Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland Review

Title: Dread Nation
Author: Justina Ireland
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Horror
Series: Dread Nation, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Dread Nation has been on my list at the library since I first heard of it, way back in May. When I saw that it was available at my local library, I went and snatched it up. It was on its last renewal, and I didn’t want to return it to the library again without reading it. It presents an alternate timeline of history, where the dead walk just two days after The Battle of Gettysburg began. It is also a powerful treatise on racism, colonialism, and what it really means to be human. This book is one of the best of 2018, striking straight to the soul and not letting go, not until the explosive ending. Thought-provoking, sharp, darkly funny, meticulously researched and diverse, Dread Nation is a zombie novel that I was waiting for my whole life. I can’t wait for the next book!

Jane McKeene was born two days after the dead began to walk at the Battle of Gettysburg, and as a result, The War Between the States is utterly derailed, normal life shattered forever. In a nation more frightened by the threat of the undead than one another, safety is placed in the hands of a few, and the laws such as the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children, once they are of age, to learn how to put down the dead for good, called ‘shamblers’. But with the laws come new opportunities that the children wouldn’t have otherwise. Jane is studying to become an Attendant, a guardian trained in weapons, fighting, and etiquette to guard the well-to-do from the undead; it is the only thing that could raise her status and protect her from society’s prejudices. But that’s the last thing that Jane wants: her only thoughts are for her mother and returning to her home in Kentucky, once her education is finished. But when people begin disappearing mysteriously around Baltimore county, Jane is soon caught up in a deadly conspiracy that could cost her everything she loves, against some powerful, secret enemies. Apparently the walking undead is the least of Jane McKeene’s problems.

This book; I had to take it back to the library twice before I actually had the time to read it, and I’m so happy that I was able to finish it before I had to take it back. It is easily one of the best books of 2018, and for good reason. A smashing combination of horror, historical commentary for the past and today, biting, sharp, hilarious prose with biracial and black female protagonists, killer fight scenes, and political intrigue and turns and twists around every corner—this book was fantastic. (Diverse books for the win, always!) The pacing was breakneck, the prose biting, spare, and sharp, and if I wasn’t cringing, or screaming, I was laughing, ever anxious to see what was going to happen next. The alternate timeline that Ireland presents was both exciting and terrible, and I didn’t realize just how much I wanted this kind of book until it was written. I mean, a combo of zombies and Civil War America? Genius! One of my favorite parts of this novel was that it was a timely and thought-provoking read on what it really means to be human, but especially a black, Native-American, or Mexican individual in a white, patriarchal society. Reading this book felt like being struck by lightning; it made me laugh, cry, scream, and think, and I recommend it to everyone. Get your hands on this book, read it, because I promise you, you won’t regret it. They say that fiction is a mirror through which we get to see different points of view, and I will never forget Jane McKeene, Katherine, or Jack Redbone; I feel like I found a little ragtag family in this book, and I can’t wait for the second one. Hands down one of the best books of the year, if not all time. ‘Nuff said. The bottom line: A thought-provoking, sharp and funny historical fiction novel that bends time and space, I loved Dread Nation, every little thing about it. One of my favorite books of 2018, and I can’t wait for the sequel! Next on deck: War Storm by Victoria Aveyard!

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir Review

Title: A Reaper at the Gates
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: An Ember in the Ashes, book three
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

An Ember in the Ashes, the first book in this series, was one of my favorite books of 2015, and the sequel, A Torch Against the Night, was just as fantastic. I reserved A Reaper at the Gates at my local library as soon as I knew of its existence, and it’s been sitting in my library stack for a while. As soon as I was finished with Let Me Tell You, I dove into this book, and honestly… My emotions are still roiling, and I finished it on Friday. I needed the whole weekend to process my feelings, and I’m so sad that I have to wait until 2019 for the sequel. This book was the best yet in the quartet, but it was also the most heartwrenching and emotional. I think I’m going to be scarred for life over this book, but that being said, it is easily one of my favorite books of 2018. I don’t want to say too much about the plot, for my readers that haven’t read it yet, so I’ll do my best to sum it all up without giving it away.

