as it was completely based around the gods and goddesses of the world in this novel. I loved learning about each of the gods and goddess and what sort of powers they each bestowed on Nadya. I did feel that she fell a bit into the “special-snowflake” category, but that did not bother me as much as it can in some stories. And though she was not as strong a lead as I hoped she would be, I still liked hearing her story. Overall, I quite enjoyed this novel. I am definitely interested enough to continue on with this series as the next installments come out.

3.5 TARDISes

Author Bio:

Emily A. DuncanEMILY A. DUNCAN works as a youth services librarian. She received a Master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, which mostly taught her how to find obscure Slavic folklore texts through interlibrary loan systems. When not reading or writing, she enjoys playing copious amounts of video games and dungeons and dragons. Wicked Saints is her first book. She lives in Ohio.

Social Links:

Website: https://eaduncan.com/
Twitter: @glitzandshadows
Instagram: @glitzandshadows
Tumblr: http://glitzandshadows.tumblr.com/

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Review: The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras

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thehuntforthemadwolfsdaughterThe Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras

My Rating: 4.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Mad Wolf’s Daughter #2

Date Published: March 5th, 2019

Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books

Pages: 288 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: In this Scottish medieval adventure, after attempting a daring rescue of her war-band family, Drest learns that Lord Faintree’s traitorous uncle has claimed the castle for his own and convinced the knights that the lord has been slain . . . by her hand. Now with a hefty price on her head, Drest must find a way to escape treacherous knights, all the while proving to her father, the “Mad Wolf of the North,” and her irrepressible band of brothers that she is destined for more than a life of running and hiding. Even if that takes redefining what it means to be a warrior.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review, but does contain some spoilers for the previous novel, The Mad Wolf’s Daughter.

I read and absolutely adored the first novel in this series, The Mad Wolf’s Daughter but, at the time, I believed it would be a standalone. So a few months ago, when I discovered there would be a sequel, I was ecstatic. And this novel absolutely did not disappoint. It is impossible to not be pulled into this story and become wrapped up in the lives of these vivid characters. The plot is exciting and action-packed, filled with heart-pounding moments and intriguing twists that add further depth into this world Magras has created. It takes readers on an incredibly fun journey with a remarkably brave young girl and a tale of love and friendship at its center.

This novel picks up exactly where the last one left off, as Drest, her family, and her newfound friends are on the run from the traitorous Lord Oswyn and his knights. With her brothers free from Faintree Castle’s prison and Emerick rescued from his uncle, the group finds themselves facing a dangerous and powerful enemy. Their situation is made even worse as Drest finds out Sir Oswyn has put a large price on her head, which means finding trustworthy allies is all the more difficult. As they fight to take back the castle and restore the rightful ruler, Drest is determined to prove to her family that they deserve more than a life of running and fighting and, in the process, learn what it truly means to be a warrior.

This story is equally as captivating as its predecessor. As in the previous novel, Magras’ writing is absolutely beautiful. Between the strength of her narrative and the vibrancy of her world and characters, she creates a truly immersive experience. She clearly depicts the Scottish headland and gives the reader a good idea of the type of environment and terrain the characters are dealing with. The language and slang used further adds to the realism and allows the reader to easily imagine both the time period the story takes place in and the voices of each individual character.

Her writing style has this sort of classic fantasy novel feel to it, which personally transports me back to my childhood as I grew up devouring everything in this genre. It is a story that is very warm and inviting. Magras weaves the setting, the characters’ lives, and the political intrigue of the plot together in a way that enraptures the reader. The themes of love, strength, and courage—of loyalty to those you love the most—are depicted extremely well. Becoming wrapped up in this story is such an enjoyable experience, one that I never want to end.

Drest is a strong female lead—truly living up to her role as a warrior and a legend. I absolutely loved getting the chance to see more of her story and how she has and continues to grow and change. She is tough, feisty, and not about to be underestimated. Yet she is also not unrealistically powerful or without faults. There are times when she learns she still needs the help of her friends and family and that they are all at their best when they work together.

I really enjoyed getting to see more of Drest’s relationships with the other characters, particularly between her and her family. Her father and brothers are a huge part of the first novel, but their actual physical presence in the narrative is very short. In this one, we are given an even clearer view of their individual personalities and how they all interact with each other. And of course, it was wonderful to see more of Emerick and Tig. I absolutely adore the friendship between the three of them and how they support each other every step of the way. They are definitely one of my favorite character trios ever.

The only, very minor, problem I had with the plotline was the repetitiveness of some of the scenes. There were many instances of Drest arguing her point of not needing to be taken care of—that women can be strong enough to defend themselves, not always requiring protection. This is one of the key aspects of the plot and something that Drest’s father and brothers, as well as other male characters, come to learn through her actions, and it was a huge part of the first novel as well. She consistently shows that she is completely capable of fighting alongside them.

However, it felt like there were a few too many scenes where they stood around debating this instead of escaping their pursuers or working to fight back. All-in-all, it was not a huge issue and did not stray from the main message of the novel in any way. It was very realistic to see the difficulty the male characters had understanding the strength of a woman, particularly in a time where women are seen as maidens who need to be rescued. There were just times where I felt everyone became a bit too hung up on it when there was really no reason for it in those situations.

This series is definitely one that readers of any age will love. It is a wholesome, well-crafted story depicting the bravery and strength one can find within themselves in the toughest circumstances. Drest is a fantastic and inspiring heroine that not only fights for those she loves but also her ideas and confidence in her own abilities. I am unsure whether there are going to be any further novels in this series but, if there are, that would be absolutely wonderful. I would love to spend more time in this world with these beautiful characters. If you have not checked out these novels yet, I would highly recommend giving them a read.

