Saturday, October 14, 2017

Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett Review

Title: Even the Darkest Stars
Author: Heather Fawcett
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Ever the Darkest Stars, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I found Even the Darkest Stars through a recommendation, and it's been sitting in my stack for a while. I had one last renewal on it, so I decided to put it at the top of my stack and dive in. I wasn't sure what to expect; this is Fawcett's first novel and a fantasy! Nonetheless, I was very excited. I love adventure stories, quests that make me think of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. It's probably the nostalgia factor. Fawcett has penned a well-written, exciting adventure, with a great heroine, witches, ghosts, magic, demons, twists, and turns, and a killer ending that had me screaming in frustration. There were some issues with the world-building, but it was nonetheless an exciting, refreshing debut! One of my favorite books of 2017, and I can't wait for the next book in the series!

Kamzin longs for a life of adventure, and to be an explorer like her late mother. Unfortunately, she is stuck in her tiny home village, Azmiri, forced to learn magic and study to be the next Elder after her father steps down. Her relationship with her sister Lusha is also fraught with tension, and she is desperate to find a way out of her shadow. But her quiet, mundane existence is turned upside down with the arrival of the explorer River Shara, who wants to hire her, not her sister, in order to help him climb the deadly, mysterious summit of Mount Raska. But as Kamzin climbs the mountain, she realizes that all manner of deadly creatures lurks in the sky and snow, and her crewmates are hiding more than their fair share of secrets, and the most deadly of all may mean the destruction of the whole world as she knows it...

I really, really liked this book! What a wonderful debut! First of all, I loved that it was an old-fashioned adventure, complete with mountaineering! The prose was hypnotic and fast-paced, and once I began, I couldn't stop reading! I loved Kamzin, and her sheer will to achieve her dreams, even at the price of leaving her home and family behind. This book is full of strong, powerful women who aren't afraid of going after what they want, regardless of the cost. I also really enjoyed the world-building, which gave a new spin on dragons, demons, witches, and magic, but I really wish that it had been fleshed out a little more; it was hard to follow and at times I couldn't understand the context of it and how it related to the story. I loved the relationship between Kamzin and her family members, especially her forbidding, beautiful older sister Lusha. And the chemistry between Kamzin and her love interest! Oh my God, it was heart-melting, knee-weakening! And the ending! Ugh, I can't wait for the sequel! It wasn't perfect, but it is still one of my favorite books of 2017! The bottom line: A lush, romantic series debut with magic, demons, monsters, and mountains, I loved Even the Darkest Stars! One of the best books of the year! Next on deck: It by Stephen King!

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge Review

Title: The Lie Tree
Author: Frances Hardinge
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I've heard things and been eyeing The Lie Tree since it came out last year, here in America. When I saw in our library's database that it was available at my local one, I put a hold on it. I picked it up when I could, and I was excited when it reached the top of my stack. First of all, a brand new, female British author to try! I'm always happy when I have the opportunity to experience a new author, and The Lie Tree did not disappoint! Unapologetically feminist, bold and brash, yet beautiful, The Lie Tree took me on a magnificent adventure that had me cheering, crying, and inspired! Frances Hardinge has become one of my newly minted favorite authors. One of the best books I've read in a while!

Faith Sunderly is not the most typical British Victorian girl. She doesn't at all care about marriage, her reputation, pretty clothes, and proper, prim behavior. She longs to be a scientist, just like her father, though she knows that the realm of knowledge is forbidden to young women. Chafing against the conventions of her time, she hates that she's nothing more than a caretaker. But when her father mysteriously dies, and she finds a fruit that is nourished from lies, she realizes that in order to find the truth, she must use all of her knowledge and expertise. But she may end up next in the killer's crosshairs if she digs in too deep...

 This book was a welcome, wonderful story that left me awed, inspired, and excited. With its gorgeous prose, take no prisoners heroine, lush, beautiful setting, and amazing pacing, The Lie Tree was an empowering, feminist tale set in forbidding, constraining Victorian Britain. It was thought-provoking, exciting, and emotional. It captured my heart and imagination entirely, and because of that, Hardinge is one of my new favorite authors! Faith was a flawed, well-written protagonist that won my heart and had me cheering throughout the novel. I loved that despite everything, she went after what she wanted. The pacing was breakneck, and I was glued to the pages in the two days that I was reading it. I was so enthralled with the book that I took it into the tub with me, twice! (And no, I didn't drop it!) And that ending! Oh my gosh, I was absolutely floored! I won't spoil the surprise, but my jaw was on the floor! One of my favorite books of 2016, and I'm so happy that I had the time to read it! The bottom line: A fantastic, feminist mystery that took my breath away and inspired me down to the nerves, I loved The Lie Tree! One of the best books I've read recently! Next on deck: Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett!

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart Review

Title: Genuine Fraud
Author: E. Lockhart
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I discovered the work of E. Lockhart when I was a freshman in high school. First, it started with The Boyfriend Book. I read it once, and I loved it. (It was also one of the first feminist novels I'd ever read in my lifetime, and it changed my life.) I remember going back to the school library, again and again, searching out that little white spine, hoping and praying it was still there. It gave me comfort in a very turbulent time in my life. From there, I moved on to The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. (In fact, that little gem is sitting on my shelf to this day.) So when I heard that she had a brand new book coming out, I just knew I had to get my hands on it. Immediately I set a hold on it from the library and spent my days waiting for it to come. When it did, I put it at the top of my stack. I spent the next day and a half fervently glued to the pages, breathless as I followed Jules's journey backward. This book has become a new favorite, and I can't wait for more from E. Lockhart!

