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The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Published January 13th 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

I‌ don’t think Holly Black’s books have ever been a hit or a miss for me – I’ve found her books all fairly middling, and The Darkest Part of the Forest was no different.

The beginning was fairytale-mysterious: a faerie boy, asleep in a glass coffin in the woods. There were changelings and strange notes and knights and protective mothers, and the twist at the end was both fitting and surprising. There was bits of high-school, bits on growing up, and bits of crackle-dark faerie fantasy all mixed together. The setting of Fairfolk, in particular, was my favorite thing, and how it managed to combine all the whimsy and eerie strangeness of The Darkest Part of the Forest’s fantastical elements with more mundane parts of an entirely ordinary town.

I‌ also really appreciated Hazel and Ben’s relationship. Often, I‌ find sibling relationships are portrayed as all or nothing, as siblings who share eVERYTHING with each other, or siblings who are so cold and distant you’d think them strangers. Hazel and Ben are close, but their relationship navigates its bumps and craters; there are secrets and jealousies and worries, just as there are lighthearted ribbing and support and care.

But, an okay read, a middling book, you may ask? And, yes. Quite honestly, I‌ think I‌ was more in love with the idea than the execution. Though at the opening, the writing is perfectly atmospheric and fairytale-ambling, it gradually grows to feel dry. Hazel was strong and brave… but hard to read at times, not an easy person to sympathize with at others, and dry. Ben was even harder to grasp as a character than Hazel was, and though the book certainly tried on both their behaves, to paint them in favorable and relatable lights, I just felt oddly detached. There was nothing inherently wrong with them, but nothing that really worked for them, either. It’s a little strange because the book spends so much time describing the siblings though the eyes of the other, and so we know so much about the two, but, still, they don’t seem to have much personality. I felt a little bad for Jack, the cinnamon roll character Doing His Best, but he was just… kind of… there? for most of the story? And Severin, for all his gorgeous introductions and mysterious circumstances, once awakened, was dull and dry and dry, dry, dry.

The pacing wanders in the beginning, skips a little, and then s l o w s. The attempts and build-up to the climax feel lost under the loose pieces of everything else. There’s not a lot of tension, and the stakes, though mentioned, don’t actually seem very significant. Toward the end, there came a point where I‌ was just tempted to skim through the rest because of how little substance each page was coming to actually cover.

Hazel and Ben’s respective romantic relationships, too, felt… off?‌ Lacked build-up. Like neither of them really developed from anything, but somehow they were there, they happened. (Though, the ending really was pretty cute-)

“Well fine, then. I‌ could send you out to win my favor. Possibly on a quest involving bringing a large mug of coffee and a doughnut. Or the wholesale slaughter of all my enemies. I‌ haven’t decided which.”

TL;DR: while I‌ liked the individual ideas and elements, as well as the setting and the first half of the book, The Darkest Part of the Forest gradually grew to feel dry, and a little tedious.

Things I Can’t Forget (Hundred Oaks) by Miranda Kenneally
Published March 1st 2013 by Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Auction
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school—although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different…

This summer she’s a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He’s the first guy she ever kissed, and he’s gone from a geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt – with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn’t that easy…

I’ve read Catching Jordan, Stealing Parker, and Racing Savannah, albeit a little out of series-order and a while ago, but I remember really enjoying the series for it’s fluffy yet realistic romance and sports elements. Things I Can’t Forget is my first peek back into the series after a good few years, and it’s definitely missing some of those elements I remember.

First up, a disclaimer: I’m not too good with religious books, and books that deal with heavily religious themes. Things I Can’t Forget lays it on thick, with the constant “will Brother John approve of this?” “am I living a good Christian life?” and, the golden “I hate it when Christians don’t act Christian-like” every paragraph or so. It made the first half a bit of a struggle to wade through, but I can appreciate how the author chooses to develop a character like that, and goes all out in doing so, instead of shying around Kate’s struggles, or ending it with a quick, fantastical, 180 position-reversal.

Kate’s relationships, both with Emily and Parker, were aspects I really, really loved, and the way the author took her time to explore all the ups, downs, and bends in both relationships made it feel all the more real and meaningful. (Also, Parker and Will were really fucking cute.) (Also, Jordan cameo!!!)

“King Crab Kate” and “Miniature Poodle Matt” is a cute exchange; “King Crab Kate” and “Miniature Poodle Matt” are really, really cute.

Also, back in high school, I worked at a local summer camp over my summer breaks, and covered both Chemistry (pet bottle rockets!!) and Art Director (clay chia pets and cork-board-pom-pom coasters!!!), and it was really fun to see bits and pieces of my experiences reflected here as well. Especially Brad’s thing about “I prefer working with the younger kids. Puberty scares me” and “I’d much rather deal with snakes and bears than kids going through puberty. Seems easier” – hard same. Middle and upper elementary kids are a terrifying, terrifying lot.

The ending, though, felt rushed and abrupt – all these dangling plot threads are tied up in just a small handful of pages, and it feels oddly hollow and lacking, like you had this huge cast of characters, each starkly different and unique from the other, and then at the end they were just kinda smushed together and patted on the head and then! It’s over!!

So all in all, Things I Can’t Forget was hardly set up to be a story I’d enjoy, but it’s a Miranda Kenneally book, and though it wasn’t my favorite Hundred Oaks book by any means, the supporting characters and the characters’ relationships managed to make up quite a bit.

别那么骄傲 by 随侯珠
Published September 2015 by 花山文艺出版社
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆

Chatting in the dormitory at night, roommates wonder how much pain Aunt Flow brings. Mr. Perfect He Zhi Zhou has never bothered joining in on these petty talks for amusement. That is, until he became a woman and laid in bed with a white-cast complexion……

Chatting in the female dormitory at night, roommates sighed over the current pairings in the school of engineering, Shen Xi was a little curious that the problem with these topics is that there was no way to test them. Until she became an engineering male and a bar of soap dropped in front of her……

Introduction in one sentence: About how a top-scoring perfect male with no desire in the opposite gender and an amusing female lead were set up like lightning setting the ground on fire spreading out of control—leading to a sweet and rippling life……

Life is so long, don’t be so arrogant. Some things are bound to deviate.

The first half was fluffy and silly and fun. HZZ really did end up drawing the short end of the stick in all this chaos, both his and SY’s reactions to everything were hilarious, and the way the author just… shamelessly and boldly charged headfirst into everything that differed between the male and female experience… I’m screaming. I did feel a lot of sympathy for LYT, but, maybe in part because we’re seeing this through SY’s eyes, I do feel like he had it coming, and that SY deserved a lot better than him. It did really feel like he only started trying to put in the effort once HZZ came into the picture, and once he realized that SY had other options, ones arguably better than him – only when he felt threatened. And while the latter half of the book took on a slightly repetitive pattern, and with a few questionable elements, it made for a nice, lighthearted read, and I really appreciated how steadfast the main couple was, even through their small squabbles and silliness. TL;DR I’m weak for fluffy, happy, silly stories and 别那么骄傲 was just that.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Published November 4th 2014 by Createspace
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose, deals with a different pain, heals a different heartache. milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.

I liked some of the poems, others felt rather incomplete – it was a pretty underwhelming read, despite the emotion and conviction behind every single word being pretty darn powerful. I don’t know how to feeeeeel.

Spider’s Revenge
(Elemental Assassin #5) by Jennifer Estep
Published September 27th 2011 by Pocket Books
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Old habits die hard. And I plan on mur­der­ing some­one before the night is through.

Killing used to be my reg­u­lar gig, after all. Gin Blanco, aka the Spi­der, assassin-for-hire. And I was very good at it. Now, I’m ready to make the one hit that truly mat­ters: Mab Mon­roe, the dan­ger­ous Fire ele­men­tal who mur­dered my fam­ily when I was thir­teen.

Oh, I don’t think the mis­sion will be easy, but turns out it’s a bit more prob­lem­atic than expected. The bitch knows I’m com­ing for her. So now I’m up against the army of lethal bounty hunters she hired to track me down. She also put a price on my baby sister’s head. Keep­ing Bria safe is my first pri­or­ity. Tak­ing Mab out is a close sec­ond.

Good thing I’ve got my pow­er­ful Stone and Ice magic — and my irre­sistible lover Owen Grayson — to watch my back. This bat­tle has been years in the mak­ing, and there’s a chance I won’t sur­vive. But if I’m going down, then Mab’s com­ing with me…no mat­ter what I have to do to make that happen.

There’s a plot there, somewhere, under all that repetition. In hindsight, the “army of lethal bounty hunters” feels way over-exaggerated, as does Gin’s skills – she keeps messing up perfectly good shots! I know she beats herself up for it and knew she screwed up, but it ends up feeling like cheap twists to stretch this one hit into a full-length book, and it doesn’t quite work for me. The fight sequences are still cool, though, and the last quarter or so of the book really picked up the slack.

Poison Study (Poison Study #1) by Maria V. Snyder
Published March 1st 2007 by Mira
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Choose: A quick death…Or slow poison…

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…

Poison Study has been on my wishlist for so, so long, and so many recommended lists have had at least one book by Maria V. Snyder on it, so really, what took me this long (at least seven years!!)?

In hindsight, part of my reaction might be on me. I’m not a avid a fan of romance as I used to be, and I’ve definitely become a lot pickier. But Poison Study was supposed to be a lot of different and interesting things – primarily, a poison tester! court intrigue! – and, while the resulting book wasn’t bad – I enjoyed it, and the characters were definitely the highlight – I think I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more a few years ago.

The transitions felt a little weird. It’s not that they were nonexistent, but they were set up in ways that disrupted the flow of the preceding and succeeding story. The breaks between scenes and switches between trains of thought felt jumpy at times, and all too brief at others. It makes chunks of the writing feel – what’s the word? something like fleeting? but with bad connotations? – and takes away a lot of the building tension and emotion, too, and overall just detracts from the story. In the same vein, the foreshadowing. It… wasn’t great? I won’t say what happened, but we aren’t fed breadcrumbs so much as we’re fed entire loaves.

And, okay, confession time: I don’t like Valek. I thought he was okay at the beginning, but as the story progressed, he just got more standoffish and demanding. He’s very obviously set up across from Yelena as the love interest, but most scenes with him just make me wish he was anything but. He irrationally gives her the cold shoulder out of the blue – nothing happens! he just gives her the cold shoulder! – and then a couple pages he just. Returns to normal? And nothing more is said on the topic? Like, okay. Most everyone else treats her awfully, particularly at the beginning, and I get it! It would be weird and unrealistic if they didn’t, seeing as she is a criminal and a murderer. And, Maren’s cold to her throughout, but I found myself really liking Maren, because to Yelena, she’s a trainer. And she’s cold but not an asshole, you feel? But Valek runs hot and cold, nice and asshole-y, on a hair-trigger, and he’s clearly set up to be her love interest, so here we have some problems. His holier-than-thou attitude air, especially in that one scene in which Yelena asks what she’s learned from him, and he replies with his attention – his attention?? after eeeeverything she’s accomplished at that point in the story???? – rubbed me the wrong way, to say the least. He does have his brief oh-no-he-s-cute moments – what can I say, I’m weak for the dark and brooding ML trope – but, for the vast majority of the time? Eeeeeh. I also really didn’t see how their relationship developed? One minute they seemed like employer and employee and then the next she and Rand are yelling and she realizes her ~feelings~. Gradual development, there is not.

I really liked Ari and Janco! And, as aforementioned, Maren! I liked the dynamic the author had set up, both between the two as well as between them and the rest of the characters. I love the little tight-knit family they developed between themselves. Their training sessions were one of the highlights of Poison Study for me, and I really wished we could’ve seen more of them!

OH. The one thing I was super on-the-edge about? The Commander. No spoilers, so I’m not going to dive deep into it, but. I have. Many thoughts.

The rest of the story’s pretty standard magical YA fantasy, in my opinion. The cast of supporting characters prop it all up, and the poison-eater element gives it a spark. It’s cool to see how everything slots together; I can really appreciate how the author managed to combine so many elements – spies, acrobatics, magic, political intrigue, food, psychological demons, and more – into one cohesive novel. It keeps you reading, despite the cons. I definitely appreciate how solid and thought-out a lot of Yelena’s turning-point choices felt, as if they were truly given their proper weight, as well as the non-cliffhanger-y, hopeful ending. As for the way it all developed, on paper, overall, from the set up to the conflict to the resolution, it’s very on par with most YA fantasy.

And while Poison Study isn’t groundbreaking by any stretch, it’s a pretty solid read, especially for fans of the genre.

Heart of Venom (Elemental Assassin #9) by Jennifer Estep
Published August 27th 2013 by Pocket Books
Source: Library
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

When a terror from the past threatens Gin’s friend and body-disposer, Sophia, Gin will stop at nothing to protect her, even if it means walking straight into a killer’s trap. Meanwhile, the rocky romance between Gin and Owen reaches a turning point—can they reunite and rekindle their love? Or will the things Gin has been forced to do in her line of work as the deadly assassin the Spider keep them apart forever? Assuming, that is, she survives long enough to find out…

I’m pretty sure you could read any book in the series at random and still know everything that came before courtesy of all the recaps. They’re not bad reads! But Estep has a formula, and she follows it to a T every single time; the same quips, the same story structure, even the same recaps. And especially after nine books, it gets old. Also, idc what he attempts to pull now – Owen’s never going to be able to bounce back from the mess he made for himself. It’s nice to get some closure on what’s been haunting Sophia and Jo-Jo for decades, and with that, I think this is as good a place as any in the series to stop.

Rookie Move (Brooklyn Bruisers #1) by Sarina Bowen
Published September 6th 2016 by Berkley
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

In high school they were the perfect couple—until the day Georgia left Leo in the cold…

Hockey player Leo Trevi has spent the last six years trying to do two things: get over the girl who broke his heart, and succeed in the NHL. But on the first day he’s called up to the newly franchised Brooklyn Bruisers, Leo gets checked on both sides, first by the team’s coach—who has a long simmering grudge, and then by the Bruisers’ sexy, icy publicist—his former girlfriend Georgia Worthington.

Saying goodbye to Leo was one of the hardest things Georgia ever had to do—and saying hello again isn’t much easier. Georgia is determined to keep their relationship strictly professional, but when a press conference microphone catches Leo declaring his feelings for her, things get really personal, really fast….

The romance was gumdrop-sweet and fluffy, and I loved the assembly of supporting characters. But I really wasn’t on board with the way the rape element was handled. Also, oof, the treatment of Leo’s exes was just. not. not great.

Lord of the Abyss (Royal House of Shadows #4) by Nalini Singh
Published November 22nd 2011 by Harlequin
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Once upon a time…the Blood Sorcerer vanquished the kingdom of Elden. To save their children, the queen scattered them to safety and the king filled them with vengeance. Only a magical timepiece connects the four royal heirs…and time is running out.…

As the dark Lord who condemns souls to damnation in the Abyss, Micah is nothing but a feared monster wrapped in impenetrable black armor. He has no idea he is the last heir of Elden, its last hope. Only one woman knows—the daughter of his enemy.

Liliana is nothing like her father, the Blood Sorcerer who’d cursed Micah. She sees past Micah’s armor to the prince inside. A prince whose sinful touch she craves. But first she has to brave his dark, dangerous lair and help him remember. Because they only have till midnight to save Elden.

It’s a bit of a departure from the Nalini Singh books I’m used to, the pacing was uneven in places, and I wasn’t super on board with some parts of the ending, but the characters were varying and interesting and I liked the directness of their relationships – it felt refreshing, in a sense.

And I Darken (The Conqueror’s Saga #1) by Kiersten White
Published June 28th 2016 by Delacorte Press
Source: Library
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

I saw this at the library and picked it up on a whim – I remember seeing this everywhere at one point and was a little curious. It didn’t occur to me until later that this Kiersten White was also the Kiersten White who wrote Paranormalcy and Mind Games, and. Wooooah. Her writing’s gotten so, so much better. The beginning was intense and atmospheric and engaging! The middle, though, felt like wading through molasses. The plot putters along under the weight of all these extra tidbits and tangents that I know contribute to future plot points and characters, but! But! The book is at a fairly hefty ~500 pages, with little more than some nicely arranged words to show for a good 300 pages at least, and without an interesting enough plot to motivate. And the decisions on the portrayal of history? I’m hardly an expert, and many have explained the missteps better than I ever could. I’ll just. Yikes.

Archangel’s Blade (Guild Hunter #4) by Nalini Singh
Published September 8th 2011 by Gollancz
Source: Library
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

The severed head marked by a distinctive tattoo on its cheek should have been a Guild case, but dark instincts honed over hundreds of years of life compel the vampire Dmitri to take control. There is something twisted about this death, something that whispers of centuries long past…but Dmitri’s need to discover the truth is nothing to the vicious strength of his response to the hunter assigned to decipher the tattoo.

Savaged in a brutal attack that almost killed her, Honor is nowhere near ready to come face to face with the seductive vampire who is an archangel’s right hand and who wears his cruelty as boldly as his lethal sensuality…the same vampire who has been her secret obsession since the day she was old enough to understand the inexplicable, violent emotions he aroused in her.

As desire turns into a dangerous compulsion that might destroy them both, it becomes clear the past will not stay buried. Something is hunting and it will not stop until it brings a blood-soaked nightmare to life once more…

I wasn’t a huge fan at the beginning, but it did pick up a lot once the book went on… only to spiral into NOPENOPENOPE at the end because fuck that bullshit plot point. Dimitri and Honor deserve better.

Archangel’s Storm (Guild Hunter #5) by Nalini Singh
Published September 13th 2012 by Gollancz
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

With wings of midnight and an affinity for shadows, Jason courts darkness. But now, with the Archangel Neha’s consort lying murdered in the jewel-studded palace that was his prison and her rage threatening cataclysmic devastation, Jason steps into the light, knowing he must unearth the murderer before it is too late.

Earning Neha’s trust comes at a price—Jason must tie himself to her bloodline through the Princess Mahiya, a woman with secrets so dangerous, she trusts no one. Least of all an enemy spymaster.

With only their relentless hunt for a violent, intelligent killer to unite them, Jason and Mahiya embark on a quest that leads to a centuries-old nightmare… and to the dark storm of an unexpected passion that threatens to drench them both in blood.

I was super curious about Jason so this turned out to be a little disappointing. He and Mahiya had so much potential! The book was on this upward curve and it was gETTING BETTER but then the ending was so terribly bland and I was terribly disappointed. (Also we could’ve done without all the Dimitri/Honor snippets and still been happy, thank you very much – it’s the whole Jason/Mahiya ending part we’re missing. Where did that ending putter off to? Where??)

The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes
Published February 17th 2015 by HarperTeen
Source: Won
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Ever since the night of the incident with Luke Willis, the preacher’s son, sophomore Hallelujah Calhoun has been silent. When the rumors swirled around school, she was silent. When her parents grounded her, she was silent. When her friends abandoned her… silent.

Now, six months later, on a youth group retreat in the Smoky Mountains, Hallie still can’t find a voice to answer the taunting. Shame and embarrassment haunt her, while Luke keeps coming up with new ways to humiliate her. Not even meeting Rachel, an outgoing newcomer who isn’t aware of her past, can pull Hallie out of her shell. Being on the defensive for so long has left her raw, and she doesn’t know who to trust.

On a group hike, the incessant bullying pushes Hallie to her limit. When Hallie, Rachel, and Hallie’s former friend Jonah get separated from the rest of the group, the situation quickly turns dire. Stranded in the wilderness, the three have no choice but to band together.

With past betrayals and harrowing obstacles in their way, Hallie fears they’ll never reach safety. Could speaking up about the night that changed everything close the distance between being lost and found? Or has she traveled too far to come back?

I usually don’t read religious books. It’s just a personal thing, really. And it feels kind of stupid to say this know, seeing as the synopsis does mention Luke’s the pastor’s son, and Hallie’s name being Hallelujah should’ve told me something, but I didn’t know religion would play such a huge part? That aside, I did find myself enjoying the other parts of the novel. The writing was quiet and beautiful, and I loved the character development Hallie went through: she’s so, so brave, and the book’s rather quick and short, but even so, the characters are well fleshed out. Hallie’s hard to like at first, but as the story goes on I found myself sympathetic towards and rooting for her just the same. Rachael is precious, and I’m so glad someone like her met someone like Hallie. Jonah… he was a bit of a tricky character? I didn’t really have any particular opinion toward him, but I really appreciate the author’s choices regarding some aspects of his and Hallie’s relationship, especially Hallie’s hesitation about the relationship between them while they were lost in the wilderness.

All in all, The Distance Between Lost and Found was a poignant, beautiful read. The parts I wasn’t sold on was more of an its-not-you-its-me thing, and I’d definitely jump at the chance to read more of the author’s books.

How to Disappear by Sharon Huss Roat
Published August 15th 2017 by HarperTeen
Source: Won
Rating: ★★★★☆

Vicky Decker has perfected the art of hiding in plain sight, quietly navigating the halls of her high school undetected except by her best (and only) friend, Jenna. But when Jenna moves away, Vicky’s isolation becomes unbearable.

So she decides to invent a social life by Photoshopping herself into other people’s pictures, posting them on Instagram under the screen name Vicurious. Instantly, she begins to get followers, so she adds herself to more photos from all over the world with all types of people. And as Vicurious’s online followers multiply, Vicky realizes she can make a whole life for herself without ever leaving her bedroom. But the more followers she finds online, the clearer it becomes that there are a lot of people out there who feel like her— #alone and #ignored in real life.

To help them, and herself, Vicky must find the courage to face her fear of being “seen,” because only then can she stop living vicariously and truly bring the magic of Vicurious to life.

I was initially kind of hesitant because from the synopsis it sounded like Vicky had photoshopped herself into other people’s pictures, and then people followed her on Instagram thinking that she’d actually gone to all those places. Which isn’t what happened at all – she photoshopped herself into other people’s photos, and its clear that she didn’t actually go, but that’s kind of the point: she photoshops herself into places she wishes she’s at but isn’t, and people follow her because they share the same sentiments. Everyone feels lonely and out of place and the account brings them all together, and there’s so many ways it could go wrong and the story hints and teases at some, but ultimately the account makes a wonderful, emotional impact. How to Disappear does make things rather simplistic, especially where the account is concerned, but it really gets you thinking.

The tone was a bit young for my personal preference, but this book punched me right in the feels and it was uncomfortable but in a good way? It was uncomfortable in the way it should be given me as a person and I’m shit at reviewing books I liked so hi hello please know that How to Disappear messed me up and I think you should read it.

Before She Ignites (Fallen Isles Trilogy #1) by Jodi Meadows
Published September 12th 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Purchased (Owlcrate!)
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Before

Mira Minkoba is the Hopebearer. Since the day she was born, she’s been told she’s special. Important. Perfect. She’s known across the Fallen Isles not just for her beauty, but for the Mira Treaty named after her, a peace agreement which united the seven islands against their enemies on the mainland.

But Mira has never felt as perfect as everyone says. She counts compulsively. She struggles with crippling anxiety. And she’s far too interested in dragons for a girl of her station.

After

Then Mira discovers an explosive secret that challenges everything she and the Treaty stand for. Betrayed by the very people she spent her life serving, Mira is sentenced to the Pit–the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles. There, a cruel guard would do anything to discover the secret she would die to protect.

No longer beholden to those who betrayed her, Mira must learn to survive on her own and unearth the dark truths about the Fallen Isles–and herself–before her very world begins to collapse.

There’s not that much to say about Before She Ignites. It wasn’t an explosive read on either end of the spectrum. Really, it read like a prequel of sorts? A set-up for future books in the series. “Illegal dragon trafficking” sounded right up my alley (DRAGONS!!), but everything turned out to be pretty shallow, and the before/after time skips didn’t really help the story along, so much as it did provide filler scenes between already-filler scenes. I did like the dynamic between a lot of the prisoners, and it was so, so nice to see this kind of mental health rep in YA fantasy. But also… a good chunk of the story in Before She Ignites turned out to follow Mira wandering around the prison and telling herself her parents will come save her soon – where were the dragons??

Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard
Published February 9th 2016 by HarperTeen
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.

Mare’s mantras of “I am special” and “I am the lightning girl” really grated on me (please get over yourself?), as did the quasi love-square (CAL AND KILORN DESERVE SO MUCH MORE) thing, and the second half was pretty much just a repeat of the first half in a different setting, but tHE ENDING. Thanks, Glass Sword, for reminding me of how weak I am to cliffhangers. Onto King’s Cage it is, then.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo
Published May 30th 2017 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds guidance in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

This book made me feel all smiley and fuzzy and want to watch all my favorite kdramas (The Moon Embracing The Sun!!! Also 10/10 would recommend Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo and Doctors and Strong Woman Do Bong Soon and ahhhh if you’re ever looking for recs just let me know!). BUT parts also made me want to bash my head against the wall.

I’ll ditch my usual review pattern and start with the good: I Believe in a Thing Called Love was a cute, fun read! It’s clumsy and quirky overall, and the highlight for me was definitely her relationship with her Dad. It was so natural and strong and just… really nice. Reading their scenes and their banter never failed to put a smile on my face. Loving father rep in YA, as far as I’ve seen, has been pretty dismal – I was really happy to read of a relationship like theirs.

And, okay, I spent the great majority of the book cringing and hiding my face in my hands (a portion of which was probably fully intended by the author, and the other portion just because I’m, well, me) and – no Desi why stop please don’t stop noooo. But in that good way, you know? That way by which you’re super invested in the story, regardless, in spite of, or maybe even because of all the cringing and excessive heaping of second-hand embarrassment. And then you reach the end and in spite of the raging fireball of disaster, everything works out! And you feel super relieved. It’s kind of like kdrama catharsis. I Believe in a Thing Called Love had that.

But. I Believe in a Thing Called Love had one glaring But: who plans a car accident? Who fakes drowning in a pool? In what world is that even remotely okay (and she planned TWO accidents)? I can get being desperate for a boyfriend and doing crazy things (I mean, I can’t really, but it happens?). But staging an accident? One that has real and serious consequences? That’s an entirely different issue. Which is entirely fucked up. I couldn’t get behind at all – not the way it started, not the way it played out, and not the way it ended and was resolved.

All in all though? I Believe in a Thing Called Love was up my alley – Asian rep and healthy familial relationships for the win! If you’re a fan of that over-the-top style asian kdrama – think The Heirs level – then this’ll definitely be the book for you.

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody
Published July 25th 2017 by Harlequin Teen
Source: ARC Traded
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

Ever since The Night Circus, in which I fell in love with the idea but not quite the execution, I’ve been looking for a good circus story. Daughter of the Burning City sounded like a promising candidate, but ultimately ended up like The Night Circus: I loved the premise, but not quite the execution.

Page one, then chapter one, and you’re introduced to a dazzling world – it’s a little out there, a little different, a little fantastical. I loved the idea of the illusions, the traveling circus city, a girl who had no eyes but could see, someone without a heart but had blood running through their veins… But at the same time, you’re plunged headfirst into these huge, block-of-text-paragraphs that infodump most every detail about the characters and the setting. This carries on for a good quarter of the story before the info dumping starts to ease up. I loved how unique and different all of Sorina’s illusions were – each of them sounded so vibrant and distinct from the other (nails instead of hair, an illusion I couldn’t help but picture as Groot, and a fire-baby, among others) – but there’s got to be a better way to introduce them, as well as the rest of the traveling circus to us, than by slamming it all into our faces by means of hefty, telling monologue.

The author has a dazzling imagination. It practically bleeds through in Daughter of the Burning City, the world she created was interesting and magical, and I’d definitely be up for reading her next novel. But I feel like this novel definitely could’ve benefitted from adhering more to the old “show not tell” saying.

And, whatever was up with Luca? There was all this awful stuff slung at him about his supposed sexuality, and, however the author had intended to portray Luca in the story, it came off as really was quite muddled. What the author explicitly said about Luca and what she actually wrote in for Luca seemed to contradict each other a lot of the time. I was pretty confused, and I’m really not quite sure how to feel about it all?

Aside from the confusion with the author’s intentions regarding Luca’s sexuality, though, he was my favorite character for the majority of the story. I loved how casual and multi-dimensional and solid he came off as. He was quirky and jaded in all the ways Sorina wasn’t, blase about the strangest things, and seemingly innocent about the simplest. And with quotes like-

“We both know that I’m no hero and you’re no damsel. Sorry, princess, this isn’t that sort of story.”

he’s definitely favorite character material^^.

And the mystery! I didn’t see that coming, but I should’ve. Daughter of the Burning City reads like a fantastical, slightly eerie murder mystery, which wasn’t quite what I was expecting when I started reading it, but I definitely didn’t dislike what I discovered it to be.

I just have to add though that the development at the end killed any support I had for the romance in this story, though. Call me old-fashioned, call me a prude, call me close-minded, but nope – I can’t get behind this. I just. Can’t. I don’t see how both sides could actually freely give consent in a relationship like that?

The main character, Sorina, was decent – she didn’t really stand out particularly in any way, but I liked her enough. I did really like and appreciate what the author did with addressing issues of self-esteem and diversity and the feeling of otherness through Sorina, though, as well as through some of the other supporting characters.

The highlight of Daughter of the Burning City was definitely the side-characters and the setting. Though it didn’t quite do the trick for me, I can definitely see what all the buzz and talk about Daughter of the Burning City was for.

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
Published April 5th 2016
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★½☆

Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

If it were me and I got a random email like that, especially from someone calling themselves Somebody/Nobody? It would’ve gone straight in the trash. Which is also probably why Jessie’s the main character of this novel, and I’m sitting here writing about it.

Overall, Tell Me Three Things was really cute and engaging! The falling in love through the written word thing gets me every single time – it’s probably my most searched fanfic tag and I love the idea to death – and it was no different here. Theo was my favorite character overall, and I really enjoyed seeing how his relationship with Jessie developed over the novel. The treatment of Jessie’s stepmother, in the latter half of the book had me pleasantly surprised, and I liked how, even though you can kind of guess who the mystery SN is, there are moments here and there that brings about doubt and uncertainty. I thought Ethan was kind of creepy and weird though. Sorry? There was all this stuff he did and said that I know was supposed to come off as sensitive, cute, considerate, or all of the above, but it all just rubbed me the wrong way. He was pretty main, though, and so, primarily because of him, every time I started really getting into Tell Me Three Things, and every time I thought the story was starting to get really really good, it would faceplant into something ridiculous and/or cringey and a little part of me just died.

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
Published June 6th 2017 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Love lives between the lines.

Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came.

Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction, and the escape. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore. She can’t see her future.

Henry’s future isn’t looking too promising, either. His girlfriend dumped him. The bookstore is slipping away. And his family is breaking apart.

As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.

“But I love you, and before you say it words do matter. They’re not pointless. If they were pointless then they couldn’t start revolutions and they wouldn’t change history and they wouldn’t be the things that you think about every night before you go to sleep. If they were just words we wouldn’t listen to songs, we wouldn’t beg to be read to when we’re kids. If they were just words, then they’d have no meaning and stories wouldn’t have been around since before humans could write. We wouldn’t have learned to write. If they were just words then people wouldn’t fall in love because of them, feel bad because of them, ache because of them, stop aching because of them, have sex, quite a lot of the time, because of them.”

Cath Crowley writes beautiful books. I’ve read two and a half now – snippets of A Little Wanting Song, Graffiti Moon in its entirety, and now Words in Deep Blue. They’ve all been quiet, lyrical sorts of reads, and it’s really highlighted in Words in Deep Blue with the Letters Library, which was a really cool touch. It was probably my favorite part of the story, actually: I loved reading all the letters, tucked between chapters of the story just as they would’ve been in the actual Letters Library, and Cath Crowley’s writing really shines through the most here because every single letter’s so delicate and lovely, especially George’s exchanges with “Pytheas.”

But while I really like the letters, I felt this huge disconnect with the rest of the story. Mainly because I couldn’t bring myself to care much for Rachel, and Henry was an asshole, and I couldn’t figure out what Rachel saw in him? Which was a downer. The rest of this book read as a gorgeous love letter of sorts to books and the written word, and then Rachel and Henry’s parts basically tracked mud all over that letter.

Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas
Published March 11th 2014 by Harper Teen
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆

Despite what her name might suggest, Heart has zero interest in complicated romance. So when her brilliant plan to go to prom with a group of friends is disrupted by two surprise invites, Heart knows there’s only one drama-free solution: flip a coin.

Heads: The jock. He might spend all night staring at his ex or throw up in the limo, but how bad can her brother’s best friend really be?

Tails: The theater geek…with a secret. What could be better than a guy who shares all Heart’s interests–even if he wants to share all his feelings?

Heart’s simple coin flip has somehow given her the chance to live out both dates. But where her prom night ends up might be the most surprising thing of all…

I thought this was really cute! It was the perfect read for my mood – fluffy, a little silly, and plenty adorable. The two routes writing style hardly ever works for me but Ask Again Later is one of the few exceptions. I can’t say I thought it was the best way to go as it still threw me off a little especially in the first half, but the author made it work, and I thought the ending was super sweet and satisfying.

Spellbinding by Maya Gold
Published April 1st 2013 by Scholastic Point
Source: Library
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

There’s more than one way to be powerful . . .

It is during a routine school project that Abby Silva–sixteen and nearly friendless–makes a startling discovery: She is descended from women who were accused of witchcraft back in 1600s Salem. And when Abby visits nearby Salem, strange, inexplicable events start to unfold. Objects move when she wills them to. Candles burst into sudden flame. And an ancient spellbook somehow winds up in her possession.

Trying to harness her newfound power, Abby concocts a love potion to win over her longtime crush–and exact revenge upon his cruel, bullying girlfriend. But old magic is not to be trifled with. Soon, Abby is thrust headlong into a world of hexes, secrets, and danger. And then there’s Rem Anders, the beautiful, mysterious Salem boy who seems to know more about Abby than he first lets on.

A reckoning is coming, and Abby will have to make sense of her history–and her heart–before she can face the powerful truth.

A quick read, almost painfully ridiculous for the most part, with ridiculously obvious “twists.” I’m not exactly the best at spotting plot twists, so when I can make a fair shot at mapping out the story – “unpredictable” twists and all – from almost the get-go, that should be a huge warning sign. And forget pulling cliches out of a hat – it felt as if the author just sat down and emptied it all out onto the story.