Mini-Reviews: Pride, Beneath the Sugar Sky, & Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Pride and Prejudice gets remixed in this smart, funny, gorgeous retelling of the classic, starring all characters of color, from Ibi Zoboi, National Book Award finalist and author of American Street.

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.

I hesitated to pick up Pride because of all of the mixed reviews I’d seen when it first came out, but I’m glad that I finally picked it up.

This ended up being a great modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and I absolutely loved that it was set in Brooklyn. Pride pretty seamlessly weaves in some commentary on issues like gentrification, class, and the leaking of nudes without coming across like a lecture. It’s easy to see the parallels with the original, but the book still feels like it tells its own story rather than being a direct copy.

As for negatives, I felt that some scenes went on for a little too long and got a little repetitive. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Zuri and Darius’s relationship since it went from hate to love very quickly, but I guess it also does in the original. But those are pretty minor complaints, and overall, I really enjoyed this book.


Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
Source: Borrowed

When Rini lands with a literal splash in the pond behind Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, the last thing she expects to find is that her mother, Sumi, died years before Rini was even conceived. But Rini can’t let Reality get in the way of her quest – not when she has an entire world to save! (Much more common than one would suppose.)

If she can’t find a way to restore her mother, Rini will have more than a world to save: she will never have been born in the first place. And in a world without magic, she doesn’t have long before Reality notices her existence and washes her away. Good thing the student body is well-acquainted with quests…

A tale of friendship, baking, and derring-do.

Warning: May contain nuts.

As someone who absolutely loves baking, it probably comes as no surprise that my favorite world (so far) in the Wayward Children series is Confection. This nonsense world is filled with whimsical things like a moon made of frosting and a sea made of strawberry rhubarb soda. Not everything is perfect in Confection, though. Like the other worlds, it has its own undercurrent of danger.

Since I loved the world (and the writing) so much, I probably would have given this novella five stars if we’d followed characters from the original book. It is true that Christopher and Kade are here, but our main character is someone entirely new. While this was fine and ended up working out in the end, it did leave me feeling a little disconnected from everything at the beginning.

Overall, though, I’m a big fan of this series and would highly recommend it.


Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Source: Borrowed

Lara Jean is having the best senior year.

And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks . . . until she gets some unexpected news.

Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

Possibly unpopular opinion time: I don’t think this needed to be a series. I really enjoyed To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but while the writing was still good in P.S. I Still Love You, I didn’t like the plot and it felt completely unnecessary. I feel the same about Always and Forever, Lara Jean. The writing was good, but let’s be honest. Did this book even have a plot?

This book also uses one of my least favorite tropes:breaking up because a parent tells you to. What a cop-out for drama. I’m still waiting to read a book that features a parent doing this and a main character that stands up to them, because what kind of nonsense is this? It makes me so angry.

In the end, all I can really say is that this is a cute series, but it really could have stopped after the first book.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: Supernova, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, & The Last Hope

Supernova by Marissa Meyer
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Source: Borrowed

All’s fair in love and anarchy…

The epic conclusion to Marissa Meyer’s thrilling Renegades Trilogy finds Nova and Adrian fighting to keep their identities secret. While the battle rages on between their alter egos and their allies, there is a darker threat shrouding Gatlon City.

The Renegades’ worst enemy is back among them, threatening to reclaim Gatlon City. Nova and Adrian must brave lies and betrayal to protect those they love. Their greatest fears are about to come to life, and unless they can bridge the divide between heroes and villains, they stand to lose everything. Including each other.

Intrigue and action will leave readers on edge until the final, shocking secrets are revealed.

Overall, I really enjoyed the Renegades series, but I have to admit that Supernova was a little underwhelming. I didn’t hate it, or even really dislike it, but I feel that compared with the rest of the series, it’s the weakest book.

It felt a little bit like the resolution of all the different plot points was just thrown in there and I was left feeling more confused than surprised. Everything that happened felt so convenient, without the suspense or high stakes feeling the previous two books had.

I will say that the epilogue floored me, though. I hope there’s a spin-off, or at least a novella, coming.


Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Source: Borrowed

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

The second book in the Wayward Children series follows Jack and Jill, twins who have absolutely awful parents. They fall into a portal world called The Moors, where they’re finally able to step outside of the very narrow boxes their parents have tried to shove them into and live happily. The world of The Moors is dark, and often scary, but it’s a place where Jack and Jill finally find love and acceptance.

I liked the commentary on gender roles and parenting, but the world of The Moors wasn’t my favorite and Jack and Jill aren’t my favorite characters in this series. Final verdict? This one was good, but I liked the first one better.


The Last Hope by Krista & Becca Ritchie
Rating: DNF
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 13, 2019
Source: ARC via Netgalley

A stunning conclusion to the sci-fi romance duology by writing duo Krista & Becca Ritchie, The Last Hope is filled with twists and turns you’ll never see coming.

Sacrifice all you have to survive.

Imprisoned for weeks on an enemy starcraft, Franny, Court, and Mykal have sat with an unfathomable revelation. But as they fight to stay alive, escaping prison means trusting a young mysterious stranger. He knows everything about their lost histories, and when answers aren’t given freely, the bonded trio are forced to join a mission. One that will determine the fate of humanity.

Legend says, a baby—the first of her species—has the power to cloak and teleport planets. Tasked with retrieving the infant, Court fears the baby is just a myth, and if they fail, they’ll never find the truth about their origins.

As Court and Mykal grow closer, their linked bond becomes harder to hide, and dynamics change when Franny begins to fall for someone new. Vulnerable and with no choice, the hunt for the baby sends the trio on a dangerous path to Saltare-1: a water world where their enemies can’t die and survival comes at a high cost.

Here’s the thing about Krista & Becca Ritchie — I used to be a really big fan of theirs. If you go back in my reviews archive, you’ll find reviews of every single book they’d written up until maybe two years ago. I’m not sure if my reading tastes changed or their writing changed, but this is the second book of theirs in a row that I’ve disliked.

They have a very distinctive, introspective writing style that I think lends itself pretty well to contemporary romance and not very well to fantasy. It was a little weird in The Raging Ones, but I was able to get past it. I couldn’t get past it here. The whole “I’m going to analyze everybody’s every move and what it means” thing was so tiresome. The plot barely moves. After five weeks, I was only halfway done and nothing had happened.

I saw another review that mentioned that it felt like the authors had spent all their time writing book one and then just before book two’s deadline, realized they had to write something. I agree. This is not the level of quality I expect from them, and I’m so disappointed that I had to DNF a book by authors who used to be my favorites.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: Moonstruck Vol. 1, The Steel Prince Vol. 1, & Check Please Book 1

Moonstruck, Vol. 1 by Grace Ellis
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Source: Borrowed
Werewolf barista Julie and her new girlfriend go on a date to a close-up magic show, but all heck breaks loose when the magician casts a horrible spell on their friend Chet. Now it’s up to the team of mythical pals to stop the illicit illusionist before it’s too late.

Collects issues 1 through 5.

I remember seeing Moonstruck floating around when it was first published, and I thought it looked so cute! I had totally forgotten about it until I saw it on Hoopla.

And it was cute. It features all kinds of mythical creatures, a ton of diversity, and great art. Where it kind of fell apart for me was in the actual storyline. Or maybe I should say lack of storyline? It was all over the place in terms of characterization and actual events, and the resolution at the end was really unsatisfying.

This was quick and cute, but I don’t need to keep reading this series.


The Steel Prince, Vol. 1 by V.E. Schwab
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 6, 2019
Source: ARC via Edelweiss

Written by #1 New York Times bestselling author V.E. Schwab and torn from the universe of the Shades of Magic sequence, this all-original comic book prequel to A Darker Shade of Magic is perfect for fans of bloody, swashbuckling adventure and gritty fantasy!

Delve into the thrilling, epic tale of the young and arrogant prince Maxim Maresh, long before he became the king of Red London and adoptive father to Kell, the lead of A Darker Shade of Magic!

The youthful Maresh is sent to a violent and unmanageable port city on the Blood Coast of Verose, on strict orders from his father, King Nokil Maresh, to cut his military teeth in this lawless landscape.

There, he encounters an unruly band of soldiers, a lawless landscape, and the intoxicatingly deadly presence of the newly returned pirate queen, Arisa…

Collects Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince #1-4. 

I like V.E. Schwab and I like graphic novels, so reading The Steel Prince seemed like a no-brainer. I was really excited when I saw it on Edelweiss as a new addition, and completely shocked when I was actually approved.

The story was a little jumpy, and I never say this, but I think the pacing was too fast. It was like a whirlwind of Maxim’s life with things happening almost like bullet points on a list. This, then that, then that, then this. I wasn’t a big fan of the art, either, which is very dark. I never really felt like sticking around to look at the images, which is kind of the main point of a graphic novel.

In the end, this graphic novel was fine, but I don’t feel the need to continue with the series.


Check, Please! Book 1 by Ngozi Ukazu
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Helloooo, Internet Land. Bitty here!

Y’all… I might not be ready for this. I may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur pâtissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It’s nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking. And then, there is Jack—our very attractive but moody captain.

A collection of the first half of the megapopular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: #Hockey is the first book of a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life.

This is one of the cutest things I’ve ever read. I went into it with basically no expectations since sporty graphic novels and I haven’t always gotten along, but this was just so cute.

I loved Bitty, I loved Jack, I loved all of the characters and all of the baking and all of the vlogging and I didn’t even mind the hockey. The art was absolutely adorable. And that cliffhanger!!

If there’s any character that needs to be protected at all costs, it’s Bitty.

Excuse me while I go read book two.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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ARC Review: Jennifer Strange by Cat Scully

Jennifer Strange by Cat Scully
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: July 21, 2020
Source: ARC via Netgalley

Jennifer Strange is cursed with the ability to give ghosts and demons a corporeal body with just the touch of her hand. All she wants is to learn how to control her new gift. Instead, her father drops her in the care of her older sister Liz, leaving only his journal as an explanation.

Jennifer and Liz haven’t spoken to each other since their mother died, but when the supernatural residents of Savannah, Georgia find Jennifer and her powerful gift, the sisters must learn to trust each other again and uncover the truth about their parents. If they can’t sort out their differences, they’ll not only destroy the veil between the living and the dead but fall into the hands of a rival family who wants to claim the Sparrow power for themselves.

JENNIFER STRANGE is an illustrated novel – a campy romp for fans of BUFFY, EVIL DEAD, and SUPERNATURAL. Cat’s illustrations unveil the story of Jennifer’s family history in the form of a journal with an art style akin to SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK.

I want to start my review by saying that the main reason I didn’t like this book was that I was under the (false) impression that it was a graphic novel, since that’s how it was categorized on Netgalley. This is not a graphic novel. It is a novel with the occasional illustration. And by “occasional,” I mean maybe one every two or three chapters.

The concept of this book is good. It reminds me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I love, and Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins, which I thought was a ton of fun. In this book, Jennifer is a normal teenage girl until demons start showing up around her. She has no idea what’s going on and all she has is a mysterious journal that her father gave her before unceremoniously dumping her on her older sister.

Unfortunately, I can’t help but think that this story would have been a thousand times better if it were told in graphic novel format.

Because, the thing is, the writing is pretty weak. Instead of worldbuilding that feels natural, we get a lot of infodumps through dialogue. Jennifer meets characters who magically know everything that she doesn’t, and even though she has a journal from her father that contains all of the information she needs, she just casually pages through instead of, you know, sitting down to read it so she can stop complaining about how she doesn’t know anything. There’s also a strange lack of emotion in the book, like when a character is taken and someone says, “Damn it. The Banshee got her.” Shouldn’t there be an exclamation point in there somewhere? Maybe some fear? Any kind of feeling?

The story is also very jumpy, hopping kind of haphazardly between normal events like eating breakfast and taking a shower and, like, demons destroying the city. The transition between the two is typically someone throwing up, which I think I counted seven times within the first 25% of the book, at which point I stopped counting. I wish it would have had more of a transition, or just any kind of transition other than constant vomiting. I’m just not sure why that was necessary.

Anyway, back to my point on the graphic novel. I think it would have hidden a lot of the problems with the writing, and it would also have looked pretty cool. The brief snippets of art we get are really good and I imagine that they’d translate really well into a full graphic novel format. It’s just a shame that it’s miscategorized on Netgalley. I hope it won’t be marketed incorrectly to the general public, because I could see that causing a lot of problems.


Have you read Jennifer Strange? Have you ever thought you’d like a story better if it were told in a different format?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: The Lost Sisters, Archenemies, & Every Heart a Doorway

The Lost Sisters by Holly Black
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Sometimes the difference between a love story and a horror story is where the ending comes . . .

While Jude fought for power in the Court of Elfhame against the cruel Prince Cardan, her sister Taryn began to fall in love with the trickster, Locke.

Half-apology and half-explanation, it turns out that Taryn has some secrets of her own to reveal.

The Lost Sisters is a companion e-novella to the New York Times bestselling novel The Cruel Prince by master writer Holly Black.

The Lost Sisters is a 50-page novella, so this will be a very mini mini-review. This novella is set between The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King and tells us what happened from Taryn’s perspective. I was a little apprehensive about that, because I didn’t think that anything could make me like or sympathize with her… and I was right.

While well-written, this novella did nothing for my dislike of Taryn. I’m also not sure that it was entirely necessary since it didn’t add much to the story. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m still most likely going to be reading Cardan’s novella when it comes out.


Archenemies by Marissa Meyer
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Time is running out.
Together, they can save the world.
But are they each other’s worst nightmare?

In Renegades, Nova and Adrian (aka Insomnia and Sketch) fought the battle of their lives against the Anarchist known as the Detonator. It was a short-lived victory.

The Anarchists still have a secret weapon, one that Nova believes will protect her. The Renegades also have a strategy for overpowering the Anarchists, but both Nova and Adrian understand that it could mean the end of Gatlon City – and the world – as they know it.
 

While I really enjoyed Renegades, I never felt too much of a burning desire to read the rest of the books in the series. Then, as I started to think that maybe I finally wanted to read it, I was worried that it had been too long and I wouldn’t remember all the characters and their aliases and their allegiances. But then I jumped in anyway, because why not, and it all turned out okay.

I’m not sure what’s a spoiler and what isn’t right now, so I’m going to be pretty brief in what I liked and disliked. I liked the relationship between Nova and Adrian and I liked the tension between good and evil and the morally grey quality that a lot of the characters have. I did think the book had a bit of a slow start, and I’m not sure that the amount of action we got warranted 560 pages, but overall, this was really good.


Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Source: Borrowed

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

I have seen Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series seemingly everywhere over the last few years, and I finally decided it was time to pick it up. In case you, like me, weren’t really sure what this series is all about, it’s set at a boarding school for children who’ve visited other worlds and have returned to parents who aren’t quite sure what to do with them. Their parents don’t support them, they think they’re crazy, or they’re just fed up. Whatever the reason, all the characters have ended up in this school where they’re finally accepted for who they are.

I enjoyed this little novella a lot, but I wish that it was longer. McGuire introduces us to a bunch of characters, all very intriguing, all very different, a couple things happen plot-wise, and then it’s over. This is a series of many novellas about the different characters and the different fantastical worlds they’ve visited, and I can only hope that by the time it’s done, I’ll feel like I’ve been told a complete, cohesive story.


Have you read any of these books? Have you read any good YA fantasy books recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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