Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Glass Spare by Lauren Destefano Review

Title: The Glass Spare
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Glass Spare, book one
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, and I was excited by the pretty cover. I had one last renewal on it before it went back to the library, so I pushed it up to the top of the stack so I could read it before then. When I finally did, I was rewarded with a rich, rip-roaring fantasy, complete with runaway princesses, dark, forbidden magic, political intrigue, mysterious curses, assassins, and deadly secrets—this book was almost perfect. The only issue is, some of the worldbuilding wasn’t explained clearly, and it left something to be desired; other than that, it was a really great book, and I can’t wait for the sequel!
Princess Wilhemina ‘Wil’ Heidle knows her place in the royal hierarchy. She is one of three spares, and she’s desperate to prove her worth to her cold, distant father, who sees his only daughter as a means to an end. She is his spy, bringing information and other resources so that he can expand his growing empire. Never mind that she longs for her own life, to explore the world and find out who she is on her own terms. But when tragedy strikes and she discovers a dark, hidden power inside of her, she is forced to flee her kingdom and strike out on her own for the first time. When she is drawn into a dangerous web of political alliances and intrigue, she discovers that everyone has their own motives, and more than one person want to use her dangerous, intoxicating power for themselves. And that’s not even mentioning the mysterious, frightening boy who pleads for her help and has dark secrets of his own…

I really enjoyed this book, even with its few flaws. It was a stunning series opener, with gorgeous prose and characters that I really grew to love and care for. It took a little while for me to get in to; for a minute there, I was nervous that I was going to have to shelve it. But once things really started rolling, the pacing became breakneck and I couldn’t put it down; there were times when I could barely focus on my real life, the book was in my head so deeply. I loved the political intrigue; that was one of my favorite things about the book. Wil’s family offered a sharp, biting contrast to her restless nature. Her loving, superstitious mother and science-mad brother were particular standouts. I also really liked Zay and Loom, two people from a neighboring kingdom with a deep relationship and secrets of their own to hide. And the romance! Ugh, I was totally swooning, and if I wasn’t doing that, I was screaming in total frustration! The ending was what really killed me; how am I supposed to wait until next year for the sequel? I’m dying here! The only issues were the pacing at the beginning; it took a little bit for it to keep going. The worldbuilding was confusing at times and not explained enough; there were times that I was lost. Nonetheless, The Glass Spare was a gorgeous, sprawling fantasy that had me screaming, weeping, and cheering—I can’t wait for the sequel! The bottom line: Despite some pacing and worldbuilding issues, I really liked The Glass Spare—it was an amazing, exciting series opener, and I can’t wait for more! Next on deck: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo Review

Title: A Line in the Dark
Author: Malinda Lo
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

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

I’ve read short stories by Malinda Lo, and a few years ago, I bought one of her books, Huntress, for myself for Christmas. I really enjoyed it; it was a lovely take on a lesbian fantasy, complete with fairies, magic, and ancient prophecies. When I heard that she was penning a new thriller to come out in October, I put it on hold at the library. I picked it up, and it sat in my library stack for a while. I had one last renewal on it, so I pushed it to the top of my stack to make sure I would be able to read it before it went back. A Line in the Dark tells a story of obsession, desire, and dark secrets, and I was absolutely captivated by most of the book; however, there were some format issues that were a little bit jarring. This book was a spine-tingling, creepy psychological thriller that constantly had me guessing, and the ending stopped me in my tracks; honestly, that’s probably what saved the book for me. It wasn’t fantastic, but it wasn’t outright bad, either; it fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.


Jess Wong and Angie Redmond are best friends and have been since sixth grade. They both come from diverse families, they’re both lesbians, and they don’t fit in at their school. But for Jess, their relationship goes so much deeper than Angie realizes; she’s passionately in love with her, so much so that the line blurs between love, devotion, and obsession. But when Angie meets a beautiful rich girl named Margot and they begin a relationship, Jess is drawn further into a dangerous world of privilege, secrets, and deception, and she realizes that Angie has no idea what’s about to go down. Determined to be there for the girl that she loves, the lives of all three girls are upturned when one of Margot’s classmates goes missing. And Jess is desperate to solve the mystery, not realizing until the end that the disappearance may have more to do with her than she ever could’ve imagined…



I liked this book; it was a tightly wound mystery that blurred the lines between love, friendship, desire and obsession. As a mystery, it was good; the ending was what really got me, by the time the book was over. I wasn’t expecting it. Jess’s narration, observant, sharp, and fierce, colored by jealousy and hopeless longing, had me glued to the pages. Her character was unreliable and a little bit insane, but I loved the fact that she was a budding comic book artist. The pacing was breakneck, and the relationship between her and Angie was fraught with emotion and volatility; the tension was enough to make me scream. I also enjoyed the way that Jess wasn’t afraid to go after what she wanted, whether it be Angie or her dreams of being an artist; she goes to Margot’s school to pursue extra training. The characters of Margot and Ryan were, at first, just stock characters of rich, privileged young women, but they both had layers that had me gasping in shock; I was absolutely astounded by them both by the end of the book, especially Ryan. The ending was what really saved the book; my jaw’s been on the floor since I finished it. This book was a taut, emotional mystery that had me guessing until the last page, literally. It wasn’t perfect, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable! The bottom line: A mystery revolving around two girls who might be obsessed with one another, A Line in the Dark was a dark, twisty thriller that had me guessing well into the night! I really enjoyed it, despite some flaws. Next on deck: The Glass Spare by Lauren Destefano!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Odd and True by Cat Winters Review

