Mini-Reviews: The Queen of Nothing, Tweet Cute, & The King of Crows

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 19, 2019
Source: Borrowed

He will be destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity…

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black, comes the highly anticipated and jaw-dropping finale to The Folk of the Air trilogy.

My thoughts on this series have been all over the place. While I thought The Cruel Prince had a slow start, I did find myself really enjoying it once it picked up. I found The Wicked King incredibly underwhelming. But The Queen of Nothing? Finally. A book that I loved.

I feel like Jude was at her best in this book. She’s finally lost a lot of the stupidity that defined her character in the first two books. She’s strengthened her relationships with a lot of the other characters and she’s just grown as a character so much.

The main reason this book got four stars and not five is that some major things happen off-page, which was a little disappointing. But aside from that, I really, really enjoyed this book. It was definitely a worthy conclusion to this series.


Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Source: Borrowed

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. 

I’d seen so many glowing reviews of Tweet Cute that I was a little nervous to read it. But sometimes, when things get stressful, I turn to cute, fluffy contemporaries. And really, what’s more stressful than a global pandemic that’s prevented me from leaving my house?

Tweet Cute was just what I needed. This book is cute, it’s funny, it’s full of banter, and it includes some really sassy tweets. I liked both Pepper and Jack, and I really appreciated the way the book handled all of the pressure in their lives.

My main dislike in this book was Pepper’s mom, who we’re definitely not supposed to like. She felt one-dimensional and I wish we would have seen more growth and consequences for her character. But overall, this was a super fun book and I’m glad I took the time to read it!


The King of Crows by Libba Bray
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 4, 2020
Source: Borrowed

The breath-taking finale to the epic New York Times bestseller, The Diviners, from Printz winner and beloved author, Libba Bray.

After the horrifying explosion that claimed one of their own, the Diviners find themselves wanted by the US government, and on the brink of war with the King of Crows.

While Memphis and Isaiah run for their lives from the mysterious Shadow Men, Isaiah receives a startling vision of a girl, Sarah Beth Olson, who could shift the balance in their struggle for peace. Sarah Beth says she knows how to stop the King of Crows-but, she will need the Diviners’ help to do it.

Elsewhere, Jericho has returned after his escape from Jake Marlowe’s estate, where he has learned the shocking truth behind the King of Crow’s plans. Now, the Diviners must travel to Bountiful, Nebraska, in hopes of joining forces with Sarah Beth and to stop the King of Crows and his army of the dead forever.

But as rumors of towns becoming ghost towns and the dead developing unprecedented powers begin to surface, all hope seems to be lost.

In this sweeping finale, The Diviners will be forced to confront their greatest fears and learn to rely on one another if they hope to save the nation, and world from catastrophe…

I read the first Diviners book in 2013 (pre-blog!), and now, seven years later, the series is done. There isn’t much that I can say about this book without spoiling the series, so I’m going to keep this pretty short.

My favorite thing about this series is the atmosphere. While reading, I actually felt like I was in a spooky version of 1920s New York City. Libba Bray has such a way with words and any time I read one of her books, I’m so pleasantly surprised with how she can transport me directly into the setting.

My second favorite thing about this series is the characters. They’re all different, they have their own stories and struggles, and they’re all so lovable. Even characters that I didn’t necessarily like at the beginning of the series grew on me so much. (Except Jericho. I’m done with him after book three.)

I’m a little sad that this series is over, but I’m excited to read whatever Libba writes next.


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

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Mini-Reviews: The Bear and the Nightingale, Before the Devil Breaks You, and Let Me Hear a Rhyme

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Source: Borrowed

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

I love Katherine Arden’s middle-grade books, but as much as it pains me to say it, I did not love her YA. I really have hardly anything to say about this one because I was just bored from the time I started it until I finally finished. I kept waiting for the story to pick up and for anything to spark my interest, but nothing did.

I only stuck with it until the end because of that love for Arden’s other books. Unfortunately, I won’t be continuing on with this series.


Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray
Series: The Diviners #3
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Source: Borrowed

New York City.
1927.
Lights are bright.
Jazz is king.
Parties are wild.
And the dead are coming…


After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that claimed two of their own, the Diviners have had enough lies. They’re more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off against an all-new terror. Out on Ward’s Island, far from the city’s bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten–ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.

With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in from all over and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must band together and brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them face-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance, and the Diviners will question all that they’ve ever known. All the while, malevolent forces gather from every corner in a battle for the very soul of a nation–a fight that could claim the Diviners themselves.

I was a little nervous about reading Before the Devil Breaks You since it had been about four years since I’d read Lair of Dreams, but I didn’t need to worry. Libba Bray did a great job at casually reminding the reader of most of what had happened previously. I loved being back in this world. I love these characters and this setting so much.

Since this is the third book in a series, I’m going to be a little vague about what happens in this book. Overall, I was impressed. Bray is an excellent storyteller and she’s created an incredible series. I will say, though, that this book is 552 pages and, unlike the previous books in the series, it shows. There are definitely some parts that drag and some scenes that could have probably been cut, but I cannot wait until my hold on The King of Crows comes in so I can finally find out how this series ends.

Content warnings for:racism, anti-antisemitism, abusive relationship, attempted rape/sexual assault, poor treatment of characters with mental illness — however, all of these are handled well by the author

Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 21, 2019
Source: Borrowed

In this standalone novel, Tiffany D. Jackson tells the story of three Brooklyn teens who plot to turn their murdered friend into a major rap star by pretending he is still alive.

Biggie Smalls was right. Things done changed. But that doesn’t mean that Quadir and Jarrell are okay letting their best friend Steph’s tracks lie forgotten in his bedroom after he’s killed—not when his beats could turn any Bed-Stuy corner into a celebration, not after years of having each other’s backs.

Enlisting the help of Steph’s younger sister, Jasmine, Quadir and Jarrell come up with a plan to promote Steph’s music under a new rap name: The Architect. Soon, everyone in Brooklyn is dancing to Steph’s voice. But then his mixtape catches the attention of a hotheaded music rep and—with just hours on the clock—the trio must race to prove Steph’s talent from beyond the grave.

Now, as the pressure—and danger—of keeping their secret grows, Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine are forced to confront the truth about what happened to Steph. Only each has something to hide. And with everything riding on Steph’s fame, together they need to decide what they stand for before they lose everything they’ve worked so hard to hold on to—including each other.

I’ve had a few of Tiffany D. Jackson’s books on my TBR for a while now, but Let Me Hear a Rhyme is the first one I’ve actually read. I had kind of high expectations based on the reviews I’ve read of her books, but this one ended up just being okay for me.

I thought that the premise was great. A group of kids trying to get their deceased friend a record deal? Coming up with reason after reason after reason for why he couldn’t come to these meetings himself? Trying to remix his songs and searching for other demos he’d made? Honestly incredible. Where this book fell flat for me was in how many things it tried to do in 384 pages. Because it’s not just the music, it’s also a murder mystery and a romance. It was too much, and I felt like each plot suffered because of it. Also, the characters sucked their teeth on just about every other page, and it was really grating by the end.

I’m still excited to read more from Jackson.


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

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Libba Bray has been one of my favorite authors since I was in high school and I first read the Gemma Doyle series.  I’ve looked forward to every book she’s released since then, and was not at all surprised to fall in love with The Diviners back in 2012.  I waited, and waited, and waited for Lair of Dreams, devoured it as usual, and loved it almost as much as its predecessor.

A word of caution: if you haven’t read The Diviners since its original release, I would suggest at least reading through some reviews prior to starting Lair of Dreams, because it does build upon a lot that happened in that book.  It took me probably a good 50-100 pages to immerse myself in this world again, but once I did, oh it was worth it.

In Lair of Dreams, Evie O’Neill and her supernatural crime-fighting band of Diviners are back, ready to take on New York’s sleeping sickness.  In this installment of the series, Naughty John is gone, replaced by a mysterious sickness that seems to lock people in their dreams.  Memphis, a dream walker, is their only hope at uncovering the mystery, but what if he too gets locked in a dream?

On the sidelines, Evie has become wildly popular as the host of her own radio show.  She reads listeners’ belongings on air, but when she’s alone, she experiences the devastating consequences of what happened in the last book.

Bray introduces a new character, Ling, who initially seems like too much, but fits so well once her story gains momentum.  It always amazes me how she’s able to connect so many characters and weave so many different plots together.  Instead of becoming a confused jumble, the connections become more and more obvious until her final message becomes crystal clear.

I loved the depictions of New York, even more than in the last book.  This is possibly because I now frequently visit New York.  I’m familiar with what she’s talking about.  I can picture it better.  It’s so magical, and I can just imagine some of these creepy things happening in the subway tunnels.

I can’t wait until the next installment comes out.

Final rating: ★★★★★

And here we have the top three books I read in May 2015!

Just a Little Kiss | Renita Pizzitola: I’ve loved all of the books I’ve read by Renita Pizzitola, so it’s no surprise that Just a Little Kiss is on my list of May favorites.  There’s something about her books that feels so lifelike.  This one made me wish that I lived in that tiny beach town and could find someone like Mason.

In the Unlikely Event | Judy Blume: Even after all these years, Judy Blume still has it.  I haven’t posted a review for this gem yet, mostly because I’m still trying to sort out my thoughts.  One quick thing – as someone who lives in New Jersey and has been to Elizabeth several times, it was so weird and also cool to read a book set there.

Beauty Queens | Libba Bray: Put this one on top of my favorite books of all time list.  Libba Bray can do no wrong in my mind, and Beauty Queens is yet another awesome story, just as I’d expect from her.  Somehow she manages to be hilarious while also surreptitiously educating teenage girls on the importance of feminism.

Did any books you read last month stand out?

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I feel like I can’t rave enough about what an amazing book Beauty Queens is.  Immediately after finishing it, I had all these garbled thought about how great it was, and everything that it represents.  If I’d written my review then, it probably would have gone something along the lines of, “All teenage girls should read this book!  All teenagers in general should read this book!  EVERYBODY SHOULD READ THIS BOOK!”  I will try to be a little more professional in this review.

I think I actually rolled my eyes at the premise of this book.  A bunch of beautiful teenage girls are on their way to a beauty competition when their plane crashes on a remote tropical island.  Armed with only what they were wearing when the plane went down and whatever didn’t catch on fire in the crash, they have to find a way to survive the elements until help comes.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably say that I absolutely adore Libba Bray.  A Great and Terrible Beauty was one of my favorite book series in high school, and The Diviners was one of my top reads of 2013.  (I’m also sitting here, quite impatiently, waiting for Lair of Dreams.)  But for some reason, I just didn’t think I’d like this one.  I was so, so wrong.

The first thing you should understand about this book is that it’s satire.  And the satire is on point.  The book is unapologetic in its satire of our obsession with reality television, our obsession with our appearances, our obsession with being the best.  The author includes the most hilarious footnotes throughout the book, supposedly from The Corporation, in which they recommend various products that would assist the characters in their current dilemma.  The thing is, these absolutely ridiculous products actually seem like something you might find in a department store.

The second thing is the representation, which is so important.  Yes, these girls are all beautiful.  They are all beauty queens, after all.  But they don’t fit a cookie cutter mold of what a beauty queen “should” be.  Among the girls who survive the crash are:

  • an Indian-American girl
  • a pre-pre-med girl
  • a deaf girl
  • a trans girl
  • a girl who loves comics, and even makes her own
  • an unapologetically super girly girl
  • girls of every sexuality imaginable
  • even a girl who wants to dismantle the pageant system from the inside!

And initially, these girls don’t get along.  It’s hard for the girl who’s so focused on the misogyny that’s so inherent in the pageant system to understand that it’s okay for the other girls to really like wearing cute clothes and doing their makeup.  It’s hard for the religious girls to understand that some people are trans, and that’s okay.  But the really, really great thing about this book is that the girls come to the realization that they need to support each other, and it doesn’t matter what their backgrounds are, they’re all working toward the same goal and it does no good to tear each other down.  The really feminist message of this book is that all girls are important, regardless of how they like to spend their free time, who they date, or whether they’re more interested in politics or interior design.

There are frank discussions of how it’s okay for boys to get mad, but when a girl shows any negative emotions, suddenly she’s “hysterical” or “on her period.”  They discuss how girls always feel the need to apologize for everything from having emotions to actually getting hurt.  And, personally, I loved it when they looked inside to find what they’re really good at and could contribute to the group.  These girls, who’ve spent their whole lives being told that they’re of value just because they’re pretty, find that they’re actually talented at building huts, or developing a system to store rainwater, or tending to injuries, or keeping everybody fed.  And they find out that being able to do all these things doesn’t make them any better or worse of a female than they were before, but it does give them a great sense of purpose.

I just can’t say enough great things about this book.  If not for my 2015 reading challenge, I don’t think I ever would have read it.  The relatively low average rating combined with me not thinking I’d really enjoy a book about pageant girls meant that it was sitting at the very bottom of my TBR list, there only because I love Libba Bray.  But my reading challenge told me that I had to read the book at the bottom of my TBR list, so I did.  And I’m so grateful, because this is literally one of the best books I’ve ever read.  It’s 400 pages, but I devoured it in just a few hours.  That’s how good it is.

Pick it up.  You won’t be disappointed.

Final rating: ★★★★★  

For my 2015 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #20: a book at the bottom of your to-read list.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray is one of my most inspiring reads so far this year.  Everything about it is perfect, from the characters to the frank discussions about feminism and double standards to the clever footnotes.

“Sometimes I just want to go in a room and break things and scream. Like, it’s so much pressure all the time and if you get upset or angry, people say, ‘Are you on the rag or something?’ And it’s like I want to say, ‘No. I’m just pissed off right now. Can’t I just be pissed off? How come that’s not okay for me?’ Like my dad will say, ‘I can’t talk to you when you’re hysterical.’ And I’m totally not being hysterical! I’m just mad. And he’s the one losing it. But then I feel embarrassed anyway. So I slap on that smile and pretend everything’s okay even though it’s not.”

If you haven’t read this book, please do yourself a favor and add it to your TBR list immediately.

Full review to follow.