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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Review: THE MERCIFUL CROW (#1) by Margaret Owen (2019)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Year Release: 2019
Source: Library audiobook

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: Teeth, vomiting, blood, attempted murder

I’m sorry for having sat on this novel for a little too long. Fie is the chieftain’s daughter of a nomadic caste of mercy killers called Crows which are at the frontlines of protecting the land from a plague. They arrive at a home, thinking that the prince and his guard are dead, when they are very much not. On the run, the trio work together to deceive the Vultures on their trail to get to the prince’s aunts realm of mammoth riders.

This book was so fun for a multitude of reasons. The magic system might seem gross at first, but it fits the rituals of the Crows. There is lore and there is an established learning curve that comes with it. Unlike many fantasies where the main character stumbles upon The Magic, Fie had been training for it her whole life. If anything, it felt like she was taking her final exam and needed to use all the tools and cleverness at her side. Moreover, Jas and Tavin provided support but also deference when necessary when Fie’s rage clouded her judgment. The chemistry among the three of them as the central characters really worked for me and helped move the story along in a way that felt organic both for the plot and for each of their development.

In addition, the world is very thoughtfully constructed. There is a diversity among the cast (the prince is gay and his guard is pansexual). It is implied to be queernorm, which for me, is always refreshing. This work is another to add to the list of young adult studies which are wonderfully sex positive. Not only are periods addressed, but it is also implied that Fie had partners before the love interest, and consent is on the page. All the tension comes from secrets of an interpersonal nature which nod to some tropes, but ultimately only make sense for this cast.

Well-paced, great characters, and a fantastic world I can’t wait to visit in The Faithless Hawk.

Review: RULES FOR VANISHING by Kate Alice Marshall (2019)

Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Horror
Year Release: 2019
Source: Library audiobook

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: Missing teens, some gore, family violence, mention of suicide

A few of my friends had read this book and since it’s officially spooky season, I am so excited to have this be my first read of October. Sara’s adopted sister Becca disappears and a year later, Sara and her groups of friends receive a text invite to “play the game” which involves going down haunted roads and solving puzzles. What comes next are the terrors of the woods, sordid history, and questioning the bonds that keep us together.

I really liked the focus on reliability as it relates to friendship in this novel. There were many blood-curdling scares and many moments where neither the reader nor the characters know exactly what reality has morphed into. Adherence to rules matters, but what really determines survival is trust. And with Sara having withdrawn from her friends due to her sister’s disappearance, that trust is fragmented from the start, which dials up the tension.

In addition to the storyline of the quest to find Becca by finding Lucy Gallows, there are segments which take place later. These are told in multi-media, which gives this novel a very Blair Witch Project feel. I found effective, especially when it throws a wrench in the reader’s understanding of the relationships and situations in the linear timeline. The ending is absolutely harrowing and makes phenomenal use of photo descriptions, texts, and other supplemental materials.

No one had told me before reading, but Sara is bisexual and one of her friends is a lesbian. The character development in general is great. The characters are complicated, and it was hard to predict who would be next to fall.

It’s Silent Hill meets The Blair Witch Project in this queer YA horror that had me genuinely spooked.

Review: WHO I WAS WITH HER by Nita Tyndall (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Year Release: 2020
Source: Hard Copy purchased at Unabridged Books

Content warnings: Grief, alcoholism

This book starts with Corinne Parker learning of her girlfriend’s death and continues with Corinne processing that loss and the truths about herself that she was hiding from everyone else in her life during her one year relationship. It hurts as much as it uplifts, ending on a well-deserved hopeful note.

The writing in Who I Was With Her is simply elegant. The chapters alternate between moments of Corinne’s year long relationship with Maggie and the present, during which she struggles with an alcoholic mother and not being out as bisexual to those around her. Corinne is a character I desperately wanted to hug, because I definitely related to her fears about coming out and about choosing things for herself, from low stakes decisions to high stakes debates about whether or not to go to college. The tension in this novel stems from a feeling that this too shall pass, focusing on the journey there. There isn’t a dramatic reveal, the plot beats are soft to lend power to the feelings woven throughout.

Another thing that struck me about this book was just how sex positive it was. There are discussions of sex, both queer and heterosexual, but it’s presented as a normal thing teens consider and something that happens between partners. There isn’t any taboo in the discussions, there’s no scandalous connotation, consent is on the page, and most of it is focused as another fragment of Corinne’s interior journey, not a major event in and of itself.

A quiet, heart-wrenching young adult novel about grief and being true to yourself and the fear that comes with that truth.

Author to Author with Hannah Abigail Clarke (#TheScapegracers)

Happy release day to The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke from Erewhon Books. This book is perfect for people who want to read about lesbian witches who are gay written by a queer author. In this young adult debut, Sideways Pike, an outcast, casts a spell at a Halloween party and accidentally forms a coven with three popular girls. Clarke hops by the blog to talk inspiration, craft, friendship, and a multitude of music recs.

Buy links: Bookshop | Unabridged Books | Barnes and Noble

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