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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie ThomasThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 28th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 444
Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

5 Stars

The Hate U Give instantly made the list of my favourite reads of 2017. You won’t find a lot of 5 stars among my ratings but this one was a no-brainer. I’d been expecting great things of Angie Thomas when this release was first announced, as it tackles an emotionally-charged topic in the US, and it did not disappoint.

When I was twelve, my parents had two talks with me. One was the usual birds and the bees. The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me.

This refreshing, daunting new voice deserves all the hype it’s getting. A lot of authors address and confront hard and controversial topics in their works, but Angie Thomas had her finger on the pulse of time with her debut. With its raw, realistic, and authentic narration, The Hate U Give tackles racism and the police violence related to it, but it digs far deeper than that – it uncovers a flaw rooted in our society. It takes a great deal of courage to make us and the world we live in look into a mirror, and Angie Thomas accomplished just that. No wonder so many readers said this book changed their lives.

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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 Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

The Burning Sky by Sherry ThomasThe Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas
Series: The Elemental Trilogy #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on September 17th, 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 449
Goodreads

It all began with a ruined elixir and a bolt of lightning.

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she's been told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the most powerful tyrant and mage the world has ever known. This would be a suicide task for anyone, let alone a reluctant sixteen-year-old girl with no training.

Guided by his mother's visions and committed to avenging his family, Prince Titus has sworn to protect Iolanthe even as he prepares her for their battle with the Bane. But he makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the tyrant closing in, Titus must choose between his mission—and her life.

The Burning Sky—the first book in the Elemental Trilogy—is an electrifying and unforgettable novel of intrigue and adventure.

3.5 Stars

I was warned by my friends Nastassja and Katerina that this book was going to make me fall in love with a prince – and it did. Titus VII is my small son and must be protected at all costs. As a hopeless shipper of love-hate relationships and devoted fan of girls disguising as boys, The Burning Sky was the perfect read for me, in the sense that it offered me a light read with some of my favourites plot devices. Alas, I could not ignore the flaws this urban fantasy presented me with, which include a world-building jammed with magical elements of all kind, as though the author simply couldn’t decide whether to use spells or elemental magic or mind powers.

“This is the story of a girl who fooled a thousand boys, a boy who fooled an entire country, a partnership that would change the fate of realms, and a power to challenge the greatest tyrant the world had ever known. Expect magic.”

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The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

The Crown’s Game by Evelyn SkyeThe Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
Series: The Crown's Game #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on May 17th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 399
Goodreads

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

1 Stars

Well…for a book about magic The Crown’s Game was decidedly unmagical.

On Goodreads I ask people to answer a challenge question when they send me a friend request, the question being: What are some of your biggest bookish pet peeves? The answers are usually pretty similar and include some of the following:

– Insta-love
– Love triangles
– Characters who seem to lose all sense of reason or rational brain function when they meet another character they consider “hot”
– Lacklustre worldbuilding
– Boring plot
– Bad writing and over-the-top metaphors

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Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund HodgeCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Series: Cruel Beauty Universe #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on January 28th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Goodreads

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl's journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

3.5 Stars

Cruel Beauty was such a pleasant surprise. I read A Court of Thorns and Roses a while ago and hated did not enjoy it. I thought it was a sorry excuse for a Beauty and the Beast retelling. Then, many people started recommending this book to me and although the ratings weren’t as high as for the books I usually read, I decided to it pick up. I went into it knowing nothing in terms of plot and came out having my faith in BatB retellings restored.

The concept for Cruel Beauty is a really intriguing and unique one, but I was very worried it wouldn’t work. A fairy tale retelling with Greek mythology? Sounds like a great idea but the execution will probably be very lacking, I thought to myself. But I was wrong. Somehow Rosamund Hodge makes it work. She made the world feel real and organic, even though there wasn’t a lot of world-building. The weaving of her own invented mythology into actual mythology resulted in a strange blend of stories that somehow work together harmonically. I’m still slightly awestruck by this fact.

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Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Snow Like Ashes by Sara RaaschSnow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
Series: Snow Like Ashes #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on October 14th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Goodreads

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

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

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

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

2 Stars

So…this novel has a very high average rating on Goodreads and reviewers who’s opinion I trust loved it, so I was confident I would too. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. To be honest, I’m feeling conflicted between what I actually felt and what I think I should feel based on all the glowing reviews. Snow Like Ashes isn’t a terrible book but I failed to see what everyone else thought was so great about it. In fact, it started out okay and I thought that if I kept reading there would be a huge twist and suddenly it would turn from mediocre and predictable to intriguing. This didn’t happen.

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Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky AlbertalliSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 7th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult, LGBTQ+
Pages: 303
Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

4 Stars

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda isn’t my usual cup of tea. I don’t tend to gravitate towards YA contemporaries, especially not those that are described as “cute” and “adorable”. If I read contemporary, it’s usually for the dark themes, twisted characters or exciting plot. But although this book doesn’t really contain any of these things (though it does deal with some heavier issues) I thought it was fantastic. It’s one of those novels that does everything right, and is entertaining to boot. Reading it put me in a good mood; it’s such an uplifting, funny and beautifully told story that I can almost guarantee will give you all the feels.

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Little Peach by Peggy Kern

Little Peach by Peggy KernLittle Peach by Peggy Kern
Published by Balzer + Bray on March 10th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 208
Goodreads

What do you do if you're in trouble?

When Michelle runs away from her drug-addicted mother, she has just enough money to make it to New York City, where she hopes to move in with a friend. But once she arrives at the bustling Port Authority, she is confronted with the terrifying truth: she is alone and out of options.

Then she meets Devon, a good-looking, well-dressed guy who emerges from the crowd armed with a kind smile, a place for her to stay, and eyes that seem to understand exactly how she feels.

But Devon is not what he seems to be, and soon Michelle finds herself engulfed in the world of child prostitution where he becomes her “Daddy” and she his “Little Peach.” It is a world of impossible choices, where the line between love and abuse, captor and savior, is blurred beyond recognition.

This hauntingly vivid story illustrates the human spirit’s indomitable search for home, and one girl’s struggle to survive.

4 Stars

“Ain’t nobody comin’ to save you, girl. You wanna survive? You better start thinking for yourself.”

What a devastating and horrifying little novel this was. It’s a story that pulls you in immediately and doesn’t let you go until the end, even if you wish you could just look away.

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Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Bone Gap by Laura RubyBone Gap by Laura Ruby
Published by Balzer + Bray on March 3rd 2015
Genres: Magical Realism, Retelling, Young Adult
Pages: 373
Goodreads

Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

5 Stars

“People look, they don’t see.”

Just thinking about this incredible book I finished a few days ago brings back all the emotions I felt while reading. Bone Gap is honestly a masterpiece and I don’t say that lightly. It is however, also a very difficult book to review.

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