Title: Odd and True
Author: Cat Winters
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
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; I’ve read several of Cat Winters’s short stories, but I haven’t read any of her full novels until now. First of all, the cover, full of supernatural symbols and two girls who look ready to take names and kick some butt, one dark haired and mysterious, the other in blonde braids, wielding an axe with a no-nonsense look in her eye, caught my eye. But once I began to read, I couldn’t put it down; the book goes back and forth between the two sisters: Trudchen, or ‘Tru’ to her loved ones, the younger sister who is wheelchair-ridden after contracting polio as a child, longs for her older sister, Odette, who has left home to work in the circus. When Odd unexpectedly returns, revealing that all the stories she told Tru in childhood may in fact be true, the two sisters set out on a journey to Philadelphia, to find the truth about their family. But it turns out that each sister has her own secrets to hide, particularly from the past. And they will both discover just how much is true about the dark undertaking of their ancestors…

This book was really good; I enjoyed it very much! I liked the way the narrative moved back and forth between Tru and Odd, and it made the pacing really snappy; it felt like this book grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go. It also didn’t hurt that the prose was gorgeous, especially from Odd’s point of view. I related to her a lot, actually; she was a passionate, fierce storyteller who used fiction to help her deal with the harshness of reality. I loved Tru, as well, because yay for a disabled main character! It made me so happy, but I also loved her desire to believe in her sister’s fables, despite the fact that she knows that they may all very well be a set of indulgent fantasies. I also really loved her character development. At the beginning of the book, she’s living with her aunt Viktoria, certain that she will be stuck on the farm forever, helping out with chores when the pain isn’t too terrible. By the end, she’s a strong woman in her own right, with fierce monster-hunting skills and power of her own. Odd’s character development was pretty awesome as well; I loved the way she unapologetically embraced her family’s heritage, even though the profession of monster hunting wasn’t exactly acceptable in the late 19th century.

Her character development was really wonderful; I loved her confidence and bravado in a time that sought only to crush her. And the reason behind her sudden departure from home was awful, brutal, and heartbreaking; I was crying through much of the book when that was discussed. The harsh reality of what happened to women in a socially unfavorable situation floored me and was like a punch to the gut. I really admire Odd’s unshakable character and determination, even in the face of tragedy. The tension was also another big factor in the book; I was constantly wondering if the girls did, in fact, have magical powers, or if it was all just a flight of fancy.


I really liked the other characters, too: Odd and Tru’s mother, beaten down by multiple tragedies and the circumstances in her life, their stern Aunt Vik, who has done nothing but shoulder responsibility and walk the straight and narrow path from childhood, their Uncle Magnus, whose charisma and tales of magic and fantasy set fire to Odd’s own penchant for storytelling. The only thing that I didn’t really like was that it ended a bit too neatly. It was good, but I wish there had been more development. Nonetheless, this book was really good, and I enjoyed it! One of my favorite books of 2017! The bottom line: A haunting, beautiful novel about two sisters who may or may not have magical powers, Odd and True was a rip-roaring adventure through 19th century America, full of history, excitement, and more than a little bit of magic, and I loved almost everything about it! Next on deck: A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo!

Warcross by Marie Lu Review

Title: Warcross
Author: Marie Lu
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Warcross, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Warcross was chosen as the November book for one of the library book clubs that I go to, and I’m not gonna lie; I was stoked when I received the news. I’d already had it in my stack earlier in the month, but I hadn’t been able to finish it before I had to take it back. When I was told about it, I ordered it the night that I got home from the September meeting. I put it on the top of my stack the weekend before book club, so I’d have ample time to read it. First of all: the cover! It’s so pretty and futuristic-looking! Marie Lu is one of my favorite authors; she captured my heart with The Young Elites series, and so now, I’ll pretty much read anything that she writes. (Cue Hopelessly Devoted to You!) Warcross is a series opener, a science fiction debut that explores themes such as the meshing of technology with real life, the true meaning of family, free will, and what it really means to be independent and how to stand on your own two feet.
Emika Chen is someone who has lived on the outskirts her whole life; ever since her father’s untimely death from cancer, she has become a scavenger, an outsider looking in. Never mind that she is a genius hacker and gamer. Desperate for cash and on the verge of being evicted from her apartment, she hacks into a game of Warcross; think of something like Warcraft and Minecraft mixed together and you’ve got something close to it, only it takes place in virtual reality—literally. When she is caught, the game’s creator, Hideo Tanaka, demands an audience. Expecting the worst kind of retribution, Tanaka offers her just the opposite: a job, all expenses and debts paid off, and the only catch is that Emika catch the mysterious fellow hacker that is determined to derail the international Warcross Championships. But the deeper that Emika digs, the more she realizes that everyone has something to hide, and some secrets are worth killing for…

