Review: Nightborn by Lou Anders

(I received an ARC of Nightborn in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This review is being posted before publication to celebrate the release of the paperback of Frostborn!)

Nightborn is the second book in the middle-grade fantasy Thrones and Bones series by Lou Anders. It follows the adventures of half-giantess Thianna Frostborn and game-loving farmer Karn Korlundsson as they attempt to find an ancient mythical object. There are dragons, elves, riddles, and disguises, among other fantastical things. This series has been a pleasant surprise: very well-rounded and balanced, which I definitely needed. I give Nightborn a 7.5/10 stars for being one heck of a sequel.

*SOME SPOILERS AHEAD (I did my best guys my reviews are usually super spoilery)*

Things I Liked:

  • World expansion is the bomb. In Frostborn, the story sticks to the northernmost corners of the continent of Katernia; in Nightborn, there are tons of new cities and places because “hey! We have flying creatures who can travel quickly!” I really enjoyed getting to see how the adventures impact the world outside of Norrongard.
  • Cast expansion (is that a thing? Just made it one.) is also the bomb. The minor characters, especially Desstra, and their development kept me a lot more interested. The bigger the cast of a series, the more invested I am; I liked that Frostborn features a nice cast of pretty detailed minor characters.
  • The riddles are really fun, especially with all the play on words. I’m a sucker for a good mystery riddle leading to treasure.
  • The climax is awesome! The book builds really well to the final scenes, including the shocking twist at the end. As much as I love good riddles, I love exciting battle scenes even more.
  • The lines between good guys and bad guys are a little blurry, which I always love; unclear morality is one of my favorite things in any story. The themes of the book don’t really explore this too much, but the bad guys are usually the ones whose goals conflict with Karn and Thianna’s, or the ones who are mean. I hope moral ambiguity gets developed more in book three, because it always makes me feel for the characters more (a la The 100).
  • The brains are the dude and the brawn is the girl. Reversal of gender roles for the win. I loved that Karn is the one who thinks his way out of sticky situations and Thianna is the one who smashes first and asks questions later.
  • They remain platonic! Which is really, really, really refreshing!
  • Friendship = feels. I freaking love Karn and Thianna. My heart.

Things I Didn’t Like:

  • The humor fell a little flat for me. This is probably because it’s a middle-grade series and I am a little over six months away from adulthood (hahahahahahahahahaha), but I wasn’t as charmed by the funny scenes as I would’ve liked.
  • Though it didn’t detract from the story, the writing didn’t particularly wow me either. This could’ve made the experience a little more enjoyable, but the overall story is totally worth it.

I’m really glad I picked up the Thrones and Bones series! The adventure and the characters have been surprisingly fun and enjoyable, and I’m really excited for book three. I recommend this series to anyone looking for a relatively easy read with a nice blend of action and character development.

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To Be Missed

There’s a new trend in this day and age of social media: birthday posts. Instead of cards, people write a lengthy paragraph on Instagram complete with a collage of ugly photos of their bff. If they’re friends but not incredibly close, people might send out a tweet. 140 characters of love. I’ve done this plenty of times; those paragraph captions on Insta take quite a while, actually. But more and more, as people retweet well-wishes on their birthday or I see a circle of friends post for the same friend’s special day, I’ve been noticing three little words pop up: I miss you.

The tweets especially follow a formula:

Happy birthday @ friend’s handle! I miss you, we gotta do something soon *heart emoji* love you lots and hope you eat lots of [insert dessert here]! *party emoji*

There are some people I follow who have retweeted at least ten of these on their birthdays. I am absolutely not bashing the birthday social media love; if it’s how people show they care, I’m all for it. But I can’t shake the feeling that there must be more than being missed.

To be missed means that they haven’t seen you in too long. How many of those sentiments of wanting to get together are actually followed up with dinners at Willy’s or an afternoon coffee? John Green said it best: “You can never love people as much as you can miss them.” Too often, as cliche as it is, we don’t realize what we have until it’s no longer standing right in front of us. Friends move. Circles shift. Change happens, try as we might to stop it. (Believe me, I do.) And we’re left with people we’re being forced to let go that we should’ve held tighter while we had the chance.

