Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab Review

our-dark-duet-victoria-schwab-cover-revealOur Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab (Monsters Of Verity #2)

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Release Date: June 13, 2017

Pages: 510

Summary: THE WORLD IS BREAKING. AND SO ARE THEY.

KATE HARKER isn’t afraid of monsters. She hunts them. And she’s good at it.

AUGUST FLYNN once yearned to be human. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

THE WAR HAS BEGUN.

THE MONSTERS ARE WINNING.

Kate will have to return to Verity. August will have to let her back in. And a new monster is waiting—one that feeds on chaos and brings out its victims’ inner demons.

Which will be harder to conquer: the monsters they face, or the monsters within?

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Through Schwab’s character-driven and immersive finale, a new monster emerges in the world of Verity as Kate and August’s adventures conclude in Our Dark Duet!

It saddens me that this novel wasn’t a full 5 stars similar to This Savage Song (which I adored! <3) however it is definitely a solid conclusion! 

Similar to all of Schwab’s other novels, I love how she builds the atmosphere of her worlds! Through her writing, her stories/worlds are always immersive and unique!

It was great to see August and Kate develop as they are set on their own paths, especially August since This Savage Song.

Kate now in works as a monster hunter, but when a new monster emerges she finds herself heading back to Verity.

As their stories progressed, it was heartbreaking to read them come to accept difficult truths not only about the fate of their city, but of themselves.

As a new monster emerges, it was also fascinating to get a lot of POV chapters from Alice and Sloan. They get much more development than in Book 1 and it really brought more depth the story overall to see their plans unfold over course of Our Dark Duet.

Additionally, what made them so fascinating to read about, was being able to get into their head and learn more about who they are and what their goals/plans do to them along the way.

I also loved the inclusion of Soro’s character, another Sunai (who identifies as gender fluid) and used they/them! They were a great character who was such a supportive friend to August when he found it difficult to use his Sunai abilities and coming to terms about humanity and what it means to be human. Above all Soro was an amazing character and even though they were just introduced in this novel, definitely became one of my favorite characters.

As mentioned above, through the inclusion of Sloan + Alice’s chapters, we got even more depth into the hierarchy and inner workings between the Malchai and Corsai!

As for world-building, there is a little more in terms of the different monsters and their role in Verity, which I loved because they were such an interesting part of the world. However, in terms of setting I do wish there was a little more description.

Schwab’s writing especially in this novel, really shows the stark differences between Kate & August, with that, we see the dark truths of humanity and the divide between good & evil which really built into the story.

As to why I took off a star, I did find that since this novel read as a dystopian (for me personally) and found there to be some tropes I usually find in those novels, present in this one, which really made this novel feel difficult to get through at points.

I felt what made TSS so much fun, was the interaction/connection of August & Kate and I felt they really didn’t have that many scenes together in Our Dark Duet which made me so sad :'(!

There were also a couple important plot points that felt super rushed as I neared the end, which really made it difficult to really grasp their severity.

Above all, it felt like there was just something missing from this novel that made it quite different from This Savage Song.

Regardless…

Our Dark Duet is a solid, action-packed conclusion to this dark, character-driven duology! Monsters still roam the streets of Verity and with that, Kate and August must face the difficult truths of who they are!

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie Review

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily SkrutskieThe Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie (TASU #1)

Publisher: Flux Books

Release Date: February 8, 2016

Pages: 320

Summary: Cas has fought pirates her entire life. But can she survive living among them?

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

My Rating:★★★☆☆ ½

My Thoughts: The Abyss Surrounds Us is a YA Sci-Fi that is set in a fascinating futuristic U.S. with sea monsters and pirates! Wonderful characters and its unique setting will keep you turning the page!

I think I just went into this book with completely different expectations (hyping it up in my head) + based on edits and praise I’d heard, I was personally expecting a completely different story than I got! So sadly, TASU did let me down.
However…
I will absolutely be reading the sequel!! I am still very invested in the story and intrigued to see where the plot goes!

Cassandra (or Cas) Leung is a Reckoner trainer who’s worked with her parents her whole life to understand Reckoners (giant + genetically-engineered sea monsters) and use them to accompany ships and avoid trouble with pirates.

However, when she gets assigned her first solo mission, things go very wrong! She gets captured by pirate queen Santa Elena and is forced to train Elena’s own Reckoner pup or face serious consequences!

