The Enchanted Sonata // The Nutcracker vs The Pied Piper

Author: Heather Dixon Wallwork
Genre: Fairytale retelling // Fantasy // YA
Goodreads rating: 4.08
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐

 

Clara Stahlbaum has her future perfectly planned: to marry the handsome pianist, Johann Kahler (ah!) and settle down to a life full of music. But all that changes on Christmas Eve, when Clara receives a mysterious and magical nutcracker.

Whisked away to his world—an enchanted empire of beautiful palaces, fickle fairies, enormous rats, and a prince—Clara must face a magician who uses music as spells…and the future she thought she wanted.

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this book by Netgalley and the publisher (thank you!) in return for an honest review. Also apologies that this is a bit late

The Enchanted Sonata is a retelling of both The Nutcracker and The Pied Piper of Hamelin. While I don’t remember too much about The Nutcracker, it’s a story I always loved (most likely because of that one Barbie movie. I’m pretty sure I watched it over and over again. I also had the dolls. I LOVED it) so I was excited to read a retelling for it, especially since I don’t often see one? Despite it being a popular ballet? And then combined with The Pied Piper? Sign me up!

I have to admit I was a bit bored at times, especially because the story isn’t just told from Clara’s POV, but also other supporting/minor characters. At some point we even get the villain’s POV. This all just took away some of the surprise, plus I didn’t really care for the minor characters? I’d much rather follow Clara and the Nutcracker, whose dynamic I loved. I’m weak for cute banter okay? Their romance definitely put a smile on my face.

As for the worldbuilding, I was a bit confused. It felt like the story relied too much on the reader knowing the original fairytale of The Nutcracker without explaining why there are giant rats attacking the kingdom? The rats are also kind of an afterthought, as the real villain is The Pied Piper.

I was also disappointed in how they found out how to defeat The Pied Piper. Clara is whisked away to The Nutcracker’s world through a fairy book, which tells the story of The Nutcracker. Once she’s all caught up to the present, there’s nothing there for her to read anymore, as she’s now part of the story. But then the book updates, and literally tells her how she will defeat The Pied Piper. It felt so cheap and easy, whereas Clara figuring it out herself would’ve been so much more powerful, especially because in the beginning she’s very motivated by impressing the pianist Johann, instead of doing things for herself. Speaking of Johann, I do love how Clara realises that she barely even knows him and that she was more in love with the idea of him than with him.

That said, The Enchanted Sonata is a fun and cute retelling, that I definitely do recommend! I loved the atmosphere and the relationship between Clara and The Nutcracker. Maybe it was a bit insta-love-y (I don’t remember it that well) but in this case I didn’t mind.

Have you read The Enchanted Sonata? Do you know any YA retellings of The Nutcracker or The Pied Piper? What’s your favourite retelling? Let me know in the comments!

Mini Reviews // My Whole Truth and Hearts Unbroken

Hey look I’m alive barely I didn’t mean to disappear like that, but I’ve been really busy with doing both an internship and working at Ripley’s Believe it Or Not. I barely have any free time because of this, and during my free time I mostly,,, watch netflix and play video games I guess? I’ve been too exhausted to blog, that’s for sure. One day I’ll write a more detailed post about how I’ve been and what I’ve been up to, but I still don’t have the energy for that. The only reason I’m here now is because these books should’ve been reviewed at the start of the month woops

Author: Mischa Thrace
Genre: Contemporary // LGBTQIAP+ // YA
Rep: Fat sapphic MC, Japanese female love interest with two dads, f/f romance, black female lawyer
Goodreads rating: 4.03
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

 

 

 

Seventeen-year-old Seelie Stanton never wanted to kill someone. She never wanted to be invisible in her own family, never wanted to crush on her best friend Alyssa, and she definitely never wanted to know how effectively a mallet could destroy someone’s head.

But the universe doesn’t care what she wants. Shane Mayfield doesn’t care what Seelie wants either. When the former high school basketball star attacks her, she has no choice but to defend herself. She saved her own life, but she can’t bring herself to talk about what happened that night. Not all of it. Not even when she’s arrested for murder.

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this book by Netgalley and the publisher (thank you!) in return for an honest review

Trigger warning: rape mentions

Oh where do I even start? My Whole Truth is heartbreaking, captivating and so so important. It perfectly captures sexism, rape culture and the corruption of the justice system. But despite the heavy topics, it wasn’t an entirely heavy read, mainly because Seelie has an amazing friend group. They aren’t perfect, neither is Seelie, but they’d go to hell and back for each other. They’re always there for her, no matter what. Even when some disagreements arise, they would never give up on each other.

My Whole Truth is definitely not for everyone, even though I didn’t find it very graphic, it’s still heavy. Knowing our society, it’s hard to stay positive while reading a story like Seelie’s. Just like her, I felt myself giving up hope so many times. But then there was Seelie’s lawyer, Cara, who’s smart, kickass and never wavers. She keeps believing in Sadie and never forces her to do anything she doesn’t want to do. She doesn’t know Seelie at the start of the book, but she’s ready to fight, just like her friends. In the end, she’s more like a friend or family than just a lawyer. Despite not having a great relationship with her mother, Seelie has found her family in her friends and Cara, which was beautiful to see.

Also the romance is adorable and I love it so much.

I honestly can’t say much more about My Whole Truth, except read it if you can handle it. I couldn’t possible do the book justice with a review, but I hope this mini review was enough to convince you.

Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Genre: Contemporary // YA
Rep: Own voices Native American (MC and family), Libanese male love interest, two minor sapphic characters who are in a relationship with each other (lesbian and bisexual)
Goodreads rating: 3.74
My rating: ⭐⭐

When Louise Wolfe’s first real boyfriend mocks and disrespects Native people in front of her, she breaks things off and dumps him over e-mail. It’s her senior year, anyway, and she’d rather spend her time with her family and friends and working on the school newspaper. The editors pair her up with Joey Kairouz, the ambitious new photojournalist, and in no time the paper’s staff find themselves with a major story to cover: the school musical director’s inclusive approach to casting The Wizard of Oz has been provoking backlash in their mostly white, middle-class Kansas town. From the newly formed Parents Against Revisionist Theater to anonymous threats, long-held prejudices are being laid bare and hostilities are spreading against teachers, parents, and students — especially the cast members at the center of the controversy, including Lou’s little brother, who’s playing the Tin Man. As tensions mount at school, so does a romance between Lou and Joey — but as she’s learned, “dating while Native” can be difficult. In trying to protect her own heart, will Lou break Joey’s?

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this book by Netgalley and the publisher (thank you!) in return for an honest review

This one had so much potential. I definitely do encourage everyone to try this one for yourself, as my biggest issue was the writing, which is something that is very subjective. The writing was very passive and just really missed emotion and tension. Some terrible stuff happens to the characters but I didn’t really feel anything while reading the book. Because of the writing it was really hard to connect to the characters and the story.

I also felt like this story still needed a lot of editing. Like Louise and Joey are making their way to the lockers and we get a description of their entire route which was very unnecessary. Or random notes like in this scene:

”Daniel can’t cover his own meets.” [about Daniel becoming the school paper’s sports reporter]
Alexis, the news reporter, had just returned from the restroom. ”I’ll take it. I have an older brother who wrestled. The coach loved him.”
(The first meet isn’t until December anyway.)

I mean??? It completely took me out of the story. It felt so unnatural and it’s not relevant at all?

Chapters often ended in a way that didn’t really make me want to keep reading, nor did they start that way. I mean this is literally how one of the chapters start: ”A freshly microwaved pillow radiated heat into my neck and shoulders as my feet soaked in a copper basin of warm, seasalted water and Legally blonde played on the overhead screens.’ Or another great start: ‘Joey ran with a story tip from Alexis on injuries at the skate park’.

The romance was incredibly forced. We’re literally told that Louise likes Joey, but?? The characters talk as if it’s so obvious but it really wasn’t. There wasn’t really any build up nor chemistry. Also I uhhh kept forgetting they were dating every time I picked the book up. And I read each day until I had finished it, so it wasn’t like that much time had passed.

The book does cover a lot about what it means to be Native American and racism. The plot itself is good, just the execution not so much. Again, I definitely encourage you to try this one for yourself.

How are all of you doing?? Have you read these books or are you planning to? Let me know in the comments!

Bonjour Girl // This Review is a Mess But It’s Okay Because So Is This Book

Author: Isabelle Laflèche
Genre: Contemporary // YA
Goodreads rating: 2.82
My rating: ⭐

 

 

 

When Clementine Liu arrives in New York City to study at the Parsons School of Design, she knows that she’s found her place. It isn’t long before she meets her fashionista soulmate, the loud and charismatic Jake, and Jonathan, a dreamy fashion photographer who turns her world upside down.

Between schoolwork and glitzy fashion shows, Clementine launches a blog, Bonjour Girl, and her wit, originality, and flair quickly catapult the site to cult status. Unfortunately, this comes with a price: Clementine is faced with online abuse and public humiliation. In the midst of all the drama, she finds out that a classmate is not what she seems, and Clementine has to find a way to save both her reputation and Jake’s fashion collection.

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this book by Netgalley and the publisher (thank you!) in return for an honest review

Welp, this one was a disappointment. I was SO excited to see I got approved for Bonjour Girl because:

💛 LOOK AT THAT COVER! Cute AND rep? Yes please
💛 A biracial (half-Chinese!) protagonist??
💛 It’s all about diversity in fashion and making a change??
💛 It just sounded like a cute contemporary on top of all of that and I LOVE CUTE CONTEMPORARIES THAT ALSO DEAL WITH IMPORTANT TOPICS YES PLS THANK YOU

So yes excitement all around. My first red flag was this quote:

Fashion is my religion, fashion is my salvation, and fashion is the way I roll. I don’t do conventional fashion; I’m quirky and different, I have a funny-looking button nose and lots of freckles, and I go my own way.

seriously why does this have the same energy as ‘my name is ebony dark’ness dementia raven way and I have long ebony black hair (that’s how I got my name) with purple streaks and red tips that reaches my mid-back and icy blue eyes like limpid tears and a lot of people tell me I look like Amy Lee (AN: if u don’t know who she is get da hell out of here!). I’m not related to Gerard Way but I wish I was because he’s a major fucking hottie.’

I wish I could say that things went better from here on, but… Yeah.

First of, for a book about characters wishing to promote diversity in fashion it’s… not that diverse. While Clementine is half-Chinese and half-French, her Chinese heritage is barely brought up, whereas we’re constantly reminded that she’s half-French. Other than that there’s a supporting character who’s both fat and gay (and of course stereotypically flamboyant) and a disabled girl in a wheelchair. Maybe I’ve forgotten another minor supporting character, but that’s really it. Clementine is constantly preaching to the reader about diversity and why it matters, but yet the book itself doesn’t really live up to that?

Then there’s the writing itself. There’s so much telling instead of showing, that it got really annoying. There were also so many unrealistic plot elements. Like how most students solely wear black except for Clementine like?? Yes, at a fashion school everyone dresses the same. There’s also the fact that the ‘bully’ throws a gum wrapper at Clementine. WHAT COLLEGE-KID WOULD DO THIS. know people in college can be mean, I’ve seen it myself, but this? And there isn’t even a reason for her to do this? She’s just a ‘mean girl’.

What also really bothered me is the random uses of French, especially when talking to other people, who don’t speak French. At some point she even says an entire phrase in French, and then repeats it in English. It would’ve been realistic if she had started in French, but then switched to English because she realised she was speaking the wrong language. Of course, I’m not French so I can’t say much about this, but like Clementine I studied abroad in a country where pretty much everyone spoke English, so this felt very unnatural to me. I’ve screwed up, trust me, but not like this!* Also while some of the French you can understand by context, not all of it? Like at some point someone texts her ‘bien joué’ (this person isn’t even French by the way) and like,,, I literally only know what this means because of Miraculous Ladybug.

* Once I was saying goodbye to my American friend and I wanted to say both ‘bye’ and ‘doei’ (Dutch for bye, you pronounce it kinda like do-wee) but said boei instead. This still haunts me. At some point she also thinks (and her mom later on says it to her) ‘kick some derrière’ can some French person pls tell me if this is truly something they would say (I may or may not be looking at you Marie) because all I could think of was me saying ‘kick some kont/billen’ and sdjsbhd no

There are plenty of small things I could point out that were just ridiculous* but there are A LOT. So let’s continue on to my biggest gripe after the lack of diversity: everything goes so smoothly for Clementine. Like apart from the bullying (which I can’t say much about because my ARC had a problem with showing the tweets? Some were cut in the middle and some didn’t show up at all? So I had to figure out from context what was being said) which was like one girl tweeting some kinda mean stuff about her, everything went right. She got into a prestigious school, gets to live in a great appartment with her aunt (which she doesn’t have to pay anything for), gets a scholarship to launch her blog, meets a ‘great guy’ (at least we’re told he is he barely has a personality and the romance is so forced), immediately gets a new bff, her first blog post immediately does well and so do all the others that follow, by her second post she gets an offer from a fashion brand to send her samples and by the end she even gets acknowledges by frickin’ Anna Wintour?? Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, reads her blog?? Not only is all of this super unrealistic, she doesn’t even really work that hard for it? And NOTHING goes wrong? Not for her anyway. The worst thing that happens in the book actually happens to Jake. Oh! I forgot! She even gets picked to study abroad in China (when suddenly the author remembers that her protagonist is supposed to be half-Chinese) like,,, why though.

* At some point Jake takes her to an ‘ice cream parlour for grown-ups’?? what is this. Is this a real thing. I am confusion America explain. Why can’t adults go to regular ice cream parlours what is going on at that ice cream parlour for grown-ups what do they do there that makes it ‘for grown-ups’ I have questions

So in conclusion: not that well-written, too much telling instead of showing, incredibly unrealistic to the point that it got ridiculous, for a book that supposed to be about promoting diversity it’s not that diverse and it’s just funny how it’s IMPOSSIBLE to forget that Clementine is half-French (like at some point towards the end she even SAYS ‘I’m half-French’ like yes honey we know couldn’t have missed it!!) but quite a few times I forgot she was supposed to be half-Chinese, and uhhh.. I don’t remember where I was going with this. This review is a mess.

Bonjour Girl is out now so uhhh, give it a try I guess*

* That sounds sarcastic but seriously if you wanted to read this, don’t let my review stop you! You might have a very different experience than I did

Have you read Bonjour Girl? What do you think? Any books similar to this you’d recommend? ALSO WHAT IS AN ICE CREAM PARLOUR FOR GROWN-UPS IS IT REAL WHAT DOES IT MEAN

Sadie // Heartbreaking, Intense But So So Important

Author: Courtney Summers
Genre: Contemporary // Mystery // YA
Goodreads rating: 4.42
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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 meagre 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.

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this book by Netgalley and the publisher (thank you!) in return for an honest review

Trigger warnings: hints of rape/child molestation, murder, mild violence

This book broke me. It’s gritty, real and oh so heartbreaking. I was thorn between not wanting to put it down and wanting to take a breather because oh my goodness.

Sadie is not a happy story, but it’s an important one. It’s not just the story of Sadie and Mattie, it’s the story of all the girls in the world who end up dead or missing simply because they’re girls. Throughout the entire book I just wanted to cry, because even though the story of Sadie and Mattie is fictional, it’s so so real.

Sadie is told through two perspectives: the first one being the podcast by West McCray, the second one by Sadie herself. McCray’s podcast takes place after Sadie’s story as he tries to figure out what happened. Even though we follow Sadie herself, we still don’t have all the puzzle pieces, so even though we sometimes know more than McCray does, it’s not much and you still find yourself wondering what happened. This way of storytelling kept me on my toes and immersed in the story.

But as I said before, it was also very hard to read. Sadie has gone through a lot of hardship, and the only thing that’s keeping her going after her sister’s murder is wanting to take down her sister’s killer. This isn’t just a revenge story, this is a story of a girl who wants to make sure no other kid has to go through what she did, of wanting to make sure that a monster is put away. She doesn’t even care what happens to herself, and that is so heartbreaking to read.

But most of all, she lives for her sister. She is overcome with guilt and grief and even though as a reader I’ve never met Mattie, it’s so easy to feel what Sadie feels by the way it’s written. One of my favourite quotes to describe Sadie is from West McCray (this is NOT a spoiler. He speaks in the past tense because she’s missing):

‘If I’ve learned anything about Sadie Hunter, it was that she was almost a secondary player in her own life. She lived for Mattie, lived to love, care for and protect her little sister, with every breath.’

Even though a lot of the characters we only meet for a little while, some even only through McCray’s podcast, they all felt like real people to me which doesn’t happen that often with supporting and minor characters.

I honestly can’t do Sadie justice with my review or properly put my feelings towards this book into words. All I can do is tell you to read this important story (but do be careful if this material can be triggering for you).

Sadie is raw, real, heartbreaking and incredibly well-written. I couldn’t recommend it enough and I can’t wait to read more by Summers. I know Sadie will stay with me for a long time.

Sadie comes out on September 4th.

Have you read Sadie, or are you planning to? Do you know any similar books (YA please because I can’t handle adult books with these themes) that you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments!

Summery Contemporary Mini Reviews // The Summer I Turned Pretty, Alex, Approximately and The Museum of Heartbreak

Last month I read a few summery contemporaries that were up for free on Riveted and since I can’t write full reviews for any of them why not review them all in one post?

Author: Jenny Han
Genre: Contemporary //  YA
Series: Summer #1
Goodreads rating: 3.95
My rating: ⭐⭐

Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer–they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one terrible and wonderful summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.

To be honest if this hadn’t been free on Riveted I wouldn’t have picked it up. I love Jenny Han, but the blurb never appealed to me and it turns out my intuition was right. I’m honestly surprised that this is written by Jenny Han, because I absolutely love To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, but The Summer I Turned Pretty is nothing like that. Not much happens in this book, the characters are flat, Belly is whiny and annoying and the writing is just not that good? I know there are mixed feelings about this book out there, but personally I wouldn’t recommend anyone who hasn’t read TATBILB to read this, because it could seriously turn them off. There are more important topics discussed in this book, but it’s barely there and kind of felt like an after thought. I rated it two stars because it WAS a quick read. Don’t get me started on the romance though. I don’t see the appeal of one of the love interests at all and the endgame romance just didn’t feel built up to me? It didn’t come out of nowhere, but that’s mostly because it was predictable not because it was well written.

Author: Jenn Bennett
Genre: Contemporary //  YA
Goodreads rating: 4.01
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new archnemesis. But life is a whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…

I ABSOLUTELY loved this one. I gave it four stars because I was missing something (not sure what? Sometimes that just happens) but oh my goodness I flew through it and it was so much better than I expected. It has some of my favourite tropes, including characters not realising who the other is, enemies to lovers, great banter and silly adventures. It’s adorable and fun, yet also meaningful as both Bailey and Porter have to deal with their own trauma. Bailey tends to avoid pretty much everything that’s difficult and that was SO relatable. I loved seeing this in a main character.

And the fact that she and Porter worked at this really weird museum? SOLD. What I didn’t know about this book before going in is that Porter is half-Hawaiian and Bailey’s new best friend (who’s amazing and I loved their friendship) is black. Bailey also has a great relationship with her dad so what more do you want??* Despite my four star rating this is definitely a new favourite. Maybe soon I’ll realise that this is more of a five star read? Who knows I change my ratings all the time lol #reliableblogger

* Honestly I should be asking myself this considering I gave this four stars but as I finished it that just felt right??

Author: Meg Leder
Genre: Contemporary //  YA
Goodreads rating: 3.7
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Welcome to the Museum of Heartbreak.

Well, actually, to Penelope Marx’s personal museum. The one she creates after coming face to face with the devastating, lonely-making butt-kicking phenomenon known as heartbreak.

Heartbreak comes in all forms: There’s Keats, the charmingly handsome new guy who couldn’t be more perfect for her. There’s possibly the worst person in the world, Cherisse, whose mission in life is to make Penelope miserable. There’s Penelope’s increasingly distant best friend Audrey. And then there’s Penelope’s other best friend, the equal-parts-infuriating-and-yet-somehow-amazing Eph, who has been all kinds of confusing lately.

But sometimes the biggest heartbreak of all is learning to let go of that wondrous time before you ever knew things could be broken.

My rating is probably more a 2.5 than three stars to be honest. I really loved the premise of this one. Each chapter starts with an item Penelope has curated in her museum of heartbreak: it comes with an illustration and a very short description (title, number of the item and how she’s gotten it, if I remember correctly). I love it when books have formatting like this, but the story itself… I wasn’t very impressed with. It had a lot of potential as Penelope gets into an unhealthy relationship, but the thing is it never really gets addressed how unhealthy and toxic it was? In the end she’s just like ‘I guess I never really liked him that much’ instead of addressing all the red flags that you should definitely avoid in a relationship. This could’ve been such a powerful story, but now I’m afraid it does a little bit more harm than good.

I was also really annoyed with the way Audrey treated Penelope. She wasn’t a bad friend per se, but her new friend Cherisse treated Penelope horribly and she never stood up for Penelope. Even after doing something really horrible to her at the end, Audrey is all ‘I want to be friends with you both I hope you understand’ and Penelope accepts that. In my eyes this just isn’t a healthy friendship and shows readers that you should just put up with everything

Other than that, it just felt a bit flat and underdeveloped to me and I honestly couldn’t tell you what really the point was? I did like the new friends Penelope made and it was a fun and cute read most of the time. If the book had addressed the toxic relationships in Penelope’s life it would’ve already been a lot better.

Phew, I’m glad I got those out of the way. I’m surprised at how long my review for The Museum of Heartbreak turned out because I really thought I had forgotten most of it lmao

Also I love how I reviewed books I read in July before pretty much all the ones I read in June adsgjh (help me)

Have you read any of these? What did you think? What’s your favourite summer read? Let me know in the comments!

Fawkes // Bored and Confused??

Author: Nadine Brandes
Genre: Fantasy // Historical // Retelling //  YA
Goodreads rating: 3.84
My rating: ⭐

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this book by Netgalley and the publisher (thank you!) in return for an honest review

I’ve started to make aesthetics for my reviews but I had no clue what to include for this one? Masks? London? I don’t know because barely anything happened.

I really don’t have that much to say about this book. I was honestly very bored and started to skimread early on, because I just wanted it to be over with. Just being bored with it just didn’t feel like a good reason to DNF it, considering it’s an ARC but oh my god if it hadn’t been.

I wasn’t impressed with the writing style at all, or with Thomas, as he’s very dull and whiny. There are quite a few characters in this book, but barely any of them stood out. By the end of it I had no idea who was who, nor did I care what happened to them. I was just very disattached from everything that was happening.

Also I have NO clue how the ‘magic’ works. They can control colours?? But I have no idea what that means or how it works? Nor do I know much about the world? It did help knowing a lil bit of the actual history, as the entire book is basically a religious allegory. Basically this war is between Catholics and Protestants, but in the world of Fawkes it’s not very clear WHY there’s a war. Just basing this on real history isn’t enough, I mean I had no clue who Guy Fawkes was so I had to look that up. Your readers shouldn’t do your work for you.

And uggggh you’d think a plot to kill the king would be exciting to read about, but they mostly just talked and talked and talked and

Basically I was bored and confused throughout most of this book. The only interesting character was the girl Thomas is in love with. I forgot her name. Does make you wonder how interesting she really was dsfjb No she really was, but since it’s told from Thomas’ pov and the writing was just so dull it made her less interesting as well. What I’m saying is, she had potential and I much rather would’ve read from her pov. Being black and a girl, she has to hide her skin colour because of the abusive family that has taken her in, but she’s determined to make a life for herself as an artist and fights back against racism. MUCH more interesting than whiny Thomas.

Fawkes is out today! Don’t let my negative review stop you from picking this up if it sounds like your cup of tea. This one just wasn’t for me, but maybe you’ll fall in love with it!

Have you read Fawkes? Or are you planning on it? What’s the last retelling you read? Let me know in the comments!

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour // Not Really That Epic?

Author: Morgan Matson
Genre: Contemporary //  YA
Goodreads rating: 4.03
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐

 

 

 

 

 

Amy Curry is not looking forward to her summer. Her mother decided to move across the country and now it’s Amy’s responsibility to get their car from California to Connecticut. The only problem is, since her father died in a car accident, she isn’t ready to get behind the wheel. Enter Roger. An old family friend, he also has to make the cross-country trip – and has plenty of baggage of his own. The road home may be unfamiliar – especially with their friendship venturing into uncharted territory – but together, Amy and Roger will figure out how to map their way.
When I saw that Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour was up for free on Riveted (this was last month) I immediately started to read it, as I loved The Unexpected Everything and Since You’ve Been Gone. Unfortunately this one fell a bit short for me.

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour was just a little bit too long for me, while not much happened. Or at least it felt that way to me. Of course everything they go through is important for Amy to overcome her grief and for her and Roger’s relationship to develop, but at times I wondered if certain events were really necessary to the plot. But most of all I really missed the things I fell in love with while reading Matson’s other novels: family and friendship. It does make sense plotwise why Amy’s family isn’t in this much, except for flashbacks, but I still wish we could’ve seen more of them. I felt incredibly detached to Amy’s family and while I’m a very emotional person, her having lost her father didn’t really make me feel anything. The book also ended before Amy’s mom could play a bigger part, which was disappointing (even though I did find the book too long) and left me with a lot of questions.

And then there’s the lack of friendship. Okay, so Amy and Roger start out as friends and that was great! I loved them! But I still really missed the friendship element that I loved so much in The Unexpected Everything and Since You’ve Been Gone. Amy does have a best friend, but she has moved away before the book begins and barely plays a part. Plus there’s some conflict there, as Amy has ignored her for quite some time now due to her grief. We never see this resolved which just felt weird to me. During the trip Amy does make some friends, but we never see them again.

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour was both too long and too short at the same time. Too short because there’s just too much missing, too much left hardly touched upon or resolved, whereas the actual book was just a bit too long for me. I’m glad that this wasn’t my first Matson book, as I probably would’ve been hesitant to pick up her other books and missed out badly.

That said, it was a fun read – I mean road trip! I’m a sucker for road trips. Seeing Amy overcome her grief and trauma was also great. There’s a lot of potential for this to have been a great read, but it just fell a bit short.

Have you read Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour? What’s your favourite Matson book? How do you feel about road trips in books? Let me know in the comments!

All Of This is True // Boring, Flat Characters and Possibly Redeeming A Character Who Commited Sexual Assault???

Author: Lygia Day Peñaflor
Genre: Contemporary //  YA
Goodreads rating: 3.7
My rating: ⭐⭐

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miri Tan loved the book Undertow like it was a eing being. So when she and her friends went to a book signing to meet the author, Fatima Ro, they concocted a plan to get close to her, even if her friends won’t admit it now. As for Jonah, well—Miri knows none of that was Fatima’s fault.

Soleil Johnston wanted to be a writer herself one day. When she and her friends started hanging out with her favorite author, Fatima Ro, she couldn’t believe their luck—especially when Jonah Nicholls started hanging out with them, too. Now, looking back, Soleil can’t believe she let Fatima manipulate her and Jonah like that. She can’t believe that she got used for a book.

Penny Panzarella was more than the materialistic party girl everyone at the Graham School thought she was. She desperately wanted Fatima Ro to see that, and she saw her chance when Fatima asked the girls to be transparent with her. If only she’d known what would happen when Fatima learned Jonah’s secret. If only she’d known that the line between fiction and truth was more complicated than any of them imagined.

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this book by Netgalley and the publisher (thank you!) in return for an honest review

I was really excited to see I got approved for this one, expecting something like Pretty Little Liars. Instead… I don’t even know??? The book is told from all three girls’ perspectives: Miri and Penny tell their story through interviews after Fatima Ro, the author they ‘befriended’ published her new book based on the three girls and Jonah, while Soleil tells her story through journal entries she wrote before  the new book was published. Then there’s also the excerpts of said book, which mostly tells Jonah’s story. I did find the of this interesting, but the writing itself not so much.

The writing was very simple, the girls don’t have different voices, I absolutely loathed the writing style of the excerpts (these especially were very passive, with lots of telling instead of showing leaving me wanting to bang my head against the wall like Dobby), a lot of the things the girls tell is not relevant – it could be seen important to establish their characters, but the characters are so flat and underdeveloped that it just felt unnecessary to me. Also most of these ‘chapters’ ended very abruptly, which kind of pulled me out of the story.

 Live footage of me reading this book

It’s such a shame, because the potential is definitely there. The way Fatima was subtly manipulating and using the teens is well done – to me as a reader, going in knowing that Fatima is shady, I could easily see how she was wrapping these girls around her finger and using them as her puppets to be able to write her book, but it’s so subtle that it makes sense that these teens, who already worshipped the ground she walked on, would fall for it. I was intrigued from the beginning to find out all the details of what happened: what exactly did Fatima write? How much of these girls’ lives did she use for her book? (Spoiler alert: A LOT. The tiniest details got worked in) Why is Miri stucking up for Fatima? What is Jonah’s secret? Despite not liking the writing style it kept me wanting to continue the book. Fatima was an incredibly intruiging character, but alas the others…

They were so underdeveloped. We get some glimpses that they are not so two-dimensional and flat but… God were they two-dimensional and flat. And then there’s the interviewer who interviews both Miri and Penny. WHAT IS WITH HIM I LAUGHED SO HARD AT HIS RIDICULOUS REPLIES AND QUESTIONS. Like when Penny tells him that Soleil, one of her best friends, lied to her and all he says is ‘Bummer’

Like apparently this is a big show and they send this guy?? Bummer. I can’t even. Anyway, back to the girls. By the end of the book I had no clue who was who and who they really were as a person. I expected to dive deep, to find out how complex they really were, to really get into how Fatima’s manipulation affected them but I didn’t get any of that. I didn’t care for the characters at all, which I don’t think should happen when your book is literally about teens being used and manipulated. By the end of the book I truly was Patrick

And then there’s the question of whether or not the author wants us to symphatise with/forgive/feel bad for a character who committed sexual assault?? Fatima Ro definitely redeems this character in her book and gives him a happy ending, but I’m not sure what Peñaflor herself is trying to say, as while Soleil and Penny stand up for him/feel bad (even though at first they were disgusted too??), Miri tells it like it is, but since the book ends with Fatima’s excerpt in which she gives him a happy ending, it left a bad taste in my mouth.

All of This is True definitely has potential, but because of the writing style and the characters I couldn’t really enjoy it. 

All of This is True is out now so if you’re interested go check it out, don’t let my review stop you!

Have you read All of This is True? Are you planning to? Any similar YA books you’d recommend? Would you reply ‘bummer’ in this situation as well? Let me know in the comments!

Anger is a Gift // A Powerful Look On Police Brutality (Also It’s Hella Queer™ )

Author: Mark Oshiro
Genre: Contemporary //  YA // LGBTQIAP+
Goodreads rating: 4.42
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

 

 

 

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals by their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this book by Netgalley and the publisher (thank you!) in return for an honest review

Honestly I don’t even know where to start I’m so blown away by this book. I’m honestly kind of disappointed at the lack of hype surrounding this one? I’ve barely seen it around and hadn’t even heard of it when I stumbled across it on Netgalley. Let me tell you: Anger is a Gift deserves all the hype and more. It’s incredible, intense, heartbreaking, yet also shows family, friends and an entire community having each other’s back, fighting for each other and always, always being there for one another.

Anger is a Gift is very graphic, and just gets more and more graphic as the book continues. The police brutality described just gets worse and worse, and gets described in some detail, which is something you should know going in if this triggers you. That said, it’s an incredibly important read and Oshiro has clearly done so so much research, making this incredibly realistic and brutal.

Moss watched his father get shot right in front of him by a police officer, leaving him with severe PTSD (it’s never stated that Moss has PTSD, I read it this way myself) and panic attacks, which is described really, really well. He’s also left with a lot of anger, naturally, which only increases in the book, but as the title of the book states ‘anger is a gift’, and Moss learns that his anger is not a bad thing, and that he could use it to try and change things. Moss’ character development is incredible: he went from not wanting to be anywhere near a protest because of his panic attacks to pretty much leading a movement.

While the entire book is very intense, it’s not all heavy stuff, especially when it comes to Moss’ family and friends. His relationship with his mother is so heartwarming to read: they share everything and are very open; something that all characters were with each other. They all just discussed everything, had no secrets for each other… It was so refreshing to see. Plus all the parents actually being involved!

”You realize how lucky I am that my son is one of my best friends?”

And then there’s his friends, who are absolutely amazing. These kids would do anything for each other – which they did. They always had each other’s back, no matter what. They went through hell for each other, and they’d do it over and over again. Also I loved how diverse (none of them are white) and queer they’re group was, without anyone seeming like the token anything. Moss himself is gay, Esparanza is a lesbian, Reg is disabled, Kaisha is ace, Njemile is trans (and has two moms!), Bits is nonbinary and Rawiya is a Muslim. They’re so unapologetically queer and Oshiro has gotten the queer friends group thing so right – the way they talked about their sexualities and gender identities, joked around etc. all felt very realistic and similar to me and my friends. While of course they face discrimination, the people that matter never give them a hard time and are very accepting and supportive, which was great to see.

And oh, oh my god the romance. The romance is just so good I’m still broken over it. It starts out very awkward yet also very cute, and just very realistic? The entire romance was – neither of them had been in a relationship before, neither knew what to do.

Another burst of nervous energy flushed through Moss’ body. ”Yes,” he said. ”I mean, no!” He blurted it out, then shook his head. ”Please sit down,” he finally said, certain he had embarrassed himself beyond repair.
(I made a note on my Kindle app about this that just says ‘Useless Gay™’)

As I said, all characters were very open with each other, and Moss and Javier were no exception. They shared their doubts with each other: doubts about themselves, but also doubts about the relationship because they were both clueless cinnamon roles. Moss felt so safe with him, sharing his insecurities and Javier making sure that he never felt that way. They were absolutely lovely. While they were never really friends before the romance developed, it still felt very much like the relationship was built on friendship. Also everytime Javier kissed Moss on the cheek I died.

Anger is a Gift  is a powerful, incredible, critical look on how rooted racism is in America and the corruption of the police. The ending is so powerful and heartbreaking, because it’s very realistic. I highly encourage you to read Oshiro’s author’s note, as it made the book even better (if that’s even possible).

I could never do this book justice. There are no words to do so, but I hope you’re going to pick this up, because Anger is a Gift is really important, touches on so many important issues that I can’t even begin to list because then we’ll be here for a while, and is just a must-read for everyone.

Have you read Anger is a Gift? Are you planning too? Let me know in the comments!

Over Raging Tides // Female Pirates Kicking Ass

Author: Jennifer Ellision
Genre: Fantasy // Pirates!! //  YA
Series: Lady Pirates #1
Goodreads rating: 3.66
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐

 

 

 

 

The pirate crew of the Lady Luck lives by many rules, but chief among them is this: they do not allow men on board.

That’s a rule that quartermaster Grace Porter is willing to break when a shipwrecked young nobleman offers her information of an omniscient map, stolen from his warship by an enemy vessel. Until now, the map was only the stuff of legend… but with its help, Grace may finally be able to hunt down the Mordgris, the sea monsters who stole her mother away from her.

Unfortunately, some members of her crew have other plans…

To find the map and face the Mordgris, Grace will have to confront her past, put the Luck between warring nations, and uncover treachery aboard the ship. And ultimately, her revenge and the destruction of the Mordgris will come at a hefty price: the betrayal of her crew.

Grace promised them they wouldn’t regret this.

She just isn’t sure that she won’t.Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book by the author (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review

This one was certainly fun! I mean an all-girls pirate crew? Yes please! If this had been developed a bit more it would have been a new favourite. Let’s break this down in some✨ lists ✨

What I liked

💛 Female pirates who are pirates in every sense of the word! They are ruthless, they steal, they murder, they are crude, they love their rum… They were nothing different from their male counterparts, except they also had to fight against sexism

”It is a fool who underestimates a woman because of her sex, Mr. Wesson,” I say, hearing a slight tremble in my rage. ”And an ungrateful one who forgets who just saved his life.”

💛 The relationships between the pirates – they were very much a family, even if not all of them got along. I wish we had seen more of this to be honest

💛 Gracie was a delightful protagonist, although I do feel like she was a bit flat. But we’ll get to that! She’s set on avenging her mom (though hopeful that she’d find her alive), but she’s still loyal to her crew and would never want to hurt her. While she’s a pirate in every way, she’d never kill someone purely out of bloodlust.

💛 The relationship between Gracie and Captain Ilene: Ilene is her stepmother/second mother, as she and Gracie’s mom fell in love (!!) years ago when Ilene infiltrated Gracie’s father’s ship. Ilene didn’t just teach her the way of a pirate, but also made sure she was very educated in other aspects (like knowing an ancient language). It was clear that they loved and cared for each other, which was great to see

💛 The friendship between Gracie and Sam. While it wasn’t said that they were best friends, it did seem that way as they would do anything for each other. I can’t wait to see more of their friendship in the sequel

💛 The fact that not all of the pirates are straight! I don’t know about Gracie (seems straight so far, but I might have missed something?) but Gracie says that some of her crew were off to ‘find themselves a man or woman for a few hours’ when they were on land, and Sam definitely is bi.

What I didn’t like

💛 I’m confused about the worldbuilding? There are countries at war, but we don’t know anything about these countries or why they’re at war. Outside of that war, it was hard to picture the world this was set in. There are apparently Eleven Seas and a few port towns are mentioned, but it was very vague.

💛 The plot was a bit rushed, which also left us with characters and relationships that felt a bit underdeveloped. Like I said, Gracie felt a bit flat to me, even though I loved her, and so did the other characters. The relationship between Gracie and Ilene is the only one that I felt was truly developed. The romance was… Okay? I felt very neutral about it, but I think I could’ve liked it if it wasn’t rushed and underdeveloped. It’s not that the relationship itself was rushed per se, but because the plot is, the relationship just went with it. There wasn’t really a gradual change in their relationship for me, all of a sudden they were on friendly terms and at some point he even takes huge risks that would not only endanger him, but would leave his little brother all by himself. I just missed the build up to this, which made this feel a bit unrealistic. I wouldn’t call this insta-love though.

💛 I wish we learned more about the Mordgris, but that may be something left for book 2? I hope so, because they were fascinating but I didn’t really fear them? Even though they were clearly creepy

All in all Over Raging Tide was a fun read about female pirates who’d die for each other (and for treasure and glory and all that – they want to be Pirate Queens lads!), but I just wish it had been developed a bit more. I have high hopes for the sequel!

And it had turned out my father was right. Women are terrible luck. At least, for anyone who crosses us.

Have you read Over Raging Tides? Or another (female) pirates book? Any recommendations? Let me know in the comments!