Margaret Owen is an author that I will always read without even knowing the synopsis of the book ahead of time. Little Thieves was everything I love about retellings; from taking a lesser known fable, like The Goose Girl, and turning it into something far more magical than one would think. Margaret once again captured my heart from the introduction and created characters that clawed their way into my heart. This book is full of snark. Wit, amazing world building, dark fantasy, and a morally grey heroine who isn't afraid to bring out her knife. This was one book I really didn't want to end and has just cemented the fact that I will always be a fan of Margaret Owen.
Trigger warnings: child abuse/neglect, navigating abusive environments, and trauma from a past attempted assault.
Opposites attracted in this riveting YA dystopian romance. Everyone in Houston, and maybe the world, has disappeared except type-A ballerina Hannah, and 80’s tribute band guitarist Leo. These two go to the same high school, and while their circles were completely different, they are each relieved that they aren't alone. The attraction and relationship between the two felt so real and meaningful, even with them only really knowing each other for such a short time. I loved how this character driven book kept me on my toes and had me guessing with each turn on the page.
From the first page, I couldn’t stop reading this book. In Deeper Waters has so many things I look for in a book; pirates, magic, romance, fantasy, and characters that are so uniquely themselves. Tal is this precious cinnamon roll that just wants to live his life without others fearing him, and Athlen is the first person outside Tal’s family that seems to not be afraid. Their story was just so heartwarming, so rich and lush, that no matter what I was doing, the book was begging me to come back to its pages and read.
Full of twist, turns, and dark secrets, LAST GIRLS by Demetra Brodsky is everything I wanted, and more. The Juniper sisters, Birdie, Blue, and Honey, are doomsday preppers who live with their mom in a pepper community. They have been taught to trust no one, and always stick together, no matter what. Each sister has her own personality, way of dealing with everything life throws at them, and way of keeping their childhood imaginary friend Bucky alive. I love the way Demetra showed how the girls were going through their everyday life, not only worried about things going on in the prepper community, but also how they had to survive high school, and all the everyday concerns there. Honey was a character I instantly connected to, and was able to find parts of myself in her. Demetra is great at creating strong female characters, that while have weaknesses and faults, are still dynamic and strong. This is a book I will always go back to!
The whole time I was reading, I couldn't stop smiling. Karina and Ace’s story was so wholesome, charming, and sweet. What started out as tutoring turned into fake dating, ends up being a story about finding yourself, and the strength needed to be true to yourself. Ace truly cared about Karina as a person and just wanted her happy with her life and her choices. While Karina saw the true Ace, not just the bad boy everyone saw him as, and loved him for it. Ace definitely made me ask, where were the guys like him when I was in high school.
TW: Anxiety, Anxiety Attacks
I was drawn to this book, mainly because an enemies-to-lovers arc is something I love to read if it's done right and boy was this done right. Natalie and Reid are so different. Natalie is so afraid of failure, that she won't even allow herself to even acknowledge her dreams, she only sees them as hobbies. While Reid is charging for them full steam ahead with no backup plans. The pair are at war with one another from the start, going all the way back to middle school, when their friendship made a turn for the worse. They each have made choices that hurt the other, some in more ways than one, some deeper than others. It was great to see them grow and change, as well as learn what had brought them to the path they are currently on.
CW: casual anti-semitism
What a great way to start my summer! This book is an amazing, non-tragic Romeo and Juliet story, where the pair are from rival beekeeping families. The tension between the parents is so thick, it's like pea soup. But the chemistry between Josie and Ezra is everything. I loved watching Ezra and Josie grow, not only as a couple, but as individuals. I loved watching Josie grow from the girl who was afraid to say what she wanted, to the young woman ready to grab the bull that is her future by the horns.
#ownvoices #enemies-to-lovers #bliss
TW: anxiety/panic attacks
I always find my way back to Zarek and Astrid. Zarek is a man with a plan, and no one gets in the way of that. Not even justice nymph Astrid. These two clash when they first meet, especially since Astrid has to keep Zarek captive, without him knowing. Along the way they learn things about each other and themselves. I love the prickly-pearness of Zarek, and how he becomes soft and ‘tame’ with Astrid. He finds himself wondering how can an ex-slave whose soul is owned by a Greek goddess ever dream of touching, let alone holding, a fiery star?
"Live in the Saddle. Die on the hog."
I never thought I would find myself so drawn into a story where the main characters are half-orcs. But by page three I was hooked, and rooting for them. This book took what I thought I knew about fantasy and flipped it on it head. The main character is Jackal, a half-orc and a member of the Grey Bastards, a biker-like gang that rides hogs with snouts and tusks instead of wheels. He is young but also cunning and head-strong. Along with his "brothers" they patrol the Lots and do their best to keep full-blooded orcs away from the human world. Jonathan French created a rich world filled with boorish jokes, scheming, fighting, brotherhood, friendship, and betrayal. Each member of The Grey Bastards has their own charm. Some you end up liking more than others, like Oats and Fetching. The Grey Bastards was a book that I actually found myself laughing out loud while I was reading. The characters breathe life into the pages and leave you wanting more.
This book spoke to me from the moment I picked it up. From the cover, to the beautiful world, and the characters full of spark and life, everything whispered to me, enticing me to dive in. What drew me in most was the fact that Maya Motayne wanted to create a world that she thought had been MIA when she was younger and looking for books to read. Set in a Latin-inspired land, a prince without a future and a thief without a face must team up to get something they both desire above all else. But to get what they want; they are going to have to defeat a powerful evil that wants to devour the world. Motayne was able to capture the spirit of both a character who had no roots, and one who was true to their homeland, and their people. Motayne beautifully blends language, culture, and magic in her debut novel. I cannot wait for the next book in this trilogy.
This epic sea adventure is full of everything that I love; pirates, mermaids, magic, vivid imagery, and morally grey characters that remind me of Kaz Brekker. From the start this book had me hooked. The heroine, Amora Montara, is the next heir to the Visidia throne. Just like her father, and her ancestors she has to prove that she is worthy of the crown and the throne. When it is time for her to prove that she is capable, she slips and is forced to flee in order to save her life. Along the way Amora finds herself a crew, led by a pirate named Bastian. In return for helping her prove that she has what it takes to lead her people, she promises to help him reclaim his stolen magic. Grace created characters that jumped off the page, even the ship, Keel Haul, had a life of her own. I loved this world and the people in it.
From the mind that brought you Dexter, a new bad boy we want to root for is in town. Riley Wolfe is a man with all the plans, and from the first scene he had me wanting him to take it all. He steals from the mega rich and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. He is amazing at his job, but that has lead to him getting bored. Every job has become too easy, too predictable. So Riley decides to look for a job that is impossible, one that there is no way he can pull off. He decides to steal the Iranian Crown Jewels. Hot on his heels is an FBI agent who wants nothing more than to bring Riley in. I loved that we got to see all the planning that Riley did for his heist. Jeff Lindsay brought all of the humor and snark that he is known for in this new book. Riley is the bad guy, but I couldn't help but want him to get away with stealing anything and everything.
With a voice like warm milk and honey, Neil Gaiman breathes life into his stories. Norse Mythology honors the tale’s past, but still has Neil’s distinctive style. Which is then enhanced by Gaiman reading the story aloud. Gaiman is able to create distinct voices for each of his characters, from the sly and cunning Loki, to the short-tempered, impatient warrior Thor. Gaiman took mythology that I already loved, created something even more enchanting. It is a collection of stories I could hear time after time and never grow tired of revisiting.
The Bastards are back and this time Fetching in running the show! She has many challenges to face from being the first female chief to keeping her people safe and fed, to an illness she is desperate to cure. With old enemies and new just waiting for the True Bastards to make a wrong move, Fetching must do everything she can to keep her band together. French took everything I loved about the first book and cranked it up to eleven! French is able to write a world and characters and make them seem so real. I loved the way he is able to take the grit of Mad Max and throw it into a fantasy world that reminds me of Tolkien. This is going to be a tough read to beat for my top reads of the year. I can't wait to see what is next. Live in the saddle! Die on the hog!!
"Look after your own.”
Equal parts beauty and grit, The Merciful Crow is a novel that kept me up through the night. In the start of what is planned on being a duology, Margaret Owen filled her story with beautiful words, witty characters, and situations many can connect to. The world Owen created is divided into a caste system named after birds, which like many in the real world has an upper and lower caste, and the Crows are the lowest of them all. Owen sends the readers on a journey with Fie, a Crow Chief-in-training willing to do whatever it takes to protect her family, Jasimir, a Phoenix prince trying to outwit his step-mother, and Tavin, a Hawk bodyguard who is learning what it means to want something for himself. Along the way, Jasirmir and Tavin learn what it means to be a Crow and all of the discrimination that comes with being not of the "splendid castes." Even though they face discrimination and are hunted down, they still are able to find joy in life and survive. Fie hopes that with the prince’s help the Crows will be able to not only survive, but thrive.
Of all the fairytales, Beauty and the Beast is my favorite. Of Curses and Kisses is the first of a trilogy of contemporary retellings. In this version Princess Jaya Rao is trying to protect her sister from the Emerson clan. When she gets the opportunity to exact her revenge in the form of Grey Emerson, she can't help but to take it. All she has to do is make him fall in love with her. But like all fairytales they can't help but feel drawn to each other. Along the way they learn that there was something there that wasn’t there before, and neither of them are what they show to the world. This story is full of the soft romantic vibes that one wants in a retelling. The character development feels natural, as does the growing romance between Jaya and Grey. This book was an emotional ride but a fun read nonetheless.
There’s a fine line between love and hate. Prudence Barnett and Quint Erickson learn that in this hate-to-love romance. They have been forced to work together their whole sophomore year and are looking forward to a summer far away from each other. That is, until a bad grade turns that plan upside down. Then a fall leads Pru to gaining a power that allows her to grant instant karma to those around her with a snap of her fingers. During a summer not so planned, they each learn things about the other, and themselves, that they hadn’t noticed before, and come to terms that while they might be frustrated with the other, they “still just want to make out.” This is so much more than a contemporary romance; Instant Karma has lessons on environmental issues, seeing the world through someone else’s eyes, and that not every bad deed is done for a bad reason. This is one book that I know I will go back to again and again. I can't get enough of Quint and Prudence.
Set in the year 2380, Tyler Jones is ready to move on from the academy, and pick the crew of his dreams. He has worked like mad to make sure he got the top picks. Unfortunately, he got in his own way. By playing the hero instead of getting the team of his dreams, he wound up being "stuck with a dregs nobody else in the academy would touch." But that's not even the biggest problem on his plate. It's the girl he rescued from cryo-sleep. She could be the catalyst for a war that has been hiding the shadows for a millennium. Kaufman and Kristoff have always been two of my favorite authors, and their stories always sink their teeth into you. Aurora Rising is no different. Full of witty banter, unique characters, and a crazy story, Aurora Rising is a book that I fell in love with from the start. This band of misfits will have a place in my heart right next to Kaz and his crew from Six of Crows
"No funerals. No mourners."
Six of Crows is that perfect mix of magic, chaos, and adventure. Think of the movie Ocean's Eleven, now throw in a pinch of magic and you have a hint of what awaits you in this novel. Kaz Brekker and his gang of misfits have an impossible heist to pull off, and it's more than money on the line for them to succeed. It's a book that get's you hooked from the first chapter, it had me from the first page. The Dregs come out of the book to share their close calls and small victories with you. You get pulled in and when the book ends you can't help but want another helping of Kaz Brekker and the Dregs. -Victoria
This was my first taste of Neil Gaiman and I couldn't imagine a better starting point. Beautifully written, and full of surprises, American Gods crawls its way under your skin and lives there. Gaiman is an author whose stories are all about the details, and as they say the devil is in the details. American Gods is a story filled with old gods, new gods, coin tricks, and the possibility of getting your head smashed in for losing a game of checkers. Shadow Moon, our guide if you will, is out of jail and on his way to bury his wife. What starts as a simple plane ride, turns into a journey like no other. We learn what happens when gods are no longer worshiped, and the lengths that they will go to to stay remembered. The new deities of America are taking over, and the former have something to say about it. This is a novel that I have gone back to time and time again, and always learn something new.
This was my first taste of Jaci Burton’s work. I was initial drawn to the book because I love both romance novels and hockey. This seemed like it would be the perfect blend of the two, and I was right. Jaci created a story that had all the feel good moments of a “Hallmark romance”, with some steamy scenes thrown in. Her series, Play-by-Play, is full of characters that are perfectly-imperfect. You find yourself rooting for them, wanting them to go that extra step, and to not be afraid of love or failing. I found parts of myself in many of them, and fell in love with each book. Her books simply captured my heart, and made it impossible to put them down once I started reading. The stories she created are ones I never wanted to leave, and know will always have a special place on my shelves and heart.
“Get in quick, get out quicker.” What a ride this was! From the first page to the last, I was hooked. Astrid Scholte created a world full of unique characters. Four Dead Queens takes place in Quadara, a nation divided into fourths; Toria, Archia, Ludia, and Eonia, with a queen ruling each area -- until one by one they’re murdered. Keralie Corrington lives in Toria, running the streets as a dipper (a thief or pickpocket). She runs into Varin Bollt, a messenger from Eonia. They both see life so differently, and can’t seem to grasp how the other lives. But as the story progresses, they grow closer as they try to solve the murders of all four Queens. The chapters alternate between Keralie’s point of view and one of the queens, who we learn are each hiding secrets that they would do almost anything to keep in the dark. I couldn’t put this book down. Scholte created a story full of intrigue, twists, turns, romance, and more. This is going to be a tough book to beat for my best read of 2019.
There is something unique about this book, and it is more than just the way it is written. Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman created a story told through documents, journal entries, surveillance footage, emails, interviews, and more. I had never read a story told like this before. But I am so glad that I picked this one up. Illuminae starts off with a planet that's under attack and a break up. As the story goes on, you learn that not everyone can be trusted and that there is more than the human enemy after them. Kady, our strong heroine, is doing everything that she can to save the people around her, even her ex-boyfriend Ezra. With the AI system, AIDAN, going crazy and a virus wreaking havoc on the rescue ships, Kady and Ezra have to rely on each other to save themselves and the other passengers, even though Kady never wants to talk to him again.
Whenever I pick up one of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s books for the first time, I have to mentally prepare myself for all the heartbreak. While this is a romance story, so it does end with some kind of happy ending, Kenyon has a way of making you earn that ending. Stygian is about Urian, who we first meet in Kiss of the Night. At the end of Kiss, he feels that he has lost everything. He’s not only heartbroken, but soul-broken, over the loss of his wife. In Stygian, he finds out that she’s alive, and in need of rescue from the pits of Hades. The woman he has to team up with he doesn’t trust, and he’s not sure who he can. More than his wife’s soul is on the line. Urian’s book is one I have been waiting for a long time, and it was definitely worth the wait. This book skyrocketed into my top 5 of her novels. It is full of all the “feels” and I wish I could read it again for the first time.
Foundryside, the first book in Robert Jackson Bennett’s The Foundry trilogy, not only got me out of my reading slump, but also it was a book that I just couldn’t put down. The cover grabbed my attention and the story surpassed every expectation that I had. Foundryside is about a thief, Sancia. She’s good at what she does, and her latest job has landed her in a whole world of trouble. She’s gone from off the radar, to Tevanne’s most wanted, and has to band together with some unlikely allies to make it out alive. We learn about the world Bennett created through Clef, a character who is unique and lovable from the start, who in turn learns from Sancia. It made learning about this new world as a reader more enjoyable than if it had just been told by the narrator. Bennett created complex characters, a world that is half tech, half magic, and a story full of heart. It was a story that I couldn’t get enough of and can’t wait to see what happens next!
(This book cannot be returned.)
Part vengeance, part fantasy, and all Kristoff, this book dug its way into my soul and took root there. Mia Corever is a talented young woman, who can speak to the shadows, and is being trained to become one of the members of the deadliest assassin's around. She has to best her competition in contests of poison, steel, and the subtle arts. If she is about to do this, she will be one step closer to getting the vengeance that she wants. Nevernight is the start of a trilogy that I always find myself going back to. I loved that the main protagonist is a strong, badass, take no prisoners girl. This book is dark, stabby, and beautiful. It took everything I love about fantasy and jacked it up to twenty. I have always loved Jay Kristofff's work, and this, as on today, is my favorite.
"Never flinch, never fear, never, ever forget."
This book saved my love of reading. I truly thought that I had lost that joy, but this book showed me that it wasn't lost, simply misplaced. Scythe sunk its teeth into me and didn’t let go. I couldn’t read this book fast enough. In this novel the world has conquered death, sickness, war. The Thunderhead in the sky has solved it all. It is now a world where no one dies, ever. You don’t even die of old age, you can simply turn back the clock and look younger. There is only one way to die in this new world, and that is at the hands of a Scythe. Two teens are thrown into the ring as apprentices, but neither Citra nor Rowan want the job. Neal Shusterman created a world, that despite all of its craziness, all of the things it made me question about myself and the world around me, I find myself wanting to be apart of. I wanted to sit in on the Conclaves, join Scythe Faraday for a while to learn from him and hear his wisdom, I wanted to sit and talk with Citra and Rowan to see what they learned, and even want a moment to talk with the Thunderhead.
Have you ever watched a movie or read a book and wondered how the villain became the villain? Christina Henry did just that. Jamie, the first lost boy Peter brought from the other place, is an amazing character you can't help but sympathize with and want on your side, even knowing who he becomes. Jamie starts to see just who Peter Pan really is and isn’t sure that he likes the boy that has been his friend for as long as he can remember. As time passes both Peter and Jamie get closer to the other lost children. But while Jamie sees them as friends and brothers, Peter sees them as a way to make Jamie do what Peter wants him to do. After some time Jamie is tired of Peter’s games and isn’t sure that he wants to play anymore. But Peter isn’t ready to let him go and has one game left to play. Christina Henry draws you in and makes you want the “bad guy” to win, and the “good guy” to lose. As you read this tale remember the one lesson that Jamie learned, Peter Pan lies!
One of my all time favorite books, even though it completely ripped my heart out. We finally learn Styxx's past and just what drove him to the actions that have made there way into previous novels. Like Acheron's story, it starts with his childhood and goes all the way to present day. I though I knew Styxx, boy was I wrong. I felt more for him than I did Acheron, and I didn't think that was possible. Styxx is a complex character that hides his hurt behind sarcasm and quips. While he seems tough to love, he has become of the characters that I know I will always cherish. This is a must read for all Kenyon fans.
This book made me laugh, cry, scream, swoon, the works! We finally learn Acheron's past and how he became the leader of the Dark-Hunters. The story starts with his past, good and bad. It also touches on scenes that were in previous books, so we get to see just what was behind his thinking and actions. The last half of the book is the present, where he meets the spitfire Tory. From the moment he meets her, his world is flipped and he doesn't understand why she doesn't seem intimated by him. This story is one that, while parts are hard to go back to, I always find myself wanting to return to. Sherrilyn Kenyon It is a long, emotional read. But oh so good.