Fantasy · Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

The Midnight Lie

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Title: The Midnight Lie

Author: Marie Rutkoski

Page Count: 358

Series: The Midnight Lie, Book 1

Publishing Date/Publisher: March 3, 2020 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Format: eBook

Review: I was a huge fan of Rutkoski’s Winner’s Trilogy, so I was elated when I saw this book being offered up to readers on NetGalley.  Unfortunately, as with many books I hype in my mind, it did not quite live up to expectations.  I found both the setting and the romance to be boring.  I’ve seen this plot concept played out in other books, and I did not find this particular rendition to be anything special.  For folks who are interested, there is an LGBT+ angle, but there really isn’t anything else that sets it apart in my mind from other fantasy that I have read.  Although I would like to learn more about Nirrim’s magical gifts, I don’t think I am interested enough to continue forward with this series.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_Goldhalf star

Contemporary · Fiction · Young Adult

Not So Pure and Simple

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Title: Not So Pure and Simple

Author: Lamar Giles

Page Count: 400

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: January 21, 2020

Format: Hardcover

Review: I was thoroughly impressed by this book.  The great thing about participating in the Mock Printz Committee at my work is that sometimes I am given books that I enjoy immensely, but would probably not have read otherwise.  This is one such book.  It surprised me with it’s humor, depth, and important message.  Oftentimes books that cover topics such as toxic masculinity and sexual agency come off as being too heavy-handed with character tropes and long inner monologues where the characters have “epiphanies”.  The resulting effect is that it feels like it is trying too hard to make a statement.  Giles masterfully avoided these pitfalls by giving us characters that are both lovable and realistic.  He shows that even well-intentioned young men are susceptible to toxic ways of thinking and sometimes their words and actions have unintended negative effects on those around them.  As a woman, I found I related to many of the female characters and their struggle to be “nice” even when they were not interested in the male pursuing them.  As I have grown older, I find that sometimes it is necessary to be blunt, even if it comes off as rude, but as a younger woman, this felt like a tricky minefield to navigate.  Reading this book made me realize how many behaviors are impressed upon us at an early age and really made me re-evaluate how I have simply accepted certain actions as “normal” when they really shouldn’t be.

I would consider this an important read for all teens and think it would be a great book for discussion.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Goldhalf star

Fantasy · Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

Queen of Air and Darkness

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Title: Queen of Air and Darkness

Author: Cassandra Clare

Performer: James Marsters

Length: 30 hr, 40 min, 56 sec

 Series: The Dark Artifices, Book 3

Publishing Date/Publisher: 2018 by Simon & Schuster Audio

Format: eAudiobook

Review: SO. MUCH. ANGST.  I generally enjoy Clare’s books for the most part.  They have intricate storylines and complex characters.  There are usually clearly defined conflicts and the endings are almost always satisfying.  This book checked all those boxes, but it was just so darn long and drawn out.  Every. single. relationship. was FILLED with angst.  Relationship building can do a lot to drive a story, however, there is a point where it starts to become tedious.  Clare loves writing forbidden love stories, as well as love triangles, and this series has that in spades.  I listened to this in audiobook format, and sometimes I would find myself tuning out during the more lengthy interactions between will-they-or-won’t-they couples/thruples.  There are a lot of characters to follow in this trilogy (including returning characters from past series), and I quickly realized that I needed to read detailed recaps of the previous two installments to get back up to speed on what was going on before the start of this book.  I did enjoy the story, but I think the book could have been significantly shorter without losing anything critical to the plot.

This is the first book of Clare’s that I consumed in audiobook format.  James Marsters has a voice that is well-suited to storytelling, though his volume fluctuates quite a bit and I had to constantly adjust the sound in my vehicle.  This was only a minor annoyance, however, and I found his performance to be appropriately dramatic for the content of the book.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Goldhalf star

Fantasy · Fiction · Magical Realism · Young Adult

Pet

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Title: Pet

Author: Akwaeke Emezi

Page Count: 208

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: September 10, 2019 by Make Me a World

Format: Hardcover

Review: After reading this book I am surprised that it is cataloged as YA Fiction.  It really read like J Fiction to me.  I had to keep reminding myself that the main character is seventeen, because her character seems much younger.

The setting is a sort of Utopia where the “monsters” have been eliminated and everyone treats each other nicely (or so they think).  From the very first chapter I could have outlined the entire plot of the story.  I can’t say much more than what is in the synopsis without completely giving everything away, but I can tell you that the story follows a very predictable path.

I admire what the author is trying to do with this book – she is revealing the dangers of complacency and denial – but it is all overly simplified.  The backstory as to how this “Utopia” setting was achieved is completely preposterous.  Basically anyone and everyone who has ever committed an atrocity has supposedly been identified and imprisoned.  Society has realized the error of their ways and all people are accepted regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, ableness, etc, etc., etc.  This book was very short, but I honestly think it could have been shorter.  This would have been a great short story for an anthology if all the repetitive filler was removed.

I generally enjoy books that employ elements of magical realism, but this one just wasn’t for me.

Reader: 

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold

Fantasy · Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

We Set the Dark on Fire

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Title: We Set the Dark on Fire

Author: Tehlor Kay Mejia

Page Count: 384

Series: We Set the Dark on Fire, Book 1

Publishing Date/Publisher: February 26, 2019 by Katherine Tegen Books

Format: Hardcover

Review: I enjoyed this book and I can see a lot of potential in this series.  This book was mainly setting the stage and the characters for the overarching storyline, so it doesn’t feel like a lot happens, but it is clear that there is a lot more action yet to come.

This book draws a lot of interesting parallels with current events, and I thought that the mythology aspect was very expertly woven into the threads of the story.  The author did an excellent job establishing the conflict, and I am excited to see where the story goes from here.  Also worthy of note is that all the characters are Latinx and there is an LGBT romance that is central to the story.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Goldhalf star

Fiction · Mystery · Science Fiction · Thriller

DOUBLE REVIEW: The Psychology of Time Travel

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Title: The Psychology of Time Travel

Author: Kate Mascarenhas

Page Count: 372

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: 12 February 2019 by Crooked Lane Books (originally published August 9th 2018 by Head of Zeus)

Format: eBook

Reader: Kymberly

Review:

I don’t think I can accurately describe just how much I love this book, but I will try.

It had me hooked from the start, grabbing me instantly with the strong, smart, vulnerable women, and kept me hooked through the entire story. The relative lack of men was an added, welcome, and refreshing change of pace from most books I’ve read. I’ve also noticed that most books and movies/television shows involving time travel make the reader/viewer do some mental gymnastics in order to wrap their head around the whole concept, however Mascarenhas does all that for you, leaving your brain free to try to dissect the murder mystery.

I also loved how the story is woven together and how organized it is, despite it being about a very disorganized subject. This made it easy to read and impossible to put down.

I have already started telling all my friends about this book and will continue to bother them until each and everyone of them reads it. I was utterly blown away and loved every minute of it.

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold

All_Star_Gold

Review: This book thoroughly boggled my brain.  The concept of time travel makes absolutely zero sense to me.  This book is technically a murder mystery, but oddly it didn’t feel to me like a murder mystery at all.  The mystery itself became more of a subplot as I struggled to wrap my head around the various concepts detailed in the book pertaining to time chronology, “genies”, and other time travel concepts.   I liked the book, but I was honestly too confused by it to love it.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Goldhalf star

Fiction · Young Adult

Belly Up

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Title: Belly Up

Author: Eva Darrows

Page Count: 384

Series: Unknown

Publishing Date/Publisher: April 30, 2019 by Inkyard Press

Format: eBook

Review: There are so many things I love about this book.  Most importantly, there are the characters.  Darrows’ characters are full of personality and spunk and the dialogue between them sometimes had me snickering out loud.  Bottom-line, I want all of them in my life for reals.

Teen pregnancy books often fall into the realm of “issue” fiction, but this is so much more than just a cautionary tale.  Certainly the main character, Sara, has to come to terms with the repercussions of a single night of indiscretion, but she finds strength in herself and the people in her life as she navigates through some tough choices.

There is a whole lot of representation in this book.  The main character is biracial and bisexual/questioning.  Her best friend is asexual, another friend is transgender, and her boyfriend is demisexual.  I have to admit that I had to look up several of the terms and identifiers used in this novel because I had no idea what they meant.  The story really covers a wide spectrum of gender and sexuality, and it is rare to see that kind of fluidity represented in YA fiction.

I highly recommend this book.  It is smart, it is funny, and it really shows how important it is to surround yourself with supportive and loving people…people who will be with you through thick and thin (pun intended).

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold

Fiction · Young Adult

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

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Title: The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Author: Emily M. Danforth

Page Count: 485

Series: N/A

Publishing Date/Publisher: February 7, 2012 by Balzer + Bray

Format: eBook

Review: There has been a surge of LGBT books released in recent years as publishers try to find materials that represent diverse characters and authors, but before this became a publishing trend, there were authors like Emily M. Danforth paving the way for LGBT representation in Young Adult literature.  Although published in 2012, this award winning book has been adapted into a film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.  Now that I have read the book, I hope that I get an opportunity to watch the film.

Not everyone will find this book interesting.  At times it is a slow building story, but I personally am fascinated by the idea of conversion camps, mostly because I can hardly believe that they exist.  The first book I read that opened my eyes to this sort of abuse was Jesus Land: A Memoir by Julia Scheeres (also highly recommended), so I was intrigued to read more about this topic.  What makes it truly horrifying is that the people who send their kids to these camps, and the people who run them, actually believe that they are helping the kids.  My heart goes out to anyone who has survived this type of trauma.

Reader: Bekah

Rating: 

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold

Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

Leah on the Offbeat

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Title: Leah on the Offbeat

Author: Becky Albertalli

Performer: Shannon Purser

Length: 7 hr, 11 min, 21 sec

Series: Creekwood, Book 2

Publishing Date/Publisher: 2018 by Harper Audio

Format: eAudiobook

Review: I thoroughly enjoyed Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, so I was thrilled when I found out the author was publishing a book highlighting another character introduced in the first of the Creekwood series.

Leah was a character I enjoyed very much in Simon’s book, and I was excited to get to know her better.  Leah’s character is self-assured and opinionated, and she loves her appearance, despite the fact that her body type does not adhere to traditional standards of beauty.  She is confident in just about every aspect of herself, except her sexuality and her art.  Leah is a very talented artist, but she is reluctant to show her deeply personal work to the people in her life.  Perhaps she is worried that it will be revealing of the secret she has been harboring from her friends…her bisexuality.

Based on the description above, I should love Leah, but once inside her head, I actually found her to be a bit obnoxious.  To make matters worse, many situations in the book made me cringe, because Leah was outright rude or inconsiderate to the people around her.  By the end of the book, I was not her biggest fan.

The romance between Leah and another character was also very problematic.  Her love interest came off extremely flat and the chemistry just wasn’t there.  The story also does not address any blowback that would have undoubtedly occurred if the romance progressed the way it did in the book.  It was extremely unrealistic and disappointing when the author jumped over any inevitable falling out and just included a “happy ending” epilogue to gloss it all over.

Despite my disdain for this book, the performer did a great job with her narration.  I would give her a higher star rating than the book itself if I could.

Reader: Bekah

Rating:

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold

Fiction · Romance · Young Adult

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

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Title: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

Author: Becky Albertalli

Performer: Michael Crouch

Length: 6 hr, 45 min, 6 sec

Series: Creekwood, Book 1

Publishing Date/Publisher: 2015 by Harper Audio

Format: eAudiobook

Review: This love story is adorable.  Simon is adorable.  Everything about this book is adorable.

In all seriousness though, this is an excellent coming-of-age/teen romance.  It’s angsty and endearing and you just want to reach through the pages and give Simon a big hug.  It is hard for me to relate directly to his experiences coming out to his family and friends, but many of Simon’s struggles to accept himself are universal.  The supporting characters in this story are, for the most part, also very likable.  Simon’s friends and family are so accepting of who he is, that at first it seemed silly to me that he is so reluctant to come out to them. As the story progresses, however, I really got a better grasp of how scary this step is to a teen, regardless of whether or not they have a strong support network.

I enjoyed this story in audiobook format.  I have listened to other audiobooks performed by Michael Crouch, and his voice is very well suited to books told from the perspective of a teenage boy.  It’s a very generic “young man” voice, and his even cadence makes his performances very easy to listen to.

After reading this book, I was very excited to rent the movie adaptation Love, Simon.  My expectations for book-turned-movie adaptations are always low, but the movie was extremely well cast, and they captured the feel of the book very well.  This can be difficult to do, especially when so much of the book is introspective.

Both the book and the film were very heart-warming, and I highly recommend both to fans of this genre.

Reader: Bekah

Rating:

All_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_GoldAll_Star_Gold