Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Reading on a Theme: Mental Health Matters

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and every May I try to read and hopefully post a Reading on a Theme dedicated to books that address mental health. I'm so impressed with the many YA books that handle mental health issues with deft and love. More books on this topic here.

Family in Iran:
Darius Kellner doesn't feel like he fits in anywhere. Half Persian, half American, he feels like he's not enough of either. His father oscillates between being overbearing about Darius's depression and being unapproachable. When Darius's grandfather is diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, the whole family journeys to Iran to see him. Darius the Great is Not Okay is a book about connection to family and friends. In Iran Darius meets Sohrab, who becomes the first really close friend he's ever had, and with that relationship Darius begins to understand himself. The love in Adib Khorram's book radiates off the page--the embrace of family, the joy of a true friend, the acceptance of self. A truly special book.

Fearful of the Future:
With just a few months left of high school, Nick and June should be looking forward to what's to come, but instead things are falling apart for the pair. June's mental health has been unraveling for months. Finally, the situation comes to a head, and she finds herself in the hospital. Nick finally decides he's done stealing cars for his manipulative boss, but he can't convince himself that his fate is not already sealed. I really liked Shalanda Stanley's debut, Drowning is Inevitable, and I think Nick and June Were Here is even better. This book deals with some really serious and powerful issues: mental illness, poverty, abandonment. The rural South setting is pitch perfect, and Nick and June will break your heart. Nick and June Were Here was out February 12, 2019. Review copy from NetGalley.

Highly Illogical Behavior is the story of Solomon, who hasn't left his house in three years, Lisa, the girl who believes she can fix him, and Clark, Lisa's charming boyfriend. This book is both extremely entertaining and very thought-provoking. I really like that John Corey Whaley was willing to show both good and bad examples when it comes to loving and accepting those with mental health concerns. The characters are so endearing. I loved reading about Solomon and Clark geeking out over their love of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And Lisa, oh, she makes terrible decisions, but as a reader, you still have a soft spot in your heart for her. I read this book in one morning. I just gulped it down in one go.

Prepping for a Catastrophe:
One way that Ellis's anxiety condition manifests is in an obsessive need to prepare for the apocalypse. One afternoon, Ellis meets Hannah in her therapist's waiting room, and Hannah claims she knows when and how the world will end. The two girls clearly need each other. Katie Henry tackles a lot in Let's Call it a Doomsday. Besides the mental health issues, Ellis is dealing with her faith as a believing Mormon, her sexuality, and her family, who doesn't seem to really understand Ellis or want to fully accept that she needs medical help. I like that this book handled religion respectfully. The Mormon elements are very accurate, but, one should remember, that there is a lot of variation within all religions in terms of practice and belief. Let's Call it a Doomsday is out August 6, 2019. Review copy from Edelweiss.

A Sister's Death:
Julia's mother has certain expectations for her daughter, and Julia feels like she never measures up. She can't be the daughter her mother wants her to be. Everything gets worse when Julia's seemingly perfect older sister, Olga, is killed in a car accident. As Julia learns more about her sister's life, her world begins to spiral out of control. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is a really good book, but it's also a really hard one. Erika L. Sanchez's novel is a story of a girl who is not handling her mental health, who is not getting the help she needs, and it's so painful and sad to be in her head sometimes. The dynamic between Julia and her Mexican mother is complicated. This book is very, very real.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Reading on a Theme: Young Women in World War I

In 2016 I did a World War I Reading on a Theme, and I'm excited to finally be doing another one.   I took a class in college on World War I and Modernism, and I'm always on the lookout for a good World War I setting. (They are much rarer than World War II novels.) My only wish is that I could have posted this in 2018 for the centennial of the war's conclusion, but alas, that was not possible, as three of these book came out in early 2019. 

The Russian Revolution:
Martha Hall Kelly's debut, Lilac Girls, was a favorite in 2016. I eagerly read the prequel which is about Caroline Ferriday's mother, Eliza, who aided Russian refugees fleeing from the revolution. Lost Roses is narrated by three women: Eliza, Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanovs, and Varinka, a Russian peasant. As World War I ramps up and the Russian Revolution heats up, the three women have to navigate increasingly terrifying circumstances. Reading about the terrible circumstances surrounding the Russia Revolution is always difficult, but I really liked this book. I'm excited to read Kelly's next book, the story of Caroline's great-grandmother, a Civil War nurse. Out April 9, 2019.

Coded Messages:
In 1918 Lady Mina Tretheway returns to her family home after receiving a coded telegram from her father. There she finds her missing brother's best friend, Andrew Graham and a young American, Lucas Miller. They need her help with an upcoming mission. But Hallington Manor might have a spy that could ruin everything. I really enjoyed All is Fair. I loved the Downton Abbey vibe with the big house that's emptied for war work. Plus Mina is so smart and capable, and I enjoyed watching her put the pieces of the puzzle together. Dee Garretson's book has plenty of spies, romance, danger, and adventure. It is definitely the book that's aimed at the youngest audience on this list and would be perfect for younger teens. All is Fair was out January 22, 2019.

Spies and Spiritualism:
American Ginger Stuyvesant is a member of Britain's secret weapon, The Spirit Corps, a group of mediums who confer with deceased soldiers before they pass on completely. Ghost Talkers is a fun genre-bender. It is an alternate history, a love story, and a murder mystery. The book plays with the real network of female spies who served during World War I and the popularity of spiritualism during this period in history. I enjoyed the characters and the mystery. It's a good choice if you are looking for more World War I fiction or if you are going for a spooky Halloween vibe. I recommend the audiobook which is narrated by the author, Mary Robinette Kowal, who is also a professional voice actor.

Love and War:
The Passion of Dolssa was one of my favorite books of 2017, and I was thrilled when I saw Julie Berry had a book coming out set during World War I. Lovely War is the story of two couples. Hazel and James meet in 1917, and, like so many young couples of the period, have just a few short days together. Aubrey is a jazz musician and a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment. He meets Colette, a Belgian with a beautiful voice and a tragic history, in France. This is a book about love, music, ambition, and fear. It tackles race issues and women's contributions to the war effort. Lovely War also has such an interesting framing device. It's a story told by the Greek Gods, who take turns recounting the appropriate parts. I loved it. Lovely War was out March 5, 2019.

The Spanish Influenza:
As Bright as Heaven is set in Philadelphia during the 1918 flu pandemic.The Bright family is new in town and their father is training to take over his great-uncle's funeral home business. So, that's our setting: Philadelphia, WWI, Spanish Influenza, in a funeral home. Great set-up for sure. The novel is narrated by all four Bright women, the mother, Pauline, and the daughters Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa. The war and the flu changes their lives forever, and then many years later the consequences of some of those changes play out. I picked up this book because it hit a lot of my sweet spots, morbid as they may be (funeral home setting, World War I, epidemics). I'll be reading more by Susan Meissner.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Reading on a Theme: Schools of Magic

Honestly, I love a good school setting. Even better is if that school is a boarding school. And, best of all, is if that boarding school is a school for magic. This post features five books that will take you into the hallowed halls of the most desirable schools of all.

An Old Friend:
Although I came to Tamora Pierce's books relatively late in life, I can say, without any reservations, that I have thoroughly made up for this delay. She is to date my most read author. Tempests and Slaughter was a long-awaited book among Tamora Pierce fans. It follows the training of the young Arram Draper whom we first met in the Immortals series as Numair. Arram is the youngest student to ever enter the Imperial University of Carthak. Much of the book follows Arram's day-to-day life: going to school, hanging out with his best friends, Ozorne and Varice, dealing with unexpected magical occurrences. This book is so typically Tamora Pierce, and it is big on the nostalgia factor, which I completely lapped up. 

An Alternate History: 
The Philosopher's Flight was one of my favorite reads of 2018. I found it so incredibly entertaining. In this alternate World War I era novel, magic (called empirical philosophy) has been part of society for generations. Women are naturally more gifted in empirical philosophy, flipping the gender dynamics in intriguing ways. Robert Weekes's mother is an empirical philosopher, and, though it's slightly unorthodox, she's taught her son. A daring rescue gives Robert the confidence to apply to college to study empirical philosophy, despite the fact that they seldom accept boys. Tom Miller's debut novel is such an entertaining work of feminist fiction. A good alternate history is one that is both entertaining and thought-provoking, and this book is definitely those things. I'm excited to read the sequel, The Philosopher's War, out July 2019.

A Deadly Disease:
Nedra Brysstain has been awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Yugen Academy where she plans to study medicinal alchemy. Nedra's studies are frantic; a deadly disease is sweeping across her island home and her only hope is to find a cure. I loved so many things about this book. Not only do we have a magic school, mysterious tutors, and a girl who doesn't fit in, but there's also a plague. (And oddly, that seems to be one of my buzzwords. It's not the only book in this post that features a deadly disease.) Give the Dark My Love is deliciously creepy, and things really take a turn toward the dark side about halfway through. Beth Revis's new series is one to watch. I have no idea what to expect from the sequel.

A Multi-Generational Curse:
Bianca Monroe has inherited a deadly curse. Determined to break it, she enrolls at Miss Mabel's school of magic intent on winning the competition to become the headmistress's apprentice, despite the fact that she is only a first year. Miss Mabel's School for Girls is a bit different than other books that feature magical schools because the teacher, rather than being a mentor for our young student, is the antagonist. I enjoyed the ways that Katie Cross's book overturns the tropes that have become pretty standard for books like this. This is a good series for fans of witches. I really liked Bianca's friends and found their abilities intriguing. It's clear that the series is going to become more complex in the following books as Bianca's world expands beyond the walls of her school.

A Government Conspiracy:
Teddy Cannon has always had an unnatural ability to read people that has served her well in side-stepping trouble. When her luck runs out, a stranger offers her a place at the School for Psychics. Teddy enters unsure if she could really be psychic but quickly discovers that is the least of her problems. School for Psychics has mystery, conspiracy, and a little bit of magic. I love that it is set in a world like our own, making it feel like we could run into Teddy and her friends on the street. K.C. Archer really captured the university feeling, and I loved following Teddy as she sought to uncover the mysteries within this government-run school. The sequel, The Astral Traveler's Daughter, is out April 2, 2019.

Tempests and Slaughter, The Philosopher's Flight, Give the Dark My Love, and Miss Mabel's School for Girls reviewed by JoLee.
School for Psychics reviewed by Paige.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Reading on a Theme: Portals to Fictional Worlds

This post is for anyone who has ever wished they could visit a fictional world. But beware. It might not be all that you hoped.

The Woodlands:
During a World War II bombing raid, Evelyn, Philippa, and Jamie Hapwell crossed from their world into The Woodlands. They lived there for years, but when they returned they came back at the exact same moment they departed. Forced to relive their childhood again, Philippa flourishes, but Evelyn is an absolute mess. The Light Between Worlds explores what happens after the fantastical adventure is over. How can life resume when you are keeping a secret this big? Laura E. Weymouth's book was much more serious and sober than I was expecting. A book about sibling bonds and finding where you belong, The Light Between Worlds was out October 2018. Review copy from Edelweiss. 

The Hinterland:
Alice and her mother have lived a nomadic life and seem to have the worst luck, but when Alice's mother goes missing things start to get really strange. Her mother was stolen away by a character from the Hinterland, the setting of Alice's grandmother's famous collection of fairy tales. Alice, forbidden to read her grandmother's stories, has no idea what she's getting herself into, so she teams up with her classmate, Hinterland fanatic Ellery Finch. Melissa Albert's debut novel is so deliciously creepy. The line between fiction and reality is so thin. I love how The Hazel Wood weaves together the stories of the Hinterland with Alice's past and present. I'm eager to read the sequel. The Hazel Wood was out January 2018.

Summer Marks was brutally murdered five years ago, and everyone thinks her best friends, Mia and Brynn, driven by their obsession with the fantasy novel The Way Into Lovelorn, did it. It's true that the girls believed they had found a way to enter the fictional world. On the anniversary of their friend's death, Mia and Brynn finally start talking again about really happened. Broken Things was so eerie and awesome. The melding of fiction and reality is what really sold me on this book. I loved the excerpts from The Way Into Lovelorn and the fanfic the friends were writing. Lauren Oliver's book is so disturbing, but it also features a really fantastic group of characters. Out October 2018. 

Verdopolis and Gondal:
Living in relative isolation on the Yorkshire moors, the Bronte siblings, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne, keep themselves entertained by writing stories about fictional lands. However, their fictional worlds are not just stories. The Bronte siblings routinely crossover to direct and experience the stories from within.What makes Lena Coakley's book stand out is that this book is strongly influenced by history. The Brontes did write many stories in their youth, creating the elaborate worlds of Verdopolis, Gondal, and Angria, and they populated them with the characters featured in Worlds of Ink and Shadow. I enjoyed thinking about the books the sisters would eventually write  and how they might be tied to their youthful musings. The plot itself was at times super creepy and at others clever and amusing.

