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: The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

Summary: When Vicky Cruz wakes up in the Lakeview Hospital Mental Disorders ward, she knows one thing: After her suicide attempt, she shouldn’t be alive. But then she meets Mona, the live wire; Gabriel, the saint; E.M., always angry; and Dr. Desai, a quiet force. With stories and honesty, kindness and hard work, they push her to reconsider her life before Lakeview, and offer her an acceptance she’s never had.

But Vicky’s newfound peace is as fragile as the roses that grow around the hospital. And when a crisis forces the group to split up, sending Vick back to the life that drove her to suicide, she must try to find her own courage and strength. She may not have them. She doesn’t know. The Memory of Light focuses not on the events leading up to a suicide attempt, but the recovery from one – about living when life doesn’t seem worth it, and how we go on anyway. 

Genre: young adult, contemporary
Rating: ★★★★★

I’ve been ruminating on this review for a few weeks now, trying to explain exactly why it impacted me so much, and I don’t think I can give it the review it deserves without being a completely open book. So here goes.

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Review: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland + a Discussion on Mental Health Depiction in Fiction

Summary: Ever since Esther Solar’s grandfather met Death, her entire family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime—a fear that will eventually lead each and every one of them to their graves. Esther’s managed to escape the curse…so far. She doesn’t yet have a great fear because she avoids pretty much everything.

Esther thinks she has it all figured out, until she’s reunited with an old elementary school classmate—and first crush—Jonah Smallwood. The encounter is the beginning of an unexpected friendship between the two, one that sends the pair on a journey of self-discovery as they try to break the curse that’s consumed Esther’s family. Together they face their greatest fears, one debilitating phobia at a time, only to discover the one fear they hadn’t counted on: love.

Genre: young adult, contemporary
Rating: ★★★★

Worst Nightmares will not be a book for everyone. It’s quirky, uncomfortable (there was one scene that flared up some anxiety in me), and extremely heavy. This book covers mental health, death, illness, abusive homes, and so much more. And yet, it still finds a way to be charming in its own right, with scenes that made me smile and a romantic plot that appeases a certain crowd. And of course, the overall message will absolutely rip your heart right out of your chest. This was an emotional rollercoaster, and I felt my heart break repeatedly for these characters.

**this review will contain MAJOR SPOILERS**

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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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