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.