Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Wildcard by Marie Lu Review

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

I received this book from Goodreads in an advanced readers giveaway. Thanks Goodreads and to the publisher!

Warcross was one of my favorite books of last year, so when I was scrolling the Goodreads giveaway pages and I saw its sequel, Wildcard, I entered, and then promptly forgot about it as my life went on. But imagine my excitement and surprise when I got an email, telling me that I won! Since then, it’s been sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read. I wanted to read it closely to the release date, so I could put my review up on my preferred outlets. Since it came out last Tuesday, I started it Friday night, after I finished Dreadful Young Ladies. Sequels usually make me nervous, especially if I really happened to enjoy the first book, but it turns out that I didn’t have anything to worry about. With Wildcard, Marie Lu crafts a satisfying, emotional and action-packed conclusion that I will never forget. It made me gasp, laugh, and cry, more than once, and I’m so happy that I got to read this without even using the library. Thanks for the book, Goodreads!

Wildcard picks up where Warcross left off, and I won’t say too much about the plot for my readers that haven’t read it yet, with Emika Chen dealing with the horrifying and emotional aftermath of the events of the last book. Wildcard takes place three days after Warcross ends, with Emika doing everything she can to fix her own mistakes and Hideo’s, despite the sacrifices and heartbreak she is dealing with. Thrust right back to the beginning of it all, Emika finds herself surrounded by new and old enemies, as well as mysterious new allies who all have secrets of their own to hide. With everything slipping through her fingers, even her beloved Warcross and Phoenix Riders teammates, she has no idea who to trust or how to fix the problem. Caught in a dangerous web of intrigue, lies, and fear, Emika must dig deeper than she ever has before, or risk losing everything, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance…

This book was amazing! I was nervous, as I always am with sequels, but it turns out that my worries were unfounded. As it had been a while since reading Warcross, it took some time for my mind to catch up on what was happening, but it only took a few chapters for me to remember everything. The pacing of Wildcard was breakneck; I felt like it grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go, even during the times that the tension was so high that I had to walk away from the book for a while. I enjoyed Emika and her strong, unshakable will; I was rooting for her throughout the book, even during the difficult parts with Hideo. (Ugh, all the slow burn romance! It killed me!) Zero and Dr. Taylor were also amazing characters, both villains with checkered pasts and unclear motives. I really enjoyed the way that the loose ends from the last book were tied up, though the last half of the book was so tense and terrifying and emotional that I nearly didn’t finish it. I laughed, cried, cheered, gasped, and screamed, often more than once. And that ending! Oh, my goodness, that was the last thing I was expecting, but I was surprised in the best kind of way! I’m so happy with the end of this exciting and gripping duology, and I’m so happy that I got the book for free! Thanks again to the publisher and Goodreads! The bottom line: An exciting, gripping and tense series closer to the hit Warcross, Wildcard exceeded all of my expectations! It was amazing, basically perfect! Next on deck: Markswoman by Rati Mehrota!

Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill Review

Title: Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories
Author: Kelly Barnhill
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Anthology
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I’ve heard so many good things about Kelly Barnhill, even before I’d heard about her book that won an award last year, and when I realized that her brand new short story collection was at my local library, I put it on hold for myself. As soon as I was finished with Court of Shadows, I pushed it to the top of my stack; I tend to go for more moody stories and books when autumn comes; it gets me in the mood for horror and with it, Halloween! This book, composed of seven short stories and a novella, contained gorgeous prose, creepy but relatable main characters, and more than a hefty dose of magic. This book was one that was perfect to start the beginning of fall. I’m so happy that I have two more Kelly Barnhill books in my library stack, because I just finished it on Friday night and I’m already going through withdrawal! She has become one of my new favorite authors; I was totally blown away by the dark, creepy stories in this book! As there are six pieces, I won’t be reviewing every one, but giving the anthology a rating as a whole and highlighting my favorites.

Mrs. Sorenson and the Sasquatch is an unusual sort of love story, one that read like a modern fairy tale and had me laughing, crying, and scratching my head in confusion more than once. Mrs. Sorenson loses her husband before his time, and finds solace in the arms of a being long thought to be a legend: A sasquatch! The fellow residents of her small town are perplexed and bewildered by this new development, and before long, tongues begin to wag. But it turns out that even in the middle of heartbreaking tragedy, happiness and new love can still bloom. Dreadful Young Ladies was a delicious, inspired examination of power—both real and imagined—of young women, and it vies for my favorite in the entire collection. It was so surprising and powerful, I loved it a lot. Notes on the Untimely Death of Ronia Drake is a dark, bloody fairy tale, straight out of the Brothers’ Grimm, focusing on the deadly repercussions of a black magic spell. I really enjoyed it, because it was like a modern fairy tale, all the way down to the mysterious, frightening imagery and more than a bit terrifying ending. But my favorite story of them all was the one that came last: The Unlicensed Magician. A beautifully written novella, it takes place in a series of small countries in a not so distant future, where both magic and free will are forbidden, and babies are stolen from their mothers solely for the purpose of giving magic to the great and powerful Minister, who hoards all of the power and magic in their world to himself, all to satisfy an impossible goal. But one child has slipped through his grasp, innately powerful, feared, and longing to be loved: Sparrow, the junk collector’s daughter, who has a plan to love The Minister and set everything to rights. I was absolutely spellbound by this story, and I walked away from this collection feeling awed, jealous, and inspired all at once. I’m so happy that I have two more books of hers in my library stack; I can’t wait to dive into more worlds that Kelly Barnhill has so lovingly crafted. There is so much joy and magic in her words; Barnhill has become one of my favorite authors! The bottom line: A magical, dark and spellbinding collection, Dreadful Young Ladies was a great book to start off autumn! Next on deck: Wildcard by Marie Lu!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Court of Shadows by Madeleine Roux Review

Title: Court of Shadows
Author: Madeleine Roux
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: House of Furies, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

House of Furies, the first book in this series, was one of my favorite books of last year, so when I found that there was a sequel coming, I was totally stoked. I picked it up from my library, and it’s been sitting in my stack for a while, the gorgeous, dark cover beckoning me even while I read other books. When I was finished with Mirage, I pushed it up to the top of my stack. I don’t know about you guys, but fall always gets me in the mood for horror! School starting, leaving turning, apple cider and cinnamon doughnuts, sweater weather, I could go on. But my absolute favorite thing is to read spooky, creepy books; I love being scared when Halloween is just around the corner. Now, on to the actual review, and I don’t want to give away too much detail about the plot for those who haven’t yet read it.

Court of Shadows begins where House of Furies left off, with Louisa Ditton still trying to adjust to her still new position as a maid in Coldthistle House, which is populated by all manner of ghoulish, dark creatures, and dealing with the consequences of the ending of the last book. Cautiously trying to understand her own origins and master her mysterious, unpredictable powers, things get even more complicated when the devilish Mr. Morningside offers to help her, for a price. But once she begins to dig, she starts to realize that no one is exactly who they seem, not even the people who claim to love her, and the favor that Mr. Morningside asks begins to draw to light a darkness older and more dangerous than anything she’s ever known…

This book was wonderful! Honestly, I almost liked it better than House of Furies. The pacing was breakneck, and I really enjoyed the format of journal entries and drawings throughout; it provided a nice counterpoint to Louisa’s voice, and a lot of background on several characters I knew and a few that I didn’t. And it also helped that there were old, vintage photos before each chapter, giving little hints as to what was going on. I was absolutely spellbound, and I really liked the continuity from the first book to the next. Sequels give me such anxiety; more often than not, they just don’t live up to the original book. But my worries were completely unfounded with this book! It had been a while since I’d read House of Furies, but the writing and pacing were so good that my memory caught up to what was happening after the first few chapters. I really enjoyed the gothic, gory horror bits of this novel too; it was one of the perfect books for me to officially begin my autumn with! And that ending! Oh, my goodness, I need the next book, right now! How am I supposed to wait until next year for the next one? I’m dying here! Madeleine, you’ve got me addicted to your work now, and I can’t wait to read the Asylum series! The bottom line: A dark, gory, meaty sequel to House of Furies, I loved Court of Shadows! Full of familiar characters and several new ones, I can’t wait for the next novel! An amazing sequel to one of my favorite books of last year! Next on deck: Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Mirage by Somaiya Daud Review

Title: Mirage
Author: Somaiya Daud
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: Mirage, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I found Mirage through a book recommendation list, and as soon as I found an opening in my library stack, I ordered it. It sounded practically perfect: a gorgeously weird mashup of space opera, steampunk fantasy, and forbidden romance. And honestly, it was! Somaiya Daud’s debut novel was like a kind of vicious, too beautiful to be believed fever dream that I never wanted to wake up from. Rife with political intrigue, forbidden romance, killer tension and brutal violence, Mirage captivated me from beginning to end, and I cannot wait for the sequel! This book presents a promising, unique talent that I will be watching the horizon for! A debut unlike anything I’ve ever read before, I will never forget Mirage, and I can’t wait for the sequel!

Amani is Kushaila, a member of the oppressed race under the brutal conquer of the people of the Vath. She’s never known her world to be peaceful, to not be torn apart by war. Nonetheless, she lives quietly with her family, longing to write her own poetry and do more than help on her family’s tiny farm. But her life is changed forever when she is abducted by imperial droids, recruited against her will to be a body double for Princess Maram of the Vath. And her life, her family’s lives, depend on her success. But things become even more complicated when she meets Maram’s fiancĂ©, Idris, compelling and handsome and hiding his own deadly secrets. Amani finds herself trapped in a dangerous web of lies, political intrigue, and alliances forged in dark places, and with her life—and the lives of her people—hanging in the balance, she must decide who to trust, because the smallest mistake could lead to even more bloodshed…

This book was such a fun, intense surprise! I really enjoyed it, and I can’t wait to see what’s next! Mirage pulled me in from the beginning, wrapping hands around my throat and not letting go until the very last page. The pacing was breakneck, and Amani’s voice was compelling and bright. Full of political intrigue, secret alliances, spies and death threats and steampunk elements, as well as romance that had me swooning and cheering, I loved it so much, every painful step in the journey. I was absolutely amazed, and I loved it. Amani was a great character, strong and sure and resolute in her cause, and her romance with the gorgeous, tender Idris had me weak at the knees several times. I love a good romance! Maram also made a fantastic, amazing villain, especially toward the end. I loved the cast of Vath political players that surrounded them both. I loved, also, the spywork involved in the book; it was one of my favorite parts of the novel. And that ending! Oh, my goodness, it was amazing. The only things I wished were more fleshed out was the worldbuilding and both sides of Maram’s family, but perhaps those things will be elaborated on in future books. Nonetheless, Mirage has become of my favorite books of 2018, and I can’t wait for more from this talented new author! The bottom line: A beautiful, weird and lovely space opera mashed with steampunk and war, I loved Mirage, and I can’t wait for what’s next! Next on deck: Court of Shadows by Madeleine Roux!

Sea Witch by Sarah Henning Review

Title: Sea Witch
Author: Sarah Henning
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I found this book by way of the usual, a book recommendation list. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a few months, and after I was finished with Sadie, I pushed it up to the top. First of all, you guys know that I am a total sucker for fairy tale retellings, and even more so for origin stories. So, when I realized that Sea Witch was a retelling of one of my favorites, The Little Mermaid, I was all over it. Sarah Henning frames the infamous villain, The Sea Witch, as a young woman named Evie, who longs to use her abilities to help her country and people, especially her prince, Niklaus, never mind that she is hiding secrets that could see her killed by her own. Already an outcast and still in mourning for the untimely passing of her only other friend, she is convinced that when a young woman resurfaces from the ocean’s dark waves, it is her Anna, somehow given life many years later. Anxious to rebalance things, Evie searches desperately for a way to make things right, never realizing that the mysterious newcomer has her own secrets to hide, and that when she makes her bargain, she has no idea the precise depth of the cost.

This book was a lovely, dark surprise! Ursula is one of my favorite villains in the Disney canon, so to know that a version of her was getting to tell her side of the story, I was really excited. I was captivated by the prose, and the gorgeous, stark setting held my imagination. I also really enjoyed the way that the book went back and forth between Evie, and events happening in the present, and Niklaus and several other characters serving to provide background and define what happened in the past. Evie was a fantastic character also; the fight between standing alone and longing to fit in really resonated with me, and I adored the way that she plunged headfirst into learning her magic, desperate to save her friend and assuage her guilt in losing her. Nicklaus, Annemette, and the charming, devilish Iker made great foils to Evie, as well as her own father and her aunt. The end was one of my favorite parts of the book, because that’s when it really picked up, especially as far as the magic and spooky, moody atmosphere. And that ending! Oh, my goodness, I was completely blown away! Absolutely amazing! The only thing that really bothered me about this book was that sometimes the characters’ way of speaking was too modern, considering it was supposed to be set in medieval-ish Denmark. Nonetheless, Sarah Henning has penned a captivating, marvelous debut and I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve next! The bottom line: A retelling of The Little Mermaid from the evil villain’s point of view, I loved Sea Witch, and I can’t wait to see what Sarah Henning has up her sleeve next! Next on deck: Mirage by Somaiya Daud!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Sadie by Courtney Summers Review

Title: Sadie
Author: Courtney Summers
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I was given an advanced readers’ copy of this book by the publisher, Wednesday Books, and reviewed it. Thanks!

I read Courtney Summer’s latest novel last year, called All The Rage, after hearing several of my book reviewing friends rave about her work, and I loved it. It was absolutely amazing, sharp and hard-hitting and raw, and when I heard that she was writing another book, I put my name in a drawing for an advanced readers’ copy of Sadie and promptly forgot about it. So imagine my surprise when it arrived in my mail! I decided to pick it up and read it, as it came out this week, and oh, my goodness. Sadie is one of the best books of 2018, as sharp as broken glass and just as painful. And to add to it a completely unique podcast to listen to while you’re reading the book? I was totally sold. This book is a total knockout, dark and punchy and painful. There were several times that I had to put it down; this one was hard to get through, honestly. But I’m so glad that I read it; Sadie has burrowed a massive hole in my heart, and I will never forget her. Courtney Summers has utterly outdone herself, has ripped my heart out and torn it open.

Sadie Hunter is a girl adrift after her younger sister, Mattie, was brutally murdered at only thirteen years old. Her only mission is to find the man who took her sister’s life and end it—even if the result is another loss that she cannot survive. Her journey leads her from her home in Cold Creek across the state, consumed by her grief and rage and the unstoppable desire for revenge. But Sadie has disappeared, and a man named West McCray, the producer of a national podcast, is hot on her trail, desperate for answers and to bring her home. But he discovers that every small town hides the darkest secrets, and in his quest for answers, West realizes that there are some things that are perhaps better left buried…

This book was insane. It was brutal, cutthroat, sharp, and dark beyond my wildest imaginings. It’s Courtney Summers’s best work yet. It tore me open, down to the soul, made my stomach turn, made me weep like nothing else, and there were several times when I had to put the book down and walk away, take some time in reality before returning to Sadie’s dark story. It is one of the most horrifying and raw books I’ve ever read, and ninety percent of it wasn’t pleasant. But honestly, that’s the point. I love that Summers is not afraid at all to go right for the jugular and throw back the curtain on the darkest parts of human nature; because, after all, isn’t the whole point of fiction to reflect real life? Even the ugly parts? I also adored the podcast that came with the book from the publisher; it really felt like the story had all kinds of new dimensions because of that. I was ill, the story worming its way into my heart, mind, and soul, going so far as to haunt my dreams. A dark novel about demons, revenge, rage, and the skeletons, both real and imagined, that hide in our closets and our minds, Sadie is nothing less than the literary equivalent of being hit by a semi, and I’m so happy that I read it, even while it ripped me apart. The bottom line: A dark, vicious and brutal novel that pulls absolutely no punches, Sadie is one of my favorite books of 2018—Courtney Summers is a talent that’s not to be missed! Absolutely amazing! Next on deck: Sea Witch by Sarah Henning!

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang Review

Title: The Poppy War
Author: R.F. Kuang
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Untitled Series, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I found this book through a recommendation on Instagram and several magazines that I follow, and I ordered it from my library, given that almost every review on it was glowing. It sat in my stack for a while, and then I realized that it went back to the library today, so as soon as I was finished reading Bookishly After Ever, I pushed it to the top of my stack. It’s been three days, and I’m honestly still not quite sure how to put my feelings into words. Magical, violent, gory and darkly funny, The Poppy War has become one of my favorite books of 2018, and I can’t wait for the next book in the series! Talk about a smashing debut!

The Poppy War opens with Runin Fang, a poor village girl from Tikany, a tiny town where she works as the unfortunate ward of her foster parents, The Fangs, who just happen to be opium smugglers. Wanting out of a forced marriage to a rich old man in her village, Rin plots for escape, and it comes in the form of the Keju, the Empire-wide aptitude test to find the most talent youths for the country’s most prestigious military academy. But once there, she discovers that everyone looks down on her for her low lineage, gender, and dark skin, and even more surprising, that she holds a promising talent for an art that is nearly lost: shamanism. Exploring the depths of her newfound power with an instructor addled by his own demons and psychoactive drugs, she realizes that she is able to, quite literally, summon the gods—gods she thought was nearly nonexistent, or dead. And mastering the power inside her could mean so much more than surviving school at the academy…

This book was absolutely amazing, and a total surprise. First, I’m a total sucker for fantasy. It makes it even better that this fantasy was so diverse; I loved it! The writing was beautiful, sparse and gorgeous and punchy, and I loved the pacing; it felt like this book was going to grab me by the throat and not let go. The worldbuilding was built off of actual Chinese history, and that was so cool; I’m definitely going to be researching that period when I am able. The magic and gods of this book were something that really appealed to me also. I mean, ancient gods and all kinds of magic systems? I am all kinds of here for it! The characters, though, and the world they lived in were my favorite parts of The Poppy War, especially Rin. I loved the way that she refused to let her circumstances cage her into a situation that she never wanted, and the way that she tore to the top of her class in her village and her academy of Sinegard. Jiang, Altan, Nehza, Venka, and The Empress were also great characters; I was breathless as I read this book. It showed the very real horrors of war and violence, and I was absolutely blown away. I loved the way that the point of view bounced from all the different characters, providing perspective on a deeper scale, but it always returned to Rin. And that ending! Oh my goodness, R.F. Kuang, where have you been all my life? The Poppy War was not by any means an easy book to get through, but I loved the journey that it took me on, and I can’t wait for more! The bottom line: A gorgeous, bloody series debut that was beautiful and glorious in the darkest kind of way, I loved The Poppy War! Next on deck: Sadie by Courtney Summers!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira Review

Title: Bookishly Ever After
Author: Isabel Bandeira
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Ever After, book one
Star Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

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

I was browsing my local library and the same day I found The Traitor’s Kiss, I picked up Bookishly. First of all, the cover was blue and so adorable! And I’m such a sucker for book nerd plots. When I realized that I was on my last renewal, I pushed it to the top of the stack after I was finished with Traitor. This book wasn’t perfect; there were some slight flaws, such as verb tense changes in the writing, the pitting of teen girls against one another, and some of the characters were annoying, but overall, it was really enjoyable! I look forward to the next two books in the trilogy, and this was a great debut from someone who obviously loves books, writing, and the written word in general!
Phoebe Martins is a girl who definitely prefers fiction to reality. Occupying herself with books, writing, and knitting, her friends think that she’s closer to an aging grandmother than a teenage girl. And she’s perfectly fine with that. But she also wants a romance straight out of her fantasy books, with a boy who doesn’t give her a second thought. To add even more complications to things, her best friend, Em, begins pushing her toward Dev, a geeky but super cute guy in her class. When sparks start to fly, Phoebe turns to her friends for help, and is thrilled when things start to click with Kris. But she isn’t sure what exactly she wants, and is it possible that her life just might be better than her beloved books?

As I said, this book was really good, especially for a series debut. It was funny, thoughtful, swoon-worthy romantic, and charming. It was very well-written, aside from some errors in verb tense changes; that part of the book had me feeling confused, so much so that I had to go back several times and reread so I understood what was happening. Several characters got on my nerves, particularly Em and Kris. But I really liked Phoebe, and the way that she was so book obsessed! It was adorable. I really liked the pacing, and the way that the book went between her voice and the books that she was constantly reading. I also adored Dev, he was one of my favorite characters in the book. And the chemistry between he and Phoebe was so cute! I was constantly laughing, swooning, or fanning myself. Bookishly Ever After reminded me of why I love romance books! I really enjoyed the ending, and I’m looking forward to the next two books in the trilogy. Aside from some little quibbles, the book was very good. It was a nice break after a heavy book like Traitor. It was light, funny, thoughtful and sweet! It was very nice, even with the mistakes. The bottom line: A hilarious and romantic series debut, I loved Bookishly Ever After, despite some flaws. Next on deck: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang!