Storm Crow (Storm Crow #1) by Kalyn Josephson

Storm Crow (Storm Crow #1) by Kalyn Josephson

The Storm Crow (The ​Storm Crow #1)

Author: Kalyn Josephson || Length: 352 pgs || Genre: Fantasy, YA || Published: 07/19/019 || Sourcebooks Fire ||

I received an advanced finished copy of Storm Crow at Bookcon 2019, it’s a YA, Fantasy novel and author Kalyn Josephson’s debut novel. The story takes place in the Kythra, which is split into five Kingdoms Trendell, Jindae, Korovi, Rhodaire, and Illucia.  The night, things are supposed to change for the better, Anthia’s world instead becomes a nightmare. Illucia invades Rhodaire. Anthia’s mother, the queen and her aunt Estrel the master of crows are murdered during the invasion along with the entire flock of magical crows who are such an integral part of the Rhodairen way of life.

Rhodaire survives the invasion and manages to push the Illucian’s back to their borders, but things remain tenuous. But Razel Illucia’s warrior queen is cruel, vicious, and calculating. She demands that Rhodaire and Illucia be joined through a union between Anthia and her Son Ericen. Anthia’s older sister Caliza became the queen of Rhodaire following the invasion, feeling cornered she agrees to the union for the sake of Rhodaire. The Prince of Illucia has a reputation for cruelty, and when he and Anthia meet they clash immediately. But Ericen’s character is complex, and it’s quite a while before Anthia can discern his true nature and motivation.

Storm Crow follows your typical YA, Fantasy conquered Kingdom, rebellion trope, and the fact that it has been done and done again doesn’t make this novel any less amazing. I enjoyed the characterization and development of the relationships between the characters.

Anthia is our protagonist,  a princess, but she’s isn’t the future queen instead, she’s sister to the future heir. Anthia has a complicated relationship with her mom, which is also pretty typical; she’s also fiery heir, stubborn, misunderstood, and determined to prove herself. Many of the supporting character’s are amazing as well, and Their complexity makes Storm Crow a fantastic read.

Caliza, Anthia’s sister became queen far sooner than she ever expected, struggling to make the right directions for her kingdom and her family, the relationship between the two sisters, is strained by duty.

Kiva is Anthia’s best friend, a warrior, and a protector, and there are so many more. Even Ericen’s character, laden with complex layers of personality is hard not to like him, both for the reader and Anthia. Caylus, an inventor who Anthia’s befriends is also multifaceted.  Auma the Jindae servant who has stolen Kiva’s heart is more than she seems.

The villain Razel, the queen of Illucia, would’ve made an amazing heroine. I don’t think I’ve ever thought that of a villain before. Razel earns your hate and demands your respect. I get the impression that there’s much more to learn about her character going forward or near the conclusion of series. There’s also much yet to learn about the origins of the animosity between the two Kingdoms.

 The originality of the Crows and their magic was remarkable, it’s hard to imagine a crow as a cute creature, but Josephon manages to impress to the reader through, sweet, endearing Resyries, Anthia’s newly hatched crow. Resyries is a massive cuteness overload.

I long for more of the story the book ended way too soon. I read Storm Crow in one sitting; it falls into the category of un-put-downable books. The release of Kingdom of Ash brought a conclusion to the epic Thrones of Glass YA fantasy series by Sarah J. Maas. I think Storm Crow is perfectly poised to fill the void left by it’s ending. Kalyn Josephson’s Storm Crow series is the next Shining star in the YA Fantasy world.

Soulmated by Shaila Patel

Soulmated by Shaila Patel

Title: Soulmated (Joining Souls #1)
Author: Shaila Patel
Published: Jan 24th2017
Length: 300 pgs
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: Month9Books
This Review is a Part of the 2020 Coastal Magic Featured Author Reading Challenge

Soulmated is a YA Urban Fantasy Romance is the first book in Shaila Patel’s Joining Souls series. At the beginning of the read things went a little slow for me; the book was interesting, but it took me a little while to get wholly engrossed into the world of the book. The writing is of excellent quality the plot was thoroughly mapped out, and it shows. 

