ARC Review: Enchantment Lake by Margi Preus

Enchantment Lake by Margi PreusAuthor:  Margi Preus
Genre: Young adult, mystery
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
Publication Date: March 15, 2015
200 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the Univ. of Minnesota Press for letting me read this!

The thing that drew me to this book was its cover, duh. Look at that cover. It’s gorgeous. I didn’t really even know much about what the book was about and by the time I read it, I couldn’t remember at all. So this book was pretty much read solely for its cover. Oops.

I was confused while reading this book – not because I didn’t understand what was happening but because I don’t think this book really knows what it was trying to do. It felt a little like a middle grade novel but then there’d be drinking or other things that wouldn’t normally be included in a MG book. It was such a weird experience.

At least the mystery was good. You were lead to believe it could be several different people and I definitely thought it was someone else at first, so that was cool. The overall story was entertaining and interesting. On the other hand, the characters weren’t really developed that well. I could picture Francie, the main character, and I felt like I knew people like her crazy-old-lady aunts, though I couldn’t actually see them nor did I think they were really the type of characters we were meant to see. As for everyone else, I have no idea who they are or what they look like.

I felt like the ending didn’t match up with the rest of the book. I felt like Francie changed rapidly and the tone of the book was super different suddenly. I also felt like this was the beginning of a series because there were several unanswered questions and things that happened in the book that were just barely introduced and never finished.

However, the book was quirky and strange and decidedly curious. It’s quick to read and I had fun doing so. I’ve got to say that I enjoyed it overall and I would be interested in reading a sequel if there is one.

The bottom line: Not what I expected and a little confusing in tone, but interested enough to want to read a sequel to find out the answers to the multiple unanswered questions in Enchantment Lake.

Rating: 6.5 – between good, but not great and pretty good

Babes and Books Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Babes & Books

Recently, after having some excited Twitter chats and starting a Goodreads group to have super long convos about books we’ve all read and loved, Rachel at Confessions of a Book Geek, Brandie at Brandie is a Book Junkie, and I started what we are cheekily calling Babes and Books, an irregular joint reviews in a super conversational format that allow us to have fun and coordinate our TBRs. You might’ve seen our first review (Never Never by Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher) though it wasn’t branded with our Babes and Books name – that was a recent development. Our first official read was The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith – though this one is from only Rachel and me. Enjoy the rambling!

Check out the full synopsis of the book on Goodreads.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. SmithStef: Out of the three Jennifer E. Smith books I’ve read (this one, The Geography of You and Me and This is What Happy Looks Like) this is my favorite. I think it’s because I felt the most similar to Hadley – I couldn’t relate to the divorce thing, but I related to HER, if that makes sense? I also know what it’s like to fly alone to a place you’ve never been, where you know no one, and to go out and try to find where you’re going. You feel lost, excited, terrified, happy, nervous. I loved that aspect of it – the trip, the adventure. I also am head over heels for Oliver. He’s so swoony! Smith really knows how to write love. I thought it was well-paced, well-written, and a lot of fun.

Rachel: I’ve only read one Smith book before, The Geography of You and Me, and I gave it the same rating I’m going to give this one. When I step back and look at it, it’s difficult to pin-point much that jumps off the page as being “wrong” with her books, but they just don’t reach me on a deeper level. Smith’s writing style is enjoyable (and her book titles AMAZING!), her writing is adorable and sweet – like it’ll give you cavities sweet, but there’s something about the stories that just don’t blow me away. I love that her characters always have something going on in their lives that they’re trying to deal with (death, divorce, moving etc.), as it adds a sense of realism, but equally, that’s usually taken away by the unlikely and slightly obscure scenarios they find themselves in – like falling for someone in 24 hours. There’s something whimsical and fairy-tale like about it, which while enjoyable, prevents me from falling in love with this novel the same way Hadley fell for Oliver.

It the book were set over a longer time-frame, it would obviously lose its 24 hour love-at-first-sight bonus, but it might have helped develop the story to the point where I could take it more seriously. For example, I’d love to know what happens when Oliver and Hadley return to America. I think this is the kind of book I’d have LOVED and gobbled up as a young teenager in love with the idea of love, but as an older reader it didn’t blow me away. It’s not one I’d shout about from the rooftops, put it that

Stef: I absolutely love her titles too! When I interviewed her last year (link), she said she has started to have trouble coming up with them – because she’s become known for having long and intricate titles. I asked her to come up with one for her life and she said – This is What the Statistical Probability of Happiness Looks Like. I absolutely love her writing style. Your cavity-description is spot on. Most of the time, I don’t like books like that, but sometimes you just WANT that, and I always find myself uncontrollably smiling when reading her books. I love that the characters have depth as well. It’s more realistic that way. Her characters feel so real, even when what’s happening doesn’t necessarily feel real. I don’t really know if I believe in a love like this, in falling love within only 24 hours, but when reading Statistical Probability, I believed it. Does that make sense? I think the way that Smith writes her characters and their emotions hooks me and sweeps me away and I didn’t even really think about the fact it was only 24 hours.

I NEED to know what happens when they get back to the States, but I think that’s why I like it – it’s hopeful but not definite. Maybe they don’t work out. Maybe they are just friends. Either way, I loved them together.

I actually think I wouldn’t have liked it if I’d read it when I was a teenager. I didn’t like contemporaries (other than the RARE Sarah Dessen) when I was in high school. I wasn’t a huge fan of romances when reading, but I’ve grown to enjoy them more as I’ve gotten older. Funny that you would’ve felt the opposite.

Rachel: I definitely feel that you should only read her books when you have a sweet craving, otherwise it may fall a little flat. When I read The Geography of You and Me I was coming out of a two week slump because of a book I was struggling through and eventually DNF’d, and Smith was just the kind of light relief I needed. When I was reading this, I didn’t really question the characters’ emotions until towards the end when the grand gestures came into play. It just felt a bit… stalkerish/odd to do something like that? But hey, maybe if we had more courage we could meet an Oliver too!

Oh gosh, I’d have gobbled this right up as a teen, even when I was reading this I felt nostalgic for younger me, I was innocent and less cynical about love and I’d have adored this, most likely dreaming one day that this could happen to me! I think this is a case where reading YA as an adult is impacted/affected by life experience!

Have to say – I definitely fancied a bit of Oliver!

Stef: I completely agree that her books can’t really be read all the time. I have to be in the mood for it too. If I’m not in the mood for the sweetness, I’ll end up not liking it because it’s just too much. Her books are light and sweet and adorable, and sometimes you really need that and sometimes you just don’t.

I do think Hadley’s actions were a little weird, but I suppose if you’ve had that kind of connection with someone, you might do something like this. I’ve never had that kind of connection with anyone so it was a little strange to me, but I suspended my disbelief for a little while and just went with it. Oliver is so swoony!!

Rachel: I probably am the nutter who would make a grand gesture and the other person would be all confused going, “Uh, thanks and all, but I never liked you anyway”… awkward!

Stef: Hahahaha! I’d probably be the same. The guy would be side-eyeing me like “Wtf? Freak.” Lol.

What did you think of the first Babes and Books review? Have you read TSPOLAFS? 


Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Genre: Young adult, contemporary
Publisher: Poppy
Publication Date: January 2, 2012
236 pages, paperback

Book Review: Get in Trouble by Kelly Link (ARC)

Kelly Link’s short story collection, Get In Trouble, is a bit of a mixed bag of interesting, strange, amazing, not-so-amazing, and whimsical stories that I both liked and didn’t like.

Get in Trouble by Kelly LinkAuthor:  Kelly Link
Genre: Short stories, magical realism, fantasy, sci-fi
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
336 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Random House for letting me read this!

Before reading Get In Trouble, the only other experience I’d had with Kelly Link was her short story, The Lady and the Fox, from My True Love Gave to Me (which, you might remember, wasn’t my favorite because of the writing style). You might be wondering why I’d want to read an entire book of her short stories then. Well, she was being blurbed by all kind of amazing authors and Neil Gaiman said she was a “national treasure” and I just wanted to try again. Overall, I’m glad I did. This was a weird collection though, you guys. If you check out my status updates while reading, I basically loved every other story and didn’t like every other story. It was so weird. Let’s do a story by story, okay?

The Summer People – This was a fantastic introduction to the book. It’s an amazing mixture of modernity and classic fairy tales, and I raced through it in no time. There are wonderful descriptions, like, “You could hardly see the house itself, hidden like a bride behind her veil of climbing vines (Page 11).” It was dark and strange, mysterious and almost too weird, but I liked that. I was so excited to read more of the book!

I Can See Right Through You – I honestly didn’t even like this one until the end. It’s about a pair of celebrities who’ve got this abnormal relationship going on that stemmed from the two of them starring in a movie together many years ago. They’ve been together and broken up several times and right now they’re off. Maybe I didn’t understand this one but it was just strange, and not in a good way this time. But that ending was pretty cool.

Secret Identity – This is about a 15-year-old girl from the middle of nowhere showing up in NYC to meet a man she’s only spoken to online (note that she was pretending to be her much older sister). At the hotel where she’s meant to meet him, two conventions are happening – one for dentists and one for superheroes. The story is all about who we are essentially, as people. It was one of my favorites. So very weird but also really great.

Valley of the Girls – Not 100% sure what this even was. It’s a story about these rich families who hire “Faces” to pretend to be their kids while growing up and implant their real children with something that makes them invisible to cameras. It’s a whole exploration about what it means to be a celebrity and the consequences of that status. But this one just wasn’t for me.

Origin Story – This one takes place in a world (maybe the same one as “Secret Identity”) in which superheroes are just a part of our society. I loved that we got no explanation for this and were just thrown into this world. The whole story is a description of one night between two people – who turn out to be more than normal but still rather ordinary. The ending was somewhat unexpected, but this one was a little too boring, I think, even though I still loved the world.

The New Boyfriend – Unlike her friends, Ainslie gets whatever she wants, including all THREE models (vampire, werewolf, and now even the cancelled ghost) of the new toy everyone is raving about – realistic robot “Boyfriends”. Immy has wanted a Boyfriend for even longer than Ainslie, and she’s super jealous. So Immy changes his programming a bit and things get really weird when it seems that the ghost Boyfriend might actually be a real ghost. This one was super creepy and weird and made me feel kind creepy-crawly. *shudders*

Two Houses – Basically ghost stories in space in a spaceship that can make them seem real. I thought this one was actually pretty cool, especially in comparison to the other “ghost stories” in the book. And what better ending than “She could no longer tell the one from the other (Page 286)”?? That’s the best.

Light – Sometime in the future, we’ve got pocket universes, invasive iguanas, and all kinds of new and crazy things, one of which is that some people have two shadows – one of the shadows can end up becoming a seemingly real person, a “twin”. Lindsey is one of those people, so on top of managing a warehouse that is filled to capacity with “sleeping” bodies, she also has to deal with Alan, her challenging gay “twin”. This whole world was seriously cool and interesting. My only qualm was with the ending, which was a little lacking.

The bottom line: So as you can see, this one was a little wishy washy for me, but I ended up liking it way more than I originally thought I would. Several of the stories were really incredible, though several of them fell quite flat for me. I think this is one of those cases where some people will love it and some people won’t. I’ve somehow found myself right in the middle. I’m a fan of whimsical, so maybe that’s it.

Rating: 6 – Good, but not great

Book Review: Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive is beautiful, open, honest, genuine, brave, and hopeful. It should be read by everyoneReasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haigif you’ve been depressed, are depressed, know someone who is/has been depressed. Honestly, if you are alive, this book is for you.

Author:  Matt Haig

Genre: Autobiography, memoir

Publisher: Canongate Books

Publication Date: March 5, 2015

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

Have you ever had a book that you were simultaneously unable to wait for and very scared of reading? That was Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive [Matt is the author of The Humans, which you should ALL know by now that I LOVE].  I’m sure you can tell from the title a little of what it’s about, and you may or may not have been able to guess why I was nervous to read it if you’re a regular reader of my blog. I have never said this outright on my blog, but I am depressed. I have depression. I am a depressive. Do you know how terrified I am to say that on my blog? Petrified. But I’m going to say it because it will make it that much more clear why I needed and appreciated this book. From the very moment I heard about it, I needed it. And thankfully, because I interned at the amazing Canongate Books a couple of years ago, I was able to get an early, digital copy of this one and didn’t have to wait the several weeks it’s going to take for my UK pre-order to get here (though I’m still quite looking forward to my physical copy).