This book was a great series opener, and I really enjoyed it! It was a fun, colorful and unexpected departure from her usual dystopian futures and fantasy. The writing was beautiful, sharp, and descriptive, and the pacing was breakneck; I was glued to the pages and finished the book within two days. But even more than that, I was totally seduced by the futuristic Tokyo that Emika lives in, full of color, excitement, and next generation technology. And the way that games were incorporated into the book was really fun and exciting! And Hideo Tanaka! Oh my gosh, the romance between the two of them was heart-melting and had me fanning myself! I also really enjoyed the other characters, particularly Emika’s competitors.  The added mystery of Zero, deep inside of the dark net, just added another great layer to the book. And that ending! Oh my God, Marie Lu, how could you do that to me?! I can’t possibly wait another year for the sequel! The bottom line: A slick, futuristic series opener, Warcross captivated my mind and stole my heart, and I can’t wait for the next book! Next on deck: Odd and True by Cat Winters!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake Review

Title: One Dark Throne
Author: Kendare Blake
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Series: Three Dark Crowns, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I’ve been a fan of Kendare Blake ever since she published her debut novel, Anna Dressed in Blood. In fact, I bought my own copy as soon as it came out in paperback. It’s still sitting on my shelf to his day. Three Dark Crowns was one of my favorite books of last year, so when I found out that the sequel was coming out, I was so stoked. I immediately put a hold on it at my library, and when it came in, I was practically squealing with joy and excitement. It sat in my stack for a while, and finally, I had one last renewal on it before I had to take it back to the library. I put it at the top of my stack, and then I started to read. First of all, I loved the fact that there was a map and a list of characters at the beginning; it was nice to have references when I got lost. But I was quickly drawn again into the triplets’ dangerous world, full of dark magic, political power plays and uneasy alliances, and a fight for the ultimate prize: to be the Queen of Fennbirn.
Feuding triplet queens Mirabella, Katharine, and Arsinoe have come a long way since their childhood. Elemental Mirabella is hesitant to kill her sisters, even though her victory is all but assured. Arsinoe, the naturalist, long considered the runt, the sacrifice, discovers that there may be more to her power than she ever could’ve imagined. And finally, Katharine, the poisoner queen, has crawled up from the depths of a dark pit and become endowed with a dark, mysterious power. All three are reeling from the fierce war they’ve fought since coming of age, and they must decide what they want more: each other or the crown.


This sequel was really, really good! It took a few minutes for me to remember what was going on, but once I really got into it, I couldn’t put it down. Blake takes the reader all across the country, between the viewpoints of the three queens and several of their courtiers. I really liked the pacing, because once things really started rolling, I couldn’t put it down! I was captivated by the lush, gorgeous prose, and I was frantic to find out what was going on. I loved the way the book elaborated on events from the previous one, especially where Arsinoe and Katharine were concerned! All the awesome character development! Almost against my will, I was rooting for all three of them! I also really enjoyed the way the side characters: Madrigal, Jules, Joseph, Billy, Pietyr, and Eva, were brought in and given a more pivotal role. And that ending, oh my gosh! There better be a sequel or I will never recover! The bottom line: The long-awaited sequel to one of Blake’s best books, One Dark Throne completely exceeded my expectations! I can’t wait for the next book! 2018 can’t come soon enough! Next on deck: Warcross by Marie Lu! 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge Review

Title: A Face Like Glass
Author: Frances Hardinge
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Frances Hardinge won my heart earlier this year when I read her book, The Lie Tree. So as soon as I was finished with it, I sought out her work. I was visiting one of the other libraries I go to, and I saw A Face Like Glass sitting on a shelf. I immediately took it home; when I finally got to it in my library stack, I was so excited. The cover was breathtaking and mysterious, and I was entranced by the image of a mysteriously grinning mask. But what really was wonderful was the story that lie inside; a fantastical, food-laden mystery rife with political intrigue, self-realization, secrets, dangerous objects that can affect anything from your perception to your memories, and people who cannot form their own facial expressions; I was captivated by the dangerous, mysterious world of Caverna, and the girl at the center of it, Neverfell, who must hide her face behind a mask. Her expressions are entirely true and genuine, and in Caverna, that makes her a most vital and dangerous asset indeed…



This book was wonderful! I was totally entranced by the worldbuilding, and by Neverfell, the girl who was found sleeping in the walls of a cheesemaker’s home. Caverna was a frightening, seductive place where Faces were crafted, wines created to forget memories, and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer, even as he moves to slit your throat. The prose was beautiful, the pacing breakneck, and soon, I was frantically flipping pages, desperate to find out what would happen to Neverfell as she digs into her past, trying to figure out where she came from and why exactly she’s so different. A Face Like Glass was filled with political intrigue, self-realization (I loved Neverfell’s character development!), dangerous secrets and alliances, and frightening, clandestine designs for power. The format was unusual and exciting, and I really enjoyed it! It was a delightful, weird fantasy that explored timeless themes of self-reliance and self-expression, and I really loved Neverfell, a strange, delightfully inquisitive child who just wants to know more about the outside world. Other characters are a standout as well: the intriguing, mysterious Kleptomancer, a thief who delights in boggling the authorities with his seemingly impossible heists; and the various Face-makers who populate Caverna, and the family who takes Neverfell under their wing, for dark reasons of their own. Yet another wonderful, exciting book filled with layers thoughout, Frances Hardinge has penned another home run of a novel! A Face Like Glass is my favorite novel I’ve read from her thus far! The bottom line: A gorgeous, beautiful novel that highlights one naïve, sheltered girl’s coming of age, I loved A Face Like Glass—it’s one of the best of Frances Hardinge’s novels! Next on deck: One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake!

