Sunday, September 24, 2017

Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta Review

Title: Shimmer and Burn
Author: Mary Taranta
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Shimmer and Burn, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I found Shimmer and Burn the way I usually find my library books: a recommendation. I was kind of nervous about it because I've heard mixed things. But I didn't want to write it off entirely; I like seeing for myself if I'm going to like something or not. At first, Shimmer and Burn seemed just like the run of the mill fantasy novel, but before I even realized what was happening, I was glued to the book and finished it within a day and a half! Mary Taranta has penned a beautifully written, dark, edge of your seat fantasy that had me crying, screaming, and cheering! With its strong, flawed female characters, breakneck pacing with twists and turns aplenty, and romance so hot it'll make your knees weak, Shimmer and Burn has become one of my favorite books of 2017! I can't wait for the sequel next summer; I'm just so sad I have to wait that long!

Faris Locke is a girl who longs for more than what her life and station have afforded her. Like her best friend and secret lover, Thaelen, and a father who cares for her and her sister, Cadence, more than his drink. When she is caught trying to escape the kingdom of Brindaigel, she is sold into slavery. Forced against her will to team up with an imperious, brutal princess with political ambitions and a mysterious man named North who is hiding secrets of his own to save her sister, Faris must decide what she is willing to sacrifice for what little she has left, or risk losing everything she knows, even herself...

I really, really liked this book, a lot more than I was expecting! It was a fresh, exciting new take on one of my favorite genres: high fantasy! The cover was really pretty, and frankly, that was what drew my interest at first, but I was really excited by the premise of it. A kingdom devoid of magic and a hard as nails heroine smuggling stolen magic inside? Yes, yes, please! This book had almost everything I love in a fantasy novel: magic, gore, political intrigue, romance, secrets, twists and turns, and best of all, strong female characters that give as good as they get and pull no punches to do what they have to. And that ending! Oh, my goodness, how am I supposed to wait until next summer to find out what happens next? The only real problem I had with it was the worldbuilding: it was vague, and at times, hard to keep up with. Nonetheless, this captivating series debut captured my heart, and I can't wait for more from the promising Mary Taranta! The bottom line: Despite some kinks with the worldbuilding, Shimmer and Burn captivated and bewitched my imagination, and I can't wait for the sequel! Next on deck: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Rattled Bones by S.M. Parker Review

Title: The Rattled Bones
Author: S.M. Parker
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I found The Rattled Bones the way I usually find my library books: a recommendation. It was pitched as a feminist mystery of the late summer, and its inspiration was a Stephen King short story. So I was on board, even before I saw the gorgeous, spooky cover. I wanted to love it, and I did love it, some of parts of it. But overall, I ended up with a lot of mixed feelings, thus the unusual rating. I loved the setting, the gorgeous prose, and the strange, bloody mystery that lies at its heart. And the ending--I loved it! It was very fitting, and now I'm dying for some more information on the real events that inspired the novel. But unfortunately, the controlling behavior of Rilla's boyfriend, Reed, and the treatment of mental illness in the book really made it ring false. I was hoping for more from this promising, creepy sophomore novel.

Rilla Brae is a lobsterman in a small town in Maine, and she is focused on carrying on her late father's legacy, despite the weight of grief keeping her close to home. Despite her desire to leave and make a new life for herself, she finds that she can't leave her Grams, her best friend, Hattie, and her boyfriend, Reed, whose behavior goes from gentle and loving to controlling and angry. Then she meets a boy named Sam, and her life changes forever as they dig deeper into Maine's past. They discover the many dark secrets that the island hides, and as Rilla becomes haunted (literally), she realizes that her own family may have been involved and that she may be losing her mind and sanity as well as her sense of self...

