Category Archives: Young Adult

Book Review: Mayhem by Estelle Laure

Wednesday Books
TBP July 14th 2020
304 Pages

It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else. But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self.

There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good. But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.- Goodreads

TW | Suicide, Rape, Domestic violence, Drugs, Murder, Abuse

Before I begin my review, I would like to note that the author addresses the difficult topics within this book in a letter to the reader. When I began reading this book, I wasn’t expecting the topics, I listed, to be so prominent in this book. I honestly didn’t know there would be these many trigger warnings.  I hope that if you do decide to read this book, understand that the magic within this book does not cover, hide or brush aside these traumas. 

Now my review. This book was drawn out to oblivion. I struggled with connecting with Mayhem because although she is in a time of her life where everything changes, she doesn’t exactly practice what she preaches. What I mean by that is she wanted family. So being back at the family home was the opportunity to do so but she didn’t dig deep into the family history, ask the right questions or even push for the information she needed to know. Yes, she did find out what she needed but to know but that was it. Even at the end of the book there was still so many things that could have been said about her family history. There was so many things that Mayhem could have known but she was solely focused on what was in her face.  I mean she is from a list of women who can use magic to save the day. There was so much to learn.

However, I loved how flawlessly the author was able to blend the magical aspects of this book with everyday life.  It was written extremely well and she made it made sense. But when I talk about the magic, I have to also talk about how there was not enough detail. Yes, you know how the family came to retrieve that magic, you know what it does to you but it is mentioned in the book that Mayhem’s aunt did a lot of research and looked up as much information as she could to collect for the next generation. This was not focused enough in the novel. This should have peaked Mayhem’s interest but it didn’t.

But overall, the book was slow and drawn out. There wasn’t enough care for details, creativity in creating this magic world or depth within the surrounding characters. Also the romantic interest had no chemistry. It just happened.

I would read this author again because I love to growth.

2 Pickles

Book Review: The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant

Knopf Children’s
TBP June 2nd, 2020
464 Pages

In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) T years ohénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie).

When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.- Goodreads

I dnf this book at 53%. I tried. I really did but this book is all over the place and I am surprised (I shouldn’t be) that an editor allowed the book to go to the presses in its current state.

Nina (Black Cat) joins the Thieves Guild after her father sells her sister.  But before she joins she is set to steal an item that no one. . . I mean no one has been able to steal. From that moment one she is considered the best thief there is. Here is the first red flag. How? All the author mentions is that her father took her out of assignments. She is nine. She is accepted into the guild with no information no story-line of any form of training. This is crazy because the author makes mention to Nina’s nine year old self on more than one occasion.  The author completely skips any form of build up with Nina’s career as a thief.

The second red flag is that she is able to pull off another big heist to save her adopted sister. At this point in the book, she has pretty much forgotten how to save her biological sister. She did attempt once to save her and almost got her behind handed to her but shockingly enough in the hard streets of Paris a random stranger takes pity on her and saves her from getting beat down.

The third red flag is the pace of the novel and the transitions. One moment Nina is 9 years old next she is 16 (I think. The author doesn’t exactly specify). I almost thought I was reading a different pov. The transition into older Nina aren’t good. The book moved too fast and due to that there was a lot of key details missing in the first half of the book.

I wanted to like this book, which is why I read to 53% because I was going to stop at 20%. There is good foundation but there are too many questions the author chooses not to answer. And also that whole troupe of a character just being amazing without any work is a lot of crap.

1 Pickle

Blog Tour: Catalyst by Tracy Richardson

Brown Books Publishing Group
TBP June 2nd 2020
248 Pages

Marcie Horton has a sixth sense. Not in the “I see dead people” way, but . . . well, maybe a little. She feels a sort of knowing about certain things that can’t be explained-an intuition that goes beyond the normal. Then there was that one summer four years ago, when she connected with a long-departed spirit . . . But nothing that incredible has happened to Marcie since.

This summer, Marcie is spending time working at Angel Mounds, the archaeological dig her mother heads, along with her brother, Eric, and his girlfriend, Renee. The dig is the site of an ancient indigenous civilization, and things immediately shift into the paranormal when Marcie and her teammates meet Lorraine and Zeke. The two mysterious dig assistants reveal their abilities to access the Universal Energy Field with their minds-something Marcie knows only vaguely that her brother has also had experience with.

Marcie learns how our planet will disintegrate if action is not taken, and she and her team must decide if they are brave enough to help Lorraine and Zeke in their plan to save Mother Earth, her resources, and her history. It looks like the summer just got a lot more interesting. – Goodreads

Welcome to my stop on the Catalyst Book Tour!!!!

This was an interesting read because I felt like I should have read the first book. There were a few references to what happened previously but nothing specific in there that threw up a flag. However, the way the book was written it was as if the events from the first book was the elephant in the room that was only occasionally looked at from the side eye.

Beyond this the events of this book was not what I was expecting. It is science fiction but VERY science fiction and it was unexpected, which is a good thing. Predictability drops book ratings.

But the story. . .  not my cup of tea. Marcie is extremely honest and open. It not even her being naive, its her willing to be this way after the events from the previous book. She is young and she tries to come off older and wiser than what she is and it doesn’t exactly flow well.

What I liked about the book was the archaeological dig and the history that surrounds it.  I would have liked to have seen actual Natives discussing this history with the students and professors, it would have added much more depth to the novel. 

The pace of the novel moves pretty fast but there is a clear direction with some surprising turns.

Overall, the foundation of this novel  (because it is read as a standalone) is a good start to a series that can be detailed, historical and just genuinely cool.  I wanted more, especially seeing the science fiction aspect of it.

 

Book Review: The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Candlewick Press
TBP May 5th, 2020
368 Pages

Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. For Flora, former starving urchin, the brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don’t trust, don’t stick out, and don’t feel. But on this voyage, as the pirates prepare to sell their unsuspecting passengers into slavery, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is en route to a dreaded arranged marriage with her own casket in tow. Flora doesn’t expect to be taken under Evelyn’s wing, and Evelyn doesn’t expect to find such a deep bond with the pirate Florian.

Soon the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood, which causes men to have visions and lose memories) and involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, and the all-encompassing Sea itself.- Goodreads

There is a lot going on in this novel but happily enough the author broke down this book into different POC and sections. I loved that because it shows skills as a writer.

There is a lot of character building in this novel and it stresses the fact that not everyone is who/what they seem. I liked Flora. For everything that she had to do in order to live, to help her brother and Evelyn, she was honest with herself and that is oddly hard to fine in Young Adult books.  Flora was realistic with her environment and what she needed to do but she open minded and I liked that.

Evelyn, however, was alright. She was the typical I am not your average rich person. She played her role really well but there was nothing ground breaking about her. The aspect of this novel that I really enjoyed was the mermaid/the sea. I love magical stories even with realistic situations to them. I would have loved to see more history and details in this particular part of the story but I was entertained.

The pace of the novel was good. There were painstakingly slow moments, where nothing at all was going on but it was worth it. This is my first read by this author and I am looking forward to see what else she has in store.

Overall,

3 Pickles

Blog Tour Interview | Quickish w. Julie Kagawa

Via Goodreads

Name: Julie Kagawa

Who is Julie?  One of Tanya’s favorite fantasy authors (so I am bias)

Books: Shadow of the Fox series, Iron Fey series, Talon series, Blood of Eden series

Buy: Amazon and Barnes and Nobles

As I mentioned, I am bias. My first introduction to Julie Kagawa was her Iron Fey series. And I recently heard, she is coming back to that series and I am extremely excited. To be able to interview her and be part of the book tour makes my 16 year old self smile in glee.

I highly recommend reading her books. All of them. Enjoy this interview!

What were your biggest influences when creating this world in story, whether they be legends, folklore, anime, manga or other novels?

Anime, Manga and video games have been my biggest influences when writing the world of Shadow of the Fox, but also the works of Akira Kurosawa like The Seven Samurai, Yojimbo and Rashomon.   

The Iron Fey series was your first large published success. How did you feel as a writer when you reflect upon those books? How did/do you feel as a reader when you read or re-read those books?

The Iron Fey series holds a very special place in my heart as my first published series. I know I’ve grown since then, and when I re-read the Iron Fey I know I’ve come a long way as an author. But I also know that I wrote the best books I could at the time, so even though I wouldn’t write them the same way now, I’m happy with them.

What is it about fantasy that draws you to it?

Is everything a good answer? I love myths and legends, other worlds, magic, swords, wizards, dragons, evil gods, epic quests, and the battle between good and evil.  I read to escape, but also to travel to far away places and encounter creatures and beings I would never meet in real life. Who hasn’t daydreamed about flying on the back of a dragon?  I read fantasy for the same reason.  

How much research goes into your books and at what point do you stop using research and build off it?

It depends on how much I already know about certain aspects of the book.  For example, from the amount of anime and manga I’d consumed over the years, I knew a lot about kitsune, oni, tanuki, and various other Japanese monsters.  I still did a fair amount of research, though it was more about the samurai and the Sengoku Jidai, the era I was basing the book off of. I never really stop researching, though most of it goes into book one, which is where much of the world building takes place.

Would you ever write adult fantasy? If so, what would it look like?

I certainly have considered it, though it would look a lot like my YA books, just with older protagonists.   When I write, I don’t think “This is for teens,” I just write how I would always write. Really, the only thing that differentiates YA from adult is the age of the heroes and the lack of graphic sex in YA.  And even that is changing.

Out of all the books you have written, which has your favorite world and why?

Probably the Iron Fey series, though Shadow of the Fox is a close second.  I love fantasy and all the fantastic creatures that populate it, so the Nevernever is my favorite world for that alone.  Even though I wouldn’t last a day there without getting eaten by an ogre, a redcap or a kelpie. Maybe if I could find a big gray cat…    

Finally, what do you hope people remember about Night of the Dragon?

I hope people come away with a new appreciation of Japanese myth and folklore, particularly all the wonderfully bizarre yokai, yurei and bakemono that populate these stories.  From kitsune and tanuki to oni and kirin, I hope it inspires readers to learn more about the world of Japanese myth and legend. And I hope people remember how much they cried at the end of the story.

 

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Twitter: @Jkagawa

Website: http://juliekagawa.com/

 

 

Book Review: Music from Another World by Robin Talley

Inkyard Press
TBP March 31, 2020
304 Pages

It’s summer 1977 and closeted lesbian Tammy Larson can’t be herself anywhere. Not at her strict Christian high school, not at her conservative Orange County church and certainly not at home, where her ultrareligious aunt relentlessly organizes antigay political campaigns. Tammy’s only outlet is writing secret letters in her diary to gay civil rights activist Harvey Milk…until she’s matched with a real-life pen pal who changes everything.

Sharon Hawkins bonds with Tammy over punk music and carefully shared secrets, and soon their letters become the one place she can be honest. The rest of her life in San Francisco is full of lies. The kind she tells for others—like helping her gay brother hide the truth from their mom—and the kind she tells herself. But as antigay fervor in America reaches a frightening new pitch, Sharon and Tammy must rely on their long-distance friendship to discover their deeply personal truths, what they’ll stand for…and who they’ll rise against.- Goodreads

I loved how this story was written. I have a thing for letters and for the most part I feel that there is much more honesty when a story is written through letters.

With that being said, this is an emotional read. Tammy and Sharon both have a lot going on and also (because this book is historical fiction) does discuss the Gay Rights movement in San Francisco.  Despite the history and the letter writing style of the novel it does start off a bit slow and for a moment I was wondering where the author was going with the story.  What I mean by this is I wasn’t sure if it was going to the route of these two being together (I mean yeah that is the obvious) or if it was going to be a self-discovery. Granted this is a self-discovery book but there was several different ways the book could have went as opposed to the relationship route (I’m not saying that this is an issue).

The book focuses on Tammy and Sharon but has some strong characters that pull some deep emotions and makes you sympathize with each of the girls. Given the fact that this is taking place in 1977 and it was during this movement, I would have liked to see more diverse characters. When you talk about San Francisco and you talk about the anti-gay movement, I feel like there should be diversity and not just diversity in sexual preference.

The flow of the novel is great and the author put a lot of heart into this. I liked Sharon and that is because she was a bit more sure of herself than Tammy but they worked really well together and I freaking love pen pals.

Overall, powerful story and good read.

3.5 Pickles

Book Review: When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk

Delacorte Press
March 10th, 2020
400 Pages

It’s been twenty-seven days since Cleo and Layla’s friendship imploded.

Nearly a month since Cleo realized they’ll never be besties again.

Now, Cleo wants to erase every memory, good or bad, that tethers her to her ex–best friend. But pretending Layla doesn’t exist isn’t as easy as Cleo hoped, especially after she’s assigned to be Layla’s tutor. Despite budding new friendships with other classmates—and a raging crush on a gorgeous boy named Dom—Cleo’s turbulent past with Layla comes back to haunt them both.

Alternating between time lines of Then and Now, When You Were Everything blends past and present into an emotional story about the beauty of self-forgiveness, the promise of new beginnings, and the courage it takes to remain open to love.- Goodreads

This book was written fantastically. However, HOWEVER, it needs to be known that Cleo is not exactly the victim. Here is why.

She is a terrible friend. Layla meet new people (who weren’t that great but that is not the point) because Cleo left her alone at a party. When Layla begins connecting with these people Cleo gets extremely jealous and begins saying hurtful things to Layla, privately and publicly. She expected Layla to see that she was jealous despite these horrible things and act like nothing happen.

It didn’t work that way and through out the entire novel, Cleo repeatedly makes it seem as if it is Layla’s fault for wanting new friends. Cleo is selfish from the beginning to the novel to the end. The people that she surrounds herself with only encourage that mindset.

It is extremely possible that their friendship would have just faded out on good terms or Layla would have seen what type of friends her new friends were and just stayed isolated with Cleo but Cleo screwed up on multiple times and tried to ruin peoples’ lives.

This is not to say that Layla was the perfect angel. She didn’t give her friendship with Cleo the time it deserved and although she tried to include Cleo in her new friendship, Layla didn’t take Cleo’s word when she noticed certain things and that could be since she knew Cleo didn’t like her being with new people. Did Layla do something messed up? Yeah (ish) She did something out of her character, but I do not feel that it was THAT messed up.

As much as I hated the fact that this book glorified a selfish, entitled, vindictive girl and made her seem as if this break up was not her fault, I loved the fact that it pulled emotions from me and kept me reading. It took some time for the book to get going but once it did, it was great.

I would have loved or love to see Layla’s viewpoint. But then again, I don’t see that happening specifically if this book is based on some truth.

Overall,

4 Pickles

Book Review: Salty, Bitter, Sweet by Mayra Cuevas

Blink
TBP March 3rd, 2020
320 Pages

Seventeen-year-old aspiring chef Isabella Fields’ family life has fallen apart after the death of her Cuban abuela and the divorce of her parents. She moves in with her dad and his new wife in France, where Isabella feels like an outsider in her father’s new life, studiously avoiding the awkward, “Why did you cheat on Mom?” conversation.

The upside of Isabella’s world being turned upside down? Her father’s house is located only 30 minutes away from the restaurant of world-famous Chef Pascal Grattard, who runs a prestigious and competitive international kitchen apprenticeship. The prize job at Chef Grattard’s renowned restaurant also represents a transformative opportunity for Isabella, who is desperate to get her life back in order.

But how can Isabella expect to hold it together when she’s at the bottom of her class at the apprenticeship, her new stepmom is pregnant, she misses her abuela dearly, and a mysterious new guy and his albino dog fall into her life?- Goodreads

Trigger Warning: Death, Adultery, Mourning, Drugs (ish)

Despite the trigger warnings this book wasn’t that deep and I would peg it as adorable and touching read.

I loved the cooking within this novel and the author really should have included a chapter or a page with all the recipes that were highlighted within the novel. Cooking is very important to me. Its one of those things that take so much energy out of you but in a good way. A lot of love and heart goes into cooking if you do it right and the author, Cuevas, doesn’t just use that as a foundation but it is what the entire novel focuses on. I was soaking it up.

Isabella for the most part has a one track mind and for most of the book only sees one road to her dream. There is huge character development for as sometimes our dreams take different turns and for Isabella that take some huge turns. What I love about that point in the book is she isn’t doing it because of a boy. Is there romance in this novel? Yes. Does some things happen? Yes but it is a series of events, conversations about her career that she has with other people that brings things to light. I was so happy that the boy (although amazing) was not the reason for how things play out.

The pace of the novel was slow. It moved slow and at some points you just wonder why Isabella makes things so difficult for herself sometimes. There could have been more things fleshed out within the novel such as more details about her mother and her mother’s mother. I also wanted to see more of a relationship with her father. These were the areas that could have been developed and again . . . I really wanted to see those recipes.

Overall, this was a good novel. It was inspiring.

3 Pickles

Book Review: Given by Nandi Taylor

Wattpad Books
Published Jan 21st, 2020
449 Pages

Yenni has never been this far from home. With only her wits, her strength and her sacred runelore, the fierce Yirba warrior princess is alone in the Empire of Cresh. It’s a land filled with strange magics and even stranger people—many of whom mistrust anyone who’s different. But Yenni will prove herself, and find a cure for her father’s wasting illness. She will not fail.

No one warned her about the dragons. Especially not about him.

Yes, there is something powerful and compelling about the violet-black dragon known as Weysh. In human form he’s muscular, beautiful—and completely infuriating. What kind of arrogant creature claims a stranger as his Given; as his destined mate? Yenni is no man’s—or dragon’s—plaything. But other magics must be at work here, because Weysh might just be her best hope at finding the answers she seeks.

Only now Yenni can’t tell if she’s fighting her attraction to a dragon…or fighting fate itself. – Goodreads

The cover. We cannot have a conversation about this novel without discussing how amazing the cover is. Not only does it completely grab your attention but seeing a dark skin woman in the front looking not only fierce but feminine does wonders to me.

But as we all know you cannot judge a book by its cover and the book was okay. It didn’t do anything for me by any means but there were things that I love.

I loved the focus on Yenni, her home and her traditions. I liked the fact that she did not change herself, physically or mentally, to fit in with her new environment. She stayed true to herself while also allowing herself to learn.

I loved the imagery within this novel. Everything was clear and it felt as if it was living and breathing because of this it was why I finished the book.

Here is what I didn’t like. The romance was forced and there was no spark or even connection there. Weysh was such a good character but not for Yenni. There was just nothing there and when they did come together there was still nothing there. I didn’t feel real not the whole dragon and human in a magical world real but the love, the attraction, the chemistry was not there.

The book is focused a lot on that romance, but it is also focused on Yenni trying to find out the source and the cure for a sickness in her village. I wish there was more deep dive on the second part. Its not like Yenni was love struck or anything, it was just a case of a romance that actually didn’t need to happen.

But the other issue I had with this book was how slow it was. As much as I loved Yenni and the imagery, the book overall was not really engaging, and it was easy to put it down.

Overall, it was okay. I was expecting more from this book and it wasn’t SOLEY because of the cover. The summary promises a lot but more importantly a steamy chemistry that you can’t help but love.

This doesn’t appear to be a series, but I would actually love another book within this world.

Overall,

2 Pickles

Book Review: Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

Disney Hyperion
Published Jan 7th 2020
327 Pages

When Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning, she fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship where she’s been held captive for years. Instead, the man she saved offers her unimaginable riches and a new identity, setting Amaya on a perilous course through the coastal city-state of Moray, where old-world opulence and desperate gamblers collide.

Amaya wants one thing: revenge against the man who ruined her family and stole the life she once had. But the more entangled she becomes in this game of deception—and as her path intertwines with the son of the man she’s plotting to bring down—the more she uncovers about the truth of her past. And the more she realizes she must trust no one…- Goodreads

This book promises a lot. Adventure, thrills, romance, and suspense. However, this read did not deliver on any of those promises.

Amaya started off strong but the moment she got off the debtor ship, she became the most annoying, selfish, surprisingly entitled human being within this book and every time she spoke all I heard was a whinny brat that was getting a different chance at things but allowed her emotions to ruin everything. It was like she didn’t learn anything from being on a debtor ship and it was disappointing.

The other disappointing part of this novel was the adventure. It was for the most part non-existent. I am trying not to use the word boring to describe this book but in all honesty, I can’t avoid it. Nothing in this book kept me wanting to read the book. I finished it because I had the dnf guilt going on.

I would also like to point out that the romance was predictable at every step of the novel. The love interest lacked so much personality and was truly just as much of a brat as Amaya but with much more well intentions.

Overall, I couldn’t find anything I enjoyed about this book and that is unfortunate. This is not to say that you (the reader) may not find this book enjoyable but it was not in the least what I wanted and expected.

1 Pickle