Soulmated takes place in present-day Cary, North Carolina. The empath abilities and the love interest puts this book firmly into both the Urban Fantasy and Romance genres. Our main characters are Laxshmi Kapadia and Liam Whelan. They are both high school students with way too much on their shoulders. Liam has recently become the head of his Family and Laxshmi is stuck catering to an overbearing mom who seems determined to secure financial stability through her daughter with no regard to Laxshmi’s happiness. 

Soulmated is told in first person POV through our main character’s Laxshmi and Liam in the alternating chapter format, this format doesn’t always work, but Patel manages to continue the story from chapter to chapter and pov to pov without skipping a beat, the story flows fluidly no matter who’s pov we are reading from. I’m starting to think I prefer this format as opposed to the style where each pov is told in separate books 

Laxshmi is an Indian-American girl being raised by a traditional Indian mom; her mom is very strict and comes off as caring only for herself; she’s the villain of Laxshmi’s story. Liam is Irish, and he’s searching for the “ONE” he’s an empath. Empath royalty actually and he’s just become the head of his family. He is trying to find his one. Looking for the soulmate who will both increase his power, and enrich his life is taking a toll on him, after so many years and so many failures he’s got a bad taste in his mouth for the whole thing, it’s become a chore, and he’s nearly convinced it’s nothing but a while goose chase.

When Laxshmi and Liam meet their worlds collide, and there are several forces, determined to keep them apart, jealous classmates, racist, overbearing family members and factions within the empath community. This book mostly focuses on the necessary world-building, characterization, and the development of Liam and Laxshmi’s relationship, but by the end of the book, you’re hooked. Patel hit’s hard with a cliff hanger, so I highly recommend having book two on hand and ready to go.

Here There are Monsters By Amelinda Bérubé

Here There are Monsters By Amelinda Bérubé

Title: Here There are Monsters
Author: Amelinda Bérubé
Published: August 6th2019
Length: 352 pgs
Genre: YA/Horror
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Here There are Monsters by Amelinda Bérubé is an incredible work of Literary Prose. Although marketed as a Young Adult Horror, after reading it I’d say it falls more under YA, mystery, Thriller and it was like nothing I’ve ever read before. The story follows Skye our 16-year-old protagonist, as she fights to find a balance between who she is, who she is pretending to be, and who her baby sister Diedre wants her to be. When Dierdre goes missing Skye fights hard against the disruption of her carefully planned life, but old habits are hard to break. When Skye decides to forgo her carefully scripted life to save her sister, it releases the darkest parts of her character. When she finally finds Deirdre, she’s forced to decide once and for all who she wants to be.

Bérubé is a fantastic writer who never misses an opportunity for imagery; she does not do “plain” every sentence is laced without unique flair. If Bérubé wanted to relay to the reader that it was a sunny day she would instead say something along the lines of, the day is lit by the soothing warmth, on the rays of the systems brightest star. A sentence I was inspired to write myself while reading the novel and experiencing the mastery of words Bérubé has accomplished. Each line grabs the reader holding them at the edge of curiosity while managing to be the least predictable novel I have ever read.

Although my go-to genre is usually Urban Fantasy, the skill, in which this novel is written makes it a warm, poetic, and lyrical story despite being a thriller and inspires me to read more prose. I recommend this book to lovers of prose; I think fans of Stony River or The Girl on The Train will find this novel an interesting an enjoyable read.

Here There are Monsters by Amelinda Bérubé is a Forthcoming Title from Sourcebooks Fire which will be released on August 6th, 2019.

The Belles (The Belles #1) By Dhonielle Clayton

The Belles (The Belles #1) By Dhonielle Clayton

Title: The Belles (The Belles #1)

Author: Dhonielle Clayton

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Format: Audiobook

Narrated By: Rosie Jones

Published: February 8th, 2018

Publisher: Orion Publishing Group Ltd

Story: ★★★★★

Narration: ★★★★★

The Belles is the first book in The Belles series by Author Dhonielle Clayton this review is for the audiobook. Narrated by Rosie Jones. I listened to the audiobook in Aug after having read the book back in June. This review will be broken up in two parts The narration and the actual story itself.

The Narration.

I’ve always said audiobooks weren’t for me. I thought I needed to physically read the book to paint an image in my head of the story. While taking a road trip to from Virginia back to NY, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to try out an audiobook. I’m glad I did Rosie Jones is a magnificent audiobook narrator, her talent has completely blown me away. Initially, I was skeptical about the audiobook, the first thing I thought when the Narrators voice came on was…she doesn’t sound black. I mean Camellia’s character is African American. The voice blasting through my speakers as I sped Down I95 sounded like a British white woman (at the time I didn’t know who Rosie Jones was). And I thought I’m not sure about this. Why? Well, it wasn’t because of any racist or prejudice notions but simply because I had already read the book and the voice I was hearing didn’t coincide with what my imagination had created. Simply put it isn’t what Camellia sounded like to me.

I decided to listen further and reserve judgment for a few more chapters. Rosie Jones completely floored me every time a new character took the stage. I began to realize how foolish my initial thoughts were, the narrator is more talented than I could ever have imagined. I was amazed by her ability to remain consistent from character to character. From Madame Dubarry to Princess Sophia, Augustus, The Beauty Minister, there are too many characters to name; but I Immediately recognized each character by voice. Immediately knowing which character was speaking and I was honestly in awe wondering how she does it.

Despite my initial trepidation, Rosie Jones will be forever ingrained in my mind as Camellia’s voice.  Her expertise in capturing Camellia’s tone and personality was immaculate, because of her talent I’m guaranteed to be listening to more audiobooks in the future.

The Story.

The Belles is a unique book with an original premise. Belles are the cherished saviors of Orléans ordained by the Goddess of beauty to save the citizens or Orlèans from being driven mad by their own ugliness. The Belle’s is told through a combination of the first person POV of our main character Camellia Beauregard and Character dialogue. The story begins on the 16th birthday of the current batch of the Belles. They are to be debuted, in a showcase of their talents to all of Orléans. Each Belle, hoping to be chosen as the “Favorite” Belle, the right hand to the Queen.

Almost all the Belles want to be the favorite more than anything. None more so than Camellia. All her hopes and dreams depend upon it. But being the favorite is not all that it seems. Being a Belle isn’t all that it seems. Camellia’s ignorance and Naivety get her deeper and deeper into trouble.

Sophia is a cruel girl, with severe body dysmorphia. As a princess of Orléans Sophia has much power, using it solely to achieve her goal of being the most beautiful. She is obsessed and will do anything to achieve it.

The Queen wants nothing more than for her beloved princess Charlotte to awaken and she’s willing to use any resource at her disposal to make it happen no matter the consequences. The fate of Orléans is at stake. Charlotte is both the rightful heir and the Queen Orléans needs.

The Belles is a book about many things I can only hope that I catch them all and interpret them accurately but I’m going to try my hand. On the surface, the Belles is about Camellia using her gifts as a Belle to save Orléans. But if you read between the lines into the deeper meaning behind the words, the things alluded to by the writer will test the boundaries of some people’s comfort levels.

The people or Orléans is composed of two races, the Belles and the Gris. The Gris, born grey skinned plain pallets with blood red eyes are doomed to be driven to madness by their ugliness, if not for the intervention of a Belle.

The Belles are the “minority” race only a few exist; they are the only citizens of Orléans ones born with skin tone and color, the only ones born beautiful. Belles are kept ignorant about what they are, how they are created, and what their powers can do. It is ingrained in the Belles that this or that is their duty. Duties in which they were created for by the Goddess of beauty herself.

I found there to be a parallel between the Favored Belles and “house negroes” and the Secondary Belles and “Field Negroes.” The Secondary Belles are outright slaves they know they are slaves they are chained and forced to work until they are used up. The Favored Belles live in gilded cages ignorant of their servitude. Their captors, like the slave masters, use their god the Goddess of Beauty to justify their slavery. Jealousy and rivalry among the Belles is encouraged to create a rift,  misdirecting their attention from what’s important. The Belles don’t truly know anything of their true origins. Chains of ignorance keep them locked in servitude for generations. I wonder if this sounds familiar to anyone.

The Belles is also about how people can be slaves to superficial attributes. I’ve watched many videos on youtube where women TRANSFORM themselves into unrecognizable beauties. Transformations so complete I would never believe they were the same person in a side by side comparison. Our society is so focused on outer beauty forgetting that sometimes it just covers up the ugliness and the madness festering inside.

The world of Orléans is unique. Its only right that a book about the extravagance of beauty takes place in an alternate New Orleans. I love how Dhonielle Clayton merged ancient, futuristic, and fantastical science and technology, how the carriages contrast with things like gossip post balloons. I especially loved the teacup animals. I hated that it ended so soon.

The Everlasting Rose (The Belles, #2) is scheduled for release March 5th, 2019 and is available for pre-order on Amazon. And I highly anticipate its release.

Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1) By Justina Ireland

Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1) By Justina Ireland

Title: Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1)
Author: Justina Ireland
Published: April 3rd, 2018
Length: 464 pgs.
Format Read: Ebook
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Rating: ★★★★★ 

Dread Nation is in the first in a new series By Author Justina Ireland. The books is a YA, Fantasy, Historical fiction; taking place in the Civil War era, America Dread Nation ask the question what if?

Ireland answers it realistically. What if the Zombie Apocalypse happened during the civil war? I think we could all imagine some very different outcomes as a result. And that’s just what Ireland has done with her book Dread Nation.

How would our white counterparts have treated us if the zombie apocalypse occurred during the civil war? The current state of race relations in our country today tells me Irelands book gets it right. Dread Nation covers many of the injustices faced by African Americans during that period in history with an undead twist.

Loopholes in the 13th Amendment, allowed free negroes to be forced back into slavery after the civil war. And the cruel experimentation on negroes for the advancement of white society. The school of thought that blacks were not of the same species as whites. Using religion to justify slavery, and passing for white and the flipside dynamic to have skin which is “passing” light. Ireland dug into the historical Archives. There’s even some mention of the Native American boarding schools. Irelands fantastical take on slavery and racism during the Civil War era is as accurate as it is refreshing, interesting, and tasteful making Dread Nation an engaging and enlightening read.

In this version, of the civil war era United States; the Native and negro re-education act led to Negroes and Native Americans children aged 12, and older being rounded up and sent to boarding schools. At the schools, they were trained to fight zombies and eventually become servants for the whites who could afford to “employ” them upon graduation. The story hints that most of the Native Americans ran away from the schools. Still, a native American character does get a good bit of screen time in the book.

There are two factions at odds in the book Egalitarians & Survivalists. Survivalists believe negroes to be inferior to whites. Egalitarians don’t believe negroes to be inferior to whites. Mayor Carr & the Survivalist act as the villains in this tale, who makes a better Villain than a politician? Mayor Carr’s beliefs and political aspirations come before the safety of his constituents.

Born the biracial daughter of the richest white woman in Haller County Kentucky during the Civil War era; Jane Mckeene is the main character and heroine of the story. Two days after she was born the Zombies rose at the battle of Gettysburg and changed the course of her life forever. Because of Janes lineage, she was able to be sent to one of the ”upper-class” boarding schools.

Jane attends Miss Preston’s School of Combat for Negro Girls in Maryland. Miss Prestons houses, the negro girls whose parents have the money to ensure they end up in the better schools, mostly biracial children.
Janes is a troublemaker she and the rules have a complicated relationship. I love Jane Mckeene’s Character. Jane is mouthy, independent, resourceful, and too intelligent for her own good. And as such, has an arch Nemesis that is the cliché do-gooder tattletale, Katherine Deveraux.

Katherine Deveraux is Passing Light. And perfect at everything thus Jane can’t stand her. When Jane and Katherine uncover a plot by the mayor that’s detrimental to the city she and Katherine are shipped off to a survivalist town. They’re in big trouble, and it’s up to Jane to get them out of it.

At the beginning of the book, these two characters clash, but it isn’t long before circumstances force them together. It’s during this time that we get to see each character’s true mettle. Both girls have secrets. Both girls hide the truth of who they are. By the end of the book, I’m thoroughly impressed by the real Katherine and shocked by Jane’s secrets.

There are some references to intimate moments between characters but no scenes of a sexually graphic nature. There is violence, and murder so if your sensitive to that kind of thing this might not be the book for you. But I think this book is pretty PG 13 and suitable for readers from YA to Adult.
I give this book five out of five stars. I love the premise. I loved the accurate and evocative historical references. And I loved that the main character looks like me. Dread Nation is a great book with a strong female lead of color, written by a woman of color. I highly anticipate the release of the second book.