Book Reviews, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Non-Fiction, Young Adult

Mini Book Reviews: September 2019 – Part 2

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*Books included in this batch of mini book reviews: Book Girl: A Journey Through the Treasures and Transforming Power of a Reading Life by Sarah Clarkson, Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2) by R.F. Kuang, and The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

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» Book Girl: A Journey Through the Treasures and Transforming Power of a Reading Life by Sarah Clarkson

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5-Star Rating System

Book Girl is what I like to refer to as a “reading memoir.”  I love reading books by people who are passionate about reading & share their experiences with reading and the books that have shaped their lives.

I loved learning about Sarah’s journey & her connection to books.  We learn how Sarah & her siblings were encouraged by their parents to read, and how reading was a big part of their family dynamics growing up.  I think Sarah has excellent reading tastes, and will probably borrow the physical copy from the library to copy down all the reading recommendation lists.   *Spoiler alert: Sarah is a BIG fan of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein.*

Sarah is a beautiful writer and you can tell that she is a very educated woman.  Some reviewers found her a bit pretentious, but I did not get that feeling while reading Book Girl…. I’m wondering if this is due to the fact that I listened to this book via audiobook that was narrated by the author herself… Her tone in the audiobook did not come across as pretentious.

I gave it 3.5 stars because it was too heavily focused on religion & faith for my tastes.  Now, this rating should definitely be taken with a grain of salt.  Had I known this book was classified as “christian fiction,” I probably would have passed on reading it.  I am not one for books that are overly religious or faith centered as they tend to feel pushy & preachy to me.  Another criticism is that her book recommendation lists are lacking in diversity in regards to authors & content.  If you are looking for classic books by white men & women, you’ll find a plethora of them here.

> Recommended to: fans of christian fiction & bookworms

> Book Recommendations if you enjoyed Book Girl: I’d Rather Be Reading the Delights and Dilemmas of a Reading Life by Anne Bogel


» Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

GodsofJadeandShadow

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5-Star Rating System

Gods of Jade and Shadow was one of my most anticipated books of 2019.  When I heard that it was a Mexican folklore inspired fantasy set in Mexico during the 1920s, I could not wait to get my hands on it.  Historical fiction & fantasy mash ups are some of my favorite types of reads!  Did it live up to expectations?  Unfortunately it ended up being a bit of a disappointment for me…

Set in the 1920s, Gods of Jade and Shadow is about Casiopeia, a young girl that aspires to more than her current station in life.  Casiopeia is treated as a servant by her Grandfather & other male family members, but years for more.  After a series of events, Casiopeia must set off on a journey to help the former Lord of Mayan underworld, Hun-Kamé, reclaim various belongings in order to be restored to his former glory and defeat his traitorous brother.

With the fantastical elements & quest style plot, Gods of Jade and Shadow reads very much like a fairy tale.  As a reader I felt like I was listening to a story that had been passed down from generation to generation.  My favorite aspect of this book was that it was brimming with Mexican culture & folklore.

Casiopeia was a stereotypical Cinderella-type of character.  She waits on her Grandfather & cousin hand & foot while enduring their emotional abuse.  On one hand, Casiopeia was spunky & brave, but on the other hand she was impulsive & proud…  I had a hard time connecting with Casiopeia, thus having a hard time feeling invested in her plight.  

Despite Hun-Kamé being one of the main characters in the story, I do not feel like he was well fleshed out.  It was hard to feel the urgency of his dilemma when I knew little about him or his back story.  

I did not feel the romance in the story was believable or necessary.  I actually think the story would have worked much better without the romance sub-plot.

While I did enjoy the concept for the story, this book was lacking substance & development.  Gods of Jade and Shadow is a very plot driven story, but the focus was almost too plot heavy, which did not allow for enough character development.  The story line felt very jarring as we watch the characters bounce around from place to place.  I typically adore stories that include a journey/quest, but only if I get a strong sense of the setting, the characters, and the actions of the characters.  That did not happen for me in Gods of Jade and Shadow.  If I am being honest, this book felt very surface level.

> Recommended to: fans of fairy tale style novels; those interested in Mexican folklore

> Trigger/content warning: psychological abuse 


» The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2) by R.F. Kuang

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5-Star Rating System

After reading The Poppy War earlier this year, The Dragon Republic was another one of my most anticipated releases of 2019.  The Poppy War set the tone of the series with excellent world building, a unique magic system, an awesome school setting, and a gruesome war.  The Dragon Republic follows Rin post Third Poppy War as she must deal with the consequences of her decisions.  Not only is Rin racked with guilt, but she is also battling an addiction & struggling to control her powers.

I’m happy to report that there was no second book syndrome for this epic series! The Dragon Republic was an excellent follow up to The Poppy War.

If I had to classify this series, I’d consider it fantasy with a heavy military fiction feel to it.  While the bulk of The Poppy War is a military school setting & revolves around Rin’s education, the bulk of The Dragon Republic centers around Rin joining up with the Dragon Warlord with the intent of overthrowing the Empress & establishing a republic.  The Dragon Republic is full of military strategy, gruesome battles, political intrigue, brutality, and back stabbing.  While TPW was a dark novel, TDR is even darker.  Kuang really explores the effects of war on her characters.  You may find that many characters from the first book are not the same in this book. 

This series is just so damn good.  Highly recommend.

> Recommend to: fans of military fiction

> Trigger/content warnings: drug addiction, suicidal thoughts, & graphic violence

> Book recommendations if you enjoy The Poppy War series: Book of the Ancestor series; A Song of Fire and Ice series


» The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

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5-Star Rating System

*4.5 Stars*

The Great Alone is about a a family’s journey to escape a father’s torment by relocating to Alaska.

Set in the harsh wild of Alaska in the 70s, The Great Alone was an excellent frontier/survival type of story.   I’ve always been fascinated by frontier style novels in which the characters must endure great hardship & show resilience in order to survive the land where they live.  I was engrossed watching Leni & her family grow and adapt.   The Alaskan setting of this book was my favorite aspect about this story.  Hannah paints a vivid picture of the Alaskan landscape in all its beauty and treachery.  Winter time would be the perfect time to pick this book up.

Themes included in The Great Alone include survival, coming of age, PTSD, domestic violence, family, & resilience.  This book was a roller coaster of emotion & heavy topics.  While reading I thought Hannah was going to go the cliche route a few times, but she kept on surprising me.  My only criticism of this book would be one particular portion of the ending.  It just didn’t feel believable, and felt too convenient.

> Recommended to: fans of survival/frontier stories; fans of dark family dramas; book clubs

> Trigger/content warnings: PTSD, domestic violence, & alcoholism

Book recommendations if you enjoyed The Great Alone: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

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LetsChat

Have you read any of these books?  If so, what did you think?

Comment below & let me know 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Mini Book Reviews: September 2019 – Part 2”

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