Book Review: Bright We Burn by Kiersten White

bright Bright We Burn by Kiersten White

Published by Delacorte Press on July 10, 2018

Genres: Young Adult, Historical, Fantasy

Pages: 391 – hardcover, 416 – paperback & ebook

Format Read: ebook

Rating: 5 stars

Previous Books in Series: And I Darken; Now I Rise

PURCHASE LINKS

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Blurb:

Haunted by the sacrifices he made in Constantinople, Radu is called back to the new capital. Mehmed is building an empire, becoming the sultan his people need. But Mehmed has a secret: as emperor, he is more powerful than ever . . . and desperately lonely. Does this mean Radu can finally have more with Mehmed . . . and would he even want it?

Lada’s rule of absolute justice has created a Wallachia free of crime. But Lada won’t rest until everyone knows that her country’s borders are inviolable. Determined to send a message of defiance, she has the bodies of Mehmed’s peace envoy delivered to him, leaving Radu and Mehmed with no choice. If Lada is allowed to continue, only death will prosper. They must go to war against the girl prince.

But Mehmed knows that he loves her. He understands her. She must lose to him so he can keep her safe. Radu alone fears that they are underestimating his sister’s indomitable will. Only by destroying everything that came before–including her relationships–can Lada truly build the country she wants.

Claim the throne. Demand the crown. Rule the world.


Review:

Wow. This has been a roller coaster of emotions; I feel like my heart has been ripped out of chest and repeatedly stomped on – something Kiersten White seems to specialize in. It’s been a while since I’ve read such a consistently solid series – from the beginning up till the very end. It has never failed to disappoint, and this conclusion is no different. If you haven’t picked up this brilliant trilogy, then what are you waiting for? The Conquerer’s Saga is sure to take you on a brutal, bloody journey filled with lots and lots of gore, bloodshed, and backstabbing.

“War made monsters of them all.”

This book kicks off right where Now I Rise left off – with our two main characters, Lada and Radu, still at odds with each other. Watching these two siblings navigate the world of politics and weather the hardships thrown at them just reminds me of how far they’ve come since the beginning of this series. Their character arcs are truly phenomenal. Radu and Lada have mostly always been polar opposites, but in this book, they are directly pitted against each other on opposite sides of a war. Their differences have never been more glaringly obvious than in this book.

“Lada shaped herself in spite of her environment. Radu shaped himself because of it.”

Speaking of character development, Radu’s is hands down one of the best character arcs out there. In this web of politics and bloodshed, Radu has always struggled doing what’s right. He’s always floundered in this morally gray area – stuck between Mehmed and Lada, between his love and his loyalties, between the man he serves and the man he loves. However, after years of being beaten down by his environment, he finally stands up and says enough. Finally, Radu willingly chooses to be the good guy. He refuses to become a monster. He chooses his family. He chooses Cyprian and Nazira and Fatima. He chooses love. I found this to be one of the most beautiful aspects of this book, and if there’s ever a character more deserving of happiness in this entire series – it’s Radu.

On the other hand, there’s Lada. Whenever I read Lada’s POV, I felt like I wanted to go to war and bathe in the blood of my enemies.

“What sustains you?”
“The blood of my enemies,” she said.

She is such a complex, multifaceted character – a breath of fresh air amidst a sea of watered-down antiheroines. Lada commits a myriad of villainous acts throughout this book, but – somehow – you still can’t help but root for her. Her ruthlessness reaches new heights in this book as she goes on murderous rampages – it was like watching an incoming train wreck! Her singleminded devotion to Wallachia and her urge to kill anyone in its way should have made her unlikable.

“No one could break her heart if all it contained was her country.”

However, as a reader, we are given insight into her increasing feelings of loneliness and vulnerability as she slowly loses all that she holds dear. Watching her mourn all that she’s lost and breakdown sobbing in her brother’s arms was heartbreaking. Still, she never stopped fighting, couldn’tstop fighting, up until the very end. Lada chose Wallachia over and over, even as that choice costs her dearly. Her choice is directly contrasted with Radu choosing love and family. Even though its what she chose, it’s heart-rending to think about what she could have had. Just thinking about it brings a sharp pang to my chest.

Of course, let’s not forget to talk about the purest characters in this book: Cyprian, Nazira, and Fatima. They were just so innately good and pure and soft with each other. Amidst such war and terror, they found each other and formed a family. They may not have been related by blood, but they protected and cared for each other like they were. I’ll forever be emotional about my family of smol beans.

This book offers much in the way of diversity, as well as female empowerment. I love how this book takes society’s expectations women and flips these expectations on their head by introducing characters like Lada (a female version of Vlad the Impaler), Mara, and Daciana.

“She was a dragon.
She was a prince.
She was a woman.
It was the last that scared them most of all.”

So in conclusion, this has been a wild ride from start to finish – literally. At the beginning of this book, I was so afraid of how Kiersten would choose to conclude this series, but I think the ending she chose was absolutely perfect. It struck the perfect balance between tragic, bittersweet, and happy. Kudos to Kiersten White for crafting such a masterfully written trilogy filled with complex characters, epic battles, and a richly built world. I love this series so much, and I’ll forever hold these characters dear to my heart. This review will never come close to doing these wonderful books justice, so all I can say is this: this series will hurt you and emotionally scar you, but it’ll be one of the best things that has ever happened to you.

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Rating: 5 fish!

fish rating

 

Book Review: Indiana Belle by John A. Heldt

indiana-trr-headline-398x625 Indiana Belle by John A. Heldt

Published John A. Heldt on April 14, 2016

Genres: Historical Fiction/Romance, Time Travel

Pages: 295 – ebook

Format Read: ePub

Rating: 3.5 stars {rounded to 4 stars}

Source: Author (John A. Heldt)

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Blurb:

Providence, Rhode Island, 2017. When doctoral student Cameron Coelho, 28, opens a package from Indiana, he finds more than private papers that will help him with his dissertation. He finds a photograph of a beautiful society editor murdered in 1925 and clues to a century-old mystery. Within days, he meets Geoffrey Bell, the “time-travel professor,” and begins an unlikely journey through the Roaring Twenties. Filled with history, romance, and intrigue, INDIANA BELLE follows a lonely soul on the adventure of a lifetime as he searches for love and answers in the age of Prohibition, flappers, and jazz.


Review:

Many thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way impacted my views and opinions below.

Okay, so this may not be my first read by John A. Heldt, but it is my favorite! I’m probably going to say that about every single book of his I read in the future. This book captivated my attention from page one and managed to keep it it till the very end. I was so fully immersed in the book, and that’s saying something, because I’m not a regular reader of the time travel genre. Well rest-assured, I’ll be reading a lot more time travel books now.

What makes this such an immersing read is the way the world was fleshed out. I found it really easy to visualize the setting of this book. The author does a magnificent job of depicting the 20s; it’s obvious that meticulous research was involved in this. The writing was also contributory to the book’s impressiveness. It was very well-articulated, but not too convoluted with unnecessary descriptions, which I loved. It made everything flow really well together and made it easy to follow along. I could practically picture myself in the 1920s!

The characters were also really easy to relate to. Candice’s character drew me in from the beginning. At first, I was afraid I wouldn’t like her because I usually cringe at the way women from the 20th century are written in books, but that turned out not to be a problem! Candice is an extremely wonderful and likable character with her repertoire of witty comments and sarcastic one-liners. I loved her independence, intelligence, and good-naturedness. Of course, she’s not rainbows and unicorns all the time – she has a dark past – but that just makes me admire her character even more.

As much as I liked Candice, I felt like Cameron’s personality was a bit bland in comparison – as in, his character somewhat falls on the “plain” spectrum. There was a bit of one-sided instalove on his part, and although it is later reciprocated, instalove has just always been something that put me off. Still, Cameron and Candice’s relationship dynamic as it developed was pretty interesting to read about.

Also, can we talk about the book’s premise? Time-travel books usually require a certain level of suspension of disbelief, and they have to be executed really well – not too complicated and science-y, but not too straightforward and simple. I feel like the author’s done an excellent job in accomplishing that. In addition to being a time-travel book, this book also incorporates historical fiction, romance, and mystery elements. Best of all worlds!

Overall, this is a fast-paced book with a plot that has many twists that are sure to keep you flipping pages till the very end. In addition to dimensional & well-rounded characters, the author’s casual, easy-going style of writing truly makes this an enjoyable read. If you think time-travel books aren’t your thing, I’d recommend trying again with this book!

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Rating: 4 fish

4 fish

Book Review: Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman

blackhearts Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman

Published by Simon Pulse on February 9, 2016

Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance

Pages: 384– hardcover & ebook

Format Read: ARC

Rating: 3.5 stars [rounded to 4]

Source: Simon and Schuster

BUY LINKS

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Blurb:

Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything.

Edward “Teach” Drummond, son of one of Bristol’s richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There’s just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.

Following her parents’ deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to Curaçao—where her mother was born—when she’s stuck in England?

From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay.


Review:

Thanks to SimonTeen for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way impacted my views.

Okay, first of all, what was that ending? I’m so sad, but I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, considering how Blackbeard’s story tragically ended in real life. I’m kind of conflicted about this book — it was more about his backstory and romance rather than the action and piracy. Though I doubt it’ll happen, maybe we could have a sequel about his journey, including the conquests and actual pirate action? I’d totally read it.

Anyway, the first thing that I really liked about this book was the characters. Especially Anne. She was the perfect protagonist! Sharp-witted, smart, and fierce, she was basically everything I wanted to see in a character. I never found her to be frustrating or petty, unlike some other book protagonists. Teach, however, was someone I didn’t like at the beginning — which was kind of the point. His advances toward Anne at the beginning were creepy, to say the least, and his attitude made me want to punch him. However, as the story progresses we really get to see him develop and start to care for him.

As I said above, if you were looking for a bloody pirate story with tons of action then this probably isn’t for you. However, the upside to this is that this was a very character-driven book. Not only does it explore Teach and Anne’s relationship with each other, but it also dives into their individuality. They were dimensional and I loved how Anne’s and Teach’s separate characters were depicted. They came from completely different backgrounds, yet they still had the same goal — freedom. The way their relationship progressed was amazing; the tension kept me reading and their dynamic was entertaining! The banter between them and Anne’s witty lines made me laugh out loud.

The book did a great job in portraying the sexism, racism, and classism present during that time period. The atmosphere was also amazing, allowing me to easily immerse myself into the setting. Excellent world building!

All in all, this was a sweet, character-driven book showing the softer and more romantic side of Blackbeard (before he became Blackbeard) rather than the scary, legendary part we know of Blackbeard today. There were a few gaps and plot holes, but it was pretty satisfying overall. I’m familiar with the Blackbeard legend and I think the book sure did get its facts straight, thankfully. The relationships, characters, and atmosphere were portrayed really well, too. This was my first pirate book so I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I’m definitely going to be reading more pirate books in the near future. I’d recommend this as a fast read, for sure!

Rating: 4 fish

4 fish

Book Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

 Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Published by Greenwillow Books on September 22, 2015

Genres: Young Adult, Historical, Fantasy

Pages: 432 – hardcover, 313 – ebook

Format: eARC

Source: Greenwillow books via Edelweiss

                              BUY LINKS

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Blurb:

Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety?


Review:

Many thanks to the publisher for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

I’ve been hearing a lot about this book. Westerns are making a come back this year with books like Vengeance Road, Under a Painted Sky, and Walk on Earth a Stranger. I never used to read them before, but I’m so glad they’re back – I’ve been very into them lately.

At first, I thought this was a high fantasy book. I don’t know why, maybe it was the vibe the fancy cover gave off or Rae Carson’s other book – The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Imagine my surprise when I read the synopsis a few minutes before getting into the book and realizing it was Western.

This book got me out of a terrible reading slump, you know, that one after Queen of Shadows? Yeah. Anyway, let’s just get into this review.

Leah Westfall has a secret – she’s a gold witch. She can sense and dig up gold deep beneath the earth around her. But one day, her parents are murdered and she is forced to go west, to the land of plenty gold, where no one will think twice about her gold-finding skills. She disguises herself as a boy – Lee – and takes to the trail, fighting hardships and finding friends as she goes.

However, to top it all off, Lee is being chased by her parents’ murderer so that he could control her and make a fortune off her. Damn.

This book gets a solid 4 stars from me because I think that it is a very great start to the trilogy. I didn’t know this was going to be a trilogy until I finished the book, so I’m really pumped to see where things go! There are so many things I’d like to see happen and I’m sure we’ll be seeing them as the series progresses.

The main character was so strong! Sure, she let herself cry but she wasn’t weak. Our main character is fierce, smart, strong, and loyal. This is only the second Western book I’ve read but I’ve noticed these traits as a pattern in the genre – which really appeals to me. Strong characteristics in MCs are very essential to me and this book definitely did not disappoint.

Another thing I loved about this book was the slow-burn romance, I’m a sucker for these. They’re painful but it all ends up totally worth it in the end when the characters get together. That makes me even more excited for book two!

There’s just one teeny tiny issue I had with this book. The secondary characters weren’t developed enough. I felt like they had potential to become something more, something more complex. However, they were just kind of… basic. I’m hoping we get more intricacy in the remaining books.

Other than that, this was a very enjoyable read and a great kick-starter to the trilogy! Solid, action-filled plot, slow-burn romance, and a fierce heroine. Everything you’d need in a book!

Rating: 4 fish!

4 fish