Wink Poppy Midnight

23203106by April Genevieve Tucholke
YA Contemporary / Paranormal
4 of 5 stars

I fell in love with the cover of this little book and I love the writing inside just as much! I’m not used to books with multiple points of view giving each character their own unique voice. First person narratives tend to start sounding alike, but that isn’t the case here. Even more lovely is the fact that I couldn’t pick a favorite—Wink, Poppy, and Midnight all have their own narratives and arcs that drew me in and I was never left wishing that more time was given to just one of them.

Although this isn’t as spooky as I hoped, there are some creepy moments and the writing lends itself to sending a shiver down your spine at the right moments. Midnight has moved to a new house and just broke up with his old next-door neighbor, Poppy. Their toxic relationship has finally pushed him to say enough is enough. Wink is Midnight’s new neighbor, a farm girl from a large family who seems sweet and mature and everything Poppy isn’t. Nothing is simple in this story, and the manipulative nature of the girls has Midnight caught in a web of truth and lies so tangled it takes a horrible accident to sort everything out.

At least, it seems to be clear-cut, until stranger things start happening.

I guessed some of the outcome but there are enough twists to keep you surprised, and I was left wanting more of this strange world and the three main characters. Having three unreliable narrators was fun, and I wish more books experimented with this style!

This reads like a modern fairy tale, with whimsical elements and a plot that weaves in symbolic elements, astute observations, and events that knock everything you know about the characters askew. I really enjoyed it! Recommended for fairy tale lovers who enjoy some thrills and mystery.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Wink Poppy Midnight is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater – A weird blend of paranormal fantasy and YA contemporary, this series focuses on a group of teens searching for a buried Welsh king to claim one magical favor for awakening him. The usual Stiefvater elements of Atmosphere, fast cars, magic, and dynamic characters that drive the story. The writing is exquisite. See my review here.
  • The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes – Minnow escapes her cult the night the entire Community burns to the ground, only to go from one prison to another. The detectives want to know what really happened that night, but Minnow isn’t talking about what caused the loss of her hands, or anything else. See my review here.
  • The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black – Siblings Hazel and Ben have loved the faerie boy in the forest for as long as they can remember. Fairfold’s residents are used to faerie mischief and know how to keep their magical forest content to fool with tourists only. But when the forest begins breaking the truce with the residents, Hazel knows it’s up to her to save her town. See my review here.
  • Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis – Maren decides to find her biological father on her 16th birthday—largely because she wakes up that morning to discover her mother has abandoned her. Maren doesn’t blame her mother—it was for her own safety after all. Maren has a tendency to consume the people who care about her, bones and all. She hopes finding her father will explain why she can’t stop herself from eating human flesh. See my review here.
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The Raven King

Raven Kingby Maggie Stiefvater
YA Fantasy / Paranormal
4 of 5 stars
Book 4 in The Raven Cycle

This was my most-anticipated book of the year! I even pre-ordered it (which I never do). Then I found a copy in the wild a week early (hence why I never pre-order!) and of course bought it immediately and read it before my pre-ordered copy showed up! Of course, the downside of reading a book before everyone else is that you must handle your book hangover alone (gah!). Maybe I’m getting more emotional in my old age, but this book made me tear up at least twice, and ordinarily that’s a 5-star story for me since I am half-robot and books don’t make me cry. Especially not since I moved to Denver and am now perpetually dehydrated. Anyway, not a perfect score in this case because, (for reasons I won’t discuss here but which I’m positive are all over Tumblr at this point), it wasn’t quite what I expected.

That doesn’t mean this book wasn’t insanely awesome! It just means the roller-coaster looked like it was going one way but that was just an optical illusion.

All my reviews have highlighted the amazing friendships in these books. Now that we are in the fourth installment, we get the best dynamic between Blue and the boys. In book one, we’re told they’ve been friends for a while (the boys at least), and we get the sense that there is history we weren’t around for. But in book four, we’ve been a part of the last year of history, and you get the solidity of intimacy that you’ve witnessed and shared, not just moments that were implied or technically must exist in the non-canon past. The closest thing I can think of are books 6 and 7 of Harry Potter, where now you have years of experiences and knowledge of these characters and you don’t have the getting-to-know-you moments, you have the finishing-each-other’s-thoughts moments. This is my favorite book-feeling out there—when the characters feel real enough that you could bump into them on the street. All that to say, welcome to the best versions of these characters: best dialogue, best inside jokes, best fights, best everything. SAVOR IT.

This series is hard to review without spoilers because it’s so weird, so in summary: yes, the creepy Cabeswater magic gets creepier; yes, the opponents hunting the ley line get stronger; yes, Gansey’s time is running out; yes, the sense of running toward a very uncertain ending haunts you for 400 pages. Yes, the relationships that came to the foreground in book 3 get more screen time here (because sometimes Stiefvater is merciful!). Yes, the entire book is spent teetering between wanting to know what happens and never wanting it to end.

My favorite moments were the in-between scenes though. The scenes revolving around families giving advice, romantic tension in the most unlikely ways, character arcs approaching resolution as loose ends are tied up to make way for them to find the Raven King. This wasn’t the ending I was expecting but it’s a good one, and I’m sure once I read the series again I’ll love it even more. Go forth and read this!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Raven King is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke – This story told from three points of view is dark and different. Midnight broke up with Poppy for the summer after years of an on-again off-again relationship where Poppy held all the power. His new next-door neighbor is Wink, a girl from a strange family who isn’t like anyone he’s ever met. But when something terrible happens, it’s unclear who is telling the truth and how intertwined these three characters really are. A short, spooky read with gorgeous prose! See my review here.
  • Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma – Chloe moves in with her sister Ruby after a terrible accident befalls a classmate. It soon becomes clear that Ruby’s manipulative nature is growing, and stranger things are happening in their small town. Chloe has to decide what’s real and what’s true, and her perfect older sister might not be the best person to ask. See my review here.
  • The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black – Hazel and Ben are used to Fairfold’s mischievous fairies and magical forest. Their town depends on tourists coming through to see the strange and unexplainable. But when Hazel senses that forest’s magic might be turning on the townfolk too, she knows it’s time to pick up her sword and save her beloved home. See my review here.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue

BLLBby Maggie Stiefvater
YA Fantasy / Paranormal
4 of 5 stars
Book 3 in The Raven Cycle

I’ve read this twice now and both times I think it took me only 24 hours. The previous book is centered around dreams, but this one feels more like a dream when you read it, possibly because it’s far weirder.

Much of the first two books, despite containing weird supernatural events, take place in and are grounded in the real world of small-town Virginia. This book returns us to a different Henrietta—one that is reeling from a revived ley line. Power outages, strange creatures, Noah’s changing presence and personality, and a growing sense of urgency envelope the women of 300 Fox Way and the raven boys.

Adam’s connection to Cabeswater is becoming less alarming as the scope of the ley line becomes broader. Ronan is still working out how to control his dreams, hoping to save Gansey with something he creates. Blue is worried sick (and pissed) that her mother Maura has been missing for a month after leaving nothing but a cryptic note saying, “Glendower is underground. So am I.” Gansey feels like they’re running out of time and road for their quest. (Persephone and Calla agree).

This series features repetition as a theme (and a style), but it’s never been more pronounced than here, probably because the magic in this story is confusing at times and repetition gives you something hold on to as you puzzle it out. Mirrors, using time more than once, secrets—all of these are brought to the forefront as the gang begins exploring a cursed cave that houses a mysterious sleeper—of some kind.

Although the overall tone is heavier thanks to the clear indications that both light and dark magic are at work, Stiefvater expertly includes hysterical moments and jokes, as well as some of the calm, in-between moments of one-on-one conversations between the characters (not just Blue and the boys) to balance it out. But along with this are Blue’s (and the boys’) constant realizations that everyone has different faces they wear and hidden sides you don’t know about—that you can be close and yet strangers. Sometimes because of secrets, sometimes because every day changes you a little until you have to relearn yourself.

I’ve said before that the true strength of this series are the character relationships. I dare you to read it and not want to be friends with them.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Blue Lily, Lily Blue is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma – A strange story about ballerina rivalries and time slipping around them. When a girl is murdered, another girl goes to jail. But is it the right girl? See my review here.
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman – A young girl moves to a new house with her parents and finds all its secret nooks and crannies. And the dark spirit waiting to steal her and her parents’ souls if she doesn’t win a game of riddles.
  • Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke – Three points of view, a hero, a liar, a villain–in a small mountain town. This short book is unique and creepy and hard to describe, rather like The Raven Cycle. See my review here.
  • The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black – A small town with an unusual forest knows how to keep the faeries happy. When Hazel notices that the agreements aren’t working anymore, she takes up a sword to save her home. See my review here.

