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Here we have three entries that show just how varied fantasy novels can be. There’s a historical, paranormal fantasy, a fantasy romantic comedy, and a graphic novel that is part steampunk, part epic fantasy. Let’s take a look! Title: These Vicious Masks Author: Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars Release Date: February 9, 2016 Publisher: Swoon Reads Age Group: YA Source: Borrowed I’m so glad I read this absorbing paranormal historical story set in Victorian London. If you typically enjoy books placed in this setting, These Vicious Masks will not disappoint. There are all the usual trappings: young heroine who defies Society and its restrictive gender roles, a dashing gentleman (or two), and a paranormal mystery/quest driving its heart. Evelyn is our sassy, independent MC on a quest to save her gentle, kind-hearted sister from the hands of a devious mad scientist bent... Read more »
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Truthwitch is my first book by Susan Dennard and it won’t be my last. I didn’t get a copy at BEA this year – I think it’s fair to say that it was one of *the* books to get? – and I was bummed that my flight got in too late to even make grabbing Truthwitch a possibility. But lo and behold, Susan Dennard was at NCTE in November and so not only did I get a copy of Truthwitch buuuuut Susan Dennard also signed it! So things worked out for me in the end, and splendidly, because I loved Truthwitch and you should 100% read it. Even if you do not enjoy fantasy novels? You should read it. Because it is pretty great, and I loved it. Here is the number one reason why: there is an epic female friendship at the center of the series and that is basically everything I... Read more »
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I don’t get around to reading as much middle grade as I’d wish to, but I’ve really lucked out so far this year. Every middle grade I’ve read has been so charming and heartwarming. A real highlight has been Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger, but today I’m bringing you two other 2015 MG’s I’ve really enjoyed. Title: Echo Author: Pam Muñoz Ryan Rating: 3.5 A lovely story and beautifully told, this book tells the tales of 3 different children in different times and place in the world all connected by one magical harmonica. Friedrich in pre-WWII Germany is first hand witness to the slow motion horror of Hitler’s rise to power and gradual degradations to his family. Mike in a Depression era orphanage fights to keep his little brother from being adopted without him. Ivy in WWII era California comes up against the harsh racism of segregated education and the horror of... Read more »
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It’s comforting to know that there are certain authors out there that you can come to rely on for a satisfying, gripping story that is not only beautifully written, but also fraught with tension of both the actual danger and of the romantic varieties. In Every Word, the second installment in her Every series, Ellie Marney establishes herself as exactly that type of author for me. Everything that I loved in Every Breath, the action, the mystery, and the undeniable sexual tension, are not only present in Every Word, they’re amplified. We begin the story several weeks after the events of Every Breath. Rachel and Mycroft are processing their emotions after the events of Every Word and are trying to navigate the new world of their relationship. Complicating events are Rachel’s parents, who have taken appropriate and realistic measures (involved YA parents, my god, it’s a unicorn!) to try and... Read more »
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You get two for the price of one today–Layla has a review of The Scorpion Rules for you, and Wendy has a giveaway + recap of the Erin Bow event she attended awhile back! Review: I enjoyed the hell out of this book. I have been in the middle of a fairly severe reading slump (and am also reading nonstop for my dissertation, so you know, take that into account, too) and The Scorpion Rules is one of the few books that have successfully broken through the haze of grumpiness I’ve been in for the last few months. But The Scorpion Rules really worked for me. From what I can tell, though, it seems like it’s been a fairly divisive read – you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it. Luckily for me, I am firmly on Team Scorpion Rules (and Team Talis!). If you like dark humor, morally ambiguous AIs,... Read more »
The post The Scorpion Rules: Review + Erin Bow dinner + giveaway appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
I seem to have an affinity for those books which are magical and strange and not entirely definable. Sitting down to the write this review, it occurs to me how difficult it is to describe this book. I can tell you what it’s about, but to describe the experience of reading it almost makes me feel like I’ve had a spell cast on me myself. There is a palpable sense of unreality throughout as Aidan journeys to unravel the mysteries of himself and his family. Aidan can’t remember entire swaths of his life and he doesn’t even realize it. He drifts along as in a fog, feeling barely there at all. Until the day an old friend comes back into his life and lost memories begin to shake themselves loose from their bindings. But who bound Aidan’s memories, and why? You have to tell your story true, and not everyone... Read more »
The post Wonders of the Invisible World: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
In the deepest winter forest an arrow is shot in desperation. The quarrel finds its target, but the consequences are far reaching and unexpected. Feyre, youngest daughter of an impoverished nobleman, has unintentionally killed one of the Fae and broken the treaty between humans and Fae. Now she must trade her life for that of her slain foe. Caught between death or handing herself over to live in the lands of the Fae, never to return to her family, Feyre surrenders. This is a totally new fantasy world, completely separate from that of Throne of Glass. Feyre lives on an island resembling Great Britain that is divided among human ruled lands and the realms of the Fae (many blessings upon Bloomsbury for including a map for those of us “constant flippers”). The humans live in constant fear of the Fae, and the Fae live in constant fear of the ever... Read more »
The post A Court of Thorns and Roses: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
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Well, it’s the end of an era isn’t it? I wasn’t even a little bit nervous that this book would fail to deliver on all the promise of its predecessors and I am so happy to tell you that I was right in my confidence. If you are looking for heart pounding action, a fierce but all too human heroine, the swooniest of swoons and, of course, intense creepiness you will find it, and more, in End of Days. Like World After, End of Days picks up almost immediately where its predecessor left off. Penryn is reunited with both Raffe and Paige, but they are still plagued with problems. The world is still a mess, overrun with angels, humans, and other monsters. Raffe still needs his wings back and Paige needs help steering back to humanity. As is to be expected this book is super creepy. You thought you’ve... Read more »
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I don’t know how to convince you to read Devoted, but I think you should. It’s not the sort of thing I usually pick up – I do read broadly, but my favorite books are more likely to be sci-fi or fantasy than contemporaries – but I’m glad that I did, in this case. Devoted hasn’t seemed to receive much attention so far and I’m not sure why? Because this book is an excellent, though very quiet, character study. And in addition to this, it’s beautifully written and it engages with many issues that are central to young adult literature. It’s a good one, you all. (And I don’t think you need to be religious or Christian to read it; do not be scared off by the title or the synopsis. I grew up in an interfaith household that was super different from this, and liked it anyway.) The central premise is as follows:... Read more »
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Challenger Deep is a difficult book to read, but it’s worth it. I’ve been excited about Challenger Deep since I heard Neal Shusterman and his son, Brendan, speak about it at NCTE and ALAN. They both spoke pretty openly about the family’s experience with mental illness, and also mentioned that some of the artwork Brendan had created during his illness had been incorporated into the final novel. I’ve been really interested in seeing what the book would look like since then. More complex representations of mental illness can only be a good thing when it comes to YA lit, and I’m happy to say that Challenger Deep absolutely satisfies on that count. Challenger Deep takes the form of two alternating narratives: Caden Bosch’s day-to-day life with his friends and family, which is becoming increasingly disrupted by his mental illness, and his other life as the artist-in-residence aboard a ship. The ship is headed... Read more »
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The Invasion of the Tearling is not the book The Queen of the Tearling was for me. (This is to say that I was not excitedly texting everyone I knew at 4 a.m. telling them to GO READ THIS BOOK.) In part, this is because The Invasion of the Tearling is a much more ambitious, a much darker, and a much harder book to read than its predecessor. One of the criticisms I remember seeing quite a bit around the interwebz for The Queen of the Tearling was the lack of clarity around The Tearling’s backstory. “What is this crazy dystopian medieval fantasy land and why are we given very little information about how it came into being?” For those of you who had those feels, let me tell you that a good 50% of this book is dedicated to answering precisely those questions. The Invasion of the Tearling alternates... Read more »
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Imagine being a 17 year old hunter-in-training, going about your business vanquishing poltergeists, mucking up vampire politics, and getting into other general supernatural hijinks. You know, the usual. Now imagine the one obstacle in your way to becoming a fully fledged hunter: losing your virginity (it turns out vampires go crazy in the presence of virgin blood). This is the dilemma for our heroine, the magnificently irreverent, snarky, and confident Maggie. It’s hard enough to navigate the realms of normal adolescence. Add in several layers of paranormal complications, and many years of homeschooling, and our Maggie finds herself at a disadvantage in swiftly accomplishing this goal. The conversation in which Maggie’s hunter mom, Janice, informs her of this unique challenge sets the stage for one of the highlights of the story: the beautifully complicated yet loving mother/daughter relationship. The two are close, but have plenty moments of conflict and misunderstanding.... Read more »
The post The Awesome: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
If only a perfectly nice dragon could be left well enough alone to manage his curse removal business with his partner (and crush) the human mage, Marci. Unfortunately for Julius, his family is far too big and far too, well, draconic to ever let him be. And clan seer Bob claims to have big plans for him. This does not at all add up to a quiet lifetime of removing tank badger spirits (don’t ask) from the erstwhile cursed. This series is just so much awesome fantasy fun. Picking up shortly after the events of Nice Dragons Finish Last, Julius and Marci are giving it their best to scrape by running a curse removal business when major events start happening that throw the two into a situation way beyond their means. Estella, seer, daughter of the Three Sisters and long time enemy of the Heartstriker clan has put into motion... Read more »
The post One Good Dragon Deserves Another: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
If What We Saw isn’t already on your radar for September 2015 releases, it should be. I can’t say that I enjoyed it – the book, for the most part, centers on the rape of a high school student by a group of her peers and its effect on her community – but it’s a good book and an important one, and you should read it. If you’ve ever wanted a book that unpacks and critiques rape culture, What We Saw is here and it’s a good start. Here’s the premise of What We Saw: high school junior Kate Weston wakes up the morning after a party with little memory of what happened the night before. While Kate’s concerns are initially about herself (did she drive herself home? Is her car across town? Does Ben Cody, longtime good friend and fellow scholar-athlete, like her?), her focus quickly shifts. The next day at... Read more »
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Finally, a paranormal romance where the focus is on the paranormal and not a human who unwittingly stumbles upon it. Exquisite Captive is a breath of fresh air. It has jinni in it. Jinni! This book is full of unique, immersive mythology, swooning romance, and the importance of free will. Although we briefly go into the heads of a few different characters, at the heart of it this story is about Nalia. Nalia is a jinni, and not just that. She is the last surviving member of the ruling class of jinni, called the Ghan Aisouri, meaning she is one of the most powerful jinni alive. After escaping the slaughter of her people by the fire-wielding Ifrit she is sold into the jinni slave trade, called the Dark Caravan, and enslaved to Malek, a man who never seems to age and refuses to use his third wish, which is the... Read more »
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Raise your hands if you enjoy any of the following: Conspiracy theories! Fighting the man! Technology in the future! Androids! What it means to be a human! …or embodied! …or an individual subject! Playing “catch that allusion” re: sci-fi as a genre! Because The Body Electric thinks about all of these things, and if these are things you are also interested in thinking about, you’re in for a good time, I promise. While I wasn’t totally in love with everything in this book (and I’ll get to that), the book does a lot of things right: it entertains many interesting questions, features solid world-building, and is written beautifully. And those aspects were enough to make my readerly experience a positive one. Here’s the premise: our heroine, Ella Shepherd, lives in postwar Malta in the new city of New Venice, the site of a new global government. Shortly after Ella discovers that she... Read more »
The post The Body Electric: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
Otherbound is super interesting, you all. If you like incredibly original fantasy, detailed world-building, and diversity to the max in your reading, you should go pick up Otherbound. Here’s the premise: whenever Nolan blinks (or sleeps, or closes his eyes for any period of time whatsoever), he becomes trapped in Amara’s mind. He’s been diagnosed with epilepsy, but no medication seems to have much of an effect on his blackouts. These blackouts have been pervasive since he was a little kid, and have had real physical, emotional, and social consequences for him: he was hit by a car during one blackout and now wears a prosthetic leg; he feels helpless at his lack of control over his blackouts; he also can’t spend time with family and friends without worrying about whether he’s going to get pulled into Amara’s mind. Amara lives in a totally different world – the Dunelands – and has no... Read more »
The post Otherbound: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
There are perhaps some things you should know about me before I embark on this review: I am not traditionally a fan of either contemporary or mystery I am not a fan of the popular BBC series Sherlock nor any other Sherlock adaptation I really do not like bad boy love interests I freaking adored this book When I saw that my friend Gillian was absolutely losing it over the ship in this book I knew I had to get my hands on it ASAP! And boy, did she not let me down! It’s going to take something really special to get this SFF loving gal to even read a contemporary let alone love it. Congrats, Ellie Marney. You succeeded in spades. Man, how good is the characterization in this book? I loved Rachel so much. It’s rare that I think that a character in YA comes across as an... Read more »
The post Every Breath: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
Well, this book was one deliciously creepy treat. It’s the sort of book that wholly transports from the first pages and ensnares the reader into its darkly magical web. At its best, the gothic aspects of this story reminded me of Strange Sweet Song and its dark fairy tale feel brought to mind Cuckoo Song. Those are two of my favorite books of 2014 and I do not make the comparison lightly! Sterling Saucier (what a tremendous name, btw) is dealing with loss on several fronts. Immediately, her brother has disappeared into the town’s mystical swamp. Years earlier her alcoholic and abusive father left their family. Of course, his departure was not without significant scarring itself for both Sterling and Phineas. And the repercussions of that departure echo throughout the story. I was quite struck, actually, by how this was both a paranormal novel and a contemporary “issue”... Read more »
The post Beware the Wild: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
If you’re a reader whose interests tend towards (angsty, challenging, occasionally sweet) romance, I can’t recommend Robin York’s Deeper enough. To be clear, this is absolutely not a book for young readers. Deeper definitely falls into the New Adult genre, and as such, is one of the best New Adult novels that I’ve read in the past year. (My favorite of the year is probably Leah Raeder’s Unteachable, which Wendy reviewed a few months ago.) Although I’m still trying to find my bearings in NA lit in general, I like Robin York’s work quite a bit. (This is probably because she is also romance writer Ruthie Knox, who is a person you should read if you like contemporary romances.) Anyway. Here’s what I liked about Deeper (despite what seems to me to be an awful-ish title, and not just because it’s also the title of a lesbian romance novel that is crazy bad). If you’re interested in NA and... Read more »
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I’m so glad I started the new year off right by reading The Stolen Moon. I’ve been eagerly anticipating this sequel ever since I devoured its predecessor, The Lost Planet, in one sitting last January. Well, I loved this installment even more. There are scenes of breathtaking action, as well as heart aching tenderness, against the backdrop of an ever expanding and politically complex universe. More please and thank you! We pick up not long after where we left Chase safely onboard the starship Kuyddestor and reunited with his sister Lilli. With still no memory of his old life, his parents, or how he got into this predicament, there are still plenty of answers to pursue. And as it turns out new danger is lurking just out of sight. As a reader who is largely driven by characters and how much I do or don’t connect with them this book was... Read more »
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Hello! Do you like humorously told fantasies, unique magic, complex heroes, heroic villains, parallel worlds, and London(s)? Of course you do. You are a person of quality and good taste. So, great news! This book has all of those things. I mean, honestly, it had me at “parallel Londons!” Each London is distinct and wondrous in its own way. I loved being able to follow the characters through to the different worlds. Even our own dreary, magic-less* Grey London is a joy to visit. Red London is vibrant, opulent, and full of life. White London is gorgeously dark, creepy, and dangerous. Atmospheric, beautifully detailed, and rich in the character of its worlds; Schwab writes in such a way that I felt like I could step off from the main story and wander around in her various Londons exploring for days. This is world building done right. And give me a... Read more »
The post A Darker Shade of Magic: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
By: Wendy Darling,
When you take the chance on doing a cover reveal for a book you haven’t read yet, it’s a leap of faith: not only that the artwork is going to be eye-catching, but that the book is going to be awesome. When we hosted the cover reveal for Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda last year, I had a good feeling about the synopsis, but I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy the book! It’s a funny, sweet story about a boy who falls in love with the stranger who’s writing him letters–a stranger who seems to know Simon’s heart better than he does himself. I liked that in this coming out/coming of age story, Simon is sure of his own sexuality, even though he’s painfully vulnerable because he’s not sure how everyone around him will react to his being gay. The book features... Read more »
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It can be hard to stand out in the saturated YA fantasy market. It seems that inevitably there will be an outrageously evil king/powerful noble, a lost princess, and the recovery of unknown powers. And those elements are all present here, but in the hands of a skilled author they are more than welcome. In taking such an overly done story and making it interesting and original, I am happy to say that Becky Wallace succeeds in spades. I admit that I stumbled a bit in the beginning of this novel. Even though I am such a veteran fantasy reader, I need maps. They help me orient myself to the world and understand everything so much better. My mind races too much when introduced to foreign proper names and concepts to just let me be and enjoy the reading experience. I am a “constant flipper.” Yes, index finger permanently marked... Read more »
The post The Storyspinner: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
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I couldn’t put Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes down. This is a statement of fact: I picked it up late at night when I couldn’t sleep, started reading, and had to force myself to go to bed approximately 300 pages later. (Wendy can vouch for me here as the lucky recipient of some early morning “OH MY GOD THIS IS SO GOOD” texts.) I can’t remember the last time this happened and it was excellent. It reminded me of how I felt about reading as a teenager, which is to say that I was engrossed in Sabaa Tahir’s imaginary world. And that is basically what I want to reiterate, now that An Ember in the Ashes is out and ready and waiting to keep you up at night. Oh my God, you guys. This book is so good. It’s not a perfect book (more on that later) but it is... Read more »
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