Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Great World Building But A Little Slow: The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas

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Great World Building But A Little Slow: The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas
The Magnolia Sword
Sherry Thomas
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Romance, YA
Publication date: September 10th, 2019
by Tu Books

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CHINA, 484 A.D.

A Warrior in Disguise
All her life, Mulan has trained for one purpose: to win the duel that every generation in her family must fight. If she prevails, she can reunite a pair of priceless heirloom swords separated decades earlier, and avenge her father, who was paralyzed in his own duel.

Then a messenger from the Emperor arrives, demanding that all families send one soldier to fight the Rouran invaders in the north. Mulan's father cannot go. Her brother is just a child. So she ties up her hair, takes up her sword, and joins the army as a man.

A War for a Dynasty
Thanks to her martial arts skills, Mulan is chosen for an elite team under the command of the princeling--the royal duke's son, who is also the handsomest man she's ever seen. But the princeling has secrets of his own, which explode into Mulan's life and shake up everything she knows. As they cross the Great Wall to face the enemy beyond, Mulan and the princeling must find a way to unwind their past, unmask a traitor, and uncover the plans for the Rouran invasion . . . before it's too late.

Inspired by wuxia martial-arts dramas as well as the centuries-old ballad of Mulan, The Magnolia Sword is perfect for fans of Renee Ahdieh, Marie Lu, or Kristin Cashore--a thrilling, romantic, and sharp-edged novel that lives up to its beloved heroine.
-A copy was provided by Tu Books for review-

With the upcoming release of the live action Mulan, there has been an upsurge in Mulan retellings and I whole-heartedly welcome it. I fell in love with Spin the Dawn so I was pretty excited to dive into The Magnolia Sword. I went into it hoping that I would be blown away the same way I was with Spin the Dawn but I was not. Having said that, I loved the world building SO SO MUCH and enjoyed the building romantic tension between the main characters.

Let me clear, I am not trying to compare The Magnolia Sword to Spin the Dawn. I only mention the latter because both these stories adapt Mulan and I love Mulan (I’ve only been exposed to the Disney version of this story.)  They may both be drawing inspiration from the same source but they do vastly different things.

The strength of The Magnolia Sword lies in its world building. It is evident from both the author’s note and the actual story that Sherry Thomas has done a LOT of research. I am struggling to find words that aptly describe the level of detail we are given. From social structures of physical landscapes, everything is incredibly well thought out. There are so many discussions about constrictive social structures, interactions between different ethnic groups, IT’S ALL VERY WONDERFUL.

The romance is also such a wonderful slow burn. I screamed when Mulan and the Prince’s eyes met after a night shift together. It was great. Also, the fact that the romance is top-notch should be no surprise to anyone given that Sherry Thomas also writes delightful romance levels.

Clearly, I am a fan of a lot of things but the reason why The Magnolia Sword fell a little short for me was that I struggled with connecting to the plot and the characters themselves. I think the pacing was a bit on the slower side too which made it harder for me to connect. I’d have to go back and reread scenes because something would be mentioned and I would have no memory of that happening.

My issues with the book aside, I KNOW that many people will love The Magnolia Sword. All those people excited for the Disney live-action because they are excited about an adaptation that stays true to the OG should read this book instead. There are journeys, sword fighting, betrayal and slow burn romance to be had. PLUS, amazing world building.

3.5 Stars
3.5 Hot Espressos

Romance Mini Reviews #4: Novellas

Romance Mini Reviews #4: Novellas

Posted by on 08/02/2019 • 2 Comments

Can’t Escape Love Alyssa Cole

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Regina Hobbs is nerdy by nature, businesswoman by nurture. She’s finally taking her pop culture-centered media enterprise, Girls with Glasses, to the next level, but the stress is forcing her to face a familiar supervillain: insomnia. The only thing that helps her sleep when things get this bad is the deep, soothing voice of puzzle-obsessed live streamer Gustave Nguyen. The problem? His archive has been deleted.

