Review: “Blue Lily, Lily Blue (Raven Cycle #3)” by Maggie Stiefvater


17378508Title: “Blue Lily, Lily Blue (Raven Cycle #3)”

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: YA, magical realism, contemporary, AWESOME

Source: ARC from publisher

Publication Date: October 21, 2014 (Scholastic – North America)

Summary: There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

☆: 5/5 stars – SO MANY FEELS YOU GUYS.

Review: Guys, I just…I can’t even with this series anymore. But in a good way. So much heartbreak, but it feels so good. This book (which I guess, is kind of a middle book? out of four?) just proves Stiefvater’s prowess and her unstoppability in terms of keeping a story going with no loss from when you put down the previous book and start the next. With the plot getting crazier, more puzzle pieces falling together, and more doom and gloom gathering, “Blue Lily” is an AWESOME addition to the series, and it makes me hanker for book four even more. Trust me. You want this book.

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Review: “Fire & Flood” by Victoria Scott


23555803Title: “Fire & Flood”

Author: Victoria Scott

Publication Date: February 15, 2014 (Scholastic – North America)

Genre: YA, dystopia, contemporary

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Summary: Time is slipping away….

Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can’t determine what’s wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She’s lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she’s helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It’s an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother’s illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there’s no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can’t trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?

☆: 4/5 stars – dystopia plus social commentary? yes please.

Review: It’s only taken me this long to figure out that the “Fire & Flood” series is really not just a dystopia piece (like so much of YA right now), but it’s also a huge social commentary on how big pharma/big biopharma is really starting to harm our lives. The proof? “The Brimstone Bleed”. A lot of reviewers have panned this book as being a “Hunger Games” ripoff, but only after this long (and starting to read the second book), have I really started to see this book as what it is. I’m not sure the actual YA age set will get it, but I hope they will. I really enjoyed this one, and am currently enjoying the second one. If you’re looking for something with grit and heart, and a little bit of finger-wagging at our current society, “Fire & Flood” is for you.

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Review: “When My Heart Was Wicked” by Tricia Sterling


22749511Title: “When My Heart Was Wicked”

Author: Tricia Sterling

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Magical

Publication Date: February 24, 2015 (Scholastic – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided finished copy

Summary: “I used to be one of those girls. The kind who loved to deliver bad news. When I colored my hair, I imagined it seeping into my scalp, black dye pooling into my veins.

But that was the old Lacy. Now, when I cast spells, they are always for good.”

16-year-old Lacy believes that magic and science can work side by side. She’s a botanist who knows how to harness the healing power of plants. So when her father dies, Lacy tries to stay with her step-mother in Chico, where her magic is good and healing. She fears the darkness that her real mother, Cheyenne, brings out, stripping away everything that is light and kind.

Yet Cheyenne never stays away for long. Beautiful, bewitching, unstable Cheyenne who will stop at nothing, not even black magic, to keep control of her daughter’s heart. She forces Lacy to accompany her to Sacramento, and before long, the “old” Lacy starts to resurface.

But when Lacy survives a traumatic encounter, she finds herself faced with a choice. Will she use her powers to exact revenge and spiral into the darkness forever? Or will she find the strength to embrace the light?

☆: 4/5 stars – a great magical realism debut!

Review: This one was a pleasant surprise, though I wish it had been longer. “When My Heart Was Wicked” is a snapshot of what can happen to someone as a cause of an unstable, dangerous childhood trying to become an adult – but through the lens of Francesca Lia Block-esque magical realism. I loved this one, and it makes me feel like Stirling will be one awesome author to watch. If you’re looking for a little magical realism in your tough stuff YA issues book, “When My Heart Was Wicked” is definitely the one you want to pick up.

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Review: “Teen Spirit” by Francesca Lia Block


18054018Title: “Teen Spirit”

Author: Francesca Lia Block

Publication Date: February 4, 2014 (HarperTeen – North America)

Genre: YA, paranormal

Source: Publisher-provided finished copy

Summary: After Julie’s grandmother passes away, she is forced to move across town to the not-so-fancy end of Beverly Hills and start over at a new school. The only silver lining to the perpetual dark cloud that seems to be following her? Clark—a die-hard fan of Buffy and all things Joss Whedon, who is just as awkward and damaged as she is. Her kindred spirit.

When the two try to contact Julie’s grandmother with a Ouija board, they make contact with a different spirit altogether. The real kind. And this ghost will do whatever it takes to come back to the world of the living.

☆: 4/5 stars – a refreshing standalone that harkens back to the days of “Weetzie Bat”.

Review: This one was fun, guys. The writing style and light yet dark feeling to “Teen Spirit” left me with the feeling I first felt when I picked up the “Dangerous Angels/Weetzie Bat series” omnibus when I was 12. I fell in love – though it’s not to say I never fell out of love with my mentor’s writing style. “Teen Spirit” is very similar to “Weetzie” in that sense of light reading, yet heavier (and in this book), somewhat darker content for the reader adjusted for easy digestion. I think a lot of “Weetzie” fans dissatisfied with recent efforts might really like this one. Regardless of where you stand, Block’s newest effort is gorgeous, haunting (no pun intended), and will leave you with a sense of utter peace once you turn that last page.

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Review: “Snakeroot (Nightshade Legacy #1/Nightshade #4)” by Andrea Cremer


17372472Title: “Snakeroot (Nightshade Legacy #1/Nightshade #4)”

Author: Andrea Cremer

Genre: Fantasy, YA, PNR

Publication Date:  December 10, 2013

Source:  Publisher-provided ARC

Synopsis: Fans asked for it, and now they’ve got it!

Andrea Cremer is continuing the story she began in in her internationally bestselling trilogy: Nightshade, Wolfsbane and Bloodrose.

Bosque Mar haunts the dreams of both Adne and Logan, trying to escape for the Nether, where Calla, Shay and the other Guardians trapped him in the final battle in the War of All Against All…

Will he turn Adne to the dark side? Will Logan reclaim his birthright? And will darkness take over our world?

☆: 4/5 stars – Will definitely satisfy hardcore fans of the series!

Review: Fair warning here, folks: this review is going to have a lot of spoilers for the “Nightshade” trilogy (and its novellas/prequels). I thought and thought on how to do a review for this book without spoilers and then realized that it just wasn’t going to happen. So, fair warning, folks. “Snakeroot” is apart of the new “Nightshade Legacy” continuation series (not sure if “Captive”, “Rise”, and “Rift” are in this continuation/expansion but I’ll throw them in there anyway), not focusing on the main characters of our trilogy, but instead on the fringe characters we met throughout the journey of the trilogy. While “Snakeroot” definitely satisfies, it leaves us on a cliffhanger with no definitive promise that this series will continue. And I sincerely hope it will.

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Review: Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark


FreakboyTitle: Freakboy

Author: Kristin Elizabeth Clark

Genre: YA Contemporary, LGBT, Coming of Age

Publication Date: October 22, 2013

Source: print ARC from the publisher

Synopsis: From the outside, Brendan Chase seems to have it pretty easy. He’s a star wrestler, a video game aficionado, and a loving boyfriend to his seemingly perfect match, Vanessa. But on the inside, Brendan struggles to understand why his body feels so wrong—why he sometimes fantasizes having long hair, soft skin, and gentle curves. Is there even a name for guys like him? Guys who sometimes want to be girls? Or is Brendan just a freak?

In razor-sharp verse, Kristin Clark folds three narratives into one powerful story: Brendan trying to understand his sexual identity, Vanessa fighting to keep her and Brendan’s relationship alive, and Angel struggling to confront her demons.

☆: 3.5/5 stars – It’s a story that desperately needed telling and was executed well, but Clark needs to show off her own style

LGBT YA is something we’re always going to need more of. It’s been on the rise the last few years and it’s a joy to see LGBT books like Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe taking home a bunch of awards. However,  I’ve personally noticed how YA tends to lean toward gay and lesbian characters and away from bisexual and transgender characters. If you expand to QUILTBAG (good lord, even I can’t remember what all those letters stand for and one of them represents me!), it becomes clear how even as YA is growing, there are still so many stories it’s not covering. Clark tells a story desperately underrepresented in YA and does it well, but it needs to really be hers.

All three POVs in this verse novel have something to add to the overall story, though some sections are weaker than others. Angel’s POV, for instance, is the strongest thanks to how she has it all figured out already and shows us the intersectionality of race, class, and gender identity. A POC male-to-female transgender person from a poor background like Angel isn’t going to have the same struggle a white upper-class male like Brendan is and thank goodness Clark recognizes this and makes it clear.

In comparison to Angel’s POV, Brendan’s and Vanessa’s are a lot weaker. Brendan spends most of the novel complaining, worrying, and such about whether or not he’s transgender. Vanessa’s is the weakest of all because so little of importance is in her sections, but it’s still important enough that she’s an integral part of the novel. When someone comes to realize they are or may be transgender or gender fluid, the boyfriend/girlfriend, partner, spouse, etc. has their own set of problems to deal with. It’s not as difficult as discovering your gender identity may not be what you thought it was, but it’s pretty difficult to learn your loved one is going through that and not know where you stand with them anymore.

The great issue here is that this doesn’t feel like it’s wholly Clark’s novel. It simply can’t be when her style is so strongly imitative of the way Ellen Hopkins writes. If someone took twenty pages of this novel and twenty pages of any Hopkins novel and handed them to a reader blind to either author, there’s a good chance they won’t realize the samples are from two different authors. Clark pulls all the same tricks Hopkins did in the four novels of hers I read: making symbolic shapes with her verse, hiding deeper thoughts within them, spacing them out to emphasize a point,…

Is it wrong for me to want to see Clark develop her own narrative techniques and play around with verse her way instead of imitating an author she admits she knows personally? It makes Freakboy feel a little less like her own creation, though it never gets derivative enough to be tacky or have plagiarism called on it.

I’m on board for any future novels from Clark because she makes it clear she knows how to tell stories most people don’t think about but should, but I desperately hope she comes into her own style instead of continuing to write like someone else.

Review: Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman


Want to Go PrivateTitle: Want to Go Private?

Author: Sarah Darer Littman

Genre: YA Contemporary, Social Issues

Publication Date: August 1, 2011 (Scholastic Press)

Source: Bought per recommendation of Renae of Respiring Thoughts

Synopsis: Abby and Luke chat online. They’ve never met. But they are going to. Soon.

Abby is starting high school–it should be exciting, so why doesn’t she care? Everyone tells her to “make an effort,” but why can’t she just be herself? Abby quickly feels like she’s losing a grip on her once-happy life. The only thing she cares about anymore is talking to Luke, a guy she met online, who understands. It feels dangerous and yet good to chat with Luke–he is her secret, and she’s his. Then Luke asks her to meet him, and she does. But Luke isn’t who he says he is. When Abby goes missing, everyone is left to put together the pieces. If they don’t, they’ll never see Abby again.

5/5 stars – Horrifying and disgusting and difficult and PERFECT

Ew ew ew ew ew ew ew. This is the kind of book so gross that you need a shower after finishing it. Heck, you might need thorough showers while reading it alongside your usual showers in hopes of feeling clean again. Want to Go Private? can be really graphic at times, yeah, but that isn’t quite what I mean. What makes it so horrible that you need to scrub half your skin off? That it’s deeply rooted in truth and events that have happened to children across the world. That is more chilling than any graphic description the novel can offer, and that is why this novel is so wonderful and worth reading. The increase in your water bill will be worth it that month.

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