Review: THE MIRROR SEASON by Anna-Marie McLemore (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Magical Realism Contemporary
Year Release: 2021
Source: Physical copy

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Graphic depiction and discussion of sexual assault, slurs, PTSD

The book opens with Ciela, having just been assaulted, bringing a boy, who had also been assaulted at the same party, to the hospital, and she leaves them to the nurse’s care without ever finding out his name. Summer ends, and he is the new transfer student, whose name is Lock. What unfolds is a heavy, heavy book about healing, survival, and navigating the truth of what happened that night, while magic unfolds and folds apart around them. Trees vanish and mirrors take the place of the natural world.

The imagery in this book is absolutely the beautiful, the writing, atmospheric and evocative. But what really carries the story is the tenderness between Lock and Ciela as they grow closer, deal with the students who assaulted them, and learn the causes behind the magic unraveling and reforming.

It reminded me a lot of Liz Lawson’s The Lucky Ones in that the path to survival and healing isn’t neat, isn’t linear, and yet, the book ends on an uncertain, but hopeful note.

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ARC Review: THE INITIAL INSULT (#1) by Mindy McGinnis (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Year Release: February 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: dead parents, seizures, car accidents, animal cruelty, animal death (off-screen), drug abuse, vomiting, bleeding

This book is so fun, in as much fun as a story about a friendship falling apart can be. Filled to the brim with Edgar Allan Poe references, this book is a treat. Tress Montor lives with Cecil, her grandfather and guardian, who lives in a trailer next to a questionably-legal zoo. Her former best friend Felicity Turnado has the disappearance of Tress’s parents to answer for. Then comes the Halloween party, then the wall, and the secrets come tumbling out.

The pacing in this book is simply delightful and there’s even segments from the point of view of a panther. Fun from start to finish.

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Review: MUTED by Tami Charles (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Year Release: 2021
Source: Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: abuse (physical, sexual, mental), kidnapping, gaslighting, manipulation, abuse, forced dieting and weight loss, homophobia, sexual assault

A dream turns into a nightmare as Denver sees an opportunity to get into the R&B industry through superstar Sean “Mercury” Ellis. It starts off with the lavish trappings of fame like parties and studio time, but devolves into manipulation and abuse as Merc tries to stamp out Denver’s voice, while also showing the ways she can fight back.

With parallels to the 2019 documentary, Surviving R. Kelly, this novel in verse does not pull any punches, exposing the dark side of the music industry and the ways young women can fight back.

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Duo Review: THE PROJECT by Courtney Summers (2021) and THE ROAD TO JONESTOWN by Jeff Guinn (2017)

I read these books in close proximity to each other. After learning that the non-fiction was used as research for the fiction, I thought it would be neat to combine them.

The Project (2021) by Courtney Summers (left) and The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple (2017) by Jeff Guinn

Cults are a subject that have fascinated true crime writers and fans for quite some time. From their deadly demises to the strategic and manipulative ways they entice people to their group, there is so much to examine, and so many opportunities for heart-break. In 2021’s The Project, Courtney Summers tells the story of a budding journalist, Lo, who tries to reconnect with her sister, Bea, who had been lost to a cult, The Unity Project. The rise of Lev Warren can be easily mapped onto the rise of Jim Jones and Peoples Temple in the 70s, a socialist organization which had a flimflam man who believed himself God at its center. Both books are chilling, heartbreaking, and compliment each other so well.

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ARC Review: THE GOOD GIRLS by Claire Eliza Bartlett (2020)

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Thriller
Year Release: December 2020
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Trigger warning: sexual assault, rape culture, predatory teacher, murder, suicide, substance abuse, guns

This twisty read follows the investigation for four girls. Three of them perhaps have something to do with the fourth’s murder. Secrets come out, and to protect each other and their truths, they have to stand up to a police department which doesn’t believe them and a school administration actively working against them.

Complex, evenly paced with a compelling, complex characters who are neither “good” nor “bad,” The Good Girls is a layered read that delivers a satisfying mystery and catharsis.

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ARC Review: RISE OF THE RED HAND (The Machinists #1) by Olivia Chadha

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: February 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC from the publisher
Content warning: violence against children, plague, medical experimentation, violence

Set in South Asia, this cyberpunk science fiction dystopia has everything: a ruthless technocratic government, a deadly plague, mechanical augmentations, mechs, a shiny chrome utopia for the upper class, crowded slums for everyone else, a splinter group of revolutionaries, and hackers working from the inside.

Told in crisp, matter-of-fact prose by complex characters, this science fiction debut is not one to miss.

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Review: WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF by Elana K. Arnold (2017)

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Year Release: 2020
Source: Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: abortion, animal death, attempted sexual assault (author’s note), vomiting

I took Elana K. Arnold’s Revision Season course last fall, so before getting into the book itself, I felt like I had an insider knowledge of its revision cycle. I got my ears into the audiobook and dove right in.

This work follows Nina Faye as she navigates her teenage years with the social pressures as they relate to autonomy and sexuality. Her mother tells her that there is no such thing as unconditional love, and Arnold explores the different modes of love during key moments of Nina’s life. It feels like the contemporary precursor to Damsel, so if you enjoyed the brutally honest way it explored its topics through fairy tale, you will enjoy this.

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Review: RUSE (Want #2) by Cindy Pon (2019)

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: 2019
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings
: gunshots, murder, knives

These books are such delightfully quick reads. Action-packed, multi-faceted, with a great group cast and corporate intrigue unraveled by brilliant teen rebels.

If you enjoyed Want, Ruse provides more of the same, with tight pacing, an intricate near-future but still cyberpunk-y setting, and a hopeful ending that leaves the reader like the kids will truly be all right, leaving the world a better place than the one they entered.

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November 2020 Reading Recap

In November, I attempted NaNoWriMo, and I did not win. Which is fine. Work was wild. I’m not on any contractual deadline. I read a lot, but I feel like this month had more duds in it than usual. It happens.

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October 2020 Reading Recap

In October, my friends and I went full spooky season and watched a new movie every weekend. By new, I mean, it was a different movie, but it happened to be new to at least one of us every time. Watching movies with friends is nice, don’t you know?

Started a new job this month, so reading has noticeably slowed down. Whoops.

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