I read this entire book in roughly 4.5 hours. I devoured it. I also cried more than I have probably EVER cried while reading a book. But I also smiled. Maybe not a lot, but it happened. The synopsis says “It’s also an upbeat, joyous and very funny exploration of how to live better, love better, read better and feel more.” I was pleased to find that to be very true. I felt a lot reading this book. I like that Matt mentioned that not everyone’s depression is the same, that you can be both happy and sad at the same time (“just as you can be a sober alcoholic”), and how most people will not be able to see it:

To other people, it sometimes seems like nothing at all. You are walking around with your head on fire and no one can see the flames.

My heart pounded so HARD in my chest practically the entire time I was reading, just as it is beating hard just writing this all down.

Reasons this book made me cry:

– My own sadness and depression
– Matt’s battle with depression
– The feeling that someone could so completely understand me
– The fact that I HATE that I could relate to so much of the book
– The fact that I DON’T WANT to relate to any of it
– The “My Symptoms” section – I related to so many of these that it was a little horrifying. One of them – “A sense of being disconnected, of being a cut-out from another reality”
– “You are on guard to the point of collapse every single moment, while desperately trying to keep afloat, to breathe the air that the people on the bank all around you are breathing as easily as anything.”
– “Minds have their own weather systems. You are in a hurricane. Hurricanes run out of energy eventually. Hold on.”

Matt said at one point he hoped someone else would read his words and that maybe the pain he felt wasn’t for nothing. I know it wasn’t for nothing, but THANK YOU, Matt, for writing this book, for being brave and open and honest, for showing me I wasn’t alone no matter what the depression told me, for telling me that life will wait for me, for The Humans, for all of your words, for being alive.

Let’s get down to the bottom line, shall we? Read this book. Read this book because you have emotions and hopes and feelings. Read this book because you are human and because you are alive. Read this book to live. Reasons to Stay Alive is a celebration of life, books, words, and humanity.

Rating: Honestly, this book defies ratings. How can you rate a book like this? However, I’m sure you can tell that this book will occupy my favorites shelf right next to The Humans forever.

Book Review – Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

NPH's Choose Your Own Autobiography - Book MemoriesAuthor:  Neil Patrick Harris

Genre: Non-fiction, autobiography, humor

Publisher: Crown Archetype

Publication Date: October 14, 2014

304 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

I love Neil Patrick Harris. Like, a lot. I think he’s super funny, talented, and a really cool person. So, of course, I wanted to read his autobiography just because I like him. But then I heard about the unique format for his autobiography, a choose your own adventure, and I was sold. I fully appreciate and love when authors and publishers want to try something new, a new way of doing things that will both attract readers and help to sell new books. But this is an autobiography. It’s impossible to choose your own story when all the events have actually happened and it is based on a REAL person.

My very first note when reading this was, “Funny start! Gonna ❤ this!” It begins with a second person introduction to “you” – you are NPH for the duration of this book (except when there’s you and the real you, as in NPH – yeah, it’s as strange as it sounds). Let me put that in different words: the entire book is written in the second person. I can handle a short story or two written like this, especially when it’s horror. But a WHOLE book? Nope. It took me way too long to read this because of that. I will say it’s written in a light, funny, sometimes sarcastic way that I really enjoyed. I liked learning about NPH’s life. He’s such a cool person, and I especially loved the chapters when he was talking about his husband David Burtka and their two adorable kids. Or when he was talking about his love of the stage.

But after going through the steps (turn to page 8349734 if you want to read about this), and reaching the end THREE separate times without having read all of the chapters, I ended up just going back to the beginning and reading the book in order. I don’t know if this was just me being stupid or a lack of editing, but it was irritating. Plus, jumping around in his life (start of career, end of career, in the middle, beginning, blah blah blah) was not my favorite. I guess I prefer my autobiographies in chronological order, or close to it at least.

We got about two chapters that were what didn’t actually happen in NPH’s life (a bad childhood, ended up working at Schlotsky’s). I wish we would’ve gotten more of that. “Go to page 68478 if you want to experience a bad childhood.” Those were fun and more like an actual choose your own adventure.

The bottom line: I enjoyed learning more about NPH and the writing style was funny (though a little much at times). However, if reading a whole book in the second person sounds annoying, just be prepared for that. I would’ve preferred reading about NPH in a normal autobiography, I think.

Rating: 6 – good, but not great

Review: It’s the End of the World As We Know It by Saci Lloyd (ARC)

Saci Lloyd’s It’s the End of the World As We Know It is a wild ride through a wormhole and into a parallel world full of internet speak, zombies, uncontrollable algae, and unique and weird characters. You’re in for some craziness.

It's the End of the World As We Know It by Saci LloydAuthor:  Saci Lloyd
Genre: Young adult, humor, science fiction
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Publication Date: January 1, 2015
288 pages, paperback

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Hodder Children’s Books for letting me read this.

Let me start by giving you a short list of the things included in this book:

– A power-hungry Lolcat – the ruler of Deva (the parallel Earth) is a freaking cat that speaks like those Lolcats, u kno, lik dis. Hard 2 undrstand sumtims.
– Little infobots that surf on energy waves
– A sex-crazed poisonous fungus
– Zombies
– An angry, badass girl who might be a little bit robot

Alright, if that doesn’t sound awesome to you, I don’t know what else I could possibly say to convince you, but I’ll try. This book is trippy, you guys. I barely knew what I was reading most of the time, but that was pretty much the best part. It was surreal, weird, absolutely cuckoo, and so much fun. It’s got weird, unique characters that had me giggling like an idiot. They each speak a certain, specific-to-them way, which was cool yet irritating (internet speak as dialogue for a few of the characters. The whole time!). I think people who enjoy weird, strange, and wonderful books will have a lot of fun with It’s the End of the World As We Know It. On the other hand, I definitely don’t think this book is for everyone. It’s super bizarre and really odd, so you’ve got to into this one with an open mind or you’ll probably be weirded out by the book. Personally, I love silly, peculiar books, so this was super enjoyable!

However, I do want to say that occasionally It’s the End of the World As We Know It felt like it was trying a little too hard to be quirky, to be like Douglas Adams. It bothers me a little when publishers compare books to something like Hitchhiker’s Guide because it sets the bar SO HIGH. Most of the time I was loving how crazy everything was, but it felt a little over the top sometimes, which, I suppose, is par for the course.

I also want to share the riddle this book starts off with:

Q: How many mad scientists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Two. One to hold the bulb, the other one to turn the universe.


The bottom line: It’s the End of the World As We Know It was a fun, weird, and crazy ride on a rift through time and space. It was full of quirky characters and interesting sci-fi themes, though sometimes it felt like it was trying too hard to be weird. I still had so much fun reading it, as it was wildly imaginative and surreal.

Rating: 7 – pretty good

Book Review: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

I know I’m not the only person who was attracted to this book by the trailer for the movie. It’s funny and mean and it’s got Mae Whitman (who I love) and the gorgeous Robbie Amell. I had to read the book before I saw the movie. It was a lot more fun than I was expecting.

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Title: The DUFF

Author:  Kody Keplinger

Genre: Young adult, contemporary

Publisher: Poppy (Little Brown)

Publication Date: September 7, 2010

277 pages, paperback

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

I won’t lie to you. This book is super clichéd and very predictable, but MAN, if it wasn’t entertaining! I flew through this book in one day at work. It’s definitely fast-paced and it’s got a clear, feel-good message.

We’ve got to talk about Bianca. She’s our MC and the “DUFF” in the title. (Btw, Duff stands for Designated Ugly Fat Friend). I loved her right away. She’s sarcastic and witty, a bit of a bitch (sorry for the language!), and independent. When Wesley (think John Tucker) tells her she’s the DUFF of her friend group, she’s pissed. As she should be. But throughout the book, she discovers that she’s not the only girl who feels like the DUFF sometimes. All girls feel like the DUFF sometimes. I’ve felt like the DUFF and so have you. Don’t get mad at me for telling you that she comes to accept herself, because it’s obvious what this book is trying to do. It’s not a spoiler. I was rooting for Bianca to accept herself the whole time. She’s so realistic, so likeable despite her attitude, so relatable. When she decides to distract herself by hooking up with Wesley (who she hates), I understood her. Which was a little weird, because I’d never do something like that, but that’s how real Bianca felt.

The message behind this book – that you should accept yourself no matter what anyone thinks – is so important. Yes, it’s mixed in with a lot of teenage drama and friend fights and all that, but that’s what being a teenager is like these days. This book felt like an honest portrayal of what it’s like to grow up in our society, to constantly be told you must look a certain way to fit in.

We all know that’s a bunch of bullshit (again, sorry for the language). Be you. Dress how you want to. Be with who you like. Don’t let others dictate the way you look, dress, act, love.

The bottom line: The DUFF may be a quick, somewhat light read, but it’s got a great message and a seriously cool and hilarious MC. Yeah, it’s got lots of clichés and we all know what’s going to happen before we even start, but it’s seriously fun to read. If you are even remotely interested in the movie, I’d definitely recommend reading this.

Rating: 7 – Pretty good

Check out the trailer below! I’m going to see it on Friday, so expect a book-to-movie review this weekend!

Audiobook Review – Four: A Divergent Story Collection by Veronica Roth

Four: A Divergent Story Collection by Veronica RothAuthor: Veronica Roth

Narrator: Aaron Stanford

Audiobook length: 6 hours and 33 minutes

Genre: Young adult, dystopian, science fiction

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

I finished this one early last month and have continued to forget to post a review ever since. I liked it, mostly, but it didn’t really leave a lasting impression on me. Let’s do a one or two sentence mini review for each of the four stories in Four: A Divergent Story Collection and then I’ll talk about the narrator.

The Transfer – very cool to learn about Four when he still lived in Abnegation and the process he went through in deciding to transfer to Dauntless. We learned about his home life with Marcus, and while we already knew most of what was discussed, we actually got to see why Four transferred and why he felt the way he did towards his home and Marcus. I also enjoyed being back in this world.

The Initiate – this one was probably the best of the four stories. We learn more about Four, but also about some of the secondary characters like Shauna and Zeke. I wish we’d gotten to know Amar a bit better as he was supposed to mean so much to Four, but we hardly see him and they don’t get that close. Learning more about Four BEFORE he meets Tris was why I liked this story.

The Son – this is the story in which Four begins to question Dauntless leadership. Other than that, I honestly can’t really remember what happens…seriously, I’m sitting here trying to remember and it obviously just left hardly any impression on me. :/

The Traitor – this was probably my least favorite story. It takes place during the events in Divergent and is basically that story but from Four’s perspective, which could’ve been cool if it had actually added anything to the story. Four and Tris feel like basically the same character, especially when we are reading (or in this case, listening) to scenes with both of them in it. I had to force myself to finish this one because I was bored.

In addition to these four stories, we also get three extra scenes from Four’s perspective, one of which was when Tris was the first jumper. While I didn’t really like the story when Four and Tris were already together, this scene was fun to see from Four’s perspective.

The narrator – Aaron Stanford has a REALLY monotone, even voice. When I first starting listening to Four, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to finish it. But then his voice started to pull me in and began to really fit Four and his personality. I ended up really liking his voice for the middle part of the audiobook. And then we got to the last story that bored me and added his monotone voice and…yeah, it was hard to get through that last story.

The bottom line: Even though the last two stories weren’t my favorite, I do think any fans of the Divergent trilogy will appreciate learning more about Four and his life before and after Tris.

ARC Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic was my first V.E. (Victoria) Schwab book, but you can bet that I’ll be reading all of her others as soon as humanly possible.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. SchwabAuthor:  V.E. Schwab
Genre: Young adult, fantasy, science fiction
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
400 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Tor Books for letting me read and review this! (I’m pretty sure I was only supposed to get the 30% preview, but THANK GOODNESS I GOT IT ALLLL)

I’ve been sitting on this review for a couple of days now attempting to figure out how to express my love for A Darker Shade of Magic. I haven’t read a fantasy/sci-fi/magic book that I loved this much in a long time. It’s got all things I ever wanted in a book without ever really knowing I wanted those things. “Cross-dressing thieves”? Got it. Wannabe pirates? Yep, there’s that too. More than one London? Of course! And all kinds of magic including unique and wonderful types? YES.

A Darker Shade of Magic is full of unparalleled world-building and fantastical characters, places, and ideas. I honestly can’t think of another book to compare it to, and that is awesome. It’s really dark and complex but with an unexpected bit of humor from its characters that kept it being too much. Like with Lila – I dare you to read this book and not think she’s incredible. She’s a thief and a wannabe pirate, and she’s such a badass. She’s tough but emotional, and she won’t give up until she sees the world. Lila also thinks things like, “Why anyone would ever pretend to be weak was beyond her (ARC Loc. 729)” – and if that doesn’t make you like her, I don’t know what will.

