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Howl’s Moving Castle (Howl’s Moving Castle #1) by Diana Wynne Jones
Published August 1st 2001 by Harper Trophy (first published April 1986)
Source: Audiobook gifted
Rating: ★★★★☆

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

“Well, he’s fickle, careless, selfish, and hysterical… He’s a mess.”

This was magical.

Howl is the most extra, sullen drama queen – “Help me, someone! I’m dying from neglect up here!” – thoughtless and vain yet sweet and thoughtful; Michael is a good, sweet little bean doing his best amidst the chaos; Calcifer is a sulky, grumpy fire demon, ready for said chaos; Sophie is self-deprecating but headstrong and savage, self-asserting and a bit of a busybody, independent and no-nonsense and, honestly, the best; together, they were the best kind of messy, and I‌ love them all.

“She felt he ought with that face to have been more unsure of himself”

And, honestly, I’m not just saying this because I‌ loved the Ghibli movie. In fact, they’re rather drastically different:‌ the movie is innocent and dreamy and sweepingly romantic, whereas this is far more whimsical, Sophie much more nosy and snarky, the plot chock-full of sentient objects and muttering fire-demons and the dreaded green slime. The book and movie are like… distant cousins? with elements of the same thing, but diverging executions, and utterly engaging in their own ways.

I love the subtle magics, and the little pieces of foreshadowing – the hats, the stick, the skull, the dog, the door, and so on – that come together so easily and perfectly, and the seemingly effortless depth and sprawl of the worldbuilding.

If I‌ had to point out a weakness, I‌’d say that the writing style can lean toward distant or stiff at times, but is revived with sprinkles of Sophie’s upright but wry sense of humor.

Howl’s Moving Castle is fantastic, and the audiobook version just as so. If you’re even the slightest bit interested in reading this, I’d highly recommend you do!

“I think we ought to live happily ever after.”

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
Published January 13th 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

I didn’t really intend for my past week’s reads to all be books on the fae, but somehow that’s the way it turned out, and, well, I’m really not complaining. Give me aaaallllll the fae books!!

But. So. Yes. An Enchantment of Ravens.

“Somehow I’ve even grown fond of your – your irritating questions, and your short legs, and your accidental attempts to kill me.”

The writing is really. Smooth? Is that the word?‌ I can’t think up a better one at the moment, but it flows so nicely, one thing into the other, a gentle, meandering sort of prose that’s really just suited to the story – reads like a real fairytale. An Enchantment of Ravens isn’t without its flaws – and yeah, there are many, starting but not limited to the jolt that was the beginning of their relationship, the fact that Rook is endearing but childishly so, and Isobel is headstrong and mature, her feet firmly on the ground, and call me a cynic but that all but spells a recipe for future disaster, the entirely transparent “morally grey” character, and the entirely too neat, glossing, two-paragraph summary that was the ending – but the writing leads you gently through them, has you enjoying the story just the same.

The worldbuilding is dynamic and glamorously rich, Gadfly’s court a balance of luxurious and unsettling, and Isobel’s family unruly and endearing and so, so precious. An Enchantment of Ravens treats arts, treats Crafts with the gentlest, daintiest hand – the descriptions of Isobel’s creations, especially while she was painting them, almost made me want to pick up the brush as well. I‌ mean.‌ Until I remember that I’m absolutely positively awful at the fine arts. Miserably so, really. A tragedy.

Rook’s a little surly, entirely‌ vain, but it works for him. Maybe a little too well. It’s adorable, really, and throughout the novel, all I‌ could picture was a disgruntled-looking raven with his head halfway-stuck through a barely-opened window, or in the later chapters, as the book so aptly puts it, a cat watching its favorite furniture get moved without its permission. (Also, Rook re: his not-brown-but-copper outfit is me re: my fifty shades of navy shirts)

Isobel is practical and dependable, clever and adaptable. She’s careful and considerate in an almost crafty sort of way. I‌ wish her all the best things in life, including omelets for breakfast every morning, to her heart’s desire.

(I had this niggling thought throughout the novel, stronger in hindsight, that Isobel’s too much Rook’s savior, too much Rook’s caretaker for them to live happily-beyond-the-ending. Also, another niggling-thought-turned-clear-hindsight-revelation: the plot’s pretty convoluted?‌ It sets off doing one thing, but halfway through shifts axes completely? The journeying and court-hopping was interesting to read about, but woah – in hindsight, that wasn’t what was explained to us at all.)

An Enchantment of Ravens had an almost melodramatic flourish at times, but it was coupled with bursts of oddity – goat sister arguments, Rook’s unexpected and disgruntled childishness and/or vanity, Isobel sitting on a sword to end an argument – that, somehow, the overall tone didn’t seem too bad, too over-the-top.

So, all in all, An Enchantment of Ravens wasn’t a perfect read, but the writing was beautiful and engaging and, dare I say, made up or otherwise covered for a significant portion of the story’s faults. It’s pretty. It’s whimsical. And that cover?‌ To die for.

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.

Illusive (Illusive #1) by Emily Lloyd-Jones
Published July 15th 2014 by Little, Brown and Company
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆

THEY ARE YOUNG.

THEY ARE CRIMINALS.

THEY ARE IMMUNE.

When the MK virus swept across the planet, a vaccine was created to stop the epidemic, but it came with some unexpected side effects. A small percentage of the population developed superhero-like powers, and Americans suffering from these so-called adverse effects were given an ultimatum: Serve the country or be declared a traitor.

Some people chose a third option: live a life of crime.

Seventeen-year-old Ciere Giba has the handy ability to change her appearance at will. She’s what’s known as an illusionist. She’s also a thief. After crossing a gang of mobsters, Ciere must team up with a group of fellow superpowered criminals on a job that most would have considered impossible: a hunt for the formula that gave them their abilities. It was supposedly destroyed years ago – but what if it wasn’t?

Government agents are hot on their trail, and the lines between good and bad, us and them, and freedom and entrapment are blurred as Ciere and the rest of her crew become embroiled in a deadly race that could cost them their lives.

I’m always down for superheroes and thievery and moral dubiosity, and Illusive definitely fits the bill. It minded me a little of The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, actually, which is great because I freaking loved The Naturals.

Admittedly, Illusive and I didn’t get off to the best of starts. The beginning is splotchily heavy on the info-dumps – all of chapter two, and most of chapter six, just to name a few – but while the info dumping at the beginning saw the story off to a bit of a rough start, it did get progressively better and better as it went. Illusive isn’t a book that’s jaw-droppingly amazing from the get-go, but it does slowly build up to a highly enjoyable read. I loved how all the little bits and pieces of the story fit to give you a clearer and more three-dimensional view of all the characters – like the scene with Kit, Magnus, and the FBI agent. You need a little bit of patience at the beginning, but you’ll get there, and I loved it when I did.

…Magnus’s gloved fist connects with Kit’s jaw. It happens so fast that Ciere’s eyes don’t register the movement – all she sees is Magnus’s arm drawn backward, and then Kit is on the foyer floor, gingerly touching a spot on his jaw. Magnus doesn’t say a word. He picks up his bag and steps over Kit’s fallen form, his long strides carrying him into the house and out of sight. It takes Kit a second to recover. When he rises to his feet, Ciere cannot decipher the look on his face.

“Well,” Devon says, suddenly cheerful, “we have our mentalist. Let’s rob some lawyers.”

Ciere isn’t my favorite main character, but she has her charms, as does Devon, though, for all the writing’s claims as to the contrary, he does read too much as a cute mascot – here purely to provide the British accent and quirky one-liners – for my taste. Though, if that was the author’s plan, she succeeded, because I can admit to being won over by all those one-liners. What can I say? I’m weak like that when it comes to characters in books^^;; Daniel – the other POV – is equally okay. He reads like a slightly older version of Ciere, with the same brand of dry humor, so it’s pretty easy for his chapters to blur together with Ciere’s, but I found myself enjoying his chapters slightly more. They were more high-stakes, you know? Though, one thing I did notice was that most of the story, though told through Ciere and Daniel’s POVs, involved more of them running/being dragged around while other characters did the actual important things. Which put a dampener on some of the action. I did like Kit though! I’m all for guardian figures with slightly questionable motives and occupations and large presences in YA. All the better to wreak havoc with, am I right? And Magnus was fun to read about; his banter with Kit and Devon gave me life. Separately, none of the characters in Illusive were all too outstanding, but together, they just clicked and made for a highly interesting read.

Alan was the only character whom I feel didn’t quite fit. It’s hard to explain, but scenes with all the other characters carried a really nice tension and flow, then every time Alan came around, that buildup was broken.

And, I don’t know – the “twist” there at the end was pretty cheesy, but I liked it? I’ve never seen Ocean’s Eleven, but I have seen X-Men, Illusive definitely gives off that vibe, and the twist fits right in. Our world’s going to shit every other week, and so it’s nice to read about another world where the main character can fuck shit up and walk off into the metaphorical sunset still pristine and looking like a badass.

Illusive is a wonderfully layered story about a motley gang of characters with superhero-like powers and amAZING PLATONIC GIRL-BOY FRIENDSHIP THANK GOODNESS. I found myself really, really enjoying it by the end.

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.

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
Published April 15th 2014 by Walker Childrens
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own.

Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence.

This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking.

The first thing Open Road Summer did was make me feel really nostalgic for country-era Taylor Swift. Think Jump Then Fall, Sparks Fly, Speak Now. Open Road Summer doesn’t quite carry the same vibe – it’s far less hopeless romantic-like – but something about it still reminds me of my Taylor Swift phase back in middle school. Or maybe Lady Antebellum and Rascal Flatts? Anyhow.

“Laughter feels like our flotation device – it won’t pull us out of the storm, but it might carry us through, if we can just hang on.”

The very best thing about Open Road Summer was Reagan’s friendship with Dee. I love it to pieces, and I would read every single one of Emery Lord’s books if they all contained friendships like this. Seriously. Their wasn’t perfect and they rattled each other at times but they never shut each other out and they just got each other, you know? It made me think of the saying – how it’s better to have one true friend than a dozen distant ones. Dee is so precious and wholesome and down-to-earth and sweet and adorable, and I like how she’s there to smooth down a lot of Reagan’s rough edges bUT ALSo I think Reagan really complements her as well, and is there to provide for some of the edges Dee doesn’t have but needs at times. It’s a really sweet relationship. It’s a two-way street. So. Freaking. Friendship goals. Right here. Reagan and Dee. These are the kinds of friendships I want to read more of.

And then there’s Matt Finch and-

“”I,” he says, plunking his strawberry-fest down on the counter, “didn’t realize you were a soccer mom justifying her chocolate craving with the fact that raisins are a fruit.”
Matt Finch hits back. I like it.”

SO DO I. Matt Finch is the epitome of the sweet boy-next-door type: charming and attentive and witty and sweet. And I can’t help but root for him and Reagan because the chemistry’s very much there and wow I am so sorry for all the run-on sentences in this review but I’m kind of really blown away by the main characters and their relationships and Matt and Reagan made me feel all warm and gooey inside and I AM ALL HERE FOR THIS. The banter between him and Reagan was super fun to read, and I really liked the three main characters.

I liked how everyone seemed super normal! Matt was super chill and Dee was super sweet and they were just… people. I mean, duh, Chri – celebrities are people too. But sometimes we forget that? And granted I’ve only read a few contemporaries with celebrities, but they always seem larger-than-life, like caricatures of human beings. So it was really nice to see a book about romance and summer and celebrities that placed everything in a normal light.

Also. Brenda. Can we talk about Brenda for a moment? Because I really liked Brenda. Maybe because I’m also more of the “practical type” as Reagan puts it, but I think I can empathize with her quite a bit? I felt really bad for her amidst all the mud Reagan was slinging at her in the beginning. I can get why Reagan would feel that way, but also because I’m more similar to Brenda than Reagan, I can get why Brenda’s actions were as they were. Brenda and her relationship with Reagen was an example of how wonderfully complex and how much change happened over the course of Open Road Summer, and I loved that scene toward the end with Brenda and Reagan. Things are never going to be 100% okay for everyone but it’s the effort and the thought that counts. And it was really nice to see Brenda finally speak up about how she was feeling. And it was really nice to see Reagan start to look at things from Brenda’s perspective. That was nice.

I really liked that.

(Also fucking props to Corinne because she made an undeniably shit move and though it doesn’t excuse what she did, I’m very much impressed by her persistence in knocking on the front doors of multiple O’Neill families just to find Reagan and apologize.)

AND WHILE WE’RE ON THAT TOPIC, the main reason why this rating won’t ever budge any higher despite me loving so much of it is because of the ridiculous amounts of girl-hate scattered throughout the book. Everything else was sO NICE and I actually liked Reagan’s character? Not in the way that I approved of and endorsed everything she did, but I liked her prickly exterior and her vulnerabilities. I liked that she seemed tough and snarky but wasn’t without flaws, and that she was willing to open up about them. But goddamn, all the girl-hate. Brenda definitely wasn’t spared. Dee’s publicist was slandered in every sentence she was mentioned in. Dee and Dee’s mother were the only two girls I think that came out of the book 100% unscathed. All the other girls, even if they only had one sentence to their name, had their appearance tagged with some sort of scathing, derogatory, or otherwise insulting remark. Every other girl in the story was, at one point or another, most often at every mention in the story, completely and utterly slandered by Reagan – for being slutty, for being gross, for being floozy, for being dumb, for being ugly, you name it. I can see where you can argue that it shows Reagan’s character development, as there are points where you can see her changing and reflecting. But the sheer volume and magnitude of it was just… Was that really necessary? (It wasn’t. It really, really wasn’t.)

But all in all, Open Road Summer was a highly enjoyable read. I’d heard great things about it, and Emery Lord is a blessing on my Twitter feed so I was all sorts of excited to read it, and it lived up to the hype! It was definitely one of my better reads of 2017, and I just went to the bookstore so I’m going to do my best not to drop by until the end of the month at least (restraintrestraintrestraintrestraaaaint) but I’m definitely going to pick up more of the author’s books when I get the chance!

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Published May 30th 2017 by Simon Pulse
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

When Dimple Met Rishi was really, really cute. It was a little dramatic, awkward, bumbly, and just. Adorable. Gah.

What do I even say – I love how unapologetically Dimple and Rishi the two leads were. Dimple was Dimple; Rishi was Rishi; they had their own culture, their own views, their own ambitions, their own lives, and it shone through every sentence on every page.

I can’t really say anything as to the accuracy of the representation of Indian culture – though I really love how it was written in: steeped into the pages, but naturally so – but as an American with a foreign family background myself, there were a lot of things that both Dimple and Rishi felt that just really hit home for me. I could spend thousands of words and still not accurately convey that sense of comfort, almost relief, at seeing so many of the sentiments I thought about, struggled with, and even cried over printed out onto an actual physical book I held in my hands. I was going to quote a conversation that Rishi and Dimple had about embracing their heritage, but it was too long – basically, they were talking about how to keep both sides of being Indian American, and Dimple recalls how some people in India had kind of outcasted her and called her a foreigner, and Rishi recalls how he sometimes feels like he culturally belongs somewhere, but doesn’t belong socially, and they of bond on the uncertainty of it all. And I just. My heart squeezed. I related so much; this is the kind of book we need, you know? I can only imagine how much more important and meaningful it would read to someone who was actually Indian American. There’s also this part of the conversation I summarized in which Rishi mentions going through this whole phase in middle school where he called himself “Rick” and it was this small thing mentioned in passing but fuck, it hit home so hard.

And.

Well.

Wow.

I really admire Dimple’s resolve and ambition; I really admire Rishi’s ability to be Rishi, certainly, as awkward and adorkable as he sometimes is. I love the dynamic between the two (as well as Ashish later on – you can bet I’ll definitely keep an eye out for his book). And I love how the story flowed – from fiery and strong to awkward and cringey to cutesy, and then back around again. There were so many different thoughts and views and lives etched out across the pages, and it made the story feel all the more real.

I couldn’t really rate When Dimple Met Rishi five stars, though. As much as I loved so many aspects of, as well as much of the story, I thought that it did take a tumble toward the end: there were a couple very obvious, incredibly unrealistic moves to gather up all the loose ends, and Dimple and Rishi’s characters lost some their sparks.

But it’s definitely a four-star read. I didn’t think I’d enjoy this nearly as much as I did, but so much of this was so well-crafted, so much of this resonated with me way too much, and I just. Yes.

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.

Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes #1) by Sara Raasch
Published October 14th 2014 by Balzer + Bray
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆

A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

The minimalistic design under the dustjacket is gorgeous and I straight up spent a good hour just admiring the book’s design instead of reading it whoops But then I started reading Snow Like Ashes! And GUYS. The story’s just as interesting as the cover and I really like both of them!

White strands stream around me, some matted with sewer muck, but most tossing in the wind. A living snow-storm, a vibrant white reminder that they haven’t enslaved every Winterian. Some of us are still alive. Some of us are still free.

And some of us are half a locket closer to taking back our kingdom.

Meira’s hands-down one of the best main characters in the books I’ve read this year. I love how strong and relatable and determined she comes across, with a tinge of sarcasm and wry – because we all need some kind of humor to keep us aloft when the world is falling apart, right? She’s not perfect, but I love the massive amounts of self-reflection and subsequent character development she goes through. She comes across as sweet and struggling and genuine. She’s not perfect, but she tries – she really does, and that’s what makes her all the more likable and relatable. Meira’s the kind of person who’ll throw a tantrum, then get back to her feet and do.

I’ve been so selfish, haven’t I? Selfish and narrow-minded and wrong, because I wanted to matter to Winter, but in my own way. Within my own set parameters that would also fit who I wanted to be. I choke on a laugh, hating that it’s taken me this long…

And I really liked Sir also! I loved how he was a kind of but not really father figure to the story, and I loved how he was this important adult figure that actually had a hand in helping the plot along! Oftentimes in YA the world’s falling apart, and we’re supposed to believe that everything’s put back together by a band of teenagers, which (though granted, some teenagers are hella smart) isn’t the most believable. I loved how, in Snow Like Ashes, it was a group effort. Sir was doing his best to keep it together and bring things back together; Mather was doing his best to shoulder this huge responsibility he thought he had; Meira was doing her best to come into herself and do what she could to help her kingdom. The relationships were complex and distinct, and all the main characters were easily differentiable because they came across as genuine, genuinely thinking they were doing the right thing, genuinely thinking that if they struggled onward, things would look up.

The romance – though, really, does every YA series need a love triangle? is there some ironclad rule? why is this a thing? – was surprisingly okay. I really could’ve done without all that metaphorical dick measuring between Theron and Mather, but it wasn’t all-consuming, and it didn’t detract much from the story. It was a little annoying in places, but I could deal. I rather liked the two, actually? (Also, reading books with YA love triangles has shown me how easily swayed I am and I don’t know what to do with this information.) I liked how balanced Theron was, how consistently respectfully he treated Meira throughout the book. And if I didn’t like him enough before, that scene where he blew up on his father and basically opened his father’s eyes to the truth? Won me over. Completely. BUT THEN ON THE FLIP SIDE Mather was also nice – I felt kind of bad for him throughout the story, actually, because he had all this responsibility, and he did make some questionable decisions but he was genuinely trying to do the right thing and he did try to make it up afterward. They were both just nice boys with kind hearts and good intentions in a shitty situation. That’s definitely something I could get on board with.

Someday we will be more than words in the dark.

The set-up was also fairly easy to follow once you got the hang of it, though it did take some time. Another thing I really enjoyed about Snow Like Ashes was how it switched things up! Most of the time, if it’s the elements, Fire is the bad guy, and if we’re talking seasons, Winter’s the antagonist. I liked how Snow Like Ashes switched things up a little, with Winter being the protagonist, and Spring the antagonist. It was really refreshing to read!

I do have a few complaints, though. First, Snow Like Ashes dragged in the middle. This book’s pretty hefty for the plot it covers – it could definitely be cut at least a hundred pages. Also, the “big reveal” toward the end is pretty blatantly obvious from chapter two. The little flashback-like scenes here and there just give too much away in one go! It would be a lot more impactful and shocking if the information was rationed instead of all laid out like that from the get-go. And, lastly, the scene at the beginning with Meira and the locket – she got out of that sticky situation way too easily. Meira practically got in and out of a heavily guarded area with minimal chasing and minimal notice, which is highly unbelievable, especially considering the terrifying might she’s supposedly dealing with.

All in all though, Snow Like Ashes really surprised me. With a kick-ass, relatable protagonist, a cast of characters that were likeable and genuine, solid writing, and an original set-up, it’s easily one of my favorite reads this year.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Published August 29th 2017 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆

She will become one of the world’s greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . .

Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.

Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

“Diana said nothing. If her reading on politics had taught her anything, even a loyal man might be swayed under the right circumstances.”

This book made me want to split trees with my bare hands or oust the president or something.

You know, to be honest I wasn’t entirely sold on this when I first heard about it? Like I just watched Wonder Woman (movies come out late as fuck in Japan /sobs/) in theaters, and I was a little dubious about how the author would pull off an original, memorable take on a fan-favorite character. But she did it! And it was really good? And she also became the first author whose signing I went to. (It was hilarious – 10/10 would recommend going to see her because Leigh Bardugo is really, really great) I’m actually a little shocked I managed to drag myself there because it was late and cold and far and rainy but hey, if you’re paying the ridiculous NYC rent fees, might as well get the most out of your time in the city, right?

And, like with Shadow and Bone – though, granted, these two are the only two Leigh Bardugo books I’ve read – there’s something about the plot of the story that, even towards the end of the book, I’m never entirely sold on. But then, hand in hand, there’s something about her writing? There’s something about all those witty one-liners (ooooh boy) and the world building and there’s something about the way the author writes and crafters her characters that pulls everything together and makes me enjoy the book just the same. I’m so conflicted because it’s been two books by Leigh Bardugo now and I didn’t enjoy them as much as I could’ve but at the same time I really enjoyed them and I don’t know how to explain why.

But (please forgive my rambling) this one was good! /thumbs up/

I really liked how diverse and quirky and strong the cast of characters were! While I wasn’t deeply and irrevocably emotionally attached to any of them, they all left really strong impressions – they were splintered at times and together at others, close and open to each other yet at the same time complete mysteries to one another. No two were the same. I loved the relationships between them (strong female friendships represent!) and the complexity of each character – even the ones that didn’t get as much page time. This is the kind of cast you’d want to weather out a series with (Theoooo). This is the kind of cast you’d want to go on some apocalypse-preventing, humanity-saving, adventure-of-your-life with.

Another thing I was kinda iffy about, on the other hand: the author has this thing (and I say thing with full confidence because I’ve… read… two of her books…? shifty eyes clears throat right okay so) she does with male leads that I’m not super on board with? Both times, it’s been awkward and unlike the character and super cringy where it should’ve been super shocking.

Final verdict? I enjoyed Wonder Woman: Warbringer! Immensely. And I’m still confused and I spent something like 3300+ words rambling to no conclusion about how I feel iffy about a few prominent things and really like Leigh Bardugo’s books at the same time but. In any case.

This book?

I’m a fan.

“”I bet I could convince you.”
“How?”
“Let’s just say I don’t get many complaints.”
“From your lovers?”
The man blinked. He had sandy hair and freckles on his nose. “Uh, yeah.” He grinned again. “From my lovers.”
“It’s possible they refrain from complaining in order to spare your feelings.”
“What?”
“Perhaps if you could keep a woman, you’d have less call to proposition strangers.”