the bookish life

my geeky love for books and bookish things

Tag: YA (page 1 of 4)

Book Review – Wonder Woman Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

I’m a bit late to the Leigh Bardugo party. I’ve only recently read the Six of Crows duology, and her other books in the same universe have now been added to my TBR. So I guess you could say I’ve become a fan!

But when I heard about Warbringer, I was a bit hesitant. A YA novelization of Wonder Woman? That could easily go sideways. The last thing WW needs is to be portrayed as a lovesick teen. Happily, I think Bardugo has done her justice.


Princess Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mortal. Diana will soon learn that she has rescued no ordinary girl, and that with this single brave act, she may have doomed the world. – Goodreads

Warbringer provides a fresh new approach to Wonder Woman that I quite enjoyed. Yes, Diana is a teen. And yes, she has doubts, fears, and is still coming into her own. But you can see a glimmer of the superhero she will eventually become.

Bardugo’s world building is excellent, and the pacing kept me interested throughout. There was a twist that I totally did not see coming, which was refreshing! The ending though – it didn’t really sit right with me. It seemed a bit too clean and simple. But it ends on a positive note, which was pretty nice. Overall, I’d definitely recommend it.


Book Review – Zero Repeat Forever by G.S. Prendergast

I won Zero Repeat Forever in a Goodreads giveaway! I’d never heard of it before entering the contest, but I thought the summary was pretty interesting. And it’s Canadian!

zero repeat forever

He has no voice, or name, only a rank, Eighth. He doesn’t know the details of the mission, only the directives that hum in his mind. Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall. His job is to protect his Offside. Let her do the shooting. Until a human kills her…

Sixteen year-old Raven is at summer camp when the terrifying armored Nahx invade, annihilating entire cities, taking control of the Earth. Isolated in the wilderness, Raven and her friends have only a fragment of instruction from the human resistance. Shelter in place. Which seems like good advice at first. Stay put. Await rescue. Raven doesn’t like feeling helpless but what choice does she have? Then a Nahx kills her boyfriend.

Thrown together in a violent, unfamiliar world, Eighth and Raven should feel only hate and fear. But when Raven is injured, and Eighth deserts his unit, their survival comes to depend on trusting each other… – Goodreads

Zero Repeat Forever is a really unique bit of dystopian science fiction. It’s gritty and dark, with well written and complex central characters. The rest of the characters are a bit flat, but it doesn’t take away from the story much. While the pacing can be slow at times, the overall story arc is strong, and it has a hell of a cliffhanger. I’m eagerly anticipating the sequel.


Book Review – Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo

After months of seeing their beautiful covers all over Instagram, I have finally read this duology. And… these books are really freaking good.

six of crows duology

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first. – Goodreads

It’s a fantasy/steampunk/heist story with an Ocean’s 11 vibe – I loved it. Bardugo has created a complex, dark and well developed world – I found myself immersed in the story very quickly. Her characters are also extremely well done. They’re deeply flawed and at times, very unlikeable. Yet I found myself hoping they would succeed. Conversation and banter flowed easily between characters, and I was impressed with how well Bardugo covered things like PTSD. And I was thrilled that the entire story was limited to two books, because series that go longer than that are getting a bit tired.

I definitely recommend giving these books a whirl. As for me, I’m going to track down Bardugo’s other titles!


Book Review – Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Zentner's The Serpent King absolutely destroyed me. It was fantastic and I completely ugly cried while reading it. That was actually a nice surprise, because the title and summary were kind of underwhelming. I avoided it for months before cracking it open, and I'm so glad I finally did. Seriously – go read it.

And guess what – Zentner has written a second novel! Be prepared for some more heart stomping in Goodbye Days.

Goodbye Days

One day Carver Briggs had it all—three best friends, a supportive family, and a reputation as a talented writer at his high school, Nashville Academy for the Arts. The next day he lost it all when he sent a simple text to his friend Mars, right before Mars, Eli, and Blake were killed in a car crash.

Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident, and he’s not the only one. Eli’s twin sister is trying to freeze him out of school with her death-ray stare. And Mars’s father, a powerful judge, is pressuring the district attorney to open a criminal investigation into Carver’s actions.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her to share their memories and say a proper goodbye to his friend.

Soon the other families are asking for a Goodbye Day with Carver, but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these Goodbye Days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison? – Goodreads

This book is absolutely beautiful – definitely equal to Zentner's first book. I've been trying to pin down exactly what it is that makes his books so damn good. His world building is fantastic and the plots are solid – but that isn't what makes his books great. It's his characters.

Zentner has a talent for creating characters that are deeply flawed and incredibly realistic. I felt Carver's grief for his friends, and his fear for the future. I understood the rage of Mars' father and felt so much sadness for Blake's grandmother. These characters leap off the page and breathe.

I suppose it goes without saying that this book is incredibly emotional. I didn't ugly cry this time, but I felt so drained by the end. I don't regret reading it though. A book or author this good is rare, and I encourage everyone to pick up Zentner's books. Just grab tissues too.


Book Review – Cold Summer by Gwen Cole

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book mail! I was really excited about this one – I love reading about time travel.

Cold Summer

Kale Jackson has spent years trying to control his time-traveling ability but hasn’t had much luck. One day he lives in 1945, fighting in the war as a sharpshooter and helplessly watching soldiers—friends—die. Then the next day, he’s back in the present, where WWII has bled into his modern life in the form of PTSD, straining his relationship with his father and the few friends he has left. Every day it becomes harder to hide his battle wounds, both physical and mental, from the past.

When the ex-girl-next-door, Harper, moves back to town, thoughts of what could be if only he had a normal life begin to haunt him. Harper reminds him of the person he was before the PTSD, which helps anchor him to the present. With practice, maybe Kale could remain in the present permanently and never step foot on a battlefield again. Maybe he can have the normal life he craves. – Goodreads

This story reminded me a lot of The Time Traveller’s Wife, but with teens (obviously) and a slightly happier ending. It was an engrossing read, and I sped through it in a single sitting. The narrative immediately jumped into the story with very little background, which added an element of mystery to it that I liked. Cole’s world building was excellent, and I particularly enjoyed the detailed descriptions of the WWII scenes.

Kale is a well constructed character with a lot of depth – his PTSD felt pretty grounded in reality, even if the cause was rather fantastic. But the other characters were inconsistent – idealized and a bit flat, really. It’s difficult to be emotionally invested in characters of this type, and it caused some distance between me and the story. It pulled me out of the narrative quite a bit. Kale’s WWII experiences are really what made this story a good read. I just wish it had been a great read.


Book Review – The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

When I picked this book up, I thought The Seafarer’s Kiss was a reimagining of The Little Mermaid. But instead, it’s more like the story of Ursula – which is an awesome twist!

seafarers kiss

Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies. – Goodreads

This short little book is a quick read, with an interesting story that makes it quite the page turner. Ember has created a detailed world that really sucks you in. I loved the references to the Norse gods and that the story focused on an LGBTQA relationship. It felt fresh and unique. Unfortunately, the character development was a bit light, and I struggled to connect with Ersel and her troubles. When Ersel found herself cursed with tentacles, I was more interested in it as a plot twist, rather than how it affected her emotional state. But maybe that’s just me! Even with this shortcoming, I did enjoy The Seafarer’s Kiss and I would recommend it. This is not Ember’s first LGBTQA title, and I’m definitely interested in reading more.


Book Review – Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza and Her Monsters arrived in the May Owlcrate – complete with an exclusive cover! I went into this book totally blind, which I think is always a good thing.

Eliza and her monsters

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart. – Goodreads

This book is near perfect. The characters have nuance and depth, and the world Zappia has created is realistic and detailed. The artwork included is beautiful as well. But more than anything else, this book covers mental health amazingly well.

Social anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts – Zappia has covered it all with a level of realism and compassion that I haven’t really seen in YA fiction before. I could see myself in Eliza, and I felt for her on so many levels. I’ll admit, I teared up a bit at times too. I truly believe that this story could help so many teens that are struggling right now – teachers should add this to their classrooms and parents should take a look too. I know I’ll be recommending this book – a lot.


Book Review – Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything popped up on my radar when I saw this trailer. It’s being turned into a movie – and it looked really good. So of course, I had to read the book!

Everything Everything

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster. – Goodreads

The first half of Everything, Everything was great – strong characterization, a cute love story and the positive portrayal of a young woman with a disability living her life in a positive way. I really enjoyed it and would call this book a good solid debut for Yoon. But then… things go sideways.

Because Maddy isn’t sick. This isn’t a book about a young girl living with a disability, it’s about a girl being abused by her mother (due to mental health issues no less). Maddy has been lied to, and is actually healthy enough to go out into the world. Yay! Life is worth living now! /sarcasm

I’m betting that Yoon did this hoping it would be an interesting plot twist, but really it just marginalizes a very real illness and the people who have been diagnosed with it. I really wish Yoon had steered it another way, because the first half really was an enjoyable read.

As for the movie? I’m really not sure if I want to see it anymore.


Book Review – RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

RoseBlood came in the January Owlcrate, with the theme Classic Remix. It’s marketed as a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera, but I would call it more of a sequel.


In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known. – Goodreads

I saw the stage show of The Phantom of the Opera when I was young, before I really understood what it was. So I was looking forward to getting reacquainted with it through this book. And I will admit that RoseBlood has sparked an interest in the original book, but unfortunately, that’s the only good thing to come out of this.

Although Howard’s world is very descriptive, with a gorgeous setting, the story itself could use a lot of help. Simply put, Rune is a Mary Sue surrounded by flat, stereotypical characters: a bitchy female enemy, an inquisitive best friend and a stalker/broody soulmate. I was able to tolerate this kind of storytelling a decade ago (i.e., Twilight), but I’ve since lost all patience for it. Pacing was also off, with unexpected forward jumps in the story, and Rune giving a quick recap of what happened in between. It was jarring, and took me right out of the narrative at times.

I finished the book feeling like it was mildly entertaining, but not memorable.


Book Review – Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval has been getting a lot of attention and love on Instagram right now. Some are comparing it to The Night Circus. While I don’t think Caraval is quite up to that caliber, it is still really good. Spoilers ahead!


Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner. – Goodreads

Garber has created a beautifully detailed world that is both dark and magical. It has these layers that are slowly peeled away as Scarlett delves further and further into the mystery of Caraval. And it really is a huge mystery, which left me guessing and questioning right until the very end.

Characterization was a bit weak, but still pretty good. Scarlett is really the only character that is fully explored, while the Caraval players, her sister and father are a bit more 2 dimensional. And quite a few characters were able to cheat death – they literally came back to life at the end of the game. I feel like that lessened the emotional impact and really was my only issue with the book. But it’s a testament to Garber’s story telling skills that it really didn’t bother me that much overall.

Fair warning – this book has a heck of a cliffhanger, and is the start of a series. But it’s an extremely good story to kick it off. In this case, the hype is definitely warranted.


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