Monday, April 23, 2018

Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst Review

Title: Inkmistress
Author: Audrey Coulthurst
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: Of Fire and Stars, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Audrey Coulthurst caught my eye last year with her lovely, romantic slow burn of a debut, Of Fire and Stars. So when I found out that she was writing a new novel, set in the same world but taking place hundreds of years before, I was so excited. It’s been sitting in the library pile for a while now, and when I realized I couldn’t renew it, I pushed it to the top of the stack, and I’m so happy I did. Honestly, I liked Inkmistress better than I liked Of Fire and Stars; the worldbuilding was much clearer and concise. If you like your fantasies with diverse characters, romance, action, magic, mysterious secrets and political intrigue, go pick up this book, I can promise you won’t regret it. Easily one of my favorite books of 2018 and the best book of the duo, in my opinion. Asra and her journey will stay with me forever, engraved on my heart.

Asra is a lonely and powerful demigod, blessed (or cursed, depending on whom you ask) with the power to change the future by writing the outcome in her own blood. Longing to be part of the valley community below her, she wishes that she knew more: about her god parentage, about the outside world, and what love truly feels like. When her lover, Ina, returns to the mountain for a long-awaited reunion, Asra feels as if the missing parts of her life are gone. But when Ina begs for help, Asra reluctantly uses her power, not realizing that this small favor will change her life forever. Desperate for revenge against a corrupt king, Ina delves into forbidden blood magic to get her way, even if it means sacrificing Asra for the outcome. But what she doesn’t know is that Asra herself is behind the slaughter. Forced to face her mistakes and attempt to make things right, she leaves her solitude behind on the mountain and is thrown into a dangerous web of political intrigue, lies, magic, and secrets. Asra must discover who she really is and what she’s capable of, or risk losing everything she’s gained…

This book was so wonderful! Due to time constraints, I almost shelved it and returned it to the library. I’m so glad that I didn’t. I loved Of Fire and Stars, but Inkmistress was even better. The worldbuilding was more clearly explained, and the pacing was breakneck; I was immediately drawn into Asra’s dangerous, magical world, entranced by her voice. I loved her as a character; she was biracial and bisexual, and it was so exciting to see a main character with those characteristics. I loved how brave, feisty, and relatable she was. My heart broke for her as I followed her on her journey from her lonely mountain out into the big, wide world. I loved her character development, it was so refreshing. She transformed from a meek, uncertain young woman into a heroine in her own right, and it was so cool to see. I also really liked Ina and the foil she provided for Asra’s character, though there were many times when I had to put the book down due to pure rage. The other characters, especially Hal, were standouts, and I liked the series of quests that Asra went through to discover herself. And that ending! It was so satisfying and tied up all of the loose ends that lingered. Inkmistress stole my heart and bewitched my imagination, and as such, became one of my favorite books of 2018! The bottom line: Set in the same world as her debut, Of Fire and Stars, but taking place hundreds of years before, I loved Inkmistress! It contained all of my favorite things about fantasy: forbidden romance, magic, political intrigue, danger, and strong characters, especially Asra! Next on deck: The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones Review

Title: Shadowsong
Author: S. Jae-Jones
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Wintersong, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Wintersong was one of my favorite books of last year—a dark, romantic fey retelling of The Labyrinth film, set in 1800s Bavaria—and at first, I thought it was a standalone. So imagine my surprise and delight when it was announced that it would be a duology! Shadowsong has been sitting in my library stack for a while, and when I realized it was on its last renewal, I pushed it to the top of my stack. Right when I finished with Blood Water Paint, I began Shadowsong. (Actually, I tried reading The Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh and it just wasn’t gelling with me, so I shelved it and moved on to Shadowsong.) Of course, as with all sequels, it took me a little while to remember the events of the last book, but Shadowsong was lovely and just as compelling as its predecessor. This time, though, it explores the theme of family, friendship, desire, love in all its forms, dangerous secrets, and most importantly, mental illness. That was honestly what I loved most about this book; it provided an honest and compassionate look at bipolar disorder, and at the same time, it gave me the happy ending that I so desperately craved. With her duo of magical, dark and romantic novels, S. Jae-Jones has become one of my new favorite authors, and I can’t wait to see what she has in store next!

Liesl has returned from the Underground, and is desperate for contact from her siblings, mother, and grandmother. Broken and desperate for a connection to who she once was, she is soon presented with an irresistible opportunity to go to Vienna to search for her brother and finally make contact. But what starts as a new start at a fairy tale life slowly turns into a nightmare. Liesl is haunted by her past, by the wounds she will not acknowledge. So when she begins to see visions and hear voices, she fears that she is losing her mind. Liesl must decide to face her pain, or risk losing everything she knows, including her family and beloved Der Elkoning.


I really, really enjoyed this book, though it was much darker and more serious in tone than Wintersong. I liked the way that the script was flipped; if Wintersong was about Liesl’s passion and self-discovery, Shadowsong was its dark, somber mirror, one that focused on her past and her (mostly) human family. I loved the prose, musical and gorgeous, the breakneck pacing that traveled back and forth between Liesl, her family members, and the Goblin King’s past. But most of all, I loved the character development of the novel. I loved the way that it explored Liesl’s relationship with her family, especially her sister and brother. I also really adored the way that it explored her mental illness—we need more books like this, that show what mental illness is with compassion and understanding. (Dismantle the stigma, folks!) The new characters were wonderful, providing an enchanting, creepy foil to the ones I already knew. Full of magic, tenderness, and the worst kind of pain, the kind that cuts you to the bone and stomps on your soul. And the ending! Oh my gosh, it was so satisfying and emotional! What a perfect, beautiful and bittersweet ending to one of my favorite duologies of the last two years! The only thing that really bothered me was that the pacing was a little stilted, moving as it did between three different points of view. But nonetheless, what a wonderful sequel! I will never forget Liesl, her loving, odd family, or her beloved Goblin King! The bottom line: Lush, tender, and dark, Shadowsong was a beautiful sequel to one of my favorite books of last year, with an ending that broke my heart and put it back together again! Next on deck: Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCollough Review

Title: Blood Water Paint
Author: Joy McCollough
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I found Blood Water Paint through a recommendation list, and it’s been sitting in my library stack for a while, beckoning me with its minimalist, colorful cover.  When I realized that I couldn’t renew it anymore, I pushed it to the top of the stack. I still needed some time to recuperate from the beautiful bombshell that is Children of Blood and Bone, so I left the book for the morning, while I was getting ready to go to a botanical garden. Blood Water Paint tells the story of one of the world’s first well-known female artists, presented with the impossible choice of being a nun or apprenticing for her artist father, whose abusive behavior forms the first benchmarks of her life after losing her mother.  Nonetheless, she clings tight to her dream and the Biblical stories that her mother told her. Her life changes forever when her father hires an artist to tutor her; she falls in love with the dynamic, romantic Tino, and the relationship later morphs into something abusive, something that calls her very being and sense of self into question. Artemisia must decide whether to speak her truth, even if it means losing what she holds most dear.


