ARC Mini Review – High Times in the Low Parliament

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing High Times in the Low Parliament by Kelly Robson. I didn’t know anything about this one going into it, and, honestly, I’m not quite sure what to make of it.

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ARC Review – Daughter of Redwinter

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Daughter of Redwinter by Ed McDonald. I’ve had a streak of disappointing reads recently, but this book broke it! So, I’m excited to be sharing my thoughts about this one.

Those who see the dead soon join them.

From the author of the critically-acclaimed Blackwing trilogy comes Ed McDonald’s Daughter of Redwinter, the first of a brilliant fantasy series about how one choice can change a universe.

Raine can see–and more importantly, speak–to the dead. It’s a wretched gift with a death sentence that has her doing many dubious things to save her skin. Seeking refuge with a deluded cult is her latest bad, survival-related decision. But her rare act of kindness–rescuing an injured woman in the snow–is even worse.

Because the woman has escaped from Redwinter, the fortress-monastery of the Draoihn, warrior magicians who answer to no king and who will stop at nothing to retrieve what she’s stolen. A battle, a betrayal, and a horrific revelation forces Raine to enter Redwinter. It becomes clear that her ability might save an entire nation.

Pity she might have to die for that to happen…

***Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Books for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

Daughter of Redwinter had it all: magic, mystery, philosophy, relevant social/political commentary, and a hint of romance. It truly had everything I like to see whenever I read a fantasy book. The writing was excellent with brilliant descriptions, engaging dialogue, and a steady pace that kept me hooked from the very first chapter. The plot had plenty of twist and turns, and even though I figured some of the twists out in advance of the reveals, the book was written in such a way that I kept second-guessing myself, which kept the reading experience exciting and fun.

The world-building was exquisite, and I loved the magic system and lore. The world felt incredibly real and lived in, and I was surprised by how deep it seemed almost from the start. There was a sense that the civilization was old with a storied history, almost like this book barely scratched the surface of unraveling the mysteries of this world’s past and how they impacted its present. It makes me really excited to see what is in store for the future installments of this series. Despite there being such a seemingly vast history, the author did a great job of utilizing it to facilitate this story rather than overwhelming it with endless minutiae, which can sometimes be the case with fantasy books. It can be a difficult balance to strike, but McDonald did it perfectly here and has whetted my appetite for more while delivering a compelling story.

Raine is now one of my new favorite characters. She was just so compelling and complex, and I found her struggles fascinating to read. Her journey illustrated the dangers of suppressing one’s emotions and the power that can come from experiencing and processing them instead. She also dealt with needing to overcome her fear and figuring out where she belonged in a world that told her she shouldn’t exist. All of the other characters were also three-dimensional with interesting motivations. I liked a lot of them, but Sanvaunt was probably my other favorite. He was mysterious, duty-driven, and aloof, and I swear I fell in love with him when I found out what he was writing in his notebook. It was not what I expected to say the least. lol.

One of my favorite things about fantasy is the ability to explore thought-provoking, relevant social commentary in a relatively non-threatening, and often fun and exciting, way. This book does this so well. It explored the ethics of a society that relies heavily on social dominance for what seem to be very good reasons. I’m curious to see where this discussion goes in future books as the history and roots of the civilization are further explored. There was also a great deal of philosophizing in this book, and it was integrated seamlessly into the story. I loved the discussions on the nature of evil and what it means to be truly free while one lives and participates in society. I was honestly surprised by just how much thought-provoking material was packed into this one book, and I’m still thinking about a lot of it days after finishing it.

Overall, Daughter of Redwinter is an excellent start to a new fantasy series. I can’t think of anything critical to say about it, and I’m definitely looking forward to the next book. Therefore, I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars and declare it my second ever instant favorite!

ARC Review – Heat Wave

Hello, everyone! I’m excited to be reviewing Heat Wave, the conclusion to The Extraordinaries trilogy by TJ Klune. I’ve had this ARC for a few months staring me down on my Kindle, and I just couldn’t wait to read it any longer. I love superheroes and queer YA stories, and this series blends those two things together into something completely unforgettable. If you missed my reviews for the first two books, The Extraordinaries and Flash Fire, be sure to check them out too!

Heat Wave is the explosive finale to the thrilling Extraordinaries trilogy by New York Times and USA Today bestselling author TJ Klune!

Nick, Seth, Gibby, and Jazz are back in action bringing justice, protection, and disaster energy to the people of Nova City.

An unexpected hero returns to Nova City and crash lands into Nick’s home, upturning his life, his family, and his understanding of what it means to be a hero in the explosive finale of the thrilling and hilarious Extraordinaries trilogy by New York Times bestselling author TJ Klune.

***Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Teen for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

I adore the first two books in this series so much, and this finale did a great job of wrapping everything up in a satisfying way. I’m a little disappointed that Nick’s journey is over, but it has been one hell of a ride. So, I guess I can’t complain too much. As with the first two, this book made me laugh A LOT, cry, and cringe hard. The writing exuded Klune’s wit and charm, as always, and I never wanted to put the book down.

One of the main things I love about this series is the absolute extra-ness and cringe associated with the comedy. Klune is an absolute master at writing crass humor and scenes that make me so embarrassed for the characters. If you liked the humor and mortifying sex-ed components from the previous books, you will continue to find a lot of enjoyment here, as well. There was a scene between Nick and his dad that included prolonged instruction on enemas, which had me almost rolling on the floor laughing because it was so awkward. I lost count of the number of times the term ‘fecal penis’ was used in this book, and I’m still chuckling and cringing thinking about it now.

This cast of characters was really just perfect. One of my favorite additions from the second book, the drag queen superhero Miss Conduct, was back with a bigger role, and I enjoyed every second of it. Jazz and Gibby were their usual awesome selves and kicked a lot of ass in this book, which was awesome. Seth continued to be the super reliable boyfriend and the rock for Nick to lean on. Their relationship deepened considerably in this book, and it was nice to see them grow as a couple. Of course, there was also Nick, precious Nick. He was still a damn disaster, but I wouldn’t want him any other way. His character arc was probably my favorite in this book because he matured quite a bit without losing any of his flair for the dramatic. He struggled to accept his new reality of the things he found out about himself in the second book and really learned what it means to be a hero. He faced a lot of obstacles, internal and external, but ultimately he prevailed by rejecting the need for vengeance and relying on those around him who loved him.

I’m not going to say much about the plot because of spoilers, but the second half of this book really kicked things into high gear. There were some epic fights and showdowns that had me reading frantically to see what was going to happen. The first half of the book, though, was a bit weaker. There were still plenty of great moments, but it all felt a bit aimless. There was something happening that the reader was aware of but the characters weren’t, and it took way too long for the characters to find out. It felt like a drag on the entire first half of the story, and once they found out it seemed kind of pointless. It didn’t ruin the book for me; I just think that aspect of the story could have been tightened up considerably.

I also really loved all of the social and political commentary in the book. It got a bit heavy handed and preachy a couple of times, but even then it didn’t feel out of place for the characters to say or think those things. A bunch of topics were tackled, including police brutality, body image issues, and the role of prejudice and fear in the rise of fascism, among others. While the delivery wasn’t always perfect, I appreciated Klune’s willingness to confront such important topics and his ability to make them fun to read about while showcasing important lessons.

The main heart of this novel was the parent-child relationship. The relationship between Nick and his Dad has been front and center throughout this series, and this book was no different. I have enjoyed seeing their frank, open relationship because that isn’t something I often see in YA books. In a lot of YA lit, parents are usually absent, dead, or neglectful to some degree. So, it has been refreshing to to see Nick’s dad be there for the ups and downs, even though he has been far from perfect over the course of the series. This book took it even further and made the parents of the other kids a huge part too. The dads even came together to form the Dad Squad, which was one of the most hilarious things ever.

Overall, if you are looking for a hilarious, heartfelt story about teen superheroes who are queer AF, then this is the series for you. Despite being a bit rocky in the first half, this book pulled off a fantastic finale that brought the story full circle and allowed the characters to learn some important lessons about themselves, the people they care about, and the world around them. I cannot recommend this series enough.