What I really loved about this novel was the world! Set in our world, the U.S. is now divided among much larger territories, such as the Northern and Southern Republics of California.

In this futuristic U.S. there are now floating cities, pirates, genetically engineered sea monsters! So many great elements were introduced to this world and that is what really set this sci-fi novel apart from other’s that I’ve read. I just loved how focused it was on the science of this world!

Additionally, I loved the diversity! From the main character Cassandra who is Chinese-American + a f/f relationship that develops!

Aside from that, there’s so much girl power + I loved that this novel had a large cast of female characters! Many, such as the girls on Santa Elena’s ship (& Elena herself) were morally grey and it was clear they had so much depth and complexities to their characters! Above all it was just great to see a large cast of females at the center of this novel!

I also really enjoyed the writing-style! I love reading from 1st-person POV, because we learn so much more about the protagonist from seeing the world and everything that encompasses it from their eyes and that really allowed me to connect with Cas along the way as she finds her strength to prove herself as she trains a Reckoner pup for Santa Elena!

Through the writing (perhaps this is just me) it always felt like I was in a piratey-sci-fi! Skrutskie did a fantastic job at creating the atmosphere that really made you feel like you were out at sea with sea monsters, Cas and the crew!!

This was very character-driven story which I really loved too! As the story progressed, I could see Cas changing and growing as she spent time on the ship.

Now as to why my rating is rather low…I was expecting a lot more action and from my personal reading experience I didn’t really get much from the plot, aside from months passing by with Cas training with the Reckoner and some interactions here & there with the crew. Personally I just wanted more :/

Additionally, I wanted more development from the world. While it was discussed in a broad sense, it would have been great to get a more in-depth look at the politics, etc. of this unique setting!

As mentioned above, just because of my personal expectations, I was a little let down and did feel the pacing was rather slow at points (which did take me out of the story).

Regardless…

The Abyss Surrounds Us is a YA Sci-Fi which delivers a wholly unique story with pirates and sea monsters, fascinating characters, and a complex world that will immerse you from page 1!

Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones Cover Reveal

S. Jae-Jones, author of Wintersong had a cover reveal for the sequel, Shadowsong, which is set to release January 30, 2018!

wintersong-by-s-jae-jonesWintersong has definitely made into my top books of 2017 and I cannot wait to see where Liesl’s journey is headed in the sequel!

This novel was magical and enchanting!! If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it ❤

The writing, world, characters, everything is brought to life through the lyrical and enchanting writing!

Aside from a cover reveal, on June 8 Bustle also revealed an excerpt, which you can read Here!

Now for Shadowsong’s cover:

Shadowsong Cover Reveal

WOW!! 😍💖💕❤️💜💙

Such a fantastic cover! It takes a contrasting turn with the shattered glass and darker colors, but similar to Wintersong, I just love how they match (featuring flowers + a snow globe)!!

Above all, its a beautiful cover and I am super excited to see where the story goes!~

What are your thoughts on Shadowsong’s cover?

If you’ve read Wintersong, are you eager to read the sequel?

Internet Famous by Danika Stone Review

Internet Famous by Danika StoneInternet Famous by Danika Stone

Publisher: Swoon Reads

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Pages: 320

Summary: High school senior and internet sensation Madison Nakama seems to have it all: a happy family, good grades, and a massive online following for her pop-culture blog. But when her mother suddenly abandons the family, Madi finds herself struggling to keep up with all of her commitments.

Fandom to the rescue! As her online fans band together to help, an online/offline flirtation sparks with Laurent, a French exchange student. Their internet romance—played out in the comments section of her MadLibs blog—attracts the attention of an internet troll who threatens the separation of Madi’s real and online personas. With her carefully constructed life unraveling, Madi must uncover the hacker’s identity before he can do any more damage, or risk losing the people she loves the most… Laurent included.

*Received ARC from a Goodreads Giveaway*

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: This YA Contemporary discusses fandoms, internet culture, family and weaves in romance. While covering a number of themes and topics, Internet Famous has both serious and light-hearted moments making it a “perfect for summer”-read!

Internet and blogging culture was a huge part of this novel. Being a book blogger myself, that aspect is what got me to add this book to my TBR!

Reading Madi discuss the culture of the internet, followers, and everything that comes with blogging through her MadLibs site was so relatable!

The addition of text messages, tweets, snapchats, and tumblr posts were added to chapters and moments of the novel and also just delivered it in a fun way in between moments of the plot that would make sense. Above all, I loved the overall presentation of the book, it was really cute!~

Every time she’d bring up the connections she’d make with readers and fans of her blog, I was thinking “yes! exactly!!” Above all, Stone really captured the fandom and blogging culture wonderfully!

Through the 3rd person narrative, it was easy to get a grasp on the rather wide cast of characters, from Madi’s family (father, mother, & sister Sarah) to internet friends like Laurent, and Ava, among others.

The 3rd person also really delivered an overall atmosphere of a fun, fandom-filled cute romance, which is what I was anticipating!

However, aside from Madi, Sarah, their parents, & Laurent, the other characters for me personally were kind of easily forgettable. And for me personally, 3rd person POV, is usually just a writing style I find it difficult to connect with. Regardless, Stone really developed the main characters and overall kept the fluffy contemporary mood present throughout the novel.

It was great to see inclusion of a character on the autism spectrum (Sarah~Madi’s sister) and overall just reading that representation. I do have some knowledge on it and was able to understand Sarah’s decisions or reactions to certain situations that happen throughout the novel. So above all, she was a great character to read about and it was fantastic to read the strong sibling bond between her & Madi! ❤

When their mother decides to leave for a business trip, we also see how it impacts Madi and her relationship with her parents, considering she is mostly left to take care of her sister because her parents are so caught up in work. Through that however, Madi is able to connect more with her sister and makes an effort to put aside her blogging as things go on in her personal life.

As for plot, I was genuinely surprised at how the plot progresses. From Madi’s first interaction with her fans, to her relationship with Laurent, and the fandom/internet issues and trolls she encounters along the way. I’ve read quite a number of YA Contemporaries and just love how Stone delivered the plot in a unique and unexpected way that kept me invested throughout.

However, I did feel the plot dragged for me at points throughout and felt the ending was quite rushed, which is why it isn’t at a full 5-stars.

Additionally, there was the unresolved plot with her mother (when did she get back? Would she & Madi resolve their issues or discuss what went on with Madi’s blogging? )

She is brought up towards the end, but aside from that it would have been great to get more mother/daughter moments and development between the 2 of them!

Regardless,
This is a story about more than just fandoms, blogging, and the internet, its also a story that weaves in themes of independence, familial and sibling bonds and brings up issues like cyberbullying!
Internet Famous discusses serious/important themes and topics, while above all being a fun and cute YA Contemporary! It’s a delightful read!

May 2017 Wrap-Up

# Of Books Read: 7

Amina's Voice by Hena Khan1. Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Amnia’s Voice Full Review

Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: March 14, 2017

Pages: 208

My Rating: ★★★★★

Overall Thoughts: This book was incredible from the writing, to plot & characters! Khan weaves in so many themes such as family, friendship, and identity! Following Amina’s journey through middle school, she begins to question as people and things around her begin to change. This novel has so many different and complex layers, that anyone can find an aspect of Amina’s Voice to relate to! Highly recommend this gem of a novel!

Another Castle Grimoire2.Another Castle: Grimoire by Andrew Wheeler + Paulina Ganucheau

Another Castle: Grimoire Full Review

Publisher: Oni Press

Release Date: February 28, 2017

Pages: 152

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: Another Castle: Grimoire is a graphic novel that puts clever twists+spins on classic fairy tale tropes! Following Princess Misty, she sets forth to Grimoire to defeat Badlug and keep her kingdom safe. While the story is a little slow paced, its filled with action and adventure! The art is bright and colorful too! There’s a big emphasis on friendship and its filled with empowering female characters!

Shadow Run  Cover Reveal3.Shadow Run by AdriAnne Strickland + Michael Miller (Kaitan Chronicles #1)

Shadow Run Full Review

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: March 21, 2017

Pages: 400

My Rating:★★★★☆

Overall Thoughts: Filled with action + adventure and a diverse cast of characters, you’ll be immersed in Shadow Run as you follow Captain Qole and Prince Nev and as they learn more about “Shadow” and how it impacts their world. I adored the characters so much! While I definitely wanted a little faster pacing + more world-building/development, this book is one I recommend if you’re looking to get into Sci-Fi! It’s very character driven and above all, a fun story! Can’t wait for Book 2!