A Reaper at the Gates picks up where A Torch Against the Night left off. The threat of war looms large over The Empire. Helene Aquilla, The Blood Shrike, is facing unrest inside of The Empire and out. Things are even more perilous when she realizes that her sister’s life—and the lives of every citizen in The Empire—hangs in the balance. In the far east, Laia of Serra hunts for a way to stop the even bigger threat of The Nightbringer, but in the process, she faces unexpected threats and is drawn into a battle that she never even imagined she would fight. Elias is stuck in the land that dwells between the living and death, having given his freedom away to take on the mantle of Soul Catcher. But in so doing, the ancient power that he has pledged to serve will stop at nothing to ensure his devotion, even at the cost of his own humanity.

This book: It was beautiful, emotional, heartbreaking, and even three days later, I’m still shell-shocked. The pacing was breakneck, moving between Laia, Elias, Helene, and occasionally The Nightbringer, and this book grabbed me by the throat from the first line. I was captivated by Tahir’s gorgeous, beautiful prose, and as the book progressed, I was laughing, crying, or screaming. I also really loved the intense, realistic character development, especially the three main characters, Marcus, and The Commandant. Rife with romance, action, and more than a fair share of heartbreak, I was absolutely enchanted by this book. Full of twists that had me gasping in shock, I was enthralled, often against my will; there were times when I had to put the book down, because my heart couldn’t take it. I cried multiple times reading this book, and I spent most of the weekend crying over it, too. And that ending! It. Was. The Worst. I’m still reeling from it. I need the last book! Right now, or I’m gonna die! This book was the most exquisite torture, and I really enjoyed all of all the loose ends that it tied up. Is it April of next year yet? I’m dying! The bottom line: The third book in the bestselling Ember in the Ashes series, I loved A Reaper at the Gates, even while it shattered my soul and stomped my heart into tiny, broken pieces! Next on deck: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Let Me Tell You by Shirley Jackson Review

Title: Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings
Author: Shirley Jackson
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Anthology
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Shirley Jackson is a name that is synonymous with titan, god, or witch, in my opinion, and to be honest, the short story ‘The Lottery’, prior to this point, way back in high school, and it’s left an indelible mark on my mind. Let Me Tell You has been sitting in my stack for a while now, and when I realized that it went back to the library this week, I immediately began after I was finished with Reign the Earth, and I was absolutely blown away. A collection of unpublished work, complied by Jackson’s children, Let Me Tell You was amazing, one of the best works I’ve read in a long time, and I will never forget it. It was like finding a massive wellspring of inspiration and knowledge; Jackson, to this day, is known as one of the best American storytellers of all time, and I can’t wait to dive into more of her work when I have the time. I really feel like I’ve found a new inspiration, someone new to look up to, and I’m so inspired!

This book just contains far too many pieces to be reviewed individually, so I’ll just give the book an overall rating. Consisting of short stories, drawings, humorous pieces about life and family, and advice on the craft of writing, I was captivated by this book; there wasn’t a piece that I didn’t love or didn’t inspire me in some way. I was only sad that there wasn’t more. This was an obvious labor of love from children to their mother, and I was greatly touched by the time and efforts that her children put forth in order to put their beloved mother’s work out in the world, where people could read it.

This book also had great range: no piece was quite like the other, and if I wasn’t laughing, gasping, or crying, I was amazed just by the sheer skill that Jackson poured into her work, especially when I realized just how much she had to do when she wasn’t sitting in the study, clacking away at the typewriter. This book has everything: tales of lost love, affairs, supernatural stories, suspense that had me screaming or jumping at every loud noise, anxious and paranoid, stories that hinted at magic and things that hid in the shadows. But her nonfiction was just as compelling, giving depth on her family life and how she balanced it and her passion for writing. It’s really hard to pick a favorite in this volume; it was all so good! I devoured these stories like a junkie, and I can’t wait to find more of her stories and novels! I feel like I’ve found a gold mine that I was blind to before; I’m totally blown away by Shirley Jackson’s work, and I can see why her work still endures today; her voice is timeless. This book is essential to a Jackson fan, whether they’re familiar to her work or not. Easily one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I can’t wait to explore more of Jackson’s delicious, chills-inducing prose. Absolutely beautiful. The bottom line: An intense, beautiful labor of love from a writer’s children to their slightly wacky, hilarious mother, I loved Let Me Tell You! One of my favorite books that I’ve read this year! Next on deck: A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen Review

Title: Reign the Earth
Author: A.C. Gaughen
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Elementae, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I found this book from a recommendation list, and it’s been sitting in my library stack for a while. As soon as I was finished with The Radical Element, I dove into this book. This is my first book by A.C. Gaughen, and I can promise you all that it will not be my last. A lush, gorgeous fantasy series opener, rife with magic, deception, betrayal and political intrigue, I was captivated by this book, and I will never forget it. Easily one of my favorite books of 2018, and I’m so excited for the sequel! I decided to wait a few days to review, because I needed some time to think before I put my thoughts down on paper, and I went on a camping trip on Friday and didn’t return until yesterday. Honestly, I’m really tempted to check out her first series, about a lady Robin Hood! Reign the Earth was absolutely amazing.

Shalia is a daughter of the desert, and in an effort to barter for peace for her people, she is engaged to marry the King of the Bone Lands, Calix, never mind that they’ve never met. In their world, there are people who have the gift to control different elements, called The Elementae. But her new husband has his own secrets, many of them deadly: He longs to exterminate The Elementae, aiming to settle the score for a wrong that happened years before his time. Even more unsettling, Shalia begins to have feelings for her husband’s brother, Galen, which trigger dormant powers over Earth that she never knew she had. As whispers of rebellion and revolution begin to reach the palace, Shalia must choose between forging a lasting peace between the peoples of the desert and the Bone Lands, or to fight for her own future as an Elementae, even if it costs her everything she loves.

This book was amazing. The writing was gorgeous, the pacing breakneck, and I was utterly spellbound by Shalia’s glittering, dangerous world. I also really enjoyed Shalia’s voice, and her character development; she grew from a meek, shy girl into a powerful young woman who refuses to let anything stand in the way of what she believes is right; I loved it. All of the characters in this book were really memorable, especially Shalia’s family members most noticeably Kairos and Rian, Calix, his siblings, Danae and Galen. There were also really great elements mixed into it that helped move the plot along: secrets, betrayal, political intrigue, forbidden love, surprising magic and heartfelt bonds. And that ending! Oh my goodness, how in the world am I supposed to wait a whole year before the sequel?! I’m dying here! This book was perfect, a gorgeous, thoughtful fantasy about what it means to be human, and how to stand up for yourself, even if all the odds are stacked up against you! The bottom line: A gorgeous, emotional series opener full of magic and action, I loved Reign the Earth, and I can’t wait for what’s next in this series! Next on deck: Let Me Tell You by Shirley Jackson: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Radical Element by Jessica Spotswood Review

Title: The Radical Element: 12 Stories of Daredevils, Debutantes, and Other Dauntless Girls
Editor: Jessica Spotswood
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Anthology
Series: A Tyranny of Petticoats, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I loved the anthology A Tyranny of Petticoats, so when I found out that it was getting a sequel, I was so excited. I reserved it at my local library, and as soon as I was able, I pushed it to the top of the stack, eager to drive in after The Neverending Story. I really loved Tyranny, but I honestly think that The Radical Element was the stronger of the two. Since this is an anthology, I’ll do this review a little differently than normal; I’ll give the whole book an overall rating, and since there are twelve stories, I’ll be reviewing the stories that were highlights for me, for the sake of clarity and time. I will say this, though, before I get started: all of these stories were well-researched and strong, featuring women who refused to let the social mores of their time hold them back from what they truly wanted. Okay, so without further ado, here we go:

The Magician by Erin Bowman: 5 out of 5 Stars. Set in 1858, on the Colorado River, in the New Mexican Territory, this story tells of a girl disguised as a scrawny boy, desperate to make a living and leave the tiny riverside town she lives in, only to end up with her secret in deep jeopardy. But she fights back with everything she has and gets away with more than she could’ve ever imagined. Gritty, poignant, and spare, I loved this story!

Lady Firebrand by Megan Shepherd: 5 out of 5 Stars. This story takes place in Charleston, South Carolina, with the Civil War in full swing. Honestly, this was one of my favorites, partially because the main character was disabled, confined to a wheelchair due to a tragic accident. But that doesn’t stop her from doing her part to turn the bloody tides of the war, disguised as the dashing figure of Lord Firebrand. Accompanied by her best friend, Pauline, a freed slave, she is presented with an opportunity that she simply can’t refuse. Gorgeous, witty, and surprising!

