Thursday, February 27, 2020

Book Review: One of Us is Next by Karen McManus

Jacque's Review:

Simon is gone, but the drama and bullying associated with his gossip app is still alive and well at Bayview High. This time around, there is a text group set up by "unknown" that is challenging students to a game of truth or dare. The first student selected is Phoebe, who decides to ignore the message, until a horrible truth is shared with the school. 

From then on, everyone seems to be taking the dares, which in comparison are rather tame. Things begin to spiral out of control when a student dies in an "accident" and another viscous truth is shared.

Bronwyn's sister Maeve is once again the ring leader in the investigation. She is working with an interesting group of characters that are both new and old. The Bayview Four (Nate, Addy, Cooper, and Bronwyn) are involved and offer their experience and expertise, but they are secondary characters this time around.

Maeve best friend/ex-boyfriend, Knox, witnesses the accident that killed a student, but he can't remember any of the details. He doesn't believe things really happened the way some of the other witnesses described the events, which is corroborated by some of the findings Nate discovers at the scene. They just don't have any solid proof, a motive, or a suspect.

Maeve and Knox recruit unknown's first victim, Phoebe, to their investigative team. In addition, Maeve's new crush, Luis, gets sucked into things when a shady characters shows up at his parent's restaurant. Luis is Cooper's best friend and the catcher on the baseball team in One of Us Is Lying. Addy and Phoebe both work at the restaurant and Knox and Maeve spend a lot of time hanging out there, so the five of them naturally come together to start solving this potential murder and to put an end to unknown's viscous game.

This was a very entertaining murder mystery. I sort of guessed one of the characters that was involved, but I never would have guessed the primary person behind the events or why this individual was interested in perpetuating Simon's legacy. I never imagined there would be a sequel to One of Us Is Lying, but this was a great addition to the series. I loved all of the new characters and enjoyed seeing how the Bayview Four have been doing since the conclusion of the first book. I was originally thinking this was going to be a companion novel, but it definitely needs to be read after One of Us Is Lying to fully appreciate everything that is taking place. 

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Serpent's Secret by Sayantani DasGupta

Book Summary

(Only she doesn't know it yet.)

On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey . . . until her parents mysteriously vanish and a drooling rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents' fantastical stories-like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess and how she comes from a secret place not of this world.

To complicate matters, two crush-worthy princes ring her doorbell, insisting they've come to rescue her. Suddenly, Kiran is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds. There she must solve riddles and battle demons all while avoiding the Serpent King of the underworld and the Rakkhoshi Queen in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and everything beyond it . . .

Flo's Review
This has been on my TBR for a few months now and I'm glad I had the chance to get to it. What a fun journey! The action kicked off immediately and the pace didn't slow down once. The story that Sayantani has created, pulling from Indian folktales and stories is unique and fascinating. I've never read anything like it and quite enjoyed myself. Kiran is a great character through which to see this story and this other world. Her observations and funny and sharp. I just saw that book 3 is coming out in about a month, so I may go ahead and read book 2, Game of Stars, so I'm ready for it. 

Monday, February 17, 2020

Book review: Well Met by Jen DeLuca

Book Summary
All's faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon's family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn't have time for Emily's lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she's in her revealing wench's costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they're portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can't seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

Flo's Review
This book was just what I needed today. I had an entire day of waiting rooms (doctor's office, car place) and it was so nice to just be able to transport away to the Faire. I have been going to the Florida Renaissance Festival every year for the past I-don't-know-how-many years, and it's always a favorite event in our friend group. Jen DeLuca did an amazing job of taking everything you encounter at a ren fair and translating it onto the page. I could so easily see my fair as I reading, and I can't wait to go this upcoming weekend.

Simon and Emily share similar life experiences (not exactly the same, but related) and personality traits that make them so good for each other and a good couple. I loved the whole tension behind, "Are these feelings us, as Faire actors, or us, as real people?" I finished the book in a day (I love it when that happens!) so needless to say this was a breeze to read and unputdownable for sure! 

Stacey's story is next, and I'm already looking forward to returning to the Faire. Huzzah!

P.S. Please, Jen, make the third book about Mitch!!

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Book review: Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis

Book Summary
When seventeen-year-old Nedra Brysstain leaves her home in the rural, northern territories of Lunar Island to attend the prestigious Yugen Academy, she has only one goal in mind: learn the trade of medicinal alchemy. A scholarship student matriculating with the children of Lunar Island's wealthiest and most powerful families, Nedra doesn't quite fit in with the other kids at Yugen, who all look down on her. 

All, except for Greggori "Grey" Astor. Grey is immediately taken by the brilliant and stubborn Nedra, who he notices is especially invested in her studies. And that's for a good reason: a deadly plague has been sweeping through the North, and it's making its way toward the cities. With her family's life--and the lives of all of Lunar Island's citizens--on the line, Nedra is determined to find a cure for the plague. 

Grey and Nedra continue to grow closer, but as the sickness spreads and the body count rises, Nedra becomes desperate to find a cure. Soon, she finds herself diving into alchemy's most dangerous corners--and when she turns to the most forbidden practice of all, necromancy, even Grey might not be able to pull her from the darkness.

Flo's Review
Sometimes I like going into books blind. Meaning, I don't read the summary or anything. I just hear the book is good and so I start reading it. 

This is how I started to read Give the Dark My Love. I was really intrigued at first. I rememberer telling someone that there were many different parts to the story and that I knew they would come together in the end somehow, but I didn't know how. I was fully enthralled and engaged.

Then, the dark. I mean, I should have expected this, right?! It's called GIVE THE DARK MY LOVE. But I guess I just wasn't prepared for how dark it got? In a weird flip of the usual script, I actually liked the first half of the book better than the second. 

A few minor details also threw me off: the POVs switch between Nedra and Gray, but just as the story needs them to -- not in an "every other chapter" format. It seemed jarring, almost, to be reading chapters upon chapters of Nedra and then go to Gray for like one scene, and then back to Nedra. Some of Gray's chapters didn't really seem was almost like maybe someone thought, "We haven't heard from Gray in awhile...lets stick a Gray chapter here, just because." Also, one aspect of how Gray reacted to something toward the end seemed unrealistic to me.

I can absolutely say that the book delivered on what it promised through the summary, title, and look. Nedra's descent into darkness is believable, gradual, and really well done. I just maybe wish I'd known this was the direction the book was taking before I jumped in. I'd have been better prepared and handled it better, I think.

Give the Dark My Love is the first in a duology. The second book, Bid My Soul Farewell, is out. Has anyone read it? Wanna give me something thoughts on it?

Book review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Book Summary
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

Flo's Review
I wanted to read this novel in preparation for watching the movie on Netflix later this month. HA HA HA. I am so not prepared. How am I going to watch this, like with my eyes?!!? I'm getting worked up just thinking about it! (Somebody hold me!!)

Okay, this one didn't grab me right away, but as I kept reading what really struck me was being inside Finch's mind. I cannot even imagine the depths, the conversations, Jennifer had to go through to understand and share his thoughts so clearly. They felt so real. He was such a real character. Getting into his mind like that was good to see, because of the insight it gave into mental illness, but it was also incredibly hard. It will be interesting to see how Finch is portrayed on-screen because so much of how we understand him in this book is through not what he says or does, but how he feels. 

Every time one of the chsracters was all, "That's just what he does," my heart cracked a little bit more. You can see how the extremity of the internal struggle can go unnoticed by those closest, and that's scary. 

Being a girl made up largely of wanderlust, I loved the ideas of the wanderings and the adventures that Finch and Violet had around Indiana. Finding the unique, creative, off-the-beaten-path, less noticed things in your immediate vicinity can make the world and your existence seem bigger than it first appears. I like that idea. I know Florida has some crazy things (Dave Barry wrote a whole book about it). I really enjoyed seeing them for Indiana, whether they were fictional or not.

Overall, this quiet, beautiful book is so important. I learned from it, and I love when I can say that about something I read for fun. I recommend this book to anyone close to teenagers, and actually, I think anyone, period, can get something out of it. 

Seriously about this movie though...send tissues?

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Book review: Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim

Note: This is the second book in a duology. Proceed with caution if you haven't yet read the first book, Spin the Dawn. (Here is our review.)

Book Summary
The thrilling sequel to SPIN THE DAWN, a magical series steeped in Chinese culture.

Maia Tamarin’s journey to sew the dresses of the sun, the moon and the stars has taken a grievous toll. She returns to a kingdom on the brink of war. The boy she loves is gone, and she is forced to don the dress of the sun and assume the place of the emperor’s bride-to-be to keep the peace.

But the war raging around Maia is nothing compared to the battle within. Ever since she was touched by the demon Bandur, she has been changing . . . glancing in the mirror to see her own eyes glowing red, losing control of her magic, her body, her mind. It’s only a matter of time before Maia loses herself completely, but she will stop at nothing to find Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country.

YA fantasy readers will love the sizzling forbidden romance, mystery, and intrigue of UNRAVEL THE DUSK.

Flo's Review 
Spin the Dawn ended on enough of a cliffhanger that I was like, "I need the next book immediately!" Luckily, I was able to secure an e-ARC so I could do just that. 

Unravel the Dusk has a different feel than Spin the Dawn. The stories are definitely related, and it was an easy flow from the first into the second, but the two stories were also quite distinct in their tone and execution. In the first book, Maia is discovering her true self though various trials. In the second, she is fighting to stay this girl she discovered. Unravel the Dusk gave us more time with a few characters from the first book -- I really enjoyed that. Ammi was one. Another was one of the other tailors from the initial competition. And Lady Sarnai. What a character! I could write a whole separate review on what we discovered about her in this book.

The romance, which was one of my favorite parts of the first book, was present in this one -- but different. Instead of taking center stage, it was one of several important threads making up Maia's story. Their relationship was constancy instead of discovery. It evolved as both Edan and Maia changed, but it changed in a way that fit them. The strong foundation they built in the first book served them well in this one.

If you've read Spin the Dawn, I think you will enjoy seeing how the story and the characters develop and eventually end up in Unravel the Dusk. It publishes July 3rd. 

Thank you to Random House Children's Book for providing me with an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

Book Review: The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

Jacque's Review:

I subscribed to OwlCrate at the end of November and my first shipment was the December "Tales of Trickery" box, which included the following:

I have been using the book sleeve just about every day to carry my print books in my purse and the pencils have been useful for the coloring pages in my Always Fully Booked planner.  The candle is a very nice winter cinnamon/spice scent, which I have been lighting every night when I read before bed. Even the ear muffs have come in handy while walking the dog this winter. Overall, I was very happy with my first OwlCrate delivery.

The book is autographed and included an author letter. I'm not so sure about the hand warmer, but I will give it a try the next time it is really cold out. It has been relatively mild this winter in Ohio, so I haven't had an opportunity to use it yet.

I have had several of Kiersten White's books on my TBR list, but this is the first one I have actually read, thanks to OwlCrate. My goal is to complete every OwlCrate book in the month it is intended to be read or I will have to suspend my subscription until I catch up. I loved receiving this bookish delivery and all the little surprises it contained, so I definitely don't plan on falling behind.

This is a retelling of the legend of King Arthur and Camelot. I wasn't very familiar with the folklore, but I absolutely loved this story. Guinevere is the daughter of Merlin and is sent to Camelot to marry King Arthur. There isn't much of a romance in this installment since it is an arranged marriage concocted by Merlin to help protect Arthur and Camelot from a magical attack. 

We learn about Camelot and are introduced to a character referred to as "The Patchwork Night," who has been a sensation in the jousting arena. He wears a mask, so nobody knows who he is. He is an exceptional fighter and it is clearly trying to become one of Arthur's Knights. Even Arthur is caught up in all of the excitement, but Guinevere thinks he may be the threat she was sent to protect Arthur from. I was shocked to find out who the Patchwork Night is and the role this character plays in this series.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the next book in the series. This installment contained a lot of character introduction, world & relationship building. We didn't really know how everyone fit into the story until the very end, so the pacing was slower than I anticipate the next book will be. There was a ton of action towards the end of this book, which is where I'm hoping things will pick back up. I'm also hoping we will see more of Merlin and get a better understanding of the secrets he has been keeping from Guinevere.