ARC Review: Whitley: Blood Rose Rebellion

title: Blood Rose Rebellion
author: Rosalyn Eves
pages: 416
format: eARC
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 2/5 (from hated to loved) or 3/10 (all books I've ever read)

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

This book…oh, it was so close to being something cool. And it dropped the ball on various fronts, alas. Partly because the main character’s plot was dull, and partly because the side characters were super interesting and yet remained side characters.

I was pretty intrigued by the set-up of this book, and I was highly invested in the interpersonal/family drama going on. I loved Anna’s predicament, her anger at it, her determination to find a place for herself in a society that kept trying to force her out. I loved the friction between her and her family/her sister, the jerkass boy, the drama, it was great.

And then they went to Hungary, and the conflict setting went much wider than one girl and her family, and…well, I’ll put it this way: I had no problems with Anna as a character, but I had a lot of problems with Anna as a protagonist to this particular story. It’s a story about revolution and oppression and fighting back and all that, but Anna is an outsider with no skin in the game other than what she puts in voluntarily. And, to be frank, she doesn’t volunteer much. She says she loves her ‘adopted’ country, but in terms of putting actions to those words…meh. On the other hand, everyone around her is super invested in plotting their rebellion, in reviving or protecting their culture, and there’s all sorts of messy in-group fighting and plots and machinations and and and….and it’s all in the corners, visible only when Anna deigns to leave her big fancy house. Anna, for her part, finds out she has this cool magic and never once bothers to test it, experiment with it, or literally do anything at all with it. She finds out she can undo spells, has someone ask her to undo the BIGGEST SPELL EVER, and then…waffles about deciding. Doesn’t do a lick of work to see if she can or not, or figure out how her powers work. Just…snoozefest. Just like she finds out there’s a rebellion brewing and her first, last, and only contribution is to sit in a pub and watch people talk about it.

Anna would have been perfectly serviceable as a bitter-but-determined troublemaker with family problems, but as a revolutionary, I really wanted to follow the people actually revolting. I guess I’m just funny that way.

Additionally, I was highly uncomfortable with Anna’s relationship with a Romani boy named Gabor. A huge chunk of the book is about how the Romani were basically on the bottom-rung of the shit-upon ladder, and how the Hungarians were being oppressed by Austria but then turned around and passed that on down to the Romani without even blinking. And then here comes Anna, she of the riches and privilege, a noble-class girl who can literally pack up and leave the country if she wants, and the book tries to put her on the same level of oppression as Gabor. There’s whole scenes of Anna trying to compare her own situation to that of the Romani, and even a scene where she does one random nice big gesture so Gabor will be all “ah, she’s one of the good white folks, I guess I can’t be mad at her now.” It…um…no. Just no. It’s not like an Anna/Gabor type romance can’t happen, but not when you ignore all of the Anna’s privilege and position and try to claim any level of hardship is the same as all other levels as well.

The writing was evocative and the setting and mythology interesting, the magic system interesting as well. In fact, the magic system was the only thing that kept me reading until the end. But overall, I’m not sure I would suggest it. The majority of the book just doesn’t stand up to its own promises or strong opening.

in a sentence

Smooth writing and an interesting premise doesn't save the plot from a heroine who is largely removed from the best part of the conflict.


will i read this author again?  Maybe   
will i continue the series?  I'll wait to see what reviews are like for the second book. Not as an ARC read again, though.

Note: I received this copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


Blog Tour: Giveaway: Review: Buried Heart by Kate Elliott

Book Covertitle: Buried Heart
author: Kate Elliott
pages: 448
format: Hardcover
buy it: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | iBooks | TBD
rating: 5/5 (from hated to loved) or 8.5/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkowski, Red Rising by Pierce Brown, The Scorpion Rule by Erin Bow, and other gritty, epic sci-fi/fantasy.
The explosive finale to World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott's captivating, New York Times bestselling young adult series.