A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess Review

Title: A Poison Dark and Drowning
Author: Jessica Cluess
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Kingdom on Fire, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Jessica Cluess really impressed me last year with her series debut, A Shadow Bright and Burning. I loved the way it was billed as Jane Eyre mixed with the magic of Harry Potter, and it was one of my favorite books of 2016. So when I was browsing at my local library, the cover caught my eye when I pulled it off of the shelf, and when I realized that it was the sequel, I immediately took it home. It stayed in my stack for a while, and then I began to read it. I was so excited when I picked it up, because even though it’s been more than a year since I read it, I was thrust right back into Henrietta’s dark, glittering, dangerous world. Normally, sequels make me nervous; all too often, they get overhyped and then I end up with the bitter taste of disappointment in my mouth for days. But A Poison Dark and Drowning more than lived up to my expectations, and I can’t wait for the sequel! How am I supposed to wait until it’s published?!

Henrietta ‘Hettie’ Howell has officially been instated as a sorcerer by the Queen of England. But the war between the dark, demonic forces of The Ancient Ones has only intensified; as the body count climbs, she begins to discover a whole slew of secrets about everything she thought she knew: her superiors, the prophecy that foretold her being the chosen one, and even her heritage. But even more pressing than that, her troubling feelings for her childhood best friend, Rook, whose last encounter with the Ancient Ones have left him forever changed. As Henrietta digs deeper, she discovers that the key to winning the war may be nearby, and her fellow warriors, stoic, hard to read Blackwood, and the relentless flirt Magnus, trying to win his way back into her good graces. They will face down evil, forge new, powerful alliances, and uncover what Henrietta has been searching for all along: the truth.
This sequel was absolutely wonderful! I was a little nervous when I first started, because for a minute, I couldn’t remember what was going on; it took a little bit for my memory to catch up with the narrative. But once I remembered the last book, and the book really started going, I couldn’t put it down! The pacing was breakneck, the prose gory and gorgeous all at once, and I was absolutely spellbound. I was rooting for Henrietta throughout the book, and my heart broke for her as the violence and death kept mounting. But even more than that, the relationship between Henrietta and Rook was so sweet and tender and… Gah! Just gah! Full of romance, action, magic, dark secrets, and political intrigue, and a killer cliffhanger, I loved A Poison Dark and Drowning! Filled with characters both new and familiar, this sequel had everything I wanted, and now, I just can’t wait for the next book! One of my favorite books of 2017! The bottom line: The sequel to the runaway hit A Shadow Bright and Burning, I loved A Poison Dark and Drowning—I only wish that I didn’t have to wait for the next one! Next on deck: A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows Review

Title: Before She Ignites
Author: Jodi Meadows
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Fallen Isles Trilogy, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Jodi Meadows stole my heart when she co-authored My Lady Jane with Brodi Ashton and Cynthia Hand, but to be honest, I hadn’t read any of her individual work. But when I found Before She Ignites through a recommendation, I was excited. First of all, the cover was gorgeous and captivated my attention immediately. And the plot. Political intrigue! Romance! Rebellion and revolution! Dragons! Jodi Meadows has penned an exciting, new twist on the fantasy genre, and I can’t wait to see what comes next in this exciting series!

Mira Minkoba is called The Hopebringer, named after the treaty that brought the cluster of islands she lives on peace. She is held in high esteem, propped on a pedestal her whole life. Her life has been a pampered, sheltered one, and though she isn’t really one for politics, her true passion lies in caring for the dragons that are protected under the treaty. But when she finds out a shocking, devastating secret about those dragons and the people who care for them and tries to speak out, she finds herself stripped of any power she ever had and thrown into The Pit, a notorious prison known for containing the islands’ most nefarious criminals. Alone, frightened, and isolated for the first time in her life, Mira must dig down deep and try to find strength she’s never needed before, for the dragons she loves so dearly and the islands she has helped shape.


This book was amazing! First of all, that cover though; it was what initially drew me to the book. I really liked the formatting of the novel, the way that both Mira’s story and the worldbuilding were told backwards. Plus, magic! Dragons! Political intrigue! Deadly secrets and rebellion! This book had everything that I want in a fantasy and more, but it put a unique spin on it. More than any of these factors, I really liked Mira and her character development. She grew from a meek, sheltered princess into a fierce warrior in her own right. And that ending though! Oh my gosh, how am I supposed to wait for the sequel?! Before She Ignites was a thrilling, beautifully written series debut that grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go. Altan was a fascinating, complex villain that had me guessing constantly, and Mira’s budding friendship with Aaru had me cheering! I also really adored the supporting characters, especially Mira’s childhood friends and the cunning advisor that is mentioned throughout the book. Though it was slow to start, I really enjoyed it, and Mira Minkoba will forever be remembered within my heart. I can’t wait for the sequel! The bottom line: Chock full of magic, political intrigue, deadly secrets, romance and rebellion, I loved Before She Ignites, and I can’t wait for the next book in the series! Next on deck: A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess! 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell Review