Ugh! I hate it when a book gives me all the mixed feelings! It makes reviewing so hard because it's fairly abstract. Like I said, there were some parts of the book that I really enjoyed. The prose was beautiful and hypnotic, I loved the feminist angle, the way that Rilla was determined to make her own way, even though it meant being torn between her family legacy, love, and what she wanted. And God knows I can't resist a good ghost story! I love gothic fiction and the way that Parker took the horror elements and mixed it in with Rilla's coming of age story. It wasn't a total loss; I loved the gorgeous, lush setting of Maine, and that ending! Shocking and true to life, and fully satisfying.

Unfortunately, I hated the way that mental illness was depicted and treated throughout the novel, especially as far as Rilla's mother was concerned. I really feel like it was badly handled, and honestly, it left a bad taste in my mouth, especially when it was continually brought up throughout the story. And Reed! Her boyfriend really got on my last nerve, as he was more concerned with keeping Rilla on the island than encouraging her to go for what she wanted. I really wanted to love this book, and I did like some aspects of it, but overall, it really fell short, and I was hoping for more. The bottom line: A creepy, beautifully written novel that had some parts I really enjoyed, The Rattled Bones draws inspiration from a Stephen King short story, and overall, it really missed the mark in some important areas. Next on deck: Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo Review

Title: Wonder Woman: Warbringer
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: DC Icons, book one
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I've made no secret of my pure fan-girl obsession with Leigh Bardugo; it first started with her debut novel, Shadow and Bone, and then it was further cemented by her sophomore series, Six of Crows. So when I heard that DC was launching a young adult series featuring some of my favorite superheroes, I was so stoked. The first novel in the series focuses on a young Diana Prince before she took up the famed mantle of Wonder Woman. Honestly, I couldn't have asked for a better author to put a brand new spin on one of my favorites, and first, female heroes! Beautifully written, fierce, feminist, and thought-provoking, Warbringer is a fantastic addition to the DC canon, and the only real flaw with it was that there wasn't anymore! One of my favorite books of 2017, and probably ever! I loved the way that Bardugo took Diana's story and spun it in a whole new way for a younger audience!

Diana, Princess of the Amazons and daughter of Hippolyta, born of earth and her mother's longing, wants nothing more than to be considered an equal to her queen and sisters. But she worries that she will be seen as nothing more than her mother's daughter. But her life changes forever when she saves a young woman, Alia, from drowning in the ocean. It turns out, though, that Alia is a Warbringer, a mortal girl with the blood of Helen of Troy (yes, that Helen of Troy) running through her veins. As the two young women's fates collide, they must become allies or risk the world plunging into another bloody age of war...

I really, really loved this book! Aside from Leigh Bardugo, I have a very special place in my heart for the all-around kickbutt woman that is Diana Prince, and this book was just amazing! It more than satisfied that comic-shaped hole in my heart, and it was fun to see her as a brave, headstrong teenager who kicks butt and takes no crap. Plus, I was really dying over the new spin on the familiar mythology of Diana, her mother, and the other Amazons! I loved the way that Bardugo took the familiar, lesser-known elements of the heroine's folklore and gave them a fresh, fun spin. The pacing was breakneck, and I loved the way that Diana and Alia fought forces both divine and mortal to reach their goal. And the feminist slant of it all! I dig that, so hard! Plus, the twists and turns! Ugh, as per usual with Leigh Bardugo. (Not that I'm complaining!) And that ending. I'm still salty with that, woman! How could you do that to me?! Diana and Alia were my favorite characters, but I also absolutely loved Nim, Theo, and Jason. I absolutely adored this book, and it was worth waiting over a year for! One of the best books of 2017, and I can't wait until the next book from this fun, modern new series. Psst! It's Nightwalker by Marie Lu! Batman, and who better to write an origin story for the Bruce Wayne? Words cannot fully express my excitement! The bottom line: A fresh, brand new spin on a baby Diana Prince, the girl who becomes Wonder Woman, I loved Warbringer--one of my favorite books of 2017! Next on deck: The Rattled Bones by S.M. Parker!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia Review

