Mini Reviews: The Upside of Unrequited + The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

MiniTime for another round of mini-reviews. If you ever have trouble writing reviews, I’d recommend writing a couple of mini-reviews throughout the month. I always have those days when writing a full review feels impossible, so having the mini-review in my back pocket is always helpful. Today, I’m sharing a few thoughts on Becky Albertalli’s The Upside of Unrequited and N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Hope you enjoy. Also, I apologize for one of these mini-reviews being less mini than I originally intended. Whoops. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Series: N/A
Pages: 336
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Release Date: April 11th 2017 

      “Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.
      Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

      There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.
      Right?”

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“I’ve never told anyone this—not my moms, not even Cassie—but that’s the thing I’m most afraid of. Not mattering. Existing in a world that doesn’t care who I am.”

I’m one of the few readers left who hasn’t picked up Becky Albertalli’s Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I do plan to read it this summer, but her most recent work The Upside of Unrequited has received so much praise, in a moment of weakness, I ended up checking it out from the library. Molly Peskin-Suso has never been in a relationship. Known for her constant crushes, Molly is used to being on the fringes, of enjoying the feeling of having a crush, but never actually doing anything about it. When her twin sister Cassie falls hard for her first girlfriend Mina, Molly is unexpectedly pulled into a scheme to get her her first boyfriend. While the novel focuses on Molly’s love life (or lack thereof), I think the most important relationship in the novel is Molly’s bond with her sister. When Cassie begins dating Mina, Molly feels her twin pulling away and moving on without her. Molly has a lot of insecurities that most often manifest themselves in her fear of rejection. It isn’t easy for Molly to overcome these insecurities and I think this struggle is what makes her really relatable. Some of her self-esteem issues stem from being fat and feeling judged by other people based solely on this, but I got the feeling that Molly’s thoughts of inadequacy had more to do with always having her sister to compare herself to, and Cassie has always been more outgoing and experienced than her twin. Molly is really honest about her feelings regarding her sister and her new relationship. Sometimes it’s the more petty feelings that get the better of her, but their bond is so important to each of them that despite all the bumps in the road, they find a way to forgive one another. I’m a little partial to nerdy love interests, so Reid’s character was one I took to very quickly. The rapport between Reid and Molly was really sweet. I think I started shipping them from their very first interaction. I also want to mention that I got a lot of Lara Jean vibes from Molly. They’re both hopeless romantics who start off never dreaming of vocalizing their feelings to their crushes.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Series: Inheritance Trilogy, #1
Pages: 425
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: October 1st 2010

      “Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother’s death and her family’s bloody history.
       With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Yeine will learn how perilous it can be when love and hate – and gods and mortals – are bound inseparably together.

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“Hunched around the pike and clutching its shaft, the man’s body shivered even harder than before. Belatedly I realized that some other force besides his cry shook him, as his chest began to glow red-hot around the pike’s tip. Smoke rose from his sleeves, his collar, his mouth and nose. His eyes were the worst of it, because he was aware. He knew what was happening to him, knew it and despaired, and that, too, was part of his suffering.”

If I had to describe N. K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms in one word it would be epic. Yeine is a character that I was immediately drawn to. She comes from a matriarchal society (which I really wanted to know more about) and is pulled into this game of musical heirs by her grandfather. Dekarta Arameri disowned his daughter the moment she chose to marry a Darre and Yeine is a constant reminder of this betrayal. Either Yeine or one of her cousins, Scimina and Relad, will inherit the throne and death surely awaits those who aren’t successful. Scimina is ferocious, she has no qualms about doing whatever it takes to be Dekarta’s successor and neither her brother nor her newly arrived cousin will stand in her way. We don’t learn much about Relad, but he isn’t above making deals under the table to insure his survival. Just as important as the human players in this story are the mercurial gods who once ruled the world with astounding power, but who have now been imprisoned by one of their own. Caged in human form by day and forced to obey the whims of the ruling Arameri family, the Enefadeh can be either friend or foe to Yeine, but they are also keeping close a secret that will shake the very foundation of Yeine’s world. Among these is the dangerous, yet intriguing Nahadoth, who Yeine cannot help but be drawn to. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms masterfully weaves issues of colonialism, racism, and political intrigue into a fantasy setting that excites the imagination with every page turned.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

Mini Reviews: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1 & 2 + Trouble Makes a Comeback

MiniI finally picked up Ms. Marvel! This year I’ve picked up my very first graphic novels and I can’t believe I’ve waited this long. They’ve been perfect for whenever I’m really not feeling like picking up a traditional novel. I’ve been trying to decide what the best way to review graphic novels is. Should I dedicate a full review to each one or wait until after I’ve read a few? I figure utilizing the mini-review is the best way to do this for now. Below are my mini reviews for the first two volumes of Ms. Marvel and Stephanie Tromly’s Trouble Makes a Comeback. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Ms. Marvel, Vol 1: No Normal
Author: G. Willow Wilson
Illustrator: Adrian Alphona
Series: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1
Pages: 120
Publisher: Marvel
Release Date: October 30th 2014 

      “Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she’s comin’ for you, Jersey!

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“These powers mean something, something scary but good. And for the first time, I feel big enough for this, big enough to have greatness in me.

Story time: I inadvertently read the first two volumes of Ms. Marvel without knowing it. I checked out Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal and didn’t notice that the edition I received also included the second volume, Ms. Marvel, Vol. 2: Generation Why. So when I went to pick up my hold for volume two, it turns out I had already read it.  So this mini-review covers the first two volumes though it reads like I’m only covering the first.

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal is the kind of graphic novel I would have loved as a teen. Kamala Khan is such a relatable character. She tries to please her parents, but at the same time is also trying to forge her own identity, which isn’t easy when she isn’t sure who she is herself. She wants to fit in at school, but it can be hard when you’re Pakistani and Muslim and some of your classmates don’t understand and won’t take the time to understand your culture or religion. When Kamala first gets her powers, she believes she needs to be someone else, but discovers through a series of mishaps and some sage wisdom from an unlikely source that she is brave enough and her heart is big enough do take on the responsibility of being a hero. With a lovable sidekick and a cameo appearance from none other than Wolverine, Kamala will experience all the ups and downs of what it means to be a superhero as well as trying to find the right balance between this new life and her personal one.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: Trouble Makes a Comeback
Author: Stephanie Tromly
Series: Trouble, #2
Pages: 336
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books
Release Date: November 22nd 2016

      “Achieving high school “normal” wasn’t as hard as Zoe Webster expected, but she’s beginning to think Hollywood oversold how much fun it all is. Isn’t dating a jock supposed to be one long Instagram dream? Shouldn’t she enjoy gossiping 24/7 with her two BFFs? And isn’t this, the last year before the finish line that is Princeton, meant to be one of her best? If “normal” is the high school goal, why can’t Zoe get Philip Digby—decidedly abnormal, completely chaotic, possibly unbalanced, undoubtedly rude, and somehow…entirely magnetic—out of her mind?
      However normal Zoe’s life finally is, it’s about to get blown up (metaphorically. This time. She hopes, anyway.*) when Digby shows up on her doorstep. Again. Needing her help to find his kidnapped sister. Still. Full of over-the-top schemes and ready to send Zoe’s life into a higher gear. Again.
      It’s time for Zoe Webster to choose between staying in the normal lane, or taking a major detour with Digby (and finally figuring out what that stolen kiss actually meant to him).”

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      “Do you think it’s bad I’m disappointed no one’s turned up to murder us?

Stephanie Tromly’s Trouble Is a Friend of Mine is one of the most charming and funny debuts I’ve read. Zoe Webster and Philip Digby made quite the team as he managed to find trouble around every corner and she found herself going along with his schemes despite her better judgement. In this sequel, Trouble Makes a Comeback, Digby finally returns after a five-month absence. Since Digby left, Zoe has settled into a more normal life. She has new friends, a new boyfriend, and hardly ever thinks about her adventures with Digby. But once he’s back in her life, Zoe finds it hard to juggle these two very different parts of her life. After finishing the first book, I really hoped that we would get a sequel because I, like Digby, desperately wanted to know what really happened to his sister after she was kidnapped years ago. While we finally get some answers to this mystery, it did feel like there was no proper climax to the story and in this way, I’d say this sequel does fall into the sophomore slump trap. One of my favorite parts about Trouble Is a Friend of Mine is the undeniable chemistry and banter between the two lead characters. In this second book, their rapport didn’t feel quite as sharp and while I enjoyed seeing how their relationship had evolved, I kind of wish this part of the story could have been wrapped up earlier, so we could focus more on the mystery of Digby’s sister. Still, Trouble Makes a Comeback was a lot of fun and I look forward to reading the conclusion.

Rating: 3/5

★★★

Mini Reviews: Blackmoore + When the Moon Was Ours

MiniBless the mini review! There’s nothing like breaking up the monotony of full book reviews than a mini review. I’m on hiatus until the 22nd, but I thought I’d share a couple of mini reviews while I’m away. This week I have mini reviews for Julianne Donaldson’s Blackmoore and Anna-Marie McLemore’s When the Moon Was Ours. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Blackmoore
Author: Julianne Donaldson
Series: N/A
Pages: 286
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Release Date: September 9th 2013 

      “Kate Worthington knows her heart and she knows she will never marry. Her plan is to travel to India instead—if only to find peace for her restless spirit and to escape the family she abhors. But Kate’s meddlesome mother has other plans. She makes a bargain with Kate: India, yes, but only after Kate has secured—and rejected—three marriage proposals.
      Kate journeys to the stately manor of Blackmoore determined to fulfill her end of the bargain and enlists the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield. But when it comes to matters of love, bargains are meaningless and plans are changeable. There on the wild lands of Blackmoore, Kate must face the truth that has kept her heart captive. Will the proposal she is determined to reject actually be the one thing that will set her heart free?”

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“The ocean wet the air, flavoring each breath with salt and freedom and foreignness. The towering building loomed overhead, darker than the darkening sky. The moors stood like a stretch of barrier—an impenetrable wilderness hemming and shielding and pushing this building toward the ocean. It was wild and dark and grand and tall and fierce and haunting all at one.”

If Kasie West is my go-to author for a light and satisfying contemporary read, Julianne Donaldson may just be mine for when I’m in the mood for a quick, enjoyable historical romance. Donaldson’s second novel Blackmoore had me swoony from start to finish. Kate Worthington is determined to escape the caged life she knows awaits her through marriage, so makes an impulsive deal with her conniving mother. If she can get proposed to three times while visiting Blackmoore, her mother will grant her the freedom to go to India with her aunt. Of course, nothing goes according to plan, Kate isn’t quite sure how to persuade one, let alone three gentleman into proposing, and there is also the issue of her long-suppressed feelings for her childhood best friend Henry Delafield. These two completely tore me apart. There was so much chemistry between Kate and Henry. I loved how the author incorporated Kate’s flashbacks because it gave their relationship so much more depth. Because of them, I could not put this book down and ended up finishing it in a day. Donaldson’s writing took a leap forward between Edenbrooke and this one. I was immediately taken in by the beautiful and haunting atmosphere of Blackmoore and would love to have explored this manor more. If you haven’t checked out Julianna Donaldson’s novels Edenbrooke and Blackmoore, I encourage you to do so.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: When the Moon Was Ours
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Series: N/A
Pages: 288
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Release Date: October 4th 2016

      “To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

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“All these things reminded her of his moons, and his moons reminded her of all these things. He’d hung a string of them between her house and his, some as small as her cupped palms, others big enough to fill her arms. They brightened the earth and wild grass. They were tucked into trees, each giving off a ring of light just wide enough to meet the next, so she never walked in the dark.”

Anna-Marie McLemore’s When the Moon Was Ours is one of the most stunning novels I’ve ever read. It’s a short novel, but I found myself pausing every few pages because McLemore’s writing was so beautiful, I needed a moment to truly appreciate it. Taking inspiration from the folklore of La Llorona, McLemore weaves a tale about a boy and girl trying to discover who they are in a world that doesn’t quite understand them. Miel’s past is a mystery, from the moment she emerged from the water tower, her past has been locked up deep inside her. Most people aren’t sure what to make of her and the roses that grow from her wrist, but she’s always found a companion in Sam, a transgender boy who’s always felt like an outsider himself. Sam is trying to understand his own gender identity while also trying to appease those around him. Though it was hard to read when people tried to take advantage of Sam and “expose” him, it was an honest display of how many believe they have more of a right to determine someone’s identity than the person themselves does. McLemore’s characters are a mix of vulnerability and strength; her story is both dark and whimsical; and her words are moving and breathtaking. It’s novels like When the Moon Was Ours that make me love the genre of magical realism even more. If you haven’t picked up Anna-Marie McLemore’s novels yet, I strongly encourage you to do so.

Rating: 5/5

★★★★★

Mini Reviews: Heartstone + By Your Side

MiniHave I mentioned how nice it is to write a couple of mini reviews during the month? I love writing reviews (mostly), but sometimes I don’t have the time to write down all my thoughts and sometimes I just can’t seem to find the words. It’s nice having this alternative way of sharing my thoughts on books. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Heartstone
Author: Elle Katharine White
Series: N/A
Pages: 352
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: January 17th 2017 

      “A debut historical fantasy that recasts Jane Austen’s beloved Pride & Prejudice in an imaginative world of wyverns, dragons, and the warriors who fight alongside them against the monsters that threaten the kingdom: gryphons, direwolves, lamias, banshees, and lindworms.
      They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.
      Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when Lord Merybourne hires a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her home will soon be safe again.
      Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t expect is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons.
      It’s a war Aliza is ill-prepared to wage, on a battlefield she’s never known before: one spanning kingdoms, class lines, and the curious nature of her own heart.

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“My breath rattled in my ears. I stared at the creature twitching at my feet. Even deep in it death throes, its talons raked the ground, reaching for me to rend, to kill.

If there’s one kind of retelling that I find hard to resist it’s Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Elle Katharine White’s Heartstone reimagines the classic in a world filled with dragons, gryphons, and adorable hobgoblins. Aliza is brave and opinionated, not easily intimidated and I really liked how important her family was to her. Alastair Daired, dragon Rider and far too arrogant for his own good, is standoffish and rigid in his opinions, but still has an unmistakable charm that’s hard not to fall for. It’s hard not to compare White’s characters to their inspirations. There were several characters whose reincarnations I found a lot more enjoyable. Aliza’s sister Leyda still retained the silliness I’m used to seeing in Lydia Bennet, but unlike her counterpart, who’s obsession with marriage is both infuriating and understandable, Leyda’s ambitions lie in her desire to be a Rider. She longs for adventure, to not be the sister everyone overlooks and I really sympathized with her character. Overall, Heartstone was a fast-paced and fun retelling that I’d recommend to those looking for a different take on the classic.

Rating: 3/5

★★★


Title: By Your Side
Author: Kasie West
Series: N/A
Pages: 342
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: January 31st 2017

      “When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.
Only he doesn’t come. No one does.
      Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?”

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      “A voice in the back of my head told me to calm down before I made it worse. Everything was fine. So I was stuck alone in a library, but I was safe. I could read and jog the stairs and stay busy. There were plenty of distractions here.
      In my new quiet state, I heard something behind me. Footsteps on wood.”

If there is one contemporary author whose books always seem to lift my spirits, it’s Kasie West. Her stories are entertaining and her characters enjoyable. Her latest novel By Your Side is fun, fast-paced contemporary that had me smiling throughout. Autumn Collins thinks she knows exactly what she wants, but when she ends up trapped in her school library for a weekend with Dax Miller, their connection throws her for a loop. Autumn is a people pleaser, her friends tend to be more outgoing than herself, and she often finds it difficult to say no to them. She also has an anxiety disorder that can sometimes interfere with her social life. In Dax, she finds someone whose personality she finds calming and who she wants more than anything to help. But By Your Side is more than just about Autumn trying to figure out what she wants for herself. She also learns how important self-care is despite outside pressure from her friends. I really liked Dax, despite the parts of his personality that can be called cliché, but once again with West’s love interests, I wish we could have learned more about him and his situation. On my wish list: a Kasie West book with dual perspectives.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

Mini Reviews: Nimona + Burn Baby Burn

MiniTime for another round of mini reviews. I’ve been lucky enough to pick up some really great reads this year, here are a couple that I didn’t have time to write full reviews for, but that I enjoyed a lot nonetheless. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Nimona
Author: Noelle Stevenson
Series: N/A
Pages: 266
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: May 12th 2015 

      “Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.
      But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.”

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Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona is my first graphic novel and it won’t be my last. Stevenson’s characters are incredibly lovable from the impulsive Nimona to the strangely ethical supervillain Ballister Blackheart. With a fast-paced story, Nimona was a hard one to put down. Nimona and Blackheart make quite the team as they seek to bring down the Institution of Law Enforcement & Heroics. With Blackheart’s archenemy Sir Goldenloin leading the fight against them, this story is full of humor and adventure with friendship and love at its center. If you enjoy superhero stories where no one is who they seem, where the line between the good guys and bad guys is blurred, be sure to check this one out.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: Burn Baby Burn
Author: Meg Medina
Series: N/A
Pages: 310
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: March 8th 2016

      “Nora Lopez is seventeen during the infamous year 1977 in New York.
      After a freezing winter, a boiling hot summer explodes with arson, a blackout, and a serial killer named Son of Sam, who is shooting young people on the streets seemingly at random.
      Not only is the city a disaster, but Nora has troubles of her own: her brother, Hector, is growing more uncontrollable by the day, her mother is helpless to stop him, and her father is so busy with his new family that he only calls on holidays.
      And it doesn’t stop there. The super’s after her mother to pay their overdue rent, and her teachers are pushing her to apply for college, but all Nora wants is to turn eighteen and be on her own. There is a cute guy who started working with her at the deli, but is dating even worth the risk when the killer especially likes picking off couples who stay out too late?”

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“They were eighteen and twenty years old, more or less like us. They went to the movies and found out that the city isn’t huge at all. In fact, it can shrink down to the size of a gun barrel, just like that.”

Meg Medina’s Burn Baby Burn is an emotionally gripping novel. Nora is a protagonist that is easily relatable as she struggles with an uncertain present and an even more uncertain future. It’s 1977 and the serial killer, the Son of Sam, is on a rampage. Nora and her best friend Kathleen are on the brink of adulthood and while this should be the best time of their lives, much of their choices are predicated on the fear that anyone, including themselves, can be the serial killer’s next target. Nora’s homelife is a constant struggle, if it isn’t financial issues that make it almost impossible to make rent every month, than it’s her younger brother Hector, who is spiraling out of control. Trapped between her brother’s rage and her mother’s impotence, Nora is constantly trying keep the peace and not drown in her own despair in the process. Medina does a fantastic job of transporting the readers to 1977 New York and made it impossible to not feel for someone like Nora who has so many unreasonable burdens placed upon her shoulders. It’s the story of a young women who finds courage to stand up for herself, to take control of her own life despite the awful hand she’s been dealt.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

Mini Reviews: The Female of the Species + Like a River Glorious

MiniWith the end of the year just around the corner, it’s nice to be able to put together a couple of mini reviews instead of full ones. This week I have a few thoughts to share on two recent releases: Mindy McGinnis’s The Female of the Species and Rae Carson’s Like a River Glorious. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: The Female of the Species
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Series: N/A
Pages: 344
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: September 20th 2016 

      “Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.
      While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.
      But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.
      So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.
      Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

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      “Sometimes I forget for one second and it hurts.
      It’s a different kind of pain than the constant, the weight that hangs from my heart. It swings from twine embedded so deeply that my aorta has grown around it. Blood pulses past rope in the chambers of my heart, dragging away tiny fibers until my whole body is suffused and pain is all I am and ever can be.

I had really high expectations for Mindy McGinnis’s The Female of the Species after being so impressed with A Madness So Discreet. While the concept itself was really interesting and I found myself rooting for Alex despite her violent tendencies (or maybe because of them), I was hoping for a deeper exploration of this protagonist’s psyche. From the get-go, we learn just what she is capable of and slowly get a bit of backstory to help understand where she inherited these vicious impulses, but I wish the narrative would have slowed down when it came to her backstory. Much of the story focuses on Alex’s growing relationship with both Peekay and Jack. Of the two main relationships highlighted in this novel, Alex’s friendship with Peekay felt more genuine and significant. Jack was a character I wanted to like, but his character development revolved only around Alex and I just wanted more from him. I don’t want to diminish the important subjects this novel touches on like rape culture and gender roles, so if either of those subjects interest you, I’d recommend this one.

Rating: 3/5

★★★


Title: Like a River Glorious
Author: Rae Carson
Series: The Gold Seer Trilogy, #2
Pages: 398
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: September 27th 2016

      “Lee Westfall survived the dangerous journey to California. She found a new family in the other outcasts of their wagon train, and Jefferson, her best friend, is beginning to woo her shamelessly. Now they have a real home—one rich in gold, thanks to Lee’s magical ability to sense the precious metal in the world around her.
      But Lee’s Uncle Hiram has survived his own journey west. He’s already murdered her parents, and he will do anything to have Lee and her talents under his control. No one is safe. When he kidnaps her, she sees firsthand the depths of his depravity.
      Lee’s magic is changing, though. It is growing. The gold no longer simply sings to her—it listens. It obeys her call. Will that alone be enough to destroy her uncle?”

swirl (2)

“A condor soars high above. It’s a giant of a bird, bigger even than an eagle, with magnificent black-and-white wings. Like everything else in this territory, it’s both familiar and odd, and it makes my old home in Georgia seem like a very small, distant place.”

Rae Carson proves once again in the second book in her Gold Seer Trilogy that she is a phenomenal writer. While I do think Like a River Glorious lacked the kind of focus found in Walk on Earth a Stranger, it was really enjoyable to read about Lee coming into her ability in this one. One of my favorite aspects of the first novel was Lee’s relationship with her best friend Jefferson. In this book, we see their relationship progress further, but I would have liked to have seen more of Lee’s feelings transition from friendly to romantic. With the way this Like a River Glorious ended, I’m unsure of Carson’s overall plot to this trilogy, as much of conflict seems resolved by the end of this one.

Rating: 3/5

★★★