A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee // Book Review

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee // Book Review

I went into this book was very different expectations than what came out of it. Dark academia is my favorite kinds of stories and I thought A Lesson in Vengeance had it in spades. There was an interesting and inclusive cast of characters, a big question mark around one Felicity, and a story that really caught me off guard at the end.

CW: mental abuse, physical abuse, animal death

Here’s more about A Lesson in Vengeance

Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.

Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.

Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.

My thoughts

I’m not a huge fan of thrillers. Most of the time, I either figure out the murderer by the end or the ending is so convoluted that I end up throwing the book across the room. This time, I was totally thrown off guard. I was expecting one thing and it went in a completely different way that I didn’t even imagine. There were definitely clues to it throughout the story, but it just doesn’t hit until the truth comes out.

The setting of the book was my favorite; an old home with tons of history. I loved how generations of girls went there and most of them study literature. There’s a few references to some great horror books written by women while you read along. I also loved the whole underground “skull and crossbones” style coven that’s mainly for girls who come from affluent families. While I’m not a huge fan of books where everyone is super well off, super rich, and super entitled, I thought it was interesting with a character like Felicity who’s dealing with the loss of her best friend/girlfriend, Alex.

The plot itself moved slowly digging more deeply into Felicity’s psychosis rather than having her chase clues across campus to find out some truth. I loved the usage of witchcraft and its presence in young people’s lives. The school with the underground coven, the witchcraft practiced by the founders of the school, the tradition that’s passed on from generation to generation of students, and the stories that get passed down as well. It was interesting to see how steeped Felicity was in that reality; how she truly believed there was dark forces at the school, how the author makes you believe it too.

Ellis was so determined to prove that magic didn’t exist while you’re constantly reminded through Felicity that it does. There were moments in the book where I was so worried for Felicity because there was something about Ellis that you couldn’t put your finger on. You couldn’t tell if Ellis truly liked Felicity or if this was all a ploy to have Felicity play into Ellis’s hands. Because you’re reading the book through Felicity’s perspective, that’s the only perspective you get. You want to know more about Ellis and you think that there’s something going on there that you didn’t see before, but you only know as much as Felicity does. That unreliable narrator really made it more intriguing to figure out what’s really going on.

I thought it was interesting that all these characters were way beyond their years. They’re all supposed to be seniors in a private school, but they lived and acted way older. It surprised me the most to find out that Ellis was a 17-year-old Pulitzer Prize winning author who smoked cigarettes and drank bourbon while using a typewriter to write her stories. But there was still a level of naivete within all of them. They were still young in so many ways despite it. I wish the other characters, (Leona, Kajal, and Clara) were a bit more fleshed out. You get glimpses into their worlds and who they are, but then the plot reverts back to Felicity and Ellis’s relationship. I would have loved if their involvement in the story was a bit deeper.

The only things I didn’t like about this story was that it didn’t end with a paranormal trope. I was hoping for some ghosts to come out and stir things up or magical witches coming down to bring their vengeance, but they’re used in a different way than I imagined. I won’t go into it because it will definitely spoil the story.

Overall, it’s a spooky one with some atmospheric vibes, a lot of unanswered questions that get the most unique answers at the end. It’ll keep you reading and then it will slap you in the face.

I received a copy of A Lesson in Vengeance from the publisher. My opinions haven’t been influenced by the author or the publisher.

Small Favors by Erin A. Craig // Book Review

Small Favors by Erin A. Craig // Book Review

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

A haunting YA fantasy story about a young girl who’s way smarter than her peers, falls in love, saves her family, and watches her town descend into chaos. Oh, and she’s a bee keper too. I was super excited to read this one, especially when the box arrived with a bell, some forest floor (the box literally had twigs in it), and a handwritten note from the author. I’ve been meaning to read her first book, A House of Salt and Sorrows, but alas, the world is cruel in that way. I guess now I’ll read her first book since I loved her second book and anticipate more from her.

CW: violence, homicide, suicide, arson, blood, and alcoholism

Here’s more about Small Favors

Ellerie Downing is waiting for something to happen. Life in isolated Amity Falls, surrounded by an impenetrable forest, has a predictable sameness. Her days are filled with tending to her family’s beehives, chasing after her sisters, and dreaming of bigger things while her twin, Samuel, is free to roam as he wishes.

Early town settlers fought off monstrous creatures in the woods, and whispers that the creatures still exist keep the Downings and their neighbors from venturing too far. When some townsfolk go missing on a trip to fetch supplies, a heavy unease settles over the Falls.

Strange activities begin to plague the town, and as the seasons change, it’s clear that something is terribly wrong. The creatures are real, and they’re offering to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand, for just a small favor. These seemingly trifling demands, however, hide sinister intentions. Soon, Ellerie finds herself in a race against time to stop Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves from going up in flames.

My thoughts

This was the first book I read from Erin A Craig, and I have to say, color me impressed. The story was beautiful with a dark and haunting vibe all throughout. From the cover, I was imagining this story to be a bit more light-hearted, but the town’s descent into madness, definitely gave you a completely different vibe. It didn’t take long for the atmospheric writing to set in and I was creeped out by things at night. It’s not a scary book, per se, but it’s definitely got the atmosphere. I might have had some goosebumps .

I was a little skeptic at first. The story starts off pretty quaint, but when Ellerie mentioned that her life will be pretty boring and how she’s just going to get married off to someone, it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I was worried this would be a theme throughout the book or something she focuses way too much time on. However, I was changed as the book continues to move.

This read like you were reading the origins of a fairy tale. A young girl who’s pretty bored with her life meets a young fellow in the woods. He’s mysteriously, but provides a sense of reprieve from the humdrum of her life. And then things start happening. Ellerie sees a mysterious woman in white from the corner of her eye, her baby sister is speaking with an imaginary friend, the townspeople inexplicably starting to fight each other and then do unspeakable things to each other.

Ellerie was definitely my favorite character. While I tried to like her sisters and her brother, I just couldn’t. They weren’t as smart as Ellerie, but it was obvious they were sucked into the madness of the town. Of course, you see that with Ellerie as well, but I guess reading the book from her POV helped with understanding her thought process. I also liked Whitaker, the strange boy who comes out of the woods one day and somehow instantly falls in love with Ellerie. I know, not everyone’s a fan of insta-love, but it doesn’t bother me! I kind of guessed what was happening with him pretty early on, but I loved watching how Erin A Craig writes him into the story.

The madness was really the part that I enjoyed the most. You watch it slowly start to happen. First, it’s a finger pointed at one person from another. It’s completely irrational, but maybe you think it’s just some small town thing people do .But then you see more things happening up until the point where they’re killing each other and it becomes chaos. I love watching it grow from such a single entity and bloom into something bigger. Oh, I wonder if that makes me a part of the villains in the story.

I won’t get into the villains, though. It’s quite a surprise the way Erin A Craig presented them and truly, I don’t want to give this away because this was the part that felt most like a fairy tale to me. You know, when you’re making deals with someone you shouldn’t be making deals with? That’s exactly what I got from this book and it truly captured me in this world.

The story itself is slow burning all the way up to the end. It felt like such a good pace up until all the action started taking place. Then, it just kept moving so quickly that I was worried I’ll be left with a lot of questions without any answers. And this being a standalone novel, if the questions didn’t get answered then they’ll never get answered. But they did and thankfully I loved the ending.

Overall, fantastic! I’m super impressed with Erin A. Craig’s writing, especially since this is the first book I’ve read from her. I cannot wait to read more from her in the future (including her first book).