In Ink, Iron, and Glass we have a character journeying from a fictional world into the real world. When Elsa's mother disappears from the pages of their world, Elsa travels to the real world to find her. Gwendolyn Clare's historical fantasy is a steampunk world of mad scientists, alchemists, mechanics, and scriptologists. I really enjoyed the 19th-century Italian setting, the inventions, and the whole concept of scriptology. The jumps from world to world and the way that the text could create something real was so fun and interesting. Beware, this book does have a bit of the "chosen one" trope, as Elsa, as a polymath, is unique and special. The sequel, Mist, Metal, and Ash, was out February 19th, 2019.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Favorite Reads of 2018

It's time for all the year-end, best-book wrap-ups. I love seeing all the favorite-books lists at the end of every year.

I read 153 books this year, which is just three books short of my all-time yearly high, and I'm almost embarrassed by that large number. Did I do anything but read in 2018?

But the real story of the year is that 89 of those 153 book were audiobooks. And no, I definitely did not listen to anything other than books this year. That new podcast? Nope, I haven't heard it. Your favorite new music? Definitely haven't listened to that either. If I can muster up the energy I might do A Few Thoughts post on my growing audiobook consumption as a companion to the post I did a couple of years ago about ebooks

I gave 20 books a 5-star rating this year and truly read (and listened to) some real gems. Also, I settled on presenting only 2018 releases with a special category for my favorite backlist title this time around.

So without further ado, here are the favorites in a variety of categories.

(You can check out mid-year favorites here.)

Favorite Fantasy: Muse of Nightmare by Laini Taylor
The sequel to Strange the Dreamer was everything I wanted and more. I love Laini Taylor's writing. I love this Ancient Near Eastern-inspired world. I love the mind-blowing connection to her earlier series. This book just might be my very favorite read of the year. (series featured here)

Favorite Sequel: A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir
This the second time Sabaa Tahir's fantastic fantasy series has won "Favorite Sequel." This addition to the series was so intense, so emotional, and quite a nail-biter. Sabaa Tahir is not afraid to be brutal to her characters. (series featured here and here)

Favorite Retelling: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White
2018 was the bicentennial of the publication of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and, for me, it was also the year of Frankenstein-inspired books. (There are two on this list!) It was also the year that solidified my fangirl status for Kiersten White, who also published a smashing finish to the And I Darken Trilogy this year. (featured here)

Favorite Series Finale: The Delphi Revolution by Rysa Walker
The final book in the Delphi Trilogy was so fantastic. The finale is loaded with lots of suspense and a few big surprises. I was amazed at how quickly I sped through this rather lengthy book. (series featured here and here)

Favorite Illustrated Novel: Mary's Monster by Lita Judge
The second Frankenstein-inspired book on this list. I really enjoyed this beautifully illustrated verse novel about the life of Mary Shelley. It is so, so pretty and a compelling way to learn about the life of Mary Shelley. (featured here)

Favorite Book Club Book: Educated by Tara Westover
This book is still the one I had the most conversations about this year. We read it for my book club over the summer, talked about the book for four hours, and probably could have held a second book club and filled four more hours. (featured here)

Favorite Backlist Title: Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
I hadn't read this YA classic until this year, and I found it so delightful in large part because of the nostalgia factor. YA fantasy is just not written this way anymore, and the overall style really brought me back to my younger years. 

Favorite Historical Fiction/ Short Story Collection: Fatal Throne
I think this is the first time I've given 5-stars to a short story collection. This book is a collection of stories by seven authors about the wives of Henry VIII, and I honestly loved them all. Jennifer Donnelly's story about Anne of Cleves still haunts me. (featured here)

Favorite New Book by a Beloved Author: Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
I was utterly captivated by Diane Setterfield's new novel. I love how it weaves together history, mythology, folktale, and science. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Juliet Stevenson, and it was so transporting.

Favorite Novel in Verse/ Diverse book: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
I made an effort to read more books that would fit into the "We Need Diverse Books" category this year, and I loved so many of them. This verse novel, by slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo, is a tour de force. It won the National Book Award in YA fiction, and I highly recommend the audiobook, which is read by the author.

