Mini Reviews: The Fallen Kingdom + The Similars (ARC Review)

MiniI have two very different books and two very different ratings for this set of mini-reviews. You might not see another set of mini-reviews for a while. I am going to be trying a new kind of format for books I don’t want to write full reviews for. So stay tuned for that. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: The Fallen Kingdom
Author: Elizabeth May
Series: The Falconer, #3
Pages: 389
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Release Date: June 13th 2017 

      “She’s on borrowed time…and she has only one chance to set things right.
      Find life.
      Deep in a forest, Aileana Kameron claws her way out of the earth. Back from the dead with no memory of who she is or what has happened to her, the Falconer now possesses even greater otherworldly powers and a ruthless instinct to kill—and the one piece of knowledge that can change everything.
      Find Kiaran.
      Two fae monarchs, Aithinne and Kadamach, stand on the brink of war, and according to an ancient curse, one must die at the hand of the other or all the worlds will perish. Once, Kadamach was known as Kiaran, and he was mentor, protector, and lover to Aileana. Now, under the grip of the curse, his better nature seems lost forever.
      Find the book.
      Aileana’s only hope lies in the legendary Book of Remembrance, a book of spells so powerful that it can break the fae curse and even turn back time. But the book has been lost for centuries, and many are looking for it, including its creator, the Morrigan—a faery of terrifying malevolence and cruelty.
      Sacrifice everything.
      To obtain the book and defeat the Morrigan, Aileana must form an unthinkable alliance, one that challenges every vow she has made to herself—even as the powers that brought her to life are slowly but surely killing her.

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“It wraps me in a cloak of darkness, thick and impenetrable. I am suddenly calm, my pulse a steady cadence. My mind slices right back into the instinct of a hunt. It’s so easy. My power assures me that I am perfect. I am untouchable.”

I have been putting off Elizabeth May’s final book in her Falconer Trilogy for over a year in fear of how the series would finally end. I finally picked up The Fallen Kingdom and absolutely adored the conclusion. This final book in the Falconer Trilogy pulls no punches as the characters we’ve come to know are met with even more impossible odds in their quest to save both the human and fae worlds. One of the things I really admire about May’s writing is she’s not afraid to have her characters lose. This has made the whole series a nail-biting journey. Each book has felt like an accomplishment in and of itself and I cannot choose which of the three would be considered the weakest. I’ve really enjoyed all the side characters from Aileana’s loyal faery friend Derrick, who always adds a dash of humor to even the direst of situations, to Kiaran’s sister Aithinne, who makes it easy to see the humanity in these otherworldly fae creatures who often feel untouchable. I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that my favorite relationship has always been Aileana and Kiaran’s. I’ve loved all their interactions, from the first book when bickering was their favorite way of communicating to the second novel when they were just starting to discover what their feelings for one another meant to this final book when it feels that every interaction may be their last. The Falconer Trilogy is a underrated fantasy series in my opinion and May is a really gifted author we should all be paying attention to. 

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: The Similars
Author: Rebecca Hanover
Series: The Similars,#1
Pages: 352
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: January 1st 2019
**I received a copy of this book through NetGalley which does not influence my review**

      “When six clones join Emmaline’s prestigious boarding school, she must confront the heartbreak of seeing her dead best friend’s face each day in class.
      The Similars are all anyone can talk about at the elite Darkwood Academy. Who are these six clones? What are the odds that all of them would be Darkwood students? Who is the madman who broke the law to create them? Emma couldn’t care less. Her best friend, Oliver, died over the summer and all she can think about is how to get through her junior year without him. Then she comes face-to-heartbreaking-face with Levi—Oliver’s exact DNA replica and one of the Similars.
      Emma wants nothing to do with the Similars, but she keeps getting pulled deeper and deeper into their clique, uncovering dark truths about the clones and her prestigious school along the way. But no one can be trusted…not even the boy she is falling for who has Oliver’s face.”

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Rebecca Hanover’s The Similars has an interesting premise, but lacked that something extra that would take it from being mediocre to something truly unique. Emma Chance is still reeling from the death of her best friend Oliver who died by suicide. Going back as a junior to Darkwood Academy should help Emma feel normal again, but the elite boarding school just brings back memories of Oliver. When the academy enrolls the Similars, a group of clones, Emma’s entire world is turned upside down. Not only do the Similars bring controversy to campus, the U.S. and the rest of the world are wrestling with the ethics of cloning and clone rights, unbeknownst to Emma, one of the Similars is Oliver’s clone. Emma and Levi don’t get along from the get-go, but when Emma discovers there may be something more to Oliver’s death, she enlists his and the other Similars’ help. I wish I could point to more than the premise as being a positive element of this novel, but from the characters to the plot to the writing, I found this one to be incredibly lacking. Emma was not a character I liked or even respected. She was the kind of character who thought not caring made her stand out, making her come across as incredibly privileged. I was not a fan of her relationship with Levi for several reason, one of which being she literally physically attacks him the first time they meet. Secondly, she never fully deals with Oliver’s death, so starting a relationship with his clone left me feeling uncomfortable. There are twists and turns in this one that sometimes felt so disjointed, it felt like I was reading five different versions of the same story. The writing left me wanting more and while I did like exploring this world, I never felt immersed in this world.

Rating: 1/5

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Mini Reviews: Down Among the Sticks and Bones + Not Even Bones

MiniWhoops, I meant to post this set of mini-reviews before the last, so these are very very late. I wrote this set of mini-reviews back in October, but ended up going on a little hiatus in November and so this post has been sitting in my drafts for several weeks. They were both stellar reads for me and I’m a little sad that I wasn’t able to share my reviews of them sooner. If you’re on the fence about picking up either of these series, I say throw away all your doubts and dive in now. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Down Among the Sticks and Bones
Author: Seanan McGuire
Series: Wayward Children, #2
Pages: 187
Publisher: Tor.com
Release Date: June 13th 2017 

      “Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.
      This is the story of what happened first…
      Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.
      Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.
      They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.
      They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.”

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“It was an uncomfortable thing, feeling like their parents weren’t doing what was best for them; like this house, this vast, perfectly organized house, with its clean, artfully decorated rooms, was pressing the life out of them one inch at a time. If they didn’t find a way out, they were going to become paper dolls, flat and faceless and ready to be dresses however their parents wanted them to be.”

Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway introduces readers to what happens to children after they step back into the real world after spending time on the other side of magical portals. Jack was instantly one of my favorite characters and after the ending of the first book, I was happy that this next book in the series covers what happened to Jack and her twin Jill when they found their magical door. The contrast between these to characters is so stark, but in Down Among the Sticks and Bones, we discover that these two girls used to live very different lives. Jill was the tomboy, always running around wild, while Jack was always too afraid of getting dirty. But this says more about their upbringing than either child as their parents had quickly made up their mind about who their children were before letting them discover it for themselves. When Jack and Jill stumble into the Moors, they are given a chance to be who they’ve chosen to be for the first time. The Moors is not a bright, happy place and the two girls grow up to be reflections of their mentors. Seanan McGuire once again impresses with her storytelling ability. It isn’t hard to fall into the story, to become invested in the characters. I cheered when Jack was able to be herself and be valued for more than how she looked and even though things work out a little differently for Jill, she was still able to do many of the things that were once barred to her. The story is heartbreaking as both characters end up losing something precious to them, but is mesmerizing in its darkness and the tragedy of twins who were never able to come to fully love the other because the adults in their life always set one against the other. 

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: Not Even Bones
Author: Rebecca Schaeffer
Series: Market of Monsters, #1
Pages: 368
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 4th 2018

      “Dexter meets This Savage Song in this dark fantasy about a girl who sells magical body parts on the black market — until she’s betrayed.
      Nita doesn’t murder supernatural beings and sell their body parts on the internet—her mother does that. Nita just dissects the bodies after they’ve been “acquired.” Until her mom brings home a live specimen and Nita decides she wants out; dissecting a scared teenage boy is a step too far. But when she decides to save her mother’s victim, she ends up sold in his place—because Nita herself isn’t exactly “human.” She has the ability to alter her biology, a talent that is priceless on the black market. Now on the other side of the bars, if she wants to escape, Nita must ask herself if she’s willing to become the worst kind of monster.”