I had a German exchange student in my small group this year. She was funny and brave and had a Polaroid camera and an excellent fashion sense. She’s leaving this week, and in her goodbye note to me she said something about wishing that we had spent more time together. Though the rest of it was thanking me for my friendship and reflecting on the memories we share now, that sentence broke my heart a little.

Honestly, I should’ve done better. I should’ve called more. I should’ve braved that drive downtown to pick her up for a coffee date every once in a while. We should’ve gone to the zoo or the aquarium or any of those cliche tourist attractions, and we should’ve done it together. Because now that she’s leaving, I wish we had spent more time together, too.

I don’t want to be missed. I know there are goodbyes down the road, and I understand that when certain songs come on or someone hears a ukulele playing or someone mentions Harry Potter, the people I have left behind will think of me. Maybe they’ll text me and let me know or at least stalk my Instagram for a couple minutes. But I would rather love them with everything I have, right here, right now, so that when the final hug comes, I can say that I had this beautiful flower of a person within reach for a while and I held them tight. I don’t want to be missed. I want to see every single person as a blessing that I can’t afford to lose until the last possible second, when God Himself pulls our paths apart. I’ve gotta learn to act on that. I’ve gotta say as many hello’s and how are you’s and I’m here for you’s and be yourself, darling’s before those goodybe’s come. If I don’t, the goodbye’s might kill me. If I am missed too much, that means missed out on some incredible joy and wonderful people, people that I should’ve seen before they were in my rearview mirror. They are worth seeing here and now for who they are. They are worth loving and not missing out on. They’re worth whatever time it takes to be here instead of be missed.

Review: Off the Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer

Off the Page is the companion novel to Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer. Between the Lines follows a girl named Delilah and her efforts to get a fairytale prince named Oliver out of a book and into her life so they can be together; Off the Page shows the consequences of that decision and how it affects not only the lives of Delilah and Oliver, but also their friends and loved ones. Both books were cute, fun, lighthearted reads, but I became less engaged after a while because of the relentless focus on romance. I give Off the Page 5.5/10 stars for solid secondary characters, cute scenes, and humor, but also too many love interests to hold my interest.

Things I Liked:

  • Split POVs are actually done really well. In my opinion, it’s very difficult to pull off split POVs (another example of success with these is the end of The Retribution of Mara Dyer [which I’m still not over because it’s flawless]), but I think Off the Page balances Oliver, Delilah, and Edgar really well. Edgar POV in particular was very exciting to me, because I wanted to see a lot more from his character after Between the Lines ended.
  • The secondary characters introduced in Off the Page expand it a little beyond a simple romance. I liked Chris and James and Jessamyn because they distract a little from the pining.
  • Jules.
  • I liked that the characters figure out how wishes navigate between the real world and the fantasy world. It would have been annoying if Off the Page had turned into a repeat of Between the Lines, where the main plot is someone stuck in the book who doesn’t want to be. Instead, there’s a lot more back and forth, people popping in and out of the book, which makes the plot seem deeper than Between the Lines.
  • Off the Page definitely has a more grown-up vibe, and the maturity is a positive change from Between the Lines.

Things I Didn’t Like:

  • Boys have cooties. Seriously though, this book is just too focused on romance. I like action and butt-kicking and friendships and sarcasm and one-liners and romance, but Off the Page is mainly a lot of pining. I didn’t mind at first, but after a while, the whole sixteen-year-old-who’s-found-her-true-love thing got a little old.
  • Jules, one of the only non-pining characters, is also the only character who doesn’t get a happy ending. Not fair.
  • While I was reading it, I could ignore it, but the stereotypical-ness got to be just a little much.
  • Okay, but, like, you’re sixteen? How do you know this is your true love? Especially when you’re not bonded by some supernatural connection or action-packed backstory? Why are you acting like this is the point of your entire life? Be independent, woman! (Me to Delilah.)

Even fictional boys are gross after a while. Though Off the Page has a lot going for it, after a while, I wanted something more. Romance, even when there’s funny characters and cute scenes involved, can’t compensate for a lack of explosions or battles or villains. Off the Page is fun and cute, but I was still left wanting something else to add a little action or interest or not-romance.

(I received an ARC of Off the Page from Random House in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)