Title: The Darkest Part of the Forest
Author: Holly Black
Genre: Fantasy; Magic
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once. At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking. Until one day, he does… As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?
Review: I read this book before leaving for summer vacation last year and fell in love with the fantasy genre again. I hadn’t read much in this genre since Harry Potter and then realized how much I loved it (hence why I have a TON of fantasy books on this blog). Hazel is a fun character to follow. She acts like a typical teenage girl — and I think I’d know, since I’ve been one and work with them on the daily). You’ll be interested to know that this is more than just a story about a teenage girl. This is about a character who wants to save the world. It’s got magic and a bit of romance and a bit of drama and then more magic.
Hazel becomes the knight she once pretended to be in order to save everything she knows and the ones she loves. The faeries aren’t always the benevolent sprites that grant wishes and leave a trail of glitter in their wake – sometimes they want to cause harm, create mischief. Sometimes girls like Hazel need to remind them of the power of humanity.
Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children [Book I/III]
Author: Ransom Riggs
Genre: paranormal; fantasy
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs. A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar… And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.
Review: I read this book while flying back from California last summer. I had a six hour flight to kill, and this was the way to do it. A little bit suspenseful, this book was a fun read. I was so intrigued as I followed Jacob through his adventure. I loved this book but did NOT love the movie. It is SO SO SO SO SO different. So if you’re thinking of cheating yourself here, don’t. Read the book, it’s ALWAYS better.
Jacob as a protagonist is a good lead – you’re following in his footsteps as he learns about his family’s past and his place in the legacy. Everything is not what it seems to be, and Miss Peregrine is a good – but mysterious – tutor. The relationships between characters are thoughtful and sweet, something the movie doesn’t quite to justice to.
Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Author: John Tiffany
Genre: fantasy; magic;
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
Review: While this wasn’t Harry Potter a la J. K. Rowling, it was part of the universe and it was fun to get back into that universe after so long. I preordered it and read it as soon as I got it. It took me maybe two hours? It’s a fast read. If you thought Harry was a whiny git, you’ll think the same about his son. If you liked Books 1-7, you’ll like it, but you’ll recognize the differences.
Harry Potter was one of those books that ignited a generation in ways that I’ll forever be grateful for. I think I was hoping for that same spark in what people were calling the 8th book. This is definitely not the 8th book. You’re back in the universe, but it feels almost like there’s a veil there that can’t be removed. It’s not the real thing and it’s painfully obvious at times.
All that said, I’m glad I read it.
: Three Dark Crowns [Book I/II]
Author: Kendare Blake
Genre: Fantasy; Magic
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions. But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.
Review: I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH. This book switches POVs (points of view) to follow each queen for a chapter or two before moving on, which allows us to learn a little about the personalities of each of the queens before we pick a queen to root for at Beltane. Each one is different, but all of them are fun and engaging. Throughout the book, you meet a series of side characters that help each queen become who she is. I’m definitely on Team Arsinoe!
You have to read to the very last page…
Title: Vassa in the Night
Author: Sarah Porter
Genre: Fantasy; Retelling
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling away again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission. But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair…
Review: I read this book on the train to New York City last winter. It was totally engaging and I loved the lead’s sidekick, Erg. A little bit of magic, a little bit of suspense, a little confusing, this story was beautifully written. Based on a Russian folktale, it’s got a lot of lore and wonderful plot points.
This is seriously on my list of favorite books of all time. Sarah Porter crafts a pretty fantastic story about an outcast that has to save the world. The story is just plain beautiful, and the mystery and power that’s wrapped around the tale had me going back to reread sections just to kind of marvel at it. Lame? Maybe, but I feel no shame.
Title: Queer There and Everywhere
Author: Sarah Prager
Genre: nonfiction, LGBTQ
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) World history has been made by countless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals—and you’ve never heard of many of them. Queer author and activist Sarah Prager delves deep into the lives of 23 people who fought, created, and loved on their own terms. From high-profile figures like Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt to the trailblazing gender-ambiguous Queen of Sweden and a bisexual blues singer who didn’t make it into your history books, these astonishing true stories uncover a rich queer heritage that encompasses every culture, in every era.
Review: As advertised, this is the first of its kind in terms of a nonfiction book for YA readers in the LGBTQ community. This was a fun and easy read that could be informative AND a jump starter for an independent research project. If you’re interested in the hidden history, this is the book for you. From famous people we’ve all heard of like Abraham Lincoln to ancient people like Elagabalus, you’ll learn more about how queer people have lived and thrived through the ages.
Title: Prince of Wolves [Book I/V in the Grey Wolves Series]
Author: Quinn Loftis
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Jacque Pierce was just an ordinary 17-year-old girl getting ready to start her senior year in high school in Coldspring, Texas. When a mysterious foreign exchange student from Romania moves in across the street, Jacque and her two best friends, Sally and Jen, don’t realize the last two weeks of their summer are going to get a lot more interesting.
Review: This is a fast and easy read for those of you interested in finding something fun. If you liked Twilight, you’ll like this. If you didn’t like Twilight because you hated Bella, you’ll also like this. In fact, while I’m not SURE about it, I think this could be a fanfic based on Twilight. There is a main lead, (Jacque/Bella) with two girl friends (Jen/Rose; Sally/Alice), and three boys (Fane/Edward; Decebel/Emmett; Costin/Jasper). If that’s your jam, go for it. If it isn’t, don’t be turned away by this — this is a good shapeshifting novel series that are all free on iBooks / Android library!
I selected it for that very reason — a free iBook is not something I easily dismiss when I’m scrolling through at midnight looking for an easy read. The werewolf / shapeshifter trope is a particular favorite of mine, so I always click “Download.” Sometimes this works against me, but not with this series. While the characters aren’t given a ton of amazing character development, Jacque is a more developed lead than Bella ever was — given a strength and foundation that makes her feel real. The love story is cute and very high school -esque, but it’s a YA shapeshifter, so it’s exactly what I was expecting.
The dynamic between the friendships is strong and beautiful, there’s no betrayal or jealously between Jacque, Jen, and Sally, just an easy friendship that kind of ties the whole story together.
Title: The Little Stranger
Author: Sarah Waters
Genre: Mystery; Gothic
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) The Little Stranger follows the strange adventures of Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country doctor. One dusty postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, he is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become entwined with his.
Review: I compared this book to Wuthering Heights for a class assignment and was surprised by how well written this book was. It’s got a dash of paranormal, a smidgen of mystery, a heaping spoonful of haunted, and a small bit of romance. If you’re interested in a haunted house and a bit of an annoying lead, this book is for you.
Following Dr. Faraday, the reader is allowed access to the Ayres family estate which has seen better days. His narration made me roll my eyes a bit while reading. He’s a grown adult, but stunted by the events of his past, he acts like a whiny child while around the Ayres. He is constantly trying to measure up to the grandeur of their name (or at least what their name used to be) and finds himself falling short all the time. Meanwhile, the Ayres family is going THROUGH some ish. There’s a supernatural element to the house that can’t be explained, an energy that is toxic. This energy leads to a building tension and later, a series of unfortunate events.
If gothic fiction is your thing, I think you’ll enjoy this one.