March Mini-Review Madness

Did anyone else do a bracket for March Madness this year? My husband’s family is super into sports so we do a family competition every year. This year, I really didn’t put much thought into it and ended up barely beating my nephew (who is 4). I know games are still being played, but at this point I don’t have any of the top 4 so…I’m out. But on to the reviews!

mini-reviews

A Darker Shade of MagicA Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I’d been meaning to read this series for forever and I’m so glad that I finally picked it up! I love the covers and am looking forward to one day having the whole series on my shelf. I thought the initial world explanation all happened really smoothly. Schwab also did a great job of making Kell (and Lila) super likable right from the start. She’s obviously put a ton of thought into this world with the magic system and languages. I appreciate that she doesn’t shy away from hard decisions (i.e. killing characters, no spoilers). Where I was most amazed, though, was how she managed to create a sympathetic character out of Holland (at least, for me). I get the sense that he isn’t as evil as he portrays himself. Don’t get me wrong, he did some truly evil things in this book, but I still sympathize with him for some reason? And she doesn’t even tell us that much about him! That’s what’s truly amazing. 4.5/5

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

VoicesVoices by David Elliott [ARC]

I’ll premise this review by saying I know almost nothing about Joan of Arc. I wasn’t going to pick up this book, but then I read an excerpt and found it really compelling. I’ll also say real quick that I know pretty much nothing about poetry and what makes good poetry. So take my comments with a grain of salt, I guess. With that being said, I thought the poems were interesting and beautiful at times. I really liked the perspectives from the different objects and I found the fire to be especially impactful for some reason (though I do feel like the fire’s last poem was missing, but maybe that was just because I had an ARC?). I also really liked the short sections that were quotes from her actual trial. In the end, I used to know nothing about Joan of Arc, and now I feel like I know a little bit about her. 4/5

Note: An ARC of this book was provided to the library where I work.

eBook | Hardcover

The Girl Who Drank the MoonThe Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Trigger warning: Intended infanticide

Ever since having a baby myself, I’ve found mentions of babies dying to be really hard. So the beginning of this book was difficult for me. But then we get into it and Xan is amazing and I love her for saving all the babies. I really enjoyed all of the (good) characters in this book and the found family aspect was really fun to see. Luna, in particular, was a great character though I wish we’d gotten to know her and her personality a little bit better. I thought the ending was fantastic and tender and so much more than I had even realized I wanted it to be. The only thing about this book is that I question its middle grade-ness. I feel like if I was middle grade age, so much of this book would just go straight over my head. Only as an adult do I feel like I can even scratch the surface of what this book is about. 5/5

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

The Other EinsteinThe Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

This book was not my cup of tea. First of all, it’s never clear throughout the whole book which parts are completely fictionalized and which parts are true or partially true. I think I needed an author’s note in the beginning or something because I felt pretty confused throughout most of the book. I didn’t like any of the characters and found most relationships between characters to be stifling. I felt like Mileva was an extremely weak character and I just wanted her to stand up for herself. I also came out of this book completely hating Einstein which is kind of a weird feeling… 2.5/5

February TBR

In February, I have a couple of book club books to get to and some stuff for work. I’m hoping to get to some other fun stuff too, though! (Not that the other stuff isn’t fun, but when it’s assigned, it’s a little different).

monthly tbr

I’ll limit myself to that for now. I didn’t get through as many books as I would have liked last month–we’ll see how this month goes.

12 Buzz Books for Spring/Summer 2019 (NetGalley Buzz Books)

NetGalley puts out this great compilation every season of some of the hot new Young Adult books that will be coming out. Here are my thoughts on the 12 books featured.

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RomanovRomanov by Nadine Brandes (5/7)

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them . . . and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of survival are to either release the spell, and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya’s never dabbled in magic before, but it doesn’t frighten her as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her . . .

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.

Cover: This cover is beautiful! I love the colors and the castle especially. I am so IN for anything about the Romanovs. 7/10

Premise: Very intriguing. I like the element of magic coming into this story. I’m not exactly sure how I feel about the Bolshevik romance…but who am I kidding? I’ll probably love it. 7/10

Excerpt: This sounds great so far! It sounds like they’re painting Rasputin to be a good guy at this point? I mean, maybe I’m biased from the Anastasia movie, but that guy seriously gives me the creeps, so I hope we find out later he’s a villain. 8/10

TBR?: Yes

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Once and FutureOnce & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy (3/26)

When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.

No pressure.

