Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Queen of Ruin by Tracy Banghart Review


Title: Queen of Ruin
Author: Tracy Banghart
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Grace and Fury, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                Grace and Fury was one of my favorite books of last year, so I’ve been anxiously awaiting the sequel. It’s been sitting in my library stack, so when I was finished with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I dove in. I devoured Queen of Ruin in a mere three days; this set of books are my favorite in Tracy Banghart’s entire body of work. Action-packed, relevant, and shocking, I loved every moment of Queen of Ruin, even the ones that had me screaming in rage and sobbing in frustration. I’ve been chewing on it since I finished, trying to get my thoughts straight before I put them to paper. This series has been billed as the YA Handmaid’s Tale, and that comparison is pretty spot on.

                Queen of Ruin picks up where Grace and Fury left off, with Serina leading the rebellion on Mount Ruin, and Nomi just barely escaping the palazzo with her life. Both girls must decide to fight for their rights, as well as those of their fellow women, but forces beyond their control conspire to stop them. Both sisters must make a choice: continue to fight against Viridia’s restrictive, misogynistic laws, or create a new world, in which women have choices, can make money, and have all the freedoms they deserve. But pulling off a revolution of this scale is far from easy, and not everyone will emerge from the wreckage unharmed…

                This book was absolutely amazing. Because it was a sequel, it took me a few chapters to remember everything that happened. But once things got going, I was spellbound, and I was constantly thinking about it, even while I was doing something else. The pacing was breakneck but smooth, and I really liked the way that the narrative went back and forth between Serina and Nomi. I also loved the character development of all of the women in the book, but especially Serina and Nomi. This book had me screaming and cheering, often. That’s not to say, though, that there also weren’t formidable villains. I won’t give it away for those that haven’t read it yet; but this book really frustrated me. The tension was constant, and I devoured every word. And that ending! I’m so happy with the way that things ended. Sequels make me so nervous, because all too often, they don’t hold up to the books that come before it, but I didn’t need to worry about this with Queen of Ruin. It more than surpassed my expectations, and I loved every moment of it. The bottom line: Bloody, fierce, and unforgettable, I loved Queen of Ruin; my only complaint is that it’s all over now! Next on deck: Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Literary Society by Annie Barrows Review


Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Authors: Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows
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.

                Okay, so, I’ll start this review out by being honest: I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time, and when I realized that it was being made into a movie on Netflix, I jumped at the chance to read it. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while, and as soon I was finished with A Room Away from the Wolves, I dove in, eager to see what all the fuss was about. I’m so happy that I read this book; it was, in turns, beautiful, funny, horrific and heartwarming. I loved every moment of it. This book may have been quick and short, but it has made indelible impressions upon my heart. And one of my favorite parts about it was the format: I haven’t read a book composed of letters in years! This novel, telling of the German Occupation of the tiny English island village of Guernsey, has become a recent favorite, and I cannot wait to watch the movie later this week. This book is nothing less than a triumph of the human soul in the face of unspeakable horror and bloodshed.

                The year is 1946, the beginning of the new year, and London is trying to leave behind the Second World War. Juliet Ashton, a young writer, is having trouble finding an idea for her new book. When she receives a letter from a man she’s never met, saying that he found her name in a secondhand book by Charles Lamb, Juliet is hit with inspiration and curiosity about the island of Guernsey and its residents. When she arrives, she is welcomed with open arms. Gathering stories of when German soldiers occupied the island, Juliet finds unexpected friends and perhaps even more. Buoyed by her new friendships and a group of book lovers, she finds new purpose in the most unexpected places.

                I absolutely adored this book! It’s definitely one of my more recent favorites. I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time, and when the Netflix movie came out a few months ago, I jumped at the chance. This book was short, but it was bittersweet in the best kind of way. It was also told in letters, which I loved. I haven’t read an epistolary novel in years! The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately spellbound by all the different voices that told the tale of the Guernsey island’s residents. I loved all of the characters, but Juliet was my favorite, because she was gentle, loving, caring and fiery, unapologetically herself. And the romance involved! It had me swooning. But I liked the juxtaposition between the hijinks of the villagers and the dark, horror-filled stories of the war. I loved this book so much, I only wish that the Guernsey Potato Peel Pie and Literary Society were real! But I have my book club friends, and that’s close enough! An absolute triumph of love, life, and the human spirit! The bottom line: Rich in detail and beautifully wrought, I loved this book! An absolute favorite! Next on deck: Queen of Ruin by Tracy Banghart!

A Room Away from the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma Review


Title: A Room Away from the Wolves
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Magical Realism
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                I’ve long been a fan of Nova Ren Suma; she is one of my favorite authors. So, when it was announced that A Room Away from the Wolves was the July pick for one of the book clubs I go to, I was so happy. I’ve been wanting to read that book since it came out, but unfortunately had to take it back to the library before I could finish it. I finished this book last week, and I’ve been chewing on it ever since. Strange, dreamy, and confusing, A Room Away from the Wolves may be Suma’s best work yet. Usually, I like to write a review as soon as I’m finished, when my impressions are still fresh. But sometimes, a book will require some serious thought before I can even think about reviewing it. That was the case with A Room Away from the Wolves. I loved it, but there were a lot of loose ends, perhaps too many for my taste.

                Bina Tremper has very little in life, but that’s all right, because she has her mother. From the beginning, all they’ve ever had is each other. But things change when her mother finds another man to stay with. Sent away from the home they share to make peace with her stepsisters, Bina leaves home and runs away to New York City. There, she finds the boarding house that her mother stayed in when she was pregnant with Bina. But Catherine House holds a host of secrets, some of them about Sabina herself. Things get even more complicated when she meets the mysterious, spontaneous Monet, who may be holding dangerous secrets herself. Will Bina discover the building’s hidden truths? Or lose herself entirely?

                This book, in a single word, was complicated. I was the only one of us in my book club who had read Nova Ren Suma’s work, and so, I was used to her signature dreamy, strange style. Even so, I was thrown for a loop when the ending finally came. The pacing was good; I immediately fell into Bina’s strange world, where nothing is as it seems. To say that this book is a gothic, haunting ghost story is to do the story a disservice. It is a story of identity, every type of love, betrayal, and the secrets we hide even from ourselves. I also adored Bina, smarting from betrayal and left adrift after her mother sends her away. But something about her didn’t sit well with me; I got the feeling that she was a compulsive liar. And I didn’t trust Monet either, even as I cheered for them both. Haunting, gorgeous, detailed, I loved A Room Away from the Wolves, but I wish there had been more closure. Even knowing what was coming didn’t stop me from being confused. Despite the confusing prose, I really enjoyed this book; it might be Nova Ren Suma’s best work yet. The bottom line: Dreamy, haunting, and strange, I loved A Room Away from the Wolves! Next on deck: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Monstrous Affections by Kelly Link Review


Title: Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales
Editors: Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Anthology/Horror
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                I’ve recently been craving short stories again, and Monstrous Affections has been sitting at the top of my stack. I just love them, and as short stories are my forte at the moment, I figured, why not? I’ve found many new authors like that, and I was really looking forward to this one. There were some stories that were amazing, others just left me feeling lukewarm. That’s usually the case with anthologies, and I very much enjoy them. I loved the theme around these stories, one of my favorite things: monsters! This book of fifteen tales explores every kind of monster, including a few that I’d never before heard of. Some of these stories were unbearably sad and made my heart hurt, others were like a darkly weird, funny joke, and still more made me feel brave. Understood. Dare I say vindicated?

                I like to do anthology reviews a bit differently than other novels and forms of prose. I give the anthology an overall rating, but I like to highlight the stories that made a really lasting impression. So, without further ado, here we go:

                Moriabe’s Children by Paolo Bacigalupi: 5/5 stars. This story is one of my favorites in the entire volume. A young woman has been able to hear the kraken talking in the ocean since she was a child, and when she is at risk of dying, she finds an ally that she’s never before seen. Dark, brutal, weirdly funny, and satisfying. I’m really, really curious about this author now; I’d like to look into his work more in future.

                The Whole Demoning Thing by Patrick Ness: 4/5 stars. Patrick Ness is one of my favorite authors, so I was really excited for this story. It was confusing in spots, but overall, I enjoyed it a lot. I loved the tone of it and the twist ending. It was horror in a way that I’ve never seen written before, and it really made me happy.

                Wings in the Morning by Sarah Rees Brennan: 5/5 stars. This story was hilarious. I was laughing, snorting, and crying through the whole thing, and SRB is one of my very favorite authors. It was a hilarious, modern fantasy with a surprising love story at its center, and I’m looking forward to the book she wrote in that same universe, In Other Lands! This is probably one of my favorite pieces of her writing.

                Left Foot, Right by Nalo Hopkinson: 5/5 stars. Oh, this story! It made me laugh and weep. I had to reread it twice to really understand the depth of it, and it just left me in awe. A young woman goes into a shoe store, purchasing one for her left foot, never the right. This story really felt like a strange fever dream, in a dark and crazy kind of way. I loved the style and structure of it.

                Kitty Capulet and the Invention of Underwater Photography by Dylan Horrocks: 4/5 stars. It took me a little bit to get into the dialogue, and I had to reread it twice to really absorb it. But it came across as a dark kind of warning, and it made me think of climate change and how quickly time is running out if we don’t acknowledge it. Thoughtful, funny, and original, this story reimagines a Maori god brought to life, and I loved it.

                The New Boyfriend by Kelly Link: 5/5 stars. I loved this story! It perfectly embodied the feeling of when you’re young and dreaming of those first feelings of love. It was wry, dark, funny, and thoughtful, and I really enjoyed it.

                The Woods Hide in Plain Sight by Joshua Lewis: 4/5 stars. I loved the tone of this story, and it dealt with a classic monster: the vampire, seductive and romantic but truly terrifying in their rage and bloodlust. It was really dark, and scary, but I loved the way it ended. It was fantastic, and my favorite vampire story in the volume.

                And, last but definitely not least: Mothers, Lock Up Your Daughters, Because They Are Terrifying by Alice Sola Kim: 4/5 Stars. I had to reread this entry several times in order to really understand it. This story paints a different kind of horror. Four girls steal a spellbook, and use the magic inside to attempt to resurrect one of the girl’s mothers. They connect, and what ensues is a frightening event. It was creepy, oddly tongue in cheek, and I loved how it gave me the shivers! The bottom line: This anthology revolving around monsters is fantastic, and most of the stories were really memorable! Next on deck: A Room Away from the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma!

Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Ruth Rendell Review


Title: Sky Without Stars
Authors: Jessica Brody and Ruth Rendell
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: System Divine, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


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

                I’ve been intrigued by this book, and it’s been sitting on my library stack for a while now. As soon as I was finished with You Must Not Miss, I dove in, uncertain what to expect. What I got was an ambitious, atmospheric science fiction epic with memorable characters, fantastic worldbuilding, political intrigue and romance. It was one of my favorite musicals, Les Miserables, told in space! It was so cool to see Victor Hugo’s classic in a completely new way. I’m long overdue for a rewatch of that film, and as I was reading, I got several of the musical’s songs stuck in my head. There were a lot of characters to keep track of, and at times it was difficult to distinguish between them, but overall, Brody and Rendell have penned a knockout. I can’t wait to see what comes next for The System Divine series!

                On the planet of Laterre, the Second and Third Estate are forced to forage for scarps, while The First Estate live in Ledome, a sheltered paradise for the rich, ruling class. Five hundred years have passed since The Last Days, and revolution is brewing once again. The winds of change force three young people together, all from different walks of life. There’s Chatine, the scrappy daughter of thieves, desperate for a way off of the planet to forge a new life. In her quest for escape, she is forced by the brutal Regime to spy on Marcellus, the son of a traitor and grandson of one of the most powerful men on Laterre. Aloulette lives in a secret, underground refuge, where she guards the last library on the planet. But when she goes up to the surface for the first time in twelve years, she finds a world she barely knows or remembers, and is plunged into chaos when she goes searching for answers. Will Laterre rise from the ashes anew due to the revolution, or will chaos rule entirely?

`               I loved this heady, darkly wrought debut! Les Miserables is one of my favorite musicals, and to see it through a futuristic, science fiction-tinted lens was so cool! The pacing was breakneck, and I really liked the way the authors went from Chatine, Marcellus, Aloulette, and back. As I said, there were a lot of characters to keep track of, and I had to go back and reread every now and then to make sure I had the person right. To say this book is Les Mis in space is accurate, but it also doesn’t completely embody the feel of the story: the characters, all embodied with flaws and very real troubles, cyborgs and secret societies and political intrigue. This book is an amazing work to add in the growing body of YA space operas, and I loved it. There were many characters, but I loved them, despite my disorientation at the sheer number. This book was soulful, heart-wrenching, dark and funny. And all the references to the musical had me grinning from ear to ear. (When I realized, I had the entire soundtrack on loop in my brain as I was reading… And I wasn’t mad at it!) I cannot wait for the next book in the System Divine series, because this ambitious, meaty debut novel was fantastic! I loved every dark, charged moment of it. I will happily wait for what books come next in the series. And meanwhile, perhaps I’ll actually be brave enough to watch the musical? The bottom line: Ambitious, finely wrought, and darkly beautiful, I was utterly captivated by Sky Without Stars! What a fantastic series starter! Next on deck: Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales by Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

You Must Not Miss by Katrina Leno Review


Title: You Must Not Miss
Author: Katrina Leno
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.

                Katrina Leno is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve been following her work ever since she wrote The Half-Life of Molly Pierce. I’ve been curious about You Must Not Miss since before I came out, and I was finally able to snatch it at my local library. As soon as I was finished with Under the Moon, I dove into this novel, not really knowing what to expect. This book was like a crazy fever dream that reminded me of Stephen King’s early work, like Carrie and several of his creepy, fantastical short stories. I loved every dark, scary moment, and this book is one of my favorites of Leno’s work, even though the ending seemed a little forced. Nonetheless, Leno has penned a book of darkness, dreams, rage and revenge, and the monsters that hide within us all.

                Margaret ‘Magpie’ Lewis once had the perfect life. A great best friend, a loving family and home. But that all unravels when she accidentally walks in on her father and aunt having sex. Her family, as a result, falls apart. Her mother becomes an alcoholic, her older sister, Eryn, leaves, unable to cope with her mother’s neglectful behavior, and Magpie loses everything. She is labeled a slut and quickly becomes a social pariah. Friendless, alone, and desperate for revenge, she begins to write in a notebook of a mysterious, magical place called Near. But when Magpie discovers that Near is actually real, a dark reflection of her town of Farther that she alone can control, she begins to realize that revenge is indeed possible. But once her world continues to spin out of control, Magpie must decide whether to give in to the monsters inside of her, or to begin the journey back into the light…

                I really loved this book; it might be my favorite in Leno’s entire body of work. Her prose is signature, dreamy and sparse and not altogether real. It was a book practically written with a scalpel. It made me want to rage, scream, and howl; I will never, ever forget Magpie or the dark, cruel trail of violence she leaves in her wake. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately spellbound by Magpie’s story, as ugly and awful and monstrous as it was. The transitions were also good; I liked the way the book flowed between the past and present, explaining the before and after of Magpie’s life. I also adored the way that Leno portrayed her; the way that she was so unapologetically wrathful. I could understand why Magpie felt that horrible, awful need for revenge; some wounds just require retribution. I liked the way that the book was written; it felt as if I was caught up in a compelling but terrifying nightmare. The only thing that I didn’t like was that the end, and Magpie’s bloody revenge, seemed really forced. But nonetheless, I really think that this book is my favorite of all of Leno’s books. I love stories about angry girls, and You Must Not Miss really fits the bill, despite its minor flaws. The bottom line: Dark, furious, and bloody, I loved You Must Not Miss! Easily Katrina Leno’s best novel, despite its flaws. Next on deck: Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Ruth Rendell!

Under the Moon by Lauren Myracle and Isaac Goodhart Review


Title: Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale
Author(s): Lauren Myracle and Isaac Goodhart
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Graphic Novel
Series: DC Ink, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                It’s no secret that Selina Kyle is one of my favorite characters within the DC canon, so when I saw Under the Moon sitting on a shelf at my local library, I snatched it right up. DC is currently in the process of rebooting their characters to appeal to young adults, and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. As soon as I was finished with Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, I dove into this graphic novel, which turned back the clock for Selina, beginning from the time that she was a teenager. Beautifully drawn in schemes of black, blue, white, and purple, Goodhart does an amazing job illustrating this graphic novel. Lauren Myracle’s tone is dark, jaded, a little bitter, and bitingly funny, and I loved her take on the young Selina Kyle. The first entry in the new DC Ink series, Under the Moon gives me hope that the next offering, Raven by Kami Garcia, and I’m so happy that DC has rebooted some of their most well-known characters!

                Selina Kyle knows how to take care of herself. After all, her neglectful mother cares more about Dernell, her abusive, misogynistic boyfriend. Running away from home at the young age of fifteen, Selina vows that she will not get close to anyone. When she is desperate for money and out on the streets, she falls in with another group of homeless kids, who teach her how to fight and steal. But things go badly wrong when one of her beloved friends disappears, and Selina is determined to right the mistake, even if it means coming across some familiar faces. Will Selina find refuge by herself, or will she be forced to go back to her broken home?

                Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, has always been one of my favorite characters in the DC universe, and I was so happy to get an opportunity to see her childhood. I loved the sparse, tense prose of the graphic novel, and the way that it was interspersed with gorgeous, stark illustrations. The pacing was snappy, and as with Natalie Tan, I devoured this book in just a few hours. The dark, jaded mood and tone of the book perfectly fit Selina, even at such a young age. I also loved Selina herself, fierce and fiery and angry and sad. I cried for her, laughed with her, and was cheering by the end of the book. One of my favorite things of the book was the constant DC Easter eggs sprinkled throughout; I was laughing and smiling so hard that my cheeks were hurting by the end. The other characters also made a great foil to her, especially Briar Rose, Yang, and the other homeless kids. This was the first entry in the DC Ink series, specifically for young adults, and I’m so excited for Raven by Kami Garcia! The bottom line: Beautifully illustrated, wonderfully written, triumphant, hopeful, and dark, I loved Under the Moon! Next on deck: You Must Not Miss by Katrina Leno!

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim Review


Title: Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune
Author: Roselle Lim
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                As soon as I was finished with Mrs. Everything, I pushed Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune to the top of my library stack. I tried reading Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke, and it was just flat, so I moved on. Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune was a tender, bittersweet tale of family, connection, food, and grief, and I loved every moment of it. I devoured this book in a mere matter of hours, I was so bewitched by it. Full of magic, new love, self-realization, and emotion, I loved this gorgeous, beautifully written debut. Roselle Lim is a fantastic author, and I cannot wait to see what she has up her sleeve next!

                Natalie Tan has been traveling abroad for several years, after a difficult, painful argument with her mother. When she receives news that her mother has passed away, she reluctantly returns to the neighborhood where she grew up. But when she arrives, she realizes that the vibrant, colorful neighborhood she remembers is dying. Neighbors are packing up and moving, bought off by an ambitious realtor. When Natalie receives a special cookbook passed down from the grandmother she never knew, she begins to realize her dream of opening her own restaurant. Spurred on by the bittersweet memories of her mother, she uses the recipes in her grandmother’s book to help her neighbors. But when things start to backfire, Natalie wonders whether to flee the neighborhood, her new friends, and a new spark of love, or to stay and do justice to her family’s legacy.

This book won my heart and made me cry; it was so soulful and emotional. I was instantly spellbound by Natalie’s frank, beautiful voice; the prose was hypnotic and so wonderful that I could almost feel the heat and smell the seasonings in Natalie’s kitchen. I love magical realism, and this book was a great reminder of that. I devoured this book in a mere matter of hours, less than a day. The pacing was snappy, and the characters in the book felt like new friends. The vibrant, gorgeous neighborhood that Natalie returns to was so real. Natalie, though, was my favorite, and I loved the way that Lim portrayed her relationship with her mother, as well as Chinese culture. This book made me laugh, cry, and squeal, in the best kind of way. Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is one of my favorite novels of 2019. Yay for diverse books! There wasn’t a single thing about this book that I didn’t love; it was so good! The bottom line: Rich in detail, vibrant, tender and bittersweet, I loved Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune! Next on deck: Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale by Lauren Myracle and Isaac Goodhart!  

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner Review


Title: Mrs. Everything
Author: Jennifer Weiner
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.

                Jennifer Weiner has long been one of my favorite authors; I read In Her Shoes and Little Earthquakes in college, and I haven’t looked back. Of her more recent work, I’ve read her essay collection, Hungry Heart. I reserved her newest book at my public library and was lucky enough to receive one of its first copies. It’s taken me a few days, but I finished it yesterday. One of my favorite things about Weiner’s writing is that it puts women, and their stories, front and center. Mrs. Everything tells the story of the Kaufman women, through multiple generations. It goes back and forth, from past and present, and the spotlight is on Bethie and Josette, Jo for short, primarily. And this book; it broke my heart and filled it all at once. Jennifer Weiner is one of my personal heroes, and Mrs. Everything made me hopeful for the future. Wry, wise, searing, and powerful, I loved it so much. It’s one of my favorite books of 2019.

                This book revolves around The Kaufmans, comfortably middle-class Jewish-American family, and the growth of its daughters. The pacing was snappy, the prose quick and sharp and compelling. The characters seemed so real that I could imagine them sitting around me, talking amongst themselves. I loved the way Weiner dealt with the issues that plague women from the 1950s, and up to now. This book should be required reading for everyone. I loved the characters in this book, as well as their journeys from children into adults. Jo and Bethie were my favorite, and their relationship with each other was what really made the book. This is Jennifer Weiner’s strength: to create vivid characters and mesh them beautifully. Jo’s daughters also made the book a standout; I love Weiner’s novels because they focus on family and friends. I loved this book because it made me laugh, cry, and rage. The Kaufman family got under my skin and into my heart in the best kind of way. Jennifer Weiner has penned another fantastic, heartfelt masterpiece. The bottom line: Rich with warmth, humor, and wisdom, I loved Mrs. Everything! Next on deck: Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke!

Friday, July 5, 2019

Rough Magic by Lara Prior-Palmer Review


Title: Rough Magic: Riding in the World’s Loneliest Horserace
Author: Lara Palmer-Prior
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’ve been trying to expand my literary horizons recently; after I read Bad Blood, I’ve been developing a taste for the nonfiction genre. I’d heard of Rough Magic before it came out, and it’s been sitting in my library stack for a while. I pushed it to the top of my stack right after I was finished with City of Girls. Lara Palmer-Prior’s frank, honest and compelling voice drew me in immediately; I was transfixed. I’ve loved horses since I was a little girl, and going back into that with this memoir felt like coming home. And honestly, I’m in awe of just the pure grit of this girl, entering one of the world’s most dangerous horse races, as an antidote for post-schooling restlessness. Vivid, hilarious, and inspiring, Rough Magic was a great book; I felt like I was transported to the colorful, stark landscape of the steppe she rides across. I finished this book a few days ago, and it took some time to gather my thoughts. But I will never forget Rough Magic, and I’m happy to tell you all that I’m growing fond of the nonfiction genre.

                Lara Prior-Palmer grew up around horses, as her mother and aunt are both passionate horsewomen. After graduating from college, she drifts aimlessly, uncertain of her purpose in life. On a lark, she enters a horse race that takes place halfway across the world, on the steppe of Mongolia, certain that she’s found her solution. Woefully unprepared and unsure of what to expect, Lara must tap deep into her inner strength in order to complete the race. Rough Magic chronicles the days before, during, and after the race. Honest, raw, funny, and wonderful, I was absolutely enchanted. Horses are one of my favorite animals, and it was so nice to read the experience of someone who loves them as much as I do. This book was, hands down, inspiring. I mean, to go across the whole of Mongolia on horseback? It really takes some guts to do something so daring. And honestly, I’m so happy with this book. I can’t wait to see more from Lara Prior-Palmer! I loved it, and it was so real that I kept getting thirsty, I imagined myself covered in sand and grit. This memoir is exemplary, and I can only hope that there’s more in store for this warrior of a woman! I can say with confidence that I will be reading whatever she writes next. The bottom line: Gritty, raw, and inspiring, I loved Rough Magic! What an amazing debut memoir! Next on deck: Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner!

Monday, July 1, 2019

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert Review


Title: City of Girls
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                I know of Elizabeth Gilbert the way most people do: post Eat, Pray, Love fame. I’ve read her self-help book, Big Magic, but before now, I haven’t read any of her prose offerings. Set in New York in 1940, City of Girls tells the story of Vivian Morris, sent to live with her Aunt Peg to live at The Lily Playhouse after leaving Vassar in disgrace. Once in the city, Vivian makes strange friends: a showgirl named Celia, her aunt’s boss, the serious and unflappable Olive, Peg’s impetuous, flighty ex-husband, Billy, and the most wonderful of all, an acclaimed actress that takes Vivian under her wing. Becoming the costume design for a brand-new play, Vivian, now at ninety-five years of age, recounts her life story to Angela, the daughter of a dear male friend. I have to say that this book is my favorite in Gilbert’s extensive body of work. Vivacious, funny, frank and strange, City of Girls is one of my favorite books of 2019, though it wasn’t perfect.

                It took a little while at first to get into this book; I wasn’t sure what to expect. But once the book got rolling, I was captivated. The pacing moved at a fast clip, and I loved bearing witness to Vivian’s coming of age. The cast of characters was dynamic and engaging, though I wish there had been a dramatis personae at the beginning; there were so many people spanning the novel that it was a little difficult to keep track of them all. New York City felt like a character in and of itself, and it seemed both welcoming and forbidding, all at once. The book follows Vivian through young adulthood, and catalogs her youthful mistakes, from getting kicked out of Vassar and finding refuge with her strange, drunk aunt to the bigger ones, ones that can’t be so easily excused by being young. I also adored the format, that Vivian was speaking straight to the reader. One of my favorite things about City of Girls was the love of theater, even its less glitzy aspects, and the way that Vivian led the reader through over forty years of American history. Gilbert’s latest work is honest, enchanting, electrifying, and I will never forget Vivian Morris, or her city. The bottom line: Gorgeous, funny, and tender, I loved City of Girls! Easily one of my favorite books of Elizabeth Gilbert’s! Next on deck: Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer!

Monday, June 24, 2019

Red White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston Review


Title: Red, White and Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                I’ve been going through a lot of personal stuff right now, and so, I’ve been craving romances and stories with happy endings. I don’t normally read romance, but with this book, that has since changed. I was reminded of just how much I love the genre. Red, White, and Royal Blue has become one of my favorite books of 2019; it was a romance that was nuanced, hilarious, sexy, and tender, all at once. I loved it; Casey McQuiston is a shining new talent in fiction. This modern, gay fairy tale swept me off of my feet and stole my heart within the first chapter. I was rooting for Alex and Henry through the whole thing, and I finished this afternoon. I haven’t been able to stop smiling. This book was as delicious and satisfying as a home-cooked meal, and I loved every moment of it. I’m glad I started my journey into the romance genre with this excellently written book. Enemies to lovers is one of my favorite romance tropes, and this book showcases it fantastically.

                Red, White and Royal Blue starts in the way that many romances do: two smart, sexy main characters, a rivalry, and explosive, engaging chemistry. Alex-Claremont Diaz is the First Son of the United States, the only son of Madam President and her senator ex-husband, and he hates Prince Henry of Wales, who he thinks is snobby, rude, and prudish. When an international incident occurs due to their mutual dislike, the two young men are forced to feign friendship. But sparks fly as they begin to understand each other, but it’s not exactly up to them to make the decision. Will our two knuckleheads find love, in spite of the forces rising against them?

                This book was such a treat! I was immediately engaged in the story, the pacing was nice, and the pages practically crackled with energy and chemistry. I loved McQuiston’s writing style, wry and funny and totally unique. The premise certainly wouldn’t happen in real life, but it’s not formulaic or unoriginal. I loved every escapist moment of it. The characters were so great I was constantly laughing or swooning! I adored Alex and Henry, as well as the characters around them: Zahra, Cash, June, Nora, and their respective parents. This book was a real breath of fresh air, and I’m very sad that I don’t have this book in my collection. The love story was what really got me though; that was my favorite part. Watching two people fall in love is such a magical, happy thing, and Casey McQuiston knocked this element out of the park. I’m so very happy with this book; I came away from it happy, diverted from my worries, if only for a little while. And isn’t that all we can ask from anything we read, but especially fiction? The bottom line: Sexy, sweet, and funny, I loved Red, White and Royal Blue! Easily one of my favorite books of 2019! Next on deck: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo Review


Title: With the Fire on High
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                Elizabeth Acevedo’s work has been on my radar since her debut verse novel, The Poet X, came out. Unfortunately, I was not able to read it before it went back to my local library. When I heard that she had a sophomore novel coming out in May, I put it on hold, and I was lucky enough to receive my library’s first copy! It’s been sitting in my stack for a while, and once I realized I couldn’t renew it anymore, I pushed it up to the top right after Finale. With the Fire on High did not disappoint; it’s one of my favorite books of 2019. Fresh, honest, endearing and sweet and full of unique flavor, I will never forget Emoni Santiago and her journey. Acevedo has cemented her place as one of my favorite authors with this prose novel.

                Emoni Santiago is the girl that all the parents warn their kids away from, because she got pregnant with her daughter her freshman year of high school. But she doesn’t let that bother her, because she’s got Babygirl, her beloved grandmother, Buela, and her passion: cooking. But Emoni has a lot on her plate: dealing with Emma’s father, Tyrone and his parents, who never approved of her, becoming reluctant friends with a new student named Malachi, and her fierce desire to become a renowned chef, worrying about Buela and her college applications, her semi-absent father. When the opportunity to go to Spain arises with the culinary arts class elective, Emoni jumps at the chance, despite knowing that she may not be able to go. But how will she juggle all of her responsibilities and the dreams she longs for so desperately?

                I loved, loved, loved this book! It was amazing! Teen moms need more of a spotlight in literature in general, and Acevedo did a fantastic job with Emoni Santiago. I was instantly captivated by her vibrant, honest, and hilarious voice. Also, diverse books for the win! The pacing was breakneck, and I was rooting for her the whole way through the book. It felt like I was talking to a friend, and I ended the book feeling happy and sad all at the same time, because that’s what Enomi became for me. The characters around her helped emphasize her: Babygirl, Tyrone and his parents, Buela, Julio, and Angelica. Emoni’s budding friendship with Malachi was one of my favorite parts of the book. I also adored her relationships with Emma and her loving grandmother. She was fierce and tender, determined, sassy and sweet. I loved her, and her character development was excellent. Elizabeth Acevedo has recently become one of my favorite writers with With the Fire on High, and I am just floored (in the best way) by her talent. The bottom line: Delicious, sweet, and savory, I loved Elizabeth Acevedo’s sophomore novel and first prose offering; I will never forget Emoni Santiago! Next on deck: Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Finale by Stephanie Garber Review


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

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

                The Caraval series has been one of my favorites of recent years, and when I put a hold on it, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I had received my local library’s first copy. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while, and if I’m being completely honest, I was putting it off because I just didn’t want it to be over! But Finale more than exceeded my expectations, and though I’m sad that it’s all done, it didn’t disappoint at all. Full of romance, aching tension, twists, turns, magic, and surprises, I loved Finale! I will never forget the Dragna sisters, and their dangerous, magical journey!

                Finale picks up where Legendary left off, with Tella and Scarlett racing against the clock to undo a terrible mistake. But in order to do so, they must ally with the most unexpected persons. With the destruction of their entire world imminent, the sisters must use every bit of their wits and cunning in order to save the people they love and each other. But forces out of their control are rising against them, and getting stronger every day. Will our heroines make it out of this quest alive?

                I won’t say too much about the plot; I don’t want to give it away for those who haven’t read it yet. But I will say that my sequel anxiety was unfounded entirely. It took a little bit for me to remember what was going on, but once I did, Finale grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go until the final page. The pacing was breakneck and I read it in a day and a half. The twists and turns throughout the book practically gave me whiplash, and I was in turns gasping, crying, laughing, and nearly pulling my hair out. I was constantly thinking about it, even when I had to step away. I adored all of the characters, but Scarlett and Tella stole the show, and I loved them. And that ending! It made it all worth it. I loved the Caraval series so much, and I will never forget it. Finale was incredible, and I loved every single moment; I’m just so sad that it’s over now. The bottom line: Lush, seductive, and dark in the best kind of way, I loved Finale! I will never forget the Dragna sisters! Next on deck: With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Boy Next Story by Tiffany Schmidt Review


Title: Bookish Boyfriends: The Boy Next Story
Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: Bookish Boyfriends, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                A Date with Darcy, the first book in the Bookish Boyfriends series, was one of my favorite books of last year, so when I found The Boy Next Story sitting on a shelf in the new book section, I took it home. It’s been sitting on the top of my stack, and as soon as I finished Save Me the Plums, I dove in. This installment in the series, The Boy Next Story, focuses on the youngest Campbell sister, Aurora, Rory for short. Shy, artistic, and overshadowed by her older, more vivacious sisters, she is harboring a desperate and unrequited crush on their next-door neighbor, Toby May, who just so happens to have a crush on her sister Merri. Her grades are slipping, and she’s totally not gelling with the assigned English book, The Great Gatsby. She is assigned Little Women soon after by Ms. Gregoire. When she is put in an advanced art class and starts exploring her talents, she finds that there’s competition there, too. When a once in a lifetime arises, Aurora must decide if she will let her fear rule her, or if she will gain the courage to live her life as she pleases.

                I really enjoyed this book, quite possibly even more than A Date with Darcy. One of my favorite things about this hilarious, sweet series is how it focuses on the Campbell family as a unit and each of the sisters individually. I loved how shy, quiet, artistic Rory got the spotlight this time, and I really related to her. I was captivated by her sweet, slightly insecure voice, and the pacing was great. I adored her, honestly, for all her flaws: prickly, shy, snarky and sarcastic, but artistic, kind, and gentle also. I loved reading about her struggles: with math, the place in her own family, her identity and her unrequited crush on Toby. The chemistry between the two of them was explosive, full of sparks and barbs and so much passion that at times, I was screaming, giggling, and tearing my hair out. This book made me feel a lot of things. Rory’s character development from the baby sister unhappy with life to a young woman unafraid to go after everything she wants, unapologetically. All of the other characters provided great foils to her, and I loved the way they all played a role in helping Rory find her courage. I adored the ending. At times, Rory seemed a bit whiny, but it wasn’t a huge deterrent. I loved her, and the whole Campbell family, and I’m hoping to the book gods that there’s another book in store! I have so many questions! The bottom line: Warm, hilarious, romantic and heartfelt, I loved The Boy Next Story! I hope that there’s more in store for the Campbell clan! Next on deck: Again but Better by Christine Riccio!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl Review


Title: Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir
Author: Ruth Reichl
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                I’ve always been a great fan of Ruth Reichl, from watching her on food shows such as Top Chef and reading her restaurant reviews in The New York Times. I’ve been curious about her other books of food writing, so when I heard about Save Me the Plums on Instagram, I reserved it at my local library. It’s been sitting on the top of my stack for a while now, and I wanted to make sure I was able to review it before I had to return it. This wry, honest and sidesplitting memoir had me laughing, gasping, and crying as I followed her journey to become the manager of the now defunct Gourmet magazine. I very much enjoyed it, though I was hoping that the focus would be more on the food. However, it’s definitely got me curious about the rest of Riechl’s extensive body of work, as well as food writing and nonfiction in general. It also makes me sad that I didn’t realize Gourmet’s existence before it went under.

                Ruth Reichl, in essence, is a writer. That’s how she’s made her living for a number of years, so she was, to say the least, surprised when she was approached to take over a classic food magazine, Gourmet. Which also inspired her to plunge into the world of food and food writing, not unironically. Feeling intimidated and completely out of her depth, she decides to go for it anyway, eager for an opportunity to try something new and be closer to her family for the first time in years. Hilarity ensues, and so does innovation: Reichl publishes the controversial David Foster Wallace article about boiling lobsters alive, and more besides. Seeing the magazine through many changes, I really feel that the magazine, classic, was really in its modern heyday when she was heading the charge. This book was thoughtful, entertaining, tender and surprisingly funny; I’d really like to explore more of her work. As I said, I’d really liked it if more food was involved, but it was very good! I’m happy I read it, and I’m really looking forward to reading more of Ruth Reichl and food writing in general. The bottom line: Hilarious and grim, thoughtful and entertaining, I loved Save Me the Plums! Next on deck: The Boy Next Story by Tiffany Schmidt!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi Review


Title: Girl Gone Viral
Author: Arvin Ahmadi
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


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

                Arvin Ahmadi won my heart completely last year, when one of the book clubs I go to chose his debut novel, Down and Across. I loved it so much; it was one of my favorite books of 2018. So, when I found out that he was writing a sophomore novel, I was so excited that I ordered it from my local library. It’s been sitting on the top of my stack for a while, so as soon as I was finished with Love a la Mode, I got started. Arvin Ahmadi leads the reader through a fantastic, twisted world where technology rules all, and the darkest secrets hide behind a glossy, shiny fa├žade. But even more than that, he brings up important questions: When will technology and innovation take over our society and, essentially, replace the experiences that form our reality? It’s quite possible that I love this book even more than Down and Across. Thought-provoking, dark, and more than a bit terrifying, I loved every tense, mysterious moment of it, and I will never forget Opal Hopper and her friends!

                Opal Hopper is a girl who is broken into pieces. Devastated by her father’s disappearance five years ago, she has retreated into the immersive world of VR, becoming a tech-savvy hacker to capture Howie Mendelsohn’s attention, the owner and CEO of Wave, who, she is convinced, has the answers to why her father left their family. Desperate for the truth, Opal throws all caution to the wind and begins a channel that forces viewers to face the real truth. But her desire for the truth leads her to follow a dark, twisting path that exposes the dark underbelly of her world, and she and her friends may not be able to weather the fallout…

                This book was wonderful! Told with Ahmadi’s signature wry tone, I was immediately captivated by Opal’s voice, and her desperate need to discover why her father left her and her mother. The pacing was breakneck; I devoured this book in a little over a day. It was dark, thoughtful, and more than a little terrifying. It got me really thinking about the dark side of social media and technology. In our desire to be seen, to be heard, how much of our true selves are we sacrificing? I love, love, love books that make me think, and Ahmadi has absolutely outdone himself with his second novel. Though Opal was the main star, I also loved the other characters, and the world they lived in. I also adored the journey that Opal took to the dark underbelly of her world, and the way that she was undaunted and dogged in her quest for the truth. I really felt like I couldn’t trust anyone in this book, perhaps not even Opal herself. And that ending! Oh, my goodness, it knocked my socks off and felt like the most brutal, awful punch to the stomach, in the best way! Arvin Ahmadi has cemented his place as one of my favorite authors with Girl Gone Viral, and I can’t wait for more from him! The bottom line: Dark, visceral, truly frightening and thought-provoking, I loved Girl Gone Viral! Next on deck: Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Love a la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm Review

Title: Love a la Mode
Author: Stephanie Kate Strohm
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                When I found out that our book club pick for June was Love a la Mode, I was ecstatic! I’d already ordered a copy through my interlibrary loan system, and I was excited for the excuse to push it to the top of my stack. I was hopeful for The Flame and the Candle, but it wasn’t working for me. Plus, things have been crazy for me in my personal life, and I needed a break from all the dark stuff I’ve been feeling and experiencing. I figured this would fit the bill, and I was right. Romantic, mouthwatering, hilarious and as sweet and light as any pastry made in Paris, I loved Love a la Mode, and I’m beginning to have a new appreciation for the romance genre in general. It really is the perfect antidote when real life is bogging you down.
                
Henry Yi and Rosie Radeke are two teens that both love food, and they are both on their way to Paris to study at one of the best cooking schools in the world. And they just so happen to fall in love on the airplane ride over. But alas, lovely Paris isn’t all delicious food: Rosie begins to wonder if she can really cook after all, and Henry longs to run his own restaurant, just like his father, despite his mother insisting he go to college. Hilarity, hijinks, and adorable love scenes ensue, complete with misunderstandings and kisses straight out of a romcom! Honestly, I really loved it. Before I’d read Love a La Mode, I’d forgotten just how therapeutic this genre can be. I’ve been dealing with a lot of heavy stuff, and I’m finding that I’m gravitating toward happier things instead of dark ones. The pacing was breakneck, I was crying laughing throughout the book; this book is a real gem! I loved all of the characters, and their distinctive personalities. And the descriptions of the food! Oh, my goodness, I was so hungry as I was reading this book! It was all so vivid I felt as though I could taste the food. I loved the rollercoaster that was Henry and Rosie’s relationship. Love a la Mode was a great reprieve from the stresses of life, and I very much enjoyed it. It was a great example of the YA romance genre. The bottom line: Bubbly, sweet, romantic and hilarious, I loved Love a la Mode! Next on deck: Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi!

Friday, June 7, 2019

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing Review


 Title: My Lovely Wife
Author: Samantha Downing
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                I’ve had My Lovely Wife on my list since before it came out, and I was so excited to finally snag a copy through my interlibrary loan system. When I was finished with Kingsbane, I pushed this book to the top of my stack and finished it in a little under two days. This book was like Dexter meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith, only without the spy stuff. It was dark, chilling, weirdly funny, and more than a little bit terrifying. Granted, it didn’t help that I’ve been watching true crime shows on repeat since my summer began, but moving on… Samantha Downing has penned a deliciously smart and creepy debut worthy of Gillian Flynn. But to compare this book to one of the queens of crime is to do is Downing a disservice. What a way to break the mystery/thriller genre wide open! Definitely one of my favorite and terrifying books of 2019, and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next!

                The unnamed narrator and his wife, Millicent, seem to have it all. A passionate, loving marriage, two children, money, and prestige. But they have a dark, deadly secret that could ruin them. To keep the passion in their marriage alive, he and Millicent kill women. Yes, you read that right, they kill people! When they give in to their awful, unsettling urge, they start targeting young women, and in the process, resurrect a local bogeyman. The couple’s murderous hobby leads to their entire family’s lives being upended, and as the stakes get higher, they begin to wonder if they can indeed get away with murder…

                This book; I can’t even fully describe how it made me feel. It was chilling, more than a bit creepy, dark and weirdly funny. It really made me wonder how much we really know the people we interact with every day: our families, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. The pacing was breakneck, and I was absolutely spellbound by the unnamed narrator and his strange marriage to Millicent. It was truly terrifying. Even so, I couldn’t stop reading; the twists and turns had me gasping, screaming, and practically tearing my hair out as the book went on. It was so compelling; so much so, in fact, that I found myself thinking about it even while I was sleeping. I loved all of the characters, and they all complemented each other. Millicent and her husband are a match made in hell, and the ending had my jaw on the floor! I got so many feelings from this book, and it really got me thinking about the monsters that wear human faces and mask the ultimate evils. This creepy, visceral debut novel was incredibly dark and weirdly funny, and I loved every tense, crazy moment of it. I can’t wait to see what Samantha Downing has in store for us next! The bottom line: Scary, smart, horrendous and thrilling, I loved My Lovely Wife! An absolute knockout for the thriller genre! Next on deck: The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Kingsbane by Claire LeGrand Review


Title: Kingsbane
Author: Claire LeGrand
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Empirium Trilogy, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                Furyborn was one of my favorite books of 2018, so ever since, I’ve been eagerly looking forward to Kingsbane. And for the most part, the sequel lived up to my expectations, but there were definitely parts that fell short. Nonetheless, if I wasn’t fully invested before, I most certainly am now! Full of dark magic, secrets, lies, and romance, Kingsbane picks up where Furyborn left off, with both Rielle, and her daughter, Eliana, racing against time to stop a terrifying future that could save the world, or destroy it. The prophecy both young women chafe against is about to come to pass, and across the centuries they fight for their own agency, even if it means losing everything…

                I don’t want to say too much about the plot for the people reading who haven’t read it yet, but I will say that LeGrand has penned a worthy sequel to my favorite book in her body of work. As with all sequels, it took me a little bit to remember what was going on, but once I did, the pacing was breakneck and I couldn’t pull away. Even when I was doing something else, the book was always in my thoughts, and my mind was forever working to unravel Kingsbane’s secrets.

I loved the characters, as well as their development; if I’m going to read a book, I have to engage with the characters, or nothing’s going to happen. I adored all of the characters, but Eliana, Rielle, Corien, Audric, Ludivine, and Simon were particular standouts. The pacing was breakneck, and the constant twists and turns had me gasping or screaming, either out of excitement or frustration. The flow of the events between Rielle and Eliana was smooth, though at times it was hard to keep up with all the different countries and customs. More than once, I had to refer to the map and appendix of the novel. However, this book was wonderful. For all its minor flaws, it was great. And that ending, though; my jaw hit the floor! I cannot wait for the last book! I can only hope that it’s going to answer all of the burning questions that Kingsbane has born. I can’t wait to see how this dark, feminist trilogy ends! The bottom line: Though at times a bit heavyhanded, and it was a bit difficult to keep up and keep everything straight, I really enjoyed Kingsbane, and I’m looking forward to the third book! Scary, romantic, and thrilling, I loved Kingsbane! Next on deck: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing!

Friday, May 31, 2019

Honor Bound by Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine Review


Title: Honor Bound
Authors: Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: The Honors, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                Honor Among Thieves was one of my favorite books of last year, and so I’ve been eyeing the sequel since before it came out. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while now, and once I realized that I couldn’t renew it anymore, I pushed it to the top of the stack as soon as I was finished with Somewhere Only We Know. I devoured Honor Bound in two and a half days, and for the most part, this sequel did not disappoint! It took me a little while to remember what was going on, as it’s been over a year since I read Honor Among Thieves, but this series: It’s so unique and well-written. I’m such a sucker for space opera novels, and Honor Bound totally delivered. There were times when I was a bit lost, and the worldbuilding got a tad muddled, but I’m totally obsessed with these books, and I can’t wait for the sequel! I mean, this book has everything: aliens, war, secrets and political intrigue, love and friendship and danger! These characters and the story they tell are so unique and original to me, and I will never forget this ragtag band of space explorers! Aguirre and Caine have, yet again, stolen my heart and sent it soaring past dark, dangerous galaxies!

                Honor Bound picks up where Honor Among Thieves left off, with Zara, Bea, and Nadim scrambling to deal with the new vicious, voracious alien threat, a hive-mind horde known as The Phage. With their Leviathans, Nadim and Typon, both injured from the aftermath of the battle Honor Among Thieves ended with. Forced to go even deeper into uncharted territory, our Honors must make their way to a thriving crime planet known only as The Sliver. Once there, they must strike a dark, Faustian deal with a powerful alien being to stop The Phage. But as it turns out, a nearly forgotten threat has begun to stir, and our heroes must tap into their every ability in order to survive, or it could mean the destruction of the entire universe as they know it…

                This book; it was so awesome! Honor Among Thieves was one of my favorite books of last year, so needless to say, I’ve been very much looking forward to the sequel. And for the most part, it really lived up to my expectations. It took a little bit for me to remember what was going on, but once I did, I was absolutely captivated. Aguirre and Caine have created a dangerous, enticing world that I wish I could live in forever. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately at home again, among some of my favorite characters. I feel so close to them; they feel like my family. I also enjoyed Zara and Nadim’s narration. One of my favorite things about this book was the character development; I was cheering throughout the book for Zara, Bea, and their friends and Leviathans. The twists and turns, though, were what really made this book shine: I was laughing, crying, gasping and screaming as the book went on. And that ending! Oh, my goodness, it was crazy! I can only hope and pray to the gracious book gods that there will be a sequel! The only little flaws I have with this book was that the worldbuilding was a bit muddled, and it was difficult to keep up with all the different names and types of aliens, as well as planets, but that was only minor, and it didn’t distract from the main narrative too much. Honor Bound was well worth waiting for and like its predecessor, Honor Among Thieves, it has become one of my favorite books of 2019! Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine make an unstoppable and dynamic team, queens of young adult! The bottom line: Lush, thrilling, high-octane, and unforgettable, I loved Honor Bound! I can only hope that there’s more to come in the future! Next on deck: Kingsbane by Claire Legrand!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo Review


Title: Somewhere Only We Know
Author: Maurene Goo
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                Maurene Goo has long been on my TBR stack, since her first book came out. Unfortunately, I had to return both of her books to the library before I could read them. I’ve had Somewhere Only We Know in my library stack for a while, and once I realized that it had a hold on it, I pushed it to the top of my stack as soon as I was finished with Girls with Sharp Sticks. Romantic, hilarious, tender and thoughtful, this book melted my heart and then broke it, then put it back together again. It was like one of the best Korean romcoms, but in literary form. It turned out to be the perfect antidote to my emotional heaviness. It made me laugh, cry, giggle, and shriek. It reminded me of how much I love contemporary fiction. Maurene Goo has penned one of my favorite books of 2019, and I will never forget Lucky and Jack!

                What do you get when you combine a runaway Asian-American KPop star and a discontent expat living in Hong Kong? A recipe for hilarity, accidental romance, and more than a few hijinks. Lucky is the most sought-after KPop star in Asia, and despite her glowing success and the fulfillment of her dreams, something feels off. It doesn’t feel fun anymore. Discontent and hungry for an American-style burger, she wanders out of her hotel room and runs into Jack, who is taking a gap year from college and struggling to find his way and pay his bills. This chance meeting leads to all kinds of hijinks, and the two teens team up to have a dream day in Hong Kong. Will this meeting become just a memory, faded but remember fondly? Or will it lead to, dare I say it, love?

                This book; it was such a cute reminder of why I love contemporary fiction, and romance. Somewhere Only We Know was pure magic. I was immediately captivated by Lucky and Jack’s voices; they were each so distinct and unique. The pacing was breakneck; I devoured this book in half a day. It was charming, hilarious, heartwarming and tender. It was so thoughtful and well-written. I loved Jack and Lucky, and their wacky, spontaneous trip through Hong Kong. I loved that most of the characters were Asian or Asian-American; diverse books for the win, always! One of my favorite parts of the book was how Jack and Lucky were explored as people; Lucky with her career, and Jack with his indecision about his own path after high school. I laughed, I screamed, I cried, I cheered. This book was like getting a long, warm hug from a friend, or sitting under a blanket and warming up after a long day. After Girls with Sharp Sticks, it was the perfect antidote, and I will be looking into the rest of Goo’s body of work because I’m totally addicted now. I loved how this chance meeting, straight out of a rom-com, turned into true love. Somewhere Only We Know is a musical, sweet, funny romance that had me laughing, crying, and cheering; Maurene Goo has earned a special place in my heart with her third novel. (Plus, I love how each of her books are also the names of song titles! Score!) I loved every moment, and I will never forget it. Realistic, sweet, funny and thoughtful, I loved Somewhere Only We Know! Highly recommended for all ages! The bottom line: I will be screaming about this book from the rooftops; Maurene Goo has outdone herself completely with her latest novel. Full of humor, heart, joy, and love, I adored Somewhere Only We Know, and Lucky and Jack have become one of my favorite YA couples! Absolutely outstanding. Next on deck: Honor Bound by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young Review


Title: Girls with Sharp Sticks
Author: Suzanne Young
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction/Horror
Series: Girls with Sharp Sticks, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


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

                Suzanne Young is one of my favorite authors; I’ve been obsessed with her work ever since I read The Program. So, when I found out that she was writing a new series opener, I was super excited. It’s been in my library stack for a while, and once I realized I couldn’t renew it anymore, I pushed it to the top of my stack after I finished Grim Lovelies. I devoured this book in a day and a half, a strange fever dream reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale. Visceral, timely, vicious and thought-provoking, Girls with Sharp Sticks was a series opener that I will never forget, and I can’t wait for Girls with Razor Hearts! This book is one of my favorites of 2019; it was unforgettable.

                The Girls at Innovations Academy are beautiful, obedient, and pleasant. Under the watchful gazes of their male Guardians, the all-girls school trains its students to be the best society has to offer. They are perfect, free of ugly emotions like arrogance and defiance. But Philomena, or Mena for short, begins to realize that their carefully curated lives are not as perfect as they first appear. As she and her friends begin to unearth the dark secrets of what’s really going on in Innovations Academy—and who they really are—they will discover what they’re truly capable of, because the most beautiful flowers have the sharpest thorns…

                This book. This book! I absolutely loved it. It reminded me of a mashup of The Handmaid’s Tale and Westworld, with spare, gorgeous prose and a sick feeling of dread throughout. The pacing was breakneck; Mena’s voice grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go until long after the last page. The whole book, I knew what was coming, but I was dreading it all at once. The twists turns, and secrets had me gasping or shrieking. I also loved the characters, especially Mena; her character development as someone who was content to be used into a young woman who grows into her own agency and learns to fight back against the men imprisoning her and her friends. I also applaud the way that Young pointed out rape culture through the narrative; this book was vicious, visceral, and pulled absolutely no punches. It was shocking and timely, especially in our current America, where women’s rights are being steamrolled as I write this review, including in my own state of Ohio. The ending was shocking, and more than a little scary. This book read to me like a horror novel, with a sprinkle of science fiction thrown in for flavor. But it was absolutely necessary, and it should be required reading for everyone. I loved its message: Down with the patriarchy and the way it tries to control girls and young women under impossible double standards they cannot possibly keep themselves. I can’t wait for Girls with Razor Hearts next year! Suzanne has knocked another one straight out of the park, and I can’t wait for more! The bottom line: Dark, dreadful, necessary and visceral, I loved Girls with Sharp Sticks, and I can’t wait for the sequel next year! Next on deck: Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo!

Monday, May 27, 2019

Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd Review


Title: Grim Lovelies
Author: Megan Shepherd
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Grim Lovelies, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


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

                Grim Lovelies has been on my library loan list since it came out, so when I found it at my library, I took it home. It’s been sitting in my stack for a while, and once I realized I couldn’t renew it anymore, I pushed it to the top of the stack and began reading as soon as I was finished with America Was Hard to Find. Megan Shepherd is one of my favorite authors; I loved The Madman’s Daughter and The Cage series. I was so happy with this book. It was full of magic, mystery, seductive darkness and dangerous secrets, with Beasties, Goblins, Witches and Royals that stole my heart. I can’t wait for the sequel to come out in August! I daresay that this book is one of the strongest in the entirety of Shepherd’s body of work.

                Anouk is a Beastie, an animal who was turned into a human girl to do a Witch’s bidding. Despite loving her mistress, she longs to join the world of the Pretties, the humans that the Witches and Royals rule over. But her content existence is shattered when she discovers that Mada Vittoria has been brutally murdered. To add to this mess, one of her fellow Beasties, Luc, has disappeared. Forced to make a mad dash across Paris, Anouk and the others must race against the clock to retain their humanity. But more than one person has conspired to see Anouk lose, and she must discover the hidden power inside of herself in order to emerge from the trials unscathed, or she just might lose everything…

                This book was amazing! It was a seductive, dark fairy tale full of dangerous magic and secrets that had me shocked. The characters were my favorite; I fell in love with Anouk and her strange little family. The pacing was breakneck, and the prose was gorgeous; Shepherd’s writing and worldbuilding were unforgettable. But even more than that, I loved the tense, mad dash through a magical, dangerous Paris that I felt was just on the other side of our world. The twists and turns had me gasping, laughing and crying as the book went on. I’ve been waiting for something like Grim Lovelies my whole life. There wasn’t a character that I didn’t love, didn’t feel for in some way. I loved every crazy moment, and I wanted more. That ending! Oh, my goodness! I wish I had Midnight Beauties right now because two days later, I’m reeling! I won’t say anything about it, in case there are some readers that haven’t yet read it. All I can say is that I can’t wait for Midnight Beauties; there was nothing about this beautifully wrought fairy tale that I didn’t love. It’s probably my favorite of all of Megan Shepherd’s books, and I will never forget Anouk and her friends! This is one of my favorite books I’ve read recently, and I can’t wait until Midnight Beauties. The bottom line: Gorgeous, dark and dangerous, I loved Grim Lovelies! One of my favorites that I’ve read recently, and I can’t wait for the sequel! Next on deck: Girls With Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young!