In this third book in the epic Court of Fives series, Jessamy is the crux of a revolution forged by the Commoner class hoping to overthrow their longtime Patron overlords. But enemies from foreign lands have attacked the kingdom, and Jes must find a way to unite the Commoners and Patrons to defend their home and all the people she loves. Will her status as a prominent champion athlete be enough to bring together those who have despised one another since long before her birth? Will she be able to keep her family out of the clutches of the evil Lord Gargaron? And will her relationship with Prince Kalliarkos remain strong when they find themselves on opposite sides of a war? Find all the answers in this beautifully written and exciting conclusion to World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott's debut New York Times bestselling young adult trilogy!

in depth

  • It's difficult to say goodbye to such a powerful series, and even more difficult to finish it on a strong, satisfying note. I should never have doubted Kate Elliott. She is a true master of fantasy, from her fluid, lush prose to her atmospheric worldbuilding to her multifaceted characters. From the first page of Court of Fives to the last page of Buried Heart, she spins a story of oppression, adventure, love, loss, rebellion, and redemption that eclipses almost any other series in the genre. 

  • We return to Jes in crisis. I was so afraid for this book. The climax of Poisoned Blade left Jes' world in shambles, and just from that and the blurb, I knew there would be difficult waters ahead. Elliott pulls no punches in her plotting. Characters are run through the wringer, forced into impossible choices, made to suffer grandly and break their own hearts. I was never sure of the outcome. Although I trusted Elliott to deliver something monumental and realistic, I just didn't trust her not to kill my darlings. 

  • It's no surprise, then, that it's a tense novel. Elliott weaves a plot of rebellion and betrayal, political machinations and war, into a familiar narrative of colonizer and colonized, Saroese and Efean. Will good Saroese like Kal take risks to undo injustice, or will they choose comfort over justice? Given the racial injustices in the US right now, with similar exhortations from some privileged liberals--be patient, slow change, etc.--it was an uncomfortable narrative to swallow. I could identify well with Kal, who never asked to be in this position, who could only do the right thing if he sacrificed the world he knew. 

  • That discomfort is essential, because you can't think deeply without it. This third book is an incisive criticism and exploration of how broken systems fail everyone within them. It doesn't flinch from calling out even unintentional oppressors, and when redemption is given, there is a cost, there are reparations, and it's messy and real. It did feel like every Efean tradition was better than every Saroese tradition (a bit of overkill), but for the most part, Elliott did a good job of considering the gray realities of war. 

  • I won't tell you how it all works out. I couldn't possibly do it justice. Buried Heart is full of surprises. Elliott drops bombs and ties up loose threads so cleverly, threads you'd forgotten about until she brings them back and you're gasping in shocked satisfaction. We get to see Jes grow so much in this book. She's forced to reckon with the two halves of herself, to deal with the fact that even though she is one whole person, she can only align with one way of life. Jes is a heroine worthy to stand next to Lyra Silvertongue, Hermione Granger, and Katniss Everdeen. The cast around her is varied and complex, real people with personal motives and moral ambiguity. 

  • If I haven't sold you on these books, I can only say: you're missing out on one of the best young adult fantasy series of all time. No exaggeration. It has the intricacy of Marie Rutkowski, the magic of Tamora Pierce, and a precision and flair that is all Elliott's own. Buried Heart is a dazzling conclusion to a breathtaking journey. My only regret is that, for now, I have to leave Efea behind. 

        in a sentence

        Buried Heart is a dazzling conclusion to a breathtaking journey, gorgeously written and intricately plotted. 


        will i read this author again?  Yes probably immediately or as soon as humanly possible  
        will i continue the series?  It's perfect as is, but also I kind of want more... 

        Note: I received this copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions. 

        meet the author 

        Kate Elliott has been writing stories since she was nine years old, which has led her to believe that writing, like breathing, keeps her alive. As a child in rural Oregon, she made up stories because she longed to escape to a world of lurid adventure fiction. She now writes fantasy, steampunk, science fiction, and YA, including recent works Black Wolves, Court of Fives, and Cold Magic.

