Review: The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton

TPGTTOThe Price Guide to the Occult is Leslye Walton’s second novel, and what initially caught my attention was its stunning cover. ❤️ (I’m a cover snob. I’ll admit it!) But it promises a story filled with magic and mystery, wrapped in a coming-of-age tale with a touch of darkness. ✨

Here’s the synopsis:

When Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island more than a century ago, her otherworldly skills might have benefited friendlier neighbors. Guilt and fear instead led the island’s original eight settlers to burn “the witch” out of her home. So, Rona cursed them. Fast-forward one hundred-some years: All Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. She has reason to hope: First, her supernatural powers, if they can be called that, are unexceptional. Second, her love life is nonexistent, which means she might escape the other perverse side effect of the matriarch’s backfiring curse, too. But then a mysterious book comes out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. Nor senses a storm coming and is pretty sure she’ll be smack in the eye of it. In her second novel, Leslye Walton spins a dark, mesmerizing tale of a girl stumbling along the path toward self-acceptance and first love, even as the price guide’s malevolent author — Nor’s own mother — looms and threatens to strangle any hope for happiness.

TW: Self-Harm
This book discusses self-harm at length. Its presence within the story is purposeful and not used for shock value. But I strongly feel that readers should be made aware of this before reading this book, especially since the synopsis doesn’t mention it.

What I Liked:

  • Much like Shea Ernshaw’s The Wicked Deep, this is a paranormal romance that takes place in the Pacific Northwest. The atmospheric details really helped to draw me in, and I loved the ways in which Walton described the landscape.
  • The writing was gorgeous, and although I occasionally struggled with denser passages (see below), I can appreciate how intentional and well-crafted the language often felt.
  • I liked Nor a lot, and I found many of the supporting characters to be both enjoyable and memorable. (Except for Gabe. I don’t really like him, and I sort of eye-rolled my way through the whole love triangle thing. 😒)
  • In my TW note, I mentioned self-harm. This is discussed, along with Nor’s depression, and I think both topics were handled well. (I’ve read books in the past that failed to do so, or used them for shock value, which I generally find distasteful.) It was nice to see very real struggles acknowledged and included in a story that deals with magic, because sometimes that’s not the case.

What I Disliked:

  • While I can appreciate beautiful writing, there were sections of this book that felt a little too dense, which made them hard to follow. I wouldn’t necessarily call it “purple prose,” but it was noticeable and a little frustrating at times. 🙁 This may have contributed to my next point…
  • … which is that the pacing sometimes felt painfully slow, as if we were spending more time building up to something than was necessary. I think editing or removing some of the denser passages would help to fix this.
  • I feel like I say this a lot, but I really don’t think this book needed the romance between Nor and Reed, or the beginnings of a love triangle between Nor, Reed, and Gabe. I wanted this book to be more paranormal than paranormal romance, and I sort of wanted Nor to just… be. Her attraction to Reed doesn’t diminish her character in any way, but I feel like a book like this can be just as intriguing without the promise of a love story.
  • The tone of this book is a little too dark for me. And I usually enjoy darker reads! Something just felt slightly off the whole time, and by the end of the story, I didn’t feel all that great about finishing it. The conclusion seems to set this up for a sequel, but I’m not sure if I’m hooked enough to continue reading, despite the things I did like.

Overall, I was somewhat disappointed with this book. But if you’re a fan of paranormal romance stories with a slower burn, I think it’s still worth checking out. You may enjoy it much more than I did! From what I’ve read, it seems like fans of Walton’s work highly recommend her first novel, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. I might pick that up soon and see if I like it more than this one.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Author: Leslye Walton
More Books by This Author:
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

**Thank you to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

GeminaAfter I finished reading Illuminae, I had every intention of taking a short break before starting the next book in the trilogy, Gemina. But did I? OF COURSE NOT. 😆 If you’ve read my review of Illuminae, you’ll know that I loved it. So on the day I finished it, I broke down and started Gemina.

I usually try to keep my reviews as spoiler-free as possible, but when I’m writing about a series of books, this can be really difficult. The events of this book are directly tied to those that occur in Illuminae, so there will absolutely be spoilers for that book. And in order to fully discuss my likes and dislikes, there will be some spoilers for this book, as well. Basically, if you haven’t read either of these books and would prefer to remain un-spoiled, STOP RIGHT HERE, PLEASE AND THANK YOU. 😬

What I Liked:

  • This book was action-packed, and much like Illuminae, the plot revolved around a race against the clock, which worked as a great tension-builder.
  • Hanna is pretty much a badass space ninja, and I am here for it. 🙌🏻
  • The lamina were HORRIFYING, and I was expecting some twisted nightmares. 😱 Thankfully, there were none. But I think they were an excellent (and obviously very creepy) addition to the book. Sort of like this book’s version of the Phobos outbreak.
  • AIDAN’s surveillance footage summaries were entertaining, and it was good to see him again, along with Kady, Ezra, and the other familiar faces aboard the Hypatia!
  • The pacing is just as breakneck as the first book, and once BeiTech attempts to seize control of Jump Station Heimdall, it’s hard to step away from the story.

What I Disliked:

  • I liked Hanna, Nik, and Ella… but not as much as Kady and Ezra. It took me a while to become invested in their stories, and again, I just didn’t care about the romance. (I’m beginning to think this might just be me… 😅)
  • I’m not exactly sure how to phrase this, but I feel like the last 1/4 of the book had a whoooole lot of… death defying? 🤔 In other words, just when you think a character’s dead, no! They’re alive! Wait, no, now they’re for sure dead. NOPE! Wrong again! And so on and so on. I get that this takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride, but it almost felt too perfect, and I found it hard to suspend my disbelief. It was like, “Not only did the seemingly-impossible happen once, but twice! We’re just that good.” 😐 It didn’t feel realistic to me, and it almost seemed heavy-handed, as if the authors definitely wanted all three of the main characters to survive, so despite the ridiculously astronomical odds, all three of them did.
  • THAT CLIFFHANGER. HOW DARE THEY? (I know, I know… Obsidio will be out in one week. We’ll get answers soon enough. BUT STILL.)

Overall, even though I had a few minor issues with this book, I think it’s a strong installment in the series, and when I say that I can’t wait for Obsidio, please know it’s a serious understatement and really I’m like

giphy

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Authors: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Other Books in This Series:
Illuminae
Obsidio
Other Books by Amie Kaufman:
Elementals: Ice Wolves
Unearthed (co-written with Meagan Spooner)
These Broken Stars
This Shattered World
Their Fractured Light
Other Books by Jay Kristoff:
Stormdancer
Kinslayer
Endsinger
Nevernight
Godsgrave
Darkdawn
LIFEL1K3

Review: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

TKAKI have a confession to make: I’m a little picky when it comes to retellings. They’re all the rage these days, and while some put a brand new spin on a familiar story, others… don’t. ☹️ Too often, I feel like I’m reading something I’ve read before, and I anticipate what comes next far too easily. That’s why it was so refreshing to read Alexandra Christo’s debut novel To Kill a Kingdom. Sure, it’s (sort of) a retelling. A young, beautiful girl with flaming red hair who lives in the sea and is turned into a human… Sound familiar? 😉 But in this story, that lovely girl is actually pretty wicked. And her charming prince? Not the particular brand of charming you might expect…

If you want to read more about this book before we dive in (har-har 🐟), click here for a short synopsis!

What I Liked: While this is sort of a Little Mermaid retelling, it’s much, much more than that. Lira is a siren who collects the hearts of princes (seriously, she buries them in her bedroom 😱), and Elian is a prince who also considers himself a pirate — a siren-hunting pirate. Can I just tell you how much I love Elian? LET ME COUNT THE WAYS. ❤️ If you’re a fan of Leigh Bardugo’s famed privateer prince, Nikolai Lantsov, I suspect you’ll feel similarly.

I don’t want to reveal too much about the story, because this is such a delightfully delicious read and I would hate to spoil anything. But WOWWWWW. ⭐️ Adventure, romance of the angsty variety, incredible imagery, clever references to familiar stories and myths, and such a remarkably original twist on this type of tale. The writing is superb. I’m usually awful at highlighting or jotting down quotes, but this book had so many fantastic ones, I couldn’t help myself.

What I Disliked: It took me a few chapters to really get into this book, and I’m still not sure why. I think I had to adjust to the dual narrative structure, and it was occasionally difficult to tell when the POV switched. (The chapters aren’t labeled in the ARC — like “Lira” or “Elian” — but I’ve heard that they are in the finished version of the book, so this shouldn’t be a problem from here on out.)

I’m still trying to decide how I feel about the ending. 🤔 And don’t even get me started on the fact that this is a standalone. It’s just my luck… I’ve read books lately that aren’t standalones but that I feel should be, and I’ve read standalones that I feel should be part of a longer series, or at least a duology. ALAS. But honestly, I didn’t have any major issues with this book, and it exceeded all of my expectations with flying, vicious, heart-wrenching colors.

Even if you’re not usually interested in retellings, I would really recommend giving this book a shot. It is, without a doubt, one of the most compelling, original, and well-written retellings I’ve ever read, and I will be eagerly anticipating future books from Christo.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: March 6th

About the Author: Alexandra Christo

**Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

IlluminaeI’m always looking for book recommendations, because seriously, who isn’t? 🤷🏻‍♀️ And by far, the book that has been mentioned most often is Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. From comments like, “It’ll blow your mind,” to, “You won’t be able to put it down,” to the very popular, “IT WILL DESTROY YOU AND YOU WILL LOVE EVERY MINUTE OF IT 😭,” I knew I had to read it. (Sure, it took me 2+ years to do so, but better late than never, right…? 😅)

And listen. All of those comments were true. This book is incredible! It’s sort of a space opera with The Walking Dead vibes and some Ex Machina-esque AI creepiness combined in one fast-paced, heart-stopping adventure/horror/war/espionage story. It’s no surprise that the movie rights sold shortly after the book’s publication (although it’s hard to tell if anything is currently in production, and I do wonder how they would adapt certain parts). In short: I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I finished it. Here are my thoughts…

What I Liked:

  • It’s a futuristic story set in outer space. There’s a war between rival tech companies, with military personnel and refugees caught in the middle. Throw in some deep, dark secrets, a possibly-homicidal AI, a mutating pathogen that renders its victims vicious and insane, and a race against the clock, and you’ve got an edge-of-your-seat thriller that will absolutely leave you desperate for the next book. 😱
  • This book is unlike anything else I’ve read, mostly because of the way the story is told — through internal memos, emails, instant message conversations, surveillance footage summaries, and so much more. (You might be saying, “Oh, well that’s just an epistolary novel. I’ve read those before,” but it’s different in some distinct and memorable ways.) And it may look like a long read — 608 pages! — but trust me when I say that, once you start reading, you will speed through this book.
  • Kady and Ezra are such believable, relatable characters. I mean, imagine you’re a teenager who’s had everything taken from you — your life, your family, everything comforting and familiar… What they go through is just insane. And yet they both still come out swinging, whether it’s with a Cyclone fighter spacecraft or hundreds upon hundreds of lines of code.
  • <error> (Read this book. You’ll get it, I promise. 😁)

What I Disliked: While I was totally cheering for Kady and Ezra the whole time, I didn’t care all that much about their romantic relationship. I KNOW, I’M SORRY, I’M A HEARTLESS MONSTER. 🙃 But I guess I was more interested in everything else that was going on. I do understand that Ezra is all Kady has left, and vice versa. I just… wasn’t invested? DON’T @ ME.

Anyway, I loved this book, and I would honestly recommend it to sci-fi fans of all ages. If you do read it (AND YOU SHOULD), I have a couple of small suggestions:
1. Don’t read the e-book edition. Because of the unique way this book is formatted, it just doesn’t look the same on an e-reader, tablet, or phone as it does on a physical page. You miss out on a lot of cool content that way, so I would definitely suggest reading a physical copy if at all possible. (I’ve also heard good things about the audiobook, but again, this is a very visual book, so just keep that in mind before selecting your preferred format.)
2. Have the next book, Gemina, ready and waiting for when you’ve finished this one, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll be VERY ready to keep reading.
3. Avoid as many spoilers as you can. This book has some truly awesome twists and turns, and it’s much more fun going into it with no knowledge of them.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Authors: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Other Books in This Series:
Gemina
Obsidio
Other Books by Amie Kaufman:
Elementals: Ice Wolves
Unearthed (co-written with Meagan Spooner)
These Broken Stars
This Shattered World
Their Fractured Light
Other Books by Jay Kristoff:
Stormdancer
Kinslayer
Endsinger
Nevernight
Godsgrave
Darkdawn
LIFEL1K3

March TBR

I realized last month that I’m definitely more of a mood reader, so from here on out, I’m going to be a little more flexible with my monthly TBRs. Each TBR will include 1) some books that I’m confident I’ll actually read that month, and 2) books that I want to read soon but that I may not get to that month. I’m excited to see if this works better for me! 😊 I like having some sort of structure, but this should give me plenty of options in case I’m not really feeling whatever book I’m set to read next.

In March, I’m confident that I’ll read…

*These are ARCs/review copies that I’ve received in exchange for an honest review, so they’re definitely a high priority.

I would also really like to read…

(And of course there are also the books I didn’t read in February, like Reign of the Fallen, The Hazel Wood, Tempests and Slaughter, Daughter of the Pirate King (and the sequel, Daughter of the Siren Queen, now that it’s out), and Still MeWHY ARE THERE SO MANY GREAT BOOKS TO READ?! 😵)

What are you planning to read in March? Let me know! 🍀

February Wrap-Up

I read nine books this month, but I didn’t really stick to my TBR. (Surprise, surprise! 😅) I did, however, read some great books, and I’m excited that I stepped out of my comfort zone and read books from some other genres, including romance and horror. This is something I’d love to do more of this year, so I think this was a good start!

Here are my ratings for this month’s reads:

  • The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • After You by Jojo Moyes   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Sinner by Christopher Graves   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

NOTE: I did not write reviews of The Duchess Deal, Me Before You, or After You. My reviews for the rest of my February reads are linked above!

Did I read everything on my February TBR?
No. I’ve suspected for a while that I’m more of a read-whatever-I’m-in-the-mood-for person than a stick-to-my-planned-reading-list person. But I think this month definitely confirmed it. I didn’t end up reading Reign of the Fallen, The Hazel Wood, Tempests and Slaughter, Daughter of the Pirate King, or Still Me. So… I only read 2/7 books from my TBR. 😬

Did I read anything not on my February TBR?
The majority of the books I read this month weren’t on my TBR — The Duchess Deal, Me Before You, After You, Shadowsong, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Sinner, and The Wicked Deep.

What was my favorite read of the month?
It’s a tie between The Belles and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. They’re very different books, but both were absolutely captivating and delightful in every way. 😊 They were also my only five-star reads of the month.

What was my least favorite read of the month?
This is difficult, because there were a few disappointments. After You and Wintersong were both re-reads that I was hoping to like better the second time around. (Spoiler: I didn’t. 🙁) And Shadowsong just didn’t live up to the hype — for me, at least.

Keeping in mind that I’m more of a mood reader, my TBRs from here on out will include 1) some books that I’m confident I’ll actually read that month, and 2) books that I want to read soon but that I may not get to that month. This way, I’ll be setting more realistic expectations for myself and giving myself space to choose something I’m in the mood to read.

Are you more of a mood reader, or do you stick to your monthly TBR once you’ve made it? Comment below! I’d love to hear your thoughts. ❤️

Review: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

TWDI’ve always been fascinated by stories about witches, so I was excited to read Shea Ernshaw’s The Wicked Deep. Described as “Hocus Pocus meets Practical Magic,” it’s a book that combines local folklore and tradition with a magical haunting that returns to the small town of Sparrow every year. There’s mystery, romance, and a literal witch hunt, and you can’t help but wonder how it will all end once the Swan sisters arrive, ready for their revenge… 🌙

Not sure what this book is about? Click here for a short synopsis! 😁

What I Liked: This is a very atmospheric read, and I think it’s totally fair to say that the town of Sparrow is, in its own way, an important character in the story. It has a sinister history that Ernshaw details throughout the book, and it serves as an eerie backdrop for the present-day “Swan season,” as the locals call it. One small thing I had trouble with was remembering where exactly it was located — it’s in Oregon, but sometimes I thought it was in Washington. But I don’t think this matters much, because Sparrow seems like the type of town that could exist anywhere on the coast, a small, isolated place filled with legend and lore.

I really liked the way Ernshaw handled the Swan sisters, both in the present-day and in the occasional flashbacks to 1822 Sparrow. She effectively blends myth and reality, creating a vengeful force that brings the town to its knees every single year, as penance for a 200-year-old mistake. Little details helped to increase the tension, like the Swan party on the beach, Penny’s fear of going too far into the water, the siren-like singing, and the townspeople’s knowledge of what comes next. They know the pain of the Swan season more acutely than the tourists that swarm into Sparrow every summer. And if anything, their acceptance and resignation makes the story even creepier. 😱

This was definitely a page-turner, and I was eager to know what would happen with Penny, Bo, and Penny’s classmates. In a way, it’s a mystery, as well as a modern myth that draws upon stories of mermaids and sirens. I wouldn’t call it a horror story, but perhaps a paranormal romance that takes a turn you might not see coming. (Which I won’t talk about, because SPOILERS! 🤐)

What I Disliked: I was a little frustrated by the “insta-love” between Penny and Bo. It had me like, “YOU’VE KNOWN EACH OTHER LESS THAN A MONTH!” and it’s honestly just a clichéd plot device. 🙄 I did like the big twist in this book, but I found the ending to be… meh. And sort of drawn out. I feel like Ernshaw was trying to provide the reader with as much closure as possible, but there’s something to be said for leaving a few things to a reader’s imagination. And while I feel like we get to know some of the characters, many — including Bo — seemed a little one-dimensional to me, and I would’ve liked to learn more about them, or at least see different facets of them.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes paranormal mystery or romance stories, as well as big, unexpected twists!

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: March 6th

About the Author: Shea Ernshaw

**Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Sinner by Christopher Graves

SCGAfter reading a vibrant fantasy (The Belles) and a funny, heartfelt contemporary (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda), I was in the mood for something a little darker. 😈 Christopher Graves’ Sinner sounded like the perfect fix! Based on his award-winning screenplay, this novel is both compelling and terrifying in its realism. Here’s a short synopsis:

As a direct descendant of the 19th century vigilante gang, the Bald Knobbers, Ezekiel Woods, Jr. has been indoctrinated into a world ruled by violence and a literal interpretation of the Bible his entire life. Now, over a hundred years later, Zeke continues his ancestors’ crusade, spending his days camouflaged as an aloof, middle-aged grocery store sacker and his nights in a farmhouse cellar, preparing captives’ souls for their ultimate destiny: redemption or death. His latest abductee, an indomitable Texan working her way through a third-life crisis, chooses another option: escape. Zeke must recapture this lost sheep or face a consequence far worse than any worldly fate: that God has forsaken him.

What I Liked: This book was hard to put down, and it definitely creeped me out. 😱 While I enjoy scary stories that deal with otherworldly or paranormal forces, there’s something very real and frightening about a killer that could plausibly exist in our world. I think Graves handled the different timelines very well, and the overall pacing was great. It really kept me on the edge of my seat! And he also did an excellent job at developing his characters, and especially providing enough backstory and motivation to create both tension and a layered wholeness that makes them seem real.

What I Disliked: When it comes to violence in books, I need it to have a strong reason for being there. I don’t think the inclusion of violence for the sake of violence — or “shock value” violence — necessarily adds anything to a story. Much of the violence in this book seemed purposeful, while some of it seemed, at times, a little excessive. (But I will say that this book isn’t overly gory by any means.) I think it’s important to emphasize that this story deals a lot with violence against women, and that’s definitely something a reader should keep in mind before jumping in.

There were a few moments where I felt disoriented or confused, as if I had missed an important detail. (And it’s possible that I did.) But I did wonder if this story is just better suited for a screenplay rather than a novel. 🤔 There’s no question in my mind that Graves is a talented writer, and his prose is strong and lends itself to visualization. However, I did keep wondering how different my experience would be as a viewer rather than a reader.

Overall, this is a book that I would absolutely recommend to horror fans, or readers who enjoy fast-paced, creepy stories. I don’t think I connected with it as much as I hoped I would, and it’s possible that I was expecting things to play out a little differently. But it’s a solid piece of writing that succeeds at pulling you in and keeping you locked in its grip until the end.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: April 5th

About the Author: Christopher Graves

**Thank you to Smith Publicity Inc. for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

SVTHSADespite the fact that it took me approximately a million years, I FINALLY read Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I’ll admit, I was influenced by the fact that the movie adaptation comes out next month. But I’ve been hearing amazing things about this book for years. It was definitely one of those reads that left me wondering what took me so long to pick it up. ❤️ But I can now say with confidence that I totally understand the hype, and I’m even more excited to get my hands on Albertalli’s next book, Leah on the Offbeat, which will be released on April 24th!

Not sure what this book is about? Click here for a short synopsis! 🙂

What I Liked: This book made me feel all the feels, and it was cute and fun and honest and genuine and heartbreaking and incredibly difficult to put down. Having read The Upside of Unrequited last year (here’s my review!), I was familiar with Albertalli’s writing style going into this, and as a reader who sometimes finds it hard to get into YA contemporaries, I find her prose to be as addictive as Oreos, as sweet as waffles, and as satisfying as holding hands with that one person who gives your somersaulting butterflies in the pit of your stomach. 🤗

I finally understand why so many people refer to Simon as their precious little cinnamon roll, because he’s just adorable. ❤️ And adorkable. And the kind of person I wish I had known in high school. Albertalli does an incredible job of establishing his personality and mannerisms, and his emails to Blue were beyond cute, as well as hilarious and witty.

