Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Grace and the Fever by Zan Romanoff Review

Title: Grace and the Fever
Author: Zan Romanoff
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

This book was a recommended selection for the month of May, and due to browsing, shifting, and my personal and professional life getting in the way, I only just finished it yesterday. And frankly, I was bowled over. I have been waiting for this book my whole life. I don't know a woman who didn't have a period in their youth where they were obsessed with boy bands. Grace and the Fever taps into that vein and cuts it open, creating a modern tale of fandom, music, self-discovery, first love, and, wait for it, my favorite part: feminism! This book! It made me laugh, cry, cheer, and cringe. I loved every painful, funny, almost too good to be true moment of it. Easily one of the best of 2017, hands down, and Zan Romanoff has become one of my new favorite authors! What a book!

Grace has been obsessed with Fever Dream from the time she was a teenager, though it is something that she tries to hide from her friends. On the Fever Dream fandom, she's known as Gigi, and she runs a very popular blog. But it turns out that Grace's two lives are about to collide. She meets Jes, one of the boys from the band, and before she realizes what is happening, she is drawn into a web of reluctant fame, shaky alliances, and maybe, just maybe, her first love, if she can make peace with her new, accidental fame.

I loved this book! It was pretty much perfect, and feminist, to boot! I've been waiting for a book like this since my teenage years. It brought back lots of memories, albeit ones before the rise of the digital age. It made me remember my first band crushes, all the days where I'd watch concerts on TV, wishing I was there. It brought back many good memories, and it was also a creative, tender, cautionary tale about privacy and online presence. But more than its themes and original premise, I loved the characters, especially Grace, whose personal and private lives blur when she actually crosses paths with her favorite band, and the boys of Fever Dream itself. I loved this story; the prose was beautiful, the premise weird, thoughtful, and original. What a novel, full of love and tenderness and understanding, and that ending! Just stomp all over my heart, why don't you, woman?! The bottom line: A feminist coming of age novel that explores identity and first love, Grace and the Fever is one of my favorite books of 2017! Next on deck: Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud!

Friday, July 14, 2017

A City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson Review

Title: City of Saints and Thieves
Author: Natalie C. Anderson
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Adventure/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I found this book at one of the libraries that I frequent; it was standing on a display, its cover glimmering like a garnet-colored jewel. And with that gorgeous picture of a knowing girl staring out at me, I knew I just had to bring it home and discover what it was that lingered in the book's pages. (I know, I know, this wasn't a recommendation, but an impulse find. Yay! Gotta break routine every now and then, right?) What I discovered was a hard-hitting, ripped straight from the headlines novel that combines Ocean's Eleven and Blood Diamond. I also loved that the main character was African--diverse main characters, especially young women, for the win! This book was amazing, a high-octane thriller that leads the reader across the globe and into the deep reaches of cyberspace.

Christina is a thief, a person who blends in with the shadows, a woman who fights fiercely for herself and those she loves. But her ultimate motive is revenge against the man she believes murders her mother. Her journey for retribution leads her far across the globe and into the dark, deep reaches of cyberspace, desperate for answers. Forced to take a former friend as an ally, Tiny Girl must decide if she is willing to pay the ultimate price for vengeance, or if there is more to the story than even she realizes...

This book was amazing. Easily one of my favorite books of 2017. I loved pretty much everything about it. What a sizzling, eye-opening debut Anderson has penned! The premise of this book was something that was ripped straight from the news headlines and spun into a surprisingly tender, brutal debut novel that explores the horrors of war and the meaning of family. But what really won me over was not even the gorgeous, dangerous setting, from African cities to the dark depths of the bush, it was Tiny Girl, and her resilience, her sheer determination to find out what happened to her mother, though the path is fraught with peril. The pacing was breakneck, and soon I was absorbed, turning pages, desperate to make it to the end. I also really enjoyed the supporting cast of the book, especially Michael. (And the romantic tension between he and Tina! UGH, just kill me!)

The twists and turns were incredible, and that's coming from someone who guesses the ending of most mysteries and thrillers she reads. I can't wait to see what Anderson has in store next! I was really impressed with the depth of the research that went into forming the story. The bottom line: A heart-pounding thriller that combines Ocean's Eleven and Blood Diamond, City of Saints and Thieves is a fantastic debut, featuring lush prose and a diverse, strong female main character of color! I can't wait for what Anderson has in store next! Next on deck: Grace and the Fever by Zan Romanoff!

Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon Review

Title: Done Dirt Cheap
Author: Sarah Nicole Lemon
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

This book. This book! I have been waiting my entire life to read a young adult book like this one. I loved it. Easily one of my favorite books of 2017, if not the one. Done Dirt Cheap stole my heart, bewitching me with beautiful prose, gorgeous setting, and amazing characters that walked straight off of the page and into my heart. God. This book was a modern fairy tale that was a delightful, dark mix of Sons of Anarchy and Stand By Me. I really hope that SNL has another project in the works, because now, there is nothing that she writes that I won't read. Where has this book been all my life? What a heartfelt, beautifully written debut! I love strong female characters, and this book has a wealth of them, as well as adorable boys for them (and the reader) to swoon over. It was so much fun!

Tourmaline Harris is a girl who understands her place in her world, even if it happens to be ruled by her father and feels more like a role to play than anything else. But she is tired and in a rough spot, missing her mother and wishing that things were different. She meets Virginia Campbell, the tough and guarded daughter of a woman who cares more about herself than anyone else. Joining forces in a reluctant alliance, the girls discover that the world may be bigger than they realize, and that their enemies just might be the person that they need the most.

This book was amazing. The prose was beautiful, hypnotic, and I was spellbound by the end of the first chapter. I loved the premise of it as well, a plot that places two strong, flawed heroines at the forefront. (Yay strong female main characters!) It was quite near perfect. What an electrifying, sexy debut that had me laughing, crying, and tingling with emotion! All of my senses were enchanted, and two of the best parts of this story were Virginia and Tourmaline's friendship, as well as their sizzling, knee-weakening love stories. I loved the ending--it was so true to life! There was nothing that I didn't love about this book, even its villains and supporting characters. I'm so excited for whatever Sarah Nicole Lemon has in store! The bottom line: A modern, rough-riding fairy tale, Done Dirt Cheap is one of the best books of the year! Next on deck: City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer Review

Title: Spindle Fire
Author: Lexa Hillyer
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Spindle Fire. book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Everyone who knows me or reads this blog also knows that I am a huge sucker for fairy tales and retellings of them. Perhaps it's because fairy tales are the first group of stories that I really grew attached to. They are some of the first stories that bore deep into my heart, and it has placed a sort of enchantment and romance on my own writing and my reading material. So when I heard that this new book was coming out, I reserved it at my library as soon as I could. I mean, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty? Wicked fairies with dangerous secrets? Political intrigue? A pair of brave, courageous, lovable sisters? This book contained some of the best elements in fantasy, taking the fairy tale and spinning it anew, all the while staying true to the original.

Aurora and Isabelle are two daughters of the same king, and they have both been tithed by the two of the many powerful fairies that populate their land. The fairies and the humans have been at war for years, but it all ended when the most powerful of them went into hiding. Forced out of their castle, Aurora, who has had her sense of touch stolen, is the favored, legitimate daughter. She is sheltered and coddled. Her sister, Isabelle, is blind, her sight the price of a fairy tithe. The two sisters must go beyond their castle, for if they don't, the sleeping sickness will swallow all.

I really enjoyed this book. The prose was lush and gorgeous, almost hypnotic in its intensity. Before anything else, the prose really caught my attention. I liked the worldbuilding, though at times it was a little bit confusing. But it was the characters, mainly the two sisters, sweet, naive Aurora, and her headstrong, fierce, unwanted sister, Isbe, that really captured my heart. All issues aside, it was this pair of sisters that I really grew to love and care for. I liked the political intrigue; that was one of the aspects that kept me turning the pages. I liked the way the familiar elements of the original story, woven up in a new tale, rife with fairies and magic and darkness. I can see why a lot of people thought it was slow, but I liked the style. And I'm super stoked to hear there's a sequel! The bottom line: A new telling of the classic Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, Spindle Fire was a beautiful, dark series debut that I really liked, despite some flaws. Next on deck: Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab Review

Title: Our Dark Duet
Author: Victoria Schwab
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Series: Monsters of Verity, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

God! My literary pain is insurmountable. Between Cassandra Clare, Sarah Dessen, and this half of a heartbreaking, action-packed duology, that tore my heart out and made me cry until my chest hurt. These last three books really got under my skin, but especially this one. This is going to be a book hangover that I just might not ever recover from. I mean... Just, really?! I can't even deal with this. I've been reeling for a day and a half, and I'm still not sure how to put my feelings into words. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME, VICTORIA?! HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO MOVE ON AFTER THAT?! GAH!

This Savage Song, the first book in this duo, was one of, if not the, best book of 2016, at least for me. Schwab completely captured my imagination, in all of its blood, gore, and horror. In the broken world of August Flynn and Kate Harker, sin is more tangible, insofar that bad acts literally create monsters. The Sunai, musical monsters that can steal your soul with a song, The Corsai, ghostlike wraiths that rend, rip, and break, and the Malachi, fanged and red-eyed all result in the dark hole of the city of Verity.

But this time, picking up where This Savage Song left off, a new monster has an eye set on Verity, a being that is even more terrifying than the usual ranks of dark creatures that populate the city. Kate and August must come together again to save their city as well as each other, if the growing body count does not overwhelm them and their loved ones. Kate must dig deep inside herself and find the strength to save her city. August must find the delicate balance between the dark urges inside and the humanity that he longs to imitate. That if, if both of them can make it off of the expanding battlefield unscathed...

This book killed my soul. It made me feel everything, the entire gamut of emotions. Sequels give me such horrible anxiety, because they hold so much promise and anticipating for me. But I needn't have worried. This book was perfect. All of the loose ends were neatly tied up, the pacing was breakneck, so by the time that my heart and mind caught up to the pages, I was so invested that there was no way of me putting it down, even when I wanted to. I loved the twists, the way Schwab cranked up the tension until I was ready to scream or cry, and the way old and new characters were brought in. Plus: the villain(s). I love it when an author can make awesome bad guys! The ending. God, that ending. It killed me! All the ugly crying, guys! I'm still trying to process it, even while I type this. Easy, hands down, one of the best books of the summer, if not the year! The bottom line: The second half of a smash hit duology, Our Dark Duet tore my soul to pieces and sewed it back together again--what a book! I'm still heavy from the hangover. Next on deck: Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Once and for All by Sarah Dessen Review

Title: Once and for All
Author: Sarah Dessen
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Sarah Dessen is the author that made me believe in the merits of contemporary fiction. Add to that, that she is one of the bestselling young adult authors of recent times, and I'm sold. Anything that she writes, I want to read it. So when I heard that she would be publishing a new book in June, I just knew that I had to order it through my local library. (I really love my library!) This book was classic Dessen: lovable, sweet characters that were making me laugh aloud, situations straight out of a rom-com, a good, healthy dose of angst, both of teen and regular kinds, and a true-to-life ending that was both bittersweet and satisfying! This book was described as 'sweet as wedding cake and bubbly as champagne', and those two words definitely fit, but there were sad parts to it as well.

Louna Barrett is a girl who doesn't like to make attachments, despite her loneliness and longing for more from life. She also happens to be the only, beloved daughter of a world-famous--literally--wedding planner. Having been helping her mother with her business her whole life, she doesn't believe in happy endings or fairy tales. Especially when she experienced a loss so deep it changed her entire sense of life, and the world around her. But when she crosses path with a boy named Ambrose, she discovers that there might be hope for her yet.

I loved this book. I loved every messy, hilarious, painful moment of it. It was a beautiful coming of age, second chance tale that was lushly written a tender reminder to enjoy all facets of life, even when times are dark. It really gave me hope for my present and future. But more than that, I loved Louna and her quirky, adorable family. I loved the character development of them all, but especially that of Louna. It was such a slow, sweet joy to watch her open up to the world again. Ambrose and his family were equally funny and exciting. God, this book. It broke my heart and tore my soul, then sewed it all back together again. I'm not going to lie, this book straight up made me bawl. But I'd expect nothing less from one of the queens of young adult fiction! Hands down, one of my favorite books of 2017! The bottom line: A beautiful, funny book about the small miracles of life and second chances, Once and for All stole my heart completely. One of the best books of 2017! Next on deck: Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab!

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare Review

Title: Lord of Shadows
Author: Cassandra Clare
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Dark Artifices, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Oh my God. Oh my freaking God. How am I supposed to go on after this?! My life is over. God, Clare, just stomp all over my heart, why don't you?! How could you do this to me?! I'll be honest: I finished this book two days ago. But since I was basically a sobbing, emotional wreck, unable to process, I had to let the review sit. I didn't want to write a review still raw with emotion. I'm still reeling and haven't completely processed everything yet. I don't want to say too much, because I don't want to give something away. (You should all suffer! SUFFER THE EMOTIONAL AGONY! Kidding.)

Lord of Shadows takes place after the events of Lady Midnight, and in this installment of The Dark Artifices, our heroes are led into dangerous places, fighting forbidden, angsty feelings along the way. UGH. I knew this book was going to kill me, but I didn't know just how badly. Clare delivers in spades, as usual: dangerous secrets, forbidden love and killer sexual tension, twists and turns and trips to magical worlds. Add to that beautiful prose, characters that you will have no choice to fall in love with, and that ending--gah! I'm dead. Dead. What am I supposed to do with myself until 2019?! (Excuse me while I find a corner to sob pathetically in....) Ugh. This book, and this series, will make you feel everything, all the feels. Prepare yourselves, guys, because this sequel was definitely one of the most brutal. I am still reeling, and I'm even angrier that I have to wait two years from now to read the next book! One of the best and worst books of 2017, I can't wait for the third book in this series! The bottom line: A meaty, satisfying sequel with a heck of a zinger for an ending, I loved Lord of Shadows, even while it broke my heart. Next on deck: Once and For All by Sarah Dessen!