Jules is a woman whose origins are foggy, and her best friend is Imogen. I don't want to say too much about the plot because that's half the fun of this book! The two girls cling to one another, sources of comfort in uncertain times. The format of the book is unusual, being told backward. But honestly, this book; it won my heart, and it's one of my favorites of 2017. I'm a total sucker for unreliable narrators, first of all, and the prose had me laughing, cheering, cringing. Genuine Fraud wormed its way into my heart and soul and refuses to let go, even now, two weeks after I've read it. It was a delicious, salacious mystery that had a powerful, no-holds-barred antihero its the center. It was worth waiting for, and I really enjoyed it! The bottom line: A fantastic mystery that had me constantly guessing, cheering, and screaming, I really enjoyed Genuine Fraud! One of my favorite books of 2017! Next on deck: The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge!

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich Review

Title: The Love Interest
Author: Cale Dietrich
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Adventure/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I found this book as a recommendation for the month of May, and it's been sitting in my library stack for a while now. When I realized that I didn't have any more renewals left on it, I put it to the top of the stack, not wanting to return it before I had a chance to experience it. And to be honest, I have some mixed feelings, hence four stars instead of all five. Nonetheless, though, The Love Interest was an entertaining, fun romp of a spy thriller with a gay twist! The world-building was kind of wonky and unclear, but overall, I really enjoyed this brand new twist on the classic boy-meets-girl, boy-wins girl plot. An entertaining, hilarious tale that had me laughing, crying, and fanning myself, more than once, The Love Interest is easily one of my favorite books of 2017!

Caden and Dylan are not exactly ordinary; in fact, both of them have been specially trained to be Love Interests, spies whose sole purpose is to win a girl who will gain a powerful position in the world when she grows up. The only catch? The man who doesn't get the girl dies. But things begin to grow even more complicated when the two boys start to fall for each other, wanting more than what the Love Interest Compound has in store for them. Their Chosen, Juliet, is an amateur scientist, and she's longing for love as well. But Caden and Dylan must decide what they are willing to sacrifice in order to win the game, or it could mean losing for both of them...

I really liked this book! It wasn't perfect, and there were some small kinks with the world-building, but I enjoyed it a lot nonetheless. I was laughing, crying, and swooning, often right after the other. Plus, because of James Bond, I'm a total sucker for spy books. And this was a fresh, new one with gay main characters! I was so on board it's not even funny. The pacing was breakneck, the prose by turns hilarious, beautiful, and tender. And oh my God, the chemistry between Dylan and Caden! Definitely one of my favorite parts of the book, if not the one. And the banter in this book! I was dying. Between the banter, the knee-weakening romance, and the pop culture reference, I really loved The Love Interest. In fact, I love it so much that I finished it within a day and a half. The supporting characters won my heart as much as Caden and Dylan themselves. The only real problems I had with it were that the world-building was weird and kind of vague, and the ending seemed really open-ended, but it didn't really answer any of my questions? Still, it was a solid, funny debut novel that I really liked, and I'm glad I was able to read it before I had to take it back to the library! The bottom line: A sexy spy thriller that turns the traditional love-triangle trope on its head, The Love Interest had me laughing, crying, and swooning--I can't wait for more from Cale Dietrich! Next on deck: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart!

All We Have Left by Wendy Mills Review

Title: All We Have Left
Author: Wendy Mills
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

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

All We Have Left was one of my book club's selections for the month of September. Fitting, because it was the sixteenth anniversary of the event that changed the world: the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and Twin Towers. I was only eleven when it happened, and I was sitting in the cafeteria, staring up at the screen, not really understanding what was happening, only that it was awful. I could feel the panic in the adults sitting around us, and it scared me. It's hard to believe that it's been so long; it's still, indelibly imprinted in people's hearts and minds, more than a decade later. What We Have Left is a book of remarkable strength and power, full of empathy and understanding of an event that caused so many people to die. There were a few small problems that I had with it, but otherwise, it is a book that I will remember forever. When I wasn't crying, I was screaming with frustration and anger. This book made me feel so much, and for that, I will never forget it. I think it's especially timely, considering the current political climate. What an amazing, empathetic book!

Jesse and Alia are two different girls from completely different backgrounds: Jesse is a good girl, seen but not heard, always doing the right thing, even if it means not going for what she wants and trying not to notice that her once-close family is falling apart at the seams after the death of her older brother, Travis. Angry and lonely, she turns to Nick, the local bad boy. When she gets in trouble for tagging a building, she gets forced to work at the World Peace Center. On the other hand, Alia is a devout Muslim, daughter of two hard-working parents. She wants to be a comic book artist, despite her family wanting something more practical for her. Wanting to talk to her father after making a mistake at school, she gets caught in the World Trade Center when the planes hit. Both girls are forced to confront what they believe, and what they are willing to sacrifice in the face of danger.

I really enjoyed this book. I liked the format, the way the book went back and forth between Alia and Jesse's perspectives.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust Review

Title: Girls Made of Snow and Glass
Author: Melissa Bashardoust
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Anyone who reads my reviews knows that I am a complete junkie for fairy tales and the retellings that they lead to. They were one of my first sources of literary inspiration, from the scrubbed squeaky-clean Disney movies to the stories that inspired them, the dark, bloody tales of The Brothers Grimm. So when I heard that there was a feminist retelling of one of the first fairy tales I ever came across, Snow White, coming out in September, I knew I had to order it from my local library. It also didn't hurt that it was partially inspired by Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber. Feminist fairy tale retellings for the win, guys!

