This Adventure Ends

27779275by Emma Mills
YA Contemporary
5 of 5 stars

I grabbed this last year because it’s essentially my favorite color–I thought it would be fun (it definitely was!) but I did not expect to feel so connected to Sloane. I did not expect to feel like Emma Mills was calling me out on my sh*t. It’s a special book that makes you feel vulnerable, understood, and inspired without ever alienating you. So glad I randomly added this to my pile last fall!

But let me back up.

Sloane moves from NYC to Florida with her family for her senior year. She knows this would really piss off most seniors, but she doesn’t much care. She has turned “not caring too much” into an art form, until she breaks up a fight at a party and finds herself drawn into the dynamic and broken lives of popular twins Gabe and Vera. When a beloved painting from their deceased mother goes missing, Sloane makes it her mission to get it back.

Maybe I only connected to Sloane’s special brand of well-meaning earnestness that inevitably turns into awkwardness because it reminded me so strongly of myself, but I like to think the writing is strong enough to pull anyone in. It creates that wistful feeling that you wish you were friends with these characters.

This story revolves around the complicated nature of friendship, which is often overlooked in favor of romance. This one puts attraction on the backburner, choosing instead to study how you become and stay friends now that social media dominates the landscape (don’t worry, it doesn’t get all preachy about technology ruining Today’s Youth or anything). It actually just highlights how it’s harder to know if someone is your friend or just a follower, how you have a public persona and a deeply private one, and how you must reconcile those two sides of yourself. At times I felt guided along, but I did not mind.

What I really loved was the number of strained conversations between Sloane and everyone else. There aren’t snappy retorts and witty banter so much as the moments you feel you can’t tell the truth, so you give a one-word answer. You make a joke rather than addressing the real issue, even when the joke is terrible. Deflections rather than the deeper conversations. Finding ways to tell your friends you care without having to pull the words out. This book works hard in the best way—it’s a new favorite for me!

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


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Windwitch

29939390by Susan Dennard
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars
Book 2 in the Witchlands series

If you follow the author at all, you’ll know that she writes amazing monthly newsletters, has a wealth of helpful advice on writing and craft on her website, and this book took her two painful years to write. It is completely, entirely worth it, and I am so grateful she put in the blood, sweat and tears to share this story!

Picking up right after the events in Truthwitch:
-Merik the Windwitch is horribly scarred from an assassination attempt that destroyed his ship and killed all but one crew member. Merik thinks it was his sister’s doing, but his companion Cam is not convinced.
-Safi the Truthwitch is on her way to Marstok with its Empress, Vaness, who is an Ironwitch.
-Iseult the Threadwitch is alone and trying to meet up with her Threadsister Safi.
-Aeduan the Bloodwitch finds himself tracking Iseult again both as a job and to get his missing silver back.

-Added to all that is Merik’s sister Vivia (a Tidewitch) and her attempts to secure the throne.

Given all the intricate plot threads and magic tied to these characters, I think it’s completely understandable that this would be difficult to write. But Sooz makes it look easy! Each arc, each transition between the points of view is so smoothly done. Each character has a different voice as well, which is so hard to do. Characters naturally collide and separate again, and all of them experience such moments of growth. This book is just action-action-action EMOTIONAL PUNCH–repeat!

Without spoilers–we see Merik and Vivia struggling to help their starving nation as tensions erupt all around their borders. The Puppeteer continues to invade Iseult’s mind with disturbing information and hints about Iseult’s potential abilities. Safi continually finds herself among enemies-turned-tentative-allies. All of them are forced to confront uncomfortable truths about themselves and the world around them, and it’s this that keeps you flipping the pages as quickly as possible.

I think my favorite part was Vivia–learning about her motivations, her struggles as she attempts to run a country full of men who think she shouldn’t, and her dedication to her country regardless of what she must sacrifice or who gains the credit was so interesting and inspiring. All the characters make decisions you don’t always agree with, yet their earnest intentions keep you on their side. It’s truly enjoyable to follow their journeys!

This has all the best aspects of a sequel: deepened world-building, more types of magic, more intimate character relationships and interactions, and nonstop action. It’s hard to convey without spoilers, but if you enjoyed the mood and characters of the first, you will find more of that here!

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


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  • The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie – Cas is captured by the Pirate Queen Santa Elena to train a sea monster for her (instead of training them to kill pirates). See my review here.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – I recommend this because this story has another awesome female friendship at its heart, but it was much darker than Windwitch. See my review here.
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Heartless

18584855by Marissa Meyer
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

I’ve read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass many times, and I can tell Meyer has too. This is a superb, well-written origin story for a beloved/feared villain! Fairy tales have been popular for a couple of years now, but this is one of the most seamless integrations of old and new world-building I’ve encountered. I wouldn’t have thought it possible to take the most famous nonsensical world and create rules behind the madness–this subtlety is probably the best surprise.

Cath is a marquess’ daughter who wants nothing more than to open a bakery in Hearts with her best friend, her maid Mary Ann. She knows it would be the best in the land, and she wants everyone in the kingdom to sample her delicious sweets. But her parents know the King of Hearts wants to make Cath his queen, and they will not be satisfied until that happens. The night that Cath is supposed to accept the king’s proposal, she meets Jest–the new court joker who is mysterious, charming, clever, and handsome. Cath has never been in love before, but she can’t imagine giving up her feelings for the weak and foolish king, even if it comes with a crown. And on top of all this, the fearsome Jabberwock is terrorizing the kingdom unchallenged!

Cath is a perfect balance of admirable and awful. She is our protagonist, but she is far from perfect. Too deferential to her parents, too judgmental of others. Like so many of us, she feels caught in situations that never go as planned because she can’t challenge etiquette or her peers. She is just risk-adverse enough to aggravate herself and those around her. I loved following her journey that felt equally chosen and fated.

Cath is great, but the side characters of Hatta, Cheshire, and Jest make this impossibly magical! Hatta and Cheshire in particular capture the dark whimsy and unpredictable nature of life in Wonderland. Magic is inextricable from life in Hearts, yet there’s also the sense that it can continue evolving outside of the people’s control. This story gives you characters to love and a world that fascinates you at every turn!

Warning: will cause Emotions and hunger pains. Pick this up if you’re ready to be transported!

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


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  • Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes – If you want a trilogy based on this famed character, look no further! Dinah is the Princess of Hearts eagerly awaiting her crown, but violent events in her kingdom threaten to destroy her dreams.
  • Alice in Wonderland / Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll – If you haven’t read the source material, I highly recommend it! It is utterly strange and entertaining, and despite its age the prose is easy to read. There are many more bizarre events and eccentric characters that are left out of films and re-tellings, and the wordplay is clever!

The Girl Who Fell

girl fellby Shannon M. Parker
YA Contemporary
3 of 5 stars
Debut novel: March 1, 2016

The concept of this book grabbed me from the start, and when I read about the author’s background and experience, I was sold. There are plenty of YA books about the magic of falling in love, but this one is about what happens when you fall for the wrong person–when you fall for someone who isn’t what they seem, who doesn’t treat you right, who controls your every move.

Zephyr Doyle is on track for her life plan: graduate and attend Boston College. Play field hockey there. Generally be a success in life. Her friend Lizzie teases her about not having time for a boyfriend. But then Alec comes along, sweeps her off her feet, and Zephyr finds herself in a place she never thought she would be. Love isn’t supposed to scare you, isolate you, change all your plans. Or does that just mean it’s the kind of crazy intense love everyone wants?

There were many things I liked about this story. First of all, Zephyr’s best friend Lizzie. A true best friend, who sticks around even when Zephyr becomes too absorbed with Alec to be a good friend. Even when Zephyr blows her off. Because Lizzie knows Zephyr will need her when it all falls apart, and she is going to be there for Zephyr. Their friendship is the strongest relationship in this book and I loved it!

I love a main character who is good at sports–there are too many bookish ones!

Zephyr’s world feels concrete–the ordinary home scenes, the school scenes, the dates–all of it well-written and it feels like you’re there, experiencing it with her (including her adorable dog)!

Finally, Zephyr’s relationship with her father. Her father has walked out on her and her mom when the story starts, and as the months pass her mother begins seeing her father to see if they can patch things up. The way Zephyr deals with his absence and his re-entry to her life is emotional and a perfect balance between hope and wariness.

A couple of things bothered me, though. First of all, the story opens and closes like a horror movie, and some of the drama took away from the serious subject matter for me. Second, Zephyr’s long-time best guy friend Gregg. He’s the “good” guy, the foil for Alec’s controlling, abusive behavior. Except Gregg has no respect for Zephyr either! He repeatedly kisses her and flirts with her despite her repeated lack of interest. It was as if because he’s a “good guy” it’s okay for him to kiss a girl knowing she doesn’t return his feelings, when she has said no, you shouldn’t do that–and that’s not okay with me. For a book about control and consent in relationships, his actions were very uncomfortable yet never addressed.

Overall this is a good story and definitely needs to be out there. It has good intentions and I think Zephyr will connect with a lot of readers.

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


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The Start of Me and You

25663744by Emery Lord
YA Contemporary
5 of 5 stars

As previously mentioned on my blog, I had the absolute delight of meeting Emery Lord a few months ago and I’m finally reading her books (I loved When We Collided, you can see my review for that here)! I’m also a huge Twitter fan of hers and if you enjoy jokes and food and dogs and feminism, I highly suggest following her. (End of fangirl plug).

I’m not sure why my BFF left out the fact that this was one of her favorite reads the year it came out, and that it’s one of her favorite depictions of female friendships of all time, but since I FINALLY got around to following up on her quiet recommendation from a year ago all I can think is: where was this my whole life?!

Such a fun summer read, such an accurate depiction of high school (without shaming that part of your life), and yes, full of all the female friendships you could desire! They fight, they make up, they are there for each other, they don’t always make the right choices, but they are allowed to make those mistakes and learn from them. All of it comes across so naturally, truly masterful.

Paige gets to have all the anxiety and exuberance and anger of being in high school. Sometimes she says just the right thing. Sometimes she lashes out and has to deal with the consequences. I loved following her junior year!

What else did I love? Paige’s grandmother. Having a main character close to a grandparent is so refreshing and it was beautifully done. What else did I love? The romance, and crush vs. friends-to-love-interest. And? The English teacher (the fact that she isn’t the Voice of God in the narrative, constantly butting in to guide Paige). AND? Laugh out loud humor and emotional vibrancy that had me tearing up (in the span of 25 pages).

Pick this up and devour it in 2 days just like I did!

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


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