Title: The Spinner of Dreams
Author: K.A. Reynolds
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Release Date: August 27th 2019 from HarperCollins
Format: Kindle ARC
Goodreads Synopsis: Annalise Meriwether—though kind, smart, and curious—is terribly lonely.
Cursed at birth by the devious Fate Spinner, Annalise has always lived a solitary life with her loving parents. She does her best to ignore the cruel townsfolk of her desolate town—but the black mark on her hand won’t be ignored.
Not when the monster living within it, which seems to have an agenda of its own, grows more unpredictable each day.
There’s only one way for Annalise to rid herself of her curse: to enter the Labyrinth of Fate and Dreams and defeat the Fate Spinner. So despite her anxiety, Annalise sets out to undo the curse that’s defined her—and to show the world, and herself, exactly who she is inside.
**I requested and received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and no quotations will be used**
DNF @ 34%
I’ll admit that this cover blew me away and the synopsis sounded interesting enough that I requested it to see if another middle grade might work out for me. I’ve been so iffy with middle grade, with maybe one or two titles that I actually enjoyed recently. But sadly, this was another miss for me and I’m now on the edge of not trying middle grade for a while just because I’m not finding my kind of book within this genre.
This book sounded interesting because it’s about a girl with major anxiety (which is #ownvoices rep by the way) who wants to change her destiny. The plot sounded to me like a great coming of age story about a girl who chases after dream after people have put her down for so long. While the actual parts I read had parts of that, this book feels very similar to middle grade books like Alice in Wonderland and The Phantom Tollbooth. Both of those children’s classics are ones I’ve never liked and when I started getting those vibes in this book, I put it down.
This book felt too whimsical for me to enjoy. You know how a story can just be so fantastical and have a lot of whimsy that it just doesn’t make sense? That’s what this book was to me. If you’ve read books like The Phantom Tollbooth or Alice in Wonderland, then you know what I mean. While fantasy stories do have fantastical elements like a magic system, special powers and creatures that aren’t real, they have a sense of still being grounded in a way. Books like this just have a ton of whimsy that isn’t explained and it doesn’t feel grounded at all. The whimsy does its own thing and doesn’t bother to explain a ton of things if that makes any sense.
With Annalise being cursed, her whole town was against her, calling her “enemy number one.” The news people track their every movement and say on the news “oh the cursed girl is going to town today, don’t help her” type stuff. So that felt very dramatic to the point where I didn’t have a lot of sympathy? I knew Annalise means well; she’s not a bad person at all and her parents are good people. But I felt like the news tracking them was a bit over the top. I hadn’t expected modern things like television to be in this fantasy book.
Another problem for me personally was the pacing. The story doesn’t get actually started until about the 30% mark. The beginning is just repeating the same few things: she’s cursed, she wants to change, she deals with her anxiety, her parents are nice but don’t do a whole lot to help, the town hates her…it’s all the same thing for a while and that didn’t hook me in enough. I started to get bored by the time the main plot line started creeping up. By that point, I was bored enough that I didn’t care to continue. I think the beginning could’ve been condensed somewhat to make the main plot line appear sooner to get the story going. I don’t know if the attention of some middle grade readers would keep reading for very long with the beginning.
While I’m sure the whole book has some great messages and goes deeper into the #ownvoices rep for the anxiety, this book wasn’t for me. The whimsy of the story didn’t grab me, much of the story was too repetitive that could’ve had some good editing to tighten it and it did feel a bit too dramatic. I’ve seen now that middle grade is a very iffy genre for me. I’ve found a couple books in the last few years that are fun and entertaining. But this book just had a gorgeous cover but not a story that would keep my interest. I would recommend more older kids, like junior high or very well read late elementary kids to try this.
Title: The Merciful Crow (The Merciful Crow #1)
Author: Margaret Owen (Debut)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: July 30th 2019 from Henry Holt (BYR)
Format: Kindle ARC
Goodreads Synopsis: A future chieftain
Fie abides by one rule: look after your own. Her Crow caste of undertakers and mercy-killers takes more abuse than coin, but when they’re called to collect royal dead, she’s hoping they’ll find the payout of a lifetime.
A fugitive prince
When Crown Prince Jasimir turns out to have faked his death, Fie’s ready to cut her losses—and perhaps his throat. But he offers a wager that she can’t refuse: protect him from a ruthless queen, and he’ll protect the Crows when he reigns.
A too-cunning bodyguard
Hawk warrior Tavin has always put Jas’s life before his, magically assuming the prince’s appearance and shadowing his every step. But what happens when Tavin begins to want something to call his own.
*I requested and received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and no quotations will be used*
DNF @ 11%
I was getting more excited for this book the more I kept seeing people I follow on social media rave about this book. So when I got the ARC, I figured it was time to see what the hype was about. I love the cover and the synopsis does sound awesome. But unfortunately, this book was one of the quickest DNF’s I’ve had in a long time. Normally I give a book more time to either adapt to the story it’s trying to tell or just getting into the world more. Things can take time in some stories and that’s what I wanted to give this one.
The biggest issue I had was the writing style. I am a major writing style oriented reader; if I don’t gel with the writing, nearly nothing will help me keep going. This was one of those cases. The word choices the author used felt very jarring and unusual, causing many of the paragraphs or sentences to not flow when read aloud. I even had to skim over the sentences again to understand what she was trying to say. Then, some of what I assume are fantasy terms for this world, were dropped in and you didn’t get the context of what this word meant. That made the experience even more jarring and hard to read. I could only read two chapters before I had to take a break for a few days before trying again.
The next problem I had was how this book started. Some fantasy books just throw you into the world and you just have to be along for the ride, like Truthwitch and many others. This felt like an extreme case of that. The first chapter felt like we were thrown in an already existing chapter, but didn’t have that beginning if that makes sense. I felt like the story started in a weird spot and then just kept going. There’s a “dance” the crow caste does and it makes no sense, so it was very weird to see. I also didn’t see why the animal castes existed: did they have bird like features? Or are they just human looking? The names of animals for the castes seemed a bit odd and like other reviewers, I just didn’t get it.
So, nothing really hooked me in this story to keep going. Fie was a typical “I’m tough as nails” character that I just didn’t really buy and the plot of saving royalty to prevent an assassination and fighting for the throne is starting to get old for me. Plus, like I mentioned, the jarring and dense writing style didn’t motivate me to read very far. This was a hard pass for me and sadly it doesn’t live up to the hype. I possibly might read the author’s next book not set in this world, but if this writing style is what the author uses, then her books might not be for me. If this does sound interesting to you, I would recommend getting it from your library if its available.
Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think of them? Let me know in the comments!