Cover: I mean…I kind of like the cover, but I feel like it also looks like a ton of other covers I’ve seen. 6/10

Premise: This book is being sold as “inclusive” and as a “bold original retelling”. This is definitely not the first “King Arthur as a girl” book that I’ve seen or read. I don’t really know how King Arthur being a girl is “inclusive”? That stuff aside, though, it does sound interesting. 6/10

Excerpt: I’m not super impressed by the excerpt. The main character seems kind of annoying and the book is supposed to be set in the future, but it doesn’t really feel like the future. 4/10

TBR?: Probably not

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The Missing of ClairdeluneThe Missing of Clairdelune by Christelle Dabos (5/7)

Book 2 of the Mirror Visitor Quartet

When our heroine Ophelia is promoted to Vice-storyteller by Farouk, the ancestral Spirit of Pole, she finds herself unexpectedly thrust into the public spotlight and her special gift is revealed to all. Ophelia knows how to read the secret history of objects and there could be no greater threat to the nefarious denizens of her icy adopted home than this. Beneath the golden rafters of Pole’s capitol, Citaceleste, she discovers that the only person she may be able to trust is Thorn, her enigmatic fiancé. As one after another influential courtier disappears, Ophelia again finds herself unintentionally implicated in an investigation that will lead her to see beyond Pole’s many illusions to the heart of the formidable truth.

Cover: I quite like this cover. It’s deceptively simple by just being one color, but there’s a lot going on. 7/10

Premise: I haven’t read the first book yet so I’m skipping both the premise and excerpt.

Excerpt: Skipped

TBR?: The first book is called A Winter’s Promise and it sounds very intriguing. So the first book is on my TBR, at least. Also, this book was originally written in French, so this would be great for any “books originally written in another language” challenges.

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Much Ado About Mean GirlsMuch Ado About Mean Girls by Ian Doescher (4/23)

Power struggles. Bitter rivalries. Jealousy. Betrayals. Star-crossed lovers. When you consider all these plot points, it’s pretty surprising William Shakespeare didn’t write Mean Girls. But now fans can treat themselves to the epic drama–and heroic hilarity–of the classic teen comedy rendered with the wit, flair, and iambic pentameter of the Bard. Our heroine Cady disguises herself to infiltrate the conniving Plastics, falls for off-limits Aaron, struggles with her allegiance to newfound friends Damian and Janis, and stirs up age-old vendettas among the factions of her high school. Best-selling author Ian Doescher brings his signature Shakespearean wordsmithing to this cult classic beloved by generations of teen girls and other fans. Now, on the 15th anniversary of its release, Mean Girls is a recognized cultural phenomenon, and it’s more than ready for an Elizabethan makeover.

Cover: The cover doesn’t THRILL me. I’m not making grabby hands at it, but it’s okay. 5/10

Premise: I don’t know how I feel about this book…I feel like there’s definitely a group of people out there who will love this book. I’m just not really sure it’s for me. The original movie is so good, I have a hard time believing that iambic pentameter is really going to make it better. 4/10

Excerpt: The writing just doesn’t flow like Shakespeare. Sure, it might technically be in iambic pentameter, but it still reads kind of jerkily. I’m sure the author worked really hard on it though. 3/10

TBR?: No

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Please Send HelpPlease Send Help by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin (7/16)

In this hilarious follow-up novel to the New York Times bestseller I Hate Everyone But You, long distance best friends Ava and Gen have finally made it to the same time zone (although they’re still over a thousand miles apart).

Through their hilarious, sometimes emotional, but always relatable conversations, Ava and Gen are each other’s support systems through internships, relationship troubles, questionable roommates, undercover reporting, and whether or not it’s a good idea to take in a feral cat. Please Send Help perfectly captures the voice of young adults looking to find their place in the world and how no matter how desperate things seem, you always have your best friend to tell it like it is and pick you back up.

Cover: I’m not a huge fan of the cover. The colors and font just aren’t doing it for me. 3/10

Premise: I was NOT a fan of the first book (I DNF’d after 115 pages). This book claims that it’s going to be relatable, but I did not find the characters relatable at all in the first book so…not buying that. 1/10

Excerpt: Nope. 1/10

TBR?: No

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VoicesVoices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David Elliott (3/26)

Told through medieval poetic forms and in the voices of the people and objects in Joan of Arc’s life, (including her family and even the trees, clothes, cows, and candles of her childhood). Along the way it explores issues such as gender, misogyny, and the peril of speaking truth to power. Before Joan of Arc became a saint, she was a girl inspired. It is that girl we come to know in Voices.

Cover: Not a huge fan of that cover. For some reason it looks a little old-fashioned to me. 3/10

Premise: The premise is interesting…I could see it either being really good or really weird.  But I’m betting more on weird. 4/10

Excerpt: The writing is actually quite beautiful. I’ll admit that I don’t know that much about Joan of Arc, so this might be a good read for me. 6/10

TBR?: Yes

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Descendant of the CraneDescendant of the Crane by Joan He (4/2)

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant and alluring investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

Cover: This is a great cover. It’s very reminiscent of classic Asian artwork that I’ve seen. It also gives me Alice in Wonderland vibes? 7/10

Premise: Yeah. I’m into it. 8/10

Excerpt: The writing is good and I like the use of alliteration (not sure if it’s intentional, but I like it). 8/10

TBR?: Yes

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A Place for WolvesA Place for Wolves by Kosoko Jackson (4/2)

James Mills isn’t sure he can forgive his parents for dragging him away from his life, not to mention his best friend and sister, Anna. He’s never felt so alone.

Enter Tomas. Falling for Tomas is unexpected, but sometimes the best things in life are.

Then their world splits apart. A war that has been brewing finally bursts forward, filled with violence, pain, and cruelty. James and Tomas can only rely on each other as they decide how far they are willing to go―and who they are willing to become―in order to make it back to their families.

Cover: I like this cover quite a bit. I like the contrast of the black and white photo in the background and the bright font colors. 8/10

Premise: It’s described as Aristotle and Dante meets Code Name Verity. I’m not necessarily buying that since Code Name Verity is one of the greatest best friendship stories I’ve ever read and this is definitely a romantic relationship… I think they just said Code Name Verity because there’s a war? 3/10

Excerpt: The writing is good, but I still have no sense of what the plot might be. It seems like the book might be told in the “present” and in flashbacks provided by letters that James has written to his sister and I do like that. 4/10

TBR?: No

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OperaticOperatic by Kyo Maclear illus. by Byron Eggenschwiler (4/2)

It’s almost the end of middle school, and Charlie has to find her perfect song for a music class assignment. The class learns about a different style of music each day, from hip-hop to metal to disco, but it’s hard for Charlie to concentrate when she can’t stop noticing her classmate Emile, or wondering about Luka, who hasn’t been to school in weeks. On top of everything, she has been talked into participating in an end-of-year performance with her best friends.

Then, the class learns about opera, and Charlie discovers the music of Maria Callas. The more she learns about Maria’s life, the more Charlie admires her passion for singing and her ability to express herself fully through her music. Can Charlie follow the example of the ultimate diva, Maria Callas, when it comes to her own life?

Cover: I like the top half of the cover, but not so much the bottom half and I can’t really articulate why. 5/10

Premise: I like the premise quite a bit. I like the idea of our main character discovering and delving into a new passion. I also like that this is a graphic novel. I don’t like the possibility of a love triangle that has been presented. 6/10

Excerpt: Yes. I loved it. I love that the drawings don’t feel super finished–they mostly seem like just pencil drawings and I think it’s a really good feel for the book. I’m invested in Charlie’s story already. 8/10

TBR?: Yes

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OutcastsOutcasts by Claire McFall (4/23)

Book 3 in the Ferryman series

Tristan and Dylan have escaped death and conquered destiny. Nothing is stopping them from being together.

But every action has a consequence, and their exile to the real world has caused an imbalance in the afterlife. It’s owed two souls – and it wants them back.

When the world of the dead claims Dylan’s parents to restore the balance, Dylan and Tristan are offered a terrible bargain: stay together and condemn innocent souls to death, or return to the wasteland to take their place and be separated. Forever.

Are they willing to make the ultimate sacrifice?

Cover: I like the cover–I like the simplicity and the colors. I don’t like the title font. 7/10

Premise: I haven’t read the first two books so I’m not going to rate the premise or excerpt.

Excerpt: Pass.

TBR?: I feel super torn regarding the premise of the first book. On one hand, it’s a little intriguing. On the other hand, it reads like a bunch of other supernatural romance books I’ve already read. Back on the first hand, it has a semi-high rating on Goodreads (3.87). I just don’t know.

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BloodleafBloodleaf by Crystal Smith (3/12)

Princess Aurelia is a prisoner to her crown and the heir that nobody wants. Surrounded by spirits and banned from using her blood-magic, Aurelia flees her country after a devastating assassination attempt. To escape her fate, Aurelia disguises herself as a commoner in a new land and discovers a happiness her crown has never allowed. As she forges new bonds and perfects her magic, she begins to fall for a man who is forbidden to rule beside her.

But the ghosts that haunt Aurelia refuse to abandon her, and she finds herself succumbing to their call as they expose a nefarious plot that only she can defeat. Will she be forced to choose between the weight of the crown and the freedom of her new life?

Cover: The cover looks dark and mysterious and exciting. For some reason I really like the title font and the background color really speaks to me. 8/10

Premise: We’ve had an ARC of this book sitting in or workroom for the last two months. The premise isn’t super compelling to me and that’s why I haven’t picked it up before now. I just doesn’t feel very original? Heir that has forbidden magic that they must keep hidden…I just feel like I’ve heard it a couple times before. But, like it’s got a 4.02 on Goodreads? 4/10

Excerpt: I feel like the author’s trying too hard. Something about the adjectives used just doesn’t feel very smooth. 4/10

TBR?: No

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To Best the BoysTo Best the Boys by Mary Weber (3/19)

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.

Cover: Yes. THIS is a good cover. 9/10

Premise: I am all in for this premise! A labyrinth sounds so deliciously twisty and full of puzzles (I love books with puzzles). I was actually so close to requesting this on NetGalley already, but I was worried it won’t live up to my expectations. 9/10

Excerpt: The writing is not as compelling as I would have hoped. That dampens my enthusiasm for this book a little. 7/10

TBR?: Yes

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Let me know in the comments what you’ve heard about these books!