Beasts Made of Night

33395234by Tochi Onyebuchi
YA Fantasy
3 of 5 stars
Debut: October 31, 2017
*ARC review

Taj is the best sin-eater in Kos, but when he’s called to Eat the sin of the city’s prince, he’s drawn into a web of intrigue that will determine not only his fate, but that of the city he loves.

This is such a fascinating world! Kos is ruled by a religious monarchy, and sins can make people physically ill. Only the wealthy can afford an aki, or sin-eater, to Eat the sin that a mage calls from their body. The sinner is left purified, the aki is left to bear the guilt and emotional trauma of the sin, while a tattoo of an animal brands their body for each sin they Eat. Taj’s sin-spots don’t fade with time, which has given him a reputation among the aki and makes everyone else shun his “impurity.” The more sins an aki eats, the quicker they will go mad with the guilt.

Obviously, there is so much to explore here in regards to religion and sin and social classes and economics. My main disappointment with this book is that it’s so short! I would have loved to spend more time in Kos, exploring the city, and getting more information about the religion and sins from Taj. He’s instantly likable, and a great window into this world, but I felt so rushed through this story. I wanted more of his relationships with Bo, the princess, and the scholar. There are plenty of surprising and dark revelations about the sin-beasts and the magic in this world that will keep you turning pages and wishing you could sneak away to the mage library.

Probably my favorite aspect was the micro-setting of Kos. The city breathes life on every page and there’s something new around every corner! Taj races through it with expertise, and I felt like I knew it so well by the end.

This is a great fast-paced read, but you will definitely want a sequel!

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


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Saints and Misfits

32333055by S.K. Ali
YA Contemporary
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel: June 13, 2017

This is a perfect depiction of high school–a YA book truly written for teens, and I loved it!

Janna Yusuf is an Indian-American hijabi teen trying to fit her identity into every part of her life while making the fewest waves. But when her best friend’s cousin assaults her, she must decide if she will be the one to expose him. He’s a saint in their community, and she’s the only one who knows he’s a monster.

This is a serious novel and a heavy read, but the writing is excellent. Janna’s stress and emotional turmoil is portrayed in big and small moments. Sometimes she lashes out, sometimes she makes a surprisingly compassionate decision, but she does everything while navigating her parents’ recent divorce, her brother’s courtship with the perfect Muslim girl, and her network of friends. She learns who to trust, and what her personal beliefs are, and what forms a solid faith and what does not. Her female friendships are the brightest and lowest points of the book and I loved how true that is to high school. There are feel-good moments in this story but it doesn’t sugarcoat anything either. I rec this to anyone who enjoys YA contemporary with more nuance and reflection.

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


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  • Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley – Aki has always known she is bi. At least, she’s pretty sure, even though she’s only had boyfriends. But when she develops a crush on another girl during their Mexico mission trip, she finds herself putting her theory into practice as they deepen their secret relationship. But Christa doesn’t want to keep it a secret. 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.

The Names They Gave Us

30038906by Emery Lord
YA Contemporary
5 of 5 stars

Lucy Hansson is prepared for her summer before senior year, until her mother’s cancer reappears, her boyfriend suggests they take a break, and the God she’s always known feels cold and distant. As she tries to hold herself together around her parents, she falls apart in front of her friends–and they aren’t prepared to help her with her questions.

At her mother’s urging, instead of spending the summer with them at their Christian camp the way she has her entire life, Lucy becomes a counselor at the camp across the lake which is for kids dealing with difficult times. Lucy feels adrift until her fellow counselors show her that despite their past experiences they can feel joy and love and hope.

This is the most harrowing book she has written. There are moments of humor and fun, but this is largely about having to grow up fast when your parents face problems they can’t shield you from. It’s hard to read, but for anyone who has experienced loss it would probably be cathartic. Learning to see your parents are people who don’t have all the answers, finding the friends who can handle your dark moments, letting yourself grow in surprising and sometimes scary ways–all of this is explored in-depth. Lucy’s gradual change in so many areas is rewarding to read and I felt like the end hit just the right note for her.

I’m already looking forward to Emery’s next book! 

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


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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!


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