Review: FIREBORNE by Rosaria Munda

Review:  FIREBORNE by Rosaria MundaFireborne by Rosaria Munda
four-stars
Series: The Aurelian Cycle #1
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on October 15, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 448
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIREBORNE Review

 

Rosaria Munda’s debut novel Fireborne has everything I love in a fantasy: complex characters, exquisite world building, political intrigue, and most importantly, dragons!  Fireborne follows two main characters, Annie and Lee, both of whom were orphaned during a brutal revolution that took place when they were just young children.  Lee’s family was part of the aristocracy and was therefore murdered by the revolutionaries when they launched their attack, while prior to that, Lee’s father executed Annie’s whole lowborn family to make an example out of them for their fellow villagers.  Both Annie and Lee were spared execution themselves only so that they could serve as witnesses to what had happened and report back to their people.  Lee’s true identity is hidden for his own protection, and he and Annie eventually end up in the same orphanage together and immediately become friends.

When we first meet Lee and Annie, they are young adults and they are also Dragonriders, which is truly every bit as cool as it sounds.  The characters really do ride dragons, which gave me a combination Game of Thrones/How to Train Your Dragon vibe that I loved.  Lee and Annie are still the best of friends, but they are also both excellent Dragonriders and so are also friendly rivals for the title of Firstrider, a title that all Dragonriders aspire to.

Their world changes, however, when it is learned that there are survivors from the old regime and they’ve decided they want their city back.  This puts Lee in an almost impossible situation – he must decide whether to fight for or against his birth family. Will he and Annie end up on opposite sides of this war that is threatening their way of life? And If Lee chooses to fight for his birth family, does Annie have what it takes to fight against her best friend?

It took me a couple of chapters to really get into Fireborne but then I was just glued to it and finished it in less than two days.  Annie and Lee are both such likeable characters.  I was sympathetic to them both because of what they had gone through as children but also loved watching them achieve success and literally soar as Dragonriders.  I also loved watching their relationship evolve – they’re friends, they’re family, and at times, even felt like possibly a little more than that.  Lee was an especially fascinating character to me because of the complication of his hidden identity and what a wildcard he is when it comes to the old regime trying to return to power.  There’s plenty of gut-wrenching, emotional moments as Lee considers the choice he has to make.

Aside from Annie and Lee, I also really liked the rest of the Dragonriders fleet, especially Duck, who is just a sweetheart.  Power, another rider and rival of Lee’s, is kind of an ass at times, but I still found him very entertaining.  The best part of the Dragonriders though were the actual dragons.  I was fascinated by the way everything worked, from the way the dragons chose their riders, to how the tournaments worked to decide who would ultimately be first rider.  I thought the author did a fantastic job with her attention to detail here – from the rules of the tournament with its full heat kill shots versus glancing penalty shots, and especially with the fire suits with built-in coolants that the riders wore. It felt like she thought of everything and it really brought the contests to life.  Between the glorious images of dragons flying through the air and the exciting contests between the riders, I found myself flying through the pages to see who would come out on top.  I loved everything about this aspect of the fantasy world in Fireborne.

I’m also a big fan of political intrigue, so seeing what’s going on behind the scenes as the Dragonriders prep for possible war was a big selling point for me too. I’m always drawn to those scenes where alliances are formed while other alliances are called into question and tested.  In the case of Fireborne, this led to a question that ultimately left me with food for thought:  If the new regime starts doing the same things that the old regime was doing, are you any better off now than you were then?

Even with everything I’ve written, I’ve still barely scratched the surface of the many layers of Rosaria Munda’s Fireborne.  It’s an emotional novel about revolution, rivalry, and family that is sure to captivate you.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Game of Thrones meets Red Rising in a debut young adult fantasy that’s full of rivalry, romance… and dragons.

Annie and Lee were just children when a brutal revolution changed their world, giving everyone—even the lowborn—a chance to test into the governing class of dragonriders.

Now they are both rising stars in the new regime, despite backgrounds that couldn’t be more different. Annie’s lowborn family was executed by dragonfire, while Lee’s aristocratic family was murdered by revolutionaries. Growing up in the same orphanage forged their friendship, and seven years of training have made them rivals for the top position in the dragonriding fleet.

But everything changes when survivors from the old regime surface, bent on reclaiming the city.

With war on the horizon and his relationship with Annie changing fast, Lee must choose to kill the only family he has left or to betray everything he’s come to believe in. And Annie must decide whether to protect the boy she loves . . . or step up to be the champion her city needs.

From debut author Rosaria Munda comes a gripping adventure that calls into question which matters most: the family you were born into, or the one you’ve chosen.

four-stars

About Rosaria Munda

Rosaria grew up in rural North Carolina, where she climbed trees, read Harry Potter fanfiction, and taught herself Latin. She studied political theory at Princeton and lives in Chicago with her husband and cat. Fireborne (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019) is her debut novel.

Review: THE GRACE YEAR by Kim Liggett

Review:  THE GRACE YEAR by Kim LiggettThe Grace Year by Kim Liggett
four-stars
Published by Wednesday Books on October 8, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian
Pages: 416
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE GRACE YEAR Review

 

Kim Liggett’s The Grace Year is a dystopian novel that focuses on what happens when a group of sixteen-year-old girls are banished to a remote camp and forced to fend for themselves for a year.  Why? Because the society they live in believes that they all possess dangerous magic and must be purified before they are suitable to take their rightful place in society.  Sounds crazy and a little creepy, right?  Well, buckle up because that’s just the beginning of all of the craziness and creepiness that is to come if you pick up a copy of The Grace Year.

I want to start by talking about the world the story is set in.  The world of Granger County grabbed my attention right away. It’s a very dark place and has an almost Puritanical vibe to it.  The men are clearly in charge, while the women have no rights whatsoever.  This element of the story has a very Handmaid’s Tale feel to it.  The women’s role is to grow up, become wives, and bear children. Or if that isn’t an option, to go and work as laborers.  Females are also believed to possess a very dangerous and seductive kind of magic.  The men of the town believe that this magic must be driven from women of marriageable age before they can be suitable wives.  To accomplish this, the town has a ritual where all girls take part in a “grace year” when they turn sixteen.  They are all sent away to a remote camp where they must fend for themselves for an entire year.  The belief is that this is some kind of a purification ritual and the girls who survive it will come home ready to submit to their husbands or to a life of labor if that is their destiny.

Sounds like a fun place to live, right?  Yeah, the protagonist of the story, sixteen year old Tierney James, doesn’t think so either. The bulk of the story focuses on Tierney and how she thinks this whole patriarchal society is b.s. and has no interest whatsoever in becoming a wife or mother.  I loved Tierney right away, especially because her views about everything put her at odds with most of the people in Granger, including most of her fellow grace year girls.  A survival story always has its fair share of tension anyway, but the author ratchets it up a notch here by putting Tierney in the underdog role against all of these other girls that she is locked in with.

The author also effectively builds tension and suspense by having one of the rules of the ritual be that no one who makes it home from the camp is allowed to talk about what happened there.  Tierney and her fellow grace year girls have no idea what they’re walking into and I don’t want to say much about it either, so I’m going to leave it at this:  I’ve seen write-ups comparing The Grace Year to not only The Handmaid’s Tale, but also to Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games and I’m here to tell you that those comparisons are spot on!  What happened in there had me flying through the pages and wondering who, if anyone, was going to actually make it back home.

I’ve already mentioned that this is a dark world, as is to be expected in a dystopian read.  I just also want to quickly point out that I think the book is best geared towards older YA readers.  While there are some hopeful moments sprinkled throughout as I found myself cheering Tierney on to be one of the survivors, by and large, this is a violent, even gory, read and it tackles dark themes such as mental and physical abuse, suicide, and many others.  It’s not a read for the faint of heart.

Kim Liggett’s The Grace Year is one of those books that had me wanting to scream “Down with the Patriarchy!” the entire time I was reading it. If a dark but powerful tale of survival and resistance sounds like your cup of tea, you should give The Grace Year a try.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

Girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for their chance to grab one of the girls in order to make their fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

four-stars

About Kim Liggett

Kim Liggett, originally from the rural midwest, moved to New York City to pursue a career in the arts. She’s the author of Blood and Salt, Heart of Ash, The Last Harvest (Bram Stoker Award Winner), The Unfortunates, and The Grace Year. Kim spends her free time studying tarot and scouring Manhattan for rare vials of perfume and the perfect egg white cocktail.

Review: THE LADY ROGUE by Jenn Bennett

Review:  THE LADY ROGUE by Jenn BennettThe Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett
Also by this author: Starry Eyes
four-stars
Published by Simon Pulse on September 3, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE LADY ROGUE Review

 

I’ve been a fan of Jenn Bennett’s YA contemporary novels for a while now but had yet to try one of her fantasy series.  When I saw that her latest novel, The Lady Rogue, was a fantasy novel with a historical twist, set in Romania, I couldn’t resist requesting it.

Jenn Bennett is one of my favorite authors because she does such a great job of creating characters that I immediately fall in love with and she did not let me down when it came to the main characters of The Lady Rogue.  I adored teens Theodora (or Theo as she is called) and Huck from the moment I met them.  Theo is sassy, whip-smart, and is addicted to cryptology and crossword puzzles.  She is also incredibly annoyed with her father when we first meet her.  She’s angry because he has dumped her in Istanbul with a babysitter while he’s off on a treasure hunting expedition in the mountains of Turkey.  When the babysitter gets tired of Theo’s antic and bails, taking all of Theo’s traveler’s checks with her as severance pay, Theo changes her tune.  She is now stranded until her father finally returns from his expedition.

Where Theo is all sass and brains, Huck is more of a lovable goofball but with a heartbreaking past.  His parents died in a car accident when he was younger, and he ended up living with Theo and her dad.  He practically became part of their family, until something happened between him and Theo that made everything awkward and ended with Theo’s dad finally telling him to move out and to have no further contact with Theo.

When Huck shows up at Theo’s hotel to retrieve her instead of her father, and with her father’s journal in hand, Theo is shocked and just knows something terrible has happened. She hasn’t seen Huck in over a year and assumed her father hadn’t either based on how they parted ways.  Her father’s instruction to Huck were quite simple:  give the journal to Theo, keep her safe, and get her home.  Or else…

Chaos and adventure ensue when Theo wants no parts of going home and decides she needs to find her father no matter what.  Huck reluctantly agrees to disobey his orders and help Theo find him.  Their adventure takes them on the Orient Express to Romania because apparently Theo’s father’s misadventures involve a supposedly cursed ring that once belonged to the legendary Vlad the Impaler, or as we more famously know him, Dracula.  As Theo and Huck quickly learn, Theo’s dad is not the only one looking for the ring. Some unsavory characters are also in pursuit of it and seem to think Dad’s journal would be a valuable resource, so Theo and Huck find themselves in the middle of a dangerous game of cat and mouse.

The Lady Rogue is one of those books that has something for everyone.  If I was going to compare it to another novel, I’d say it has a Hunting Prince Dracula/Stalking Jack the Ripper vibe.  I loved the sense of adventure and suspense that Bennett builds as we follow Theo and Huck as they try to find Theo’s dad while evading their own pursuers.  I also thought Bennett did a beautiful job of capturing the Gothic feel of the Romanian villages and that creepy atmospheric vibe of knowing that’s Vlad the Impaler’s old stomping grounds.  In addition to the adventure and the mystery that surrounds the cursed ring and the disappearance of Theo’s father, I also really enjoyed the added tension from the personal storyline between Huck and Theo as they eventually have to talk about what happened the night when Huck was forced to move out.

Jenn Bennett continues to impress me with her writing and her storytelling abilities with The Lady Rogue.  If you enjoy reading fantasy and/or historical fiction that features lovable characters, magical or cursed objects, and an atmospheric Gothic-like setting, The Lady Rogue needs to go on your reading list.

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

The Last Magician meets A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue in this thrilling tale filled with magic and set in the mysterious Carpathian Mountains where a girl must hunt down Vlad the Impaler’s cursed ring in order to save her father.

