The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆1/2
Title: The Grace Year
Author: Kim Liggett
Genre: Dystopian
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 416
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: October 8, 2019
Source: Giveaway – choice book
Recommended for Fans of: The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale

SYNOPSIS

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

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to 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 a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.

MY THOUGHTS

“We are the only Gods here.”

This is a really important read about the expectations and restrictions placed on girls. Even though this story takes place in a dystopian society, too much rings true in our own society today. I completely understand all the comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale and Lord of the Flies, with a dash of The Hunger Games and Mean Girls.

Tierney is a strong and smart protagonist who knows there is more to the grace year than it seems. As she seeks the truth, she discovers that the lies about the grace year are darker and deeper than she could have imagined.

The author previously published horror books, and there are clear horror influences in The Grace Year. The descriptions of the things the girls do to each other are violent, brutal, and gruesome.

This story illuminates what girls will do to each other to gain the upper hand, but it also shows the amazing things that can happen when women choose to come together and look out for each other. The grace year is meant to break and subdue women, but spending a year unbound by law and limits gives the girls a taste of freedom to savor and hold onto.

This wasn’t quite a five star read for me. The book dragged a bit in the middle and got a little off course. Additionally, I’m still not sure how I feel about the ending. Throughout the book Tierney looks for ways to change her society for the better, but at the end I’m not left with the sense that large-scale change is inevitable, even though it seems there is progress. I also wonder what happened in this society to make men so afraid of women that their only recourse was to break and control them. However, I can’t stop thinking about this story, because even though it is fiction, it feels so close to a potential reality.

Frankly in Love by David Yoon

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆1/2
Title: Frankly in Love
Author: David Yoon
Series: Frankly in Love #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Raymond J. Lee
Length: ~10 hours (432 pages)
Publisher: Listening Library
Release Date: September 10, 2019
Source: Library (Libby app)

SYNOPSIS

High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo–his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance–“Date Korean”–which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful–and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.

MY THOUGHTS

I really wanted to love this book. I highly anticipated this release because I’ve enjoyed Nicola Yoon’s books, but I should not have placed my expectations for her writing on him. I almost DNF this book, and the only reason I finished it is because my next audiobook was on hold.

My biggest issue was that it felt like two different stories were happening that did not blend together well. Some parts of this book were so great, but others not so much.

I’ll start with the good. There were important discussions about race, identity, and family that were very deep and well-written. I think this idea could have worked as a short story or essay about the Korean-American experience, because the family dynamics in this book were so insightful, but as a whole the book did not come together.

Now for the bad. THE ROMANCE. This book has “love” in the title, but the romance was just not good. This book featured several YA romance tropes (instalove, fake dating, cheating), none of them well-executed. The cheating didn’t even bother me that much because the relationship never felt real to me in the first place. In general, the interactions between Frank and other teenagers felt awkward and inauthentic.

David Yoon knows how to write about Korean-Americans, but he does not know how to write believable teenage characters. YA is not the right fit for him to tell his story. I might consider reading something from him in the future in a different genre or platform, but I will not be reading the sequel to Frankly in Love.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Renegades
Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: Renegades #1
Genre: Science Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Rebecca Soler, Dan Bittner
Length: ~17 hours (556 pages)
Publisher: Macmillan Young Listeners
Release Date: November 7, 2017
Source: Library (Libby app)
Recommended for Fans of: superheroes, antiheroes

SYNOPSIS

Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies — humans with extraordinary abilities — who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone… except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice — and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

MY THOUGHTS

SO. GOOD. I always love a good superhero story, and this one did not disappoint.

I love that the main character, Nova, is a villain and gives us a unique perspective on the Renegades. She isn’t a villain because she’s evil; she’s a villain because when she was a child the Renegades did not come. At the beginning of the story she seems like she’s an Anarchist through and through, but as we get more inside her head we see that while she believes the Anarchist cause is just, she doesn’t always agree with her fellow Anarchists that the ends justify the means. Throughout the book she struggles determine what she truly stands for and where her loyalties truly lie as both Renegades and Anarchists challenge her beliefs.

In contrast, Adrian is a born Renegade who fully supports what they stand for, but his desire to learn the truth about his mother’s death and test the limits of his power cause him to keep his own secrets from the council. He, too, comes to question whether the Renegade organization is always exercising its power appropriately, but his goal is to change it from within, not destroy it.

Nova and Adrian had such a slow burn before they finally admitted their feelings for each other. I am so curious to see how their relationship develops in book 2 and how their secrets will impact their romance. I’m rooting for them! But they might not be able to forgive each other when the truth comes out.

The ending actually blew my mind. Marissa Meyer pulled off some truly spectacular twists that I did not see coming but they made so much sense.

I also thought that the narrators did an amazing job with the audiobook, and I would highly recommend that format! This is my second time reading this book, and I only listened to the audiobook so I could reread it before I continue the series. The narration was so good I almost want to finish the series on audio, but the books waiting on my shelf will not be ignored!

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆1/2
Title: The Wives
Author: Tarryn Fisher
Genre: Thriller
Audience: Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Graydon House
Release Date: December 30, 2019
Source: Purchased (Book of the Month)
Triggers: miscarriage and infertility are central to the story

SYNOPSIS

Thursday’s husband, Seth, has two other wives. She’s never met them, and she doesn’t know anything about them. She agreed to this unusual arrangement because she’s so crazy about him.

But one day, she finds something. Something that tells a very different—and horrifying—story about the man she married.

MY THOUGHTS

The Wives was my December Book of the Month pick. Overall, I found it to be an underwhelming, disappointing, generic domestic thriller. This started off promising, with an unusual premise that seemed unique, but the execution fell flat for me.

I quickly realized I did not care for the main character. As an avid thriller reader, I don’t expect to like every MC, but I did not connect to her at all. I felt no sympathy when she suddenly became unhappy with the arrangement for her husband to have two other wives that she had agreed to.

About halfway through the book there was a major twist that came out of nowhere, and from that point I had no idea what was going on–not in the good, suspenseful way, but in the confusing, why-is-this-happening way.

The last few chapters left my head spinning as about a dozen different versions of “the truth” were revealed before settling on an unoriginal conclusion that left a bad taste in my mouth. What started off as a seemingly original story went down the same path that many domestic thrillers follow.

I gave this 2.5 stars instead of just 2 because despite my lack of satisfaction with the story, it was still fast-paced and gripping enough to keep me turning pages until the end.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
Genre: Fantasy (mythology)
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Length: ~11 hours
Publisher: Harper Audio
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Source: Library (Libby app)
Recommended for Fans of: Greek mythology, Circe

SYNOPSIS

The legend begins…

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Built on the groundwork of the Iliad, Madeline Miller’s page-turning, profoundly moving, and blisteringly paced retelling of the epic Trojan War marks the launch of a dazzling career.

MY THOUGHTS

I read The Song of Achilles after reading Madeline Miller’s other mythology retelling, Circe. I liked Circe a little bit more, but this was still amazing.

The writing is beautiful, insightful, and mesmerizing. The story moves slowly, making room for Petroclus’s experiences, emotions, and developing relationship with Achilles.

Even though the book spans the saga of the Trojan War, this is not an action/war story. This is a story about desire versus destiny, identity versus duty. Relationships are central to the story, and not just the relationship between Petroclus and Achilles, but the interactions between all characters.

Madeline Miller has a way of breathing new life into old myths. She tells a story that feels true to the original mythology while grounding and humanizing heroes and gods of legends.

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Sorcery of Thorns
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 456 pages
Publisher: McElderry Books
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Source: Gift
Recommended for Fans of: Harry Potter, Gail Carson Levin books, Beauty & the Beast, Caraval

SYNOPSIS

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

MY THOUGHTS

What’s not to love about a magical library? This is every book lover’s dream, and the library’s magic is so unique! I love how the books are “alive” and have their own personalities.

I loved all of the character development in this book, especially Elisabeth’s. She is strong-willed, compassionate, and open-minded. When she is forced to leave the security of the library–the only home she’s ever known–she must confront all kinds of new obstacles for the first time: sorcerers, demons, sexism, and prejudice, including her own. She realizes that she can’t trust everything she was taught and learns to think for herself, and watching her discover her own beliefs and values was a highlight of this book.

And Nathaniel! A brooding and tortured young sorcerer, haunted by his past and his family, who has a kind heart underneath it all. I was here for Elisabeth and Nathaniel’s slow burning and very clean romance (except for one brief scene that doesn’t get very far).

Silas was a great surprise. Cruel and cunning by nature, he is deeply protective and truly cares for Nathaniel, even though it goes against his nature.

This book was utterly magical! It is exactly the kind of book I loved growing up, the kind of book that made me fall in love with reading. It made me nostalgic for all my old favorites like Harry Potter and The Two Princesses of Bamarre. I don’t think a book has ever made me want to go back and reread a totally unrelated book so much! I highly recommend this to fantasy lovers everywhere.

From a Certain Point of View (Star Wars) by Various Authors

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: From a Certain Point of View
Authors: Various (see below)
Genre: Science-Fiction
Audience: All ages
Format: Hardcover
Length: 479 pages
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Source: Purchased
Recommended for Fans of: Star Wars

SYNOPSIS

40 Years. 40 Stories.

In honor of the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars: A New Hope, this unique anthology features Star Wars stories by bestselling authors, trendsetting artists, and treasured voices from Star Wars’ literary history. Over 40 authors have lent their unique vision to 40 “scenes,” each retelling a different moment from the original Star Wars film, but with a twist: every scene is told from the point of view of a seemingly minor character. Whether it’s the X-wing pilots who helped Luke destroy the Death Star or the stormtroopers who never did find the droids they were looking for, Star Wars: From A Certain Point of View places the classic movie in a whole new perspective celebrates the influence and legacy of the unparalleled cultural phenomenon, Star Wars.

MY THOUGHTS

These 40 stories added new perspectives to A New Hope besides the major characters. I was drawn to this collection because I love Star Wars and so many authors I love were included in this collaboration. I bought this book when it was published in 2017 and read a few stories, but I didn’t pick it back up until the end of 2019 when The Rise of Skywalker came out.

