The Bookshelf Corner

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ARC Review: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Thank you to Margaret K. McElderry Books and NetGalley for the e-ARC to read and review! Legendborn by Tracy Deonn goes on sale September 15, 2020.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy
Series: Legendborn #1
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.

She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.

 

My Review: Legendborn was an incredible read! This book quickly became an instant favorite.

Truthfully, Legendborn was a tough read. I was angry and sad and frustrated by the direct and indirect “polite” racism towards Bree – it’s an honest reflection of today’s world. As a black American, this cut bone-deep. I applaud the way Bree handled herself towards such comments and people.

Bree is a fantastic main character. She’s clearly suffering from PTSD but is extremely adamant about finding the truth about her mother’s accident. Sometimes you rooted for her, sometimes you wish she’d exercised more caution. But I think Bree was meant to end up on that campus at that point in time, adding to the more than meets the eye vibes. Haunting.

The author has recreated a wholly original take on Arthurian legends. It’s complex but so befitting. Although, it was hard for me to remember so much information about the secret society – lots of well-written but huge info-dumps. It can be hard compartmentalizing all the terms, hierarchy, and family ties. My hope for the next book is that we’ll have a glossary of terms and family trees. Especially as one’s family – where you come from and where you’re going – plays a vital role in the overall story.

I liked Nick’s character a lot but also felt bad or him. He’s a rather tortured soul but does what he can to help Bree. I didn’t like that she took advantage of that and their budding romance at times. I get the why but it doesn’t absolve the wrongness I feel about it.

There is so much action that takes place throughout the story. The final climactic scene at the end was really good, shocking, and sad. An emotional rollercoaster.

Legendborn is an astounding book and relevant to the troubling times we currently find (or maybe never left?) ourselves in. There is much to love about this book and the direction it could go in the next book. Legendborn had wondrous contemporary world-building, bold tackling of important societal/cultural issues, beautiful writing, solid character growth, tension beyond belief, and heroism to admire. This story is a must read!


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Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling (1st Read!)

NOTE: Because this is Harry Potter – an globally known, household name and because it’s been decades in existence – this review will be open – this is not a spoiler-free review.

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Middle Grade, Young Adult, Fantasy
Series: Harry Potter #1
Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes – if you haven’t read the books and/or seen the movies

ABOUT: Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive. Addressed in green ink on yellowish parchment with a purple seal, they are swiftly confiscated by his grisly aunt and uncle. Then, on Harry’s eleventh birthday, a great beetle-eyed giant of a man called Rubeus Hagrid bursts in with some astonishing news: Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. An incredible adventure is about to begin!

 

My Review: [Context: I was little when I first tried to read this book and never finished. Now I’m reading it for the first time years later having only seen all of the movies.]

I really enjoyed the story and had I been a bit older I think I would have enjoyed it way back then. I will say – probably unpopular opinion – that this was just as entertaining as the movie.

I thought the writing was great, the right diction and tone drenched in magic and whimsy. The kind of storytelling you’d hear around a campfire, an adventure to entrance readers. Some of the chapters however dragged on for me. There are only 17 but it felt double that.

Harry, Ron, Hermione and the other first-years seemed more realistic in the book, like actually 11/12 year old children. I love how bold and snarky Harry is once he’s at Hogwarts. Ron was kind of funny. Hermione was annoying but glad she was able to become friends with Harry and Ron. These three in particular were a very persistent lot.

My favorite part was when Harry tried to get back Neville’s Remembrall from Malfoy, the Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Slytherin, and, of course, Fluffy.

I liked getting reacquainted with these characters. I also liked getting a much more fuller scope of the story as a whole. I will continue this series because – as I feel for the movies – the story can only get better from here. I want to fully see the depths of who they are.


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Book Review: Thirteen Rising by Romina Russell

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy
Series: Zodiac #4
Rating5 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes
Favorite Quote: “…he realized how ridiculous he’d been to ever care about our Houses. He said even though we’d been born on different planets, the stars had always meant for us to find each other – that was why they’d given us each one half of the same soul.”

ABOUT: The master has been unmasked. Rho’s world has been turned upside down. With her loved ones in peril and all the stars set against her, can the young Guardian from House Cancer muster the strength to keep fighting? Or has she finally found her match in a master whose ambition to rule knows no limits?

 

My Review: After 3 long years, I have finally finished the last book of this incredible series. Thirteen Rising was indeed an epic conclusion to a defining moment millenniums in the making.

Thirteen Rising was a lot to take in. The weight on Rho’s shoulders was unbearable. Very rarely do I see an MC in such a despondent state that’s all-encompassing. Yes, there are plenty of book characters who face impossible odds and have everything to lose if they fail. But for Rho, it was a whole different monster and I couldn’t blame her for the choices she made in order to save the Zodiac. It’s Rho who makes this final installment so particularly riveting.

It’s so interesting learning what originating events caused things to end up where this series first starts. The big piece of this story is unity in every way imaginable. Houses divided cannot stand together and it’s a painful less everyone comes to learn: that the Zodiac is one singular, unified species.

But when the master’s identity is reveal, is salvation possible after millenniums of persecuting Risers (people born in one house but not able to fit that House’s mold) and us versus them mentality? The tension is so taunt that I didn’t want to stop reading.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on the dazzling, cosmic cover art. All of the books in this series show oh-so beautiful, abstract space scenes of stars and constellations. And then there’s that striking tagline at the top: Beware the 13th sign. So so chilling!

The climax was agonizing to read. It was uncertain chaos that kept you guessing whether Rho and her friends would be able to save the Zodiac. The amount of loss was heartbreaking and I wish certain things didn’t happen.

The ending….I wanted to know just a tad more but it was satisfying nonetheless. I don’t think things could have ended any other way.

If you haven’t read this series yet, please do! It’s one of my favorite YA series of all time. If you love sci-fi/fantasy and strong heroines who always give it their all, this series is for you!


Zodiac Series (my reviews)

Zodiac – book 1
Wandering Star – book 2
Black Moon – book 3


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Waiting On Wednesday – 5/20/20

Happy Wednesday, Bookworms!

May is almost over and I haven’t done a single bookish meme. So I’m doing another Waiting On Wednesday for a book whose predecessor left me pleasantly devastated. Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine where you spotlight a highly anticipated book.

Image via Goodreads

Today, I am in dire need to read The Damned by Renée Ahdieh; what is sure to be an amazing sequel to The Beautiful (my 5-star review). But we still have to wait a few more months before its release on July 7, 2020.

ABOUT: Following the events of The Beautiful, Sébastien Saint Germain is now cursed and forever changed. The treaty between the Fallen and the Brotherhood has been broken, and war between the immortals seems imminent. The price of loving Celine was costly. But Celine has also paid a high price for loving Bastien.

Still recovering from injuries sustained during a night she can’t quite remember, her dreams are troubled. And she doesn’t know she has inadvertently set into motion a chain of events that could lead to her demise and unveil a truth about herself she’s not quite ready to learn.

Forces hiding in the shadows have been patiently waiting for this moment for centuries. And just as Bastien and Celine begin to uncover the danger around them, they learn their love could tear them apart.

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ARC Review: Alpha Erased by Aileen Erin

Thank you Ink Monster and NetGalley for the e-ARC to read and review! Alpha Erased goes on sale May 12, 2020.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal Romance
Series: Alpha Girl #9
Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommended to Others?: Yes

 

ABOUT: Tessa—part witch, part werewolf, raised human and now the unofficial leader of a newly minted supernatural alliance—thinks nothing of her brother, Axel, texting her and Dastien to meet him. The location pin was in a weird spot, but maybe he’d found a magical anomaly there. But when Tessa steps into the darkened warehouse, she doesn’t expect to see her brother laying in a pool of his own blood, smell the sulfuric scent of black magic, or feel the pain of her mate being shot full of silver.

Tessa has seconds to make a choice, but there’s only one thing she can do to save the two most important men in her life—sacrifice herself.

The last thing Dastien hears from Tessa was her plea—help Axel. But then their bond goes silent. He can’t hear her. He can’t feel her. And there’s no sign of the attackers who took her.

Dastien does everything he can to save Axel before calling his friends in a panic. It takes all of them to find Tessa, but when Dastien’s finally reunited with her, there’s no sign of recognition in her eyes.

No magic in her touch.

No wolf beneath the surface.

Everything that made Tessa who she was…has been erased.

 

My Review:
Alpha Erased is an entirely different beast than its predecessors. You will be completely absorbed in all that happens. I couldn’t (wouldn’t!) put this book down until it was over.

I knew this was going to be painfully bad for Dastien. All I wanted to do was give him hug. Alpha Erased takes the idea of “mates” to a whole new level it’s wild! In this book, really come to understand the depths of what it means to be “True Mates.” I believe this to be the book’s strongest aspect.

