Performers: Lauren Fortgang and Michael David Axtell
Length: 16 hr, 29 min
Series: Alex Stern, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: October 8, 2019 by Macmillan Audio
Review: Grishaverse fans beware…this is a complete departure from Bardugo’s previous work. Luckily for me, I am also a fan of the paranormal/urban fantasy genre, so there is some crossover appeal for me. This book was a little too gritty for my personal tastes, but the character development really impressed me. Alex’s character in particular is incredibly complex and multi-layered. People who enjoy stories about secret societies are especially in for a treat because Bardugo really has a knack for the intricacies of incorporating the paranormal into realistic settings. She makes it completely believable that this type of world could exist within the shadow of our own.
The dynamic between Alex and Darlington was a bit confusing to me, so I am really hoping for more page time with them in future books. I liked the readers chosen for both of their characters, so I will probably try to continue forward with the series in audiobook format.
Title: The Cruel Prince, The Wicked King, & The Queen of Nothing
Author: Holly Black
Page Count: 370, 336, & 300
Series: The Folk of the Air, Books 1-3
Publishing Date/Publisher: January 2, 2018 – January 8, 2019 – November 19, 2019 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Review: I was never quick to pick up this book series for two reasons:
I read the Coldest Girl in Cold Town by this author and though I enjoyed it, I wasn’t terribly impressed.
The book synopsis for The Cruel Prince does not do it justice.
I have seen this book series mentioned enough times now that I finally decided to read it. As a result, I am going to do something I never do and review all three books together. Why you ask? Because I ripped through them so fast it doesn’t even make sense for me to review them individually. This was a book series that kept me reading late into the night and each book took me about 2 days to finish. I simply could not put them down. The romance is a slow burn (which I always appreciate), but it was the political intrigue and endless scheming that truly kept me glued to the pages. Jude is a very strongly written character, and it was fascinating to watch her turn her vulnerabilities into strengths. The pacing of this book series is excellent, and I was never once bored. Great cliffhangers and a great ending really cemented this as one of my favorite YA series of all time.
Review: It’s no secret I am a huge Sarah J. Maas fan and will read just about anything that is compared to her work. In this case, it was a very appropriate comparison. Similar characters, similar love triangle, similar setting, similar premise…but hey, I’m all for it. It was angsty, but not too much so. Even though it gives me anxiety, I like when characters have to navigate impossible choices in creative ways. Oh and also love steamy love triangles, even though those also give me anxiety….So needless to say, even though this book is not perfect, I am the perfect audience for it. I hope there is more to come.
Publishing Date/Publisher: April 20, 2021 by HarperTeen
Review: I have been dragging my feet when it comes to writing this review, not because I didn’t like the book, but because it has so many similarities to two other books I have recently read. This is a very strong readalike for Children of Blood and Bone and A Song of Wraiths and Ruin. It has been hard for me to draw any clear distinctions between my feelings about the three, though I can say that I enjoyed them all. I can’t help but note that white hair on magic users seems to be a very popular trend in YA fantasy fiction that is inspired by African and/or Caribbean folklore. I thought this striking imagery was very distinct to the Legacy of Orisha trilogy, but it seems to have made it’s way into other series as well. One repeating trend I have also noticed (that I actually quite like) is the finely drawn line between hero(ine) and villian(ess). A line that is often crossed by both the former and the latter in such a way that these distinctions become meaningless. Life is messy, and I like when I can relate to both the protagonist and the antagonist in equal measure. It tickles me even further when these roles reverse at some point in the story. I think this series has quite a lot of potential, and it is very possible I might love the second book…we will just have to wait and see.
P.S. If I had to rate the cover of this book it would be 5/5 stars.
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 3, 2020 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Review: The more I read books by Cassandra Clare, the more I draw similarities between her style and the style of Sarah J. Maas. Both write sagas with lengthy tomes that are riddled with relationship angst. Both have predictable plot formulas they follow, and they always manage to pair off nearly every character into a romantic relationship. Clare in particular really has a penchant for relationship triangles and drama, and it seems that she repackages her storylines with different characters and settings. Despite this, I find some comfort in knowing what I am getting into when I pick up one of her books, and I often find myself enjoying them. In some ways it is just mindlessly pleasant reading. The Shadowhunter world is very engrossing, regardless of how many different ways the same story is presented to me. I find that in general I like her historical fiction series more than her contemporary ones. I don’t know how historically accurate her settings are, but the afterword in this book implies that she does put a little research into her craft. I’ll definitely keep reading when the next book is published, if only because the covers in this series are so dang gorgeous.
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 22, 2020 by Dreamscape Media, LLC
Review: I personally did not find this book to be a thrilling read, however, I will most certainly be recommending it to young readers. Aside from a few curse words scattered here and there, it is actually a pretty “clean” book. It read more like middle grade fiction, despite the fact our amateur sleuth is an older teenager. Because the main protagonist, Elatsoe, is asexual, there is no romantic angle whatsoever. The setting is interesting and would likely appeal to young readers – kind of a re-imagined United States where the paranormal is considered normal. All things considered, I think I probably would have enjoyed this book a lot more if I had read it as a pre-teen.
Title: Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything
Author: Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
Page Count: 432
Publishing Date/Publisher: August 20, 2020 by Simon Pulse
Review: I went into this book without reading the synopsis, so to say that I was blindsided by the science fiction angle would be an understatement. This book has very strong undertones of magical realism for the first half of the book and them BAM!…it hits you with aliens. Admittedly, the concept was clever…aliens abducting illegal aliens. It takes a strong stance on immigration issues, and is a clear reprimand for how immigrants are treated by the United States government.
Although I found this to be an enjoyable read, I feel that the author tackled too many issues with her story line. I can appreciate a good genre crossover – combining magical realism and science fiction was creative – however, the plot became very convoluted for the last half of the book. I think I would have enjoyed the story more if the author had tightened up the plot a bit. In addition to the magical realism elements, extraterrestrials, and social commentary, there is also a romance that plays out between the main character, Sia, and the hot new guy at her school. Through the lens of this relationship the author explores trauma, first love, racism, family dynamics, and abuse. Combined with all the other elements of this story, it’s just a lot. Perhaps if these additional elements had been more subtle, it would have worked, but I felt that taking on so much detracted from the flow of the story.
It is very unclear to me whether this book is meant to be part of a series or a standalone. The author leaves the readers with a cliffhanger, but I cannot find any references to a sequel.
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 1, 2020 by Swoon Reads
Review: This was a unique coming-of-age novel with a very diverse cast of characters. My favorite elements of the book were the rich descriptions of Dia de Muertos traditions and the relationship between Julian and Yadriel. The romance that developed between Julian and Yadriel felt very organic, and served as a great mechanism for character development. I also loved the paranormal spin to the story, with Julian being a ghost, and thought that overall it was very creative.
My biggest qualm about the book was the very cliché villain reveal at the end. I had hoped my predictions were wrong and that the author would surprise me, but unfortunately this was not the case. The ending also wrapped up a little too nicely in my opinion, especially given how dark a lot of the content was following the climax of the story.
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 3, 2020 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Review: When I heard that Sarah J. Maas was officially taking the leap into New Adult/Adult Fiction, I was dying to get a copy of this book. I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much, but darn it, Maas exceeded my expectations. I LOVED this book. In fact, I think that New Adult Fiction is really her jam. Considering that her YA series have a tendency to tip into this realm, it wasn’t really that much of a leap, but I am glad she finally just stopped flirting with that line and crossed it.
Maas has a lot of dark content in her YA books, and this book goes just a bit darker. It has been awhile since a book has made me cry, and more than once this book had me in tears. Two scenes in particular were just so damn beautiful, they haunt me still. Interestingly, it wasn’t even the romance that evoked this level of emotion in me, but rather the friendships. The friendships in this book are by far it’s strongest element. If I am being honest, the romance followed her typical formula, so no surprises there, and her heroine is very reminiscent of Celaena . BUT I DON’T EVEN CARE. Somehow she made it work and I can’t wait for the next book in the series to be released (or even announced for that matter).
If they adapted this book into a movie I would fangirl so hard. I am not usually one to fancast, but I envision Madelaine Petsch as Bryce Quinlan.
Publishing Date/Publisher: May 8, 2012 by Entangled Teen
Review: I can’t say I didn’t know what I was getting into with this. It was a light paranormal read that didn’t make me think too much. It follows a very standard formula. New girl who doesn’t know she is beautiful moves into small town and meets mysterious and attractive boy. There is instant attraction and they immediately start a love/hate relationship. The boy, who also happens to be an alien, runs hot and cold, but eventually succumbs to his feelings for human girl. Throw in some bad guys, a happy-go-lucky sister, a jealous ex and you’ve got a pretty predictable plot for this book. Admittedly, this is sometimes the type of book I want to read, especially after I have read books with heavier content, but it was nothing new or original. I will likely not be moving on with the series.