arc review · penguin · review

ARC Review: Wink Poppy Midnight

Title: Wink Poppy Midnight
Author: April Genevieve Tucholke
Publisher: Dial Books/Penguin
Publication Date: March 22, 2016
Format: eARC
Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

“The intrigue of The Raven Boys and the “supernatural or not” question of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer coalesce in this young adult mystery, where nothing is quite as it seems, no one is quite who you think, and everything can change on a dime.

Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying.

For fans of Holly Black, We Were Liars, and The Virgin Suicides, this mysterious tale full of intrigue, dread, beauty, and a whiff of something strange will leave you utterly entranced.”

Where to even start with this review, with this book? When a book is compared to The Raven Boys, I am equal parts intrigued and skeptical, so I went into Wink Poppy Midnight cautiously optimistic. This book turned out to be a magical, atmospheric, weird experience that kept me enthralled from the very first page.

Split into rapid fire changing POVs from Wink, Poppy, and Midnight, this book feels very fast paced even though relatively little action actually happens. I didn’t find any of the main characters particularly likable, but they were each captivating in their own way. Wink, obsessed with fairytales and committed to living one out, was the character I thought I’d love most going into the story, but I ended up feeling distanced from her to the point of mistrusting her most of all. Poppy is at least up front about the fact that she’s manipulative and mean, and I came to appreciate her cruel honesty. I think I struggled the most with Midnight: I alternated between thinking he was unassuming and sweet on one page, to gullible and weak the next. He is far overshadowed by his female counterparts.

That being said, the writing enthralled me. Tucholke’s writing is gorgeous, and she has crafted a novel so atmospheric that I fully expected to be in the woods, surrounded by mist when I looked up from the page. I’ve seen some people complain about the repeating of words and phrases throughout the novel, but I honestly wasn’t bothered by it. If anything, it added to the otherworldly sense of the book. As the reader, you spend the entire book wondering if there really is magic at play here. Wink Poppy Midnight feels so much like a magical realism story, and I felt like it was really building up to that. Ultimately, there is something far more sinister at play.

I pride myself on seeing plot twists a mile off – there have been very few times where a book genuinely caught me off guard. Wink Poppy Midnight messed with my head and kept me completely unsure of what was happening the entire time. I thought it would go one way, and then the story weaved and dived away from me into something far weirder. It must be said, by the way, that this is a genuinely, wonderfully weird book. But it’s also just as manipulative as its characters.

Where things fell apart for me, however, was the ending. I found the ending to be confusing (and not in the enjoyable way of the first 75% of this book) and ultimately unsatisfying. Maybe Tucholke wanted to keep things a bit mysterious and open ended, but I felt that it was a lot of build up to a weak ending. It was like eating a delicious slice of chocolate cake, only for the last bite to turn to dirt in your mouth. That was a bit dramatic, but the point stands. I will always prefer a strong ending over a muted one.

Don’t mistake my critique for displeasure. I absolutely adored Wink Poppy Midnight. It is its own fairytale, while simultaneously preying upon and playing against fairytale tropes. Every story needs a hero. Every story needs a villain. Every story needs a secret. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Which one are you?

*I received a free ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

anne bishop · arc review · review · the others series

ARC Review: Marked in Flesh

Title: Marked in Flesh (Book 4 in The Others series)
Author: Anne Bishop
Publication Date: March 8, 2016
Publisher: Roc / Penguin
Format: eARC*

“For centuries, the Others and humans have lived side by side in uneasy peace. But when humankind oversteps its bounds, the Others will have to decide how much humanity they’re willing to tolerate—both within themselves and within their community…

Since the Others allied themselves with the cassandra sangue, the fragile yet powerful human blood prophets who were being exploited by their own kind, the delicate dynamic between humans and Others changed. Some, like Simon Wolfgard, wolf shifter and leader of the Lakeside Courtyard, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn, see the new, closer companionship as beneficial—both personally and practically.

