Shielded – blog tour (ARC review + GIVEAWAY!!!)

Author: KayLynn Flanders
Publication date: July 21, 2020
Genre: young adult fantasy
My rating: 4/5 stars

Familiar yet fresh, and filled with some of my favorite character-related tropes (including badass warrior princesses, royalty in disguise, and a “mutual pining” sort of romance), Shielded was an enjoyable read and a solid start to what promises to be an interesting new fantasy series.

The Plot

For fans of Sorcery of Thorns and Furyborn comes a thrilling new fantasy about a kingdom ravaged by war, and the princess who might be the key to saving not only those closest to her, but the kingdom itself, if she reveals the very secret that could destroy her.

The kingdom of Hálendi is in trouble. It’s losing the war at its borders, and rumors of a new, deadlier threat on the horizon have surfaced. Princess Jennesara knows her skills on the battlefield would make her an asset and wants to help, but her father has other plans.

As the second-born heir to the throne, Jenna lacks the firstborn’s–her brother’s–magical abilities, so the king promises her hand in marriage to the prince of neighboring Turia in exchange for resources Hálendi needs. Jenna must leave behind everything she has ever known if she is to give her people a chance at peace.

Only, on the journey to reach her betrothed and new home, the royal caravan is ambushed, and Jenna realizes the rumors were wrong–the new threat is worse than anyone imagined. Now Jenna must decide if revealing a dangerous secret is worth the cost before it’s too late–for her and for her entire kingdom.

Review

There is a lot to love about this book, most notably, the characters. Jennesara is a pretty cool princess, who is a crazy-competent fighter and also loves to spend time in the library–in other words, my kind of heroine. She isn’t a flawless Mary Sue type; she works hard for what she has, and we actually get multiple scenes of her stretching, practicing her sword skills, and doing exercises to stay in shape. Her magical abilities don’t come naturally, either, and she struggles a lot to be able to wield them with any degree of precision. Heck, there are at least two or three times in the book where she is badly injured and her injuries impair her abilities to do what she needs to do. This is so important: characters can’t be perfect all the time, and the fact that Jenna isn’t makes her relatable.

Jenna’s relationships are fun to watch as well–a friendship-turned-romantic-interest that she can’t act on, a strong female friendship with another princess, and–one of my favorite things–an adorable, overly eager child who treats everything like an adventure and majorly looks up to Jenna. What can I say? I’m a sucker for little kids, both in real life and in books.

The worldbuilding here was also handled wellthree distinct kingdoms with their own cultures, linguistic quirks, fashions, and views on magic (though we really only got to see two of them in this book–here’s hoping we get more info on Riiga in book two!). There were a lot of questions that were left unanswered, from details on the magic system to explanations of national politics, but I have a feeling that those are going to be expanded on in the next book.

In terms of plotting, this was a book that felt incredibly familiar. The tropes in it are, for the most part, not anything new: betrayal by people once thought to be allies, arranged marriages, a princess hiding her identity for the sake of both her own safety and the safety of others, ancient mages out for revenge, and all that fun stuff. This isn’t a bad thing; those tropes are popular for a reason, and Flanders’ writing made it easy to keep turning the pages. But it is worth noting that, if you’re expecting twists galore, this probably isn’t going to deliver on that front. Even the few twists that were written in were, at least to me, very predictable. Again, this isn’t bad–it is par for the course for this type of book.

As a final note, can I just say, Flanders writes awesome fight scenes? Her descriptions of physical maneuvers, swordplay, strategy, pain, and every other element of one-on-one combat are vivid without being overwhelming. I do love a good fight scene.

Honestly, this was just a really solid debut. It wasn’t quite the level of “oh my god my mind has been blown” that would make it a 5-star, but it is definitely still worth a read.

Book Links

Go ahead, add it to your shelf, buy yourself a copy, and help support a debut author!

About the Author

KayLynn Flanders has a degree in English Language and editing, and has been a freelance editor and book designer for over twelve years. Her debut novel, a YA fantasy, will be published by Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House) July 21, 2020. KayLynn and her family live in Utah between some mountains and a lake, and she is directionally challenged without them. She loves reading, writing, traveling, and volleyball, and thinks there’s nothing better than a spur-of-the-moment road trip.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Tour Schedule

For more awesome content about this book, including reviews, mood boards, interviews, and more, check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour HERE!

Giveaway

And now, the part you’ve all been waiting for: a giveaway for one finished copy of Shielded! This giveaway is open to US only (sorry, international friends), and it runs from August 3rd to August 9th. Click HERE to enter.

That’s all for now, folks. Is Shielded on your TBR now? Leave a comment and let me know!

Huge thank you to TBR and Beyond Tours for letting me be a part of this blog tour, and thank you to the publisher, Delacorte, for providing me with an eARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Mall – blog tour (ARC review)

Author: Megan McCafferty
Publication date: July 28, 2020
Genre: young adult, (recent) historical fiction
My rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Mall is a book that, I kid you not, made me nostalgic for a time period I didn’t even live through. I was born in the mid-90’s, and this book takes place in ’91, but this fun-filled romp through teenage drama and self-discovery resonated with truths that are still relevant today, while seasoning them with a distinct 90s flair that I couldn’t help enjoying. Was it cheesy? Sure. But it was the good kind of cheesy, the sort of fluffy read that is perfect for a summer day.

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Unravel the Dusk – ARC review

Author: Elizabeth Lim
Series: The Blood of Stars, #2 (find my review of Book 1 here!)
Publication date: July 7, 2020
Genre: young adult fantasy
My rating: 3.5/5 stars

Spin the Dawn was one of my favorite books of last year, so I was beyond ecstatic when I was approved for the sequel on NetGalley. Unfortunately, while this was not necessarily a bad read, it pales in comparison to its predecessor, which made me a very disappointed K-Specks. Although still beautiful, Unravel the Dusk lacked the same magic and emotional pull that made me so enamored of Spin the Dawn.

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A Song Below Water – review

Author: Bethany C. Morrow
Publication date: June 2, 2020
Genre: young adult, fantasy
My rating: 3.5/5 stars

First, I want to make something abundantly clear: this is a tremendously important book. It deals with lots of major issues that the Black community is currently facing, and has been facing for a long time, and it uses a highly unique premise (some very literal Black Girl Magic) to convey those ideas. I feel like I need to stress that part because this was one of those books that I loved in theory, just not in execution. I don’t want this review to be taken as, “This book isn’t important.” I think it is a book that is very, very much worth reading. However, it would be disingenuous for me to rate it higher, because it faltered in its actual writing, on technical elements like worldbuilding and pacing.

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We Were All Someone Else Yesterday – review + quotes

Author: Omar Holmon
Publication date: May 12, 2020
Genre: poetry
My rating: 4/5 stars

In his quick, lively debut collection, poet Omar Holmon delivers a rollercoaster of emotions chronicling everything from the death of a parent to racism to love to the pride in being a nerd. This is a book that will make you laugh, but will also make you think, often in the same poem. It may not be hugely advertised, but this is a solid addition to Button Poetry’s catalog, as well as an excellent testament to the experiences of a Black nerd trying to navigate family and this complicated world we live in.

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The Gravity of Us – mini-review

Author: Phil Stamper
Publication date: March 4, 2020
Genre: young adult, contemporary, LGBTQIA+, romance
My rating: 3.5/5 stars

You’ve got to admit, no matter what you think of the book, that this is a gorgeous cover.

Once again, I’m finding myself in a position where I’m a little too worn out to write full reviews, but I do have thoughts I want to share on books! To that end, I present you with this mini-review of a cute, if not remarkable, queer YA contemporary (with a splash of romance, a ton of commentary on media, and a hefty dose of outer space).

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A Song Below Water – blog tour and GIVEAWAY!!!

Author: Bethany C. Morrow
Publication date: June 2, 2020
Genre: young adult, urban fantasy, contemporary
Publisher: Tor Teen

If ever there was a good book to promote now, given the widespread Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, this is it. Written by a Black author, and dealing with topics including systemic racism, social justice, body image, and misogynoir, the relevance of this book to today’s situation cannot be overstated. The characters attend Black Lives Matter protests. They discuss everything from natural hair and gospel music to traffic stops and police brutality. And above all, this book is a celebration of literal Black Girl Magic–this is a story about sirens, and in its world’s mythos, only Black women can be sirens.

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Audiobook review blitz – MG edition! (feat. The One and Only Ivan, Other Words for Home, & Ghost Squad)

As I mentioned before, I’ve been digging into a lot of middle-grade books this month, including quite a few on audiobook. You know the drill: mini-reviews are all coming up next. This time, we have a contemporary told from the point of view of a gorilla who lives in a mall (currently one of my favorite books of the year), a touching novel-in-verse about a girl who immigrates to the US from Syria, and a cute-and-spooky book that is loosely part Coco and part Ghostbusters.

Up first: the book that OH MY GOD I WAS NOT EMOTIONALLY PREPARED FOR.

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Come Tumbling Down – mini-review

Author: Seanan McGuire
Series: Wayward Children, #5
Publication date: January 7, 2020
Genre: fantasy, portal fantasy
My rating: 4.5/5 stars

Let me start this by saying that Seanan McGuire is an absolute gem. Her writing is always brilliant, and I absolutely adore all the worlds she created in this series, so I of course was looking forward to getting to further explore them in this latest installment. In fact, after Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Jack and Jill quickly became my favorite characters in the series (alongside Kade, but alas, he hasn’t gotten his own book yet). However, this wasn’t a five-star read–honestly, it’s on the lower end of the 4.5-star rating. I guess I just didn’t quite feel the same “spark” with this one that I did with some others from the series. (Was that a pun referencing the excessive lightning in the Moors? Maybe…)

Anyway, given that it is a short book, I don’t quite feel up to a full review, but here is the publisher’s blurb, followed by my thoughts in a quick bulleted list for your enjoyment/reference. Please be aware, there are some spoilers in here for the earlier books in the series, if you haven’t read them yet–though, of course, no spoilers on this particular installment!

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Aru Shah and the End of Time – review

Author: Roshani Chokshi
Series: Pandava Quartet, #1
Publication date: March 27, 2018
Genre: middle grade, fantasy
My rating: 4/5 stars

This was a cute and enjoyable read, for sure, with a delightful voice, a feisty and salty protagonist who was a little too relatable, and so much mythological fun. Obviously the #OwnVoices take on Indian mythology was a strong point in its favor. Seriously, props to Rick Riordan for helping support authors from other cultures in getting their mythologies into stories to be published and loved as much as his own Percy Jackson was. He could have written those books himself, but instead he decided to step away and let #OwnVoices authors take the spotlight. But I digress–let’s start with the publisher’s blurb!

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