4.5 TARDISes

Author Bio:

15572575Diane Magras is author of The New York Times Editors’ Choice, The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, as well as its companion novel, The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter. She’s addicted to tea, castles, legends, and most things medieval. She lives in Maine with her husband and son and thinks often of Scotland, where her books are set.

Blog Tour Schedule

Week One: The Mad Wolf’s Daughter

February 25 – Teachers Who Read – Interactive Classroom Activity

February 26 – Little Reader – Moodboard

February 27 – RhythmicBooktrovert – Listicle: Top Five Favorite

February 28 – The Quirky Book Nerd – Listicle: Top Favorite Quotes

March 1 – Some the Wiser – Character Recommendations

Week Two: The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter

March 4 – Teachers Who Read – Review

March 5 – Little Reader – Review + Creative Instagram Picture

March 6 – RhythmicBooktrovert – Review

March 7 – The Quirky Booknerd – Review

March 8 – Some the Wiser – Review + Favorite Quotes

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Kate Marshall’s Top 5 Must-Haves in an Author Survival Kit

IAmStillAliveBlogTour

Huge thanks to Kate Marshall for putting together this fantastic post for us today! Her forthcoming novel, I Am Still Alive, is a captivating survival thriller that comes out on July 24th. In anticipation of its release, Kate is here to share the top five must-haves in an author survival kit! Please make sure to check Kate out on her website, Twitter, and Goodreads! I will be posting a full review of I Am Still Alive very soon!

Top 5 Must-Haves in an Author Survival Kit

You might think that an author, set adrift in the wilderness, has the same survival needs as any other person. You would be wrong. Authors are peculiar creatures, and need specialized gear even for short excursions into the wild. Before handing your author a compass and dropping them in the deep woods, make sure you’ve packed their bag with these essentials.

Sunscreen & Sunglasses

Authors become less tolerant of sunlight the closer they come to deadlines. The mid-draft author may, in fact, become confused when exposed to bright light, and attempt to find the keyboard shortcut to dim the sky. Liberal application of sunscreen will allow the off-roading author to slowly acclimate to the presence of the daystar without suffering sunburn.

Notebook & Pens

Ask any park ranger, and they will have a harrowing tale to share of encountering a lost writer in the woods, searching beneath bushes for an outlet to charge their dying laptop, having failed to secure shelter, water, or food in favor of this fruitless quest. To prevent such tragedy, replace the laptop with high-quality, water-resistant notebooks and pens.

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Books

It may seem as if books are an impractical choice for wilderness survival—unless you’re talking about survival guides. But while manuals on plant identification, hunting, and other survival skills are useful, for the author it is particularly important to pack some of their favorite reads. This is because a bored author is a dangerous author. The key to survival is caution. The bored author gets “creative.” You don’t want to discover that instead of gathering firewood, your author has turned the kindling into a stick-person society complete with lushly detailed culture, rituals, and myth. Keep your author entertained, and you’ll keep your author alive.

Caffeine

Many a hiker has come across a listless author on the trail. Most wilderness first aid courses now teach how to nurse the author back into consciousness through the gradual introduction of coffee or other caffeinated substances, first by waving the thermos under their nose, and then allowing small sips. But the best treatment is prevention, which you can accomplish by supplying your author with a ready source of caffeine. Coffee may be impractical; “the coffee gap,” the well-known phenomenon in which mistakes are made in the acquisition of coffee due to not having had your coffee yet, is exacerbated in a wilderness situation. We suggest chocolate-covered espresso beans as an easy substitute.

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Simulated Companion Object

While authors are often solitary animals, they frequently require moral support, brainstorming, and appreciation for their wit. To prevent a repeat of the “stick-person culture” scenario, consider identifying an object (any object will do, really) as their “companion.” Draw a face or heart on the object if your author seems reluctant to bond. Encourage your author to “just bounce some ideas off of it” to get things rolling. You will know you have succeeded when your author creates social media accounts for the companion object. You have gone too far if the author begins laughing at the companion object’s jokes.

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As you can see, there are special responsibilities in outfitting an author for a wilderness excursion. Nonetheless, I highly encourage exposing your author to a variety of such experiences, as (if they survive) the benefit they provide to the author’s descriptive abilities will prove rewarding to author and readers alike. 

Author Bio

KateMarshallPhotoKate Alice Marshall started writing before she could hold a pen properly, and never stopped. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with a chaotic menagerie of pets and family members, and ventures out in the summer to kayak and camp along the Puget Sound. Visit her online at katemarshallbooks.com and follow her on Twitter @kmarshallarts.

Check Out The Book:

iamstillaliveI Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall

Synopsis: After
Jess is alone. Her cabin has burned to the ground. She knows if she doesn’t act fast, the cold will kill her before she has time to worry about food. But she is still alive—for now.

Before
Jess hadn’t seen her survivalist, off-the-grid dad in over a decade. But after a car crash killed her mother and left her injured, she was forced to move to his cabin in the remote Canadian wilderness. Just as Jess was beginning to get to know him, a secret from his past paid them a visit, leaving her father dead and Jess stranded.

After
With only her father’s dog for company, Jess must forage and hunt for food, build shelter, and keep herself warm. Some days it feels like the wild is out to destroy her, but she’s stronger than she ever imagined.

Jess will survive. She has to. She knows who killed her father… and she wants revenge.

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