Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy, #1)Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for allowing me to review an advanced copy of this book. I apologize for the delay in reading and reviewing this book. I have been ill this year.

This book started out on a great note. It was fascinating, exciting, and dramatic, for those first few chapters. It showed such promise that I couldn’t wait to read what came next, and the magic system had me absolutely captivated. Unfortunately, after that, the plot faltered, the characters meandered, and it was mostly a downhill slide for me.

I think I had my heart set on a truly epic dark fantasy novel, in the vein of Leigh Bardugo, and this just couldn’t touch that level of writing or world building. Instead, I got a rather tedious story about political betrothal with completely undeveloped side characters and way too much telling and backstory, primarily delivered through the dialogue. Because the dialogue was often used as a tool for telling, that impacted the character development, especially in regards to personality.

Basically, with the exception of the start of the novel and a few moments at the end of the novel, the plot lacks intrigue, and the action scenes aren’t enough to hold it together, since the storytelling lacks suspense and emotional resonance. I probably should have stopped reading, since I became more and more frustrated and disappointed the longer that I read, but I kept on, since the magic system was of interest to me. I kept hoping that everything would arrive, all at once, but that never really happened. It had short moments of promise, and then it would lapse back into telling me what to think, feel, or know, instead of just showing me and allowing me to make my own judgments.

The world building was also a bit weak for me, but that may be because it’s hard to settle into the world building, considering the issues with the writing and storytelling. On some level, I’m very interested in this world, even though I didn’t love this novel, and I’m not sure I really understood the complexity of this world, based on the delivery.

This book might be ideal for the types of fantasy readers who care more about concept and magic system than overall storytelling. There’s a small part of me that wonders if with time, and/or future books, this could grow into something amazing. For me, it’s just not there yet.

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The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana AliThe Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rukhsana is an average American teen with makeup, crop tops, a girlfriend, and a desire to become a scientist, all of which must be hidden from her strict and traditional Muslim parents. When her mother catches Rukhsana kissing her girlfriend, things go from bad to worse, and her parents pack her up and sweep her away to Bangladesh for what is supposed to be a 2 week visit to her ailing grandmother but instead turns into a 2 month stay in order to force her into an arranged marriage with a proper man.

This is a fascinating and layered read, full of Bengali culture, generational family history, angst, drama, and determination. I liked it a lot.

Pages: 336

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Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody

Sky Without Stars (System Divine, #1)Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a YA space Sci-Fi that is a reimagined and futuristic take on Les Miserables. Let’s just appreciate that strange meshing of worlds for a moment.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel, including the multiple POVs and the fascinating world/universe. Occasionally, it felt a big sluggish, and I think in this instance, the story would be better if it was tighter and the pacing faster. Probably the 3 POVs ended up slowing the story down, though I found them quite interesting and necessary to showing the depth of the world.

This story is also a bit rambling at times, and I did zone out occasionally and have to force myself to refocus. It’s occasionally guilty of throwing too many unnecessary details at you at once, which becomes too much to absorb, but then it recovers pretty quickly. In addition, the plot lingers at times, when it should just press forward, so instead of an action-packed adventure, it sometimes feels like more of a character study.

Despite some of those issues, I enjoyed the character building and growth, though with a novel of this size, I do wish it had run even a bit deeper than it does. I’m happy this is a series, because I think this is a good step in the right direction, and I’m curious to see what comes next. I remain very hopeful that this is one of those series where the first book is busy laying the groundwork, but it’s the later books that make you love the world beyond compare.

—the French influences
—the wildly different worldviews of the 3 POVs
—the social hierarchy

—more diversity
—more twists and surprises
—more complex relationships between characters

This is a great pick for YA Sci-Fi and fantasy fans, as well as for those that like unique retellings/reimaginings, and/or multiple POVs.

Pages: 592

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The Iliad by Gareth Hinds

The IliadThe Iliad by Gareth Hinds
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I love this concept of telling the story of the Iliad using a graphic novel, but I confess that I did still struggle to push through this, often caught myself skimming, and probably didn’t absorb much of it. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting, as it has very text heavy panels and the art is a bit rough around the edges, with an almost biblical feel.

It can be a challenging read in its original format, with all of the different characters. They did a good job of trying to include identifiers to help you recognize certain characters, and they even included a character key/chart at the start. However, if you aren’t the type to just memorize all the names, facts, and pictures, it’s a bit like information overload. You aren’t going to remember any of it when you actually need it.