Some legends never die…

Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it.

four-stars

About Jenn Bennett

Jenn Bennett is an award-winning author of young adult contemporary romance books, including: Alex, Approximately; The Anatomical Shape of a Heart; and Starry Eyes. She also writes romance and urban fantasy for adults (the Roaring Twenties and Arcadia Bell series). Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, won the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award, garnered two Reviewers’ Choice awards and a Seal of Excellence from RT Book Reviews, and been included on Publishers Weekly Best Books annual list. She lives near Atlanta with one husband and two dogs.

Review & Giveaway: BEASTS OF THE FROZEN SUN by Jill Criswell

Review & Giveaway: BEASTS OF THE FROZEN SUN by Jill CriswellBeasts of the Frozen Sun by Jill Criswell
four-stars
Series: Frozen Sun Saga #1
Published by Blackstone on August 6, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks so much to Fantastic Flying Book Club for including me in the blog tour for Jill Criswell’s debut novel, Beasts of the Frozen Sun.  It’s one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read all year so I’m thrilled to share my thoughts on it.

Beasts of the Frozen Sun is an entertaining and action-packed read that features clans engaged in warfare, Gods who enjoy manipulating members of the clans for their own entertainment, and caught in the middle of it all, a young man and woman who should be enemies but cannot help their attraction to one another.  It’s set in a dark world with an almost medieval feel to it.  Battles are fought with axes, swords, and arrows, and prisoners are brutally tortured at will. The warring clans reminded me of Vikings, which was a big draw for me, and I also loved the Gods as a meddling presence, as well with the mythology of Aillira, a God-gifted mortal whose doomed love affair was the catalyst for a war between the Gods and mortals.

The protagonists were the biggest draw for me though.  Lira, who is named after the famed Aillira, is God-gifted like her namesake and has the ability to read a person’s soul just by placing her hand on their chest. She’s literally a human lie detector, and her father, who is the chieftain of their clan, uses her as such to root out traitors.  Lira is a scrappy heroine who knows how to wield a sword. I loved how feisty and strong-willed she is, and I especially admired how determined she is to stand up for what she believes was right, even if that sometimes means defying her father and her entire clan.

Lira’s gift comes in handy as we meet the second protagonist, Reyker, a warrior, who after nearly drowning, has washed up on the shores of Glasnith, where Lira’s clan is based.  While it’s clear from Reyker’s appearance – golden hair and ocean blue eyes – that he is from the land of the Frozen Sun and therefore a ruthless monster and a sworn enemy of Lira’s clan, one touch from Lira reveals that he is not the monster she has been led to believe all of his kind are.  Rather than kill him as she has been taught she should do, Lira opts to hide Reyker and nurse him back to health.

I adored Lira, but Reyker is a really great character too.  Yes, he has done some things that could be considered monstrous, but as Lira sees, both through her gift and as she gets to know him better, most of what he has done he was forced to do against his will.  Reyker is actually a tortured soul who hates himself because of the violent things he has been forced to do.  He has also suffered great personal losses, which have left him broken and alone.

While the action surrounding the war between the clans was exciting and certainly made Beasts of the Frozen Sun an entertaining read, it’s this growing relationship between Lira and Reyker that really made me fall in love with this story.  I’m not generally a huge romantic but forbidden love is definitely a soft spot of mine, especially when the chemistry is off the charts like it is between these two.  I was there cheering them on every step of the way and pretty much willing them to stand up and defy their clans in the name of love.

The writing and the pacing of Beasts of the Frozen Sun couldn’t have been more perfect. The book is nearly 400 pages and I zoomed through it in just a couple of sittings because I was so invested in the fate of both Lira and Reyker.  Criswell does end Beasts with an evil cliffhanger though and now I’m anxiously awaiting the second installment in this exciting series.

If you’re into fast-paced, action-packed dark fantasies that feature warring clans and star crossed lovers, you should definitely give Beasts of the Frozen Sun a try.

 

 

Purchase Links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book DepositoryKobo | Google Books

 

Synopsis:

Burn brightly. Love fiercely. For all else is dust.

Every child of Glasnith learns the last words of Aillira, the god-gifted mortal whose doomed love affair sparked a war of gods and men, and Lira of clan Stone knows the story better than most. As a descendant of Aillira and god-gifted in her own right, she has the power to read people’s souls, to see someone’s true essence with only a touch of her hand.

When a golden-haired warrior washes up on the shores of her homeland–one of the fearful marauders from the land of the Frozen Sun–Lira helps the wounded man instead of turning him in. After reading his soul, she realizes Reyker is different than his brethren who attack the coasts of Glasnith. He confides in her that he’s been cursed with what his people call battle-madness, forced to fight for the warlord known as the Dragon, a powerful tyrant determined to reignite the ancient war that Aillira started.

As Lira and Reyker form a bond forbidden by both their clans, the wrath of the Dragon falls upon them and all of Glasnith, and Lira finds herself facing the same tragic fate as her ancestor. The battle for Lira’s life, for Reyker’s soul, and for their peoples’ freedom has only just begun.

 

GIVEAWAY

 

Prize: Win (1) of (3) BEASTS OF THE FROZEN SUN bundles: a signed copy of the book and some author swag (a bookmark, pendant, and magnet) [INT]. Giveaway ends August 28, 2019.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

four-stars

Review: THE BEST LIES by Sarah Lyu

Review:  THE BEST LIES by Sarah LyuThe Best Lies by Sarah Lyu
four-stars
Published by Simon Pulse on July 2, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Mystery, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BEST LIES Review

 

Sarah Lyu’s exciting debut The Best Lies opens with a death and a police interrogation.  Remy Tsai’s boyfriend Jack has been shot dead, and the police are trying to get to the bottom of what happened.  All they know when the story opens is that the shooting took place at night in Remy’s best friend Elise’s home, Remy may or may not have been present, and it was Elise who pulled the trigger and ended Jack’s life.  Was it murder? Was it self-defense?

This is one of those books where I can’t say much at all without spoiling it, but I will say that I loved the opening.  The tension of the interrogation scene, coupled with finding out that such an awful thing had happened, immediately drew me in and had me wanting to know more.

I found Remy to be a tremendously sympathetic character.  She’s an emotional wreck when the story opens, trying to wrap her head around the fact that the boy she loves is gone and that her best friend is the one who took him away from her.  I can’t even imagine being in that kind of situation and the author does a wonderful job of showing us just how emotionally spent Remy is from the ordeal. Remy also comes from a home where her parents scream, fight, and threaten divorce constantly, so for Remy, it hurts all the more to have lost Jack, who was the one bright spot in her life.  Her emotional state makes her a somewhat unreliable narrator, which adds yet another layer to the story.  Can we trust anything she is saying about that night?

I didn’t like Elise as much as I liked Remy, but I still thought she was an interesting character. I had sympathy for her because she comes from an abusive home, but at the same time, I found some of the things she does to be somewhat juvenile and I sometimes wondered what Remy saw in her.  She does have what I’d consider to be a magnetic personality though so I’m thinking that was part of the allure.

The author also drew me in with the way she lets the story unfold.  The story is presented to us in two timelines, one in the present and one in the past.  In the present timeline, we are following Remy in the aftermath of the shooting as both she and the police try to make sense of what happened that night.  In the past timeline, we get to see how Remy meets both Elise and then Jack, and how their relationships evolve over time and how we end up where we are in the opening scene of the book. Lyu seamlessly weaves together these timelines into a complex and intricate story that is not just a crime thriller but that also explores what happens when friendships take a dark turn.

The Best Lies held my attention from start to finish as I waited with bated breath to find out the truth about what happened that night.  The story is both suspenseful and heartbreaking and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys mysteries and to anyone who gravitates to stories that deal with grief.  It’s a dark read but, at the same time, an emotional one.

 

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Remy Tsai used to know how her story would turn out. But now, she doesn’t even know what tomorrow will look like.

She was happy once. Remy had her boyfriend Jack, and Elise, her best friend—her soulmate—who understood her better than anyone else in the world.

But now Jack is dead, shot through the chest—

And it was Elise who pulled the trigger.

Was it self-defense? Or something deeper, darker than anything Remy could have imagined? As the police investigate, Remy does the same, sifting through her own memories, looking for a scrap of truth that could save the friendship that means everything to her.

Told in alternating timelines, Thelma and Louise meets Gone Girl in this twisted psychological thriller about the dark side of obsessive friendship.

four-stars

About Sarah Lyu

Sarah Lyu grew up outside of Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. She currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband and dogs. She loves a good hike but can often be found with a book on her lap and sweet tea in hand. The Best Lies is her first book. You can visit her at SarahLyu.com.

Review: WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power

Review:  WILDER GIRLS by Rory PowerWilder Girls by Rory Power
three-half-stars
Published by Delacorte Press on July 9, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Horror, Mystery
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

WILDER GIRLS Review

Rory Power’s Wilder Girls is an atmospheric read that takes a hard and disturbing look at what happens when a mysterious plague-like disease called the Tox infects the entire population of an all-girls boarding school. When Wilder Girls opens, many are already dead, both teachers and students, and the entire island has been in quarantine for eighteen months.  Boats periodically come and drop off supplies for the quarantined survivors, but aside from that and the occasional promise that the CDC is doing everything they can to find a cure, there is no contact with the outside world.

The whole idea of the Tox drew me in right away.  Powers does a wonderful job of creating an eerie and terrifying atmosphere by plunging her readers right into the action and showing us what the Tox has done to the girls.  Even with our first glance around the school, we see a girl whose arm has suddenly grown reptilian-like scales on it, another girl whose eye has sealed shut and now appears to be growing something beneath the seal, and even a girl who appears to have grown a second spine that protrudes out of her back. And that’s just scratching the surface of ways this disease is manifesting itself.  The mood is dark and desperate, there aren’t nearly enough supplies being sent, and most social conventions have flown out the window as the name of the game is survival.  I read somewhere that this book is considered a feminist retelling of Lord of the Flies, and from those first moments, I definitely felt a similar vibe between the two books.

I also liked that the opening scenes really got my wheels turning with question after question and even got my inner conspiracy theorist humming.  What the heck is the Tox?  Why are everyone’s physical symptoms so different?  Why the total isolation, without even radio contact? Is the government responsible for the tox?  If not, is it something alien?   And on and on, you get the idea. This is a book that will definitely make you think and it’s also a quick read because you’ll find yourself just dying to get all of your questions answered.

In addition to being fascinated by the deadly Tox, I also really enjoyed the friendship of the three main characters, Hetty, Byatt, and Reese.  These three girls are very loyal to each other and do everything they can to make sure all three of them have the best chance of survival.  When Byatt unexpectedly disappears. Hetty and Reese make it their mission to find out what has happened to her.  What they find as they search for her is every bit as disturbing as the Tox itself and adds tremendous tension and suspense to what is already a book that you won’t want to put down.

*****

So why only 3.5 stars if this book has so many great things going for it?  Well, I did have a few issues with it.  The first is that I didn’t find the explanation for the Tox to be thorough enough for my liking.  As interesting as it was, I felt like it was explained in a very vague way.  Also, even though I liked the dynamic of their friendship, I didn’t feel emotionally invested in the three main characters.  I don’t want to say that I didn’t care about what happened to them because that’s not true, but I just felt like they were at arm’s length and would have preferred getting to know a little more about each of them.  One final issue I had was the ending, which was just way too open-ended for my liking.

Wilder Girls really is an entertaining read, especially for horror fans and if you don’t mind an open-ended read.  I wanted more from it since it was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, but it’s still a good read overall.  Be forewarned though that it is violent and gory, there are many deaths, as well as mentions of self-harm and suicide.  It’s not a read for the faint of heart.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

three-half-stars

Review: CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT by Brigid Kemmerer

Review:  CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT by Brigid KemmererCall It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer
Also by this author: More Than We Can Tell
four-half-stars
Published by Bloomsbury YA on June 25, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT Review

Call It What You Want is officially my new favorite novel from Brigid Kemmerer.  Kemmerer is a master of creating engaging stories filled with wonderful characters that will tug at your heartstrings, and she really captured my heart with this one.

Call It What You Want follows Rob and Maegan, two teens who have been ostracized by their classmates.  Rob’s father got caught embezzling funds from half the town, including the parents of many of his classmates.  Many people have wrongly assumed Rob knew exactly what his father was up to and so he has gone from being a popular star athlete at the top of the social food chain down to the bottom rung.  Maegan is an academic overachiever but we learn in the opening pages that she has cracked under the pressure of trying to be the best and cheated on her SATs.  Not only has Maegan potentially tanked her own chances at college, but she also caused the scores for dozens of her classmates to be invalidated as well.  Maegan is no one’s favorite person right now.

When the story opens, Rob and Maegan are both just in survival mode, each trying to lay low and get through the school year drawing as little attention to themselves as possible.  When Rob and Maegan get paired up on a project in Calculus class, however, everything changes.

The friendship that blossoms between Rob and Maegan is one of my favorite things about Call It What You Want.   I love the way Kemmerer writes unlikely friendships like theirs.  She portrays that initial awkwardness of the relationship and then the slow opening up to one another so authentically and so beautifully.  I could read books like this from Kemmerer all day every day and never get tired of them.

Another gem of a friendship that appears in the book is between Rob and Owen.  Owen is a loner and he’s also poor, so poor that he can’t even afford to buy lunch at school.  Owen’s struggles are, in part, due to what Rob’s father did, so a friendship between Owen and Rob seems nearly impossible and yet Kemmerer works her magic and creates yet another amazing friendship for me to smile about.  I actually adored Owen’s character so much that I’d love to see him with a book of his own at some point.

Aside from making me smile at the wonderful relationships being forged throughout the story, Kemmerer also puts them into situations that tugged at my heartstrings so hard.  I felt tremendous sympathy for Maegan and the mess she has gotten herself into.  It felt like one of those situations that any one of us could have found ourselves in back in school.  Even more heart-wrenching than Maegan’s situation though is Rob’s.  Not only did he not have any idea what his father was up to, but Rob and his mother are stuck dealing with all of the fallout, including taking care of his father, who botched a suicide attempt and is now brain damaged and mostly paralyzed.  Rob is also being bullied by his former best friend, so every day is pretty much a living hell for him.

Finally, what makes Call It What You Want my new favorite book from Kemmerer is the fact that she really had me thinking about some tough topics, especially as they pertain to Rob. Rob is desperate to try to fix what his father did and contemplates crossing into morally gray territory to make it happen.  It really got me thinking about right and wrong.  Can you ever really make something right by committing a wrong?  I love a book that can engage me with such important and thought-provoking topics.

Wow, I actually had no intention of writing so much, but the book is just that good! Call It What You Want is a heartfelt and beautifully written story about friendship, overcoming adversity, and making amends.  I know Kemmerer’s fans are going to love it, but I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a moving read.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

When his dad is caught embezzling funds from half the town, Rob goes from popular lacrosse player to social pariah. Even worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care.

Everyone thinks of Maegan as a typical overachiever, but she has a secret of her own after the pressure got to her last year. And when her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.

When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a calculus project, they’re both reluctant to let anyone through the walls they’ve built. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan to fix the damage caused by his father, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship…

This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?

four-half-stars

About Brigid Kemmerer

BRIGID KEMMERER is the author of LETTERS TO THE LOST (Bloomsbury; April 4, 2017), a dark, contemporary Young Adult romance; THICKER THAN WATER (Kensington, December 29, 2015), a New Adult paranormal mystery with elements of romance; and the YALSA-nominated Elemental series of five Young Adult novels and three e-novellas which Kirkus Reviews calls “refreshingly human paranormal romance” and School Library Journal describes as “a new take on the supernatural genre.” She lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and four sons.

Book Review & Giveaway: SOMETHING LIKE GRAVITY by Amber Smith

Book Review & Giveaway: SOMETHING LIKE GRAVITY by Amber SmithSomething Like Gravity by Amber Smith
four-stars
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on June 18, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Thanks so much to Fantastic Flying Book Club for including me in the blog tour for Amber Smith’s Something Like Gravity.  I’m thrilled to be able to share my thoughts on this beautifully written and moving story that explores how people deal with grief and loss and how they process traumatic events, as well as what it feels like to fall in love for the first time. The story follows Chris, a teenage boy who has just come out as transgender, and Maia, who is trying to come to terms with the unexpected death of her older sister.  Both Chris and Maia are having a hard time – Chris because his mother is struggling to accept him as transgender and because he was violently attacked at school by some of his classmates, and Maia because she has basically lost her own identity and sense of self.  To all of her classmates, she’s now just the little sister of the girl who died. When Chris leaves town and moves in with his Aunt Isobel for the summer, who is coincidentally Maia’s neighbor, Chris and Maia meet.  Maia doesn’t know Chris is transgender or that he was attacked, and Chris doesn’t know about Maia’s sister, so as they become acquainted, they see each other as a chance for a fresh start. Can a relationship survive though, friendship or otherwise, if it begins based on secrets and lies?

 

* * * * *

5 REASONS WHY SOMETHING LIKE GRAVITY SHOULD BE ON YOUR SUMMER READING LIST

 

I really enjoyed reading Something Like Gravity.  I love how Smith crafted this story in a way that tackles very serious and meaningful topics, but also has a light side that focuses on summer vacation and falling in love.  It has everything I love in a contemporary read.  I could go on for days, but instead, I’m just going to share a few highlights as to why I think Something Like Gravity should be on your summer reading list.

 

