4 stars · Fantasy · young adult

Salt by Hannah Moskowitz: unique and seaworthy

 

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Salt

author : hannah moskowitz

pages : [hardcover] 258

favorite character : indi

summary :

Even though their parents disappeared during a hunt three months ago, seventeen-year-old Indi and his siblings, Beleza, Oscar, and Zulu, continue to roam the Mediterranean on their sailboat and hunt down monsters–but Indi yearns for a more settled life for his family, and he hopes that his parents’ journal with its tantalizing hints of a treasure, will provide them all with the means of escape from their nomadic and dangerous life before it is too late.

review :

What would you do, if your family was a group of seafaring monster hunters, and one day your parents leave and never end up coming back?

Indi and his siblings (Beleza, who likes to think that she’s in charge; Oscar, who wants to be a doctor; Zulu, who’s the youngest and should probably really be in school) grew up on the ocean. They belong to no place, only to each other. When the worst happens and their parents don’t return from a hunt, Indi and Beleza need to keep track of the kids. They need to keep themselves alive. And, maybe, they need to get some revenge.

Salt is a story about family. An unconventional one, because they have an unconventional life, but siblings are mostly the same toward each other whether they grow up thousands of miles from the sea, or right on top of it. Indi and his brother and sisters are part of that rare group of people who know that monsters exist. Because of this, their parents dedicated their lives—and their children’s lives—to keeping all of those ignorant people on their safe. It’s their job to learn about where a monster is, and then destroy it before it figures out how to eat them.

I really liked this book because it was so different. Indi’s voice is a unique one, trying to be tough in the face of his parents’ disappearance, all too young when he realizes how much has been left on his shoulders. He doesn’t even want to hunt monsters; what he wants more than anything is a normal life, and you can feel the anger seeping into his thoughts and actions as he’s forced to follow in his parents’ footsteps. It’s incredible relatable, even in this incredibly unique situation.

One thing that completely pulled me out of the story, though, was how jarringly the plot would move ahead. In one moment, we would linger over a quiet scene that’s great for characterization but does nothing overall for the plot of the book. Then something big, that the words have been building up to for a long time, will be breezed over in a few sentences, or referred to off-handedly because we don’t get to see that scene at all. I think it’s possible not to make the monster-hunting the center of the story without completely discounting it. The story’s content shouldn’t have been an afterthought to characterization. Even then, characters would sometimes make absurd choices that seemed only tailored to move the plot forward . . . the plot which the book had already deemed unimportant.

Overall, though, I really did like this book. I liked reading about Indi and his family; I liked never knowing what was going to happen next in their rough-and-tumble lifestyle. Salt is something new, something refreshing (even when there’s no freshwater to be found, cue the laughter). Hannah Moskowitz’s books are always unique and fun to read.

4/5 stars

 

2 stars · nonfiction · young adult

Lady Killers: so how do you make serial killers boring?

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Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History

author : tori telfer

pages : [paperback] 336

summary :

Inspired by author Tori Telfer’s Jezebel column “Lady Killers,” this thrilling and entertaining compendium investigates female serial killers and their crimes through the ages.

When you think of serial killers throughout history, the names that come to mind are ones like Jack the Ripper, John Wayne Gacy, and Ted Bundy. But what about Tillie Klimek, Moulay Hassan, Kate Bender? The narrative we’re comfortable with is the one where women are the victims of violent crime, not the perpetrators. In fact, serial killers are thought to be so universally, overwhelmingly male that in 1998, FBI profiler Roy Hazelwood infamously declared in a homicide conference, “There are no female serial killers.”

Lady Killers, based on the popular online series that appeared on Jezebel and The Hairpin, disputes that claim and offers fourteen gruesome examples as evidence. Though largely forgotten by history, female serial killers such as Erzsébet Báthory, Nannie Doss, Mary Ann Cotton, and Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova rival their male counterparts in cunning, cruelty, and appetite for destruction.

Each chapter explores the crimes and history of a different subject and then proceeds to unpack her legacy and her portrayal in the media, as well as the stereotypes and sexist clichés that inevitably surround her. The first book to examine female serial killers through a feminist lens with a witty and dryly humorous tone, Lady Killers dismisses easy explanations (she was hormonal, she did it for love, a man made her do it) and tired tropes (she was a femme fatale, a black widow, a witch), delving into the complex reality of female aggression and predation. Featuring 14 illustrations from Dame Darcy, Lady Killers is a bloodcurdling, insightful, and irresistible journey into the heart of darkness.

review:

Lately I’ve been listening to the podcast My Favorite Murder a lot and realized that while I have a great interest in true crime . . . I don’t really read about it. This made me go onto Hoopla (an app through my library that allows me to borrow ebooks for free) and I quickly found Lady Killers.

It was disappointing.

It was a little boring.

Lady Killers talks about female serial killers (mostly historical ones, as the most recent is from the 1950s). It was intriguing because 99.9% of the murderers you hear about are men (don’t even get me started) so it’s interesting to look at the different motivations and methods women have when committing such horrendous acts.

How do you make murder boring, you may ask? I asked myself the same thing. Several of these stories felt like reading the same tale over and over again. Because there were only a handful of women included in here, there could have been a little more variety between the tales. There are only so many times I can read about a lady poisoning her husband without anyone seeming to notice why he spontaneously became so sick before I lose interest.

I did appreciate that these stories are global and only a few take place in the USA. While the overall perspective of women culturally wasn’t very different from country to country, historically speaking, it was interesting to see how different circumstances/political climates may have factored into these crimes.

The tone of the book, which was so casual it was difficult to tell what was fact and what was speculation, threw me off. Casual tones can work really well in making nonfiction more accessible to a broader audience, but it felt more like I was reading a historical gossip magazine than a nonfiction book.

2.5/5 stars

 

5 stars · history · young adult

The War Outside by Monica Hesse : important historical fiction everyone needs to read

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The War Outside

author : monica hesse

pages : [hardcover] 336

favorite character : haruko

summary :

A novel of conviction, friendship, and betrayal.

It’s 1944, and World War II is raging across Europe and the Pacific. The war seemed far away from Margot in Iowa and Haruko in Colorado–until they were uprooted to dusty Texas, all because of the places their parents once called home: Germany and Japan.

Haruko and Margot meet at the high school in Crystal City, a “family internment camp” for those accused of colluding with the enemy. The teens discover that they are polar opposites in so many ways, except for one that seems to override all the others: the camp is changing them, day by day, and piece by piece. Haruko finds herself consumed by fear for her soldier brother and distrust of her father, who she knows is keeping something from her. And Margot is doing everything she can to keep her family whole as her mother’s health deteriorates and her rational, patriotic father becomes a man who distrusts America and fraternizes with Nazis.

With everything around them falling apart, Margot and Haruko find solace in their growing, secret friendship. But in a prison the government has deemed full of spies, can they trust anyone–even each other?

review :

I received a copy of this book from The Novl in exchange for my honest review.

Ya’ll, I love reading historical fiction, particularly if it’s set in the WWII era. I just think there are so many stories left to tell about that time period and, especially as time goes on, it’s particularly important to ensure everyone is educated on this history. After all, if we don’t learn from it, history is doomed to repeat itself, and the way the world is going today . . . Well, this book is particularly relevant.

The War Outside talks about an era of American history that is usually (purposefully) left untold. During WWII, civilian families from both Japan and Germany were taken to camps and left there throughout the duration of the war. They were regarded with suspicion, and some in the early stages of the war were given the option to go back to the countries they had emigrated from. In these cases, usually the children had been born in America and had little connection to Japan or Germany. The families who remained in America after the war after returned to find . . . nothing. That their homes had been seized or looted, that their belongings had been taken and sold off. If they hadn’t given anything to the neighbors for safekeeping–if those neighbors could be trusted–then these families were left stranded with only what they’d taken with them in the camps.

This book tells the story of two girls in one of the camps. One is German. One is Japanese. But, really, they’re both American. The book is told in a dual point of view so you can understand the full scope of what is happening. The racism. The hatred. The divisions that occur even between groups of people who are all being held in camps against their will. Through it all, Haruko and Margot form an unlikely friendship. As you come to understand why both have been brought there, and the difficult choices their families are made, you really come to care for these girls. But they’re good characters, in that they aren’t perfect. And their flaws make for some interesting pieces of the plot that will leave you wanting more.

The War Outside isn’t a very happy story, but it’s a good one, and it’s an important one. We need to see what it was like for these girls. We need to see where everything went wrong. The relationship between the two is hard and complex, and I think it will help readers to better understand, and empathize with, the situation. Everyone should read this book–everyone needs to know what happened, so it can never happen again.

5/5 stars

 

Fantasy · series · young adult

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard: immediately a favorite

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Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1)

author : susan dennard

pages : [hardcover] 416

memorable quote :

Sometimes justice was all about the small victories.

favorite character : safi

summary :

In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden – lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls’ heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

review :

Why did it take me so long to finally read this book?? It’s been on my TBR since 2016. I could have been in love with this series and Susan Dennard’s writing two years ago. Because Truthwitch is now–immediately, wholeheartedly–one of my favorite books.

My best recommendation is for you to pick up this book without reading any more on it. Let yourself be immersed in the story itself. Dennard creates such a detailed, fantastical–terrifying–world that’s impossible not to get drawn into. This is one of those fantasy novels where you can easily picture yourself in the setting. You wonder what sort of witch you’d most like to be, in their world. You wonder who your allies would be. And your enemies.

I always say that plot comes second to me, just behind the characters, but this one really holds out against an amazing cast. Really, with the nuanced, flawed; and hilarious main characters, everything else is just extra. Every unpredictable plot twist or witty quip or bit of romance. Yes, there are some very intriguing relationships developing here that I’m already obsessed with.

And then that ending, that really takes what’s left of your heart and shoves it through a shredder.

But, like, in a good way. It’s fine. Read it anyway.

I honestly can’t recommend this book enough. Don’t delay as much as I did–read it now!

5/5 stars

 

5 stars · Fantasy · young adult

Sightwitch by Susan Dennard: SO GOOD SO GOOD SO GOOD

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Sightwitch (The Witchlands #0.5)

author : susan dennard

pages : [hardcover] 208

memorable quote :

What is life except perception?

favorite character : ryber

summary :

From New York Times bestselling author Susan Dennard, Sightwitch is an illustrated novella set in the Witchlands and told through Ryber’s journal entries and sketches.

Before Safi and Iseult battled a Bloodwitch…

Before Merik returned from the dead…

Ryber Fortiza was a Sightwitch Sister at a secluded convent, waiting to be called by her goddess into the depths of the mountain. There she would receive the gift of foretelling. But when that call never comes, Ryber finds herself the only Sister without the Sight.

Years pass and Ryber’s misfit pain becomes a dull ache, until one day, Sisters who already possess the Sight are summoned into the mountain, never to return. Soon enough, Ryber is the only Sister left. Now, it is up to her to save her Sisters, though she does not have the Sight—and though she does not know what might await her inside the mountain.

On her journey underground, she encounters a young captain named Kullen Ikray, who has no memory of who he is or how he got there. Together, the two journey ever deeper in search of answers, their road filled with horrors, and what they find at the end of that road will alter the fate of the Witchlands forever.

Set a year before TruthwitchSightwitch is a companion novella that also serves as a set up to Bloodwitch, as well as an expansion of the Witchlands world.

review :

I can’t say it enough: I’m so glad that I finally read these books. The Witchlands series is something special. It’s creative, immersive, and nuanced. The characters are lovely, flawed, and relatable. The diversity is done well. The plot is . . . well, I don’t think my heart can take much more. If you haven’t read these books yet, start with Truthwitch, then read your way here.

Sightwitch is a collection of maps, drawings, and journal entries that not only tell more of Ryber’s story. They give a better perspective to this world as a whole. More of the fun (well, sometimes terrifying) world building that couldn’t be lingered over in the first two books. It’s a look into the past–sometimes the very far past, as in thousands of years, and sometimes just the earlier days of characters we’ve learned to love. It all blends together in this beautiful, much too short book that will keep you reading late into the night.

I just didn’t want to put it down.

There’s adventure and romance, yes. But also bravery–characters coming into their own. Loss. Reunions. Hope, and plans for the future. Worry, and the chance that literally everything will crumble to ruin.

Sightwitch is quieter than the previous two books, possibly because it is a prequel. It doesn’t have as many characters or locations as the others, and I love it. I love being drawn so personally into the lives of these characters we really needed to learn more about. Basically what this book taught me above all else is that I will read anything Susan Dennard writes and won’t be pleased until there are, like, fifty books in this series.

So if you haven’t started to read it yet . . . you should probably pick it up today.

5/5 stars

 

 

 

2 stars · fiction · young adult

Girl Out of Water: another contemporary I couldn’t get into

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girl out of water

author : laura silverman

pages : [paperback] 350

favorite character : lincoln

summary :

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves?

review :

I keep trying to find contemporary books I’ll love. I promise. But I’m beginning to think the genre really just has it out to get me.

Girl Out of Water is different. I’ve never quite read anything like it—I can certainly give it that much. Unlike most beach-y reads, where the main character moves to the shore for the summer, Anise is forced away from the ocean. This is mostly horrible to her because she loves surfing and wants to be a competitive surfer. But the move is temporary and not only that, it’s for a really, really good reason. As in, Anise doesn’t really have much room to complain about it.

But, I get it. Just because I have to do something or it’s the right thing to do, doesn’t always mean I want to do it. I can respect that. It’s just that, when those thoughts begin to overtake the entire plot it gets to drag, on and on.

The characters are fairly realistic and were surprisingly diverse, which was a nice touch. But they were fairly boring. Most of them had flat personalities. Again, this could stem from my aversion in general to contemporary stories. Their problems, for the most part, were pretty minor and petty. Their problems which were larger and more interesting ended up for the most part unresolved. Less used for character growth and more for the drama of it.

I did enjoy the fact that this book shows active girls, surfing and skating and generally enjoying sports. Not once is it mentioned that Anise is good at things “for a girl”. She’s always simply good at it (and, okay, her ego is GIGANTIC when it comes to physical activity and makes absolutely no sense. If I were the best baseball pitcher I wouldn’t just ASSUME I was also the best quarterback, you know?). I feel like this book will be really interesting to early teens who are passionate about sports.

Honestly, though, this book is a bit forgettable. There isn’t much suspense or action; it wasn’t very character-driven. It just sort of happened, and certainly wasn’t for me.

2.5/5 stars

 

4 stars · science fiction · young adult

Landscape with Invisible Hand — a great, unique sci-fi read

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Landscape with Invisible Hand

author : m.t. anderson

pages : [hardcover] 149

memorable quote :

The hand that records is also what makes everything unclear.

favorite character : adam

summary :

National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson returns to future Earth in a sharply wrought satire of art and truth in the midst of colonization.

When the vuvv first landed, it came as a surprise to aspiring artist Adam and the rest of planet Earth – but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Can it really be called an invasion when the vuvv generously offered free advanced technology and cures for every illness imaginable? As it turns out, yes. With his parents’ jobs replaced by alien tech and no money for food, clean water, or the vuvv’s miraculous medicine, Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, have to get creative to survive. And since the vuvv crave anything they deem “classic” Earth culture (doo-wop music, still-life paintings of fruit, true love), recording 1950s-style dates for the vuvv to watch in a pay-per-minute format seems like a brilliant idea. But it’s hard for Adam and Chloe to sell true love when they hate each other more with every passing episode. Soon enough, Adam must decide how far he’s willing to go – and what he’s willing to sacrifice – to give the vuvv what they want.

review :

I’ve been excited to read this book since I received a sampler of it at last year’s Book Con. I can honestly say it was everything I expected and more.

Landscape with Invisible Hand serves up a tone that tastes like a blend of contemporary YA and sci-fi aliens. The Earth has had contact with this extraterrestrial species for years now and those creatures that found Earth came in peace. They promised to cure all disease and end meaningless jobs. They promised to help. And they did . . . didn’t they?

The story revolves around Adam, a budding teenage artist who has many problems. Most extend from the vuvv–those aliens that didn’t quite invade. Because things on Earth . . . aren’t looking so bright. But they aren’t in an interstellar war, or anything, so it can’t be too terrible. The story is told through Adam’s paintings; each chapter title is a different landscape he’s done. It’s an interesting look at the world through his eyes–what comes from the humans, what the vuvv have touched, and what happened when the two species blended on the planet.

I loved this book. It’s so different from anything I’ve ever read before. This isn’t your typical take on sci-fi, it’s no typical coming-of-age. It speaks just as much about our current worldview and society as it does about interplanetary consequences and arrangements. I always love a book that leaves me thinking afterward and I believe this is one that I won’t be able to shake for a while.

This book is very short, at around 150 pages. That’s partially why I don’t want to get into anything more specific. There isn’t much room there for me to not spoil anything important. But if you’re looking for a unique book, with beautiful writing and characters that are funny and a little absurd, definitely pick this one up. If you’re bored of alien and dystopian tales that all feel the same, this one will definitely be unlike any you’ve read before.

And it leaves you to think about what would be worse when humanity finds aliens, or the aliens find us: war, or ‘peace’?

4/5 stars

 

 

fairy tale · poetry · young adult

the princess saves herself in this one

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the princess saves herself in this one

author : amanda lovelace

pages : [paperback] 156

memorable quote :

repeat after me:
you owe
no one
your forgiveness.

– except maybe yourself.

summary :

A poetry collection divided into four different parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, & you. the princess, the damsel, & the queen piece together the life of the author in three stages, while you serves as a note to the reader & all of humankind. Explores life & all of its love, loss, grief, healing, empowerment, & inspirations.

review:

I don’t read much poetry, but I had some spare time and my library participates in a digital sharing service called Hoopla. I downloaded the princess saves herself in this one and I read, and I read, and I read.

It’s hard to compare to other poetic piece I’ve read. For one, poetry is possibly the most subjective literary form. Poetry is so personalized, which is amazing, but it does a disservice to everyone to compare them to, say, Shakespeare, and not consider how different HIS poetry would have been had he lived in this time period. One of the things I loved most about this collection was how steeped it is in the contemporary. The flow, wording, even this certain type of feminism, all ground it solidly in the present.

It’s all so very relatable. Even though the writing is very simple, vying for message rather than complex symbolism, it’s powerful. And it successfully conveys not only the poet’s story, but her thoughts, her wishes–and she makes it easy for you to have an emotional connection as well.

Of course, I’m excited about any sort of extended metaphor that involves fairy tales–or, perhaps more interestingly, the breaking down of our expectations of those stories. It just makes me so happy to see how the normative narrative can be subverted in such a clever way. To do it as an extended metaphor in such short poems DOES come off as clever.

I want to read more by this poet, really sink my teeth into her writing. It’s different, original, and I can see why it is popular even in the mainstream. I don’t think that detracts from the writing at all.

I’d recommend picking this up and reading to see for yourself what all of the fuss is about. It’s worth it, and you never know what you might find in these poems.

4/5 stars

 

5 stars · series · young adult

Reread Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone is still one of my favorite books

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daughter of smoke and bone

author : laini taylor

reread review :

Yep. Still love it.

Because Goodreads only all too recently added the reread option, I’m not sure what read this really is for me. Fourth? Fifth? I love it anyway. There’s always some new detail that I find I’ve forgotten or never noticed before– a new line that helps me remember why I fell in love with these books in the first place. Hard enough that as soon as I finished renting it from the library, I needed to buy my own copy!

Akiva is still one of my favorite love interests of all time. I love how flawed he is and can’t wait for my reread of book two for more of him!

Karol is as always a gripping main character. She is completely unique. I love how she can go from teenage angst to trying to save the world and still feel like a realistic, flawed character.

I recommend this book to everyone possible. You absolutely must give it a try!

 

original rating : 5/5 stars

reread rating : 5/5 stars

 

how I feel when I read this book :

ahwg

5 stars · series · young adult

A Gathering of Shadows: suffering from sequel syndrome


A Gathering of Shadows Final

A Gathering of Shadows

Shades of Magic #2
Book 1: A Darker Shade of Magic

author : v. e. schwab

pages : [hardcover] 512

memorable quote :

Crossing worlds, killing royals, saving cities. The marks of every good courtship.

favorite character : holland (& kell’s coat)

summary :

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

review :

I went into the Shades of Magic trilogy knowing absolutely nothing, because sometimes that’s the best way to let yourself slip into a book. To fall into the world headfirst alongside the characters. Book one immediately drew me in, with the inventive and captivating writing, array of interesting characters, and a plot that held back nothing.

Book two was . . . different. The tone was different, the setup of the story was different. My reaction was different.

I didn’t hate it. I still loved the characters, and some of their actions made me love them even more. I still loved the world and the world-building skills of V.E. Schwab. If this had been a standalone novel or the first book in a different series I would have loved the book itself.

But we go from book one, A Darker Shade of Magic, in which entire worlds are at stake and people are dying, to book two, where the main characters participate in a magical tournament. Sort of like the Olympics of magical sparring. And all of the important, life-altering, terrible things that could shatter the world at any moment happen only in the background.

It’s hard to take the plot very seriously when it sort of reads like a fanfiction. As if someone saw the overall plot and thought it would be interesting to throw in some entertaining gladiator fighting in the middle of it.

To be honest, it’s great fanfiction. The descriptions are so astounding the visuals pop off of the page. The feats of magic are entertaining and the characters get in several quotable quips. But I can’t help but feel as if the series would be better as a duology.

It feels odd to like a book and the writing, but feel as if the entire plot line has been misplaced.

I would still recommend this book, because it’s a fun read and the ending is a great bridge to book three.

5/5 stars