I care about Dastien a lot and even more so post-read. The majority of the book is really sad and tense and quiet until they find Tessa. And then things speed up towards a stunning conclusion.

I don’t know what to make of Alpha Erased as a whole. It is in no way a bad book; far far from it. When I finished the book I was like “woah, so that happened.” It’s an HFN story, of which tend to leave me in a dazed book hangover.

But I would still recommend this book and series because wolves and fantastic characters and the devious plots and feelings. Also, just look at that gorgeous cover! So blue and beautiful!


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Book Review: The Bookworm Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

ABOUT: Shy bookworm Amy McIntyre is about to compete for the chance to interview her favorite author, who hasn’t spoken to the press in years. The only way to win is to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight, but that level of confidence has never come easy.

The solution? A competition coach. The problem? The best person for the job is the guy she’s secretly crushing on…local surfer celebrity Toff Nichols.

He’s a player. He’s a heartthrob. He makes her forget basic things, like how to breathe. How can she feel any confidence around him?

To her surprise, Toff agrees to help. And he’s an excellent teacher. Amy feels braver—maybe even brave enough to admit her feelings for him. When their late night practices become less about coaching and more about making out, Amy’s newfound confidence wavers.

But does Toff really like her or is this just another lesson?

 

My Review:
The Bookworm Crush was as bookish and adorkable and sweet as can be! It’s a cute story of finding one’s inner strength and figuring out what matters most.

Amy is a Bookworm with a capital B and romance is her lady jam, so I’m already in love with her character. I instantly connected with her and could relate to who she is as a person. She’s a quiet badass from the start but of course she doesn’t see how great she is. Her character development to bring out that inner badass – that hidden confidence in herself – is so well-done and organic.

Toff is popular and a people person. He’s good looking and a gifted surfer. Too much of a jokester though, which at times makes him unlikable because it greatly affects Amy emotionally and mentally. There is depth to Toff that was interesting to see unfold.

As the story progress I think Toff too finds more about himself than he realized. His character is just as complex as Amy’s. Both must brave uncharted territory and there’s a shared fear that neither of them realizes. It makes their romance that much sweeter and I think challenges them to face the problems that happen.

There’s just so many good moments to love about this book, like the scenes with Amy’s little trouble-making brother and the funny nick-names Amy, Toff, Viv and Dallas have for each other. You also have a great cast of characters, a solid plot that has many intricate strands woven together, emotional tension that keeps you on edge, and a wholesome romance that tugs at all the bookish heartstrings.

The Bookworm Crush was a good standalone novel and I enjoyed reading it.


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Book Review: The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Series: The Queen’s Rising #1
Rating: 5 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

ABOUTWhen her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?

 

My Review: The Queen’s Rising was a wonderful read with a strong female lead and unique world compared to past YA fantasies I’ve read.

For as long as she could remember, Brienna had been more or less an outcast of unknown origins, an outsider looking in. “Two in one.” So it’s difficult to find her place in the world. Despite her fortitude, all paths led to failure. Yet I still couldn’t help rooting for her success. Her persistence and kindness drew me in. She’s a relatable character in all essence. Also, I love her name.

The world-building is really interesting. The professions focused on are called “passions,” which are made up of five avenues: art, dramatics, knowledge, music, and wit. I loved that these were the disciplines the author chose because they are all very important fields of study (in my opinion).

It did take me some time to pick up the lingo of the world. “Passion” is used as a noun and a verb instead of – what you’re usually used to – as an adjective. This change in parts of speech was confusing, almost jarring, for a while but I eventually got used to it.

I did not expect the romance oh my goodness! It’s slow burn-ish and oh-so sweet. I’m curious to explore this further in the next book 2.

The resistance to overthrow a tyrannical government trope was a typical conflict, but the author still managed to throw in shocking plot twists, especially where Brienna was concerned.

I’m keen to read the aftermath of the events from this story in the sequel. With a title like The Queen’s Resistance, I believe we can expect more awesomeness from the author.


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[BLOG TOUR] ARC Review: A Love Hate Thing by Whitney D. Grandison

[December 31, 2019 January 14, 2020]

Thank you to Inkyard Press and NetGalley for the e-ARC to read and review. A Love Hate Thing by Whitney D. Grandison is on sale January 7, 2020.

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

ABOUT: When they’re stuck under one roof, the house may not be big enough for their hate…or their love.

When Tyson Trice finds himself tossed into the affluent coastal community of Pacific Hills, he’s ready for the questions, the stares and the feeling of not belonging in the posh suburb. Not that he cares. After recovering from being shot and surviving the mean streets of Lindenwood, he doesn’t care about anyone or anything. He doesn’t even care how the rest of his life will play out.

In Pacific Hills, image is everything. Something that, as the resident golden girl, Nandy Smith knows all too well. She’s spent most of her life building the pristine image it takes to fit in. After learning that her parents are taking in a teen boy, Nandy fears her summer plans, as well as her reputation, will go up in flames. It’s the start of summer vacation, and the last thing Nandy needs is some juvenile delinquent from the ’Wood crashing into her world.

Stuck together in close quarters, Trice and Nandy are in for some long summer nights. Only, with the ever-present pull back to the Lindenwood streets, it’ll be a wonder if Trice makes it through this summer at all.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Review:
A Love Hate Thing was really really good, better than I thought it would be. The story and characters were crafted to with grace and precision, detailed and full of fault. There was a quiet realness that I appreciated about the book. A Love Hate Thing was deep, meaningful and passionate. One of the best YA contemporary romances I’ve ever read!

Nandy is a pretty cool person but her initial judgments of Trice without knowing him of the present were rightfully off-putting. But I grew to like her as I learned more about who she really is on the inside, not what people expect her to be.

Trice is the model of perfect main character. I felt such a connection with him. He is kind, loyal, thoughtful, intelligent. He made the story. I was especially invested in the story, compelled to devour and revel in page after glorious page.

This book and Trice make you stop and take notice of your surroundings in a thought-provoking way. The conflict was current and real, reflecting the harsh, cold realities of today. It is voices like Trice’s that push through the noise and make people think about who they are, where they come from, and where they want to be going. I loved that we got all view-points on the issues presented within the story because it allowed everyone to be heard. It created open dialogue, which is important in conflicts and disagreements.

I was about 70% through when I felt like the story was over. I couldn’t guess what more there could be or what ends have been left loose. Well there were indeed much more left. However, the conclusion was gratifying.

A Love Hate Thing is remarkable; I recommend this book for sure. It’s such an engrossing read. I appreciate the author for writing such a sublime book that we very much need in today’s world.


Photo by Jennifer M. Photography

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Whitney D. Grandison was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, where she currently resides. A lover of stories since she first picked up a book, it’s no surprise she’s taken to writing her own. Some of her works can be found on Wattpad, one of the largest online story sharing platforms, where she has acquired over 30,000 followers and an audience of over fifteen million dedicated readers.

Social Links: 
Instagram: @wheadee
Twitter: @whitney_DG


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Reading 2019: Best of Middle Grade, Young Adult, LGBTQIA+, Manga, ARCs

 

 

 

 


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Book Review: “The Prince and the Dressmaker” by Jen Wang

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult, LGBTQ+ Fiction, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

ABOUTParis, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

 

My Review:
What took me so long to read this book?! It’s so good! The Prince and the Dressmaker is a stunningly painful representation of gender identity, familial pressure, and self-love. Add in the romantic fairy tale atmosphere and charming illustrations and you have one powerful and incredible story.

I have no personal experience with what Sebastian is going through but his feelings – the horror-struck, panicked facial expressions at being exposed, the profound sadness of feeling out of place in his own skin – felt intensely real. The pressure to find a wife and become king and live up to society’s expectation gives him anxiety. He doesn’t want to fail his parents but can’t full commit to someone who may not be okay with the real Sebastian.

I could feel Sebastian’s emotions through the illustrations. I could somewhat understand that feeling of bottling up one’s emotions. The fear of failure. These are real things real people are experiencing.

Frances is a dreamer. She wants her work recognized but isn’t able to being the secret designer behind the secret Lady Crystallia. I connected with France on some level Frances doesn’t want to live in the shadows anymore. She’s got real talent and wants to share her passion with the world.

I loved how kind and accepting Frances was about Sebastian’s secret. Some aren’t as fortunate to have someone like Frances in their life, which is sad.

While I loved the art I couldn’t stop thinking about how everyone looked like they were flushed or had a fever or were sleep deprived. It was very distracting.

I can’t say enough good things about The Prince and the Dressmaker. It’s one of the best books I read this year. I highly recommend this delightful and honest book.