Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll Review


Title: Unclaimed Baggage
Author: Jen Doll
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                I have a confession to make: Unclaimed Baggage was my young adult book club pick for September, and I just finished it last night. The first time I tried to read it, I only made it eighty or so pages and was bored, so I dropped it. But when I went to book club a few weeks ago, everyone had read it and begged me to, in order to participate in the discussion. So, as soon as I was finished with Wonderbook, I dove in, excited to read the story and compare my thoughts to those of my friends. I’m so happy to report that this time around, after being convinced to give it a chance, I liked it a lot more! Unclaimed Baggage is one of those books that makes me fall in love with the contemporary genre all over again. Hilarious, heartfelt, timely and thought-provoking, I really enjoyed it, but there were a couple of snags that I just couldn’t get past. Nonetheless, Jen Doll’s first novel was a great debut, and I’m so happy that I actually read it in full this time.

                Doris, Nell, and Grant all have two things in common: living in small-town Alabama, and working for the resale store, aptly named Unclaimed Baggage. Doris doesn’t believe in God and isn’t shy about expressing that opinion, Nell is a reluctant transplant from Chicago, her friends, and most important of all, her boyfriend, Ashton. She misses her old life, but soon discovers that she can start a new one, with new friends and meaningful bonds. And lastly, there’s Grant, the town golden boy fallen from grace after a tragic accident, trying desperately to redeem himself and become a better person. All three kids find out secrets, about the town, their families, and themselves in the process.

                I really enjoyed this book the second time around. I was laughing, crying, and cheering the whole time; the pacing was good, and the transition between the kids’ voices were smooth. The small town setting was one that felt all too familiar: everyone knowing everyone, old prejudices and petty feuds. It was claustrophobic, to say the least. I loved Doris, Nell, and Grant the most; their characterization was absolutely incredible. But I also adored Stella, Nell’s parents and brother, and Grant’s mother and siblings; this felt realistic. But there were quite a few snags that really ended up bothering me. I wish that more had been fleshed out, particularly in Doris’s and Grant’s families; it felt like there was just too much that ended up unresolved. Nonetheless, Jen Doll has penned a fantastic debut, and I can’t wait for what she does next! The bottom line: Funny and heartfelt but lacking in detail in some spots, I really enjoyed Unclaimed Baggage! Next on deck: Gideon The Ninth by Tamsyn Muir!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer Review


Title: Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction
Author: Jeff Vandermeer, et. al
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                I’ll be honest: I only discovered Jeff Vandermeer and his works a few weeks ago, when I decided to read the first book in his Southern Reach Trilogy, Annihilation. I’ve been trying to circulate between fiction, nonfiction, and texts that will help me improve my writing skills. As soon as I was finished with The Babysitters Coven, I dove in, not sure what to expect. But this text was informative, entertaining, hilarious and unique. It provided such an in-depth look at the minds of creative people, and I learned so much! I cannot wait to have a copy of this essential text for my own collection, because I have a feeling this is a book that I will return to again and again! Vandermeer has established himself as one of my favorite authors with this wonderful, strange book!

                Wonderbook is an illustrated text that shows a writer how to tap into their imagination and many other tools in order to write creatively and effectively. It offers many helpful tricks and hints throughout to help a creative, not just a writer, find their voice and style and use that to their greatest effect. But what was really cool about this was even though Jeff Vandermeer was the main author, he asked many different authors and artists to contribute. This monster of an anthology was incredibly insightful and informative. It contained pictures, interviews, diagrams, and other helpful resources. I got so much inspiration from reading this book, so much so that I’m hoping to add it to my own collection so I can refer back to it whenever the well is threatening to run dry. I loved every moment of it. I was learning, but in a way that was so dynamic that it made all of the knowledge it packed into the book easily absorbed. This book might be my very favorite of Vandermeer’s body of work; it was wonderful! I just wish that I’d found it a lot sooner, because it is a valuable resource for people who are creative, for their main vocation or a hobby. An absolutely indispensable resource for all creatives! The bottom line: Rich with research and knowledge in the creative field, Vandermeer teams up with many other creatives for in-depth interviews, diagrams, and drawings to help make his points; I loved it so much! Next on deck: Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll!

The Babysitters Coven by Kate Williams Review


Title: The Babysitters Coven
Author: Kate Williams
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Babysitters Coven, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                When I first heard of this book, I put it on hold at my local library immediately, and when it came in, I pushed it to the top of my stack. As soon as I was finished with Annihilation, I dove in, not sure what to expect, as I’ve never read any of Williams previous work. But what I got was a dark, frothy and supernatural comedy of errors. This book was like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Babysitters Club had a baby, and I absolutely loved it; I’m so happy that it has a sequel coming out next fall! Babysitting, for Esme Pearl, has been something of a hidden talent. She loves kids, it’s a relatively easy way to make spending money, and it provides a distraction from her mother and the distance it’s created in her father. When she meets newcomer Cassandra Heaven, her life changes forever: She discovers that she has magical powers, like that of a witch. But things get even more complicated when the kids she watches reports strange sightings: the villain from Harry Potter, and David Bowie, dressed up as The Goblin King from the movie Labyrinth. Esme must decide whether to accept her powers, or if she wants to continue to be ‘normal’, whatever that means. A hilarious, rip-roaring and dark adventure perfect for fans of Buffy and Angel, I loved The Babysitters Coven, and it is definitely one of the best books of 2019 for me!

                This book was wonderful. There were times when the pacing dragged, and sometimes Esme’s voice got on my nerves, but it wasn’t so bad that I was put off the book entirely. I loved her narration, sharp and witty and hilarious. I was laughing throughout the novel, snorting and giggling as it went on. The pacing, for the most part, was really good, especially when it came to the action/fight scenes. I loved all of the characters: Esme, her parents, Cassandra and Dion, and Janis, in particular. I loved the overall tone of the book too; irreverent, tongue in cheek, and wry; that kind of humor is one of my favorites. And of course, one of the best parts of this was the magic! And I liked the way it referred to the old-school witchy ways of doing things; it reminded me of all the times as children that my siblings and I would create ‘witches brew’ in an old laundry basket. And that ending! Arrrgh, how am I supposed to wait until next fall for the sequel to this?! The bottom line: Kate Williams has penned a hilarious, dark, and magical girl-power series debut that I can’t wait for the sequel to! Next on deck: Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff Vandermeer!

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer Review


Title: Annihilation
Author: Jeff Vandermeer
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: The Southern Reach, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                Jeff Vandermeer is an absolute titan in the science fiction genre, but before the Natalie Portman film inspired by this book, I hadn’t read any of his work. And honestly, I wish I’d discovered it long before now. Annihilation, the first book in a trilogy, tells the story of the nameless narrator: a biologist whose curiosity about Area X leads her to discover that literally, nothing is as it seems, and her companions: a surveyor, anthropologist, and psychologist, respectively, all have something to hide, perhaps something deadly. But the island itself holds terrible secrets, and the biologist must decide whether they should stay buried, or if she should force them out into the light. But her need for answers may be too great for her to survive.

                This book was, in a word, unique. I haven’t encountered anything like it, to be honest, and it was great! The narrator was nameless, but not dull or bland, and the way that she describes Area X (and what drove her to it in the first place) was like sparks on the page. At times, it was hard to picture what was going on, because so much of the narrative relied on inference and implication, and it took some time for me to get used to it. Nonetheless, I loved this book; it was giving me distinct Princess Mononoke and Alien vibes. Strange, to be certain, but not in a bad way! Also, confession: I haven’t actually seen the Natalie Portman film, and I don’t want to; the book was enough of a crazy experience that I don’t want it to get muddled in any way. I also enjoyed the general feel of the novel: claustrophobic, forbidding, mysterious and frightening. I’m so happy that this is the first in a trilogy; I really want to know what happens next! With twists and secrets galore, I adored Annihilation, especially when I think about all of the different characters, their motives, and what is really wrong with Area X. And that ending! Authority cannot come soon enough! I can’t even put the exact plot into terms; it would be too hard. I’m just excited; I feel like I’ve found a brand-new, inspiring and stimulating author whose impact I will never forget! The bottom line: Strange, thought-provoking, and scary, I loved Annihilation, and I can’t wait to read the next two books in The Southern Reach series! Next on deck: The Babysitters Coven by Kate Williams!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Hungry Hearts by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond Review


Title: Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food and Love
Editors: Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Short Story Collection
Series:  Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                I’ve had my eye on this anthology since before it came out, and so I ordered it as soon as I could from my local library. It’s been sitting at the top of my library stack for over a month now, and when I realized I couldn’t renew it anymore, I pushed it to the top of my library stack, once I realized that I wasn’t feeling The Evil Queen by Gena Showalter. And to be honest, Hungry Hearts might be one of my favorite books of 2019. There wasn’t a selection in this anthology that I didn’t love. With that being said, though, I will choose my favorites out of the collection, because I simply can’t do them all! I also adored every single author that contributed to this collection; this delectable anthology was worth waiting for! I only wish that the diverse, beautiful neighborhood of Hungry Hearts Row was real! Though this collection centered around food, it didn’t shy away from serious topics: gentrification, abuse, family, love in all of its forms, and many others; I loved it! So, without further ado, let’s get started!

                Rain by Sangu Mandanna: 5 out of 5 Stars. This story broke my heart and stitched it back together, showcasing grief. Anna is still reeling after the fatal car accident that took her mother’s life, and has moved from her beloved India to rainy, cold England, the bond with her father is broken, until they bond over a dish that her mother made, all with a secret ingredient. I cried, laughed, and rejoiced by the end. One of my favorite stories in the volume.

                Moments to Return by Adi Alsaid: 5 out of 5 Stars. This story spoke to me in particular, as one of my biggest fears is of death. A boy heads to Hungry Heart Row after hearing about the (maybe?) magical food, and goes to a dim sum restaurant in order to conquer his fear of dying, at any moment. Along with a delicious meal, he makes an unexpected new friend. Frank, funny, and honest, I loved this story!

                The Slender One by Caroline Tung Richmond: 5 out of 5 Stars. I loved this story! I’m such a sucker for ghost stories, and this was one of the best I’ve ever read! Charlie Ma just wants to be a normal kid; he already feels like his family is weird and doesn’t fit in. Add to that his grandma’s ability to literally talk to spirits, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. When an angry spirit begins wreaking havoc before the yearly food festival, Charlie must decide whether to be normal or to accept his grandmother’s legacy. I loved, loved, loved this story, and I can’t wait to check out Richmond’s other work!

                Gimme Some Sugar by Jay Coles: 5 out of 5 Stars. This story made me cry SO MUCH! Leo has a lot to think about: his mother is dying of cancer, and they don’t have the money to pay for her treatment. But when he hears about The Hungry Hearts Row Food Competition, he begins to hope that he has found the solution to his problems. Asking his famed, loving grandmother for help, Leo decides to go for the win, desperate to help his mother. I cried so hard for this story, and I loved it so much! The theme of family was fantastic! One of my favorite pieces of Coles’s work.

                The Missing Ingredient by Rebecca Roanhorse: 5 out of 5 Stars. This is the first piece of work I’ve read by Roanhorse, and I can promise that it will not be the last! Kelsie is a normal kid, or at least, she wants to be. Since the passing of her father, she wishes that her mother, a renowned chef, would give up on the family’s Native American restaurant after years of mediocre reviews. She meets a mysterious busboy named Seth, who encourages her to go for what she really wants and repair the fractured relationship with her mother. I loved this story; it had magic, pain, and love of all kinds; it’s one of my favorites of the whole volume! Fantastic!

                Hearts a la Carte by Karuna Riazi: 5 out of 5 Stars. Again, this author was brand-new to me. But I loved this story. Telling the story of a young woman in need of direction, she meets a mysterious, always hungry boy, who eventually becomes her friend. But he is hiding a dangerous secret from her, and that decision could cost both of them everything. I loved this story! Food! Family! First love! Superheroes! I can’t wait to find more of Riazi’s work!

                And, last but certainly not least,

                Side Work by Sara Farizan: 5 out of 5 Stars. Leleh has been spending her time trying to prove to her parents that she can come back from an awful mistake, sure that they hate her. When a restaurant goes out of business in her neighborhood, they’re replaced by a chain, and she finds an unexpected friend (maybe something more?). When she brings the employees over to her uncle’s restaurant, where she works, she receives a blessing she never knew she needed. This story made me cry, both because of sadness and happiness! It was wonderful! The bottom line: A diverse and exciting collection of short stories, I loved Hungry Hearts! One of the best books of the year! Next on deck: Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer!

Broken Throne by Victoria Aveyard Review


Title: Broken Throne: A Red Queen Collection
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Age Group:  Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Red Queen, 4.5
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                Red Queen has been a series of recent years that has brought me a lot of joy; Victoria Aveyard is one of my favorite authors. So, when I found out several months ago that there would be a brand-new, repackaged short story collection, I was so excited; I would be able to return to the harsh, bitter world of Red Queen and the characters that I enjoyed. I had to return it to the library several times, and it’s been sitting at the top of my book stack for a while now. I finally bit the bullet and did it; I almost wanted to wait a bit longer. I’m still not ready to say goodbye to it entirely, but this was a great wrapup! Taking the form of a massive government dossier, Broken Throne contains five novellas, three of which were previously unpublished, interspersed with documents that gives the reader new knowledge on how Mare’s brutal world was created. I really enjoyed this collection, even though at times it was very hard to follow. Nonetheless, I was so happy to return to Mare’s world and see how all of my favorite characters were doing in the aftermath of the brutal war.

                Some of the stories took place before the series, some in the middle, and others, after. Nonetheless, there wasn’t a story that I didn’t like or wasn’t informative in some way. It’s so hard to pick a favorite, but they all provided such different facets of characters I thought I knew! In the first story, it focuses on Cal’s mother, the late Queen Coriane, and how she met Cal’s father, Tiberias VI, their resulting marriage, and Cal’s birth. This story in particular made me cry. In the second, it focuses on Diana Farley in her early days with The Scarlet Guard, particularly when she recruits newblood Mare Barrow to the cause. The third tells of an escaped refugee, a Silver princess, desperate to make a life away from the trappings of her House’s wealth. In order to make it to the Freelands, she is forced to put her life in the hands of a Red river runner, and the pair learn so much more about each other and their ways of life. The fourth story has Mare and Cal meeting face to face for the first time after the war, and trying to figure out whether they should rekindle their relationship; this was probably my favorite story of them all. And last, but certainly not least, we got a story from the point of view of the series villain, Maven Calore. Locked in a cell at the behest at his brother and smarting at his loss, he contemplates what his life would have been like if his own mother, Elara, hadn’t messed with head and emotions. It broke my heart, even as it enraged me. He is one of my favorite characters, so I was happy to receive something of a goodbye from him, however broken. I loved this short story collection, happy to receive one last trip into a world that was brutal, dangerous, and wonderful. The Red Queen is a series that has become a recent favorite, and I’m hoping that eventually, I’ll have it for my own personal collection. The bottom line: Informative, painful, and shocking, I loved Broken Throne, and I can’t wait to see what front runner Victoria Aveyard has in store next! The bottom line: Rich and nuanced even though it was hard to follow, I loved Broken Throne; I didn’t realize how much I missed The Red Queen’s world until I was plunged back into it. Next on deck: Hungry Hearts by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman Review


Title: Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders
Author: Neil Gaiman
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Anthology/Short Story Collection
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, and I discovered him because of his short stories. Smoke and Mirrors is my favorite collection of his, but Fragile Things comes in at a close second. This volume of twenty-six stories, poems, and riddles was fantastic; Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite sources of inspiration. As this collection is so extensive, I’ll provide an overall rating for the whole book and highlighting the stories that I particularly enjoyed. So, without further ado, here we go!

                A Study in Emerald: 5 out of 5 Stars. This story was like The Wizard of Oz, Sherlock Holmes, and the stories of H.P. Lovecraft had a lovechild, and I adored it. A wicked retelling of a story I thought I knew, I followed the narrator through a Victorian London to solve a dangerous mystery, and that ending was incredible! Easily one of my favorite stories in the entire collection.

                October in the Chair: 5 out of 5 Stars. I loved this story, especially the format. The months of the year are personified, and are gathered in a cottage around a roaring fire, and they exchange stories of humanity. October takes the spotlight, and tells an unforgettable tale. One of my favorites, and I loved the way that it was told. Absolutely fantastic.

                Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire: 5 out of 5 Stars. I loved this story; it is quite possibly my favorite. Dark, chilling, and more than a little creepy and confusing, Gaiman transforms the familiar story of Wuthering Heights and amps up the supernatural aspect of it. A young woman finds a dark house in the middle of the woods, and discovers the dark remnants of a dangerous curse…

                Bitter Grounds: 5 out of 5 Stars. This story was confusing, in the best kind of way. I had to read it three or four times before it really sank in. Bitter Grounds is broken up into numbered sections, and tells the story of several zombies. My interpretation might be incorrect, but I loved it; the history of it didn’t mitigate the creeping sense of wrongness that I felt reading it. One of Gaiman’s strengths is that he uses all elements in a story to his disposal, and my favorite part of it was the setting and the time period.

                The Problem of Susan: 5 out of 5 Stars. I loved this story! The Narnia series is one of my favorites, and Susan just so happens to be my favorite character. This story imagined what happened to her after Narnia, and gives a much darker tone to the classic children’s series. I loved Susan, trying to forget about The Professor, Narnia, and the memories of the war that followed her home. And that ending! It blew my mind, even as I suspected what was going on.

                How to Talk to Girls at Parties: 5 out of 5 Stars. I loved this story, so much! It spoke to my teenage self so much; it took me right back to being sixteen and anxious over having a conversation with the opposite sex. But I loved Gaiman’s take on dating someone that is quite possibly from another world entirely. The chemistry between the narrator and the girl he speaks to crackled, and I was laughing throughout the whole story. Are the girls human? Or something else altogether?

                And last but certainly not least,

                The Monarch of the Glen: This novella takes place in the universe of one of Neil Gaiman’s older but classic novels: American Gods. It happens to be one of my favorites, so I was really excited to have the opportunity to walk beside Shadow again. He finds himself in Scotland, still reeling from the events of American Gods. Offered some easy money by a mysterious benefactor named Smith, Shadow jumps at the opportunity. After all, playing at being rich and famous isn’t exactly difficult. But these people aren’t entirely ordinary, and Shadow finds that no matter the price, some things just can’t be done. I loved this story a lot; it was really fun to catch up with Shadow. The bottom line: A wry, funny and dark collection of poems and stories, Fragile Things is one of my favorite short story collections by Neil Gaiman; his stories never disappoint and it’s the perfect dose of inspiration for this girl! Next on deck: Broken Throne: A Red Queen Collection by Victoria Aveyard!

Friday, September 27, 2019

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee Review


Title: The Downstairs Girl
Author: Stacey Lee
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                Stacey Lee is one of my favorite authors; I was obsessed with her novels last year, so when I found out that she was publishing a brand-new historical fiction offering in August, I put it on hold at my library immediately. I was lucky enough to get my library’s first copy, and it’s been sitting at the top of my stack for a few weeks now. As soon as I was finished with Vicious, I dove in, excited and expectant. The Downstairs Girl may just be my favorite in her entire body of work. Told from the point of view of a Chinese-American girl who longs for a voice and a place in the world that refuses to accept her for who she is, Jo Kuan is the best milliner in town, and she knows it. But when she is asked to leave by the shop’s proprietor, her life takes another unfortunate turn: She is asked by her father, Old Gin, to stay on as a ladies’ maid to an old childhood nemesis, Caroline Payne. Being the ladies’ maid for the Paynes, though, provides both solace and strife, and Jo must decide what she is willing to sacrifice for the life she so desperately wants.

                I’ve read three books total by Stacey Lee, and I’ve loved them all, but I think The Downstairs Girl is my favorite. One of the big reasons I love historical fiction is that it offers a perspective of the past that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Jo Kuan is a Chinese-American woman who lives in post-Reconstruction Atlanta, and she is desperate for a voice, to be heard. Never mind that she and her father figure, ailing Old Gin, are living in the basement of a white family’s house. Desperate to make a living for herself and the only adult who cares about her, she throws caution to the winds and begins writing an ‘agony aunt’ column under the pseudonym Miss Sweetie. Pleased to finally have a voice when before she was only expected to be silent, Jo begins to work with the suffragettes in Atlanta, and discovers something surprising about herself in the process.

                This book was nothing less than incredible, and it might be Stacey Lee’s best work yet. Diverse books for the win, as always! I’ve never before read a novel from a Chinese-American woman’s perspective, and Jo’s words crackled and danced off of the page. It felt like she was sitting in my living room with me, chatting with me over a cup of tea like an old friend. I also adored the way that she bucked against the social mores of the time; she was going to do what she needed to do to protect her family and be fulfilled. I liked many of the other characters in the book: Lizzie, Jo’s coworker, Billy Riggs, Noemi and Caroline and the Paynes. But my favorite was the family that Jo and Old Gin lived under, especially Jo’s love interest. I also enjoyed the way that Jo, Noemi, and the other characters clashed with the white suffragettes in Atlanta. And that ending! Oh, my gosh, it was nothing less than perfect! The bottom line: This story of gumption, spunk, faith and bittersweet joy stole my heart and gave it wings. I loved The Downstairs Girl, and I cannot wait to see what Stacey Lee has up her sleeve next! Next on deck: Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Vicious by V.E. Schwab Review


Title: Vicious
Author: V.E. Schwab
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Villians, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                V.E. Schwab is one of my favorite authors, and is an absolute titan in the writing industry. I’ve had my eye on one of her early novels, Vicious, for a long time now. Unfortunately, I had to return it to the library several times before I could actually read it. I couldn’t renew it anymore, so as soon as I was finished with Ghosts of the Shadow Market, I dove in, not wanting to return it without reading it yet again. Vicious is a tale about one of America’s classic tropes: superheroes! A dark, twisty science fiction tale full of revenge, gore, and old rivalries gone bitter, Vicious was captivating, thoughtful, and surprising—this book might be my favorite in Schwab’s extensive body of work. I cannot wait for the sequel, Vengeful!

                Victor Vale and Eli Cardale are college roommates and reluctant best friends. Both are ambitious, intelligent, and eager to show the world their abilities. They are both fascinated by EOS, short for Extra Ordinary. Both young men manipulate nature in order to control godly powers: Victor can manipulate pain levels: he can take away pain and give it in spades. Eli, on the other hand, has the ability to regenerate, rendering him practically invincible. Two former friends turned enemies, Victor and Eli are fixed on a collision course for one another, hellbent on getting revenge for their wrongs against each other. But other people, humans and other Extra Ordinaries, are going to get hurt. But what’s a little bit of collateral damage in exchange for retribution?

                I loved, loved, loved this book! Superheroes is an often-overused trope, but it’s one of my favorites and V.E. Schwab breathed fresh life into it. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately captivated. I also loved the way that Schwab jumped from one character to the next: Victor, Eli, Sydney and Serena. I loved this new twist on science fiction; Schwab’s gorgeous prose kept me glued to the pages, and I was thinking about the book even while doing other things. This book was thoughtful, too, and touched on things such as God, a higher power, fate, free will, and power, and what it means to have all of those things. I loved watching Victor and Eli face off, both in the past and the present. But I think my favorite part of the novel was Sydney. And that ending! Oh, my goodness, talk about a doozy! I’m so excited for Vengeful it’s difficult to put it into words! The bottom line: Thoughtful, violent, and suspenseful, I loved Vicious, and I can’t wait for Vengeful! Next on deck: The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee!

Ghosts of the Shadow Market by Cassandra Clare Review


Title: Ghosts of the Shadow Market
Author(s): Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, Kelly Link, and Robin Wasserman
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 1-10
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                Cassandra Clare is one of my favorite authors; I’ve been wanting to read this set of short stories since they came out last year in ebook format. I had to return this once and I was so intrigued over it I went back and reordered it. Ghosts of the Shadow Market contains ten stories that all take place in the Shadowhunter universe, starting in the 1800s and going all the way to the present. It follows Jem Carstairs, the man who became The Silent Brother, Brother Zachariah. Jem is one of my very favorite characters, so to follow him through the years was a real treat. Honestly, this book might be my favorite of all of Clare’s work thus far; I laughed, I cried, and I was so excited for all the Easter eggs that Clare and all the other authors put in the book for fans of the previous books. This short story collection is quite possibly my favorite, and not the least of which because of its frontman! There are ten stories, so for clarity’s sake, I’ll write about the standouts and give an overall rating for the whole book. The four other authors did a fantastic job of fleshing out the gaps that Clare left in all of the other books; this short story collection is one I’d love to have in my own personal library.

                Every Exquisite Thing: 4 out of 5 Stars. I loved this story! This book begins chronologically, from the 1880s to the present. In this one, Jem finds out the truth about his wife, Tessa, and her demonic origins that made her a warlock. All of these stories made me cry to some extent, but this was one of the worst ones. It was fast-paced, dark, and surprising; that ending had my jaw on the floor. Absolutely fantastic! Told with signature flare and aplomb, I really enjoyed it!

                A Deeper Love: 5 out of 5 Stars. This story was one of my favorites, as it centered on my OTP, or one true pairing, Will, Tess, and Jem. I loved The Infernal Devices, and so when they made an appearance, I was so very happy! I loved the way this story explored their relationship with each other, and the way that they eventually met again, so many years later. It was painful, exquisite, lovely, and it made me cry, in the best way. It was wonderful, and made me ache. This whole collection did, to be totally truthful, but especially this entry.

                Son of the Dawn: 5 out of 5 Stars. I’ve been waiting forever to actually read how it was that Jace Wayland ended up with the Lightwood family as a child. So, this story made me so happy! I loved reading this story, seeing how Jace enmeshed into the family threads of them. Found family has always been an important concept to me, both in fiction and my life, so this story struck a deep chord with me. I loved every bittersweet, loving moment of this story. Beautiful, tender, and realistic, I loved it so much. One of my favorites of the whole collection.

                The Land I Lost: 5 out of 5 Stars. This story was my favorite of the collection, hands down. I loved the way it put emphasis on another of my OTPs, Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood! I’d long been wondering how Rafael was added to their cozy little family unit, and I loved the way it showed the love between them. Alec and Magnus are called by Jem and Tessa for assistance, and the pair go meet up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Faced with a broken Institute and corrupt Shadowhunters serving the new Clave, Alec is determined to save the Downworlders living there. His path crosses with one of a little Shadowhunter boy, orphaned after The Dark War. Magnus and Alec discover something entirely new across the globe, and I loved it. I loved it. So much. I cried, giggled, and laughed. By the time I was through, my heart felt like a hot air balloon. Easily my favorite in the entire collection. And, last but not least,

                Forever Fallen: 5 out of 5 Stars. I hesitate to even outline the plot points of this story, because Queen of Air and Darkness spoilers! I don’t specifically know anyone who hasn’t read it, but I don’t want to ruin it for anyone. HOLY CRAP, YOU GUYS ARE REALLY GONNA END IT ON THAT NOTE?! Like I wasn’t afraid and anxious before. I need to know what’s going to happen next! It’s been almost four days and I’m still stunned; I can still feel it like a punch to the chest. Cassandra Clare, you really do love to leave things on awful cliffhangers. The bottom line: This beautiful, long-awaited collection of short stories is quite possibly my favorite of all of Clare’s work, and just thinking about the way it all ended has got me antsy. I loved it so much! Next on deck: Vicious by V.E. Schwab!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim Review


Title: Spin the Dawn
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Blood of Stars, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                Elizabeth Lim is a name that I’m somewhat familiar with: She wrote Reflection, part of Disney’s Twisted Tales series. I was intrigued by that, so when I found out she was writing an original debut novel, I put it on hold at my local library as soon as I was able. It had been sitting at the top of my library stack for a while, and I didn’t want to return it without reading it. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I loved this Chinese-inspired fairy tale, full of ambition, adventure, magic of all kinds, and romance that melted my heart. This series debut has been billed as a mashup of Project Runway and Mulan, and I’d say that that assessment would be pretty accurate. Elizabeth Lim has created a tale worthy of the legends that inspired it, and I will never forget the brave, fierce Maia Tamarin! I can’t wait for the next book in this duology!

                Maia Tamarin knows that she is the best tailor in the magical, lush land of A’landi, but alas, she is a girl, and so she cannot even be considered for a position. When the Emperor demands Maia’s ailing, alcoholic father come to the famed Summer Palace, she dresses up as a man and goes in his place. Forced to go up against seven other tailors, Maia is determined to see this quest through, even as the danger mounts. Trapped in a web of political intrigue and danger, the Emperor’s betrothed challenges Maia and the other tailors to make three gowns from the most impossible and legendary materials: the light of the sun, tears of the moon, and blood of stars. Maia sets out to get the materials, and the Imperial Enchanter insists on accompanying her. Distrustful and afraid, Maia sets out to become the kingdom’s first imperial tailor that’s a girl. But everyone is determined to see her fail, and her secret won’t stay under wraps for long… Will Maia achieve her dream and free her family from poverty, or lose everything in the pursuit of the impossible?

                I absolutely loved this book! The cover was totally gorgeous, and initially, that was the thing that caught my eye. But what really made this gem of a novel special was what was inside. I love fairy tale retellings, but this one was absolutely, utterly original, and enchanting. The pacing was breakneck, and I was instantly captivated by Maia’s voice. The worldbuilding was amazing, and I was spellbound by the magical, mysterious land of A’landi, torn apart by a vicious war. I loved the danger and magic and the nearly impossible quest that Maia must undertake to satisfy her ambition and save her family. But I think my favorite parts of Spin the Dawn were the romance between Edan and Maia, and Maia’s own character development. I loved watching her from a quiet and meek girl into a fierce warrior, unafraid to go after her dreams and take what she wanted for herself. Elizabeth Lim has become one of my favorite authors, and I’ll say it because I always do: Diverse books for the win! The bottom line: Beautiful, dangerous and unforgettable, Spin the Dawn has become one of my favorite books of 2019! Next on deck: Ghosts of the Shadow Market by Cassandra Clare!

Friday, September 13, 2019

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia Review


Title: We Set the Dark on Fire
Author: Tehlor Kay Mejia
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: We Set the Dark on Fire, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                I’ll be honest: I’ve been so curious about this book, since before it even came out. Unfortunately, I had to return it three different times before I could read it. Before a total library haul overhaul yesterday, I decided that I wanted to make sure to read this book before I went back. I’d read some of Tehlor Kay Meija’s short stories in anthologies, but this was her debut novel, and I have to say that I loved it. The first book in a duology, We Set the Dark on Fire takes place in Medio, a place where men hold all of the power, and following ancient traditions, each man is given two wives: The Primera, his partner and equal in all things, and The Segurda, a woman passionate and nurturing, trusted with raising a man’s family. Daniela Vargas is assigned as the Primera to Mateo Garcia, and her old school nemesis, Carmen, is chosen as the boy’s second wife. As if this was not punishing enough, the rebellion, La Voz, has threatened to reveal Dani’s deadliest secret if she chooses not to cooperate with them. Dani finds herself trapped in a web of lies, political intrigue, and revolution, and she must decide whether to turn away from her people’s suffering at the rich’s hands, or if she will become a spy and work to free Medio from the vise grip of the powerful…

                This debut novel was absolutely fantastic; from the start, the prose crackled with life, and I was immediately spellbound by Dani’s frank, sweet voice. The pacing was breakneck, and the worldbuilding was one of my favorite parts of the novel. Medio was beautiful, forbidding, and terrifying, and reminded most unpleasantly of Margaret Atwood’s Gilead in more ways than one. The tension in this book, from the start, was at an all-time high. Dani’s parents have spent her life saving so they can send their daughter to the best finishing school for girls in Medio’s capital. But Dani carries a deadly secret: the papers are falsified. When she is selected to be the first wife to a politico’s son, she is determined to make sure that her parents didn’t sacrifice in vain. But things become even more complicated when the second wife, Carmen, is chosen. Still smarting from the other girl’s betrayal years earlier, Dani is forced to team up with her worst enemy to make this arrangement work. But it turns out everyone has something to hide, and some people are willing to kill to keep their secrets from coming to light. La Voz, the rebellion group fighting against Medio’s most powerful players, is fighting for the freedom of the people, and they recruit Dani to help make the new state a reality. Dani and Carmen begin to bond in the face of their new husband’s cruelty, and a tentative friendship blooms into something new and dangerous. In the face of growing unrest and rebellion, will Dani turn her back on her people? Or will she become a revolutionary herself?

                This book was incredible, and one of my favorite books of 2019! I can’t wait for the sequel. I loved the worldbuilding and Mexican-inspired culture and people; it was amazing! Diverse books for the win! The pacing was breakneck, and I was either gasping, swooning, or screaming. The tension was so intense that there were times that I wanted to tear my hair out. I loved all of the characters, and the forbidding islands of Medio. But my favorite parts of the novel are the romance between Dani and Carmen, sweet and shy and innocent but full of fire as well, and the ending! How am I supposed to wait until next year for the sequel?! I’m dying here, Tehlor! One of the best books of 2019! The bottom line: Sexy, romantic, thoughtful and unique, I loved We Set the Dark on Fire! Next on deck: Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

It's Always the Husband by Michelle Campbell Review


Title: It’s Always the Husband
Author: Michelle Campbell
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                I’ve heard great things about It’s Always the Husband; in fact, I was so curious about it that I ordered it from my local library. It’s been sitting in my stack for a while, and once I realized that it had a hold on it, I pushed it to the top as soon as I finished Pachinko. Once I finished it, I dove right in, not sure what to expect, as I’d never read any of Campbell’s work before. Thrillers, in general, make me leery: either I guess who did it within a hundred pages, or it’s just so predictable that I lose interest. That wasn’t the issue here, quite the opposite, in fact. The writing was a bit simplistic, but it really suited the book, and I loved the concept: How well do we truly know the people we love, especially our friends? The pacing was breakneck, and once I began, I couldn’t stop reading. I just finished It’s Always the Husband last night, and I’m still in shock. I was blindsided by the ending; I thought I had it all figured out, but it was still a nasty surprise! Michelle Campbell proves her writing chops with It’s Always the Husband, and I can’t wait to read more of her work!

                The book begins at Carlisle College in New England, with three young women from different walks of life: Aubrey, the poor kid desperate to make friends and fit in, Kate, the charismatic and wild rich girl with undeniable magnetism, and Jenny, the overachiever from a middle-class family. Roommates all, the girls form an unbreakable bond that stands the test of time, up to adulthood. But that all changes when Kate dies unexpectedly. The police are thinking that it was a suicide, but some people in town believe that she was murdered. Soon, everyone in town is under scrutiny, and dark, dangerous secrets threaten to disturb the peaceful, sleepy town of Belle River…

                This book was wonderful! It was a bit simplistic, but I think that it suited the book and the genre. The pacing was breakneck, and once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. Even when I had to put it down, it stayed in my mind, and I kept trying to untangle the gnarled, knotted threads that the mystery presented. The large cast of characters, too, made it nearly impossible to figure out who had hurt Kate. I loved all of the characters, whose true motives were hidden under layers of secrets and deceit. I was left guessing at nearly everyone’s motives, and the ending, when it came, hit me like a brutal punch to the chest. I thought I had it all figured it out, but I definitely didn’t: I finished it last night in the tub, and I’m still totally stunned. Michelle Campbell did a fantastic job with this soapy, dramatic thriller that focuses on frenemies, and I can’t wait to look into more of her work! The bottom line: Dark, oppressive, and twisted, I loved It’s Always the Husband! Next on deck: We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Meija!


Monday, September 9, 2019

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee Review


Title: Pachinko
Author: Min Jin Lee
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                I’ve been wanting to read Pachinko ever since one of my book club friends recommended it to me, and unfortunately, I had to return it to the library the first time around. Determined to discover what all of the fuss was about, I reordered it, and it’s been sitting in my library stack for a while. As soon as I was finished with The Whisper Man, I dove in, not sure what to expect, because I’ve never read any of Lee’s previous work before. Pachinko is nothing less than historical fiction at its finest: it tells the story of four generations of a Korean family, beginning with the occupation of Korea by the Japanese and ending in the 1980s. This book was a meaty, epic family saga, told with wisdom and tenderness and chronicles a period of sixty years. I loved all of the characters, the pacing was breakneck; the prose was absolutely gorgeous but brutal, as if gouged into the page with a scalpel. I was spellbound, even as my heart broke and my eyes ran with tears. This is one of my favorite books of 2019, and I can’t wait to read more of Min Jin Lee’s work!

                The story begins with a young Korean woman named Sunja, who, after a fling with a Japanese businessman, becomes pregnant. Scrambling to salvage what is left of her soiled honor over a first love, a Christian minister offers to marry her, and the couple leaves Korea for Osaka, Japan. What follows is the fracturing of the family, both from outside forces and within, over a period of years. It was painful, real, and offered a perspective on a time in world history that I knew very little about. I loved all of the characters, and one of my favorite parts of this novel was seeing the two countries of Japan and Korea change as the story went on. I also adored the way that Lee depicted the blatant racism and prejudice against Koreans, some of which still happens today, unfortunately. This book was nothing less than a bittersweet gem, and Lee has cemented her place in my heart as one of my favorite authors with Pachinko. It helped me learn, broke my heart, made me cry, and made me think, and isn’t that the whole point of a great story?

                Pachinko was a fantastic novel that opened my eyes to the cruelty that colonialism and imperialism has wrought upon the globe, and I can surely say that I will never forget it; this book may be the magnum opus of Lee’s body of work, and I can’t wait to read more of her novels; it’s been over a week since I finished Pachinko, and I still feel stunned, like I was punched in the stomach and had the wind knocked out of me. I will never forget this beautifully wrought, sad tale of a family torn apart at the seams by tragedy and circumstance. The bottom line: Rich, detailed, bittersweet and brutal, I loved Pachinko! Next on deck: It’s Always the Husband by Michelle Campbell!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Whisper Man by Alex North Review


Title: The Whisper Man
Author: Alex North
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Horror
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this from my local library and reviewed it.

                I’ve heard so many good things about The Whisper Man, and I was so sad when I didn’t receive an advanced readers’ copy. So, when I found it on the new display shelf at one of the libraries I go to, I snatched it up. I wasn’t sure what to expect, exactly, but I just finished it last night and my skin is still crawling, my mouth tasting faintly of bile and revulsion. This book just left me stunned, and if I didn’t have to return it immediately, I would’ve at least thought it over for a few days, until I got my thoughts in order. But Alex North has penned a horrifying, thoughtful debut that highlights the relationship between fathers and sons, in every way, and the darkness that hides inside of all of us. I was spellbound until the final page, and the ending will haunt me forever. I still can’t get it out of my head. I can’t wait to see what Alex North has in store for the horror, mystery and thriller genres.

                Tom Kennedy and his young son, Jake, have traveled to the small, sleepy village of Featherbank, England after the untimely death of Tom’s wife and Jake’s mother, Rebecca. Desperate for a new start in a new place, Tom tries to settle in. But he begins to discover that Featherbank has a dark past: a monster called The Whisper Man has killed little boys, and it began with the children hearing a deep, gruff voice at their window. Enter DIs Pete Willis, who has been chasing The Whisper Man for more than twenty years, and Amanda Beck, the green young detective that has been assigned to the new case. Some say that the murders are copycats, as Frank Carter is in prison for The Whisper Man’s first reign of terror. Things get even more frightening when Jake tells Tom that his imaginary friends, The Boy in the Floor, and The Little Girl, are warning him of danger. Tom finds himself entangled in a dark web of terror, deceit and true evil, and not everyone will escape The Whisper Man unscathed…

                Mysteries and thrillers are a touchy thing for me; sometimes, I can guess who did it within the first hundred pages of reading, and then the rest of the book fizzles out for me. But The Whisper Man was a twisty, intricate and dark mystery, interlaced with an awful lot of horror. The pacing was breakneck; I was utterly haunted by the tone of the book. I devoured this book in less than two days, and to say that it was a nailbiter would be a major understatement. My only complaint was that the point of view changed so often that it was sometimes difficult to figure out who was speaking. I enjoyed the large cast of characters, especially Frank, Pete, Tom, and Jake. But I think my favorite part of it was the elements of the supernatural throughout the novel; it gave the mystery such a great tone! And that ending is not one that I will be forgetting any time soon! Alex North has established himself as a new thriller writer to keep an eye on! The bottom line: Dark, terrifying, thoughtful and unique, I loved The Whisper Man! Next on deck: House of Salt and Sorrow by Erin A. Craig!

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson Review


Title: Sorcery of Thorns
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Age Group: 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.

                Margaret Rogerson has been on my radar since her first book, An Enchantment of Ravens, came out. Unfortunately, I had to take her debut novel back to the library before I was able to read it. But when I heard that she was writing a sophomore novel, I was so excited that I put it on hold at my library immediately. Since then, it’s been sitting at the top of my library stack, waiting for me to finally read it. As soon as I was finished with Raven, I dove in. I was absolutely intrigued and excited by the premise: magical libraries, with books that spoke, loved, and held the most ancient magic! Rogerson has before been hailed as the heir apparent to Diana Wynne Jones, and after reading Sorcery of Thorns, I absolutely believe it. Full of magic, wonder, romance, political intrigue, and, of course, books, I loved this book. It might be my favorite in Rogerson’s body of work. I can’t wait to see what is up her sleeve for us next! Rogerson has cemented her place in my heart as a new favorite author!

                Elisabeth Scrievener has lived her life within the sacred walls of Summershall, one of the kingdom’s most magical libraries. She knows the danger of grimoires, and the people who wield their magic for evil: sorcerers. If the books are provoked, they run the risk of turning into Maleficts, monsters made of ink and paper. But her peaceful existence is shattered forever when an act of sabotage releases the library’s oldest and most powerful grimoire. But intervening costs her everything, and she is cast out of Summershall. With no one else to turn to, she asks a sorcerer, Nathaniel Thorn, to aid her in her quest. Armed with his magic and demonic servant, Elisabeth begins to search for answers and finds herself wrapped up in a conspiracy that goes back centuries. She discovers more than her beloved libraries are at stake: the entire world hangs in the balance. Elisabeth’s tentative friendship with Nathaniel deepens, leading her to question everything she thought she knew. She begins to realize that she holds a new, unspeakable power inside of her, and that the future she was so sure of before is nothing like she thought…

                I loved this book completely and totally; the premise was unique and exciting, and I felt so at home in Elisabeth’s world, even with all of its magic and danger. Honestly, this book felt like a childhood dream come true. The pacing was breakneck, and I was fascinated by the world Elisabeth lived in. Full of magic, danger, darkness, and love, Sorcery of Thorns was an indeed magical tale that captivated me from beginning to end. I also loved Nathaniel and Silas, and the foil they made to timid, straitlaced Elisabeth. I also adored Elisabeth herself; her character development was what really made the book for me. She went from a shy, quiet little mouse of a girl to a young woman who is unafraid to do what’s right, at the cost of her own life and everything she loves. One of my favorite parts of the novel, too, was the romance between Elisabeth and Nathaniel; I was swooning by the time it was in full swing. And that ending! Oh, my goodness, Margaret Rogerson has completely outdone herself with Sorcery of Thorns! The bottom line: Rich, romantic, funny, and dark, I loved Sorcery of Thorns! Next on deck: The Whisper Man by Alex North!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Piccolo Review

Title: Teen Titans: Raven
Author/Illustrator: Kami Garcia and Gabriel Piccolo
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: DC Ink, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


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

                Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a total junkie for comics, in any and all forms, both in DC and Marvel. So, when I heard that DC was rebooting their heroes, especially the women, I was so stoked. I absolutely adored Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale, and when it was announced that Teen Titans was relaunching, starting with my favorite Titan, Raven, I was so excited. I’d had it on hold since before it actually came out, and Kami Garcia is one of my favorite authors. I was slightly nervous at this new addition to the DC canon, as the Teen Titans are some of my favorite superheroes with DC. But I didn’t need to be, because this book did great justice to one of my favorite heroes, and I can’t wait for the next installment, this time revolving around Beast Boy! Can you tell I’m excited? Because I am, a little bit.

                Rachel Roth has lost her foster mother and her memories in a tragic car accident, and is forced to go live with her foster mother’s sister, Natalia, and her daughter, Max. To add to all of this, she begins being troubled by a mysterious, dark bird, and the thoughts of her new classmates. Thinking that she has lost her mind in the crash, she begins to be plagued by a dark, enigmatic voice inside her head, vying for control of her mind. Trying desperately to make sense of the riddles that her life has become, Rachel must decide whether to give in to her family’s dark legacy, or to accept herself, wholly and completely…

                I absolutely adored this book! Raven is one of my favorite Titans, and one of my favorite heroes in the DC canon, and Kami Garcia did a fantastic job of portraying a young Rachel Roth, unfamiliar with her powers and her heritage. I loved Rachel, Max, and Natalia, especially, and I loved the little Easter egg thrown in when Beast Boy made an appearance! The illustrations and colors, done by Gabriel Piccolo were beautiful; I loved the comic’s color palette. But my favorite part about this comic was watching Rachel come into her own and accept herself, powers, dark legacy and all. And that ending! I loved it so much, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the other Titans! Easily one of my favorite books of 2019; Kami Garcia and Gabriel Piccolo did an outstanding job with Raven’s legacy! The bottom line: Funny, honest, and beautiful, I loved this new take on one of my favorite DC heroes! I can’t wait for the next Teen Titans comic! Next on deck: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Pan's Labyrinth: Labyrinth of the Faun by Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke Review


Title: Pan’s Labyrinth: Labyrinth of the Faun
Authors and Illustrator: Guillermo del Toro, Cornelia Funke, and Allen Williams
Age Group: 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.

                This book has been sitting in my library stack for a while, and I couldn’t renew it anymore, so as soon as I was finished with The War Outside, I pushed it to the top of my stack. Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my favorite movies, so as soon as I heard of that book, I was eager to put it on hold at my library. I devoured this book in a little under two days, and I was utterly spellbound. The writing was beautiful, like something out of an old fairy tale, and I adored the gorgeous, forbidding illustrations. It breaks my heart that illustrations are few and far between in books, because they add such depth to a story. Allen Williams did a fantastic job of adding beautiful pictures to the story. Del Toro and Funke combined their fantastic writing to bring one of my favorite films to life. The prose was beautiful, hypnotic, and though Funke took some artistic license with the story, I liked the way that she and Del Toro filled in the gaps that the original story left unexplained. A dark and gorgeous fairy tale for all ages, I loved this bloody, thoughtful fairy tale, and I will never forget it! This book is one of my favorites in Cornelia Funke’s body of work: She’s done a fantastic job with this lovely book!

                Ofelia’s world has been shattered after the death of her loving, caring father, a tailor. Forced to leave her home and start a new beginning with her pregnant mother, they go to an isolated outpost in the wild forests of Spain to live with Captain Vidal, whom she calls The Wolf. Yearning for her home and her father, she tries to stay out of her new stepfather’s way. But everything changes when she sees the ruins of an ancient labyrinth on the outskirts of the forest: soon fairies, fauns, wicked toads, and magical creatures appear, leading the child to her secret and forgotten past, and Ofelia must use her beloved books and every bit of her strength to overcome The Wolf’s evil ways…

                I absolutely adored this book! Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my favorite films, and Del Toro, Funke, and Williams all did a fantastic job of bringing it to prose novel form. I was immediately entranced by the voice inside of the book, and the illustrations were beautiful and detailed, adding a whole new depth to the story. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately drawn into Ofelia’s beautiful, dark, and dangerous world. Even though I knew what was going to happen, the book still managed to surprise me; I was crying and gasping throughout the novel. I wish I had a copy of this book for my own collection; it’s so beautiful! Ofelia’s journey from a meek, shy little girl into a heroine in her own right was my favorite part of it, even more so than the fantastical elements of the novel. And the ending! I loved it so much. This book is a classic fantasy, in that there were magical tasks, blood and war, daring adventures, and a magical land laying beneath the fabric of our own ordinary world. This book is absolutely unforgettable, and it’s one of the best of 2019! The bottom line: Lush, dark, and magical, I loved Labyrinth of the Faun! Next on deck: Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Piccolo!

The War Outside by Monica Hesse Review


Title: The War Outside
Author: Monica Hesse
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                The War Outside was the August book club pick for one of the book discussions I go to; I finished it in three days. I, unfortunately, was not able to finish it the actual night of book club, so I finished it the day after. This book was so heartfelt and emotional, and the issues it brought up are still relevant today. Touching on a dark period of America’s history, The War Outside depicts the fraught relationship of two young women, locked away with their families in an internment camp. Haruko is Japanese-American, taken from her home to live with her father, who has been accused of betraying the country and passing on trade secrets. Margot is German-American, sent with her parents on suspicion that she is siding with the enemy. The girls’ lives collide in the most explosive way, ending in tragedy and betrayal. I loved every painful, topical moment of this book, because those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Unfortunately, America has indeed been repeating history, ripping families apart and putting innocent little kids in cages. I’ll be honest: I cried through most of this book. It was so incredibly painful, and absolutely necessary. I will never forget The War Outside, and I can’t wait to read The Girl in the Blue Coat!

                I liked this book a lot; historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, because it allows me to experience a time that I can’t in person. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately entranced by both Haruko and Margot’s voices, bitter and afraid and angry at the country who refuses to accept them because of their ancestry. I couldn’t tell if they were just friends, or if their relationship went deeper than that, but the tension and chemistry between Margot and Haruko was totally electric. I also enjoyed the cast of characters around them: both of their families, entwined with dark, dangerous secrets, and the internment camp itself, a prison dressed up in new clapboard houses, little food, and a new swimming pool. I was constantly turning pages, and when I wasn’t reading, the girls lurked in my head, attempting to lure me back into the book, regardless of what I was doing. The narrative was tinged with regret on all sides, salty and bitter, sitting like a lump in my throat. Fear itself was also a prominent character; no one in the camps trust one another, or the country that promised them all a new life, only to lock them away for things that they did not do. And the ending! I was so shocked; it was the literary equivalent to dropping a bomb. I was blown away and wasn’t expecting it at all, even after being warned! This tender, romantic and bittersweet story tells of a time that should be in our past, but alas, it is happening all over again with Mexican asylum seekers, right before our very eyes. I loved the friendship between the two young women, even as it frayed irreversibly at the end. The only thing I didn’t like was that most of the adults weren’t even listening to the girls; I didn’t like ninety percent of them. Nonetheless, Hesse has penned a breathless and unforgettable sophomore novel that casts a light on one of America’s darkest historical periods, and I will never forget it! The bottom line: Fraught with emotion and distrust, I loved The War Outside! A bittersweet, tender and topical sophomore novel, Monica Hesse has outdone herself, and I can’t wait to read The Girl in the Blue Coat! Next on deck: Pan’s Labyrinth: Labyrinth of the Faun by Guillermo Del Toro, Cornelia Funke, and Allen Williams!

Friday, August 23, 2019

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan Review


Title: In Other Lands
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Age Group: 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.

                Sarah Rees Brennan has been one of my favorite authors for a long time; I read her first series, The Demon’s Lexicon, when my husband and I first moved, and I’ve been obsessed with her ever since. When I saw In Other Lands sitting on the shelf of a library I go to, I snatched it up. It had been sitting in my library stack, and since I couldn’t renew it anymore, I began it as soon as I was finished with The Best Lies. I wasn’t quite sure to expect, because this book was different than any other in Brennan’s body of work. But regardless, I adored In Other Lands. Full of wit, humor, romance, a fair amount of blood, gore, and death, this book kind of reminded me of the Harry Potter series, with more of a focus on the war aspect of things. Despite that, I was immediately entertained by this hilarious, sarcastic book about an altogether different kind of chosen one. This made me realize just how much I missed Sarah Rees Brennan, and exactly why she’s one of my favorite authors.
                The Borderlands are a magical place, in which modern technology does not properly function, things such as pens are practically unheard of, and I haven’t even mentioned all of the fantastic people and creatures. Elves, harpies, and mermaids are all real, and a war as old as time has been raging. And then there’s Elliot. He’s an obnoxious, nerdy thirteen year old teenager. His best friend is a beautiful elf warrior named Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of Battle, and his other friend, Luke, is perfect in every way. Though Luke is more of a frenemy than a true friend. In Other Lands follows the redheaded, snotty teen through four years, as he ages. This is fantasy at its lowest, and I mean that in the best possible way. I was laughing throughout the novel; one of my favorite things about Brennan is her humor. Elliot was a hard character to root for at times, but I liked him and his character development throughout the novel. I also adored Serene, Luke, Dale, and the rest of the characters that populated the Borderlands. One of my favorite things about SRB is that the worlds she builds are always original, and I loved her take on a Harry Potter style tale. The bottom line: Fizzy, funny, romantic and original, I loved In Other Lands! One of my favorites of Brennan’s work! Next on deck: The War Outside by Monica Hesse!

The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu Review


Title: The Best Lies
Author: Sarah Lyu
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’ve had The Best Lies on hold at my local library since before it came out; I’d heard of the premise from a few other book reviewers I follow, and I was curious, especially when I saw the pale pink cover, adorned with a sticky-sweet, pastel-hued lollipop. It was sitting on top of my library stack, and it was one book that I didn’t want to return without reading. Normally, I’m leery about mysteries and thrillers; I can usually guess what’s going to happen within fifty pages. But The Best Lies was totally unique, in that it featured a love triangle gone horrifically wrong. I loved it, even as I waited with bated breath for the ending that felt like a punch to the gut. I could see what was coming, but it still blew me away. I finished this book over a week ago, and I’m still floored. Just absolutely stunned. A tragic, heartbreaking and realistic portrayal of a close friendship gone the worst kind of sideways, The Best Lies is one of my favorite books of 2019, and I can’t wait to see what debut author Sarah Lyu has up her sleeve next!
                Remy Tsai has never really had anyone who’s really loved her. Her parents are absorbed in hurting each other, and only use her and her brother, Christian, as bargaining chips in their arguments. Overlooked, lonely, and shy, her life changes forever when she meets Elise. Elise understands her like no one else she’s ever known, and soon the two become entwined, inseparable, ride or die. But Remy begins to feel that the love that has kept her safe and sheltered for so long is suffocating her. The feeling only intensifies when Jack enters the picture, who Remy is immediately smitten with. But Remy’s new love and joy is shattered when Jack dies, and it’s Elise’s hand that held the gun that killed him. From the police station, Remy struggles to piece together the tragedy that destroyed her life…
                This book was, in a word, compelling. I love books about friendships gone wrong, especially among young women. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately entranced by Remy’s broken voice. I was totally spellbound by the love triangle that formed between Remy, Jack, and Elise. I knew what was coming, from the beginning, but even still, the ending landed like a punch to the chest and I felt like I was gasping for breath. This book was like watching a trainwreck, impossible to look away from. I loved watching Remy and Elise’s relationship grow from something almost romantic and charged to terribly fraught, and so frayed that it ended in a horrible, unspeakable tragedy. I felt sorry for everyone involved in this book; to be frank, most of them were miserable. This book was so very sad, but I’m glad that I read it; it’s a great example of toxic relationships and behavior. Elise, in particular, was a study in sadness and abusive behavior, both giving and receiving. The Best Lies is one of my favorite books of 2019; Sarah Lyu did a fantastic job in this punchy, timely thriller with a sticky-sweet, toxic love triangle! The bottom line: Vivid, dark, and utterly painful, I loved The Best Lies; Sarah Lyu has penned a compelling, necessary thriller! Fantastic! Next on deck: In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan!

Wilder Girls by Rory Power Review


Title: Wilder Girls
Author: Rory Power
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


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

                I heard about Wilder Girls through one of the sites I follow, and as soon as I read the description, I was hooked. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while now, and since I couldn’t renew it anymore, I pushed it to the top of my stack before I even finished No Beast so Fierce. I devoured this debut in less than a day, and I’m happy to report to you all that the hype you hear about this book? Real, one hundred percent. Billed as a feminist, LBGTQIA retelling of the classic Lord of the Flies, Wilder Girls is a novel that exhibits a wholly new and distinct sort of horror. Yet the friendship and love at its center made me love it all the more. I’ve never read the novel that inspired this one, and I don’t want to, because this book was just perfect. Easily one of my favorite books of 2019! Rory Wilder is an author to keep your eye on!

                Hetty Chaplan hardly remembers a time before The Tox, a deadly disease, took over the globe, or Raxter Island, where she was certain that she would die. But the disease, with her and her classmates, is also strangely symbiotic, granting unknowable powers to them. Desperate to get off the island and uncover the truth about the virus that has been killing her and her friends, Hetty begins to dig. But she and her friends have no idea that the threat lies so much closer to home than they ever could’ve realized…

                This book was so strange, dark, and frightening. It was also thought-provoking and compelling, even in all of its horror. I’m such a sucker for survivalist stories, and I always forget it until I come across one, especially one such as this. Even in all of its gore and gruesomeness, the friendships and love between the characters shone through it all. It also screamed girl power, which I adored. Brutal, gorgeous, and I couldn’t look away. For all the horrors conjured in this book, unique and truly horrific, there were bright spots to be had. I loved the characters and the unsettling, silent chill of the abandoned Raxter Island. But my favorite thing about this book was that the scariest part about it was the horror. I won’t spoil it; it’s too good for that. But I will say that Wilder Girls is a debut unlike any you’ve ever read before, and I can guarantee it. A true gem and an amazingly thoughtful, tender addition to the YA genre. The bottom line: Thought-provoking, terrifying, and beautiful, Wilder Girls is a survivalist story unlike any other; I loved it so much! Rory Power is a brilliant force of nature! Next on deck: The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu!