The Seafarer’s Kiss

32890474by Julia Ember
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

This gorgeous cover caught my eye and since I love fairy tales I knew I had to check out this Little Mermaid retelling. It’s definitely the most interesting one I’ve found! I love all the Norse mythology and setting it in a completely different part of the world–and having the mermaid trying to win the heart of a fierce shield-maiden was refreshing. Fairy tales fascinate me because you can change so many components and yet still see the bones of the myth underneath.

Ersel has always wondered what adventures she could have on land, but she doesn’t meet a living human until she finds a scared girl named Ragna trapped on the ice after a shipwreck. Ragna is determined to have revenge on the men who kidnapped her and burned her village. Ersel wants to escape the oppressive rule of an isolationist king who insists that a mermaid’s value is linked to her fertility.

The two girls form a tentative friendship that hints at something more–until Ersel’s suitor catches them together and threatens to tell the king. Desperate to find Ragna and be with her on land, Ersel makes a bargain with the treacherous god of lies, Loki. Her wish threatens to destroy not only her hope of reuniting with Ragna, but her entire underwater community if she doesn’t discover a way to outwit the god.

This short book is so fast-paced! This world was so interesting to explore, especially Ersel’s life under the icebergs. The way the mermaids had to survive such intense cold was thought out! I wouldn’t have minded more time with these characters, but I still felt like they were all so fleshed out. Each of them had such intense desires and were so ruthless in going after what they wanted. Despite knowing the fairy tale, the game with the trickster god and the horrifyingly imaginative results had me wondering what would happen next.

Ersel and Ragna don’t have a lot of time to develop their relationship, yet there was a spark there that I’ve found true to life–when you find someone completely driven to achieve their dreams, it’s so attractive! That spark can grow quickly, and I wanted them to be together just to see what adventures they could have. They’re not “nice” girls but I wanted them to win!

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


Similar reads:

  • Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst – Denna’s betrothal has stretched on for years, but it’s finally time for her to meet and marry her husband. She just has to keep her affinity for fire magic a secret–and try not to fall for her fiance’s sister. See my review here.
  • The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie – Cas has spent her whole life training Reckoner beasts to fight pirates in the NeoPacific, but her first solo trip goes horribly wrong. Pirate Queen Santa Elena captures Cas and orders her to train a stolen Reckoner for the pirates, under the watchful eye of Swift, a girl who seems to understand the darkest parts of Cas. See my review here.
  • When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – Lush prose that draws you into a small town filled with magic, secrets, and romance. Sam and Miel have been best friends their whole lives, but when the Bonner sisters decide they want the roses that grow from Miel’s wrists, protecting Miel could reveal all the secrets Sam and Miel have kept from each other and themselves. See my review here.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

15881by J.K. Rowling
Children’s Lit
4 of 5 stars

As a 13-year-old I just wanted Harry to make Dobby tell him the truth (I was pretty impatient as a kid!) but of course that wouldn’t be any fun! It’s so hard to be objective about these books…

Harry’s second year at Hogwarts is much darker than the first, with a mysterious monster attacking the students and petrifying them. Draco Malfoy is even more horrible in this book, and the mysterious Chamber of Secrets defies Hermione’s library researching skills. Harry is about to learn just how much the past repeats itself in the present (which feels more relevant now that I’m older). The themes of identity here are broken down from many angles–not just Harry’s fears about being a good fit for Slytherin. The students are learning what it means to be in different houses, what it means to Muggle-born or not, and if any of it truly matters. I like to think that Malfoy has some introspective moments off-page, but who can say. All we really know is that Lockhart is the only one who manages to leave this story less self-aware!

29241319Reading this again after a few years was so much fun! Harry is still adorably concerned about rule-following and making friends. He and Ron still do homework! Probably the weirdest magic in this book is Dumbledore keeping the school open while all these terrible things are happening.

The illustrations in the newest edition are charming though not as interesting as the first book’s adaptation. Admittedly, taking the whole series into account this one doesn’t rank as a favorite-favorite but it’s still magical!