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo // Book Review

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo // Book Review

Oh Leigh Bardugo, you are such a treasure for me and one of my all-time favorite authors. I’d been feeling a bit of a Shadow and Bone hangover, so I knew I needed to pick up where I last left off in Leigh Bardugo’s books. Now, I don’t know what the future will hold for the Grishaverse, but I can definitely say there’s a lot more story to tell.

Spoilers ahead, so please read with caution!

Continue reading “Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo // Book Review”

The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He // Book Review

The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He // Book Review

I first fell in love with this book because the cover was gorgeous. I think I could spend a lifetime just staring at the cover and how beautifully it came out. But then I read the book and it blew me away in so many different ways.

Here’s More about The Ones We’re Meant to Find

Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay, and it’s up to Cee to cross the ocean and find her.

In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara lives in an eco-city built for people who protected the planet―and now need protecting from it. With natural disasters on the rise due to climate change, eco-cities provide clean air, water, and shelter. Their residents, in exchange, must spend at least a third of their time in stasis pods, conducting business virtually whenever possible to reduce their environmental footprint. While Kasey, an introvert and loner, doesn’t mind the lifestyle, her sister Celia hated it. Popular and lovable, Celia much preferred the outside world. But no one could have predicted that Celia would take a boat out to sea, never to return.

Now it’s been three months since Celia’s disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But nevertheless, she decides to retrace Celia’s last steps. Where they’ll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own.

My Thoughts

This wasn’t the typical YA SFF story that I usually read. I mean, it has the tropes. It has the bits and pieces of a YA SFF story that you want, but it was so much more for me. It read like literary fiction. It had that Kazuo Ishiguro Never Let Me Go vibe and it really surprised me. This was definitely one of those stories where it was less important how the world worked, how the science of everything turned out, and how Kasey eventually figured out how to save the world. It’s more about Kasey and Celia; their fractured relationship, their need to find each other, and the world that they grew up in and how that affected both of their lives in very different ways.

Of course, there’s some explanation, but for most of the book there’s a level of trust you need to have in Joan He to guide you towards the inevitable ending. However, if you’re looking for a book with detailed information on how the world is saved from climate change and pollution, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. The main focuses of this book are Celia and Kasey making this much more than just another SFF novel. This makes it literary. It makes it character-driven and elevates the book to a more mature level. Honestly, I think this will be the perfect book for those literary fans out there.

Celia and Kasey are really different from each other and the author shares that in several different ways. It’s there in the text as you read, but it’s also in the different POVs the characters’ perspectives are written. It’s in the way each chapter header begins and how they speak about each other. It really made you think that these two sisters couldn’t be any more different, but the one theme that both of them carry is this love for their sister and finding them.

The twist that eventually came in this book was so surprising and I felt like something was on its way towards that reveal while we were reading. The timelines didn’t make sense or something Kasey said wouldn’t align with what Celia said. It was an interesting play to keep the twist as hushed as possible, but the twist still got me and surprised me.

I will admit, this book isn’t perfect. There are some confusing parts and for much of the book I was wondering where all of this was going. It wasn’t too bad because I knew the author would take care of me, but it still bummed me out when the timelines jumped a lot and some of Kasey’s sections were a little over my head because they weren’t explained well. When I mentioned that the story is more literary, it also meant that there’s some of the classic SFF components that are lost like world-building. Like I mentioned, there’s a lot of trust involved with the author. You have to let her tell the story in her way and follow along the best you can. Then, you’ll see the overall picture and make you think much deeper than what’s happening in the story.

Overall, a captivating story about two sisters on the search for each other. Knowing these sisters is a whole other level as you’re learning not only who they are, but how they think, how they understand and perceive the world, and how much they truly love each other. This was my first book from Joan He and I’m honestly excited to try out more from her in the future.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. My opinions have not been influenced by the author or the publisher.

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean // Book Review

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean // Book Review

Emiko Jean is a new-to-me author, but I think after finishing up Tokyo Ever After, I might follow her and the rest of the work she’ll eventually put out. It was such a breath of fresh air especially after such a heavy read, but it also discusses some important topics. The best part is probably the idea of being royalty.

Here’s more about Tokyo Ever After

Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in—it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. Raised by a single mother, it’s always been Izumi—or Izzy, because “It’s easier this way”—and her mom against the world. But then Izzy discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity… and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess.

In a whirlwind, Izzy travels to Japan to meet the father she never knew and discover the country she always dreamed of. But being a princess isn’t all ball gowns and tiaras. There are conniving cousins, a hungry press, a scowling but handsome bodyguard who just might be her soulmate, and thousands of years of tradition and customs to learn practically overnight.

Izzy soon finds herself caught between worlds, and between versions of herself—back home, she was never “American” enough, and in Japan, she must prove she’s “Japanese” enough. Will Izumi crumble under the weight of the crown, or will she live out her fairytale, happily ever after?

My Thoughts

If you want to read The Princess Diaries meets Crazy Rich Asians, then this is the book for you. I’m not usually one to use comparable titles to explain a book, but these two novels explains this one super well.

Some of the emotions Izumi went through felt exactly like how I would react. I consider myself the secondary character in my life; better suited as the best friend who doesn’t get much action in the plot. So when Izumi described herself the same way and then being thrust into the limelight, it definitely captured the emotions I would be feeling to. I don’t even think “a fish out of water” would cover the level of insecurity and self-consciousness I would have. And yet, Izumi approached this new world she needed to assimilate into with grace. She was poised and while she did make mistakes, they didn’t feel as bad as the onse Mia Thermapolis dealt with.

In fact, Izumi felt like such a realized person. She had insecurities and doubts about herself. She worried about connecting with her estranged father. She freaked out when she knew she made a mistake. I was anticipating her to be stubborn or hard to read because many YA characters feel difficult to relate with, but I definitely related to her.

The depictions of Japan and the addition of Japanese culture was such a treat. I know a fair amount about Japan, but the content Emiko Jean brings up was such a closer look. I didn’t realize that Japan was still a constitutional monarchy! I didn’t know some of the phrases that I hear from Japanese folks so often. It was nice to feel a little immersion into the world and I loved how Izumi handled it as well. There was some discussion about identity and I’m not surprised. As a fellow Asian American, I’ve played the identity dance so often that it was the most relatable part of the story for me. Being split between your two ethnicities when the two worlds are completely opposite each other brings up a lot of self-doubt. It makes you want to side with one part of you and abandon the other. It makes you want to choose the one that’s easier for you. But I loved that she embraced both and wanted to be both and it’s exactly the conclusion I came to for myself.

Of course, the antics in the book felt like you were reading Crazy Rich Asians. While the designer stuff wasn’t as nice as CRA, there was definitely that feeling of being the outsider to a prominent royal family. I imagined this is how Meghan Markle felt when she entered the royal family or even how Rachel from CRA felt when she finally met her fiance’s family. I love that this is another part of the dichotomy of the story; the spotlight and living a normal life. The intrigue was funny, but light. It didn’t really dive deep into this universe but focused more on Izumi’s reactions to it.

The only thing I wasn’t a fan of (and this is entirely personal) is Izumi and her love interest. Yes, I know this is YA and usually with YA books there’s some form of romance, but it wasn’t such a huge focus and honestly it felt more like friendship to me than romance. Then again, many of the folks I dated when I was a teenager felt more like friendship than romance so perhaps I don’t know enough lol.

Overall, such a beautiful story with a great character to follow along with. You’ll be rooting for Izumi and her family and hoping that royalty is everything it was cracked up to be.

Thanks Flatiron Books for the gifted copy of this book. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

Luck of the Titanic by Stacey Lee // Book Review

Luck of the Titanic by Stacey Lee // Book Review

I’m going to start off by saying that I don’t normally read historical fiction. However, when it’s a historical fiction that 1) takes place on the Titanic 2) brings in an under-represented group that wouldn’t normally be on the Titanic, then I need to investigate. And much like Valora Luck, I got lucky with this one.

Here’s More About Luck of the Titanic

Southampton, 1912: Seventeen-year-old British-Chinese Valora Luck has quit her job and smuggled herself aboard the Titanic with two goals in mind: to reunite with her twin brother Jamie–her only family now that both their parents are dead–and to convince a part-owner of the Ringling Brothers Circus to take the twins on as acrobats. Quick-thinking Val talks her way into opulent firstclass accommodations and finds Jamie with a group of fellow Chinese laborers in third class. But in the rigidly stratified world of the luxury liner, Val’s ruse can only last so long, and after two long years apart, it’s unclear if Jamie even wants the life Val proposes. Then, one moonless night in the North Atlantic, the unthinkable happens–the supposedly unsinkable ship is dealt a fatal blow–and Val and her companions suddenly find themselves in a race to survive.

Stacey Lee, master of historical fiction, brings a fresh perspective to an infamous tragedy, loosely inspired by the recently uncovered account of six Titanic survivors of Chinese descent.

My Thoughts

This was a slow burning story about young Valora Luck; a Chinese British person who’s trying to get to America and become an acrobat in the Ringling Bros Circus. While it was slow burning, I also remembered this story takes place on the Titanic and perhaps it was more the anticipation of what happens to the ship that made it feel slow. But it was definitely entertaining. Watching Valora pull off being a boy to hang out with her brother and his friends in third class to pretending to be Mrs. Sloane in first class, I loved seeing her dynamically navigate through those different worlds. It was also quite fun especially when she’s fooling the rich folks that she’s also rich and white.

It was interesting to see the dichotomy between first class and third class. Naturally, we’ve seen these class wars in movies like Titanic, but what Titanic failed to recognize was the level of discrimination people of color from third class were faced. It wasn’t only Valora, Jamie, and the boys who are discriminated against and it made sense with the story. And although they were faced with a lot of discrimination, there were also people on board who looked beyond their ethnicity and befriended them. It made me happy to see a few allies in the mix.

I also loved that this story was loosely based off the six Titanic survivors who are of Chinese descent. It blew my mind reading the author’s note at the end and seeing the inspiration for the story. Personally, as a Korean American, I never imagined someone who looked like me on board the Titanic. I think the biggest depiction of life then was that big blockbuster movie we all know and love. And in many ways, I was worried with the direction this story went. I was worried she would fall in love with some rich white guy and abandon her plans to be independent, but it didn’t turn out that way! It actually made me so happy that she was so stubborn!

This book also deals a bit in grief/loss. When Valora boards the ship, there’s a lot of recall to her mother and father who both tragically passed away. It fueled her determination to follow her dream especially since it was her parents that got her and Jamie into acrobatics in the first place.

The ending was definitely where all the action was. I mean, this is the Titanic and I don’t think it’s a spoiler with what happens to that ship at the end. But it was interesting to see this represented. I appreciate so much what Stacey Lee was able to do with this book. I loved the story and imagining myself in such a historical moment. Although, I am glad I wasn’t on that boat in real life.

Thanks Penguin Teen for gifting me a copy of this book. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

The Project by Courtney Summers // Book Review

The Project by Courtney Summers // Book Review

I wanted to read something different than I normally read, so I picked up The Project by Courtney Summers. I had read Sadie from Courtney Summers a few years ago and remember really liking it, so I wanted to see if this one would be just as good. While it didn’t read like a thriller, it did leave me with a lot of things to think about. If you need a thriller story that will test your understanding of the human psyche, then this is the book for you!

Here’s More About the Book

Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying—and failing—to prove it.

When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its leader, Lev Warren and as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her—to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.

My Thoughts

Alright, I’m going to try and do this without spoiling the book. I wasn’t surprised at all by the big reveal towards the end of the book, but it did tie so well into the rest of the story. Truly, this story really blew me away with how suspenseful Courtney Summers laid out the book, but I was also so intrigued by The Unity Project, the mental state of all the characters, and how someone could be enticed to join what feels so obviously a bad idea.

I was expecting this book to be a thriller with a central villain and a central main character that was targeted by said villain. However, I got a completely different book. Yes, it was suspenseful and it did have some thriller-y components to it, but I felt like this book was much darker than just a villain coming out to get you. If you’re looking for a more traditional thriller book, this isn’t going to be it. Instead, it’ll make you think. It’ll make you wonder who truly saves you when you’re having a rough time with life.

The first part of the book reads like your typical thriller. There’s a dual timeline; one present and one past timeline that’s slowly making its way to the present. The way that it’s written gives you that suspenseful feeling because of the marked time moving forward. There’s also very little information. It was also written in dual narratives; Lo and Bea. Lo’s narrative is the present one as she uncovers more about what’s happening in the Unity Project while Bea’s is the past one as she shares her side of the story. There were a few threads you had to follow along like Lo trying to get this story about The Unity Project while also looking for her sister. There’s also her sister’s story and where that leads. But then you also have Arthur who lost his son to the Unity Project and how he wants someone wants to expose the group. And on top of that is all the mist hiding the secrets behind The Unity Project. While some threads did seem to fall off, others did carry through the rest of the book and really painted this intriguing picture.

For all intents and purposes, it sounds like The Unity Project is just another cult trying to prey on young people who’ve experienced trauma in their life. It’s based on Christianity, but also renounces religion because Lev Warren, their leader, believes himself to be the savior of humanity. Throughout the novel, there’s a lot of references to God and Christianity and how if you do good, then you’ll be able to walk the same path, except the path is with Lev Warren. It wasn’t too heavy on the religion, so if you’re not a fan of religious stories, then this won’t bother you. However, it is a topic that comes up a lot.

I thought it was interesting how this plays out and I appreciated Lo’s perspective to keep you as the third party instead of having you fully believe that Lev Warren is God. I can see the appeal for folks to join The Unity Project, but as you continue through the book and you slowly see the reveal it suddenly becomes less enticing. In fact, by the end of the book, I had my hands in fists.

What I found interesting is that the enemy here isn’t any one specific person. Yes, you can say that Lev is this bad guy, but Courtney Summers really makes you question that as well. We, as outsiders, all think that cults are bad. Every cult that’s existed in American history has ended in some terrible way and it turns out their leaders are borderline insane. But this book explores the other side of being in a cult and that makes you think. If so many people believe in what he’s saying and find comfort and solace in his help, then how can he be such a bad person?

I found myself asking this question throughout my read. I loved that Courtney Summers gets into this and makes you question the widely adapted belief that cults are bad. But they help people. They give people purpose. They help those who need help and save those from a world that hasn’t been kind to them. This was so obvious at the end. When everything is said and done (trying to avoid spoilers here), how the folks from The Unity Project reacted to what happened really made me pause. You would think that a place that does bad things would ultimately be happy to escape from it, but these folks weren’t and that was the most interesting part.

I truly appreciated Courtney Summers for writing a thriller that stepped outside the box of what a typical thriller is supposed to look like. She definitely kept the suspense going and while I felt there was a lull in the middle of the book, I was never not hooked to this story and what happens at the end.

I received a gifted copy of this book from Wednesday Books. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune // Book Review

The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune // Book Review

If you’re the type of person who’s been waiting to be a Sailor Solider since you were 15 years old, then this is the book for you. Because I was that girl who stood on my parents bed watching Sailor Moon every afternoon and pretending that my magic pen will transform me into an evil-fighting superhero.

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Doesn’t every nerdy person go through this phase of their life? I might still be going through this phase. Just waiting for a black cat with a crescent on her forehead to tell me I’m the descendants of moon people and I’m a princess.

The Extraordinaries is that life except in a world where superheroes actually exist. The story of a young kid named Nick Bell who truly wants to be like his favorite superheroes, extraordinary. If you’ve ever wanted to be a superhero as a kid, then you will resonate so hard with this book. But the one difference is that Nick Bell isn’t extraordinary. He’s just…ordinary. Well, ordinary as can be.

This is my first TJ Klune and I’m impressed beyond impressed. I loved the inclusion in this story. When Klune said he wanted to write stories representing queerness accurately and positively, he most definitely delivered. This story was all about queer joy; having a father who accepts you wholeheartedly, having a friend group who also represents facets of the LGBTQIA+ community, being yourself without the disguises or the masks, feeling freedom to be goofy or fun or serious. Aside from a few comments on Nick’s fan-fiction being “too gay,” it really felt like this world TJ Klune built was made for everyone. Honestly, it felt like Nova City didn’t even know what “hetero-normative” means.

And the story was so interesting. Nick was so intent on becoming an Extraordinary. He considered microwaving crickets and jumped into a river of raw sewage in hopes of it transforming his body. This was the main plot of the story, but not the only thing happening. I loved the hard conversations on what it means to be a superhero; the number of crimes you have to fight against and still being persecuted as a vigilante who does more harm than good. I loved that this story wasn’t just a die-hard fan wanting to be a superhero, but really talks about the consequences and hardships of being a superhero as well. In so many ways we all hope to have magic, but as we all know, magic always comes with a price.

There were so many moments when I was laughing my butt off. The laughable moments reminded me of when I was a teenager and trying to navigate the ordinaryness of life while hoping to become something extraordinary. The serious moments were very serious. I listened to this book on audio and even the narrator does justice to these scenes making sure to lower the volume of his voice, sound somber as Nick reminisced about his mother.

There were also so many cringe-worthy teenager moments that reverted me back to my 16-year-old self. It was all the nostalgia of being a big ass nerd with my close friend group and truly believing that I can become a superhero. Ugh, even his nervousness with finally being in front of his crush, Shadow Star, was so powerfully awkward. I was crumbling into a little ball with Nick.

You also see a lot of Nick’s ADHD. It’s not only in the actions he takes, but the internal dialogue TJ Klune gives our main character. I liked that it wasn’t a throwaway point. It wasn’t just added in for the sake of being added, but it was such a part of Nick’s personality. There were even moments when his father asked if he took his pill. I liked that continuity in the story.

One thing I was frustrated by was that Nick was so clueless. This isn’t a difficult book (in terms of fantasy and world building) and TJ Klune gives you a lot of clues leading to the conclusion and ending. It really boggled me that Nick didn’t see it, but his friends did. And the readers will definitely figure it out before Nick does too.

I will say that listening to this audiobook has its pitfalls. There are moments when Nick and his friends are all talking at once and I couldn’t differentiate who was saying what. I don’t think it was the narrator’s fault, but the book just being a storm of dialogue. I will say that the narrator does an amazing job bringing life to Nick. He has pauses, whispers lines, and really embodies the main character.

Overall, I absolutely loved this book. It reminded me of what it was like being a teenager who wanted fantasy to become a reality. And Nick Bell lives in a world where the fantasy is a reality. It’s inclusive, funny, serious, and a little brave. I wish more books like this existed in the world.

I received a copy of this book from Libro.fm for free. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

Fireborne by Rosaria Munda // Book Review

Fireborne by Rosaria Munda // Book Review

Dragons. Back when I was a kid, dragons were everywhere and it fatigued me. I didn’t get the obsession with dragons back then. Now, with Daenerys Targaryen mothering dragons in Game of Thrones, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, and Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon, I can feel the flutter of dragon wings across the pages of my books.

Fireborne definitely brings a unique perspective to the dragon story creating a world who’s class system is determined by your closeness to them. Let’s start with the setting.

This is a world that has had a long lineage of people who tamed dragons. From there, they created a monarchy where those aligned with the dragons were the supreme rulers. The rest of the caste system obviously doesn’t benefit from what the dragon people have, so they all struggled and suffered. That is, until the revolution happened. The revolution, led by Atreus, helped eradicate the old caste system, remove the monarchy, and created a process where you can test for your class position. Of course, the classes still existed but depending on your skills and intelligence, you can move on up.

This system also created Guardians, average people who can test to protect Callipoli’s citizens. The power to keep a dragon is moved from the ruling class to basically, it’s police force. And that is where we find our main characters, Lee and Annie, as they test to see if they can be the best guardian, The First Protector; who will oversee Callipoli when Atreus steps down as its leader.

Lee is a young guardian with a mysterious past. While no one knows much about him other than the time he spent at an orphanage, he’s determined to be First Protector. Annie is also a young guardian who lost her family before the revolution. Growing up in the same orphanage with Lee, she was timid about everything including her training to become a guardian. But they helped each other overcome their hardships and made it to the semi-finals for First Protector. However, when Lee’s secret is revealed to the reader, you also realize that it’s a secret Annie’s been protecting too. Lee is a member of the royal family said to have died during the revolution along with the rest of his family.

But after years of hiding in captivity, Lee is so close to First Protector; a position that would have been bestowed on him if his family wasn’t slain. He’s also doing his best to cover his true identity while Annie struggles to prove herself. When word arrives that survivors of the revolution are looking to get their revenge and return the throne to Callipoli, Lee and Annie start to work in opposing position. Will Lee return to his kingdom? Will Annie report him before he does? What will happen to their friendship and what will happen to the people of Callipoli?

I really loved the way Rosaria Munda approached the dragon story. Instead of it being a bonding story between a dragon and its keeper, it’s more about the politics of this little country. It’s about how one form of government can mean freedom and peace, but really looks like the same as everything else. I really loved here that she started with a world who’s recovering from the monarchy. I love that you travel to the different cities within this world and see how it affects its citizens. I love how it changes a few things, but there are other things that never change at all.

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Lee and Annie were also very interesting characters. While Lee felt a little bit stronger in this story than Annie did, you can see how Lee struggles between knowing who he is and assimilating to the world that exists. It’s obvious he wants to continue holding up the traditions of his family, but at the same time knows that his strength can benefit the current regime.

Annie is completely the opposite, but I absolutely love her growth in just this first book alone. She starts off as this timid person who barely speaks up in class to turning into the guardian people need her to be. It was really nice to see this, but I really wish she had more involvement in the bigger story.

I was also a huge fan of the dragons! The dragons here had their own personalities and that was really well shown. I love that there was a deeper connection between the dragon and the rider which made it kind of interesting to see how battles and duels played out. I hope that there’s more dragon stuff in the rest of the series.

Something I wasn’t a huge fan of was the writing style. For all intents and purposes, it reads comfortably, but there were a few paragraphs that were a little overdone with the language or description. There were a few repetitive lines and info, but nothing too bad. It was something that made me pause and focus on the words than on the story, which isn’t my favorite feeling in the world.

But aside from that, this was a super action-packed first novel. The world is really well built and the characters are already showing signs of their personality throughout the story. Really solid start to a great fantasy series!

I received a copy of this book from Penguin Teen for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

A Few Books to Get You Started Reading Diversely

A Few Books to Get You Started Reading Diversely

Reading diverse novels is such a rewarding way to get to know other people’s culture without opening a textbook. However, it can be a pretty daunting genre if you don’t know how to get into it.

Luckily, there’s a ton of Young Adult novels centered around diverse issues. In my opinion, I think these help with easing into the genre without being overwhelmed with heavier stories. If you’re thinking about diving into reading diversely, check out these wonderful YA novels. They’ll be easy to digest and spring you forward into more adult authors like Colson Whitehead or Yaa Gyasi.

Continue reading “A Few Books to Get You Started Reading Diversely”