Title: The Last Magician
Author: Lisa Maxwell
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Series: The Last Magician, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I found this book through a recommendation I found online, and it sat in my library stack for a while, staring at me, beautiful and ominous all at once. And I was busy reading another book, and it went back to the library soon. My husband was looking for a book to read in his spare time, and so I recommended it and let him read it before me. He ended up devouring it in a week and told me to read it as soon as I was done with the book I was currently reading. I did, and I was absolutely blown away! This book is a strange, heady cocktail of historical fiction, fantasy, romance, action, and adventure, all culminating into a rip-roaring tale that captured my heart and turned the gears of my mind at high speed, leaving me breathless and shocked long after the last page.
Esta is a thief, one of the best. But what makes her different is that she can harness magic to literally stop time! When she is sent to Gilded Age New York to steal a magical book that could change the past and the future, she discovers a diverse case of characters, all of them gifted with strange abilities, just like her. But this isn’t the New York of 2017, and dangerous, dark forces, human and otherwise, are converging upon them, forcing a race against the clock. And that’s not even including the troubling chemistry between herself and Harte Darrigan, a mysterious, handsome magician whose easy smile and charm hide a dark past and even more dangerous secrets. Will Esta succeed in her quest, or will everything fall apart?

I really, really liked this book, my husband’s opinions notwithstanding. It was unusual and exciting, a fun, adventurous blend of fantasy, historical fiction, romance, and action. The pacing was snappy and breakneck, and though it was difficult to get into at first because of the different viewpoints, I was captivated by Esta, and her journey from the present to gorgeous, dangerous Gilded Age New York, where magic hides in plain sight and brutal gangs fight for supremacy. I loved Esta and the cast of supporting characters, especially in the past. I was absolutely spellbound, and I was frantically turning pages in order to finish it, both because of needing to return it and the even greater desire to find out what was going to happen. I had no idea who to trust: the cold, shady Dolph, mob boss and protector of the neighborhood, beautiful, feisty assassin Viola, second in command, quiet, unnerving Nibs, and Jack, the poor little rich boy who wants the book for his own purposes. This book was pretty much perfect, down to the ending that’s shocked me to my core, to this day. I’m so excited that there’s going to be a sequel, because that cliffhanger was one heck of a doozy! The bottom line: A deliciously twisty, fast-paced adventure through time and history, The Last Magician is one of my favorite books of 2017, and I just can’t wait for more! Next on deck: Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows!

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo Review

Title: The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Short Story Collections
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Leigh Bardugo won my heart several years ago, with her debut novel, Shadow and Bone. I never finished The Grisha Trilogy, but when Six of Crows came out, I read that, and I’m actually rereading it aloud to my husband. So when I heard that she was publishing a fully illustrated collection of short stories set in different lands of her Grishaverse, I was so excited, and I immediately put it on hold at my local library. It sat in my library stack for a month or so, beckoning me with its creepy cover and lovingly rendered illustrations. When I finally got to it, I was so excited. First of all, the gorgeous illustrations! Second of all: fairy tales! I’m a total sucker for both, and Leigh Bardugo pulls no punches with this collection of six stories, taking traditional stories and gutting them open. I was absolutely enthralled, and I loved the way the stories gave an interesting viewpoint into the many diverse cultures of the Grishaverse. Normally short story collections are a grab bag for me, but every one of these tales was beautifully written, lushly illustrated, dark and gory and magical, and I was absolutely enchanted. I devoured this collection in a day and a half, and for weeks after, the illustrations have danced through my dreams, coloring even my thoughts in sleep.

Amaya and the Thorn Wood reminded me a bit of Beauty and the Beast, The Arabian Nights, and The Brave Little Tailor mixed together. I really liked the main character, because at the beginning, she seemed like an unlikely hero. The prose was beautiful, as were the illustrations, and I was totally spellbound. I loved the way the poor village girl braved a dark, enchanting forest to tell stories to a misunderstood monster. And the way it ended! It was so wonderful and gleefully wicked. I loved it.

The next story was The Too-Clever Fox, and this one is vying for my favorite book in the whole collection. This one is set in the dark, wintry forests, and the titular fox spends the story scheming his way out of various scrapes and close calls. That is, until he lets his guard down and gets close to a village girl, and barely manages to escape with his life. I loved the tone, and it was almost like a Grimm’s fairy tale mixed with an Aesop fable. Plus, it had a very magical feel, what with the talking animals, mysterious hunters, and villains that aren’t obvious. This story is one of my favorites; a fable about trust, bravery, and resourcefulness.

The Witch of Duva follows these two, and it was inspired by Hansel and Gretel. A young woman gets lost in the woods after being ousted by her family members, and when the enticing, bewitching (heh, I couldn’t resist, sorry not sorry!) scent of candy and gingerbread leads her to a witch’s home, she doesn’t get eaten; in fact, she becomes the witch’s assistant and apprentice. When she realizes that her savior is hiding dark secrets, she must decide if she should leave and forge her own path, or stay with the best friend she’s ever known. I really liked the way the Hansel and Gretel tale was flipped onto its head, with the witch not as a villain but a strong woman who rose above her circumstances, even becoming an adoptive mother! Flipped fairy tales for the win!

Little Knife was another favorite of mine, and I loved it. Rife with romance, deception, magic, and talking rivers, it is the tale of the poor man trying to win the rich beauty. Faced with several challenges along the way, the man asks the river, whom he names Little Knife, for help. The river obliges each time, until the man wins the girl. But it turns out that Little Knife will be owned by no one, and the river offers the man’s fiancée a life of freedom, away from the trappings of wealth and political intrigue of her family. I loved this story. First of all, talking rivers. Second of all, a jaw-dropping, feminist ending! I was reeling at the end. Wily beings and unexpecting endings for the win!
The Soldier Prince is the second to last story in the collection, and I loved that it was inspired by The Nutcracker. That’s always been one of my very favorite stories, from the time that I saw the ballet in elementary school. A clever toymaker crafts a little soldier, to spy on the daughter of a rich merchant’s family. And at first, the little soldier prince follows along with the plan, enchanting the young woman with gorgeous, magical worlds that may or may not be real. But when he realizes his origins and begins to rebel against his ‘father’s’ plans, he begins to wonder what he, and not his master, wants for his life, and begins to harness the magic within himself. I really liked the tone of the story, the prose and pacing, and I was pleasantly shocked by the ending!

When Water Sang Fire is the last story of the book, and I was absolutely enthralled by it. It’s my favorite of the whole volume. I love The Little Mermaid; it’s one of my favorite Hans Christen Anderson fairy tales, and I loved it even more when I saw the Disney film when it came out. (Cue Part of Your World for me! Lol.) But Bardugo gives this retelling an even darker, magical twist: Royal sirens! Two misfits in the ocean gravitate toward each other, bound by magic and their longing for more than their pitiful lives among the sea people. When they and their best friend, the prince of their realm, go up to land for the first time, they discover the wonders and trappings of the human world. When the prince asks his friends to do something unforgivable, the trio are divided for the first time. When they give in to the call of the dark power of forbidden magic, one ends up married, the other, transformed into a powerful, vengeful sea witch. I loved the ending, and the illustration caught my imagination and stopped my heart. What a story to pick for the closer! Overall, this collection is one of the best of 2017, and easily one of my favorite works of Leigh Bardugo. I loved every moment of it! The bottom line: A magical, dark volume of fantastic, original fairy and folk tales, The Language of Thorns is one of my favorites of the year! What a fantastic work! Next on deck: The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green Review

Title: Turtles All the Way Down
Author: John Green
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Mystery
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

John Green is a household name, a bestselling sensation, in the United States and around the world. For me, personally, I read one of his first novels, Looking for Alaska, and fell in love. It remains on my bookshelf to this day. I read The Fault in Our Stars, and ever since, I’ve been waiting with bated breath for his latest. His first novel in five years, Turtles All The Way Down tells the story of Aza Holmes, a young woman whose life is bogged down by crippling, debilitating anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. When her best friend, Daisy, catches wind of a billionaire on the run, she is soon roped into an intriguing, race against the clock mystery. And the reward? A whopping hundred thousand dollars. In the process, Aza reconnects with a childhood friend, the son of aforementioned billionaire fugitive, Davis Pickett. As she navigates her mental illness, she is also trying to be a good daughter, friend, student, and amateur sleuth. This book was tender, beautiful, heartbreaking, and laugh out loud funny. One of my favorite books of 2017, it explores friendship, resilience, and what it means to be yourself, even if you happen to feel like you’re imprisoned in your own head. With his usual panache and gentle humor, John Green gets personal in this book; he himself suffers from OCD and wanted to show readers what it is like.

  I’ll admit, first of all, that I was really nervous, to begin with. After all, it’s been five years since John Green’s prose swept the world over, and I was very anxious to get my hands on it, so when I got it from my local library, I was excited and anxious all at once. But I tried to put my reservations aside because this was John Green, and as soon as I got wind of the publication of Turtles All The Way Down, I reserved it at the library. And I wasn’t disappointed. This book offers a poignant, bittersweet look on Aza and her coming of age story. She was a sympathetic, complex main character that had me laughing and crying in droves. Her tentative relationship with Davis made my heart ache. And Daisy… Daisy. I’ve never had such mixed feelings about a character, and that’s saying something. The pacing was breakneck, and as I followed Aza on her ill-fated journey toward more money than she’s ever seen, I couldn’t put it down. Even when I did, Aza worked her way into my mind and heart, and I will never forget her. Usually, books about mental illness make me nervous, because it can be handled wrong. But John Green didn’t just write a wonderful book; this is quite possibly a hit right out of the park. This is my second favorite book of Green’s, and I absolutely cannot wait for more! The bottom line: With beautiful prose, tender, poignant moments, an ill-fated romance with a mystery at the center, I loved Turtles All The Way Down! Next on deck: The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo!

Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popovic Review

Title: Wicked Like a Wildfire
Author: Lana Popovic
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Hibiscus Daughter, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I found Wicked Like a Wildfire like I find most of my library books; a recommendation for one of the new books of 2017. I was enthralled by the cover, as well as the description. But the book itself, the beautiful prose, intriguing worldbuilding and plot, engaging characters, and the killer ending—Wicked Like a Wildfire has become one of my favorite books of 2017! Full of magic, dark family secrets, myths and legends, and a heck of a lot of girl power, it stole my heart and enchanted my imagination, and I can’t wait for the next book!

Sisters Iris and Malina live cloistered lives, keeping to themselves and the company of their strange, icy mother, Jasmina. They have strange abilities called ‘gleams’, passed down through their bloodline. Each daughter is born with an ability to create their own kind of beauty. For Iris, that means creating beautiful, kaleidoscope-like fractals in everything, but especially flowers. As for Malina, she can create music out of feelings she senses. And their cold, formidable mother, Jasmina, can conjure the tastes and smells of familiar places. They keep to themselves, until one night, their mother is found barely clinging to life, stuck in a strange place between it and death. Iris and Malina begin to search for answers, only to find that their gleams are the result of an ancient and deadly curse, and they must race against the clock to save themselves, their mother, and their family, or it could mean the end of the world as they know it…


This book was so lovely! Though it was initially the cover that drew my attention, it was the story inside that bewitched my imagination and took my breath away. The worldbuilding was unique, dark, and exciting, and combined with the pacing, I couldn’t put it down. Even when I did, it invaded my dreams. The gorgeous setting of Montenegro had me dying of wanderlust, and I couldn’t help but follow the sisters on their journey to discover their origins and save their prickly, cantankerous mother. The pacing was breakneck, and I loved the way the classic ‘magical girl’ trope was turned onto its head. But even more than that, I loved the characters, Iris and Malina’s quirky, secretive family. I cheered for Iris and Malina, but Iris was my favorite; I loved the way she wasn’t afraid to go after what she wanted, the consequences be damned. I was absolutely enthralled throughout the book, but my favorite part was the second half. And that ending! Oh my gosh, how am I supposed to wait until next summer for the sequel?! I’m dying here! Dying, I tell you! I mean, talk about a cliffhanger! I can’t wait to see what Lana Popovic has up her sleeve! The bottom line: With complex, well-drawn out characters, exciting, original worldbuilding, beautiful prose, and a killer ending, Wicked Like a Wildfire has cemented its place in my must-read line up of 2017! Next on deck: Turtles All The Way Down by John Green!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Invictus by Ryan Graudin Review

Title: Invictus
Author: Ryan Graudin
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I found Invictus through one of the many book sites that I follow; the plot (time travel! Always time travel for the win!) and the gorgeous, modern cover was what caught my eye. I've heard of Ryan Graudin, with her books about fairies and then a weird, wonderful take on World War II, but this is the first novel I've ever read by her. And what a book it was! Time travel, high-speed chases, hilarious banter, sexual tension so high it'll make you scream in frustration, and characters who I loved instantly, I loved Invictus! Despite some issues that had me confused, it has become one of my favorite books of 2017!

Farway Gauis McCarthy is a boy born outside of time, literally. His mother, Empra, fell in love with a Roman gladiator. And Farway wants nothing more than to be a Recorder just like his mother. But when his final sim exam at the Academy goes wrong, all of his dreams seem to go up in smoke. That is until he is approached by a mysterious benefactor, offering the opportunity of a lifetime: He can be the captain of his own ship, but only if he jumps through time and steals valuable historical objects. But when a mysterious girl botches his crew's first mission, Far begins to realize that bigger forces than he could've ever realized are coming, and if they catch up to him, it could be the end of time itself...

This book was a fun, wild thrill ride through time and space, and I really enjoyed it! Time travel is iffy for me, personally, because first of all, it's an overdone trope in sci-fi, and it can be hard to follow. But Invictus, regardless of the confusing parts, really won me over. The plot was like a futuristic Ocean's Eleven, and it was really exciting. But more than that, I loved the characters; by the end of the book, I felt like I had lost a great group of friends. (All the ugly crying!) The pacing was breakneck, the format unusual, and by the end, I was frantically turning pages, desperate to know what was going to happen. I laughed, swooned, and cried, sucked into Far's adventure across time. I also really adored the way that family (in all of its forms) was emphasized. And that ending, goodness! I cried so hard! I couldn't give this a full five stars, though, because some of the technological information was hard to follow. Nonetheless, it was great! The bottom line: Invictus was a wonderful, heartfelt romp through time and space, complete with action, romance, and more than a few twists and turns! One of my favorite books of 2017! Next on deck: Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popovic!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Little Monsters by Kara Thomas Review

Title: Little Monsters
Author: Kara Thomas
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

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

I found Little Monsters the way I usually find my library books; a recommendation. It's been sitting in my library stack for a few weeks now and after some rearranging, it sat at the top of the stack, beckoning me with its curiously colorful, ominous cover. And what better thing to read in preparation for Halloween, but a twisty, taut thriller that had me on the edge of my seat? Normally I'm leery about thrillers because usually, I can predict the ending/killer before the book is half over. But Little Monsters surprised me in the best kinds of ways, and it's become one of my favorite novels of 2017. Dark, thoughtful, and genuinely frightening, I devoured this book in two and a half days, until the shocking, explosive conclusion. Kara Thomas has become one of my new favorite authors with this hair-raising, creepy thriller!

Kacey Young is a girl that doesn't fit in, with her messy family situation. After a feud with her volatile mother, she moves to Broken Falls, Wisconson, to live with her distant father. Alone in her new, wintry surroundings, Jade and Bailey take her under their wings. They are a tight-knit trio who do everything together. But when Kacey isn't invited to the biggest party of the year, she can't shake the feeling that something is wrong. That feeling only worsens when Bailey disappears. Forced to dig deep into Broken Falls's history and the rich, dark inner lives of its residents, Kacey realizes that she can't trust anyone and that Bailey's disappearance may be closer to home than she could've ever realized...