This painful and relevant novel, told in spare, beautiful free verse form, told the story of the artist Artemisia Gentileschi, forced to work as an apprentice for her less-talented father. Honestly, I didn’t know about her before I read this book, but she was one of the most well-known painters—male or female—after the generation of Caravaggio. I felt a personal kinship with her, partially because we share a birthday. But honestly, after reading this book, I felt like I’d been hit with a lightning bolt. Artemisia was alone, trying to gain entrance into a world that, during this time period, belonged solely to men. My heart bled for this woman, desperate to follow her dreams in a world determined to crush her. She turned to her much older mentor for love, acceptance, and encouragement, and only received brutality in return. To add insult to injury, she is forced through a humiliating trial; the only thing that keeps her close to sane is her artwork and the stories of Judith and Susanna from the Bible. Searing, powerful, timely, brutal yet tender, Blood Water Paint is simply one of the best books I’ve ever read; I devoured it in a matter of hours. Highly recommended to all, especially those looking for a feminist narrative on fine art and the long-lasting effects of rape culture. The bottom line: A beautiful and timely story about a budding female artist in a time where women were not welcome, I loved Blood Water Paint—one of the best books of 2018! Artemisia Gentileschi will be in my heart and mind forever, and not just because she and I share a star sign! Next on deck: Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi Review

Title: Children of Blood and Bone
Author: Tomi Adeyemi
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Legacy of Orisha, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Children of Blood and Bone has been in my to be read pile since before its publication, and since there were many holds on it, I couldn’t renew it. As soon as I finished Truly Devious, I pushed it to the top of the stack and plunged into the dangerous, beautiful, and magical world that Adeyemi renders; this book was absolutely breathtaking. I finished it on Saturday, and I’m still reeling from it. The prose was beautiful, the plot original, the characters remarkable, its brutality terrible. This is one of the best books of 2018, and I will never forget it; it has left a lasting impression upon my heart, shining with humanity and empathy. Told from three different points of view, this book captured my imagination and held me by the throat and didn’t let go, not even until after I closed it. I cannot wait until the sequel comes out!

Children of Blood and Bone takes place in the once magical land of Orisha, told from three different points of view: Amari and Inan, a prince and princess who fear the maji, a powerful race of people who harness different abilities: some can control the elements, others, the dead, and more still have the power to heal or even kill with disease. There’s Zelie as well, the defiant, strong-willed daughter of a powerful Reaper maji, heartbroken and angry after the King Saran has crushed her people, and her heritage. The three teens’ destinies collide (literally) when Amari crosses her path with a magical scroll, offering help. Inan, under orders from his vicious and corrupt father, chases the pair across the country, hiding a dangerous secret that could get him killed. Zelie is determined to fight back in any way that she can; when she receives signs that magic could return to the land, she jumps at the chance. Three people must decide if the perilous quest is worth seeing through, dealing with long nursed grudges and prejudices along the way.


This book, for me, was nothing less than a game-changer. It pulled absolutely no punches; Adeyemi throws you straight into the thick of the conflict, exposing you to the beauty and brutality of the broken land of Orisha. The prose was gorgeous, perfect, hard-hitting. I loved the worldbuilding of the novel; I was absolutely spellbound. I can’t wait for more from the world that the author has created. I laughed, I cheered, I cried. (Mostly I cried. This book was heavy and soulful in the best kind of way.) This book took every single thing I loved and flipped it on its head, and I’m so happy about it! I loved how the book took place in a West-African inspired country; it’s so nice to finally see diverse books in the spotlight! (Now if we could just get that trend to continue…) But I think my favorite part of Children of Blood and Bone was its characters, each distinct and real and wonderful; I loved the development of each of them. It was so refreshing, especially as far as Amari and Inan were concerned. I also really loved the way that Adeyemi used the book as a platform to raise awareness toward the issue of police brutality towards African Americans—her author’s note at the end of the book tore me open, split me apart, and I couldn’t stop crying for days. Frankly, I’m still very shaken by this dark and beautiful novel, and I’ll never forget it; I can’t wait for more from this promising new author! The bottom line: Gorgeously written, smartly paced with its roots in reality, Children of Blood and Bone is one of the best books of 2018, and all I can say is that I’m salivating for more! Next on deck: Blood Water Paint by Joy McCollough!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson Review

Title: Truly Devious
Author: Maureen Johnson
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Truly Devious, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I’ve been a fan of Maureen Johnson’s work since I had the pleasure of reading her debut novel, 13 Little Blue Envelopes. From there, I was a devoted, shameless fangirl. So when I heard that she had a brand new book coming out, the first in a projected series, I was thrilled. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while, and I couldn’t renew it anymore, so I pushed it to the top of the stack and went for it. Johnson presents a tantalizing, creepy, and humorous series debut that had me guessing until the last moment; I finished it on Saturday and I’m still chewing on it, reeling, wondering if there was something that I missed. Rife with riddles, intrigue, and dark humor, I loved Truly Devious—one of the best books of 2018, hands down, and I can’t wait for the sequels!

Truly Devious opens with a creepy, frightening ransom letter that rhymes, setting the tone for the rest of the novel. In a way, this book is like a two for one; it goes back and forth from 1936 to the present day. Stephanie ‘Stevie’ Bell has been accepted to the prestigious Ellingham Academy, named after the riddle-loving millionaire who opened the school. Drawn to the school for the mysterious double murder that occurred there, she finds a group of friends who accepts her for all her quirks. But when one of her classmates dies in an accident, she finds herself wrapped up in a web of lies, deceit, and intrigue, racing against the clock to stop Truly Devious once again. But it seems that this time it is Stevie herself in the killer’s crosshairs, and some secrets just won’t stay buried…


This book was, in a word, fantastic. I was utterly captivated, and I loved the way Johnson transitioned between 1936 and the present day. The pacing was breakneck; the book grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go, not even after the last killer cliffhanger. The format was part of what drew me in; it went from the present day to various documents from the cold case of the Ellinghams’ murder. I was captivated; I loved the historical angle of that part of the story. I also really liked Stevie, who is a bit of a weirdo with an obsession with true crime (much like yours truly!). She was one of my favorite characters in the book, spunky and smart and so unapologetically herself. The pacing was breakneck, and I was laughing, cheering, and scratching my head; this is one of the best books of 2018, and one of the best mystery-thriller novels I’ve read recently. I was constantly guessing, riveted by the prose, chock full of dark humor and heart. And that ending—oh my goodness, I need the sequel right now! Like, right now. Maureen Johnson, I love you so much, and I can’t wait for more from this new, deliciously creepy series opener! The bottom line: A creepy, riveting murder mystery that goes back and forth between 1936 and the present day, Truly Devious was exciting, feminist, and shocking, and I can’t wait for the next books in the series! I’ll never forget Ellingham Academy, its residents, and its dark history! Next on deck: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard Review

Title: Glass Sword
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Series: Red Queen, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Red Queen was a sleeper hit, a blockbuster that I was curious about since before it had come out. Unable to resist any longer, I checked it out from my local library, and I was captivated. As soon as I had an opening in my library stack, I checked out Glass Sword. It had one last renewal on it, so I pushed it to the top of the stack, excited and apprehensive all at once. As soon as I was finished with The Queen’s Rising, I picked this up and began, diving into Mare’s world once again. As far as sequels go, Glass Sword wasn’t a bad one; it tied up loose ends, introduced new characters and brought back familiar ones, was full of action, political intrigue, and rich, exciting character development. The ending was shocking and explosive, and I’m so upset that King’s Cage isn’t in at the library yet!

