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The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky AlbertalliThe Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 11th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back.

There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

3 Stars

I know, this is a disaster. The Upside of Unrequited – a novel I’ve been looking forward to for months – only received 3 stars from me. I’ll need some Oreos to get over this. Overall, I liked it fine but I’m so disappointed I didn’t like it more. This is Becky Albertalli, after all. I feel like she wanted too many things with this book. The Upside of Unrequited and I just didn’t click. That spark I had with Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda? Inexistent. There was no chemistry between me and this book. That’s a real case of unrequited love right there.

But there’s this awfulness that comes when a guy thinks you like him. It’s as if he’s fully clothed and you’re naked in front of him. It’s like your heart suddenly lives outside your body, and whenever he wants, he can reach out an squeeze it.
Unless he happens to like you back.

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The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas

The Perilous Sea by Sherry ThomasThe Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas
Series: The Elemental Trilogy #2
Published by Balzer + Bray on September 16th, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Pages: 414
Goodreads

After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.

Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.

3.5 Stars

Sequels are often compared to their predecessor(s), especially when with regard to deciding on a fitting rating, but I can tell you that this did me absolutely no good at all. Because The Perilous Sea seems so fundamentally different from The Burning Sky in many aspects.

The Perilous Sea was an exciting, gripping read and a worthy sequel for this series. The book excelled in taking the tension, the danger, and the action to the next level. Some of the plot twists in this book had me practically gaping.  But I also felt like the overall drama factor was turned up a notch as well, and I don’t know how I feel about that, especially where that puts me with the rating. 

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The Archived by Victoria Schwab

The Archived by Victoria SchwabThe Archived by Victoria Schwab
Series: The Archived #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on January 7th, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 321
Goodreads

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was: a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous—it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost, Da's death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself may crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

4 Stars

Though published prior to her bestselling Darker Shade of Magic series, I picked up The Archived a lot later. It stands in the shadow of Schwab’s more popular releases, and though it is far less hyped, The Archived has no reason to hide. The Archived is – as are all of Schwab’s novels – an imaginative, surprisingly moving urban fantasy which builds on the concept of the dead, their histories, and their memories being shelved in an archive. Schwab has quickly become one of my auto-buy authors. And save for This Savage Song, which was a little out of her familiar comfort zone, her works have never failed to impress me.

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King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

King’s Cage by Victoria AveyardKing's Cage by Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen #3
Published by HarperTeen on February 7th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 528
Goodreads

In this breathless third installment to Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling Red Queen series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl's spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother's web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare's heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

3 Stars

In comparison to Glass Sword, the third instalment King’s Cage is an improvement. The atmosphere of this book is darker, more twisted, and far more electrifying than that of the previous two instalments, which sat well with me. Though far from being an amazing read, credit shall be given where credit is due.

The infamous, hitherto insufferable Mare Barrow has somehow re-entered my life, even though I had sworn to myself that I had written this series off for the eternity of time. Well, damn.

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval by Stephanie GarberCaraval by Stephanie Garber
Series: Caraval #1
Published by Flatiron Books on January 31st, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 407
Goodreads

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

2.5 Stars

Caraval could’ve made for an outstanding read, for the general storyline creates tension and the setting is enchanting. But the characters are neither memorable nor fleshed out and therefore cannot pull their weight. Considering how Garber throws around with colours in her prose, the characters remain astonishingly colourless.

Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world.

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Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn HamiltonTraitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton
Series: Rebel of the Sands #2
Published by Faber & Faber on February 2nd, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 512
Goodreads

This is not about blood or love. This is about treason.

Nearly a year has passed since Amani and the rebels won their epic battle at Fahali. Amani has come into both her powers and her reputation as the Blue-Eyed Bandit, and the Rebel Prince's message has spread across the desert - and some might say out of control. But when a surprise encounter turns into a brutal kidnapping, Amani finds herself betrayed in the cruellest manner possible.

Stripped of her powers and her identity, and torn from the man she loves, Amani must return to her desert-girl's instinct for survival. For the Sultan's palace is a dangerous one, and the harem is a viper's nest of suspicion, fear and intrigue. Just the right place for a spy to thrive... But spying is a dangerous game, and when ghosts from Amani's past emerge to haunt her, she begins to wonder if she can trust her own treacherous heart.

3.5 Stars

Traitor to the Throne is the highly anticipated sequel in the Rebel of the Sands trilogy. I cannot in all honesty say that I enjoyed the sequel less than the first book, even though Traitor to the Throne received a slightly lower rating from me. I have, however, become more critical of the literature I read. Traitor to the Throne was gripping, action-packed, and spun an intriguing plot, which was somewhat overshadowed by a rocky start of info-dumps and issues I had with the characters and world-building.

Idealists make great leaders, but they never make good rulers.

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Windwitch by Susan Dennard

Windwitch by Susan DennardWindwitch by Susan Dennard
Series: The Witchlands #2
Published by Tor Teen on January 12th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 382
Goodreads

Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies…

After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

3 Stars

Second Book Syndrome, I spot you.

I feel so conflicted about Windwitch. It was one of my most anticipated sequels but it just didn’t live up to my expectations, albeit not being a bad book per se.

The first book had me hooked for several reasons. Those, however, disappeared in the sequel. A fast-paced plot? Negative. Safi and Iseult kicking ass together? Negative. Safi and Merik banter? Negative. Albeit offering an entertaining storyline and some extras like an LGBTQ+ character, Windwitch was clearly a filler, which definitely caused damage to my interest in this series as a whole. If you assume that the 3 stars are largely due to Aeduan and Iseult, then you are (sadly) correct.

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Mafiosa by Catherine Doyle

Mafiosa by Catherine DoyleMafiosa by Catherine Doyle
Series: Blood for Blood #3
Published by Chicken House Ltd. on January 5th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 416
Goodreads

A blood war rages on the streets of Chicago.

Protected by an infamous mafia family, Sophie is living a dangerous lie, pretending to lead a normal life. But the deceit can’t last for ever. Her heart belongs to a killer and Sophie’s the prime target of a rival clan. She’s determined to seek revenge on her mother’s murderers, but can she pay the price – can she be a mafiosa?

The third and final instalment in the explosive YA Blood for Blood series which started with Vendetta and Inferno.

4 Stars

Mafiosa was by far my most anticipated instalment for 2017. So imagine how ecstatic I was to find it on my doorstep on January 30th, a couple of days before the official release date. I swear, I didn’t make the Godfather an offer he couldn’t refuse. Or, make a pact with the devil (though I would have). Or, bribe the publisher. It was a miracle.

The fact that the sequel Inferno remains my favourite book in the series means that not everything about Mafiosa went according to plan. For the most part, Mafiosa was the addictive, gripping and action-packed rollercoaster I hoped it would be. I sat down, forgot about the world and blew through this in one sitting. Sadly, there were a couple of things that got in the way of my complete and utter bliss with this book.

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The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

The Walled City by Ryan GraudinThe Walled City by Ryan Graudin
Published by Little on November 4th, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian
Pages: 424
Goodreads

730. That's how many days I've been trapped.
18. That's how many days I have left to find a way out.

DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible....

JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister....

MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She's about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window.....

In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.

3.5 Stars

This was my first ever Ryan Graudin book, and the first thing I discovered was that Ryan wasn’t a dude. Hence, I had an interesting start with this book 😉

The Walled City was inspired by Hong Kong’s historical Kowloon Walled City, and its general atmosphere was therefore inherently dark. Very dark. Which made this dystopian tough to rate because, though I enjoyed the gloomy setting and strong female lead, the read was slow-going at times and I couldn’t get on board with the romance.

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Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

Prince of Shadows by Rachel CainePrince of Shadows by Rachel Caine
Published by NAL on February 4th, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Pages: 368
Goodreads

In the Houses of Montague and Capulet, there is only one goal: power. The boys are born to fight and die for honor and—if they survive—marry for influence and money, not love. The girls are assets, to be spent wisely. Their wishes are of no import. Their fates are written on the day they are born.

Benvolio Montague, cousin to Romeo, knows all this. He expects to die for his cousin, for his house, but a spark of rebellion still lives inside him. At night, he is the Prince of Shadows, the greatest thief in Verona—and he risks all as he steals from House Capulet. In doing so, he sets eyes on convent-bound Rosaline, and a terrible curse begins that will claim the lives of many in Verona…

… And will rewrite all their fates, forever.

4.5 Stars

I’ve only read one other novel by Rachel Caine, and Ink and Bone sorely disappointed me. So when I picked up Prince of Shadows, realizing only halfway through the book by whom it had been written, I was pleasantly surprised. Because this book was amazing. Now, let me tell you about my feels because I have many.

Let it be known that I love retellings, especially those that expand an original beyond its horizon. This Romeo and Juliet retelling was enriched by the point of view of Benvolio Montague, Romeo’s (much more reasonable) cousin. Prince of Shadows combines an engaging narrator (yes, Benvolio Montague is my dreamboat), a dark atmosphere set in the streets of Verona (yes, Verona is a gem of Italy) and poetic prose that makes the historical setting come to life.

First of all, how can I not fall in love with a Romeo and Juliet retelling that commences with trespassing and thoughts of murder? How, I ask you? Simply impossible.

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