Daughter of Deep Silence

23281652by Carrie Ryan
YA Fiction/Suspense
3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed The Forest of Hands and Teeth (if not the sequels) so when I heard about this book it was a no-brainer to add it to my list. This is a standalone story of one girl’s quest for revenge–with the twist being she has taken on the identity of her rich best friend who did not survive the yacht’s sinking. Libby’s father suggests this as a way to protect Frances (the only survivor aside from a wealthy senator and his son–who lied about how the ship sank). So she assumes Libby’s identity, wealth, and life for four years, biding her time as she tries to uncover the truth to take the senator down. So far, so good.

The hangup for me was the romance. Frances and Grey (the senator’s son) experienced some insta-love on the cruise ship before the attack, and in the interim Frances comes to hate him because he goes along with hiding the truth. But when she returns to the estate (neighboring the senator’s of course) and begins to put her plans in motion to find out what the senator is hiding and get her revenge on his family, part of that plan involves forming a relationship with Grey. Of course it does, he’s a sensible tool for her revenge plot. However–she finds she still has feelings for him, four years later, based on a week of cruise ship 14-year-old insta-love? And these feelings proceed to alter and wreck her carefully laid plans? NO.

This was a fun, fast read until the last 50 pages or so. I was prepared to give it 4 stars. The suspense was spot-on, and even dealing with her growing attachment to Grey wasn’t so bad. But ultimately this book felt like a bit of a letdown. The revenge payoff wasn’t there for me–I’m not sure what I was expecting–but the build-up implied there would be so much more behind the attack and its motivations. I hate to fault it for being too realistic, but it didn’t match the tone of the rest of the story. Frances’ character arc was odd to me as well, because she wasn’t a total battle-hardened revenge badass (except in her own mind…) but this also wasn’t the tale of redemption we find in something like The Count of Monte Cristo.

I do recommend this book for a quick summer read–it has a fantastic blend of dark details and it’s a page-turner–but you decide what you think about the ending.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Daughter of Deep Silence is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma – Weird things are happening around Chloe’s sister Ruby, and she isn’t sure she wants to find out why. This is a suspenseful, semi-paranormal story about two sisters in a small town. See my review here.
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – The first in a detective series following Cormoran Strike, this has all the things to love about dramatic noir movies wrapped up in a suspenseful mystery novel. A good introduction to that genre if you haven’t tried it before.
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – Told from two unreliable points of view, this thriller takes the revenge plot to a new level. Nearly impossible to put down!
  • Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis – Maren just wants to be a normal teenage girl – if only she could stop eating every person she becomes close to. Her story of trying to find her father is dark but captivating. See my review here.
  • The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes – This story is along the same lines. It having a more polished feel, but other than that check out the reviews on Goodreads and be prepared to add it to your list. See my review here.
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater – This takes a similar feeling of suspense and mystery and adds a touch of paranormal to it, if you want to cross over into another genre. See my review here.

Silver in the Blood

22929540by Jessica Day George
YA Fantasy / YA Urban Fantasy
3 of 5 stars

To be honest, this is probably my biggest book disappointment of 2015. That sounds bad, but I actually plan to read the sequel! So let me explain myself…

All the right elements are there: it’s set in Romania, we follow cousins Lou and Dacia as they discover their family secrets, magic comes into play when they least expect it, and of course the cover art is gorgeous! From the blurb I expected….something completely different from what I read.

It doesn’t really matter that it’s set in Romania. Aside from (unending) descriptions of Parisian vs Romanian dresses, there are no details bringing Romania to life. It’s any typical urban fantasy setting of small towns and forests. The family secrets and magic take 204 pages to reveal. The book is not much longer than that….so for the majority of it I was sitting around waiting for something to happen as the cousins discuss how clueless they are, too. By the time things start happening, there’s been enough foreshadowing to remove the tension from most of the climax. This story shouldn’t have felt so dull, but it was.

Finally, the end of the book bothered me simply because I couldn’t figure out the tone of this story. It’s extremely light-hearted most of the time, with a few disturbing paragraphs thrown in that unbalance it all. I liked Lou and Dacia, but I couldn’t figure out what kind of story they were in, and unfortunately they couldn’t either.

Despite all this, I’m going to stick around for the next book! This one seemed to be a lot of setup, but now that the framework is in place, I’m hoping the sequels have a bit more zip to them.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Silver in the Blood is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare – One of the chief comparisons to this novel, it has more magic, romance, and excitement. This is a really fun trilogy set in Victorian London. Tessa is a shape-shifter trying to discover her origins with the help of the London Institute’s Shadowhunters.
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray – The other chief comparison to this novel-this follows Gemma Doyle at a Victorian England finishing school where she accidentally unearths the secrets to an ancient power with the help of her three friends. This is a typical boarding school environment where the events between classes have you turning the pages.
  • Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede – An epistolary novel between two girlfriends as they handle English high society and a series of strange, magical events.
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – I hoped Silver in the Blood would be more like this…a Russian-inspired setting with dark magic and court intrigue. See my review here.
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – Set largely in Prague, this has more of the flavor and fast pacing that I hoped to find in Silver in the Blood. See my review here.
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer – When it’s a normal girl discovering some alarming shape-shifters within her community, look no further than miss Bella Swan, the hapless protagonist in this paranormal quartet. Before the wing, claw and smoke there were just some vampires and werewolves. I found the first book to be the most enjoyable but if the characters grab you, settle in for a thousand pages. See my review here.
  • Written in Red by Anne Bishop – Meg can see the future when her skin is cut. She escapes her captors and takes shelter among the most unlikely group possible-the shape-shifters known as the Others. See my review here.

The Wrath and the Dawn

18798983by Renee Ahdieh
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel – May 12, 2015
Book 1 in a duology

I was apprehensive about this book since I saw so many mixed reviews, but I’m glad I wasn’t dissuaded! I’m actually torn between 3 and 4 stars, but since I was sucked in enough to read it in two days, I feel it’s only fair to give the higher rating.

This is a retelling of The Arabian Nights and there is a good mix of homage and original material. The characters in particular feel fresh and unique. Shazi, Khalid, and even a few members of the supporting cast have their own tone and arcs, and the diversity was a bonus. Shazi made a few decisions that aggravated me, but overall her battle of feeling connected to her friend’s killer felt stubborn enough and understandable enough to me.

Minor spoiler ahead!!

Shazi first realizes she might have some feelings for him after he saves her from execution. It’s very normal to feel attached to anyone present for a traumatic experience, and since he did save her life I felt that was the only feasible way for her begin to soften towards Khalid.

Spoiler free!!

I sympathize with anyone taking issue with Shazi’s back-and-forth struggle to kill or spare Khalid, but given that she’s a 16-year-old girl I felt this vacillation was pretty realistic. It would have helped if Shiva was more present in Shazi’s mind–her grief was so distant that it was hard to pull for her rage against Khalid. Overall, I enjoyed the tension and conflicted feelings the characters experienced–that kind of complexity is what you encounter in real life and I loved seeing it in this story.

I would have liked to see more magic and quicker pacing when it came to giving us plot-moving information, especially since the writing felt a bit stilted. It tends to mimic the style of older fairy tale language which doesn’t feel entirely natural. There is a lot of sensory detail that pulls you into their desert world, and the dialogue still sparks. Shazi and Khalid kept me interested and curious the entire time, and I definitely want to see how things get resolved in the next book!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Wrath and the Dawn is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – A rebellious relationship under a tyrannical government kindles a revolution. I haven’t read this yet but it’s been getting great reviews and the characters have similar motivations to Shazi and Khalid.
  • The Arabian Nights by Anonymous – This collection of tales is assembled and translated by numerous people. Any version is going to have the stories you remember (Aladdin) and plenty of new tales to surprise and enchant. Some translations keep to almost biblical language (thee, thou) but there are more modern versions available if you prefer.
  • Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee – A girl with the power to manipulate the threads of time will stop at nothing to find her missing brother. Together with her best friend, she also discovers what her power means and the destiny that is waiting for her. See my review here.
  • Dragonfly by Julia Golding – A detailed world of differing countries and a prince and princess that must learn to respect each other and their customs if they want to survive their kidnapping. This has a similar predicament and tone to it and is also a duology.
  • The Lost Years of Merlin by T.A. Barron – A retelling of the most famous wizard (prior to Harry Potter). It starts out middle-grade but by book two or three becomes a YA series exploring the adventures Merlin had before becoming the wizened adviser to King Arthur.
  • Chalice by Robin McKinley – This has hints of a Beauty and the Beast retelling. Mirasol feels thrust into a position of too much responsibility and must forge a relationship with the feared Master of the lands. More mature in tone, but similar to Shazi’s struggle with Khalid. See my review here.
  • The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi – A magical story steeped in Indian mythology. Maya is cursed with a horoscope that says she will bring death to any marriage. On her wedding day she’s swept away to a strange kingdom with a mysterious rule. See my review here.

Backlist Bonus: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

13573503by Stephen Chbosky
YA Contemporary
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel – February 1999

This short, poignant novel is the quintessential American high school coming-of-age story.

Charlie is a shy freshman befriended by senior step-siblings Samantha and Patrick. We hear about his first year through a series of letters he writes to a “friend.” Charlie has good taste in music and books but has a hard time talking to people or making friends. Sam and Patrick pull him out of his isolation and introduce him to parties and surviving class while dealing with romantic relationships, eating at diners, family problems, and living up their last year before college. It seeps nostalgia for both high school and the 90’s at every turn, with beautifully written reflective lines from Charlie as he keeps his “friend” apprised of his adventures.

Throughout the letters Charlie becomes both more open about his feelings and more evasive about the events that caused him to spend the previous summer estranged from his friends and family, and his gradual reveal of the details and how he is healing is what gives this novel the depth and grit to set it apart from the average teenage drama.

Not that it’s all serious – Charlie’s wry sense of humor sneaks in at times, and there are enough light-hearted moments to make you wistful for the few good memories you might have from those four transformative years. The author wrote the screenplay and directed the film adaptation, which is also excellent.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Mosquitoland by David Arnold – When Mim learns her mother is very sick, she runs away from her father and new stepmother to go see her. Along the way she confronts uncomfortable situations and the uncomfortable truths coming her way. See my review here.
  • Luna by Julie Ann Peters – Told from the point of view of Liam’s sister, Regan, we watch the difficult and personal transformation of Liam to Luna as she embraces her transgender identity. This isn’t a perfect representation of a trans character, as the plot and characters can feel a bit shallow, but it’s still worth a read.
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green – This is a boarding school story but it captures the same mood as Chbosky. Miles is trying to find himself when he meets the most interesting person he’s ever encountered – Alaska Young. We get a taste of the uncertainty and longing of being almost-adults as they spend a wild few months together. See my review here.


5152478by Laurie Halse Anderson
YA Contemporary
4 of 5 stars

I haven’t read an Anderson book since high school, but Speak and Catalyst stuck with me for years, so I decided it was time to try another one. This was the darkest by far, and although it’s short, it is a gripping and harrowing glimpse into mental illness. Lia and Cassie’s toxic friendship is sealed by their childhood trauma and desire to be attractive, but it all ends when Cassie’s bulimia destroys her. Lia is left in a maelstrom of grief, confusion, and self-loathing. She’s trapped in her own mind, and the stream-of-consciousness/present tense narration makes you feel how each day is a long battle between her dysfunctional family, food, and herself. If she can become small enough, she’ll escape everything that hurts her.

This goes into some detail regarding anorexic behaviors and the side effects. Some people wouldn’t be comfortable with including the tricks Lia uses to make everyone think she isn’t losing weight, but in my opinion this is fairly balanced with the list of terrible health problems and side effects Lia experiences. A part of Lia knows that she is sick, dangerously sick, that she doesn’t see her body accurately, but she doesn’t know how to stop. There’s commentary here too, on the failings of counselors, therapists, and doctors. They tell her she’s a danger to herself, but then go on to say “your hour is up, make way for the next patient, you’re stable” and cast her adrift. It’s a balanced, excellent story that explores a disease too often treated with insensitivity or whispers.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Wintergirls is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Mosquitoland by David Arnold – Mary Iris Malone is not okay. When her father remarries and moves the family hundreds of miles away from her mother, Mim decides to go back to her mother alone. Her road trip doesn’t go at all like she expects. The tone isn’t as dark, but the internal struggle Mim feels is similar. See my review here.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – Quiet freshman Charlie confronts all the “firsts” of high school while dealing with the emotional damage of childhood trauma. It’s reflective but has its lighter moments, too. See my review here.
  • Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis – A more surreal story than Wintergirls, but Maren has a lot of the same mental health issues to work through. See my review here.
  • The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter – An intense look at the toxic relationship between a mother and daughter. Cassie intends to start her freshman year of college free from her mother and her past, but then her mom turns up promising all the love Cassie always wanted. See my review here.

Backlist Bonus: Graceling

3236307by Kristin Cashore
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel – October 1, 2008

This has become a staple of my fantasy collection. Cashore’s style reminds me of Robin McKinley, it’s descriptive, almost lyrical, and the character development is subtle but intense. Katsa’s Grace (an enhanced ability, somewhat magical) is Killing, and she is forced to be the muscle behind her uncle’s throne. Secretly, she subverts his cruel and greedy orders, and tries to avoid killing at all costs. When a strange foreign prince encounters her on a mission, she becomes caught up in his quest to free his relatives from another king’s mysterious power – possibly a Grace that could doom them all.

Katsa ends up on a traditional quest in a world of strange powers, but Cashore makes this a fresh tale about a woman who fears her own power and refuses to settle for anything but finding her own place in the world. She doesn’t want marriage and children, she wants to be independent and choose her own destiny, away from her uncle and everyone else. It’s Po that makes her come to realize you can be independent and still care for someone else. Their slow-burn romance is beautifully told and only one arc in the web of adventure, politics, and saving a kingdom.

This is the first in a trilogy, with Fire being a prequel and Bitterblue a sequel to this one. Graceling is my favorite, but if you like this one check them all out.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Graceling is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman –  A richly detailed story about a half-dragon girl enlisted to help the prince solve a royal murder and keep the peace between dragons and humans as the anniversary of the treaty approaches. See my review here, and my review of the sequel, Shadow Scale, here.
  • Sabriel by Garth Nix – Sabriel must use the limited magic she knows to save her father from being trapped in Death. But a necromancer is working to raise the most powerful Dead spirit against the kingdom, and she must accept her destiny as her father’s successor, or doom the world to destruction. See my review here.
  • Chalice by Robin McKinley – A slower, lyrical story about a girl thrust into one of the most powerful magical roles in governing the land as upheaval grips her kingdom. She is the only one who believes the new master of the land can save them, but as a priest of Fire, his return to life among normal humans is unprecedented. This has touches of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale and is one of my favorites. See my review here.

P.S. I Still Love You

20698530by Jenny Han
YA Contemporary
3 of 5 stars
Book 2 of a duology

I wasn’t especially impressed by To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before but I am so glad I decided to read this sequel! Lara Jean was a bit too passive for my taste in the last book – even when she found out who sent out her private letters, she wasn’t even that mad about it. Her emotions felt muted, and the characters around her felt flat and muted too. Not so in this story!

Lara Jean and Peter are together for real, and as she navigates her first high school relationship she reminds everyone reading this what high school is like. So many firsts, so many social dangers and triumphs, and the feeling that everything you’re experiencing is vitally important but is also something you’re not likely to care about so much when you’re older. Lara Jean is both more introspective and takes a more active role, and her sisters and friends are more vivid as well. Everyone has grown and I enjoyed this story much more thanks to that.

I also enjoyed the more feminist take on relationships in this novel. In the previous one, I was frustrated that because Lara Jean’s best friend Chris dated a lot of guys and had already had sex, she was slut-shamed by everyone. Even Lara Jean doesn’t fully approve of her. This time around everything is presented more fairly, in a way that every girl needs to see. Women are in charge of their bodies, and what’s right for some people isn’t right for others. If a sexy picture or video of a couple goes up online, the guy is congratulated and the girl is shamed – and this is a double standard that needs to change.

This was a fun summer read and I recommend it for both high school students and anyone wanting a vibrant refresher on what it’s like to be 16.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, P.S. I Still Love You is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn, David Levithan – One crazy night in NYC with recently-single Nick and his “girlfriend for 5 minutes” Norah that he meets at his band’s gig. The two high school seniors race around the city looking for their favorite band’s secret show, but end up wondering if they’ve found love instead.
  • Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch – Lina’s mother dies of cancer, and she’s sent to Florence, Italy to fulfill her mother’s last wish: get to know the father she just found out about 2 weeks ago. Lina is grieving and angry, but when her father’s neighbor provides her mother’s journal about her time in Italy, Lina can’t help but wonder why her mother sent her there. Add charming neighbor boy Ren to the equation, and Lina finds herself getting to know her mother all over again–and maybe falling in love. See my review here.
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – Another tale of high school first love that is incredibly bittersweet and vividly captures all the ups and downs through the eyes of both Eleanor and Park. See my review here.
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – A similar coming-of-age story with a college freshman experiencing first love as she’s on her own for the first time. Her twin sister Wren decided she wanted some space, and Cath is cast adrift to find herself before she sinks.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – The nostalgia is on every page of this introspective and humorous story of quiet high school freshman Charlie as he makes friends with seniors Sam and Patrick. See my review here.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – This classic novel contains one of the best-known and loved romances in literature. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy can’t imagine a single thing they have in common–unless it’s their dislike. But circumstances change, and Elizabeth learns the danger of relying on first impressions. See my review here.

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