Review: The Defiant Heir by Melissa Caruso

5 stars.

The Defiant Heir cover (link to Goodreads)

I mentioned before that I was completely invested in the first book in this series, The Tethered Mage, from the beginning to the end. Caruso is a master of pacing. In this one, too, there’s never a moment where it failed to keep my attention.

But there were a few things it did even better than the first book.

  1. The problematic aspect in the first book is treated as problematic rather directly. I’m beginning to trust that a satisfying end to that whole situation can be achieved.
  2. KATHE. I won’t spoil anything, but holy cow, that’s an interesting character, and a VERY interesting love triangle.
  3. A deeper look into the magic of the world, which is weirder and cooler than I thought it would be.

This series is a lot of fun. I highly recommend it if you like fantasy with lots of court intrigue, weird magic systems, and romance.

Review: The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso

4 stars (I really liked it)

I was completely invested in this book from the first chapter on. The premise is that there’s a world where people with magic can lose control whenever they use it, especially some of the more powerful, and accidentally, like, burn down a town or something. So to keep everybody safe, mages are “tethered” to a “falconer,” someone who can release the power and stop it with a magic word. There’s more to it than that, but I don’t want to spoil anything.

It’s intriguing and romantic and exciting, and more. It was a really, really fun read.

Still, I constantly felt uneasy about the fact that the tethered mage in the book is an orphaned, fiery black teenage girl, and her accidental falconer is a white noble’s daughter. It seemed like it was trying to make statements about slavery, but at the same time, it was trying to make the main character (the noble’s daughter) relatable, which is hard to do when she’s essentially a slave owner. But, yeah, nobody wants whole towns destroyed accidentally, so this system might actually be necessary?

I had to wonder if discomfort at relating to the main character was part of the point, and I enjoyed the book enough to read book 2 (review coming in a few days).

Year in Reviews

A few years back I realized I had only read three books all year. I made a new year’s resolution to read more books, and I did. When I first started querying Parallelogirl, I decided to read more middle grade so I would know my genre and age category. At the time, I was posting reviews to a private message board for some friends. When I created this website, I repurposed a lot of those reviews for my blog, and I started out with quite the backlog. Despite posting new reviews 1-3 times per week all year, I’m still behind.

I will eventually catch up at the rate I’m going (I read at least a book a week, but definitely not three), but it might be a few months down the road, depending on how often I post reviews. Still, I want to share the list of books I read in 2019 now. They’re not really in any sort of order, but I did put my favorite books of the year in each category at the top and bolded them. Full reviews for middle grade and YA books are coming eventually. 🙂

I completed about 60 books this year. It’s a bit of a fuzzy number because there are a few books I read 80% of before giving up on, and I still keep track of those for my own sake, though I have labeled them “did not finish” in the list below. Including the DNFs, there are 62 books on this list. (There were a handful of others I abandoned early on, simply because it was immediately apparent they were not my thing. They are not on the list.)

First, middle grade books:

  1. Planet Earth Is Blue, by Nicole Panteleakos
  2. The Terrible Two, by Mac Barnett and Jory John
  3. Bob, by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead
  4. Nevermoor, by Jessica Townsend
  5. The Unteachables, by Gordon Korman
  6. The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau
  7. The Terrible Two Get Worse, by Mac Barnett and Jory John
  8. Wundersmith, by Jessica Townsend
  9. Alcatraz 2: The Scrivener’s Bones, by Brandon Sanderson
  10. Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy 2 Furious, by Dean and Shannon Hale
  11. Alcatraz 3: The Knights of Crystallia, by Brandon Sanderson
  12. Shouting at the Rain, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
  13. Best Friends, by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
  14. Other Words for Home, by Jasmine Warga
  15. Space Case, by Stuart Gibbs
  16. Where the Watermelons Grow, by Cindy Baldwin
  17. Pi in the Sky, by Wendy Mass
  18. Snow and Rose, by Emily Winfield Martin
  19. Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, by Dusti Bowling
  20. The Terrible Two Go Wild, by Mac Barnett and Jory John
  21. Liar and Spy, by Rebecca Stead
  22. The Strangers, by Margaret Petersen Haddix
  23. Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliett
  24. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, by Jeanne Birdsall
  25. Percy Jackson 1: The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan (did not finish)

Next, YA:

  1. The Defiant Heir, by Melissa Caruso
  2. These Broken Stars, by Amie Kaufman
  3. On the Come Up, by Angie Thomas
  4. Gift Child, by Janci Patterson
  5. Obsidio, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  6. Blood Water Paint, by Joy McCullough
  7. Magonia, by Maria Dahvana Headley
  8. Mirage, by Somaiya Daud
  9. Two Can Keep a Secret, by Karen McManus
  10. Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi
  11. The Light Between Worlds, by Laura E. Weymouth (did not finish)
  12. Renegades, by Marissa Meyer (did not finish)
  13. The Tethered Mage, by Melissa Caruso
  14. Nyxia, by Scott Reintgen
  15. Everything We Might Have Been, by Megan Walker and Janci Patterson

And finally, adult, which I don’t generally review on the blog but still read some of. I will include star ratings for these, since reviews are not forthcoming:

  1. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson *****
  2. Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik *****
  3. The Book of M, by Peng Shepherd *****
  4. Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty **
  5. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie ** (but Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey did the audiobook, and he was terribly entertaining)
  6. Legion, by Brandon Sanderson *****
  7. Legion 2: Skin Deep, by Brandon Sanderson ****
  8. Legion 3: Lies of the Beholder, by Brandon Sanderson ***
  9. The Extra, by Megan Walker and Janci Patterson *****
  10. The Girlfriend Stage, by Megan Walker and Janci Patterson ***
  11. Everything We Are, by Megan Walker and Janci Patterson **
  12. The Five Books of Jesus, by James Goldberg ***** (Though this book has a very small audience, I’m in it. I can’t say whether a poetic, human retelling of the New Testament from the POV of the people who loved Jesus will be for you.)
  13. Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer ****
  14. Authority, by Jeff VanderMeer *
  15. Acceptance, by Jeff VanderMeer **
  16. Chaos Queen 1: Duskfall, by Christopher Husberg ****
  17. Vinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler *****
  18. The Wonder, by Emma Donoghue * (full disclosure: I didn’t quite finish this book. I was getting the feeling the ending was going to make me really mad, so I read spoilers, and yeah, it was going to make me really mad, so I stopped reading.)
  19. The Expanse 8: Tiamat’s Wrath, by James S. A. Corey ****
  20. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman ****
  21. Uprooted, by Naomi Novik ***
  22. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrick Backman ****

Review: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

5 stars (I loved it).

Like The Hate U Give, this book centered on a fully realized character and her choices. Like The Hate U Give, it handles racial issues with grace and power and authenticity. Like The Hate U Give, the moment when the main character truly finds out who she is and what she needs to stand for, it’s explosive.

You should absolutely read it.

That said, be prepared for a main character who isn’t as easy to like as Starr was. She’s flawed and stubborn and complex, and that’s a lot of what I liked about her, but you should be prepared going in for a story that is less . . . I don’t know if “heartwarming” is the right word for The Hate U Give, but you get the idea.

Angie Thomas, though . . . she’s a force. I am blown away by her phenomenal talent. And once again, I was blown away by Bahni Turpin’s narration.

(Do note that, once again, there’s a fair amount of swearing.)

Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

4 stars (I really liked it).

Children of Blood and Bone cover (link to Goodreads)

If you haven’t heard of this book, you haven’t been paying attention to book hype the last few years. As a west-African-based fantasy about systemic oppression, it is an important book, a book that is doing what few other books are. And for the most part, it does it well. The plot clips along at a good pace, the writing is strong, the conflict is compelling. I had issues with the romance, though I might come around to it in a sequel or two . . .

For me personally, it was a bit dark and violent. But lots of people like dark, and I’m not opposed to it in small doses (like, reading one book but not diving immediately into the sequel, for example). I’d probably recommend this to older YA readers and adults for this reason.

I listened to the audiobook, and Bahni Turpin is as amazing in this as she is in The Hate U Give. Her versatility is unbelievable.