I actually read The Beautiful last year, soon after it first came out, but I didn’t end up reviewing it on here. Why? I’m not quite sure, to tell the truth. I readily acknowledge that I don’t do a full review for every book I read, but I usually take the time to at least acknowledge that I read a book and to give it a stars rating on my Goodreads account. My best guess is that I was on a tear with my reading, finished it really fast, and it just kinda slipped through the cracks. Trust me — it was definitely not anything to do with the quality of the story!
If you are a fan of vampire books but prefer Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles over Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga, this is a series you are going to need to check out. La Cour des Lions, in late 19th century New Orleans, is such a sumptuous backdrop for this tale of murder, mystery, and romance. My only complaints are that (1) I can’t fully keep straight what happened in book one and what happened in book two (so I can’t really say much without getting “spoilery”), and (2) I can’t find any indication of when I should expect to get my hands on the third book in the series!!!!!!!!! Suffice it to say that this would be an excellent book to add to your Halloween and/or #TeenTober book lists.
Not only did Fable watch her mother drown during a horrible storm, but then her father (a powerful trader named Saint) abandoned her on a desolate island full of thieves. Using the skills her mother had taught her, Fable survived by diving and mining pyre that she could trade for coppers. After scrimping and saving for a time, Fable suddenly found herself under attack and in need of a quick escape. Fortunately, she managed to find passage through the Narrows on a ship with a trader named West. Something seemed off about this ship, though. And it wasn’t just the fact that West was so young, or that he had a particularly small crew… When they stopped in a port to do some trading, Fable couldn’t help but notice some further abnormalities about their business dealings. When this stop also revealed something peculiar about Fable, though, it became clear that she and the crew would have to learn to trust one another if she was going to stay alive, let alone find her way back to her father.
I loved so many things about this book. From the strong female characters, to GLBTQ+ representation, to the fact that it was such a well-paced and adventure-packed story, there are doorways to attract all sorts of readers! I can’t wait to read the sequel, Namesake (due out in 2021).
Kiera Johnson is unique in many ways. Not only is she one of the very few Black students at her elite private high school, but she is also a female who excels in math and computer programming. There are a lot of reasons why she doesn’t feel like she belongs when she is at school, but she is grateful to have a place where she feels right at home — in the virtual world of SLAY. Nobody in her “real life” circle knows that Kiera has created/designed this game. Heck, they don’t even know that she plays! She is particularly concerned with how her boyfriend might react because he believes that video games are a tool that contributes to the “downfall of the Black man.” She isn’t quite sure how she could explain to him (and her other friends and family) quite what it means to have a place where she can simply be herself without worrying if she will seem “too Black” to some people or “not Black enough” to others. But that is exactly what SLAY provides for her and all of the other players from around the world.
When a teenager in Kansas City is killed over an altercation related to SLAY, though, Kiera finds herself torn. Should she reveal her identity and actively defend the game now that people are blaming SLAY for his death? Could she actually be sued for discrimination over the fact that the game is only intended for Black players, as conservative pundits seem to believe? Would it put a strain on her relationship with friends and family members? This story does an excellent job exploring racial dynamics in America, particularly the idea of racism and exclusion as it applies to Black people wanting safe spaces in which to explore and celebrate their collective history. One of the most important ideas that this book puts forth is that Black experiences are unique and varied, and that idea is summed up very well by one of my favorite quotes from this book:
I think I love SLAY so much because we’re a mutually empathetic collective. As we duel, as we chat, there’s an understanding that “your Black is not my Black” and “your weird is not my weird” and “your beautiful is not my beautiful,” and that’s okay.
Mayhem is a Brayburn. That family name meant a lot to the people of Santa Maria, California, but Mayhem herself didn’t really understand the significance of her lineage until she and her mom finally returned to their hometown. They had left town more than a decade before when Mayhem’s father died, presumably by suicide, and ended up settling in a small Texas town. And though Roxy was a victim of both emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her new husband, Lyle, that wasn’t the main source of the chronic pain that she always seemed to be trying to escape with booze and pills. Mayhem had no idea what caused this pain, though, because Roxy refused to talk about it — or, really, about their past at all.
