Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter Review

Not If I Save You First by Ally CarterNot If I Save You First by Ally Carter

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Release Date: March 27, 2018

Pages: 297

Summary: Maddie thought she and Logan would be friends forever. But when your dad is a Secret Service agent and your best friend is the president’s son, sometimes life has other plans. Before she knows it, Maddie’s dad is dragging her to a cabin in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness.

No phone.
No Internet.
And not a single word from Logan.

Maddie tells herself it’s okay. After all, she’s the most popular girl for twenty miles in any direction. (She’s also the only girl for twenty miles in any direction.) She has wood to cut and weapons to bedazzle. Her life is full.
Until Logan shows up six years later . . .
And Maddie wants to kill him.

But before that can happen, an assailant appears out of nowhere, knocking Maddie off a cliff and dragging Logan to some unknown fate. Maddie knows she could turn back- and get help. But the weather is turning and the terrain will only get more treacherous, the animals more deadly.

Maddie still really wants to kill Logan.
But she has to save him first.

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Carter’s latest novel, Not If I Save You First, is filled with intrigue, politics, and mystery! This page turner is mystery, thriller, and character-driven story all in one!

As a long time fan of Ally Carter’s books, I always look forward to reading what she comes up with next!

She integrates politics and mystery so seamlessly into everyone of her novels and that’s just one of the many reasons I really love her books!

Not If I Save You First follows Madeleine“Maddie” Rose Manchester, daughter of a Secret Service Agent and Logan, the president’s son.

An attack within the White House when they were 10, leads Maddie + her father to stay off the grid for 6 years in Alaska.

In that time, Maddie has been writing letters to Logan, but we quickly learn she hasn’t gotten responses. This leads her to believe, that maybe she’s lost her only friend.

Then when there’s news that Logan will be staying with them, the story takes off from there!

Now, when Maddie’s tasked with watching over him, it turns out they aren’t completely off the grid as they thought.

When its revealed someone is after Logan (and is later kidnapped), its up to Maddie to save him and when she does, they have to find answers.

Over the course of the story, they work together and unravel the mystery all while trying to stay alive in the Alaskan wilderness.

As they uncover more about what caused their friendship to end so abruptly, they also team up, help each other and maybe attempt to revive, what they felt was a long-gone connection!

I loved seeing the unique dynamic between Logan + Maddie. It was interesting to see their friendship during their younger years in the beginning + seeing how it drastically shifts in the present.

The characters and their development, especially Logan and Maddie is another aspect of the novel that I really enjoyed!

Carter does such an amazing job at keeping her characters and their development consistent throughout her books and it shows throughout the entirety of Logan and Maddie’s interactions.

The mystery as to who was after Logan and why, kept me turning the page! There’s so much mystery and things left unsaid that made it fun figuring out who was behind all this!

As for the plot and considering its a standalone, the story easily wraps up and any loose strings are pretty much resolved.

*I also loved the Gallagher Girls reference to the Blackthorne Institute!! ❤ ❤ Being a long-time fan of Carter’s books, it was fun seeing that little easter egg!!

However I will admit, the story itself was pretty slow towards the middle (when Logan + Maddie spend a lot of time trying to lose their tracks of Stefan, who’s chasing them). It did lead to a bit of repetitiveness of the setting and with that, not much happening plot wise when Logan+Maddie are trying to escape Stefan.

Additionally, the big reveal as to who was behind it did feel pretty rushed, as did the ending itself.

I will admit, the build-up itself was so incredibly done and kept raising the stakes with each moment.

When we finally reach the end, there was just a lot happening at once and overall felt a bit too fast-paced when it was revealed.

Overall though, I’m interested to read what Ally releases next! I always look forward to reading her novels and always have so much fun reading them!

Character development and mystery are at the heart of this story! Not If I Save You First is a uniquely plotted YA mystery/thriller and page-turning read! Though the pacing and ending suffer a bit, its an entertaining read perfect if your looking for a YA Contemporary/Thriller-Mystery standalone!

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Book Bytes I #11

Book Bytes is a monthly feature I created to share news in the world of YA!

Each month posts can contain anything from new cover/title reveals, book-to-movie news, even the latest book deals!!
I’ve now split up the news into categories, to make it easier to jump to whichever book news you’d like to read about!

If there’s any book news I missed or any you want to discuss, definitely leave a comment!

Adaptation News

To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han1.To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before Film Release Date

With the recent announcement that the adaptation for Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before would be coming to Netflix this summer, it was recently announced by Jenny Han herself & Collider that the film now has an official release date as of April 10!

The ‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’ film is set to be released August 17 on Netflix!

2.Dumplin’ Soundtrack

Announced in 2017, Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy had been picked up to be adapted for film with Jennifer Aniston attached to star. As of April 11, Dolly Parton tweeted + shared a blog post about writing new music for the upcoming film.

