Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices #2) by Cassandra Clare

LOS

 

Goodreads Blurb

Would you trade your soul mate for your soul?

A Shadowhunter’s life is bound by duty. Constrained by honor. The word of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners—sworn to fight together, die together, but never to fall in love.

Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn’t just forbidden—it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from Julian. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?

Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Cristina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and “unsuitable” Nephilim. They’ll do anything in their power to expose Julian’s secrets and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.

When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises in the form of the Lord of Shadows—the Unseelie King, who sends his greatest warriors to slaughter those with Blackthorn blood and seize the Black Volume. As dangers close in, Julian devises a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear.

Review

I’ve had lots of luck with sequels lately. First I fell in love with the sequel to Stalking Jack the Ripper and now I have fallen in love with the sequel to Lady Midnight. I enjoyed Lady Midnight I just think it took me awhile to get back into the Shadowhunter world after not reading it for a few years. I devoured The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices back in college, but then there was kind of a dry spell where there weren’t any new Shadowhunter books for awhile. I think they were busy making the movie and trying to figure out the TV show there for a few years.

But I could not put Lord of Shadows down. I finished it within a week, which is no easy feat with these books because they’re HUGE! I thought I wouldn’t have it finished by the time the baby got here in September. I had already mentally prepared myself that it was most likely the last book I was going to finish during summer. But I completed it and now I’m onto Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken. The sequel to The Darkest Minds. Another sequel! I guess it’s just been a catch up summer for me! I finished all of my professional development by the first week of July so I’ve had lots of time to read.

Lord of Shadows seemed much more emotional to me than the first book. I loved all of the Edgar Allan Poe references and the “Annabel Lee” poem in it but I couldn’t get into it right away. However, I was fully invested in all the characters by the second installment to the series. I loved them all. Emma, Christina, Gwyn, Ty, Livvy, Kieran, Mark, and then the appearances throughout the book by our old favorites Magnus and Alec. The whole plot seemed more cohesive than the first book. More was set up, relationships had been built, there was love, betrayal, and all that’s in between.

I loved when they traveled to Faerie too. I think that’s what hooked me at first. I have loved all Fae books since I was a freshman in high school when I read the Wicked Lovely books. The setting drew me in. I love how mystical and barbaric the world is. It’s such a conundrum! And I feel like this reflected in Kieran and Mark’s relationship. Everything with them and Christina was so emotional and twisted, just like all things Fae. You never know what to expect! And it was done really well in this book. There was no sense of hodge-podgeness.

This is why I enjoyed Gwen and Diana’s relationship too. Nothing is black and white with the Fae. It’s all kinds of shades of gray.

The ending of this book was absolutely heart wrenching. Several people died, loyalties were shattered, and you find out there’s more to the Shadowhunter world falling apart. It’s a great lead for the next book in the series. One of the best cliff hangers at the end of a book I’ve seen in awhile. I have no idea how I am supposed to survive until The Queen of Air and Darkness (The Dark Artifices #3) comes out in 2019!!!! That’s two stinking years!

I hear there’s supposed to be another sub-series coming out that feeds out of The Infernal Devices series. Supposedly it’s about the generation of Lightwood’s and Blackwood children that come after Will, Tessa, and Jem’s generation in the early 1900’s. I guess I can bide my time with that. I believe the first book is targeted for 2018 at some point.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about trying the TV show out again. I thought the first season was so-so. I watched the first episode of the second season and gave up though. Should I try again? Does it get better? But then I saw a clip of Sarah Hyland as the Seelie Queen and I thought even her acting was bad as the queen. How can you make Sarah Hyland’s acting bad??? I love her in Modern Family! And I think Sebastian has to make his appearance in the second season at some point. That’s another reason I’m interested. I don’t even know who’s supposed to play him. Let me know what you think!

And I gave this book a 5/5 stars. Wholeheartedly, without a shadow of a doubt. It was splendid.

 

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

HPD

 

Goodreads Blurb

In this hotly anticipated sequel to the haunting #1 bestseller Stalking Jack the Ripper, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer…or has the depraved prince been brought back to life?

Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again

 

Review

This was one of the rare incidences that the sequel was better than the first book. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Stalking Jack the Ripper, but I feel like the story in Hunting Prince Dracula was much more entertaining. Maybe because I enjoyed the setting better. And I really do think Maniscalco’s writing became stronger with the second book. The plot seemed more elaborate and surprised me more in the end than the first book.

I was lucky enough to snag an ARC from the Texas Library Association convention this year. Well… my mom snagged it for me. She’s the librarian at the middle school where I teach. Hunting Prince Dracula will officially come out in September this year, so only one more month! September will be a good month since it comes out then and so does Warcross by Marie Lu. (Which was also spectacular, as most Marie Lu novels are.)

I was hooked on Hunting Prince Dracula throughout the entire novel. Knowing it was going to take place in Vlad the Impaler’s castle in Romania made it intriguing to me. The castle/school seemed creepy and so did many of the students. I kept waiting to see if this book was going to turn out having fantasy elements in it. Which in a way it did but it was still mostly historical fiction. Most of the fantasy aspects came from hearing about all of the myths and legends that surround Romania with vampires and werewolves. I do wish that my ARC had a completed glossary of Romanian translations in the back. It would have been helpful while reading. I guess I’ll have to go buy a copy when it comes out next month. Some of the language was difficult to keep up with.

The ending of this one took me completely by surprise! The whole time you’re wondering is it a real person who lives near the castle committing these copy cat acts to Dracula’s or is it Dracula himself come back to haunt his bloodline? You even see the main character Audrey Rose doubt her thoughts a few times. She always argues scientifically but there’s so many parallels in this spooky place that she can’t help but wonder.

Of course I love the main characers, Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell. They’re both witty and Cresswell’s lack of shame in flirting is hilarious. But then you meet new characters like his sister Daciana and the maid Ileana and you love them too! Daciana has about as much shame as her brother and never apologizes for what she believes in. I love her! And Ileana just seems like she knows a little more than she lets on the entire book but she’s also a very good friend to Audrey Rose. You don’t know what to make of her character until the end of the book.

I don’t want to post too many spoilers for this book since it’s not even out yet but I do want to talk about the next novel. And yes, there will definitely be a next one. When the story ends Audrey Rose and Thomas find out they will still be abroad this next year with her uncle as apprentices. And they will be traveling to… AMERICA! You kind of expect that to happen because Audrey Rose drops a few foreshadowing comments here and there about how she’s always wanted to travel there. I think she says New York specifically if I remember correctly. I’m hoping we cross paths with her cousin Liza in the next book since they talk about her traveling abroad the next year as a coming of age thing like Daciana does in this book.

I’ve heard a lot about this type of travel year lately that young adults took in the 19th century. I know there’s a new YA novel out called The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue that it just specifically about a young mans travel year. I wish it was still feasible to do things like that now. Maybe it is… I just don’t know how I’d feel about my daughter traveling on her own with a friend to different countries for a year. Sounds expensive and kind of dangerous. I think for me to be okay with that it would need to be with a study abroad program. But the idea of it sounds marvelous!

Anyway, this book definitely got 5/5 stars from me. I highly recommend it. It is dark like the other book but it’s wonderful! Rich with Romanian folklore and all things Dracula. I cannot wait until the next one debuts. I’m already having withdrawals.

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

sjtr

“Roses have both petals and thorns, my dark flower. You needn’t believe something weak because it appears delicate. Show the world your bravery.”
― Kerri ManiscalcoStalking Jack the Ripper

 

Goodreads Blurb

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

 

Review

If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes or the recent Jackaby novels by William Ritter then you would absolutely adore this book. Except the main character is a female, and all around awesome.

Audrey Rose is a strong female character who doesn’t bend to societies rules based on gender. She thoroughly enjoys studying as an apprentice underneath her uncle as a medical examiner and they help Scotland Yard solve the case of Jack the Ripper who is terrorizing the streets of London and killing young women and taking their organs for an unknown reason. They do this along with her uncles other apprentice, the dashing but oh-so-aggravating Thomas Cresswell who is a know-it-all and a shameless flirt.

However, the plot thickens even more when Audrey Rose realizes these murders have happened to many women who have worked as maids in her home over the span of her lifetime. And that one had been previously betrothed to her uncle. Can this be mere coincidence? Could she possibly know the killer or even be living in the same house as him?

She and Thomas must find out the truth.

