Title: The Court of Miracles
Author: Kester Grant
Page Count: 464
Series: A Court of Miracles, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: June 2, 2020
Review: I have never been a huge fan of Les Misérables. True to it’s name, it is both lengthy and wildly depressing. I am also not a big fan of musicals so that form of adaptation never interested me. Nevertheless, the synopsis for this book piqued my interest. Eponine? As a cat burglar? Ok! If I had to pick one character I would like to see a retelling for, it would be Eponine, so I requested this ARC with very few expectations. Perhaps this is sometimes the best way to approach books, because when they actually blow you away, it is a very pleasant surprise.
This book was FANTASTIC. I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed it. The plot, the character development, everything about it felt fresh, despite the fact it is an adaptation/retelling of a classic and well-known novel. Eponine was a character you could not help but root for, and I cannot wait for the next book in the series. The one bummer about reading ARCs that you love is that you have to wait a very long time for the next one. Even so, I like the way the author ended this book. Some story lines were wrapped up, while others were simultaneously opened. This left me finishing the book feeling both satisfied and chomping at the bit for more. A pleasant combination.
Title: Cut Off
Author: Adrianne Finlay
Page Count: 384
Publishing Date/Publisher: August 11, 2020 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Review: I was obsessed with the Lost series back when it was airing, so when this book was described as “Warcross meets Lost…” I knew I simply must read it. Unfortunately for me, it was just…meh. There were a couple scenes that creeped me out in the beginning, but overall it was not particularly exciting. The one thing it did have in common with Lost was that the final reveal was truly disappointing. I knew there was going to be a science fiction element to the story, but it was a bit more sci-fi-y than I was expecting. I also wanted to see more character complexity and development. The characters felt very formulaic to me: the brainiac, the deceiver, the loner, and the closed off beauty. Nobody really surprised me or made me question what I knew about them. I wasn’t really feeling the romantic angle either. In a story like this, I feel the romance should add more depth to the plot or characters, but it didn’t really serve to do so as much as I wanted. It was not a terrible read, but also not one I enjoyed enough to give a higher rating.
Title: Real Men Knit
Author: Kwana Jackson
Page Count: 320
Publishing Date/Publisher: May 19, 2020 by Berkley
Review: After reading some more “serious” books, I was in the mood for something light and fun. When I read the premise for this book, I was hooked. Hot men knitting? Yep. Sign me up. The book certainly followed through on it’s promise, starring four uniquely hot adopted brothers. Although this book focused more specifically on the youngest brother, Jesse, I find it hard to believe that Ms. Jackson will not be turning this into a series. There are, after all, three other strapping young men to find attachments for.
I could be off base, but I couldn’t help but think that the author was imagining none other than Jesse Williams when she penned the character description for Jesse Strong….
Aside from the locs, he pretty much matches his physical description exactly. I’m not complaining though, and I don’t think other readers will be either.
Naturally I had to investigate whether the hashtag #RealMenKnit exists and was pleasantly surprised to find out that it does. Feel free to look it up for some eye candy. Thank you, Ms. Jackson, for the share.
Title: Chosen Ones
Author: Veronica Roth
Page Count: 304
Series: The Chosen Ones, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: April 7, 2020
Review: This was a very original concept…what really happens to a hero after they have defeated evil? I think that Roth gives a really realistic depiction of how ordinary people would cope with extraordinary pressures and trauma. I have always thought that being famous would be incredibly stressful – always dealing with scrutiny, invasion of privacy, and false narratives. Each of the five heroes in this story deal with it differently, some withdrawing into anger or addiction, while others seemingly embrace it. When evil rears it’s ugly head again, the heroes must take a critical look at the past, and what they think they know about themselves and each other.
It’s difficult for me to put my finger on why I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. Roth does a decent job of fleshing out the characters, but I think her set up took just a little too long. I struggled to remain actively engaged and I could put this book down for days at a time without feeling compelled to pick it back up. Now that the characters and story have been established, I imagine I would enjoy a sequel far more, though this is difficult for me to say with any certainty. Considering this is accurate to how I felt when reading her Divergent series, I remain hopeful that the series will prove to be worth reading even though the way she ended it makes me uncertain. It ended with a bang, but then tapered off into different directions. If it wasn’t being advertised as the first in a series, I would have assumed it was a standalone.
Although this is Roth’s first “adult” fiction book, I still think it will mostly appeal to a younger demographic.
Title: The Queen’s Assassin
Author: Melissa De La Cruz
Page Count: 384
Series: Queen’s Secret, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: February 4, 2020
Review: I see this author’s name on our book shelves quite frequently at the library, but I have never before read any of her books. When I saw this ARC being offered up by NetGalley, I decided to give her a try. To summarize my thoughts on this story: it was utterly predictable. In general this story went from plot point A to plot point B with little fanfare or complexity. For a book that is advertised as “perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas,” this was rather disappointing. The only thing I thought unique about it was that the author wrote one POV in first person, and the other in third person. I can’t recall ever seeing this done before, and I could not decide whether or not I liked it. It is unclear to me why the author made this stylistic choice, because it didn’t seem to add anything special to the narrative.
In short, it certainly wasn’t the worst YA fantasy fiction book I have ever read, but it didn’t interest me enough to want to continue onto the next book.
Title: A Violet Fire
Author: Kelsey Quick
Page Count: Unknown
Series: Vampire in Avignon
Publishing Date/Publisher: December 9, 2019 by Kelsey Quick
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.
Title: What Unbreakable Looks Like
Author: Kate McLaughlin
Page Count: 336
Publishing Date/Publisher: June 23, 2020 by Wednesday Books
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.