Ruined

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Amy Tintera
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Read: Jan. 2018

Omg, I LOVED THIS!

Everyone seems to have really mixed feelings on Ruined – the reviews are all either “1 star I hated it” or “5 stars I am obsessed”. But I definitely fall into the latter category. I guess I could maybe see why some people might not love this and think it has a recycled plot, but it was such a fast-paced emotional, fantasy, thriller that I just didn’t even care.

I actually wasn’t that intrigued by the plot, but EpicReads seems obsessed with this one and I was in the mood for some action, so I decided to give it a try. The idea is that there are 4 different kingdoms and they’re all at war with each other in some way or another, with everyone trying to seize the most power. Our main character, Emelina Flores is from Ruina, a kingdom of magic wielders who are slowly being exterminated by the Kingdoms of Lera and Vallos because of their fear of the Ruined’s magic. Even though Emelina is a princess of Ruina, she didn’t inherit the Ruined’s powers. Her parents were murdered by Vallos and her sister taken prisoner by Lera. She is determined to get her sister back and take her revenge on everyone who opposes her.

Mary, Princess of Vallos, has been betrothed to Casimir, Prince of Lera. Emelina hatches a plan to kill Mary on her way to Lera, impersonate her, and infiltrate the castle to find out the location of her sister, Olivia. She’ll have to marry Prince Casimir, but it’s just another unfortunate event on her way to revenge. It’s fair that it’s pretty easy to guess the direction of the plot from there, but there were still so many surprises in this novel. It’s incredibly fast-paced, surprisingly humorous and a lot of fun!

Sometimes I really don’t like romance in my fantasy novels, but I loved it in this one. I can definitely be a sucker for a good romantic side story and I loved the slow build romance in Ruined. I loved the characters and their development throughout the novel and I loved that Amy Tintera basically wrote this story in the morally grey areas. There’s no obvious good guy. Lera and Vallos have done some shitty things, but so have the Ruined. Nobody really knows where to point the finger of blame of who started the whole thing and I really enjoyed watching the main characters trying to navigate these ambiguous ethical areas.

In a way Emelina is your classic female heroine; she’s incredibly skilled in swordplay and she is bloodthirsty and unforgiving. But she’s also a 16-year old girl being married off to the son of the man who destroyed her family. She was very vulnerable. I can’t imagine any 16 year being so ruthless and still being emotionally stable. I liked that she was able to be powerful, but still show emotions and vulnerability. Same with Cas. He was never emasculated by Em, but I liked Tintera’s portrayal of him as a boy who has had power and responsibility thrust upon him and how overwhelming that feels.

I pretty much inhaled this book and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the next one. Ruined has the perfect cliffhanger in that it answers all your questions, but still leaves your mouth hanging out wondering what kind of crazy shit is going to go down in the next book. I need it ASAP!

Side note, I love that Amy Tintera actually says the word “sex” in this book. YA fantasy authors tend to sidestep their way around explicitly talking about sex and use all these really weird innuendos and double entendres to describe their sex scenes (looking at you Sarah J Maas), it was refreshing to see a YA author just call it what it is. Let’s all be grown-ups about it so actual teenagers can be too.

Herding Cats

 

Rating: 
Author: Sarah Andersen
Genres: Graphic Novel, Comics
Read: Dec. 2017 (Pub date Mar. 27, 2018)

 

Thank you to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

That’s right!! I finally got a free ARC from NetGalley (plus I have 2 more in the queue)!! So I’m super stoked to review Herding Cats. If you’re on the internet chances are you’ve seen some of Sarah Andersen’s work. She creates really short, but funny and meaningful, comic strips that show up everywhere as memes. She has two short collections, Adulthood is a Myth, and Big Mushy Happy Lump. I’ve read both of them and my main criticism would be that they’re just too short! I understand why they’re this length, Sarah mostly creates one page comics and with every page covering a different topic, they’re not going to be that long. And then there’s the whole thing where she actually has to draw all the artwork.

I always enjoy these. My favourite is still her first collection because I think it really showcases some of her best work and most popular comics. She’s tried a new type of storytelling in the last two books though where she has added some text followed by comics to tell and bit more of a story and address larger issues. Sadly I’m not really into this format as much, I like her stories, I’d just be more interested to see them told solely through comics, but I think Sarah might struggle a little bit with longer story telling through comics and I prefer her shorter comics. I think her shorter comics provide a really good social commentary on a huge variety of issues and how we interact in the world in the internet age.

So I didn’t love this book as much as the first, but there was still a few really great comics in here. She had two comics in this one that were directly about feminism and I really enjoyed them  both, so I’d love to see more comics on social issues as I think this is a really good medium to share ideas and highlight how ridiculous some social norms really are. I will still continue to read whatever Sarah puts out, because they’re such a quick read and they always give me a laugh.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue


Rating:
 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, LGBT
Read: July 2017

 

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was wonderful! I haven’t been reading a whole lot of young adult novels lately because the genre seemed a little tired and everything felt more or less the same, but the genre has definitely been growing and tackling a lot of issues around race and gender identity that general fiction sometimes seems hesitant to address.

Bravo to Mackenzi Lee for this book! The story is set in the 18th century and focuses on 18 year old Monty and Percy as they set off on a “grand tour” around Europe before preparing to settle down and begin their adult lives. Monty sees the trip as a last hurrah before being forced to take over his father’s estate and plans to gamble and drink his way around Europe with his best friend Percy, who he just happens to be in love with.

The trip quickly goes sideways and Monty, Percy, and Monty’s sister Felicity find themselves being chased all over Europe after an encounter with honest-to-god highway men. This book is hilarious and wildly fun, but it also tackles a lot of tough issues and does it without feeling preachy or forced. Monty is extremely privileged and totally oblivious to his privilege. He blunders around making bad decision after bad decision, but I loved watching him grow and be challenged.

Somehow this book manages to address race, disability, gender equality, sexual orientation, and class privilege. It had the added intrigue of tackling all these issues during the 18th century, where I can’t even begin to imagine what it might be like to be a gay, black, epileptic man. There was a lot going on, but the novel had a lot of depth and was quick-paced.

The characters were all fantastic, but I’m thrilled to discover that Felicity will be getting her own novel next year because she was by far my favourite character. She was so badass – my favourite line of the entire book had to be when she informs Monty and Percy that “Ladies haven’t the luxury of being squeamish about blood”. I loved how all the characters challenged the boxes that 18th century society tried to place them in and how they grew as individuals and in their relationships.

So I would absolutely recommend this as a fun read, but fortunately it’s not a frivolous one and I really think you will be better for having read it. It’s a large print book and it definitely does not feel like 500+ pages – I breezed through it!