Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Hello Kittens! I just finished reading a really awesome book and couldn’t wait to tell you all about it. I was actually slated to read Christopher Paolini’s new release, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, as well this week, but I got so invested in this book that I decided to table the Paolini book until I was done. It really surprised me because the Paolini book is one of my most anticipated releases for the year. This book is a little bit of an underdog in that I haven’t heard a lot of people talking about it yet, but I feel certain that we’ll be hearing more about it soon. I loved the writing and the storyline and hope that some network sees fit to adapt this into a tv series or movie at some point in the future. Also, check out that amazing cover!

Legendborn (Legendborn, #1)

Title: Legendborn

Author: Tracy Deonn

Author website: https://tracydeonn.com/legendborn

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (imprint of Simon & Schuster Children)

Publish date: September 15, 2020

ISBN: 9781534441606

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop

Summary:

Brianna Matthews is a young woman who gets accepted to a special program on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill for high school kids to get a taste of the college experience. She embarks on this new experience as she is freshly grieving the death of her mother, a woman who was not happy that Bree was choosing this particular adventure. Bree’s last moments with her mother were a fight about her acceptance into the UNC program and her desire to spend her summer on the campus. Now, that fight fills Bree with remorse and she is struggling to deal with her guilt about it while also embracing the freedom from constant memories and condolences that living on campus is giving her.

From almost her first night on campus however, strange things are happening around Bree. The longer Bree is at UNC, the more she sees things that most others don’t seem to see and when she meets a group of students who also seem to be aware that strange things are happening, she is drawn into centuries old traditions and secret societies.

This is Deonn’s first published novel (she has contributed to other works) and it takes a contemporary look at the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. It takes the story the reader knows and adds a healthy dose of Black girl magic, both literally and figuratively. Bree is a feisty character who is struggling to come to terms with her grief and her abilities in a world where it’s not always clear who she can trust. With the help of a friend from back home and some tough-as-nails ancestors, Bree will confront her destiny and help change the world. This book is the first in a continuing series, so don’t expect to have everything wrapped up perfectly in the end, but this book is an incredibly satisfying contemporary YA fantasy that is filled with multiple magic systems and a lot of wit.

Why I liked it:

The writing in this book is phenomenal. I highlighted so many quotes and passages on my Kindle. The author’s explanations of how Bree is dealing with her grief are incredibly poignant, and I appreciated that she allows the character to express the frustration and exhaustion that deals with managing other people’s feelings when you are dealing with grief.

I loved that there was more than one magic system at play here and I really appreciated the Author’s Note at the end that explained the origin of one of those systems. I also know from experience that the descriptions of UNC’s campus are spot-on. Deonn really conveys a great sense of setting without getting bogged down in those descriptions.

What I would like to change:

I felt like things get a little muddled towards the very end of the book. I was missing a little bit in the way of explanations after the big battle. I also felt that there was a portion of the book at the end that dealt with a possession where the spirit of the person was weaved in and out of the narrative at will. That felt a little at odds with how the procedure was initially described by the person who was possessed. It just seemed like a convenience for the narrative that needed a little more development.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My library rating: While there are instances of racism and hints of violence both on and off the page, I think the book is so well-written that anyone over the age of 13 should be able to read it without significant issues. The book addresses issues with race both past and present but gives us a character who responds to both with grace and realistic anger.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon5 glasses of lemonade= you could recommend this book to anyone.  There is nothing in here that is going to upset anyone and you could start handing it out on street corners. 

My personal preference rating: I gave this title 5 stars. It was one of my favorite YA fantasy books of the year so far.

Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin

Hello Kittens! The book I’m talking about today is the recently published sequel to Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin, which I read during quarantine and really enjoyed. Serpent & Dove is the story of a witch named Lou, and the witch hunter who is forced to become her husband, named Reid. It is a YA fantasy romance with a unique magic system. I highly recommend Serpent & Dove. I am going to try to talk about the sequel without revealing any spoilers, but I can’t promise I won’t inadvertently reveal something, so go pick up Serpent & Dove now and then come back and read this. This will be the first time that I have ever attempted to write a spoiler-free review of a sequel, so this ought to be interesting.

Title: Blood & Honey

Blood & Honey (Serpent & Dove, #2)

Author: Shelby Mahurin

Author website: https://shelbymahurin.com/

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publish date: September 1, 2020

ISBN: 9780062878052

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Summary:

This novel picks up almost exactly where the last novel ended. Our main characters are in imminent danger and are on the run from both the Chasseurs (religious army) and witches. They are also struggling with mourning someone who held radically different positions in both of their lives. They are working on a plan for what they and their band of compatriots will do next, but both are reluctant to leave the relative safety of their current location.

Ultimately, the decision is made to journey throughout the land to recruit allies for their cause. This doesn’t go well on either front and forces them to split up, which allows for certain vulnerabilities to be exploited. Nonetheless, they do convince a few new people/beings to join their cause and they head towards the city, where they believe their enemy will soon attack again.

Pretty much everything goes wrong. At least one of their band will die and others will go missing. The story ends on a massive cliffhanger after several unexpected twists and the reader alone will know how much danger they are all still in.

Why I liked it:

I appreciated that we got to reunite with all of the characters from the original book and that the new characters that came into the story in this novel did not overshadow them. I still love the magic system in this book and it was expanded upon here in ways that I found really interesting. We get new magical beings and more magically-inclined people who no one believed existed and they play pivotal roles in moving the story forward.

Lastly, I really loved the world building that we got in this story. We explore two new areas in this world and get to see the range of living experiences of the “average” people. It’s really nice to see how life outside of the main city functions and to realize that actually there’s a lot of range among the people in their levels of tolerance for the Chasseurs and witches.

What I would like to change:

Lou and Reid’s relationship currently is troubling me. They are struggling with legitimate differences and it’s not unrealistic to think that they might not be perfectly suited for each other since they were forced to marry and then were in desperate circumstances that allowed feelings to blossom. We started to explore the idea that these two people might love each other but might not be good for each other, and I felt like that was a legitimate line of thinking to pursue, but then it seems like things get tied up in a nice cozy bow at the end that just felt a little disingenuous to the issues that were building throughout the rest of the book.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic galley of this title from the publisher on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My library rating: This book had fewer steamy scenes in it than the first book did, so I think it would be fine for most people. It’s just an intense young adult romance with a lot of magic thrown in, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon3 glasses of lemonade= a book that you could recommend to coworkers and friends you don’t know very well.

My personal preference rating: I rated this title 3 stars. Ultimately, I think that I liked the first book a little better, but I will definitely be reading the third book when it comes out.

Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest

Hello Kittens! I’ve got a treat for you that is publishing soon. When I first read the synopsis for this book, I thought it was going to be some sort of wacky YA caper, with two teens traipsing all over New York City in search of a little lost glamorous grandma. It is so much more than that. It is a story that deals with all sorts of relationships, presents diverse characters without framing their struggles in terms of diversity, and resolves itself without too many overdone contrivances to make the plot make sense. I was expecting a full-on rom-com, and to an extent I did get that, but the story was also deeper, which I really appreciated. It’s a great YA find from an author who was new to me.

Title: Now That I’ve Found YouNow That I've Found You

Author: Kristina Forest

Author website: https://www.kristinaforest.com/

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Publish date: August 25, 2020

ISBN: 9781250295026

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Summary:

Evie Marie Jones is an acting legend, or at least she will be. Her grandmother is the famous actress Evelyn Conaway and her parents are documentary film makers. The screen is in her blood and she has been pursuing her acting career since she was a young child. She is poised to hit it big when she lands a major movie role and is on the cusp of landing a beauty contract with one of her favorite brands. Unfortunately, one viral video of Evie doing an imitation of her new boss is going to land her in a lot of trouble. The public who loved her just a few days ago is going to turn on her big time and Evie doesn’t know how to handle it.

The one constant in Evie’s life has been her grandmother. So when everything comes crashing down with her career, which she sees as her grandmother’s legacy, Evie can’t even bring herself to return Evelyn’s calls. As time begins to heal some of Evie’s wounds, she heads to New York City to visit Evelyn and try to get her career on track. Her grandmother has been out of the spotlight for years and doesn’t understand why Evie is in such a rush to get back to that life. Little does Evelyn know, Evie needs her grandmother’s blessing on a project from the one producer who hasn’t blacklisted Evie, a man that Evelyn had a famous falling out with nearly a decade ago.

In coming to New York City, Evie is forced to confront her failed career, her feelings about disappointing her family, her betrayal by a friend that she trusted, and the feelings of loneliness that she has struggled with her whole life.

Why I liked it:

This story is part “Where’d You Go, Bernadette”, part “You’ve Got Mail” and part “She’s All That”, which I absolutely loved. There’s a romance in the story, but I felt like Evie’s personal growth was the highlight, as it should be. I love Evelyn’s character because she is so strong and sure of herself. She’s got enough money to live any kind of lifestyle she wants, but she lives in a comfortable home and appears to be nice to everyone that she comes in contact with.

I also appreciated that some of the issues Evie struggled with weren’t just chalked up to teen angst. Her parents really weren’t as present in her life as she needed them to be, but eventually she tells them that and they make an effort to do better.

