Size Doesn’t Matter (77): Eleven Things I Promised; Vassa in the Night; A Shadow Bright and Burning

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (77): Eleven Things I Promised; Vassa in the Night; A Shadow Bright and BurningEleven Things I Promised by Catherine Clark
Published by HarperTeen on April 5, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Seventeen-year-old Frances wouldn’t describe herself as adventurous. She certainly isn’t the kind of person who would sleep under the stars or bleach her hair or have a truly epic kiss. Until now.

For the next week Frances will be away from home, competing in a bike race with friends from her high school. But while her teammates are determined to get first place, Frances has another goal: Before she crosses the finish line, she will have done every single thing on the Fix-It List. Ten crazy, totally out-of-character ideas her best friend, Stella, came up with to make the ride unforgettable. Ten things that Frances has to do on her own because of the accident that left Stella broken and angry…and Frances struggling to find a way to reconnect with her friend.

However, as each item on the list opens Frances up to new adventures, new friends, and possibly even a new romance, it becomes increasingly difficult for her to keep the one promise that she knows she absolutely must obey—her promise to not tell anyone the truth about what happened to Stella. When it comes to friendship, Frances must decide what distances she’s willing to go and what risks she’s willing to take for the person she cares about the most.

My expectations for Eleven Things I Promised were super duper low. I mean, I’ve read that plot before, and absolutely no one I know has read this book, even though it came out in early April. Eleven Things I Promised turned out to be a little under the radar gem.

The plot on a base level does match that of Since You’ve Been Gone and a handful of other contemporaries, and, if you’re only going to read one, I’d recommend the Matson first. That said, Eleven Things I Promised does feel very different from any similar stories I’ve read. What sets it apart is the bike riding. I’ve not ready any books with a strong focus on cycling and that travel makes for a completely different setting.

Frances’ voice caught my attention from the start and was so engaging that I binged my way through this brief novel. In Eleven Things I Promised, Frances makes a lot of bad calls. She’s flawed, a bit selfish at times. And, even when she’s trying to be really helpful and selfless for her injured friend, Stella, she doesn’t necessarily get that right. It’s really hard to know how to help someone going through a crisis, so going on this cycling competition in her honor and completing Stella’s list of dares is the only idea Frances has.

One of my favorite tropes is when an odd group is forced to hang out by circumstances and find commonalities. That’s done excellently here, and I loved watching Frances bond with a bunch of people she’d initially judged negatively. Stella actually gets a pretty decent arc too, though I do think it’s a bit unrealistically fast for narrative reasons.

Cute and bantery (though only minorly shippy), Eleven Things I Promised is a fast-paced read about friendship, trying new things, and cycling.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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No offense to Frances but yeah sometimes accurate.

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (77): Eleven Things I Promised; Vassa in the Night; A Shadow Bright and BurningVassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
Published by Tor Teen on September 20, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Fairy Tales
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads
two-stars

In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair. . . .

Inspired by the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful and Sarah Porter’s years of experience teaching creative writing to New York City students, Vassa in the Night weaves a dark yet hopeful tale about a young girl’s search for home, love, and belonging.

*sighs sadly* I’d been looking forward to Vassa in the Night since the PW announcement and cover reveal. Everything about this book made it sound like Christina catnip. I watched it getting mixed reviews and, sadly, I’m on the low side of the mix. Vassa in the Night is great, but it’s not for me unfortunately.

At first, I was actually pretty into Vassa in the Night, mostly because of how incredibly lovely Porter’s writing is. The further I read, the more my interest waned. By the end, I was skimming and just waiting for the book to end. It’s not that it’s bad, because I don’t think it is, but the focus of the story went to elements I’m less into. There’s definitely some fucked up shit in here, so if you’re in it for more of the horror elements, then very much go for it. I just really didn’t have a sense of Vassa as a character and she’s the most developed. The romanceish stuff was weird af. It also really didn’t feel like a YA to me at all.

If you’re into solid writing and weird, creepy fiction, Vassa in the Night could be such a hit with you. If, like me, you’re more into characterization and ships, this may not be your book.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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Size Doesn’t Matter (77): Eleven Things I Promised; Vassa in the Night; A Shadow Bright and BurningA Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
Series: Kingdom on Fire #1
Published by Random House BFYR on September 20, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: ALA
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
three-half-stars

I am Henrietta Howel.
The first female sorcerer in hundreds of years.
The prophesied one.
Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames.
Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she's shocked when instead of being executed, she's invited to train as one of Her Majesty's royal sorcerers.

Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her.

But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one.
As she plays a dangerous game of deception, she discovers that the sorcerers have their own secrets to protect. With battle looming, what does it mean to not be the one? And how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?

Exhilarating and gripping, Jessica Cluess's spellbinding fantasy introduces a powerful, unforgettably heroine, and a world filled with magic, romance, and betrayal. Hand to fans of Libba Bray, Sarah J. Maas, and Cassandra Clare.

Prophecy-centric plots tend to leave me cold, so, though I had A Shadow Bright and Burning on my tbr so I could keep a watch on it, my suspicions remained high. For those of similar mindset, there is a prophecy, but, so far, it’s not done much but be misleading. Hard to say where Cluess will go with that aspect in later books but so far I’m okay with it.  A Shadow Bright and Burning was sheer historical fantasy fun.

Make sure you get past the couple of chapters with Henrietta at the school. The start’s a bit clunky, trying to establish how she grew up and her friendship with Rook, but I think it’s too short to really do that well and too long for how much it actually ends up accomplishing. Read at least until she settles into the Agrippa house/magic school. Once the boys were introduced, I was totally hooked.

One of my favorite tropes, one that you don’t see much in American media, is the reverse harem. These happen all the time in manga and anime series, and they’re little shippy paradises. Henrietta, as the only female sorcerer (or at least she’s in training to be), joins a handful of boys for her training, and she brings Rook along so that’s another. Two of the boys are totally a gay couple (and adorable), but Henrietta still has quite the selection. If you’re curious, I’m pro Blackwood and anti Rook so far as ships go. There’s sort of a love triangle, but it’s not like anyone’s official. Mostly Henrietta’s trying to survive while also sometimes wondering if she has romantic feelings for people.

The plot follows some cliches and predictable lines. Most of what happened was obvious long before it actually occurred, though there was one scene in the climax that had me gasping out loud and going “OH MY GOD,” because yeah I did not see that coming. The writing too isn’t the strongest in the world. Basically, I think this book is massively fun and fast-paced, but I’d like to see it develop more in the coming book(s).

REVERSE HAREM FANTASY. Need I say more? Well, fine. It’s sort of These Vicious Masks meets Cassandra Clare.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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One response to “Size Doesn’t Matter (77): Eleven Things I Promised; Vassa in the Night; A Shadow Bright and Burning”

  1. Al says:

    I figure I’ll give A Shadow Bright and Burning a go. I was worried about the whole prophecy-thing myself, but I think I might be alright with it. Plus a 3 and a half star review is decent enough for me to think I might like it. Great post!

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