Review: The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant

The Court of Miracles (Court of Miracles, #1)The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Set in the tumultuous time of 1828 Paris, after the Revolution has failed, the city is divided into the royal court, and nine criminal guilds.

Our protagonist, Nina Th√©nardier, is a young member of the Thieves Guild. Nina is a skilled thief, who has spent her life flying under everyone’s radar.

After her abusive father sells her older sister to the Master of Flesh, the Tiger, Nina desperately wants to save her, but never gets the opportunity.

While living on the streets, Nina gains a new sister, a sister of choice, little and beautiful, Ettie.

Unfortunately, Ettie is such a pretty girl, that she becomes dangerous to be around, for the Tiger has set his sights on her as well.

Nina then dedicates the majority of her time to keeping Ettie out of the monster’s hands. She has to get creative and make some unsavory allies, but she is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the young girl safe.

The Court of Miracles is a fast-paced romp through a fantastical and historical Paris.

The backdrop was dirt, grim, danger and intrigue. Nina’s world is definitely a dangerous one, but she throws herself full force into the game of the underground.

Although Nina seems extremely bold, I think it was more that she had nothing to lose. Ettie was literally her only connection in the entire world.

While many aspects of this were interesting, there was something about the flow that was off for me.

I felt like the structure was: set scene, problem, resolution, next scene, problem, resolution, next scene. It just had a choppy quality to it, in my opinion.

I’m probably not explaining this correctly, but to me, it lacked a smooth narrative flow.

In addition to that, I didn’t have a good hold over time in this story. When it started, Nina was very, very young, but at the end, she’s not.

There was one point where I think a couple of years had passed, but it wasn’t entirely clear. I felt like time was progressing along rapidly, but I had no idea how much time between different sections. Maybe I was missing something on my ARC?

I think it is important to point out that I have never read Les Miserables, or watched any movie or television adaptations. Therefore, I cannot comment on this story as a reimagining of that tale.

There were moments where I felt like I had no idea what was going on. I wonder if I would have gotten a lot more out of it if I had read the original source material?

Overall, I did think this was a fun story. I enjoyed very much the different criminal guilds and the dynamics between them. I found that extremely interesting.

I would absolutely consider picking up the next book in the series. I’m not sure where this story can go from here, but Kester Grant is clearly very imaginative, so I trust they’ll figure it out.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Knopf Young Readers, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I had a lot of fun with it!

View all my reviews

Review: The Light Between Worlds

The Light Between WorldsThe Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Light Between Worlds is a much more complicated story than I anticipated. There’s a lot to unpack here.

If you’re expecting a light YA portal Fantasy, you’re wrong. This is a deep dive into codependency, mental health, guilt and trauma.

Broken into two distinct sections, this book follows sisters, Evelyn and Phillipa, and their complex, codependent relationship.

During WWII, the girls, along with their brother, Jamie, cowered in a London bomb shelter during a ferocious air raid. Somehow, whilst there, they are able to flee the shelter through a portal into a fantasy world known as the Woodlands.

They remain in this new world for five years, living amongst the creatures of myth and legend.

Ultimately they return to their world, where no time has passed at all. Jamie and Phillipa are ready to be back, but Evelyn, whose heart belongs to the Woodlands, finds it close to impossible to adjust.

Every day is a struggle for her. All she wants is to return to the Woodlands, which she considers her true home.

The first half of the book follows Evelyn’s perspective exclusively. We get present day portions, as well as various flashbacks to the children’s time in the Woodlands.

Through Evelyn, we learn more about her sister, Phillipa, who has since moved to America for University.

Evelyn is clearly struggling with Phillipa’s departure. She’s like a boat set adrift. She spends a lot of her time at her private school, Saint Agatha’s, exploring the woods on her own, hoping to find the portal to return to the Woodlands.

During Evelyn’s portion of the book, I developed one opinion on who Phillipa was as a character. I had the impression that Phillipa would be meek and mild, that she was scared to live in the Woodlands and that by going to America, she was running away.

Then the second half of the book is told solely from Phillipa’s point of view. It was a true perspective shift indeed.

It quite took me by surprise. What I thought I knew was flipped on its head.

The first half of the book seems choppy and random, although beautifully written, I found it a little disjointed and confusing. However, upon reflection, I believe that was intentional to set up the state of Evelyn’s mental health.

As we meet Phillipa, we discover she is bold and steady. Not at all how I expected. Evelyn is the one who is scared. She is afraid to live in the real world, where she suffered so much trauma, and was actually escaping into the fantastical world of the Woodlands.

When Phillipa receives a call from her brother, Jamie, she knows it is not going to be good news. She has been so worried about Evelyn, having cut herself off from her, and indeed, the news does concern her sister.

It appears Evelyn has gone missing and Phillipa must return to aid in the search.

Y’all this is a heart-breaking story. Once it starts to evolve, it’s so compelling. I couldn’t put this down once I figured out where it was going and what it was really about.

Please read the content warnings at the bottom of the synopsis before you pick this up. It certainly was much deeper, and more intricate, than I ever would have guessed in regards to trauma, PTSD, depression, and suicidal ideation.

I felt the relationship between Evelyn and Phillipa was incredibly crafted. Their codependent relationship was one of the best I have ever read. It definitely reminded me mildly of The Wicker King. If you enjoyed that book, you would probably also really enjoy this.

This is one of those books that the longer I sit with it, the more I gain an appreciation for how well-written it actually is. Weymouth made some very clever choices with how she told this story.

The Light Between Worlds is so much more than your run of the mill, YA Fantasy, so if you like stories with a bit of depth and real world bite to them, you should absolutely give this one a go.

Just keep in mind, though the writing is beautiful, this story is very heavy. Be prepared.

View all my reviews

Review: Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

Broken ThingsBroken Things by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Five years ago, Summer Marks was brutally murdered and left in the woods of her hometown.

The belief is that she was killed by her two best friends, Mia and Brynn, in a horrific, ritualistic style.

The girls were obsessed with a fantasy book called, The Way Into Lovelorn, and apparently, something found within those pages whipped them into a murderous frenzy. The thing is though, they didn’t do it.

Broken Things begins with Brynn finally being forced to leave the rehab center she has been residing in. She’s really never lived on the outside since Summer’s death.

Mia has continued living with her Mom in her childhood home, now packed to the gills due to her Mother’s hoarding habits.

During an effort to do a major clean out, Mia finds the old copy of The Way Into Lovelorn under a mass of garbage. This discovery hacks open old wounds and reinvigorates Mia’s desire to find out the truth of what happened to Summer.

Since they were separated during their police interviews, Mia and Brynn have not spoken. As Brynn is released, they are suddenly and unexpectedly reunited.

Rejoining is cold at first. It’s hard for them to communicate, but as time passes, they begin to open up with one another and it becomes clear they both have information about Summer’s death that they’ve never revealed before.

I was so immersed in this novel. The toxic friendship, the mystery, the side characters and the exploration of sexuality were all so well done. I read it incredibly quickly. Once I started, I could not put it down.

I was getting heavy Slender Man vibes, which was great. The way the girls backstory was told, it sort of gave this is this supernatural, is it not feeling; especially in the beginning. I dig that vibe.

Additionally, I loved the book-within-a-book portions in regards to the Lovelorn content.

There were portions from the original book, as well as excerpts from the fanfic sequel the girls were writing together. It was clear Summer was the most passionate about their project and she sort of steamrolled the other girls to get her way.

It’s funny, although we never met her in the current timeline, and she was the murder victim, to me, Summer was the least likable character.

Watching Brynn and Mia struggle through years of abuse in the public because of something they were accused of doing, but were innocent of, also made me feel protective of, and attached to them in a weird way.

I thought the mystery of Summer’s murder was intriguing.

Of course, Oliver also incorporated one of my favorite tropes, amateur sleuthing, as the girls, Mia and Brynn, try to piece together what actually happened on the day Summer died.

