Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales #bookreview #YA #LGBT #TuesdayBookBlog

SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA meets CLUELESS in this boy-meets-boy spin on Grease

Summer love…gone so fast.

Ollie and Will were meant to be a summer fling—casual, fun, and done. But when Ollie’s aunt’s health takes a turn for the worse and his family decides to stay in North Carolina to take care of her, Ollie lets himself hope this fling can grow to something more. Dreams that are crushed when he sees Will at a school party and finds that the sweet and affectionate (and comfortably queer) guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High.

Will is more than a little shocked to see Ollie the evening of that first day of school. While his summer was spent being very much himself, back at school he’s simply known as one of the varsity basketball guys. Now Will is faced with the biggest challenge of his life: follow his heart and risk his friendships, or stay firmly in the closet and lose what he loves most.

Being a fan of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, I couldn’t pass on requesting this novel.  I can see how it’s very loosely based on Grease in that there was a summer romance, but things are different in the fall after they meet again at school.  No matter – it was a sweet, melancholy read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Ollie is a perfect narrator, and I loved his voice from the first page.  Equal parts awkward, adorable, funny, loyal, and just plain entertaining.  He makes an astute observation about Ronald McDonald that made me glad I wasn’t drinking anything – totally would have snorted it out.  Was he obsessed with Will?  Yeah, kind of.  Did he let that obsession rule his life?  Mostly, no.  Ollie also spends his time working on his music, hanging out with friends, and helping take care of his young cousins while their mother battles cancer.  His genuine and delightful scenes with the kids are among my favorites, and Ollie has the patience of a saint.  His parents and aunt and uncle aren’t strong presences in the story, but you definitely get the sense family is very important to them.

Heavy topics are dealt with – cancer of a family member, homophobia, fat shaming, biphobia – which I felt were handled well.  More differentiation between some of the  supporting characters would have helped – I kept getting a few of them mixed up – but it really didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.

If you’re a Simon fan, I definitely recommend adding this book to your list.  A fun way to spend an afternoon.

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

 

 

 

The Death Code (Murder Complex #2) by Lindsay Cummings #bookreview #YA #scifi

With short, fast-paced, alternating point-of-view chapters, The Death Code starts several weeks after The Murder Complex ended. Zephyr keeps the secret about Meadow close—that if she dies, The Murder Complex will be destroyed, too. Meadow, desperate to find her brother, father, and little sister, is determined to fearlessly fight to the end, even if it means sacrificing herself and her friends, new and old. The Death Code introduces a memorable cast of secondary characters and delivers a vivid and scary thrill ride read.

The final book in this duology is just as compelling as the first.  Pacing is a strong point – some of the chapters short, others longer, from two different POVs – and moves the story along briskly.  Meadow angered me several times, either because of the way she treated certain people or how selfish she could be occasionally – even by the end, I hadn’t completely forgiven her.

I was reminded of The Hunger Games with some of the challenges these characters face while in the forest.  The author really puts them through some trials and tribulations – be prepared to have your heart twisted and then stomped.

Some reviewers don’t seem to be thrilled with the ending, but I felt like it was appropriate for the characters and their situations.  Not every ending comes with a bow on top.  If you enjoy fast-paced sci-fi thrillers that will leave your head spinning, add this series to your list.

The Electric Heir (Feverwake #2) by Victoria Lee #bookreview #fantasy #magic #TuesdayBookBlog

In the sequel to The Fever King, Noam Álvaro seeks to end tyranny before he becomes a tyrant himself.

Six months after Noam Álvaro helped overthrow the despotic government of Carolinia, the Atlantians have gained citizenship, and Lehrer is chancellor. But despite Lehrer’s image as a progressive humanitarian leader, Noam has finally remembered the truth that Lehrer forced him to forget—that Lehrer is responsible for the deadly magic infection that ravaged Carolinia.

Now that Noam remembers the full extent of Lehrer’s crimes, he’s determined to use his influence with Lehrer to bring him down for good. If Lehrer realizes Noam has evaded his control—and that Noam is plotting against him—Noam’s dead. So he must keep playing the role of Lehrer’s protégé until he can steal enough vaccine to stop the virus.

Meanwhile Dara Shirazi returns to Carolinia, his magic stripped by the same vaccine that saved his life. But Dara’s attempts to ally himself with Noam prove that their methods for defeating Lehrer are violently misaligned. Dara fears Noam has only gotten himself more deeply entangled in Lehrer’s web. Sooner or later, playing double agent might cost Noam his life.

First, I’ll warn you this book contains some difficult subjects – sexual abuse, physical abuse, alcoholism, and eating disorders among others, and I appreciate that the author lists content warnings and also provides resource information at the end of the book for anyone experiencing these tragic situations.

While the first book in this series engaged me with its political intrigue and magic system, it was just an okay read for me.  But the followup reached out and grabbed me and didn’t let go until the explosive ending.

I spent most of the book being angry with Noam and wanted to throttle him.  He’s oblivious to the danger he’s in and walks a tightrope between life and death every day.  Dara does his best to get get Noam to see reality, but he’s fighting a losing battle.  As for Dara, seeing him without magic was like a stab to my heart, and his struggle to find his place in the world and battle his addictions is tough to read.  Although I found myself holding my breath numerous times over their predicaments and dreaded reading the next paragraph, their character arcs are a thing of beauty.

Lehrer uses his power and position to hide the monstrous things he does and is a compelling villain in every way – you really want karma to have its way with him.  While his political aspirations and manipulations are still an important aspect of the book, this is more of a character-driven novel compared to the first.  A few areas of the story are barely touched on, but overall, the pacing is pretty even and I found it difficult to put down the book.

At its core, The Electric Heir is truly a story about survivors of horrific circumstances, second chances, and finding your happily ever after.

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

Havenfall (Havenfall #1) by Sara Holland #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy

A safe haven between four realms. The girl sworn to protect it–at any cost.

Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worlds–each with their own magic–together. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return.

For Maddie Morrow, summers at the inn are more than a chance to experience this magic first-hand. Havenfall is an escape from reality, where her mother sits on death row accused of murdering Maddie’s brother. It’s where Maddie fell in love with handsome Fiorden soldier Brekken. And it’s where one day she hopes to inherit the role of Innkeeper from her beloved uncle.

But this summer, the impossible happens–a dead body is found, shattering everything the inn stands for. With Brekken missing, her uncle gravely injured, and a dangerous creature on the loose, Maddie suddenly finds herself responsible for the safety of everyone in Havenfall. She’ll do anything to uncover the truth, even if it means working together with an alluring new staffer Taya, who seems to know more than she’s letting on. As dark secrets are revealed about the inn itself, one thing becomes clear to Maddie–no one can be trusted, and no one is safe . . .

I liked the idea of this inn being the neutral zone connecting so many different realms.  And the cover is stunning – and that’s before I even noticed the woman’s head forming the mountain.

Initially, I was skeptical about this book.  The first several pages are descriptions of each realm, their people, and their magic – basically an info dump – and I hoped that wasn’t an indicator of how the rest of the book would play out.  After the first few chapters, I was relieved that wasn’t the case.

Maddie is easy to like and care about.  Havenfall is her safe space where she’s accepted and feels needed, but soon after she arrives for the summer, her world gets turned upside down.  For me, it seemed pretty obvious early in the story who she shouldn’t trust, so it wasn’t a complete shock when everything comes to a head near the end.  Still, I enjoyed seeing Maddie begin to figure things out and learn to trust her instincts.

The supporting characters are helpful and occasionally fun, but none of them really shine or jump off the page.  With the majority of this story taking place at the inn, I’d love to venture into the other realms in the next book and learn more about the magic.

Havenfall may not offer any earth-shattering revelations or breathtaking highs and lows, but it’s an evenly-paced book containing an intriguing mystery in a magical setting and a series I plan to continue.

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

 

Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry #YA #supernatural #contemporary #TuesdayBookBlog

The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window. A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.
 
In a stunning follow-up to her National Book Award–longlisted novel All the Wind in the World, Samantha Mabry weaves an aching, magical novel that is one part family drama, one part ghost story, and one part love story.

This book deals with some heavy subject matter – a family grieving in various ways after the tragic loss of their sister.

For me, the bonds between the sisters are one of the highlights of the story.  Sure, they have their squabbles, but will also defend each other until the end.  Each has their own distinct personality and way of dealing with grief – some in not the most healthy ways – and I appreciated the different POVs of each sister.

My favorite parts of the story are when Ana’s ghost tries to communicate with her sisters – I always love the addition of anything supernatural – and it’s the primary reason I requested this book.  Without giving away spoilers, one situation involving Ana left me hanging at the end, and I would have liked to know the outcome.  Some parts, while interesting, felt a little disjointed and didn’t really come together for me.

This is a well-written, quick read (I read it on a two hour flight), but a dark, heavy tale of grief and loss with a supernatural twist.

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

 

 

The Disasters by M.K. England #bookreview #scifi #YA

Hotshot pilot Nax Hall has a history of making poor life choices. So it’s not exactly a surprise when he’s kicked out of the elite Ellis Station Academy in less than twenty-four hours.

But Nax’s one-way trip back to Earth is cut short when a terrorist group attacks the Academy. Nax and three other washouts escape—barely—but they’re also the sole witnesses to the biggest crime in the history of space colonization. And the perfect scapegoats.

On the run and framed for atrocities they didn’t commit, Nax and his fellow failures execute a dangerous heist to spread the truth about what happened at the Academy.

They may not be “Academy material,” and they may not get along, but they’re the only ones left to step up and fight.

I’m a sucker for a diverse group of unlikely heroes, and when they’re thrown into space it’s a nearly irresistible read.

I listened to this audiobook during a long drive, and for the most part, it held my interest.  Nax’s voice is a highlight of the book, and his internal monologues had me laughing several times.  Being in the middle of a bi-love triangle makes for some pretty awkward moments for him.  The rest of the crew is also engaging.  Tossing them into a nearly immediate life or death situation inspires pretty quick bonding, and trust soon follows.

From the tagline, I expected more humorous moments.  For me, Nax joining up with other “washouts” indicates they’re misfits or also have a history of making poor life decisions, but all these characters are highly skilled and close to prodigies.  The focus of the story slants more toward political conspiracies and the group trying to save the day – nothing wrong wrong with that, but the description is a little misleading.

The Disasters has some great characterization and lots of action, but the pace moves a little slow for my taste.  Still, a solid read.

 

Girls With Razor Hearts by Suzanne Young #bookreview #YA #scifi #TuesdayBookBlog

It’s time to fight back in this second novel in a thrilling, subversive near future series from New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Young about a girls-only private high school that is far more than it appears to be.

Make me a girl with a razor heart…

It’s been weeks since Mena and the other girls of Innovations Academy escaped their elite boarding school. Although traumatized by the violence and experimentations that occurred there, Mena quickly discovers that the outside world can be just as unwelcoming and cruel. With no one else to turn to, the girls only have each other—and the revenge-fueled desire to shut down the corporation that imprisoned them.

The girls enroll in Stoneridge Prep, a private school with suspect connections to Innovations, to identify the son of an investor and take down the corporation from the inside. But with pressure from Leandra, who revealed herself to be a double-agent, and Winston Weeks, an academy investor gone rogue, Mena wonders if she and her friends are simply trading one form of control for another. Not to mention the woman who is quite literally invading Mena’s thoughts—a woman with extreme ideas that both frighten and intrigue Mena.

And as the girls fight for freedom from their past—and freedom for the girls still at Innovations—they must also face new questions about their existence…and what it means to be girls with razor hearts.

With the first book in the series being a 5 star read for me last year, I was anxious to see where the second book took these girls.

I was glad to see Mena and the girls taking control of their own lives and getting out into the world.  Although they receive assistance from someone, believe me – they’ve got an uphill battle in trying to locate the investor.  Initially, I thought the actions of the men they encounter – especially at the private school – to be over the top and just too much, but the reasons for this soon became clear.  And it’s infuriating.  Female readers will definitely feel a rise in their blood pressure.  Other than Jackson and Quentin, the nice guys in this story are few and far between.

Something I missed, and this is because I’m a sci-fi geek, is more about how the girls were created.  A little more background is revealed, but I’d love to delve more into that aspect.  Pacing was a bit off for me with a big lull in the middle, but the last 20% really picks up.  By the end, Mena and the girls seems to be caught between one extreme and another.

As with the first book, this one also offers some exciting twists and unexpected turns, and I’ll absolutely be reading the next book in the series.

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