Favorite Nonfiction Book: Fly Girls by P. O'Connell Pearson
Fly Girls is the story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) that flew for the United States during World War II. Patricia O'Connell Pearson's book is an engrossing and comprehensive look at the work of the WASPs. I really enjoy learning about how women contributed during the war years, and I'd strongly recommend this book to anyone who shares that interest. (featured here)

Favorite Series that Ended in 2018: The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
For the past couple of years the sequels to Illuminae have been at the very top of my most-anticipated lists. There's something so satisfying about reading a highly-anticipated book that surpasses your every expectation, and that's exactly what these books did. It's hard to say goodbye to this series.(featured here)

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Reading on a Theme: Inspired by the Classics

I do love a good retelling. Today we have five retellings inspired by classic literature. These books are all great. From award-winners like Ibi Zoboi's Pride and Prejudice retelling to the next hilarious offering from the Lady Janies, you really can't go wrong with these books, so read one or five.

The Talented Mr. Ripley:  
I found E. Lockhart's thriller Genuine Fraud to be compulsively readable. The big gimmick of this book is that it's told backwards. The beginning is really the end and you start completely confused, but it didn't take me too long to get into the flow. I think the structure works well for this story. The suspense was definitely heightened. Layers are pealed off the characters little by little, and, for a story about a chameleon, this works great. As with most thrillers, it's probably best if you go in not knowing much at all other than that this is the story of Jule and Imogen--two friends with a lot of secrets. I read this book around Halloween too, which was the perfect time of the year for this twisty tale.

Pride and Prejudice:
Zuri Benitez is the Elizabeth Bennett of Ibi Zoboi's Pride. The central conflict in this story is the result of the gentrification of Zuri's Brooklyn neighborhood. When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri is determined to hate them all, especially Darius. Darius, for his part, acts, as far as Zuri can tell, as if he's way too good for his new community. I loved this retelling. I really enjoyed what Ibi Zoboi did with the structure of the story. She, like Jane Austen before her, really sheds a light on social concerns. I became very fond of both Zuri and Darius, and I really loved Zuri's whole family. A sense of place is really important in this novel, and Ibi Zoboi does a fantastic job with the setting. Pride was out September 18, 2108. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Moby Dick:
In Patrick Ness's retelling of Moby Dick, the whales get their say. In this upside down world, whales and humans are enemies who hunt one another. Bathsheba is our narrator, and she tells the story of her last hunt for humans. Her pod captures a man, and, through her interactions with him, Bathsheba begins to rethink everything she thought she knew about the war they are waging. I'd called And the Ocean Was Our Sky an allegory. It's a tale about how violence begets violence and enemies become faceless. The book is also beautifully illustrated by Rovina Cai, and that really adds to the reading experience. And the Ocean Was Our Sky was out September 4, 2018.

Much Ado About Nothing:
McKelle George sets her Shakespearean retelling on Long Island during the 1920s. Our main characters are all trying to keep Hey Nonny Nonny, a struggling speakeasy, afloat. This was such a charming tale. I really enjoyed it. The banter between hate-to-love couple Beatrice and Benedick is the best. Beatrice, with her brusque mannerism and feminist ambitions, is so much fun to read about. Benedick, who is soft on the inside, makes my heart melt a little. And it wasn't just them, I loved all of the characters in this book. Hero and Maggie and Prince and John. I really could not do without any of them. The 1920s setting is quite well done. I think I'll go listen to the jazz playlist featured in the Author's Note now. Speak Easy Speak Love was out September 2017. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Jane Eyre:
My Plain Jane is a retelling of Jane Eyre by The Lady Janies who brought us the delightfully funny My Lady Jane. This time our three narrators are Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte, and a ghost hunter named Alexander Blackwood. In the "true" story of Jane Eyre, ghosts are real, Jane can see them, and the sinister doings at Rochester's house just might be linked to actual ghosts.The more I think about this book the more I like it. The creep-factor totally works for a retelling of Jane Eyre. This book would be such a fun October read if you want something that is a little creepy and a bit atmospheric but is mostly just fun. Also, I love how the authors rewrote Rochester's, Charlotte's and Branwell's lives.

All books reviewed by JoLee.

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Story Continues: The Empress, A Reaper at the Gates, and Two Dark Reigns

All three of these penultimate series additions are just divine. I can't wait to read the final book.

Beware of unavoidable spoilers ahead!

The Empress by S.J. Kincaid

Series: The Diabolic (featured here)

Publisher/ Year: Simon & Schuster - October 2017

Genres: Young Adult Science Fiction

Source: My Local Library

Goodreads | Amazon

I was surprised by how much I loved The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid. I'm all in for this new subgenre of sentient AI, so I probably shouldn't have been that surprised. The Diabolic has a really interesting world, great political intrigue, and Nemesis is a pretty excellent narrator.

Nemesis is a Diabolic. She was fabricated to protect Sidonia, and in the first book she impersonates Sidonia in the emperor's court. While there she gets involved with the heir and his plot to ascend to the throne and bring back the outlawed sciences.

In The Empress, Tyrus is now emperor. He and Nemesis are idealistic and optimistic and overly confident that they will be able to turn the empire around. Boy were they wrong.

I was very impressed by The Empress. I really loved The Diabolic and didn't necessarily think that it needed a sequel, so I was a little wary going in because what else was there to do? Well, I was wrong. There was a lot left to do. Tyrus's seat on the throne is shaky. Neither the nobles nor the vicars are inclined to support him because he has defied their religious mandates.

I like how The Empress expands upon the Helleonic religion. I really love a good fantasy religion, and I find this one to be very well done. I can completely buy that an empire in space that rejects science would worship a Living Cosmos. At the same time, that faith is controlling enough to really play into politics. I thought the sacred city was so clever, as was how badly the rejection of science has backfired.

This book has so many reversals. You think that things can't get any worse, and then they do. And then you think that things are getting better just to learn that they aren't! This book has plenty of suspense and action. I also really loved the reference to Hamlet (a book I thought about a lot while reading The Diabolic). Also, I am a big fan of Tyrus and Nemesis as a couple. But, you guys, the end of this book is such a stab to the heart. I wish I could read the final book in the series right now. It's going to be hard to wait a whole year.

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

Series: An Ember in the Ashes (featured here and here)

Publisher/ Year: Razorbill - June 2018

Genres: Young Adult Fantasy

Source: My Local Library

Goodreads | Amazon


Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes series is currently one of my favorite YA fantasies. A Reaper at the Gates is the third in this four-book series set in a violent Roman/ Middle-Eastern-inspired world.

Laia is from the Scholar class. Her people have been systematically oppressed by the ruling Martials for generations. Laia first became involved with the other two main characters in this series when she volunteered to spy on the Commandant of Blackcliff Military Academy. Since her days as a spy, she has escaped with Elias, freed her brother from prison, and become a reluctant leader of the rebellion.

Elias is the son of the Commandant whom we first met when he was competing to become the next emperor. Elias was never ruthless enough to be emperor, and during the competition he fell in love with Laia, and they escaped together. Elias is now the new Soul Catcher, and he once again finds his duty and his humanity in conflict.

Helene was Elias's best friend at Blackcliff. She finished the competition in second place becoming the next Blood Shrike. Helene is now the only one who stands between the Commandant and her desire to usurp the throne.

Let's just say that it was worth the wait for A Reaper at the Gates. This book was so intense, so emotional, and quite a nail-biter. Sabaa Tahir is not afraid to be brutal to her characters. I really enjoyed the creepy atmosphere of this book. Elias, who is now charged with ushering the dead to their resting place, has such a ghoulish job, and it kind of gives me chills to think about all the things that go wrong with the ghosts.

I can't wait to see how Sabaa Tahir wraps up the series in the next book. I'm sure that it will be epic.

Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

Series: Three Dark Crowns (featured here and here)

Publisher/ Year: HarperTeen - September 2018

Genres: Young Adult Fantasy

Source: My Local Library

Goodreads | Amazon

Kendare Blake's Three Dark Crowns series may win the award for "Most Killer Cliffhangers." I've finished every one of the books in the series so desperate to read the next.

On the island of Fennbirn a set of triplet girls is born to every queen. These children will each possess a powerful magic. When the series begins, Arisinoe is a naturalist who can speak to plants and animals, Katharine is a poisoner who can ingest powerful poisons, and Mirabella is a elementalist who can control wind and flame. Last sister alive becomes queen. Except two of the sisters refuse to play the game, and at the end of the second book Mirabella and Arisinoe escaped to the mainland leaving Katharine queen by default. 

In Two Dark Reigns the past and present collide. On the mainland, Mirabella and Arisinoe are haunted by The Blue Queen, who famously created the mist that protects the island. Back on Fennbirn, the mist has turned toxic, leaving many dead. Katharine attempts to keep her terrified citizens calm while she struggles to keep the dead queens who possess her under control. 

Two Dark Reigns might be my favorite in the series so far. I love how Kendare Blake weaves the mythical Fennbirn of the past with the Fennbirn of the present. I found the story of the Blue Queen to be absolutely fascinating. I love all the dark and creepy elements of this series, and they really shine in this book: the haunting, the mist, Katharine. It's all so deliciously eerie. 

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