        It should come as no surprise that she met her future husband in a sword fight. When he gave up police work to study archaeology, they and their three children fell into an entirely new set of adventures amid dusty Mexican ruins and mouthwatering European pastry shops. Eventually her spouse’s work forced them to move to Hawaii, where she took up outrigger canoe paddling. With the three children out of the house, they now spoil the schnauzer.

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        take the tour 

        Week One:
        7/17/2017- YA Books Central- Interview
        7/18/2017- The Eater of Books!Review
        7/19/2017- Novel NoviceGuest Post
        7/20/2017- Just CommonlyReview
        7/21/2017- Two Chicks on BooksInterview

        Week Two:
        7/24/2017- My Thoughts LiterallyReview
        7/25/2017- Sarcasm & LemonsReview
        7/26/2017- Stephanie PlotkinReview
        7/27/2017- PaperTrailYAExcerpt
        7/28/2017- Seeing Double In NeverlandReview


        ARC Review: C.J.: The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

        review         book

        Book Covertitle: The Bedlam Stacks
        author: Natasha Pulley
        pages: 336
        format: Paperback ARC
        buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
        rating: 3/5 (from hated to loved) or 5.5/10 (all books I've ever read)
        recommended for: Fans of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, Cat Winters anything, and other magical histories.
        In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall after sustaining an injury that almost cost him his leg and something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather’s pines explode, and his brother accuses him of madness.

        When the India Office recruits Merrick for an expedition to fetch quinine—essential for the treatment of malaria—from deep within Peru, he knows it’s a terrible idea. Nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who’s made the attempt has died, and he can barely walk. But Merrick is desperate to escape everything at home, so he sets off, against his better judgment, for a tiny mission colony on the edge of the Amazon where a salt line on the ground separates town from forest. Anyone who crosses is killed by something that watches from the trees, but somewhere beyond the salt are the quinine woods, and the way around is blocked.

        Surrounded by local stories of lost time, cursed woods, and living rock, Merrick must separate truth from fairytale and find out what befell the last expeditions; why the villagers are forbidden to go into the forest; and what is happening to Raphael, the young priest who seems to have known Merrick’s grandfather, who visited Peru many decades before. The Bedlam Stacks is the story of a profound friendship that grows in a place that seems just this side of magical.

        in depth

        • After loving The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, I had high hopes for The Bedlam Stacks. While they were not fully met, I still had a lovely time reading this book and will be happy to devour Pulley's next literary offering. Bedlam Stacks is a sharply written adventure about love and sacrifice, with a little bit of magic. 

        • The story is an important but lesser known historical phenomenon. Heard of the East India Company? They controlled pretty much everything, and at the time, quinine was a crucial resource. We take it for granted now (it's in tonic water), but back then it was the only defense against malaria. Pulley's mastery of historical detail, her ability to weave it seamlessly into the plot without a bunch of info dumping, is a strength of Bedlam. Even when it's draggy, it's never dry. 

        • Unfortunately, it does get a bit draggy. I'm not sure if the plot really did run too slowly in the middle, or if it was just too familiar. There are many elements familiar from Watchmaker: a sort of awkward, sensitive male protagonist; a dangerous political game; an intimate friendship that develops between the protag and a man of another culture, a friendship that trends towards romance. It was a bit too much deja vu. And while too much of this carried over, too little of Watchmaker's beloved cast was featured--although this is a petty gripe, I just loved them so much. We do get a fabulous cameo that I'll keep to myself. 

        • Despite the too familiar scaffolding, the new elements in Bedlam create a rich, luxurious near-fantasy world that dazzles and delights. Pulley paints a jungle village in Peru with loving respect and care and a bit of magic: moving statues, glass towers that set the land aflame, forest secrets. The atmosphere she creates is palpable in its wonderment. My only worry is whether she trespasses on any myths sacred to the indigenous people, or falls too close to the line of stereotypical magical natives. It's a question I hope native readers will comment on in their reviews. 