Dumplin’ has no released date announced yet.

The Prince And The Dressmaker by Jen Wang

3. The Prince And The Dressmaker picked up by Universal Pictures

Announced April 16 by Deadline, producer Marc Platt and Universal Pictures picked up the rights to Jen Wang’s graphic novel, The Prince And The Dressmaker.

No release date, etc. was announced.

4.The Hate U Give Release Season + First Look!

Announced April 26, EW shared a First Look at the movie adaptation to Angie Thomas’s novel The Hate U Give!

While no set release date has been announced, it has been confirmed for a 2018 (looking at Fall) release date!

Book Deals

1.Flame In The Mist by Renée Ahdieh 2 Free E-Novellas

As of April 2, through PenguinTeen’s website, Renée Ahdieh announced she would be releasing 2 free e-novellas as a part of her Flame In The Mist duology!

They are set to take place in between the ending of Flame In The Mist and the beginning to Smoke In The Sun.

The 2 e-novells are titled:

Yumi & Okami

Yumi is set to be released April 24, 2018 & Okami is set to be released May 15, 2018!

2.The Quiet You Carry by Nikki Barthelmess

Set to be released in 2019 by Flux Books, Barthelmess’s debut The Quiet You Carry is about “17-year-old Victoria, who, after she’s kicked out of her toxic family, must contend with a chaotic foster home, dodge prying eyes at school, hang onto her college dreams, and somehow protect the stepsister she left behind” (Announced April 2).

3.Cacophony by Kelly Powell

Set to be released in Fall of 2019 by Margaret K. McElderry Books, Powell’s debut Cacophony is a “a work of magical realism, following a violinist working with a lighthouse keeper to ‘solve a murder on an island that is also home to deadly sirens who prey on the inhabitants.’(Announced April 10).

4. I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn

Set to be released in Summer of 2019 by Scholastic, Kuhn’s YA Debut,“I Love You So Mochi, is about a Japanese-American fashionista who journeys to Japan on a quest of self-discovery after her college plans fall apart; along the way, she reconnects with her estranged grandparents and finds romance with a med student who moonlights as a costumed mochi mascot” (Announced April 12)

5.The Candle And The Flame by Nafiza Azad

Set to be released in 2019, Azad’s debut The Candle And The Flame is “Set in a city along the Silk Road that has become a refuge for those of all faiths, the YA fantasy is about a young woman with mysterious origins and two clans of powerful djinn who threaten to destroy her peace, and the unlikely alliances she’ll make to survive” (Announced April 12).

6. Stronger Than A Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan

Set to be released in Spring of 2019, Fan’s steampunk fantasy, Stronger Than A Bronze Dragon is “In a world inspired by Qing dynasty China, a warrior girl, Anlei, teams up with a young thief to save her village from shadow spirits. But, after arriving at the Courts of Hell, a discovery challenges everything they know about who the real enemy is” (Announced April 12).

7.Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Set to be released in Fall of 2019, Yoon’s debut Frankly In Love, is “a fresh and relatable take on identity and race as seen through the eyes of a Korean-American teen caught between his parents’ traditional expectations and his own Southern California upbringing” (Announced April 12).

8.All Boy’s Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

Set to be released in Winter of 2020, Johnson’s YA Memoir, All Boys Aren’t Blue ” takes stories from his life growing up as a queer black teen to show readers how they can fight for themselves or be allies in the struggle for equity and equality” (Announced April 12).

9.Rebel Seoul Companion by Axie Oh

Axie Oh author of her 2017 debut Rebel Seoul, announced she would be working on a companion novel set to be released in Fall of 2019 (Announced April 13).

10.Virtually Yours by Sarvenaz Tash

Set to be released in spring 2019, Sarvenaz Tash author of The Geek’s Guide To Unrequited Love and Three Day Summer, announced she would be releasing a “futuristic rom-com” titled Virtually Yours, which is “about a college freshman who tries out a virtual reality dating app, only to be matched up with the high school ex she’s still not over” (Announced April 24).

Cover Reveals + Title Reveals

1.Girl Squads by Sam Maggs

As of April 9, Nerdist revealed the cover for Magg’s upcoming novel:

Girl Squads: 20 Female Friendships That Changed History

There’s also a Q&A along with the cover reveal going more in depth to the design of it!

Girl Squads is set to be released October 2, 2018!

2.Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

Happily Ever After revealed the cover to Spooner’s upcoming fairy-tale retelling Sherwood along with a Q&A on April 9.

This Robin Hood retelling is set to be released in March of 2019!

3.Odd One Out by Nic Stone

Revealed on Nic Stone’s twitter as of April 13, was the cover to her upcoming YA Contemporary Odd One Out!

Her book is about “three kids of color trying to navigate the intersections of friendship and romance and figure out who it’s okay to love.”

Odd One Out by Nic Stone is set to be released October 9, 2018! + An excerpt of Stone’s book was also shared on EW as of April 20!

4.Outrun The Wind by Elizabeth Tammi

LGBTQReads revealed the cover for Tammi’s upcoming Queer, Greek-Mythology Fantasy, Outrun The Wind!

There’s also a discussion w/ the author on her inspiration for her novel!

Outrun The Wind is set to be released November 27!

5.A Map Of Days by Ransom Riggs

As of April 25, Penguin Teen and USA Today shared that Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Series will be adding a 4th book! A Map Of Days, according to USA Today, “kicks off a new trilogy in Riggs’ best-selling young-adult saga…”

Both a cover reveal and release date were announced!

A Map Of Days is set to be released October 2, 2018!

6.King Of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

EW revealed the cover to Leigh Bardugo’s upcoming novel in her Grishaverse, centering around Nikolai, titled King Of Scars as of April 30.

King Of Scars is set to be released January 29, 2019!

Publisher News

1.Epic Reads Bookmojis!

Announced April 3, Epic Reads revealed they launched an app for book-lovers called:

Bookmojis

Its a free app that ” includes a selection of YA emojis, GIFs, and stickers for us book nerds to use in all of our texts!!

According to their blog post, they’ll also be releasing new packs every month based off different book fandoms!

Its available through Google Play & Apple!

Tours

Anger Is A Gift by Mark Oshiro1.Anger Is A Gift Tour

Announced by EW April 4, debut author Mark Oshiro, will be touring for his upcoming book Anger Is A Gift!

“A story of resilience and loss, love and family, Mark Oshiro’s Anger is a Gift testifies to the vulnerability and strength of a community living within a system of oppression.

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals by their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.”

Anger Is A Gift is set to be released May 22, 2018!

A sneak peek of Oshiro’s upcoming novel was also released as of April 10! You can find links to download it through the publisher’s site Here!

Furyborn by Claire Legrand2.Furyborn Tour

EW announced as of April 18, that author Claire Legrand, will be on tour for her upcoming book, Furyborn!

Described as an epic feminist fantasy, Furyborn is one of the most anticipated new YA fantasy titles of 2018.

According to the publisher, Claire Legrand’s book “follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world… When assassins ambush her best friend, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing herself as one of a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light, and a queen of blood… One thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a fairy tale to Eliana Ferracora. A bounty hunter for the Undying Empire, Eliana believes herself untouchable ― until her mother vanishes. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain and discovers that the evil at the empire’s heart is more terrible than she ever imagined. As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world ― and of each other.

Furyborn is set to be released May 22, 2018!

And that wraps up the YA Book News for April 2018! ✨📚😄

Thoughts on April’s YA Book News? + Do you have a favorite piece of YA Book News from the month? 📚✨📰💻

January 2018 Wrap-Up

Can’t believe the first month of 2018 is already over! Today I’ll be sharing my first Monthly Wrap-Up of 2018~ 

# Of Books Read: 9

Anchors & Vacancies by Kat Savage1.Anchors & Vacancies by Kat Savage

Owned | Read/Finished on January 1 | Rating: ★★★★☆ |Anchors & Vacancies Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Now pretty much a yearly tradition for me, I try to start off the new year by reading a poetry book, for 2018 I decided to read Anchors & Vacancies by Kat Savage!

This book contains 45 poems centering around the journey of a love lost and how that loss can impact a person when its difficult to let go.

This quote really stuck with me throughout the entire book:

“There’s a certain kind of ache in the chambers of my heart…”

While I really understood the complex emotions + journey Savage portrayed in the collection, on a personal level (aside from a few) many didn’t really connect with me (hence the 4 stars). However, I loved her writing-style and plan to read more of her poetry in the future.

The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes2. The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes

Library | Started December 23 + Finished on January 4 | Rating: ★★★★☆ |The Arsonist Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Told through 3 unique POV’s, The Arsonist brilliantly weaves coming-of-age, historical fiction, & Mystery/Thriller all in one! This novel follows Molly Mavity + Ibrahim, aka, “Pepper” Al-Yussef who’s paths cross when a mysterious letter brings them together to solve the mystery of Ava Dreyman, who was a resistance fighter during the time of the Berlin Wall. The friendship between Pepper + Molly was so beautifully written and you really see how lonely they feel, but the bond of their friendship reminds them that they aren’t alone & I loved that! There’s so much complexity + mystery that really makes this book surprising. I suppose my only issue was that compared to Oakes debut The Sacred Lies Of Minnow Bly (Which I loved), the writing for The Arsonist felt rather flat and certain aspects from side-character development to setting description, etc. fell a bit short. Aside from that, The Arsonist is a compelling story that weaves in so many differing genres/themes that I highly recommend it if your looking for a unique read!