I highly enjoyed this novel. I liked Maniscalco’s writing voice and how witty and sassy she made Audrey Rose and her cousin Liza, I liked how Audrey Rose didn’t let 19th century English society tell her who to be (Propriety be damned!), and it took me by surprise! I had no idea who the murderer was until the last 3rd of the book. It took me quite awhile to catch on.

You know how sometimes you read a mystery novel and you figure out where they’re going with it about halfway through the book? That was not this book. Her style of writing was wonderfully refreshing! I gave this book 5/5 stars. And I received an ARC of the 2nd book, Hunting Prince Dracula, from the Texas Library Association convention this year and will be posting a review of it soon as well. So get ready to leave England and head to Dracula’s castle in Romania for Audrey Rose’s next adventure!

***I do feel like I need to add a disclaimer to the end of this review… this was a pretty dark, gory book. If you are squeamish or not into that sort of story you may not want try this one out. Or if you do be prepared because they go into full detail when they are examining the victims bodies murdered by The Ripper.***

 

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo

CK

“Fear is a phoenix. You can watch it burn a thousand times and still it will return.”
― Leigh BardugoCrooked Kingdom

 

Goodreads Blurb

Welcome to the world of the Grisha.

After pulling off a seemingly impossible heist in the notorious Ice Court, criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker feels unstoppable. But life is about to take a dangerous turn—and with friends who are among the deadliest outcasts in Ketterdam city, Kaz is going to need more than luck to survive in this unforgiving underworld.

 

Review

Alright, so if you’ve read the first book in this duology then you know this is about a crew of friends who dabble in the illegal going-ons in Ketterdam in the Grishaverse. All of the same characters come back into play for this final book in the duology.

Kaz is still calling the shots, even if they are at last minutes and no one else knows what they are. Inej is still ambitious and wants to find her way back to her homeland and family and save other people being kidnapped and sold into slavery. Nina is dealing with the aftermath and withdrawals from taking the Jurda Parem and learning to harness a new ability that has come from the drug. Matthias is still trying to capture her heart and planning for their future. Wylan is finally seeing how horrid his father actually is. And Jesper is mending his relationship with his father and working on becoming a better person for his father and for Wylan.

There’s lots of moral lessons learned int his installment to the duology. I feel like Kaz and Wylan grew the most out of all the characters in the series. Kaz finally realizes what he has with Inej and shows her more kindness than he did in the first book and tries to open up to her more. Wylan basically goes from being a lost boy to a man and taking what’s rightfully his and not apologizing for it. I think Wylan is my favorite character in both books. Inej comes in at a close second.

One thing that I absolutely loved in Crooked Kingdom was how there was a crossover of characters from this series and the Shadow and Bone series. It was really neat to see them interacting together. Especially when they would reference Sankta Alina and knowing what really happened to her. It’s like that excitement I felt when I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens and they brought it all the original cast members like Princess Leia and Han Solo.

One thing that surprised me was the death at the end of the story. I don’t want to say who dies because that’s a pretty big spoiler but it was heart breaking and it came out of nowhere! These characters complete impossible tasks on the daily and someone so small and trivial managed to kill one of them. It was so sad. Yet, the actual ending of the book wasn’t. I appreciated that from Bardugo. She takes you on an emotional roller coaster but doesn’t leave you with lingering sadness over the book. Most of the character’s still had a happy ending.

I’m not sure why that character was chosen as the one who was killed off? Maybe because they really didn’t have a home or place in the Grisha world? I’m not sure.

Overall, I gave this book 3.5 stars. While I did really like it, it was a little slow in some parts and seemed very similar to the first book. I wish they had been in a new setting or had bigger changes to the plot. It just felt very much the same.

I hope they make this duology into a movie one day. I think with it’s unique plot it would do really well if it was done correctly. It probably would be somewhat difficult due to the type of magic in the story but it has the potential to be one of a kind and awesome!

 

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

ruin and rising

 

Goodreads Blurb

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

 

Review

I finally finished this one! I started it months ago and had to set it down. Not because I wasn’t enjoying it, I just needed to step away from The Grishaverse for awhile. I started off reading Six of Crows and then went back and read Shadow and Bone and then Siege and Storm. From there I tried finishing the series but I needed a brain break from it.

But I picked it up and wanted to get it read before school started and before the baby got here. And I loved it! I liked how it didn’t have a completely tragic ending. It seemed like a darker series that was heading that way for most of it but I was pleasantly surprised! I’m a sucker for a happy ending.

One thing that I can’t decide if I’m on-board about is who Alina ended up with. I love Mal, don’t get me wrong. I love how they grew up together and always looked out for each other but I feel like they both neglected each other so much. He was always off flirting and messing around with other girls before she get pretty and famous, and she could never make up her mind when it came to all of the men in her life. It just seemed like they both settled in the end.

In my opinion, I was hoping she would end up with Strumhond. I enjoyed his character more than Mal’s and it seemed like they just meshed well. They could have had time to fall head over heels for each other. But I guess in the end, it was best that Alina disappear after what happened on The Fold. Sigh. I just wish he would have fought a little harder for her. It was like each male in her life had something the other two didn’t.

Strumhond had charisma and charm and respect for Alina but was a little cocky.

The Darkling was a mysterious, torutred type who was on the same level as her. (Power wise) And who she seemed the most physically attracted too. But he was evil and awful. Unfortunate.

And then there’s Mal who she had a history with and who was her best friend but who neglected her and denied her until she became someone with power and fame.

It’s like there was no perfect person for her to end up with. But since she lost her power she became who Mal wanted her to be again. I just feel really conflicted about it.

As for the backstory with Morozova and The Darkling. I kind of saw that coming. I knew they would end up being related in some way. It was inevitable. I think that story about Morozova was supposed to be loosely related to Rasputin’s death and the whole myth of Anastasia Romanov surviving the family massacre that happened in Russia. His death seemed similar and there was a girl who miraculously survived… Lot’s of parallels. And Rasputin was thought to be more than just an adviser, he had a strange hold over the czar.

I liked the parallels, it made it interesting. And Ravka seems so Russian anyway. The landscape, the names, the way of life, the politics in the story.

I gave this book 4.5/5 stars because I enjoyed it so much. I am trying to finish up Crooked Kingdom right now and will hopefully have a review up in the next week! I can’t wait till Leigh Bardugo’s The Language of Thorns novel and her Wonder Woman book come out!

 

 

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star Touched Queen

 

“I love you,” he murmured into my hair. “You are my night and stars, the fate I would fix myself to in any life.”
Roshani Chokshi, The Star-Touched Queen

 

Goodreads Blurb

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

 

Review

This book! Omg this book. It has been a great summer for reading. It’s the first summer I’ve gotten to relax and I’m not doing a million and one things so I’ve really enjoyed knocking out a few books on my TBR. I’ve read 24 of 35 books for my Goodreads challenge so far. I’ve been trying to burn through them pretty quick since I know I won’t have a ton of time to read once the baby gets here in September and teaching makes it hard to read for pleasure in the first place.

I picked this book up in Baltimore when we were visiting my husbands family this summer. I’ve been following the author, Roshani Chokshi on Instagram and Twitter for awhile now. She and Sabaa Tahir crack me up but this is the first thing I’ve ever read that she’s written. I know she has a sequel to this book out now, A Crown of Wishes, but from what I’ve read about her she also has some published short stories. And she’s working on a middle grade mythology novel for Rick Riordan’s new mythology publishing line coming out. I’m super excited about it! I love his books and now I love hers!

I was blown away by this book straight away. Her writing style is very eloquent and whimsical and it reminded me a lot of Renee Ahdieh’s writing style. Which might partly be because they’re both writing about Indian mythology and folklore but I just really enjoyed it. The entire story and the world building was so beautiful! Enchanting would probably be the best word for it.

I also highly enjoyed the main character Maya. Yes she’s technically a Princess but she didn’t come off that way. She’s an ambitious character who knows what she wants and loves with everything she has. And I appreciated how Chokshi didn’t make her perfect. Most heroines in books are beautiful, talented, witty, etc. While Maya was quick-witted she was also a normal 17 year old girl. She was has normal teenage insecurities and suffers from mild acne and has nappy hair. Everything about her is great in the book. She’s very relatable and endearing and strong-willed. There’s nothing at all I would change about any of the characters in The Star-Touched Queen.

Then there’s the Dharma Raja, her Prince of Death (Amar) who always finds her. Hubba-hubba! He is Mr. Perfect! I love him! He is patient with Maya and keeps a tree of memories for her to always remind her of their past lives together. He is a deity so he’s had to bring her back multiple times and always finds her because she has a very specific horoscope when she’s born. A dark, and mysterious horoscope that most people fear.

There’s something so romantic about reincarnation and the idea of finding your soulmate in each life. Like in the N’SYNC song “This  I Promise You” from back in the day when J.C. sings “I’ve loved you forever… in lifetimes before.” One of the best lyrics ever! I’ve always wanted to read, and even thought about writing a story about lovers who find each other in each life. This whole story was just really special!

And then Nfritti comes along, who used to be Maya’s best friend in a past life but who is heartbroken over losing her beau, and feels like Maya betrayed her and did not help save him since she’s the queen that rules over death takes revenge on her and Amar. Maya must sift through all of the truth and lies weaved from Nfritti and from the half-truths that Amar has told her since he cannot speak about who he is and what he does until the moon allows it. Putting her blind faith into people is hard to do when the entire world has always been cruel to her and treated her like a pariah because of her unfortunate horoscope.

When Maya doubts herself and makes a huge mistake she must go to great lengths to correct her errors. This is when the story gets really interesting. Maya befriends a crazy, demon horse, aids her old kingdom and little sister who is now grown, and travels far and wide to get back to Amar and defeat Nfritti before it’s too late.

I gave this book 5/5 stars. It’s one of the best romantic stories I have read in YA and just an overall magical ride throughout the book. I can’t wait to order the second book. Chokshi is such an amazingly talented writer!!!!

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken

prosper.jpg

 

Goodreads Blurb

“I would say it’s a pleasure to meet thee, Prosperity Oceanus Redding, but truly, I only anticipate the delights of destroying thy happiness.”

Prosper is the only unexceptional Redding in his old and storied family history — that is, until he discovers the demon living inside him. Turns out Prosper’s great-great-great-great-great-something grandfather made — and then broke — a contract with a malefactor, a demon who exchanges fortune for eternal servitude. And, weirdly enough, four-thousand-year-old Alastor isn’t exactly the forgiving type.

The fiend has reawakened with one purpose — to destroy the family whose success he ensured and who then betrayed him. With only days to break the curse and banish Alastor back to the demon realm, Prosper is playing unwilling host to the fiend, who delights in tormenting him with nasty insults and constant attempts trick him into a contract. Yeah, Prosper will take his future without a side of eternal servitude, thanks.

Little does Prosper know, the malefactor’s control over his body grows stronger with each passing night, and there’s a lot Alastor isn’t telling his dim-witted (but admittedly strong-willed) human host. 

 

Review

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alex Bracken is one of my favorite middle grade novels now. I honestly wasn’t expecting to enjoy it so much! Usually I read middle grade books as fillers in between awesome series I’m reading or if I’m in a reading slump between books. I received an ARC of The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding from the Texas Library Association convention so my book looks a little bit different than the actual published copy of the book. I wish it looked more like the one they went with. I like the fox on the cover and Toad, the kitten with wings is on the back. The one I have is a little plain and looks unfinished.

This is the third novel I have read by Bracken. I read Passenger last year and it took me quite awhile to finish. I think I kept forcing myself to read it when I wasn’t in the mood for the genre because I really liked the book it was just a whippin’ to get myself to finish it. I loved the plot and how it was like Outlander for teens. And then I read The Darkest Minds a few weeks ago and loved it.

But I sped through Prosper Redding. The character is just so strong in his convictions, even if he knows it doesn’t make him the most popular kid. I enjoyed reading about how much he loved his twin sister and how he can really teach kids to stand up for what they believe in.

The setting was awesome in this book too. It was very Halloween-esque. It reminded me a lot of Halloweentown, the Disney channel movie from the early 2000’s. It was full of witches and creatures from the Downstairs (the demon world that Alastor, his parasite demon is a prince of). And while it was a little creepy at times, it was highly entertaining and so different and unique compared to anything else I have ever read. Especially with being a middle grade novel! I can’t wait to get the published version of it when it comes out to keep in my classroom. I think my 7th graders will love it! Maybe we can even read it as a book club book since I run that at my school. It’s a little thick for that but I think the kids would enjoy it a lot and it would be fun to read aloud to them during meetings or at Read-a-loud Lunch.