Glass Sword picks up where Red Queen left off, with Mare on the run from the queen and Maven, the crown prince who desires ultimate power and something else—Mare for his own, no matter the cost. Forced into the uncomfortable position of reluctant revolutionary, she sets forth across the countries to find people like her, people with Red and Silver blood both, in hopes of stopping the bloodshed and taking the crown from the man she once trusted most. With Cal, the misplaced prince, by her side, Mare must decide what more she is willing to sacrifice for justice and freedom, even if the price is her soul and sanity…


I really, really liked this book; I was having some serious sequel anxiety when I began. It took several minutes for me to figure out what was going on, because it had been some time since reading Red Queen, but once things got rolling, Glass Sword had me in its grip and didn’t let go, not even after the last, horrible moment. I just finished it yesterday, and I’m still reeling. The pacing was breakneck, and the prose spare but powerful. I was captivated by the second installment in this series; I’m absolutely invested now. There was a lot of continuity that I liked, there were a lot of topics that were explored more fully in this book. The character development, though, was the star of this novel; Mare’s transformation from a poor, nondescript Red to the head of a revolution, and Cal’s transition from the main heir to the crown to the runaway who must come to terms with the fact that he will have to fight for the crown, against a person who knows him so well that he can predict all of his moves. I also really enjoyed the new characters that were introduced; I’m both relieved and upset that King Cage isn’t here yet, because obviously I need a break after all of that intensity. All I know is, I’m in for the long haul now. I’m so excited for King’s Cage and War Storm; I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Mare Barrow! The bottom line: The second book in the bestseller Red Queen series, Glass Sword was a meaty, thrilling, satisfying sequel, and I can’t wait for King’s Cage! Next on deck: Truly, Devious by Maureen Johnson! 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Queen's Rising by Rebecca Ross Review

Title: The Queen’s Rising
Author: Rebecca Ross
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Untitled Trilogy, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I found this book the way I usually find my library books; a recommendation from the newest books of January. I was intrigued by the plot, as well as the gorgeous, colorful cover. So as soon as I had an opening in my library stack, I ordered it, waiting impatiently. It got pushed to the top of my stack after another library overhaul, and I dove in, excited for this debut, rife with magic, mythology, political intrigue, forbidden love, and thrilling adventure—The Queen’s Rising is one of my favorite books of 2018, and I can’t wait for the sequel! It had almost everything I love in a debut novel, and I was so excited to find out that this book was the first in a projected trilogy! Newcomer Rebecca Ross has absolutely outdone herself with this new spin on a high fantasy novel!

Brienna is a fatherless child, sent to the passion academy in Magnalia to train in one of the noble arts: music, art, dramatics, wit, or knowledge. Seven years on, she has found her passion, after dabbling in each: knowledge. The goal of a passion is to attain a patron who can take them under their wing. Brienna is terrified that she will not find someone to properly nurture her talents, and when the solstice comes, her worst fear comes true. To add to her stress, she is plagued by mysterious visions, hailing back to a time before the country was even formed. When a disgraced, enigmatic man offers her patronage, she accepts, though suspicion is at the forefront of her mind. She is soon drawn into a dangerous, seductive web of political intrigue, personal secrets, magic, and war, and she must decide which side she’s on: passion or blood. The choice could turn the tide of her life and the war.


I really, really enjoyed this book! What a beautifully written, thrilling debut! I was absolutely entranced; the worldbuilding was excellent, the beautiful writing, the breakneck pacing, and the characters were memorable. Rebecca Ross has become one of my new favorite authors with this lovely book, and I can’t wait for the sequels! It wasn’t perfect; there were times when I was confused about the timelines lining up, and despite there being a dramatis personae, all of the characters and their aliases got confusing. But nonetheless, this debut was really solid! Brienna was my favorite character of the book, doubtful and unsure at first, growing into a powerful, driven and ambitious woman who isn’t afraid to stand for what she believes in and who she loves. I loved the world that she inhabited, where the arts were as highly valued as being a warrior, whether one was male or female. The pacing was insane; divided into different parts, going old school, even with a good old table of contents, I was absolutely spellbound, and there were times when I couldn’t stop thinking about it, even when I was in the middle of something else. The ending was heartbreaking, explosive, and satisfying; this book was very enjoyable! It had everything you’d expect in a great high fantasy and more, with feminist, powerful characters to boot! Highly recommended! The bottom line: A gorgeously written, beautifully wrought fantasy chock full of my favorite things, I loved The Queen’s Rising, and I can’t wait for more from this promising new author! Next on deck: Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith Review

Title: The Way I Used to Be
Author: Amber Smith
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

The Way I Used to Be was the March pick for one of the book clubs I go to, and man, was this selection a doozy. It burrowed its way into my mind and heart, making me feel sick, enraged, and incredibly hopeful, all at once. A heartbreaking, realistic and all too timely depiction of a young woman dealing with a brutal rape at the hands of her brother’s best friend, The Way I Used to Be was a hard work to get through, but I’m so glad that I read it. Now more than ever do we need stories like Eden’s, and I will never forget it; I couldn’t, even if I’d tried. The book is divided into four parts, one for each of Edy’s years in high school. The rape occurs when she’s a freshman, and she spends the rest of her high school career angry, hurt, and afraid. This book cut me to the quick, especially since there are real life stories just like hers, every heartbreaking, excruciatingly painful moment of it.

Eden was raped by her brother’s best friend in the middle of the night when she was fourteen years old, by someone she loved, trusted, even idolized. Forced into silence by the boy’s violent, vicious threats, she deals with the trauma the only way she knows how: by taking control of her own body, having meaningless sex with near-strangers, and pushing everyone she loves away. Her friends and family don’t understand why she’s acting so unlike herself, but Eden just wants to forget. But when she discovers that Kevin has hurt another young woman, she must make the choice to stay silent or speak up, even if it means finally facing what happened four years ago.


This book—I’m not going to lie, it was really hard to get through, even though I finished it in two and a half days. It was painful, heartbreaking, and it cut me right down to the soul. It was timely, though, and absolutely unforgettable. I wept, I raged, I screamed. Eden wormed her way into my heart and will never leave; this book, to me, was as groundbreaking and truthful as Laurie Halsie Anderson’s classic, Speak, just in a different sort of vein. The pacing was breakneck, the prose spare but powerful, and my heart broke for Eden and her situation, partly because it was so true to life. I also really liked the supporting characters of the book, especially Mara, Cameron, Josh, and Caelin. But it was Eden who stole the show, for me: I liked the way she took control of her situation the only way she knew how, even as my heart broke for her. I liked the way the book was broken up into Edy’s four years of high school. This book—it hurt so much. It made me feel everything, but by the end of it all, I was ultimately hopeful. A searing, all too timely portrait of a young woman trying to deal with a life-changing trauma, The Way I Used to Be is an unforgettable, terrifying book that should be read by all—the only issue I had was that I had trouble with the fact that none of Edy’s friends and family seemed to know what was wrong with her, or even wanted to try. But nonetheless, this book was amazing, eye-opening, even though it was unbearable at times. The bottom line: A tender, sympathetic book that chronicles a young woman’s journey from victim to a person who accepts herself, The Way I Used to Be was amazing, an emotional journey that was like a punch to the gut. Required reading for all. Next on deck: The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross! 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black Review

Title: The Cruel Prince
Author: Holly Black
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Folk of the Air, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Holly Black and I… Honestly, we haven’t exactly been on the best of terms. I tried reading her debut novel, Tithe, in high school, and the writing style and plot were so weird to me that I ended up giving it to a friend. But when I read one of her more recent fairy books in 2015, The Darkest Part of the Forest, things changed for me. I was absolutely entranced, and when I found out that she was writing a brand new one, this one a trilogy opener, I put it on hold at my local library as soon as possible. I picked it up, and it’s been sitting on my shelf for a while, beckoning me with its stark white cover, adorned with dark branches and a glittering golden crown. I didn’t have any more renewals on it, so I pushed it to the top of the stack, partly out of necessity and partly out of killer anticipation. And this book is probably my favorite of Black’s—I can’t wait for the sequel!

Jude’s parents were brutally murdered by her sister’s redcap father, Madoc, when she was just seven years old. He spirits her, Vivi, and her twin sister Taryn to the High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, she longs for her own place in her father’s court, where she is respected and accepted by the faeries. Her sister, Taryn, wishes for love and romance at the hands of a handsome faerie noble, but Jude wishes fervently for something different: Her own place in Faerie as a Knight for the Court’s High King. But soon she finds herself wrapped up in a dark, vicious web of lies, secrets, and political intrigue, and she must reluctantly make an alliance with the faerie she hates most: Cardan, the King’s youngest son. Forced to use every bit of wit, cleverness, and knowledge she’s acquired since coming to Court, Jude must decide if she wants to fight for Faerie, even as she longs for a better life, and even if it means sacrificing everything…


This book was, in a word, absolutely fantastic. It’s probably my favorite Holly Black book to date, even better than The Darkest Part of the Forest. This book was similar to that, but better! The prose was gorgeous, hypnotic, even during some of the book’s most violent scenes. I was absolutely spellbound by Jude’s story, and by Jude herself. I loved how she wasn’t the typical main girl character; how she went after what and whom she wanted, and the consequences didn’t matter. I loved how she was totally ruthless in her ambition. Her sisters, too, were good foils for her: Taryn with her want of romance and excitement, and Vivi, the only true faerie of the girls, who longs to be free of a life of violence and intrigue and just be with her mortal girlfriend, and fights their father, Madoc, and their way of life. I was totally seduced by the gorgeous, mysterious Faerieland, where lies and promises are hidden inside honeyed words, one bite of sweet, golden fruit can send you spiraling into madness, and hiding skeletons in your closet can mean certain ruin—even death. I loved all of the characters, but especially Madoc, Locke, and Cardan. Especially Cardan. One of the things I loved most about this book was the constant romantic tension—I was dying. And that ending! Oh my gosh, Holly, how in the world am I supposed to wait until 2019 for The Wicked King?! How could you do this to me?! The Cruel Prince is one of my favorite books of 2018; the only problem is that I have to wait for the sequel! The bottom line: A darkly glittering fairy tale more Grimm than Disney, The Cruel Prince is one of the best books of 2018, and I can’t wait for the sequel! Talk about a major book hangover! Next on deck: The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Renegades by Marissa Meyer Review

Title: Renegades
Author: Marissa Meyer
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Science Fiction
Series: Renegades, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I’ll be honest: I read Marissa Meyer’s debut novel, Cinder, and it was just okay. Wasn’t spectacular, but it wasn’t all out bad, either. I didn’t finish the series, mostly because the first book didn’t hold my attention. But when I found out that she was writing a new series debut, this time in a broken world ruled by prodigies (a.k.a., superheroes), I was excited. I reserved it at my library and it’s been sitting in my stack for a while now; I didn’t have any more renewals on it, and I was really looking forward to it, so I pushed it to the top of my stack. And honestly, I’m really glad I did. Marissa Meyer really won me over with this new series, full of characters that I was openly rooting for. I also really enjoyed the way that Meyer took a classic story trope—superheroes—and steered it toward the themes of justice, revenge, personal freedom, and good and evil, as well as the distinction between the two. Renegades has become of my favorite books of 2017, and I can’t wait to see what comes next in this hard-hitting, original new duology!

Nova Artino is a girl who was raised by The Anarchists, a powerful supervillain group back before the second ‘golden age’ of superheroes was ushered in by the death of the head of the group, Nova’s uncle. Heartbroken because The Renegades didn’t come and save her family when it mattered most, she vows for revenge, and when she sees an opportunity to infiltrate the organization from the inside, she seizes it, rechristening herself Insomnia and hiding her power to put people to sleep. But as sticky as things already are, they get even more complicated when she meets Adrian, a Renegade in training with more than a few secrets of his own. Drawn to one another in spite of their circumstances, Nova and Adrian must decide what sides of the prodigy war they are on, or risk losing everything they know and love, including each other…


I really, really liked this book, especially in comparison to Cinder! It wasn’t bad, but as far as her fairy tale retellings go, I much prefer her Alice in Wonderland retelling, Heartless. But Renegades has taken the spot of my favorite of her novels yet. First of all: superheroes. As someone who grew up on a steady diet of fairy tales, comics, and myths, it’s yet another form of literary crack for me. I also really liked the themes that went into this book: revenge, moral gray areas, first love, the meaning of good and evil, self-reliance and freedom. I couldn’t give this four stars, though, because at times the moral dilemmas of the characters tended to cloud the plot, and sometimes Nova came off as a little preachy. But even more than that, I loved the pacing, the writing style; I was immediately drawn into this futuristic world where prodigies rule, normal humans crushed beneath mighty fists, even benevolent ones. I couldn’t break away, not even mentally. I was absolutely enthralled, and the characters, Nova, in particular, were what made me really love the book. I also adored the chemistry between she and Adrian, as star-crossed as it all was. And that ending! Oh my gosh, how in the world am I supposed to make it to November to read the sequel! Ugh, I’m dying here! The bottom line: The best book from literary darling Marissa Meyer yet, I loved Renegades, and I can’t wait for the sequel! Next on deck: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Everything Must Go by Jenny Fran Davis Review

Title: Everything Must Go
Author: Jenny Fran Davis
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.

Everything Must Go was the February pick for one of the book clubs I go to, and I wasn’t sure what to expect, at first. I was slightly confused by the description, and even more so after I began reading the book; the format was just so unusual. But I decided that despite my doubts, I would just jump in with both feet and let the book lead me where it would. And honestly, I was very pleasantly surprised. I was laughing, crying, screaming, cheering—this feminist, hilarious debut is one of my favorite books of 2017, maybe ever! It took a little bit for me to get into, and to get used to the format, but once I did, I was absolutely hooked. Flora’s journey through young adulthood, navigating romance, friendship, family, self-discovery, and autonomy is hilarious, timely, realistic, and achingly tender, and I loved every crazy, honest moment of it. I’ll never forget Flora Goldwasser, or her coming into her own! One of the best coming of age stories I’ve ever read!

Flora Goldwasser has made the decision to upend her life totally in pursuit of a hip, gorgeous photographer—so much so, in fact, that she even changes schools to get closer to him. But she realizes that upstate, bucolic New York is totally different from her posh, comfortable school in Manhattan, Flora goes to backpedal, only to find that it’s much too late. Surrounded by Quaker kids who value things like the outdoors, their inner qualities instead of what’s on the outside, and personal freedom (even if it means going to the bathroom out of doors), Flora finds that her new school is a whole world away from her beloved Manhattan, she’s certain that she won’t make it out intact. But along the way, she discovers her own autonomy, what it means to be herself, and the real value of friendship, family, and change. This book is one of the best of the last year, and I will never forget it!


I was a little iffy about this book at first; I wasn’t sure of the plot and the format threw me at first. Told through journal entries, emails, bits of screenplays and letters; it kind of reminded me of Feeling Sorry for Celia. But once it got going, I was absolutely transfixed; I was laughing, crying, cheering, groaning, and screaming with fury. I loved Flora and her distinct, wry voice; I loved her character development and watching her grow. She went from a na├»ve, confused girl to a strong, capable young woman, full of power and self-control and completely comfortable with herself. I loved it. The pacing was breakneck, and I couldn’t break away; even when I wasn’t reading it, it was continually on my mind. I also loved the other characters; Flora’s friends from her old and new school, as well as her family; they were a great foil to her funny, wry personality. The only person that I didn’t really like in the book was Elijah; he seemed just like the typical, run-of-the-mill hipster artiste poseur, and he really rubbed me the wrong way, even before the big thing happened that I refuse to mention in this review. The ending was wonderful; I laughed, I cried, I cheered. This book was like finding a new friend; I really loved it. One of the best books of 2017! The bottom line: An unapologetically funny and feminist debut that had me feeling literally everything, Everything Must Go was absolutely wonderful, and I will never forget it! Next on deck: Renegades by Marissa Meyer!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu Review

Title: Batman: Nightwalker
Author: Marie Lu
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: DC Icons, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

‘The darkness was his ally. Not his enemy.

The DC Icons series is one that I’ve been looking forward to since its conception; I loved Leigh Bardugo’s take on a young Diana Prince, and since I was eagerly looking forward to the next book—about a baby Bruce Wayne—I put it on hold at my library as soon as I had an opening. Plus, one of my favorite authors penned it—I love almost every bit of Marie Lu’s work! It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while, beckoning me with its gorgeous, mysterious cover. As soon as I was finished with Thunderhead, I realized that I couldn’t renew it any more, and that clinched it. I snapped it up and read it in two and a half days; I’m so excited for the next two books in the series!