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“I felt my head lifted up and my neck bared, somewhere distant between all the pain. Tears streamed down my face and my body twitched uncontrollably. I wondered if this would, at least, put an end to my torture.”

Rebecca Schaeffer’s Not Even Bones is a bloody romp which explores morality in a world that has little room for things like mercy. Nita has spent years dissecting bodies and helping her mother sell various parts of “unnaturals”, humans with strange abilities that can be both deadly and odd, on the black market. Nita finds conversing with the dead far easier than with the living, but this way of life has kept her in part ignorant of the world outside. When her mother returns from a hunting expedition with a living, breathing young man as a prisoner, bent on selling his body parts one piece at a time, Nita must decide what kind of person she is going to be. If you’re easily squeamish when it comes to blood or severed body parts, Not Even Bones may not be the novel for you. But if you’re like me, you’ll appreciate that Schaeffer takes her gloves off in this one, so to speak, embracing the gruesomeness of the story and testing her characters at every turn. There are no clear-cut good and bad characters in this one. Though you may root for someone like Nita, she isn’t without her flaws. But she like many of the other characters are very human. They show selective empathy, making good and bad decisions in equal measure. Sometimes they are forced to ignore other people’s pain and sometimes they even delight in it. In the end, they are just trying to survive in a world that decided they are less than human. Not Even Bones is the start of a unique and deliciously disturbing series that challenges both its characters and its readers.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

Mini-Reviews: Listen to Your Heart + From Twinkle, with Love

MiniIt’s nearly the end of the year and I am never more grateful for mini-reviews. I’m feeling something akin to senioritis during these last couple of months of the year and find myself relying on the mini-review more than ever. I’m seriously contemplating only writing mini-reviews for the rest of 2018. On the other hand, I don’t want to get used to it and then struggle with full reviews when January comes around. This week I have two very fun contemporary reads to share with you. Both are from gifted storytellers that would both make my list of contemporary authors to reach for when you need a pick me up. Hope you enjoy. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Listen to Your Heart
Author: Kasie West
Series: N/A
Pages: 336
Publisher: Point
Release Date: May 29th 2018 

      “Talking to other people isn’t Kate Bailey’s favorite activity. She’d much rather be out on the lake, soaking up the solitude and sunshine. So when her best friend, Alana, convinces Kate to join their high school’s podcast, Kate is not expecting to be chosen as the host. Now she’ll have to answer calls and give advice on the air? Impossible.
      But to Kate’s surprise, she turns out to be pretty good at the hosting gig. Then the podcast gets in a call from an anonymous guy, asking for advice about his unnamed crush. Kate is pretty sure that the caller is gorgeous Diego Martinez, and even surer that the girl in question is Alana. Kate is excited for her friend … until Kate herself starts to develop feelings for Diego. Suddenly, Kate finds that while doling out wisdom to others may be easy, asking for help is tougher than it looks, and following your own advice is even harder.
      Kasie West’s adorable story of secrets, love, and friendship is sure to win over hearts everywhere.”

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“I put my hand on my forehead and groaned. Maybe the best thing to come out of this would be that I’d be fired.”

Listen to Your Heart is a great addition to Kasie West’s already impressive collection of YA contemporary novels. West is known for her lighthearted and fun books and Listen to Your Heart is no exception. Kate is the last person who would choose to be in the spotlight, but when an elective class lands her in one of the seats as cohost for her school’s advice podcast, that’s exactly where she ends up. Kate is forced out of her comfort zone, but discovers that she may have a knack for this kind of thing after all. I loved that this novel included a lot of different and unusual family dynamics. Kate and her family run a marina and as a result, she has cousins and aunts and uncles always in and out of her house at any given time. One of my criticisms of West’s novels has always been that I never felt like I got to know the love interests quite as much as the protagonists. But in Listen to Your Heart, West takes her time developing Kate’s love interest and aside from the protagonist, Diego felt like the most developed character. I really liked the chemistry between these two characters and aside from P.S. I Like You, this might be my favorite pairing of hers. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about the relationship dynamics in this one (slight spoiler alert ahead: Kate ends up developing a crush on her best friend’s crush, but I think West does a good job of keeping Kate and Alana’s relationship intact while also allowing Kate to very organically develop feelings for Diego). Overall, I really enjoyed this latest West novel and it reminded me that a quick, laid-back read can be just as satisfying as a more dense novel.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: From Twinkle, with Love
Author: Sandhya Menon
Series: N/A
Pages: 330
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: May 22nd 2018

      “Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.
      When mystery man ‘N’ begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.
      Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?
      Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.”

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      “The more I think about it, the more I wonder if my mother and I are related at all. I bet I was dropped on her doorstep, like Harry Potter, and she just hasn’t figured out how to tell me yet.
      I walk off to my room to look for my lightning bolt scar. Because that is the only way any of this makes sense.”

With From Twinkle, with Love, Sandhya Menon delivers another laugh-out-loud YA contemporary with a protagonist that is sure to steal the hearts of readers. Twinkle Mehra dreams of becoming a filmmaker, of one day making a name for herself, of changing the world one film at a time. But the reality is Twinkle feels like a nobody at her high school, surrounded by more affluent kids and cast aside by her best friend, being overlooked is unfortunately what Twinkle is good at. But when Sahil Roy approaches her asking to collaborate on a film project, Twinkle is convinced this is a huge breakout opportunity and it might even mean getting Sahil’s twin brother Neil to notice her. Twinkle soon learns the ups and downs of being in charge of a large project and how that power can change even the best of people. I immediately fell in love with Twinkle’s voice. She’s youthful and optimistic and made me laugh almost at every turn. Her relationship with Sahil was delightful and not just because of all the awkwardness between them. These two characters were their best selves when they were around each other. I loved that we got those small glimpses into Sahil’s POV through texts and blog posts because it really helped to round out his character. As much as I adored the romance in this one, I was really invested in Twinkle’s strained relationship with her best friend Maddie. I don’t often see friendships-on-the-rocks in novels and really appreciated how well Menon conveyed that a broken friendship can be just as heartbreaking as a romantic relationship gone awry. If you’re looking for a novel that will make you smile and root for characters even when they make terrible decisions, From Twinkle, with Love is the book for you.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

Mini Reviews: Sadie + A Room Away From the Wolves

MiniIn October, I did my best to pick up as many thrillers/mystery novels as I could. I usually go for more horror-themed novels during this time of year, but I heard such great things about the following two books, I just had to check them out myself. I read Sadie, but after hearing everyone praise the audio book, I kind of regret not listening to it. Maybe sometime in the future, I’ll at least check out the podcasts the publisher made available to readers. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Sadie
Author: Courtney Summers
Series: N/A
Pages: 311
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: September 4th 2018 

      “Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.
      But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.
      When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.”

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“I live in a place that’s only good for leaving, is all that needs to be said about it, and I don’t let myself look back. Doesn’t matter if I want to, it’s just better that I don’t.”

Courtney Summer’s Sadie cleverly alternates between two timelines. In the first, Sadie Hunter’s little sister Mattie has been murdered and although the police have run out of leads, she hasn’t. She’s determined to find the person responsible and make them pay. A year after Mattie’s death West McCray, radio personality who focuses on small towns, receives a phone call from May Beth Foster, the girls’ surrogate grandmother. Sadie’s been missing for months and she’s hoping that he may be the one person out there who cares enough to look for her. As Sadie moves from one town to another, in search of her sister’s killer, she leaves behind a trail of blood and uncovered secrets. As a reader you’re drawn into Sadie’s story, her traumatic past and the rage that bubbles underneath every decision she makes. She’s never been an open person and Mattie has been her whole life since the day she was born. When their mother left them years ago, it was Sadie who picked up the pieces, but the girls’ relationship hasn’t always been easy, especially when they have such stark views of their mother. For Sadie, Claire Southern has never been the kind of mother she needed her to be. Her alcoholism, drug addiction, and compulsory need to always have a good-for-nothing man in her life, has made it impossible for Sadie to not resent her. But for Mattie, Claire was her mother and whatever flaws she might have had, she never questioned her mother’s love for her. Though Sadie and West’s timelines are separated by months, Summers has a way of writing that makes it feel like West is only two steps behind Sadie. So in the moments where Sadie is in real danger, you can’t help but hope West can be fast enough in his search to help her before it’s too late. Sadie is not a pleasant story, it’s incredibly violent and heartbreaking. It has a lot of triggering content, mostly due to with mentions of sexual abuse of children, but if you can handle the heavy-heartedness of the story, Summer’s has written a compulsory mystery that will leave you contemplating Sadie and her story long after you close the book.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: A Room Away From the Wolves
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Series: N/A
Pages: 315
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: September 4th 2018

      “Bina has never forgotten the time she and her mother ran away from home. Her mother promised they would hitchhike to the city to escape Bina’s cruel father and start over. But before they could even leave town, Bina had a new stepfather and two new stepsisters, and a humming sense of betrayal pulling apart the bond with her mother—a bond Bina thought was unbreakable.
      Eight years later, after too many lies and with trouble on her heels, Bina finds herself on the side of the road again, the city of her dreams calling for her. She has an old suitcase, a fresh black eye, and a room waiting for her at Catherine House, a young women’s residence in Greenwich Village with a tragic history, a vow of confidentiality, and dark, magical secrets. There, Bina is drawn to her enigmatic downstairs neighbor Monet, a girl who is equal parts intriguing and dangerous. As Bina’s lease begins to run out, and nightmare and memory get tangled, she will be forced to face the terrible truth of why she’s come to Catherine House and what it will take for her to leave…”

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“I hear myself cry out and stand to take it, but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. The girls have grown countless arms in the dark. The trees themselves have joined in. I can’t fight them off, can’t keep them away”

Nova Ren Suma is one of those authors whose books I go into thinking I’m going to enjoy them more than I actually do. I love how strange and eerie her stories are, but always find them more than a little confusing. A Room Away From the Wolves is beautifully written with an interesting protagonist at its center, but I found myself scratching my head more than once trying to figure out exactly what was going on. When Bina is basically thrown out of her own home, she goes to the only place that makes sense to her: Catherine House, where her mother once sought refuge. But almost immediately upon her arrival, she notices something strange about the place and the other young women who are renting rooms. Part ghost story and part mystery, A Room Away From the Wolves, like its protagonist, keeps its secrets close, revealing only a little at a time. Although I enjoyed the writing in this one, I’m still left with a lot of questions. Bina isn’t the most reliable narrator, but I was still hoping to get a full picture of what her life was like before she leaves her home. There are a few flashbacks, but I often felt that Nova Ren Suma was only giving us a few pieces of a puzzle and we as readers have to accept that we’ll never see the full picture. I did like how atmospheric this one was. There are a few creepy scenes that made me sit up in my seat, but I wanted a more complete understanding of who Bina was and wanted to know more about the mysteries of Catherine House.

Rating: 3/5

★★★

Mini Reviews: The City of Brass + Gabi, a Girl in Pieces

MiniI have a set of very different books for you for this round of mini-reviews. These are both titles that I’ve been meaning to get to for a while and I’m glad I finally found the time to pick them up. Everyone has been raving about S.A Chakraborty’s The City of Brass and I’m so happy to have finally met these characters. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero has been on my TBR for years. With the start of Latinx Heritage Month coming, I wanted to finally get to this one in early September. I am very disappointed in myself for not picking it up sooner. You can read my thoughts on these two titles a little more in depth below. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: The City of Brass
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Series: The Daevabad Trilogy, #1
Pages: 533
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: November 14th 2017 

      “Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.
      But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.
      In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.
After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for…”

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“A hot breeze swept past her cheeks, and Nahri lifted her eyes. The cliffs were on fire; the wet trees snapped and cracked as they burned. The air smelled poisonous, hot and seeded with tiny burning embers that swept across the dead landscape and twinkled above the dark river.”

S.A. Chakraborty’s The City of Brass is an all-encompassing fantasy with great characters and a world that’s spellbindingly brilliant. Orphaned and penniless, Nahri has managed to survive on the streets of Cairo, stealing and swindling her marks out of money. When she inadvertently summons a dangerous djinn, Nahri discovers the fantastical stories she grew up hearing are rooted in truth. Chakraborty’s world is deliciously multilayered and I loved that with every page, we discovered something new. Nahri was an easy character to like. She’s cunning and resourceful; she wants more than what life has dealt her and is willing to do what is needed to get it. I really enjoyed Dara, not just because he’s the kind of brooding character I’m immediately drawn to, but because like Nahri, he is also thrown into a world he doesn’t quite understand. The world as Dara left it has shifted. His people are no longer in control of the city of Daevabad; instead, the Qahtani, a djinn family, have taken over. The royal family have tried to find a balance in their city between djinn, daeva, and the shafit (offspring of djinn and humans). Their methods are not always humane. Ali is King Ghassan’s second son, both a scholar and a warrior; his own convictions often pit him against his own father. Ali was often times a frustrating character. I liked that he wanted to be better than the example his father and often his brother gave him, but his self-righteousness and naivete made me want to shake him by the shoulders. Chakraborty does a fantastic job giving voice to every side in this story. The internal conflict in Daevabad is not new and the characters’ decisions have far reaching consequences. The City of Brass is a perfect read for those looking for a dynamic fantasy and complex characters.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: Gabi,a Girl in Pieces
Author: Isabel Quintero
Series: N/A
Pages: 284
Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
Release Date: October 14th 2014

      “Gabi Hernandez chronicles her last year in high school in her diary: college applications, Cindy’s pregnancy, Sebastian’s coming out, the cute boys, her father’s meth habit, and the food she craves. And best of all, the poetry that helps forge her identity.
      July 24
      My mother named me Gabriella, after my grandmother who, coincidentally, didn’t want to meet me when I was born because my mother was unmarried, and therefore living in sin. My mom has told me the story many, many, MANY, times of how, when she confessed to my grandmother that she was pregnant with me, her mother beat her. BEAT HER! She was twenty-five. That story is the basis of my sexual education and has reiterated why it’s important to wait until you’re married to give it up. So now, every time I go out with a guy, my mom says, “Ojos abiertos, piernas cerradas.” Eyes open, legs closed. That’s as far as the birds and the bees talk has gone. And I don’t mind it. I don’t necessarily agree with that whole wait until you’re married crap, though. I mean, this is America and the 21st century; not Mexico one hundred years ago. But, of course, I can’t tell my mom that because she will think I’m bad. Or worse: trying to be White.

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“I felt my head lifted up and my neck bared, somewhere distant between all the pain. Tears streamed down my face and my body twitched uncontrollably. I wondered if this would, at least, put an end to my torture.”

I am mentally kicking myself for not picking up Isabel Quintero’s Gabi, a Girl in Pieces sooner. This contemporary features one of the most genuine voices I’ve come across, handling difficult issues with honesty and care, with representation that spoke directly to this Latina reader. Gabi Hernandez is many things. Best friend. Daughter. Sister. Fat girl. Mexican-American. In her senior year of high school, Gabi is trying to juggle all her different identities while simultaneously not disappointing her mother and not letting her father’s meth addiction take her whole family down with him. Told in diary entries, Quintero’s novel feels intimate and personal. Gabi feels fully-fleshed out; she’s candid, self-depreciating, and had me laughing out loud on several occasions. So many of these characters felt familiar from the eccentric tía to the judgmental mother. The novel addresses teen pregnancy, homophobia, being the child of an addict, and gender roles in the Latinx community. I loved that Gabi found a creative outlet in her poetry and found it really rewarding to see how her poetry matures over the course of the novel. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces is the kind of novel I wish I had as a teen as several of Gabi’s hopes and fears felt like my own. TW: homophobia, fatphobia, slut shaming, rape, and drug use.

Rating: 5/5

★★★★★

Mini Reviews: Daughter of the Siren Queen + Every Heart a Doorway

MiniI’ve had this set of mini-reviews in my drafts for over a month and couldn’t quite find the time to fit it in. I finally have a chance to share a few thoughts on Tricia Levenseller’s Daughter of the Siren Queen and Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway, the latter of which I’m so glad I finally got to. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Daughter of the Siren Queen
Author: Tricia Levenseller
Series: Daughter of the Pirate King, #2
Pages: 341
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Release Date: February 27th 2018 

      “Alosa’s mission is finally complete. Not only has she recovered all three pieces of the map to a legendary hidden treasure, but the pirates who originally took her captive are now prisoners on her ship. Still unfairly attractive and unexpectedly loyal, first mate Riden is a constant distraction, but now he’s under her orders. And she takes great comfort in knowing that the villainous Vordan will soon be facing her father’s justice.
      When Vordan exposes a secret her father has kept for years, Alosa and her crew find themselves in a deadly race with the feared Pirate King. Despite the danger, Alosa knows they will recover the treasure first . . . after all, she is the daughter of the Siren Queen.”

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“Warmth envelopes me. The sea enfolds me into the world’s most gentle caress. I am one of her own, and she missed me during my long absence.”

Tricia Levenseller’s Daughter of the Siren Queen, conclusion to her swashbuckling duology, excels in its entertainment value much like its predecessor Daughter of the Pirate King, but still falls short when it comes to world-building and sometimes characterization. I loved seeing Alosa with her own crew in this sequel. Her father Kalligan has yielded a tremendous amount of power over Alosa, having shaped her into a ruthless and loyal pirate. Captaining the Ava-lee has been the one place where Alosa has had control over her own life. She’s put together a crew made almost entirely of women and one of my favorite parts about this book is when we get to see them working together. Still, I wanted more, especially from the vast array of minor characters. It also would have been nice if most of the conversations Alosa had with her close female crew members didn’t always revolve around men. I’m glad we got to learn more about Alosa and her siren side, but do feel like there was a missed opportunity when it came to her mother. I wanted more interaction between these two, but every meeting was so truncated. Part of the fun of the first book was the banter and growing tension between Alosa and Riden. Levenseller is able to maintain this often entertaining rapport while also pushing her characters outside of their comfort zones. The most rewarding part of their relationship is watching them learn to open up to one another. Daughter of the Siren Queen could still do a little more flushing out with its world-building. I enjoyed finally becoming acquainted with sirens, but I still wanted to know more about this world that Alosa and company occupy. If the first novel didn’t blow you away, you probably won’t be taken by surprise by the second; but if you found the first to be a really enjoyable read, there’s plenty to look forward to in this sequel.

Rating: 3/5

★★★


Title: Every Heart a Doorway
Author: Seanan McGuire
Series: Wayward Children, #1
Pages: 357
Publisher: Tor.com
Release Date: April 5th 2016

      “Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
      No Solicitations
      No Visitors
      No Quests
      Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.
      But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
      Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.
       But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.
      No matter the cost.”

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“Hope hurts. That’s what you need to learn, and fast, if you don’t want it to cut you open from the inside out. Hope is bad. Hope means you keep on holding to things that won’t ever be so again, and so you bleed an inch at a time until there’s nothing left.”

Seanan McGuire’s novella Every Heart a Doorway poses an interesting question: what happens to the children who return from their adventures from places like Wonderland? At Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, students are learning to cope with returning to the “real” world. For some, the transition is difficult. How can you accept your place in the world when you always want to return to another? For others, the transition feels impossible. Why stay in a world that does not see you for who you are when you can go home to the place that let you be yourself instead of a version forced upon you by others? McGuire’s novella is enchanting and haunting. I loved that each child had their own world that they escaped to, that made sense to them even when it didn’t to those with similar experiences. There are dark Underworlds and bright ones, some with logical foundations and others that thrive on nonsense. While Nancy is the protagonist of this short story, I was really drawn to Jack. She’s such an animated character. The fact that she apprenticed for a mad scientist and carried all these eccentricities back into this world made her such an interesting character. The mystery in this one felt short-lived, but that’s understandable for a novella. The ending was not what I expected. I thought Nancy had gotten to a place of acceptance and so I was surprised by the conclusion. All the children’s stories were so intriguing, I wouldn’t have minded a full-length novel and am happy to discover the next novella in this series covers Jack and her sister Jill’s story. I’d recommend Every Heart a Doorway to anyone who enjoys fantasy stories that involve hidden doors and portals to unseen worlds, and who ever wondered what happens to those who come back.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★