This book definitely leaves you with a cliffhanger so you know there’s going to be sequel. Prosper always struggles with the idea of making a contract with Alastor, except when one of his family members is kidnapped and taken to the Downstairs. Will he be able to save them from the demon world below? Is he strong enough or will his new demon friends help him?

I hope Alexandra Bracken is working on the sequel as a type this. I want to know what happens! I gave this middle grade novel 5/5 stars.

Sidenote: I posted the above picture with the ARC and my cat Junebug and Bracken responded! She just said “I’m so happy you like this one! And Junebug is a cutie!” It made my day!

Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl

Black Widow

 

Goodreads Blurb

Natasha Romanoff is one of the world’s most lethal assassins. Trained from a young age in the arts of death and deception, Natasha was given the title of Black Widow by Ivan Somodorov, her brutal teacher at the Red Room, Moscow’s infamous academy for operatives.

Ava Orlova is just trying to fit in as an average Brooklyn teenager, but her life has been anything but average.The daughter of a missing Russian quantum physicist, Ava was once subjected to a series of ruthless military experiments—until she was rescued by Black Widow and placed under S.H.I.E.L.D. protection. Ava has always longed to reconnect with her mysterious savior, but Black Widow isn’t really the big sister type.

Until now.

When children all over Eastern Europe begin to go missing, and rumors of smuggled Red Room tech light up the dark net, Natasha suspects her old teacher has returned—and that Ava Orlova might be the only one who can stop him. To defeat the madman who threatens their future, Natasha and Ava must unravel their pasts. Only then will they discover the truth about the dark-eyed boy with an hourglass tattoo who haunts Ava’s dreams…

 

Review

I want to start off by saying I gave this one 3.5/5 stars and then I want to explain why.

I think this novel was geared to a younger audience than I was anticipating it was. I was expecting a full on YA book, but it read a lot more like a middle grade book. With that being said, it was very easy to read and entertaining. However, I felt like every single relationship in this book was a little too forced and moved a little too quickly. I didn’t understand any of them except for maybe Black Widow’s and Ava’s.

I thought Alexei and Ava’s relationship moved way too fast. It may have been more believable when I was about 12/13 years old but it came off cheesy in the book. Then there was Alexei and Black Widow’s relationship… totally threw me for a loop. It was like once the secret was out, Alex was so gung-ho about it that he couldn’t stop the cheesiness from oozing out of his mouth. I just wished that had been tamed a little bit more in the book.

In the beginning of the novel, Black Widow is rescuing Ava when she is a child from a crazy Russian guy preforming a science experiment on her and who has had both of the girls as captives at one point or another in their lives. So it was really easy for them to relate to each other, and Ava had no parents anymore so Black Widow was her savior. But then betrays her by not ever stopping by to check on her when she needs her. That dynamic relationship I can get behind. I understand it. The others were too forced.

Another thing that halfway confused me in this book was that Black Widow is not the main character… but the book is titled Black Widow: Forever Red and has the Marvel logo on the front. So shouldn’t the front runner in the book be Black Widow? I know it has alternating perspectives between Black Widow, Ava, and Alexei but it still felt like the main focus was on Ava the entire book. It was a little disappointing.

The ending of this book took me completely by surprise. It went from an action packed, superhero, spy story to having a sad ending. And since it felt like a middle grade throughout the first 2/3 of the book I was surprised when you were hit with something as heavy as the ending. I don’t want to say what happens in case any of you reading this haven’t read it yet.

There is another Black Widow novel out right now. I’m not sure if I will purchase it for myself but I will probably end up buying it to put in my classroom library for my middle school kiddos. I think Black Widow and Ava are both great female heroine’s in the superhero realm and you can never heave enough of those! Especially for girls in middle school. I think they will enjoy it.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

 

Dimple

Goodreads Blurb

The rom-com that everyone’s talking about! Eleanor & Park meets Bollywood in this hilarious and heartfelt novel about two Indian-American teens whose parents conspire to arrange their marriage.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

 

Review

I’m not going to lie. I totally judged a book by it’s cover on this one. Well I judge based on the entire dust jacket. It’s STUNNING! I love the colors, Dimple on the front is adorable with her henna and her Starbucks iced coffee and the back is hilarious. I love it! And the orange really makes it POP!

I started seeing this book get lots of attention from authors like Sabaa Tahir and Roshani Chokshi and I love them both so I picked it up one day while perusing Half Price Books. When I read the inside cover I was hooked! It sounded like the perfect summer read. And it was!

Dimple is this really head strong girl who resents the fact that her parents are already looking for the I.I.H (Ideal Indian Husband) for her right out of high school. She wants to be her own person and she wants to go to Stanford in the fall and get a start on her programming career. Her idol is this computer guru, Jenny Lindt, who is helping the winner of the summer program develop an app.

Dimple is stunned when her parents agree to let her go to the summer program in San Francisco after finding out it’s $1000. But she’s not going to question them too hard because it’s a dream come true to her!

Once getting there an Indian boy walks up and makes a bad joke about her being his future wife and how he can’t wait to start their life together. This is where Dimple promptly throws her iced coffee in his face and runs away.

You find out in Rishi’s chapters that his family has already arranged the marriage of he and Dimple with her parents and they all knew they were going to the same summer program…except for Dimple. He thought she knew about the arrangement as well and would be just as excited to meet him as he is her.

After some reflection and girl talk with her new roommate and friend, Celia, Dimple comes around and realizes she’s been too harsh on Rishi. This isn’t his fault, it’s her parents for not telling her about it. At this point she feels like no one is taking her seriously.

But Rishi and Dimple get assigned as partners in the program and from there a friendship buds… along with some romantic feelings. The whole time Dimple is trying to fight her feelings because she just wants to win and wants to go to college unattached in the Fall but she falls hard. Rishi on the other hand is more traditional and still wants to woo her. He’s completely fallen for her unruly hair, her spirit, and her ambition.

What they learn in the end is that some of the unlikeliest people can bring out your best qualities. I don’t want to spoil the ending so you’ll just have to read it! 🙂

I gave this book 3.5 stars. I don’t usually read a whole lot of teen romance books. Especially ones without witches or wizards or dragons but this was a great in-between book and a refreshing summer read. I really enjoyed it. It would make the perfect beach book! Dimple and Rishi made me feel that excitement of a first love again and I really enjoyed both characters. Not to mention their parents, they were hilarious! And supportive. It’s just a really cute, happy read.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

 

threedarkcrowns

 

Goodreads Blurb

Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

 

Review

This story is unlike any that I’ve ever read. It’s dark, it’s full of love, and coming of age, and power. Three sisters Mirabella, Katherine, and Arsinoe are separated as children and are raised honing 3 very different skills. Mirabella can control the elements such as wind, fire, and water, Katherine is trained as a poisoner, and Arsinoe is waiting for her gift, an animal companion.

These sisters are raised to hate each other because they are each others biggest competition. While there are 3 of them, only 1 can rule the kingdom. Each sister is pitted against each other and must try to ultimately destroy the others, for you cannot be queen with the others still alive out in the world.

One sister is starting to have memories flooding back to her about her childhood and how much she loved her sisters, one is looking in all the wrong places for the answer to her problems, and one is a weakling who must lean on the help of others to help her succeed. So who will win the throne?

This story was equal parts suspense, tragic love story, and fantasy. I loved all of it. And I found myself rooting for unlikely people in the end. I am very excited about Blake’s new book One Dark Throne coming out September 19th of this year. I met Kendare Blake at Texas Teen Book Festival last year in Austin, TX. She is one of the nicest author’s I’ve ever met. Meeting her and meeting Garth Nix have always stood out to me because they we’re the friendliest author’s I’ve ever met. They both took the time to get to know the people waiting in their signing lines and it meant a lot to me.

Kendare had never been to Texas and was telling me about the things she liked about it and asked me if I was student and then talked to me about how I’m a 7th grade Reading teacher. I just really enjoyed meeting her. It’s so funny how someone so friendly and nice writes such dark fantasy. I love that! I hope she returns to Texas sometime so I can get her to sign a copy of One Dark Throne when I get it!

If you’re looking for an interesting story, with unique world building and plot lines you should pick this one up. You won’t be disappointed! It’s unlike anything you have ever read.