Archive for the ‘book reviews’ Category:

DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY by Amanda Foody

 

A carnival-city? Murder mystery? A loyal girl with revenge in her heart? A battle between good and evil, real and fake? A little weird? WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT?!

20522640Novel: Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody | Goodreads
Release Date: July 25th, 2017
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Format: ARC
Source: Book Expo America 2017

A darkly irresistible new fantasy set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, a traveling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires.

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

At this point, you guys probably know how much I love fantasy. Like. I love it a lot. It’s become my little escape genre in recent years, overtaking contemporary as my go-to genre. (Besides, historical fiction, though–but historical just isn’t popular enough to sustain me, much to my dismay.)

SO!

Daughter of the Burning City was one of the few fantasy titles I picked up at BEA. (There just wasn’t that much there that piqued my interest, sadly.) I didn’t even know about it going into the day, but walked past the booth and saw the line wrapping around the corner and thought it would be worth my time to check out. And oh BOY was I rewarded!

This book is incredible.

Here’s how I pitched it to Aneeqah (because I pitch everything to Aneeqah in feel-y texts after reading):

  • a strong focus on family
  • super well-built world that doesn’t do that “let me explain everything to you blatantly like you’re stupid” thing
  • CRAZY cool concept i’m still struggling to get my head around
  • kick-butt main character who is super flawed
  • a tiny bit of romance
  • constantly throwing you for loops
  • a murder mystery! magic! intrigue!
  • people in cool clothes

I mean what more do you need in a book?

But in all seriousness, this book just blew me away a bit. And I think its because the writing didn’t jump off the page at me screaming HEY THIS IS GOING TO BE AMAZING!!!!!! Instead, I was drawn into the story because of how creative and interesting it was, and then I was quickly sucked in because of my attachment to the main character. Foody’s writing strikes a beautiful balance between stunning prose and an intricately woven story that you can’t help but what to keep reading.

And then there are these characters! Sorina is my heart. I relate to her in so many ways, as do I think a lot of people. That feeling of being an outsider, of craving the kind of family you hear and dream about, of wanting a happily-ever-after but not knowing if it will happen–she’s many of the teenagers I know and definitely the teenager I am. I was drawn to her by fierce loyalty to her family and how she battles to understand the difference between good and bad (a theme I adore in fantasy). Gomorrah is the perfect setting for a good vs. bad kind of story, and Foody executes it with precision.

Luca. My little Luca. He has a sliver of my heart with his weird clothes and gossip and unjudgemental approach to life. He is such a wonderful addition to the story and couldn’t imagine the book without his presence. I want to hang out with a Luca some day, please.

Although please don’t let him do his Gomorrah act in front of me. Please.

In conclusion, this book is a MUST BUY for fantasy lovers. A carnival-city? Murder mystery? A loyal girl with revenge in her heart? A battle between good and evil, real and fake? A little weird?

WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT?!

 

A CONJURING OF LIGHT made me cry

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Novel: A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Major, #3) by V.E. Schwab | Goodreads
Release Date: February 21st, 2017
Publisher: Tor Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

Witness the fate of beloved heroes – and enemies.

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED…
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

Was I ready to read this book? NO.

Did I read it anyways? ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY.

My love for this series I believe is fairly well known (you can read my feels-filled review of books 1 and 2 here) so obviously, I was super excited for book three. I went to Victoria’s signing in New York for A CONJURING OF LIGHT (sadly I missed the talk but got my book signed!) and she was a gem. Super nice and willing to take a picture (or two) with Alexandra, Jessica, and I.

SO. THE BOOK.

I was in love.

am in love.

It’s one long book but I was engaged from start to finish. Action, deceit, surprises, emotion–it was all there. Even some lovvveeeee (yeEK) which made me text Xan excitedly. It was a beautiful conclusion to the series.

One of my favorite things about this book was the way Holland’s character developed. You not only get a POV from Holland, but also really understand him for the first time. You see memories of his childhood, which means you get a better understand of why he ended up the way he did. Instead of being solely a villain, Holland becomes a character you care about and want the best for, which really surprised me. However, this transition is something Victoria Schwab is a pro at. None of her villains are one-sided–none of them are solely villains. They’re always complex people with pasts that make you question how bad they truly are.

Another thing that I adored about A CONJURING OF LIGHT was the overall plot. Schwab introduces a new element to the book that, for me, represented dark magic as a whole. It causes the reader to think about what dark magic truly is and what the line is. And how you treat people who fall under the spell of dark magic. This idea is so applicable to real life–how do we treat people who fall victim to dark practices? People who we are told are evil–are they really evil? How do we separate evil from good? What’s the line?

Lastly, Victoria Schwab just finished out the series so perfectly. It wasn’t a purely happy ending, but it wasn’t heartbreaking either. It left me perfectly content, and at the end I felt like I could leave the series happily. I finished knowing where all the characters were standing, and also what was coming next for them. I could imagine the future for all of them, something I loved and is fairly uncommon for the large part. Usually, you can see the present, but can’t imagine the future for characters.  However, at the end of A CONJURING OF LIGHT I was left emotionally exhausted but happy.

I texted Aneeqah saying, “THAT ENDING WAS SO PERFECT O M  G” which I think encapsulates my feelings well. It was just a plain perfect ending. And the book was perfect too. Utterly perfect.

What do I read now?

How can I possibly move on?

HELP ME FRIENDS I’M EMOTIONALLY DISTRAUGHT AT THE CONCLUSION OF THIS SERIES.

 

An odyssey, a girl, and a greenhouse | KIDS OF APPETITE by David Arnold

20522640Novel: Kids of Appetite by David Arnold | Goodreads
Release Date: September 20th, 2016
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Format: ARC
Source: BookPeople Teen Press Corps

The bestselling author of Mosquitoland brings us another batch of unforgettable characters in this tragicomedy about first love and devastating loss.

Victor Benucci and Madeline Falco have a story to tell.
It begins with the death of Vic’s father.
It ends with the murder of Mad’s uncle.
The Hackensack Police Department would very much like to hear it.
But in order to tell their story, Vic and Mad must focus on all the chapters in between.

This is a story about:

1. A coded mission to scatter ashes across New Jersey.
2. The momentous nature of the Palisades in winter.
3. One dormant submarine.
4. Two songs about flowers.
5. Being cool in the traditional sense.
6. Sunsets & ice cream & orchards & graveyards.
7. Simultaneous extreme opposites.
8. A narrow escape from a war-torn country.
9. A story collector.
10. How to listen to someone who does not talk.
11. Falling in love with a painting.
12. Falling in love with a song.
13. Falling in love.

Somehow, I never got around to reading Mosquitoland, so I promised myself I would read Kids of Appetite. I already knew David Arnold was a fantastic writer, but I didn’t realize what a phenomenal writer he was until I started reading.

There was a moment early on in the book when I stopped reading and thought, “He is one heck of a writer.” (And just for context, I don’t usually do that – stop reading to have thoughts.) The thing that struck me about the writing style was its uniqueness. Not only did each character have a voice characteristic to them, but the book as a whole was beautiful, honest, and utterly raw – all things that arose primarily from the writing itself.

As far as the characters go, I adored them all. Their friendship, their easy banter, how loving and kind they were, how when one person needed help, they all showed up. I loved the little greenhouse where they lived, the journeys they went on to finish Vic’s dad’s list, and how despite their different backgrounds, they all meshed in a beautiful way.

One of my pet peeves in YA is when the parents and family are mysteriously absent, but despite the parents being absent for most of the book, it didn’t bother me. I think this was partly because family was such a strong element of the characters’ growth. For example, despite Vic’s parents not being physically present for the majority of the book, Vic’s relationship with his mother and father was a large part of not only his growth as a character, but also the overall story development. I loved the way Arnold wrapped up the book as well, because it resolved elements of the plot, but left others open to interpretation (my favorite endings do this!)

So, in conclusion, I’m in love with Kids of Appetite. It’s a phenomenal story of growing up, friendship, and being unique,three of the most important things teens need to read about, in my opinion. So, thunderous applause for Kids of Appetite, and I’m already desperately awaiting David Arnold’s next book.

 

High school drama, but in a futuristic NYC | THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR by Katharine McGee

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Novel: The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee | Goodreads
Release Date: August 30th, 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: ARC
Source: Barnes & Noble (employee perk)

New York City as you’ve never seen it before. A thousand-story tower stretching into the sky. A glittering vision of the future, where anything is possible—if you want it enough.

Welcome to Manhattan, 2118.

A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose.

Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.

Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one?

Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.

And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Debut author Katharine McGee has created a breathtakingly original series filled with high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, where the impossible feels just within reach. But in this world, the higher you go, the farther there is to fall….

I really wanted to like this book. I’d heard fantastic things from Margot at Epic Reads and from Grace over at Words Like Silver (her review here), and since I trust their opinions so much, I thought hey, I’ll like it too.

And although there definitely were elements of this story I enjoyed, the majority of it fell flat for me. Essentially, the book felt like high school drama but set in a tower. This book would’ve probably appealed to younger Willa, but after everything else I’ve read recently, this one just didn’t do it for me.

The main reason I had problems with the book was how it felt like a drama-filled contemporary. The story had five narrators, which I didn’t really have a big issue with, but all of their problems revolved around one of two things: their family or romantic problems. Each one of the characters was in a relationship, and honestly, I didn’t really like any of the people they were with (except Mariel – I loved Mariel). I didn’t really care about any of their relationships either – for me, if the book is going to revolve around a romance, it’s got be a romance I am DEEPLY invested in. But, I think the fact that there were five different relationships happening meant that I simply didn’t care enough about any of them.

The family issues I could get behind, but I wanted their familial problems to play a bigger role in the story than they did. They felt like a bit of an afterthought, honestly, and the reader only got to know a couple of the characters’s families. #missingparentsyndrome was in full swing for a few of the characters.

The other issue I had was that a lot of the drama somehow had to deal with class issues. In the tower, the higher up you are the more money and status you have. Two of the narrators, Watt and Rylin are from downTower, but they both become entwined in upTower drama, and it caused so many problems for them. I continually wanted to bang my head against a wall and tell them to just leave the upTower people behind because NONE OF THEM WERE GOOD ENOUGH TO CARE THIS MUCH ABOUT. The tension between up and downTower characters felt so cliche and just…uninteresting, and when it was combined with a relatively superficial relationship it just didn’t work for me.

Then we have the overall setting of the novel, which is Manhattan in a tower. The technology is incredibly advanced – phones in contacts (essentially), self-driving cars, hovercars, automated checks of someone’s vitals. Parts of the technology I loved, mainly because McGee did a fantastic job of immersing you in the setting without outright explaining each little detail of the technology. However, this isn’t my favorite kind of sci-fi. I prefer space sci-fi far more, so this kind just didn’t really do it for me. (Also, what was weird: the rest of the world didn’t seem to be so technologically advanced…? I wanted more on the whole WORLD not just New York, because, you know, The US isn’t the center of the world.)

So, sadly, I was not a fan of this book. The characters didn’t have a lot of growth over the course of the story, it felt like a high-school reality TV show in a futuristic setting, and there’s going to be an unnecessary sequel. (Seriously though. Not only was the book too long, but there’s going to be another one?! Kind of unnecessary, in my opinion, considering I don’t really care about any of the characters.) Also, there’s going to be a TV show apparently, and I kind of feel like it’s going to be a better show than book, considering how much drama the writers will have to work with.

I’m disappointed this one didn’t work out for me, since I had such high hopes, but let me know if you enjoy it! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Raw, beautiful, and real | SECOND CHANCE SUMMER by Morgan Matson

20522640Novel: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson | Goodreads
Release Date: May 8th, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

 

Taylor Edwards’ family might not be the closest-knit—everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled—but for the most part, they get along just fine. Then Taylor’s dad gets devastating news, and her parents decide that the family will spend one last summer all together at their old lake house in the Pocono Mountains.

Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former best friend is still around, as is her first boyfriend…and he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.

As the summer progresses and the Edwards become more of a family, they’re more aware than ever that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance—with family, with friends, and with love.

I am such a sucker for books about family. They automatically make any book a MILLION times better for me, and I think Second Chance Summer may take the cake on the portrayal of a family dynamic.

The story is all about Taylor’s family reconnecting during her father’s last months. They go to a lake house where they summered every year until Taylor was twelve, and at first, none of them are all that happy to be there. But once they begin to adjust, find friends, and reconnect, it becomes a beautiful summer. Scenes of Taylor talking with her older brother, having breakfast with her dad at a diner, and having dinner together as a family made me so, so happy. You rarely see moments like that in YA – especially little ones like dinners, heartfelt conversations, and witty banter. Usually, family dynamics in YA serve a purpose, but in Second Chance Summer Taylor’s family feels like a given. Of course they’d be so present in the story, and the story wouldn’t be the same without them in it. I loved the family dynamic that Matson created, and this is something I think all of her books truly excel at – family is always incredibly present in the story.

One of the other things I adored in the book was the focus on forgiveness. Taylor’s main issue with returning to Lake Phoenix was that her former best friend and first boyfriend would most likely still be there, and they aren’t exactly on good terms. Over the course of the story, Taylor has to forgive herself for her actions all those years ago, and also for the way she handles situations when she gets nervous or scared. She has to learn to stop running away, a theme that I and I think many other people deeply relate to.

And then they’re the heart-breaking reality of the cancer consuming Taylor’s father. For much of the book, his cancer doesn’t take a main role in the story. Instead, it’s there, in the background of the story, only brought up when moments remind Taylor of her father’s declining health. However, reading about Taylor watching her father slowly die in front of her just broke me in half. It’s such a raw and honest narration of that experience, and I think a different perspective than many of the “cancer books” in YA. In Second Chance Summer, the focus is on making those last moments hold meaning and purpose. On creating lasting memories and showing people how much they mean to us. I think those themes will be relatable to anyone, no matter if they’ve lost someone or not. The heartbreak of an impending loss of someone we love, I think, is universal.

My only complaint is that as much as I loved Henry and his and Taylor’s relationship, it felt a bit rushed. I didn’t quite ship them together as much as I wanted to, and I think that was because I didn’t know Henry very well. I wish I had seen more of him earlier in the book. However, I adored Taylor’s rekindled friendship with Lucy, because it reminded me of rekindled friendships I’ve had over the years, and how beautiful summer friends are.

Second Chance Summer is an emotional, raw, and beautiful story about love, loss, and family dynamics, and is an absolute treasure.