This book was so much fun! From the unusual format, revealing Bailey's mysterious motivations between chapters, to the breakneck pacing, and the constant red herrings, Little Monsters has restored my spotty love for the mystery/thriller genre. I devoured it in a short, frenzied two and a half days, and even when I wasn't reading, the grim, chill setting of Broken Falls seeped into my mind, sending my mind spinning in circles. It also helps that I have a special love for friendships gone bad stories, especially teenage girl friendships gone bad. I was captivated, and I couldn't figure out who did it until the end. Even then, I wasn't expecting it; the ending had me screaming in shock! Kacey's terse, tight narration kept ratcheting up the tension, and even when I was finished, I was still reeling. If you're looking for a good mystery because you don't want to be done with Halloween, (and I count myself among that number) you should definitely check out Little Monsters! The bottom line: Secrets, lies, gossip, and poisonous jealousy all combine in a lethal cocktail in Kara Thomas's sophomore novel! One of the best thrillers of 2017! Next on deck: Invictus by Ryan Graudin!

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Special Ones by Em Bailey Review

Title: The Special Ones
Author: Em Bailey
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.

The Special Ones was the book club pick for one of the libraries that I go to, and I checked it out even before I knew that it was the Halloween pick for our book club. It sat in my library stack until the week of book club; I always like to read the book on the day of, or a few days prior, to the meeting so it stays fresh in my mind. I started reading The Special Ones on Sunday and finished it the next day. A dark tale of cults, religious fanaticism, and the surprising endurance of hope in the face of terrible danger, Em Bailey's creepy novel had me spellbound against my will, grabbing me by the throat and not letting go until the very end. Even when I wasn't reading it, it remained in my thoughts, taking up resident space in my brain and sending my thoughts into a whirlwind. If you're looking for a creepy, dark psychological thriller to read in preparation for Halloween, you need to check out this visceral debut Aussie novel!

Esther is one of The Special Ones, chosen by a mysterious man named 'He' to be reincarnated. As His most devout disciple, she keeps her head down, does as she's told, and keeps the delicate way of life of their farm going. She tries to convince herself that she is happy, but the only thing that brightens the monotony of her days is her friend, Harry. When the chance for freedom comes along, Esther risks everything to break free of her leader and get back to the normal world. But He won't let her go without a fight, not when his obsession with her has reached its peak...

I'll start this review off by saying that I have mixed feelings about The Special Ones. It was enjoyable as a story, but it ended up bringing up some bad memories. My family and I were in a cult throughout high school, and it ended with us leaving when I was a senior. It didn't affect me as much as it did my family, and I couldn't help but picture the mysterious 'Him' as the man who tried to ruin our lives. Nonetheless, this debut was creepy, dark, and often bittersweet. With gorgeous prose that explores both the horrors and tiny miracles that make humanity, The Special Ones really captured my imagination, often against my will. I was frantically flipping pages to try and unravel the mystery. I really liked Esther and her creepy, sparse narration. The resilience of her spirit was really encouraging and inspiring. And her forbidden love with Harry! Gah, it killed me!

I didn't really like any of the other characters, and it was a little jarring when the point of view switched. I liked the way that we were given a glimpse into the mind of the villain, but I still have so many unanswered questions; I feel like though it was open-ended, there were a lot of things that weren't cleared up. I liked the ending, but I wish there had been more information about how the characters were doing in the aftermath; like a longer epilogue? Nonetheless, what a book to read in preparation for the spookiest night of the year! The bottom line: A dark, frightening tale of secrets, lies, scary villains, and a quest for freedom, I really liked The Special Ones! Next on deck: Little Monsters by Kara Thomas!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George Review

Title: Speak Easy, Speak Love
Author: McKelle George
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I'm currently reading It, per my best friend's recommendation, and I decided to have a backup book to read at night so I wouldn't have nightmares. Speak Easy, Speak Love was the first backup book in what I'm sure is to be a series. It had a hold on it and I wanted to finish it before it went back to the library. The cover was what drew my eye in the first place, and I was even more intrigued by its contents: a young adult retelling of Much Ado About Nothing, set in the Roaring '20s? To say that I was on board with this is a huge understatement. Speak Easy, Speak Love has made McKelle George one of my new favorite authors, and it's one of my favorite books of 2017!

Beatrice Clark is a strong, independent young woman, down on her luck, who is forced to depend on long-lost relatives' generosity to decide what to do about her future. When she arrives at her uncle Leo's lavish estate, named Hey Nonny Nonny, she is soon drawn into a glittering world full of illegal alcohol, glittering parties, and secret alliances, loves, and friendships. When she meets the infuriating yet intriguing Benedick Scott, she finds that they have a particular chemistry that may, in fact, be something more than attraction. But she may have to dodge bullets, stitch up a few people, and piece her family back together in order to explore those feelings.

I really, really liked this book! First of all, I love Shakespeare retellings, and The Roaring 20s is one of my favorite eras of history, so the mashup of both was one of my favorite aspects of the novel. The prose was electric and had me often swooning or laughing. The setting of lush, gorgeous  Hey Nonny Nonny stole my imagination and took my breath away. But what really made me love this book were its characters, all well-written and three dimensional, so much so that they felt like friends almost at once. George paints a beautiful scene, populated with characters that I really grew to love and root for. Independent, fierce Beatrice, worldly and sophisticated Hero, jaded, prickly Benedick, and Maggie, the African-American jazz singer are especially standouts. And I cried so hard, especially at that ending! It killed me! This book has become one of my favorites of 2017. I can't wait for more from McKelle George! The bottom line: A historical twist on a classic Shakespeare play, Speak Easy, Speak Love is one of my favorite novels of the fall! What a lovely, emotional romance!

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!