But not everyone is convinced. A group of radical humans is seeking to usurp land through a series of violent attacks on the Others. What they don’t realize is that there are older and more dangerous forces than shifters and vampires protecting the land that belongs to the Others—and those forces are willing to do whatever is necessary to protect what is theirs…”

I read the first three books in Anne Bishop’s The Others series last year and absolutely adored them. Urban fantasy is far from my usual cup of tea, but something about these books drew me in. Needless to say, getting an ARC of the fourth book, Marked in Flesh, was beyond exciting. The fact that this is the fourth books means that there will be some spoilers if you haven’t started the series or are caught up yet, so read at your discretion!

In this fourth installment, we pick up immediately after the events of Vision in Silver. The members of the Humans First and Last movement are planning attacks against the Others and the Intuits in an effort to claim the land for humans. As these attacks increase in severity, something far more powerful than the Others – the Elders, who live deep in the wild country – have had enough of these human threats. Meanwhile, the Lakeside Courtyard finds itself trying to protect more Others and humans than ever before.

There is something that must be said about this series: these books grow on you, but they’re not action-packed thrillers. So much of the story is devoted to the daily goings-on of the characters, their relationships, and how they navigate their world. I admit there are times when this seems almost boring, and so much time is spent in the build-up to major events. Marked in Flesh definitely suffers from this, even more than its predecessors.

The first 40% of Marked in Flesh is spent alternating between many points of view (too many, to be honest), and it’s a bit difficult to keep everything straight. Our time as the reader is split between three different locations, and countless characters. Personally, I could have gone without a lot of these little subplot moments in favor of focusing on the actual, main plot or on character relationships (if you know my thoughts about this series, you know who I’m talking about). But around the 45% mark, things really pick up, and the events of Marked in Flesh will irrevocably change the dynamics of this world forever. I don’t even know what’s going to happen in book five, because the way things end in Marked in Flesh was just…a lot bigger than I was expecting. So now I’m very excited to see where Anne Bishop takes things in the next book.

On a side note, I will say that I was a bit disappointed in the lack of a certain development that I’ve been looking forward to for four books now. Yes, I’m talking about Simon and Meg’s relationship. I understand why this ship has progressed at a glacial pace, and all the reasons why it’s necessary. But while we finally get something like progress for these two, my shipper heart wanted a bit more (I’m greedy, what can I say). That being said, their dynamic is only getting better, and I still have a lot of love for these two.

Perhaps the best part of this book is that the reader finally becomes aware of just how epic the nature of this world is, and how Anne Bishop gets us to this point after three books of careful world building and creating an entire mythology. I found the Elders to be terrifying yet fascinating, and I think that Marked in Flesh has a lot to say about humanity within those 400 pages. The greed and prejudice of man make them capable of horrible things, and that idea is a central theme of this book.

I won’t get into specific events because I don’t want to completely spoil things, but suffice it to say that Marked in Flesh was a great fourth installment in what has become my favorite urban fantasy series. Despite a slow start, Marked in Flesh will definitely leave readers anxiously awaiting book five!

Rating: 3.5 stars

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
arc review · book review · netgalley · review

Review: Mad About the Hatter

Title: Mad About the Hatter
Author: Dakota Chase
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Publication Date: August 20, 2015
Source: eARC/Netgalley*
Goodreads | Book Depository

“This isn’t his sister’s Wonderland….

Henry never believed his older sister, Alice’s, fantastic tales about the world down the rabbit hole. When he’s whisked away to the bizarre land, his best chance for escape is to ally himself with the person called the Mad Hatter. Hatter―an odd but strangely attractive fellow―just wants to avoid execution. If that means delivering “Boy Alice” to the Queen of Hearts at her Red Castle, Hatter will do what he has to do to stay alive. It doesn’t matter if Henry and Hatter find each other intolerable. They’re stuck with each other. Along their journey, Henry and Hatter must confront what they’ve always accepted as truth. As dislike grows into tolerance and something like friendship, the young men see the chance for a closer relationship. But Wonderland is a dangerous place, and first they have to get away with their lives.”

The premise of Mad About the Hatter totally had me hooked. A LGBT story set in the world of Alice in Wonderland? Please and thank you. While I adore the original story, I was intrigued to see how successful a Wonderland story would be without the original Alice. Ultimately, Wonderland itself was my favorite element of this story.

Mad About the Hatter follows a dual perspective – on one hand we have Henry, Alice’s little brother who never believed in Wonderland until he woke up there, and the Mad Hatter, who will lose his head unless he brings “Boy Alice” to the Red Queen. From there, the two navigate Wonderland and despite their tense first meeting, become close. While I appreciated what the dual perspective intended to accomplish, there were chapters were it was difficult to tell their voices apart, and by the end it felt a bit unnecessary. The Mad Hatter was by far the most interesting character in this story, and it was fun to follow his thoughts and slippery language. Henry, on the other hand, often fell a bit flat, and I couldn’t really tell you about his personality. Their relationship was rather cute to follow, if a bit hasty.

Although this is Henry’s story instead of Alice’s, she is still present in Mad About the Hatter. Married with twins (named Louis and Carol, excuse me whilst I roll my eyes) at twenty-two, it’s hard to reconcile the Alice of lore with the domestic picture Chase presents. That connects directly into a bigger issue I had with this book: Henry and Alice live in the modern world. I understand why it was done, for many reasons, but it created an odd disconnect for me as a reader. It was almost impossible for me to accept that Henry’s Alice was the same girl in the original story, and I think that some of the magic got lost in the jump to 2015.

As I said earlier, Wonderland is truly the star of this book. The reader is treated to so much world building; all these parts of Wonderland that make it feel even richer. The thought behind these new areas of Wonderland fit in perfectly with what you’d expect from the original, and I eagerly anticipated the next stop in Henry and Hatter’s journey. I love the intricacies of Wonderland, and that came across really well in Mad About the Hatter.

Ultimately, this was a cute and enjoyable book, and if you want more Wonderland in your life, it’s definitely worth a read. The inclusion of a LGBT relationship in this world was great, and I would actually really like to know more about Henry and the Hatter’s story after this book ends.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

*I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

arc august · arc review · review

ARC Review: Everything, Everything

Title: Everything, Everything*
Author: Nicola Yoon
Publisher: Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Goodreads | BookDepository

“My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in 17 years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla. But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black – black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare back. His name is Olly. Maybe I can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster. “

Everything, Everything – coming like the Hogwarts Express on September 1st – has received major buzz in the book community, as far back as BEA and Yall West when the first ARCs were released into the world. But rather than an intense PR campaign, it was readers who generated the most hype for this book. I’m always more inclined to read a new release when other readers loved the book itself, not just the marketing gifts. (But that’s a discussion for another day.) Spoiler alert: this book is worth the hype.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that I do not enjoy YA contemporary on the whole, and am highly critical of the books in that I genre I do read. Nicola Yoon’s debut novel is a powerful representation of one girl’s isolation and desire to experience the world beyond her house – a world that could kill her. Maddy has Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), a disease that makes her allergic to everything, so her life is strictly regimented inside of the house she can never leave. This premise drew me in, but the characters kept me committed to the story.

Maddy, our protagonist, is held apart from the world, but not completely removed from it. Maddy felt so vibrant to me, and I enjoyed her personality and that she makes the most of her situation. She reads and posts reviews on her Tumblr, but everything that enters her house has to be sterilized. When Olly moves in next door with his black clothes and harsh family, Maddy knows she shouldn’t get attached. But inetivably, Olly and Maddy strike up a friendship, and then more, and Maddy realizes more than ever how unhappy she is within her bubble. The relationship between Maddy and Olly is really earnest and cute, and the reader gets to chart their progress through instant messages and drawings (all done by Yoon’s husband!)

Everything, Everything is so much more than “sick lit,” and I appreciated that there was another side to this story I didn’t expect. The ending completely took me by surprise, and I won’t say anything remotely spoilery other than: wow. Just, wow. Did not see that one coming. But it was, at the same time, brilliant. This is contemporary with some punch, y’all.

It’s also worth noting that Everything, Everything brings a dose of much-needed diversity to contemporary YA. Maddy is a POC and has a disability, which I honestly don’t think I’ve encountered before this book. There have been some mentions of another 2015 release with a female protag who’s allergic to seemingly everything (cough Magonia cough), and whether the two books are similar. In short: no. Everything, Everything is nothing like Magonia – and we all remember how I felt about that one. I adored Everything, Everything and highly recommend it as your next contemporary YA read. This may not be a fantasy book, but Nicola Yoon’s debut novel is nothing but magical. Pick up a copy when it hits shelves September 1!

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Penguin!

arc august · arc review · book review · penguin · review

ARC Review: The Boy Most Likely To

Title: The Boy Most Likely To*
Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Dial Books/Penguin Teen
Publication Date: August 18, 2015
Goodreads | Amazon (currently less than $9!)

“Tim Mason was The Boy Most Likely To find the liquor cabinet blind folded, need a liver transplant, and drive his car into a house. Alice Garrett was The Girl Most Likely To…well, not date her brother’s baggage-burdened best friend, for starters. For Tim, it wouldn’t be smart to fall for Alice. For Alice, nothing could be scarier than falling for Tim. But Tim has never been known for making the smart choice, and Alice is starting to wonder if the “smart” choice is always the right one. When these two crash into each other, they crash hard. Then the unexpected consequences of Tim’s wild days come back to shock him. He finds himself in a situation that isn’t all it appears to be, that he never could have predicted…but maybe should have. And Alice is caught in the middle.”

The Boy Most Likely to is the sequel to My Life Next Door, which I adored for all of its contemporary glory. This follow up feels slightly more serious, as everyone deals with the repercussions of the events in My Life Next Door. If you haven’t read My Life Next Door, you can still read this review…there are no spoilers for either books.

One of my favorite things about The Boy Most Likely To is that we return to the Garrett family and see how they’re all faring. I adore little George, he’s hands-down my favorite character. Seeing how their family functions with so many children is such a fascinating part of these books, and every sibling still very much has their own identify and unique relationships. But the best part of The Boy Most Likely To is that it’s split POV of two characters that were portrayed in a rather limited way in the first book: Tim and Alice. Tim is Sam and Jase’s alcoholic friend who was kicked out of school and has to get his life back on track. Alice is Jase’s older sister who’s trying to balance nursing school with the needs of her family. These two characters provided such brilliant voices from which to hear this story. I don’t think the dual POV would have worked nearly as well in My Life Next Door, but with the characters and stories in The Boy Most Likely To, it was a great choice.

Seeing Alice struggle in this book is so heart breaking. She’s trying to keep everything together for her parents – her siblings, mounting bills, and nursing school, but to do so she puts her own life on hold. I felt so much compassion for Alice and appreciated what a strong character she is. Tim’s perspective was really enlightening, and I enjoyed seeing how snarky and self-deprecating his voice came across. The relationship that develops between Alice and Tim was nothing like Sam and Jase – not all sweetness and rooftops. Alice and Tim really have to fight throughout this novel, and I feel like that was a good representation of their characters.

I have to say that the “unexpected consequences of Tim’s wild days” weren’t so unexpected for me. Less than 50 pages in I knew what was going to happen, and it honestly felt a bit too obvious. But at the same time, it produced results. I ultimately thought the book ended the right way – I know some people may disagree with me on this, but I think the alternative would be too unrealistic and cliche. The Boy Most Likely To was a wonderful sequel to My Life Next Door, and brought two of the most complex characters in this cast to the forefront. The interactions between Tim and Alice and their respective families, and with each other, really leave an impact on the reader. But at the end of the day (and book), both Alice and Tim find such personal strength along the way, and that’s why I enjoyed this book so much. If you enjoy contemporary, especially if you’re a fan of Sarah Dessen, then you need to check out Huntley Fitzpatrick’s novels.

Rating: 3.5 stars

*I received an eARC from Penguin via their First to Read program in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Penguin for this advance copy!

book review · review

Review: Devoted

Title: Devoted
Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Publisher: Macmillan
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Goodreads | Book Depository

“Rachel Walker is devoted to God. She prays everyday, attends Calvary Christian Church with her family, helps care for her five younger siblings, dresses modestly, and prepares herself to be a wife and mother who serves the Lord with joy. But Rachel is curious about the world her family has turned away from, and increasingly finds that neither the church nor her homeschool education has the answers she craves. Rachel has always found solace in her beliefs, but now she can’t shake the feeling that her devotion might destroy her soul.”

Jennifer Mathieu’s sophomore novel is an exemplary display of the power of Quiet YA. Devoted tells the story of Rachel Walker, who is raised in a Quiverfull community – a fundamental Christian movement that focuses on the subservience of women to men, and places great importance on having a large family. (The Duggars, for example, are part of this movement.) I was hesitant to read this at first, because I largely do not enjoy Christian lit, especially not books that glorify the “Christian Patriarchy.” I was pleasantly surprised by Devoted, because it provides an honest portrayal of what it’s like to question everything you’ve been raised to believe, and how to make your own way.

I want to make it clear that Mathieu did her research for this book: she interviewed girls who grew up in Quiverfull communities, so that she could accurately represent their beliefs and customs. Knowing that Rachel’s family was based on facts and similar families made it difficult to read the first half of this book, because I knew it was all true. That girls are being raised in that environment, and taught that their only worth is derived from being a wife and having children. There were scenes that broke my heart for Rachel, and for every other girl in her situation who had questions she would be punished and shunned to ask, dreams she would be persecuted for wanting.

Ultimately, Rachel wants to know about the world outside of her church, of her potential outside the home. Seeing Rachel struggle with herself and her situation, which was wonderfully written, made me root for her so much. I wanted Rachel to make whatever decision was right for her – to stay or go.

There is a bit of a romance in this book, and I could take it or leave it. It didn’t really add much to the story for me, but I could appreciate how it gave another facet to Rachel’s experiences in the “real world.” I enjoyed her relationship with Lauren, a girl who escaped their church years previously. But ultimately, Rachel made this book for me. I adored her character, and her strength, and I can’t remember the last time I rooted so hard for a character to rise above.

Rating: 4 stars

book review · review

Review: Uprooted

Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik
Publisher: Del Rey (US) & Tor (UK)
Publication Date: May 19, 2015 (US) & May 21, 2015 (UK)

Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course, that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on its borders, full of malevolent powers, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood. The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows – everyone knows – that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to saver her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.”

I know I’m a little late on the bandwagon with this, but once I got a look at that beautiful UK cover (as opposed to the definitely not-as-nice US one), I had to wait for it to arrive from the Book Depository. In the meantime, I read amazing review after amazing review about this book, and I started to worry about all that hype. But now that I’ve read Uprooted myself, I can safely say it is deserving of ALL THE HYPE.

First off, this book is technically adult fiction, but I think it’s a really good crossover – the main character Agnieszka is seventeen, and although there are a couple sexy times (*fans self*) it still read almost like YA to me. The concept is awesome: a wizard takes a girl every ten years, and everyone is surprised when instead of taking the beautiful and brave Kasia as expected, the Dragon chooses Agnieszka. That kicks things off, but the book evolves so much beyond that. Agnieszka grows so much throughout the story, and becomes a badass witch herself along the way. The characterization in this story is incredible, from headstrong Agnieszka to the surly Dragon to the foolishly brave Prince Marek.

One of my favorite aspects of Uprooted is the Wood. A sentient, dark Wood that causes men to kill each other and trees that ensnare people to drain their life force. I got chills from how unflinchingly cruel the Wood is, and how alive it is. These are not Tolkien’s trees, y’all. Gives a whole new perspective to that Taylor Swift lyric:

The best part of this book is the way it portrays relationships. While the relationship between Agnieszka and the Dragon is equal parts swoony and steamy, it wasn’t the main relationship in my opinion. The friendship between Agnieszka and Kasia is by far the strongest connection in Uprooted. The two girls grew up together, always expecting Kasia to be taken by the Dragon, but when Agnieszka is chosen it throws their lives and relationship into chaos. They have to face their resentment towards each other in one scene, and it was heartbreaking to read. But ultimately, they cling to and protect each other as only best friends can, and this display of such strong female friendship truly makes the novel an even more spectacular read.

Uprooted is an epic fantasy that breathes new life into the genre, by placing female friendship and a strong, realistic female protag at the forefront of the battle against the malevolent Wood. If you enjoy epic fantasy – hell, even if you don’t but want to try something new – this needs to be the next book you pick up. The fantasy books I’ve read lately all seem to blur together because they end up being too similar, too ordinary. But I was blown away by Uprooted, and if you give it a chance I think you will be, too.

Rating: 5 stars