Book Review – The Savior’s Sister by Jenna Moreci

Rating: 4/5 Stars

I was given an eARC of this novel by the author in exchange for an honest review. This review will be spoiler-free for this book, but includes spoilers for The Savior’s Champion.

Full disclosure: I am on Jenna’s street team again for this book. Like last time, this hasn’t affected my review.

Right off the bat, I want to say that I really enjoyed this book! In fact, in some ways I liked it even more than The Savior’s Champion. I preferred Leila’s point of view to Tobias’s, I thought the writing in this book was better overall, and the political intrigue really hooked me in a way the challenges in book one didn’t always manage to do. So, you might be wondering why I gave it a lower rating than the one I gave TSC back in 2018. To that, I have two answers.

First, I’m a more critical reader than I was back then. My review for TSC was one of the first I’d ever done, and I was still working out my rating system back then. Even still, if I read that book today, I’d likely give it a 4 or 4.5 star rating. It was a good book. But I’ll admit, I did let a few things go that I probably wouldn’t have today.

But my second reason for giving this book a lower rating is that, even though I potentially liked it more than TSC, there were some issues I had with it as a whole that stemmed directly from it being a companion novel. If this book had been the first in the series, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would’ve given it 5 stars. But we’ll get into that in a bit. First, let’s talk about the good stuff (of which there is a lot).

By far my favorite thing about this book was Leila and her POV. I love me a sassy female main character, and this girl did NOT disappoint! But she was more than just sassy. She was a total badass, and an amazing leader. It was so cool to see her in her element as the Savior, after spending the first book not knowing who she was (well, I actually did guess that twist back in the day, but still!). Also, and this might just be personal taste, but I really loved the fact that she was so inexperienced when it came to guys. It just made it fun to be in her head during her scenes with Tobias, because I could totally relate to her naivety and nervousness. It was cute!

I also thought Moreci’s writing really improved between this book and TSC. I didn’t notice any info dumping like in the first book, and just in general there was something about the way Moreci wrote in this book that really appealed to me. I don’t know if this has to do with her really nailing Leila’s voice, or just an overall improvement in writing craft, but either way, it really stood out to me.

Another great thing about this book was the plot. Since this is a companion novel, I was sincerely worried going in that the story would fall flat because I already knew what was going to happen. While this did occur a little bit (which we’ll talk about in a second), overall I found that the plot felt new. There was so much that we readers had no idea about, and I had a blast learning about all of the political scheming and what really went into keeping Leila’s identity as the Savior a secret.

However, like I said, there were some instances where rehashing the same story over again did make the plot and its pacing drag a little. The romance in particular caused a few problems for me. Though there were some scenes I was thrilled to finally see from Leila’s POV, there were also some that I really didn’t care about, and that almost bored me at times. These moments were few and far between, though, and as a whole I felt that they didn’t inhibit my enjoyment of the novel too much.

Another (slightly related) issue I had with this book came in the form of the things Moreci didn’t cover again, likely for fear of rehashing things and boring her readers. I doubt this would’ve been a problem if I’d read TSC and this novel back-to-back, but since it’s been about two years since I read the first book, I did find that certain things escaped my memory that I wished would’ve been covered again. The biggest example of this came in the form of the champions. While Moreci did make an attempt to remind the reader of who the champions were, what I felt was lacking was a connection to those champions. Even the ones Leila interacted with felt a bit flat, because they didn’t get much time or attention. A majority of the focus when it came to rounding out characters in this book went toward Tobias, Leila’s sisters, and some of Leila’s staff. But since these champions were there fighting for the right to marry Leila, even if Leila wasn’t a fan of the tournament, it would’ve been nice if she’d given at least a little more care to getting to know them.

This leads me to my final critique, which might be a bit controversial, but just remember, it’s only my opinion. Personally, I think this book could have–and should have–been merged with TSC. I know, I know. By doing this, we’d lose out on the big mystery/reveal of Leila’s true identity. But also, since I guessed that plot twist very early on in my reading of TSC, I don’t feel like I would miss it all that much. I honestly think it would’ve been worth the sacrifice, because then we could’ve gotten both Tobias’s and Leila’s POVs without having to rehash the same scenes and without missing out on character development.

However, since it’s too late to hope for that–both books are already out, after all–there’s no use dwelling on it. But I will admit, by about halfway through this novel, I caught myself mentally piecing together a Frankenstein Monster with scenes from TSC and TSS. Ah, what could have been!

Overall, though, I really did have a great time reading this book. The good far outweighed my few criticisms, and I’d for sure recommend this to anybody who’s read TSC and wants to finally understand what was going on with Leila while Tobias was kicking ass and taking names. Fans of novels with complex politics and scheming will devour this book, as well as fans of sexy forbidden romances.

Book Review – Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Rating: 4/5 Stars

This will be a spoiler-free review.

Let’s get this out of the way first: Was this a good book? Yes, absolutely. Was it worth the hype? Ehh…

In my genuine opinion, this book wasn’t anything super unique or special. It had all of the regular YA fantasy tropes, just packaged in an African-inspired fantasy world. Which, trust me, I’m not trying to claim is bad. I love my YA tropes. I use them all the time in my own writing. I’m just saying, this book was marketed as something super new and unique and never seen before, which… Well, it just wasn’t those things. But with that said, let’s get into the actual review.