Step Right Up by Jessica Spotswood: 4 out of 5 Stars. 1905, Tulsa, Indian Territory. Honestly, I think that this story is my favorite piece of work in Spotwood’s arsenal. This story tells of the brave, vivacious and defiant Ruby, who has the restless heart that led her father to run away with the circus when she and her sister, Pearl, were young. She longs to be a star, to be more than the girl who’s beaten by her Uncle Jack and all but ignored by her mother. Refusing to be confined to the life of a loveless marriage and having children, she runs away in pursuit of her dreams, even when her family turns against her. I loved it a lot, but I honestly hated her family, aside from Pearl. I loved Ruby and her bright, unstoppable voice. Wonderful!

Better for All the World by Marieke Nijkamp: 5 out of 5 Stars. 1927, Washington D.C. A story of law, the eugenics movement, and being unapologetically yourself, Carrie longs to be a lawyer and be able to stand up for those who can’t do so for themselves. She is spurred on by this and a secret that only her closest family members know. When she makes an unexpected friend outside of the courthouse while waiting on a verdict on a case that is close to her heart, she thinks that she may have finally found a kindred spirit, until they begin to debate and she realizes that he fully supports the eugenics movement, a movement that is about optimal genetics and eliminating the threats to society, for example, the disabled, the old, the infirm. Deciding that she cannot be friends with someone who would have her sterilized or even killed because of her differences, she lets go of her fear and goes on to live the way she wants. This story really hit home, and I will never forget it. Thoughtful, brutal, and enlightening, I loved it.

When the Moonlight Isn’t Enough by Dhionelle Clayton: 5 out of 5 Stars. 1943, Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts. This story is a contender for my favorite of the entire collection. Emma and her family have lived for hundreds of years, collecting moonlight to prevent natural aging. But now that the War is on, Emma is no longer content to hide in plain sight and move on once people get suspicious. She longs to do something meaningful, to enlist as the boys in her town have been doing. But her parents are desperate to keep her out of the conflict, and so the story ends with her posing as a nurse, determined to make a difference even if it means defying her loved ones. I loved Emma’s voice, the prose lovely and beautiful and sparse; easily one of the best of the whole collection; I wish this story was a whole book! Clayton is one of my favorite authors, as I loved this story and her sophomore novel, The Belles. Fantastic!

Land of the Sweet, Home of the Brave by Stacey Lee: 5 out of 5 Stars. 1955, Oakland, California. I loved Stacey Lee’s last book, Outrun the Moon, so I was really looking forward to this one, and I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed at all. Lana Lau is a Hawaiian native, come to California with her parents, her mother a worker in a sugar refinery, her father a cobbler. Desperate to help her parents and to make something out of herself, she decides to try out for the part of Sugar Girl, the girl who will be on all the bags of sugar for the company that her mother works for. When things go deeply wrong in her audition, she is forced to rely on another, unexpected talent: her jokes. I really, really enjoyed this one! Another frontrunner for my favorite story of the whole book. Full of spirit, resilience, and humor, I loved Lana and her vibrant, hilarious voice, and the way she used her connection to her Hawaiian culture to come out on top! Amazing!

This book is one of my favorites of the year, full of spunky, spirited stories that inspired me, made me laugh, cry, and cheer! I can only hope that there’s another anthology in the works now, because if I wasn’t hooked before, I definitely am now! Full of tales from some of my favorite authors and ones that I’ve just discovered, I loved The Radical Element! Absolutely stunning! The bottom line: Filled with stories that are as diverse as they are inspiring and funny, I loved The Radical Element—one of my favorite anthologies of 2018! Next on deck: Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen!

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende Review

Title: The Neverending Story
Author: Michael Ende
Age Group: Middle Grade/Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Okay, so I’ll admit it: This is a reread. I read this for the first time when I was ten or so; my library had a hardcover copy, and I loved the way that the text was green and purple; that was initially the thing that caught my eye. I also adored all the three movies, so when I realized that my library had a copy, I snatched it up. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while, and as soon as I was finished with Bookish Boyfriends, I started it, and reading it from an adult perspective put a different spin on things. It was still the captivating tale from my childhood, but it was really interesting, the things that I noticed because I had grown so much since reading it the first time.

First, I’d like to note that the movie and the book are completely different, as is usually the case when a book is turned into another media format; the movie only scratched the surface of the worldbuilding that Michael Ende created, and a lot of the characters were significantly different, especially Bastian himself, but overall, I think the movies did a good job of telling the story. It had been years since I read the book, but the writing was beautiful, the pacing breakneck, the illustrations gorgeous, dark, creepy, and eerily detailed, and I loved every dark, lovely moment inside of this story.
Bastian Balthazar Bux doesn’t exactly fit in at his school: often, he’s the target for bullies and tormented by teachers. Grieving for his late mother, one of his only ways of coping are reading books. When he passes a bookstore on the way to school one day, he spots a book called The Neverending Story. He steals it and hides in the attic, plunged into the story of Atreyu and The Childlike Empress, quite literally eventually. And he must decide whether to save the magical world of Fantastica, or if he will ever return to his own life and world, for the very fabric of existence may depend on his choice…

This book was wonderful, and not just because of the nostalgia factor. The prose was beautiful, the worldbuilding was well fleshed-out, and I was captivated by the illustrations. I really liked the adventure of it all, and I really loved Fantastica, and the peril that plagued the world that Bastian eventually fell into. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately spellbound. This book was nothing less than a classic fantasy, suitable for both middle grade and young adult readers. I also really liked the way that the darker parts of Bastian’s personality were expanded on; it was almost like the world of Fantastica changed him as much as he changed it. This was a weird experience, reading this book so many years on. I still really enjoyed the fantasy elements of this book; it will always be a classic to me. But the concepts of escapism, good and evil, and fantasy versus reality really stuck with me. Honestly, the second read was just as good as the first, especially with all the riddles, questions, and the ending! I only wish that there was more! The bottom line: A beautifully written, thought-provoking fantasy novel perfect for all ages, I still love The Neverending Story! Next on deck: The Radical Element: 12 Stories of Daredevils, Debutantes, and Other Dauntless Girls by Jessica Spotswood!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Bookish Boyfriends by Tiffany Schmidt Review

Title: Bookish Boyfriends: A Date with Darcy
Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: Bookish Boyfriends, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I’ve had my eye on this book for a while; the first time that I borrowed it from the library I decided to return it because I didn’t have enough room in my stack at the time. So when I saw it sitting on the shelf, I snatched it up. I’ve never read any of Tiffany Schmidt’s work prior to this series debut, but I can assure you all that I will be seeking out more of her work as soon as possible. This book was a very pleasant surprise; I picked it up expecting a funny, light romp into classic literature and first love. And it was, but it was also a lot more substantial than I expected it to be. Feminist, funny, and smart, I loved A Date with Darcy, and I can’t wait for more from this hilarious, promising new series! One of my favorite books of 2018, and it was the perfect antidote to the two heavy, emotional reads I had before it.

Merrilee Campbell firmly holds the belief that boys are always better in books. But that doesn’t stop her from longing for the ultimate love story in real life. Upon a transfer to Hero High with her best friend, Eliza, and her little sister, Rory, she meets Monroe Stratford and is certain that the romance she craves has finally come true. But when Monroe gets demanding, possessive, and clingy, she is forced to rethink on what she really wants in a guy. Things are further complicated by the appearance of Fielding Williams, the infuriating headmaster’s son, to whom Merri has an irresistible attraction, even though she can’t stand him. Drawing on the literature she learns about in her class, she starts to see that a romance straight out of the books may not be for her after all. Other issues pepper Merri’s life: her older sister is getting married to a real-life Ken doll, her younger sister is having trouble keeping up with the rigorous new coursework, and Eliza’s parents, brilliant scientists, are gone for months at a time. But Merri must decide what she really wants, from romance and her own life.

As I said, this book was a really pleasant surprise! I was expecting fluff, nothing really meaningful, but this book really proved me wrong. Sure, it was stuffed to the brim with romance, but it was also smart and funny and full of literary references that had me constantly laughing! I really liked the pacing; it started out at a brisk clip, and I really enjoyed Merrilee’s bright, vivacious voice, though it didn’t hurt that she was a major bookworm, just like this girl! I also really liked Merri’s bright, loving family, especially her parents and sisters; they provided a great foil to Merri’s dreamy whimsy. Eliza, too, was a really fun character; I liked how she tried to ground Merri when her imagination ran away with her (which was often). I honestly didn’t like any of the boys in the book, except for Fielding and Toby. Monroe was just so obnoxious and annoying! I wish that Merri had given him the boot earlier. I really enjoyed the ending, too; both romance wise and what Merri decided to do with her life. I really hope that there’s more to come, because this book was the perfect palate cleanser after heavy novels, full of serious issues and emotion! The bottom line: Funny, thoughtful, feminist and romantic, I loved Bookish Boyfriends, and I can’t wait for the next installment! Next on deck: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende!

Tradition by Brendan Kiely Review

Title: Tradition
Author: Brendan Kiely
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.

Brendan Kiely is known for three books, the most notable of which is All-American Boys, coauthored with fellow superstar Jason Reynolds (who holds a special place in my heart because of Miles Morales). But before Tradition, I hadn’t heard of him, nor read his work. But I found Tradition through a recommendation list online, and I checked it out from my library. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while, and when I realized that I had no more renewals on it, I pushed it to the top of my stack after I finished A Court of Frost and Starlight. Kiely has penned a runaway sleeper hit that I will never forget, challenging everything we know about age-old traditions, rape culture, misogyny, and speaking your truth, even if it means letting go of everything you once held dear.
Fullbrook Academy, an elite boarding school tucked in the hills and mountains of New England. An establishment of learning, privilege, and success. But behind its polished veneer lies dangerous traditions and even darker secrets. Jules Devereux wants only to keep her head down and get through her last year, to start over at a new college and leave the antiquated, good old boys culture behind. She longs for complete freedom, but ex-boyfriends and friends hold her in her place, much to her frustration. Enter James ‘Bax’ Baxter, a newcomer from Ohio gifted a clean slate after a tragic accident back home, and an unlikely friendship springs up between them.

But the culture at Fullbrook, where girls in the yearbook are rated for their looks, boys stack hockey packs in their windows to show their sexual prowess and conquests, and dances sponsored by the school shove innocent first-year girls out into the night with older boys, is rife with sexism, misogyny, and more than skeletons in designer closet, and Jules and Bax must join forces to pull back the curtain on the sheltered world in which they live. Can they join forces and shed light on the darkness hiding in their everyday lives, against an institution that believes it can do no wrong?
This book… I finished it the night before last, and I had to let it marinate in my head before I could find the words that would describe how I felt. And to tell the truth, my feelings are still all tangled up. This book was like a punch to the gut, a fist through the teeth, a searing and unforgettable call to arms to fight against the ‘traditions’ that still thrive in our culture, where men can do whatever they want and get away with little more than a slap on the wrist. But even more than that, it was a beacon of hope, a reminder that though it can take some time and a lot of effort, change can happen, and all we have to do is hold on and do everything we can to dismantle the foundation of our sexist, misogynistic culture that gave birth to rape culture. I loved this book, it is easily one of the best I’ve read this year.

I really enjoyed all of it; the pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately drawn into the secretive, dark world that James and Jules inhabit. I also really enjoyed the format of the book; each chapter focused on Jules and James, going back and forth. The prose was searing, sparse, and gorgeous, full of power; I love Brendan Kiely’s writing style. I really enjoyed Jules and Bax’s voices, distinct and different but uplifting and powerful all at once. I will admit, due to the subject matter, there were times that I wanted to scream in rage and frustration, rip my hair out, and punch something. This beautiful, timely novel got into my head and heart and will never leave. I also really liked the way that Jules and Bax’s situations were portrayed: Jules isn’t sure what to think after a violent, drunken encounter with her ex, Ethan Hackett, and Bax longs to right his mistakes as well as fit in with the boys who can lift him up or make his existence hellish. But the two unite to dismantle the good ol’ boys club that is Fullbrook. That ending, too! Everything was meticulously researched and real to life; I will never forget Tradition, and I can’t wait to read more from Brendan Kiely. This book needs to be read by all, no matter their age or gender. Tackling class, privilege, rape culture, misogyny, and the awful traditions that haunt our culture to this day, Tradition is searing and unforgettable! The bottom line: A gorgeous, powerful and timely book featuring great, strong characters and searing prose, I loved this book! Easily one of the best books of 2018 for me. Next on deck: Bookish Boyfriends: A Date with Darcy by Tiffany Schmidt!

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas Review

Title: A Court of Frost and Starlight
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses, book four
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Sarah J. Maas and I have a complicated love/hate relationship. I didn’t much care for her Throne of Glass series, but I loved A Court of Thorns and Roses; I’m so very excited that there will be more, even after this book. I’ve had ACoFaS on hold since I heard of its existence, and it’s been sitting in my library stack for a while; my husband had to help me trim down, and I absolutely refused to return this book, because I’d waited for it for so long. When I realized that I couldn’t renew it, I pushed it to the top of my stack as soon as I was finished with Legendary. I was pleasantly surprised; I wasn’t expecting to love this little mini sequel as much as I did. When I finished it, I had to stew over it for a few days, because I just had so many feels afterward.

I don’t want to reveal much of the plot, because I’m sure there are readers out there that haven’t read it yet. A Court of Frost and Starlight picks up a year or so after the events of the final book in the trilogy, with the Winter Solstice coming up, and with it, a brief reprieve from all the worries and duties that come from attempting to heal the scars from the war and each character’s painful past. But our motley group finds hope in the darkest of times, even when the past threatens to drag them under.

Honestly, this book is one of my favorites in the whole series. I love Feyre and Rhysand, of course, but it was also really exciting to get the perspectives of everyone else, especially Azriel, Morrigan, Cassian, and Nesta. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately spellbound by the gorgeous, tender prose. It was also really smooth; I liked the way that the book flowed, and it was totally heartwarming to see the way that my favorite family of misfits interacted and celebrated the Solstice holiday. But this book wasn’t all fun and games; it was painful. After Legendary, I honestly thought that this book would be light and fun, more fluffy than anything else. But I completely missed the mark with that one; this book was some majorly heavy stuff. I laughed, I screamed in frustration, I cried due to heartbreak. And that ending! Oh my goodness, I need more, darn it! I couldn’t give it a full five stars, though, because at times the plot got muddled and hard to follow. Nonetheless, this book was lovely, and wonderful, and I can’t wait for what happens next in the land of Prythian! The bottom line: The mini sequel to the hit A Court of Thorns and Roses series, A Court of Frost and Starlight enchanted me, and I can’t wait to see what happens next in Feyre’s lush, dangerous world! Next on deck: Tradition by Brendan Kiely!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Legendary by Stephanie Garber Review

Title: Legendary
Author: Stephanie Garber
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Caraval, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I read Caraval last year, and I really enjoyed it, though the worldbuilding was confusing and left a lot of holes in the plot for me. As soon as I found out about Legendary, I ordered it through my library. I got it almost immediately because—lucky me!---my library had its own copy. It’s been sitting in my stack for a while now, and when I realized that it went back this week, I put it to the top of the stack and started it almost immediately after I was finished with Fatal Throne. Due to a small mishap, I left the book in one of my book club buddies’ cars, so she had to bring it to me the next day! Honestly, I was really pleasantly surprised; you all know how often I get sequel anxiety. If I’m being completely honest, I think that this was better than Caraval, and I can’t wait for Finale, the last book in the trilogy!

Caraval focused on the first game, and on the oldest sister, Scarlett; now Garber flips the script to focus on the younger sister, Donatella, or Tella, for short. The girls have escaped the powerful and dangerous first game of Caraval, saving Scarlett from a disastrous, ill-fated arranged marriage. But they haven’t freed themselves yet. Tella made a dangerous bargain with a mysterious, alluring stranger, and what she owes is something that no one else has been able to deliver: Legend’s real name. Forced to win the second game of Caraval to make good on her bargain, Tella has to rely on every bit of wit, bravery, and skill to win the game. But she realizes that she may have to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to fulfill her end of the deal. But if she wins, it could be the end of Legend and Caraval. The game has only just begun, again, and it could mean the end of everything that Tella has ever cared about.

This book was really surprising; honestly, I liked it a lot better than the first one, probably because I received more answers in Legendary. I have really bad sequel anxiety, but this book more than lived up to my expectations. I started it as soon as my friend brought it to me and devoured it in a day and a half. The pacing was breakneck, and my head was spinning as I read the book; there were so many enticing, tantalizing riddles that I couldn’t figure out. The worldbuilding was elaborated a lot more, and I was glad for that; the last book was really confusing to me because of that. And I was constantly guessing, especially as to Legend’s identity. I was also pretty captivated by Tella herself, magnetic, brash, and brazen, determined to forge her own destiny despite all of the odds stacked against her. This book is stuffed to the brim with action, intrigue, and romance so compelling that I was constantly swooning, but the real killer of this book was its crazy ending. How am I supposed to wait until next year for Finale?! I’m kind of dying here, Stephanie! I can’t wait to see what happens next! The bottom line: The explosive, romantic, and enchanting sequel to the runaway sleeper hit, Caraval, I loved Legendary, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the next book in the trilogy! Next on deck: A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas!