The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
“I do not need reasons to exist. I do not need to justify the space I take up in this world.”
We return this week to the second book in the historical fantasy series of novels with very long titles. Although I would never read a series out of order the first time around (I’m too much attached to chronological orders and backstories), this second book of the series is absolutely my favorite, due in no small part to its main character. I already spent a paragraph in my previous review expressing my affection for her, and now that she’s our leading lady I will no doubt spend this entire review rhapsodizing about her. (Also maybe the dragons. I always love books with dragons.) You have been warned.
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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
“It’s beginning to feel like he’s shuffling his way through the seven deadly sins, in ascending order of my favourites.“
I have returned after my month long hiatus! Between NaNo (which I failed), the holidays, and working on my printing press, I spaced off doing reviews for…quite a while. I am finally back though, and will try to keep up with at least biweekly reviews. Despite my not finding time to write reviews, my reading hasn’t slowed much so I have a fair number of books to do reviews on in the coming weeks. Now without further ado, I should get on with this week’s actual review.
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Reverie by Ryan La Sala
“Kane absolutely did not want to fight the Dreadmare. He wanted to kiss the Dreadmare. Maybe.”
I decided to read this book for the Big Library Read which occurred this month. I’ve been in a couple “general” book clubs (i.e. not specific to one genre, like mystery), and had come to the conclusion that any book picked for a book club type event would always be some form of realistic fiction or nonfiction. Imagine my shock when I began reading Reverie and my instincts immediately began screaming “YA contemporary fantasy!” As soon as I got over my surprise I was immensely pleased. My favorite genre, finally getting some of its due!
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Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass
“My question is the scandal of the century, apparently.”
Since this Saturday fell on Halloween, I decided it would be a perfect time to review the contemporary YA thriller I recently read. This was a new experience for me, as I don’t believe I’ve ever read a YA thriller before (or any other thriller for that matter). Mystery, yes, I’ve read plenty of those, but not a true thriller. Although I must say this thriller did come with its fair share of mystery.
At some point before reading this book, I saw it likened to Lord of the Flies. Considering the fact I passionately hate Lord of the Flies, it may seem odd that I decided to read a book that has been deemed similar to it. It’s true I was leery of reading a thriller, especially one liked to that classic, but ultimately I decided experiencing a contemporary re-imagining might just be worth it. As it turns out, I’m glad I took the plunge!
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Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan
“I swear to god everything here is about as whimsical as it is rusty.”
It may be dawning on me that I read more contemporary YA than I originally thought, as here again we have a story devoid of fantasy–except the ones acted out by the characters working at Magic Castle Playland. (It may also be dawning on me that this first paragraph will be composed of only two sentences. And no, I haven’t been reading any Charles Dickens lately.)
Hot Dog Girl was, along with being contemporary, what I believe would be classified as a YA rom-com. Though I don’t really read enough rom-coms to innately know what does and doesn’t classify as one. In any case, the plot does starts out with Lou’s attempt to get her crush to notice her, despite the fact he kind of has a girlfriend. Oh, drama! The end of that particular plot line has a few twists in store, just like the other major plot line revolving around Magic Castle Playland, where Lou and her friends spend their summers working.
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Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales
“I was fairly sure Lara buying me a present was listed as an end of times sign in the Bible, between false prophets and stars falling from the sky.”
Shifting away from fantasy again, I have another contemporary YA on the review list today. This one, according to some of the synopsis I’ve read of it, does have an interesting back history though. It seems this book is a retelling of Grease, which was a 1978 movie, which was a retelling of a 1971 play of the same name.
Now, I should say that while I’ve seen the movie version of Grease, it was a long time ago and my memory of it is pretty sketchy. Possibly this is why I only saw a few general, overarching themes in this book that appeared to hearken back to the movie. (Assuming the movie version was, in fact, the Grease this book retells.) Or perhaps that’s just the way the book is–after all, a retelling is supposed to be original in its own right, not a verbatim reiteration of the work that inspired it. In any case, I must admit I found Only Mostly Devastated more to my liking than I found Grease, for many reasons.
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This Coven Won’t Break by Isabel Sterling
“It turns out surviving a murderous Witch Hunter doesn’t exactly qualify as a summer vacation, and now the rest of the Hunters seem more intent on destroying Hannah’s magic than ever.“
This week we return to the realm of contemporary YA fantasy, and to a book world I’ve reviewed before! This book is the sequel to These Witches Don’t Burn, a duology following Hannah, a teenage Elemental Witch in Salem, Massachusetts.
Much like the first book, This Coven Won’t Break is filled with as much magic, mayhem, murder, and twisty plots as can be. Another too-close-for-comfort betrayal tops off the climax of this book, though I’m glad to say a certain Blood Witch survives the encounter better than some others who fell under Sterling’s pen. The plot continues from the threads started in book one, but some of those threads end in very unexpected ways. This book, much like its predecessor, leans strongly into its mystery elements.
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The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper
“At home, I’m invisible. At school, I’m bizarre. But to the rest of the world, I’m a journalist.”
Breaking the mold of my last two reviews, we move out of the fantasy sphere into regular YA contemporary fiction. Although you could perhaps argue a sci-fi bent, considering the main plot revolves around putting humans on Mars in 2020, which obviously hasn’t happened yet.
Yes, that’s right, The Gravity of Us is set in July of 2020, though a slightly different 2020 than the one we’ve experienced. Books, for any who don’t know, are usually written at least a year in advance of when they are published. Since this book was published in early 2020, I imagine it was written in 2018 or earlier, so it’s no wonder the real 2020 turned out…a little differently.
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These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling
“I need a new T-shirt: someone tried to kill me, and all I got was this stupid concussion.”
This was one of my favorite reads of 2019, and no wonder. A YA fantasy filled with magic, mayhem, murder, and high stress, high stakes mystery? What more could one ask for. (Okay, so maybe a little less murder would have been nice for my poor bruised heart.)
First off; the magic. I loved the perfect balance that was struck of explaining the many types of magic while not overloading the reader with information. As a chronic over describer, I am always in awe of authors who can explain complex world building without pausing the plot for a whole chapter to focus on it. Sterling does a wonderful job of giving you enough information to understand what’s happening, without stopping to illustrate how each Castor, Elemental, and Blood Witch’s magic works at once.
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Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
“Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.”
I’ve never been one for horror, but I do love a good ghost story, and this one certainly delivers. Being squarely within the YA fantasy realm, with Maya death gods, magic, and plenty of ghosts, this was one of my most anticipated reads of 2020.
I will admit after reading the synopsis that while I was excited to read Cemetery Boys, I was also afraid it would be one of those heart wrenching books that haunt you for the rest of eternity. A living MC falling in love with a ghost boy? That sounded like a recipe for heartbreak to me. Because of my preconceptions, I spent a good 90% of the book in a state of stress, waiting for the moment Julian would be released or turn maligno, all while frantically trying to come up with alternate scenarios that did not involve Julian dying…like, permanently.
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