Reading From a Certain Point of View was like watching A New Hope in slow motion, zooming into the minds of different characters in the background along the way. Overall I enjoyed these new perspectives, but this book got repetitive at times when multiple stories in a row retold the same scene from different points of view. Other stories seemed kind of pointless when their inclusion did not add anything of particular significance to the original story.

Some of my favorite stories told what other well known characters were up to during the events of A New Hope (like Yoda and Lando), but I appreciated how this anthology gave voices to some blink-and-you’ll-miss-them background characters from the movie, even if they didn’t all hit the mark for me.

I enjoyed this anthology overall, but I would recommend reading it a story or two at a time instead of powering straight through the book (like I did). If you are a diehard Star Wars fan like me, you will enjoy this collection.

Featured Authors

Elizabeth Schaefer (Editor), Ben Acker, Tom Angleberger, Ben Blacker, Jeffrey Brown, Jason Fry, Christie Golden, Pierce Brown, Ashley Eckstein, Mur Lafferty, Ken Liu, Griffin McElroy, John Jackson Miller , Kelly Sue DeConnick , Nnedi Okorafor, Daniel José Older , Ian Doescher, Mallory Ortberg, Madeleine Roux, Gary D. Schmidt, Matt Fraction, Cavan Scott, Sabaa Tahir, Kieron Gillen, Glen Weldon, Chuck Wendig, Gary Whitta, Meg Cabot, Pablo Hidalgo, Adam Christopher, Rae Carson, Zoraida Córdova, Delilah S. Dawson, Paul Dini, Alexander Freed, Claudia Gray, E.K. Johnston, Paul S. Kemp, Elizabeth Wein, Beth Revis, Greg Rucka, Charles Soule, Wil Wheaton, Renée Ahdieh

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Title: Illuminae
Authors: Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files #1
Genre: Science-Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Paperback
Length: 599 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books
Release Date: October 20, 2015
Source: Purchased
Recommended for Fans of: Marvel, contagion/plague stories

SYNOPSIS

Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the worst thing she’d ever been through. That was before her planet was invaded. Now, with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra are forced to fight their way onto one of the evacuating craft, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But the warship could be the least of their problems. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their biggest threat; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady plunges into a web of data hacking to get to the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: Ezra.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents–including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more–Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

MY THOUGHTS

Reading this was an experience. The unique, epistolary storytelling format made for a fast-paced, action-packed, shockingly beautiful book that is a very fast read despite its 600 pages. Don’t be intimidated by this book’s size; it can easily be read in one or two sittings.

This story has so many layers: interplanetary warfare, rogue AI, a plague, cyber espionage, survival, and a teenage romance. It reminded me of a lot of other stories mashed together (Avengers: Age of Ultron meets a zombie contagion), but those familiar elements came together in a way that felt wholly original.

My favorite thing about this book is AIDAN, the artificial intelligence system. The language on AIDAN’s pages were beautiful and poetic, and the AI’s development provided the most thought-provoking elements that brought the story to a deeper, philosophical level.

I must admit, I wasn’t completely invested in the romance. It just felt like a typical YA teenage romance, and I didn’t particularly care whether Kady and Ezra were together or not. Not to mention that their modern-day slang and text speak felt jarringly out of place for a book set so far in the future (I always enjoy when futuristic stories make up new slang words). However, their interactions did keep the story grounded and provided some light humor in the midst of a life and death crisis.

This book had me laughing, crying, and literally gasping with all the twists and turns. I couldn’t read the pages fast enough. I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of the series!

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Series: Shades of Magic #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Adult
Format: Paperback
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Source: Purchased
Recommended for Fans of: Six of Crows, Pirates of the Caribbean

SYNOPSIS

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

MY THOUGHTS

This is very well-written. The storytelling is excellent, the worldbuilding is impressive, the magic system is unique, and the characters are bold, flawed, and likable.

This book does start off very slow. The first 100 pages or so are mostly exposition. We meet the major characters across the different Londons and start to learn about how magic works in each world, but it drags on with very little purposeful action (I wouldn’t say that there’s NO action in the first 100 pages, it’s just hard to see where it’s going). I am SO GLAD I stuck with it though because once the story picked up, DANG IT WAS GOOD. It should tell you something about the quality of the writing that I still gave this book 5 stars instead of docking half a star for the pacing.

Kell is a great MC. His many-sided coat is one of the coolest magical objects I’ve ever encountered. He is reckless but fiercely loyal, willing to risk himself to protect his world and the people he loves.

And then there’s Lila Bard, who just wants to live her best pirate life. My only complaint about Lila is that is took so long for her to be introduced in the book! She is clever and brave, diving headfirst into adventure, mischief, and danger even when her opponents have all the advantages. Her past is very mysterious, but there are some big hints about her true identity to be answered in future books (I hope).

I got swept away in this story, and I think the ending wrapped things up really well. I appreciate a book in a series that can stand on its own. There were no major cliffhangers, but enough unanswered questions to get me excited for book #2!

I’m running a giveaway for this book on Instagram! I got the boxed set for Christmas, so I’m giving away my extra copy to one lucky follower! Enter here.