Spindle and Dagger by J. Anderson Coats – A Review

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Spindle and Dagger by J. Anderson Coats
Young Adult | Historical Fiction
Published by Candlewick Press
Released March 10th, 2020
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_2_stars

Note: I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher. This in no way affects my opinions.

The cover of Spindle and Dagger is gorgeous, and that’s what initially drew me to this novel. Then I learned that it was a historical fiction novel set in Wales in the 1110s, and I was absolutely down to read it. I love historical fiction, especially when it takes place somewhere that I’ve never been to. I had a feeling that I would really enjoy this novel.

Spindle and Dagger follows Elen, a teenage girl who watched her family be murdered by a warband and who convinced the leader said warband, Owain ap Cadwgan, that she could keep him alive through her connection with Saint Elen. While Elen’s basic needs are provided for, it is not an easy life. Her position hinges on Owain staying alive and she has no freedom.

Despite wanting to enjoy this book, I found myself having to push to get through it. I was bored the whole time. The thing is, there’s not necessarily anything wrong with Spindle and Dagger, but it’s just so average. I had no strong feelings about the characters or plot because they were all average. J. Anderson Coat’s writing was just fine.

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J. Anderson Coats

However, a novel being average and fine are not enough for me to enjoy or recommend it.

The story didn’t feel complete to me, but it’s hard for me to put my finger on where exactly it could have been fleshed out a bit more. Again, the storytelling and plot weren’t bad, but there was nothing that stood out as compelling.

Elen has severe PTSD from Owain’s warband raiding her home and murdering her family, and while there are instances within the story where the character has flashbacks, it should have been dealt with more. It seems like an important part of Elen’s character, but it never gets resolved or discussed in any way except in her flashbacks. In the same manner, Elen has also been a victim of rape and sexual assault, and that’s also passed over in the story.

Elen’s character didn’t grow enough during the story for me. From start to finish, she remains weak and timid, only daring to escape the warband when she has the help of someone else. There’s one moment towards the end of the novel where she attempts to take matters into her own hands, but it was hard for me to support her actions because ultimately they helped Owain and his band escape to continue chasing her.

I did think that Coats’ decision to tell the story in the first person from Elen’s point of view was the best way to tell this story. I also appreciated the author including a brief guide at the beginning of the book showing readers how to pronounce Welsh words. It helped a lot because even though Welsh is a beautiful language, it’s not an easy one for English speakers.

I can’t recommend this book because there wasn’t enough in it for me to enjoy. There are much better historical fiction novels on the market. The story was forgettable, and I had trouble recalling some of the names and plot points of the tale just two days after finishing it.


Have you read Spindle and Dagger? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.




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Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa – A Review

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Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa
Fantasy | Young Adult | Japanese-Inspired
Published by Harlequin Teen
Released October 2nd, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

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I’m very, very behind on reviews. I decided to re-read Shadow of the Fox during FantasyAThon Round 2 back in December. One of the prompts for the readathon was to finish a fantasy that you started but didn’t finish. I had attempted to read this book initially after receiving it in an OwlCrate around the time that it was released. I didn’t get that far into it that first time and eventually DNF-ed it. It wasn’t that the book was bad, I think I just wasn’t in the mood for a fantasy novel at the time.

I am so glad that I picked Shadow of the Fox up again because the second time around, I loved it. I just got the sequel, Soul of the Sword, from the library. The third and final book, Night of the Dragon, is coming out at the end of March 2020.

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Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox is the first book in a Japanese-inspired young adult fantasy trilogy. Our heroine is Yumeko, a teenager who is half human and half kitsune (the Japanese word for fox). She has fox magic and is being raised at the Silent Winds temple by a group of monks.

The Silent Winds temple holds a secret that Yumeko is unaware of, until one day they’re attacked by a horde of demons and the head Monk sends her away with a scroll that she has to save, or else the world will be plunged into darkness and evil.

As Yumeko flees, she meets a samurai named Kage Tatsumi, and they form a pact to travel together. Kage has secrets of his own, however, and Yumeko slowly learns that he’s more than she at first expected.

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A 19th-Century painting by Utagawa Kuniyoshi depicting a kitsune

The plot as a whole is simple, as it’s a group of people going on a quest together to prevent the end of the world. Yes, it’s been done a thousand times, but I personally adore quest and adventure fantasies (there’s a reason that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are my favorite books).

The whole story was engaging and I fell in love with Yumeko’s character. Her growth as a character was extraordinary, beginning as a mischievous girl with fox magic to a warrior in her own right. She’s initially just thrust into an important position that she was in no way prepared for, and despite the fear she felt, she did what she had to in order to protect the scroll. I’m very excited to see how Yumeko continues to grow in the second and third books in the trilogy.

I also enjoyed Kage’s character, in a different way. He’s mysterious, and also has an interesting character arc. I’m hesitant to say too much about his arc because of the spoilers involved in the story, but his tale is just as fascinating as Yumeko’s.

The most intriguing part of the entire book for me was the elements of Japanese folklore that Julie Kagawa wove throughout the story. The demons, hungry ghosts, and other creatures fascinated me, mainly because I haven’t read many Japanese-inspired fantasy novels. I loved it so much that it certainly won’t be the last that I read.

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The slow-burn friendship and romance of Yumeko and Kage were very well-done. In a lot of young adult fantasies, there’s a tendency for the author to write insta-love type romances, which is a huge pet peeve of mine. Kagawa crafted their relationship so artfully that the reader really gets drawn into it.

Within the first fifty pages, one aspect of the novel that got on my nerves was that the chapters are told from multiple perspectives, but you’re not told who is narrating. You have to just figure it out. As the novel progressed, it became much easier to pick out who the narrator was right away, but for the first several chapters it was incredibly confusing.

Although Shadow of the Fox has some basic and common elements of young adult fantasy that might wear on people, overall I recommend the novel to people who want to explore a fantasy world not based on European aesthetics. I’m eagerly looking forward to finishing the trilogy this year.


Have you read Shadow of the Fox? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!




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Again, but Better by Christine Riccio – A Review

Again but Better Christine Riccio

Again, but Better by Christine Riccio
Contemporary | New Adult | Romance
Published by Wednesday Books
Released May 7th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_2_and_a_half_stars

“So—why didn’t something happen?”

Because of me. Because I let fear make decisions for me. Because I’ve chosen to let the world push me around instead of pushing my way through the world.”

You may recognize Christine Riccio’s name, especially if you’re in the book community. Christine is one of the most popular booktubers on YouTube, where her channel, PolandBananasBooks has over 400,000 subscribers. Again, but Better is Riccio’s debut novel.

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Christine Riccio

While I don’t usually read a great deal of young adult or new adult contemporary fiction, I was intrigued by the concept of this book. The story follows a university student named Shane Primaveri who is traveling to London for a semester of study-abroad classes. Her goal is to essentially have a college do-over; at her American school, she’s quiet and doesn’t have a lot of friends, so in London, she decides to be outgoing and social.

Once in London, she makes friends with her roommates Babe and Sahra, and her male neighbors, Pilot and Atticus. A romantic relationship starts to spark between herself and Pilot, and the story moves on from there.

The main reason I was intrigued by this novel was its unexpected time travel element. I can’t say too much about this part of the book because there would be major spoilers involved, but essentially, Shane has the chance to live a hypothetical question that many of us think about: If you could go back in time with all of the knowledge that you have now, would you do it? I love thinking about that question (and if you’re curious about my answer, I would absolutely go back in time for a do-over), and I haven’t found many books that discuss that question.

Another aspect of the novel that drew me in is that I wanted to live vicariously through a character that did something that I really wanted to do in college. Before I dropped out of my political science program (because it was making me angry and cynical), I really wanted to study abroad in the U.K. Aside from my obsession with British history (which started in high school out of the blue), like Shane, I also wanted a social do-over. I’ve always been the quiet, meek girl, and have always had an irrational desire to move to a new place to become a different person. It’s never worked, of course. As Neil Gaiman wrote in The Graveyard Book, “Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.”

That’s all that I feel comfortable saying about the plot of the novel, so let’s move on to my review.

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While I was entertained by this novel in a guilty-pleasure sort of way, objectively, it wasn’t good. For the first several chapters, I seriously considered DNF-ing it, but I talked myself out of it and read on. It was a fun, light story, but one that I probably wouldn’t read again.

The book itself and its characters were incredibly cringy and overwhelmingly silly. First, we have the characters’ names – Pilot Penn, Babe Lozenge, etc. Second, nearly everything that Shane does made me cringe, from the way she talks to her crush, Pilot, the never-ending Lost, Dan Brown, and Taylor Swift references, to just Shane’s behavior in general. Her character is awkward as hell and, again, super cringy. Shane has a tendency to act much more immature than a college student should have. One out of the many, many examples: On their first day in the dorms, Shane and Pilot walk to a grocery store and the whole time Shane is trying to decide if it’s a date and if he’s going to kiss her. Seriously? She literally just met him and knows nothing about him. It was an annoying part of the book.

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The relationship between Shane and Pilot was mediocre. For one thing, Shane becomes obsessed with a guy she barely knows. It’s very insta-lovey, which is a trope that drives me insane. For the majority of the book, she obsesses over everything he does, in a manner that is borderline stalkerish. Also, Pilot has a girlfriend back in America. Once Shane discovers this information, it doesn’t stop her from swooning over him and pretending that he’ll still choose her. I can never get behind cheating in a relationship, even in a fictional story, so that alone was one of the reasons I gave this novel a lower rating. Shane is way too okay with continuing to flirt with Pilot without ever talking to him about his girlfriend; at least until his girlfriend comes to visit and she is forced to confront the issue. It’s one of Shane’s characteristics that make her an untrustworthy character, along with the fact that she lies to her parents about why she’s in London.

While I knew about the magical aspects of the novel ahead of time, it still caught me a little bit off-guard. The time travel was done pretty well, but it was incredibly predictable. I doubt many people would be able to read this book and not predict its outcome.

One of the positive things about this novel was that it was a pretty decent portrayal of social anxiety. Shane obsesses over how she appears to her new friends and has to force herself to become more social. That’s something that a lot of us can relate to.

The last thing I want to say in this review (which is turning out to be quite a bit longer than I was expecting) is that it’s very clear that Shane is Christine. I feel like she didn’t even try to disguise the similarities. First, Shane is a blogger that writes under the name FrenchWatermelons19. Second, the description of Shane’s character could also describe Christine. Third, there are tons of references to books that Christine talks about frequently on her channel, such as Twilight, Harry Potter, and the Shadowhunter books.

In the end, while I did enjoy reading this book, it wasn’t good. There were so many issues with the writing and characters that I found myself unable to overlook. If you’re a fan of Christine Riccio and want to read this novel, go ahead. However, if you’re looking for great literature, this is most definitely not it.


Have you read Again, but Better? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!


Looking for some more contemporary fiction?

With the Fire on High | The Unhoneymooners | A Very Large Expanse of Sea | The Hate U Give | The Simple Wild




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Let’s Call It a Doomsday by Katie Henry – A Review

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Let’s Call It a Doomsday by Katie Henry
Contemporary | Mental Health | Young Adult
Published by Katherine Tegen Books
Released August 6th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

Words matter. Words are important, their definitions and histories are important, they mean something. Words tell every story that has ever been told, by fires in caves and castles and by prairie campfires. Under blue skies, under blankets of stars, in mountains and valleys, and forests and deserts. Thousands of years, thousands of words, thousands of people who have loved each other, needed each other, grasped for each other in the dark of the world.


Readers rely on a book’s synopsis to tell them if it’s the sort of book they would like to read. Sometimes, however, those synopses can be very misleading.

Here is the publisher’s synopsis for Let’s Call It a Doomsday:

There are so many ways the world could end. There could be a fire. A catastrophic flood. A super eruption that spews lakes of lava. Ellis Kimball has made note of all possible scenarios, and she is prepared for each one. What she doesn’t expect is meeting Hannah Marks in her therapist’s waiting room. Hannah calls their meeting fate. After all, Ellis is scared about the end of the world; Hannah knows when it’s going to happen.

Despite Ellis’s anxiety — about what others think of her, about what she’s doing wrong, about the safety of her loved ones — the two girls become fast friends. As Ellis tries to help Hannah decipher the details of her doomsday premonition, she learns there are secrets Hannah isn’t telling her. But with time ticking down, the search for answers only raises more questions. When does it happen? Who will believe them? How do you prepare for the end of the world when it feels like your life is just getting started?

Katie Henry, the author of Heretics Anonymous, delivers an engrossing and thoughtful tale about how people survive — with some faith in family, friends, and maybe a few prepper forums.

I read that and thought, “Oh cool, a new post-apocalyptic book! I should read that!”, and I doubt I’m the only one. There is nothing apocalyptic about this young adult novel, and because I went into the book expecting it to be, I ended up not really enjoying it.

This doesn’t mean that the book was bad. In fact, Katie Henry’s writing was quite good, and if I had known what the book was actually about before going into it, I would have rated it higher. However, the synopses given for this book is actively misleading.

So, what is the book actually about? It’s about a girl named Ellis who has an anxiety disorder and her new friend Hannah. Ellis is obsessed with preparedness and being able to protect her family for any kind of catastrophe that could possibly happen. She then meets Hannah, who convinces Ellis that she knows when and where the world will end. Together, they try to discover exactly what will happen.

The real story, however, is Ellis learning to overcome her anxiety, and Hannah trying to find someone that she’s lost (I don’t want to say who exactly due to spoilers).

From early on in the book, I identified with Ellis. Aside from the Mormonism, she is pretty much an exact version of who I was in high school. Especially her love of her high school’s library, just like I loved mine:

It’s a perfect place within another perfect place. And maybe a public school library wouldn’t be everyone’s perfect place, but it’s mine. Everything about the library is routine. Every time I walk inside, the steps I take are as replicable as a lab experiment, and much safer. 

Also, her internal dialogue could have been taken straight from my 16-year-old brain. It’s rare that I find a character who reminds me of the anxious, depressed, mess of a girl that I was in high school, but this book reminded me that it’s okay to be who you are, even if that means having anxiety. I wish I had read this book in high school.

It was interesting to read a book where the main character is religious and actively practicing. While I’m not at all religious, it’s an unusual aspect of a genre that is rarely touched upon, and added a unique touch to the story. I learned a lot about Mormons that I never knew before.

I wish that I hadn’t felt mislead by the synopsis, because I know I would have enjoyed the book more had I not been expecting something apocalyptic to happen. Publishers need to be more careful about marketing to the right crowd.


Have you read Let’s Call It a Doomsday? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!


Looking for some more young adult contemporary?

With the Fire on High | A Very Large Expanse of Sea | The Hate U Give




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Cover Reveal for Tahereh Mafi’s “Imagine Me”

First, we had Shatter Me, the book that began everything.

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Next, came Unravel Me.

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Then we got Ignite Me.

(Whose cover is my personal favorite)

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Restore Me came next.

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Book #5 was Defy Me.

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And, finally, we have Imagine Me!

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How gorgeous is that cover?

The finale to Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me series is set to be released on March 31, 2020.

Are you excited?




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Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman – A Review

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Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman
YA | Horror
Released January 11, 2003
Published by Simon Pulse
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

How many of us judge a book by its cover?

As much as I hate to admit it, I do. Frequently, actually.

This is one of those occasions where I needed to remind myself that I’m not supposed to do that. I find the cover of Neal Shusterman’s Full Tilt absolutely atrocious, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

Full Tilt is a young adult horror novel that takes place at the night-time carnival of your nightmares.

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Photo by Andre Ouellet on Unsplash

The novel focuses on two brothers, Blake and Quinn. Quinn has obvious emotional and anger problems and doesn’t quite fit in with Blake and his friends. One night, Blake, Quinn, and Blake’s friends Maggie and Russ go to a theme park together. At one of the game booths, Blake is approached by a mysterious woman who hands him an invitation to a secret, night-time carnival.

Blake has no intention of going until he finds his brother Quinn passed out with the invitation in his pocket. Blake believes that Quinn has left his body and gone to the carnival. Obviously, you have to suspend your belief with this novel, but it’s very well done.

Blake, Maggie, and Russ show up at the secret carnival, where they are told they have to finish all seven rides before dawn. This seems simple enough… at first. As they proceed through the carnival they realize that the rides have deadly and mind-altering consequences. People that don’t make it out of the park by dawn or that get lost during one of the rides is stuck in the carnival forever, becoming a literal part of it.

Blake, who ends up facing most of the rides alone, is determined to save Quinn from becoming part of the carnival. At the same time, however, he also has to come face to face with a horrific part of his past.

I believe Full Tilt is the first young adult horror novel I’ve ever read. The tone of the story is such that you can definitely tell it’s written for readers around high school age. Even though bits of the story may have felt too young for me at times, I still enjoyed the ride (ahem).

I thought the representation of PTSD was solid, as Blake has immense trouble coping with an event that happened when he was young. As fun as this novel was, it still dealt with a serious condition that you don’t often see in young adult novels. Aside from PTSD, it also dealt with depression (Quinn’s) and divorce.

The character development of Blake and Quinn is solid, although the side characters aren’t nearly as well-developed. Part of the reason why this novel is so enticing is due to the brotherly relationship between Blake and Quinn, who are vastly different and rarely see eye-to-eye.

“The park tapped into our longings, our fears, our habits, and our choices. This minefield had been perfectly, strategically, placed to cause the most damage if Quinn and I followed our normal patterns of behavior when we encountered it. So much of my life had been under tight control. So much of Quinn’s life had been wild insanity. What we needed now was both: a directed burst of controlled insanity.”

Although I have purchased a copy of Neal Shusterman’s ScytheI haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, so Full Tilt was my introduction to his writing. I enjoyed this book enough to find myself interested in his other novels.

If you’re looking for a short, fast-paced, young adult horror novel, look no further. Full Tilt will be perfect for you.




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Doctor Strange: The Fate of Dreams by Devin Grayson – A Review

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Doctor Strange: The Fate of Dreams by Devin Grayson
Young adult | Supernatural | Superhero
Published by Marvel
Released October 18, 2016
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

While I knew that DC Comics had published various novels based on their iconic comic book characters (such as Catwoman, Batman, and Wonder Woman), I wasn’t aware that Marvel had done this as well until I happened upon this novel at my favorite comic book shop, Trilogy Comics.

Doctor Strange is my favorite Marvel character, as well as my favorite superhero. While I’m not a fan of the MCU movie (there were no incantations and it wasn’t campy enough!), I’m always excited when I see a new Doctor Strange story, and I added this novel to my much-too-large pile of comics.

The Fate of Dreams follows Doctor Strange as he tries to discover what’s causing people to fight one another on the streets and carry out wild ideas, which seems to be creating unease in the magical community.

Working alongside Sharanya Misra, a dream researcher, and an Inhuman named Jane Bailey, Doctor Strange creates a shocking alliance with his classic nemesis, Nightmare,  the ruler of one of the dream dimensions. Together they travel into the dream dimension to try to find and fix the problem.

While I had some issues with the novel, I generally enjoyed it. It was interesting to get more backstory about Doctor Strange’s life than what you would normally find in a comic book, especially when it delved into his early life and the death of his sister. I’m not sure how canon this history was, because I haven’t seen the same specific details anywhere else, but they certainly added an extra dimension to his history, and even explained his reasons for becoming a doctor.

I found the character of Sharanya irrelevant to the story. Despite being a dream researcher traveling through the dream dimension, she didn’t do much to advance the story and seemed to be written into the narrative simply to add another character. Her presence didn’t annoy or bother me, but I truly feel that nothing would have changed had she not been in the story. Perhaps this can be attributed to the lack of character development. If there’s one huge fault in this novel, it’s that the readers are expected to have some pre-existing knowledge of the Marvel characters and that the new characters (Jane and Sharanya) aren’t given enough backstory and personality for us to grow attached to them.

One of the most interesting aspects of the novel for me was watching Nightmare work alongside Doctor Strange, and witness Nightmare’s fondness for Jane, the Inhuman character. Nightmare is one of my favorite Doctor Strange villains, and reading about him holding hands with a character (Jane) and being practically friendly with Doctor Strange was bizarre, although slightly enjoyable at the same time.

Another thing I’d like to point out is this interesting description of spells that Doctor Strange gives to Sharanya:

“The magical arts have a long literary tradition. Words are powerful. So powerful, in fact, that when we first started writing them down, we ‘spelled’ them. … Spells have to be crafted, and using rhyming or alliteration is one way of channeling power and intent through them.”

One of my favorite aspects of Doctor Strange comics has always been the use of slightly campy incantations, and I was thrilled that those were included in the novelization.

If you are looking for a quick, enjoyable novel about Doctor Strange, I’d recommend checking this out from your local library. It’s not the kind of thing a person might read multiple times, but it is fun.

For a Doctor Strange comic that I loved and recommend, I have a review of a five-issue series called The Oath that is worth reading.

Have you read The Fate of Dreams? What were your thoughts? Also, if you have any Doctor Strange comics you love, leave your recommendations down in the comments. 

The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke – A Review

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The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke
Young Adult | Fantasy | Historical Fiction
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Released October 2, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars

I was intrigued by this book after hearing it described numerous times as a gender-bent retelling of Beowulf. I thought that was a really awesome idea, so I decided to read both Beowulf and The Boneless Mercies back to back. I love anything inspired by Scandinavian history and Vikings, so I had a good feeling about this book.

What I discovered in this novel, however, was not so much a retelling of Beowulf, but instead a story about a strong group of women working together to change their lives and do what’s right.

The story takes place in a setting that is very obviously inspired by Norse history, and Viking mythology more specifically. The author, April Genevieve Tucholke, decided to differentiate between real history and the setting of this novel by changing some names a tiny bit: instead of Odin, they worship Oben; instead of traveling to Valhalla when they die, they end up in Holhalla. Those changes only distracted me from the story, and they’re so close to the real thing that I wish Tucholke had just decided to leave the names as we know them.

The group of girls that we follow are called Mercies, and they perform mercy killings for people who are near death and suffering. Very rarely, they will do a vengeance killing, but they travel from village to village and are sought out for their services. I was hooked from the very beginning of this novel. Between the atmospheric first chapter, where they are performing one of those mercy killings, to the idea of their role in society, I found all of it very fascinating and flew through this book in order to learn more.

Tucholke’s writing is well-paced, and I enjoyed her use of foreshadowing to move the story along. While I’ll admit that the foreshadowing was blatantly obvious, and I generally want something less so, it worked well in this particular novel. I also appreciated that all of the main characters had distinct personalities and wants. None of them wanted the same things in their future, but their connections and loyalty to one another were what kept them together.

Our main character is Frey, who isn’t happy with her current life. She dreams of a life of glory and wants to become a warrior:

A person was never truly dead as long as someone, somewhere, remembered them. Memories made you immortal. This was why men went to war. Why they had climbed in their longboats and raided Elshland, before the gold dried up. They risked their short, mortal lives for the everlasting glow of immortality. A chance to be a hero in a bard’s song. 

As the group of Mercies travels, they hear of a deadly beast who is terrorizing villages and the jarl has put a price on its head. Despite hearing that many have tried to kill the beast only to die themselves, Frey and the others decide to take on the task themselves and make a pact to head to that distant jarldom.

The journey is a dangerous one, however, as it takes them through the Red Willow Marsh, which is ruled by a witch called “The Cut Queen,” who is known for her violence. Eventually, the Mercies make it to the village that the beast is terrorizing, and announce to the Jarl that they have come to save them all.

If this was an intentional retelling of Beowulf, it was a very, very loose one. The only real similarities that I could see were that the story was inspired by Norse mythologies and that their goal is to kill a beast terrorizing a village. That’s it. The rest of the story is nothing like Beowulf, and I feel that the expectation actually takes away from the enjoyment of this story. I kept expecting certain things to happen, and doing so took away some of my organic enjoyment of the story.

There are three things I adored about this book that I want to point out:  First, this is really a book about friendships. I loved all of the relationships in this novel, and they were endearing and realistic. Second, it was fun reading a combination of Norse mythology and witchcraft, and I wish that was a setting that was used more, especially in adult fiction (if you know of any, let me know in the comments!). Finally, the author does an amazing job of humanizing the villains in the story, and I love the theme of wrong and right not being entirely separate; in fact, that was probably my favorite aspect of the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel, despite its imperfections. I wish the author had spent more time describing the settings and society to us, and I would have loved more backstory on each character. However, in the end, it was a book I’m glad to have read.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han – A Review

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Young Adult | Contemporary | Romance
Published by Simon & Schuster
Released April 15, 2014
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

I’m usually pretty good at avoiding the hype surrounding books, but To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is one that I chose to read because of that hype. I’m not generally a fan of young adult contemporaries, and I also don’t read much in the way of romance. Normally, I doubt I would have read this book, but I kept seeing it and hearing about it literally everywhere, so I finally picked it up at my library.

Not quite a third of the way through this book, I realized that I was too old for it. I hate DNF-ing a book though, so I finished reading it. In this review, I’m going to imagine my thoughts had I read the book back in high school, which is the age group that it’s meant for. While I’m of the opinion that people should read whatever the hell they want to, whether it’s young adult, children’s, or adult literature, I’m starting to realize that my interest in young adult contemporary is fading fast. I still love young adult fantasy (I’m literally dying as I wait for Sabaa Tahir’s next installment of the An Ember in the Ashes series) and am willing to read plenty of YA horror, sci-fi, and magical realism, but everything else is starting to feel much too young to me, which makes it difficult to identify with the characters.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the first book in a trilogy about Lara Jean, a teenage girl who writes secret love letters to the boys in her life that she falls in love with. The letters are hidden out of sight and are not meant for anyone else to see. One day, however, her letters disappear, and she’s horrified to find out that somebody mailed them out to the boys she’d loved.

I enjoyed the plot of this novel. If something like that had happened to me when I was a teenager I would have been humiliated and would have hidden away in my bedroom until the end of time.

Out of the five letters sent, one is to her older sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh; the second is to Peter, her first kiss and an old friend she’s fell out of touch with; a boy from a summer camp she attended named Kenny; and finally John and Lucas, two of her peers at school.

There’s a bit of a love triangle here, which is a trope I don’t enjoy. Josh and Peter are her two main interests in this novel, and I found both of them to be problematic. Josh was her sister’s ex and essentially a member of her family, and it seemed as though Josh was reeling from being broken up with by Lara Jean’s sister, which lead to quite a bit of uncomfortable awkwardness. Then we have Peter, who starts “fake-dating” Lara Jean so they can make both Josh and Peter’s ex-girlfriend jealous. As an adult, I find all three of the characters to be petty, and the real and fake relationships a terrible idea, but as a teenager, I probably would have enjoyed the book.

The writing and the pacing were good, and I found that the characters were developed enough to have very distinct personalities. Since, as I said earlier, I feel like this book is too young for me, I won’t be continuing with the rest of the series, but I’d still recommend this book to people who love young adult contemporary romances.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – A Review

 

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Contemporary | Young Adult
Published by Balzer + Bray
Released February 28, 2017
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give deserves all the hype surrounding it. It’s a well-written, thoughtful, and important book that deals with difficult topics, and I’m certain this book is going to be read in schools for years to come.

The book has been sitting on my shelf for way too long, but I’m glad I finally picked it up. I occasionally listened to the audiobook while reading it, and the audiobook is amazing. It’s narrated by Bahni Turpin and she does a spectacular job of putting emotion into the story and giving all the characters distinct voices and tones.

The Hate U Give is a book that was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. We follow Starr Carter, who witnesses her childhood friend, Khalil, get shot at the hands of the police. Khalil didn’t have any weapons and wasn’t threatening the police officer, and was shot in the back right in front of Starr.

As the event’s only witness, Starr has to decide if she wants to speak up or stay silent and also has to deal with the police, gang violence, and more. It’s certainly a difficult novel to read, but one that I think everyone should read.

Starr has to deal with being two different versions of herself: the Starr in Garden Heights, and the Starr that goes to a mostly white private school. In the process, we meet other topics head-on, such as interracial dating, privilege, and racism.

More than anything, this book is about placing value on human life. After Khalil’s shooting, the media paints him in a harsh light, as a drug-dealing gangbanger who may have deserved being shot. One of Starr’s white friends openly states that she doesn’t understand why people care so much about a drug dealer being shot. However, this book shows us the reality behind the media: that Khalil, and all of his real-life counterparts, are real people, who didn’t deserve to be murdered.

This was Angie Thomas’ first book, but it has the polish of a seasoned writer. It was well-paced, the characters were three-dimensional and felt real, Starr was absolutely believable as a teenage girl, and it was just all-around written perfectly.

I want everyone to read this book. It’s a book that America needs, and I’m glad Angie Thomas wrote it.

As a side note, Angie Thomas’ second book, On the Come Upis already out if you’re interested in reading it.


Have you read The Hate U Give? What were your thoughts on it?




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