The Edge of the Abyss

26219455by Emily Skrutskie
Science Fiction
4 of 5 stars

I have been waiting for this since I read the first book last year and it did not disappoint! More pirates, more adventure, more mayhem, more kissing!

Cas has had a tough three weeks since she pledged her loyalty to the pirate queen Santa Elena. But keeping busy with training lets her avoid Swift as much as possible, which is perfect. Then the crew of the Minnow discovers that Bao isn’t the only unregistered Reckoner in the NeoPacific—sightings of the untrained sea monsters, dubbed Hellbeasts, start popping up everywhere, threatening the entire ocean’s ecosystem (not to mention all the ships). Cas must find Bao and train him to fight the Hellbeasts if they want to restore balance to the ocean.

This book is filled with manipulative mind games from Santa Elena and the broken pieces of a relationship between Cas and Swift and I loved every page of it. All three women are ambitious, stubborn, ruthless, selfish, and constantly abrasive to each other. The power dynamics here are just addictive as Swift and Cas try to see if equal footing is even possible, and as Santa Elena challenges them to see who will be her successor. It’s a satisfying character study of pushing people to the brink of their conscience to see what they’ll do.

I felt like I could smell the sea the entire time, this story feels that real! I’m still impressed by how much the writing crams into such a short space. Every sentence is working hard and yet it’s easy to read. This short duology is a swashbuckling adventure you shouldn’t pass up!

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


Similar reads:

  • The Rose Society by Marie Lu – Adelina chose to embrace her powers and it is leading to a rift between her and her sister Violetta, and her allies. It’s also opening a darkness within her that she must face before it destroys her. See my review here.
  • The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski – Kestrel and Arin engage in games of deception that affect the war between their nations and the warning desires in their own hearts. For power plays and mind games there’s no better book than this! See my review here.
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – A fun romp of a graphic novel about shape-shifter Nimona’s goal to become a villain’s sidekick. The usual themes of good vs evil, what makes a monster, does your past define you, what is justice, with plenty of good jokes thrown in the mix! See my review here.

Our Own Private Universe

22082082by Robin Talley
YA Contemporary
4 of 5 stars

I wanted a follow-up to “Georgia Peaches” and I was pretty happy with this one!

Aki has always wondered if she is bisexual, and a month in Mexico on a mission trip becomes a way for her to test her theories about herself and her life. An instant crush on Christa, a girl from another youth group quickly leads to explosive feelings between the two of them and a lot of hard decisions to make regarding who can know about their relationship and what exactly it means to each of them.

This story is high on the romance and high on the drama—honestly it reminded me a lot of high school and youth group experiences I had (the drama that is—anything LGBTQ did not fly) so I was pleasantly surprised to be hit with some nostalgia. Aki and Christa experience some instant-attraction that quickly becomes something more, but for me it didn’t veer into the “insta-love” category. I really liked Aki’s complicated relationship with her best friend and her older brother, and the fact that the mission trip never faded to the background. Aki and Christa must work their relationship around their chores and activities with the children, and it added a charming fish-out-of-water element to the plot. I was a bit uncomfortable with Aki choosing to call her relationship with Christa an “experiment” in the beginning (because she was testing her Bisexuality Theory for herself). It gets kind of convoluted with her wish to be more active instead of passive in her life generally, but I think it was clear that it was a quirk of Aki’s and not yielding to the stereotype.

It gets a bit heavy-handed towards the end because Aki helps organize a debate designed to educate the church members on social issues for the church conference coming up. (Several churches came together to do the mission trip and are trying to get the official organization statement put together for the conference). But overall, this was a fun fast read!

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


Similar reads:

  • Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown – Another take on Christian girls who are into girls. Jo’s dad is a pastor, and for years she has wanted to add an LGBTQ-friendly radio show to his extensive radio ministry. She might finally get her wish—if she can pretend to be straight for his new wife’s extended family, until she graduates high school. Sketchy, but fine, Jo agrees. And then she meets beautiful, funny, sensitive Mary Carlson. See my review here.
  • Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst – A princess betrothed to a prince in a neighboring country moves there for her upcoming wedding. And while she desperately tries to feel something for her fiancé, she faces her growing attraction to his sister. So cute and romantic! 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.

What to read again:

Reading the previous books in a series a second time lets you soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—I find it makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

abyss surrounds us

This debut wowed me last year and I’m so excited for the sequel! (See my review here). In the future, genetically engineered monsters known as Reckoners protect trade ships on the high seas from ruthless pirates. Cas has been training her whole life to be a trainer assigned to a beast and a ship–but as you can guess, her first mission is a disaster. Captured by the Pirate Queen Santa Elena, Cas is forced to train a stolen Reckoner to attack trade ships. Her ambivalent ally on board is Swift, a girl with secrets and a questionable moral compass that keeps Cas on her toes–even as the pirate girl begins to touch her heart. There is so much packed into this slim book! I highly recommend it for a healthy dose of adrenaline, romance, and betrayals.

26219455

A Conjuring of Light

29939230by V. E. Schwab
Fantasy
5 of 5 stars

The perfect ending to this series! I so rarely enjoy the last book in a series as much as the others, but this one hit all the beats I could have asked for. The end for each character felt right—probably because they all experience deep loss. Don’t worry, no spoilers!

This book picks up the instant after the cliff-hanger ending of book 2, which is perfect because I had to know what happened to Lila! She charges into White London to save Kell, and it is nonstop action from there. Essentially, Kell, Lila, Rhy, Alucard, and Holland must figure out if they can stop the warped magical incarnation Osaron before it destroys Red London in its quest for power. Of course, all the personal feuds and past history between them makes that task seem even more impossible.

Some of my favorite scenes in this series occur in this book! Lila in particular had me laughing out loud, and there are final revelations about magic in all the Londons that are clever and fun. It was probably important to include these moments to balance the relentless death and destruction. (Because it is absolutely relentless!)

Enjoy an excellent blend of dark magic, black humor, and awkward moments between these characters. It’s a bit faster-paced than the first two books and continues to build on everything I loved about the first two. Schwab stuck the landing and I can mark this trilogy as a new favorite series!

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


Similar reads:

  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – A slow-burn story of dark magic in the wilderness of Rus’. One girl is destined by her mother to save her village from the growing power of the Bear. The atmosphere of this story is incredible and will keep a hold on you long after the last page! See my review here.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – Because if you can’t get enough of magical doors in London you can read about Richard and how his encounter with the strange girl named Door sets off a chain of events that threaten everyone in the city.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – A wonderfully dark story of a sorcerer and a girl with unusual magical talents that must learn to work together to save their land from the evil in the heart of their forest. See my review here.
  • The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon – Even more adventures in magical futuristic London! Paige tries to gather voyants to her side as Scion’s threat grows. See my review here.

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit

28512466by Jaye Robin Brown
YA Contemporary
4 of 5 stars

On this day of celebrating love in all its forms, I recommend this romantic story of two small-town southern Christian girls falling in love despite doing their darndest to deny their feelings! (Seriously, wouldn’t everyone enjoy Valentine’s Day more if it was a bit more inclusive? Romantic love isn’t the only kind that matters!)

As true winter finally sets in, it was nice to read about the warmth of Georgia for a change! Jo Gordon is an out and proud pastor’s daughter, but now that her father has married wife number three who comes with an ultra-conservative family, he wants to move Jo from Atlanta to small-town Rome, and also wants her to keep her true sexuality under wraps for her senior year. Jo agrees, only if he finally gives her the green light for adding her own LGBTQ-friendly youth radio program to his booming Christian radio ministry. The bargain is struck, and Jo transforms into Joanna, the wholesome girl her new extended family will love. Ten months of passing to get her ultimate wish of running a radio show that could help hundreds of teens like her—but Joanna didn’t count on meeting the girl of her dreams.

I loved everything about this story except the weird bargain between Jo and her father (yes, I know that’s the foundational premise). Her supportive dad asking her to change herself that way feels so wrong, and what’s worse is Jo’s agreement to it. But all that aside, her continued waffling over why she can’t tell her friends (and then her secret girlfriend) the truth makes less and less sense. I don’t enjoy plots that hinge on a Secret, especially when keeping the secret seems like the least logical option.

However, everything else is so well-done that I was able to keep suspending my disbelief. We see both sides of Christianity’s viewpoint on the LGBTQ community, and we see so many characters offering flat-out rejection as well as supportive acceptance. So many misconceptions and stereotypes about lesbians and being queer are hammered out without it feeling like the author is stepping in to present her views. Jo’s relationships with her friends, her father, and her stepmother evolve in wonderfully believable ways. I also liked how the Christian community was portrayed–especially faith’s importance to Jo. Interwoven through all of it is the fierce attraction between Jo and Mary Carlson, and their chemistry is perfect!

The characters are what make this story come alive and I loved their journeys! It’s a cute romance with so many feelings! If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – This came to me highly recommended and I loved it so much! Simon is not out to everyone, but that choice might disappear thanks to another student who threatens to expose Simon’s email correspondence with a boy named Blue. With great sarcasm and poise, Simon deals with blackmail and trying to discover the identity of the boy he loves. See my review here.
  • The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord – This is an adorable high school romance with one of the best girl squads I’ve ever read! See my review here.
  • P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han – First Lara Jean and Peter pretended to be together, now they’re actually together, but high school rumors threaten to end their relationship for good. See my review here.
  • Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch – A rom com set in Italy (prepare to be hungry) and Lina tries to resist the charm of her estranged father, the boy next door, and Italy itself. But family secrets demand she gives everything a closer look. See my review here.

Lily and the Octopus

27276262by Steven Rowley
Fiction
4 of 5 stars

Debut novel: June 7, 2016

Obviously, I grabbed this book because of the cover and the funny title. As a dachshund lover with my first dachshund, this is an incredibly endearing, emotional story about a man and his dog that had me crying buckets and laughing at dachshund quirks (although I think any dog lover would appreciate and love this book)! My dachshund Kiwi endured all my Emotions as I read this curled up next to me with heavy sighs and side-eye.

Ted’s only enduring companion is his aging dachshund, Lily. But one day he notices an octopus on her head, and their lives take a dramatic turn as he must confront her health and age, and what mortality means for both of them. I hoped that I’d find this story moderately engaging, but the first chapters had me engrossed! The voice is so distinctive, and Lily’s presence so heart-felt, that I had to know what happened next.

Told in both present day and flashbacks through the lens of Ted’s anxiety and depression, we see the entirety of his relationship with Lily, as well as the volatile nature of his romantic relationship with Jeffrey (now ended). Lily and the octopus reveal his struggle to find happiness again when it’s so much easier to isolate himself with his dog.

Lily is a perfectly loveable, perfectly accurate, perfectly unique dachshund. The octopus is sinister in the way that only impersonal attacks can be. Ted tells this story with the shock, heartbreak, and humor we all feel in terrible situations. The author’s personal material shines through in the best way and the story’s pacing unfolds at a good clip. Be prepared to laugh, cry, and hug your pet until their eyes bulge and they wriggle in protest.

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


Similar reads:

  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – An aging bookstore owner on an island finds his life changed in surprising ways when his prized copy of Tamerlane (his retirement plan) disappears and a baby turns up on his doorstep. See my review here.
  • The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings – Even Hawaii can’t provide comfort when it comes to death. Matt must tell his two girls that their comatose mother’s will orders him to take her off life support. At the same time, his family’s valuable land has a buyer, but only he can decide to preserve or develop the pristine wilderness. This is darkly funny (all the good parts in the movie come from this) and a fast read.
  • The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick – Pat is on probation and determined to reinvent himself so that his estranged wife will fall in love with him again. But fate and the widowed neighbor girl Tiffany might upset his master plan.

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