  1. Authentic characters experiencing realistic and relatable struggles.  Both Chris and Maia are characters that I felt tremendous sympathy for.  I think the author does a wonderful job of authentically conveying the emotions they each must be feeling as they deal with their own internal conflicts.  Chris is dealing with not only what happened to him at school, but also his mother’s reaction to him coming out as transgender, not to mention everything that’s going through his own head about the fact that he is transgender.  Maia is grieving for her sister and struggling to figure out how to move forward. Her parents have pretty much shut down as well, so Maia is just in an all around unhealthy environment.  Both Chris and Maia are having to rediscover who they are and that journey of self-discovery is one I think we can all relate to.
  1. Complicated family dynamics.  I have a thing for books that focus on families, especially if those families come across as real.  And for me, real is messy and complicated.   Both Chris and Maia’s families score high marks in the messy and complicated department.  Chris is caught between a father who is supportive of him and a mother who isn’t, and because both of them have become so overprotective ever since his attack, he is practically suffocating at home.  His way out is cool Aunt Isobel who supports him no matter what, even if it causes friction between her and Chris’ mother.  Watching the intricacies of those relationships play out was fascinating, as was Maia’s situation, where not only is everyone in her home grieving over the death of her sister, but apparently her parents are actually divorced but still living under the same roof, so it’s tension city all the way around, with Maia trapped in the middle.
  1. Meaningful themes. We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” This quote from Anais Nin is a running theme throughout the book and it just really resonated with me because it’s true on so many levels.  It means that for better or worse, our experiences color and shape everything we see.  And it also means that no two people see things exactly the same.  I think it’s an important message for everyone, to help them understand themselves and to understand others.
  1. Transgender representation.  I think this is actually the first book I’ve read that has transgender representation in it.  I enjoy diverse reads so I was pleased to see a transgender teen as a main character in the story.  Not being transgender myself, I can’t speak as to how accurate the representation is, but it felt like the author handled it in a respectful and sensitive way.
  1. Romance/First Love. I’m not really a romantic at heart, but I did really like the romance in this book.  There’s just something about falling in love for the first time, especially a summer romance, that makes me smile and I liked the chemistry between Maia and Chris.  They were sweet together and I was really rooting for them to be able to open up to one another about what they’re hiding so that they had a chance for a long-term relationship.

 

Amber Smith’s Something Like Gravity is a heartfelt story about love, loss, and finding oneself.  I thought it was a beautiful story and would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys contemporary romances, coming of age stories, and diverse reads.  If you enjoyed Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Upside of Unrequited, I think you would enjoy Something Like Gravity as well.

 

 

 

Purchase Links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book DepositoryiTunes | Google Books

 

 SYNOPSIS:

For fans of Love, Simon and Eleanor and Park, a romantic and sweet novel about a transgender boy who falls in love for the first time—and how first love changes us all—from New York Times bestselling author Amber Smith.

Chris and Maia aren’t off to a great start.

A near-fatal car accident first brings them together, and their next encounters don’t fare much better. Chris’s good intentions backfire. Maia’s temper gets the best of her.

But they’re neighbors, at least for the summer, and despite their best efforts, they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.

The path forward isn’t easy. Chris has come out as transgender, but he’s still processing a frightening assault he survived the year before. Maia is grieving the loss of her older sister and trying to find her place in the world without her. Falling in love was the last thing on either of their minds.

But would it be so bad if it happened anyway?

 

GIVEAWAY

Win a copy of Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith (U.S. only). Giveaway ends July 2, 2019.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

 

June 18th

 

June 19th

Moonlight Rendezvous – Review + Favourite Quotes
The Reading Corner for All – Review + Favourite Quotes

 

June 20th

The YA Obsessed – Review
A Walk To Wonderland – Review + Favourite Quotes
Life of a Literary Nerd – Review + Favourite Quotes
Dazzled by Books – Promotional Post

 

June 21st

Kait Plus Books – Guest Post
Camillea Reads – Review
Gwendalyn_books_ – Promotional Post

 

June 22nd

Morgan Vega – Review + Playlist + Favourite Quotes
Confessions of a YA Reader – Promotional Post

 

June 23rd

Literary Meanderings – Promotional Post

 

June 24th

The Bookish Libra – Review
Bookish_Kali – Review + Favourite Quotes
A Bookish Escape – Review
A Dream Within A Dream – Promotional Post
four-stars

About Amber Smith

Amber Smith is the New York Times bestselling author of the young adult novels The Way I Used to Be, The Last to Let Go, and Something Like Gravity. An advocate for increased awareness of gendered violence, as well as LGBTQ equality, she writes in the hope that her books can help to foster change and spark dialogue surrounding these issues. She grew up in Buffalo, New York, and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her partner and their ever-growing family of rescued dogs and cats. You can find her online at AmberSmithAuthor.com.

Book Review & Giveaway: ALL EYES ON US by Kit Frick

Book Review & Giveaway:  ALL EYES ON US by Kit FrickAll Eyes on Us by Kit Frick
four-stars
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on June 4, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

Thanks so much to Fantastic Flying Book Club for including me in the blog tour for All Eyes on Us.  I’m thrilled to be able to share my thoughts on this compelling read today.

Kit Frick’s latest novel All Eyes on Us is a riveting thriller that kept me guessing from start to finish. It follows Amanda Kelly and Rosalie Bell.  Amanda comes from a family of social climbers.  The Kellys have gotten themselves into some financial difficulties and are secretly hoping that an alliance with the wealthiest family in town, the Shaws, will put them in better standing.  That alliance would of course come about by having Amanda marry the Shaw’s son, Carter.  When the story opens, these two have been dating for years and practically have their lives together mapped out, although all is not perfect as Carter is a known cheater.  Rosalie is a lesbian in a fake relationship with a boy because she’s trying to fool her family into thinking she’s straight.  The deception is wearing her out though and she knows it’s not fair to the boy since he has no idea she’s gay either.  The boy of course is our cheater, Carter.

Amanda and Rosalie find their lives unexpectedly intertwined when an anonymous texter, known only to them as “Private,” goes after them both with an ultimatum – either help take Carter down or the texter will take them down.  For Amanda, that would mean exposing her family’s financial woes, while for Rosalie, it would of course mean outing her to her family.

Who is this person and what do have they have against Carter that they’re willing to make Amanda and Rosalie collateral damage in their effort to bring Carter down?

 

* * * * *

5 REASONS WHY ALL EYES ON US SHOULD BE ON YOUR MUST-READ LIST

 

All Eyes on Us sounds pretty cool, right?  Now I want to dive just a little deeper and share some of the highlights of the story for me.  If you love these qualities as much as I do, then All Eyes on Us is a must-read for you!

 

  1. A Suspenseful Read Filled with Twists and Turns.  The synopsis on Goodreads compares All Eyes on Us to Pretty Little Liars and I think this comparison is spot on.  The story definitely has a Pretty Little Liars (or maybe even a Gossip Girl) vibe to it with the anonymous texter and the taunting threats he or she kept making.  Just like I was with Pretty Little Liars and A’s identity, I was on the edge of my seat waiting to find out who Private was and was suspicious of pretty much every character in the book.   The writing is also fast-paced, which makes this book very easy to binge read.  Always a good thing when you’re dying to get to the big reveal!
  1. Is it a religion or is it a cult?  I found the religious group in the story to be extremely disturbing. Every time I read about something they had done to a person in the name of “saving” them, I just wanted to scream.  Frick’s presentation of the power of this radical group had me mesmerized though. I spent much of the book fascinated by them and how they managed to indoctrinate so many people to their extreme conservative ways.  It felt more like a cult than it did a religion and if someone didn’t follow along with every one of their beliefs, they would be told they’re going to burn in hell.
  1. Messy, Complicated Characters. Amanda and Rosalie both really drew me into the story because even though they come from completely different backgrounds and on the surface have nothing in common, they ultimately have one thing in common – their parents are trying to run their lives and dictate who they should and shouldn’t be with.  Amanda’s parents have her life planned out to the extent that it’s little short of an arranged marriage with her childhood sweetheart, Carter, even though they are all aware that Carter has cheated on her at least once already.  Rosalie’s parents, on the other hand, refuse to accept that Rosalie is a lesbian and are determined to “fix” her.  The only time she’s allowed out socially is to date boys.  Amanda is desperate to hold on to Carter so as not to disappoint her parents, while Rosalie is equally desperate not to let her parents control her.  Their predicaments lead both girls to make some questionable, potentially hurtful, choices along the way, but I understood where their hearts were so I was sympathetic to both of them.  They are both definitely living in dysfunctional family environments.
  1. The Dangers of Conversion Therapy. I loved that Frick wasn’t afraid to tackle tough topics in this story.  In addition to it being a riveting thriller, All Eyes on Us also goes a step further and exposes how truly harmful conversion therapy is and that it can have lasting negative psychological effects. It was heartbreaking to read Rosalie’s painful flashbacks to when her parents and their minister did everything in their power to try to get rid of her homosexuality.
  1.  A Message That Resonates. The overriding message All Eyes On Us conveys, that you can’t force a person to be someone they’re not, is so important.  People are who they are, and if you want them in your life, you have to accept them that way.  Trying to force them to be otherwise is just so psychologically damaging.

 

If suspenseful stories like Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl are your thing, then you should definitely give All Eyes on Us a try.  It will keep you on the edge of your seat!

 

 

 

Purchase Links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Kobo | iBooks | IndieBound

 

 SYNOPSIS:

PRIVATE NUMBER: Wouldn’t you look better without a cheater on your arm?
AMANDA: Who is this?

The daughter of small town social climbers, Amanda Kelly is deeply invested in her boyfriend, real estate heir Carter Shaw. He’s kind, ambitious, the town golden boy—but he’s far from perfect. Because behind Amanda’s back, Carter is also dating Rosalie.

PRIVATE NUMBER: I’m watching you, Sweetheart.
ROSALIE: Who IS this?

Rosalie Bell is fighting to remain true to herself and her girlfriend—while concealing her identity from her Christian fundamentalist parents. After years spent in and out of conversion “therapy,” her own safety is her top priority. But maintaining a fake, straight relationship is killing her from the inside.

When an anonymous texter ropes Amanda and Rosalie into a bid to take Carter down, the girls become collateral damage—and unlikely allies in a fight to unmask their stalker before Private uproots their lives.

PRIVATE NUMBER: You shouldn’t have ignored me. Now look what you made me do…

 

GIVEAWAY

One winner will receive a finished copy of Kit Frick’s All Eyes on Us.  The giveaway runs from June 10-June 17th and I will email the winner to get their mailing address.  Sorry, U.S. only per tour guidelines. Also, no giveaway accounts.  Please note:  There are several giveaways taking place during this blog tour.  If you enter more than one of them and happen to win multiple copies, FFBC requires that you decline the second book won or face disqualification.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

 

June 10th

Hauntedbybooks– Review & Favorite Quotes

June 11th

Morgan Vega– Review

June 12th

Utopia State of Mind– Review/Creative Post

June 13th

onemused– Bookstagram Review
Snark & Squee– Review

June 14th

Bookishly Nerdy– Review & Favorite Quotes
Cinnamon Summers– Bookstagram
four-stars

About Kit Frick

Kit Frick is a novelist, poet, and MacDowell Colony fellow. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, she studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA from Syracuse University. When she isn’t putting complicated characters in impossible situations, Kit edits poetry and literary fiction for a small press, edits for private clients, and mentors emerging writers through Pitch Wars. She is the author of the young adult novels See All the Stars, All Eyes on Us (2019), and Windermere (2020), all from Simon & Schuster / Margaret K. McElderry Books, and the poetry collection A Small Rising Up in the Lungs (New American Press). Her fiction is represented by Erin Harris at Folio Literary Management / Folio Jr.

Mini Reviews: VIRTUALLY YOURS & WILD AND CROOKED

Mini Reviews:  VIRTUALLY YOURS & WILD AND CROOKEDVirtually Yours by Sarvenaz Tash
three-half-stars
on June 4, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Modern love plus online anonymity is a recipe for romantic disaster in this lighthearted new romance from the author of The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love

How bad can one little virtual lie be?

NYU freshman Mariam Vakilian hasn’t dated anyone in five months, not since her high school sweetheart Caleb broke up with her. So, when she decides to take advantage of an expiring coupon and try out a new virtual reality dating service, it’s sort of a big deal.

It’s an even bigger deal when it chooses as one of her three matches none other than Caleb himself. That has to be a sign, right?

Except that her other match, Jeremy, just happens to be her new best friend IRL.

Mariam’s heart is telling her one thing, but the app is telling her another. So, which should she trust? Is all fair in modern love?

Review:

Sarvenaz Tash’s Virtually Yours is a delightful and lighthearted read that is sure to please romance fans.  It follows Mariam Vakilian, who is a freshman at NYU.  Right before leaving for college, Mariam and her long-time boyfriend Caleb broke up and now Mariam finds herself struggling to move on and date new people.  When she receives a coupon from a new virtual reality dating service called HEAVR, she decides to give it a go. Maybe it will give her the kickstart she needs to get over Caleb. HEAVR throws a monkey wrench into Mariam’s plan, however, when one of her top three matches ends up being Caleb of all people.  Mariam is torn because as much as she knows she should move on, surely this must be a sign that she and Caleb were meant to be together, right?

Mariam was my absolute favorite part of Virtually Yours.  She’s incredibly relatable because she’s so perfectly imperfect.  She’s a sweet girl, one I could easily see myself making friends with if I was at NYU, She’s also that friend that you love so much, but at the same time, find yourself wanting to scream at because she doesn’t think and ends up doing cringy things.  Or maybe she’s me.  Haven’t we all made bad decisions at times even when our hearts are in the right place?  Anyway, I just loved Mariam, flaws and all.  I especially loved her journey because at the beginning of the story, she’s clinging to her past so tightly that she can’t even see what’s right in front of her face.  It was fun to watch her “wake up” so to speak.  For that reason, I’d consider Virtually Yours equal parts rom-com, coming of age story.

My biggest issue with Virtually Yours is that I found the HEAVR match results to be unrealistic.  I mean, seriously, if you select ‘Worldwide’ in terms of who you’re willing to be matched with, what are the odds that out of all the people in the world using that service, two out of your top three matches end up being people you know? That just really annoyed me and had me considering not finishing the book, but I finally let it go and ended up enjoying the rest of the story.  I was also not a fan of the catfishing in the novel.  I understood why it was there but could have done without it.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy read that will leave you with a smile on your face, give Virtually Yours a try. You won’t regret it!  3.5 STARS

 

 

Mini Reviews:  VIRTUALLY YOURS & WILD AND CROOKEDWild and Crooked by Leah Thomas
Also by this author: When Light Left Us
four-stars
Published by Bloomsbury YA on June 4, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 448
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Critically-acclaimed author Leah Thomas blends a small-town setting with the secrets of a long-ago crime, in a compelling novel about breaking free from the past.

In Samsboro, Kentucky, Kalyn Spence's name is inseparable from the brutal murder her father committed when he was a teenager. Forced to return to town, Kalyn must attend school under a pseudonym . . . or face the lingering anger of Samsboro's citizens, who refuse to forget the crime.

Gus Peake has never had the luxury of redefining himself. A Samsboro native, he's either known as the "disabled kid" because of his cerebral palsy, or as the kid whose dad was murdered. Gus just wants to be known as himself.

When Gus meets Kalyn, her frankness is refreshing, and they form a deep friendship. Until their families' pasts emerge. And when the accepted version of the truth is questioned, Kalyn and Gus are caught in the center of a national uproar. Can they break free from a legacy of inherited lies and chart their own paths forward?.

Review:

Leah Thomas’ latest novel Wild and Crooked is a story about family, friendship, and not letting mistakes from the past dictate your present and future.  The story follows two small town teens, Gus Peake and Kalyn Spence.  Gus has lived in Samsboro, Kentucky all his life and is known either as that “disabled kid” because of his cerebral palsy or as that kid whose dad was murdered.  Kalyn Spence has just returned to Samsboro and is going to school under an assumed name because her father is the one in jail for murdering Gus’ dad and the Spence name is therefore infamous in Samsboro.  Gus and Kalyn run into each other one day and a fast friendship ensues.  The only problem is that Kalyn has no idea Gus’ dad is who her father is accused of murdering, and Gus has no idea that Kalyn is the daughter of his dad’s accused murderer.  When they each finally learn the truth, it’s a tough pill to swallow and one that will test the bonds of their newfound friendship.

I adored both Gus and Kalyn, Gus because he’s just such a sweetheart.  He just wants so badly to be defined by something other than his disability or by his family’s tragedy.  Gus is immediately drawn to Kalyn, not because she’s the pretty new girl at school, but instead because when they meet, she immediately treats him like she would any other kid at school.  For Gus, Kalyn is like a breath of fresh air because she sees the person behind the disability.  Kalyn is drawn to Gus for similar reasons. She has basically reinvented herself and is acting like the perfect little southern belle every day at school.  It’s draining after a while, and when Kalyn realizes Gus can basically see right through her act, he becomes a refuge for her where she can be herself.  I really loved watching their friendship grow over the course of the book and was really rooting for them to be able to withstand whatever life threw at them.

Even though Wild and Crooked is over 400 pages long, I devoured it in just over a day and I attribute that to Leah Thomas’ masterful way of weaving together a moving story of friendship with the gripping story of what really happened between Gus and Kalyn’s fathers all those years ago.  The anger and prejudice of the Samsboro town folk was palpable once they realized who Kalyn was, and even though she clearly had nothing to do with the murder, in their eyes, she’s guilty by association.  I thought Thomas did a brilliant job of realistically capturing their mob-like mentality.  Thomas also had me simultaneously cheering on this blossoming friendship and sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to find out the truth about the murder.

If you’re looking for a compelling story about friendship and overcoming the past, I highly recommend Wild and Crooked. 4 STARS

three-half-stars

About Leah Thomas

Leah Thomas once wrote from a house in the woods, and now an apartment more or less by the sea (well, less). Her debut novel BECAUSE YOU’LL NEVER MEET ME was a 2016 Morris Award finalist, and its sequel, NOWHERE NEAR YOU, is out now from Bloomsbury. Her third YA science fiction novel, WHEN LIGHT LEFT US, hits shelves in early 2018.

A graduate of Clarion 2010, her short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Black Static, Ideomancer, and Three-Lobed Burning Eye, among others. She’s mostly a dork and always feels uncomfortable about author bios. If she’s not writing, she’s likely teaching or cosplaying. Follow her on instagram (@fellowhermit), or on tumblr (cuttoothom).

About Sarvenaz Tash

Sarvenaz Tash is the author of The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love (an Amazon Best Book of the Year, YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant YA Readers), Virtually Yours, Three Day Summer and The Mapmaker and the Ghost. She was born in Tehran, Iran and grew up on Long Island, NY. She received her BFA in Film and Television from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, which means she got to spend most of college running around and making movies (it was a lot of fun). She has dabbled in all sorts of writing including screenwriting, Emmy-award winning copywriting, and professional tweeting for the likes of Bravo and MTV. Sarvenaz currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with her family.