Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Piccolo Review

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


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

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

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

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

Monday, August 26, 2019

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


Title: Pan’s Labyrinth: Labyrinth of the Faun
Authors and Illustrator: Guillermo del Toro, Cornelia Funke, and Allen Williams
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


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

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

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

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

The War Outside by Monica Hesse Review


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

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

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

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

Friday, August 23, 2019

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan Review


Title: In Other Lands
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

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

The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu Review


Title: The Best Lies
Author: Sarah Lyu
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
                I’ve had The Best Lies on hold at my local library since before it came out; I’d heard of the premise from a few other book reviewers I follow, and I was curious, especially when I saw the pale pink cover, adorned with a sticky-sweet, pastel-hued lollipop. It was sitting on top of my library stack, and it was one book that I didn’t want to return without reading. Normally, I’m leery about mysteries and thrillers; I can usually guess what’s going to happen within fifty pages. But The Best Lies was totally unique, in that it featured a love triangle gone horrifically wrong. I loved it, even as I waited with bated breath for the ending that felt like a punch to the gut. I could see what was coming, but it still blew me away. I finished this book over a week ago, and I’m still floored. Just absolutely stunned. A tragic, heartbreaking and realistic portrayal of a close friendship gone the worst kind of sideways, The Best Lies is one of my favorite books of 2019, and I can’t wait to see what debut author Sarah Lyu has up her sleeve next!
                Remy Tsai has never really had anyone who’s really loved her. Her parents are absorbed in hurting each other, and only use her and her brother, Christian, as bargaining chips in their arguments. Overlooked, lonely, and shy, her life changes forever when she meets Elise. Elise understands her like no one else she’s ever known, and soon the two become entwined, inseparable, ride or die. But Remy begins to feel that the love that has kept her safe and sheltered for so long is suffocating her. The feeling only intensifies when Jack enters the picture, who Remy is immediately smitten with. But Remy’s new love and joy is shattered when Jack dies, and it’s Elise’s hand that held the gun that killed him. From the police station, Remy struggles to piece together the tragedy that destroyed her life…
                This book was, in a word, compelling. I love books about friendships gone wrong, especially among young women. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately entranced by Remy’s broken voice. I was totally spellbound by the love triangle that formed between Remy, Jack, and Elise. I knew what was coming, from the beginning, but even still, the ending landed like a punch to the chest and I felt like I was gasping for breath. This book was like watching a trainwreck, impossible to look away from. I loved watching Remy and Elise’s relationship grow from something almost romantic and charged to terribly fraught, and so frayed that it ended in a horrible, unspeakable tragedy. I felt sorry for everyone involved in this book; to be frank, most of them were miserable. This book was so very sad, but I’m glad that I read it; it’s a great example of toxic relationships and behavior. Elise, in particular, was a study in sadness and abusive behavior, both giving and receiving. The Best Lies is one of my favorite books of 2019; Sarah Lyu did a fantastic job in this punchy, timely thriller with a sticky-sweet, toxic love triangle! The bottom line: Vivid, dark, and utterly painful, I loved The Best Lies; Sarah Lyu has penned a compelling, necessary thriller! Fantastic! Next on deck: In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan!

Wilder Girls by Rory Power Review


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


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

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

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

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

No Beast so Fierce by Dane Huckelbridge Review


Title: No Beast So Fierce: The Terrifying True Story of the Champawat Tiger: The Deadliest Animal in History
Author: Dane Huckelbridge
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 was reading an article about a month ago, a book list that challenged readers to get brave by reading the books they recommended, all without leaving the comfort of their own home. I was intrigued by every book that was on that list, but No Beast So Fierce was the book that caught my eye first. Normally, I’m not a big nonfiction reader, but I’ve been recently trying to branch out into new genres. This book was really interesting and informative, though it seems that a lot of the facts seem based on conjecture. Nonetheless, I liked it a lot. It taught me a lot about tigers, which was great. But even more than that, No Beast So Fierce examines the perfect storm that created one of nature’s most notorious maneaters. Though this book is obviously not without bias, I think Huckelbridge did a really good job of tracking the tigress’s movements and explaining just how this wounded but still magnificent creature was driven to hunt, and kill, humans, with the numbers climbing almost up to the triple digits.

                No Beast So Fierce is a naturalist, environmental nonfiction offering, taking place in both India and Nepal. Dane Huckelbridge pieces together its journey from its native Nepal, where it had already killed and eaten several people, and follows it across the border to India, where the tigress lived out the remainder of its life, feasting upon humans when she was unable to catch normal prey. Huckelbridge attempts to lay out the facts as best he can, murky though they are. He uses a lot of primary sources, but a lot of it seemed to be based on his personal conclusions. They were certainly backed up, but something about this didn’t seem to add up to me. Nonetheless, Huckelbridge traveled across Nepal and India to use the information in this book, and I really enjoyed the writing style, even if it didn’t gel with my expectations. I was intrigued; I’ve been fascinated with animal and marine life for as long as I can remember, especially big cats. I learned a lot about tigers, and that’s what I set out to do.  But the story of this particular cat was so compelling, a manmade monster that had to be brought down for the safety of others. Injured by a hunter in the prime of its life, the female tiger eventually had to resort to survive in an altogether different way: hunting humans. People disappeared from the edges of villages and in the woods, gone within moments. It proved to be a frightening and enlightening read, for this mess was all caused by the plights of man, imperialism and colonialism. The tiger was contained within an ever-shrinking habitat, and had injured teeth, had cubs to feed. Really, it was a tragedy all around, to both man and animal. I really enjoyed it, even if there were some parts that seemed unbelievable. It was informative and really made me think. Definitely one of my favorite books of 2019, as well as nonfiction in general. The bottom line: Despite some spotty research, I really enjoyed No Beast so Fierce; it was a nonfiction environmentalist eye-opener, and I learned a lot. Next on deck: Wilder Girls by Rory Power!

Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare Review


Title: Queen of Air and Darkness
Author: Cassandra Clare
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Dark Artifices, book three
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


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

                So, I’ll start this review by being completely honest: I’ve been avoiding this book since it came out last December, partly because I just wasn’t ready for it to end, and half because Lord of Shadows tore my soul to shreds. I’ve checked it out at my local library a few times, and had to return it almost every time. I couldn’t renew it anymore this time, so as soon as I was finished with Queen of Ruin, I pushed it to the top of my stack, figuring that I could no longer avoid it. This book took me a week and a half to finish, and I’ve been chewing on it for almost three weeks. To tell the truth, guys, I’m still not ready to put my feelings to paper. But I’ve been sitting on it long enough, and if I keep avoiding it, I won’t write it. This book is probably one of the most emotional and intense of Clare’s books, and the last book in The Dark Artifices series is one that I will never forget. I was absolutely blown away, and I’m so very happy and sad that it’s all over!

                Queen of Air and Darkness picks up where Lord of Shadows left off, with the Blackthorn family and Emma Carstairs shattered after a horribly traumatic death. Left reeling over it, Julian makes a heartbreaking decision. Emma is desperate to keep the only family she’s ever had together, and The Clave is dangerously teetering, on the brink of a bloody civil war among Shadowhunters. One part of the family heads to Los Angeles to discover the cause of a dangerous disease that is decimating the warlock race. Meanwhile, Emma and Julian must put the thoughts of their forbidden love aside as they journey to Faerie to retrieve The Black Volume of the Dead. But the secrets waiting for them within the Court are dark, dangerous, and powerful, and may tear the foundation of the Shadowhunters apart. Caught in a deadly race against time, they must save the world before the dark power of the parabatai curse destroys them and everyone they care about…

                This book, to be completely frank, absolutely destroyed me, which is why I avoided it so long. It was beautifully written, and I adored the black and white illustrations throughout. That was such a cool bonus! As with all sequels, it took me a little bit of time to remember what was happening. But the pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately absorbed in the novel. I also enjoyed all the different points of view; one of the things I love about Clare’s books is the scope of them. I also really liked all of the Easter eggs left throughout the book: appearances of other familiar faces, secrets that I didn’t get throughout the series until this book. I was totally spellbound by this mammoth book; counting the bonus material, it was over eight hundred pages. This book absolutely gutted me, emotionally: I was laughing, or straight up ugly crying throughout. Nonetheless, this book was a great ending to one of my favorite Cassandra Clare offerings, meaty and dark and tender, and full of surprises! Especially that ending. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO ACCEPT THE END OF THIS WHEN IT ENDED LIKE THAT?! Come on, Cassandra, you’re killing me here! The bottom line: The last book in The Dark Artifices trilogy, Queen of Air and Darkness may be Cassandra Clare’s best book yet. Next on deck: No Beast So Fierce: The Terrifying True Story of the Champawat Tiger, the Deadliest Animal in History by Dane Huckelbridge!