Monday, December 23, 2019

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys Review


Title: The Fountains of Silence
Author: Ruta Sepetys
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.

                Ruta Sepetys is one of my favorite authors, and has been for a long time now. Salt to the Sea, her third book, was my first by her. So, when I found out that she was writing a new book, I put it on hold as soon as I could. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while now. I couldn’t renew it, so as soon as I was finished with Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, I began to read it. Historical fiction ie one of my favorite genres, because it gives me perspective into times of upheaval and change that I wouldn’t otherwise have. The Fountains of Silence opens not long after the end of the Spanish civil war, with several young people struggling to find their dreams in the aftermath. Daniel Matheson is a young Texan, come to Spain with his wealthy parents for a business meeting with Spain’s dictator, Francisco Franco. A passionate photographer, his eyes are opened to Spain’s dark secrets, some in places long before he was even born. But Spain also holds hope, promise, unexpected allies and perhaps, true love?

                I’ll be honest: This was a time period in American and Spanish history that I didn’t know much about. I knew the basics, of course, but even then, they were bare. I love how Ruta Sepetys takes so much care and meticulous research when she tells a story; I was immediately spellbound by her prose, but even more than that, the characters. I laughed, I wept, I raged, especially at my own ignorance. The thing about studying history, at least, for me, is that you have to study its nuances so the situations don’t repeat. And The Fountains of Silence was like a front-row seat to the conflict, but also to the many triumphs and flaws of humanity itself. The characters were beautifully drawn, especially Ana, Daniel, his parents, and Ana’s family members. As with all of Sepetys’s books, it was written with empathy and heart, and I loved the ending! It wasn’t quite perfect, but I loved the way that it was so true to life. This book may be my favorite in her entire body of work. It was just so good. I loved the characters, the lush, gorgeous Spanish setting, the attention to detail, and just about everything else. This is a great book to read if you want a behind the scenes look at a more obscure time in history, and I very much enjoyed it. The bottom line: Rich with detail, heartbreakingly sad and empathetic, I loved The Fountains of Silence! Next on deck: Runaways: Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughn!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki Review


Title: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me
Author: Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero O’Connell
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Graphic Novel
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                I went to my book club last month and saw this book sitting on the new book display; I was immediately intrigued by the color palette and the fluid, emotional way that the pictures were drawn. I took it home with me that night and it’s been sitting at the top of my library stack ever since. I finished Monster, She Wrote and tried to read Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, and ended up not finishing it. So, I moved on to Laura Dean and devoured it in less than a day. This graphic novel was beautifully drawn, and the story broke my heart. I loved it so much; Laura Dean is one of my favorite books of 2019, and I can’t wait to see more from this dynamic duo! A fantastic, fresh graphic novel that won my heart completely! Highly recommended to all!

                Laura Dean, the most popular girl at school, was Frederica ‘Freddy’ Riley’s dream girl. She’s funny, sweet, beautiful, and sexy. The only problem is she’s fickle and mean, and is not the greatest girlfriend. Reeling from their latest breakup, Freddy’s best friend, Doodle, takes her to a psychic, mysteriously called The Seek-Her. Seek-Her leaves Freddy with advice, even though Freddy doesn’t want to hear it: break up with Laura Dean. But when LD spins back into her life with all the force of a hurricane, Freddy begins to wonder if she is the problem. Maybe Laura Dean is only part of it, Freddy wonders as she loses friends left and right. Luckily, though, there are new friends, which she desperately needs, and the insight of an advice columnist to get her through the throes of teenage love. With Laura Dean, Tamaki and Valero-O’Connell asks us to consider what happens when we quit the toxic relationships we crave and embrace the healthy ones we need instead.

                I loved, loved, loved this graphic novel! The art style was what grabbed me initially, but it was the perfect antidote to the nasty feelings I had after the disappointment of Ninth House. The color palette was gorgeous, and I loved the way that the pictures were drawn. But I was instantly captivated by Freddy’s honest, sweet voice. The pacing was breakneck; I finished this book in a few short hours. I loved all of the characters, especially Freddy, her friends, and Laura. But I think my favorite part of this graphic novel was the way that it dealt with real issues, especially toxic relationships. The relationship between Freddy and Laura felt really familiar, with all of its ups and downs. I related to this because when I was younger, I had a lot of friends who weren’t really friends, and it brought back a lot of mixed, bittersweet feelings. I absolutely adored this graphic novel, even though there were several times when I had to put it down to cry. The bottom line: Rich, realistic, and honest, I loved Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me! Next on deck: Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys!

Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson Review


Title: Monster: She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction
Authors: Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson
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 heard about this book from the free magazine, Bookpage, and as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to order it. I’ve had it for a while now, and it’s been sitting at the top of my library stack ever since. I realized I couldn’t renew it any more, so, when I finished The Never Tilting World, I plunged in, not certain what to expect. Simply put, this book shines a spotlight on the many women who have helped forge the modern horror and speculative fiction genres, complete with illustrations and reading lists. This book is one of my favorite books of 2019, because it was funny, informative, and surprising. This book begins with women from the 16th century and goes all the way to the present day, with a wealth of information about them all.

                Everyone knows Mary Shelley, the young woman who wrote Frankenstein when she was just a teenager. But did you know that she wrote that novel in response to the grief she was feeling over the child she lost? (She was also rumored to have her late husband’s heart tucked into a desk drawer!) There is also Margaret ‘Mad Madge’ Cavendish, who wrote a science fiction epic 150 years earlier, and liked to wear risqué dresses to the theater and opera. Shirley Jackson, one of my personal favorites, also gets an honorable mention; despite her career as a wife and mother, she used al of that as inspiration for her writing; she came into the public eye again when Netflix adapted her book, The Haunting of Hill House. This book contained profiles for authors I knew and some I’d never heard of. Containing information about so many women who had a hand in developing the horror and speculative fiction genres, this book was funny, informative, and interesting, and it might be one of my favorites for the nonfiction genre of this year. If I had one little quibble, I wish there had been more authors of color discussed. Nonetheless, this book was wonderful: meticulously researched, beautifully illustrated, and informative, I loved it so much! The bottom line: Hilarious, informative, and surprising, I loved Monster, She Wrote! Next on deck: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco Review


Title: The Never Tilting World
Author: Rin Chupeco
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Never Tilting World, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                Rin Chupeco is one of my favorite authors, so when I found out she had a new book coming out in October, I put it on hold immediately. Ever since, it’s been sitting at the top of my library stack, begging to be read. I couldn’t renew it anymore, so as soon as I was finished with Good Omens, I dove in. In this rich, fully realized fantasy world, two goddesses are at war. After a catastrophic event called The Breaking, the planet has stopped turning, literally. Resulting in one side of the planet stuck in endless night, and the other in constantly scorching sunlight, four young people are forced to try and fix their world, even if it means unearthing secrets that could change everything. Full of monsters, magic, deadly secrets and political intrigue, I loved this series opener and can’t wait for the next book in this duo!

                Lady Tianlan is a Catseye, a bodyguard for the goddess she serves. Still reeling from being the only survivor of a deadly mission in the Abyss, she is drawn to her goddess’s sickly daughter, Odessa. When she ordered to go back to search for answers, she wonders if her demons and ghosts will conquer her. Odessa, for her part, knows that she can do more than what her mother allows. Frustrated from being stifled and looked after all the time, she steals away on the ship Lan is commanding. On the other side of the world, the other goddess’s daughter, Haidee, comes across a fire worker, and together they leave The Golden City. Forced to work with her people’s worst enemy, she discovers that her mysterious companion has secrets of his own. Two sister goddesses broke the world, and now two sisters must save it. But it turns out there are forces bigger even than the goddesses, and they are working to bring about a darkness more dangerous than anyone could ever know…

                I adored this book! It wasn’t perfect, but it was damn near close. With this series opener, she has penned a fantastic debut with multiple voices. The worldbuilding was fantastic, and the pacing was breakneck. As soon as I was done with Good Omens, I started this book and devoured it in less than three days. I loved the magic system, as well as the broken world that the characters lived in. This book had everything I love: war, magic, romance, monsters, political intrigue and secrets. There were times when the narration was a bit stilted, and at times it was difficult to keep track of who was speaking. Nonetheless, this series debut was absolutely wonderful; it might be one of my favorite books of 2019, and I can’t wait for the next one! The bottom line: Richly detailed, romantic, dark and mesmerizing, I loved The Never Tilting World!  

Monday, December 9, 2019

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett Review


Title: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
Authors: Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                I’ve been a fan of Neil Gaiman for years, but I’m sorry to say that Good Omens is the first and thus far, the only book I’ve read by Terry Pratchett. But it certainly won’t be my last. I wish I’d read this book a long time ago, but I did it now because my husband and I watched the miniseries on Amazon Prime first. I’m glad that I watched it beforehand; it made it a lot easier to imagine what was happening in my mind. The story of a demon and an angel trying to stop the end of the world, this book was unique, funny, and well-written. It might be one of my favorites in Gaiman’s entire body of work; I almost feel cheated by myself, waiting until a show was made to read this gem. I loved it so much that I just finished it on Sunday afternoon, and I want a copy for my own collection. I was crying with laughter from practically the first page; there aren’t enough words to tell you all just how much I loved this book.

                Aziraphale and Crowley are two unlikely friends on opposite sides of a war older than humanity itself: Aziraphale is an angel of God, and Crowley is a demon, sly and wily and full of mischief. When the order comes through on both sides that they must kickstart Armageddon, they are both reluctant to usher in the end of humankind. Nonetheless, when Crowley is dispatched to find the Antichrist, he obeys. Add in a fake psychic, an old, angry Scot who hunts for the supernatural, witches in particular, and the descendant of a slightly mad witch, and you’ve got something close to Good Omens. Is humanity worth saving, or will the slate be swept clean for a new start?

                This book may be my favorite in Gaiman’s body of work, and for the moment, is my favorite work by Terry Pratchett. I love books that make me laugh, and from the first page, I was laughing constantly. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately drawn into the story; I could picture Michael Sheen and David Tennant as I read the book. Despite the long cast of characters, I loved what each of them brought to the story. Hilarious, thoughtful, and full of the power of laughter and true friendship, I loved every moment of this crazy, cheeky novel. And the adaptation was pretty close to the book; aside from taking a few characters out, it was pretty faithful to the source material. I devoured this book in less than a week, and I loved every moment of it. Humanity, through Crowley and Aziraphale’s eyes, is redeemable, and thus they decide to stop The End of Days. I loved every character in this novel, but my favorites were Aziraphale, Crowley, and Adam and Them, as well as the various denizens of Heaven and Hell. I’m kind of upset that this wasn’t the novel that got me obsessed with Neil Gaiman; despite that, the book still means so much to me, and one day, I hope to own a copy so Neil can sign mine! The bottom line: A tale of how Armageddon almost happened but didn’t, I loved Good Omens! One of the best books I’ve ever read, hands down! Next on deck: The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics Review


Title: The Women in the Walls
Author: Amy Lukavics
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                Amy Lukavics wasn’t an author I’d read before, until the October book for our book club was chosen. On the very night I finished Nightingale, one of my friends in the club dragged me over to the shelves and found The Women in the Walls, demanding that I take it home, because it was even scarier than Nightingale. I didn’t believe her, honestly, because Nightingale was pretty damn freaky, but this book, man! This is the second book I’ve read by Lukavics, and I can promise you all that it will not be my last. In fact, I’ve already got The Ravenous in my library stack, and she also begged me to read her debut, Daughters Unto Devils. I’m an addict for this woman’s writing. I’m obsessed! This chilling and ghoulish, gory ghost story is still stuck in my head, and I just finished it this afternoon! The Women in the Walls just might be my favorite in her entire body of work, depending on how I find The Ravenous.

                Lucy Acosta’s mother died when she was three years old, and ever since, she’s lived in an old, Victorian mansion with her cold, distant father and her eccentric aunt, Penelope. Penelope’s daughter, Margaret, is Lucy’s cousin and best friend. When Penelope disappears one cold, rainy night, Lucy finds herself entirely alone as well as utterly devastated. Margaret begins spending time alone in the attic, claiming that she can hear her mother’s voice through the walls. Forced helplessly to watch while her only friend’s sanity unravels, Lucy slowly begins to realize that her family, as well as the house itself, is hiding ancient and deadly secrets that have led her to a dark legacy that has marked her and the rest for generations. And Lucy realizes, too late, that some secrets are better left buried…

                This book was, in a word, weird. But I’m starting to realize that that’s Lukavics’s thing: gothic, spine-tingling horror with a ton of gore and more than a healthy heaping of terror. It was a little confusing for me at first, because I could not figure out, at first, whether the story took place in the Victorian era. Once I got past though, this book sucked me in entirely. There were times when I wanted to put it down, but I couldn’t, because I just had to know what was going to happen! I was thoroughly creeped out as the book went on; I was constantly paranoid and jumpy, due to the claustrophobic feeling of the Acostas’ home. I was hypnotized by Lucy’s chilling, honest narration, and the pacing was breakneck. This book grabbed my throat and didn’t let go, even after the last terrifying page. This might be a ghost story, but it’s certainly not run-of-the-mill; it is decidedly unique. I don’t want to give away anything about the twists and turns and the monsters of the novel; I’ll keep those as a surprise for anyone reading who hasn’t read the book. The other characters, particularly Margaret, Penelope, and Lucy’s father, were fantastic foils to her, and I especially enjoyed the creepy, terrifying promise of the ending. As I said before, this book may be my favorite of the two books I’ve read by Lukavics; I’ll certainly never forget it. The bottom line: Spooky, chilling, gory and shocking, I loved The Women in the Walls! Next on deck: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett!

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly Review


Title: Stepsister
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
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.

                Jennifer Donnelly won my heart, all the way back in high school, with her debut novel, A Northern Light, and I’ve been reading her books obsessively ever since. When I found out she had a new book coming out, I was so excited that I had to put it on hold at my local library immediately. Since then, it’s been sitting at the top of my library stack, begging to be read. I finally was able to push it up to the front after I finished There’s Something About Sweetie, and I’m still just stunned. I finished it yesterday and I’m completely in awe; this might be the best book in Donnelly’s entire body of work, and one of my favorite books of 2019.

I’ll officially start with a confession. When I was a little girl, I hated princesses and all things pink and feminine. Snow White and Cinderella in particular, because they weren’t ‘feminist’. I gravitated toward Ariel when I was younger, and then Belle, later in life. But Stepsister gives us a glimpse of what happens after the happily ever after. Even before I knew the original story by The Brothers Grimm, I couldn’t help wondering what exactly happened to Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters. Donnelly focuses on one of Ella’s stepsisters, Isabelle. After being caught trying to deceive the crown prince into thinking that she is her lovely, sweet stepsister, she and her family are soon caught up in a game of truly epic proportions. All Isabelle has ever wanted is to be beautiful, but it turns out that the price of beauty may be too high for her to pay, and mysterious forces are working to change her fate. Will Isabelle succumb to the vices that got her labeled an ‘ugly’ stepsister? Or will she find the courage to forge her own path, in spite of her mistakes?

                I have to say that I absolutely adored this book. Written with Donnelly’s signature humor, fantasy, and style, I loved it so much. I also really liked the way that she flipped the script and started the story after Isabelle tried to fool the prince. But the real star of this was Isabelle and her growth throughout the book; it was so cool to watch her transform from a mean, petty child into a young woman capable of finding her own strength in the face of adversity. This book felt like a fairy tale, with distinct echoes from the original tale: the fairy godmother, the glass slippers, magic and mayhem. But I liked the way that she used war, love, and compassion to temper Isabelle into something stronger, in the end. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately drawn in by Isabelle’s tale; I loved the way Chance and The Fates worked throughout the book to try and deter her from her true path. This is Cinderella as you’ve never seen it before, with the spotlight on the ugly stepsisters and given feminist twists! This is the Cinderella story I’ve been waiting on my whole life. Donnelly, once again, has penned a fantastic, beautiful and honest fantasy story with strong female heroines at its heart, and I loved it so much! Is it too much to hope for a sequel about Isabelle’s sister, Tavi? The bottom line: Rich, funny, romantic and brave, I loved Stepsister! Next on deck: The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics!

Monday, December 2, 2019

There's Something About Sweetie by Sandya Menon Review


Title: There’s Something About Sweetie
Author: Sandhya Menon
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: When Dimple Met Rishi, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                Sandhya Menon is one of my favorite authors; she won my heart last year with her debut romance, When Dimple Met Rishi. (Diverse books for the win!) There’s Something About Sweetie is the companion novel to Dimple, and it’s been on my list since before it came out. I’ve checked it out from my library a few times, but unfortunately had to take it back before I could read it. When I was at one of my book clubs, I saw it sitting on a new book display and had to take it home. I just finished it over the long weekend, and just thinking about it, I haven’t been able to stop grinning. With her signature romance, humor, and heart, Menon has continued the story, this time focusing on Rishi’s younger brother, Ashish. Fresh out of a painful breakup, his friend suggests that he let his parents set him up with a good Indian girl. Said Indian girl is Sweetie, a kind, gentle, and sweet fat athlete who is desperate for people to accept her and look past her weight. Thus ensues a romance straight out of a rom-com, complete with misunderstandings, cute banter, and a happy ending. I wish romances were written like this one, because if they were, I would read them more often! Sandhya Menon has knocked her third novel out of the park, and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

                Sweetie is fat, and she knows it. She’s totally fine with it, but the same can’t be said for her well-meaning mother and other people who think they’re doing her a favor by telling her she’s overweight. Certain that if she can look past it and love herself, so can others. But unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Then there’s Ashish, fresh off of a bad breakup. Half as a joke, he asks his parents to set him up with a proper Indian girl. When Ashish and Sweetie meet for the first time, their attraction to one another is instant. Going against her parents’ wishes for the first time in her life, Sweetie begins seeing Ashish. Will true love win the day? Or will these two crazy kids’ love affair end before it has a chance to truly begin?

                I loved, loved, loved this book; there aren’t enough words in the English language to properly express just how much I loved this romance. When Dimple Met Rishi was one of my favorite books of last year, so I’ve been looking forward to Sweetie since before it came out. I loved the way it put emphasis on Ashish, Rishi’s younger brother. The pacing was breakneck and I was immediately spellbound by Ashish and Sweetie and their distinct voices. I’m such a sucker for love stories, especially ones where I’m rooting for both halves of the couple! This book might be my favorite in Menon’s entire body of work; it’s one of my favorite books of 2019! My favorite part of the book, though, was Sweetie, and her fierce devotion to herself. She was so gentle, sweet, and kind, and I really related to her because of that. Ashish, Dimple, Rishi, and the parents all made wonderful, heartfelt foils to both Ashish and Sweetie. The only thing that really upset me was Sweetie’s strained relationship with her mother; I understood where she was coming from, but it still seemed to me, at times, that she couldn’t accept Sweetie for who she was, until the end. But I loved this book, and I will never forget Sweetie and Ashish and their young, new love! A romance that should be required reading for all! The bottom line: Romantic, honest, and insightful, I loved There’s Something About Sweetie! Menon has outdone herself once again! Next on deck: Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly!

Toil & Trouble by Augusten Borroughs Review


Title: Toil & Trouble
Author: Augusten Borroughs
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction/Autobiography
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                Okay, so I have a confession to make: Before now, I’ve never read any of Augusten Borroughs’s work until now. Of course, I’ve heard of him; by now, he’s a household name. Running with Scissors, anyone? But I’ve been curious about this witchy, magical memoir since before it came out. Toil and Trouble explains how Borroughs is a witch, and so have many of his relatives, including his own mother. But Kelesea, you say! Witches aren’t real! Ah, but we all know that myths and folklore, and that other dreaded m word, are often rooted in truth. And to discount everything he says, well. I can’t really ignore the proof. Funny, honest, and entertaining, I usually tend to steer away from anything that even slightly smacks of religion. But that isn’t to say that I don’t have an open mind; this book was unusual and informative, and I very much enjoyed it. Now I’m curious about the rest of the books in his body of work. Full of unusual wisdom and magic that is very real, I loved Toil and Trouble!

                Augusten Borroughs is a witch. And no, not the kind with warts, green skin, and flying monkeys, but a true witch, more aware of the natural world and the forces that move within it. A family gift passed down by his maternal grandparents, he has always been able to sense when something is wrong. Sort of like Lassie, but a lot vaguer. He does work spells, that’s for sure, but it’s definitely not over a bubbling cauldron of unusual ingredients. Turns out that real witchery is worked in tiny, miniscule doses. Borroughs uses this opportunity to get to know himself better, and to form a connection with his roots, his strained relationship with his mother notwithstanding. Desperate for answers and trying to combat crippling mental illness, particularly depression and anxiety. This memoir was honest, hilarious (I was snorting with laughter practically every other paragraph), and heartbreaking. I loved learning about Augusten, his husband and dogs, and his complicated family history.

                This is the first book I’ve ever read by this literary powerhouse, and I can promise you all that it won’t be my last. It was honest, funny, heartbreaking and surprising. Nowadays, people believe witches to be pure fiction, forgotten relics of an earlier, simpler time. But Augusten, digging deeper into his family history has always known that he was different, though in a way that he didn’t understand at first. Almost all of his relatives on his mother’s side of the family have different manifestations of the gift. One of my favorite parts of the book was exploring the author’s complicated relationship with his mother. But I also adored the way that he used magic in small, tiny ways that change the course of his life little by little: keeping trees and other plants alive, trying to convince his husband, Christopher, to move out of New York and into the countryside, to help stave off cancer. It’s clear that magic is in Borroughs’s blood as well as his family tree, and I really liked it. At times, I wish I’d read more of his biographical work; it would’ve given more context to what was happening. Nonetheless, this memoir was one of my favorite books of 2019, and I enjoyed it very much. The bottom line: Funny, honest, and raw down to the bone, I loved Toil and Trouble! Next on deck: There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Kill The Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky Review


Title: Kill the Boy Band
Author: Goldy Moldavsky
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Horror
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                I’ve had Kill the Boy Band at the top of my library stack for a while now, and when I realized I couldn’t renew it anymore, I pushed it to the top of my stack. As soon as I was finished with The Grace Year, I dove in, and I devoured this dark, twisty, humorous mystery in less than a day. It was like something peered inside me and took out everything that made me tick as an obsessed fan girl. The Backstreet Boys, N*SYNC, One Direction—it doesn’t really matter which boy band it is; Moldavsky took the very essence of that feeling and turned it into a book, only she frames the plot around a circle of toxic fans and one of the members of a fictional band called The Ruperts. Darkly funny, thoughtful, insightful and shocking, I loved Kill the Boy Band; I’m really mad I didn’t discover this gem earlier!

                They didn’t mean for things to turn out this way; it was all an accident. They got a hotel room hoping to get a sneak peek of the boys they love so much, The Ruperts. What starts as a night of harmless, nostalgic fun quickly spirals into a nightmare, straight out of a horror movie. But when the girls get their hands on Rupert P., they also have the boy’s phone and his most dangerous secrets. When said Rupert ends up dead, the girls are soon turning on each other, and the narrator begins to worry if these events actually happened, or if they were all figments of an overactive imagination…

                I loved this book! I started it right after I finished The Grace Year, and I was immediately obsessed. The prose was sharp, spare and snappy, and I was either gasping in shock or giggling out loud. The pacing was breakneck and almost against my will, I’d devoured the whole story in a matter of hours. I loved the way that it showed a thoughtful and nuanced take on girls and young women, as well as their desires, hungers, and wants, and what can happen when those things turn to obsession. I also adored the narrator, as well as the three other girls who get swept up in the madness that eventually leads to the boy in their keeping dying under mysterious circumstances. Who killed Rupert P.? Why? And that ending; it landed like a punch to the gut, it was so unexpected! A dark, funny, and slightly gruesome take on the experiences of an obsessed fangirl, gone too far. The bottom line: Hilarious, dark, honest and more than a little twisty, I loved Kill the Boy Band! Next on deck: Toil and Trouble by Augusten Borroughs!

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett Review


Title: The Grace Year
Author: Kim Liggett
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’ve been wanting to read The Grace Year since before it actually came out, so I put a reserve on it at my local library. I was so surprised when I got the call that I’d have my library’s first copy. It’s been sitting at the top of my stack ever since, and as soon as I was finished with Her Body and Other Parties, I pushed it to the top. This book is difficult to describe; I finished it a few days ago, and I’m still stunned. The Grace Year was like a mix of Lord of the Flies and The Handmaid’s Tale, by way of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation. It was strange, terrifying, emotional and shocking; it might be one of my favorite books of 2019. Combining horror, romance, and chilling secrets, The Grace Year is one of those books that get under your skin and into your blood and heart. I will never forget it. One of the best for me, and I can’t wait to see what comes next!

                In Garner County, unwed young women carry within them magic so potent that it can make a wife claw her face in wrath and jealousy, and draw grown men from their marriage beds. Tierney knows only vaguely what happens on a woman’s grace year. This year, it is hers, and she will be forced to go out into the wilds to purge herself of her magic before she is married to her closest childhood friend. But Tierney wants a life of her own, while she is beholden to no one, least of all a man. When the grace year begins, not everyone will make it back alive, and Tierney will discover secrets that will shatter her sheltered existence, best left buried…

                I loved this book. Horror is one of my favorite genres, and Liggett took the Mean Girls plus body horror route. It was fast paced, and I was immediately spellbound by the frightening, brutal world Tierney and the other characters lived in. I was both terrified and transfixed; I couldn’t have stopped reading this book, even if I’d wanted to. Tierney’s voice was lyrical and frightening, and I loved it. I also adored the concept of this book: to me, it really felt like a call out of purity culture, and I loved it! This book was pretty damn close to perfect. It was like Shirley Jackson and Stephen King had a lovechild, and it was an amazing feat of a book. But my favorite part was Tierney and her growth as a person, especially over the second half of the book. But this book was written with such violence and brutality; I love books that flip gender expectations on their head, and this book did that so beautifully. And that ending! Oh, my goodness, that was amazing! Tierney’s journey will forever stick with me. The bottom line: The heir apparent to Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, and Margaret Atwood, I loved The Grace Year! Next on deck: Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky!

Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado Review


Title: Her Body and Other Parties: Stories
Author: Carmen Maria Machado
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.

                I’ve been wanting to read Machado’s debut set of stories for a long time; the first couple times that I tried to read it, I had to return it to my library before I could actually read it. As soon as I was finished with Come November, I pushed it to the top of my library stack. This collection of seven stories was dark, comic, feminist and shocking, and I loved every single one of them. Carmen Maria Machado has become one of my new favorite authors, full of talent and dark truths. I cannot wait to see what comes next from this amazing, wonderful new talent; this set of stories is unforgettable. I was laughing, crying, and gasping. Machado grabs the horror genre and turns it on its head.

                A wife refuses her husband’s pleas to take off the green ribbon around her neck. A lonely woman recounts her sexual history while a plague ravages humanity. A salesclerk at a thrift shop in a mall makes a gruesome, horrible discovery inside of used prom dresses. A woman decides to have a weight reduction surgery and receives an unwelcome and unpleasant houseguest in return. And the novella that has garnered the most attention in the collection reimagines seven seasons of the hit crime show, Law and Order: SVU. I loved this bloody, dark, and gory collection of stories; all of them were unique, some retellings and some original tales. I loved the way that it seemed to peel off the skin of the female psyche; reading this book made me feel both exposed and hidden, like Machado had peered into the deepest parts of my heart and soul. The stories in this collection were about hunger, desire, and the hidden longings that we speak of rarely, if at all. I can’t even decide which story was my favorite, because they all ended up affecting me in different ways. By the end of the book, I was sad it was over, and felt like there were new parts of myself, unearthed by Machado’s lush words. Reading this collection felt like nothing less than a shock, and I cannot wait to see what comes next for this talented, exciting new author. The bottom line: Surprising, wry, darkly funny and honest, I loved Her Body and Other Stories! Next on deck: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett!

Come November by Katrin van Dam Review


Title: Come November
Author: Katrin van Dam
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Come November, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                Come November was the book club book for one of the clubs I go to, Young Adult for Adults. I finished it last week and I still can’t get it out of my head. This book is van Dam’s first, and I was so happy when we realized that she was writing a book about November’s younger brother, Daniel. This story was so unique, I will never forget it. It was emotional and more than a little stressful, but I’m so glad that I was able to accompany November on her journey through life. It wasn’t perfect, but I liked that a lot as well; it felt like it was truer to life that way. This debut novel was strong and beautifully written, and even with the flaws, it is one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year. I won’t forget November and her family! Props to the head of the book club for picking this book. (You know who you are!)

                Rooney Harris knows that the end of the world isn’t truly coming, but trying to say that to her passionate and flighty mother is next to impossible. She knows that she’s the only responsible one for herself and her brother, Daniel, since their mom joined a cult called The Next World Society. On November 17th, her mother and countless others are going to be taken away to live on a new planet and live with otherworldly beings who will save anyone brave enough to part with all of their worldly possessions. But the day finally arrives, only to cause massive disappointment and confusion when it doesn’t actually happen. Rooney’s already complicated existence gets even scarier when she finally reaches out to her father, who left their mother behind years ago to start over with someone else. Rooney begins to learn to let people in, and that nothing about her life is quite what it seems.

                I loved this book. It was a hell of a kick, right to the feels, but I just adored it. It made me so stressed and emotional, at times. There were times I got so emotional that I had to walk away, set it down. But I finished it in a day, and I still haven’t been able to get November’s poignant, sad voice out of my head. The pacing of this book was breakneck; it enthralled me, right out of the gate. I also adored the other characters in the novel: Rooney’s parents, Daniel, Anjelica, Mercer, and the Fishers. Rooney, though, was the star: I loved her defiance, her rage, her sweet but broken writer’s heart. I loved the ending, too, even though it left me feeling a bit cheated at first. Upon further thought and discussion, I liked that there were some loose ends, because in all honesty, that’s usually how life goes. Nothing is ever cut and dried, and I liked that. Katrin van Dam has outdone herself with Come November, and I’m so excited for the sequel! The bottom line: A lyrical, darkly funny and thoughtful debut, I loved Come November! Next on deck: Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Frankly in Love by David Yoon Review


Title: Frankly in Love
Author: David Yoon
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: Frankly in Love, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                I’ve been curious about this book since before it came out, so, as soon as I was able, I reserved it at my library. Since then, it’s been sitting at the top of my library stack, begging me to read it. I picked it up, expecting a love story, but to call this book a love story would be to do it a major disservice. This book is about family, identity, self-acceptance, racism, and true love, and everything in between. Frankly in Love is that rare book that perfectly embodies the young adult genre, in the best kind of way. David Yoon has penned a fantastic and unforgettable debut, and I can’t wait to see what he delivers next! Frankly in Love just might be one of my favorite novels of 2019; I just finished it on Saturday night, and my heart is still aching from following Frank on his journey through life!

                Frank Li is a boy who is stuck between two worlds: his all-American upbringing and the expectation of his Korean parents and culture. He longs to be himself in a world that is always trying to press him into a mold. When he meets a white girl named Brit, he knows that his traditional, straitlaced and racist parents will not approve. He concocts a plan to stay under the radar: pretend to date a childhood friend, also Korean-American, named Joy Song, while dating Brit. But things get complicated when he begins having feelings for his fake girlfriend. What could possibly go wrong?

                I loved this book! It was hilarious, heartbreaking, honest and tender; it might just be one of my favorites of 2019. I was laughing, crying, and screaming throughout the whole book. Frank’s voice was honest, funny, and poignant; my heart ached for him as the book went on. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately spellbound by his narration. I adored Frank’s friends also, especially Joy, Q, and the Limbos. His family, too, was a fantastic foil to him; I loved the way it portrayed his parents and the immigrant parents-half-American dynamic. One of my favorite things about this book was the way that it highlighted racism! Unfortunately, that is a horrible and outdated practice that still persists in the lifeblood of America today. I loved the way that it went deep into Korean culture; it was as informative as it was funny and entertaining. I also adored the romance in this book; it reminded me of when I first fell in love with my husband. I was swooning as the book went on. I loved the ending; it was so heartbreaking and bittersweet. The only thing I didn’t like was that I wish there had been more said of Hanna, and her situation with Frankie and their parents. I wish she’d been more involved than she actually was. Nevertheless, I very much enjoyed Frankly in Love! One of my favorite books of the year! The bottom line: Hilarious, honest, heartbreaking and wonderful, I loved Frankly in Love! One of my favorite books of 2019! Next on deck: Come November by Katrin van Dam!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Loki: Where Mischief Lies by Mackenzi Lee Review


Title: Loki: Where Mischief Lies
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
                Mackenzi Lee is one of my favorite authors of all time; I read The Montague Siblings series and became obsessed. So, when I heard that she was writing a book from the point of view of one of my favorite Marvel antiheroes, Loki himself, I was ecstatic. As soon as I had a space in my library stack, I reserved it at my local library. It’s been sitting on the top of my library stack for a while, and once I realized I couldn’t renew it any more, I dove in right after I finished Renia’s Diary. And for the most part, Lee did a fantastic job! I loved Where Mischief Lies; I’ve been curious about the young Loki for a long time now, and this book did a fantastic job of filling in the gaps. There were a few little things that I wish had been fleshed out, but overall, this was a fantastic entry into the Marvel canon, and I hope there’s more in the works! Long live Loki, god of lies, mischief, and magic!

                Loki has spent his whole life in the shadows of his father, Odin, and his brother, Thor. He longs for a chance to rule Asgard, even though he knows that Odin won’t give him a chance. On top of that, he only has one friend in his father’s court: a fellow sorceress named Amora. When Odin sees a vision in The Godseye Mirror of Loki leading an army of the living dead, Loki realizes that his father thinks he may be the catalyst that sends Ragnarok into motion. When a routine political intrigue mission goes awry, Odin metes out a terrible punishment: Loki must journey to Midgard, or Earth, to investigate a series of mysterious deaths. Once on Earth, Loki finds someone that he never thought he’d see again, and he discovers that he may be able to change the fate that everyone has envisioned for him…

                I loved, loved, loved this book! Mackenzi Lee is one of my favorite authors, and Loki is one of my favorite antiheroes in the entire Marvel canon, so this was a match made in book nerd heaven! The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately spellbound by Loki; even his younger, more naïve self was fabulous! He was one of my favorite characters in the book, and I also adored the dynamic between himself, Thor, and his father, the formidable Odin. I really liked the other characters, too: Amora, Theo, Mrs. S, and the rest of their ragtag team of mythbusters. But my favorite thing about this whole book was Loki’s growth throughout, and the way that he grew into and accepted himself, regardless of how everyone else saw him. And that ending! Oh, my goodness, what a way to end with a bang! Lee has done a fantastic job of filling in the gaps of how Loki became the sly and wily god of mischief. I loved it, so much, and I really, really hope that there’s more in the works at Marvel! I was totally obsessed! The bottom line: Hilarious, honest, dark and thrilling, I loved Loki: Where Mischief Lies! Next on deck: Frankly in Love by David Yoon!

Renia's Diary by Renia Spiegel and Elizabeth Bellak Review


Title: Renia’s Diary: A Holocaust Journal
Author: Renia Spiegel and Elizabeth Bellak
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction; Biography
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                The Holocaust has always been a period in history that I’ve enjoyed learning about, but never before have I read a primary source. I’m ashamed and sorry to admit that I’ve never read Anne Frank’s diary, either, but after reading Renia’s diary, I would like to! Renia’s diary is just that: the diary of a young woman named Renia, who was about to turn nineteen when she and more than sixty others were murdered by The Nazis. Translated by her surviving older sister, Elizabeth, this book was so moving, honest, and unbearably sad. I laughed, I wept, and despaired over Renia’s life, taken too soon, as well as the countless others who lost their lives in The Holocaust. Reading historical fiction is nothing like reading the real account of an actual person who lived through part of the event. This book ripped my heart out and broke it into pieces, and I’m so glad that Renia’s words and her life were not forgotten. I will never forget Renia, her words, and her life, taken all too soon. I loved this book, and I will never forget it; I will be seeking out more of these works, especially that of Anne Frank! Enlightening, heartbreaking, beautiful and honest, I loved this journal so much!

                Renia Spiegel is fourteen when the Nazis take over and occupy her beloved Poland. Missing her mother, sister, and father, she is staying with her grandparents while the war rages on. Just a young adult focusing on the future, Renia longs to be a poet and writer, as well as a wife and mother. She documents everything, no matter how small the detail: petty squabbles between her friends, the bright hope of first love and a new spring, missing her family members. But the shadow of the war and the Nazi takeover cast dark clouds over her optimistic and hopeful outlook, and as the book goes on, Renia doesn’t know how it all ends, but the readers do. This book was frank, honest, and moving, particularly the excerpts of the teen’s poetry. Seeing such promise, such a bright light snuffed out all too soon, was absolutely heartbreaking; more than once, I found myself in tears. I knew how it all ended and it was so very painful. At times it was hard to keep up, between Renia’s diary entries and the notes her sister added at the back, and I had to flip often to the end of the book to get full context. But nonetheless, despite some thoughts needing clarification, I really enjoyed this book, and I look forward to reading more first-person accounts of this heartbreaking, terrifying period in world history. The bottom line: Honest, rich with detail, and unspeakably moving, I loved Renia’s Diary, and I’m looking forward to reading more primary sources about this dark period in world history! Next on deck: Loki: Where Mischief Lies by Mackenzi Lee!


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg Review


Title: The Kingdom
Author: Jess Rothenberg
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction/Mystery
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                The Kingdom has been on my to-be-read list since before it came out, but unfortunately, the first couple times I borrowed it from my library, I had to return it before I could read it. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while now, and as soon as I finished Five Dark Fates the day before last, I dove in, uncertain of what to expect of Rothenberg’s sophomore novel, as I hadn’t read any of her work previously. What I got was like Disney Princess and I, Robot had a lovechild, and I absolutely loved it. This book was a dark, thoughtful and frightening mashup of romance, science fiction, and mystery, and I adored it! The Kingdom has become one of my favorite novels of 2019, and I’m really hoping that Jess has something more in the works, because I am totally obsessed. This book might be one of the most original I’ve ever read. Telling the story of an android, a human-cyborg hybrid, it also brought up interesting questions about choice, free will, fantasy and reality and the fine line between the two, and what it means to be truly human. A stunning, thought-provoking novel that still has me stunned, and I just finished it this afternoon! This book was nothing less than absolutely stunning, and I will never forget it!

                In the magical land of The Kingdom, somewhere in the distant future, happily ever after isn’t just something that everyone aspires to; it is a rule, a command, an order. For Ana, a Fantasist, she is one of the park’s most lively and sought-after attractions—literally. She and her sisters are machines, made to look like real people. But Ana’s pleasant, sheltered existence begins to fray at the edges when one of her sisters disappears, and when she meets a young man who works at the park, Ana begins to feel things that should be forbidden, things that she shouldn’t have learned. But it turns out that Kingdom Corp. will do anything to hide its dark, dangerous secrets, maybe even kill. Ana finds herself questioning everything she thought she knew, and she realizes that she may not be able to trust anyone…

                There aren’t enough words in the English language to tell you all just how much I loved this book. I’m a complete sucker for any kind of science fiction, but I’m obsessed with robots, cyborgs, and the like. And this book was like Disney Princess and I, Robot had a baby. This book was so unique; I’ve never read another like it. The pacing was breakneck, and I was totally spellbound by Ana’s frank, innocent voice. But I also adored how this book wasn’t afraid to ask hard questions: what does it really mean to be truly human? What marks the difference between human and machine? Is it possible to have too much fantasy in our reality? I also really liked the layout: interspersed with Ana’s first-person narrative are trial transcripts, photos, and case files; it added to the mystery of it all. The twists and turns were so crazy at times it felt like I had emotional whiplash, and that ending: I did not see it coming! The other characters made great foils for Ana: her sisters, ‘parents’, The Kingdom employees and investors, as well as Owen, the man that Ana falls in love with. This book was thoughtful, chilling, shocking and totally unique, and I loved every moment of it. This book was nothing less than perfection, and honestly, I’m just sorry that it’s all over! The bottom line: Rich, compelling, thought-provoking and utterly frightening, I loved The Kingdom! Easily one of the best books I’ve read all year! Next on deck: Renia’s Diary by Renia Spiegel and Elizabeth Bellak!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake Review


Title: Five Dark Fates
Author: Kendare Blake
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Series: Three Dark Crowns, book four
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                Kendare Blake is one of my favorite authors; I’m a diehard fan, honestly, and have been so ever since Anna, Dressed in Blood. When I saw Two Dark Reigns sitting on a shelf at my local library, I snatched it up, and on that same shelf I also found the last book in the quartet, and I checked that as well. I finished Two Dark Reigns in less than three days, and then I just finished Five Dark Fates yesterday. Normally, I’d allow a bit of time to pass until I actually reviewed it, but I’ve been really behind and have been trying to catch up for the last week and a half. But honestly, this book: It was satisfying, frightening, and heartbreakingly sad; I’m still in shock that it’s all over, and that I had to say goodbye to Mirabella, Arsinoe and Katharine. The series closer to one of my favorite series of the year did not disappoint; the only thing I’m really upset about is that it’s all over!

                Katharine is the Queen Crowned now, but the spirits that have slipped inside of her body are longing for another vessel, one more powerful than she. Meanwhile, Arsinoe and Mirabella, still in hiding on the mainland, are desperate to find a way to defeat their sister and free Fennbirn from the darkness that refuses to let it go. Arsinoe is haunted by visions of a queen from the past, and knows that they hold answers to the questions that haunt her. Mirabella finds herself torn between her two sisters, while Jules, Arsinoe’s best friend, finds herself reluctantly at the head of a rebellion to take the crown from Katharine. But the queens who inspired the dark traditions aren’t about to let the girls go unscathed, and not everyone will make it out alive…

                This book was, in a word, heartbreaking. The pacing was breakneck, and I started Five Dark Fates as soon as I was finished with Two Dark Reigns. I was immediately spellbound, and despite this being the longest book in the series, I devoured it in less than two days. Even when I wasn’t reading it, it was lurking in my mind; I even dreamed of it several times before I finished the book. I tried to take it slow; I didn’t want to save goodbye to the girls, even while I knew this was the end. Every loss, great and small, felt like nothing less than a punch to the gut. And even though I knew everyone would collide, all three sisters and Jules as well, I was not ready for the confrontation at the ending. Every moment of this novel was painful and bittersweet, but not unsatisfying. That ending, man—it’s been stuck in my craw for the last few days, replaying on a loop since I finished it. I cried, laughed, and cheered, and I know now that I will miss all of the characters, even ones I disliked. This may be the end of Fennbirn, but you can be sure that I will visit again! The bottom line: Powerful, rich, and bittersweet, I loved Five Dark Fates, the final book in the Three Dark Crowns quartet, and I will never forget the island of Fennbirn or its powerful queens! Next on deck: The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg!                                                                                                       

Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake Review


Title: Two Dark Reigns
Author: Kendare Blake
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Series: Three Dark Crowns, book three
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                Kendare Blake is one of my favorite authors of all time; I read her debut novel, Anna, Dressed in Blood, and have been a longtime devotee ever since. I’ve adored her Three Dark Crowns series, but have only just got around to finishing the quartet. I devoured Two Dark Reigns in three days, and I loved every dark, tense moment of it. Mirabella, Arsinoe, and Katharine have competed for the crown, and it turns out that the youngest sister, Katharine, the poisoner, has won the right to be Queen Crowned. Mirabella and Arsinoe have fled the island of Fennbirn, seeking out shelter with Arsinoe’s lover’s family. Katharine has found victory, but a steep and terrible price: her body is being shared with all the lost, dead queens that came before her and sisters, and they will stop at nothing to make sure that they have a willing vessel, even if it means hurting everyone that Katharine still loves. Meanwhile, Arsinoe is haunted by visions of a dark specter: The long-lost Blue Queen, who keeps telling the girls that they must return to the island. Jules, too, is in a strange place, also in hiding and in disguise. Her only confidants, the war-gifted soldier Emilia, and her oracle friend, Mathilde, are encouraging her to do the impossible: become a legion-cursed queen who will lead the rebel army straight to Katharine’s doorstep. An uprising that The Blue Queen may have predicted or foreseen, or even expected, is coming, and not everyone will make it out alive…

                This book was nothing less than wonderful. Normally, sequels make me nervous, but I had nothing to fear from Blake. This book picks up where One Dark Throne left off, with Katharine anxious about her sisters still being alive and coming to take the throne she has worked her whole life to rule on, and Arsinoe and Mirabella still reeling from losses of their own. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately thrust into the world of Fennbirn and its murderous, powerful queens. As with all sequels, it took a little while for me to get back into the swing of things, but once I did, the book went by in a flash. I devoured it in less than three days, and I very much enjoyed it. I was so happy that I had Five Dark Fates next in line, because after that ending, I was reeling. I’m so happy that Blake decided to continue in the series, finishing up with Five Dark Fates. This series has been a recent favorite of mine, and I’m so excited to finish it! The bottom line: Rich, detailed, thrilling and shocking, I loved Two Dark Reigns, and I cannot wait to finish up the quartet with Five Dark Fates! Next on deck: Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake!

Season of the Witch by Sarah Rees Brennan Review


Title: Season of the Witch
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, book one
Star Rating: 4 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 years now; she won my heart with her Demon’s Lexicon trilogy, and I loved it. Ever since, I’ve kept an eye out for her new work. When I found out she was writing a brand-new prequel series for one of my favorite Netflix Original shows, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, I was so stoked! It’s been sitting at the top of my library stack for a few weeks now, and as soon as I was finished with Kingdom of Exiles, I dove in. I devoured this prequel novel, the first in a series, in less than a day. The book takes place the week before Sabrina’s sixteenth birthday, and the night of her Dark Baptism. Torn between what her family expects of her, what she wants, and the love and care of her mortal friends, Roz and Susie, and most important of all, her boyfriend and first love, Harvey Kinkle. Sabrina is at a crossroads, contemplating what she wants. But darker forces than she knows lurk in the forests of Greendale, and they have plans for her…

                This book was awesome; of course, I’m probably biased because I’m obsessed with Sarah Rees Brennan and this new rendition of Sabrina, gone darker and closer to the actual source material. I also liked the way that it took what was already established in the show and expanded upon it. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately spellbound by Sabrina’s frank, wry voice. I also loved the way Greendale itself, and its secrets, were a beloved character in and of themselves. I loved the way that the book took all of the side characters and made sure that they had the spotlight. But I think my favorite part of this novel was the spotlight on Sabrina’s wayward, carefree cousin, Ambrose, as well as the villain. I wish there had been more said, overall, about Sabrina’s other family members, but overall, this book was really enjoyable, and I’m really looking forward to the next book, which comes out in December. Sarah Rees Brennan has outdone herself again! The bottom line: Dark, more than a little spooky and chilling, and wonderful, I loved Season of the Witch! Next on deck: Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake!

Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym M. Martineau Review


Title: Kingdom of Exiles
Author: Maxym M. Martineau
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: The Beast Charmer, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                I’ve been wanting to read this book since before it came out, and unfortunately, I had to return it to the library twice before I was finally able to read it. I pushed it to the top of my stack, as soon as I was finished with His Hideous Heart. Normally, romance as a genre makes me leery, but it has got me through some tough times, so I’ve been trying to expand my literary horizons somewhat. But I was really excited for this dark, magical and romantic series opener, and I’m happy to say that it didn’t disappoint. The best way to sum this book was like something of a mashup of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Assassin’s Creed, with a lot of romantic tension and humor thrown in. Kingdom of Exiles is one of my favorite books of 2019, and I can’t wait for the next book in the series!

                Leena Edenfrell is an exiled beast charmer, forced to sell her beloved creatures in order to make a living after she is falsely accused of an unforgivable crime. Now in hiding and trying to avoid getting caught for the hefty bounty on her head, things get even more complicated when one of the magical underworld’s most dangerous assassins comes for her. She strikes a deal with him: her own magical creatures in exchange for her life. Unknown to her, though, the undying are bound by magic to fulfill their contracts, and Noc cannot risk his brotherhood—his family—of assassins, not even to save the woman that he can’t live without…

                I loved, loved, loved this book! The pacing was breakneck, and I loved the worldbuilding; I was immediately spellbound by Leena’s voice. I adored the creatures that Leena tamed and used as teammates, but my favorite part of this book was the romance between Leena and Noc; it was so white-hot that I was practically fanning myself as the book went on. I gobbled this book up in a day and a half, and I cannot wait for The Frozen Prince next year! Unique, magical, romantic and sexy, I loved every moment of it, and I really enjoyed the mystery behind Leena’s sudden and unexpected exile. And that ending! It was nothing less than perfect! I’m so, so excited for the sequel! Maxym M. Martineau has gained a diehard, lifelong fan in me with Kingdom of Exiles! The bottom line: Magical, full of humor, wit, and romance, as well as political intrigue, I loved Kingdom of Exiles! One of my favorite books of 2019, absolutely unforgettable! Next on deck: Season of the Witch by Sarah Rees Brennan!

His Hideous Heart by Dahlia Adler Review


Title: His Hideous Heart: 13 of Edgar Allen Poe’s Most Unsettling Tales, Reimagined
Editor: Dahlia Adler, et. al
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror/Short Story Collection/Anthology
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                I’ve been a fan of Edgar Allen Poe’s work for a long time, since I was a preteen. So when I saw His Hideous Heart sitting on a shelf at my local library, I snatched it up! As soon as I was finished with Nightingale, I returned to this book, which I was in the middle of before I even began the book club book. Dahlia Adler gathers some of YA fiction’s best and brightest to remix Poe’s most frightening and unsettling tales, and what’s really nice about this anthology is that it has the original stories printed in the back of it for easy referencing. Since there are 13 tales, both remixed and original, I will highlight the standouts and give the whole book an overall review.

                She Rode a Horse of Fire by Kendare Blake, inspired by ‘Metzengerstein’: 5 out of 5 Stars. This story tells of a devoted servant, loyal to her master even to the end, despite a dark, bloody and murderous secret. Chilling, unsettling, and shocking, especially the ending! One of my favorite stories in the entire collection.

                It’s Carnival! By Tiffany D. Jackson, inspired by ‘The Cask of Amontillado’: 5 out of 5 Stars. A wronged woman learns that revenge is a dish best served cold, and buries a classmate deep within the walls of an old, abandoned building. I also adored the way that the story took place in Jamaica. Darkly funny, terrifying, and full of wit, I loved this story!

                Night-Tide by Tessa Gratton, inspired by ‘Annabel Lee’: 5 out of 5 Stars. I loved this gorgeous, lesbian take on Annabel Lee; it was sad, bittersweet, and lovely; this story in particular struck a chord with me. The narrator lost her beloved Annabel, her best and only friend, after an awful tragedy, and she can’t help but wonder if it was her love that killed Annabel… One of my favorite stories in the whole book!

                Happy Days, Sweetheart by Stephanie Kuehn, inspired by ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’: 4 out of 5 Stars. The Tell-Tale Heart is one of my very favorite Poe stories, so I was really looking forward to this one! The main character in this story has ambition seeping out of her very pores, so when a classmate beats her out in everything she tries, she forms a plan to get the upper hand—even after she and the boy get romantically involved. This story was particularly chilling, especially the ending!

                And, last but definitely not least:

                The Oval Filter by Lamar Giles, inspired by ‘The Oval Portrait’: 5 out of 5 Stars. After the disappearance of his girlfriend, a prominent Instagram influencer, a former football star becomes obsessed with solving the mystery associated with her. When he discovers just how and why his lover disappeared, he exacts revenge all his own. Dark, creepy, and shocking, this story might be my favorite of the entire book! I also loved the way that the back of the book held all of the original stories for comparison. This book is one of my favorites of the year 2019, and I can promise you that I will never forget this gorgeous, dark and beautifully written collection of tales! The bottom line: Retelling some of Edgar Allen Poe’s most imaginative and frightening work, I loved His Hideous Heart! One of the best books of 2019! Next on deck: Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym M. Martineau!

Nightingale by Amy Ludavics Review


Title: Nightingale
Author: Amy Ludavics
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                Nightingale was the October pick for my young adult book club at the one of the libraries I go to, and I’m embarrassed to tell you all that I forgot about it until the day we were supposed to meet, and because I’d forgotten, I was halfway through an anthology I’d started a few days before! Luckily, I reminded my friend who gives me a ride and we were able to make it. However, I didn’t finish the book until later that week. It’s been two weeks, and I’m still absolutely stunned. This is the first book I’ve read by Amy Ludavics, and I can happily inform you all that it certainly won’t be my last! In fact, that very night one of my other friends demanded I take home her sophomore novel, The Women in the Walls. Nightingale was her third novel, and even after all of this time, I’m still not quite sure what to think of it. It was dark, gory, terrifying, and strange, but there were several loose ends that I wish had been elaborated on more. Nonetheless, this book was a great mashup of science fiction and horror, and I loved the feminist overtones! One of my favorite books I’ve read in 2019, hands down!

                June Hardie has always known that she’s not normal. After all, she’s not drawn to improving her homemaking skills, despite her mother’s persistence. Nor does she long for a fiancé. Instead, she dreams of being a writer. In 1951, she is considered strange and even radical. When a strange and astonishing accident happens, harming one of June’s acquaintances, her parents, fed up with her behavior, commit her to Burrow Place Asylum. With awful, inhumane conditions, abusive staff members, and brutal torture disguised as medical treatments, June’s new home is more like a prison. She fears that the people who run the asylum are preying on her deepest fears and darkest secrets, and she isn’t alone. The other girls begin to show signs of mysterious, unexplained powers, and June begins to realize that some things are just better left alone…

                This book was nothing less than a knockout, for me. Horror is one of my favorite genres, and I especially love to indulge in it when fall begins, all the way through Halloween and beyond. I feel bad for forgetting about this book, but I’m so happy I was able to attend Young Adult for Adults, and I loved Nightingale. The pacing was breakneck, the prose almost hypnotic; this was horror at its finest. I also loved the way the book made me feel: paranoid, claustrophobic and on edge. That’s how you know you’ve got it, folks. That unexplainable, explanation-defying feeling of having found a winner. (Shout out to the head of our book club for picking it! Absolutely fantastic!) I also adored June, who was years ahead of her time, and her ambition to become a writer. I felt a real kinship with her as the book went on. But I think the best part of the novel was the horror elements. Blood, gore, hallucinations, monsters and supernatural powers? Sign me up! It kind of reminded me of Stranger Things a little bit. I also loved the historical details, though I was grating at most of the other characters, the adults in particular. I loved the girls June formed friendships with, especially Eleanor. That ending knocked me flat, but I wasn’t sure what to make of it, exactly, and I wish there hadn’t been so many loose ends. Nonetheless, Amy Ludavics has proven herself to one a formidable and memorable author, and I can’t wait to dive deep into her other works! The bottom line: Terrifying, thought-provoking, feminist and perfect to get in the mood for Halloween, I loved Nightingale, despite some strange loose ends! Next on deck: His Hideous Heart: 13 of Edgar Allen Poe’s Most Unsettling Tales Reimagined by Dahlia Adler!

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks Review


Title: Pumpkinheads
Author and Illustrator: Rainbow Rowell, Faith Erin Hicks
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Graphic Novel
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                Okay, so, I’ve made no attempt to hide how obsessed I am with Rainbow Rowell, so when I heard that she was collaborating with Faith Erin Hicks for a graphic novel, I was so stoked that I reserved it at my local library right away. It’s been sitting at the top of my library stack, and I figured that this book would be perfect to get in the autumn/Halloween holiday mood. So, as soon as I was finished with The Lady Rogue, I dove in, excited. I’ll be honest: I devoured this book in a matter of hours. The art was warm, detailed, and absolutely gorgeous, and Rainbow Rowell wrote this graphic novel with her signature humor, wit, and romance. This book is easily one of my favorites of 2019, and I really hope another partnership between this dynamic duo is in the works, because I’m obsessed! This book was so achingly lovely that right after I finished it, I was longing to have it for my own collection!

                Josiah and Deja have worked every fall at their neighborhood’s pumpkin patch, but this is their last autumn before they graduate and go off to college. Deja is funny, fierce, and outgoing, and wants to try all of the fall festival’s treats before the night is completely over. Josiah, meanwhile, has been working up the nerve for the last year or so to talk to a young woman who also works at the patch. Add in crazy goat, lost children, hilarity and hijinks, secrets and friendship and maybe, just maybe, true love, and you’ll get something close to this lovely little book. I loved it so much. It was like sitting in your house, warm and cozy and sipping something hot, in front of a warming fire. This book is the literary equivalent to a cup of warm hot chocolate on a chilly fall day, and I loved it so much. But my favorite part of it was the romance of this book, unexpected and totally heartwarming. I really hope that there’s a sequel in the works for one of my favorite fall books! Rainbow Rowell’s writing was spare, sharp, and wonderful, and I loved the art; it was so lovely! Talk about a killer team! I loved Pumpkinheads, and you can be sure that I will be seeking out more of Rowell’s and Hicks’s work, both graphic and prose! The bottom line: As warm and comforting as a big mug of hot apple cider (I am NOT a pumpkin spice latte girl), I loved Pumpkinheads! Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks have utterly outdone themselves with this wonderful graphic novel! Next on deck: Nightingale by Amy Ludavics!