Archive for the ‘book reviews’ Category:

One day + inventive storytelling | THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR by Nicola Yoon

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Novel: The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon | Goodreads
Release Date: November 1st, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: ARC
Source: BookPeople Teen Reviewing

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

I’ve read enough books set over the course of one day to know that they are usually not my cup of tea. I struggle with the insta-love that tends to happen, a lacking setting, and not enough character development. But then I read The Sun Is Also a Star and it became the anomaly in this grouping because it was amazing. 

Me upon finishing:

Nicola Yoon’s debut, Everything, Everything definitely hit me in the feels, but I also had a complicated relationship with it. The book made me angry. It made me hate the mother, angry that the entire story felt like a lie, and that made the reading experience not incredibly enjoyable for me. BUT! The Sun Is Also a Star blew me away.

I consumed this book.

I was immediately struck by two unique characters: a girl about to be deported, and a boy going to an admissions interview for Yale, a school he doesn’t even want to go to. They were dynamic and raw and real from page one, and I think it was this connection to the characters that kept me reading. Then their banter hit me in the feels and the evolving romance broke me half and the TENSION and the question of whether or not Natasha would be deported…I just…I couldn’t stop reading.

The story is beautiful. It’s real. It’s not a happily-ever-after ending, but I think that’s what I loved so much about it. I loved that the ending was a testament to true life: that people’s choices impact our own. (I’m not going to say anything more because I don’t want to spoil but if you’ve read you know what I’m talking about because I was literally YELLING AT THE BOOK at that ending.) Nicola Yoon does a fantastic job of building tension over the course of the book as well as allowing the characters to evolve organically. I loved the character development and how they pushed each other to be honest with themselves.

My #2 favorite thing: the random bits of history about random characters, words, or concepts. There are these short chapters scattered throughout the story told from the perspective of a minor character or someone Natasha and Daniel encounter in passing, or of a scientific concept Natasha mentions. These chapters added a new dimension to the story and allowed the book to feel well-rounded and well-developed, despite the short time frame in which it’s set.

And then my #3 favorite thing: THE FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS. JUST. YES, NICOLA. THANK YOU. Thank you for authentic family dynamics, for complex relationships with heritage, for apologies and understanding. Thank you thank you thank you thank you. The family parts broke me almost as much as the romance did.

So, in conclusion, I loved The Sun Is Also a Star, and I desperately hope this one is as popular as Everything, Everything was, if not more. Yoon has crafted a honest story about heritage, growing up, and love, and I loved every second of it.

Mini Reviews: July 2016

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This month has been full of writing. I marathoned finishing my manuscript (I wrote about forty thousand words in two weeks #dead), so I put reading on the backburner. However, I still managed to make it through these five books, all of which I adored. I started but didn’t finish (sadly) Draw The Line by Laurent Linn and Empire of Dust by Eleanor Herman, which I was really looking forward to but just didn’t engage me enough to continue. Currently, I’m reading The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, which I’m in love with and plan to sit down with and finish this evening.

On to the reviews!

T18081228he Orphan QueenThe Mirror King by Jodi Meadows | Katherine Tegen Books

I read this series per Aneeqah’s request, and it was exactly what I needed. This summer I’ve been loving addicting fantasy series and this one had a perfect mixture of royalty, deceit, friendship, action, and hints of romance. It’s about a young queen who fled her nation as a child when it was invaded, and for the past ten years, she’s been plotting to regain her rightful throne. When she travels to Skyvale Palace in a disguise, she encounters a boy from her childhood, and what she learns from him could change everything.

The Mirror King was an exhilarating sequel and wrapped this duology up wonderfully. It gave me an even bigger appreciation for duologies, which I’m growing to love!

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This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab | Greenwillow Books

After reading A Darker Shade of Magic, I knew Victoria Schwab was on my favorite authors list, and This Savage Song has cemented my love for her. A dystopian story about monsters who roam free, told through alternating points of view of a monster who wants to be a boy, and a girl who wants to be deadly. They team up after a thrilling turn of events and the friendship that emerges teaches them both that their assumptions were wrong: a monster can be kind, and the daughter of a ruthless mayor is more than her heritage. It’s packed with action, world-building, and incredible writing–the recipe for a Victoria Schwab book.

If you somehow have missed This Savage Song, which hit the New York Times Bestsellers List (!!!!) then go out and get yourself a copy–it won’t disappoint. (also i’m in desperate need of book two omgomgomg)

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The Graces by Laure Eve | Amulet Books (out September 6th, 2016)

I stumbled across this one on Grace’s Instagram (which is gorgeous and full of good book recommendations) and when I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy I jumped at the opportunity. I’m a sucker for unusual and twisted contemporary, and The Graces is the epitome of that–about a girl who befriends a trio of elusive magical-yielding siblings. I loved River, the main character, for her fiery personality, honesty, and relatability, and her friendship with Summer Grace made the book for me. River has a crush on the beautiful Fenrin Grace, the male twin of Thalia Grace, who no one really gets. The book is about River’s friendship with them and how she uncovers the secrets of the Graces–and of a tragic accident that changes everything.

The Graces is perfect for fans of magical realism and books that make you question what’s real and what’s not–I adored it! It’s also the start of a series, which I’m super hyped for.

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The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter | Philomel Books

I’ve been looking at this one for a while, but when Jeff Zentner (author of The Serpent King) told me I needed to read it, I immediately went out and got it from my library. That night, I started and proceeded to consume this book. In the vein of Kathleen Glasgow’s Girl in Pieces, which I recently read and adored, The First Time She Drowned is about a girl who gets out of a mental institution (which she was put in against her will) and heads off to college. But college isn’t what she was expecting. Her past can’t seem to stay in the past, and Cassie is barely keeping her head above water.

The First Time She Drowned is a heart-wrenching and beautiful story of healing. Cassie’s story of growing up and confronting her past is one that readers will fall as in love with as I did. Kletter’s writing is haunting and lyrical and will pull you in from the first line: “My mother wore the sun like a hat.”


I hope you enjoyed some mini-reviews and go check these titles out–they’re all five star reads from me!

 

Thoughts on GIRL IN PIECES by Kathleen Glasgow

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I read a lot. (That’s a fairly well-known fact, especially if you check my Goodreads profile and see how many books I read in a year.) I read many different genres–fantasy, contemporary, dystopian, science fiction, literary, even some memoirs and non-fiction. I read pretty much everything.

But there’s this certain kind of book that I’ve always gravitated towards.

The “sad” books. The “hard” books. The books that push us to read about pain and grief and suffering and healing–the kind of books that make us sit in un-comfortability and force us to feel. The books about addiction, about screwing up, about depression, about self-harm, about abuse.

The thing about books like these is that they aren’t fantasy. They aren’t made up. Sure, the characters may be, but that plot? That idea? That topic? That’s not made up. That’s real. That pain? Real.

Growing up, I’ve been blessed to not live through that kind of pain, but I’ve always read books about it. These books made me realize that everyone has their own kind of pain, their own demons, their own daily struggle. Whether it be a parent’s divorce, a guilt that you can’t shake, a friend who you’ve been trying to let go of for years and just can’t. These books made me realize that all of our pain is valid and real and that we’re not alone.

Girl in Pieces reminded me of all of this. It reminded me of why I fell in love with Jellicoe Road six years ago, why Wild Awake still gets me thinking, why What We Saw made me understand in a different way. It reminded me why we all read–we read to understand. We read to understand people’s lives, to understand our own, to get a telescope into a new dimension we ourselves don’t experience. We read to feel. To feel deeply and fully and without questions.

And these books? These “hard” books, the books that break us apart and leave us in a puddle of tears, begging the characters to heal, and aching to know what their lives become? These books are vital. These books change people’s lives. These are the kinds of books we have to read. These are the books we should give every teenager to remind them that they aren’t alone, that there are hundreds of people out there just like them. That they can heal.

Charlotte Davis is a girl with a past. A past filled with a father in a river, a mother with a palm on Charlotte’s cheek, a best friend who doesn’t want to feel anymore. A past with a home under an overpass, a past with glass shards and skin, a past with Frank who takes so much and gives nothing in return. Charlotte is, in many ways, broken. She’s what people would call broken, a girl who will never heal. Except Charlotte wants to heal. She wants to get better.

And Girl in Pieces is her story. Her story of pain and relapses and trying to get better and having all the wrong people in her life, but maybe a few good ones. Her story of drawing and washing dishes and getting her first apartment and stumbling through her life, searching for a new story.

Girl in Pieces is a book I don’t think I’ll ever forget, because it made me remember that we’re never alone. Not really. We may feel like we’re the only ones in the darkness, stumbling around for a light, but there’s always someone there, standing next to the switch, just waiting for us to ask them to turn it on. It made me remember that we all have our own Mikey, Blue, Linus, and Tanner. Our own Alice. Our own Casper. Our own Evan, our own Ellis.

Kathleen Glasgow has written a book that feels. It understands what it’s like to be human, to suffer, to want to heal, to struggle to keep it together. It understands what it’s like to start over, to find new friends, to find the good in people. It is real.

Girl in Pieces is a song I never wanted to end.

Londons, Magic, and Coats | The Shades of Magic Series

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Not too long ago, I gave into my long time desire to read A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. Schwab writes both adult and YA (under the name Victoria Schwab for YA), and I’d heard nothing but incredible things about her work. I was in the mood for a fantasy, and while I was at BookPeople browsing I stumbled across ADSOM on the shelves…and totally caved. A few weeks later, I dove into the book and barely came up for air. I was immediately pulled into the story and fell head over heels in love.

Novel: A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1) by V.E. Schwab | Goodreads
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: February 24th, 2015
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.

Officially, Kell is the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see, and it is this dangerous hobby that sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to take her with him for her proper adventure.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save both his London and the others, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — a feat trickier than they hoped.

Things I loved about ADSOM in a bullet-pointed list, because otherwise I’ll get too rambly:

  • The world building. Like holy WOW
  • Kell, aka smug and hilarious and caring and loyal
  • Lila, aka my dream BFF because she’s so kick-butt she gives Feyre (A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas) a run for her money
  • Sassy Rhy who I would like to meet Rhys of A Court of Thorns and Roses please
  • Evil Holland + the twins
  • Kell fancy-schmancy coat that I would like to borrow please and thank you
  • The magic that Schwab wrote about with incredible finesse. I was continually in shocked by how detailed the magic was, since commonly in fantasy the magic is discussed in this very conceptual way. Schwab, though, describes her magic like it’s tangible and real – making the world building even better.
  • All those Londons that are creepy but cool
  • The plot constantly kept me on my toes!
  • Started slow but got so fast-paced mid-way through (aka my favorite pacing)
  • that slow-burn romance though

Things I wish were different:

  • nothing
  • (possibly longer because I didn’t want it to end)

Conclusions:

  • GIMME GIMME GIMME MORE

So I naturally went out and bought A Gathering of Shadows about two weeks later, because my soul had to recover before I could put it through book two. And oh my word it somehow got better ???

Novel: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab | Goodreads
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: February 23rd, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift – back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games – an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries – a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

Things I loved about AGOS:

  • it was set almost entirely in Red London! (I love me some Red London)
  • Lila got her boat! Lila was a pirate! Lila got even more kick-butt! Lila also made many questionable choices! Lila made me very anxious but I survived!
  • Kell got a little bit angsty and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Also, coat got more intense and I cried a little bit.
  • Rhy got more time and omg I love him
  • Alucard!!!!!!!!!!! aka a pirate turned totally amazing magician who I’m in love with as well
  • (basically I love everyone????)
  • THERE ARE MAGICAL GAMES
  • lots of fun new magic is discussed and it somehow got more vivid and beautiful?
  • my ship sailed and I died a bit inside
  • Victoria Schwab joined my top 10 authors list after two books which is a feat in of itself
  • that cliffhanger split my soul into seven pieces and the Horcruxes are on different pages of the book

Things I wish were different:

  • I missed all of my Londons 🙁

In conclusion, I’m in love with this series and my heart will not be whole again until A Conjuring of Light comes out nExT yEaR and between now and then I will be eating my feels and crying in bed.

V.E. Schwab, I blame you.

((Also who else wants a book with Rhys + Feyre + Lila + Kell because I’m so up for this.))

Mini-Reviews | May/June

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Hello, all! I’ve been a bit out of the mood of blogging, and have also been really busy, and so I’ve decided to catch up on my reads with some mini-reviews. This may become a new thing for me, especially as I’m considering branching out into different things on the blog!

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Novel: The Rose and the Dagger (The Wrath and the Dawn, #2) by Renee Ahdieh | Goodreads
Release Date: April 26th, 2016
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought

This is the sequel to my beloved The Wrath and the Dawn, which I adored. The sequel is just as addicting and beautiful, detailing the lands outside of the city where TWaTD is set, and with a set of characters that weren’t as present in TWaTD. You see Shahrzad growing into her own person with her new power as Calipha, and struggling with her past. Khalid, the Caliph and her love, is in danger – Shahrzad’s childhood love is trying to kill him – and Shahrzad is caught in the middle. She struggles throughout the book with what the should do, how she can make things right, and how she can save her father, who has turned to the dark side.

The Rose and the Dagger was stunning. Incredibly well written (Ahdieh creates picturesque worlds that she describes wonderfully) and full of character development, two things I look for. And, it was a fantastic sequel! If you read TWaTD and haven’t gotten around to reading The Rose and the Dagger, you are severely missing out, because this one will break your heart and put it back together again. (Also: THERE’S AN EPILOGUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i love a good epilogue.)

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Novel: The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse | Goodreads
Release Date: April 5th, 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: ARC
Source: BookPeople Teen Press Corps

Everyone knows I’m a killer for a historical fiction novel, and I have a particular hankering for those set during/after World War II. This one is set in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation and is a heart-breaking yet beautiful picture of life under Nazi rule. Hanneke is a teenage girl mourning the loss of her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines, and works delivering black market goods to people in the city. When she’s asked to look for a Jewish girl who has escaped her safe place, Hanneke is thrust into a new world – one of rebellion and sacrifice. Hanneke for the first time learns of the horrible things being done to the Dutch Jews, and is in a race against deportation to find the girl who has gone missing.

I adored this book. I loved the way Hesse painted a picture of Amsterdam in 1943 – the food, the sounds, the smells of the streets. The heartbreak and pride and devastation. The betrayal of those who side with the Nazis. The fear. Hanneke also grows so much over the course of the book, and I loved seeing the woman she becomes by the end. (Also, this book isn’t heavy on romance!) If you’re a fan of historical fiction, this is one you have to read – I can’t recommend it enough!

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Novel: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma | Goodreads
Release Date: March 24th, 2015
Publisher: Algoquin Young Readers
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

 

I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages, and it took me an A Novel Chat episode to finally do it! It’s our book for June, so if you’ve read the book, or are interested, I highly recommend checking the podcast out.

One thing cannot be argued with: Suma is one heck of a writer. She has this lyrical, mesmerizing style that I fell in love with. As far as the book goes, I liked it okay. I had some issues with the narration of the story, mainly. The book is told from two points of view: Amber, a girl at a juvenile detention center, and Violet, a girl with hopes of being a prima ballerina. Violet has lost her best friend, Orianna, who has been arrested and sent to the juvenile detention center Amber is at. Personally, I didn’t like the choice of narrators. I felt like Orianna should’ve had a point of view, and either Amber or Violet needed to go.

This book not only messes with your mind but also was hard to follow for me. The beginning never seemed to really make sense with the rest of the story, and this was a theme throughout the book for me – I never quite understood how everything pieced together. Which is key, I think, when you’re writing a book where the two narrators have difference timelines. (Violet after Orianna is sent away, Amber before/during.)

However, the writing and the desire to know what happened in the end kept me going. I don’t know if I’d recommend this one highly or not, but I know this was not the book for me.

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Novel: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson | Goodreads
Release Date: May 3rd, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Format: ARC
Source: BookPeople Teen Press Corps

I’m a huge fan of Morgan Matson. I love her as a person, as a writer, and I love her books just as much. The Unexpected Everything was just what the title says – unexpectedly everything I could’ve wanted. It’s a perfect book for the summer, all about friendship, growing up, falling in love, and taking risks.

Andie, the main character, is thrown for a loop when her summer plans of a prestigious internship are trashed by a scandal involving her politician father. And then, Andie ends up walking dogs for her summer job. And (maybe) dating a cute boy name Clark?

Andie struggles throughout the book with her future, something I relate so much. But I think this book has a really important message – that although working hard is incredibly important, so is having fun and enjoying yourself. As teenagers, we can get caught up in what we “have” to do to have a “good” future and forget to enjoy the now. I loved seeing Andie spend time her friends (who I ADORED) and find someone who gets her in the way she needed. She grows so much over the course of a summer, and by the end of the book (which I binge read on my couch), I was in love with Andie, her friends, Clark (HEART EYES), her dad, and all of the dogs and wanted another book. If you’re a fan of contemporary summer reads, this one is a definite must-read for you!