Book Review: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Author: Namina Forna
Series: None
Age Category: Young Adult
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publish Date: February 9, 2021
Print Length: 432

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Book Review: Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith

Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publish Date: March 5, 2019
Print Length: 271

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Official Synopsis

Two teens are thrown together on a cross-country train trip that will teach them about love, each other, and the futures they can build for themselves in this meet-cute romance from the bestselling author of Windfall and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.

It’s the perfect idea for a romantic week together: traveling across America by train.

But then Hugo’s girlfriend dumps him. Her parting gift: the tickets for their long-planned last-hurrah-before-college trip. Only, it’s been booked under her name. Nontransferable, no exceptions.

Mae is still reeling from being rejected from USC’s film school. When she stumbles across Hugo’s ad for a replacement Margaret Campbell (her full name!), she’s certain it’s exactly the adventure she needs to shake off her disappointment and jump-start her next film.

A cross-country train trip with a complete stranger might not seem like the best idea. But to Mae and Hugo, both eager to escape their regular lives, it makes perfect sense. What starts as a convenient arrangement soon turns into something more. But when life outside the train catches up to them, can they find a way to keep their feelings for each other from getting derailed?

My Review

I kept seeing The Love Hypothesis floating around. As a woman in STEM, I’m curious about the hype, but know I probably won’t have access to it from my library for a while. Then this book magically crossed my timeline and I thought, “I’m up for a genre change. The cover looks cute. The title sounds science-y. Let’s go for it!” Admittedly I don’t think I’ve ever, at least not that I can remember, read a non-fantasy romance. So I stepped out of my comfort zone here, and I’m glad I did.

This book is actually pretty cute. But, more than that, it’s about searching for your passion, if you don’t know what it is. It’s also about letting go, taking risks, and trusting that love is all that it’s cracked up to be. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the science field, but that’s ok; field notes apply to many subject matters, namely film studies in this book.

Another theme of this book is finding your identity outside of your family’s expectations and opening lines of communication. If you don’t communicate how you feel, how can your family’s well-meaning expectations ever shift? How can you know that there’s more than one way to approach a crux in life?

Jennifer E. Smith’s writing style is light and effortless. Yet, it also conveys the complexities of emotions faced by 18-year-olds, whether they’re related to college, adventure away from family, or love of all sorts. Though homophobia and racism are not themes that span the entire book, Mae and Hugo each reflect on their encounters with these unappreciated behaviors.

Overall, I’m glad I tried out a different genre than I normally read. I admit I teared up near the end of the book after a particular event. I’m not sold on the whole non-fantasy romance genre yet, but I’m game to read some more.

Rating: 3.5/5
Content warnings: mention of family member death, mention of racism, mention of homophobia
Reading format: Library hardback

Blog Tour: Blood of the Lost Kingdom by Kristin Ward

Author: Kristin Ward
Series: Daughter of Erabel Book 2
Age Category: Young Adult
Publisher: Self-Published
Publish Date: August 3, 2021
Print Length: 282
Links: Amazon* and Goodreads*

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Book Review: Castles in their Bones by Laura Sebastian

Author: Laura Sebastian
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publish Date: February 1, 2022
Print Length: 528

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Official Synopsis
A spellbinding story of three princesses and the destiny they were born for: seduction, conquest, and the crown. Immerse yourself in the first book in a new fantasy trilogy from the author of the New York Times bestselling Ash Princess series.

Empress Margaraux has had plans for her daughters since the day they were born. Princesses Sophronia, Daphne, and Beatriz will be queens. And now, age sixteen, they each must leave their homeland and marry their princes.

Beautiful, smart, and demure, the triplets appear to be the perfect brides—because Margaraux knows there is one common truth: everyone underestimates a girl. Which is a grave mistake. Sophronia, Daphne, and Beatriz are no innocents. They have been trained since birth in the arts of deception, seduction, and violence with a singular goal—to bring down monarchies— and their marriages are merely the first stage of their mother’s grand vision: to one day reign over the entire continent of Vesteria.

The princesses have spent their lives preparing, and now they are ready, each with her own secret skill, and each with a single wish, pulled from the stars. Only, the stars have their own plans—and their mother hasn’t told them all of hers.

Life abroad is a test. Will their loyalties stay true? Or will they learn that they can’t trust anyone—not even each other?

My Review
I received a free, digital, advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. My review is my own and reflects my honest opinion about this book.

After loving Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I’d requested this some time ago on NetGalley. The official synoposis gives an excellent overview of the book. The triplets Sophronia, Daphne, and Beatriz leave Bessemia after their sixteenth birthday to implement their mother’s years of plotting. The ultimate goal: to rule over a united Vesteria. Each is sent to marry the heir of a different court: Sophronia to Temarin, Daphne to Friv, and Beatriz to Cellaria. However, despite careful years of spying, the sisters find that happenings and personalities at court aren’t exactly as expected. They must pivot the art of deception to achieve the Empress’s end goal. But as they become more intimately familiar with the workings of the courts, they begin to question what is right and what is wrong.

Castles in their Bones is told from the points of view of each sister. It took me a few chapters before I could keep everyone organized in my head. However, once I squared away that challenge it was easy to settle into alternating accounts of each sister’s encounters in their respective courts. Sebastian sets up the story such that the readers expects the sisters will already be familiar with what to expect in Temarin, Friv, and Cellaria. Temarin is a country full of vibrancy and life; Friv is to the north, cold and bland in both color and demeanor; and southern Cellaria is conservative and intolerant of any sort of talk or display of magic. Yet when they arrive Sophronia, Daphne, and Beatriz find that years of spying and recent events throw a wrench in their plans.

To go into more detail would introduce spoilers. But, suffice it to say, I enjoyed reading through these curve balls. Empress Margauraux may have laid a road to her best intentions, but she can only control so much. Now the princesses are seemingly on their own, which provides great opportunities for nuanced character development. Loyalties are tested, new ones formed. I can’t decide which storyline is my favorite because they’re all quite different. But if you held a knife to my throat I’d probably pick Beatriz in Cellaria because it’s the most volatile, in my opinion.

I also had a lot of fun guessing at what might happen in the plot. At the ~70% read mark something clicked and I decided to call the anticipated outcome. Overall, I was correct, but the events that unfolded for one of the storylines still surprised me. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the books in this series. I can’t wait to read about how the princesses will overcome their sticky situations.

For those hoping for romance, note that it takes a back seat in this book. Sebastian sets the stage, perhaps, for some romance in the sequels. This book focuses more on setting up the political stage and events that really send everything into quick motion. If you’re searching for a book with strong female protagonists, subterfuge, spies, and Game of Thrones vibes, then look no further. Castles in their Bones checks all of these boxes and more.

Rating: 4.5/5
Content warnings: death
Reading format: Kindle e-book

Monthly Book Blog Wrap-Up: January 2022

And just like that January 2022 is over. Done. Finished. On to the next month of the year. Sometimes it feels like time passes by so quickly. Which reminds me of a recent episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation I recently watched. In it Data times how long it takes for a kettle of water to boil in an effort to understand why his human crew mates feel that time moves slowly or fast. But I digress…on to the monthly recap!

Book Reviews
I posted our book reviews in January. From earliest to latest I reviewed:

Book Memes and Other Posts
I posted five book-related memes:

I also posted a variety of other bookish posts including:

That’s a total of 13 blog posts, which ties January 2022 with December 2021. There must be something about the cold weather that makes me more productive than usual…oh wait, yes, the cold. Which keeps me inside. So far it’s been a cold winter with multiple nights in the teens, sometimes as low as 12 Fahrenheit!

Other Book-ish Progress
I set some lofty goals for myself this month considering I’m not a fast reader. I’m motivated to get through my backlog of NetGalley approvals. I’m happy to say I met all of my goals, which included reading and writing reviews for all of the books listed above. I also set a goal to finally write my review of Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian and finished that on Sunday night.

Unexpectedly, I read and wrote three extra reviews for Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith; To Bleed a Crystal Bloom by Sarah A. Parker; and Castles in their Bones by Laura Sebastian. That brought my total reads in January to six, which is fantastic for me.

I also started reading two books this past weekend. The first is The Broken Heart of Arelium by Alex Robins. This read is for a blog tour I signed up for with The Write Reads. The second book I started is The North Wind by Alexandra Warwick. I looked through my NG account and realized I totally forgot to download this approval before the archive date. This means I missed my opportunity to read and review it on NG. I’m not sure why I missed it, but it is what it is. I felt bad, so I decided to read it on Kindle Unlimited and at least post a review here.

And that’s a wrap!