Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for WINTER and OUR DARK DUET

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for WINTER and OUR DARK DUETWinter by Marissa Meyer
Also by this author: Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2)
five-stars
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #4
Published by Feiwel & Friends on November 10th 2015
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 827
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mark her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won't approve of her feelings for her childhood friend--the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn't as weak as Levana believes her to be and she's been undermining her stepmother's wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that's been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? Fans will not want to miss this thrilling conclusion to Marissa Meyer's national bestselling Lunar Chronicles series.

Review:

Winter is the fourth and final book in Melissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles. In Winter we not only continue the original story that Meyer has created in the midst of her fairytale retellings of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel, but we also get a Snow White retelling added to the mix.  As always, I’m most impressed with the way Meyer manages to seamlessly weave so many retellings into this series without losing any of the originality of the overall storyline.

As the lovely, quirky, and perhaps somewhat mentally unstable Snow White character, Winter is a welcome addition to this wonderful cast of characters that I’ve come to love so much.  I was definitely more attached to the characters I’ve known longer, but I grew to love Winter too and wish I had had more time with her.  What I especially liked about the introduction of Winter was that her presence really served to cast Levana even more firmly into the role of the evil (ummm, psychotic?) stepmother. Have I mentioned how much I loathe Levana?

Speaking of Levana, one of the coolest parts of this final book is that we finally make it to Levana’s home on the planet Luna.  Meyer gives the reader a vivid look into the lives of the Lunar people and the ways they are forced to live because of Levana.  I don’t want to give away anything else about the plot, so I’ll just say that I loved getting to see these amazing characters in action one more time working together to fight against the tyranny of Levana and free the Lunar people from her once and for all. (Even Iko is a total badass and it’s just so much awesomeness!) Because it’s so focused on the resistance and taking Levana down, Winter is truly action-packed from start to finish.  That’s pretty much my favorite kind of read ever, so I loved every page of it.  I’m so sad to have finally reached the end of this series, but I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect ending.  5 STARS

 

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for WINTER and OUR DARK DUETOur Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab
Also by this author: A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)
five-stars
Series: Monsters of Verity, #2
Published by Greenwillow Books on June 13th 2017
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 510
Also in this series: This Savage Song
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

THE WORLD IS BREAKING. AND SO ARE THEY.

KATE HARKER isn't afraid of monsters. She hunts them. And she's good at it.

AUGUST FLYNN once yearned to be human. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

THE WAR HAS BEGUN.

THE MONSTERS ARE WINNING.

Kate will have to return to Verity. August will have to let her back in. And a new monster is waiting—one that feeds on chaos and brings out its victims' inner demons.

Which will be harder to conquer: the monsters they face, or the monsters within?

Review:

Victoria Schwab really blew me away with Our Dark Duet, the final book in her Monsters of Verity duology.  Not only was it filled with dark and creepy monsters and the action-packed goodness that I enjoyed so much in This Savage Song, the first book in the duology, but it also literally reduced me to tears by the end.

There’s so much to love about this book, but Kate Harker’s growth as a character is probably at the top of my list.  She is now a spike wielding, monster-killing badass and I adored her even more in this book than I did in the first one.  My love for poor tortured August is still strong in this book too, and I rooted for both he and Kate as they valiantly battled their demons, both literally and figuratively.

Schwab’s worldbuilding and pacing are spot on in Our Dark Duet too.  I love this world she has created – it’s dark and creepy with monsters literally lurking around every corner, which just makes for such an intense and suspenseful reading experience.  The pacing was incredible too as it mirrors what is going on with Kate and August.  It starts off at a steady and even pace as Kate and August are each battling a lot of internal demons, but then once they come together to battle a monster that appears to be even worse than the Corsai and Malachi we met in This Savage Song, the pace increases to almost a frenetic pace.  The second half of the book flies by and is filled with blood, explosions, destruction, and death.  I devoured the nearly 500 page book in 24 hours.

Don’t even get me started on the ending, which just shattered my heart into a million pieces.  Schwab has done it again — Our Dark Duet is truly a heartbreaking piece of writing perfection. 5 STARS

five-stars

About Marissa Meyer

meyer

“One of my first spoken words was “story” (right along with “bath” and “cookie”), my favorite toy as an infant was a soft, squishable book, and I’ve wanted to be a writer since I first realized such a job existed.

When I was fourteen my best friend introduced me to anime and fanfiction—over the years I would complete over forty Sailor Moon fanfics under the penname Alicia Blade. Those so inclined can still find my first stories at fanfiction.net. Writing fanfic turned out to be awesome fun and brought me in contact with an amazing group of fanfiction readers and writers. As Alicia Blade, I also had a novelette, “The Phantom of Linkshire Manor,” published in the gothic romance anthology Bound in Skin (CatsCurious Press, 2007).

When I was sixteen I worked at The Old Spaghetti Factory in Tacoma, Washington, affectionately termed “The Spag.” (Random factoid: This is also the restaurant where my parents met some 25 years before.) I attended Pacific Lutheran University where I sorted mail that came to the dorm, carted tables and chairs around campus, and took writing classes, eventually earning a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Children’s Literature. Knowing I wanted a career in books, I would also go on to receive a Master’s degree in Publishing from Pace University (which you can learn more about here). After graduation, I worked as an editor in Seattle for a while before becoming a freelance typesetter and proofreader.

Then, day of days, someone thought it would be a good idea to give me a book deal, so I became a full-time writer. CINDER was my first completed novel, though I have an adorable collection of unfinished ones lying around, too.

I married my husband in 2011, two months before the release of Cinder, and we adopted our two beautiful twin daughters, Sloane and Delaney, in 2015. Reading lots and lots of bedtime stories is most definitely a new favorite pastime.”

Marissa Meyer in her own words, from www.marissameyer.com

About Victoria Schwab

ve schwab

Victoria “V.E.” Schwab is the NYT, USA, and Indie bestselling author of more than a dozen books, including Vicious, the Shades of Magic series, and This Savage Song. Her work has received critical acclaim, been featured by EW and The New York Times, been translated into more than a dozen languages, and been optioned for TV and Film. The Independent calls her the “natural successor to Diana Wynne Jones” and touts her “enviable, almost Gaimanesque ability to switch between styles, genres, and tones.”

She is represented by Holly Root at Root Literary and Jon Cassir at CAA.
All appearance and publicity inquiries should be directed to either her agent, or one of her publicists:

Harper: Gina.Rizzo@harpercollins.com
Tor: Alexis.Saarela@tor.com

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for Turtles All the Way Down and Speak Easy, Speak Love

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for Turtles All the Way Down and Speak Easy, Speak LoveTurtles All the Way Down by John Green
three-half-stars
Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers on October 10th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 288
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

#1 bestselling author John Green returns with his first new novel since The Fault in Our Stars!

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

Review:

While not my favorite John Green book, Turtles All the Way Down was still a moving read for me.  I loved the main character Aza, who is smart, funny, and sometimes extremely quiet.  She’s quiet because she is living with OCD, which often occupies her thoughts and keeps her locked inside of her own head.  John Green does an incredible job of showing what OCD is like from inside the mind of someone who is actually experiencing it.  It’s raw and honest and sometimes quite painful to read.  If you think you know what OCD is like from either something you’ve read or maybe from someone you’ve watched going through it, you only know part of it.  Seeing from Aza’s perspective that ever-tightening spiral that kept her locked inside of her own mind was so enlightening.  Turtles All the Way Down is also an #ownvoices novel, so many thanks to John Green for sharing his own experiences with us.

In addition to the way it provides a greater understanding of OCD, I also liked the book’s focus on friendship.  While I wasn’t big on the part of the story where Aza and her best friend, Daisy, decide they want to play amateur detective and investigate the father of Aza’s friend, Davis, I was very big on their friendship.  Aza and Daisy have a wonderful relationship that is built on honesty, even if that honesty is sometimes a little brutal. I liked the idea that Aza ultimately knew she had someone in her corner no matter how tough things got.

What else? Oh, a really sweet romance develops between Aza and Davis.  I liked Davis a lot and thought he and Aza had wonderful chemistry.  More importantly, I didn’t feel like their romance took away anything from the rest of the story and I liked that romance was not a cure for OCD.

The only thing I really didn’t like was a distracting and seemingly random subplot about an ancient lizard called a tuatara that Davis’ father kept as a pet.  Maybe there was a deeper meaning there that I missed, but for me, the lizard was just in the way.  Still a moving and entertaining read overall.  3.5 STARS

 

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for Turtles All the Way Down and Speak Easy, Speak LoveSpeak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George
four-half-stars
Published by Greenwillow Books on September 19th 2017
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction, Retelling
Pages: 432
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

Six teenagers’ lives intertwine during one thrilling summer full of romantic misunderstandings and dangerous deals in this sparkling retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

After she gets kicked out of boarding school, seventeen-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. But Hey Nonny Nonny is more than just a rundown old mansion. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement—one that might not survive the summer.

Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother, John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. Despite all their worries, the summer is beautiful, love is in the air, and Beatrice and Benedick are caught up in a romantic battle of wits that their friends might be quietly orchestrating in the background.

Hilariously clever and utterly charming, McKelle George’s debut novel is full of intrigue and 1920s charm. For fans of Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Anna Godbersen.

Review:

Speak Easy, Speak Love was just such a delightful read for me.  It’s a retelling of one of my favorite Shakespearean plays, Much Ado About Nothing, and author McKelle George manages to capture all of the magic of the original play, while simultaneously crafting a fresh new story.  If you’ve read the original play, you’ll be particularly delighted to know that not only does she have her own Benedick and Beatrice, but their verbal sparring without a doubt rivals that of their Shakespearean counterparts.  I found myself laughing out loud numerous times, which is always refreshing.

Aside from bringing to life new versions of my favorite characters, George also chooses a fabulous setting for her retelling, New York in the 1920s.  The 1920s is such a rich and vibrant part of American history and I loved how George was able to incorporate so many important aspects of that time period.  She seamlessly weaves in Prohibition and speakeasies, the Mob, the Jazz Age, and with Benedick in particular who wants to be a writer, she also touches on the rise of great American authors like Hemingway and Fitzgerald.

I can’t recommend Speak Easy, Speak Love highly enough.  There are lots of great shoutouts to Much Ado About Nothing sprinkled throughout the novel too, so before you read the book, I’d definitely also recommend reading the play or, even better, watch the 1993 film version where Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson play Benedick and Beatrice.  So much fun!  4.5 STARS

three-half-stars

About John Green

John Green is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and The Fault in Our Stars. He is also the coauthor, with David Levithan, of Will Grayson, Will Grayson. He was the 2006 recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award, a 2009 Edgar Award winner, and has twice been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Green’s books have been published in more than 55 languages and over 24 million copies are in print. John is also an active Twitter user with more than 5 million followers.

About McKelle George

McKelle George is a reader, writer of clumsy rebels, perpetual doodler, and associate librarian at the best library in the world. She mentors with Salt Lake Teen Writes and plays judge for the Poetry Out Loud teen competitions (but has no poetic talent herself). Her debut young adult novel Speak Easy, Speak Love comes out from Greenwillow/HarperCollins in 2017, and she currently lives in Salt Lake City with an enormous white german shepherd and way, way too many books.

Book Review – This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Book Review – This Savage Song by Victoria SchwabThis Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Also by this author: A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)
five-stars
Series: Monsters of Verity, #1
Published by Greenwillow Books on July 5th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 464
Also in this series: Our Dark Duet
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

MY REVIEW:

Victoria Schwab’s Shades of Magic series was such a glorious read that I was actually a little hesitant to move on to This Savage Song.  As good as its synopsis sounded, I was just convinced that nothing could top the adventures of Kell, Rhys, and Lila and the 4 Londons.  Well, my concerns were completely misplaced because while it may not have topped Shades of Magic, This Savage Song is equally brilliant in its own way and easily one of the most compelling books I’ve read this year.

This Savage Song is an urban fantasy set in the war-torn city of Verity.  Not only is the city practically destroyed by war, but the violence that has taken place has actually led to the creation of actual monsters who threaten to overrun what is left of the city.  A treaty has divided Verity into two halves, one run by the ruthless Callum Harker, a crime boss who controls the majority of the monsters.  Being the “nice” guy that he is, Harker offers his services to protect the citizens on his side of the city from the monsters – for a fee.  Cross him or don’t pay your protection fee, and you’re the monsters’ next meal.  The other side of the city is run by Henry Flynn, a much more fair-minded individual who just wants to honor the terms of the treaty, keep the peace, and most especially, keep the monsters at bay so that his people are safe.

The story doesn’t actually focus on these two men, however, but rather on their children.  Kate Harker and August Flynn, and what happens when two children of powerful men become desperate to prove themselves to their fathers. But if you’re familiar with Schwab’s stories, you can guess that this is not your typical coming of age story.  Why?  Because August Flynn is a monster…literally. Yes,  Henry Flynn has monsters of his own, a rare breed that Kate’s father would love to get his hands on.  When August is finally given the opportunity to prove himself useful – by posing as a student at Kate’s school in case the Flynn resistance needs to grab her to use as leverage against her father, he actually ends up befriending Kate. He has to be careful though because if Kate finds out what he really is, what better way for her to prove herself to dear old dad than by capturing and bringing home one of Flynn’s rare monsters?

If you’re not familiar with Schwab’s writing, all I can say is be prepared for a ride that is dark, intense, creepy, and thrilling!

 

LIKES

I could go on for days about what I loved in this book, but here are some highlights to give you an idea of how amazing this book is.

The Monsters! I never thought I would hear myself gushing about a collection of monsters, but Schwab does a brilliant job of coming up with some of the most unique monsters I’ve ever encountered, and the idea that these monsters are “born” from violent acts committed by humans is just pure genius.  Schwab gives us the flesh-eating Corsai, who appear mainly as shadowy figures; the Malchai, who look like corpses and drink blood, and then finally the rarest form of monster, the Sunai.  The Sunai can actually pass for humans and they are the soul stealers.  The Sunai are, by far, the most fascinating of the three types, primarily because whereas Corsai and Malchai will attack anyone at any time, the Sunai seek justice and will only attack those who have committed heinous crimes.  They’re even more fascinating in terms of how they actually “attack” – each of the three Sunai uses music as their weapon.  They play music and draw the human’s soul to the surface and then feed on it.  It’s beautiful and awful all at the same time.

Complex Characters.  Kate Harker and August Flynn are the definition of complex characters.  Kate is a young woman determined to prove herself to her father by behaving like a monster, while August Flynn actually is a Sunai monster who wants nothing more than to be human.  August constantly fights against the Sunai instinct to feed on souls and just wants to prove himself to his “father” by being an active participant in the resistance.  In this sense, This Savage Song is as much a coming of age story as it is a dystopian story.  Both Kate and August have to make some difficult decisions as they decide what kind of people (or monsters) they want to be.

Action-Packed.  This Savage Song is set in the middle of a city that is already war torn and where the monsters are getting restless. There are monster attacks, assassination attempts, resistance missions, and so much more.  If you like action, this is your book.

The Overriding Theme.  The central idea that runs through This Savage Song – that human beings can be monsters may not be a unique one, but the way Schwab presents it – contrasting the behaviors of humans with actual monsters — totally is. It’s also a theme that seems very relevant these days with everything that is going on in the world.  There’s just so much hate and division out there.

 

DISLIKES

I thought the book was fantastic and had no issues with it at all.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

While it is a very different kind of read from what we saw in the Shades of Magic, This Savage Song is still a powerful read.  If you’re into dark, gritty narratives that make you think about human nature and the tough choices we all have to make in difficult times, This Savage Song is a great choice.

 

RATING:  5 STARS

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwaba young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives. 

five-stars

About Victoria Schwab

ve schwab

Victoria “V.E.” Schwab is the NYT, USA, and Indie bestselling author of more than a dozen books, including Vicious, the Shades of Magic series, and This Savage Song. Her work has received critical acclaim, been featured by EW and The New York Times, been translated into more than a dozen languages, and been optioned for TV and Film. The Independent calls her the “natural successor to Diana Wynne Jones” and touts her “enviable, almost Gaimanesque ability to switch between styles, genres, and tones.”

She is represented by Holly Root at Root Literary and Jon Cassir at CAA.
All appearance and publicity inquiries should be directed to either her agent, or one of her publicists:

Harper: Gina.Rizzo@harpercollins.com
Tor: Alexis.Saarela@tor.com