Bravely by Maggie Stiefvater and Café Con Lychee by Emery Lee #bookreview #YA #fairytale #LGBTQ

Merida goes on an all-new, life-changing adventure in this original YA novel set several years after the close of Brave!

What if you had one year to save everything you loved?

ONE PRINCESS. Merida of DunBroch needs a change. She loves her family—jovial King Fergus, proper Queen Elinor, the mischievous triplets— and her peaceful kingdom. But she’s frustrated by its sluggishness; each day, the same. Merida longs for adventure, purpose, challenge – maybe even, someday, love.

TWO GODS. But the fiery Princess never expects her disquiet to manifest by way of Feradach, an uncanny supernatural being tasked with rooting out rot and stagnation, who appears in DunBroch on Christmas Eve with the intent to demolish the realm – and everyone within. Only the intervention of the Cailleach, an ancient entity of creation, gives Merida a shred of hope: convince her family to change within the year – or suffer the eternal consequences.

THREE VOYAGES. Under the watchful eyes of the gods, Merida leads a series of epic journeys to kingdoms near and far in an attempt to inspire revolution within her family. But in her efforts to save those she loves from ruin, has Merida lost sight of the Clan member grown most stagnant of all – herself?

FOUR SEASONS TO SAVE DUNBROCH – OR SEE IT DESTROYED, FOREVER. 

If you’re wondering if this is Princess Merida from the Disney movie, you’d be correct. I requested this book from NetGalley because Stiefvater is one of my favorite authors – I’d never seen the movie Brave. Knowing I needed the gist of the story before starting the novel, I spent an entertaining couple of hours laughing and snorting my way through the movie. I adored these characters and couldn’t wait to dive into this new story.

I’ve never been one for many fairy tales, but Merida is my kind of princess – mainly because she’s pretty much the opposite of what you’d expect from someone with that title. She can best nearly any opponent in archery, she informed her parents being married off and producing heirs isn’t something she’ll be forced into, and she’s constantly reminded of royal etiquette by her mother, the queen. How can you not love this girl? This story is set several years later when not much has changed – Merida is still adventurous and stubborn, the King Fergus boisterous, the Queen Elinor very royal, and the triplets still mischievous at ten years old.

Merida’s Christmas Eve doesn’t go as expected when she finds herself in the company of two gods – one of creation, Cailleach, and one of destruction, Feradach. The Kingdom of DunBroch has become sluggish and stagnant and is high on Feradach’s list of places to demolish. Naturally, Merida is distraught but, because she’s Merida and very clever, refuses to accept this. Instead, she makes a bargain with Cailleach – if she can get her family to change over the next year, DunBroch will be spared. If she fails, she’ll lose her home and family. Talk about high stakes and pressure.

Don’t expect this to be a cookie cutter Disney story. Bravely is darker and focuses on growth, survival, and reflection, along with epic journeys and and some grisly scenes. Merida learns life is about balance and realizes what’s most important – it’s a kind of coming of age story for her. Not everything is serious – I also laughed out loud several times over the antics of the triplets, Merida’s unfiltered comments, and the lively family dynamics.

After watching Brave, Merida immediately became my favorite Disney princess, and I fell in love with her family. Catching up with them in this novel set several years later was a real treat.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Sometimes bitter rivalries can brew something sweet.

Theo Mori wants to escape. Leaving Vermont for college means getting away from working at his parents’ Asian American café and dealing with their archrivals’ hopeless son Gabi who’s lost the soccer team more games than Theo can count.

Gabi Moreno is miserably stuck in the closet. Forced to play soccer to hide his love for dance and iced out by Theo, the only openly gay guy at school, Gabi’s only reprieve is his parents’ Puerto Rican bakery and his plans to take over after graduation.

But the town’s new fusion café changes everything. Between the Mori’s struggling shop and the Moreno’s plan to sell their bakery in the face of the competition, both boys find their dreams in jeopardy. Then Theo has an idea—sell photo-worthy food covertly at school to offset their losses. When he sprains his wrist and Gabi gets roped in to help, they realize they need to work together to save their parents’ shops but will the new feelings rising between them be enough to send their future plans up in smoke?

A light enemies to lovers story – but with scrumptious food. The description of competing restaurants – and boys – lured me in. And look at that cover!

The chapters alternate POVs between Theo and Gabi, both with very different and distinct personalities. Theo is openly gay, self confident, and a natural athlete. Gabi is closeted, lacks self esteeem, and is far more talented on the dance floor than a soccer field. Theo can’t stand to be near Gabi, and while Gabi admires Theo, he’s also a little intimidated by him. Their parents’ restaurants are long time competitors, which causes further conflict. When a new fusion café moves into town and steals customers, joining forces happens kind of accidentally and everything changes.

In the first several chapters, Theo isn’t very likeable. He carries anger around like a boulder weighing him down and lashes out at his family, Gabi, and anyone else who gets in his way. It soon becomes clear why, and his self realizations and the changes that result from them are admirable. Gabi has spent his life trying to make his parents proud of him and fulfill their expectations, all while hiding his love of dancing and his sexuality. His parents (especially his father) make several derogatory comments about being gay, and he’s terrified of what might happen if he comes out. His character arc is just as uplifting as Theo’s.

Every character in this novel is flawed, some more than others, and it’s an honest portrayal of just how messy humans and their relationships can be. There are also very poignant, honest conversations about difficult topics between some characters that are done so well, and I hope they inspire readers who might be dealing with similar issues in their lives.

Besides the serious moments, this story also contains plenty of humor, delicious descriptions of food, strong friendships, and a sweet enemies to lovers romance. The ending comes about a little quickly and wraps up loose ends in a tidy bow, but it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the novel.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Gone Dark by Amanda Panitch #bookreview #YA #survivalist #adventure

Dry meets Hatchet in this thrilling tale of survival following a teen girl who must lead her friends across country to the safety of her estranged father’s survivalist compound after a mass power failure leaves the country in chaos.

When seventeen-year-old Zara escaped her father’s backwoods survivalist compound five years ago, she traded crossbows and skinning hides for electricity and video games…and tried to forget the tragedy that drove her away.

Until a malware attack on the United States electrical grids cuts off the entire country’s power.

In the wake of the disaster and the chaos that ensues, Zara is forced to call upon skills she thought she’d never use again—and her best bet to survive is to go back to the home she left behind. Drawing upon a resilience she didn’t know she had, Zara leads a growing group of friends on an epic journey across a crumbling country back to her father’s compound, where their only hope for salvation lies.

But with every step she takes, Zara wonders if she truly has what it takes to face her father and the secrets of her past, or if she’d be better off hiding in the dark. 

I’m always tempted by a good survivalist story, and I’ve picked up tips from every book I’ve read. With today’s world, you never know when they might come in handy.

Zara spent roughly the first eleven years of her life being raised in a survival compound consisting of only herself and her parents. Her paranoid father taught her valuable skills to keep her alive in case of a disaster, but also not to trust anyone and to think only of herself in order to survive. After a horrible tragedy, Zara’s mother flees across the country with her, leaving her father behind. Being raised in such a different environment makes interacting with other teens difficult, but Zara finds supportive friends in Stella and her brother Gabe.

Zara picks up on signs of the catastrophe her father always predicted, and soon the world is in chaos. With no power and limited food and water, she knows most of the population won’t survive, so she and her friends begin a journey across the country to her father’s compound, picking up others along the way. Zara’s character arc is well-crafted and probably my favorite part of the story. Throughout the novel she hears her father’s voice in her head repeating the rules she was taught – to think only of herself. She soon learns that although she can’t trust everyone she comes across, putting faith in those she cares about increases their chances of survival.

When society begins to break down, it comes with some tense, heartbreaking scenes that may be tough for some readers. It’s scary how quickly humanity is tossed out the window. Although the first part of the story kept me gripping the pages, it slows to a lull about halfway through before picking up again. One of the plot threads confounded me. Zara continues to make an assumption that seemed illogical to me, and I wanted her to slow down and ask herself why it was happening. It’s explained by the end, but fits awkwardly into the overall story.

With plenty of harrowing situations, a bit of romance, and a heavy dose of coming of age, Gone Dark will appeal to post-apocalyptic fans yearning for a danger-filled survival story.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Ballad and Dagger ( Outlaw Saints #1) by Daniel José Older #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy

Rick Riordan presents Daniel José Older’s music-and-magic-filled YA urban fantasy about two teens who discover each other and their powers during a political battle within a diaspora community.

Almost sixteen years ago, Mateo Matisse’s island homeland disappeared into the sea. Weary and hopeless, the survivors of San Madrigal’s sinking escaped to New York.

While the rest of his tight-knit Brooklyn diaspora community dreams of someday finding a way back home, Mateo–now a high school junior and piano prodigy living with his two aunts (one who’s alive, the other not so much)–is focused on one thing: getting the attention of locally-grown musical legend Gerval. Mateo finally gets his chance on the night of the Grand Fete, an annual party celebrating the blended culture of pirates, Cuban Santeros, and Sephardic Jews that created San Madrigal all those centuries ago.

But the evil that sank their island has finally caught up with them, and on the night of the celebration, Mateo’s life is forever changed when he witnesses a brutal murder by a person he thought he knew.

Suddenly Mateo is thrust into an ancient battle that spans years and oceans. Deadly secrets are unraveled and Mateo awakens a power within himself–a power that not only links him to the killer but could also hold the key to unlocking the dark mystery behind his lost homeland. 

I don’t usually post reviews on Wednesdays, but I prefer to post them close to the book release date. May has several new releases of books I’ve gotten from NetGalley, so this will be the norm for the month.

I was first introduced to this author watching a YA book festival zoom panel. After hearing him speak, I immediately wanted to read his books and was thrilled to receive an ARC of his newest release.

Mateo is a piano prodigy and knows exactly what he wants to do with his life – play music. But then he discovers (in a very public way) his destiny is wildly different, and it’s something he can’t escape. Maybe he doesn’t want to when he learns it’s something that could help his people find their original home of San Madrigal. His life is further changed after he witnesses a brutal killing the night of Grand Fete – and he knows the murderer.

In the first pages of the story when Mateo walks the streets of Little Madrigal in Brooklyn, NY, I could easily picture his vibrant community – the sights, sounds, smells, and people. It’s a place I’d love to visit and meet their wonderful blend of citizens – pirates, Cuban Santeros, and Sephardic Jews (and enjoy all that food). But the community isn’t living in harmony at the moment. Power struggles and politics ensue, and battle lines are drawn.

The supporting cast is everything. From Mateo’s aunts (one alive and the other a spirit), to his teasing best friend Tam, and the loyal twins, they add so much to the story. With urban fantasies, world-building can make or break a story, and this is done to perfection. The history, culture, politics, and magic are all well-explained and easy to follow. Pacing is a little uneven in the beginning, but soon moves at a breakneck speed to the end.

Ballad and Dagger has a little bit of everything – ancient secrets, battles, characters easy to root for, romance, rich culture. It’s a bit of a coming of age story that I enjoyed from the first page and look forward to reading more books by this author.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Activated (Calculated #3) by Nova McBee #bookreview #YA #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

From Young-Adult author Nova McBee comes the third book in the gritty, action-filled Calculated series.

After her exploits in Tunisia, Jo Rivers knows she’ll never lead a normal life. She also can’t move on until she grasps the unexpected evolution of her mathematical gift and confronts her unresolved feelings after meeting Noble. With Kai undercover, Noble is the only one who has the answers Jo needs. There’s just one small problem: Noble has vanished, leaving only a coded message in the stars.

When Rafael, a friend from Jo’s days in China, goes missing, it coincides with a new PSS assignment involving a potentially catastrophic satellite breakdown. Jo suspects something more sinister is at play and has no choice but to track down Noble, who may be her only hope to find Rafael and prevent global chaos.

Traveling to the perilous Arctic of Finland, Jo and her band of prodigies team up with unlikely allies from her past to find out what or who is interfering with the satellites— before it’s too late. Trusting her gift, Jo follows a path of numbers that light the way…which leads to answers she didn’t predict.

I’m such a fan of this series featuring MC math prodigy Jo Rivers. It’s rare, but each book is just as good as or even better than its predecessor.

It’s difficult to review the third novel in a series without spoilers, but I’ll give it a shot. Be warned – vagueness ahead. Again Jo finds herself and her team in the midst of a dangerous mission with millions of lives at stake. Noble, who shares her numbers gift, is missing, Kai is undercover, and Rafael sends a guarded message requesting her help. She’s also muddling through some issues in her personal life and wonders if she’s made a horrible mistake.

As with the previous books, expect action-filled scenes, heart-pounding danger, a little romance, and a plot that reads like an intricately plotted chess game. Although YA, this series would easily appeal to adults. I thought Activated would wrap up the series but was thrilled to learn another book is coming – and I sure wouldn’t mind getting it sooner rather than later!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Alone Out Here by Riley Redgate #bookreview #YA #scifi #apocalyptic

What do you stand for, when you’re one of the last left standing?

The year is 2072. Soon a volcanic eruption will trigger catastrophic devastation, and the only way out is up.

While the world’s leaders, scientists, and engineers oversee the frantic production of a space fleet meant to save humankind, their children are brought in for a weekend of touring the Lazarus, a high-tech prototype spaceship. But when the apocalypse arrives months ahead of schedule, First Daughter Leigh Chen and a handful of teens from the tour are the only ones to escape the planet.

This is the new world: a starship loaded with a catalog of human artifacts, a frozen menagerie of animal DNA, and fifty-three terrified survivors. From the panic arises a coalition of leaders, spearheaded by the pilot’s enigmatic daughter, Eli, who takes the wheel in their hunt for a habitable planet. But as isolation presses in, their uneasy peace begins to fracture. The struggle for control will mean the difference between survival and oblivion, and Leigh must decide whether to stand on the side of the mission or of her own humanity.

With aching poignancy and tense, heart-in-your-mouth action, this enthralling saga will stay with readers long after the final page.

This is described as Lord of the Flies in space. There’s no way I wasn’t requesting it from NetGalley.

The chaos begins almost immediately when a volcanic eruption happens months ahead of schedule. High-tech prototype spaceship Lazarus isn’t quite ready, but there are no other options if the human race is to survive. When it launches, it’s without a trained crew. A ship meant to support thousands is filled with only fifty-three frightened teenagers who won’t reach their final destination for over one thousand years.

A small group of the teens emerge as leaders, including First Daughter Leigh and the pilot’s daughter, Eli, who’s not exactly trained, but isn’t unfamiliar with the ship. She’s the best they’ve got and in their situation, it’s boots to the ground right away. It’s not long before these characters learn their situation is even worse – food is seriously limited, and they only have a remote chance at finding more. That location is months away, so rationing is crucial. The teens also face the harsh realization that their small group is responsible for restarting the population.

It’s not long before their already precarious situation breaks down even more with a clash of opinions and priorities, accusations against the council of teens running the show, violence, and struggles for power. Honestly, everyone’s opinion makes sense at different points in the story. It devolves into a demonstration of the ugliness of humans and their inability to learn from history – and it’s disheartening.

The cast of characters is long, and I found myself confusing some of them – they’re diverse, coming from all over the world, but not as distinct. I also wondered about some of the scientific aspects, but the focus of the story is primarily about the dynamics between the characters.

The concept of this story had me hook, line, and sinker, and although an engaging story, the novel isn’t exactly what I’d hoped it would be.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

#BlogTour If You Change Your Mind by Robby Weber #bookreview #YA #LGBTQ #romcom

In this hilarious and heartfelt debut novel, an aspiring screenwriter learns sometimes love has its own script.
 
Harry wants nothing more than to write Hollywood screenplays. He knows the first step toward achieving that goal is winning a screenwriting competition that will seal his admission into the college of his dreams, so he’s determined to spend his summer free of distractions—also known as boys—and finish his script. After last year, Harry is certain love only exists in the movies anyway.
 
But then the cause of his first heartbreak, Grant, returns with a secret that could change everything—not to mention, there’s a new boy in town, Logan, who is so charming and sweet, he’s making Harry question everything he knows about romance. As he tries to keep his emotions in check and stick to his perfect plan for the future, Harry’s about to learn that life doesn’t always follow a script.

A beachy rom-com set during the summer? The beach is my happy place, and rom-coms can be pretty entertaining.

The excitement of summer before senior year, piers, surfing, carnivals, cotton candy, parties, walks on the beach – all of these set the tone for this novel. Harry is finally getting over last summer’s crush who ghosted him when he moved away and is set on putting all his energy into working on the screenplay he’s hoping will get him into USC. Sounds like he’s got his priorities set, right? Not so much. Enter a new cute guy and the return of the ex-boyfriend, and the priorities become a little muddled. He’s also wavering between giving his best friend bad news that would crush her or letting her continue in her bubble of happiness. On the side he referees fights between his two younger sisters and works part time in a book store. He’s a busy guy.

Each chapter is named after a rom-com movie (so adorable), and they seemed to fit the theme of that particular chapter. Every character is flawed, and I cringed each time Harry made a bad choice (he’s obliviously self-destructive), but that’s what humans do. The supporting characters are well-drawn, but I have to give a shoutout to Foster, Harry’s friend who’s deeper than he initially appears, and his little sister Lottie, a cunning scene-stealer.

Several of the chapters are snippets of Harry’s superhero screenplay that somewhat mirror what’s going on in his life. I understand why they were added, but for me they interrupted the flow of the story.

I like the way the story wraps up and the decisions Harry makes. Sometimes self-realizations can be a shock, but they help us learn and grow. If you’re looking for a light read with beachy vibes and surfer dudes, this one delightfully checks the boxes.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robby Weber is a Florida-based writer who loves sunshine, summer, and strong-willed characters. He can normally be found as close to the ocean as possible with his dog, Arthur, and a novel from Reese’s Book Club.

SOCIAL LINKS:

Author Website: http://www.robbyweber.com/

Twitter: @robbyreads

IG: @robbyreads

BUY LINKS:

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/if-you-change-your-mind/9781335425904

Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335425904

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/if-you-change-your-mind/9781335425904-item.html?ikwid=If+You+Change+Your+Mind&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0#algoliaQueryId=d9924bcb8b279cb4da06ed0c26e0afd1

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/if-you-change-your-mind-robby-weber/1139818441?ean=9781335425904

Books A Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/9781335425904?AID=10747236&PID=7310909&cjevent=59c4bf22bf5f11ec80dde16c0a82b820&cjdata=MXxOfDB8WXww

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/If-You-Change-Your-Mind/dp/133542590X/ref=sr_1_3?adid=082VK13VJJCZTQYGWWCZ&campaign=211041&creative=374001&dchild=1&keywords=If+You+Change+Your+Mind&qid=1627133811&s=books&sr=1-3

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/If-You-Change-Your-Mind-ebook/dp/B0992F6H2Q/ref=sr_1_13?dchild=1&qid=1625938908&refinements=p_27%3AWeber&s=digital-text&sr=1-13

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/if-you-change-your-mind

On Sale Date: May 3, 2022

9781335425904

Hardcover

$18.99 USD

Blaine for the Win by Robbie Couch #bookreview #YA #romanticcomedy #LGBTQ #TuesdayBookBlog

After being dumped so his boyfriend can pursue more “serious” guys, a teen boy decides to prove he can be serious, too, by running for senior class president in this joyful romp from the author of The Sky Blues.

High school junior Blaine Bowers has it all—the perfect boyfriend, a pretty sweet gig as a muralist for local Windy City businesses, a loving family, and awesome, talented friends. And he is absolutely, 100% positive that aforementioned perfect boyfriend—​senior student council president and Mr. Popular of Wicker West High School, Joey—is going to invite Blaine to spend spring break with his family in beautiful, sunny Cabo San Lucas.

Except Joey breaks up with him instead. In public. On their one-year anniversary.

Because, according to Joey, Blaine is too goofy, too flighty, too…unserious. And if Joey wants to go far in life, he needs to start dating more serious guys. Guys like Zach Chesterton.

Determined to prove that Blaine can be what Joey wants, Blaine decides to enter the running to become his successor (and beat out Joey’s new boyfriend, Zach) as senior student council president.

But is he willing to sacrifice everything he loves about himself to do it? 

I was in the mood for a lighter read, and the description of this one screamed Legally Blonde to me, a movie I was always a fan of.

Blaine has the “perfect boyfriend”, and they have a date to celebrate their one year anniversary at an exclusive restaurant – one Blaine’s family would never be able to afford. He’s sure Joey will ask him to spend spring break with his family at Cabo. Instead, he breaks up with Blaine because he’s too unserious. Turns out Joey the “perfect boyfriend” is slime.

Blaine is a sweetheart and so easy to like. He paints murals (for very little money) for local businesses to spruce up the neighborhood, adores his temporarily unemployed aunt (she’s awesome in every way) who lives with them, and longs to spend more time with his hard-working parents. He also has a couple of best friends who are there for him no matter what. When Blaine enters the running for senior student council president it’s for all the wrong reasons, but he discovers some important things about himself along the way. He may also meet a cute guy who’s more deserving of him.

Important themes of finding your path, following through on promises, and knowing your worth are addressed, as well as mental health issues high school students deal with – don’t underestimate the pressures they’re under. This novel is tons of fun, has memorable supporting characters, and is guaranteed to leave you with a smile.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Genesis Wars (The Infinity Courts #2) by Akemi Dawn Bowman and Survive the Dome by Kosoko Jackson #bookreview #YA #fantasy #dystopian

I don’t usually post more than one review, but I’ve read several books that release around the same time and had to double up today.

It’s been ten months since Nami narrowly escaped the Four Courts and Ophelia’s wrath. Ten months since she was betrayed by someone she once considered a friend. Someone she poured her heart out to. And now her family here in the afterlife are gone, captured, and Nami is utterly alone.

On the run, only steps ahead of the AI forces pursuing her, and desperate to free her friends, Nami must take the allies she can find, even if she doesn’t fully trust them. And as she tests the limits of her own power, she must also reckon with the responsibility that entails.

Stakes are high as Nami navigates old enemies, unexpected allies, and an ever-changing landscape filled with dangers and twists at every turn. Along the way, she’ll learn powerful truths about who she can trust and the sacrifices that must be made in order to fight for a better, freer world for all.

While I love the concept of this series, I was on the fence about continuing with it while reading the first book. Until I hit that mind-blowing cliffhanger of an ending. This second book was exactly the same for me.

The Genesis Wars picks up ten months after the ending of The Infinity Courts. Nami is still reeling from Prince Caelan’s betrayal, and the people she considers her family in the afterlife are missing. She’s full of guilt and blames herself. She’s spent this time undergoing intense training in hopes of becoming strong enough to rescue them. The first quarter of this book moved slowly for me. Nami talks a lot about training, her family, and her need to find them – but it’s just talk for quite a while and no action.

Soon the storyline picks up, and several new characters are introduced, all of them wonderful additions and a few excellent allies (especially Kasia and Nix). While the majority of the first book is spent in the court of Victory, most of this book is set in the court of War – which means Prince Caelan’s brother Ettore (who’s quite partial to torture) gets a good amount of page time. He’s a character you love to hate.

The action scenes are tension-filled and easy to visualize, the romance a little angsty, the characters flawed and relatable, and the politics a strategic minefield. A couple of twists are sure to have you picking your jaw off the floor, and the final one ensures I’ll be requesting the next book the second I see it on NetGalley.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Jamal Lawson just wanted to be a part of something. As an aspiring journalist, he packs up his camera and heads to Baltimore to document a rally protesting police brutality after another Black man is murdered.

But before it even really begins, the city implements a new safety protocol…the Dome. The Dome surrounds the city, forcing those within to subscribe to a total militarized shutdown. No one can get in, and no one can get out.

Alone in a strange place, Jamal doesn’t know where to turn…until he meets hacker Marco, who knows more than he lets on, and Catherine, an AWOL basic-training-graduate, whose parents helped build the initial plans for the Dome.

As unrest inside of Baltimore grows throughout the days-long lockdown, Marco, Catherine, and Jamal take the fight directly to the chief of police. But the city is corrupt from the inside out, and it’s going to take everything they have to survive. 

Jamal is a high school student and budding journalist hoping to receive a college scholarship, and he yearns to snag the photos to secure it. He travels to Baltimore for what’s supposed to be a peaceful protest of police brutality after a Black man is murdered. He’s not there long before chaos erupts and the Dome descends over the city, trapping him inside.

The action begins almost immediately when Jamal scrambles to survive and has no choice but to place his trust in strangers. Luckily he finds a couple of valuable allies he can count on who lead him to safety – temporarily at least. After that, be prepared for some cringe-worthy violent scenes and the occasional racial slur.

I really liked the concept of the Dome, and pacing moves right along in this quick read. What I missed was becoming better acquainted with the characters. Other than Jamal, I didn’t feel like I knew them very well. Although Marco plays a prominent role, he remains a mystery for the most part, which might be why I didn’t feel the romantic connection between him and Jamal. Catherine is given less page time, but her backstory is delved into a little more, and I understood her motivations.

Survive The Dome can be a tough read at times since real-life events are interlaced with this dystopian novel, but it’s a powerful story and politically relevant. The ending makes me think a sequel is in store, and it’s something I’d be interested in reading.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

So This Is Ever After by F.T. Lukens #bookreview #YA #fantasy #LGBTQIA #TuesdayBookBlog

Carry On meets Arthurian legend in this funny, subversive young adult fantasy about what happens after the chosen one wins the kingdom and has to get married to keep it…and to stay alive.

Arek hadn’t thought much about what would happen after he completed the prophecy that said he was destined to save the Kingdom of Ere from its evil ruler. So now that he’s finally managed to (somewhat clumsily) behead the evil king (turns out magical swords yanked from bogs don’t come pre-sharpened), he and his rag-tag group of quest companions are at a bit of a loss for what to do next.

As a temporary safeguard, Arek’s best friend and mage, Matt, convinces him to assume the throne until the true heir can be rescued from her tower. Except that she’s dead. Now Arek is stuck as king, a role that comes with a magical catch: choose a spouse by your eighteenth birthday, or wither away into nothing.

With his eighteenth birthday only three months away, and only Matt in on the secret, Arek embarks on a desperate bid to find a spouse to save his life—starting with his quest companions. But his attempts at wooing his friends go painfully and hilariously wrong…until he discovers that love might have been in front of him all along.

I adored Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On, and I’ve been a fan of Arthurian legend since childhood so it was a no-brainer to request this book.

Arek, Matt, and the rest of their quest companions are loveable, quirky, and hilarious, but trust me when I say it’s a miracle they removed the Vile One from the throne. They’re not exactly a strategic bunch, but do share a strong found family bond. After finishing a heavy dark fantasy, this novel was a delight to read, and I snickered and laughed from beginning to end.

After Arek finds himself bound by magic to the throne of Ere in the realm of Chickpea, he learns he must marry (create a soul bond) before his eighteenth birthday – only three months away – or he dies. Figuring he’d rather entwine his soul with someone he knows rather than a stranger, he begins very awkward attempts at wooing his friends. It’s clear to their friends that Arek and Matt, BFFs since childhood, are in love with each other but both are completely oblivious to that fact. Throughout the story they teeter on the edge of revealing their true feelings for each other, but are either misunderstood, petrified, or interrupted every time. It’s both painful and highly amusing to watch.

If you’re looking for a light-hearted, feel-good, comedic read, look no further. I enjoyed every minute of this book, and although it seems to be a standalone, I’d love to see what happens next with these characters. Surely there’s another prophecy in store for them.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

I Am Margaret Moore by Hannah Capin #bookreview #YA #paranormalthriller

Hannah Capin’s I Am Margaret Moore is a paranormal thriller that tests the hold of sisterhood and truth.

I am a girl. I am a monster, too.

Each summer the girls of Deck Five come back to Marshall Naval School. They sail on jewel-blue waters; they march on green drill-fields; they earn sunburns and honors. They push until they break apart and heal again, stronger.

Each summer Margaret and Rose and Flor and Nisreen come back to the place where they are girls, safe away from the world: sisters bound by something more than blood.

But this summer everything has changed. Girls are missing and a boy is dead. It’s because of Margaret Moore, the boys say. It’s because of what happened that night in the storm.

Margaret’s friends vanish one by one, swallowed up into the lies she has told about what happened between her and a boy with the world at his feet. Can she unravel the secrets of this summer and last, or will she be pulled under by the place she once called home?

I struggled with this book. Some things I liked and some not so much. The strong friendships between Margaret, Rose, Flor, and Nisreen are a bright point. Although they’re only together during the summers at Marshall Naval School, they have much to bond over and will defend each other til the end. Everyone should have those kinds of friendships. Margaret is betrayed in the worst way and in a horrendous situation that made me want to reach into the pages and throttle some characters. You can’t help but feel for her.

My biggest struggle was with the writing style. While prose-like, it was confounding at times and the time jumps between summers only added to my confusion. One reviewer said she felt like she was following a stream of consciousness, and I can agree with that. At around the 60% mark, the clouds shift and it all makes sense. The twist is brilliant, nothing I suspected, and also makes the story easier to follow until the end – which I loved.

Reviews are all over the place with this novel, and I suppose it comes down to if you’re a fan of this writing style. It’s a relatively quick read, and if you can hang in there for the slow reveal and muddle your way through the time shifts, a shiny reward awaits.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.