Friday, May 25, 2018

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw Review

Title: The Wicked Deep
Author: Shea Ernshaw
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror/Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I found The Wicked Deep through a recommendation list, and it’d been sitting in my library stack for a while, pushed to the top after its last renewal, and as soon as I finished Wild Beauty, I dove in, eager to explore this debut. So eager, in fact, that I gobbled it up in a matter of hours. I was absolutely captivated by this beautifully written, dark and spooky tale that took place in the small coastal town of Sparrow. If I had to pitch this book to people who haven’t read it, I would sum it up as Hocus Pocus mixed with Ghost, with elements that were surprising but they really worked. Full of magic, suspense, historical elements, and romance, The Wicked Deep is one of my favorite books of 2018! I loved every moment of it, down to the jaw-dropping ending!

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow, where two hundred years ago, the three Swan sisters were drowned for suspected witchery. Now, every summer kicks off the dreaded Swan season, where the women, for a brief time, possess three weak-hearted girls’ bodies so they may wreak their revenge on the town that murdered them, luring boys to the harbor with sweet promises of false love and drowning them. Penny Talbot, a seventeen-year-old local, has long since accepted the fate of her tiny town, resigned to the way things are. But everything changes when a tourist shows up, looking for work. But it turns out that everyone is hiding their own dark secrets, and soon distrust and suspicion spreads throughout the tiny, rainy town, and as the body count climbs, Penny must make the ultimate choice: save Bo, or save herself…


This book was such a pleasant little surprise! What a fun little genre-bender of a debut! As I said, I devoured it in less than a day. The prose was beautiful, and I really enjoyed the format of the book; it was told mainly from Penny’s point of view, but quite often, it switched to the Swan sisters and other residents of the town. The pacing was breakneck; I was both seduced and terrified by the tiny coastal town of Sparrow, steeped in urban legend and old wives’ tales. I also really liked the frightening, claustrophobic atmosphere that Ernshaw created in it. I loved all of the characters, but the standouts were Penny, Bo, Penny’s mother, and of course, the mysterious Swan sisters, capable of casting spells that weren’t from witchcraft, but rather from their own charms. I sped through the book, to the ending that made my jaw drop. That was really the kicker for me; all the twists and turns added up to the ending that felt like nothing less than a kick to the chest. I loved every crazy, beautiful moment of The Wicked Deep, and I’m so excited for what Shea Ernshaw has in store next! The bottom line: A beautiful, creepy novel that captivated me almost against my will, The Wicked Deep was as deep and dark as the ocean itself, and I loved every moment of it! Next on deck: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo!

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore Review

Title: Wild Beauty
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Magical Realism/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Wild Beauty was the book club pick for May for one of the library book clubs that I go to, much to my pleasant surprise. Anna-Marie McLemore won my heart last year with her magical realism debut, The Weight of Feathers, so naturally, I leapt at the opportunity to read her third novel. (Now I just need to read When the Moon Was Ours and I’ll be caught up with her whole body of work!) Book club was this evening, and unfortunately, due to extenuating circumstances, I wasn’t able to go. But I figured, why not give a review of it anyway? A book of such gorgeous prose and lovely characters deserves to be recounted, in my honest opinion. First of all: I love her books, especially because they feature diverse characters! Diverse books for the win, forever! McLemore pens a beautiful tale of the many different kinds of love, family, flowers, dangerous magic, and deadly secrets, and honestly, from the first sentence, I was spellbound. Gorgeous, heartfelt, tender and brutally beautiful, Wild Beauty has planted a seed in my heart that will never die. One of my favorite books that I’ve read recently.

For close to a century, the women of the Nomeolvides family have tended the lush, beautiful gardens of La Pradera, something that draws people across the globe. But the gorgeous blooms of The Meadow hide far darker secrets: If any of the women fall in love too deeply, they accidentally will that person out of existence. But after generations of mysterious disappearances, this time, the garden gives the family of women a young man who remembers nothing of his past, only his name: Fel. One of the lovely, talented cousins, Estrella, finds him, and is desperate to help him piece together his existence. But it turns out that their beloved home hides even more deadly secrets, and Estrella must decide if she is willing to sacrifice everything she loves to cover the truth…


I tried to read this book earlier this year, but I had to return it before I could even start it, much to my disappointment. So when I was told that this was the book club pick, to say that I was excited was an understatement. I was absolutely enchanted. The prose, as per McLemore’s signature, was beautiful and eerie, and I was immediately transfixed. This book is weird, in the best kind of way. Magical realism is one of my favorite genres, hands down, and Anna-Marie McLemore does it like no one else. Even more than that, the setting was so seductive; I found myself dreaming of La Pradera, the lush meadow thick with blooms, even when I wasn’t reading. But my favorite part was the Nomeolvides family, all fiery, defiant women named after the plants they adored so much. Cursed to never fall too deeply in love with someone, for fear of them disappearing into thin air, they cling to one another fiercely, sometimes too much so. They were just so full of heart and love that at the end of the novel, they felt like one of my many literary families, and I will never forget them. I also really enjoyed the love story between Fel and Estrella, shy and hesitant and beautiful; again, as with The Weight of Feathers, I was reminded of how I first fell in love with my husband, and it was such a joy. The real kicker of this book, though, was the ending; I won’t reveal it, just in case there are some readers out there who haven’t read it yet, but my jaw was on the floor! I think Wild Beauty is my favorite book of Anna-Marie McLemore’s, and I will never forget it. It was such a beautiful tale of love, family, flowers, and mysterious magic, and I loved every moment of it. Totally gorgeous, and unforgettable! The bottom line: A book as beautiful as the flowers of La Pradera, I loved Wild Beauty, and it has become my favorite book of the author’s! One of the best books of 2017! Next on deck: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw!

Beyond a Darkened Shore by Jessica Leake Review

Title: Beyond a Darkened Shore
Author: Jessica Leake
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

As soon as I finished King’s Cage, I dived into Beyond a Darkened Shore, not wanting to return the book before I’d had a chance to read it. I found it through a recommendation list, and it’d been sitting in my library stack for a while, drawing the eye with its dark, enticing cover. But even better were its contents. A historical fantasy tale rife with romance, action, and Norse and Celtic mythology, Leake weaves an enthralling, enchanting tale, dark and bloody and beautiful, meticulously researched and finely wrought. This could be one of my favorite books of 2018, if not for the formulaic romance. I like the enemies to lovers trope as much as the next girl, but the romance, at first, seemed like instalove, and it kind of turned me off. Nonetheless, what a fantastic young adult debut! I’ll be on the lookout for what she comes out with next!

Ciara is the eldest princess and heir to the kingdom of Mide, feared by her people—including her own family members—for her power to control the minds of her enemies. When the Northmen try to raid her father’s keep while her family members are away, Ciara apprehends one of her enemies, and finds, much to her surprise, that he can resist her. When a shocking and terrible twist of fate results in her being exiled from her own kingdom, she finds that she must turned to her most hated enemy for help. On their journey, the two must learn to trust each other, for the end of the world is coming, and there are giants, gods and goddesses, and ancient creatures are ushering it in. And maybe, just maybe, trust can turn into something much deeper…


Despite the relationship that sprung up almost instantly between the two main characters—one a fierce Celtic warrior with frightening, misunderstood powers that she can barely control, and her captive Norseman who has his own secrets to hide—I really liked this book. I’m a sucker for all things mythology related, and I loved how the prose was peppered with fragments of both cultures. (Bonus points for the sweet glossary in the back of the book!) The pacing was breakneck, and even though the romance seemed a little bit too well knit for me, Ciara’s tense narration grabbed me by the throat and refused to let go, even after the final page. I was immediately drawn into her dangerous world, full of magic, political intrigue, gods and goddesses, religious upheaval, and dark forces. I liked the way that despite Christianity taking over Ireland during that period, Leake brought in parts of the older cultures. I really enjoyed the romance, but I wish it had taken a little longer to actually bloom; I can’t stand when couples look at each other a handful of times and get heart-eyes, it just doesn’t make sense. I really enjoyed Leif and the way his culture was explained as the book went on. And that ending—it was so fulfilling and painful, all at once! Despite some little quibbles, I really liked Jessica Leake’s young adult debut, and I’m looking forward to more from her. A fantastic debut novel! The bottom line: A debut packed with almost everything I love in a historical fiction novel, I loved Beyond a Darkened Shore, and I can’t wait to see what’s next from this promising young author! Next on deck: Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore!

King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard Review

Title: King’s Cage
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Series: Red Queen, book three
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Sorry I haven’t posted anything more recent, you guys! I’ve been crazy busy, with my family life and work and everything else, and on top of that, King’s Cage was so explosive and emotional for me that I needed time to process all of my feelings, and then time just got away from me. But on to the actual review! King’s Cage is the second to last book in The Red Queen series, and man, was it explosive. Way to pack a punch, Aveyard! I finished this almost a week ago, and I’m still reeling; I’m practically salivating for War Storm, and the only reason I haven’t lost my mind is because it’s on its way! I’m so excited and anxious to see how one of my most recent favorite series will end! That ending though: Ouch, my heart! I’m so scared for what’s in the future for Mare, Cal, and Maven!
Mare Barrow has gone on to sacrifice everything, her heart and soul, her freedom, the love of her life, in order to stop Maven. Giving herself to him freely in exchange for the lives of her friends and fellow soldiers, she is used as a trophy for Maven’s twisted new regime and tortured brutally. But Maven isn’t done; he’s determined to use her to wipe out what’s left of the Scarlet Guard and the newbloods they’ve taken in. Desperate to escape the clutches of her captor and the feuding factions that come out of the woodwork under his fragile rule, Mare must decide if she is willing to sacrifice the things and people she cares for most in order to stop Maven, or if she will walk away from the battle, tired as she is of the bloodshed.


This book; this book was strong in some respects and the weakest of the series in others. I’ve even had time to think about it and I still don’t quite know how I feel about it. The pacing was breakneck; Mare’s terse, spare narration grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go; even when I wasn’t reading it, it was constantly on my mind, picking at me. (It even wormed its way into my dreams several times!) My heart broke for Mare and what she had to do for her loved ones, and the too-young soldiers under her care. I liked the way that Aveyard added in two other perspectives to even out the tension: Evangeline Samos, Maven’s betrothed and eternal nemesis of Mare, and Cameron, the reluctant child-soldier rescued from the battlefield of The Choke, focused on nothing but rescuing her twin brother and the other innocent children trapped in Maven’s war machinations. I liked the way that Aveyard explored Mare’s twisted, poisonous relationship with Maven. At times the book seemed really focused on Mare and her relationship with Cal, so much so that it took away from the other parts of the story. But I enjoyed the political intrigue of it all, and that ending—it was insane. I’m still reeling over it, and frankly, I’m angry; I can only hope that War Storm isn’t going to rip me apart as this did. But it’s Victoria Aveyard, so, I don’t really have my heart set on it. The bottom line: The second to last Red Queen novel, King’s Cage butchered me, despite some little flaws that took away from the better parts of the story, and I can’t wait for War Storm! Next on deck: Beyond a Darkened Shore by Jessica Leake! 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Winter Glass by Lexa Hillyer Review

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

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

Spindle Fire was the first book I’ve ever read by Lexa Hillyer, a dark and beautifully written retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales, Sleeping Beauty. When I found out that there would be a sequel, I was really excited. Winter Glass, as far as sequels go, really delivered; despite some little flaws, I really enjoyed it. Full of magic, beautiful prose, exciting character development, frightening villains, political intrigue, and familiar fairy tale elements with a different spin, Winter Glass was absolutely captivating—what a great way to end this promising duology! I really, really enjoyed it. I don’t want to say much about the plot, in case there are readers out there that haven’t read it yet. Still, this book was absolutely wonderful, especially in the character development area.

Two young sister princesses must navigate two very different, but equally difficult, paths until they make their way back to one another. Aurora has been woken from the sleeping curse that was originally supposed to kill her, only to find herself faced with more temptations than she could have ever imagined. Isabelle, or Isbe, finds herself thrust into a position she has spent the whole of her childhood wanting, only to find that it is not at all what she expected, and she fears that she’s losing herself to the circumstances that surround her. But as it turns out, fate has different plans for these girls, plans that may end up costing them everything…


This book was really enjoyable! Sequels usually make me so anxious, as sometimes they just don’t live up to the hype. But Winter Glass delivered in spades; all of my questions were answered, the loose ends tied up neatly, the pacing was breakneck, and I was frantically turning pages, desperate to find out what would happen. I also liked the way that Hillyer inserted other voices into the story to break up the sisters’ dynamic. Plus: Evil fairies! Political intrigue! Returning characters! New characters! Forbidden romance! Action, darkness, magic, and that ending! It was amazing, I loved it. I was cheering, crying, screaming, biting my nails as I read the book, and I was so happy with it! At times, though, the cast of characters got kind of confusing and muddled; this book might have benefited from a dramatis personae. But nonetheless, Winter Glass was a delightful sequel to Spindle Fire, and I really liked it! The bottom line: The duology closer to last year’s retelling, Spindle Fire, I loved Winter Glass! What a way to end these lovely books! Next on deck: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard!

People Like Us by Dana Mele Review

Title: People Like Us
Author: Dana Mele
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 found this book the way I find most of my library books, a recommendation list. It’s been sitting in my stack for a while, and since I couldn’t renew it anymore, as soon as I finished Honor Among Thieves, I began it. A compelling and chilling first novel, People Like Us is an enthralling, nail-biting mystery that had me constantly guessing until the very last moment; it’s still on my mind, two days after I finished it. My jaw dropped throughout the novel, but especially at the ending. This book, a twisting, creepy thriller that held just as many questions as answers, had me breathless throughout, and I simply can’t wait for what Dana Mele has planned next!

Kay Donovan is a girl who is used to reforming herself. After an unspeakable tragedy strikes too close to home, she is sent to Bates Academy and reinvents herself. Now a star soccer player with a gorgeous set of powerful friends, she is sure that things are going to go in her favor. That is, until a girl’s limp, dead body turns up slashed in the lake. Things get even more complicated when the dead girl has left Kay a password protected scavenger hunt, implicating her own classmates, until, at last, it is Kay herself in the hot seat. As she digs deeper into the killing, she risks unearthing her own demons, and the perpetrator, but uncovering the secrets of Bates Academy elites may end up costing her more than she could have ever imagined…


This book; what a surprising little gem it was! I’m so glad that I got to read this mystery before I had to take it back to the library. Honestly, I devoured it in a day and a half, and it’s still lingering in my mind, insidious and more than a little bit terrifying. I loved everything about this book: the pacing was breakneck, and despite Kay’s self-assured and confident voice, I could feel deep in my soul that something was badly wrong. I was absolutely transfixed, and Kay’s voice haunted my mind, even when I wasn’t reading. I was breathless, and I couldn’t put the book down. I was constantly guessing who had killed Jessica Lane, and exactly why, until the final pages, which shocked me to the core; I’m still reeling over it, honestly. I also really liked the boarding school setting; lush, gorgeous, and full of dark, scandalous secrets, and it just added to the mystery of the whole book. I liked a lot of the characters, though, to be honest, throughout the book, I didn’t know who to trust; it felt like everyone had their own secret agenda. I was constantly shocked by the twists and turns of the book; it felt like every time I had something figured out, something else would come to light that sent my theories off into the ether. And that ending! It was such a double whammy; my heart raced and my jaw dropped. If I hadn’t had to return it to the library the same day I finished it, I would’ve started it over, desperate to connect the dots again, since I had all the answers. Easily one of my favorite books of 2018; I’m still in shock over it, and I will never forget it. The bottom line: A dark and twisty thriller that had me constantly guessing until the shocking, breathtaking ending, I loved People Like Us, and the way it offered a glimpse into the secrets of the rich and elite. One of the best books of 2018! Next on deck: Winter Glass by Lexa Hillyer!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Honor Among Thieves by Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine Review

Title: Honor Among Thieves
Author(s): Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: The Honors, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I found Honor Among Thieves the way that I usually find my library books, a recommendation list. It’s been sitting in the pile for a while now, and I didn’t want to return it without reading it. (Story of my life, lately!) I pushed it to the top of the pile after asking my husband what I should read, and this book got his vote. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t this, and I mean that in the best kind of way. Chock full of action, excitement, philosophy, questions, and of course, aliens, Honor Among Thieves may not be the most original book out there, but it has become one of my favorite books of 2018. I just finished it last night in the tub, and I’m still reeling; the only thing keeping me halfway sane is that there’s more to come. What a wonderful, searing series debut, with one of the weirdest relationships I’ve ever seen at its heart.

Zara Cole lives a life that is quite unusual. Refusing to live life within the strict confines of what she calls ‘Paradise’, she ekes out a brutal, gory existence among other misfits in the Zone. She’s resigned to her way of life, so when she gets into a particularly sticky situation, she fully expects to die a messy death out in the fringe. But that all changes when she is selected as an Honor out of a pool of random people. Honors get the privilege to live amongst the stars, with a mysterious race of alien life called The Leviathan. Thrust into a prestigious position that she never wanted in the first place, Zara accepts, albeit reluctantly. Forced to adapt all over again, Zara begins to like this new fate she’s been given. That is, until she starts digging and finds opposition on all sides. She must decide if the secrets she uncovers are worth her life, or if some things are just better staying buried…


This book was, in a word, a surprise. Science fiction is a genre that I deeply love, though it’s often hit and miss with me. I was a little worried at first; I’d read some reviews that said the book fell short, due to plot issues, lack of originality, and character development. But despite all of this, it was so much fun that I decided to disregard others’ thoughts on the book. Honor Among Thieves has everything that I love in a science fiction novel: spunky, hilarious heroines, breakneck pacing, aliens, political intrigue and dark secrets, killer character development, and a shocking ending that made my jaw drop. It took a little bit for me to get into it, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. And when I did, it was constantly on my mind. I loved the concepts introduced in this book; I liked the way the authors took a typical topic and gave it a really cool spin. The Leviathan were one of my favorite parts of the book, especially Nadim, and his relationship with Zara and the other Honor, Beatriz. (Diverse books forever for the win! I freaking loved that Zara was biracial and Beatriz was Brazilian, it made me so happy!) Beatriz was another fun standout of a character, and I also really loved Marko, Chao-Xing, and Typhon. This book was one of the best of 2018, and I can’t wait for the sequel! The bottom line: A gorgeous, meaty and deep series opener that takes place in the deep black depths of space, I loved Honor Among Thieves! One of my favorite books of the year! Next on deck: People Like Us by Dana Mele!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth Review

Title: The Fates Divide
Author: Veronica Roth
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Carve the Mark, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

Veronica Roth and I—I’m not going to mince words here. We have a love/hate relationship. I read her first novel, Divergent, and loved it, but I’m still really sore about how the series ended. After that, I swore that I wasn’t going to buy another book from her. But borrowing the from the library was and is a different story, and I loved the first book in this duology. Picking up from where Carve the Mark left off, The Fates Divide was a meaty and satisfying sequel to one of my favorite books of the last year. I really, really enjoyed it, though I had sequel anxiety and it took me a little while to remember the events from the previous book. Honestly, this set of books, for me, is the favorite of her work. Shocking, beautifully written, rife with romance and political intrigue, The Fates Divide more than delivered for me. One of the best books of the year!


The Fates Divide picked up where Carve the Mark left off, and I don’t want to say too much about the plot, in case there are any readers out there that haven’t read it yet. Cyra and Akos meet again, and in this installment, things become even more dangerous than before. Roth adds two distinct new voices to the narrative, two of Akos’s siblings, Cisi and Eijeh. As I said, I don’t want to say much about the plot, but I will say that the pacing is breakneck, the romance heartbreaking and gorgeous, the political intrigue deep and dark and pretty much impossible to untangle. I really liked the continuity of it all, and the way the two books tied together. And that ending! It was so beautiful and bittersweet. But what really sold this book for me was the character development of all of the characters, but especially Cyra and Akos. I’m totally here for bomb character development, all day, every day. I loved this sequel, and this set of books is my favorite of Roth’s work so far. Absolutely amazing! The bottom line: A meaty, satisfying duology closer, I loved The Fates Divide, and it’s bittersweet that this deep, thoughtful science fiction romance is over! Next on deck: Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones Review

Title: Murder, Magic, and What We Wore
Author: Kelly Jones
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.

Murder, Magic, and What We Wore was the book club pick for April for one of the book clubs I go to. As soon as I was finished with The Astonishing Color of After, I began it and devoured it in a day and a half. I loved every bit of it. Rife with humor, intrigue, and magic, this book was like the loveliest Regency-era soiree I could imagine. Imagine Jane Austen with a dash of magic, a spunky heroine, political intrigue, humor, plenty of romance and surprises, and you’ll have something close to Magic, Murder, and What We Wore. It was such fun, and I was laughing, cheering, crying, and scratching my head throughout the book. It’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read recently, and honestly, I’m kind of sad that it’s over.

London, 1818. Annis Whitworth, 16, has just received terrible news: Her beloved father has passed away suspiciously on his way to see her and her aunt Cassia, and all of his funds have disappeared. She decides to become a spy for her country, as her father did before her. However, it turns out that a silly girl isn’t needed in the ranks, much to her infuriation. When she discovers she possesses the power to make glamours, clothes that literally conceal the identity of the wearer, she is even more determined to find out just what happened to her father, desperate to avoid becoming a governess. But in doing so, she finds herself wrapped up in a web of violence, secrets, intrigue, and perhaps a little romance.


I really liked this book! I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but what I got was a hilarious, whip-smart romp through London and beyond in the tumultuous year of 1818, narrated by the headstrong and determined Annis Whitworth, who was a treat unto herself. The pacing was breakneck; as soon as I started the book, I was brought into her world, rife with humor, political intrigue, romance, and more than a little bit of subterfuge. I was laughing, crying, cheering, and screaming all throughout the book. I loved Annis, who was spunky and funny and so unapologetically herself. Her Aunt Cassia, her maid, Millie, were also great standouts in the book; they were great characters. The suspense was also a wonderful element in the book; I was constantly guessing who might be behind Annis’s father’s murder until the final shocking conclusion. I loved this magical, funny twist on Jane Austen’s Regency era, and this book is one of the favorites of all the ones I’ve read recently. And the way the author tied other young adult authors’ characters into it—I just loved it. Honestly, I can’t find fault with this book in any way, a few days later. The bottom line: A lovely and wonderful romp through the Regency era, full of magic, humor, and panache, I loved Murder, Magic, and What We Wore! One of the best books I’ve ever read! One of my favorite book club selections of the year! Next on deck: The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth!

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan Review

Title: The Astonishing Color of After
Author: Emily X.R. Pan
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I found this book the way I usually do; a recommendation list. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while now and I couldn’t renew it anymore, so as soon as I could, I pushed it to the top of the stack. I didn’t want to return this beautiful, lovely book to the library before I could experience it. I finished Inkmistress and immediately dove into the novel, swept away by the gorgeous, colorful prose and Leigh’s powerful, heartfelt voice, and her journey to self-acceptance, forgiveness, and letting go. This book is easily one of the best of 2018; I will never forget Leigh Chen-Saunders or her beautiful, sad story. Emily X.R. Pan has become of my new favorite authors with this book!
Leigh Chen-Saunders has been having a rough time lately, and that’s putting it lightly. Her mother committed suicide after a lifelong battle with depression. As if this wasn’t enough to deal with, she was kissing her best friend, Axel, when it happened. Wracked with guilt, confusion, and grief, she sees a beautiful red crane in the sky and is convinced that the bird is her mother, trying to send her a message she cannot decipher. Obsessed with finding out what drove her mother to take her own life, she convinces her distant father to take her to Taipei, in desperate need of answers. Once there, she discovers the family she never knew, and things about herself that she never wanted to face. A beautiful and unforgettable story about grief, family, and self-discovery, The Astonishing Color of After was amazing—one of the best books I’ve ever read.



This book; I finished it last weekend and I’ve been stewing over it ever since, unable to get it out of my head. The cover, initially, was what caught my eye; it was so ethereal and beautiful. But the lyrical, gutsy prose just grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go; I was totally spellbound. Leigh herself also felt like a long-lost friend, bereft and set adrift in a deep well of grief and confusion. My heart ached, and later broke, for her. I’ll be honest: I was crying through most of the book. I was so moved; Leigh burrowed into my heart and has been heavy on my mind ever since. Her relationship with her family, especially her late mother, and her childhood best friend, Axel, was in the spotlight, and I loved it. The dreamy, gorgeous writing was amazing; I was bowled over. I loved Leigh and her character development, her transition from an insecure and shy young woman, unsure of her own identity to a girl unafraid to reach out for the future, despite all of its uncertainties; it was such a wonderful journey, and already, I wish I could take it once more. The only thing that I didn’t really like about The Astonishing Color of After was Leigh’s father; despite his grief, I feel like for most of the book, he didn’t really know his own daughter, and barely tried to. But the ending made up for everything, and I was so incredibly touched. I also really liked the way that mental illness was portrayed throughout the book; it was presented in such a tender and understanding way, and I loved the way that excuses weren’t offered up for Leigh’s mother’s depression. It was simply something that was a part of her, something she’d tried her whole life to combat to be a better wife and mother. The bottom line: A gorgeous, beautiful novel about family, grief, and self-discovery, I loved The Astonishing Color of After, one of the best books of 2018, hands down! Next on deck: Magic, Murder, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones!