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Lord of Shadows ~ Cassandra Clare

December 15, 2018

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Genre: Young Adult Fiction/Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
ISBN: 9781442468405
720 pages
Source: Amazon

“There was a long silence. Magnus broke it. “I have to hand it to you,” he said. “I never thought Jace and Clary would be topped by anyone else in terms o insane, self-destructive decisions, but you all are giving them a run for their money.”¬† (p. 628)

I’ve run into so many people who stopped after The Mortal Instruments. Maybe they gave The Infernal Devices a chance or dipped their toes into The Bane Chronicles and Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. But I continue to get questions regarding the worthiness of The Dark Artifices.

Unequivocably, my answer is “yes”. Yes, read them. Yes, they are worth it. I know it’s tough to start over with a whole new set of folks, at a completely different Institute. But it’s Cassandra Clare and she is a goddess.

Lord of Shadows is, perhaps, one of the emotionally heartwrenching books in the entire Shadowhunters set and I love it for that. Without giving too much away for those who haven’t read to this point, there is as much tortured love and lust as there is torture and bloodlust. That’s one of the things Clare has always done well. The seamless integration of warfare and love affairs has always been the guiding force, returning me to her pages.

I love the Blackthorn family, so much. There is not nearly as much fierce love between family members in the rest of the series and for some reason, it just tugged at my heartstrings. I also realized that while the rest of the Clave and the Downworld appear to always be at odds with one another, our little group, despite the time period or location, has this knack for rounding up faeries, vampires, warlocks, werewolves, and Shadowhunters, all outcasts, and fighting for unity at all cost. I think that’s one of my favorite things.

On to this last book (Queen of Air and Darkness). I’ve put it off for too long and I shan’t be afraid of the ending of it all. Nope. I’m brave. Really.

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What If It’s Us ~ Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

December 5, 2018

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Genre: Young Adult/ Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: HarperTeen
ISBN: 9780062795250
448 pages
Source: Barnes and Noble

Take the genuine, good natured goofiness of Becky Albertalli and the heart-wrenching beauty of Adam Silvera and you’ve got Arthur and Ben.

The two high schoolers (midway between Junior and Senior year) bump orbits at the start of one fateful New York City summer. Ben is on his way to the post office to mail off a package of his ex boyfriend’s things and Arthur is bopping around, on break from his summer internship.

The boys each have a full set of their own, heavy baggage going into the summer and and they couldn’t be more different from one another.

Arthur is a bit of an anxious basket case, in the city for a few short months before returning to Atlanta. He is so hyperactive and tightly wound that you kind of get the impression he could out bounce a rubber ball. He is obsessed with musicals (Hamilton obsession, anyone?), comes from money, and has his sights on Yale. He is also a dating virgin and afraid of his own shadow when it comes to approaching cute boys.

Ben a lot more grounded. He’s calm, cool, and is, unfortunately, nursing a broken heart. He writes in his free time but school is not really his thing. Which is a pretty big bummer since his last relationship landed him in summer school with the creator of said broken heart. He is cautious, pragmatic, introverted, and definitely not into musicals. But he is into Arthur. And he stands a chance, as long his insecurities don’t throw him off track.

Still, it’s hard not to hear a Broadway-scale orchestra strike up an epic soundtrack as they stumble into and around one another. Though Arthur got under my skin a bit, I kept having to remind myself that he was fresh out of the closet and that’s not usually a pretty picture. I definitely liked Ben a lot better but I tend to go for the softer, quieter folks. (Oh, goodness, I think maybe Arthur got irritating because I saw myself in him. Oh no…)

Anyway, the characters are flawed because they’re human. The writing, on the other hand, is something magical. I wasn’t surprised, obviously. It came from two heavy hitters in the contemporary feelings department. Im glad I saved it for vacation because it’s one of those books that you just want to curl up and live in.

I really want to see more of this duo’s collaboration and hopefully we’ll get it. In the meantime, if you haven’t gotten around to reading this one, definitely do yourself a favor and get on it.

Bruja Born (Brooklyn Brujas #2) ~ Zoraida Cordova

December 4, 2018

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Genre: Young Adult Fiction/Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN: 9781492650652
352 pages
Source: Little Shop of Stories

What do you get when you mix old school magic, modern-day Brooklyn, and the cautions of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein?

You get the miracle that is Zoraida Cordova’s Bruja Born, that’s what.

Bruja Born is the second book in Cordova’s Brooklyn Brujas series and it blew the first out of the water. Without going into spoilers, the story opens where the first left off. What you need to know, the book opens on three sisters reeling from their most recent adventure to a place they definitely had no place being. As with all magic, there is a price and, unfortunately, that price has come to collect.

The tough part about paying the price for magic, though, is that it always leaves the user wishing for more. More comfort, more peace, more time.

The ripple effect from their previous actions lands all three Mortiz sisters back in hot water, scrambling, once again, to make things right. Unfortunately, this time they’re up against Death, herself, and she doesn’t play around.

Bruja Born is a fast-paced dance, choreographed as a battle between life and death, each one inching closer to the other and then flitting away, only to be sucked back into the center of a deadly fray, fighting for countless souls.

Only Cordova could write a modern gothic horror story and still have my heart. Y’all should know by now, that I am not big on the undead but, again, there is something so compelling readable about her stories that the zombie overtones barely matter.

Because this is number two, and not simply a sequel, I have to assume there will be more beyond the last page of Bruja Born. Labirynth Lost (number one) was told through middle sister Alex’s eyes and this second installment was told via the older of the three Motiz sisters, Lula. My hope is that youngest sister, Rose, will get her chance in round three. I guess it’s safe to say that this little family has my heart if I’m hoping for their fictional wellbeing.

If you haven’t started this series, I highly recommend it. Thank me, later.

Odd One Out – Nic Stone

December 3, 2018

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Genre: Yong Adult/Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9781101939536
320 pages
Source: Barnes and Noble

So, a few of you know that Nic Stone is one of my biggest heroes. And it’s ok to have her as one because I’ve already met her, so there isn’t any of that “never meet your heroes” caution going on.

She had my heart with Dear, Martin, but kind of tore my heart to pieces with Odd One Out.

Even by her own admission, the book is one she wishes she’d had when she was younger and figuring out how and who to love. I wholeheartedly agree with her on that.

The story follows three high schoolers over the course of a year as they wind their way through love, loss, heartache, and friendship. It covers every avenue of orientation, mapping out peaks and valleys, answering all of these questions I had as a teenager but also, some of the questions that still rumble around in my head.

The book is told in three distinct parts which was unique to me. Usually, writers try to switch voices every chapter or even sooner. While I’ve enjoyed that device in the past, the three separate sections for Odd One Out made it that much more powerful.

For those who have not yet read Dear, Martin, you may be surprised and delighted by Odd One Out but for me, it was a confirmation and recommitment. Nic never loses her magic, even for a second, weaving perfectly written narrative in with emotional wonderings and a side of Queen lyrics.

I can not say enough good things about this book but I also feel like I’m about to start gushing and spoiling so I’ll just leave you with a plea to pick up Odd One Out and you can thank me, later.

The Allies ~ Winston Groom

November 29, 2018

Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin walk into a bar…

I’m kidding. This won’t be that kind of review. Still, though, when reading The Allies, I did have a little bit of little kid, star struck silliness happening. I grew up in a family heavily saturated in military and global history. I have three granddads in the Navy and shelves upon shelves of history books at my disposal even before I could walk.

Groom does the end-of-war complexities to the table in a way that would definitely make all three of my patriarchs proud. His familiarity with both the human and tactical elements of the time period made the entire book feel like I was sitting at the table, eves dropping.

Through a flurry of letters and corresponding actions and communications, the alliance between the three men (and some smaller players, of course) Groom manages to bring his skill as a historian and his magical novelist powers together to create an astoundingly brilliant historical compilation of one of my personal favorite time periods.

Thank you to TLC Book tours for the chance to be on this leg of the tour.

Give the Dark My Love ~ By Beth Revis

November 20, 2018

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Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy

Publisher: Razorbill

ISBN: 9781595147172

368 pages

Source: Barnes and Noble

Well, dear friends, this vacation has certainly gotten off in the right foot. After pushing aside fantasy (and fiction in general) all semester, I have, indeed, managed to land on probably my favorite book of the last few months.

Give the Dark My Love was picked by my Bookstagram reading group and I’d never heard of it. I picked it up yesterday morning, hoping to get some of it read in the plane, today. Ahem, I did not bring it on the place because I finished all 351 pages in essentially one sitting.

The book switches between “country girl turned big city school scholarship student”, Nedra, and “I’m not like the other rich kids even if my daddy wants me to be a politician”, Grey.

Other than that tried and true set up for disaster, there is more important drama brewing. The kiddos are in what is essentially Med School in the Middle Ages (If the Middle Ages had actual alchemy and necromancy was real. But details.).

And so, much to our horror, there is A Plague. they must stop it. Hijinx ensue.

Not sure if I can really put my finger on exactly why I swallowed this whole book in an afternoon. Like, yes, the main characters are adorably flawed and just edgy enough to be relatable while still being pretty perfect. Their school, classes, and administration has a slight resemblance to Hogwarts but only because I’m always looking.

And of course, there’s the adventure. I think that was the most exciting part because, while I’m not usually a huge plague and necromancy gal, I do love a good escaped and there were many excellebt political and timely moments of commentary.

Anyway, I highly recommend this one, y’all. It was kind of a hit out of nowhere for me which, honestly, are the best more often than not.

Pride ~ Ibi Zoboi

November 19, 2018

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Genre: Young Adult/ Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
ISBN: 9780062564047
304 pages
Source: Owl Crate

I have never been much of a Jane Austen fan. I know, I know. That’s like Book Community Excommunication talk but, hey, there’s a book out there for everyone and Jane just isn’t my cup of tea.

With that in mind, I was a little nervous when Zoboi’s Pride came my way.

The nerves were all for nothing, however, because she managed to make boring old English nonsense super cool.

If you’ve read the original, you know the basic storyline. A family of teenaged women with their own hopes, dreams, and baggage have a couple of cute young men “of class” thrust upon their quiet little life. In this case, that little life is not the English countryside but quickly gentrifying Brooklyn but the sentiment is largely the same.

Honestly, the newer version took my heart, perhaps because it was more relatable, perhaps because the young women were more interested in school and art and music than social status. Perhaps because I have a weird affinity for Brooklyn, I don’t know. Honestly, it’s probably just because Zoboi is clearly a gifted writer.

Regardless of the reason for my preference, the book was fantastic. Zuri, the somewhat guarded, academically inclined, second oldest, is the driving voice of the story (she stands in as the new Elizabeth Bennett if memory serves) and returns some much-needed sparkle to a drab old tale. Like the original, the boys were somewhat tedious but they did have their endearing qualities.

I don’t know if I just overlooked this nuance in the original but the commentary on the changing landscape of a city neighborhood was written so well it was almost a complete character of the book. It could have been written about Atlanta or Boston or L.A. and held up to the struggle many neighborhoods are facing (and have been facing) as rich, mostly white, homebuyers move in.

I haven’t read Zoboi’s first book but I’m off to go find that before I leave for vacation because if it’s anything like this one, I’ll fall in love.