Review: “Lady Midnight” by Cassandra Clare

I am still really sick, so this review is a bit out of sorts BUT it’s really important to me because I did not expect to love this book as much as I did. I didn’t like the romantic plot line I thought was coming, but the emotional weight of the entire family dynamic made it a love and must read for me!

Review: “Get in Trouble” by Kelly Link

This review has been almost a year in the making, but it’s finally happening! After how much I didn’t really like Kelly Link when Bibliomancy did her Magic for Beginners collection, I’m upset about how much I liked this collection. Shhh, don’t tell Taylor.

Betwixt the Books Reviews: “A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki

GUYS! Michaela and I finally managed to do this joint review! By which I mean that I finally found the time to finish it so we could film this. Michaela was even able to participate in a buddy read for this book, though I was busy during that time. We’ve been excited for this video since before our hiatus, so we hope that you enjoy!

Michaela’s Review: 5 stars | Gretchen’s Review: 4 stars

Review: “If The Oceans Were Ink” by Carla Power

22320455If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran by Carla Power

Goodreads | Amazon

If the Oceans Were Ink is Carla Power’s eye-opening story of how she and her longtime friend Sheikh Mohammad Akram Nadwi found a way to confront ugly stereotypes and persistent misperceptions that were cleaving their communities. Their friendship-between a secular American and a madrasa-trained sheikh-had always seemed unlikely, but now they were frustrated and bewildered by the battles being fought in their names. Both knew that a close look at the Quran would reveal a faith that preached peace and not mass murder; respect for women and not oppression. And so they embarked on a yearlong journey through the controversial text.

A journalist who grew up in the Midwest and the Middle East, Power offers her unique vantage point on the Quran’s most provocative verses as she debates with Akram at cafes, family gatherings, and packed lecture halls, conversations filled with both good humor and powerful insights. Their story takes them to madrasas in India and pilgrimage sites in Mecca, as they encounter politicians and jihadis, feminist activists and conservative scholars. Armed with a new understanding of each other’s worldviews, Power and Akram offer eye-opening perspectives, destroy long-held myths, and reveal startling connections between worlds that have seemed hopelessly divided for far too long.

4 stars

Up until this point, I haven’t been too impressed by the books that I’ve been reading for my Spiritual Journeys class. Stephen Dubner’s Choosing My Religion was written poorly and lacked much depth. The second book, Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway, was even more surface level with a hidden amount of white privilege on top. I still haven’t finished the third one due to missed classes.

This book, however, changed everything. Here, at last, was the deep kind of inter-religious engagement that I had been looking for all this time, with an author I trusted to do the subject justice.

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Betwixt the Books Review: “The Gracekeepers” by Kirsty Logan

Look what we’ve managed! A second joint review. Unlike with Paper Towns, this one is a lot more divided – but that is why we do these things! Michaela liked it more than I did, but we both had our issues with this one. Turns out, hype is not always what it’s cracked up to be!

51jwue6mtpl-_sy344_bo1204203200_The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

Goodreads | Amazon

A lyrical and moving debut in the tradition of Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood, introducing an original and commanding new voice in fiction

As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, sending the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance.

In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland (“landlockers”) and those who float on the sea (“damplings”), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives–offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.

Inspired in part by Scottish myths and fairytales, The Gracekeepers tells a modern story of an irreparably changed world: one that harbors the same isolation and sadness, but also joys and marvels of our own age.

Gretchen’s Rating: 3 stars | Michaela’s Rating: 4 stars

ARC Review: “The Forever Song” by Julie Kagawa

The Forever SongThe Forever Song (The Blood of Eden #3) by Julie Kagawa

Goodreads | Amazon

Vengeance will be hers.

Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster? With the death of her love, Zeke, she has her answer.

Monster.

Allie will embrace her cold vampire side to hunt down and end Sarren, the psychopathic vampire who murdered Zeke. But the trail is bloody and long, and Sarren has left many surprises for Allie and her companions – her creator Kanin, and her blood brother, Jackal. The trail is leading straight to the one place they must protect at any cost – the last vampire-free zone on Earth, Eden. And Sarren has one final, brutal shock in store for Allie. 

In a ruined world where no life is sacred and former allies can turn on you in one heartbeat, Allie will face her darkest days. And if she succeeds, her triumph will be short-lived in the face of surviving forever alone.

THE FINAL HUNT IS ON.

4 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and HarlequinTeen for this eARC! This title is now available.

WARNING: This review will have spoilers for the first two books. If you’re interested in the series, check out my reviews of The Immortal Rules (#1) and The Eternity Cure (#2)!

So if you read my reviews of the first two books, you know that I was completely blown away by the first one and fairly underwhelmed by the second one. Rather predictably, the final installment was right in between those two feelings.

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Random Reads: “Dark Star” by Bethany Frenette

After a last minute vacation, I can proudly say I have at least two weeks of reviews to come. One–but not the only–is this one. I finally got a random reads read! Scroll to the bottom of the post for the next Random Read!

Dark StarDark Star (Dark Star #1) by Bethany Frenette

Goodreads | Amazon

Audrey Whitticomb has nothing to fear. Her mother is the superhero Morning Star, the most deadly crime-fighter in the Twin Cities, so it’s hard for Audrey not to feel safe. That is, until she’s lured into the sweet night air by something human and not human–something with talons and teeth, and a wide, scarlet smile. 

Now Audrey knows the truth: her mom doesn’t fight crime at night. She fights Harrowers–livid, merciless beings who were trapped Beneath eons ago. Yet some have managed to escape. And they want Audrey dead, just because of who she is: one of the Kin. 

To survive, Audrey will need to sharpen the powers she has always had. When she gets close to someone, dark corners of the person’s memories become her own, and she sometimes even glimpses the future. If Audrey could only get close to Patrick Tigue, a powerful Harrower masquerading as human, she could use her Knowing to discover the Harrowers’ next move. But Leon, her mother’s bossy, infuriatingly attractive sidekick, has other ideas. Lately, he won’t let Audrey out of his sight. 

When an unthinkable betrayal puts Minneapolis in terrible danger, Audrey discovers a wild, untamed power within herself. It may be the key to saving her herself, her family, and her city. Or it may be the force that destroys everything–and everyone–she loves.

Four stars

I’ll be completely honest: I wasn’t expecting much from this one. I’d heard mixed things, so that was why I took so long to read it. However, though there were definite iffy parts, I’m totally glad I did. This book rocked way more than I expected.

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Review: “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” by Holly Black

Coldest Girl in ColdtownThe Coldest Girl In Coldtown, by Holly Black

Amazon | Goodreads

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

4 stars

Read this book if: you’re looking for adventure, fantastic worldbuilding, and vampire fiction that thinks outside the box.

Do not read this book if: you’re looking for sweet-and-broody vampire romance, or you don’t like blood.  Seriously.  There’s a lot of it.

I read the short story this book started with a while back, and when I found out she was writing a book off the idea, I was very, very excited.  The short story was an interesting take on the vampire myth, free of stereotypes and surprisingly believable.   The novel absolutely lives up to that, and more.  

In this take on the vampire myth, vampirism is well and truly a disease: once infected, people must either drink human blood and turn into vampires or find someone to lock them up for 88 days while they scream and throw up and try to attack anyone who comes close.  If the government finds out you’re infected, you’ll be quarantined in a Coldtown–a walled vampire city–and never, ever allowed to leave, even if you beat the infection.  Due to the existence of the Internet and TV, the public has a somewhat unhealthy fascination with the goings-on in Coldtowns, and lots of people dream of being infected.  In a way, I think what made this book work so well is that it’s not about vampirism so much as it’s about people’s reactions to vampirism.  Some people dream of being turned, romanticizing the idea; some people fight the idea for all they’re worth, even after being infected.  Some people become vampires and stay exactly the same, and some people turn into bloodthirsty maniacs.  Some families lock infected family members in the basement for 88 days and suffer through the screaming, and others turn them in to the police and ship them off to Coldtown.  There’s a broad range of humanity explored through the idea of vampirism here, and I really love how multidimensional the idea gets.

Tana is a very…appropriate main character for her setting.  She’s got some nastiness in her past and some problems in her present, and she ends up going to Coldtown for not-very-good reasons, with minimal preparation and a vampire chained up in the backseat.  Once she gets there, though, she is no helpless vampire-romance heroine.  She is drugged and locked up with two very bad options to choose from, and instead of playing along she makes a third option.  She is threatened and she doesn’t back down; she’s attacked and she defends herself.  Often writers of vampire fiction play up their human characters’ helplessness in the face of such supernatural strength and give the vampires all the agency, but Tana seems to be at her strongest and most formidable when surrounded by people who think she looks yummy.  She gets involved in big, dangerous events and refuses to be sidelined.  She is not taking any of your bloodsucker BS.

I think one of this book’s biggest strengths is its ability to produce character development and worldbuilding without slowing the action down at all.  The author really does her ensemble cast justice here, and it’s delightful.  Even the jerk ex-boyfriend mentioned in the blurb actually gets some interesting character development and does some good things.

Romance didn’t play a very big part, and I was pretty happy with that.  Gavriel, the obligatory mysterious/hot vampire boy, is a good character, there’s no denying that: he’s driven, he’s angry, and he is insane–legitimately crazy–in ways that make a really weird amount of sense.  He fits right in in the opulent, bloody environment of Coldtown: extravagant, devious, gleefully mad, and dangerous in ways even the other vampires can’t guess at.  Which brings me to a plot element I had to think about a LOT before I decided what I thought of it…

–WARNING: Thoughts on relationships ahead.  Spoilery, but only with plot elements that you probably guessed anyway!–

Gavriel is everything I could ask for out of a character, but NOT someone I would want my friend dating.  He and Tana circle each other throughout the book, which, anyone who’s read any YA at ALL knew from the blurb that there would be romantic tension there, right?  I’m super-happy that it’s mostly just romantic tension–these people are REALLY BUSY, they don’t have TIME for smoldery vampire sex.  And Gavriel is not…safe.  He’s unstable, and a self-acknowledged monster.  But he never shows any violence or cruelty or even abuserish tendencies towards Tana (which is better than I can say of 99% of vampire boyfriends out there), and although any relationship between them is going to be inherently abnormal and a bit twisted…I think that’s more because both parties are really abnormal.  They live in a weird, violent world, and they’re both weird, somewhat violent people (okay, Tana’s only violent out of necessity, but she doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with it).  So although it’s certainly not a normal relationship,  it doesn’t seem inherently damaging, just a product of Coldtown and of the two people involved–and I actually am glad that the weirdness of it is acknowledged.  Gavriel gives me the creeps, but he’s supposed to.  At least the narrative acknowledges that he’s not stable, and Tana is aware of it.  And honestly?  I think she can handle him.

–End Predictable Spoilers–

So, basically: this book is dark and bloody and sometimes twisted.  The world is extravagant and insane and manipulative.  People are desperate.  Some of the vampires are still people, and some of them turned into monsters as soon as their bodies gave them permission.  This book has a lot of desperate people (human ones) in it, and also a lot of blood.

If those are not turn-offs for you, I definitely recommend this book.

ARC Review: “Gold” by Talia Vance

GoldGold (Bandia #2) by Talia Vance

Goodreads | Amazon

Descended from an Irish demigod, Brianna has fled to Ireland to escape destruction at the hands of her sworn enemies, the Sons of Killian. Taking refuge at the estate of her former nemesis, Austin Montgomery, Brianna discovers a rift in time that opens to an era before the feud began.

Wrestling with her newfound feelings for the more innocent Austin, Brianna begins to wonder if she can alter the past. But when Brianna and Austin learn that the Sons are raising an army of mythical beasts, the pair will need to use their magical strength in the present to avoid a tragic end.

Four stars

Thanks to Flux and NetGalley for this eARC! This title will be released September 8th.

WARNING: This review WILL contain spoilers for book #1. Please see my review of Silver for more!

If you read my review of book one, then you know that I died in all the right ways during Silver. I had so much fun with the action and the sexiness (both books have a PG-13 rating for sure), and I was completely depressed when it ended. When Gold popped up on NetGalley, I hit the request button so hard I thought my mouse would break. Whatever I expected out of Gold, though, was not what I got–but in a (mostly) good way.

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Review: “Vortex” by S. J. Kincaid

VortexVortex (Insignia #2) by S. J. Kincaid

Goodreads | Amazon

The impossible was just the beginning. Now in their second year as superhuman government weapons-in-training at the Pentagonal Spire, Tom Raines and his friends are mid-level cadets in the elite combat corps known as the Intrasolar Forces. But as training intensifies and a moment arrives that could make or break his entire career, Tom’s loyalties are again put to the test.

Encouraged to betray his ideals and friendships for the sake of his country, Tom is convinced there must be another way. And the more aware he becomes of the corruption surrounding him, the more determined he becomes to fight it, even if he sabotages his own future in the process.

Drawn into a power struggle more dramatic than he has ever faced before, Tom stays a hyperintelligent step ahead of everyone, like the exceptional gamer he is—or so he believes. But when he learns that he and his friends have unwittingly made the most grievous error imaginable, Tom must find a way to outwit an enemy so nefarious that victory seems hopeless. Will his idealism and bravado cost him everything—and everyone that matters to him?

Filled with action and intelligence, camaraderie and humor, the second book in S.J. Kincaid’s futuristic World War III Insignia trilogy continues to explore fascinating and timely questions about power, politics, technology, loyalty, and friendship.

4 stars

WARNING: This review WILL contain spoilers for the first book, Insignia. Read my review of that one HERE!

I already knew, when I started reading this book, that there was no chance of me having the ridiculously enthusiastic reaction that I had to the first book. Still, I was excited to open the pages and get into a story I was sure to make me laugh. What I found was a plot in two, strange parts.

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