Jinxed

Lacey Chu has big dreams of becoming a companioneer for MONCHA, the largest tech firm in North America and the company behind the  “baku” – a customisable smart pet that functions as a phone but makes the perfect companion too. When Lacey finds out she hasn’t been accepted into Profectus – the elite academy for cutting edge tech – it seems her dreams are over. Worst of all, rather than getting to choose one of the advanced bakus, she’s stuck with a rubbish insect one. 

Then, one night, Lacey comes across the remains of an advanced baku. Once it might’ve been in the shape of a cat but it’s now mangled and broken, no sign of electronic life behind its eyes. Days of work later and the baku opens its eyes. Lacey calls him Jinx – and Jinx opens up a world for her that she never even knew existed, including entry to the hallowed halls of Profecus. Slowly but surely, Jinx becomes more than just a baku to Lacey – he becomes her perfect companion. But what is Jinx, really? His abilities far surpass anything written into his code or built into his motherboard. He seems to be more than just a robotic pet. He seems … real.

Jinxed, Amy McCulloch
January 7th, 2020

So what happens when you mix The Golden Compass with robots? You get Jinxed and it’s AWESOME.

Jinxed follows the story of young Lacey, who dreams of becoming a companioneer for Moncha Corp. A companioneer is like an engineer that builds companions,called bakus, which is what smart phones evolved into in this fictional near-future of North America. Basically, someone made daemons from The Golden Compass, but they’re smartphones and also your best friends. I loved this idea from the get-go.

Lacey wants to get into Profectus, an elite academy with direct ties to Moncha, but she doesn’t have the funds to do so. She works her butt off every day to get into Profectus and when she gets her decision letter, she’s heartbroken.

Then one day, she finds an abandoned baku after being chased by some bullies and works the entire summer to fix it. This baku, Jinx, is state-of-the-art and cutting edge, and he’s got the sarcastic tongue to prove it. He and Lacey become hesitant friends, since bakus aren’t supposed to talk, and she finds out the school’s decision has been reversed.

But Profectus isn’t what it seems, and the people Lacey has idolized for years suddenly lose their gleam when the cameras are off. Lacey soon finds herself in a heap of trouble, all thanks to Jinx.

That may have been my least favorite part of the book. Every plot point was made not by our main character, but by Jinx. And I can understand why, in the long run, and seeing Lacey figure her way out of the problems was great, but I wanted more agency from her. Lacey just ends up running frantically after Jinx for most of the plot, instead of Lacey getting herself into trouble.

Still, Jinxed was a fantastic read and I loved its imaginitive take on robotic companions.

My Rating:

⭐⭐⭐⭐


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Winter Cover Wraps

There’s nothing quite like a good ol’ aesthetic, isn’t there? It’s pretty and soothing and lots of fun to make. You’re not really procrastinating on your writing if you’re making a mood board full of aesthetics, are you? It’s an integral part of your process, by jove!

Once upon a time, we made posts called Cover Wraps. We’d take that month’s upcoming titles and make an aesthetics collage of some real pretty nail wraps that went along with the cover. Cause of course we judge a book by it’s cover!

So welcome to our Cover Wraps, Winter edition! Here are some of this winter’s coolest covers, alongside some aesthetic nail art.

Note: These nail arts belong to BeneYou, formerly known as Jamberry. This is not an affiliation post, nor are we sponsored by them. You can find all of these wraps and more on their website.

Infinity Son

Balancing epic and intensely personal stakes, bestselling author Adam Silvera’s Infinity Son is a gritty, fast-paced adventure about two brothers caught up in a magical war generations in the making.

Dark and Deepest Red

With McLemore’s signature lush prose, Dark and Deepest Red pairs the forbidding magic of a fairy tale with a modern story of passion and betrayal.

All the Stars and Teeth

Set in a kingdom where danger lurks beneath the sea, mermaids seek vengeance with song, and magic is a choice, Adalyn Grace’s All the Stars and Teeth is a thrilling fantasy for fans of Stephanie Garber’s Caraval and Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series.

Of Curses & Kisses

From the New York Times bestselling author of When Dimple Met Rishi comes the first novel in a brand-new series set at an elite international boarding school, that’s a contemporary spin on Beauty and the Beast.

Havenfall

A safe haven between four realms. The girl sworn to protect it–at any cost.

Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worlds–each with their own magic–together. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return.

All Your Twisted Secrets

This thrilling debut, reminiscent of new fan favorites like One of Us Is Lying and the beloved classics by Agatha Christie, will leave readers guessing until the explosive ending.

The King's Questioner

From the author of ‘The Midnight Dance’ comes an epic YA fantasy featuring royal drama, dark magic, and a secret that could topple a kingdom.

Kalen has been cursed with a gift: he’s a mental picklock, able to access a person’s memories and secrets by touch. His skills make him the perfect questioner to the king, and he spends his days interrogating prisoners of the crown.

But when Kalen’s estranged childhood friend, Prince Cirrus, falls into a sudden coma, the king begs Kalen to intervene. By accessing Cirrus’ mind, Kalen saves his life—and uncovers a terrifying secret. The prince has a sister, banished long ago, and she is the key to the destruction or survival of the kingdom.

With the help of Cirrus and a silver-haired thief named Luna, Kalen must find the princess and bring her home. Or risk death at the hands of his king.

The King’s Questioner, Nikki Katz
January 14th, 2020

The King’s Questioner had such great promise. It was an awesome premise; a mental picklock, secrets, magic, drama! But the execution…

It fell short of every expectation. The characters were one-dimensional, there was a lack of pacing and nothing to hook me. I was intrigued enough to get nearly 1/4 of the way through, but I just kept turning the page, hoping something would be better than on the previous one.

That was never the case.

I ended up constantly thinking about other books I could be reading instead of this one and it sucked. I wanted to like it. The King’s Questioner had so many elements I love, but it just didn’t work for me.

My Rating:
DNF.


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February First Impressions

February is the month of chocolates, dates, and staying in to finish that book. Is romance your guilty pleasure genre? Because I don’t think it’s mine.

Break The Fall – Jennifer Iacopelli

Audrey Lee is going to the Olympics. 

A year ago, she could barely do a push up as she recovered from a spine surgery, one that could have paralyzed her. And now? She’s made the United States’ gymnastics team with her best friend, Emma, just like they both dreamed about since they were kids. She’s on top of the world. 

The pressure for perfection is higher than ever when horrifying news rips the team apart. Audrey is desperate to advocate for her teammate who has been hurt by the one person they trusted most–but not all the gymnasts are as supportive. 

With the team on the verge of collapse, the one bright spot in training is Leo, her new coach’s ridiculously cute son. And while Audrey probably (okay, definitely) shouldn’t date him until after the games, would it really be the end of the world? 

Balancing the tenuous relationship between her teammates with unparalleled expectations, Audrey doesn’t need any more distractions. No matter what it takes, she’s not going to let anyone bring them down. But with painful revelations, incredible odds, and the very real possibility of falling at every turn, will Audrey’s determination be enough? 

Break the Fall, Jennifer Iacopelli 
February 18, 2020

The pain and drama in the first three bits really had me excited to read the rest of the back cover. A story about gymnastics is definitely a sport I know nothing about. Other than the fact that the Olympians are in way better shape than I’ll ever be in my entire life. And they have better focus while flipping upside down than I do sitting down to write. Plus, add on whatever the “horrifying news that rips the team apart” that is that one of Audrey Lee’s teammates has been hurt by the one person they trusted most” has my mind spinning with excitement. 

But then comes the paragraph about Leo, the coach’s son. I hope reading this book, Leo is actually a Z story. Yes, not A-story, not B-Story, not even C-Story. I want that romantic relationship or crush as far away from the plot as possible. Is that an anti-Valentine’s Day thing to say? Yes, most definitely. But alas, Leo is going to have to be a mix of Ryan Reynolds with Trevor Noah and a dash of Idris Elba for me to give him the time of day. 

The only thing that makes me hesitant about this story is the romantic aspect, otherwise though, I would probably still pick up. Depends the importance of Leo though that would keep Audrey Lee’s story by Jennifer Iazopelli in my shopping cart though.

The Upside of Falling – Alex Light

It’s been years since seventeen-year-old Becca Hart believed in true love. But when her former best friend teases her for not having a boyfriend, Becca impulsively pretends she’s been secretly seeing someone. 

Brett Wells has it all. Being captain of the football team and one of the most popular guys in school, he should have no problem finding someone to date, but he’s always been more focused on his future than who to bring to prom. When he overhears Becca’s lie, Brett decides to step in and be her mystery guy. It’s the perfect solution: he gets people off his back for not dating and she can keep up the ruse. 

 Acting like the perfect couple isn’t easy though, especially when you barely know the other person. But with Becca still picking up the pieces from when her world was blown apart years ago and Brett just barely holding his together now, they begin to realize they have more in common than they ever could have imagined. When the line between real and pretend begins to blur, they are forced to answer the question: is this fake romance the realest thing in either of their lives? 

The Upside of Falling, Alex Light
February 18, 2020

The cover has me hesitant. If I’m being honest. It looks cute, sure, but it makes me wonder what separates it from other Young Adult romance novels out there. I hope there’s more to this story than a modern novelization of She’s All That. The concern being that I want a story that pushes the Young Adult romance genre forward, not retreats back into tropes. 

Figuring out what makes this story would be the catch for me. What is there about it that makes me want to recommend this to someone? Or what is there that makes me want to read this again? There’s quitter a bit of intrigue about what is going on in Becca’s life that was so bad to make her give up on true love at the age of seventeen. Some trauma that is years old could certainly make this sweet looking book have some savory flavor to it. Also, Brett Wells is hopefully made more dynamic than a jock with eyes on the future. 

I would love to know what about their lives is fake versus real and so I would definitely pick this up to review, but I’m not quite sure if this book would get a buy from me yet. I guess that means the backside does its job, but indifference isn’t exactly what back covers are aiming for.

Miss You Love You Hate You Bye – Abby Sher

Zoe and Hank (short for Hannah) have been inseparable since they met in elementary school. The leader of the pack, Zoe is effortlessly popular while Hank hides comfortably in her shadow. But when Zoe’s parents unexpectedly divorce, Zoe’s perfect facade starts cracking little by little. Sinking under the weight of her broken family, Zoe develops an eating disorder. Now she must rely on Hank for help. 

Hank struggles to help Zoe; after all, she is used to agreeing, not leading. How can she help her best friend get better before it’s too late? 

Written partially in letters from Zoe and mostly in narrative from Hank’s perspective, Miss You Love You Hate You Bye is a poignant and eye-opening novel about friendship, mental health, and learning to put yourself first. 

Miss You Love You Hate You Bye, Abby Sher
February, 18, 2020

A story of friendship will always catch me, especially one about a friendship where actual jeopardy is at stakes. From this back cover I am already in love with the friendship of Zoe and Hank and want them to be best friends forever. That being said, how can you not want to root for Hank and Zoe here? It is very interesting to me that the novel is mostly from Hank’s perspective. I think a story about seeing a friend go through these mentally, emotionally, and physically challenging situations is an interesting choice by the author, Abby Sher. 

Also, the cover? Gosh is it cool. Whoever designed it should get ten free coffees and a raise or something because it forces your eyes to see it and your hands to grab it. I think this book would be heartbreaking to read and yet important for young readers as well as older readers to experience. 

This one will certainly have my eyes on the prowl for it come publication day to learn more about Zoe and Hank (short for Hannah)

Yes No Maybe So – Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed

YES
Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state senate candidate—as long as he’s behind the scenes. When it comes to speaking to strangers (or, let’s face it, speaking at all to almost anyone), Jamie’s a choke artist. There’s no way he’d ever knock on doors to ask people for their votes…until he meets Maya.

NO
Maya Rehman’s having the worst Ramadan ever. Her best friend is too busy to hang out, her summer trip is canceled, and now her parents are separating. Why her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing—with some awkward dude she hardly knows—is beyond her.

MAYBE SO
Going door to door isn’t exactly glamorous, but maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world. After all, the polls are getting closer—and so are Maya and Jamie. Mastering local activism is one thing. Navigating the cross-cultural romance of the century is another thing entirely.

Yes No Maybe So, Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed
February 4, 2020

The “Yes” of this back cover has to be the political intrigue. A story about political canvassing, especially in today’s political climate, is so incredibly important. I am fascinated to know the way that both Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed develop this story for Jamie and Maya. 

The “Maybe So” about this back cover is the cross-cultural romance going on. Sure, I can’t poo all over every love story coming out in Valentine’s Day otherwise a cherub with a bow and arrow will take me out on my walk to the bookstore. This romance has me going “maybe so” because of the stage it’s on. It’s in a book tackling political issues during an already controversial election year. If that stage for two lovers doesn’t interest you, then you really do need a visit from Cupid. 

The “No” of this back cover is simply no I will not pass up on getting this book. A comedy about politics and young love sounds fantastic. Sure, that last sentence had like three negatives, but still…I had to make the joke work somehow. This is a definite buy for me.

The Gravity of Us – Phil Stamper

As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus. 

Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him. 

Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch. 

The Gravity of Us, Phil Stamper
February 4, 2020

I’m pretty sure we’ve discussed this book on the podcast a few times. If not, maybe I just talk to people on the phone about it regularly. Very few books get me as excited as this book does. As far as I’m concerned it has everything! 

Space! 

Young gay love! 

Being contemporary! 

Everything I’ve ever wanted in a book. To be clear, the young lovers are not in space, they are on Earth. But who cares when there’s sparks flying between them. (Also, see I don’t hate love.) Now all that’s left is to see if Phil Stamper’s debut novel is a total blast or if we’re going to be calling Houston with a problem. Yes, I will see myself out now so I can go to the bookstore and pick this up.


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Book Quote Valentine's Day Cards

Every Other Weekend

Can life begin again…every other weekend?

Adam Moynihan’s life used to be awesome. Straight As, close friends and a home life so perfect that it could have been a TV show straight out of the 50s. Then his oldest brother died. Now his fun-loving mom cries constantly, he and his remaining brother can’t talk without fighting, and the father he always admired proved himself a coward by moving out when they needed him most.

Jolene Timber’s life is nothing like the movies she loves—not the happy ones anyway. As an aspiring director, she should know, because she’s been reimagining her life as a film ever since she was a kid. With her divorced parents at each other’s throats and using her as a pawn, no amount of mental reediting will give her the love she’s starving for.

Forced to spend every other weekend in the same apartment building, the boy who thinks forgiveness makes him weak and the girl who thinks love is for fools begin an unlikely friendship. The weekends he dreaded and she endured soon become the best part of their lives. But when one’s life begins to mend while the other’s spirals out of control, they realize that falling in love while surrounded by its demise means nothing is ever guaranteed.

Every Other Weekend, Abigail Johnson
January 7, 2020

How do I sum up this emotional rollercoaster in one of our short reviews? I don’t get emotional. I’m a self-proclaimed heartless monster. But I felt close to these characters and their pain was mine.

As a child of divorce, Jolene’s story hits especially close to home. And it’s an all too familiar story for so many. When people get divorced they have so much to divide and they often forget that children are people and not property.

Adam and Jolene are forced to grow up quickly and their slow-building reluctant friendship is truly touching to watch.

The characterization in Every Other Weekend was so well done that I’d believe it if these two walked straight off the page.

My Rating

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Upcoming February Titles

Love is in the air and it’s between us, and these books.

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

Set in a kingdom where danger lurks beneath the sea, mermaids seek vengeance with song, and magic is a choice, Adalyn Grace’s All the Stars and Teeth is a thrilling fantasy for fans of Stephanie Garber’s Caraval and Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series.

She will reign.

As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer—the master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but for Amora, it’s never been a choice. To secure her place as heir to the throne, she must prove her mastery of the monarchy’s dangerous soul magic.

When her demonstration goes awry, Amora is forced to flee. She strikes a deal with Bastian, a mysterious pirate: he’ll help her prove she’s fit to rule, if she’ll help him reclaim his stolen magic.

But sailing the kingdom holds more wonder—and more peril—than Amora anticipated. A destructive new magic is on the rise, and if Amora is to conquer it, she’ll need to face legendary monsters, cross paths with vengeful mermaids, and deal with a stow-away she never expected… or risk the fate of Visidia and lose the crown forever.

I am the right choice. The only choice. And I will protect my kingdom.

Pub Date: February 4th, 2020

The Queen’s Assassin by Melissa De La Cruz

Perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Red Queen, this is the first novel in a sweeping YA fantasy-romance duet about a deadly assassin, his mysterious apprentice, and the country they are sworn to protect from #1 NYT bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz.

Caledon Holt is the Kingdom of Renovia’s deadliest weapon. No one alive can best him in brawn or brains, which is why he’s the Guild’s most dangerous member and the Queen’s one and only assassin. He’s also bound to the Queen by an impossible vow–to find the missing Deian Scrolls, the fount of all magical history and knowledge, stolen years ago by a nefarious sect called the Aphrasians.

Shadow has been training all her life to follow in the footsteps of her mother and aunts–to become skilled enough to join the ranks of the Guild. Though magic has been forbidden since the Aphrasian uprising, Shadow has been learning to control her powers in secret, hoping that one day she’ll become an assassin as feared and revered as Caledon Holt.

When a surprise attack brings Shadow and Cal together, they’re forced to team up as assassin and apprentice to hunt down a new sinister threat to Renovia. But as Cal and Shadow grow closer, they’ll uncover a shocking web of lies and secrets that may destroy everything they hold dear. With war on the horizon and true love at risk, they’ll stop at nothing to protect each other and their kingdom in this stunning first novel in the Queen’s Secret series.

Pub Date: February 4th, 2020

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.

Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.

Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.

Pub Date: February 4th, 2020

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon

From the New York Times bestselling author of When Dimple Met Rishi comes the first novel in a brand-new series set at an elite international boarding school, that’s a contemporary spin on Beauty and the Beast.

Will the princess save the beast?

For Princess Jaya Rao, nothing is more important than family. When the loathsome Emerson clan steps up their centuries-old feud to target Jaya’s little sister, nothing will keep Jaya from exacting her revenge. Then Jaya finds out she’ll be attending the same elite boarding school as Grey Emerson, and it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. She knows what she must do: Make Grey fall in love with her and break his heart. But much to Jaya’s annoyance, Grey’s brooding demeanor and lupine blue eyes have drawn her in. There’s simply no way she and her sworn enemy could find their fairy-tale ending…right?

His Lordship Grey Emerson is a misanthrope. Thanks to an ancient curse by a Rao matriarch, Grey knows he’s doomed once he turns eighteen. Sequestered away in the mountains at St. Rosetta’s International Academy, he’s lived an isolated existence—until Jaya Rao bursts into his life, but he can’t shake the feeling that she’s hiding something. Something that might just have to do with the rose-shaped ruby pendant around her neck…

As the stars conspire to keep them apart, Jaya and Grey grapple with questions of love, loyalty, and whether it’s possible to write your own happy ending. 

Pub Date: February 18th, 2020

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

Pub Date: February 25th, 2020


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The Friendship Lie

Cora Davis’s life is garbage. Literally. Her professor parents study what happens to trash after it gets thrown away, and Cora knows exactly how it feels–to be thrown away. Between her mom and dad separating and a fallout with her best friend, fifth grade for Cora has been a year of feeling like being tossed into the dumpster. But Cora has learned a couple of things from her parents’ trash-tracking studies: Things don’t always go where they’re supposed to, and sometimes the things you thought you got rid of come back. And occasionally, one person’s trash is another’s treasure, which Cora and Sybella learn when they come across a diary detailing best-friendship problems. Told in two intertwining points of view, comes a warm, wry story of friendship, growing up, and being true to yourself. Written by Rebecca Donnelly, author of How to Stage a Catastrophe (an Indies Introduce and Indie Next List honoree), The Friendship Lie will speak to any reader who has struggled with what to hold on to and what to throw away.

-The Friendship Lie, Rebecca Donnelly

I was drawn right into the story with “Cora Davis’s life is garbage.” Is there anything more true to the tweenage experience? I say to you, no. Cora and Sybella are best friends, they have their own world, inside jokes, and the sheer ability to read each other’s minds through body language.

But a few things get in the way: Cora’s parents separate and Cora gets a little jealous that Sybella’s parents are still available; someone finds a poem that Cora wrote about her best friend that doesn’t paint her in the best light; and instead of talking to one another–both Sybella and Cora avoid each other like the plague.

The Friendship Lie is told through the best points of view: yours, mine, and the Truth. The alternating viewpoints gave us the whole truth of the situation, which is often something you don’t get in life or literature.

Perhaps the most accurate scene of social anxiety and depression, is when Cora begins to spiral downward as a bully begins to split up her friendship. Oh, no, Sybella saw the poem! Oh, no, I wrote the poem! But I don’t think it’s true! But maybe I do… The guilt that both parties feel about having hurt their best friend and the immense shame that keeps them from reaching out is well worth the read.

A great lesson on friendships and how each one is its own unique journey, The Friendship Lie should find its way onto your pre-order list and nestle its way onto your bookshelf.

Goodreads
Pub Date: Aud 1, 2019
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Belle Révolte

Emilie des Marais is more at home holding scalpels than embroidery needles and is desperate to escape her noble roots to serve her country as a physician. But society dictates a noble lady cannot perform such gruesome work. 

Annette Boucher, overlooked and overworked by her family, wants more from life than her humble beginnings and is desperate to be trained in magic. So when a strange noble girl offers Annette the chance of a lifetime, she accepts. 

Emilie and Annette swap lives—Annette attends finishing school as a noble lady to be trained in the ways of divination, while Emilie enrolls to be a physician’s assistant, using her natural magical talent to save lives. 

But when their nation instigates a frivolous war, Emilie and Annette must work together to help the rebellion end a war that is based on lies. 

Belle Révolte by Linsey Miller
February 4th, 2020

Reviewing fantasy books usually has me saying, “Oh, no…” but Belle Révolte had me cheering “Oh, hell yes!” the entire time. 

When a book’s first chapter starts with the line, “My mother did not shackle me despite my last escape attempt” you immediately fall in love with that character, Emilie, and the book. Then, when the next chapter starts off with the line, “I ate dirt as a child” you feel bad for ever loving anyone else before you met Annette. This story of Emilie and Annette switching lives in order to study the magic they are connected to is the epitome of what every switched identity story should be. 

Emilie de Marais is a very well-off noble that has more money than she knows what to do with, but she wants to prove that a person who helps by getting their hands dirty can help more than money can. She wants to study healing magic regardless of the tole it will take on her body. She’s what would happen if the “billionaire with a heart of gold” character actually did something for once instead of just throwing money at a problem until it goes away. That’s what makes Emilie, not only shine, but grow as a character as well as in your heart. 

Now, Annette Boucher. Enough cannot be said about Annette Boucher and how great she is. There are no words that can prove how great Annette is better than the ones that Linsey Miller has already written. She dreams of a greater life for herself just like everyone else, except because of her socioeconomic standing, she has to work harder than anyone else. That is, until Emilie de Marais gives her the shot to prove how great she is. They switch lives and find themselves in worlds they have never experienced before. 

Obviously the whole story is not just about Emilie and Annette. There’s plenty of other amazing characters that make you wish you were living in a world where the rebellious Laurel was attempting to overthrow a cruel king. Whether it’s Annette’s roommates, Coline and Isabelle, or Emilie’s classmates, Charles, Rainer, and Madeline, you’re going to wish that they were your roommates and classmates. Not only are they all incredibly funny and sincere, and feel like they deserve their own books (hint-hint wink-wink Linsey Miller, please?) but they also make you feel like you are in the world with them. 

Linsey Miller crafts a beautiful story of magic, sacrifice, and identity. This story is about more than rebellions to overthrow the corrupt rich and asking the question, “What would you sacrifice for the ones you love?” Belle Révolte explores what it really means to define yourself and your own destiny. Emilie proves that you do not need to follow others blindly. Emilie shows how people can truly make waves of change in the world through the smallest acts of independence and persistence. Meanwhile, Annette shows how no matter one’s roots, you decide what you want to grow to be. Annette’s story is one of defiance of fate and the strength of determination. Through this story, they both have many chances to quit. They have many chances to give up and live the lives they are expected to, but they do not. Emilie and Annette are more than amazing magical characters, they are inspirations of how you can overcome anything. 

I could not properly write a review of this book without talking about the magic. In Belle Révoltein order to do magic, there are physical sacrifices made by the caster. How frickin’ cool is that? Like if you want to heal someone’s broken arm, it’s going to burn the skin on your arm and your arm is going to hurt for days or weeks. So, now think about it. One of the characters, Emilie the rich girl, decides she WANTS to perform this kind of magic. Are you kidding me? She has the money to have people perform that magic for her, but she wants to be that caster, that healer, for other people. 

Why is that important? (Other than the obvious fact that this is a fantasy novel so, like, how the magic works is kind of like a major aspect of the story?) The rich and well-off casters, in the world of Belle Révolte, use the poor casters to make the sacrifices needed to cast magic. What? Yeah, you read that correctly. The rich feed off the poor magically in order to cast spells and no, the rich aren’t all like Emilie. So, I’m sure you can see where that might be a problem for some like those of the rebellious group known as Laurel. 

This book is one of those books that you want everyone to read so you can talk to them about how awesome it is and how emotionally painful it was for you. It’s also the type of book, that if your Dungeons and Dragons party has read it, will understand the choices you’re making for your new character that you just had to play as. As a person who normally loves contemporary stories and stays away from even the slightest hint of magic, unless it’s satirical, this book had me hooked from the beginning and left me demanding more. And yes, that’s also as a person who hates series and yet is begging Linsey Miller for more books in the Belle Révolte universe. 

If you like books about friendship, identity, queer love (yeah I didn’t even mention that because this book has everything), rebellions, magic, war, royalty, and diverse characters then pick this up. And if none of that tickles your fancy, then also pick it up because this book is so beautifully written you’ll find yourself wanting to read more fantasy books about awesome magical worlds. 

My Rating: 

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Interview An Author With Us!

We recently switched podcast hosting to Anchor.fm and we’re having all sorts of fun with it. One feature that we’re absolutely loving is MESSAGES! you can leave us a message at any time right here, but only our newsletter subscribers will know who’s coming up on the podcast.

As soon as we have a set date for an interview, whether it’s a week away or a whole month, we send out a special edition of the newsletter to let you know who’s stopping by.

Here are some authors you’ve already missed because you weren’t subscribed to our newsletter!

Linsey Miller

Emma Steinkellner

Sarah Jean Horwitz

Don’t miss out again! Sign up for the newsletter now!


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The Good Luck Girls

Westworld meets The Handmaid’s Tale in this stunning fantasy adventure from debut author Charlotte Nicole Davis.

Aster, the protector
Violet, the favorite
Tansy, the medic
Mallow, the fighter
Clementine, the catalyst

THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS

The country of Arketta calls them Good Luck Girls–they know their luck is anything but. Sold to a “welcome house” as children and branded with cursed markings. Trapped in a life they would never have chosen.

When Clementine accidentally murders a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by Arketta’s most vicious and powerful forces, both human and inhuman, their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one Good Luck Girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.

It’s going to take more than luck for them all to survive.

The Good Luck Girls is so incredibly unique and thrilling that I enjoyed reading every last bit of it. It was that lip-biting, nerve-wracking, gritty western with just a hint of magic that ticked off every box of mine. The writing was amazing and I couldn’t stop reading it.

There were a few things that needled me though. Some descriptors felt lacking, and I wanted more so that I could better picture everything. We start in Clementine’s perspective (which is, of course, a great place to start) but we never go back to her point of view. We go to Aster in the next chapter, and I ended up assuming we’d be switching between all the girls. But we stayed with Aster.

It was just jarring and never let me settle since I was always expecting a switch to another girl’s perspective. It never happened and I felt a little letdown. Mostly because that would have really solidified each character and given them a unique voice and perspective whereas they start to get muddled in the middle. There are a lot of characters traveling all at once and it’s too much to get to know everyone. I started to get lost.

But the story kept me going, at the very least, though I would have loved a deeper dive towards the end. It felt rushed on the back end, and I can see that it was an attempt to sell it as a standalone, despite there being a second book in the works.

I just hope we get the answers and the deep dive I wanted in The Good Luck Girls in its sequel.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

An Excerpt from A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – via EW

Last summer, Scholastic announced that the Hunger Games world was getting a prequel. Which excited us book nerds who were, strangely, eager to return to Panem. Slowly, very, very slowly, we got more information. TITLE: A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. PUB DATE: May 19th, 2020. And now, courtesy of EW and Scholastic Inc., we have a preview.

The grand staircase up to the Academy could hold the entire student body, so it easily accommodated the stream of officials, professors, and students headed for the reaping day festivities. Coriolanus climbed it slowly, attempting a casual dignity in case he caught anyone’s eye. People knew him—or at least they had known his parents and grandparents—and there was a certain standard expected of a Snow. This year, beginning this very day, he was hoping to achieve personal recognition as well. Mentoring in the Hunger Games was his final project before graduating from the Academy in midsummer. If he gave an impressive performance as a mentor, with his outstanding academic record, Coriolanus should be awarded a monetary prize substantial enough to cover his tuition at the University.

There would be twenty-four tributes, one boy and one girl from each of the twelve defeated districts, drawn by lottery to be thrown into an arena to fight to the death in the Hunger Games. It was all laid out in the Treaty of Treason that had ended the Dark Days of the districts’ rebellion, one of the many punishments borne by the rebels. As in the past, the tributes would be dumped into the Capitol Arena, a now-dilapidated amphitheater that had been used for sports and entertainment events before the war, along with some weapons to murder one another. Viewing was encouraged in the Capitol, but a lot of people avoided it. How to make it more engaging was the challenge.

Excerpt from The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes © 2020 by Suzanne Collins. Provided courtesy of Scholastic Inc.


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Diana Princess of the Amazons

Cut off from the rest of the world, Diana had an idyllic childhood on Themyscira. But now 11-years-old, she’s beginning to feel more and more isolated. Though she has many “aunties” and a loving mother, she is an only child. THE only child, in fact.

After an escapade goes wrong, Queen Hippolyta chastises Diana for not living up to the Amazon standard. Diana just can’t seem to measure up, no matter what she does! Literally every other person on the island is an adult proficient in their trade and mighty in body, while she is gangly, sometimes clumsy, and not particularly proficient in anything. She’s not Wonder Woman yet. What Diana needs is a friend; someone her own age whom she can talk to. But when she decides to take matters into her own hands — she may just make a monster instead. 

Diana, Princess of the Amazons by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale. Illustrated by Victoria Ying.
January 7th, 2020

Y’all. This book! It’s SO. CUTE.

It’s not a secret that I love Wonder Woman. The 2017 movie was the most empowering and wonderful movie I’ve ever seen. I’m PUMPED for the sequel. And Diana, Princess of the Amazons, is the perfect middle grade graphic novel to get all those little Amazonian Princesses (and Princes and other royals) in your life excited about girl power and friendship and belonging.

Diana, in this version of our favorite butt-kicking superhero, is not yet at the confidence and strength of the adult Diana. She’s eleven and unsure of her place on Themyscira among all the adults who know their strengths and where they fit into in society. Diana is lonely, without anyone her age to play with, and without someone who understands how she feels. She gets pushed to the side as all the busy adults in her life get to work.

So when Diana gets the idea from her own birth story to make her own friend, she makes Mona, a girl made of sand and Diana’s wishes. And for the first time ever, Diana has a friend. They talk all night and play in the woods, they explore and pull pranks.

Then things start to get worse. Mona gets Diana into trouble. Big trouble. The monsters behind the protected gate are released and it’s up to Diana to save her home.

Focusing on the idea of belonging, and discovering when a friendship goes bad, Diana, Princess of the Amazons, was an incredibly wonderful read. Fans of The Okay Witch and The Witch Boy will love it!

My Rating:

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


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Mooncakes

A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft.

Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.

One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.

Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.

Mooncakes, Wendy Xu, Suzanne Walker
October 22, 2019

Y’all. I’ve been following the artist, Wendy Xu, on Twitter for ages. Then I saw her promote Mooncakes and I was THROUGH THE ROOF.

Queer, beautifully written and drawn, and such a cute story! This one is entering the Hall of Favorites for sure.

It’s got magical elements, a nonbinary character, and FOOD. What’s not to love?

Sure, the ending felt a little rushed, but graphic novels tend to read quick anyway so I wasn’t too bothered by it. Regardless, whatever Wendy and Suzanne have planned next, count me in.

My Rating: ★★★★☆


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What Bookimal Are You?

We’re tired of being labeled as worms, wyrms, or fire breathing dragons. We wanna be other bookish creatures. Adorable bookish creatures. So we outlined some for your viewing, saving, and sharing pleasure.

Book Owl

AKA: bookish owl, hoot’n’reader, know-it-owl

  • likes to stay up late to finish the page… err… chapter…. uhh book.
  • immediately has to tell everyone about the book they just finished
  • reads as many books as they can fit in their wingspan
  • tends to be very sleepy during the day (because of all the night reading)
  • eats mice

Owl did you know that I’m totally a #bookowl

Book Cat

AKA: pitter patter reading catter, page purrrruser, The Great Catsby, F. Scott Fitzferal, Shakespurr, Purrrnest Hemingway, Oedipuss

  • Enjoys offering you a new book and then bothering you constantly while you read it
  • Constantly plays with the tassel on their bookmarks
  • Greatly offended by dog eared pages
  • Mad at anyone who interrupts their reading time
  • Also eats mice

The #bookcat fits me purrrrrrfectly.

Book Rabbit

AKA: book bunny, page hopper, rabbit reader

  • Reads books lickity split
  • Often hops between the pages of two entirely different books
  • Really wants to tell you about the book they just finished… but… you know… quietly…
  • Prefers reading to company but will sit with company so long as company is quiet while reading is occurring
  • Prefers not to answer questions about the book they are reading until they’ve finished reading it.

I’m hopping mad that I’m a #bookrabbit

Book Fox

AKA: the foxy reader

  • Loves to burrow away and curl up with a good romance novel
  • Often heard screaming “OH FOR FOX SAKE!” when ships do not sail
  • Easily spooked when reading
  • Eats book bunnies

Oh for fox sake, I’m a #bookfox

Book Bat

AKA: the alphabat, the bat pack (when in groups)

  • Unusually batty about good books
  • Often just wings their book reviews
  • Enjoys reading but prefers audiobooks
  • Can listen to the same book more than once
  • Prefers odd reading positions, such as hanging upside down from the ceiling.

I’ll just be hanging around reading like the #bookbat I am.

Book Giraffe

AKA: a pain in the neck, a tall order

  • Enjoys long walks through the bookstore
  • Will proudly recommend a book to you and then watch over your shoulder while you read it
  • Always on the lookout for the next great story
  • Always orders a tall latte at Starbucks
  • Has a colossal TBR

Get me a tall latte, I’m totally a #bookgiraffe

Book Raccoon

AKA: trash panda, an adorable little trash fire, the garbage gang (when in a group), book-coon

  • Enjoys used books
  • Fervently into terrible stories with groan-worthy scenes
  • Loves puns
  • Stays up all night with the Book Owl, but only makes noise when looking for another book
  • Enjoys lending terrible books to good friends

My taste in literature is absolute garbage. I love being a #bookraccoon

Book Dog

AKA: a good boi, dog ears

  • Dog ears pages with good quotes on them
  • Loves to tell people about books
  • Really loves to tell people about books
  • Hey, did you read that book yet?
  • Because it was the best book
  • You should read it
  • Here, I’ll give you a copy
  • You should read it

Let me retrieve you a good book, like a good #bookdog


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Which bookimal are you? Or did we miss you entirely? Let us know in the comments!

The Abyss Surrounds Us

24790901If there’s anything that can be said for me, is that I love my fiction to have a hearty dosage of pirates. And queer girls. And queer pirate girls. The Abyss Surrounds Us is that, and more. So much more.

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

But Cas has fought pirates her entire life. And she’s not about to stop.

Cas became one of my absolute favorite characters in 2016. She’s smart, cunning and strong. She’s not afraid to face off against a pirate queen and a legion of pirates for what she believes is right. She’s loyal and best of all, queer. It’s always so hard to find good representation in fiction; but The Abyss Surrounds Us was great representation of lesbian and POC characters. There was nothing to not like about this book. Emily Skrutskie knows how to weave a good, action-packed story and can wrench your heart out of your chest with all the strength of a Reckoner pup.

The semi-futuristic not-quite dystopian setting was perfect for pirates and sea monsters. It felt a little old-timey and a little futuristic and it was totally perfect for the story.

Cas’s relationship to Swift, the pirate girl that’s meant to keep an eye on her when the pirates kidnap Cas, grows naturally and out of mutual respect and fondness. The possibility of Stockholm Syndrome and it’s problematic nature within the story is brought up between both characters. But it never comes to feel like Stockholm Syndrome is the reason these girls fall in love.

The whole story was tense–will Cas escape, will Bao survive, what’s going to happen to Cas and Swift–but the finale was quite possibly the tensest thing I’d read all year. Literally edge of my seat. Well, bed. You get the point.

The Abyss Surrounds Us is everything I ever could have wanted and more. This is the book you need on your shelves if you like pirates, sea monsters or queer representation. Perhaps all three.

My Rating: ★★★★★

January First Impressions

Happy New Year, Book Nerds! Let’s get down to business. Actually, let’s get down to books. Business is boring. We’ve gone ahead and rounded up some upcoming titles. Let’s see if we’d request them.

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

With Anna-Marie McLemore’s signature lush prose, Dark and Deepest Red pairs the forbidding magic of a fairy tale with a modern story of passion and betrayal.

Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.

Pub Date 14 Jan 2020

Anyone ever see the musical episode of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer? If Rosella exits her house singing about a mustard stain I will give this a whole five stars. I’m more curious about the history than I am about Rosella’s story, but I think we’re supposed to be. I’m curious to know if the shoes will make anyone Flashdance.


Saving Savannah by Tonya Bolden

From acclaimed author Tonya Bolden comes the story of a teen girl becoming a woman on her own terms against the backdrop of widespread social change in the early 1900s.

Savannah Riddle is lucky. As a daughter of an upper class African American family in Washington D.C., she attends one of the most rigorous public schools in the nation–black or white–and has her pick among the young men in her set. But lately the structure of her society–the fancy parties, the Sunday teas, the pretentious men, and shallow young women–has started to suffocate her.

Then Savannah meets Lloyd, a young West Indian man from the working class who opens Savannah’s eyes to how the other half lives. Inspired to fight for change, Savannah starts attending suffragist lectures and socialist meetings, finding herself drawn more and more to Lloyd’s world.

Set against the backdrop of the press for women’s rights, the Red Summer, and anarchist bombings, Saving Savannah is the story of a girl and the risks she must take to be the change in a world on the brink of dramatic transformation.

Pub Date 14 Jan 2020

The setting will be integral to whether or not this is a good book. Savannah sounds spoiled and unlikable and I haven’t even met her. I’m put off by another book about a rich kid learning how the other half lives. It’s very “Royalty leaves palace for first time ever. Discovers kingdom sucks for everyone else.”


Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard by Echo Brown

“Just brilliant.”—Kirkus Reviews

Heavily autobiographical and infused with magical realism, Black Girl Unlimited fearlessly explores the intersections of poverty, sexual violence, depression, racism, and sexism—all through the arc of a transcendent coming-of-age story for fans of Renee Watson’s Piecing Me Together and Ibi Zoboi’s American Street.

Echo Brown is a wizard from the East Side, where apartments are small and parents suffer addictions to the white rocks. Yet there is magic . . . everywhere. New portals begin to open when Echo transfers to the rich school on the West Side, and an insightful teacher becomes a pivotal mentor.

Each day, Echo travels between two worlds, leaving her brothers, her friends, and a piece of herself behind on the East Side. There are dangers to leaving behind the place that made you. Echo soon realizes there is pain flowing through everyone around her, and a black veil of depression threatens to undo everything she’s worked for.

Pub Date 14 Jan 2020

Echo Brown sat down at a computer and was like “You want Black girl magic? I’ll give you Black girl magic.” Black Girl Unlimited sounds like an amazingly emotional read and I’m just gonna add it to my TBR now.

Rogue Princess by B.R. Myers

A princess fleeing an arranged marriage teams up with a snarky commoner to foil a rebel plot in B. R. Myers’ Rogue Princess, a gender-swapped sci-fi YA retelling of Cinderella.

Princess Delia knows her duty: She must choose a prince to marry in order to secure an alliance and save her failing planet. Yet she secretly dreams of true love, and feels there must be a better way. Determined to chart her own course, she steals a spaceship to avoid the marriage, only to discover a handsome stowaway.

All Aidan wanted was to “borrow” a few palace trinkets to help him get off the planet. Okay, so maybe escaping on a royal ship wasn’t the smartest plan, but he never expected to be kidnapped by a runaway princess!

Sparks fly as this headstrong princess and clever thief battle wits, but everything changes when they inadvertently uncover a rebel conspiracy that could destroy their planet forever.

Pub Date 21 Jan 2020

Says it’s a Cinderella retelling… reads more like a Star Wars ripoff? Every princess flees arranged marriages these days. Anywho, princess has snarky pilot on stolen spaceship and rebel conspiracy. All I see are space buns and wookies.

The cover is pretty though.

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

“A witty rom-com reinvention … with deeply relatable insights on family pressure and growing up.” – Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka, authors of Always Never Yours and If I’m Being Honest

“An adorable debut that updates a classic romantic trope with a buzzy twist.” – Jenn Bennett, author of Alex, Approximately and Serious Moonlight

A fresh, irresistible rom-com from debut author Emma Lord about the chances we take, the paths life can lead us on, and how love can be found in the opposite place you expected.

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming — mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese — that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life — on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate — people on the internet are shipping them?? — their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

Pub Date 21 Jan 2020

I hate contemporary. I want to read this. It sounds adorable, relevant, and hilarious.


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The Night Country

The highly anticipated sequel to Melissa Albert’s beloved, New York Times bestselling debut The Hazel Wood!

In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Wood was just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang.

With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterland and her reclusive grandmother’s dark legacy. Now she and the rest of the dregs of the fairy tale world have washed up in New York City, where Alice is trying to make a new, unmagical life. But something is stalking the Hinterland’s survivors―and she suspects their deaths may have a darker purpose. Meanwhile, in the winking out world of the Hinterland, Finch seeks his own adventure, and―if he can find it―a way back home…

The Night Country – Melissa Albert
January 7th, 2020

I wasn’t a fan of The Hazel Wood. In fact, I DNFed it pretty quickly. But I was a little deeper invested in the events of book two.

After a quick internet dive to get a full synopsis of the first book, I put on my headphones and began listening to The Night Country.

While I was a little confused at first, even with the found information, Melissa Albert did a wonderful job reminding readers what happened in the previous installment, an issue I often find in book series.

I made it through book two but didn’t find much stayed with me. Alice’s characterization felt inconsistent. Does she like Finch? Is he just a friend? Is she mad at him? Does she understand his actions? Even Alice doesn’t know.

I flipped back and forth about my rating. I didn’t hate it, the writing flowed smoothly, but I also didn’t love it. Somewhere in the middle I experienced a story.

My Rating:

⭐⭐⭐

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Blood Heir

This hot debut, perfect for fans of Shadow and Bone and An Ember in the Ashes, is the first book in an epic new series about a princess hiding a dark secret and the con man she must trust to clear her name for her father’s murder.

In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls.

When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew. Corruption rules the land, and a greater conspiracy is at work—one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to its core: Ramson Quicktongue.

A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans—though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all.

Blood Heir, Amelie Wen Zhao
November 19, 2019

We begin as Ana is trolling a prison looking for a specific prisoner to help her clear her name. Desperate to keep her Affinity (magic) hidden from the guards, Ana spends a lot of time telling us she’s trying to keep it under control.

There is, perhaps, too much backward information at the beginning of Blood Heir. Her father is dead but we didn’t see him die, she’s on the run because people think she did it, but we’re not sure why, she somehow knows this prisoner will help her, but we don’t know who he is.

I was certainly intrigued by the action of the opening chase scene but it wasn’t enough to keep me going with all my questions.

The other reason I put it down was the way the writing flipped. Some parts were very well written. They felt perfect for a YA audience. But other parts felt overly informative and talked down to the reader. Basically, I don’t need a description for a sword so much as I do for the magic system.

I ended up not finishing.

My Rating: DNF

Upcoming January Titles

New year–new books! Who else is excited for a whole new year of fresh books? My New Year’s resolution is to read all of these!

A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer

In the sequel to New York Times bestselling A Curse So Dark and Lonely, Brigid Kemmerer returns to the world of Emberfall in a lush fantasy where friends become foes and love blooms in the darkest of places.

Find the heir, win the crown.
The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.

Win the crown, save the kingdom.
Rumored to be the heir, Grey has been on the run since he destroyed Lilith. He has no desire to challenge Rhen–until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?

The heart-pounding, compulsively readable saga continues as loyalties are tested and new love blooms in a kingdom on the brink of war. 

Pub Date: January 7th, 2020

Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

When Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning, she fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship where she’s been held captive for years. Instead, the man she saved offers her unimaginable riches and a new identity, setting Amaya on a perilous course through the coastal city-state of Moray, where old-world opulence and desperate gamblers collide.

Amaya wants one thing: revenge against the man who ruined her family and stole the life she once had. But the more entangled she becomes in this game of deception—and as her path intertwines with the son of the man she’s plotting to bring down—the more she uncovers about the truth of her past. And the more she realizes she must trust no one…

Packed with high-stakes adventure, romance, and dueling identities, this gender-swapped retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo is the first novel in an epic YA fantasy duology, perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Sabaa Tahir, and Leigh Bardugo.

Pub Date: January 7th, 2020

One of Us is Next by Karen McManus

The highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling thriller everyone is talking about, One of Us Is Lying! There’s a new mystery to solve at Bayview High, and there’s a whole new set of rules.

Come on, Bayview, you know you’ve missed this.

A ton of copycat gossip apps have popped up since Simon died, but in the year since the Bayview four were cleared of his shocking death, no one’s been able to fill the gossip void quite like he could. The problem is no one has the facts.

Until now.

This time it’s not an app, though—it’s a game.

Truth or Dare.

Phoebe’s the first target. If you choose not to play, it’s a truth. And hers is dark.

Then comes Maeve and she should know better—always choose the dare.

But by the time Knox is about to be tagged, things have gotten dangerous. The dares have become deadly, and if Maeve learned anything from Bronwyn last year, it’s that they can’t count on the police for help. Or protection.

Simon’s gone, but someone’s determined to keep his legacy at Bayview High alive. And this time, there’s a whole new set of rules.

Pub Date: January 7th, 2020

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera

Balancing epic and intensely personal stakes, bestselling author Adam Silvera’s Infinity Son is a gritty, fast-paced adventure about two brothers caught up in a magical war generations in the making.

Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.

Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.

Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.

Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed.

Pub Date: January 14th, 2020

The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson

New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson delivers the witty and pulse-pounding conclusion to the Truly Devious series as Stevie Bell solves the mystery that has haunted Ellingham Academy for over 75 years.

Ellingham Academy must be cursed. Three people are now dead. One, a victim of either a prank gone wrong or a murder. Another, dead by misadventure. And now, an accident in Burlington has claimed another life. All three in the wrong place at the wrong time. All at the exact moment of Stevie’s greatest triumph . . .

She knows who Truly Devious is. She’s solved it. The greatest case of the century.

At least, she thinks she has. With this latest tragedy, it’s hard to concentrate on the past. Not only has someone died in town, but David disappeared of his own free will and is up to something. Stevie is sure that somehow—somehow—all these things connect. The three deaths in the present. The deaths in the past. The missing Alice Ellingham and the missing David Eastman. Somewhere in this place of riddles and puzzles there must be answers.

Then another accident occurs as a massive storm heads toward Vermont. This is too much for the parents and administrators. Ellingham Academy is evacuated. Obviously, it’s time for Stevie to do something stupid. It’s time to stay on the mountain and face the storm—and a murderer.

In the tantalizing finale to the Truly Devious trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson expertly tangles her dual narrative threads and ignites an explosive end for all who’ve walked through Ellingham Academy.

Pub Date: January 21st, 2020

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Contagion

contagion

Fans of AlienOutbreak, and World War Z will love this spine-chilling, zombie horror film-esque novel about a search-and-rescue mission gone terrifyingly wrong.

It got in us and most are dead.

Decklan flew for help. 

Don’t trust the kid.

Responding to the distress call was supposed to be a straightforward mission. But when Thea Sadik and her crew land on the distant planet of Achlys, they find destruction and devastation . . . and no survivors.

As they try to piece together the puzzle of who—or what—could have decimated an entire operation, they discover that some SOS messages should be ignored—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken.

Erin Bowman takes suspense to new levels in this heart-racing first installment in the Achlys duology. Fans of Jonathan Maberry, Rick Yancey, and Madeline Roux will delight in the electrifying horror that Contagion so vividly brings to life.

SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!

Had to. Sorry. I loved Contagion. The most impressive part for me had nothing to do with the plot and everything to do with the writing. Every character has a POV. I thought the head hopping would get difficult to follow by Erin does it so seamlessly that it just felt natural to know what everyone was thinking.

It lost points for me in the beginning because slow builds are slow.

But once the ball got rolling I couldn’t put Contagion down. The suspense is built up from the first SOS and only continues to build on Achlys’s surface, a perfect setting for a space thriller.

As with all sci-fi, technology plays a part, but none of it was ever technology from the Hand of God. They fought with it, against it, and lost it creating new obstacles for the characters to overcome (or be overcome by!).

My Rating: ★★★★☆


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The Hate U Give

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give blew up the book community when it released in February 2017, and for good reasons. The Hate U Give is an intense look into the lives of black kids living in a racist society that’s trying to keep them down. It was not only an incredibly well-written story that had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish, but it was also very heart-wrenching in a way that made me, a white woman, realize my privilege because I knew that I would never be found at the end of such an injustice.

In The Hate U Give we follow Starr Carter, a sixteen-year-old girl from Garden Heights, a predominantly black community, as her life gets turned upside down when she’s the sole witness in the shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil. She’s pulled into the rollercoaster of the movement to give Khalil the justice he deserves.

The Hate U Give comes right on the heels of the Black Lives Matter movement, the largest movement of the current generation. It’s a must-read for anyone and everyone.

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of contemporary stories. They’ve never been for me. I mainly read fantasy for the escapism, but when it comes to police brutality and the state of our world, there’s no place for escapism. The Hate U Give hooks you in and keeps you in the real world, a world where violence against children isn’t always met with the right justice, a world that can still have hope among all the darkness, a world worth fighting for.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


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Three Dark Crowns Series

When kingdom come, there will be one.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown.

Ok, so, I binged through this whole series via audiobooks and my unnaturally long car rides lately. I absolutely loved the first two books, but I had significantly less love for book number three.

In Three Dark Crowns, I was really in love with the presentation. I loved that the story seemed to revolve around the place more than the characters and Blake’s narrative style never left me confused, which considering it’s written in third person omniscient, that’s pretty impressive. Like, five stars impressive. In fact, it felt incredibly episodic. I could easily see this whole series turned into a TV show and my nerdy ass would be firmly planted on my couch with a bowl of popcorn each week to watch.

I think that narration worked really well, actually, because instead of making sure each of the sisters, their friends, and their caretakers all have unique narrative voices, Blake was able to jump between these characters without beating me over the head with the POV change.

It also worked really well to hint that something was wrong with one of the queens. After being thrown into the center of the island, Katharine climbs her way back to life, but she is exponentially stronger than when she went in. Her coming back was suspicious enough, but with her gifts and personality change, the arch is even more intriguing. And because we’re distanced by the narrative instead of lead to experience it as we are in first person, we have the room to speculate what happened to her.

The second book is action-packed, full of betrayals, murder, and all sorts of scheming and the writing remains on par with the first one. We picked up right where the first book ended and missed no time at all.

Which is probably why the third book, Two Dark Reigns, has been such a turn-off. It seems months have passed, lives have happened, and an uprising, which was only hinted at before, has already started. Names of dead queens are dropped but we’d never heard of them before. Katharine has been scaring herself. The island’s mist, its defense system, is especially thick and eating people.

And I want to see when this happened. It may be that it’s in the companion novels but it’s barely recapped at the end of the series proper. We don’t see life on the mainland as the two queens who fled there are already on their way back at the beginning of book three, we don’t see the mist take its first life, we don’t see Jules come into her War Gift or accept her role as the Legion Cursed Queen, and we don’t even see her mother get captured–we just sort of find out that Katharine has managed to do so.

Overall, I did enjoy the series, but it peters out at the end, as so many books nowadays.


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A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic

A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic

Bestseller and author of the popular middle grade series Confectionately Yours Lisa Papademetriou is back with a magical, page-turning adventure for readers of all ages—a touching tale about destiny and the invisible threads that link us all, ultimately, to one another.

Kai and Leila are both finally having an adventure. For Leila, that means a globe-crossing journey to visit family in Pakistan for the summer; for Kai, it means being stuck with her crazy great-aunt in Texas while her mom looks for a job. In each of their bedrooms, they discover a copy of a blank, old book called The Exquisite Corpse. Kai writes three words on the first page—and suddenly, they magically appear in Leila’s copy on the other side of the planet. Kai’s words are soon followed by line after line of the long-ago, romantic tale of Ralph T. Flabbergast and his forever-love, Edwina Pickle. As the two take turns writing, the tale unfolds, connecting both girls to each other, and to the past, in a way they never could have imagined.

A heartfelt, vividly told multicultural story about fate and how our stories shape it.

Magic is my favorite thing in a story. I get to see how it works in the universe and how it affects the characters. Magic in a modern day world, like the one in A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic, where cell phones and blogs make a regular appearance, always intrigues me. How will magic and technology interact? Will one negate the other, or will they work in highly unusual harmony?

I promise I’m not telling everyone how much I loved A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic by Lisa Papademetriou because I met her during my first semester at Sierra Nevada College. It’s because the story of Kai and Leila is so heartfelt and runs much deeper than one might initially think.

Kai and Leila are both headstrong girls, lost in the surrounding newness they have found themselves in. Kai is on her own for the first time with her great-aunt in a town she’d never been to, and Leila is halfway across the world visiting family in Pakistan by herself for the first time. Then both girls find a magical book and a new story that connects them in an unusual and slightly magical way begins to unfold.

Leila gets herself into some trouble regarding a bad translation and a goat on her first time in town on her own. She has to find a way out of it and in the process changes from the self-conscious, self-doubting girl she was into a strong and well-rounded young girl.

Kai finds a friend with a strange obsession–moths, of all things!–and she finds the key to her friend’s success means revisiting her failures. When she travels down the hard path of her past, she finds it easier to navigate with a friend at her side.

I truly loved the interwoven stories of both Kai and Leila, not to mention the third story hidden within the Exquisite Corpse, the magic book. And while we don’t get a closed ending in A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic, we do get an open ending: there are plenty of things that could happen after the closing of the story, lots of places for the reader to imagine the possibilities that might befall Kai and Leila after their jaunt with the Exquisite Corpse is all said and done. The only question is whether it’ll be highly unusual, or highly magical.


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Tricked

Things are changing at Fairy Tale Reform School.

At least, that’s what Gilly’s heard through the Enchantasia rumor mill. Word is, notorious trickster Rumpelstiltskin has taken over management from Headmistress Flora, and he’s locked down the school tighter than the Pied Piper’s pants. Not that this news concerns Gilly. She’s been released from FTRS and is now suffering through attending Jack of All Trades School, where she gets to learn about different kinds of shoe leather and ways to measure feet. Truly riveting stuff.

But when Gilly’s little sister Anna gets whisked off to FTRS thanks to her troublemaking new friends, Hansel and Gretel, Gilly knows she’s got to get Anna out of there. There’s only one thing to do; make some serious trouble and get thrown back into FTRS.

It’s time to out-trick a trickster.

Jen Calonita
Fairy Tale Reform School: Tricked
March 7, 2017

Tricked is everything you want in a middle-grade title–EVERYTHING!

If you’ve ever heard me talk about Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go, you know I’m passionate about middle-grade books that imitate and re-tell other stories (Go pick up Heck if you haven’t already.) So it should be no surprise when I tell you that this series needs a place on your shelves.

Because I requested and was approved for Book #3, I needed to run through books #1 and #2. Lucky for me, they were easy to listen to. Because the FTRS is fantasy, there is a lot of world-building, but we are never just told about it all. We learn so much about the world just by being it. I felt like I’d already been in Enchantasia, and that everything in this world was plausible.

From gargoyles to evil fairies, everything in this world is plausible. And everything is a pun that children and adults are sure to enjoy.

Jen’s quirk keeps up in all three installments. And we watch Gilly toggle back and forth between a likable quirky little thief-and an obnoxious little brat.

Tricked brings us back to FTRS to once again watch Gilly, Jax, Maxine, Ollie, and Kayla save the day. Flora, Cinderella’s formerly wicked ex-stepmother, is no longer the headmistress at Fairy Tale Reform School. She has been replaced by Mr. Stiltskin, and he is cracking down on the rules so hard that more children are being sent to FTRS than ever!

I guarantee this is a series you, your kids, your younger siblings, your classmates, and basically, anybody with a pulse will enjoy. I definitely recommend you run out to your nearest bookstore to pick up a copy. Right now.


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Beyond the Red

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Alien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.

Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. Yet that doesn’t stop him from defending his people, at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He’s given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.

When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide.

Ava Jae, Beyond The Red
March 1, 2016

When it comes to the broad sibling genre of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, I’ve always been more in the favor of Fantasy. But Beyond The Red showed me a whole new world within the Sci-Fi realm, and I have fallen in love.

I’ve been a long time follower of Ava Jae’s writing advice Writability (and you should be too!), and when I heard that their debut was coming, I was ecstatic. Surely, someone who gives such great and dependable writing advice should have written an amazing book, right? And Ava delivered, beyond all expectations.

Reading the book of someone who you hold in high regard due to their advice can feel like you’re walking on a fine line. On one hand, their book could not hold up to your expectations, and fall flat, thereby disillusioning you to their authority. It could be just plain bad and you’ll forever doubt any sort of knowledge they may try to impart.

But, as is the case with Beyond the Red, it could be everything you ever hoped for and more.

I felt deeply connected to Ava Jae’s characters, rooting for them from the start. Jae’s writing is rich and powerful, and their prose is lyrical. The book has a strong set of characters, all with different agendas, and the story itself has the potential to become a classic and a staple in the sci-fi/fantasy community.

My one and only gripe is the sudden end of the book, which sets up for a sequel. Perhaps it comes from my deep need to know more about the world of Sefara. I want more world-building, more stories, a comprehensive guide to the Sephari language, a history of all things Sephari, and how humans came to the world.

I essentially want this to become as wide and detailed as Harry Potter or LoTR, where I can learn the language and read everything there ever is to read about this story.


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Labyrinth Lost

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Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

I fall to my knees. Shattered glass, melted candles and the outline of scorched feathers are all that surround me. Every single person who was in my house – my entire family — is gone.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange markings on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Zoraida Córdova, Labyrinth Lost
September 6, 2016
UPDATE: We absolutely love the new cover.

Córdova immerses us in fantasy, language, and LGBTQ in a way I haven’t seen done successfully in today’s YA literature.

Labyrinth Lost shows us a custom fantasy culture of brujas with a hefty helping of Spanish language and family traditions. My experience with “diverse” literature lately has been for the author to go overboard, effectively alienating readers.

Alex has a lot on her plate: trying to keep her powers a secret from her family and her best friends, dealing with her feelings for Nova (a boy) and Rishi (a girl), being tracked by demons, and–not a spoiler it’s right there in the blurb–making her entire family, the living and the dead, disappear.

Whoops.

An amazing action-packed read, Labyrinth Lost never left me wanting more. Until the end. When I wanted more book because I need more of these characters.

Córdova even made me care about the antagonists, making me care about their general well-being.

Not only pushing for diversity but achieving it, not predictable, and in no way shape or form boring, Labyrinth Lost delivers more than you could ask for of today’s YA literature.


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The Lie Tree

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Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is reliable, dull, trustworthy—a proper young lady who knows her place as inferior to men. But inside, Faith is full of questions and curiosity, and she cannot resist mysteries: an unattended envelope, an unlocked door. She knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing. She knows that her family moved to the close-knit island of Vane because her famous scientist father was fleeing a reputation-destroying scandal. And she knows, when her father is discovered dead shortly thereafter, that he was murdered.

In pursuit of justice and revenge, Faith hunts through her father’s possessions and discovers a strange tree. The tree only bears fruit when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder—or it may lure the murderer directly to Faith herself.

Frances Hardinge, The Lie Tree
October 20, 2016
UPDATE: We love the new cover!

I’m always enamored by girls in stories that seem innocent and invisible but use that to their advantage to carve their own path — which is exactly what Faith Sunderly does in The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge. It’s impossible to put down this historical mystery, set just after the advent of Darwin’s On The Origin of Species, where young Faith takes the matter of her father’s murder into her own hands.

Historical fiction has always been that tiny love of mine, the flame of a candle burning in the back of my mind while I busied myself with fantasy. It’s always forgotten while I adventure with dragons and goblins, but I’m reminded how brightly that candle burns when I read something like The Lie Tree.

When I opened Lie Tree up, I couldn’t close it until I was almost halfway through, and the only reason I did was that it was 3:00 in the morning and I had work in a few hours. Faith is an incredibly strong female character–and not in the ways most people expect when they hear those three words. She’s immensely flawed, selfish and brash, but she’s kind and brave and willful too. She seeks the truth when everyone else is blind to it, and she puts herself in danger to get to the bottom of it.

Every detail comes full circle in every aspect; Hardinge is a talented writer who wastes no word.

My only gripe, if I really could call it that, is the huge cast of characters. Some are only mentioned in passing and others we physically see on the page, but they end up flowing into one another and often I find myself asking, “Wait, who is that?”

It’s not a good thing to have happen, especially in a murder mystery where everyone you meet is a potential suspect. You forget who wronged whom or when they were last seen, and it gets confusing.

But regardless of your favorite genre, whether it’s fantasy or historical fiction, you ought to pick up The Lie Tree as soon as you can.


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Let's Discuss Yvonthia Leland

We might take a vacation from the blog in December but we certainly don’t miss out on all the YA lit drama. And this winter, the big event was from an author bashing reviewers. Who could forget the horror story that was Kathleen Hale hunting down an anonymous reviewer for giving her one star on GoodReads which sparked outrage about author/reviewer etiquette? The answer is Yvonthia Leland.

First, let’s talk about how this drama didn’t start in December. The earliest reviews for The Wrythe and the Reckoning happened in January. A whole year ago at this point! The reviews all say the same things:

  • moves slow
  • little to no character insight
  • uneventful

It’s the uneventful part that really bothers Miss Leland. In her post The Wrythe And The Reckoning Book Review: In Response To “Nothing Happens” she basically throws a temper tantrum and accuses one particular reviewer (and then later all negative reviewers), of not reading the book, citing the reviewer as saying she skimmed most of the book.

She then claims that ARCs (advance reader/reviewer copy) are not final versions of the book. This is only partially true as an ARC should be as close to the final version as possible and not 1/3 of the book as she claims to have posted.

What tipped me off especially was the reviewer making statements that implied when the characters get to ________________ (a certain location) nothing happens. Ha! Excuse me? Any reader who has read The Wrythe and the Reckoning knows that when they get to that location a lot happens. It’s the main setting of the story. That statement alone gave it away that the reviewer skim-read most of the book and only captured a small amount of the content. However, there was no mention of her having read only bits and pieces of the book, in actuality having read the book only briefly. But yet she reviewed the book as if she had read it in its entirety or at least most of it. It’s as though she was giving the impression that she knows it well, but she hardly knew the story at all.

Yvonthia Leland

Rather than focus on the fact that her book didn’t hit home with this reviewer she chose to question whether this reviewer was qualified enough to have an opinion on her writing. As a reviewer I will say this:

I often review books I didn’t finish.

They are usually 1 and 2 star reviews and I state what made them that way and what made me put it down. While I have not been able to find the original triggering review, I’m willing to bet that this anonymous reviewer stated her reasons too.

Which brings us to another problem with Miss Leland. She attempted to discredit and police her GoodReads reviews. Many of the negative reviewers were apparently accused of either reading poorly or not reading at all. While many of her comments are gone now, they live on forever in quoted responses.

Since when does a Booktuber or Bookstagrammer give a review when they have read only one chapter or skim-read the book. You are unprofessional, and I don’t understand why you have authority on this site when you don’t even have the courtesy to read the entire book before reviewing it.”

A Since Deleted GoodReads Comment – Yvonthia Leland

But wait! There’s more!

…you don’t need to finish the plate if the first few bites tell you the food is awful.

Some Awesome GoodReads Reviewer

Responses like this are all over the place and I am happy to see that many claim to have simply reported this unprofessional author, although none of this experience seems to have set in for her.

Basically, anyone with a dissenting opinion of her book is a piece of crap. While this doesn’t happen often, when it does it certainly blows up the battlefield. So here it is ultimately for both sides:

  1. Be Polite
  2. Don’t Insult The Team
  3. Be Honest

There is a professional way to say everything and “I love how you all treat authors like #$%^& and then act like you’re the victims” doesn’t make the cut.

Every book and every book blog has a lot of heart go into it. There is no need to be insulting.

And no one is asking you to lie about how you felt about the book or how it feels to have a good or bad review. But regardless of your feelings, refer to rule #1.

And if you find that a comment or blog post is out of line or in violation of community standards then flag it, block the account, and move on.

Perhaps the only good thing to come out of it is that I’m going to put PROUD MEMBER OF THE GOODREADS MOB on a T-shirt and never look back.

As for Miss Leland, perhaps she should take her own advice.

Q: If you could give one tip about writing, what would it be?
A: To care about your audience. For writers, or any other artists or entertainers, I think caring about the audience should be at the foundation of our art.

About – Yvonthia Leland

The Darkest Corners

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There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them.

Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.

Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.

But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.

Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.

Kara Thomas, The Darkest Corners
May 9, 2017
UPDATE: We love the new cover!

Looking for a nice, well-paced, slow build? You need to pick up a copy of The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas.

I should’ve known I would enjoy The Darkest Corners when it came packaged to me in an evidence bag.

Tessa Lowell and Callie Greenwood show signs of major anxiety disorders after having testified against the alleged killer, Wyatt Stokes. They also show two very popular ways to deal with: Tessa attempts to overcome it by ignoring it while Callie dives to the bottom of the bottle. Their character growth was both amazing and realistic. Too often, we see vices simply dropped without recourse and it was nice to see both cause and effect for these girls.

I certainly spent most of The Darkest Corners speculating “who dunnit?” which is exactly what I want out of a crime/mystery novel. Thomas does a great job slowly giving us information as Tessa and Callie remember fights and come to terms with their own actions. Without giving too much away, large revelations in the plot are given away as Tessa and Callie forgive themselves for their own actions and finally admit, both to themselves and each other, what actually happened ten years ago.

On the surface, we follow the case of The Ohio River Monster, a man who murdered girls and left their bodies to be discovered along I-70, but beneath that are other mysteries–all of which tie back to The Ohio River Monster and Wyatt Stokes. This was perhaps my one qualm with The Darkest Corners.

I wanted them to find the killer and Tessa’s other mysteries were a bit like roadblocks. I was delayed from finding out the inevitable. I wanted Tessa to prioritize Wyatt Stokes over her personal issues.


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For This Life Only

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Three minutes.

Jacob Palmer died for three life-changing minutes.

And when he woke up, nothing was the same. Elijah, his twin brother, is dead, and his family is broken. Jace’s planned future is crushed, along with his pitching arm. Everyone keeps telling him that Eli’s in a better place, but Jace isn’t so sure. Because in those three minutes, there was nothing.

Overwhelmed by guilt and doubt, Jace struggles to adjust to this new version of the world, one without his brother, one without the certainties he once relied on. And then Thera comes into his life.

She’s the last girl he should be turning to for help.

But she’s also the first person to truly see him.

For This Life Only, Stacey Kade
August 30, 2016

I have a theory that Stacey Kade wants to watch me die from dehydration. A scene that’s absolutely plausible given how much I cried while reading For This Life Only.

Would you believe me if I said Jace’s loss of his twin is the least of his problems? He struggles to identify himself after the accident which claimed the life of his twin brother, Eli. Jace knew he was the screw-up and Eli was good. Jace knew that he was an athlete and Eli was a scholar. But after the accident all Jace knows is that he is alive and Eli is dead. And it was heart-wrenching to watch him go through that struggle.

Jace’s characterization in For This Life Only is physical. He pops right off the page and sits down next to you to tell you his story. He is so, incredibly, aware of his situation in terms of what it is, what it was, and what it was supposed to be. Although his comparisons are constant, they are never overbearing.

When he finally begins to reach out and ask for help from “the last girl he should be turning to” it happens naturally like an un-dammed body of water rushing to find a new home. The pressure builds on him robbing him of his choice, causing him to let go of his prejudices and grow.

I loved the pacing in For This Life Only. I never felt rushed or like I was sitting in stagnant scenes. Kade got us where we needed to–when we needed to.

I do wish For This Life Only‘s ending were a bit longer, but I also feel that it was written exactly as it needed to be. 


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The Shadow Hour

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A battle has been won. But the war has only just begun.

Everything in Echo’s life changed in a blinding flash when she learned the startling truth: she is the firebird, the creature of light that is said to bring peace.

The firebird has come into the world, but it has not come alone. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and Echo can feel a great and terrible darkness rising in the distance. Cosmic forces threaten to tear the world apart.

Echo has already lost her home, her family, and her boyfriend. Now, as the firebird, her path is filled with even greater dangers than the ones she’s already overcome.

She knows the Dragon Prince will not fall without a fight.

Echo must decide: can she wield the power of her true nature—or will it prove too strong for her, and burn what’s left of her world to the ground?

Welcome to the shadow hour.

The Shadow Hour, Melissa Grey
July 12, 2016

Sequels are hard; sequels in trilogies are even harder. So many of them suffer through Sagging Middle Syndrome that some people aren’t even able to finish them. I read and reviewed The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey last year, and I fell head over heels and finished it in one go. It’s a sequel, The Shadow Hour, was slightly less head-over-heels and more…trip and fall.

I was so excited for The Shadow Hour that I pre-ordered it the day it was announced. I didn’t even stop to read the summary attached, just ran straight over to Barnes & Noble’s website and put it in my cart. Melissa Grey had become one of my favorite authors of 2015, so she was sure to keep that Fave Status in 2016. I wasn’t wrong.

The Shadow Hour picks up more or less where The Girl at Midnight left off; Echo has become the Firebird and has gained supernatural powers that can either send the world into darkness or bring peace. Quite a lot to put on the shoulders of a teenager, but hey, YA heroines are used to it.

Echo is as snappy as ever, there are more stolen gazes and furtive kisses (Go Dorian and Jasper!) than in the last book and everyone in the main cast gets equal screen time so that all the character arcs are great and rounded. We even get some new love-to-hate characters on screen (I’m looking at you, Tanith. Why do you do the things you do?).

My only gripe with The Shadow Hour and the only thing preventing it from entering my Top Books of 2016 list was that I felt like I had to slosh through thick mud to get to the good parts. Some castle raids and kissing wasn’t enough to motivate me through 400 pages of a book. I devoured The Girl at Midnight in a day; it took me over a week to get through The Shadow Hour. The best part of the book was the last 20 to 50 pages when things hit the fan and Echo faces off against the Big Bad. Right around when that thing happened to Caius was when I started to get interested. (Man, it’s so hard to stay spoiler-free…)

But The Shadow Hour was still a good book and a great continuation of The Girl at Midnight. Now just to check to see if I can pre-order The Savage Dawn yet…


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Truthwitch

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In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden – lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls’ heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

Truthwitch, Susan Dennard
January 5, 2019

Can someone love a book more than I loved Truthwitch by Susan Dennard? Can anyone love anything more than I loved that book? Probably not. I loved Truthwitch (and Susan Dennard. I nearly cried when I saw her in the hallway at BookCon Chigaco) so much.

I just need to sit here for a moment to revel in my love for this story. Just give me a minute…

Okay, I’m ready to tell you how great this story was. Two kickass girls from different backgrounds trying to survive in a magic world with immense and sought-after powers, with a deep power budding inside both of them, the world may never be the same after coming to face them.

This was the first fantasy book I listened to on Audible and while the voice acting may have played a great role in my incredible love for this book (Cassandra Campbell was awesome) that when I finished listening, I immediately ordered a physical copy. I needed to hold this book in my hands so badly that I actually went out and bought a physical copy. I bought Truthwitch twice. That’s how much I loved it.

The characters are so well fleshed out and the quiet undertones of love that followed the whole story (seriously, just kiss him Safi!) made for a perfect balance of action and plot and characters. There were so many times I just screamed out loud to Truthwitch; in frustration, in horror, intense anticipation, you name it. I didn’t want to get out of my car just so I could keep listening.

The only bad thing about Truthwitch is that it ended. That’s it. There was a back cover. Thankfully, its sequel, Windwitch, should be out soon.


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The Mesmerist

Thirteen-year-old Jessamine Grace and her mother make a living as sham spiritualists—until they discover that Jess is a mesmerist and that she really can talk to the dead. Soon she is plunged into the dark world of Victorian London’s supernatural underbelly and learns that the city is under attack by ghouls, monsters, and spirit summoners. Can Jess fight these powerful forces? And will the group of strange children with mysterious powers she befriends be able to help? As shy, proper Jess transforms into a brave warrior, she uncovers terrifying truths about the hidden battle between good and evil, about her family, and about herself.

Ronald L. Smith, The Mesmerist
February 7, 2017

Jessamine works with her mother pretending to be spiritualists—until the day where the pretending becomes real and she finds out she has mysterious powers. Ronald L. Smith has made a dark and memorable middle-grade story in The Mesmerist.

Set in Victorian London, The Mesmerist tackles many dark stories: death, vengeance, and violence. Jessamine Grace lived a normal life with her mother until the day they found out that Jess was actually a mesmerist—someone who can read people’s thoughts and communicate with the dead. She joins the mysterious League of Ravens in order to fight necromancers.

A great story with a strong voice, The Mesmerist is sure to please any lover of middle-grade stories. With many familiar story ideas, young readers will love it.

My one gripe with the story was that it seemed to be trying to capture too many storylines in one book. And at less than 280 pages, there wasn’t much room to play with multiple storylines. With death and retribution being in the top spot, it was quickly followed by mystery, the Plague, and social-political statements that bog down the story and make it a little hard to keep one plotline straight.

Jess was a bright character and fiercely loyal and strong, and I fell in love with her immediately. While a lot of familiar tropes seem to fill the pages of The Mesmerist, and it did seem to border on cliche, it’s bound to become a staple in a young reader that loves dark stories and supernatural tales.


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Very Merry Christmas… Tentacles?

Jess and Dan were left without supervision for this quintessential holiday episode to talk about why you don’t give book nerds books for Christmas… and also the oddity of Sick Kid Romance and its likeness to Tentacle Porn… In any case, like, share, and rate your favorite episodes. It’s the best gift you can give this holiday season (cause it costs you literally nothing).

Having trouble listening here? Listen directly on Anchor.fm



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Toil & Trouble

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A young adult fiction anthology of 15 stories featuring contemporary, historical, and futuristic stories featuring witchy heroines who are diverse in race, class, sexuality, religion, geography, and era.

Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

Glinda the Good Witch. Elphaba the Wicked Witch. Willow. Sabrina. Gemma Doyle. The Mayfair Witches. Ursula the Sea Witch. Morgan le Fey. The three weird sisters from Macbeth.

History tells us women accused of witchcraft were often outsiders: educated, independent, unmarried, unwilling to fall in line with traditional societal expectations.

Bold. Powerful. Rebellious.

A bruja’s traditional love spell has unexpected results. A witch’s healing hands begin to take life instead of giving it when she ignores her attraction to a fellow witch. In a terrifying future, women are captured by a cabal of men crying witchcraft and the one true witch among them must fight to free them all. In a desolate past, three orphaned sisters prophesize for a murderous king. Somewhere in the present, a teen girl just wants to kiss a boy without causing a hurricane.

From good witches to bad witches, to witches who are a bit of both, this is an anthology of diverse witchy tales from a collection of diverse, feminist authors. The collective strength of women working together—magically or mundanely–has long frightened society, to the point that women’s rights are challenged, legislated against, and denied all over the world. Toil & Trouble delves deep into the truly diverse mythology of witchcraft from many cultures and feminist points of view, to create modern and unique tales of witchery that have yet to be explored.

An incredibly beautiful and diverse anthology about witches, women, love, and mischief. With stories that ranged from modern-day to historical to magical realism, there’s a little something for everyone in Toil & Trouble.

Toil & Trouble had me at queer witches. Honestly. I was in a super witchy mood when I requested this one and I was not disappointed. I was so intrigued by the varying stories and I love so many authors that contributed to this anthology that I knew I had to have it.

Each story was different in its own right, each unique and stellar and magical. I, obviously, loved some more than others. But that’s to be expected. You can’t love everything, after all. And trust me, I’ve tried. I’m a Hufflepuff.

I don’t want to go into details about each story–we’ll just be here for days–but as a collection, Toil & Trouble accomplishes something so rarely seen that it’s magical in its own right.

Each story, individually, has its own merits. Some are lyrical and imaginative, others are deep and personal, dark and wonderful at the same time. It’s hard to review an anthology, to be honest, but it’s an experience worth the admission price.

I’ll be extra honest here–I’ve never been a fan of anthologies in the past. Oh, sure, I’ve tried. But it was so hard for me to get invested in a series of short stories, especially if I didn’t know the authors going into it. But I took a chance on Toil & Trouble and I’m glad I did.

Grab this book, add it to your TBR list, especially now as we slowly enter Halloween season. It’s the perfect book to sip a pumpkin spice latte or apple cider to while sitting all cozied up inside.

⭐⭐⭐⭐


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Debian Perl Digital Detective: The Memory Thief

Megalopolis used to be the city hub for all the makers, doers, and dreamers. It was a better time according to Debian Perl, a technomancer known for her out-of-date computer programming skills. Now the city streets are filled with “Egg-heads,” those in thrall to the ease and simplicity of new technology as opposed to Debian’s way of doing things. Digits is one of those Egg-heads. She is a young social media guru and knows her way around all the newest, latest technology.

Debian and Digits cross paths when they both stumble across a 100-year-old lost robot named Ray-Bot. They soon learn that Ray-Bot’s CPU was suspiciously overclocked, leaving him unable to perform basic functions and commands. To find out where the robot came from, Debian must teach Digits everything she knows about computer coding and programming. Along their journey to bring Ray-Bot home, they begin piecing together the mysterious puzzle about his malfunction, and uncover some sinister secrets.

Debian Perl: Digital Detective is a five-book series in which middle-grade readers will join Debian and Digits on mystery adventures all while building practical knowledge of coding, algorithms, algebra, and logical problem solving.

Goodreads, 2019

OKAY. WOW. HOW CUTE. I LOVE THIS. THERE’S SUBTLE QUEERNESS. THERE’S CODING AND SCIENCE AND THE ART. IS. AMAZING.

*cough* Ahem. Now. Onto the review.

This was seriously one of the cutest graphic novels I’ve read this year. I LOVED the art style–the poppy, bright colors, the funky future-punk designs. It was just a JOY to experience.

The story itself is pretty straightforward: someone’s stolen a robot’s memory card, thus hiding a serious crime. What I loved the most was the blending of old and new tech, of the general educational feel of this story, and the subtle (and some not-so-subtle) themes of acceptance, sentience, and the good of all.

This graphic novel is PERFECT for teachers, librarians, and any kid looking to learn a little more about coding. It’s got so many great things to it and I can’t wait for the next in the series!

My rating: ★★★★☆


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