The Story That Cannot Be Told: Review

384 pages Expected publication: October 8th 2019 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

I was fortunate enough to gain access to this story via Edelweiss and the publisher, but I first had this book on my radar via Twitter. I thought, how oh how can I beg for an arc of this book? Luckily, Edelweiss got it soon after, and I gobbled it up. To say that this book was amazing, wonderful, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, etc. is an understatement. THE STORY THAT CANNOT BE TOLD took me through a time in history that I was not well educated on and wove together fairy-tales and a heroine up against some very real antagonists.

This story follows Ileana, who is a story-teller at heart. She lives in Bucharest with her mother and father. After a vital mistake, Ileana finds herself being sent away to live with grandparents whom she’s never met and hopefully far away from spies who may be watching her family. With an uncle who may be publishing illegal works, her parents think it best to protect their daughter, but Ileana does not immediately take to life at her grandparent’s small village. Surrounded by the unfamiliar, she relies on her stories to guide through the very real threat of communist Romania. With heart and strength, she grows to love, forgive, and fight with all she has.

This book is masterfully written and takes you through reimaginings of Romanian folklore that mirrors the real-life world around Ileana as she struggles to find her place in her new life and forgive those closest to her. Her voice was so strong and at times, so very grown up for how young she was. But this book is about big decisions and learning to accept those decisions. This is a big book with a big heart. It’s a story about a girl growing up in the shadow of war and illustrates the raw beauty of childhood.

The character development was well done, and I particularly enjoyed the chapters of folktales. The story itself is one I have never come across before, and maybe others will agree with me as more reviews pour in, that this book should not be missed.

Books like this are so rare and I am so honored to be one of the first to review it. My pre-order is in. This is one for bookshelf.

Extraordinary Birds: Review

224 pages Expected publication: April 30th 2019 by Bloomsbury

Thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for the e-arc.

This heartfelt story follows 11 yo December as she navigates life while being bounced from foster home to foster home. To help herself through the abandonment of her mother, she starts a journal in which she imagines herself as a bird. Well, she more than believes it, she thinks she IS a bird. Her imagination covers up the scars of her past, but ironically, keeps her planted where she is because she doesn’t trust easily and plans to fly away before any meaningful relationships could begin. Then, she meets Eleanor, who is a bird enthusiast like December, and also works at an animal rehabilitation center. Learning to trust Eleanor doesn’t come easy for December, and her past keeps attempting to push its way through. But will she let it or keep pretending?

This book…was fascinating. The author mixed in bird facts. It amazed me how well she fit them into the narrative and didn’t bore me at all. In fact, I learned a lot. December’s unreliable POV was well done. The scar on her back that she pretends is where her wings will pop through, and the real reason for them kept me on the edge of my seat and also broke my heart for her.

Something I have yet to see in a middle-grade novel is a character like Cheryllyn, who is a boy in the middle of a gender change to a girl. Cheryllyn is targeted for this at school, but none of it makes a difference to December, who befriends her. Although this is not a major plot point, it still affects the story if you look at the deeper meaning.

This book was beautifully written. I was amazed how such a small book could hold such a cast of empathetic and amazing characters.
This book was too short for how wonderful it was. That is my only complaint. I will be ordering a copy ASAP when it releases in April. This is one for the bookshelf.

All of Us with Wings: Review

Once in a while, a book comes along that completely blows my mind. This is one of those books.

Thank you to Edelweiss and the publisher for allowing me to review this book ahead of its release date.

What is it about, you ask?

Our 17-year old protagonist is named Xochi. She’s a governess to a 12-year old girl named Pallas. Pallas is our second POV, and she lives in a grand old house in San Fran with her rock star parents and their colorful array of friends. Xochi has a troubled past that she’s running away from, but the further she goes the more she realizes she must do something more than running. One night, on the Equinox, Xochi and Pallas cast what they think is a silly spell that ultimately summons a pair of fey children from their slumber to protect Xochi at all costs. Between Pallas’ growing pains and Xochi’s painful past, they find themselves in more trouble than they planned. The third POV is from the perspective of a cat named Peasblossom

So, from page one I got serious anime vibes so throughout the entire book I imagined this one of Miyazaki’s magical, emotional films. Or better yet, A Letter to Momo which is one of the few movies that seriously made me cry my eyes out. Michelle, Ruiz Keil took me through the lives of these people, and I felt as though I was there with them, feeling their joy and their pain and their confusion. It was well paced and excellently written.

Some things were a bit cringe-worthy, such as Xochi’s attraction to Pallas’ dad as well as the drug use, BUT I could see how they played into the story intricately. This book is about finding yourself. To do that you must make a ton of mistakes along the way. The environment Xochi found herself in and the life Pallas grew up in, was not the most stable and by the end, I think everyone knew it and strived to make changes.

At times, I was a bit confused about what these weird fey kids were, and maybe I still am. That and the quick ending knocked it down a star for me. But overall this was a beautiful and engaging coming of age story.

I seek out magical realism because they are the most intriguing for me. This book falls into books like Summer of Salt and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender so if you liked those; this book is for you.

Warnings for: drug use, rape (off the page).

Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee: Review

I have come to expect a few things out of a book by Jeff Zentner. One that I will probably cry at some point. Two that I probably won’t sleep or eat until I finish. Three, that I will continue to follow this man’s career to the end of my days.

What is it about, you ask?

This story follows Josie and Delia, hosts of a public access monster movie show. Both are uniquely different but fit together like PB and j. Delia comes from a broken home (her father abandoned her and her mother) whereas Josie comes from one a tad more put together. Delia’s story takes a turn into heartbreak city because she yearns to find him. She even hires a private detective despite her mother’s financial burdens. Josie struggles with leaving Delia and her sense of responsibility for her friend. Josie also wants to be on television and Delia wants to track down her dad and have closure. Their rival dilemmas may or may not split them apart.

The core of this story centers around their show which, for the first time, was something incredibly new in a YA novel for me. I’ve read your podcast novels, your theater novels, your Youtube channel novels, but this one was a shiny territory and entertaining AF. More so to the scene-stealing Lawson, an MMA fighter and reader. What a combination. Drools in book nerd.

The split POV’s with both girls were fantastic. I think I loved Delia’s more since Josie’s focused a tab too much on her romance with Lawson for my tastes. Her character did not have emotions as Delia’s did. At least for me. But this wasn’t a problem because I loved Lawson too much.

This book touches upon mental illness as well as the effects of being abandoned by a parent. I believe a lot of people can relate to this and may even find solidarity in Delia’s story. But through all of that, there is humor. I am not the type to laugh at loud at books or even movies. I have a very particular sense of humor. This one had me chuckling and waking up my husband. Score on both accounts. That being said, this had more witty moments than Jeff’s other books and reminded me so much of myself and my best friend in high school.

“I get lonely sometimes, but so does everyone else. We’re all looking for some sort of salvation in something.”

If you loved The Serpent King and Goodbye Days, you will love this one. You may even enjoy it more. You may also follow Jeff on every platform you can and pick apart every tweet looking for news of his next book. I will do that. Always. No shame.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a chance to review this title ahead of its release date.

The Arrival of Someday: review

Hardcover
Expected publication: July 23rd 2019 by HarperTeen

Thank you to Edelweiss and BIG FAT thanks to HarperCollins for always entrusting me to review their e-arcs.

Let me preface this by telling you all how much of a sucker for punishment I am. I have read, not one, but two books involving fatal diseases and illnesses, but this one…this one took me to a whole new level of sadness, and hope.

What is it about?

This story follows Amelia Linehan, a passionate eighteen-year-old who’s into roller derby, drawing, and hanging out with her best friend, Sibby. But behind the scenes, she suffers from a rare liver disorder that could someday affect her life more than it already has. After that someday arrives, she gropes with the growing fear of dying while waiting for a liver transplant. It takes Amelia time to realize her limitations and to grow, even as she and everyone around her, comes to terms that a liver may not come in time.

This is the third book I have read by Jena Malone and by far my favorite. Amelia is a flawed character and not just because of her illness, but because she hasn’t quite grown into herself. At eighteen, nobody has, but it seems as though she’s been put on the fast track and this causes tension with friends and even family. I loved that the romance did not take center stage for a change and we got to know Amelia without having the distraction of a boyfriend. Also, the roller-derby aspect was entertaining.

The end took me by surprise. I think I’m used to reading books like these and having one thing happen and not the other (I won’t say much as not to give anything away) But after reading the author’s notes, I see why she ended it the way she did.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. I think I’m going to pick up something a tad more lighthearted before I dissolve into tears.

To anyone wanting to read this or currently reading it, read the author’s note, and if you haven’t signed up to be an organ donor, please do it. There are several links there to guide you to the right places.

A Curse so Dark and Lonely: Review

I have no clue how I’m supposed to go on and live my life after reading this book? How can you assume I’ll be all right? HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO ME

This book had me hooked from the very first page, and I found myself dragged, forced to feel EMOTIONS that I haven’t felt for a long time reading a book. I don’t think I blinked. My contacts were dry. My tongue felt like lead in my mouth. I forgot to shower. Days passed, and I did not notice. I was in this story until the very end. AND IT WAS AMAZING.

So, what’s it about, you ask?

Harper Lacey finds her world turned on its head when she’s suddenly transported to a different world after defending a young woman from her attacker. Her attacker, a guardsman, named Grey takes her to Emberfall (to avoid being knocked out by a tire iron no less). There, Harper meets Prince Rhen who is under a wicked curse. Unable to return home at present, Harper immerses herself, both willingly and unwillingly, into the world around her, and takes charge against those wanting to do Emberfall harm.

But that’s the condensed version. There is sooooo much more.

HARPER: She has cerebral palsy, but let me tell you, she does not allow that to define her. Her character is vivacious and determined. She had me mesmerized. Before being kidnapped to Emberfall, she’d been working with her brother to pay off her father’s old debts and take care of her cancer-stricken mother. To see her character fear for their lives while playing a role in a different world was heartbreaking. Not only that but to eventually see her torn between responsibilities to both worlds. She has no hesitations to stab and defend herself whenever she deems fit and good for her. YA needs more Harpers.

RHEN: the arrogant prince of Emberfall is no short of charming and dimwitted when it comes to women. Which, I don’t know, makes him charming? Meeting Harper was not like meeting all the other girls he’d had brought to his castle to break the curse. He finally met his match.

Ok. Now for my book boyfriend, GREY: Never have I known a secondary character to engage me as much as he did. As Mr. Scary Grey Grumpykins, he is the loyal guard to Rhen. He would literally bleed for his prince. But his softer side shows through in little peeks, and I think that is what got me. I was in love. I didn’t plan on falling in love, but here I am.

One of the things I truly loved was that Rhen did not force Harper to do much of anything. By the time Harper arrived, he was so depressed; he thought he’d never break his curse anyhow. There was no Stockholm Syndrome happening as we usually see in retellings of Beauty and the Beast or East of the Sun, West of the Moon. There wasn’t much romance at all. What was in there was real and slow burning, so THANK YOU for that.

The end shattered my soul. Although I solved the little secret beforehand, the action that took place before that had me gripping the pages. I was thrust into heartbreak and anger and eventually numbness.

Although this book is long, it didn’t feel that way to me, the way I breezed through without providing my body food. Knowing that the next book will have Grey’s POV just has me googling ways to transport myself into the future to get my slimy hands on it and waiting is going to be hard. But I shall dream of Grey, and things will be all right.

In closing, this was the best book I have read so far this year.

A Wolf called Wander: Review

176 pages Expected publication: May 2nd 2019 by Andersen

Genre: Children’s/Middle-Grade

A huge thank you to Edelweiss and Andersen for a chance to review this book ahead of its release date.

In this heartfelt and stunning story, we find ourselves seeing life through the eyes of a wolf named Swift. Even as a pup, Swift was as determined as ever to find a place within his pack. Until one day, their pack is attacked by outsides and displaced. Swift finds himself alone. Without the proper tools to survive, he eats small rodents and insects to stay alive. After he’s injured, Swift is visited by a raven who helps him along his journey to find food, water, and even other wolves. Coming face to face with adversaries big and small, Swift travels through the land to find where he belongs.

This book is equal parts heartbreaking and equal parts beautiful in so many ways. Not only the wonderful illustrations, but Swift’s journey to survive in a world that seems to want to break him. The writing is easy to follow along with and definitely for school-age children. I had no idea this story was based on a real wolf, which made it all the more exciting.

Read this book if you like:

Fluffy wolves
wolves
wolves
of yea, wolves

The Fever King: Review

376 pages Expected publication: March 1st 2019 by Skyscape

So, I had no idea I needed this book in my life until I began reading up on it, via the author, on Twitter. Chock-full of diversity, and a dystopian society that didn’t feel cookie cutter? Sign me up. Sign me the eff up right now.

So, I got this book via Kindle First Reads, and dove right in like a sweaty girl on the Fourth of July. What I noted first was how character driven the book was. I cared for Noam as if he were my son. That was how I knew I had to take care of him. Nothing bad will come to you while mama is here, Noamsy, don’t you worry!!! But I am not the author, and bad things do happen to poor Noam. After surviving a viral illness, he wakes up with superpowers and is immediately inducted into an elite academy to begin training. There he meets an array of kids like him, including Dara, who is one of the most troubled and captivating characters I have read in a long time.

What I loved:

This book made me love these characters. I felt their pain, their misery, everything.
The writing was perfection. Enough said there.
The plot was unique.
Diverse cast. (A Jewish, bi, latino? Get out of my diversity dreams)
It crushed my soul into a million pieces.

What I did not like:
How Victoria Lee crushed my soul into a million pieces. But pain is gain. I got this.

On a serious note, this book legit lived up to my expectations. It surpassed them. Shot right out of the sky. I wished the entire series was uploaded to my Kindle right now, Netflix style, but alas I shall suffer with the masses. I mean, this book put me through the wringer, emotionally

justiceforDara

Blood Heir: Review

Thank you to Netgalley for a chance to review this title.

It took me a few days to ponder how I was going to review this title-IF I was going to review it at all seeing as the publication has been ceased. But after reading the acknowledgments after I finished the book, I feel as though the author deserves at least my thoughts on it. Authors put in a crap ton of work into writing a book. This is not to say I will be discounting the voices of others who see parts of this book as problematic. I will be giving light to that as well in as fairly a way as I can.

First, I am putting aside everything and telling you about this story.

This is loosely (LOOSELY) based on the story of Anastasia. This is fantasy world Russia, where certain people have what we call Affinities or special magical powers. Ana is one of those. After being falsely accused of killing her father, the emperor, she runs away and devotes her life to finding the real killer. She stumbles upon a con man named Ramson and convinces him to help her. But Ramson has his secrets, and they may stop Ana from getting to the truth.

Okay, so the writing has minor issues. At some points, it felt like it was trying a bit too hard to make us care for characters. Even without reading the specific issues until after I finished, I did notice some quotes almost directly sounded like they came from somewhere else. It irked me a little, but not enough to let it affect my rating. I think Zao is a talented writer in this aspect and I cannot wait to see what she does in the future.

SPOILER WARNING.

Let’s talk about the death of May, the PoC character. As a writer myself and taking out EVERYTHING that everyone else has said, I felt as though her death did not need to happen to advance Ana’s arc at all, because it didn’t. Ana cried, and it was over. Nothing about May drove Ana to anything other than killing the broker which still didn’t have much of an effect on her arc. Sure May saved the other slaves, but they did not even come to play in this book so what was the point? It was pointless. Focusing now on the scene resembling the Rue scene in The Hunger Games, yes, it was a bit too similar for my taste. Mostly for the fact that I cared about Rue and I didn’t see enough of May to really care about her. Personally, I was thinking of all the ways that May could have benefited Ana if she were still alive in the series. She could do so much more alive than dead.

I will touch upon this for a minute now: as a writer, you need to be aware of what YOU ARE DOING. You are not just killing a character for dramatic sake. You are killing the only PoC which has been a horrible trend, especially in Hollywood. The token black person, as one would say which was a running joke in horror movies especially. We need to do better. We need to recognize that kids are reading this and they see you. They see this trend that needs to stop. I realize my voice is small and shouldn’t even be taken into account. Listen to the PoC’s who are telling you (a general “you” since Amelie has already listened) there is a problem. They are loud, whether you choose to listen or not.

I also believe that everybody who had a hand in editing and reading this book needs to also take a step back. There have too many instances of this sort of thing and it needs to stop.

I think I will keep my rating of three stars and see if the book gets edited and rereleased. I will reread it then and edit this review.

The Poppy War: Review

544 pages Published May 1st 2018 by Harper Voyager

There are other books, and then there’s this book, set aside on a shelf surrounded by an ethereal glow that could be just a trick of the light, but is probably because this book has been blessed by every god and goddess in existence because of its sheer perfection.

What is the book about, you ask?

On the surface, floating like some weird seaweed is the story about a girl who high hopes for her future. She takes an impossible test to get admitted into a prestigious academy, trains her arse off and finds herself in the middle of a war that is not as clear cut as what it seems.

What it’s really about.

“The difference between great and the mediocre is that the great are willing to take the risk.”

The determination on a war orphan to see herself in a better future than married to a man three times her age, to test the limits of her body, to find out who she is inside and out. It’s about a girl who makes her own choices based on what she feels is right for herself. It’s about a war that needs her. It’s about revenge and loyalty.

This book surprised the living cheesus out of me. I waited a long time to read it, keeping up on reviews and recs. But because of my extra massive TBR for 2018, I never got around to it. Then the Christmas gift cards rolled in, and I finally ordered it. Once it arrived, I brushed off what I’d started and opened it up. Usually, I breeze through books that are amazing, but I wanted to take my time with this book. Every word was precious. I don’t know if I will read a book like it until the sequel releases. I HAD TO SAVOR IT!

I cannot gloss over the brutality of the book even though several top reviews have already discussed it, but here it is for those reading a review for The Poppy War for the first time. The plot and its characters had a realness that made my bones clack against one another. It doesn’t skimp over the effects of war. If you’re not into blood and depictions of the dead, dying or rape (off the page), then this book will jar you. I was prepared for it, due to the reviews, but it still took me off guard. While Rin battled with the consequences of war and the choices she had to make, the darker the plot got, and the tenser I felt. This books was not like any other book I’d ever read. It took my expectations and shred them into the wind.

What stuck out was the world-building of this story. There was so much of it, but it did not feel like info dumping and did not bog down the story. It rode along naturally like a convertible on the PCH. deep sigh The way Kuang melded real-life horrors into this fantasy plot made it all the more horrifying. I found myself looking up the battles she was inspired by and sat there with a slack jaw, wondering how they could do such a thing. Then I remembered that we’re humans and we suck and periods like that in China and other countries were real. Those horrors happened. The least we can do is learn about it and make an effort never to let it happen again.

All in all, this book took me for a wild ride and kept me there from beginning, middle, to end. When it did end, I hit my pillow like a teenager having a temper tantrum because mommy disconnected my Fortnite account. Kuang made a solid character in Rin and depicted her struggles, sorrow, and created a vast, well-written arc that I’d never seen before. Every aspect was unforgettable. There was not one blah face in the crowd. There are so many adjectives I could use to continue describing this book, but I will leave it at that. This review (I hope) speaks for itself.

Warnings: drug use, rape (off page), depictions of death, and self-harm.