In other words, they did everything they could to help me successfully read this graphic novel, but I still fought against the archaic language and overwhelmingly quick introduction of characters whom I was just expected to know.

The panels are very text heavy, and while I understand why, it became tiring. I think this is like a retelling of the Iliad with pictures, and I wanted a true graphic novel format, which might have been unreasonable of me. What I really hoped for, when I opened this one, was for the story to be broken down into easy to follow scenes and everyday language. But maybe I was asking for and expecting too much from this particular piece of literature. The original is a bear, and on some level, this graphic novel does make the story more readable and interesting. However, I’ve come to realize I’m just not that interested in reading this story again. It was painful and confusing enough the first time I read it in the full text version.

I think what they did was try to stay true to the original, and while this would be handy in a school or research setting, when you are forced to read or study the original version, I didn’t enjoy revisiting this story as an adult. I just wanted to really be able to wrap my mind around it and enjoy the story, but I found it tedious and often confusing. Most of the time, I wasn’t sure who was who or what was really happening and why, which I hate to confess, since I’ve studied the original Iliad before (sorry, mom!).

Thank you to Netgalley, and the publisher, for allowing me to read an advanced copy. This graphic novel will be available tomorrow, on March 12, 2019. If you are currently reading or studying The Iliad, then I definitely recommend this as a tool to help you better understand the literature. It would be absolutely great for that purpose. For all others, this one is for either big fans of ancient lit, or those who love to bury themselves in overwhelming details about characters and Gods. It’s definitely not for your average graphic novel reader, who will likely find this version to be tiresome.

Pages: 272

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Island Book by Evan Dahm

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This graphic novel kicks off with a whole lot of telling and backstory, which is disappointing, but still, I was interested in where this might go. Somewhere around panel 40, this becomes more interesting. Luckily, with this simple format, you can progress to that panel quickly, so just hang in there through the rocky start.

The artwork is very simple and clean with mostly muted colors that I really enjoyed. It gives everything a nice, moody feel. There’s actually a lot of visual depth in the scenes, and you can feel the action and motion in the drawings, especially in terms of the movement of boats and water. Honestly, the artwork is probably my favorite things about this one.

In the first 40 panels, most of the characters look identical, so that is confusing. However, the side characters from the first world don’t really seem to have names, personalities, or much of a purpose, other than to interact with Sola, the MC, so once you figure out which one is Sola, the scenes start to make more sense.

I think that the simple format and storytelling is good for the intended audience, overall. This just completely lacks character development and clarity in the world building, other than what you can guess at from what you see in the artwork. It basically becomes a long journey with multiple stops to add new underdeveloped side characters. The dialogue tends to be a bit vague and often awkward or cheesy. It doesn’t always move the story forward effectively. I have to confess that I liked the wordless panels the best.

The end is pretty confusing, anticlimactic, and disappointing. You don’t get any true answers, and if it’s trying to express a deeper message, the younger intended audience isn’t going to get it. I’m 38, and read a lot, and I was completely unconvinced of any deeper meaning or message. I felt like I just went on a long, useless journey. Sure, it was interesting, when I thought it was building to something, but once I realized there wasn’t going to be any true plot development or resolution, I just had to force myself through to the last panel.

Still, despite these many concerns with the format and storytelling, something is compelling about this one. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, other than I enjoyed the otherworldly quality and adventure of it. It’s best for young readers who are new to graphic novels, and it likely won’t have as much appeal to older graphic novel fans who like to read across age categories, particularly teens and adults, as we tend to expect a more solid storyline and some actual character development.

Thank you to Netgalley, and the publisher, for allowing me to read an advanced copy. This graphic novel will be published on May 14, 2019.

Pages: 290

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, BernadetteWhere’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is awkward and quirky, in the best sort of way. I confess, I was along on the ride more for the amusing character interactions and relationships, rather than for the mystery, but the mystery was interesting, overall.

This was very different than what I expected, which tends to be a good thing.

Pages: 330

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The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

The Life We Bury (Joe Talbert, #1; Max Rupert, #1)The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall, I found this fascinating, and it went in all sorts of unexpected directions. I was able to predict a lot of the outcomes ahead of time, but there was one thing that caught me off guard and surprised me.

There are some things that happen at the end that are a bit ridiculous, though they definitely make the story more dramatic and intense. I just occasionally wanted to shake a few characters for making such poor choices in such a serious situation, but such is humanity.

Overall, this is a captivating read, and I’m glad I picked it up on Audible, as the audiobook narration is excellent.

Pages: 303

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