Girls Made of Snow and Glass opens in a land cursed to eternal winter, with two young women at opposite sides of the country of Whitespring. Mina hails from the South, a girl whose heart is made of glass, and whose only desire is to be loved. With her sights set on the king of this cold kingdom, she is determined to get what she wants at any cost. Lynet, the king's daughter and the heir of Whitespring, longs to be seen as more than her mother's doppelganger, as the princess forced to inherit a kingdom she does not want; the weight of the crown too heavy for her young head. The women's paths collide when Mina weds Lynet's father, and thus begins a war for power in a world that doesn't want them to succeed. That battle will force both women to decide what they are willing to sacrifice to be their true selves, even if it means not winning the battle whole.

I really, really enjoyed this book! Snow White is one of my least favorite fairy tales, probably because the evil stepmother scared the crap out of me when she turned into an old lady. But I loved the way that Bashardoust took what was familiar and skewed it so that it stayed true to the bare bones of it. But with complex, strong female characters who weren't afraid to go for what they wanted, even if it meant hurting someone in the process! It was really enjoyable. The writing was gorgeous, and despite myself, I found myself sympathizing with both Mina and Lynet, one with the longing to be loved for herself and not just her beauty and position, and the other for an independent life, free of her royal obligations. I liked the way the story went back and forth between the women, giving a full perspective on their motives. I also really enjoyed the political intrigue throughout the novel, one of the biggest things that kept it going. And Lynet and Nadia! Oh my gosh, it was so sweet and wonderful. All of the romantic and sexual tension! The pacing was breakneck, and even when I wasn't reading the book, I was thinking about it, my mind consumed with it. And the ending! I was biting my nails throughout, hoping and praying that it would end happily. It was so satisfying! Unfortunately, I only gave this book four stars because first of all, it felt like every sentence was laced with references to ice, snow, and glass, and the world-building was kind of confusing, despite the helpful map at the beginning of the book. The bottom line: A beautifully written, feminist retelling of the classic Snow White tale, Girls Made of Snow and Glass was a wonderful spin on a story I thought I knew, inside and out! Next on deck: All We Have Left by Wendy Mills!

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!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle Review

Title: Spellbook of the Lost and Found
Author: Moira Fowley-Doyle
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Magical Realism
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Moira Fowley-Doyle won my heart last year when one of my library book clubs chose her debut novel, The Accident Season, for October. When I realized that she was writing a new book, due out in August, I was so excited, and immediately put a hold on it at the library. It sat in my stack for a little while, neglected, until I could finally get to it. And I'm not gonna lie; the cover was a huge factor in attracting me. It looked, honestly, like the perfect book with which to usher in my favorite season: autumn! (I know, I could say fall, but that word isn't as pretty.) But the cover was nothing compared to the story that lay inside. Rife with mystery and full of the sweetness that comes from the first pangs of love, Spellbook of the Lost and Found completely stole my heart! One of my favorite books of 2017!

Olive is an odd girl; she was named after the fruit, and she longs to leave her small Irish town behind to start a new life. She knows that she doesn't fit in, and most of the time, she doesn't care. But her life changes forever when she meets a pair of mysterious, beautiful twins, Rowan and Hazel, and their pixie-like best friend, Ivy, and comes upon a mysterious spellbook. Brought together by past events that she and her best friend, Rose, do not yet understand, the small group tap into the power of the spellbook. They have no idea that the book they've used to right past wrongs has a history all its own, and that the price they pay to use its power may be too high for them all...

I loved this book. The prose was gorgeous and sucked me into the story at once. Per Fowley-Doyle's signature, the atmosphere was gothic and creepy, flirting with the line between reality and madness. That was half the reason I loved it so much, the creepy, little Irish town, full of secrets both new and old. But I also adored the way the narrative bounced back and forth, between two time periods and three young women, Olive, Hazel, and the mysterious Laurel, who set the events in motion for the spellbook to fall into the wrong hands. I loved the way that the author took the magical realism genre, and again, put a unique spin on it. But one of my favorite parts of it was more than the mysterious, frightening disappearances, and secrets that abounded across generations; the love stories in this novel, all three of them, had me swooning like I was seventeen again! And the ending! Ugh, it was so bittersweet and wonderful! (I wasn't too happy that a library patron just stuck black stickers at random in the book, but the story was awesome!) I just can't wait for what comes next from Moira Fowley-Doyle! The bottom line: A gorgeously wrought, deep and dark tale of magic and the havoc it wreaks on three different families' lives, I loved Spellbook of the Lost and Found--hands down one of my favorite books of 2017! Next on deck: Because You Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy by Ameriie!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Miles Morales: Spiderman by Jason Reynolds Review

Title: Miles Morales: Spiderman
Author: Jason Reynolds
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Action
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Okay, so, anyone who knows me really well will tell you that I am absolutely obsessed with superheroes. DC, Marvel, it doesn't matter, just give to me! Spiderman was one of the first Marvel superheroes I was ever obsessed with, so when I heard that Jason Reynolds, a prominent African-American, young adult author, was writing a new book about one of Spiderman's incarnations, I was so stoked. And I was even more excited when I realized that the book focused on Miles Morales, a boy who is half African-American and half Puerto-Rican. Yay for diverse characters! Penning a novel full of action, with important, timely issues spread throughout, like racism, classism, and the sorry state of the U.S. prison system. What a thought-provoking book; definitely one of my favorites of 2017!

Miles Morales is just an average kid from Brooklyn, attending a posh boarding school and doing his best to get the attention of Alicia, a pretty girl in his class, and stay under the radar of his creepy, not so subtle racist teacher, Mr. Chamberlain. The one exception to his ordinariness? He's Spiderman! Yes, the Spiderman, web-slinger extraordinaire. When he uncovers a plot with his family and the entire city of Brooklyn at its center, Miles must decide if he wants to leave the mantle of Spiderman behind, or if he will continue his legacy as the friendly neighborhood hero...

I adored this book! Easily one of my favorite books of 2017, and what a time to read this! Rife with personal issues, hilarious banter, beautiful prose, and timely political issues, Reynolds has done nothing less than hit a home run with this book. Plus, I loved the way that a diverse character was introduced. The Spiderman that I'm used to is the classic Peter Parker, and it was really refreshing to get a Spiderman that had a diverse heritage. And the chemistry between him and Alicia! Excuse me for a moment while I swoon. But even more than all of these things, I loved the way Reynolds talked about racism, the way it affected the past and present. And that ending though--I loved it! It was such a fitting end to a book that spoke so much about activism and helping your fellow man! If there was ever a book we needed to read in this current political climate, it's Miles Morales! A superhero novel for all ages, I loved it so much! I can only hope that there's more to come from Reynolds and our friendly neighborhood Spiderman! The bottom line: A book that revolves around family, identity, and what it really means to be a hero, I loved Miles Morales! One of my favorite books of the year! Next on deck: The Spell Book of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh Review

Title: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Flame in the Mist, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Renee Ahdieh's first novel, The Wrath and the Dawn, is sitting on my shelf, a self-bought Christmas present from two years ago. I love retellings, and I've heard so much buzz about her debut. When I heard that she was writing a new book called Flame in the Mist, coming out in May, I just knew I had to put it on hold at the library so I could read it. It's been sitting in my library stack for a while, and I knew I wanted to read it before I had to return it. It took a little while for me to get in to, but once I did, it stole my heart and became one of my favorite books of 2017! Think Mulan set in feudal Japan, complete with political intrigue, secrets, romance, magic, and mythology! I've been waiting for this book since I was tiny. Renee Ahdieh has won a place in my heart, and I'm so excited for more!

Hattori Mariko is a young woman that tends to break the mold. Despite being a high-ranking noblewoman in her own right, her worth to her family lies in her marriageability. Longing for more than what her family wishes, she is soon drawn into a dangerous web of political intrigue, magic, and romance. When she begins to dig deeper, infiltrating into a criminal organization called The Black Clan disguised as a boy, she discovers that she might have a place to belong, if all of her lies don't catch up to her...

I really, really enjoyed this book! It took me a while to get into it, but once I did, I couldn't put it down. I spent most of yesterday and last night, devouring Mariko's adventure. I was absolutely spellbound by the prose. The premise, too, was what won me over: Mulan in feudal Japan! My little tiny girl self has been waiting for a book like this my whole life! But even more than all this, I loved the magic, the political intrigue, the pacing, the constant twists, and turns. All of this combined with strong, complex characters, with a kick-butt, inventing, sharp-tongued heroine, and romance and action? I was completely and utterly sold. Reading this has made me even more excited for her first book, as well as the sequel to this promising series starter! What a lovely, magical book, full of adventure and excitement! The bottom line: A fantastically funny, heartfelt series starter, I loved Flame in the Mist, and I can't wait for the sequel! Next on deck: Miles Morales: Spiderman by Jason Reynolds!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Everyone We've Been by Sarah Everett Review

Title: Everyone We've Been
Author: Sarah Everett
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

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

Everyone We've Been was one of my library's book club picks for August, and I have to say that when I read the synopsis, I was really intrigued. It sounded like a twisty, screwy mystery with many family secrets and an interesting, original premise. Unfortunately, I didn't really like this book; the potential for it was so high, but the characters felt flat, and the format made it kind of confusing to follow. I liked the idea of this book, but unfortunately, the idea of it was better than the actual execution. There were some parts I liked, so it wasn't a complete loss, but this book definitely wasn't my favorite. Hey, you like some, you don't like some. Such is the life of a reader. And hey, it made for a lively book discussion, so it wasn't a total loss!

Addison 'Addie' Sullivan feels like she's losing it; she's seeing a boy that no one else can, and she's got the feeling that she's losing chunks of time. Digging deeper into what her life used to be, she discovers that the boy is named Zach, and she had him erased. But the even bigger question is: why? In her quest for answers, Addie realizes that there is more to the situation than she could've ever imagined, and the answers she needs may end up being the death of her soul.

I was really excited when this book was recommended to me. The blurb sounded interesting and I liked the cover. The main character, Addison, is a person of color and a musician; I was beyond stoked about it. I liked the way that it was a love story. But the pacing was really erratic, and the story became hard to follow. I liked the premise, but I think that it could have done with some more polishing. The characters felt really flat, and it was hard to relate to them. The discussion of mental illness came off as kind of trite, especially with some of the events that are essential to the plot. Nonetheless, it was a solid first try, and I didn't hate it, but I just wasn't feeling it. The bottom line: A solid attempt at a twisty love story, I didn't much like Everyone We've Been. It was a good idea, but it needed more fleshing out. Next on deck: Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh!




Tuesday, August 22, 2017

House of Furies by Madeleine Roux Review

Title: House of Furies
Author: Madeleine Roux
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: House of Furies, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Madeleine Roux became famous a few years ago with her debut series, Asylum, and when I heard that she was writing another book, due out in May, I just knew that I had to order it from my library. It's been sitting in my library stack for a while, and I had my last renew on it; the last thing I wanted was to take it back without reading it. I'm so, so happy that I held out, because not only did I enjoy it, but I'm very much looking forward to more from her! What an unusual, beautifully written debut, peppered with vintage photographs and drawings. House of Furies is one of the best books of the year, hands down, and I'm already dying for the sequel! What a creepy, twisted, disturbing start to a promising new gothic horror series!

Louisa Ditton is a thief, a drifter, an outcast. She's different, more prone to selling fortunes and stealing than to do honest work. But her life changes irrevocably when she is recruited by an old hag to work as a scullery maid at an old, dilapidated house called Coldthistle House. Louisa soon discovers that the house seems to have a mind of its own, and with mysterious, bloody disappearances, secrets about her employers, friends, and even herself. But as she digs deeper for answers, and even becomes a reluctant friend for a young guest, she realizes that death is lurking in her new home and that she may be closer to it than she could have ever realized...

This book was absolutely amazing! First of all, gothic, supernatural horror, mashed up with Jane Austen? Sign me up, sign me up right now! I've been waiting for this ever since I got into Jane Austen in college. Adaptions and inspirations of her work are many, but I've never seen the Regency period skewed quite like this. The format was another key element that won me over; it reminded me a lot of the Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children series, and I mean that as a compliment! Between the vintage photos, gorgeous drawings, and the beautiful, dark prose that kept me captivated even when I wanted to put it down, I was totally sold. The pacing didn't hurt either; I was immediately immersed into Louisa's world, where power hides in the most unlikely places and darkness rules all. I loved the secrets that kept unraveling throughout the book. And that ending though! Ugh, someone kill me! Lee and Louisa were my favorites, but I really enjoyed the way the secondary characters played a part in the story. As scary and frightening as Coldthistle House was, I want to go back again, and I can't wait for the sequel! The bottom line: A beautifully written historical horror show that brings elements of Jane Austen into it, House of Furies is one of my favorite books of 2017, and I can't wait for what comes next! Next on deck: Everyone We've Been by Sarah Everett!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger Review

Title: Follow Me Back
Author: A.V. Geiger
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Follow Me Back, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Follow Me Back was brought to my attention the way most of my library loans are; I found it as a recommendation for one of the book sites I follow religiously. I was absolutely intrigued from the get-go; the cover was compelling and creepy all at the same time. I was even more excited to read it when I realized that Geiger was a sleeper hit on the writing forum, Wattpad. I had my last renewal on it through the library, and as I'd been looking forward to it, I didn't want to return it without reading it. And I'm so, so glad that I didn't take it back without reading it! Geiger has penned a spine-tingling, creepy thriller of a series debut for the modern digital age! I was blown over, and I can't wait until next year for the sequel! Ugh, that ending! I'm so mad! (How could you do this to me?!)

Tessa Hart has severe agoraphobia, a result of a traumatic event that happened over the previous summer. One of her coping mechanisms is the pop star, Eric Thorn, and being part of the fandom she has made her internet persona comfortable in, mostly through Twitter and Tumblr. When Eric sets out to troll her for his own amusement, an unexpected friendship forms between them. The friendship leads to the possibility of more, but soon obsession begins to spring up from all sides, all because of the handy little follow button...

I really, really enjoyed this book, a lot more than I expected to! The cover was one of the first things that drew me to it, honestly; it looked so spooky and unnerving. But what shocked me the most was what lay between the covers. The format was deliciously different and unusual; it was told in a mix of third person narration between Tessa and Eric, with more than a healthy portion of tweets, blog posts, and police transcriptions.  I was immediately drawn in. I loved the way Geiger created a creepy, modern horror story for the digital age. But even more than that, I loved Tessa and Eric, their ill-fated, more than a little twisted love story. I also really liked the way that Tessa's mental illness was depicted, it was frank and refreshing. Plus, the pacing was breakneck and I couldn't put the book down. And that ending! I can't wait until June 2018 for the sequel! You're freaking killing me here! The bottom line: A creepy, spine-tingling thriller for the digital age, I loved Follow Me Back, and I can't wait for the sequel! One of my favorite books of 2017! Next on deck: House of Furies by Madeleine Roux!

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody Review

Title: Daughter of the Burning City
Author: Amanda Foody
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Thriller/Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

This book was a recommendation, as a lot of my books are. But it was honestly the cover that drew me in. A gorgeous, mysterious shade of purple, with columns of smoke billowing from what looked like a circle of circus tents? Sold. But what lay inside the book was what was really amazing. A unique, darkly fantastic coming of age story with a mystery at its heart, Daughter of the Burning City was an enthralling, spellbinding fantasy that won my heart and wormed its way into my mind, even when I closed it. Amanda Foody has penned a solid, achingly lovely debut that explores the true meaning of family, sense of self, and what it really means to be human.

Sorina is the daughter of the proprietor of the traveling, burning city of Gomorrah, where the most secret and forbidden of desires are doled out like currency. She enjoys a status that no one else in the city has; she is also a performer in her very own freak show. But though she likes performing, and deeply loves her family, she knows that she even among freaks, she is unusual. She can create illusions, and her family is just that. Her position and her safety are put at risk when one of her beloved family members is brutally murdered. Sorina is forced to team up with a boy named Luca, who is hiding his own secrets before the killer gets to her next. And when she begins to dig, she discovers that the murderer may be closer than she could have ever imagined...

This book was amazing! First of all, the prose was gorgeous, and I was sucked into Sorina's world almost at once. I loved the world-building of this book as well; it was so dark and lovely and frightening. Gomorrah was such a dark, forbidding, beautiful place that held me spellbound. But my favorite things about Daughter of the Burning City were the characters, especially Sorina and her family. And Luca! Ugh, all the romantic tension. I love it when an author can skillfully master political intrigue, and Foody has that mastered in spades! The pacing was breakneck, and I could only hold on tight as the tension ratcheted higher and higher. The format, unusual and surprising, also made this debut original. I loved the setting--it was so circus-like, and I loved the feel of it! And that ending--talk about a surprising twist! Oh my God, it's been two days, and I'm still reeling over it. What a gorgeous, magically written standalone about a loving, magical group of misfits!

Sometimes, though, it got confusing, trying to keep up with the names of cities, characters, and political figures; I almost wish that there had been a glossary or reference at the back that I could've refreshed with. Nonetheless, what a lovely, enchanting debut! The bottom line: A gorgeous, beautifully written debut about a magical family with a dark mystery at its heart, I loved Daughter of the Burning City! Next on deck: Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy Review

Title: The Disappearances
Author: Emily Bain Murphy
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

The Disappearances was the next book in my library stack, and I wanted to be able to read it before I had to return it. I found it the way I find most of my library books; it was recommended to me on one of the sites that I follow. But what initially drew me in, even more than the intriguing synopsis, was the cover, haunting and creepy and compelling all at once. I started the book not quite sure what to expect; this debut novel was kind of like a mashup of Stephen King, with more than a healthy dose of magical realism, with romantic and supernatural elements sprinkled throughout. Add to this formula gorgeous prose, a creepy, gothic setting, breakneck pacing, and secrets and twists and turns, and you'll have something close to The Disappearances.

Aila and her younger brother, Miles, are being shipped off to the tiny town of Sterling after their father goes to fight in the war. Simmering with resentment and grief after the mysterious death of her mother, she begins to realize that everything in Sterling isn't quite what it seems. Ostracized by the townspeople and confused by her feelings for her house mother's son, she decides to dig deep into Sterling's past. But someone out there doesn't want their secrets unearthed, and Aila and her friends are on a race against the clock to set things right....

I really liked this book! The prose was so gorgeous, and I was sucked in immediately. The pacing was breakneck, and I'm not gonna lie, there were times when I got really upset, when I had to set the book down. There were times when I was obsessing, even when I wasn't reading it. But more than that, I loved Sterling, and the creepy, Stephen King vibes that I was getting from it, as well as its people. One of the most intriguing parts of this book was the mystery that the town held. But I also really adored the characters, especially Aila, Miles, George, and William. Aila was an awesome heroine, feminist and fierce and flawed. I also really enjoyed the way Murphy deftly blended genres: historical fiction, magical realism, and romance. One of the best parts of the book was Aila and her friends working their hardest to unravel the mystery of Sterling and how the town (and the surrounding towns) became cursed. And the villains in this novel! Some of the best I've ever seen. This book was a fun, twisty mystery that emphasizes the themes of family and first love. At times, though, it was kind of difficult to keep up, because of the unusual format, but it wasn't too terrible! The bottom line: A deliciously creepy, gothic mystery with plenty of twists, turns, and shocking secrets, The Disappearances was a wonderful debut! I look forward to more from Emily Bain Murphy! Next on deck: Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandya Menon Review

Title: When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon
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.

I finally got to this book in my library stack, and I had my last renew on it. I'd heard many great things about When Dimple Met Rishi, and I didn't want to miss it. I'm so glad that I read it. First of all, Indian main characters! Diverse books for the win always! Plus, that cover was just so adorable; it felt like I was standing with the smiling girl in the sunshine. But the cover was nothing next to what this lovely, bittersweet book contained. I fell in love with it, and it was an insanely funny, inherently hopeful roller coaster of a rom-com. The romantic in me just melted. Sandya Menon has become one of my favorite authors of 2017 with this book!

Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel are both Indian, but they are two very different people. Dimple is headstrong and independent, intensely focused on making her dreams of being a well-known coder come true. Rishi is a practical romantic with a deep love of tradition and family, as well as his own Indian identity. The two young adults collide at a workshop in San Francisco, and, with a series of events straight out of a romantic comedy, begin to actually think that they have a chance together. But Dimple begins to pull away, and the two must decide if their budding love is worth fighting for.

I loved this book! I loved the way that it gave the reader a peek into real Indian culture. I loved the pacing, the tone of it, but especially Dimple and Rishi, two very real and contrasting individuals. One of my favorite parts of the story was the spark between them. I live for an author that can do banter well, from a reading and writing standpoint! It was so cute, funny, romantic, and hopeful. It made me remember the feeling of what it is to be in love for the first time, and it was so bittersweet. I laughed often, and cried just as much. This book made me feel so much. I loved Dimple and Rishi's families as well, the thing that brings them both together in the first place. It was just so lovely and fresh and hopeful, and I enjoyed every minute of it! One of my favorite books of 2017! The bottom line: A romantic first novel that made me laugh, cry, and swoon, When Dimple Met Rishi is one of the best books of 2017! Highly recommended! Next on deck: The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Hunger by Roxane Gay Review

Title: Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body
Author: Roxane Gay
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Biography/Memoir
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Roxane Gay has become a household name in the arenas of both fiction and nonfiction, and when I heard that she had a new book coming out, a memoir about her body and her own personal experiences, I was really excited. I've read short fiction and articles by her, and was so stoked to finally get my hands on her work, to gain some personal insight on one of my favorite authors of all time. What I discovered is a deeply honest, painful, and poignant memoir that highlighted the pain of severe trauma, the deep love of family, both blood and not, and resilience of every kind. I read this book and came away with a feeling of inspiration and hope; I feel like everyone should read this moving, wonderful memoir. Gay lays herself bare for the reader, all of her scars and wants and hopes and regrets, welcoming you into her mind. One of my favorite books of 2017, hands down!

Roxane Gay is a highly successful author and professor at a university in Indiana, but in Hunger, she talks about her childhood, her past and how it formed her into the woman she is today, and I was just awed by the sheer degree of honesty. Memoirs are very touch and go with me, because if I feel that the author is not being truthful, that can turn me off and make me hate the book. But Hunger was so honest and so open, about every great and ugly thing that ever happened to Gay. I'm so awed, moved, inspired. (And it also didn't hurt that she talked about writing, a lot!) Gay writes frankly about feminism, body image, the meaning of self-love and getting there on her own terms, as well as a whole life's worth of personal growth. What an amazing, outstanding memoir; I can't wait to see what Roxane Gay has in store next! The bottom line: A warm, funny, and completely no-holds barred, honest memoir that had me feeling everything, I loved Hunger! One of the best books of 2017, hands down!

Rise of the Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz Review

Title: Rise of the Isle of the Lost
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Descendants, book three
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

UGH! This book. This book. I'm so freaking sad now! I know it had to end, but I still can't help feeling like I came away with a group of lovable, hilarious new friends. It ended really well, but methinks that the ending leaves room for another story. (Maybe it's just wishful thinking?) I think, of all the books, this one was my favorite of the series. Twists and turns, new characters, magic and mayhem and adventure... As far as series closers go, this was amazing! I was as satisfied as I was sad. (You know a series is great when you walk away from it feeling like the characters are your friends.) I can only hope that this isn't the end of The Descendants, because it was just so much fun!

The Rise of the Isle of the Lost picks up where Return left off, with Mal and her friends doing their best to lay rest to their dark, wicked histories. But their peace is interrupted when King Triton's trident goes missing. Forced against the clock and other villains throughout the Isle, the kids are determined to set the rogue magic to rights, leading them on a mission on the ocean. But other forces are brewing, doing their best to stir up trouble and get the trident for their own uses. If the kids don't hurry, evil and villainy will triumph once again...

I loved this book! The pacing was breakneck, leading the reader to Auradon, the Isle of the Lost, and the ocean as the book goes on. I loved the characters, both the old ones and the new. (Especially a certain someone I won't mention because spoilers!) Adventure, magic, mayhem, secrets and political intrigue--this book delivered in spades. I also really enjoyed the way all the loose ends were tied up; it was a nice ending, and I really enjoyed it! I was laughing, crying, screaming, throughout the whole book. This series has straight up won my heart, and cemented my status as the ultimate, die-hard Disney fan! I had so much fun with the next generation of Disney villains, and I can't wait to see what de la Cruz has in store next! The bottom line: The last book in a trilogy about mini Disney villains, I loved The Rise of the Isle of the Lost! Next on deck: Hunger by Roxane Gay!

Return to the Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz Review

Title: Return to the Isle of the Lost
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Descendants, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I found out that the third, and possibly last, book of this fun series was coming out soon, so in order to prepare myself, I ended up ordering Return to the Isle of the Lost. As you guys well know, I'm pretty much a sucker for anything Disney. I loved Isle of the Lost, and I was so stoked when I realized that this was an ongoing series. And as far as sequels go, this was a really good one! I'm so excited for what the last book in the trilogy has in store for me and the characters I've grown to love so much.

Return to the Isle of the Lost picks up where the first book left off, with the children of Disney's most notorious villains settling somewhat uncomfortably into their new places on the island of Auradon. But soon, the kids start receiving threatening messages that warn of trouble in the place they once called home. Forced to go back, the kids realize that they may be the only thing standing between Auradon and a wave of catastrophic destruction, and unless they band together and stop their parents, they just might have to kiss their brand-new, good lives goodbye...

I really liked this book! I liked the premise and concept of the whole series (I mean, mini villains? Come on now, de la Cruz, you're killing me here!). But this sequel was good; it tied up a lot of loose ends, fleshed out characters, brought in new and old ones, as well as more twists and turns. It also didn't hurt that the book was full of adventures and magic, as well as many familiar characters, spun different ways, for a modern audience. That ending, too, was wonderful, and I'm so happy that the sequel is sitting next in my book stack. However, I couldn't give it a complete five stars, mostly because some of the references were a tad cheesy. Nonetheless, a solid, fun sequel, full of action, magic, and adventure! The bottom line: A meaty sequel in a fun series about the next generation of Disney villains, I loved Return to the Isle of the Lost! Next on deck: Rise of the Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor Review

Title: Definitions of Indefinable Things
Author: Whitney Taylor
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars

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

Definitions of Indefinable Things was one of my book club's picks for July, and frankly, I was excited, though the blurb didn't sound very good to me. I was also really excited to see the topic of mental illness was being covered, having dealt with crippling depression and anxiety my entire life. We need more books about the trials and pain that come with being mentally ill, but this book missed the mark in so many different ways. I was sorely disappointed with this debut novel, and because of it, I will be avoiding Taylor's work. Mental illness was not depicted correctly, and it really bothered me, how the characters in the book ended up seeing it and dealing with it. I came away from this book with a lot of feelings, none of them good.