For a backlist book I never hear anyone talking about, I was really impressed with this. I thought it was engaging the entire way through and I enjoyed the overall way the story was told.

I will definitely be picking up more from Lauren Oliver in the future!

View all my reviews

Review: Unbirthday (A Twisted Tale) by Liz Braswell

UnbirthdayUnbirthday by Liz Braswell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Meg’s current ratings for The Twisted Tales series:

1. Reflection (Mulan): 4-stars
2. As Old As Time (Beauty & the Beast): 3.5-stars rounded up
3. Mirror, Mirror (Snow White): 3.5-stars rounded up
4. Unbirthday (Alice in Wonderland): 3.5-stars
5. Conceal, Don’t Feel (Frozen): 3.5-stars
6. A Whole New World (Aladdin): 3-stars
7. Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid): 2-stars

We all know the story of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, but what happened after?

In this installment of Disney’s popular Twisted Tales series, Liz Braswell examines just that.

Alice is now 18-years old and it has been many years since her last trip to Wonderland. In fact, it has been so long that the memories are starting to fade.

There are times when she wonders if it was even real and just the vivid dreams of a little girl with an overactive imagination.

Living with her parents and her slightly overbearing sister, Alice’s favorite past time is now photography.

She has a wonderful camera and wanders all over taking candids of various people and places.

When characters she met in Wonderland start magically appearing in the photos she develops, she can’t help but feel they are trying to get a message to her.

After more and more images come up, it’s clear, they need her help. Wonderland is in trouble and Alice is the only one who can save them.

Finding her way back to Wonderland is tricky, but she eventually succeeds and is able to reunite with old friends.

It appears the Queen of Hearts is more out of control than ever, continuing her reign of terror and executing Wonderland’s citizens seemingly for her own pleasure.

Does Alice have what it takes to defeat her once and for all?

Young Alice may have been afraid, but as an 18-year old, Alice is stronger and more willful than ever. You’ll have to pick it up to find out!

This novel is definitely an interesting one. It felt very different than the other books in the series; heavier in a way.

It follows Alice after her time in Wonderland, so there is no twist per se, to the original tale. It’s more of a follow-up, in my opinion.

A large chunk of the story follows Alice in our world with her interactions with her sister, parents and potential suitors.

There is also a large political element, as Alice’s sister is involved in local politics and tries to drag Alice along even if she is not as interested, or has conflicting opinions.

There was quite a bit of social commentary on nationalism and discrimination against minority groups and immigrant populations.

These are definitely important topics to explore in literature, but I must admit I was surprised to see it here in such depth.

I have read six other books in this series and this is the only one that I can recall having that type of narrative element. Normally, I am all for incorporating such discussions, but part of me feels like it was out of place in this story. It sort of made it feel disjointed for me.

The reason I say this is that when picking this up, I was expecting a magical jaunt through a nonsense world, spending time with some characters I know and love.

While I did get that, the story switched back and forth between the adventure in Wonderland to a very serious, more modern world, where the pace was slowed down quite precipitously. It made the book seem like it was too long.

With this small critique out of the way, overall, I did enjoy Unbirthday. It was nice to be back with Alice and the whole gang.

If you are a fan of Alice in Wonderland, you should definitely pick this up and give it a shot!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I absolutely adore this series and will continue to pick them up for as long as they are released!

View all my reviews

Review: Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare

Clown in a CornfieldClown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Quinn Maybrook moves to Kettle Springs, Missouri, after her father accepts a position as the town’s General Practitioner.

He didn’t really ask for her opinion on the matter, but due to everything they have been through recently, Quinn is willing to forgive him. She just wants to see her Dad happy again.

And to be honest, Quinn is ready to leave Philadelphia as well. Since her Mom died, it’s just too tough to be there, to deal with everyone’s pitying looks.

When they arrive at their new home, the same home as the previous town doctor, they discover a dilapidated old farmhouse. Quinn can’t say she’s surprised. It’s even pretty much in the middle of a cornfield.

Cue the eerie atmosphere. Does anyone else find cornfields to be hella creepy?

No, just me?

Unpacking in her new room, Quinn gazes out over the expanse of fields surrounding them. She notices an abandoned factory in the distance.

There’s a mural painted on the side. It’s a giant clown face and the pervy skeeve seems to be staring right into her window.

She can’t believe this is her life now. It’s all surreal. This town seems like something straight out of a movie.

Attending school the following day, Quinn begins to get acquainted with the local kids. An over-the-top teacher having a temper tantrum, even kicks her out of his classroom on her first day. It’s a lot to process.

Because of this event, she ends up hanging out with some of the more popular kids in the school. They seem a little wild, but not all bad.

They end up inviting her to a party Founder’s Day weekend. What could go wrong?

Y’all, I had so much fun reading this. Clown in a Cornfield was EVERYTHING I was hoping it would be!

Once I picked it up, I could not put it down. It is the perfect book to read to transition into spooky season. It has all the Fall vibes and I was living for it!!!

Is this a perfect book? No, it’s not, but was it the perfect book for me?

Abso-freakin-lutely!!

Those of you who know me, you know that clowns are my biggest fear. I actually have never read a book with clowns in it.

Not even It.

It’s true. I knew after seeing this around and reading the synopsis, that I wanted to give it a try.

I am so happy I went outside my comfort zone and picked this one up. It truly had everything I love in a Teen Scream, which incidentally is one of my favorite subgenres of Horror.

Clown in a Cornfield features the new girl trope, the final girl trope, kids behaving badly, corrupt town officials, an ominous atmosphere, a huge teen party, biting social commentary, a cleverly positioned ending, and plenty of jumps along the way!

This is just pure fun on the page. It’s a must read for the Fall!!! Don’t miss out, Frendo will be mad if you do.

View all my reviews

Review: Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4)Winter by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A bittersweet conclusion to a fantastic YA-SciFi series. This is retelling GOLD!

Winter is the fourth, and concluding novel, in Marissa Meyer’s beloved, Lunar Chronicles series.

Coming in at over 800-pages, this hefty book provides the final stand-off between our intrepid heroes, their allies, and the wicked Lunar Queen.

There was a ton of action in this installment, some of it quite brutal, and I enjoyed learning a bit more about each of our main characters.

I can’t believe it is over. As some of you may know, I have a difficult time continuing with series. There was no problem with this one. I was that compelled to pick it up.

I love how Meyer built the world out. Each book, you gain more characters, more knowledge of the world and the stakes are steadily increased.

In this book, our newest character, per the title, is Winter, the Lunar Princess.

She was such a delight. Due to repressing the use of her glamour, her mind is a bit janky. She hallucinates and people in the kingdom think she is bit crazy, but love her nonetheless.

Again with this one, I appreciate so much the connections to the original fairy tales.

As a set of retellings, I think The Lunar Chronicles is top notch work. I would love to read further retellings from Meyer and definitely have boosted Heartless up by TBR.

I’m so happy that I finally took the time to pick this series up! I was enthralled the entire way through.

If you haven’t given this one a shot yet, and are a Sci-Fi fan, you should definitely check it out!

View all my reviews

Review: Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Today Tonight TomorrowToday Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A super precious love letter to Seattle and first loves.

Sticky sweet in every way. I absolutely adored this!

On the last day of Senior year, Rowan Roth wants to beat her archenemy, Neil McNair, one last time. The two have been in a brutal competition with one another since the start of high school, coming in first and second at almost EVERYTHING.

The rank of valedictorian is no different; a goal they have both been working towards. Early in the day, it is announced that Neil has won the honor, and Rowan is understandably crushed.

She now literally only has one opportunity left to beat him. Senior Howl, a scavenger hunt-type game arranged by the Junior class, and played by the Seniors on their last day.

Rowan is confident she has what it takes to go the distance with Howl. No one knows and loves the city of Seattle like she does. These scavenger hunt clues don’t stand a chance of stopping her.

When word gets out that a group of Seniors want to take Neil and Rowan out of Howl, the odd couple must team up and work together if they want to survive the night.

Please note, by survive the night, I just mean that people playing against them have the ability to tag them out of play, not literally that people are trying to kill them.

As the day and night go on, Rowan and Neil begin to open up to one another and something truly magical happens.

I have not felt this in love with two teens relationship since Love & Gelato. They are both incredibly smart, well-balanced characters and their banter back and forth was everything.

While the relationship between Rowan and Neil makes up the bulk of the story, this book also delves into some fairly serious topics as well.

I think as an examination of the feelings and concerns someone on the cusp of adulthood may have, Solomon did a great job. It’s a scary time, graduating high school and potentially leaving everything you have ever known behind.

It can be sad and scary, while also being exciting as you forge out on your own.

The dichotomy of those feelings can be incredibly confusing and I think the author did a phenomenal job of laying that out there.

Overall, I was really impressed with this. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who loves YA Contemporary stories.

I literally have no critiques. The more I think on it, the more I love it. I am definitely looking forward to reading more from Rachel Lynn Solomon.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Simon Pulse, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. It was a blast!

View all my reviews

Review: The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

The Good Luck Girls (The Good Luck Girls, #1)The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the country of Arketta, young girls sometimes get sold to ‘Welcome Houses’ by impoverished families.

The families are told the girls will be well-cared for and they pull a good price. Additionally, it’s one less mouth for the family to feed.

While it’s true, the girls have a roof over their heads, clothing and food, let’s not beat around the bush here, they’re sex slaves.

Keep in mind, this isn’t blatantly expressed on the page, but they are living in brothels, run by a Madame, being frequented by wealthy men with money to spend on pleasure.

Initially, when the girls are too young to service the patrons, they provide general labor around the house.

When they finally come of age, their first night with a patron is called their ‘Lucky Night’. It’s a big deal with everyone prepping the girl to look her finest.

Once she is ready, into a room she goes to await her client, and her fate.

Our story opens on Clementine’s Lucky Night. She’s nervous, but with an older sister, Aster, already at the Good Luck Girls stage, she’s ready to join her and the more easy lifestyle she believes comes with it.

When her night doesn’t go as planned, and the patron ends up dead, Clementine seeks out her sister for help. Aster knows they need to run or Clementine will be killed herself.

Unbeknownst to them, some of the other girls aren’t happy at the Welcome House either and they want to go with. They’re fed up and they’re not going to take it anymore.

The Good Luck Girls took me by surprise. I had no idea what it was about going in and I ended up really getting into it.

I loved the sort of Western-feel setting and the light fantasy elements sprinkled throughout.

There is a lot of action and the characters were engaging. I wanted the girls to find safety wherever they could.

I also enjoyed the relationships among the girls and the people they met along the way. They basically were following clues held in a bedtime story that they felt was the secret to their freedom.

Overall, I felt this was a unique story. It was well-written and kept me coming back for more. I read it so quickly.

If Charlotte Nicole Davis releases more stories in this world, I will definitely be reading them!

View all my reviews

Blog Tour: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

‘Sometimes the princess is a monster’

Girl, Serpent, Thorn is the sophomore novel for Melissa Bashardoust; one I have been highly anticipating.

Her debut, Girls Made of Snow and Glass, a wildly creative reimagining of Snow White, blew me away when I read it back in 2018. I was astounded by her vivid imagination and level of skill bringing it to the page.

This latest story is an original fairy tale following a princess, Soraya, who due to a curse put upon her before she was even born, is poisonous to the touch. Because of this, her family has kept her locked away, a secret from the rest of the kingdom.

As she grows older, watching the world move around her from high atop the castle, unseen, she begins to grow resentful. Her brother, the Shah, is set to marry a girl she once considered her best friend; who was in fact, her only friend.