This book addresses many important coming-of-age issues, especially as Simon explores his sexual identity and considers coming out. The story emphasizes how important this decision is, and how it should only ever happen on each person’s own terms. It also addresses relationships within group friendships, extroversion vs. introversion, parental boundaries, and personal responsibility and forgiveness.

Other little things that stuck with me: Simon’s love for Harry Potter (and the references to Drarry fanfic), “Monkey’s Asshole,” all of the rehearsal scenes (the musical theater nostalgia is real, guys 😄), Leah’s mix CD, the Tumblr, giant baguettes, literally all of the music references (because Simon and I have pretty much the exact same taste, no big deal… 😏), and the end because *flails incoherently*.

What I Disliked: I know that Martin felt bad about what he did, and that he was not by any means a wholly evil person, but I didn’t care AT ALL about his apology or his explanation or really anything else about him besides his epic solo at the Waffle House. 😑 I get that he had a huge crush on Abby, and when you’re a teenager, your moral compass is sometimes waaaaay off. BUT STILL. BLACKMAIL? I feel like I was never not mad at Martin. 🙄 (This didn’t affect my feelings about the book in any substantial way, but I felt the need to share.)

I read the latest hardcover release of this book, which is the special edition with the Love, Simon sticker on the front cover. It has really cool extra content, like Simon and Blue’s first emails, a behind-the-scenes scrapbook from the set of the movie, and Becky Albertalli in conversation with Adam Silvera (author of They Both Die at the End, History Is All You Left Me, and More Happy Than Not) and Angie Thomas (author of The Hate U Give and the forthcoming On the Come Up). It also contains excerpts from The Upside of Unrequited and the forthcoming Leah on the Offbeat.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Author: Becky Albertalli
More Books by This Author:
The Upside of Unrequited
Leah on the Offbeat
What If It’s Us
(co-written with Adam Silvera)

Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

BellesI’ve been trying for days to gather and make sense of my thoughts on Dhonielle Clayton’s The Belles. Well, thoughts other than, “WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW.” 😄❤️ After reading some “meh” books this month, this one completely blew them out of the water and conjured something mesmerizing and seductive. I’m still not sure, where to start, but if you’re not sure what this book is about, click here for a short synopsis!

I’m in absolute awe of the world Clayton has created. From the very first page, I knew this book was going to be brilliant and filled to the brim with lush, vibrant imagery and settings. The first paragraph alone mentions “raspberry and lemon macarons and tiny pastel blimps and pink champagne and card games. Maybe even a teacup elephant.” YES, THERE ARE TEACUP ANIMALS IN THIS WORLD. 😍🐘 One look at the bright pink map — which is stunning, of course — and you can see just how vast and richly-detailed Orléans is, and how much Clayton has at her disposal to explore in future books.

But the decadence and fantastical elements — the luxury, the magic, the palace and parties —  are merely one layer of a story that examines how we commodify beauty and how that changes our perceptions of others, as well as ourselves. As I read this book, I kept thinking of Roshani Chokshi‘s blurb on the back cover — “… glittering, glamorous, and gruesome. The Belles is a dazzling exploration of body power and identity.” It’s an incredible fantasy with a solid core of truth, and I definitely think this is one of those books that should be read by teenagers and adults alike. It prompts you to look at our world more critically and see just how similar we often are to the citizens of Orléans.

Camellia is the heart of this book, and you feel for her as she experiences things that she has dreamed of, hoped for, and feared. She undergoes a transformation that is both important and painful, and this, in a way, is her growing up and coming to understand that the world she thought she knew is both beautiful and cruel. It’s something that we are all forced to realize, along with the notion that life is far, far different for those who are privileged and wealthy enough to live as they desire.

Without giving anything away, the antagonist is truly horrifying. There were honestly moments where I had to put the book down for brief moments, if only to shake off a shudder. I think the most fearsome thing about them is how human they are, and how their capacity for cruelty and callousness is not unfamiliar to the reader.

Even though it’s only February, I have a feeling that this will end up being one of my top reads of the year. Having heard all of the hype and praise, I was excited to read it, but it exceeded every single one of my expectations. ❤️

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Author: Dhonielle Clayton
More Books by This Author:
Tiny Pretty Things (co-written with Sona Charaipotra)
Shiny Broken Pieces (co-written with Sona Charaipotra)
Short Stories by This Author:
“When the Moonlight Isn’t Enough” (included in the anthology The Radical Element: 12 Stories of Daredevils, Debutantes & Other Dauntless Girls)
“The Way We Love Here” (included in the anthology Meet Cute)