The Maze Runner by James Dashner

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Thomas wakes up in a steel box, knowing only his name. Everything else — who he is, where he’s from, what he’s doing — is forgotten. He soon finds himself surrounded by teenage boys in a similar situation, all living in an area called “The Glade”. Beyond the Glade lies the Maze — a dangerous, shifting puzzle inhabited by monsters. The boys are sure of only one thing: if they want to go home, they have to solve the maze. Thomas must work with his new companions as they struggle to survive and to find something, anything that will give a clue as to how to beat the maze. But, despite his desire to help, Thomas is met with suspicion by the others, for, as soon as he arrives, life in the Glade changes forever.

This book was … pretty much like every other dystopian novel I’ve read. Maybe if I’d read it before I read Hunger Games, I would have liked it more. But it was just meh to me. I honestly read it because the movie came in my Netflix, and I decided to read the book first. The movie was terrible though! It took unnecessary departures from the book, and was generally just not as enjoyable. The book, though it wasn’t the best book I’ve read, was much better. My only real complaint is that the slang used in the book super annoyed me — I felt like the author was trying too hard to avoid using strong language. But, there was a ton of action and the ending actually surprised me. If you liked Hunger Games or other post-apocalyptic novels, definitely give this one a shot. You may like it more than I did. Also, it’s a movie!

This one also has a pretty good book trailer too!

Rating: 3/5 

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here. 

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Brazen by Katherine Longshore

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Married to the King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy (Fitz), at just fourteen, Mary Howard has long been used as a political pawn by her family. But, though it is a marriage of political advantage, Mary finds herself falling in love with her husband. While she should be happy that her arranged marriage resulted in love, the teenagers are not allowed to be alone together or to consummate the marriage. What’s more, Henry VIII’s court is constantly shifting, with nobles falling out of favor as quickly as they’d risen. If Mary wants to be with Fitz, she must navigate her way through the endless court turmoil, shifting alliances, and, above all, stay in the good graces of the king.

As I’ve mentioned many posts before, I love Tudor fiction. So I fully admit to being completely biased toward this book. It is, though, really awesome and a unique point of view on the Tudor drama. Normally, Tudor books are told from the point of view of one of Henry VIII’s wives, or Henry himself. Margaret Howard is merely a minor Boleyn cousin married to Henry’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy (Fitz). Choosing this narrator gives the reader the advantage of seeing all the Henry wife drama play out from a distance, as well as spinning a new story in the Tudor court. Longshore also paints an interesting characterization of Anne Boleyn — one in which she definitely has stubborn qualities, but does not deserve her fate. I appreciate this rendering, as I don’t believe Anne to be the villain others portray her to be. If you’re a fan of romantic drama, court intrigue, or just historical fiction in general, definitely give this one a shot. Be sure to read Tarnish first, though, as it depicts Anne Boleyn’s rise to power and thus a more in-depth picture of the Tudor court.

Rating: 5/5 

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Boys Don’t Knit (in public) by T.S. Easton

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After Ben Fletcher is caught attempting to steal alcohol for a party, he receives a probationary sentence in which he is required to take extra-curricular classes. Though he believes he is signing up for pottery with his beautiful teacher, Ms. Swallow, Ben finds himself stuck in a knitting class taught by the mother of his crush. At first, he hates the idea of knitting, but then realizes that the methodical movement helps him with his anxiety issues, and that he’s actually an excellent knitter. But some of Ben’s friends and family are not as accepting of the hobby ( they believe knitting is for girls), and Ben must find a way to hide his new passion, or else risk total humiliation.

I LOVED this book! I also love knitting, so I admit to being a bit biased. But, really, this book was hilarious, exciting, and a really fun read. It is a British book, so there is some British slang, but it’s not so much that it renders the book unreadable (which is kind of what happened with Trouble, another British novel). If you’re not a knitter, there may be some parts where you don’t understand the knitting references and become bored, but just skip over those parts. There’s plenty of action and hilarious misadventures to make up for the knitting jargon. I also really enjoyed how this book called into question the act of genderizing activities. Should it matter if something is considered a “girl” or “boy” activity? If you love it — go for it!

Rating: 4/5 

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here. 

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The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

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After the death of her father, Elizabeth Holland finds the financial responsibility of her family’s station resting solely on her ability to marry well. If she cannot catch a good husband, all will be lost. Diana, Elizabeth’s sister, abhors society life and wants nothing more than to be free of its rigid constraints. She hates Elizabeth’s pristine perfection, and can’t understand her sister’s willingness to be what everyone wants her to be — the perfect societal princess. But Elizabeth harbors dark secrets of her own; secrets that, if revealed, would tear their lives down around them. Somehow, Elizabeth and Diana must navigate the tricky waters of the 1899 Manhattan upper-crust world, though they are surrounded by vipers posing as friends, impossible expectations, deceitful servants, and love interests they cannot possibly hope to pursue.

Not going to lie — I picked this book because of the dress on the cover. Also, as I’ve posted before I love historical fiction. I got as far as “1899 high society Manhattan” on the cover flap and was sold. I really liked this one. It was a bit predictable, but still enjoyable, and it reminded me a lot of an American, not as awesome, Downton Abbey. I enjoyed getting to see the shifts in perspective from the socialites to the servants, and, of course, the description of fashion was amazing. I also loved reading the cunning, conniving mean-girl antics stemming from Elizabeth’s frenimies. If you’re a fan of Gossip Girl, Pretty Little LiarsMean Girls, or anything related, give this one a read. It may be a “guilty pleasure”, but I’m not ashamed to admit I’ll be picking up at least the next book in the series. Must read more dresses.

Rating: 3.5/5 

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

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Ostracized by her family and village, Ismae is forever punished for her mother’s dalliance — with Death himself. A daughter of Death, Ismae is given special, if morbid, gifts which are feared by the world around her. Sold into marriage to an abusive husband, Ismae flees to the convent of St. Mortain where the sisters carry out Mortain’s (god of Death) wishes. Leaving her old life behind, Ismae is trained as a deadly assassin and sent to avenge traitors to the country. But, as satisfying as her new life is, Ismae soon learns that Mortain’s wishes are not always easy to decipher. What’s more, lies and deception plague Ismae’s most important mission, causing her to question everything she thought was true.

I really liked this one. It has a female character taking over her own life, making her own decisions, developing serious ninja skills — it’s awesome. Unfortunately, I read Throne of Glass before I read this piece, and the two are almost exactly the same. The one difference is that Throne of Glass is way better. Though it’s not a bad story, Grave Mercy is a historical fiction as well as fantasy, and the time period LaFevers chose is rough. Politics of 15th century Britain aren’t always easy to follow, and what would pass for normal happenings in society back then (i.e. a twelve-year-old getting ready to marry) are hard to believe now. If you like historical fiction and you like action, give this one a shot. It has some interesting views on religion/theology that Throne of Glass does not tackle, and I truly enjoyed reading those themes. I liked it enough that I will probably read the companion novels.

This one has a great book trailer!

Rating: 3/5 

*School Library Journal, Best Books of the Year, 2012

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here. 

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

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The finale to the Grisha trilogy finds Alina the head of a shattered Grisha army and virtual prisoner of the Apparat. Hidden in a deep underground chapel, Alina must hide from the Darkling, who has gained control of the capital and crowned himself king. Though aware of the potential dangers, Alina yearns for the firebird — the final amplifier — and the power it would wield. Somehow she, Mal, and the remaining Grisha must emerge from their underground hiding, find the firebird, and endure one final battle with the Darkling and his forces.

My heart is crying because this series is over. If you’ve read my other reviews (for Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm) you know how much I love me some Darkling. So, of course, I want this series to go on forever with more Darkling scenes for me to read and tell myself how bad he is. Sigh. If it did have to end, I felt this book was a strong finish. I enjoyed seeing a less selfish/jealous Mal, a stronger Alina (kind of), and, of course, every scene with Nikolai was a gem. As with the other books, there’s plenty of action, adventure, some surprising plot twists, and romance. I’m really sad this is the last book in this series, but very happy it did not go the way of other series (ahem, Hunger Games) and have a weird, unsatisfying final book. Bardugo also apparently has a companion series going now — so if you need more Grisha in your life, check it out.

Rating: 5/5

*YALSA Teen’s Top Ten Fiction, 2014

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

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After the sudden death of her older, more popular sister, May, all Laurel wants is to start over in a new school. However, though she finds herself in new surroundings, Laurel still feels haunted by May’s presence. No matter how much she tries to emulate May, Laurel feels she will never measure up to her late sister’s effortless cool, flirty, and popular persona. In an attempt to deal with her loss, Laurel begins writing about her life without May to various music icons who have passed away. Through these letters, the truth behind May’s death begins to surface, and Laurel must find a way to accept both herself and her new reality.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I thought it was really good and I loved seeing the transformations in all characters. On the other hand, it was so much like Perks of Being a Wallflower that I felt Chbosky (author of Perks) was being completely ripped off. I mean, it really is basically the same book. I’ve read that Chbosky worked with Dallaira on this piece, so maybe that’s why they are so similar. But still, surely these authors would have noticed how close to Perks this book was. In the end, though it was very well written, this book just rubbed me the wrong way. I would have liked to see what Dellaira could have done on her own.

Rating: 3/5 

* YALSA Teen’s Top Ten, Nominee, 2015

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.