Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

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Diagnosed with the rare SKID disease at a young age, Maddy, allergic to the world, must stay inside her sterile, air-locked house or risk a deadly reaction. Maddy is happy in her little, if isolated, world, but dreams of what life is like on the Outside. When a mysterious, tortured boy, Ollie, moves in next door, Maddy’s life changes forever. She is no longer content to spend her life breathing pristine air and playing it safe — she wants to be part of something bigger. Hopefully Ollie can help her get there.

Wow! Usually I don’t like books that have received a lot of hype — they tend to be overrated. But Yoon’s novel is excellent. Though there’s little action, the plot moves at a fast pace, and the illustrations breaking up the text are great. Maddy has a strong voice, is independent even though she spends her life in a “bubble”, and her relationship with Ollie is exactly what you’d want — super cute. My favorite part of the book is the twist at the end that I never saw coming — so good!! If you liked John Green or Rainbow Rowell, this one is for you! The movie just came out, so read the book first!

*Rating: 5/5

 

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Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

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In a world where knowledge is controlled by the Great Library, and it is forbidden to own original books, Jess Brightwell is a book smuggler. His risky work entails stealing the rarest copies of books and delivering them to the highest bidder. If he’s caught, he will be killed. But, in a ploy for inside information, Jess’ father enrolls him in the Library’s school, where, if he survives, Jess will work for the very institution he steals from. Jess must pass the library’s test while somehow keeping his past hidden. If he fails, he will lose his family (and probably his life) forever.

This is definitely a good pick is you like Harry Potter. There’s a ton of action, plot twists, secrets, and an ending that will leave you ready for the next book. I especially liked how the author mixed a fanasy-esque world with sci-fi, all set in a time that might actually exist. It was so interesting to read how the Library took over the collection of knowledge with the best intentions, but then grew so power hungry that it began deciding which knowledge citizens could read. It’s a story that could lead to a great discussion and comparison to our own time. In all, though, this book has great characters, an interesting story, and is definitely for you if you’re looking for your next binge-read series.

*Lonestar, 2016

Rating: 4.5/5

Court of Fives by Kate Elliot

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Though Jessamy’s mother is of “common” birth, Jessamy and her sisters are raised as ladies. Ladies are expected to remain pleasant and demure until they marry. Jessamy hates the life of a lady. Instead, she wants to run the Fives — and obstacle course on which both high-born patrons and commoners can win glory through victory. But, as a lady, Jessamy is not allowed to run the Fives and must do so in secret. When the hierarchy of the court shifts and Jessamy’s family finds itself in a precarious position, her father must make an impossible choice. The fallout from his choice changes Jessamy’s life forever, and she must use the Fives to save her family at any cost.

While the world-building in this book is truly remarkable, the plot itself is kind of boring. I think the problem is that the author tries to incorporate too much into this one story. There are two major plot-lines, both of which are exciting, good plots. But including both in this book gave me a bit too much to keep up with. The ending is great, though, and gives an excellent set-up for the second book. There are also very relevant undertones of racial/class/gender discrimination that could be tied to events of today.

*Lonestar, 2017 

Rating: 2.5/5

 

The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine

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Elli is selected to be the next Valatia, the queen of her land who holds an extraordinary amount of power. She must use this power to defend her people against enemy threats. Elli cannot become Valatia, however, until the reigning queen is consumed by her magic and is destroyed. When the queen does die, her magic does not enter Elli. A powerless and therefore useless Valatia, Elli flees the kingdom and hides in the outlands. Here, the lawless barbarians she believes reside in the mountains turn out to be more than the criminals she imagined. Elli must gain their trust in order to find out why the Valatia’s magic did not enter her and save her kingdom from ruin.

File this book under “good, not great”. Based on its premise, I was really excited about it, but the plot can be slow, especially in the beginning. When it does pick up, there’s plenty of action and adventure — even some twists I didn’t expect. I also liked the inclusion of an LGBT love interest. If you’re looking for a new fantasy series with a strong female lead, definitely try this one. Just be ready to hang in for the slow parts.

Rating: 3/5

 

 

 

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

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Nix and her father are sailors.But not typical sailors. Nix’s father is gifted with the ability to Navigate. Using a map, he can sail his ship across time , and that’s exactly what he and his crew do. But Nix’s father isn’t just sailing through time for fun. He’s looking for a way to save Nix’s mom, who died in 1886. Nix is torn between wanting to help her father and preventing a reality in which she might not even exist. In their quest, a series of adventures ensues, including pirating, waking an army of stone soldiers, and picking up new, fanciful crew members along the way.

Wow! I LOVED this book! The plot is a unique one; I was fascinated with the idea that Nix’ dad could sail off the edge of one map and into another. I also appreciated the way the author mixed elements of reality and magic into the story. The characters are funny, well thought out, and nearly every one is lovable in their own way. I’m sad that I can’t go and join this crew myself! Definitely give this one a try if you’re looking for a new fantasy/supernatural/time travel read.

*YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2017

Rating: 5/5

 

Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert

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Braden is the star on his baseball team, his dad is a famous radio DJ, and he seems to have everything going for him. That changes when Braden and his dad are in a car accident that leads to the death of a police officer. Now, Braden’s dad is on trial for murder, and Braden will have to testify in the case. Braden’s older brother, Trey, comes home after being gone for ten years, but their reunion is awkward and Trey wants nothing to do with the trial. Somehow, Braden must find a way to get his life back and decide what to say at the trial. Will he be brave enough to tell the truth?

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book, but it was really good! I’m not a baseball person, but the sports terminology wasn’t hard to follow. The family drama was engaging and meaningful, and I liked how the author drew out the suspense surrounding the trial. I was never sure what happened until the very end. This author is also an incredible writer, so I can’t wait to see what she puts out next. If you like books with feels, this is a solid pick.

Rating: 4/5 

 

 

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

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In the woods surrounding Fairfold, a horned boy sleeps encased in a glass coffin. The townspeople believe he is a fake — a statue; certainly not a sleeping boy. But Hazel and Ben, siblings who have experience in the world of Fae, know differently. So they aren’t surprised when, one day, the horned boy wakes. His disappearance occurs at almost exactly the same time as when a violent, evil force descends on the town, sending its citizens into a panic. Hazel and Ben must find the horned boy, figure out what he wants, and stop the evil before it’s too late.

Amazing. This is the best book I’ve read in a while. I liked the unique incorporation of fairy tales (Snow White’s coffin housing a sleeping boy) mixed in with the Fae. The plot moves fast enough to keep things interesting, and the author does an excellent job of world-building. There’s also plenty of surprises and twists — just when you think you have things figured out, something new is revealed. The inclusion of LGBT relationships was also a huge plus. If you’re looking for a new fantasy read, this is it!

*YALSA, Teen’s Top Ten, 2016

Rating: 5/5