Teenage model in hear shaped glasses laughing4.I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

I Believe In A Thing Called Love Full ARC Review

Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (BYR)

Release Date:May 30, 2017

Pages: 336

My Rating: ★★★★★

Overall Thoughts: A delightful YA Contemporary with the perfect blend of humor, romance, and has themes of family and friendship weaved throughout. Told through 1st person POV, you follow Desi Lee as she creates a plan with the help of K-Dramas to help her find love. 

Flying Witch Volume 1 by Chihiro Ishizuka5.Flying Witch Volume 1 by Chihiro Ishizuka {Flying Witch #1}

Flying Witch Volume 1 Full Review

Publisher: Vertical Comics

Release Date: March 8, 2017

Pages: 160

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: A slow paced manga that follows Makato as she continues her training to become a witch. The story is very character driven and the story while it has its quiet magical elements, follows a “slice of life” approach. I did want more plot-wise, but above all this is a lovely manga! Highly recommend!

when-dimple-met-rishi-cover-reveal6.When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi Full ARC Review

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: May 30, 2017

Pages: 380

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: Balancing humor with more serious and heartfelt moments, When Dimple Met Rishi is a perfect summer contemporary! Its very character driven, and the magic & spirit of first love is captured through 3rd person POV as you follow Dimple and Rishi who have been set up in an arranged marriage. They have differing views of life and love, but throughout the story their relationship slowly develops and they learn more about themselves and each other along the way!

The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren7.The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren

The Last Thing You Said Full Review

Publisher: Amulet Books

Release Date: April 4, 2017

Pages: 320

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½

Overall Thoughts: Ben and Lucy have lost Trixie (a dear sister + friend). Told through dual POV, you follow them as almost a year has passed since Trixie’s death and the complex emotions that’s still with them and how they are coping. Biren does a fantastic job with developing the emotional complexity of her characters and its present all throughout the story. Slow pacing and difficult character decisions made this novel a little disappointing. However, with strong elements in terms of character and development, this novel is very unique in its discussion of grief. 

Additional Posts From This Month:

May 2017 Book Releases I’m Looking Forward To

Literary Listens: Publishers & Podcasts

The Becoming Of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin Cover Reveal

The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren Review

The Last Thing You Said by Sara BirenThe Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren

Publisher: Amulet Books

Release Date: April 4, 2017

Pages: 320

Summary: Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief. Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other.

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½

My Thoughts: The Last Thing You Said follows Lucy and Ben over the course of the summer as they continue to grieve over the death of a loved one. The complex emotions that weave throughout the novel, drive the story which follows two journeys of grief, loss, and acceptance in this YA Contemporary.

This was a very difficult book to rate, because it had strong elements that really made it stand out from other YA Contemporaries and above all aspects that made it a good story in general, however there were elements which disappointed me, that just couldn’t allow me to rate it any higher.

Biren does a fantastic job at developing and presenting deep and emotional complexity in her characters (clearly shown through Ben & Lucy POV’s). With how she executed her st person POV’s, I will definitely be interested to read more of her future works.

Told through 1st person, they felt so real I could sympathize with their differing stages of grief over their loss of Trixie. To Ben, she was a beloved sister and to Lucy, she was a dear best friend.

Seeing how this loss impacted them so differently was unique to see in a YA Contemporary and above all, they were so developed and it was interesting to read their story unfold as they come to terms with it being almost a year since Trixie’s passing.

Biren introduces such supportive friends and family helping the characters (especially Lucy) in coming to terms with the loss.

Lucy hasn’t spoken to Ben since Trixie died, so she still struggles with the hurt and grief she still has for her best friend, while also feeling she will never sort things out with Ben (who was also her long-time crush).

However, since then Lucy has come to know Hannah and the 2 are inseparable. Hannah was completely understanding of Lucy’s loss and no matter what, always made an effort to help her and just be there when she needed someone.

Then there is Simon, a new guy who rents a house with his mother next door to Lucy to stay for the summer and when the two quickly connect, he also is very understanding and supportive as Lucy grieves. He really likes Lucy and wants to help her move past her feelings for Ben, above all he was a great character to read about.

Seeing Hannah, Simon, and Lucy’s parents give her the time and space she needed was incredible to read. It was also great to read how much they also just wanted to help her gather the strength to move on.

Then there’s Ben, who is going through the grief much differently than Lucy. He’s drinking, out partying, and finding girlfriend after girlfriend.

While it added so much depth to the story exploring and expanding on grief and loss from differing characters, I felt the dual POV really slowed the story down and I did have problems with Ben’s POV.

Above all, reading from his POV made me really dislike his character more and more as the story went on. Even though he acknowledged his actions and how he treated people  poorly throughout multiple chapters, he really didn’t change at all throughout the novel and that was pretty disappointing.

Its revealed he and Lucy were together in the past for a short while, but got into an argument shortly after Trixie died and he pushed her away.

Aside from that, it never felt like he appreciated or acknowledged the pain/strain of certain relationships like his father who was also grieving (at least in the beginning), current girlfriend, or Lucy when he knew why he was feeling so upset and frustrated all the time. Above all it just didn’t seem like he ever wanted to make an effort for anyone else and only cared how things would benefit himself.

As I mentioned above, he does mend the relationships as the story progresses, but not till very later on in the novel and that really made this novel hard to get through. They were very understanding and it just didn’t seem like he cared. So while his POV really shows a different side of the impact of Trixie’s death, moments of his POV really dragged and ruined the story for me.

As for additional elements I really loved about The Last Thing You Said, Biren shows an array of positive role models from friends to parents that help/show support for Lucy and Ben as they grieve Trixies loss.

The formatting and presentation of the book also made it stand out! The text of the novel is purple and aside from that, it’s also divided into 4 parts (May-August), features illustrations of a lake + forest in between chapters, and inspirational quotes. Overall I really loved how the book was presented!

The dual POV really expands not only on how the grief impacts people differently, but in general delivers a unique take on an emotional summer contemporary!

The Last Thing You Said is an enjoyable summer contemporary that really tackles grief in an honest and unique way. While the pacing and some character decisions make it slow to get through at points, the story above all follows the impactful and emotional journey of grief and acceptance.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon ARC Review

when-dimple-met-rishi-cover-revealWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: May 30, 2017

Pages: 380

Summary: Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: When Dimple Met Rishi is funny and heartfelt. While capturing the magic and spirit of first love, Menon also weaves in themes of family, familial expectations, independence, and finding yourself!

There was so much buzz surrounding this book! I’m happy to say, When Dimple Met Rishi did not let me down!

There’s a sense of magic that comes with this bright and deeply moving rom-com. Through Menon’s writing, 3rd person delivers a huge scope on her characters and allows the reader to fully understand them by the end of this novel!

The characters will come to life from page 1!

Dimple is a determined and ambitious main character. Her dedication and passion for coding was so inspiring.

As a college student, reading this novel was just so relatable and brought me back to my experience with applying for college. Above all this novel reminded me why I’m doing what I’m doing and why its important to be passionate and driven in what I’m studying

Dimple is eager to go to Insomnia Con, the place to be for up and coming web developers. However, her parents (mainly her mother) are set on her focusing on other things like finding the “I.I.H” (Ideal Indian Husband).

Dimple feels she is weighed down by her mother’s expectations, while  also feeling like she can’t be the daughter she wants her to be.

Dimple discovers she’s being set up in an arranged marriage and feels betrayed by her parents and upset. She is driven to forge her own path and marriage is least on her mind.

So Dimple wants nothing to do with Rishi and becomes a “hate turned love” kind of scenario, which is a trope I usually really don’t like, but Menon’s development, humor and banter in the beginning of their relationship really built it over the course of the story and above all just made  their relationship so well developed and I loved it!

~My favorite, funniest scene was definitely the Iced-Coffee scene! 😂😂

It did have some slow pacing for me personally, but aside from that I adored this book so much.

The story perfectly balances humor and funny/comedic moments with the serious moments and difficult decisions one must make for themselves before college.

The overall tone and atmosphere of this novel was magical. While reading, you will be captivated by the energy and passion that comes with first love.

When Dimple Met Rishi is sweet, character-driven, and above all a deeply moving YA Contemporary that will capture your heart with humor and swoon-worthy moments to keep you hooked till the very end as you follow Dimple, Rishi, and their both expected and unexpected connection! ❤