I always like to start with the things I really liked about a book, and fortunately there’s a lot for me to cover today. My favorite part by far was the world building, which makes sense since that was the most hyped thing about this book. The fact that the world was African-inspired was pretty dang cool, and I could definitely pick up on where that inspiration came into play, but it wasn’t even the best thing about the world building. There were so many more great elements, like the magic system and how it tied into their religion, as well as the inclusion of colorism in the culture of this world. Overall, the world building was done in a way that made the kingdom of Orïsha feel rich and full of life. It was easy for me to suspend my disbelief for hours at a time and fall into the world.

I also found myself drawn in by the characters that this novel followed. Zélie, one of the three POV characters and the main protagonist, was a delight. I quickly grew to admire her bold and impulsive personality, and I especially loved her relationship with her brother, Tzain. In fact, I almost wish Adeyemi had spent more time exploring their relationship, and hope she does so in future novels. I also enjoyed Amari, the second POV character and protagonist. Following her journey and watching her grow as a character was a lot of fun, and her relationships with her brother, her father, and Zélie were all dynamic and kept me on the edge of my seat. I was also fascinated by King Saran, and I almost wish that we’d been able to learn more about him and his hatred of the maji in this book. Though I can’t elaborate on what exactly I would like to know without getting into spoilers, I will say that I hope there are still some things to be revealed in future books.

I was also very impressed with the ending of this book. The pacing and tension were spot-on, culminating nicely at the climax, and… Well, that’s all I can say while keeping spoiler-free. Gosh, this book, more than any other that I’ve reviewed, is so hard to write a spoiler-free review about. I just want to rant and rave and shout spoilers from the rooftops.

Finally, I thought Adeyemi’s writing was strong as well. Her choice of POV characters was perfect. Some authors include unnecessary POVs that clutter up the narrative, but she didn’t fall into this trap. Instead, she only used the POVs of characters whose perspectives were imperative to telling the story fully. She also included some nice imagery, telling just enough to paint a full picture without weighing down the prose with too much description.

This book wasn’t perfect, though. Although there were a lot of great things about it, there were also a few things I thought Adeyemi could have done better that would have improved the quality of the novel. First, a few of the character and story arcs felt all over the place. Inan, the third POV character, suffered from this the most. While I did enjoy where his arc ended–I thought it made the story dynamic–the journey to get there was chaotic. His changing attitudes about magic gave me whiplash with how often they shifted, and I never thought his reasons for changing his mind felt sincere or made total sense. It felt very convenient, like the only reason his attitudes changed at all was because the story required it. The romantic arc he was involved in also felt off. It felt rushed and forced, like Adeyemi had to make the romance happen for the sake of the plot even though there was no way to make it happen naturally. I think, if she had stretched both arcs out over multiple books, they would have worked a lot better. In fact, if these arc issues hadn’t existed, I probably would have rated the book 4.5 stars. Unfortunately, they were too prominent for me to ignore or let slide.

Another issue I had was that, while the world building was really great, there were a few small things that felt very out-of-place in this world Adeyemi built. Some phrases, like “Check this out” felt too modern and took me out of the story. Also, the use of the word “hell” felt odd when the religion in this world was very distinctly non-Christian. In fact, at one point Zélie uses the word “hell” when describing their version of the afterlife, which was confusing.

The final problem I had with this book was actually a problem I also encountered in the novel Zenith by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings. This is the over-use of similes; specifically, similes that refer to animals and objects that the reader is unfamiliar with. The only animal that Adeyemi ever describes from this world is the Lionaire. After this, she only references others without describing them. So when she says someone “ran as fast as a Cheetanaire” or that someone’s smile was “sly as a Foxer”,  we can’t really envision that because we don’t know what these things are. Sure, we can assume they’re bigger, stranger versions of their namesakes from our world, but we don’t really know for sure. And, even putting all of that aside, there were just too many similes. I mean, I can admire the well-placed simile or metaphor–one that really helps the reader to envision something–but when they’re used too often and aren’t easy to understand, all they do is take the reader out of the story.

In the end, though, this book was a fun read. Adeyemi created a colorful world full of interesting characters and a unique magic system. I would recommend this book to anybody who enjoys high fantasy worlds, strong female characters, and action-packed, edge-of-your-seat climaxes.

Book Review – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Rating: 4/5 Stars

This will be a spoiler-free review.

I’m not going to lie. When I was assigned this book to read for my fiction workshop, I anticipated that I would hate it. Not because I don’t like classic literature–in fact, I love the classics–but because it was assigned to me. In my experience, if a piece of classic literature is assigned to read, it isn’t the good stuff. I’ve never been assigned to read Little Women or Pride and Prejudice, and although I read Wuthering Heights for a class, it was a classic that I was allowed to pick for myself. So, going into this novel, I was filled with dread. I thought I was in for a rough 325 pages. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, and I actually ended up really enjoying myself.

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Book Review – I Should Be Writing: A Writer’s Workshop by Mur Lafferty

Rating: 4/5 Stars

This book was a quick read with a lot of really great information that was delivered in an entertaining way. Though I consider myself to be a somewhat seasoned writer, I found myself learning quite a few things from this book, from editing tips to information about the publishing industry. It was also incredibly inspiring, urging writers to keep working toward their dreams and to ignore their inner “bully.” Though there was nothing necessarily new revealed in this book, all of the information was presented in a unique way that I believe would be incredibly beneficial to an amateur writer.

I would absolutely recommend this book to any aspiring authors looking to learn a bit more about what it’s like to be a writer professionally, or who may be second-guessing their abilities. Lafferty’s writing is witty, charming, and all-around fun to read.