Young Bruce Wayne has just turned eighteen and is on the cusp of graduating high school; he is also very close to taking the helm of his late parents’ company, WayneTech. Haunted by his parents’ deaths even after all of these years, the boy wants to use his considerable fortune and even greater number of smarts to change the world. When he discovers that a mysterious crime organization called the Nightwalkers is slaughtering Gotham City’s rich and famous, he finds that at the middle of it all is a young woman named Madeleine. Locked up in Arkham Asylum for her crimes, Bruce cannot help but be drawn to the mysterious girl, even as the odds stack up against them both. When he realizes that he’s next on the assassins’ hitlist, he decides to take matters in his own hands, even if it means dancing closer to the razor’s edge of danger…

This book—it was amazing. I love superheroes, especially classic ones, and Batman is hands down my favorite, as far as the DC camp goes. So when I heard that Marie Lu was writing a novel about a teenage Bruce Wayne before he becomes the Batman, I was so excited and stoked. Admittedly, this book wasn’t perfect, but nonetheless, it was very enjoyable. It was fun to imagine one of the world’s greatest heroes as a young man; I won’t lie, I was fangirling a lot. And the romantic parts; I couldn’t stop fanning myself!


The pacing was breakneck; I was immediately entranced by the Gotham City that Lu created, shiny and pure but with a dark, forbidding underbelly, a lot like the original. I also really loved the way that Lu dropped several DC Easter eggs—I won’t reveal them for those who haven’t read the book yet! Even more than these things, I loved the characterization of Bruce Wayne: highly honorable, strongly moral, and ultimately, empathetic; Lu really humanized the boy who will become The Dark Knight. It really sold the book for me. I was deeply intrigued about The Nightwalkers and their organization; I liked the way that Lu made them try to look for the gray in the midst of the black and white Gotham they lived in. Madeleine, too, was a fascinating character in and of herself; I was as drawn to her as Bruce was, curious about her past and her current motivations. And the chemistry between the two of them! Ugh, I was dying! And the ending—oh my gosh, I was straight up ugly crying and it was not at all pretty. The only thing is, I was really confused at times over Bruce’s reasoning, and Madeleine’s logic didn’t make any sense to me; it made the whole relationship confusing. Nonetheless, this book was a strong entry in the DC Icons series, and I can’t wait for Catwoman and Superman’s turn in the spotlight! A near knockout from one of my favorite authors! The bottom line: A fantastic new take on a young Dark Knight, I loved Nightwalker, despite some flaws; I can’t wait for the next two books in the DC Icons series! Next on deck: Everything Must Go by Jenny Fran Davis!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman Review

Title: Thunderhead
Author: Neal Shusterman
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Arc of a Scythe, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

Scythe was one of my favorite books of 2017; it was thought-provoking, fast-paced, and original, a whole new take on the futuristic science fiction genre. I was so excited when the sequel was finally announced, and I put it on hold at my library as soon as I had an opening in my number. (One of my primary goals for the year was to stop trying to bring the entire library home with me, lol.)

Thunderhead sat in my library stack for a while, and I couldn’t renew it, as there were holds on it. As soon as I finished Given to the Earth, I began it, and was immediately drawn into Shusterman’s dangerous, deceptively perfect world, where death and disease have been all but eradicated. As it was a sequel, it took me a bit to remember what was going on, but the book grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go until the last pages; I was breathless throughout the book, but the ending was a total killer—I’m absolutely dying for the next book, and I only finished it yesterday! This series is one of my favorites from Shusterman, and I can’t wait to see what comes next! Because this is a sequel, I don’t want to say much about the plot; I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read it yet.


Thunderhead picks up where Scythe left off, continuing the events from the previous book and going at high speed. Even though it took me a while for my memory of the last book to come back, the pace was so breakneck that I was immediately sucked in, following both Rowan and Citra on their journeys until the fateful moment when their paths diverge. The writing was gorgeous, captivating, even in its brutality. This being a sequel, I was really hoping that my anxiety would be relieved, and my questions answered, and they were—but I have so many more, especially after the killer ending! Characters from the last book return and are introduced, and new characters are brought in. I especially liked the way the worldbuilding was elaborated on, especially the people that don’t fit into the social norms of this beatific, mostly peaceful society; well, as peaceful a society can be where death is sanctioned by its people and government. The Thunderhead, too, was one of the reasons I loved this book; I loved the way Shusterman gave us a glimpse into the mind of the powerful technology that cares for the human race in this future. And that ending—I’m still reeling from the gravity of it, a day later. I’m in complete shock, and all I can say is that I can’t wait for the last book in the trilogy! Absolutely amazing! The bottom line: A satisfying, thought-provoking sequel that moves at light speed, I loved Thunderhead, and I can’t wait for what comes next—one of the best books of 2018 for me, hands down! Next on deck: Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Given to the Earth by Mindy McGinnis Review

Title: Given to the Earth
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Given to the Sea, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

The author gave me an advance reader copy of this book at a library visit in August—she even signed it for me—thank you so much, Mindy, it means so much to me!

When I heard that Mindy McGinnis, one of my favorite Ohio-based authors, was coming to my local library to discuss the book club book, Not a Drop to Drink, I was so excited. I’d never been to an author meeting before, much less a local one! Plus, she was an author, just like me, and I was looking forward to picking her brain about our shared profession. I’d just finished her new book, Given to the Sea, right before she came to the library and I was excited to discuss it with her. As soon as she came into the room, I spoke to her about Given to the Sea, and how sad I was that I couldn’t afford to buy a book for her to sign for me. She thanked me and told me that since I was the first person to ask about her brand new book, she’d give me the sequel and sign it for me! It’s been sitting on my shelf since the summer, and since it was almost time for the advance reviews to come out, I figured I’d push it to the top of my stack and read it! Given to the Earth was a meaty, exciting sequel, full of political intrigue, secret, shifting alliances, heart-melting romance, and twists and turns that had me gasping, cheering, and screaming! I feel so very lucky to have had the chance to read it early, and I can’t wait until the rest of the world gets their hands on it!


Given to the Earth picks up where Given to the Sea left off, a few months after the first book ended. I don’t want to give any spoilers, as the book comes out in April, so I’m going to say as little about the plot and its happenings as possible. I can’t give away all the crazy surprises that Mindy put in here! But I will say that as far as sequels go, this one was incredibly satisfying. All the loose ends were tied up neatly, and the book had me endlessly turning pages, desperate to know what was going to happen. The pacing was breakneck, though it took me a little bit to remember everything that had happened in the first book. I was immediately drawn into Mindy’s beautifully wrought, dangerous world, rife with political intrigue, betrayal, secrets and lies, heart-pounding action, and bittersweet romance. I adored every painful moment of it, even though there were several times that I had to walk away to spare my feelings and recuperate. All I can say is that this sequel satisfied me totally, and I loved it; I simply can’t wait to hear what others think about Given to the Earth! The bottom line: A treasured gift from one of my favorite Ohio authors, I loved Given to the Earth, and it’s left an indelible tattoo upon my heart that will never go away! Next on deck: Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Far From The Tree by Robin Benway Review

Title: Far From The Tree
Author: Robin Benway
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.
Robin Benway came into my life when I received a copy of Also Known As, the first book in her contemporary romantic spy series, as an advanced readers copy. I found Far From The Tree as I usually find books in my library stack, a recommendation. I finally got to it after I finished reading All Rights Reserved Saturday night. I was immediately drawn into the world of Grace, Maya, and Joaquin, and their journey to find each other, themselves, and the many meanings of family. Far From The Tree is a tender, heartbreaking and utterly compassionate novel, and I loved every moment of it, even as it gutted me entirely. One of the best books of 2017, hands down, and the National Book Award Finalist is well-deserved! I can’t wait to see what else Benway has in store!

Grace, Maya, and Joaquin are three different people from varying backgrounds; they are also all adopted. When Grace gets pregnant by accident, she makes the difficult decision to put her baby up for adoption. Bereft and untethered after giving birth, she reaches out to try and find the blood family she never knew, starting with her mother. She, Maya, a hard-as-nails, dark-humored lesbian, and Joaquin, the boy whose quiet nature hides scars of every kind, all meet and gradually begin to connect. They forge a strong bond, even though they’ve only known each other for a short time, and eventually begin the search for the one person they’ve all been searching for: their birth mother.


I really, really loved this loved this book; it’s easily one of my favorite books of 2017. Normally, my tastes run more toward fantasy novels, but I’ve been loving contemporary for a long time. So when Far From The Tree caught my eye with its pretty cover and the glowing reviews I’d read previously, I was really excited. The prose was beautiful and magnetic, and I was immediately drawn into the world of these three young people. I loved the plot, especially when it came to discussing the topic of adoption, and Benway uses compassion, tenderness, and empathy when she talks about it. But even more than those things, I loved the main characters, all of them with distinct personalities, flaws, and struggles. Grace, the young mother who is struggling with giving her baby away, Maya, whose family is falling apart at the seams and being torn apart by dark secrets, and Joaquin, the boy so used to abandonment he’s afraid to get close to anyone. This book; it made me laugh, cry, scream, and cheer, and it’s one of my favorites of the year—I will never forget this loving book that showed me that family and love can come in all kinds of different forms! The bottom line: A beautifully written, tender and funny book full of humor, heart, and compassion, I loved Far From The Tree! Next on deck: Given to the Earth by Mindy McGinnis!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis Review

Title: All Rights Reserved
Author: Gregory Scott Katsoulis
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Series: Word$, book one
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

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

All Rights Reserved was the book club pick for January at one of the libraries I go to, and when I was informed of the concept, I was really excited. A dystopian world where you have to pay for your every word after the age of fifteen? What an idea! Because I was reading A Skinful of Shadows that week, I hadn’t finished it before the day of book club, and I just finished it Saturday night. And to be honest, I still don’t know exactly how I feel. I wanted to love it, but a lot of the aspects of this book just fell really flat for me; to say that I’m disappointed is a huge understatement. If you’re looking for a good dystopian novel, I’d look elsewhere, because All Rights Reserved needs a lot of work. I don’t even know if I’m going to read the sequel.

Speth Jime lives in a rigid world where every word and action is controlled; think 1984’s Big Brother, but on steroids. In her world, the government copyrights everything, to the point where progress is stagnant and no idea is new. Debt also accumulates at a rapid, breakneck pace to collar the poor, even before they leave the womb. When Jime’s best friend, Beecher, commits suicide right in front of her to escape his family’s insurmountable debt, she decides to defy the corrupt, tyrannical government and go silent. In doing so, she ignites the spark that sets fire to something that’s never happened before; a revolution. When young people around her take up her cause and begin to fight for freedom, Speth realizes that she must decide whether to speak, or risk everything she knows and loves in order to fight a system rigged against people like her…


Like I said above, I have very mixed feelings about this book. I really liked the concept of it; it seemed almost like this generation’s 1984, upon reflection. I really feel like that the book didn’t live up to my expectations; truthfully, I didn’t really care about any of the characters until the second half of the book. Even then, I didn’t really feel anything; I didn’t really have a reaction to anything that happened in the book, save one big event. The prose also needed a lot of editing; there was a lot of run-on sentences and misspellings, as well several instances of wrong word usage; this really, really bothered me. The pacing was kind of stilted and it didn’t really catch my interest. If I don’t care about the characters in a book, I don’t care about the book. The concept was unusual, but the execution of it was really clunky. Plus it felt like there was a lot of filler before the action actually started. I didn’t completely hate it, but it definitely wasn’t my favorite. It just read like a typical dystopian novel, and there wasn’t anything spectacular about it. I had really high hopes for this one, and it was just… meh. I wish I’d cared more about it. I don’t even want to read the sequel. So, moving on! The bottom line: A bold, revolutionary concept executed poorly, All Rights Reserved just left me cold; I wish I’d cared more about it, but it was just bad. Next on deck: Far From The Tree by Robin Benway!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge Review

Title: A Skinful of Shadows
Author: Frances Hardinge
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Horror/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 last year when I read her US debut, The Lie Tree, and then later on, A Face Like Glass, with the gorgeous prose and twisty, daring plots, as well as well-thought out, exciting worldbuilding. So, when I heard that she had a new book coming out in October 2017, I was so excited that I reserved at my local library immediately. It took a while to get to me, 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 the stack and got started with it as soon as I finished the book I’d been reading. I was immediately captivated by the book; the writing was beautiful, I was immediately intrigued by the time period it was set in, and the fierce, secretly powerful Makepeace, a simple Puritan girl thrown into a dangerous game of political intrigue, war, deadly secrets, and ghosts! I loved every moment of it, and it’s currently my favorite of Hardinge’s work that I’ve read.

Makepeace is a bear-hearted girl whose hardened mother has trained her to fight back against newly dead spirits who long to inhabit the empty spaces in her body. When the worst kind of tragedy strikes and shatters her tiny world, she is captured by her late father’s family, to be used for their own ends. Deep inside the ancient castle of Grizehayes, she finds an older brother, as well as dark, deadly secrets as old as the estate itself. But when her father’s family begins to set cold, dead eyes on her, Makepeace must reach deep inside herself for the strength she never knew she had, and trust even her deadliest enemies…


I really, really enjoyed this book; it was worth waiting for. Rife with political intrigue, lush prose, gorgeous details, and memorable characters, A Skinful of Shadows was quite the genre-bender. It somehow straddled the lines between historical fiction, gothic fiction, horror, and fantasy, and I loved every moment of it. I was drawn into Makepeace’s world at once, captivated by her journey and her character development. She transforms from a frightened, timid little girl who becomes a pawn in multiple political games to a powerful young woman who isn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right, even if it means risking her life in the process. She is a character that will live on in my heart forever. The pacing was breakneck and the book grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go. I also really liked the way the book was formatted, divided by the different personas that Makepeace used to get to the bottom of the mystery and save the only living kin that she has. I also loved the ghosts themselves that take up residence in her body; they each had different and lively personalities, and I loved the way that they all united to help Makepeace in her quest for freedom and self-reliance. I also really enjoyed the historical period that the book was set in, one I’ve been fascinated with since I’ve started studying Queen Mary of Scots: The English Civil War. And that ending—I loved the resolution of it all! A Skinful of Shadows is my favorite of Frances Hardinge’s books, and she’s become one of my favorite authors recently. What a dark and achingly lovely tale of horror and war! The bottom line: A beautifully written tale of gothic horror set in one of England’s most tempestuous times in history, I loved A Skinful of Shadows—one of my favorite books by Frances Hardinge! Next on deck: All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Three Sides of a Heart by Natalie C. Parker Review

Title: Three Sides of a Heart: Stories About Love Triangles
Editor: Natalie C. Parker
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Anthology
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Ah, love triangles: One of the most polarizing tropes in all of young adult literature. I myself haven’t been shy in saying that I pretty much hate it. But when one of my favorite authors, Sabaa Tahir, announced its release date on her Facebook page, my curiosity was piqued, and I reserved it at my local library. When it finally came, I had to admit that I was excited as well as curious, eager to see different spins on an all-too familiar trope. Sixteen young adult authors offer their take on the love triangle. Some are traditional and contemporary, others take a fantasy route, and still others take it in even more exciting directions. For time’s sake, I won’t review every single story, but give an overall rating for the book and select a few standouts to tell you about. I can’t wait to dive into more work of these promising, talented authors! Okay, without further ado, here we go.

Dread South by Justina Ireland: 5 out of 5 Stars. Zombies in the Civil War South with two young women at the center! Sold and sold! I loved this story. The writing was gorgeous, I loved the premise (There’s going to be a full book in April, yay!), and I adored the way the two girls, one a fierce and vicious zombie slayer, or Attendant, and the other a sheltered rich girl, fell in love in the midst of a zombie horde taking over the town they both live in. Justina Ireland has become one of my new favorite authors, and I cannot wait for the full book!

La Revancha del Tango by Renee Ahdieh: 5 out of 5 Stars. Lush, gorgeous, and sexy, Ahdieh pens a heart-pounding tale of a young woman dancing the tango in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I loved every minute of it; the wry narration, the aching sexual tension, and the surprising, exciting ending; I was on the edge of my seat and ready to pull my hair out the entire time. It didn’t go the way that I expected it would, and I was so surprised; my jaw was on the floor. It makes me happy and excited that The Wrath and the Dawn is sitting on my bookshelf currently.

Cas, An, and Dra by Natalie C. Parker: 5 out of 5 Stars. I really, really enjoyed this one! It was lovely and weird and surprising. Cas and An have always been together, and Cas doesn’t know what her life would be like without An, her lover and her best friend. She is haunted by the choices that her great aunt made, and so she dreads having to make a choice. Things are complicated even further by the appearance of Dra, a mysterious person whom Cas is irresistibly drawn to, even knowing that the only way they’ve met is through a choice she’s never made. I loved the way that every choice was explored, and the way that the ending wasn’t concrete and was really open-ended.

The Historian, The Garrison, and The Cantankerous Catwoman by Lamar Giles: 5 out of 5 Stars. Okay, first of all, superheroes. One of my favorite things ever! The writing was wonderful, and I loved the way that the book went back and forth from the past and present, providing context. The love triangle in this was so painful. I loved the way that Niya and Cat’s personalities clashed, all the way up to the ending. This story was like an electric combination of Supernatural and Justice League, and the ending was so shocking; I did not see it coming, and I loved it! It went into the completely opposite direction of what I was expecting. One of my favorite stories in the whole book!
A Hundred Thousand Threads by Alaya Dawn Johnson: 5 out of 5 Stars. Oh, my goodness, I love, love, love this one! First of all, it was set in a mysterious, futuristic version of Mexico, and second of all, the twist! The twist! Aurora and the Colibri are two totally different women. One has ascended, rather roughly, into high society, and the other is a vicious, murderous vigilante outlaw who takes justice as she sees sit on the corrupt government. In the middle of these two women is Jaime, the son of one of the government officials that the Colibri is fighting against. I loved the way that the story was told in letters, and in first person between Jaime and Aurora. And the ending! My jaw was on the floor, and I loved it so much!

Before She Was Bloody by Tessa Gratton: 4 out of 5 Stars. I liked this story, but it was kind of hard to understand. The main character, Safiya the Bloody, is the Moon Eater’s Mistress. As such, she cannot be with anyone else, regardless of how she feels. She belongs to the ruler and him alone. Never mind that she has burning feelings for her heart and soul twin, or the new visiting soldier come to call at the palace. When a foul plot is discovered to try and poison her, she becomes vicious and bloodthirsty, going so far as to kill the man’s family to make a point. It was kind of confusing, and I wish that there was a whole book to explain the politics and social standing of all the characters in the book, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Unus, Duo, Tres by Bethany Hagen: 5 out of 5 Stars. My heart! Oh, my heart! And what’s a book about love triangles without one of the ultimate in the trope: Vampires! I really adored this story. Enoch and Casimir are vampires; Enoch bit Cas one night after realizing he didn’t want to return to his family. Immortal and desperately in love and lust with each other, they need no one else. But their dynamic changes drastically when they are caught biting each other in the school’s library by a young woman, a new student, named Esther. Both boys are irresistibly drawn to her, and when Enoch realizes that Esther is ill and on death’s door, he does the unthinkable for the two people he loves most and makes the irreversible sacrifice. I loved this story, it was so painful and beautiful and the ending made me cry!


This book was lovely, a fun, sexy grab bag of stories about love triangles, and I have to say, after this, that I have to admit that I don’t really hate the trope anymore; it’s just something that is, especially in the young adult genre. But what a collection that I’ll never forget! The bottom line: A gorgeous collection of stories about the dreaded love triangle, I loved Three Sides of a Heart! Next on deck: A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera Review

Title: They Both Die at the End
Author: Adam Silvera
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.

The book club buddy that recommended Stalking Jack the Ripper to me begged me to read this. It was already in my library stack, and she specifically asked that I read one of her recommendations, since she’d already checked out several titles I’d sent her way. I pushed it up to the top of the stack, drawn to the moody, beautiful, blue and purple cover. It was a gorgeous, beautiful, and painful story of dying and truly living, not taking your time for granted, and it gutted me totally. It ripped apart my heart and soul and sewed it back together again, and I will never forget it. Hands down, one of the best books of 2017, and Adam Silvera has become one of my new favorite authors! Heart-wrenching, tender, and hopeful, They Both Die at the End is a lovely reminder to live—not just survive—while you still have the time to do so.

The novel is set in a not-so-distant future, where virtual reality is the norm and an organization called DeathCast has been formed to tell people of their last twenty-four hours—literally. And Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio have gotten that dreaded last call. They meet through an app called Last Friend, and, forced to take a chance on each other during their last hours, they form a deep bond—a bond that lasts all the way until the end. Told from multiple points of view throughout the same day, Silvera reminds us—gently, and not so much, later on—to not take our time on this earth for granted, and to fully live while we still can. It’s one of those beautifully awful tearjerkers that worms into your heart, breaks into your soul, and dominates your thoughts. I finished it yesterday and I’m still reeling; I had to take most of the day to process my feelings. But Adam Silvera has cemented a permanent place in my heart, and I can’t wait to check out more of his work when I get a chance.


Honestly, even before this was recommended to me, I was drawn to the beautiful cover, even knowing what would happen at the end. Then my buddy’s plea to read it just clinched it for me. I went into it not knowing what to expect, but I really enjoyed it, even with all of the emotional pain. It was beautifully written, greatly paced between the boys and the other characters who are affected by the ‘miraculous’ DeathCast. I really liked the way it went between Mateo, Rufus, and all of the other characters; it settled into a rhythm that was really nice once the book got going. I loved all of the characters, too, every single one of them, and the prose was gorgeous and tender and seemed to squeeze every last bit of my heart. And when the ending finally came—and I tried to put it off for as long as I could—I felt gutted, cleaned out, at least emotionally. I cried for a good day and a half, and it’s still lingering with me, even now as I write these words. But Adam Silvera has become one of my new favorite authors, and I will be checking out more of his work as soon as I possibly can. One of the best books of 2017, even while it destroyed me in the best kind of way! The bottom line: A gorgeous, beautiful and tender reminder to live to the fullest while you still can, They Both Die at the End is one of the best books of 2017, and one that I will never forget! Next on deck: Three Sides of a Heart: Stories About Love Triangles by Natalie C. Parker!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard Review

Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Dystopian Fiction
Series: Red Queen, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I’ll be honest: I’ve been very curious about Red Queen since it came out three years ago. I read the first five chapters through an email from the publisher and hadn’t been able to get it out of my head. So when I saw it on a shelf of one of the libraries I go to, I didn’t even let myself think about it; I just grabbed it and hoped for the best. I pushed it to the top of my library stack, nervous and excited all at once, due to the mixed reviews. And I can see why Red Queen got all kinds of mixed reviews, but for my part, I really enjoyed it! There were definitely some issues: a love triangle, various dystopian tropes that seemed to take from several popular, other young adult series. But whatever its flaws, I really, really liked Red Queen, and I’m excited to dig into this series! It’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to voraciously binge a series, and so I’m going to use his opportunity to jump right in! Victoria Aveyard has created a dangerous, frightening world rife with political intrigue, romance, power struggles, and dark secrets that could mean the most damning punishment of all: death.

Mare Barrow is a lowly Red, hailing from the slum known as The Stilts. The divide between Reds and Silvers, whose powers are godlike and rule is absolute, is so wide as to be insurmountable, and at sixteen, almost to her seventeenth birthday, she is expecting nothing but conscription into the war. The fact that her best friend, Kilorn, ends up being drafted only adds to her stress. Desperate for help, she turns to a rebel organization called The Red Guard to try and flee the country. Instead, somehow, she ends up in one of the country’s biggest Silver strongholds, and she discovers that she has a terrifying, out of place power: She can harness the power of lightning through her fingertips, something unheard of in a Red. Suddenly, Mare is dubbed a lost Silver princess, brought into the fold of the royal family and its court. Torn between two brothers, her own heart, and the rebellion she so fiercely believes in, Mare must decide where her loyalties lie, or else risk the ultimate punishment…


I know, I know, I can hear all of the naysayers saying that Red Queen ripped off some popular dystopian elements that made other series successful. But nonetheless, I really enjoyed it! Despite some flaws, a love triangle, so many names that it was hard to keep up with on the political level, and some confusing worldbuilding, I really liked this book: It flowed nicely, the prose was dark, tense, and snappy, I was constantly flipping pages to see what was going to happen next, and I loved Mare! Honestly, she was what saved the book for me, despite the rest of the issues. I was cheering, cringing, and crying over her, her family, and the all-too-sticky predicament that she finds herself in. I was glued to the pages, especially when things really started rolling. I didn’t much like the whole love triangle thing, though I suppose that it served its purpose. And that ending! Oh my gosh, I’m still mentally screaming over it! Someone get me Glass Sword, stat, or I’m gonna lose it! A beautifully written, dark and thoughtful series opener, I really enjoyed Red Queen! The bottom line: Despite some anxiety over mixed reviews, I really liked Red Queen—it’s like a cross between The Hunger Games, Divergent, and X-Men, and I am so here for it! Next on deck: They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera! 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Stalking Jack The Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco Review

Title: Stalking Jack The Ripper
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Horror
Series: Stalking Jack The Ripper, book one
Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

A book club buddy of mine recommended this book to me; at that point, she was almost finished with it and was curious about what I’d think. (You know who you are!) So, when I got home that night, I ordered it from the library. I pushed it to the top of the stack when I had the time, and I was really excited to get into it. Stalking Jack The Ripper was an oddly enticing, strangely contradictory whodunit that incorporates history, forensic science, and characters that I grew to love, almost against my will. True, it used some tropes that kind of annoyed me, and I have a lot of mixed feelings, but it wasn’t a bad book, regardless. I’m happy I read it and I’m curious about what comes next for Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell.

Audrey Rose is not like other girls of her age and station; she much prefers slicing cadavers open and helping her uncle conduct experiments in his grisly lab over tea parties and husband chasing. She longs to be a forensic scientist in the day and age that is, for the most part, dominated by men. When apprenticing to her eccentric, strange uncle leads her into the path of one of history’s most dangerous serial killers, she is forced to team up with one of her uncle’s colleagues, the infuriating, handsome, and mysterious Thomas Cresswell. The deeper that the pair digs into the secrets of the murderer, the more frightening and confusing things become, particularly for Audrey. When she realizes that the blackest evil may be lurking closer to home, she will be risking everything she knows and loves for justice.

As I said before, I have really mixed feelings about this book; there were some elements of the story that I really enjoyed, and others that really fell short or needed some editing. I’ll start with the things I liked: First of all, I’m an absolute sucker for historical fiction; it was what spurred my love of history and learning, seeing the past through a character’s eyes. As an ardent lover of true crime, also, I really enjoyed the way that the author took a brave stab at Jack The Ripper, an old case that was only recently closed. I liked the way the story was told in first person, with Audrey’s wry, passionate narrative moving the story along. The twists and turns of the novel had me guessing constantly, so much so that I didn’t know the identity of the suspect, even at the end! I didn’t like Thomas at first, but his chemistry with Audrey really won me over, when I got over his arrogance and condescension. Maybe it was that way with men in that day and age, but it still annoyed me through the beginning. The feminism was also confusing, at times, Audrey was contradictory and wasn’t making sense. Maniscalco also used tropes, that to me, personally, were kind of tired and overused, especially in recent young adult fare. Nonetheless, even with all of its flaws, this series opener was solid, and I can’t wait to see more of Audrey and Thomas’s adventures—this time in Romania, chasing—you guessed it—the infamous Lord Dracula! The bottom line: Though I have a lot of mixed feelings about Stalking Jack The Ripper, it was a solid, well-researched series opener, and I can’t wait to see what’s next! Next on deck: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Hiddensee by Gregory Maguire Review

Title: Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker
Author: Gregory Maguire
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Gregory Maguire won my heart back in college when I began his Wicked Years series; I caught sight of its green tinted pages and it was over after that. I have all but one book of the series sitting on my bookshelf to this day, and I’ve never seen The Wizard of Oz the same way again. So, when I heard that he was writing a new book in October, this one revolving around The Nutcracker and his mysterious maker, Drosselmeier, I was so excited. One of my first field trips with my school as a child was to the ballet, and ever since then, I’ve been utterly enchanted by the tale of The Nutcracker and Klara, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and the wintry land that they all inhabit, for however brief a time. Gregory Maguire spins a familiar tale with new, charming flair, complete with gorgeous writing, charming characters, elements of Greek mythology and Grimm’s fairy tales, as well as strong historical components. If Wicked weren’t my favorite Gregory Maguire book, Hiddensee would have high chances of taking its place. What an enchanting, thought-provoking novel!

Once there was a boy in a cottage in the woods, whose parents were an old woman and an old man. Then one day, they gave him to the forest itself, perhaps hoping that he will die inside of it. But his life changes forever when two beings, a beautiful wise woman, and a cantankerous, angry dwarf that may or may not be able to conceal himself in a knife, imploring him to find a new place for them to rest. After a near-fatal encounter in the forest, the boy flees, traveling through the various cities in Bavaria. He drifts across the country, becoming a guardian for a well to do family, then he begins to travel across the continent, using toymaking to occupy his restless hands. He finally comes to a halt when he meets his best friend’s family, and comes to be known as the mysterious, almost cloistered old toymaker who lovingly watches over little Klara and gives her The Nutcracker he is so famous for crafting. Beautifully written, lovingly wrought, and finely executed, Hiddensee pairs two origin tales, painting a darker, more mythical creation story for a character I thought I knew: The Nutcracker and Drosselmeier!


I really, really liked this book! I was really excited for a new spin on one of my favorite stories that inspired one of my favorite ballets, and no one does fairy tale or classic retellings like Gregory Maguire. The prose was lovely, almost hypnotic, and I was absolutely spellbound; I also really loved the way that Maguire took elements from both fairy tales and history itself to tell the story of the boy who would go on to become the old, grizzled Drosselmeier; to be honest, before this book came out, it never even occurred to me to wonder where the toymaker came from, or how he came to be with Klara and her family. The pacing of the book took a little while to get going, but I was enchanted once it really started picking up. I loved following Dirk’s journey, and I loved the way that Greek mythology elements were peppered throughout the narrative. It all combined to create an intoxicating, beautiful origin story, and I loved the way that The Nutcracker itself helped steer the narrative. The characters were really relatable though there were a few that I didn’t really care for. I loved the ending, though honestly it made me cry! The language and the stuttered pacing made it difficult to keep up with sometimes, hence the four star rating. Nonetheless, this new offering from a literary darling was exciting, finely wrought, tender, and thoughtful—I really enjoyed the food for thought that it gave me! The bottom line: Twinning origin stories for The Nutcracker and the man whom lovingly crafts him, Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker was a beautiful, gorgeous and thoughtful fairy tale retelling that had me laughing, crying, and thinking deeply—I loved it! Another wonderful entry in Gregory Maguire’s repertoire! Next on deck: Stalking Jack The Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco!