Fantasy · Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

Heir of Fire


Title: Heir of Fire

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Page Count: 565

Series: Throne of Glass, Book 3

Publishing Date/Publisher: September 2, 2014 by Bloomsbury USA Children

Format: eBook

Review: I personally found this to be the most exciting installment in the series so far.  We see entirely new settings, meet new characters, and get a deeper glimpse into Celaena’s past.  All these additions add more depth to Celaena’s character and make her a more inspiring heroine.

This book also introduced an entirely new character point of view, that of the witch Manon.  I LOVED her storyline, even though at this point it is hard to see how it will play into the larger plot.  Her chapters literally had my heart pounding and there were some scenes that literally gave me goosebumps.  I would finish the chapters feeling exhilarated and utterly disappointed to be moving back to another character perspective.  I had to strongly resist the urge to skip ahead to her next chapter.  I took a bit of a pause between reading books 2 and 3 in this series, but as soon as I turned the final page of this book I snapped up book 4 because I cannot wait to pick up her story again.

Reader: Bekah


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Contemporary · Fiction · Young Adult



Title: SLAY

Author: Brittney Morris

Page Count: 323

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: September 24, 2019 by Simon Pulse

Format: Hardcover

Review: I liked the concept of this book, but unfortunately the execution just didn’t work for me.  I know little to nothing about VR and video games, so I did a little Googling to get a better idea of what creating a VR game would entail.  Although it is fully plausible that two young women could create a VR game, it seems to me that building and maintaining a game of the caliber described in this book would take a team of elite developers years and $100,000s, if not millions, of dollars.  Even if I were to remove these factors, it seems unlikely that a teen would be able to almost single-handedly maintain this game (including regular updates) while still maintaining a high GPA, a tutoring job, and a social life (including a long-term boyfriend).  What made it even more implausible was that this game, which supposedly took up a huge portion of her free time, was a secret from everyone in her life.  This confused me largely because these people would have to be super unobservant to not have even have an inkling of what she is working on.  I was also confused that she would not even mention her vast coding knowledge on her college applications.  Women of color are unfortunately still a huge minority in the gaming industry, and it seems a shame that Kiera doesn’t even seem interested in pursing it as a career path.  Colleges would be chomping at the bit to get a student as talented as Kiera into their programs.  She would probably be offered scholarships, internships, and possibly even have jobs lined up well before she graduated.

As for the premise of the game, it sounded fun and awesome, but was still a bit problematic for me.  The idea of “safe spaces” for minority groups is not inherently bad, but it is certainly a slippery slope to create a game that completely excludes people of other races.  Although Kiera personally designed the game to be inclusive of all people who identify as Black, it sadly still leaves the door open for discrimination.  The passcode system lets people ultimately decide who is Black enough to play.  This is addressed to an extent when Cicada makes her “confession” to Kiera about her mixed heritage, but it was not addressed to my satisfaction.  Much of the conflict in the book surrounds the fact that this game is specifically excluding Whites, but it is never mentioned that other minority groups, who may very well be experiencing similar discrimination in mainstream games, are excluded as well.

I was also not a big fan of Kiera’s relationship with her boyfriend, Malcolm.  He is very radicalized, manipulative, and aggressive.  Kiera repeatedly states that she is with him because she feels like he is the only one who she can truly be herself with, yet she is constantly lying to him and editing her behaviors because she is afraid of how he will react.  For someone who claims that SLAY is such an integral part of who she is, it seems contradictory to completely hide that part of herself from the man she claims to want to share her future with.  I have other issues with Malcolm’s character, but I don’t want to say too much more for fear of giving away spoilers.

Despite my heavy criticism, there are certainly things to applaud about this book.  It has a strong, female heroine who kicks butt at coding, it celebrates Black cultures around the world, it brings light to the issue of discrimination and non-inclusivity of people of color in mainstream video games, and the cover art is stunning.

Reader: Bekah


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Fantasy · Fiction · Paranormal · Romance · Young Adult

A Violet Fire


Title: A Violet Fire

Author: Kelsey Quick

Page Count: Unknown

Series: Vampire in Avignon

Publishing Date/Publisher: December 9, 2019 by Kelsey Quick

Format: eBook

Review: I typically do not have high expectations for self-published books, but this one surprised me.  I found it to be an easy read, and I enjoyed the concept of living vampires.  I also enjoyed that humans could not be simply be turned into vampires.  They could in theory make offspring with vampires, but they were genetically different enough that a human could not become one.

In some ways this book follows the typical tropes of paranormal romances, but it was different enough that the story kept me engaged.  I felt that the weakest aspect of the story was the development of the central romance.  It’s not insta-love, but not a lot of dialogue is shown between the two characters to help the reader understand the relationship.  The reader is aware that time is passing, but aside from a first interaction and a final interaction, there isn’t much substance in between to make the relationship feel real.  In fact, when the final twist is revealed, I was not at all affected because I was not made to be invested in the relationship in the first place.

I will say, however, that I liked the direction the story was moving in, and I would most certainly continue reading the series if it were to become available to me.

Reader: Bekah



Fiction · Science Fiction · Young Adult

The Grace Year

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Title: The Grace Year

Author: Kim Liggett

Page Count: 416

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: October 8, 2019 by Wednesday Books

Format: Hardcover

Review: This book has been likened to the Handmaid’s Tale, and I would say that is fairly accurate.  Liggett took a page from Atwood’s handbook and created a world ruled by men who will do everything in their power to subjugate women.  It was bloody, it was brutal, and it was ripe with misogyny.  In this society, young women are blamed for their sexuality and are sent to a special camp to “burn off their magic.”  Rather than band together, the girls are torn apart by jealousy and girl on girl cruelty.

My biggest issue with this book is the lack of world building.  The reader is simply dropped into an insular society of undetermined size that is using a story from the Bible to justify the dehumanization of women.  The society is very primitive, and it is unclear to me how this dystopian society came into existence.  I generally like some context for dystopian novels, so I had great difficulty buying the setting.

I think this book has the potential to garner some popularity because there are still many readers who love dystopian fiction, but I do not think it does anything new to revolutionize the genre.

Reader: Bekah




Contemporary · Fiction · Young Adult

What Unbreakable Looks Like


Title: What Unbreakable Looks Like

Author: Kate McLaughlin

Page Count: 336

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: June 23, 2020 by Wednesday Books

Format: eBook

Review: This book tackles a very difficult topic: human trafficking.  The book felt very well-researched, and it goes into a lot of detail about how young women (and men) are groomed and eventually coerced into sexual slavery.  What I liked about this book is that this process is shown through what happens to Lex, rather than the author simply explaining it.  It can be difficult to understand why people fall into these traps, but when you see it happening in the story, it becomes abundantly clear how easy it is.  Anyone is susceptible to this sort of coercion, and it is very insidious how these pimps lure youth into a life of prostitution.

Lex is a deeply scarred character, both physically and emotionally, and my heart broke for her so many times.  The topic of human trafficking in the United States is not widely addressed in YA literature, although I think it should be.  It is unfortunately more common than people realize, and could be very well happening in their own backyard, so to speak.  Other things happen in this book that demonstrate the lack of education in regards to this topic, and the ignorance of people who choose to look at forced prostitution as a choice.  This book is largely about Lex accepting her self-worth, healing, creating personal boundaries, reclaiming her sexuality, and recognizing what makes healthy relationships.  At the start of the story, she is broken and recovering from addiction, but by the end, she is learning how to build herself back up and how to stand up to her abusers.  It is a painful and beautiful story, and I hope to see more like it in the future.

Reader: Bekah



Fantasy · Fiction · Historical · Magical Realism · Young Adult

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All


Title: Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All

Author: Laura Ruby

Performer: Lisa Flanagan

Length: 9 hr

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: 2019 by Balzar + Bray

Format: eAudiobook

Review: I had great expectations for this book, because I really loved Bone Gap.  Ruby does a great job with magical realism, and this book is no exception; however, I found this book to be a bit too meandering for my liking.  It follows two characters, one alive and one deceased, and oftentimes there really doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the plot.  It jumps from one story to another, with the reader occasionally getting a glimpse of the past.  The deceased character, Pearl, is fascinated by Frankie’s life although it isn’t really clear to me why.  Pearl isn’t sure why she hasn’t ascended, and there isn’t any real resolution to this (in my opinion).  Secrets are revealed, but they didn’t blow my mind because there was no anticipation built up around them.  I wasn’t bored listening to this audiobook, but I also wasn’t chomping at the bit to get back to it.  It was a nice snapshot of the time period, but overall a very average read for me.

On an entirely different note, I loved the title of this book, loved the cover, and I thought the reader did a great job.

Reader: Bekah



Memoir · Non-fiction

Down Among the Dead Men

Down Among the Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician

Title: Down Among the Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician

Author: Michelle Williams

Page Count: N/A

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Format: eBook

Review: The dead deserve respect, and this author says as much, and then promptly calls the body of an obese person a ‘monstrosity’ and then writes a whole chapter about all the laughs they got out of a man who died while dressed as a woman. Absolutely unacceptable. It also serves no purpose in the grand scheme of things. It doesn’t teach anyone anything and it’s basically just the sticky-note version of what happens in a morgue. I couldn’t finish this book, nor do I want to, and I wouldn’t recommend to to anyone. That half star is me being generous.

Reader: Kymberly


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