Gus has been tasked with creating an escape room themed around a romance anime…except he knows nothing about romance or anime. Then mega-nerd and anime expert Reggie comes calling, and they make a trade: his voice for her knowledge. But when their online friendship has IRL chemistry, will they be able to…

Fresh Batch (July 28th – August 3rd)

Fresh Batch (July 28th – August 3rd)

Posted by on 07/27/2019 • 0 Comments

Fresh Batch, posted weekly, keeps you up to date on the hottest releases of the upcoming week.

Flavor of the week:

The Merciful Crow Margaret Owen Series: The Merciful Crow #1 Publication date: July 30th 2019by Henry Holt (BYR)

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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

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Disappointing: The Toll by Cherie Priest

Disappointing: The Toll by Cherie Priest

Posted by on 07/25/2019 • 2 Comments

I love southern gothic with a dash of horror and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Cherie Priest so when I came across The Toll, I was curious. I ended up being disappointed. Maybe this book never stood a chance because I read it in the midst of an extreme book hangover from finishing Spin the Dawn but here we are.

For one, there are too many different POVs for my liking. Sometimes many POVs work, especially when distinguished. They were not distinguished in this case so the transitions were always sudden and it took me a bit to figure out who I was following. Honestly, it wasn’t until I hit the 33% mark that I was actually able to differentiate the names and the voices of the characters. So for…

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Posted by on 07/23/2019 • 1 Comment

Spin the Dawn is the book I didn’t know I needed and I want to cry from how happy I am that I read it and that it could revolutionize my life. As a baby blogger, I rarely read contemporary. I exclusive read fantasy. These past few years though, fantasy has not really been holding my attention and I find myself avoiding it for the most part except for a few books here and there. Before Spin the Dawn, the last high fantasy I read was Wicked Saints back in April. I rated in 4 stars at the time but in retrospect it was not a 4 star read given that for half the book, my attention wandered. For the first time in literal years, I don’t want to read…

Fresh Batch (July 21st – 27th)

Fresh Batch (July 21st – 27th)

Posted by on 07/20/2019 • 0 Comments

Fresh Batch, posted weekly, keeps you up to date on the hottest releases of the upcoming week.

Flavor of the week:

The Arrival of Someday Jen Malone Publication date: July 23rd 2019by HarperTeen

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In this heartfelt and emotionally candid contemporary YA, author Jen Malone delves into the life of a teen whose world is brought to an abrupt halt when she learns she’s in dire need of an organ transplant.

Hard-charging and irrepressible eighteen-year-old Amelia Linehan could see a roller derby opponent a mile away—and that’s while crouched down, bent over skates, and zooming around a track at the speed of light. They don’t call her Rolldemort for nothing! What she couldn’t see coming, however, was the unexpected flare-up of a rare…

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Posted by on 07/19/2019 • 0 Comments

Here is the thing about Natalie Tan’s Book of Fortune, it is sweet with a dash of magic and an incredible amount of food porn. For those reasons, I was immediately drawn in and enjoyed the book. But, the writing is not quite there so even though the story itself is wonderful, the way it is written and told isn’t? 

First things first, this book is not a romance for those romance readers eyeing this book. It is a story about love but not necessarily romantic love. 

Natalie Tan comes home for the first time in years after her mother passes away. They parted on bad terms and Natalie never got to bridge the gap that emerged between the two. A letter her ma-ma left behind for her imparts her…

Review: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

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Posted by on 07/16/2019 • 1 Comment

A truly cinematic and unique novel, House of Salt and Sorrows begins during a funeral where we learn that one by one, the Thaumas sisters have been tragically dying. Soon our MC, Annaleigh, starts to wonder if Eulalie’s death was not accidental after all. This novels starts off fresh with a lot of faces, a ton of personalities, and plenty of mystery. I found myself engrossed from really early on, and looking forward to the wild ride this was bound to be. 

After the intriguing beginning, though, I found the pacing to be a little off. The story would lag in places until I was getting close to being bored. However each time that happened, the plot would suddenly jump forward to reveal something new, something exciting, even horrific, saving…