Reggie Mason isn't necessarily what you'd call a romantic; she's more of a pessimistic cynic, and she finds the honest truth preferable to pretty, sweet lies. She's always dealt with depression, but after two traumatic events, she hits rock bottom. And to add to all that, she meets a boy named Snake. The two hit it off almost immediately, but there's one small problem: Snake has a very pregnant ex named Carla. The three teens collide in a messy, frightening way, and Reggie must decide if her life is worth living fully, even if it means embracing the pain she dreads.

Like I said, I had high hopes for this book. We need to talk more about mental illness and its effect on humanity. But this book... It was just done all wrong, for me. Mental illness was portrayed completely wrong, I didn't like any of the characters, and the plot was so ridiculous. It just didn't make any sense to me. The prose was good, but I just didn't like the book. The ending felt trite and not true to life at all, and the characters--I didn't like any of them, save Carla sometimes, and Reggie's dad. But I wish that the subject matter had been handled more delicately. I was hoping that I would really like this book, but it was, at most, just 'meh' for me. I wasn't feeling it, and I didn't enjoy it at all. I get the point that Taylor was trying to make, but she went about it completely wrongly. The bottom line: Though I had high hopes for this debut novel, Definitions of Indefinable Things just came across as flat and trite, and I didn't like it at all. On down the library stack for me. Next on deck: Return to the Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud Review

Title: Ptolemy's Gate
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Bartimaeus Sequence, book three
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

My husband and I have a little routine when it comes to books. Either I read to him aloud so we can experience the story together, or he reads it first, and I read it after him, so we can talk about it. This was the Bartimaeus Sequence for us most recently, thanks to the lovely people of the Reddit-sphere. It took me a little while to get to it, but when I did, I was drawn in immediately, and when I had to put it down, there were times when I was irrationally angry. But Stroud closes this hilarious, heartfelt trilogy with surprising tenderness and skill. Honestly, I really feel like I've lost a new set of friends, finishing this series. That ending though! Just stomp on my heart, why don't you?! (Authors and endings are going to be the death of me, I swear...)

Ptolemy's Gate picks up where The Golem's Eye left off, and I don't want to give any details away, for my readers that haven't read it yet. But what I will say is that this trilogy closes with beautiful, dazzling prose that had me laughing and crying, sometimes at the same time. Action and adventure abound as Nathaniel and Bartimaeus embark on their final quest. Kitty also shows up, trying desperately to save her country from brewing unrest and rebellion. All three of their heroes' fates collide, and none of them will make it unscathed...

I loved this book. Every crazy, hilarious moment of it. Sequels usually make me anxious, but this one delivered in every way. Breakneck pacing, twists and turns, tying up loose ends, lovable characters, old and new, all the tension that I could handle, and some that I couldn't bear, and that ending! Gah, I couldn't take it! I also loved the way the author shifted from one point of view to another, giving a fully rounded perspective on the events happening in the book. This series closer took my heart and guts and stomped all over them, and I have to say that it was worth it. I loved the way the trilogy ended, though it broke my heart and made me cry. Bartimaeus's wry, humorous commentary had me laughing and screaming in frustration. (I don't want it to end, so I ordered the prequel from my library. All the Egyptian shenanigans!) And Kitty! I loved the way she got a leading role in this book, instead of a supporting character. And Nathaniel! I loved the character development! What a book! The bottom line: The final book in the Bartimaeus Sequence, I loved Ptolemy's Gate! What a series closer! I can't wait for The Ring of Solomon! Next on deck: The Definition of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor!

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!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson Review

Title: The Unexpected Everything
Author: Morgan Matson
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

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

The Unexpected Everything was the library book club pick for June, and honestly? I wasn't expecting much, and it took me a while to get invested in it. But I'm very happy that I stuck with it, because Matson weaves an equally tender and brutal coming of age tale in the tradition of Sarah Dessen. The story of Andie and her life, as well as the people who populate it, really got into my heart. I feel like I've come away from the book with a new group of friends, and everyone knows that those kinds of books are the best. I love my book club! Plus, with its summery, gorgeous cover, bright and colorful and animal-filled, I was absolutely won over. What a winner! I can't wait for more from Morgan Matson!

 Alexandra Walker, better known as Andie, is not a girl who makes attachments. With her mother gone and her father more occupied with his campaign than their relationship, she thinks it's better that way. She is also someone who takes comfort in organization, in planning. But all of that is derailed when her plans for the summer suddenly go up in smoke. Forced to let go and come face to face with her demons, she realizes that instead of focusing on the past, she must learn to live in the moment.

This book was amazing. It was a coming of age story in the best kind of way, and I loved that it was set during the summer, a season that, to me, always seems full of possibilities. I also really enjoyed Andie, as well as her deep, heartbreaking character development in the book. Her friends and family created a really stark foil for her. At the end of the book, these characters felt like dear, beloved family members, who'd I'd loved with my whole heart. But my favorite part of the entire book was the romance that took center stage. I'm such a sucker for love, especially when it's the nerdy kind! (That's all I'm going to say; I don't want to give it away!) Clark was absolutely adorable, and I loved the way that he and Andie met--it was straight out of a rom-com!

The ending was kind of bittersweet, though I liked the way that it stayed true to life. It was realistic, even while it brought tears to my eyes and grief to my heart. This book was so much fun, it was like a day at the beach, basking in the sun. It felt like a hug from a trusted friend after you've just got done crying. This book was just so warm and wonderful, so sweet and full of love. The Unexpected Everything is a beautiful book, a celebration of friendship and love in every form. One of my favorite books of recent months! I cannot wait for more from Morgan Matson! The bottom line: A beautiful celebration of friendship and love, The Unexpected Everything took up a big space in my heart, and I'm so excited for more from this promising author! Next on deck: Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare!