This was the month where I caught up on ARCs that I got from NetGalley and a publisher (thanks, Thomas Nelson!). Of the six books I read, four of them were advanced reading copies and it's always exciting to get a book before it's out in the world. It's like being surprised with a present when you're not expecting anything!
♥♥♥♥ (4 out of 5)
Written by A.G. Howard; In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.
"Guard your throats and hide your eyes. He's not dead, you fools. Legends never die."
This is the Phantom of the Opera sequel you never knew you needed! And wow! This novel completely sucked me and didn't let me go. The writing in this book is vivid, imaginative, dark, and so descriptive I felt like I was there. I also really liked the fantasy element. I love how A.G Howard turned what originally felt like a Gothic ghost story into a Gothic-meets-modern fantasy. I wasn't expecting THAT PARTICULAR fantasy element (sorry, no spoilers!), but it totally and completely works for this dark, otherworldly story. Love it!
I do, however, have a few issues: While the pacing felt fine while reading it, time and how it passed in this story felt so off. It starts off at the beginning of September and the climax is on Halloween, but it only feels like two or three weeks passed. It's like we follow Rune when she first arrives, a week during which she goes to the party, and then the few days leading up the Halloween. It felt a little rushed.
Despite a few issues, this story is captivating, fun to read, and hard to put down. If you like Phantom of the Opera, then you should read it! [Read my full review here.]
Add to Goodreads (coming out January 3)
♥♥♥♥ (4 out of 5)
Written by Matt Phelan; The scene: New York City, 1928. The dazzling lights cast shadows that grow ever darker as the glitzy prosperity of the Roaring Twenties screeches to a halt. Enter a cast of familiar characters: a young girl, Samantha White, returning after being sent away by her cruel stepmother, the Queen of the Follies, years earlier; her father, the King of Wall Street, who survives the stock market crash only to suffer a strange and sudden death.
A unique take on Snow White: this version of the fairytale takes place in the 1920s, Snow is a young woman named Samantha, her father is King of Wall Street, and the Evil Queen is a famous dancer/showgirl. What I found very interesting is the fact that this is less fairytale and more fantasy realism since it has are subtle elements of magic in our world.
The art is simple and lovely and with a single brushstroke you know exactly what a character is feeling or thinking. I think the beauty of this story is in its simplicity; it's a well-known story, so it needs little introduction or dialogue for you to know what's happening. I love that the Evil Queen became a beauty- and financial-obsessed showgirl in this! It works so well for the time period! This graphic novel is super short though. It took me less than ten minutes to read. I do wish it was longer since it was such a joy to read.
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♥♥♥ (3.5 out of 5)
Written by Sara Ella; With a hideous birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her as normal until Joshua showed up. But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird. Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself?
Unblemished is a solid dark fantasy read that is like a mix of Alice in Wonderland (falling into a strange new world), A Darker Shade of Magic (the existence of many mirrored worlds), and the Grishaverse in Six of Crows (because many people have powers called Callings.) It sounds like an odd combination, but it works.
The Callings, the Reflections, and the Verity and the Void is what made Unblemished so unique! It added elements that I've never read all together and like a puzzle they all worked well to create something new. The Callings are powers and many people have them in the Second Reflection. I found the variety of Callings intriguing. They aren't just superpowers; they're useful and at times terrifying heightened skills. The Reflections are worlds and Eliyana is from the Third (AKA our world), but most of the story takes place in the Second, a more natural, fantasy realm. The Verity and the Void are two powerful forces in the Reflections that play an important part in the story.
While I enjoyed reading this, I did have some issues with it. We learn there are five Reflections, but we only get to see two of them. What about the other ones? The dialogue bothered me the most. Everyone spoke so formally and like it was the 19th century and at times phrases were so cheesy. Eliyana and Ky spoke more naturally than anyone else, but at times I couldn't help but groan at their words.
One of the major issues with the story though is that things were resolved SO EASILY! At the beginning of the story, I felt like anything could happen and not all of the characters might make it out alive, but everything was too easy for Eliyana, for everyone. It just didn't feel like the stakes were high enough. I knew everything was going to turn out okay, but I didn't want to know that. [Read my full review here.]
Junior Hero Blues*
♥♥♥♥♥ (5 out of 5)
Written by J.K. Pendragon; Last year, Javier Medina was your average socially awkward gay high schooler with a chip on his shoulder. This year, he's pretty much the same, but with bonus superpowers, a costume with an ab window to show off his new goods, and a secret identity as the high-flying, wise-cracking superhero Blue Spark. Welcome to the 100% true and totally unbiased account of life as a teenage superhero.
"I know now that there were no good guys, just people trying, and sometimes failing, to do the right thing. Maybe there were no bad guys either."
Finally a believable, entertaining, not-too-cliche superhero book! And with a gay main character! If you like the new Ms. Marvel comics then you'll like this. Like Kamala Khan, Javier Medina deals with balancing family, school, romance, and being a new superhero called Blue Spark.
Javier is hands down the best thing about this book. He's really, really funny, witty, self-deprecating, down to earth, selfish at times, gets scared, loyal, and feels like a real person. He's gay, but it's not the thing that defines him. That's not to say he isn't out and proud (with great, supportive parents), but there's more to him than just being a gay teen and a gay superhero.
I found the world that Javier lives in to be very believable for a place in which superheroes are a thing that exists. There are two superhero groups that a person with powers can join: the Legion, who are the good guys, and the Organization, who are the bad guys. That part is a bit cliche, but I thought it was great that the Legion works like the police instead of a hidden group because in this world being a superhero doesn't mean being a vigilante. Javier goes on patrol and can call back up and gets paid. It all felt real because Javier worried about the little things like not having enough money if he quit the Legion. This book was so good and I NEED MORE BLUE SPARK! [Read my full review here.]
Add to Goodreads (coming out November 7)
Lumberjanes, Vol. 3: A Terrible Plan
♥♥♥♥♥ (5 out of 5)
Written by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, and Carolyn Nowak; Trying to take advantage of the first quiet day at camp in a while, Mal and Molly's date takes a bizarre turn with the appearance of the Bear Woman! Back at camp, Jo, April, and Ripley must stay on their toes as they try and earn every badge possible, which ends up being a lot harder than any of them planned.
I LOVE THIS SERIES! The first third of the volume follows our awesome campers as they sit around a campfire telling each other scary stories. The next two-thirds follow Molly and Mal when their picnic/date goes horribly wrong while also following the rest of the gang as they try to get badges for doing "normal" aka boring things like painting a fence. This volume is wonderful and hilarious and the shenanigans these gals get into are so unique and fun!
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♥♥♥♥♥ (5 out of 5)
Written by Holly Black; Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. In the woods there's a glass coffin and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking. Until one day, he does.
Wow! What a dark, creepy, and captivating story! The world of Fairfold with its terrifying fairies and horned boy in a glass coffin and strange happenings came alive on the page with Holly Black's riveting and whimsical writing. I could see everything happening in my mind. I was there. I was wishing for the horned by to wake. I was fighting those fairies. I remembering the past through Hazel and Ben's eyes.
I hardly ever see novels with realistic sibling relationships, especially between a sister and brother. I have two younger brothers, so to see them keep secrets and get mad and get frustrated with each other made me say, "YES! This is how it is!" Hazel and Ben are such interesting people. They're dealing with how past events have affected them, with school, with friends, with what living in Fairfold means (ie. fairies and being wary of them), and with what happens when the boy in the glass coffin wakes up. They've got a lot on their plate, but they're both tough and they take it all in stride, especially Hazel. She doesn't always make good choices, but that's what made me root for her more.
I won't give anything away, but I totally didn't see that twist at the end coming! The deal that Hazel made, how the Alderking was using it, and the twist are so unique! This is such an enthralling book!
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*Received a copy from NetGalley.
**Received a copy from the publisher, Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins.