Serpent and Dove: Review

Finally. FINALLY. A well-written fantasy that does not remind me of anything that I’ve read in the past. Don’t sit on this one, folks.

Thank you to Edelweiss and HarperCollins for the chance to review this title ahead of its release date. This, in no way, affects my glowing review.

SERPENT AND DOVE is a fantasy told in a split POV narrative. First up is Lou, a witch in hiding who’s missteps cause her to get married to a witch hunter named Reid. Reid is stiff and dedicated to his beliefs whereas Lou is often vulgar and unchaste. Together they form an unusual pairing that is often filled with bitterness and confusion. Enemies turn up, as they do, and both Reid and Lou have to decide where their allegiances lie. To each other, or the lives they were born into.

LOU is a snarky arse eighteen-year-old who turns her nose up at the Church and its ideals. She lives her life as a thief to get by in this France inspired world. She has bestie written all over her. She’s fierce and independent, but also likewise vulnerable with flaws. The only other heroine I can think of that compares is Celaena from Throne of Glass, but that’s only a minuscule portion of who Lou is. Shelby created a protagonist that you can cheer for until the end. She is the ultimate YA heroine.

REID is a witch hunter, or Chasseur if you will. He’d been raised to believe witches were evil, and to follow the good book, almost blindly. He’s a tall drink of water with cinnamon roll tendencies. That is to say; he’s so chaste and innocent, I was hoping Lou would ravage the poor guy sooner rather than later. He’s tall, and prone to rage-filled outbursts, mostly because he does not understand the woman Lou is. Oh man, the tension between these two was so thick I had a hard time pulling my kindle away from my face. Teamed up with Lou, they are a force to be reckoned with. Their romance is nail-biting delicious.

Add to this your TO BE READ, pre-order, whatever. If you like fantasy, kick-arse heroines, and a fresh magic system and world, this is the one for you.

The plot flowed beautifully and had me hooked from page one. Usually, with longer books like this, I tend to take my time, but I had to blow through this because it was literally THAT good. I felt my body sag when I saw this was only a duology. But needless to say, I will follow Shelby’s career to my dying day. She is one to watch!

Expected publication: September 3rd 2019 by HarperTeen

When the Sky Fell on Splendor: Review

GAH. This is going to be one of those harsh reviews that I really hate writing. But because I’ve loved the author’s other works, the disappointment of this one hit hard.

So, here we have a group of kids. Franny (the POV we read from, her brother Arthur, Levi, Remy, Nick, and Sofia. They are creatures of loss, one way or another, and find companionship in it all while being part of a small Youtube channel while they visit haunted places and recall ghost stories. During one such nightly excursion, they encounter something otherworldly.

This book started solid, with hints of movies like Super 8 and maybe even Signs and a little bit of Goonies and E.T. But unfortunately, it didn’t take off in the same caliber. I prepped myself for the big reveal to what happened with Franny’s brother, only to never truly get it. I wanted a real Signs moment, where Mel Gibson finally comes to terms with his wife’s death type thing. Don’t get me wrong; the book had fantastic characters in that I could tell them each apart which is hard to do when you’re writing a book with six close friends vying for the reader’s attention.

Basically, the story dipped and stayed underwater for quite some time. I found myself skimming, (which is the first sign of boredom). There was quite a bit of flashback, which I ordinarily don’t mind, but there were so many which should have built up to something and never did. Not to mention, I felt incredibly DUPED by the cover and the synopsis. I thought I was finally getting a fresh alien novel. ARGH.

This book was compared to The Serpent King, which is a total bull crap lie. That book had heart and what ultimately led me into reading it as buying it as quickly as I did. Henry’s first two books were shiny gifts to the world, but this one was one of those shoebox presents wrapped in newspaper.

Circle of Shadows: Review

Thank you to Edelweiss for providing me with the e-arc, but I went ahead and waited until the book was out to buy it, to own, since it was so beautiful. I ended up with a purple sprayed edges copy which was signed!

Anyhow, since The Crown’s Game was such a super great book, I think I expected something of the same caliber. Unfortunately, this one was not on the same level, at all.

This book started out promising — Wolf and Spirit as two apprentice warriors who discover a secret plot to overthrow the Empress. Spirit is good at magic while Wolf is skilled at combat. They encounter whole new sort of magic that could threaten their land. They’re not taken very seriously, so they take matters into their own hands.

The premise was really cool. I loved the idea of “geminas” where one person is bonded to another and able to feel what they feel. The magic system was cool and original. I love stories centering around Japanese culture. The world reminded me a lot of an anime, but as much as I tried to picture it as one, it all fell away as the story progressed.

Everything felt…convienent and forced. I absolutely did not care for the characters. The situations were a bit cheesy and had that done-before feeling. The AHA moments did not draw a reaction from me. The side characters were brief and their moments seemed just the same, even though one character had a huge scene that should have affected me. Don’t get me started on the love triangle. WHAT? I know it was probably created for conflict to carry over into the next book, but it felt weird and necessary, and I hated it. The slow burn with Wolf and Spirit was enough. Her unwillingness to see Wolf as a romantic partner and him fighting his attraction held enough conflict to hold its own.

The monikers were awful. Fairy, Broomstick…UGH

The book moved past scenes too quickly. I felt like there was never enough time to ground myself in one spot.

I believe my expectations were simply too high. This is one of those books that I will forget the next day. I’m so sad because I wanted to love it, but alas.

A Pack of Blood and Lies: Review

Sassy protagonist. Werewolves who occasional sniff vaginas in a jealous rage while butt naked. Murder plots. Yes, this had it all.

A huge thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a chance to review this book ahead of its release date.

Ness finds herself dragged off to her old home in Boulder Colorado after the death of her mother. Back with the all-male wolf pack which once shunned her, she now finds herself invested in bitterness against one of the pack members, a boy named Liam, who happens to be the son of a man who raped Ness’s mother. To spite him, she puts her name in to become Alpha and eventually puts herself through tasks against some of the pack’s ruthless men. Liam’s icy yet heated demeanor toward her tries to knock her off balance. Que the secrets that affect not only Ness but Liam and the entire pack.

What I liked:

WOLVES WOLVES WOLVES I love wolves. I cannot get enough of them. I love them so much I wrote my own shifter book which is why I think enjoyed this so much. There is a lack of shifter books out there in the YA world that set themselves apart. Ness was a great character in that she acted like your average teenager, but when faced with the real stuff she didn’t run. She met it head-on. I was with her every step of the way.

The writing was fun, and I enjoyed Ness’s introspection on the patriarchal society she found herself in. The writing was what kept me going after the first chapter which was a tad too fast for my taste. But as I continued, I found that I liked how fast-paced it was. It didn’t beat around the wolf. It took on the plot with teeth bared and ready.

Overall, I enjoyed this book — a lot. And I am waiting with bated breath until I get my grubby hands on the next book.

Add this if you liked:

Books like Paper Princess, or maybe even Shiver or Moon-Called.
hate to love romance
lots and lots of secrets
did I mention wolves?
also hot wolf-men?

Little Apocalypse: Review

Thank you to Edelweiss and HarperCollins for the e-arc!

If you’re looking for a creepy, atmospherical, Miyazaki-type book, this is the one. I’m not just saying that because the protagonist has my name, but it helps.

What is it about?

Celia is home alone when an earthquake strikes her city. Going against her parent’s wishes, she ventures out to reach out to survivors in her apartment building and encounters a boy named Demetri. After talking to the strange boy, she decides to stray outside to find herself in a peculiar world where Hunters chase Monsters called Bigs and the children they turn into weird little creatures called Littles. All of this, nobody can see except Celia and the children she meets. After the Hunters recruit Celia, she discovers there’s more to the Bigs and Littles than meets the eye. She finds herself in the center of a battle that could destroy her.

What interested me:

The concept of Bigs and Littles was unique. Some of the Littles formed a hideaway where they vowed never to turn children into one of them, creating a sort of rebellion against the Bigs. Not becoming monsters draws parallels to the real world where we all must fight against evil. I think children will take to this. I also loved the monsters and the sometimes quirkiness of them. It reminded me a lot of Miyazaki’s films like Spirited Away and Howls Moving Castle where monsters co-exist and are often misunderstood. The writing did not feel too “young” for me, a thirty-something adult, but I think the book would still appeal to its target audience. Strong characters and strong world-building really tie this novel together. I haven’t read many books that relate to this one so I cannot give similar titles as recs, but if you’re looking for a fun, original story, this is the one for you!

The ending was very open-ended so I’m wondering if there’s a sequel in the works. It’s the only part of the book that disappointed me as a reader. Maybe it was because I’m used to happy endings in Middle-Grade fiction. I also think it could use a better cover. Think epic monster fighting! 😉

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

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.