Category: standalone

The Afterward by E.K. Johnston Review

Title: The Afterward

Author: E.K. Johnston

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               E.K. Johnston is one of my favorite authors, so when I heard that she was writing a brand-new book coming out in February, I ordered it from my local library. After I finished Archenemies, I pushed it right to the top of my stack; I renewed it once and didn’t want to have to return it without reading it. And this book… It’s probably one of the most unique in her entire body of work. It is an adventure story, told from two points in time and three points of view. It was full of brave, courageous female knights, a just queen, forbidden love, thievery, magic and mayhem, and I really enjoyed it! It wasn’t entirely perfect, but it is easily one of my favorite books of 2019. I’m almost wishing that it was a series, waiting for a sequel, so I don’t have to say goodbye to all the friends I’ve made!

               A group of female knights set out at the behest of a young prince, in hopes of eradicating an ancient, untold evil. After defeating the Old God and stopping his tyranny from spreading across the world, they return to their old lives. But the girls, save their leader, Sir Erris, are having troubles readjusting, particularly Kalanthe Ironheart, a knight-in-training burdened by debts and doubts and the futility of her future, and Olsa Rhetsdaughter, a ne’er do well thief who longs for freedom, in every sense of the world. But it turns out that even though they’ve finished their epic quest, other problems arise, and this time, it’s possible that more than hearts will be broken…

               I really enjoyed this book! I loved the way that it took the classic adventure trope and turned it on its head. I also really liked the format, and the way that the book went back and forth between the before, during the actual quest, and the after, where the women had to deal with the aftermath. This book has everything that I love in a fantasy novel: tough girls who take no prisoners and are strong and feminine at the same time, forbidden love, magic, war, (lady) knights, and strong friendships! It was a wonderful novel. The pacing was breakneck, and I loved the way that the different times were shown. I also adored Kalanthe and Osla’s distinct, authentic voices, and the way the narration was made more interesting by both of their perspectives. I’m also such a sucker for a good love story, and this book delivered several times over on that score! I loved the ending, too. The only thing that really bothered me was that several of the side characters weren’t sketched out very well, and there were so many to keep track of that I wish there had been a dramatis personae at the front of the book. It also got confusing when the time periods switched; but after rereading some passages, it got easier. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed The Afterward; it’s probably my favorite book in Johnston’s extensive body of work. Easily one of my favorite books of 2019! The bottom line: Rich, enchanting, funny and heartfelt, I loved The Afterward! Next on deck: Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/03/the-afterward-by-ek-johnston-review.html

Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman Review

Title: Dry

Author: Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               When I heard that Neal Shusterman was writing a brand-new book with one of his sons, I was so excited! Shusterman is one of my favorite authors, and even though I had to return it to the library a few times, I pushed it straight to the top of my stack when I realized I couldn’t renew it anymore. As soon as I finished How to Fracture a Fairy Tale, I started Dry, and this book blew me away, especially considering how dire the current climate change situation is. Timely, searing, thought-provoking and beautifully written, Dry is one of my favorite books of last year, and I can’t wait to see what this father-son author pairing has up its sleeves next!

               The Tap Out happens, an event that leaves many across the United States without one of its most vital natural resources: water. Alyssa Morrow and her brother Garrett must journey across the country to find their parents, who have gone missing in their quest to find drinkable water. They must team up with their weird doomsday prepper, Kelton, in order to survive. But other obstacles get in their way: water zombies, marauders, fires and rockslides and the utter destruction of human civilization as they know it. Because when things go completely dry, everyone is out to survive, by any means necessary…

This book is hard to describe. I finished it on Monday and I’m still trying to untangle my thoughts to put them down on paper. Part of the reason I picked up this book was because it was about something very important to me and my generation: climate change. That, and the cover was just gorgeous. I didn’t want to return it to the library again without reading it, so I was eager to start it as soon as I was finished with How to Fracture a Fairy Tale.  The pacing was breakneck, and the prose was so compelling that I was spellbound from the beginning. I loved the way that the view point went from Alyssa, to Kelton, to a drifter that they pick up, Jacqui, Alyssa’s little brother, Garrett, and Henry, who uses the disaster to his own ends. Sharp, brutal, thought-provoking and dark, I was neck deep in this book; it lingered in my thoughts even when I wasn’t reading it. I also loved the way the authors were constantly showing both the brutality and altruism of the human race, even in the face of terrible tragedy. What really got me, though, was the ending; my heart was pounding and I was either crying with sadness or ready to rip my hair out, I was so afraid! I loved the way that it ended, on a knife’s edge. I loved this book, and it deserves every single one of its five stars. I cannot wait to see what this dynamic duo has in store for us next! The bottom line: Sharp, brutal, cutting, and thought-provoking, I loved Dry, and it’s become one of my favorite books of 2018! Next on deck: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Choksi!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/02/dry-by-neal-and-jarrod-shusterman-review.html

The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tuchol…

Title: The Boneless Mercies

Author: April Genevieve Tucholke

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               I’ve had this book on my library loan list for a long time, since before it actually came out, so when I saw it on the shelf at my local library, I checked it out. When I realized I couldn’t renew it anymore, I pushed it to the top of my stack, as soon as I finished Black Wings Beating. I have a literary confession to make: I hate Beowulf, the classic old English epic that this book is inspired by. In theory, it sounded like something I would love, but for some reason, I hated it. The Boneless Mercies built on the bones of Beowulf, telling the tale of The Boneless Mercies, young women who take lives for a price. But their leader, Frey, longs for more than the lonely life of a killer, however merciful. When she hears rumors of a dangerous, deadly beast taking lives in the mountains, she leaps at the chance to slay it and become the legend she yearns to be. But even the most legendary make sacrifices for their notoriety, and Frey must decide if she can pay the price.

               Frey is the leader of The Boneless Mercies, and she and her friends take lives as mercifully as they can. But despite herself, she does not feel fulfilled by her lot, and she’s not the only one feeling restless. When rumors reach her ears of a vicious, monstrous beast in Blue Vee, taking lives indiscriminately, Frey and her companions must undertake their most dangerous quest yet, through marshes and forests, crossing paths with witches and wicked jarls and kind archers. But Frey must decide if it’s worth seeing their journey through, or she might just lose everything she stands to gain…

This book was a dark, gorgeous, beautiful epic that rang true of the original. I loved the way that the author took Beowulf and turned it on its head. The prose was beautiful, the pacing breakneck; I was immediately spellbound by Frey’s voice and the brutal, beautiful world that she and her friends lived in. I also adored Frey’s steadfast, wonderful friends, especially Juniper, Runa, and Ovie. My favorite thing about the book was the way it portrayed a classic quest. I was transfixed until the shocking, bittersweet ending. I’m not sure if this book has a sequel in the works, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed nonetheless! At times, there were so many characters that it got a little hard to keep track of them all; I almost wish there had been a dramatis personae at the beginning of the book for a reference. But regardless, this book is one of my favorites of last year, and it might be my favorite of Tucholke’s whole body of work; it was amazing. The bottom line: Fierce, brutal, and beautiful, I loved The Boneless Mercies! Next on deck: How to Fracture a Fairy Tale by Jane Yolen!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/02/the-boneless-mercies-by-april-genevieve.html

The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth …

Title: The Light Between Worlds

Author: Laura E. Weymouth

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               The Light Between Worlds was found through a recommendation list, and I ordered it from my local library. It’s been sitting on my stack for a while, and after I did a complete overhaul, I chose to keep it, since the cover was so pretty and the premise was interesting; honestly, it reminded me of a sort of reverse Narnia: What would happen if you came back from a magical world? I loved the way that one of my favorite trope was turned on its head. As soon as I was finished with Pulp, I pushed The Light Between Worlds to the top of my stack. I finished it in less than a day, and I really enjoyed it. With its unique premise, gorgeous, lyrical prose, and relatable characters, I loved it so much, and I can’t wait for what Laura E. Weymouth has in store for us next!

Siblings Jamie, Evelyn, and Philippa Hapwell were somehow whisked away to a magical world called The Woodlands five years ago, while they were cowering in a London bomb shelter, fearing for their lives. Creating lives as heroes and healers in this mysterious place, populated by all manner of fantastical creatures, they hold a brief refuge in The Woodlands. When they finally returned home to London, nothing changed, except themselves. Now Evelyn spends her days longing for the peace and purpose she found in The Woodlands, and she vows to return, no matter the cost. Her sister, Philippa, meanwhile, just wants to forget what transpired there, determined to find her place in the real world. Flawless and perfect on the outside, she has many friends and a coveted scholarship to a school in America. Tired of always keeping her sister from breaking into pieces, she escapes, intent on making her life her own. But when Evelyn goes missing, she has to return home, forced to confront everything she’s been running from. As she follows paltry clues that her sister has left her, she begins to wonder if Evelyn did indeed find her way back to the one place that feels like home, or if the pull of their two lives ripped her apart…

               This book was a lovely, thought-provoking debut! I really loved it. I enjoyed the way that Weymouth turned the magical world trope on its head; it was really interesting. The pacing was breakneck, and I also liked the way that the book went back and forth between the past and present, between wartime London and the dangerous, seductive setting of The Woodlands; it provided a lot of perspective and context to the Hapwell siblings’ relationship. I only wish that Jamie had had a first-person point of view, as well, because I was left wondering how he was dealing with the transition. I also loved both Evelyn and Philippa’s points of view; they were so similar and so different all at once. The prose was lovely, almost breathtaking, and more often than not, I was going back to reread. One of my favorite things about this book was how prevalent art and poetry was at the forefront of the novel, particularly in Evelyn’s narrative. And the ending! Oh, my goodness, I cried so much throughout this book. Especially over the ending! The only thing that really bothered me was that I wished all three siblings had an equal voice throughout the story. Nonetheless, this debut was really strong, and I will never forget the Hapwell siblings. What an amazing book! Enchanting, seductive, and poetic, The Light Between Worlds knocked me flat. Absolutely fantastic! The bottom line: Gorgeous, emotional and tender, I loved The Light Between Worlds! Absolutely amazing, one of my favorite books of 2018! Next on deck: The Crimes of Grindelwald by J.K. Rowling!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-light-between-worlds-by-laura-e.html

Outrun the Wind by Elizabeth Tammi Review

@annabethisterrified

Title: Outrun the Wind

Author: Elizabeth Tammi

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy/Romance

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               Everyone who knows me knows that I am a complete mythology junkie, but the one I know best happens to be Greek. I’ve followed Elizabeth Tammi on Tumblr since I first made my blog there, so when I found out that one of my favorite followers wrote a book revolving around Greek myth and female romance, I was sold. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while, after I had to do another complete overhaul, and once I realized that it had holds on it, I pushed it to the top of my stack as soon as I was finished with The Spellbook of Katrina van Tassel. This book was highly enjoyable, full of heart, romance, painful tension and high stakes, and I really loved the romance between Kahina, one of Artemis’s hunters, and the legendary Atalanta, the girl so fast that she orders footraces, only agreeing to marry the man who can beat her. The only thing that I didn’t like about the book was that since it was set in ancient Greece, the dialogue and speech were a bit too modern for me, and it made it hard to really get into the story. Nonetheless, this debut was strong, romantic, and painful, and I look forward to more from this promising author!

               Kahina is a huntress in one of the goddess Artemis’s band, and there are only two simple rules: Never disobey, and never fall in love. After being rescued from the Oracles of Delphi, Kahina is glad that she has a place among the goddess’s chosen, despite the fact that her prophetic powers still linger. But when a routine hunt goes wildly awry, Kahina finds herself breaking the first rule to save the legendary huntress, Atalanta. In order to regain Artemis’s favor, she is sent to Arkadia, where the woman she saved is revealed as nothing less than the ruler’s daughter. For her part, Atalanta is still reeling from the disastrous hunt and her father’s insistence on marriage, she isn’t quite sure what to make of Kahina, but their relationship deepens into something more than friendship. The two young women join forces to devise a perilous game to avoid marriage, and suitors flock to the city, eager to best one another for the princess’s hand. But when the man responsible for both of the girls’ past pain arrives, the game turns downright dangerous…

As I said, this book was really good; I was only vaguely familiar with the myth of Atalanta before now, and I really enjoyed the sapphic reinterpretation of the Greek classic. The point of view went back and forth between Atalanta and Kahina, and it was really nicely paced; I was constantly guessing what was going on, and one of my favorite parts of the book was the girls’ budding relationship. I really liked how they were both huntresses, bound by rules that neither of them could control, but drawn to one another and each forced to face their demons. And the romantic tension between them was so deliciously painful; it was a great counterpoint to the many men who had it out for Atalanta throughout the novel. Feminist retellings for the win! I also adored the ending, and who the villain turned out to be; I wasn’t expecting it at all, it was a welcome surprise. The only thing that I didn’t really like was that the dialogue and writing were a bit too modern for my taste; it really made the book hard to read for me at times. But this is a strong, heartfelt debut from one of my favorite people ever, so I can forgive the small mistakes. I can’t wait to see what Elizabeth Tammi has up her sleeve next! The bottom line: A romantic and beautifully written spin on one of Ancient Greece’s earliest myths, I loved Outrun the Wind, though there were times where the dialogue didn’t seem to match the setting or time. Nonetheless, I really loved it! Next on deck: The Lady’s Guide to Pirates and Petticoats by Mackenzi Lee!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/01/outrun-wind-by-elizabeth-tammi-review.html

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver Review

Title: Broken Things

Author: Lauren Oliver

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

Lauren Oliver is one of my favorite authors: I loved her dystopian series, Delirium, so when I heard that she had a new book coming out, I reserved it at my library. It’s been sitting on my library stack for almost a month now, and after an enormous rehaul, I pushed it to the top once I realized that someone had put a hold on it. I’ll be honest: I finished this book about a week ago and I couldn’t review it right away: My feelings were too tangled up. Even now, as I put the review on paper, I’m still not sure exactly how I feel. Overall, I really enjoyed it, but there were some things that are sticking like thorny burrs in my brain, and so I’m going to do my best to vocalize how I feel. Lauren Oliver has penned a dark, spinetingling tale of obsession, toxic friendship, dangerous secrets, and the power of stories, and I was captivated, even though there were some parts I wish had been taken care of more neatly.

               It has been five years since Summer Marks was brutally slain in the woods. The entire world believes that Mia and Bryn, her best friends, did the killing as a result of the three girls’ obsession with a fantasy novel called The Way into Lovelorn. But there’s a twist: They didn’t do it. On the anniversary of Summer’s deaths, both Bryn and Mia, set adrift by the false accusations and the loss of Summer herself, are drawn back together in an attempt to clear their names and find out the truth about who murdered Summer. All over again, the line between fact and fiction, truth and lies, blurs, and they both must confront what really happens in the woods five years ago, even if it means unearthing secrets that could end up deadly…

               There were elements of the book that I really enjoyed, and others that I’m still chewing on like pieces of gristle, sticking in my brain. Lauren Oliver writes with her signature, quiet bravado, pulling punches and delivering pacing like no other. The prose was gorgeous, even captivating, and I was utterly spellbound by Mia, Bryn, the ghost of summer, and the small snatches of the fictional novel, The Way into Lovelorn, that preceded each chapter. I liked the mystery of it and the way the point of view bounced between Mia and Bryn, seamlessly joining the past and present. I also really liked the side characters, especially Wayne, Owen, and Mia’s parents. I enjoyed the way that I was constantly guessing; mysteries and thrillers make me nervous because I tend to guess the killer before I even crack a hundred pages. But there were several parts of the book that bothered me, which was the ending. I won’t spoil it, because it’s one of the biggest plot points in the whole novel. But it just really bothered me; I was really hoping for more resolution. I wanted, too, more information about Summer; I wanted more of a proper picture of who she was in a person, the good and the bad. Nonetheless, Lauren Oliver has created a dark, horrifying tale of monsters, both real and imagined, obsession, secrets, and desire that will stick with me for as long as I live. The bottom line: A beautifully written, meticulously plotted mystery filled with secrets, shocking twists, and real-life monsters, Lauren Oliver has created a gripping, tense thriller of a book that will stay with me forever! Next on deck: Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2018/12/broken-things-by-lauren-oliver-review.html

Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore Review

Title: Blanca and Roja

Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy/Romance

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I’ve been a huge fan of Anna-Marie McLemore’s work since I read her debut novel, The Weight of Feathers, and I read her third book, Wild Beauty, for my book club a few months ago. So, when I heard that she was writing a diverse, mashup retelling of Snow White, Rose Red and The Wild Swans, I was so excited. I ordered it from my local library and it’s been sitting in my library stack for a while; after I couldn’t renew it anymore, I dove into it right after I finished Muse of Nightmares. (Well, after I was finished mourning the painful end of that series. But moving on.) I wasn’t sure quite what to expect, as I haven’t really read either of the fairy tales that the story was inspired by, but I was blown away. With lush, gorgeous prose, diverse characters that felt so real that I felt that when I finished, I was saying goodbye to a beloved group of friends. Blanca and Roja is the most brutal and beautiful of McLemore’s novels, captivating and tender and full of every kind of love you could possibly think of. A deliciously bittersweet exploration of sisterhood, first love, and sacrifice, I will never forget Blanca and Roja; I feel like they’ve burrowed into my heart and soul.

Blanca and Roja are two sisters, best friends, and rivals, because ever since they were tiny, the women in their family have been cursed: One sister is doomed to become a swan, taken by the flock that live nearby, and she must live out the rest of her years as a bird, while the other is untouched. This is the way things have always been, and how it always will be. Blanca is sweet, gentle, delicate, everything that her sister, Roja, is not. Roja is sharp-tongued, tomboyish, brash, loud, and curious. They know their fate, even when it means sacrificing everything. But things become even more complicated when two different people emerge from the wood near their home: Yearling, who has spent the last year as a bear, and is drawn to Roja in spite of hiding his own secrets, and Page, someone whose identity is as unclear as their motives. As the time draws near for one of the girls to gain wings and the other to remain human, the girls begin to wonder if they can, in fact, change their destinies, and find everything that they’ve denied themselves.

This book; it was amazing, a beautiful, bittersweet triumph of family, especially sisterly bonds, love in all of its forms, magic, and most importantly, agency, and the courage to change your fate, even when it seems that all the odds are stacked against you. The pacing was breakneck, the prose so gorgeous that more often than not, I was rereading lines, absolutely in awe over it, but even more than that, I was head over heels for the characters that she so lovingly created. I was utterly spellbound by this book, and I was so happy to finally be reading a diverse, gender-nonbinary fairy tale retelling; this is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life! I also really enjoyed the way that the point of view bounced between Blanca, Roja, Yearling, and Page; I loved that everyone was giving perspective on what was happening. I also liked the other characters: Roja and Blanca’s parents, Page’s loving, if confused, family, Yearling’s grandmother, mother and father, and cousins; each character was fleshed out beautifully and I was captivated. But honestly, the ending was what really got me. I cried through most of the book, but it was the worst when the book ended. It was so bittersweet, shocking, and unexpected; my heart was broken and then stitched back together all at once. Easily one of the best books of 2018, and I will never forget Blanca and Roja! The bottom line: A tender, beautiful, and brutal fairy telling retelling involving forbidden love, diverse and non-gender binary main characters, and the bonds of family, especially sisterhood! My favorite book by Anna-Marie McLemore, and one of the best books of 2018! Next on deck: For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2018/11/blanca-and-roja-by-anna-marie-mclemore.html

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