        • The glue holding Bedlam together is Pulley's writing. So precise and clever! Such evocative descriptions! Such natural dialogue! The conversations between Merrick and Raphael, a Peruvian priest, are filled with cleverness and snark. Merrick's white friend and companion is a little bit of a caricature of colonialist bluster, but he also allows Pulley to unpack some of the crude assumptions that fueled British imperialism. 

        • All in all, Bedlam was an intriguing read with a deep sense of magic about it. Though it did not depart quite enough from Watchmaker's formula, its complex world and strong emotional beats make it a worthwhile endeavor. 

            in a sentence

            Bedlam Stacks is a sharply written adventure about love and sacrifice, with a little bit of magic. 


            will i read this author again?  Yep yep   
            will i continue the series?  I would like more Keita and Grace and Thaniel and Matsumoto, please. 

            Note: I received this copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


            Top Ten Tuesday: Ten spring releases we really, really meant to get to but which are still languishing on the TBR

            top ten tuesday                tbr

            Hosted by The Broke and Bookish.  

            Want to help support your broke blogger so she can host more giveaways and give swankier prizes?  Click the book covers.  If you like the book and choose to purchase it from Amazon, a little bit of the proceeds goes to Sarcasm & Lemons!   

            Just catching up while TTT is on hiatus!          

            c.j.'s selections                         ten ten ten

            Saints and Misfits - S.K. Ali 

            I know, I know. I'm seriously a bad person. This amazing contemporary about a young Muslim woman with a passion for photography sounds so fierce and amazing and I let ARCs pry me away from it. 


            Eliza and Her Monsters - Francesca Zappia 

            Speaking of books that were eaten by ARCs... I still haven't read Zappia's first, so now I need to read that and this awesome geeky web comic gem that promises to be basically my teenage years but without the fame or romance. 
            The Library of Fates - Aditi Khorana

            My amazing friend lent this to me and I'm terrible and didn't read it yet. But I 1000% am going to because give me all the fantasy in diverse worlds! 

            The Upside of Unrequited - Becky Albertalli 

            Yeah, so just send me all the shocked faces now. I KNOW. I HAD A ROUGH SPRING. Maybe I'lll read it in anticipation of the Simon movie because that sort of makes sense not really whatever don't @ me. 

            Serpentine - Cindy Pon 

            This didn't come out this spring, but I'd planned to breeze through it during the early months. Remember what I said about non-Western fantasy? Someday, when I'm no longer being crushed under the weight of 1000 ARCs, I will laugh with devilish glee and race through this duology.  

            whitley's selections                         ten ten ten

            A Crown of Wishes - Roshani Chokshi 

            I was thrilled to get a copy of Star-Touched Queen last year and absolutely feel in love with the writing, but thought the plot lacked. So a even more me-perfect plot matched with that gorgeous prose? Sign me up! Sign me up for several months of shelf-sitting, apparently. Still have no idea what knocked this off my radar.

            Shadow Run - Adrianne Strickland & Michael Miller
            I've had an ARC of this for so long that, to write this post, I went back and re-read the summary to try and remember why I requested it in the first place. Oh, right, space captains and runaway royalty! 
            Royce Rolls - Margaret Stohl

            It sounds like a hilarious spoof on 'reality' TV, and I'm all for that. The names ALONE make me want to read this book. Rolling with the Royces? Bentley? Yessss.

            The Takedown - Corrie Wang

            I love near-future sci-fi, and this seems like a plot that could be handling some pretty relevant issues. I'm interested to see how it handles the topic of internet harassment and privacy, plus I love books where quasi-mean girls get to be the protagonist!

            The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre - Gail Carson Levine

            When I saw there was going to be another Bamarre book, I HAD to have it, if for no other reason but nostalgia. At least I know what knocked this one off my radar; I wanted to reread Two Princesses first and, well, too many steps, oh look something shiny.

            Your turn!  What spring releases are still in TBR dungeon?