Our Dark Duet

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab is the sequel to This Savage Song, a YA urban fantasy duology.

After escaping their own personal evils, Kate Harker and August Flynn went their separate ways. Kate, left Verity and joined a group of college rebels called the Warden’s, attempting to keep Prosperity safe from ending up like Verity–awash in monsters. August, has become the leader of the FTA, taking on Leo’s role as warrior and losing much of his humanity in the process. August fights to keep the monsters of Verity out of their side of the city and win the war.

But a new evil that thrives on chaos will bring Kate back to Verity, to August and the monsters waiting both within and without. Can August and Kate overcome their difference, their inner demons, and win the war?

Ultimately, this was a satisfying conclusion to a good duology. I am glad Schwab didn’t pull any punches when she wrote this one. This book is promoted as a dark urban fantasy and I think this definitely gets delivered.

I did really enjoy this world of monsters and mayhem. I love this idea of having to face your own evil; that your acts cause actual repercussions in the form of monsters. The fact that you have to actually fight your inner demons is just awesome.

The ending was the highlight of this book. It was just fantastic, they way Schwab pulls at our emotions and yet it feels so right, like the book couldn’t have ended in any other way.

Schwab did the same thing in this one that she did in the first one… she introduces side characters, really interesting side characters and really doesn’t do anything with them throughout the rest of the book. I loved the Wardens. They seemed like they were a really fun team and would add an interesting dynamic to the story. I kept expecting them to show up and help Kate in Verity, but alas it wasn’t to be. Maybe Schwab will write a novella about them or something. But it was just a disappointment to get so much of them in the first 50 or so pages and nothing else.

There were also things I expected from August. Things I thought were being hinted toward but were also never delivered. Again, maybe Schwab isn’t done with this world but I was left with quite a few questions.

Ultimately a good duology but probably not one I would read again. This one gets three stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

This Savage Song

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab is the first novel in a YA fantasy duology about what would happen if actual monsters sprung from the worst acts of humanity.

No one is safe in a city where monsters roam the streets. Verity is a city torn in two by both the monsters within and those who rule. Kate is the daughter of Harker, the ruler of Northern Verity and all of the monsters in it. His people pay for protection and if they can’t pay then they are at the mercy of the monsters under his command. August is a part of the Flynn family, the heads of Southern Verity. In the south you fight to protect yourself from the monsters and no one fights harder then the Flynn’s.

August and Kate are from very different worlds but they are thrown together by circumstance and must learn to trust one another if they are going to advert a war and survive to fight another day. Can a monster trust a monster killer or will they let the world burn?

I don’t know why but this book reminded me so much of The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent. I don’t know if it’s just that both books are urban fantasy duologies or what but this book felt very familiar to me. I still really liked it but it just felt like something I’ve read before.

I think I’d love this book just for the whole concept behind our monsters becoming reality. That our sins, darken our souls and out of that darkness comes physical monsters. How cool is that?! These monsters are different depending on the sins themselves… there is just so much potential here. I’m really looking forward to seeing what other monsters and beings pop up in the next book.

Both Kate and August have their merits as characters. Kate is hard and strong but very human in her own way and August is just so interesting and I found myself rooting for him. I also liked that there was no romance but more of a bond forged by circumstance and mutual understanding if not respect.

This book didn’t wow me in it’s world building; like I said it felt too familiar for that. But it was a book I couldn’t put down and that is never a bad thing. This one gets a high 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

Word of Mouse

Word of Mouse by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein is a middle school, juvenile fiction novel about a little mouse with a big heart. Isaiah is a very special mouse, not only is he “electric neon blue” but he is super smart, he can read, write and if you listen very carefully he can even talk!

Our story begins when Isaiah and his 96 multi-colored brothers and sisters attempt to break out of the “bad place” but something goes horribly wrong and Isaiah is the only one who makes it out. Now he is on his own in a world he knows nothing about, dodging cats, dogs and trying to make it alone.

But a mouse needs his mischief and Isaiah is determined to get his back. With the help of some very unlikely friends, Isaiah may just do that and find a little courage along the way.

Patterson and Grabenstein make a great team. This was such a fun, inspiring story the kids will love. Isaiah has an upbeat, positive attitude even when all seems lost. He is able to see the positive side of everything and he will do the right thing even if it isn’t easy.

Although there are a ton of lessons in this book, the biggest theme is that being different isn’t just okay, it’s great! Everyone is different and when we look past our differences we can see what’s really special in each and every one of us. Isaiah learns (and teaches us) that when you are told what to do and what to be that you can miss out on opportunities and hidden talents you never knew you had. This is something every parent, teacher and adult wants to (or should want to) teach our children and this book definitely gets that point across.

I listened to the audio book of Word of Mouse and it was fantastic. A really great one to bring with you in the car and probably an even better one to read out loud to your kids. I could also see this being a positive middle school book club pick.

I thought this was a really great read. This one gets a high 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Where They Found Her

Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight is an adult fictional thriller that takes place in a small well-to-do New Jersey town. In a small town, everyone has an opinion and it can be difficult to hide when all you want to do is blend into the shadows. New to town, freelance journalist, Molly Anderson is trying to begin anew and forget the tragedies of her past. But these tragedies are once again forced into the light when she is assigned a story that starts with a dead baby.

But there is more to this story then meets the eyes and things take surprising turns as past and present collide. Told from the perspective of three very different women this book unwinds a twisting tangled web of hidden truths. Will this small town survive when everyone is forced to look beneath the surface?

This is another book for my book club, so again not my usual go to genre. This actually wasn’t a bad read. One of the really great things about Where They Found Her was that it really did keep you guessing. Every chapter you thought you knew what was what and whodunit and then something would happen and you’d find you weren’t really sure anymore. By the end I knew _________ was part of things somehow but I was actually pretty surprised at the final reveal.

My favorite character in this book is probably Sandy. She is a teenager trying to build herself up even though all the odds are against her. She is a tough, straight shooter and yet she has these moments of fragility that are very human and relatable. I also think she comes out the most changed, in a positive way, after all is said and done.

Another thing I thought this book did well was it’s narrative. The story wasn’t quite linear in it’s telling–it would go backward and forward in time but it a way that felt natural. Jenna’s diary was a really great way to look into the past without getting too much or too little. It was actually really neat to get to know Jenna as a teenager when she is literally missing in the present.

I did think the end wrapped up a little quickly, given that the rest of the story only took place over a matter of days. There were also quite a few, uhh really, moment and a few loose ends I would have liked to seen cleaned up.

This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

Wolf Hollow

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk is another juvenile fiction book, with a historical feel, nominated for the 2017-2018 Maryland Black Eyed Susan Award.

For a town living in the shadow of WWI, Annabelle and her family live a quiet but peaceful live in small-town Pennsylvania. Annabelle and her two younger brothers walk to their one-room school every day from their family’s farmhouse. One day, things are shaken up in Wolf Hollow when a new student enters Annabelle’s life, Betty Glengarry.

Betty is a cruel and manipulative little girl who has her sights set on Annabelle. When Annabelle refuses to put up with Betty’s bullying, Betty threatens her younger brothers. Things only escalate when Toby, an eccentric WWI veteran who lives on the outskirts of society, gets involved.

As Betty’s malice turns toward Toby, things go from bad to worse in a hurry. Missing children, pointed fingers and more. Can Annabelle uncover the truth when no one will believe her?

Oh boy, I did not know what I was getting into when I started this one. This is a very serious book with serious themes and serious actions and repercussions. I read another reviewer’s comment that this is a middle school read… but not–and I feel the exact same way. I don’t think I would recommend this book to a sensitive reader.  Although, it is definitely a book that adults would enjoy and perhaps reading this one with your child (or at the same time) would be the way to go. But as a warning there is death, severe injury to children, lies and persecution in this book.

I think one of the main, positive, themes of this book is truth–telling the truth and not giving in to what everyone around you says/believes. Annabelle knows right from wrong and she pursues the truth with dogged determination, even if it means fibbing and blurring lines to get there. Annabelle’s family are well respected in her small town and even so, doing the right thing isn’t easy when lies are spurred on by gossip and too quick judgements.

This book is actually a prime example of how the best laid plans can devolve into chaos at rapid speed. I mean, the meat of this book takes place in only a matter of two or  three days at the most. And, for me, this was a realistic and important lesson. Things don’t always go as planned even if you have the best intentions at heart.

This wasn’t a bad read but I worry that it might upset it’s intended audience. Yes, we need strong fiction with a variety of morals and lessons but I think we need to prepare young readers for this one. It definitely should be recommended but maybe with a caveat.

This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Wild Robot

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown is a juvenile fiction novel up for this years 2017-2018 Black Eyed Susan award.

When a shipment of robots crashes on a deserted island, one lone robot is left intact. When Roz is accidentally awoken by a curious otter, she opens her eyes for the first time, alone, on a remote and wild island. Not knowing anything about her whereabouts or how she got there, Roz does the only thing she can do, survive.

Slowly Roz begins to adapt to her surroundings. She watches and learns survival techniques from the animals around her. Eventually, Roz learns to speak the language of the animals but they are weary of the monster invading their island. When an accident causes Roz to adopt a baby gosling, the rest of the island begins to see Roz for the asset she very well may be.

This is a story of survival. A story of adapting to the world around you and working together to beat the odds.

You wouldn’t think a book about robots and wildlife would mesh well but it surprisingly does. You really do get a lot out of this book. We learn about different animal habitats and habits. You get to see the good and the bad parts of mother nature in ways that aren’t overly graphic for the kids and are done in an abstract, educational way.

There were also a lot of great lessons in this book. Team work, determination and never giving up, accepting ones differences and finding the beauty in even the worst circumstances. This is definitely a book for readers of all ages and quite appropriate for it’s intended 4th – 6th grade audience.

I actually chose to listen to the audio book of this one, so I only flipped through some of the images that accompany the book. What images I did see, really did add to the story. I can see this being a real appeal to reluctant readers who need a bit of a break here or there. As for the audio, I thought it was really well done. It was neat getting to listen to all of the different voices–this would make a really great road trip audio book for the kids. My only gripe about the audio is that the last 20 minutes or so had music accompanying it. It was really difficult to concentrate on the story with the music. I think maybe it was a little too loud.

I could see this being a very easy read that would appeal to both boys and girls. It would make an excellent book club choice. This one gets 4 high stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Black Witch

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest is the first book in a new young adult fantasy series that deals with prejudices, inequality and more.

Elloren Gardner has lived a sheltered life with her two brothers and her uncle on the edge of Gardneria. She grows herbs, plays the violin and wants nothing more than to be their small town’s apothecary. She has no magic whatsoever, even though her grandmother was the most powerful witch in all of Earthea.

When Elloren’s aunt shows up insisting that her 17 year old niece wand fast–a marriage ritual that bonds couples together with magic–Elloren’s uncle sends her to Verpax University to become a real apothecary. But university isn’t what she thought it would be.

Elves room with Gardnerians, Lupine and even the foul Icarals attend classes together and naive Elloren is unprepared for this world. She is also extremely unprepared for the prejudices she faces–Elloren is the spitting image of her grandmother and although that makes her a hero in the Gardnerian eyes, all the other races scorn and ridicule her.

Can Elloren survive in a school that doesn’t seem to want her? Can she resist her aunt’s terrible brand of persuasion? And what side will she choose when evil rears its head?

I should start this review by saying, read the reviews before you pick up this one. Know what you are getting yourself into because there seems to be a lot of competing views and controversy about this one.

The Black Witch is rife with controversy. Themes of racism, brutality, slavery, extreme prejudices, gender inequality, political upheaval… you name it and this book probably addresses it in some way. Even our main characters are extremely prejudice and do some really awful things before they realize what they are doing and how it makes others feel.

The first quarter, maybe even the first half of this book has many many cringe worthy moments. You will cringe. You will not feel good about reading what you are reading. But isn’t that the mark of a good book, when it gets you thinking and feeling to that extent? If you are looking for a light read, this one is not for you. I don’t know if the author meant to do this but I could see many parallels to today’s society and the social upheaval occurring in the book.

I actually really enjoyed this one. There is something about magical universities that I can’t resist. The characters felts like a group of misfits who were out to change the world–the best kind of misfits. Elloren wasn’t my favorite, especially with her wishy washy beginning but she does grow on you. You sort of know that she has to be the black witch, so you are waiting and waiting to see something that proves it… but I guess that is for another book.

No word on when the next book is going to be out, which is kind of a bummer. But it looks like there is a prequel if you are interested. This book makes you think, which is why I am going to give it 4 stars. Yes, it can be a harsh read but I think it was meant to be that way.

That’s all for now!

-M-