Then there’s Kell. Oh, Kell. He’s a…magician, able to control all of the elements and also able to cross between the worlds, which he does as an ambassador to Red London. He’s exactly the kind of hero I want in a fantasy, you guys. I love a hero who’s not perfect, who’s complex and layered. I love a hero who might be more dark than light, maybe even a little rebellious. That’s Kell. He’s ridiculously charming and incredibly loyal. Kell is “built like an afternoon shadow, tall and slim (ARC Loc. 530), and he’s also got a pretty amazing coat. Yeah, I’M DONE FOR.

Let me talk about the Londons (yep, plural) because it is so intriguing. We’ve got Kell’s Red London, which is so magical that it glows red. Then there’s Holland’s (not necessarily the bad to Kell’s good he comes across as) White London, ruled by twins who are chill-inducing in their scariness. We’ve got Lila’s Grey London, which is basically our world but it does have its own magic – look out for a pretty cool pub in all the Londons. Last, but not least, is Black London, and though we don’t see it, it’s my favorite because it gives us black magic, a character who’s not really a character. It may be (sort of) invisible, but it manipulates the characters and plot. It’s scary, interesting, and so so cool. One other character I loved was a prince described by Victoria Schwab as “A royal who is equal parts Prince Harry and Jack Harkness” and that is the perfect description. He’s magnificent, of course.

The amount of times I had no idea what was going on or I was surprised by a twist or a new development was astounding. ADSOM kept me on my toes and on the edge of my seat. I wasn’t really prepared to love this book as much as I did, but now it’s got a piece of my soul and it isn’t letting go.

The bottom line: A Darker Shade of Magic is a gripping, thrilling, wonderful adventure. The world-building, writing, characters, Londons, and magic are all incredibly done. I can already tell this will be one of my favorite reads of 2015.

Rating: 9 – practically perfect

ARC Review: My Heart & Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

You guys said you wanted me to get a little more real and tell you more about myself. This review is as real as I’ve gotten. I hope you still love me. My Heart & Other Black Holes

Author:  Jasmine Warga

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mental Health

Publisher: Balzer + Bray / HarperTeen

Publication Date: February 10, 2015

320 pages, Hardcover

Check out the synopsis on Goodreads.

I’m sitting here trying to start a review on a book that made me cry, made me smile, made me hurt, and that I loved with all of my black hole of a heart. I’m not sure if I can do it.  Alright, take a few breaths, Stefani. Here we go.

This book is beautiful, you guys. It deserves to be read, whether you are suffering from depression or not. I wholeheartedly believe that everyone can find something to relate to in My Heart & Other Black Holes. I really cared about these characters because they were me. I’m so glad that this book is out there, because it tells you that you aren’t alone. It tells you there’s hope and this doesn’t have to be the end. It’s something that is important and needs to be talked about.

The characters were real because of their feelings. You can feel Roman’s grief. Aysel’s depression was tangible and real. I loved this book, but I also hated how much I could understand both of them so well. Warga’s description of depression was spot on and I relished in it. This book felt so real, you guys. “Depression is like a heaviness (ARC 14)” and sometimes “It’s like your sadness is so deep and overwhelming that you’re worried it will drown everyone else in your life if you let them get too close to it (ARC 183).” Aysel thinks “He gets it” after Roman says that last part – I thought “Jasmine gets it” when I read that.

But I didn’t just love this book for the sad parts. I’m not giving anything away, but the ending was so realistic, and I really appreciated that. I’m just happy I got to spend time with these two characters, because I loved their journey together. I’ll end this review with my favorite quote:

I will be stronger than my sadness” (ARC 266).

The bottom line: My Heart & Other Black Holes is a beautiful, honest, heartbreaking, real, and sad book. It deserves to be read – not only by anyone that has suffered any kind of mental illness, but by everyone.

Rating: 10 – Perfection. One of the best books I’ve ever read (I think this is only the second 10 I’ve given) Thank you SO MUCH to Stacee aka Adventures of a Book Junkie for the giveaway that let me get my hands on this beautiful book.