LIVE LOVE PLOT TWISTS: The Tenth Girl Review

Summary (from the publisher):

Simmering in Patagonian myth, The Tenth Girl is a gothic psychological thriller with a haunting twist.

the tenth girl-MECH.inddAt the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi—a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother—it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.

Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house—despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored.

One of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi’s existence. In order to survive she must solve a cosmic mystery—and then fight for her life.

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

img_7638-e1568395309152.jpgSara Faring’s The Tenth Girl is definitely not the type of YA novel I usually pick up. I usually stray away from books with supernatural elements, but the hype for this gothic thriller set in 1970s South America had me hooked. After escaping from Buenos Aires, school teacher Mavi arrives at an isolated finishing school, where the teachers and students increasingly start to show signs that they are possessed. As Mavi learns about “the Others” that inhabit the school, she learns that one particular spirit, Angel, may have information more than she bargained for.

I’m really glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to read The Tenth Girl. It was definitely creepy, but I was really invested in its mystery. Mavi and the book’s second perspective, Angel, try to discover the mystery and secrets within the Vaccaro School. I was hooked from the get-go and right after finishing it, I wanted to shove this book in all of my bookish friends’ hands so we could discuss its entirety!

One of the reasons why The Tenth Girl has received so much hype is its haunting plot twist that most readers won’t see coming. The twist makes The Tenth Girl the type of book readers are either going to love or hate. I’m usually someone who hates it when someone mentions that a book has a twist because I’ll know to watch put. However, even with all the hints and Easter eggs in The Tenth Girl, it is so unpredictable! Looking back, I did find myself questioning some of the smallest details, but I would have never guessed the ending.

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FEMINIST YA FANTASY: The Grace Year Review

Summary (from the publisher):gracey

Survive the year.

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other

 

My Rating: 4.25/ 5 Stars

My Thoughts:

The slightest whisper of “The Handmaid’s Tale meets YA” leaves me no choice but to add said book to my TBR. Enter Kim Liggett’s upcoming release, The Grace Year, which has been hyped up as The Power  meets The Handmaid’s Tale. Lately, I have been reaching more and more for dystopian and fantasy, with The Grace Year falling into the first category.

As they enter their sixteenth year, the girls of Garner County are banished from the community  in order to rid of their magic that has the power to lure men and more. As someone who dreams of a life that doesn’t involve having a husband or pits women against women, Tierney is not looking forward to the grace year. While away in the woods with the other girls, Tierney realizes that she should not fear her future or the poachers who lurk in the woods, but rather the girls themselves.

The Grace Year’s beginning and ending grabbed my attention. While disturbing at times, I loved getting to learn about this slightly-dystopian/slightly & creepily-close-to-our-world setting. I particularly enjoyed the dynamics between Tierney and her family members and her best friend, Michael. Tierney also develops interesting relationships during the grace year. I particularly enjoyed her relationship with Gertie, carrying the message that the girls should stick together rather than break apart in order to survive.

This book definitely has some messed up moments that will leave you angry at this society’ power dynamics, all in the interest in showing how women are oppressed and through Tierney, how they can resist.

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COZY READS: Fall 2019 Graphic Novel Reviews

I am a firm believer that graphic novels are perfect for those days when all you intend to do is sit with a book–and finish it in the same day! The following graphic novels are come out in Fall 2019, so make sure you grab your pumpkin spice-infused drink beforehand.

Stargazing by Jen Wang

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

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Since Jen Wang’s The Prince and the Dressmaker is among my all-time favorite graphic novels, I couldn’t wait to dive into Stargazing. Stargazing is a middle grade graphic novel following fast friends Christine and Moon in their Chinese American community. It took me less than an hour to eat up this cute MG. As always, I loved Jen Wang’s illustrations, in addition to her use of gutters and panels. The novel really unpacks Christine’s growing up in the Chinese American community. While her family is somewhat rooted in their traditions and Christine appreciates her upbringing, she also lives an Americanized life. Her relationship to the community is one of the many differences between her and Moon, their friendship overall fitting the ‘opposite attract’ category. Much of the novel is dedicated to Moon and Christine’s friendship and its ups and downs.

Although I didn’t know too much about the novel going in, I was not expecting its seriousness and connections to Jen Wang’s personal life and childhood experiences. The plot twist left me surprised at first, but it made sense considering some of Moon’s actions. Jen Wang’s afterword explains the novel’s semi autobiographical inspiration.

Stargazing comes out on September 10, 2019. 

This review is based on an advance reader’s edition. By no means did receiving this copy affect my thoughts or opinions.

Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker

 My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

 Mooncakes caught my attention primarily thanks to one of its protagonists, Nova. Where can I sign up to be a teenage witch working at her grandmothers’ bookstore/café??

Mooncakes follows Nova and her best friend of a werewolf, Tam, as they navigate their feelings for one another while combatting the magical creature lurking in their town. Just your average romance right? This was my first time reading Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker’s work. I really enjoyed the art style and their attention to detail. For example, I loved being able to read and recognize some of the book titles in the family bookstore!

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MOST IMPORTANT FALL READ: Unpregnant Review

Summary:

x510Brown University bound Veronica Clarke is the type of person who plans everything, from finals cram sessions with her best friends to a romantic weekend with her boyfriend. What she didn’t plan are the two solid pink lines on a pregnancy test. After her boyfriend reveals that he messed with their protection in order to preserve their relationship, Veronica has to make a decision she never imagined she’d have to make: to get or not to get an abortion. Too embarrassed to reveal her plans to her friends and family, she soon finds herself on a fourteen-hour car ride with the black sheep of Jefferson High, her ex-best friend, Bailey, to New Mexico. Chaos and absolute hilarity is in store for Veronica and Bailey while confronting their friendship and the truth about themselves.

 My Rating: 5/5 Stars 

My Thoughts:

In their acknowledgements, Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan write that they often told people that they were writing a funny story about abortion. In this reader’s opinion? They absolutely completely nailed their concept with Unpregnant, a book about one girl’s right to choose and so much in store.

Unpregnant follows high school senior Veronica, who finds out she is pregnant, likely thanks to the fact that her boyfriend poked holes in their condoms in hopes that Veronica would get pregnant and stay home instead of going away to college. Since she needs parents’ consent in Missouri to get an abortion, Veronica’s closest option is in New Mexico. With no car and too afraid to tell her friends or family, Veronica entrusts her ex-best friend Bailey to make the journey with her.

Unpregnant is the type of the book that is perfect for reading in one sitting because you won’t want to part from it for too long. This book is fairly short and fast-paced, as Bailey finds Veronica taking a pregnancy test in their high school bathroom right from the get-go. Bailey was for sure my favorite character. Although rough around the edges, she has such a good heart and so many amazing one-liners (not to mention an indisputable love for Kelly Clarkson and her absolute hatred for Veronica’s boyfriend).

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CONTEMPORARY ROUNDUP: August 2019 Mini Reviews

August was filled with all the contemporary books (as per usual for this book nerd), focusing on a mix of new books, backlist titles, and upcoming 2019 releases.

Say You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker

My Rating: 3.5/5

download (2)After loving K.A. Tucker’s The Simple Wild back in May, I immediately put her August 2019 release, Say You Still Love Me, on my TBR. Twenty-nine year old Piper works as a VP at her family’s multibillion-dollar release estate development firm, constantly proving her worth in a male-dominated workplace and contending with her ex-finance, another VP. Things at work become crazier for Piper when she runs into her first love from summer camp, Kyle, who apparently doesn’t even remember her name or why he never contacted her again after camp ended.

Say You Still Love Me flips between Piper’s present and her past as a summer camp counselor with Kyle. While I enjoyed this one, I wouldn’t say it brought anything new to the table. Unexpectedly running into your first love after years apart seems to be an increasingly popular trope in the new adult romance world. It’s really not my cup as a reader. I also didn’t see the chemistry between Kyle and Piper both when they were at camp and when they first reunite in the present. The summer camp provided a fun atmosphere to the story, but I was more invested in Piper’s friendships and her day-to-day over the romance. Like The Simple Wild, my favorite parts of Say You Still Love Me were the family dynamics and Piper’s career. Piper has to deal with the pressure and expectations that come with one day taking over the family business (that is if her father ever retires), while coming to terms with the secrets her parents have hidden from her since working at the summer camp. Despite the pressure, she still dominates the workplace. Through Piper, K.A. Tucker packs in great female empowerment.

You’d Be Mine by Erin Hanh

My Rating: 4/5

36146624Erin Hanh’s You’d Be Mine was on my “I have to absolutely read this book in 2019” TBR. You’d Be Mine follows country musicians Clay Coolidge and Annie Mathers on their US summer tour. Despite its seemingly fun setting, You’d Be Mine is the darkest YA contemporary I have read in a while. Both characters deal with the loss of loved ones, as well as drug and alcohol addiction. Clay struggles with drinking after losing someone close to him, while Annie grown up around drugs and alcohol and has lost both of her superstar parents to suicide. Even though its less than 300 pages, it took me some time to adjust to You’d Be Mine. The dual perspective is an ever-present narrative in YA books,. While having both Clay and Annie’s perspectives allows us to get to know both of them, I found myself more invested in Annie’s storyline because she was simply more like-able than Clay.

When it comes to my reading tastes, I have come to the conclusion that I am not the biggest fan of music YA. I don’t mind music-centered stories, but I don’t find myself connecting to them as much as other reader. I find myself skimming, if not completely over, the songs. However, I did want to read You’d Be Mine because I am a country music fan. I really enjoyed the real-life references to country music, such as the CMT Awards and Johnny Cash and June Carter. I liked Annie and Clay’s chemistry together on stage, but I definitely enjoyed their time out of the spotlight more. I recommend You’d Be Mine for fans of Emery Lord’s Open Road Summer, but with the expectation that this book deals with  darker themes similar to Taylor Jenkin Reid’s Daisy Jones and the Six.

Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

33275690If you’ve been following my TBR posts, you’ll know that I was both excited and intimidated to read Emma Mills’ Foolish Hearts. This was the last published book of hers I still had to read. Part of my holding off was due to my need to save books by my go-to contemporary authors for mood reads, part also that I was nervous I wouldn’t enjoy this one like so many others. Foolish Hearts is definitely the most loved Emma Mills book, and I’m happy to report that it is now my new favorite book of hers. The book follows Claudia’s happenings after she overhears her school’s it-couple break up at a party. She is forced to work on her school production of Much Ado About Nothing with one of that couple, Iris, along with a very cute and very goofy guy.

I always enjoy reading Emma Mills’ books because of the dialogue and the great relationship dynamics. Her characters and friendships just feel so real. Claudia’s sarcasm and humor is quite similar to my own, which made for an even more relatable read. While she may not believe she is the most confident, she is unafraid to be herself around the tough Iris and the cutie and crush that is Gideon. She’s probably my favorite Emma Mills’ protagonist. From boy bands to online gaming, I really enjoyed the nods to various fandoms. There’s just so much to explore, from friendship to family to romance to class differences. I’ve found that not a lot happens plot wise in Emma Mills’ books, but they make for such great quiet reads. By the end, Claudia really grows as a character in the way she thinks about herself and the relationships she develops with her old and new friends.

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CALLING ALL PRINCESS DIARIES FANS: American Royals Review

Summary (from the publisher):

When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne. Like most royal families, the Washingtons have an heir and a spare. A future monarch and a backup battery. Each child knows exactly what is expected of them. But these aren’t just any royals. They’re American. And their country was born of rebellion.81qTLTauYbL
As Princess Beatrice gets closer to becoming America’s first queen regnant, the duty she has embraced her entire life suddenly feels stifling. Nobody cares about the spare except when she’s breaking the rules, so Princess Samantha doesn’t care much about anything, either . . . except the one boy who is distinctly off-limits to her. And then there’s Samantha’s twin, Prince Jefferson. If he’d been born a generation earlier, he would have stood first in line for the throne, but the new laws of succession make him third. Most of America adores their devastatingly handsome prince . . . but two very different girls are vying to capture his heart.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Not only have I found my favorite royal fiction book, but I have found one of my favorite books of 2019: Katharine McGee’s American Royals!

American Royals takes place in a world where the United States became a monarchy instead of democracy, with George Washington as the first king. Present-day, twenty-one year old Beatrice is not only in line for the throne, but she’s set to become the first Queen of America. There’s a ton of pressure on Beatrice because of this, not to mention the pressure of having the perfect king-consort. Yes, this is where The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement vibes come in, as Beatrice is expected to marry an acceptable man when she becomes Queen. There’s no political pressure on Beatrice’s younger twin siblings, Jefferson and Sam, but there’s plenty of stress in their love lives. Sam finds herself falling for the one guy she can’t have, while two very different girls, including Sam’s best friend, Nina, have captured Jeff’s heart.

American Royals is perfect for fans of The Princess Diaries and YA and NA fiction. There isn’t a heavy emphasis on the politics, but it was so interesting diving into the world of America as a monarchy. Katharine McGee definitely did a ton of research to pull this off, and I loved her unique spin. Like many readers at the moment, I am a sucker for anything royal. Can I have the Queen’s wardrobe please? If not, catch me finding a reason to buy myself a royal-worthy ball gown.

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SWOON-WORTHY ADVENTURE: The Lady Rogue Review

Summary (from the publisher):
Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.the-lady-rogue-9781534431997_lg

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it.

 

 My Rating: 5/5 Stars

 My Thoughts:

Everyone knows how much I love Jenn Bennett’s YA contemporaries. Her first 2019 release, Serious Moonlight,  is very much a contender for my favorite book of the year. Jenn Bennett has once again swept me away with her second book of 2019, The Lady Rogue. With The Lady Rogue, Jenn Bennett has transitioned from YA contemporary to YA historical fantasy. Set in late 1930s Romania, the book follows Theodora and her ex-best friend Huck as they set off to find Theodora’s missing in action and explorer of a father while also searching for a magical ring rumored to have been owned by Vlad the Impaler-otherwise known as Dracula.

No matter the genre, I once again fell into Jenn Bennett’s writing from the get-go. I’ve been reading a lot of contemporary this summer with some fantasy and historical fiction in between, but The Lady Rogue made me crave more books within these two genres! As a young woman in the 1930s, Theo’s father does often not let her accompany him as his expeditions. Theo is sick of being stuck in hotel rooms and being basically babysat by her tutors, especially while Huck gets to join her father. Despite being often restricted from explorations, I loved Theo’s sense of adventure and this book was really about her getting to have her own time in the spotlight. From crossword puzzles to cryptic messages, Theo loves solving mysteries, and she definitely leads the two in finding answers about her father and the ring.

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