5 stars · series · young adult

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo; amazing, astounding, astonishing

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Crooked Kingdom

Six of Crows #2

author : leigh bardugo

pages : [hardcover] 536

memorable quote :

I would have come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together.

favorite character : matthias

summary :

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.

review :

I’ve avoided reviewing this book, probably because reflecting on it reminds me that it’s one of the most painful stories I’ve read. Beautifully written, wonderfully executed, and the kind of book that makes me cry so much I kind of resent it.

If you haven’t read Six of Crows, you absolutely need to. Not only because it’s book one in this duology, it’ll be one of the best books you’ve ever read. If you’re a fan of fantasy, or inventive new worlds, or great character novels, or heist schemes, you’ll love this book. Then you’ll crave more of it. These books are incredibly hefty–basically, the length of four books compiled into two. I think the duology option was incredibly smart because there’s no room for “middle book syndrome” here. Just nonstop action. And heartbreak.

I still can’t think of Crooked Kingdom without being filled with a curious mixture of happiness and devastation. It worked for me perfectly, and ensured this duology will remain as one of my favorite reads.

But, you know. No spoilers.

Crooked Kingdom picks up just where Six of Crows left off, introducing even more characters (and a few familiar faces for fans of the original Grisha trilogy. I might have squealed). The plot is so intricate. Kaz Brecker, one of the main characters, is truly a master of twisting things toward his will. Often in painful and unexpected ways–painful for his enemies, of course, not always the reader.

Matthias has always been my favorite. But, honestly, all of the main characters are just very adorable–though I think all of them would kill anyone who called them such to their face, apart from maybe Wylan. I loved how this book delves more into everyone’s backstories. It explains so much, not only their actions from the books but their motivations throughout their entire lives.

The book ends, I believe, with a perfect balance. There is room left to expand and create more stories within the Grisha universe, but this particular story arc is complete. Not all ends of it are happy, but . . you’ll just have to read to find out what happens. Honestly, it’s such a wild ride that even a very detailed spoiler review would take pages and pages and pages to write. Leigh Bardugo is exceptionally talented at weaving these intricate plots together and I love it!

Read it. Please. And then you must discuss with me.

5/5 stars

 

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4 stars · young adult

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Afterworlds

author : scott westerfeld

pages : [hardcover] 599

favorite character : darcy

memorable quote Hiding from the truth was worse than being lied to.

summary :

Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she’s made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings…

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy’s novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the ‘Afterworld’ to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved – and terrifying – stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.

review :

I’ve been looking forward to reading Afterworlds ever since it was released. Because it’s a huge book (nearly 600 pages!) I thought that I would need a lot of time to set aside and fully enjoy this novel. Instead, it’s pretty easy to get through because even though it’s told in dual narration both portions of the story are interesting. I’ve never read anything like this before but knew that it had to be great. This is Scott Westerfeld; nothing he ever writes is disappointing.

I do have to admit that toward the end of the book I liked Darcy’s chapters–involving the real world and a glimpse at the inside of the publishing industry from an author’s perspective–more than I did Lizzie’s–where she’s discovering more about herself, her gifts, and the afterlife. I loved reading about Darcy attend things like Book Expo America because that’s something I can clearly picture in my mind and I loved reading her reactions to having to publicize herself. There’s so much that goes into creating excitement for a book and making it perfect before it’s released. Lizzie’s story, on the other hand . . It was gripping at the beginning. There were those first chapters that were awesome–as Darcy and her agent and editor continued to agree on. The rest, I wasn’t so sure that I would have been reading if this novel had been split in two. One for Darcy’s story, one for Lizzie’s. I began to like Lizzie’s half for the little details I could see in it, the changes that Darcy was making to her story because of the people she met in NYC as well as the suggestions others made for editing the story. The romance in it was so insta that it was nonexistent for me. I did like a few unconventional choices that Lizzie made, however, that kept it from being a typical paranormal romance.

I think this is a book that many will love. You just need to get past the intimidating look of it’s bulk. Honestly the pages fly by so quickly, it isn’t difficult to read this in a few days.

Anyone who is interested in writing or publishing will definitely get a kick out of the ways Darcy immerses herself in this world. From YA Drinks Night to having women publishing in her same year referring to themselves as ‘debut sisters’, there are hilarious moments mixed with the anxiety-inducing ones. Such as the expensive nature of living in NYC, the bated breath that comes with waiting for edits to come out, and the clinging fear that remains after finishing one book–because what if that was a fluke and it won’t happen again?

Even though I rented this one from the library, I’m going to buy myself a copy because I’ll definitely reread it in the future.

4/5 stars

3 stars · fiction · young adult

Blackbird by Anna Carey

 

Blackbird

Blackbird Duology #1

author : anna carey

release date : september 16th 2014

pages : [ebook] 256

favorite character : ben

summary :

This twisty, breathless cat-and-mouse thrill ride, told in the second person, follows a girl with amnesia in present-day Los Angeles who is being pursued by mysterious and terrifying assailants.

A girl wakes up on the train tracks, a subway car barreling down on her. With only minutes to react, she hunches down and the train speeds over her. She doesn’t remember her name, where she is, or how she got there. She has a tattoo on the inside of her right wrist of a blackbird inside a box, letters and numbers printed just below: FNV02198. There is only one thing she knows for sure: people are trying to kill her.

On the run for her life, she tries to untangle who she is and what happened to the girl she used to be. Nothing and no one are what they appear to be. But the truth is more disturbing than she ever imagined.

The Maze Runner series meets Code Name Verity, Blackbird is relentless and action-packed, filled with surprising twists.

review :

I haven’t read many books written in the second person so I was fascinated when I heard that Anna Carey’s latest novel was going to be written that way! Of course I needed to find a way to read it. The premise was interesting as well. Typically I believe that the waking amnesiac story has been overdone but I think the fact that it was written in second person and it seemed to be more of a thriller captured my imagination enough for me to give this a shot!

Unfortunately, Blackbird fell short of my expectations. I wasn’t a huge fan of Carey’s writing when I read the Eve trilogy but the plotline there was interesting enough to keep me reading. Blackbird contained the same sparse writing, even though I’d expected so much more substance in a second-person book. I was never fully captivated by the story nor was I wrapped up in Sunny’s tale because I didn’t feel fully connected with the characters.

I also didn’t know that this book was going to be part of a duology . . until I was fifteen pages from the end and realized that things could not possibly be wrapped up by the end of the story. I don’t know whether I’ll read the next book; I’m very disappointed because I feel like the two could have been compressed into an awesome, action-packed story, if the plot hadn’t been dragged out to fit into two novels. It’s so frustrating because I can see the potential, and think perhaps others would enjoy this book more than I would, but the extended plot combined with lacking writing has me so disappointed.

If you’re looking for a thriller, this book does have a few plot twists but isn’t as action-packed as you might hope it is. Honestly, most of the action happens when Sunny is running away from something. While her reactions make sense, they don’t exactly make for an interesting read. The plot twists kept me going for a while; some of them I could predict but I was excited to see how the characters would react once they found out what I’d already assumed to be true.

I might try another one of Carey’s books in the future but I’m beginning to believe that her writing style simply doesn’t mesh with me.

3/5 stars

5 stars · fiction · young adult

The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson

 

The Vanishing Season

author : jodi lynn anderson

pages : [hardcover] 256

memorable quote The living always think that monsters roar and gnash their teeth. But I’ve seen that real monsters can be friendly; they can smile, and they can say please and thank you like everyone else.

favorite character : maggie

summary :

Girls started vanishing in the fall, and now winter’s come to lay a white sheet over the horror. Door County, it seems, is swallowing the young, right into its very dirt. From beneath the house on Water Street, I’ve watched the danger swell.

The residents know me as the noises in the house at night, the creaking on the stairs. I’m the reflection behind them in the glass, the feeling of fear in the cellar. I’m tied—it seems—to this house, this street, this town.

I’m tied to Maggie and Pauline, though I don’t know why. I think it’s because death is coming for one of them, or both.

All I know is that the present and the past are piling up, and I am here to dig.I am looking for the things that are buried.

From bestselling author Jodi Lynn Anderson comes a friendship story bound in snow and starlight, a haunting mystery of love, betrayal, redemption, and the moments that we leave behind.

review :

I love Jodi Lynn Anderson. Love her writing. I’ve read her children’s books and also Tiger Lily and all of her work is written so well. The Vanishing Season is no different because it’s very gripping and enthralling. I couldn’t put this book down and liked that it was so short because I could read it all in one day, yet I also hated that because it meant I needed to leave that world sooner.

What I really looked for in this book was great characters. Maggie was amazing, flawed, and just really entertaining to follow. She felt like a real person who could have lived down the street from me, had I lived in such an isolated little town. I liked seeing her interactions with the others her age and how they dealt with the deaths that were happening so close to their home. It felt like real reactions: first indifference, then laughing speculation, then paranoia.

What I hadn’t expected to love so much about the novel were the little interludes in between some chapters where the ‘ghost’ of the book would speak. You spend much of the book trying to figure out who this presence was while they were alive, how long they’ve been dead and hanging around this house on Water Street. Eventually I thought that I had the answer, only to have another twist happen that proved me completely wrong. I’m not sure if others would be able to predict it but there are several other twists in the story, so you’ll always be guessing even if you think you’ve figured out what will happen next.

I’d recommend this book to anyone. I got it from the library and I’m going to buy myself a copy so that I can read it again. This book is well-written and has memorable characters. It’s purely a beautiful, touching story that needs to be shared with more people!

5/5 stars

4 stars · romance · young adult

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

 

The Geography of You and Me

author : jennifer e. smith

pages : [hardcover] 337

memorable quote : But there’s no such thing as a completely fresh start. Everything new arrives on the heels of something old, and every beginning comes at the cost of an ending.

favorite characters : lucy & owen

summary :

Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they’re rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen’s relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and — finally — a reunion in the city where they first met.

A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith’s new novel shows that the center of the world isn’t necessarily a place. It can be a person, too.

review :

This is the first book I’ve read by this author and it certainly makes me want to pick up more written by her. I don’t usually reach for contemporary books so I typically wait to see which novels other people seem to be raving about before I decide to give them a read as well. I’ve heard such great things about Jennifer E. Smith that I picked up The Geography of You and Me as soon as it appeared in my local library. This story definitely gives a unique twist to a long distance love story.

What I found very interesting about this novel was that neither of the characters suffered from the absent or invisible parent syndrome that usually infects YA novels so the teenage characters are essentially able to do whatever they want, which doesn’t often happen in real life. One of my favorite parts of this book was Owen’s relationship with his father. They’re both trying so hard to be there for each other and to make up for the whole in their family that was left behind when Owen’s mother passed away. I also found Lucy’s family dynamic interesting-though it seemed too many of their family problems were solved immediately.

Communicating through postcards was a really cute idea, though I love that the author discussed the complications and pitfalls that come from speaking to another person only through that medium. Through the postcard messages we get to see in the book, it’s easy to see how similar and yet complexly different the two leading characters are.

One thing I really appreciated about this novel was how nothing was instant except that initial attraction. The two needed to fight to see one another again and when they were apart, needed to decide whether it was worth keeping up the lines of communication. After all, they’d barely known each other before they moved apart. I kept second-guessing what might happen with the two of them, which doesn’t happen often with me and contemporary books.

I’d definitely recommend this cute, quick read!

4/5 stars

3 stars · dystopia · young adult

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Another gorgeous cover!
Another gorgeous cover!

 

The Summer Prince

author : alaya dawn johnson

pages : [hardcover] 289

memorable quote : The past stands in the path of the future, knowing it will be crushed.

summary :

A heart-stopping story of love, death, technology, and art set amid the tropics of a futuristic Brazil.

The lush city of Palmares Três shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.

Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Três will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.

Pulsing with the beat of futuristic Brazil, burning with the passions of its characters, and overflowing with ideas, this fiery novel will leave you eager for more from Alaya Dawn Johnson.

review :

The Summer Prince tried to do a lot in such a small amount of pages (not even three hundred!) and it didn’t end up working for me. For starters, the world introduced is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, which is wonderful. Except we readers are thrown into it with no warning and are expected to have a good grasp of that society by the end of the novel. There are so many interesting facts that are thrown in and never properly explained. Apparently everyone in Palmares Tres is genetically modified within the womb to be between certain shades of color, among other things that are never properly explained because I’m fairly certain this is only mentioned once. On top of that, the city is a matriarchal society, one in which no one cares about sexuality and gender roles are almost completely flipped. Which is an amazing, unique concept that is quickly overwhelmed because the author put too much information in such a short span of writing.

I ended the novel still uncertain of whether the king was ritually killed every year or every five years (if someone knows, please explain it to me!) and there were other little details that continued to confuse me. I’m assuming that this is because I might’ve missed something in another round of overwhelming information.

The characters were interesting. I really liked them even though I still felt distant from them, probably because their world was so different from mine and I was constantly reminded of that. I did like the connection that Enki and June had. Some of the scenes were very sweet. Others just kept me wanting to read further so that I could get answers to new questions that arose, either because of this dystopian world or because of the problems Enki and June faced.

While this was a very unique and intriguing book, the information dumps were too overwhelming and not properly explained. There was so much in this book with potential that it was a shame that it wasn’t spread out longer so that I could completely enjoy and sink into the world of The Summer Prince.

3/5 stars

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I’m going to BookCon!

Hello friends! I’m so excited to be heading to BookCon this Saturday, May 31st! Is anyone else planning on going? While I’d love to be there for every day of BEA, I’m thinking that next year I might be better at tackling that monster. 🙂

The authors I’m most excited to see are Julie Kagawa and Alexandra Bracken. But it’s getting to be hard, deciding what books, authors, and panels I really want to check out. Of course, I need to make some time in my day to meet Cary Elwes from The Princess Bride. Who doesn’t love that book and movie?!

What are you going to see throughout the day? Have any great tips? I’m still attempting to narrow down what I’m bringing for the day. Food, because I heard it’s terribly overpriced there. A few personal books to get signed. Comfortable shoes so that I don’t hurt my feet walking about all day.

If you’re not able to get to BookCon this year, I’m incredibly sorry. I know exactly what it feels like to sit and watch all of the excitement happening from afar. I hope to see you all at future events!