Review: What’s a Soulmate?

Everyone has heard the expression “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The phrase is very common, but it usually applies less to actual books and more to real-life people. And yes, when it comes to people, I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment; people are so much more than what they may appear to be on the outside. On the other hand, I completely judge books by their covers.

Let’s be real here. Ninety-nine percent of us are more likely to purchase or rent a novel if the cover is appealing. Otherwise, what is the point of a cover? In my opinion (why would you be reading this post if it wasn’t for my opinion?) a book cover should accomplish three tasks.

  1. Catch a potential reader’s eye
  2. Properly represent the contents of the book without spoiling the plot
  3. Be aesthetically pleasing

The first two points seem like common sense, but the third point is largely subjective. Different types of covers may appeal to different kinds of people. That’s where What’s a Soulmate by Lindsey Ouiment comes into focus.

I was surfing through potential books on Amazon (No, Amazon.com does not sponsor me but a girl can dream) and saw this cover. I instantly fell in love with the cover, and upon reading the synopsis, I snatched this book up so fast my wallet didn’t have time to feel the pain.

Here is the synopsis from Amazon.com:

Libby Carmichael has just met her Soulmate. It’s just too bad he’s behind bars. When you only see the world in black and white until you meet yours, it’s pretty easy to figure out when you’ve found your Soulmate. What Libby can’t figure out is why fate, destiny, or the powers that be have decided that Andrew McCormack is her one, true match. Libby is smart, organized, and always has a plan for what’s coming next. So when she sees Andrew for the first time and her world is instantly filled with color, she’s thrown for a loop. Namely because he’s in a dingy grey jumpsuit. And handcuffs. And being booked into a juvenile detention facility. Surely a boy who’s been convicted of a headline-making, violent crime isn’t who she’s meant to be with. There’s no way she belongs with someone like that…right?

Now, I usually stick with fantasy/Sci-fi/historical fiction, but I can read anything. The synopsis had just enough mystery and freshness that I went into this book fairly optimistic. Did it disappoint? No.


Plot: Usually when I attempt to discuss the plot of the book (or any other part, for that matter), I have to be very careful to just barely toe the line between basic information and spoiler territory. The entire purpose of a book review is to determine whether or not to grab the book for yourself. A recommendation to skip, tentatively rent, or flat-out buy. Spoiling without warning, with a few exceptions, may take away from another reader’s surprise or enjoyment. With What’s a Soulmate by Lindsey Ouimet, I don’t really have to worry about that.

There is nothing in this book that will surprise you. Absolutely nothing. There is no plot twist, misinformation, or secret revelation that will change how you see the universe. Nope. This is a simple story that follows a linear path to its conclusion. Does that mean that this book is trash? HELL NO.

The plot is a simple girl-meets-boy story with a few twists that keep the story fresh and interesting. The simplicity is its greatest asset, as this book knows exactly what it is trying to be, and it does this beautifully. Beyond that, the enjoyment of this book lies firmly with the character cast.


Characters: 

Libby: I was not expecting to like this character as much as I did. She initially seemed to be just about the opposite of my personality. However, she turned out to be an awesome main character. I followed all of her motivations and understood exactly what she was feeling without rolling my eyes or gagging. Her interactions with Andrew were amazing and seemed so genuine. Libby never seemed to pull crap out of her ass just for reader shock value (I’m looking at you Sarah J. Maas) and in general felt so real. While I was reading, I believed that I could walk down Columbus Ave in NYC and find someone similar to her. Her downright believability and realism added to the soul of the book in a monumental way.

Andrew: I was expecting to dislike Andrew from the synopsis. While I know I shouldn’t have immediately made these assumptions, characters in his shoes can so easily fall into the tragic, misunderstood, emo bullshit that I have had the displeasure of reading for too many years. Characters like that can be entertaining, but too often end up missing the mark by a long shot. Andrew was a very happy surprise. Much like Libby, most of his actions have their rational justifications and his personality complements Libby’s very nicely. Towards the middle of the book, some of his actions lost this rationality and he became a little cliched. I still enjoyed his character, especially when he was interacting with Libby, but not as much as I did before.

Beth: I’ve never been too fond of the “best friend” character. You all know the type. That said, I did enjoy this character. She was not a huge player in the actual story, but she did work well off Libby and had a few quirks to differentiate herself from the crowd.

Libby’s Parents: Finally, parents who aren’t dead or assholes. Or dead assholes. Throughout the book, Libby’s parents are very supportive of her yet allow for Libby to be relatively independent. Overall, they felt realistic and wholesome and I never rolled my eyes whenever they entered a scene.

Andrew’s Mother: Alright, touchy subject. Also a tad bit spoilery, but not really. Even so, I’ll add a bolded and capitalized warning to cover my ass. (SPOILERS AHEAD). Once we find out more details about Andrew’s crime, we also find out that Andrew’s mother is being psychologically abused. I am by no means an expert in the area of domestic abuse, but I thought that her character was well done and fairly realistic. Ouimet does not dumb her character down to a “but I love him” argument, especially not once we know about the children involved. Andrew’s mother understands her situation is not right, and she understands that she is putting both of her sons through hell. Despite that, she cannot fully leave her soulmate (Andrew’s father) behind (END OF SPOILERS). Throughout the book, my feelings towards this character ranged from pity to disgust to pride. While definitely not my favorite character, Andrew’s mother and her motivations are perfectly understandable and perfectly displayed.


Writing: I am so sick of writers including pointless shit in their books just to make the story seem more “edgy”. Or “developed”. Or “deep”. A good author knows exactly what to include, when to introduce plot elements, and how to trim the fat off a bloated story. Lindsey Ouimet follows this process to the freaking letter. Everything in this book has a purpose, moving the relatively simple story to its final conclusion.

Ouimet also masterfully composes descriptions that make scenes akin to watching paint dry become fascinating. I swear, she could write about histograms and I would instantly be enthralled. In What’s a Soulmate she takes the basic framework of the story and weaves complex, realistic emotions into the characters to create a beautiful, soulful piece. Lindsey Ouimet, you just found yourself another fan.


Cover: Absolutely gorgeous! I mean, just look at it. Credits to the designer, Jay Aheer.

soulmate

Confession time: This is one of my all-time favorite covers, no doubt about it. The design grabs your attention and aptly describes the book’s contents. Damn.

I do have one nitpick, however. The title. While not misleading, per se, I don’t feel that the title does the book justice. All the characters already know and understand the concept of soulmates, so the title is more for the readers’ benefit than anything. Despite that very minor detail, the cover is amazing.


Score: 

This book was a joy to read, one that I wholeheartedly recommend. While it is no literary masterpiece or huge and engaging universe, What’s a Soulmate by Lindsey Ouimet accomplished what it set out to do in the best way possible.

8.9

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Review/Rant: The City of Brass

This book should be called “The City of Disappointment.”

I know, that sounds a bit harsh, but hear me out. I really wanted to like this book. Christ, I spent $12 on a goddamn Kindle copy, so I truly did want to enjoy it. Or at least get my money’s worth. And while I feel like I did get my money’s worth, I did not get much out of this book beyond that bare minimum level.

I first found this book on Amazon when I was just browsing for a new book (living that college life). The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty popped up in the recommended section under a book I previously enjoyed (I forget which one). Upon glancing through the synopsis, I decided to buy the kindle e-book, as the library did not have The City of Brass in stock.

Synopsis from Amazon.com:

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trades she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, and a mysterious gift for healing—are all tricks, both the means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive.

But when Nahri accidentally summons Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior, to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to reconsider her beliefs. For Dara tells Nahri an extraordinary tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire and rivers where the mythical marid sleep, past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises and mountains where the circling birds of prey are more than what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass—a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In Daevabad, within gilded brass walls laced with enchantments and behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments run deep. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, her arrival threatens to ignite a war that has been simmering for centuries.

Spurning Dara’s warning of the treachery surrounding her, she embarks on a hesitant friendship with Alizayd, an idealistic prince who dreams of revolutionizing his father’s corrupt regime. All too soon, Nahri learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say to be careful what you wish for . . .

Sounds intriguing, right? I thought so as well. I am always a sucker for stories reminiscent of Arabian Nights. The worlds and creatures are usually fascinating, and the setting provides tremendous room for world-builing and atmosphere. This setting was the best part of The City of Brass.

Plot: I don’t even know what to say for this section. Some parts of the story were outstanding, while some parts were the most unnecessary fluff I’ve ever read (I’m not joking; one hundred pages could have been shaved off without detriment). Without going into spoilers, I thoroughly enjoyed the first fifty or so pages of the book, but my interest slowly faded from there.

The introduction of eighteenth century Cairo was fantastic, and the intricate relationships of the different factions within Cairo at the time coud have written the entire book. Honestly, I wish Nahri just stayed in Cairo. Which is a damn shame, cause the world that Charkaborty builds in her book should have been fascinating. Different creatures like the Marid and Djinn (Sorry, Daeva) bring a fantastic, mystical atmosphere to the book. Unfortunately, the mythology behind the origins of the different djinn tribes and the historical motivations that fueled the conflict for most of the book were not fully explained. By the end of this over-five-hundred-page book, I was barely hanging on to who killed whom centuries ago, let alone feeling anything for the characters. Speaking of…

Characters:

Nahri: My biggest disappointment, by far. I absolutely LOVED Nahri when she was first introduced to the reader at the beginning of the book. She is a swindler, not letting any sense of false pride or sentiment stop her from acheiving her goals. She had a no-nonsense personality, clearly capable of handling herself.

As soon as she leaves Cairo, her character starts a downward spiral. She is manipulated by pretty much every single character in the book and whines. Good Lord, does she whine. The entirety of her training for healing is downright painful. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that characters are not supposed to be perfect, and frustration is a natural response. But I swear, this girl whines about how she can’t heal anyone (or do anything, for that matter) for a significatn chunk of the book, all the while her assistant does most of the work and takes most of the crap. I’m just so sad about how this character turned out.

Dara: My second biggest disappointment. I read “sly” and “darkly mysterious” in the synopsis, and thought I was going to get something completely different than what I got. And that would be fine, if this character had a single purpose for the story. I swear that this character could have been removed from the book entirely with very few problems. His backstory is poorly explained to the point that I did not even understand what his personality was to begin with. At first he seemed dark and brooding, the goes to apologetic and a little sweet, to emotionally twisted, back to sweet, then ends up (SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!) (YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED) kidnapping Nahri while threatening to kill her friend if she did not leave with him. Just because he did not agree with who she was marrying. WTF? And this is the main love interest? The worst part: Nahri still loves him and freaking protects him. WTF. This is not even the half of it, but I don’t feel like dealing with this bullshit. (End of spoilers).

Ali: This is the second POV for this book and ended up doing a reverse-Nahri (the technical term, of course). I started off wondering if I could just skip his chapters, but I ended up liking him the most out of the main cast. That is not saying much, but it is something. Ali goes from a rather timid youth to a more engaging young man, willing to even stand up to his father. One thing I did not understand was why the characters in the book addressed him as a “zealot” or “radical”. I could understand this in the first few POV chapters, but he quickly adapts his tune. I was surprised by how I grew to like Ali’s character, despite my initial grumblings.

Ghassan: I could not figure this character out. Maybe that’s a sign he was written well, but I am not sure. Ghassan, the king of Daevabad, oscillates from benevolence to kind of evil. He manipulates both of his sons constantly, purely to acheive his goals. While these goals have their merits, some of his actions are fairly despicable. This is not a bad thing, character-wise, but it makes it very difficult to feel anything towards him during the climax of the book. I didn’t love him, but I didn’t hate him. Take from that what you will.

Muntadhir: Like his father, I had difficulty untangling Muntadhir’s motivations. The son of Ghassan, brother of Ali, and emir of Daevabad, Muntadhir spends most of his days relaxing with women and drinks. He is jealous of Ali yet manipulates him quite thoroughly for most of the book. Overall, he was okay. At least he was consistent.

  • One thing I noticed, especially in regards to Ali and his family, is that none of them were necessarily the antagonist. All three of them, the king included, had their own ways of accomplishing what they believed to be right. For that, I can forgive the character faults, as the sentiment and complexity was there. I just wished that Nahri and Dara had followed suit without the annoyance factor.

Writing: This is probably the strongest part of the book. The author, Chakraborty, clearly knows what she is doing. I cannot even imagine the amount of research that this book must have needed. Even considering the faults with The City of Brass, the environment and setting always felt solid. I just wish the two main characters and the plot could’ve been cleaned up, because those three elements are the main things clogging up this book. Ughhhhh! This book could have been amazing!

Cover: Do I even need to say anything?

brass

The cover is beautiful, intriguing, and an apt indicator of the book’s contents. Gorgeous!

Score: 

 

I don’t know if the problem was me or if the problem was the book. I applaud S. A. Chakraborty for tackling such a challenging subject matter, one that is very relevant and present in today’s society. However, it was all I could do to finish this book.

Score: 4.2

I will likely give the next book a shot, as this was the author’s debut, but I won’t hold my breath.

Review: Grave Mercy

Ah. This book. This is my official favorite book of all time. I dare anyone to prove me wrong.

It’s a borderline obsession. Maybe not so borderline, actually. I have reread this book so many times that I have lost track well into the thirties. And that was over a year ago.

obsessed

That’s right. I’m dedicated. That’s the lie I tell myself everyday.

Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage to the respite of the convent of St. Mortain. Here she learns that the god of Death has blessed her with dangerous gifts and a violent destiny. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others. But how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who has stolen her heart?

Plot:

Alright then, I’m just going to say right now that this book is historical fiction about fifteenth century France. So, if historical fiction and French history repels you, you may not think this book is the greatest. That being said, I do not think you have to be knowledgeable about the topic to enjoy this book. I did not even know that the setting, Brittany, was a thing until I read this book. It is heavily political without being boring.

Characters:

Ismae: She is one of my favorite characters of all time. What I specifically enjoyed was her growth through the book. Some characters, while they may be good characters and enjoyable to read about, are fairly static throughout the book. Ismae, on the other hand, is very dynamic, starting off as a naive girl who blindly follows and develops into a free thinker, able to formulate her own ideas and sticking to them even when everything she has been told goes against this. I believe this to be an admirable trait, and she serves as a role model for her readers.

Duval: I don’t think I am giving anything away when I mention that he is the main love interest in the book. One could comprehend that just by reading inside the book cover (which is different from the above listed description). I absolutely adored Duval. He has a point other than his relationship with the main protagonist (freaking finally, am I right fellow YA readers?) and he is very smart, doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and has a dry sense of humor that I very much appreciate. You know what, just read the damn book, then you’ll understand. Duval is one of those characters one must experience first-hand through the story.

Anne: As the heir to the Breton Duchy, Anne is under tremendous pressure for someone so young (she is twelve or thirteen during the events in the book). She is trying to manuver against France and keep power with the duchy, while aso trying to marry a husband with enough power to secure Brittany. Needless to say, Anne is very mature for her age, poised throughout the book, even in circumstances where people twice her age would crack. Sometimes, especially around her little sister Isabeau, she is more like other children and has a sense of humor similar to her half-brother Duval. The relationship between Duval and Anne was also very well done. I think she may be a little too mature for her age, but given the time period her actions are a bit more realistic.

Beast and de Lornay: These characters were introduced as Duval’s friends near the beginning. I really loved Beast, with is kind and likable demeanor, but I did not really like de Lornay. That is, until the end. I will not give anything away, but everything wraps up very nicely.

Chancellor Crunard: A shadowed character if there ever was one, from the beginning not much is known about Crunard, at least from Ismae’s perspective. As more facts are brought to light, Crunard becomes more and more integral to the plot. I will stop here, to avoid giving anything away. Just go read the book, damn it.

Count d’Albret: d’Albret is the main antagonist of the book, and he is pretty f*cking slimey. Sometimes I would read his descriptions and just cringe. I mean, read this line

He is tall and fat, and a brisly black beard covers his face. Amid all that blackness, his lips stand out like wet pink slugs.

The slug thing creeps me out. While not particularly subtle or complicated, d’Albret is a very real threat in this novel and his schemes thicken the plot significantly.

Sybella and Annith: While not mentioned much in the book, Annith and Sybella influence Ismae and help shape her into the person she is. Without the help of Annith and Sybella, I doubt that many of the things that played out in the book would have occured. The next two books in the trilogy, Dark Triumph and Mortal Heart, follow their storylines, so check those books out for more information on Sybella and Annith.

The Abbess: The Abbess is one of those people you hate becuase of how bitchy they are, but you can’t help but admire just how bitchy they are. Even though you know she is on the ‘good’ side and she is the abbess of the convent Ismae follows, she is a hardcore bitch but is so damn good at it. She twists people words and corners them so adeptly that it is really awesome and irritating at the same time, especially for Duval.

Writing Style

You’re either going to love or hate this writing style. It’s first person, present tense (not that uncommon), but the language is more antiquated, even when discussing Ismae’s thoughts. The perspective of the book is limited to Ismae, so we don’t get any other POVs or outside information. I liked this aspect because the entire point of the book is Ismae’s journey through emotion and the era; knowing all the plot twists and throwing in anachronisms in general would just be distracting. Sometimes the writing can be a bit choppy and the timing of events questionable, but nothing glaring enough to detract from the novel as a whole.

Cover

I really liked the cover, but even I have to admit that it is a bit generic. Not too much, mind you, but it’s nothing very new. That being said, it does accurately portray what the book will be about (the crossbow even specifically pops up in a few seens) without gilding the lily.

grave mercy

Final Thoughts

I know that this book isn’t perfect. I know that it has flaws and that some people may not like it. Even still, it is definitely my favorite book because it is unique. I feel like so many books these days, especially in YA, are so bland and overdone. Too many carbon-copies are being shipped out via assembly line to be bought up by fifteen-year-old lonely school girls.

It is set in the 1400s in Brittany, France (who honestly knows where that is in middle school if you don’t live there?), the main character challenges the established mind set and religion not because she thinks that everything needs to be revolutionized, but because she cannot personally dedicate herself fully to the task, and the main love interest is not some asshole, generic guy with no other purpose than be hot (Ismae even notes that he isn’t super handsome) and hold the protagonist down. Everyone in the book, with a few exceptions, just felt real. Christ, this book made me research the history and politics of Brittany. If it could do that, it’s some pretty powerful shit.

Score:

9.1

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