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


Similar reads:

  • Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty – Serafina and her father secretly live in the basement of the Biltmore Mansion. When Serafina finds a creepy man with a Black Cloak sneaking around down there stealing visiting children, she’s determined to unmask him. See my review here.
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman – Coraline’s family moves to a new house, and she has fun exploring it. Then she finds the Other Mother, who is determined to keep Coraline forever if Coraline can’t outsmart her trap.
  • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke – Meggie is an avid reader who learns her father is able to read aloud and bring characters from books into our world–and accidentally transport humans into novels.

Some Kind of Happiness

13260524by Claire Legrand
Children’s Lit
5 of 5 stars

This was recommended to me last summer and this book impressed me with every page! The writing breaks your heart or makes you laugh with each chapter!

Finley Hart is facing the worst summer of her life. Her parents are sending her to her father’s estranged side of the family while they “work things out.” (Finley knows what that means.) Meeting her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all at once and then staying with them for three months is not her idea of fun. Her only escape is the Everwood–stories she’s been writing about a magical forest for years. But she didn’t expect the Everwood to be real, and right behind her grandparents’ house. And she didn’t expect her cousins to be knights or the neighbor boys to be pirates. Suddenly her summer of adventure might be fun! If the secret darkness inside her doesn’t destroy it all.

Finley’s struggle to hide her anxiety and depression is just heartbreaking. The girl who reads all the time, who does crossword puzzles with her father, still doesn’t have words to understand the heavy sadness inside her that can make getting out of bed feel impossible. She knows she’s lucky, she has family, a place to live, food to eat–she should feel happy! Everyone else does, what is wrong with her? So she writes and writes and writes trying to find out.

Understanding herself through her stories is such a cathartic experience and it doesn’t present everything as “fixed” in the end. There’s new truths, and hope, and ways to help herself get through her “blue days” but the blue days aren’t going away. For anyone facing these feelings, it’s a good reminder that you aren’t broken.

All of this is the underlying theme of the book, but the main story is about Finley finding her family, and uncovering dark secrets in the past that led to the rifts in the present. How bringing these things to light is the only way to heal, even if it’s painful. There are so many moments of warmth and just as many arguments that hit your vulnerable parts in the way only family members can.  An emotionally messy portrait of the only kind of family there is: an imperfect one.

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


Similar reads:

  • The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd – Emmaline is one of many sick children staying in the countryside during the war. But she is the only one who can see the winged horses in the manor’s mirrors. When the Horse Lord sends an injured white horse named Foxfire to her world for protection, Emmaline must brave her fears to keep it safe. See my review here.
  • Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm – This illustrated story features children dealing with serious adult situations and how they can learn to cope with them. Sunny’s determination to know the full truth leads her to uncover many family secrets as she spends the summer at her grandfather’s retirement community. See my review here.
  • Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes – After surviving several terrible accidents, Maguire is convinced that she is bad luck and a danger to others. But when her mother mentions a family trip to Ireland to see their family’s roots, Maguire knows it will require getting on a plane–and decides maybe it’s time to stop isolating herself. With the help of a new therapist and a new friend also trying to complete some “therapy challenges” Maguire might be able to let go of the past to save her future. See my review here.

The Hate U Give

32075671by Angie Thomas
YA Contemporary
5 of 5 stars
Debut novel: February 28, 2017

I don’t know what to say that hasn’t been said – important, powerful, emotional, hopeful – all of those things and more.

Starr Carter has two identities. She is one of the only black students at her preppy high school, careful never to present herself as “sassy” “loud” “angry” or any other stereotype that will make her friends raise an eyebrow. In her neighborhood, she’s Big Mav’s daughter who works at the store, “too snobby” to hang out at parties or date any guys. (Her boyfriend is Chris–rich, white, and definitely a secret). When she does go to a neighborhood party with her friend Khalil, they have to leave when shots ring out. But on their drive home, a cop stops them–and five minutes later, Khalil is dead. Starr is the only witness to the shooting, and what she decides to say or not say about that night will have far-reaching consequences.

Although there are definitely moments of humor, love, and hope, the overall mood is somber, as it should be. I suppose the pacing is unhurried, but it definitely captures the feeling that law enforcement is unhurried when you need them. When it’s your situation, the waiting is agonizing. Around all that, Starr shows us how her two worlds are colliding and it can be the best or worst thing imaginable.

The true strength of this story is Starr’s voice. Everyone you meet and every place you go feels so real you could blink and be there. I loved her, her parents, her friends (even her “annoying” younger brother). This story doesn’t pull any punches–I teared up so many times–and it’s something I will recommend to everyone.

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


Similar reads:

  • You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner – When Julia puts a graffiti mural over an offensive slur meant for her best friend, she’s shocked when her friend rats her out. Being expelled and becoming the only Deaf student in her new high school is another shock. This is a fun, fast read that deftly takes you to new turf. See my review here.
  • The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis – A brutal, unflinching take-down of rape culture in America. Alex Craft took vengeance into her own hands when her sister’s killer walked free, but keeping that secret becomes harder when star athlete Jack and preacher’s daughter Peekay befriend her during senior year. See my review here.
  • The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter – An excellent and uncomfortable portrayal how insidious toxic relationships are, especially when it’s someone in your immediate family. Cassie is determined to put her abusive relationship with her mother behind her as she goes to college, but when her mother turns up promising a fresh start and the love Cassie has craved her whole life, she wonders where a second chance will lead. See my review here.
  • Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero – Gabi is caught between two worlds, trying to please her traditional Mexican American family, and trying to fit in at school. Both worlds give her nothing but stress: college apps, one best friend coming out to his religious family, her pregnant sister, her father’s drug habit, and her mother’s constant advice to lose weight. Finding her voice through poetry might be the only way she survives. See my review here.

Orange: The Complete Collection

25667474by Ichigo Takano
Graphic Novel
4 of 5 stars
(This is a review for all 5 volumes of Orange)

My lovely friend and CP Meg rec’d these to me and they are so cute! Coming off the utter story hangover that is the film “Your Name” this was perfect!

This story arc is about a group of high school friends who befriend the new guy at school. But Naho receives a letter from herself ten years in the future, warning her that tragedy strikes, and she must do everything the letter recommends if she wants to save Kakeru’s life. Skeptical at first, Naho quickly realizes everything in the letter comes true, and if she doesn’t act quickly, Kakeru will be lost to them again.

26247042The friendships are fantastic and the slow-burn, awkward romance between Naho and Kakeru is so adorable! It’s a story about how the seemingly mundane moments in everyday life can matter so much, and that it’s important to be there for your friends and not entirely wrapped up in yourself. It hits the heavier moments with grace and provides plenty of humor too. I had so much fun speeding through these! The first three volumes are bound in one book, and the remaining two are in the second volume.

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


Similar reads:

  • Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm – This cute, nostalgic story features children dealing with serious situations regarding addiction and how they can learn to cope with them. See my review here.
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – Simon isn’t exactly “out” and the only person he can truly be himself around is Blue – the boy he’s been emailing that he’s crushing on so hard. As he and Blue try to figure out each other’s true identities, Simon has to be brave, especially since another guy at school is threatening to expose his secret. See my review here.
  • The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord – Paige’s boyfriend drowned in a freak accident the previous summer, and now she’s facing junior year as The Girl Whose Boyfriend Drowned, with a side of anxiety. Her attempt to make a better year for herself doesn’t go as planned, but that’s kind of a good thing. The friendships in this story are wonderful! See my review here.
  • This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills – When Sloane falls in with a new group of friends she finds herself on a quest to save a painting by their deceased mother that has gone missing. Another story about how it’s the in-between moments that build a life. See my review here.

When the Moon Was Ours

28220826by Anna-Marie McLemore
YA Contemporary / Magical Realism
5 of 5 stars

The trouble with reviewing a book of this quality is the fact that your own writing will be so inadequate you’re left using bland superlatives in an attempt to communicate the sublime experience you just had. It’s “incredible” “amazing” “beautiful” and really all anyone can take from that is “So you liked it a LOT.”

Yes, I liked this story a LOT.

This is magical realism at its most powerful. Miel fell out of a water tower when she was five and grows roses from her wrist. Sam is a bacha posh who paints moons and hangs them all over town. The two have been inseparable best friends until now, when they are seventeen and facing feelings that could change their relationship. Their growing attraction has to bend around Sam’s gradual realization that his identity as a boy goes deeper than the clothes he wears or the body he has. Miel has another reason for hesitance: the Bonner sisters (four girls the town views as witches) decide they want Miel’s roses and threaten to reveal all of her secrets—and steal Sam’s love away—if she doesn’t comply.

The small town is full of delicious, dangerous magic, and people that are all struggling to claim their identities despite the lies they tell themselves or the gossip other people whisper about them. Everything addressed in this story is handled sensitively and with an emotional resonance that will inspire you to see yourself and others in a nicer light.

That was the best I can do—add this to your list no matter what you normally read and let its magic unfold.

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


Similar reads:

  • Bone Gap by Laura Ruby – Finn is horrified when Roza goes missing, just like the rest of Bone Gap, Illinois. He alone wants to keep searching for her several months later, despite his disgrace. He was the only who saw the man that took Roza–but he can’t remember his face. This story is filled with magical realism and heartbreaking truths about people. See my review here.
  • Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar – Another story featuring bees and magical realism, this one takes place in the Southwest. Carolina’s family is spending the summer at her grandfather’s ranch, prepping it for sale. Her grandfather is going to an assisted living home (against his will) and Carolina is caught in the middle of her family’s drama. Then her grandfather’s story about a village, a tree, and magic bees starts to seem less like fiction and more like family history. See my review here.
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – Simon is only “out” with his mysterious email pen pal Blue. Both of them haven’t told each other their real names, but their growing relationship is threatened by another student who will expose their emails to the school unless Simon helps him land a girlfriend. See my review here.
  • Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero – Another story about learning not to spit on your roots–Gabi is Mexican-American and it seems like she is always becoming either too Mexican or too American for those around her. This book explores her senior year through her diary as she opens up to writing and dealing with the complex highs and lows of high school. See my review here.
  • Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma – I love this magical realism story about a small town with a reservoir and two sisters–Ruby, who is everything, and Chloe, who looks up to her older sister. Ruby will do anything to keep her sister safe with her–even if it means bending the reality of their town and everyone in it. See my review here.

Wayfarer

20983366by Alexandra Bracken
YA Fantasy / Historical Fiction
4 of 5 stars

Yet another immensely satisfying end to a series! The 500-page factor had me a little hesitant to dive in—I knew I would need TIME—but once I did I found this even faster-paced with more adventure than Passenger.

Etta and Nicholas are separated across centuries and continents and their fight to find each other and destroy the astrolabe jumps us to every imaginable period and region (though regrettably, no dinosaurs). Etta finds herself in the care of the Thorns, with surprisingly not-dead people intent on helping her. Nicholas and Sofia struggle not to kill each other as they track the astrolabe, with the mysterious assistance and resistance of traveler Li Min. Surprises and twists keep the pages flying by!

Once again, the attention to detail and research blew me away. It just feels like you are there, no matter where they go. There’s more magic this time, and definitely more secrets to expose, so without spoilers, anything you loved in the first book is doubled in this installment! It made me want to plan a bunch of trips by the time I finished it.

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


Similar reads:

  • The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi – Not technically time-travel, but this is a beautiful story about a girl with a cursed horoscope that finds herself caught between the human and the Otherworld in a mystery that involves lifetimes. See my review here.
  • Abarat by Clive Barker – Candy Quackenbush of Chickentown, U.S.A. is bored to death until a wave carries her from our world to the world of the Abarat, where every island is an hour of the day and a dark power is threatening to destroy it all. Weird but interesting portal fantasy with incredible artwork!
  • Old Magic by Marianne Curley – When Kate and Jerrod meet there’s an actual lightning storm—in their classroom. Kate must convince the skeptical Jerrod that he has magical powers, and that the curse that has dogged his family is something they will need to travel to the past to fix. This is a fun read you’ll breeze through in a few hours.
  • A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones – One of the best fantasy writers of our time tackles time-travel in a unique way. Time City is built on a patch of space outside of time, and its residents are charged with overseeing the cycle of history. But when the timeline begins to crumble, two boys pluck Vivian Smith from Twenty Century to help them save it. Except they got the wrong Vivian, and now they have to save the timeline anyway! So good and will squeeze your brain.

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