When circumstances arrive that bring a captured Div, a magical demon, into the castle’s dungeons, Soraya believes they may hold the answers she seeks. The cure for her curse. Little does she know, that one bit of information could be the downfall of them all.

I enjoyed this so much. Bashardoust’s writing continues to impress. The world-building was fantastic. I loved the Persian feel of it all.

Although this is an original story, I could feel the influences from many other mythologies and fairy tales. I thought it was executed beautifully. There were moments when I could see a bit of Beauty and the Beast, Arabian Nights, Sleeping Beauty or Rapunzel, to name a few.

Although it was a story full of magic powers and beings, the writing didn’t suffer from trying to be overly whimsical. I find with some stories, they try to up the magic so much that it ends up overshadowing the overall plot with its whimsy. That certainly wasn’t the case here!

As Soraya discovers the truth of her curse, she begins to question her entire life, what she has been told and who she can trust. There was a lot of back and forth between different characters, where as the reader, you weren’t even sure who she could trust.

There were a few deep deceptions, a lot of plotting and a lot of monsters. The stakes were high and I was definitely cheering for Soraya the whole way through. She has a great arc over the course of the story as she grew in confidence and courage.

I would highly recommend this to YA Fantasy readers. If you are looking for a diverse Fantasy, Soraya is a bi-MC and the Persian influence can be felt throughout. I think this book really has something for everyone. There is a lot more I could talk about with regards to the plot, it has plenty of depth and intricacies to explore, but I think it is best to go into the story knowing as little as possible.

You can enter this one confident you are in the hands of a skilled storyteller. Bashardoust has never let me down and I will continue to pick up anything she has published.

I would like to thank the publisher, Flatiron Books, for not only providing me with a copy of this read and review, but also including me on the blog tour for its release. It is an honor to be able to help promote Bashardoust and her beautiful stories!

 

 

Review: All the Pretty Things by Emily Arsenault

All the Pretty ThingsAll the Pretty Things by Emily Arsenault
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars**

Going into All the Pretty Things, I had some reservations. I had heard some mixed reviews and wasn’t quite sure what sort of experience I would have with this book.

First off, the synopsis describes this book as an ‘all new thriller about a boy who turns up dead under suspicious circumstances.’

I would not classify this as a Thriller and the death of the boy, which wasn’t the main plot BTW, didn’t seem that suspicious, certainly not so much so, that a girl not even involved in the incident would make it her life mission to investigate.

Okay, I think I am getting too far ahead of myself. Let’s go back.

High schooler, Ivy, spends her summers working at her Dad’s amusement park, Fabuland, in rural New Hampshire. She mainly makes cotton candy, but sometimes helps out with other positions as well.

After taking some time off to visit relatives, she returns to find the park in chaos. While she was away, one of the park’s employees, Ethan, died. Her best friend, Morgan, discovered his body.

Morgan, apparently distraught from her discovery, gets drunk one night and climbs to the top of the ferris wheel. Authorities, fearing she may try to take her own life, contact Ivy and have her go to the top of the wheel to talk Morgan down.

Plausible?

Morgan promptly gets sent to a psychiatric ward.

Ivy then begins an investigation into the death of Ethan.

There were some moments of interest for me within this story. I wouldn’t necessarily say this was a bad book, for me it just seemed like a poorly formulated story.

This is really, if you look at the actual biggest issue in the book, which I would not say is the death of poor Ethan, a hard-hitting YA Contemporary. Why it would try to be spun as a murder mystery is beyond me.

The more I think about it, the more I am turned off by the whole thing.

There were some fairly serious issues touched upon in this book, but in my opinion they were not handled well.

Yeah, that’s really all I have to say. Sorry I can’t provide more clarification. I certainly do not want to spoil anything for people who want to pick this one up.

Let me be clear, just because this book wasn’t for me, I know there are readers out there that will enjoy this a lot. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t me.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Delacorte Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. Although this wasn’t necessarily the story for me, I still greatly appreciate the opportunity!

View all my reviews