Review: The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker

Summary: Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death, only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task -find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons – and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.

Genre: fantasy, young adult
Rating: ★★★★★

The Keeper of Night is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. I’ve been in a slight reading slump, chugging through books but feeling content if I abandon them for a few days; nothing has been stealing or keeping my attention, and then this book came along and changed everything. I thought about it when I wasn’t reading it. I put headphones in and let the real world dissolve entirely as I got sucked into this one. I’m already excitedly anticipating the sequel.

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Review: Splintered Series by A.G. Howard

Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite stories, and honestly one of my favorite ideas. There’s something so purely magical about deserting real life by falling down a rabbit hole and discovering a fantasy world with playing card guards, a pool of tears, or a game of croquet with live flamingos and hedgehogs as equipment.

I’ve read a fair amount of Alice retellings: Heartless by Marissa Meyer, a prequel to how the Red Queen became who she is; Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter, a story loosely based on its namesake about a girl who has to fight zombies; Alice by Christina Henry, a dark, twisted version about a girl who escaped Wonderland; to name a few. The difference between those and the Splintered series is that they all deviate so much from the original story that they lose a bit of the magic and spark that comes from the original.

Splintered is certainly darker than Alice in Wonderland, but what I loved about the franchise is that it works so heavily to incorporate the original themes, characters, and ideas into this story. When you’re so familiar with the story and world of Wonderland, the Splintered series feels a bit like coming home. Alyssa realizes that Lewis Carroll fluffed up the story for a little girl when he wrote it, whereas the real world of Wonderland is more sinister and scary.

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Review: Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi

Last month, one of my coworkers and I agreed to swap books that we love. Mine to her was The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. Hers to me was the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi. We all know young adult trilogies are generally not my favorite, especially when they have some type of dystopian world included, but I figured if my coworker genuinely loved this series, I would give it a shot for her.

The truth is, now that I’m finally finished reading it, I have so many mixed emotions about this series. I’m glad to have read it, mostly because the series holds such a big place in my coworker’s heart. And I do think I would have enjoyed this more if I had read it when it initially came out, when dystopian YA was at its biggest.

I adored the writing style in most of the books, and that’s ultimately what kept me invested in the series. There were characters I couldn’t stand that everyone else loved, and it took me most of the series to finally understand the hype around those characters. The books all have their own strengths and weaknesses, so I felt it was fair to review them individually. As a heads up, this post will be long.

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Review: Wayward Children Series by Seanan McGuire

For the first few months of the new year, I was averaging eight books a month. April hit a complete wall for me, and every single book I picked up just wasn’t it. I tried reading historical fiction, young adult contemporary, thriller, science fiction, retellings. I tried getting lost in overwhelming 800-page stories and I tried to burn through a measly novella just to get somewhat back on track with my book goal for the year. Nothing helped.

(I may or may not have also collectively gotten sucked into the new Story of Seasons game, the newest season of Diablo 3, or binge-watched 90-Day Fiance for the first time, but I digress)

And then, on a complete whim, I decided to pick up Every Heart a Doorway because so many of my friends had given it high reviews. It’s a quick-paced novella so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give it a shot. Who knew a young-adult fantasy series, arguably my least-favorite genre combination, was exactly what I needed.

There are seven books in the series right now, including an even smaller novella that fits snugly between books four and five, which I opted out of. Since these are all short stories, only one of them over the 200-page mark, I decided to lump them into one review. I’ll keep this as spoiler-free as possible, because I truly believe discovering these stories on your own is the best way to fall in love with them.

“I suppose I owe you the truth,” she said. “After all, I’ve come to ask for your help. But I warn you, this isn’t a tale for the faint of heart. It is a story of murder, and betrayal, and sisterly love turned sour.”

“So it’s a Tuesday,” said Sumi. “We can take it.”

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Review: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Summary: Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death. Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.
Genre: young adult, fantasy
Rating: 5/5 stars

The Gilded Ones is only one of two books I’ve read this year that I rated five stars, and that’s saying something because I am generally not a huge fan of young adult fantasy series. But there’s something about The Gilded Ones that left me excited and begging for more. This book goes so far beyond the regular qualms of young adult fantasy and tackles serious issues that have you rooting for the cast all the way through.

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