Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Audiobook review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Book Summary
The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?

The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.

Flo's Review
This has literally been on my TBR list for the longest! I met the author at YALLFEST several years ago and got this book signed. Then I put it on my shelf. Then I heard it was going to be a movie (is this still true?), so I told myself to bump it up on my TBR. But it still sat on my shelf. Then at last year's Miami Book Fair, they had a great sale on the books in this series, so I went ahead and got the next two, and got them signed. All three sat on my shelf. Finally, my book club made this our August read, so I dove in.

I'm not 100% sure how I feel about this book. I think it's a 3.5 stars, but a solid 3.5. Like, I don't want to round it up to 4 stars, because I don't know that it warrants that for me. I enjoyed it as I was listening to it, and I thought about it at times when I wasn't listening to it. But it just felt short of, "I love this!" I'm not really sure why.

A lot happened in this book, y'all. A. Lot. It felt like so much action was packed into 488 pages. This may be because it's a middle grade book and so there's less of the teen angst and introspection and more of the big action. I never came to like Sophie. Agatha was alright. 

What I liked most about this book was the creativity. I don't know the story of how Soman came up with the idea for this series, but it reads like he might have started with this one idea -- "Hey, what if there was this fairy tale school with 2 sides: good and evil" -- and then everything built from there. The world building is fantastic. I loved seeing all the tiny details and thought put into what made Good good and Evil evil. 

For all my indecision on how I feel about it, I did immediately download and start book 2. I'm setting it aside for now so I can read another trilogy for an upcoming author signing, but I may actually flip back and forth between those books and these? Or maybe I'll come back to these when I'm done with those? However I do it, I don't think I'm done with the School for Good and Evil quite yet.

Book review: Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud

Book Summary
Fiercely independent and smart, Zora Emerson wants to change the world. She's excited to be attending a prestigious summer program, even if she feels out of place among her privileged, mostly white classmates. So she's definitely not expecting to feel a connection to Owen, who's an actual prince of an island off the coast of England. But Owen is funny, charming...and undeniably cute. Zora can't ignore the chemistry between them. When Owen invites Zora to be his date at his big brother's big royal wedding, Zora is suddenly thrust into the spotlight, along with her family and friends. Everyone is talking about her, in real life and online, and while Owen is used to the scrutiny, Zora's not sure it's something she can live with. Can she maintain her sense of self while moving between two very different worlds? And can her feelings for Owen survive and thrive in the midst of the crazy? Find out in this charming romantic comedy that's like The Princess Diaries for a new generation. 

Flo's Review
Happy book birthday to Truly Madly Royally! I knew I wanted in on this book as soon as I heard about it. I was lucky enough to meet the author and snag an ARC at BookCon, and it's the first book I got from that event that I've read. 

"I love me some Owen!" I told the author on Instagram, and it's so true. He is formal, and it's totally adorable. He's also sincere. Best of all, the banter between him and Zora is so natural and easy. They really are great together. There was an incident that made Zora mad at him, and I totally agreed! It was such a dilemma because I'm like, "I totally understand why Zora is mad! She'd better not just forgive him because he's a prince!" At the same time I'm like, "But I want them together!" Lol. Apparently Zora was not the only one to have a full range of emotions over this man.

This kind of felt like multiple books to me? Let me try to explain. It's a good thing to have other characters with their own stories -- that is realistic, because supporting characters' whole existence isn't just conversing with protagonists. But it almost felt .... extraneous here? I'm not talking about the Walk Me Home storyline -- that's integral to Zora. But the details of her family members lives. I understand going into her parents' divorce, but, I don't know, I felt we didn't need her brother's and best friend's relationship. I think because usually when I see another relationship in a story like this, it's acting like a foil for the main relationship. But this one wasn't. It was just .... there? Okay. Good for Skye?

The second part of the book also felt like it could have been it's own story. Zora and her mom's time in Landerel felt a little rushed. Just a little. Actually, it read fine. It just could have been so much more. It would have been amazing to really dive deep and explore the country. Then the tension between Zora and Owen's mom could have been played out a little more, again with more time. That whole part of the story really felt to me like it should be expanded and turned into a separate story.

On the flip side, I enjoyed this story because it was an easy, quick read. I think that's part of the charm for a story like this. So if you're harboring fantasies of meeting and falling in love with a real life prince, this one's for you.

Book Review: 7th Heaven by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Goodreads Overview:

A terrible fire in a wealthy suburban home leaves a married couple dead and Detective Lindsay Boxer and her partner Rich Conklin searching for clues. And after California's golden boy, Michael Campion has been missing for a month, there finally seems to be a lead in his case--a very devastating lead.

As fire after fire consume couples in wealthy, comfortable homes, Lindsay and the Murder Club must race to find the arsonists responsible and get to the bottom of Michael Campion's disappearance. But suddenly the fires are raging too close to home.

Frightened for her life and torn between two men, Lindsay must find a way to solve the most daunting dilemmas she's ever faced--at work and at home.

Jacque's Review:

This is the 7th book in the Women's Murder Club series.  In this installment the ladies are working to catch a serial killer or killers who are targeting wealthy couples.  Robbery doesn't appear to be the primary motive.  Lindsay and her partner, Rich Conklin, are baffled by the fact that there are next to no clues at any of the scenes and there aren't any signs of forced entry.  The only clues that they can find to connect all of the crimes, besides the consistent MO of fire, are the books left at the scenes of the crimes with quotes written in Latin with the same handwriting.  

In addition, Yuki Castellano is the prosecuting attorney in the case of the missing Michael Campion. He is the son of a very wealthy politician who was born with a genetic heart condition. His parents have always guarded him and he has basically lived in a bubble his entire life.  He disappeared out of the blue with no trace.  After a month, the San Francisco PD receive a credible anonymous tip.  Lindsay and Rich follow up on it and a young prostitute, Junie Moon, is charged for his murder.  She confessed to the crime, but now she is claiming Lindsay and Rich pressured her into a confession and it isn't true.  She originally told a remarkable story, but there are no clues to back up what she claimed.  

The entire Michael Campion situation panned out exactly the way I thought it might in the end.  I don't want to give anything away, but it was a bit predictable given the lack of evidence.  The cases involving the fires and murders was far more difficult to crack and that is what really propelled this story forward.  The entire Women's Murder club came together to solve a devastating string of high profile murders.  The team caught a major break when the killers slipped up on what was supposed to be their grand finale.  The clues quickly piled up and Lindsay and Rich were hot on the trail.  

Overall, this was a highly entertaining murder mystery.  I am enjoying the series and will definitely continue.  The author is hinting at a possible love triangle between Lindsay, Joe, and Rich, which I don't think is really necessary in this series.  I thought Lindsay was finally going to be happy now that Joe moved to San Francisco.  He proposed in the previous book, but she still hasn't accepted because she doesn't think she is ready.  They are now living together, but her work is definitely the priority in her life at the moment.  Throughout this book some events start to put things into perspective.  I hope she makes the right decisions moving forward in this series.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Book Review: Shopaholic Ties the Knot by Sophie Kinsella

Jacque's Review:

Becky's troubles will never cease to amaze me.  This time Becky isn't in financial trouble.  She simply can't say no to her mom or her soon to be mother-in-law who are both planning weddings for her on the exact same day on two different continents.  As multiple invitations are going out to many of the same guests and the arrangements are being made, Becky just hopes everything will sort itself out. 

On one side of the spectrum she could have the wedding of the year that would rival any celebrity's.  On the other hand, she could have a more traditional ceremony at her parent's home with all of their family and friends.  When she finally makes a decision and takes a stand, she is confronted by the wedding planner from hell and discovers she may be in well over her head.

In addition, Luke is finally coming to terms with the fact that his mother may not be everything he had always hoped she would be.   He is struggling emotionally and has a bit of a breakdown.  As a result, Becky doesn't want to bother him with the "petty details" of their wedding troubles and keeps putting things off for a better time, but unfortunately time is running out. 

These are very light and entertaining reads with quite a bit of humor mixed in.  I did feel like this one drug on a bit and wished they could have gotten things sorted out a bit sooner.  The constant stress Becky was under with the two weddings was a bit much after a while.  Overall, I gave it three stars.  I enjoyed the story, but it wasn't my favorite in the series.  

Thursday, July 25, 2019

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: A conversation with Annie Sullivan and Lauren Mansy

Flo's note
When I was given the opportunity to interview Lauren Mansy, author of The Memory Thief, and Annie Sullivan, author of Tiger Queen, I jumped on it! I enjoyed Sullivan's first book, A Touch of Gold, and I'm completely fascinated with the premise of Mansy's debut. 

Synopses of both these titles are at the end of this post, because I'm too excited and want to get right into the interview.

I had a fun conversation with these women about everything from why readers love fantasy novels to how to throw the best party! I've excerpted part of it below, which I've edited for length and clarity. 

What’s one take away readers can get from your books? 
Lauren: The main thing I hope readers take away is that it isn’t the hardships of our past that define us, but the strength we find in overcoming them. That’s something all throughout her journey that Etta [the main character] is fighting to hold onto, that hope.

Annie: The world we live in is not always a nice place. It can be hard to exist in sometimes. In both my books, I want readers to be able to go spend some time in a magical world for a while, so they come back a little more hopeful, happier, and believe in themselves.

Why do you think readers are attracted to fantasy novels?
Annie: I have asthma, and I’ve had it since I was a child. When I was getting treatments, I wore a nebulizer mask that delivers medicine through mist. You’re sitting there tethered to a wall. When I’d be doing this three to four times a day as a child, my mom would read to me. Reading was a way to escape. That’s why I love fantasy. This world Is not always a happy place: people are not getting along with their siblings, they’re being bullied at school. Fantasy is reality in disguise. You can have the same problems described in a fantasy world. It’s a way to face real problems in a fun setting that shows you can overcome the odds. You can win. Your friend who you’re reading about did it. Hopefully you feel empowered to face those demons yourself.

Lauren: I would completely agree with all that. I have always been drawn as well to fantastical stories exploring worlds so different from my own. Fantasy is such a wonderful platform for exploration through the backdrop of fiction. I love the emotional journey characters take. In fantasy novels, characters can be extremely relatable. They are relatable on an emotional level, in the midst of dealing with extraordinary circumstances. I love that. There might be differences in the way we live, but we experience the same emotions. That connection stays with you long after you read a fantasy novel.

Can you talk about your writing process? 
Annie: I usually just start with an idea. I’m a pantser. I don’t like to outline ahead of time. I like to discover the story as I go along. I feel like if I’m entertained, then the reader will be, too. They may not know what’s coming as they’re reading, because I don’t know what’s coming as I’m writing. I write a minimum 500 words a day. Sometimes I hit 3000, and sometimes those 500 are a stretch.

Lauren: I also try to do the same thing. I love to write every day. I find I’m most productive in the morning hours. I get up early and get as much writing done as I can before my brain even fully wakes up. That’s when some of the most interesting ideas come. It’s always fun to see what my brain can come up with in the wee hours of the morning. I love trying to come up with a synopsis -- those are always very fun to me. I’m becoming more of a plotter over the years. I’ve fallen in love with plot points.

Annie, how did the experience of writing Tiger Queen differ from writing A Touch of Gold? What did you learn with the first book that helped you with the second?
Annie: It was quite different for each book. Each one was its own beast to tackle. A Touch of Gold took two years to write. I wrote it when I was getting my master’s in creative writing. It took a while, being my first book, to pull it all together. Tiger Queen took three months to write – I wrote a good chunk in Antarctica, which was interesting because the story is set in the desert. But Antarctica is considered a desert. That was a cool aspect of it. I would go out and feel snow stinging my face, and I’d replace that feeling with sand in the book. That become my setting.

It was a different experience because A Touch of Gold had a lot of magic in it. I think magic is one of hardest things to write. Magic in world building has to be impeccable. If one person can find a flaw in the magic system, you’re done. Your character is done. If this person has power and they know it, they have to use that. It’s the first thing they will think of – “I have to use his power” – so if your character is inconsistent, or your magic is inconsistent, that is a huge issue. Not having a lot of magic in Tiger Queen made it a lot easier to write.

Also, I think you get better as you go along.

Lauren, can you talk as well about your experience writing this debut novel?
Lauren: I didn’t start writing until after I graduated college. The Memory Thief took me about three years to write, and then I went through the process of getting an agent. Then my agent found an absolutely wonderful publisher to publish my book. I came to writing in a little bit more of an unusual way. I always thought I wanted to go into the business side of publishing, so I was pursuing work in the business side when I first began writing.

Once I started writing, I fell in love with it. I’d finally found my passion, and it was the best feeling in the world. I wrote sunup to sundown and started submitting my work. I’m grateful to have started the process that way. It takes time. You’re going to face a lot of rejection. At the same time, there are so many fun things that happen along the way and so many exciting moments that truly makes everything completely worth it.

I’d encourage anyone with a story they want to tell to not get discouraged if it takes a while. Keep at it. I started writing seven years ago, and my debut is coming out this year. Keep going, keep preserving. I, for one, want to read your story.

Do you have any fun plans for publication day? 
Annie: I usually have a big launch party at a local bookstore. With cake. Last year it was wedding cake.

Lauren: That’s so awesome!

Annie: The cake was covered with fondant books. On the top, it had a A Touch of Gold. Now everyone expects a really cool cake for my parties. I’m meeting with a cake person tomorrow. I may or may not have been researching tiger-shaped cakes. I have giveaways. Last time there was a photo booth where you could take selfies with props. On the actual day the book comes out, there’s a Backstreet Boys concert in town that I may go to.

Lauren: I just started planning a book launch party. I emailed Annie to give me all the tips on how to plan it, because she is famous for hers. I can’t wait to meet readers and spend time with family and friends. I’m so excited! It’s a dream come true.

About The Memory Thief
In the city of Craewick, memories reign. The power-obsessed ruler of the city, Madame, has cultivated a society in which memories are currency, citizens are divided by ability, and Gifted individuals can take memories from others through touch as they please.

Seventeen-year-old Etta Lark is desperate to live outside of the corrupt culture, but grapples with the guilt of an accident that has left her mother bedridden in the city’s asylum. When Madame threatens to put her mother up for auction, a Craewick practice in which a “criminal's" memories are sold to the highest bidder before being killed, Etta will do whatever it takes to save her. Even if it means rejoining the Shadows, the rebel group she swore off in the wake of the accident years earlier.

To prove her allegiance to the Shadows and rescue her mother, Etta must steal a memorized map of the Maze, a formidable prison created by the bloodthirsty ruler of a neighboring Realm. So she sets out on a journey in which she faces startling attacks, unexpected romance, and, above all, her own past in order to set things right in her world.

The Memory Thief publishes October 1, 2019 from Blink YA Books.

About Tiger Queen
From Annie Sullivan, author of A Touch of Gold, comes Tiger Queen, a sweeping YA fantasy adventure that tells the story of a fierce desert princess battling to save her kingdom. Fans of Rebel of the Sands and Meagan Spooner will devour this retelling of Frank Stockton’s famous short story, “The Lady, or the Tiger?”

In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought. The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.

But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger.

Tiger Queen publishes September 10, 2019 from Blink YA Books.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Audiobook review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Book Summary
Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters.

Flo's Review
Carry On has been on my TBR for years. It was gifted to me by one of my Secret Sisters, and I placed it on my shelf with all the best intentions to get to it ASAP. Well...you know how the best laid plans go. Especially when it comes to TBR piles. Fast forward to the announcement of the second book Wayward Son. "I need to read Carry On before Wayward Son comes out!" I told myself. Then fast forward again to the Book Con announcement of Rainbow Rowell's attendance. "Yes!" I said. "Carry On is on my list to read before the beginning of June!"

So...here we are at the end of July, and I've just finished it. Still before Wayward Son, so I'm going to give myself a pat on the back for that. Shout out to the IGGPPC BookWorms for finally getting me to bump this up to the top. I'm so glad I finally read it!

It took me a little bit to get into the story at first. The beginning of the book felt like a huge info dump to me. I think that was unavoidable because we had to be introduced to a new world and a new magic system, so there might not have been any better way to do it. Simon was obsessed with Baz, but unnaturally so, and it didn't read as anything other than weird.

Carry On is divided into several books, and I really started to enjoy the story in Book Two for two reasons. First, the story really came into its own. Up until then, it read as similar to Harry Potter. I didn't mind that so much because I love Harry Potter, but nothing really felt new, storywise. I felt I knew all the characters and the school, etc etc. But with the start of Book Two, the story really took off in directions that are nothing like those in Harry Potter. I really started feeling the story here. Second, my favorite character to read was introduced in Part Two. I don't want to spoil anything about the book, so I won't say who, but guys...my swoony, swoony heart.

One thing I really enjoyed about Carry On was how Rainbow didn't take herself or the story too seriously. It reads like she was just writing to have fun, and this really shines through in her words and her tone. In some ways, it even reads a little bit like a parody. But while the magic spells are just fun -- nursery rhymes and song lyrics -- there is actually a deeper element to it. The magic depends on intention. The magician has to really believe, really feel, really want the spells he is doing. This is a great analogy for life. It's classic Disney: "There can be miracles, if you believe." And because I am a word nerd by profession and hobby, I love the nuances that language, history and language, language and society all have on the magic system.

The reveals were also done really well in this book. It might be the type of situation where people figure out what is actually happening before it's spelled out for the reader, but I never get that stuff, so of course I didn't. How the different characters reveal things in sync with what's happening in the story and with what other characters learn as they learn it was brilliant. 

I am so looking forward to Wayward Son! Come on September 24th!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Audiobook review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Book Summary
A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends...

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him. 

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

Flo's Review
Okay guys. I don't know how I'm going to do this coherently. I loved this book. SO. MUCH. I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH. I have been giving a lot of books 5 out of 5 stars this year, and if that's the scale I've been working on, then this one is 6 out of 5 stars for me. Seriously. It's like, I was thinking about it when I wasn't listening to it (I audiobooked), and most of time my thoughts were, "Oh, I love this book! It's so cute!" I kept jotting down notes on Post Its for things I wanted to include in my review, but I'm pretty sure I've lost all the Post Its but one. Also, it's kind of late at night and my brain is a little mushy, but I want to get this review done now, before too much time passes. 

Okay, now that my disclaimers are done, let's dive right in!

My first thought is -- are they marketing this book as YA? It's SO NOT YA. I've read a good deal of New Adult (when New Adult was still a thing) and this feels more like that to me. I think it's closer to a Romance than a YA book, but it's definitely one of those that fall into the hazy area that needs to be better defined in the industry.

Alex was such a delightful narrator. I really enjoyed being in his mind. He's passionate, fun, flawed, and determined, and he would be such a great friend to have. His humor brought an entirely new dynamic and layer to the story that made it read completely differently. If Alex had a different personality, and Henry had a different personality, I don't know that the perfect chemistry and magic of the two would have been there. But I'll get back to their relationship in a minute. The humor in this book was fantastic. There were times that I was literally laughing out loud in my car as I drove along. Alex's reactions are priceless. And the scene with his mother and the PowerPoint was my absolute favorite thing.

The relationship between the White House Trio was unique and fascinating to read about, too. It was great how they were given an identity, which they owned, but then they also had their own identity and dynamic as well, outside of just being the White House Trio. The addition of the other three was perfect. There was a scene where there six of them went out and it sounded like so, so much fun. They fit together so well.

Speaking of fitting together so well -- Alex. Henry. Alex and Henry. I love these boys so much. I love these boys together so much. The two of them are like puzzle pieces, and the other person is the perfect fit that slides into place to make the complete picture. The author recognizes this, as she often describes how Alex will sleep, curled up behind Henry, just fitting there perfectly. It's a great physical and visual representation of the dynamic of their personalities. They are both funny. They are both wicked smart. They are both powerful. They are both great leaders. They are both vulnerable. They are alike in a lot of ways, but the in the specifics of those ways they are different. And the differences fit together. Them together just seems more complete than each of them separately. I cannot commend Casey McQuiston enough on how the relationship was visualized and made its way onto the page. It was absolutely phenomenal.

You guys, they write LOVE LETTERS to each other! Love letters! I am DYING. And then, and then -- the love letters have QUOTES. All these beautiful and romantic quotes from historical figures in both the U.S. and England. It could not be any more perfect and romantic for this word nerd! I listened to these letters back and forth and just swooned and swooned and swooned some more. I listened to this on audiobook, which was fantastic, but I am literally going to go out and buy a physical copy of the book this week just so I can flag and highlight my favorite passages. A lot of these are going to come from the letters. I wonder how much research it took on Casey's part to find these perfect, perfect quotes? Did she fashion the boys' letters around these amazing quotes, or did she really just happen to find the absolute most perfect excerpts from history?!?!

My favorite thing about this book was its message of HOPE. There was hope throughout the book. Alex is one of the most hopeful characters I have come to known, and I absolutely love him for it. It made sense that he was the narrator, because his hope was the baseline and guiding light for the story. His hope illuminated everything else, and even when things looked super bleak, I remained hopeful because Alex remained hopeful. He was able to see the good in so much and I admire him so much for that. There is hope on several levels in this book. When I put this book down, I felt hopeful for this country and the goodness of people. I felt hope that this country will move forward. And these are times when we desperately need this hope. Thank you so, so much Casey, for giving this to your readers. At first I questioned whether it was a good idea to have specific dates in this book and have them be an integral part of the story. But this is a story for right now. For 2019. This is a picture of modern times that I can see being put in a time capsule for future generations to review. History, huh? (That will make sense if you've read the book!) 

Speaking of history: what a great theme for the book. Through Alex and Henry we learn about the history of the U.S. and London on large and small scales. By that I mean we see history in the quotes, and read about the history of queer men and women. And just like the histories of the U.S., England, and the world are built on many different elements, so is the history of Henry and the history of Alex. Their histories play a huge part in the men they've become, and Casey illustrates this so well.

The love story has the classic and timeless element of "us versus the world," but it manifests in a different way in this story. Alex kept telling Henry that they will do this together, and I just love seeing the same idea that lovers throughout history (there it is again) have embraced coming forward as a strong element in these boys' relationship. One of my favorite books of 2018, if not my favorite, was What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. I am a hopeless romantic, and there is something so vulnerable, raw, and strong about young men trying to understand how their sexuality fits into who they are and who they want to be.

A quick note on the audiobook -- loved it! The reader did a great job going from British accents to flawless, believable  Spanish. 

I am almost positive that I missed something I wanted to talk about. I'm still in book hangover mode from this story, so I'm sure I'll think of it later. Maybe I'll add my additional thoughts to Instagram or Twitter. 

In conclusion, in case y'all couldn't tell...OH MY GOSH I LOVED THIS BOOK. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Book review: Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake

Reviewer's Note
I won't post the book summary for this one, as it's the final book in the series. That being said, I will not reveal any spoilers for Five Dark Fates or any other of the books in my review. If you're not up to date with the Three Dark Crowns series, you have plenty of time to get caught up before this final installment comes out on September 3rd!

Flo's Spoiler Free Review
Five Dark Fates was one of my most anticipated, if not my most anticipated book of this year, so I was beyond the moon to read it. I am so, so happy to report that it did not disappoint! I flew through this book in under 48 hours. This series is just so compulsive readable. You find yourself flipping the pages because the pacing is so strong and steady, while it builds and builds to the conclusion.

I definitely had a book hangover this one and had to step back for a few days before writing my review so I could process my thoughts. In a nutshell: Five Dark Fates is a thrilling and satisfying conclusion to a fantastic YA fantasy series. Each one of the queens has a fulfilling role in the fate of the island. That's not to say that my heart wasn't wrenched out a bit, so be prepared! But each queen's story ended in a way that was true to her individual character. I can honestly say that I understood each queen's arc and where it led her. They were realistic, and I really enjoyed following their journeys from book one to book four.

The best kind of ending for a series is one where you set down the last book with a bittersweet feeling in your heart: you are sad to leave the world and the characters, but you are also so proud of them and you know that they will be alright. I definitely had this feeling for Fennbirn at the end of Five Dark Fates.

I will end by reiterating what I said above -- if you haven't read this series, I highly, highly encourage you to do so. You will not be disappointed! Kendare Blake has given us such a fun roller coaster of a fantasy ride. Pack your bags and head to the island.

If you have read the series and are eagerly anticipating this conclusion -- you will not be disappointed! Pick this one up as soon as you can.