The Dream Thieves

dream thievesby Maggie Stiefvater
YA Fantasy / Paranormal
4 of 5 stars
Book 2 in The Raven Cycle

I remember when I first read this I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first book, mainly because Ronan is so prickly. This time around, I loved this story! I think I just didn’t grasp Ronan’s arc and some of the events in this book the first time around. It’s very symbolic and metaphorical at times, and quite honestly Stiefvater’s summaries on Recaptains helped immensely. Dreams are rarely straightforward in real life, and that bleeds through everything in this book.

*spoilers for The Raven Boys*

At this point in the story, Blue is inextricably intertwined with the four raven boys: Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah. They found out Noah’s been dead for seven years. Adam is working out what his agreement with Cabeswater entails. Ronan tells the group he can take things from his dreams (such as Chainsaw), just like his father. Blue experiments with her own power over energy. Gansey remains wistful as ever, about everything.

They’re all beginning to realize they’re part of something bigger.
They’re also learning far more people are after the ley line’s power than they first thought.

This book opens up the world even as it focuses largely on Ronan and his strange power. Through his complicated relationship with Kavinsky, we learn how the dreams work and that Ronan’s family isn’t the only one able to do it.

The same wealth of atmosphere, snappy dialogue, and amazing descriptions are present here and Gansey’s quest for Glendower is even stranger and more compelling. The true strength of this series is the friendship these characters share. I finished this and went directly to the next book!

This series is for anyone wanting to explore the fine line between magic and reality. It’s paranormal without the monsters or heavy romance. It’s very much its own (weird) thing.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Dream Thieves is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – When you think of a book about dreams, this is at the top of the list. Alice’s strange dreamland and her guide the White Rabbit are symbols of exactly how weird your mind can be when you aren’t awake and in charge. Although it’s older, it reads easily and the imagery is addictively strange.
  • Made You Up by Francesca Zappia – An adorable, emotional (if a bit inaccurate) story about Alex, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and is never sure what is real and what isn’t. Beautiful language and enjoyably wry. See my review here.
  • Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma – A story about two sisters, and the powerful dynamic between them. Ruby runs their small town, and Chloe adores her. But when a classmate is murdered and she goes to live with her sister, strange things start happening. See my review here.
  • Tides by Betsy Cornwell – Noah and Lo spend the summer with their grandmother on a small island and find out that selkies are known to roam the waters around it. See my review here.

Backlist Bonus: Tithe

titheby Holly Black
YA Fantasy / Paranormal Fantasy
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel: October 1, 2002

I tend to love the author’s worlds and writing style, but her books have polarizing reviews, so if you like one you’ll probably love them all–if not, well, maybe try something else. She typically has a semi-creepy hook with magic in a modern setting and her characters are brash and brave by turns.

Her debut novel features traditional faery mythology set in New Jersey as Kaye has a chance encounter with a faery in the woods. By unintentional cleverness, she claims the faery’s name for saving his life, not realizing the power she now holds over him. To make matters more complicated, the faery’s new ties to Kaye make the faery queen jealous, and she sets her sights on Kaye completing an ancient and deadly faery ritual to give her power over both the Seelie and Unseelie courts. Kaye would be concerned if she wasn’t dealing with the sudden appearance of wings on her back and her skin turning green…

It’s a fast-paced novel that’s a bit rough around the edges but shines with the story and the clear evidence of the author’s talent. This is a fun place to start with Black’s work, but I always like seeing an author’s debut work to compare with their current books. If you enjoy faery mythology you should give this a try.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Tithe is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black – I feel like this is the story that Black was trying to write when she wrote Tithe. They’re very similar but this one is better and shows off her signature style. See my review here.
  • Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception by Maggie Stiefvater – Deirdre discovers her musical talent is drawing the attention of mischievous (and possibly malevolent) faeries. See my review here.
  • The Named by Marianne Curley – A group of teens and adults named in a prophecy struggle to keep the timeline as it should be when the Order of Chaos seeks to disrupt historical events. Time-travel adventures and plenty of drama as well, super fun!
  • The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey – Although not the most original urban fantasy, the characters are great and the fast-paced mystery to find the Firebird had me enthralled. Echo is a runaway thief in New York living among the Avicen, who are at war with the Darkharin, and she decides to steal the Firebird–the ultimate weapon to end the war. I can’t wait for the sequel! See my review here.
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – Probably closest in writing style in my mind, this creepy novella takes magic in our world to the next level. See my review here.

Tides

test3by Betsy Cornwell
YA Fantasy/Paranormal Fantasy
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel – June 4, 2013

First of all, this cover is incredible. The hardcover’s jacket is pearlescent and gorgeous. The story starts off moody and promising a lot of serious content within the world of a vivid New England island. Selkies are an interesting facet of mythology not often covered within YA so I was really excited to snag this on a whim from my library (yes, due to the beautiful cover). Noah is trying to land the most important internship of his life. Lo is fighting her second eating disorder. Their grandmother is full of secrets that start coming out now that they finally get to spend time with her on the island. And of course, there are the selkies.

This was a really nice change of pace for me – kind of like when you see a TV show or movie that isn’t normally your thing. Although it doesn’t get into as much depth as I’d like for certain issues, I flat out enjoyed this story. I love the characters, and that’s what made it for me. All of their relationships are nuanced and solid. The other elements (plot, pacing, writing) are very decent for a debut novel but there are few moments that could be smoothed over. It’s a bit trope-tastic but not in an annoying way–the best I can say it is that for weeks after I read this I kept thinking about the characters and the stormy coastline, and any book that stays with me like that earns my recommendation!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Tides is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater – When I think of mixing fantasy elements or legends with reality, I think of Stiefvater first. This quartet is set in small-town Virginia as Blue Sargent becomes involved with a group of prep-school boys searching for a legendary dead Welsh king. See my review here.
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – Again, for incredible atmosphere and the casual mix of magic with the mundane, this is an excellent choice. Instead of peaceful selkies, you’ll encounter deadly water horses. See my review here.
  • The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black – If you’d like a bit more magic, visit the small tourist town of Fairfold and follow Hazel’s adventures with the ever-dangerous faeries and their plots. See my review here.
  • Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare – Although her first trilogy set in NYC might be a closer match technically, I can’t stand the writing. So I offer up this recommendation for Shadowhunters killing demons in Victorian London. All the interpersonal drama you could desire interspersed with magic and action.
  • Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly – Mermaids from all the oceans must unite to fight a terrible evil. Sera was worried about living up to her mother’s (the queen’s) hopes, but when a terrible attack happens, Sera must shoulder the responsibility for her kingdom whether she feels ready or not. Fantastic female friendships! See my review here.

Backlist Bonus: Twilight

41865by Stephenie Meyer
YA Paranormal Fantasy
3 of 5 stars
Debut novel – October 5, 2005

Yes, you read that right, the Twilight saga and fanbase began ten years ago! You can go ponder this for a moment. All right, let’s move on. This book has become a symbol for so much more than teen paranormal romance (which now has its own section in bookstores and libraries). It expanded a genre, but it also became a touchstone for “rabid fanbase” and “Team Fill-in-your-preferred-love-interest” discussions for any YA book. It’s hugely influential and polarizing, which is part of what made it such an enduring series. I’m assuming we all know the general story (plain Jane falls for gorgeous vampire boy pretending to be human in biology class) so I won’t really go into that. It’s worth pointing out that if you consider this book an example of “current YA literature”…it’s not. It’s getting old in general terms, and in YA it’s ancient!

I first read this in 2005 and thought it was different and funny. I didn’t normally go for such openly melodramatic YA fare, but I enjoyed this book and recommended it to most of my friends. After a few months it faded away and I forgot about it. Until suddenly it was everywhere. Then it started to become annoying.

But taken on its own, this book is fine, and although I don’t find it as amusing now (the gender roles alone are enough to frustrate me, leaving out the weird/creepy boyfriend behavior, lack of plot, and endless cheesy dialogue) I don’t hate it either. But whether you’re reading or writing critically, it provides a lot of material for discussion, which is part of what makes a “good” book, isn’t it?

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself on this special 10th Anniversary Day, Twilight is available on Goodreads and a special edition with bonus content is available on Barnes & Noble’s website, here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Written in Red by Anne Bishop – This is the perfect series for Twilight graduates that want something with a little more bite. The tone and themes are similar and there are currently 5 books scheduled with 3 already out. See my review here.
  • Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George – This YA series follows two young cousins as they learn family secrets that appall and excite them as they learn their roles. The cover is pretty indicative about those secrets. See my review here.
  • Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick – A quartet that debuted right after Twilight wrapped up, Nora finds herself drawn to Patch, a fallen angel with questionable motives.
  • Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater – Still on my TBR list, but I think it’s a good fit here. Grace falls for the werewolf boy Sam, and is determined to find a way to be with him.

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