This book is touted by many as a female-led, feminist retelling of The Lost Boys, and that definitely got me interested to check it out in the first place. As I was reading it, though, I couldn’t help but think of The Tear Collector by Patrick Jones. Why? The Brayburn women were very powerful creatures — almost like vampires, but not quite. They were mysterious and seductive, and absolutely deadly if left unchecked… But they didn’t feed on blood and had an alternative source to their mystical powers. Does that have you curious? If so, this is a good book to add to your TBR list.
Margot didn’t know really know anything about her mother’s past. All she knew was that she and her mother have seemingly always been on their own. Her mom never discussed the past, so Margot knew absolutely nothing about the family and/or town from which her mother came. Their day-to-day struggle to survive was all Margot truly knew. She and her mother lived in a rundown apartment and had hardly enough to keep on living, though her mom occasionally pawned some of her posessions to get extra money for food or bills. The weirdest thing was that her mom has a habit of pawning her things and then buying them back — like she just couldn’t bear to part with the physical reminders of her past, even though she refused to talk about it. So, one day Margot decided to go to the pawn shop alone. She knew it was against her mother’s rules, but she just had to see if there was anything that would give her any clues about the past. And that was when she found the Bible.
Inside the Bible, Margot found an inscription from her grandmother and a photograph. On the back of the photograph was a phone number, so she mustered up all the courage she had and called. After speaking to her grandmother, she decided she was going to make her way back to her mother’s hometown to finally meet and learn about her family… But, she had no idea the strange horrors that would await her. This story had one of the most bizarre twists I’ve ever discovered, and it will surely stick with me for a long time to come. If you enjoy mysteries, horror, and magical realism, you’ve gotta check this story out.
I can’t speak for all of y’all, but I know that this has been one heck of a stressful year for me. Anxiety + Pandemic + Civil Unrest = Woof….. And as much as I like to learn from things that I read, I also appreciate and even *need* a good “fluff” read now and again. I fully intended to read Let It Snow when it first came out, but I somehow kept putting off (for 12 years?!?) because there was always seemed to be something else more pressing, it wasn’t the right season, it wasn’t available when I was ready to read it, etc. Well, let’s just say I am glad the stars finally aligned and got me to a place where I got back to it. Not only was I seeing “Christmas in July” posts everywhere, but I also saw that this book was immediately available as an audiobook on OverDrive AND that it has apparently been adapted for Netflix. Though I have been having a heck of a time either finding the time or concentrating well enough to actually sit down and read for the last four months or so, I still have plenty of dishes and laundry to keep up with, so audiobooks work really well for me. And *this* audiobook? Well, my only complaint is that it was three short stories and, therefore, ended far too quickly!
Not only are John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle all well known in the realm of YA fiction (and were all especially popular at the time when this book was first published), but their writing styles mesh incredibly well. Even better? Their stories overlap, which helped because I was so sad to think I had to leave Jubilee and Stuart behind when the first of the short stories ended. Some people will probably find these stories to be a little too treacly sweet, but there is plenty of humor and mischief thrown in for good measure. And whether you’re more interested in a story of a girl whose Christmas was ruined when her parents got arrested in an ornament/Christmas village riot, the guys who risked it all to bring a Twister game to the cheerleaders trapped at the Waffle House during a blizzard, or the Starbucks barista whose friendship depends on procuring a teacup piglet, I think there’s a little something fun in each of the stories.
As I was preparing to spend A LOT of time at home for #SocialDistancing purposes (because of #COVID19), I saw this book in the new YA section at my library and just knew I had to bring it home with me. Based on the cover art, I had a feeling it would not be super heavy and actually stress me out. Luckily, it seems I am pretty good at judging books by their covers! 😉 Though this book discusses potentially heavy topics like death, grief, and #MentalHealth, it handles them all in such a way that it manages to be lighthearted and often humerous.
Ever since his mom died in the line of duty in Iraq, Derrick has been prepping for the end of the world. He even saved up money from building decks all summer and built himself a shed/bunker in his backyard. Derrick is nearly ready, as he has filled his shelter with emergency supplies like food, first aid supplies, HAZMAT suits, and gas masks. And even though nobody else around him seems to believe that it’s coming, Derrick just *knows* it will be happening soon — on September 21st, to be exact. Not only does he have a gut feeling, but he’s been following special apocalypse preparation websites (like a blog/app called “Apocalypse Soon!”). Derrick’s dad has tried bringing him to a therapist, but it isn’t like therapy can halt the apocalypse, so he didn’t see the point.