Title: Eliza and Her Monsters
Author: Francesca Zappia
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I've heard many good things about Eliza and Her Monsters, and it's been sitting in my library stack for a while. When I was finally able to bump it up to the top of my stack, I was so stoked. (I'm waiting on It to come in from the library, per my best friend's request!) The actual experience of reading this novel, I'm not sure what word I would use for it. Wise? Cathartic? It was weird and wonderful and tender, alive with both Eliza's voice and the gorgeous, quirky illustrations. It also really struck a chord with me; as someone with severe social anxiety and a deep longing for friends, online and off, I really related to her, and I was cheering for her throughout the whole book. Eliza and Her Monsters has left an indelible tattoo on my heart and soul, and I will never forget it! With this book, Francesca Zappia has become one of my new favorite authors! One of the best books of 2017, hands down!

Eliza Mirk is not your average high schooler; in fact, she's famous online for creating the wildly popular webcomic, Monstrous Sea, moonlighting as the ever-popular LadyConstellation. But despite her rich inner life online, she's considered an outcast at school and even within her own family. But her life changes forever when she meets a Monstrous Sea fan in real life: Wallace Warland. As the two strike up a swift, tentative friendship, Eliza begins to realize that living a life offline might not be so bad, until her two worlds, once so clearly defined, begin to collide. When her world shatters, she is brought to rock bottom again, and she begins to wonder: Is it really possible to have both?

This book. This book was just so good! I can't believe it took me this long to read it. I'm so happy that I was able to read it before I took it back to the library. I loved the unusual format, and the way the story was told in both tender, gorgeous prose, and beautifully rendered illustrations. It made me so happy, to have a glimpse into the comic that Eliza put so much heart and passion into. But even more than that, I loved Eliza and her sweet, oblivious, loving family. The character development was so rich and real, and I was rooting for Eliza throughout the whole book. And the relationship between her and Wallace! I was dying. I'm a huge sucker for nerd love and this book really went all out on that trope. I also really liked the way mental illness was handled in this book; all too often, it's treated as a joke or indelicately. And the ending! Gah, someone kill me! It was so beautiful and bittersweet! Easily one of my favorite books of the year, hands down! Highly recommended to fans of Rainbow Rowell and Stephanie Perkins! The bottom line: A gorgeous, bittersweet and tender coming of age novel, Eliza and Her Monsters is one of my favorite books of 2017! Next on deck: Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero Review

Title: Meddling Kids
Author: Edgar Cantero
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Horror/Humor/Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I heard about Meddling Kids the way I usually hear about the books I get at the library: Through Bustle! It was pitched as a book to help a reader deal with their Supernatural withdrawal, but what drew me to it, personally, was the gorgeous, creepy, colorful cover, and of course, the title! I mean, Meddling Kids is an obvious tongue-in-cheek joke for Scooby Doo, one of my favorite cartoons as a child. (I miss old school cartoons, but that's another story.) And one of my friends from the library insisted that I read it and tell her what I thought because she was dying to read it! And who am I, of all people, to turn down a friend's request? (You know who you are, friend!) Meddling Kids had me in stitches, alternately from laughter and fear. It is one of the most fun, hilarious, unique and creepy books of 2017!

In 1977, The Blyton Summer Detective Club solved their final case, cementing their local celebrity and outing a local fortune hunter in a dastardly money-making scheme; and he would've gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those darn meddling kids! In 1990, when the kids are all twenty-five, they reluctantly get back together to unearth the terrible, hidden history behind that same case. Nate is locked away in an insane asylum, literally haunted by the specter of another member of the club: their so-called leader, Peter, who committed suicide after hitting it big in Hollywood. Andy has returned home after a life spent on the run, Kerri barely making ends meet working as a waitress in New York. And last but certainly not least, Tim, the great great grandson of the Scooby Doo of the group, Sean. They are all broken after that traumatic night, some more visibly than others. When they dig deeper into the mystery, they discover that their childhood home is home to something else: dark forces that seek to conquer not just the town, but the world, and they are the only ones who can even hope to contain it...

I really, really liked this book! It was a crazy, grotesque, hilarious mash-up of Supernatural, Scooby Doo, and H.P. Lovecraft. It was unexpectedly funny, creepy, thought-provoking, and heartfelt. Most especially heartfelt. It was like the kids from Scooby Doo had grown up, and saw a lot of crazy stuff. Stuff that ended up really screwing them up. And then they had to go back and fix it all! I really loved the writing style; it was unlike anything I'd ever read before, and I think that was part of the reason I was so into it. (Plus, now that I think about it, nostalgia never hurts, either.) But more than that, even, I loved the characters, and I read this book in a day and a half. It was so weird and refreshing, even if the gore and creepiness got out of hand a little bit for my taste. It was a fun, wryly told story that echoed to some of the best childhood memories I have, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a fun, humorous take on the horror genre. The bottom line: A fun homage to classic cartoons, and a lot of pop culture, Meddling Kids is a lovingly told story that had me in stitches--one of the best books of 2017! Next on deck: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

When I Am Through With You by Stephanie Kuehn Review

Title: When I Am Through With You
Author: Stephanie Kuehn
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I found this book through a recommendation from one of the book blogs I follow, and it's been sitting in my library stack for a while. I was excited and pumped up when I was finally able to get to it. First of all, that gorgeous cover, a stark gray sky overlooking a sheer cliff edge, with five silhouettes standing upon it. I've also heard that Stephanie Kuehn is one of the most unique, exciting voices in the young adult literature genre. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, as I've never read her work before, but I was pleasantly surprised by the result: a grim, surprisingly tender survivalist story that dances on the fine knife's edge of love and obligation. It was sad and beautiful and shocking, and I loved every minute of it. It wasn't perfect, but I'm now definitely a fan of this promising author!

Ben Gibson is sitting in a jail cell now, writing a confession of sorts in letter form to the reader. Because, you see, it all started with a school camping trip. Eight people went up the mountain, and only three people came back down. Duncan, Archie, Mr. Howe, Avery, Ben, Tomas, Clay, and Rose. What starts out as a harmless school trip soon turns deadly, and the group must fight the elements and countless other dangers. But there are more secrets this group is hiding, and not everyone will make it out whole, or even alive...

I really enjoyed this book. I was intrigued by the premise; sometimes I get in moods where I'm totally ravenous for survival stories. (And no, in case you're wondering, Lord of the Flies isn't to blame for that.) But what really sucked me in to the story was the format and the writing style. I was absolutely captivated, and more often than not horrified, by Ben, and his frank, maybe honest confession to the reader. But he also had the ring of an unreliable narrator, so, even while I was rooting for him, I had the feeling that he wasn't telling everything. I liked the way the story was told by days, and I was constantly wondering who was hiding what, and why. The ending was what really slayed me though; I wasn't expecting it and honestly, I was bawling. It kicked me in the gut, shocked me to the core, cut open my heart. It's been a long time since I've read a book that scraped me this raw, and I really enjoyed it. Every dark, scary, messy bit of it. But there were times when the characters got confusing, and sometimes it was really hard to keep up with the book's sometimes frenetic pace. Nonetheless, one of my favorite books of 2017! Dark, gritty, and raw, When I Am Through With You is a gutsy, exciting thriller that had me guessing until the very end--a survivalist story that pulls no punches! Next on deck: Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Because You Love to Hate Me by Ameriie Review

Title: Because You Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy
Editor: Ameriie
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Anthology/Short Stories
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

Okay, so this book: I've had it on order since last year. I'd heard about it the way I usually do with new books: I read an article by Bustle, and as soon as I was finished reading the article, I reserved it for myself. It sat in the library stack for a month or so, and then my niece picked it as the next book she wanted me to read. And to be honest, I've been really pumped ever since I heard about it. I love short story anthologies; they are kind of like literary palate cleansers after reading big novels. And this book definitely scratched my itch for them. Plus, that theme! I'm obsessed with villains, and so this brand new spin on them got me really excited. The editor, Ameriie, is a Grammy-nominated singer, and she collaborated with thirteen Booktubers and authors to curate the stories for this anthology. The authors wrote a story that the Booktubers wrote an accompanying piece for that offered their opinion it, based off of a prompt that the Booktubers gave them. The format was unusual and exciting, and I was laughing constantly over the commentary.

I won't do an individual review for each story; instead, I will choose my favorites and write a brief description of it. Okay, so here goes, my favorite stories briefly outlined:

Jack by Ameriie: A wonderfully, strangely tender retelling of the classic story Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack is the princess of the giant people and despite her reputation, she longs to be brave and see the human world and all its wonders. And when a mysterious boy named Jack comes to steal her father's golden goose, she attempts to make peace with her fears and be brave. And plus, that ending! Oh my goodness, I was not expecting it at all. A fine starting story for the collection, and one of my favorites!

Gwen and Art and Lance by Soman Chainani: A modern retelling of the classic love triangle from King Arthur! King Arthur was one of the first classics I ever read, and one of my favorite parts of it was the torrid, forbidden romance between Lancelot and Guinevere. Chainani takes this and gives it a fresh, modern twist; the story is told entirely through text messages! I also really liked the new perspective on a classic character that I thought I knew. The ending was cool, and I really enjoyed it; the way that the story ended. It was so unexpected and exciting!

Shirley and Jim by Susan Dennard: I loved this story! Sherlock and Moriarty is a classic hero/villain combination, and I loved how Dennard made it into a tragic love story! Ugh, and the banter. I loved it. Plus, the ending was somewhat surprising, but I was kind of expecting it. I also really enjoyed the format; of course, Sherlock would be writing to her Watson about her romantic woes! Oh my gosh, this story made my heart hurt in the best kinds of ways. One of the best stories in the collection, in my opinion.

Beautiful Venom by Cindy Pon: Two words for you, kids: Diverse Medusa! I've always been fascinated by mythology, but especially the Greek pantheon, and Medusa has always baffled me. I loved the way that Pon took this traditional legend and turned it on its head. Victory for the wronged woman! I also really liked the format of the story, the way that it was told backward. It really put a new perspective on rape culture and victim-blaming. One of my favorites of the collection!

The Sea Witch by Marissa Meyer: Easily one of, if not the favorite of the collection, this story puts a new spin on the classic villain story of The Sea Witch. I also really liked the way Meyer, who has made a career off of retelling fairy tales, stayed true to the classic telling of the original story. I really sympathized with Nerit, whose longing for love sends her to the surface. But when she is betrayed, she turns to the dark side of her magic to corrupt others and takes revenge. A no holds barred, unapologetic villain story, I loved this one!

Death Knell by Victoria Schwab: I love me a good life and death story! I've always been fascinated by grim reapers and the afterlife, and this strange, gorgeous story made me laugh and cry in turns. When Death comes to collect, he finds himself drawn to the human mark he must kill, and in the process, learns how to live again, if only fleetingly. I loved the bittersweet ending, as per Schwab's signature. Just beautiful!

Sera by Nicola Yoon: Gender-flipped God of War! I'm so here for this, all day! I also really liked the way the story switched perspectives throughout, from Sera's mother to her sister, to Sera herself. The story starts out with Sera marching through her town, infecting men (and men only) with the sudden, insidious urge to kill one another, with as much violence as possible. I loved the way it went back and forth between family members, ending with a shocking, scary twist. I wasn't expecting that at all! The bottom line: A fun, promising collection that reminds us that sometimes it's fun to go to the dark side, I loved Because You Love to Hate Me--one of my favorite books of 2017! Next on deck: When I Am Through With You by Stephanie Kuehn!