What I would like to change:

Nothing. This is exactly the type of book that I like, even though it wasn’t the book that I thought I was getting into when I first read the synopsis.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic galley of this title from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My library rating: Here we have it, the coveted perfect library rating. There’s almost no bad language, no questionable morality, no tough scenarios. It’s just a light story with complex characters.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon5 glasses of lemonade= you could recommend this book to anyone.  There is nothing in here that is going to upset anyone and you could start handing it out on street corners.  (This kind of book is a Librarian’s dream.  As much as we love good literature, suggesting a book for someone can be nerve-wracking work that can backfire BIG TIME.)

My personal preference rating: I rated this title 5 stars. It was the book that I didn’t know I needed to read right now.

All Eyes on Her by L. E. Flynn

Hello Kittens! I’ve been on more of a mystery/thriller kick lately, so I hope you’ll indulge me for a little while longer. This week I’ve got a Young Adult Thriller revolving around a young woman and her boyfriend who go for a hike in the woods one day. Only one of them comes out of those woods alive. I can tell you, that from my perspective, mistake number one was definitely going into the woods in the first place…just kidding. I love hiking under the right circumstances. This was a gripping story about a small town that is rocked when one of their young stars winds up dead in what everyone at first believes is an accident. It has love, betrayals, court room drama, and teen angst all rolled into one 320 page story and it was quite the ride. I hope you’ll give it a shot if you see this one in stores or in your local library.

Title: All Eyes On HerAll Eyes on Her

Author: L. E. Flynn

Author website: http://www.laurieelizabethflynn.com/

Publisher: Imprint

Publish date: August 18, 2020

ISBN: 9781250158161

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Summary:

Mark Forrester and Tabitha Cousins were the “it” couple in their town. He was a Princeton boy, fulfilling his dreams of becoming a big name in collegiate swimming, while she was finishing up her senior year at the local high school. They are well-known in their town and their relationship has been electric from day one. The town is heartbroken when Mark, their golden boy, falls to his death during the hike and Tabitha gets lost in the woods for hours trying to find help. People say they never should have gone on the hike if they didn’t know what they were doing, and why did they go to a notoriously dangerous spot if neither of them even liked hiking?

In the days and weeks following Mark’s death speculation abounds about Tabby and how their relationship played out. Yes, they were hot and heavy and everyone knew it, but everyone also knew that the two had been having some problems lately. Both were accused of exhibiting jealousy and possessive behavior. Both had friends who were begging them to end things. Both had their own reasons for going on the hike that day. With Mark out of the picture, the town begins to wonder about how far Tabby would have gone to free herself from a toxic relationship, and as the investigation into his death heats up, people all over the country will take sides.

This story is told from the alternating perspectives of Tabby and Mark’s friends. The reader never gets a chapter from Mark, so they are left to depend on his friends and other bystanders to hear his side of the story. Some chapters also feature text exchanges and the online stories from various news websites, along with their comments sections. Information is given out slowly, with the reader left to piece together large parts of the story themselves, largely depending on how different people saw the same event. Some characters are convinced that Tabby is a murdered and some are convinced that she may have been forced to defend herself against an increasingly aggressive Mark.

Tabby is the only one who knows the truth, and hers is a perspective that is only briefly shared with the reader. In chapters from each of their best friends and their siblings, the reader gets to know how Tabby and Mark acted towards each other and how everything led up to that moment in the woods. Parts of the story are missing, understandably since Mark’s version is not represented and Tabby’s story is told the way that Tabby wants it told. It creates a situation where the reader has a cast of potentially unreliable narrators, all twisting the story to meet their own needs. It’s a thrilling mystery that utilizes the versatile nature of teenage friendships and relationships to make an already complicated situation even more complicated. Every person the reader meets had some role to play in what happened then and what happens next.

Why I liked it:

This story is much more complex than I originally thought it would be based on the synopsis. It is much more about the relationships that these teens had with each other and other people in the town than it is about what actually occurred when they were in the woods.

I appreciate that we see real emotional growth from some of the characters, as would be expected in a book that takes place over more than 12 months. At first it seemed liked the characters were going to be cast in somewhat stereotypical roles for the entirety of the novel, but the second half of the book is a turning point for several characters, most notably Bridget, Lou, and Kyla. They each get an arc that is more developed than I originally imagined for them.

What I would like to change:

I can’t give too much detail without spoiling anything, but I will say that the ending lacked the resolutions that I was looking for. Also, it felt like some characters just fell by the wayside at the end (Beck).

Disclaimer: I received an electronic galley of this title from the publisher on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My library rating: For a book that dealt with teenagers and murder, I actually thought this title was pretty tame. There’s some cursing and there is discussion of an abortion, but nothing graphic.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon4 glasses of lemonade= a book you could recommend to a book group or anybody who reads.  You might find controversial subject matter, but it is handled delicately.

My personal preference rating: I rated this title 4 stars. The character development was good and the mystery was solid. It had moments of high intensity and kept my interest throughout.

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Hello Kittens! How do you guys feel about fairy tale re-tellings? I am a fan of them, personally, which is why I jumped at the chance to read an upcoming release that is a re-telling of Cinderella. This is a YA fantasy book that features a black female lesbian protagonist. It is a debut for this author, who has signed a 2-book deal with the publisher. It’s always hard to know how a book like this will land in my area of the country, but I really enjoyed this read. It wasn’t perfect, but I honestly enjoyed this take on the classic Cinderella story and I was rooting for the protagonist throughout. Give it a try if you’re willing.

Title: Cinderella is DeadCinderella Is Dead

Author: Kalynn Bayron

Author website: https://www.kalynnbayron.com/

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Publish date: July 7th, 2020

ISBN: 9781547603886

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Summary:

It has been 200 years since Cinderella married Prince Charming, and all who live in her land know the story by heart…all the girls at least. Things have changed a little bit since Cinderella sat on the throne. First, there are a set of decrees that are designed to “protect” the women of this land. Things like curfews and rules about obeying their heads of households (all men, by the way). Additionally, a ball is held in honor of Cinderella’s fairy tale ending every year, but attendance is now mandatory for every young woman of marriageable age. Girls come to the ball to be chosen by their husbands. If they are not chosen by their third ball, they are considered “forfeit” and are sent to work as laborers in service to their kingdom.

This year, a young woman named Sophia is agonizing over the upcoming ball. She’s read Cinderella’s story over and over again. She knows it by heart, as do all of the girls in this land. The only problem is, she wouldn’t have chosen a prince for herself, she would much rather have married a princess. She is in love with her best friend Erin and has no desire to be “chosen” by any man at the ball. As she struggles with what her parents and her country expect of her, desperation sets in. Not content to accept her fate, Sophia begs Erin to run away with her. If they’re caught, they’ll be put to death and their families will suffer, but Sophia sees it as their only option. Erin, however, is not brave enough to turn away from their fate and endanger her family.

When the night of the ball finally arrives, everything goes wrong and Sophia ends up fleeing for her life. As she runs from the castle, she encounters a young woman named Constance who is a descendant of one of Cinderella’s stepsisters. Constance begins to unravel the tale that Sophia thought she knew and they both set off on a course to change this world for all of the girls who are still trapped in it. It won’t be easy. They’ll have to seek magic that they aren’t even sure exists and will still need to return to the castle to confront the evil king. No one thinks they will win, but Sophia and Constance know that there are no other options.

Why I liked it:

I appreciated that the original story was kept in tact, but that the author played with the interpretation of events. I think that Sophia is a well-developed character and the reader is invested in her personal growth throughout the story. There are some emotionally gutting moments in the story that the reader feels as viscerally as Sophia does. I also appreciated that Sophia’s inner monologue directly addresses what might feel like inauthentic moments in the plot. In particular, I appreciate how Sophia’s feelings about the witch are expressed in the story. Up until it was put on the page, I found her acceptance of Amina to be a little too convenient, but Bayron gives the inner monologue the authenticity that was lacking a little in the dialogue.

I really appreciate that we get a Cinderella (both in the character of Sophia and the original Cinderella) who is more of a warrior. I know Disney likes their happy, uncomplicated endings, but I like a Cinderella who has a little more depth to aspire to. The Cinderella that we get in this story suffered a terrible fate, but she was a fighter who was trying to do what was right for her people. Admirable.

What I would like to change:

We get thrown right into the story here, and that was pretty disorienting for me as the reader. We get a lot of information dumped on us at the very beginning, which feels a little awkward because the book is 400 pages long. I was left wondering what the rush was and it made the first part of the story feel clunky. Once that initial portion was over, we moved on to a little more action.

I also didn’t love Erin’s development in the story. I felt like the character was sacrificed but that her motivations didn’t line up with what the reader was told about her. She’s in a relationship with Sophia up until the ball and then she suddenly shuts it all down? Her first foray into marriage is with a highly abusive man and she doesn’t take an opportunity to run? I can understand her staying if the pattern of abuse was more established, but by all accounts she had a good home life and a reason to believe in Sophia. I just didn’t quite buy into that part as a reader.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.

My library rating: Like I said, it’s hard to peg how a title like this will be received in my area of the country. There are certainly people who will object to it for a number of reasons, but I think in terms of my ability to recommend it to patrons, it still has a lot of potential. I hope there will come a day where I don’t need to worry about someone screaming at me or writing to the local paper because a Librarian recommended material that they consider “inappropriate” to their child. I hope it comes soon.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon3 glasses of lemonade= a book that you could recommend to coworkers and friends you don’t know very well.

My personal preference rating: I gave this title 4 stars and look forward to the author’s next book.