The closer it gets to the end, the more Derrick is having trouble controlling his feelings of panick and desperation. His dad pretty much ignores his weird behaviors, and his older sister Claudia doesn’t really know how to help either. His best friends, Tommy and Brock, don’t really get it and just want to hang out and play sports or video games while Derrick is certain that they are only wasting time he needs to use more wisely to be ready. The only person who seems to be willing to help is Derrick’s neighbor Misty, who has been out of school for the last year with a life-threatening medical problem of her own. Derrick isn’t sure why Misty was out of school last year, but he is glad that she seems to be doing better and that, while she doesn’t necessarily believe that the end of the world is coming, she is willing to help him get his shelter ready. But… What will happen once it’s ready?
Can you guess why Barbara Gordon is one of my favorite people in the DC Comics universe? Aside from the fact that I relate to her as a headstrong, curious, and nerdy girl/woman, I love the fact that Batgirl’s alter ego is a librarian! In addition to being Batgirl, Barbara Gordon is also known as Oracle — and this graphic novel is an Oracle origin story.
In this story, readers are introduced to a teenaged Barbara Gordon (aka Babs) who becomes paralyzed in an accident. The accident happens in the very beginning of the story, though, so the majority of the action takes place while Babs is working to recover from the accident at the Arkham Center for Independence. I appreciated how there was a lot of focus placed on the specific limitations that a person would suddenly experience as a result of a major injury like this and how grueling the physical and occupational therapy regimen would be. I also appreciated that this information was worked into the story seemlessly instead of appearing as clunky asides. I’d like to wish a happy book birthday to this awesome story, and also wish for some further Oracle adventures from Nijkamp and Preitano in the near future…
Oh. Em. Gee! Not only did this thriller of a murder mystery have me on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading it — but it even left me there at the end. My biggest complaint about this book, in fact, is that I don’t think there will be a sequel that explicitly tells me what happened next. While I am learning to live with books like this, I thought it was worth mentioning in my review in case it would be a deal-breaker for anyone else. But, yeah. This book was intense! There were so many twists and turns that it kept me guessing, and second-guessing myself, for nearly the entire time.
So, what happened that we readers DO know? Well, we know that Mackenzie found two of her friends dead, in a pool of their own blood, on what was supposed to be a fun weekend getaway to Josh’s cabin. And though she wasn’t Josh’s biggest fan, and knew that some of the others in her small group of friends were less than enthusiastic about spending a whole weekend with him, Mackenzie couldn’t imagine that any of them could have murdered Josh. Let alone his girlfriend, Courtney. Was she just collateral damage? Because everyone seemed to love *her*… The strangest thing is that everyone seemed to sleep through such a violent murder. Surely Josh and Courtney must have screamed, right? So how did no one realize what had happened until the next morning?
Princess Delia was not exactly thrilled with the prospect of choosing a husband, but she knew better than to expect an opportunity to marry for love (even if she wished, deep down, that she could). Her mother, the Queen, invited a bunch of princes from neighboring kingdoms/planets for a visit in an attempt to arrange a marriage that would be beneficial for their kingdom/planet, since they were experiencing a devastating energy shortage. When Delia tried to run from the palace on a “borrowed” royal ship, she ended up meeting Aidan — a thief who thought his most recent acquisition might help him to get enough money to get off the planet and escape his own dreary life. While they were not exactly the dynamic duo you would put together if you had a chance to plan a match, something clicked quite nicely between them. They were both just so clever and determined that it came as no surprise when they quickly uncovered a rebel conspiracy that threatened the planet… but would they be able to continue working together if Delia discovered that Aiden wasn’t who he claimed to be (a bodyguard for one of the visiting princes) when they first met?
If you enjoyed Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, I highly recommend you check this out. While the story is definitely very different (i.e. not at all a rip-off), they share a similar vibe and I can’t imagine anyone who liked the Lunar Chronicles not enjoying this gender-swapped, sci-fi retelling of Cinderella.