Beneath The Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire3.Beneath The Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire (Wayward Children #3)

ARC | Started January 7 + Finished on January 8 | Rating: ★★★★☆ ½ |Beneath The Sugar Sky Full ARC Review

Overall Thoughts: Beneath The Sugar Sky was easily my favorite book of the Wayward Children series so far! The descriptive and whimsical writing really showed McGuire’s growth as an author with this series. When Rini finds herself Eleanor West’s Home For Wayward Children characters, both new & returning, join Rini on her quest to the peculiar world of Confection, to bring back an old friend. Kade & Christopher are easily my favorite characters of the entire series & not only did this book remind me of that, but their banter + friendship easily made this book one of my favorites! Filled with adventure, a dynamic + diverse cast of characters, magic & mystery, Beneath The Sugar Sky is a fantastic continuation to the Wayward Children Series!

A Taxonomy Of Love by Rachael Allen4.A Taxonomy Of Love by Rachael Allen

ARC | Started January 5 + Finished on January 13 | Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½ |A Taxonomy Of Love ARC Review

Overall Thoughts: The unique format & expansive timeline, made A Taxonomy Of Love a pretty unique YA Contemporary. We follow Spencer from 13-19 as he navigates life + his friendship with his new neighbor Hope Birdsong. Allen really developed the main character Spencer, while bringing so much progression & growth to his character that you can really see by the end of the novel. Throughout the story, Spencer + Hope begin to drift apart when Hope suffers an important loss in her family. Your left wondering if they’ll ever reconnect, while also seeing where their own paths are leading them. I felt however, with the constant jumps in the timeline, characters + story points had uneven development, going from extremely fast + rushed pacing to uneventful & slow moments. That made it difficult to really connect with any of the other characters, aside from a few main ones (hence the 3.5). However, Allen did a fantastic job at weaving in so many themes + developing the atmosphere of her contemporary story over such an expansive timeline!

Love Hate And Other Filters Samira Ahmed5.Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

ARC | Started January 15 + Finished on January 19 | Rating: ★★★★☆ |Love, Hate & Other Filters ARC Review

Overall Thoughts: Love, Hate & Other Filters tackles such a relevant + timely issue while also balancing heart-warming moments and chilling/honest ones too! I loved Maya so much, from her passion to follow her dreams of becoming a film director to the strength and courage she builds over the course of the novel. There was one important moment I found that pretty much put the entirety of the novel into focus and that was the importance of Maya’s camera. I found it represented not only a shield for Maya, but also thinking broadly how people tend to view each other lenses (or filters!). Throughout the novel we follow Maya Aziz and her journey to not only understand who she wants to become, but seeing her inspirational journey to follow her dreams and tackle whatever life throws her way!

Fence Issue 1 by C.S. Pacat + Johannah The Mad6.Fence #1 by C.S. Pacat + Johanna The Mad + Joana Lafuente

Owned| Read/Finished On January 20 | Rating: ★★★★☆ ½Fence Issue #1 Full Review

Overall Thoughts: 16-year old Nicholas Cox has the heart, but not exactly skill, for fencing. He’s worked from the basics and is eager to win the local tournament (Connecticut Regionals). The win from this competition could earn him a spot into a top school and allow him to receive a scholarship & continue with fencing if he is serious about pursuing it. His competition is none other than  Seiji Katayama, fencing prodigy. This first issue introduces so much from Nicholas’s past to his passion for fencing & the mysterious fencing prodigy. There is so much great development, action and dialogue that will keep you hooked! Its a brilliant start to a new comic series! (Honestly, there’s tons more I discuss in my full reviews that I can’t fully explain in this wrap-up, but I HIGHLY recommend checking out Fence 💙✨🤺)

Fence Issue 2 by C.S. Pacat + Johannah The Mad7.Fence #2 by C.S. Pacat + Johanna The Mad + Joana Lafuente

Owned| Read/Finished On January 20 | Rating: ★★★★☆ ½ Fence Issue #2 Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Fence #2 is very much build-up to Nicholas & Seiji’s dynamic when they begin at King’s Row and introduction to new characters on the fencing team. We definitely see the stakes set for not only the team, but Nicholas too (considering we learn there are a limited # of spots for the main team + upcoming championships). Both Issue #1 & #2 introduce characters of color + trans rep. & it does hint at gay rep.! The tension really builds in this issue and similar to Issue #1, will keep you hooked!

Fence Issue 3 by C.S. Pacat + Johannah The Mad8.Fence #3 by C.S. Pacat + Johanna The Mad + Joana Lafuente

Owned| Read/Finished On January 20 | Rating: ★★★★☆ ½Fence Issue #2 Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Fence #3 is easily my favorite issue in the series so far! There is much more character development/background + is a very plot-driven continuation! This issue very much follows Nicholas & not only his daily campus life on King’s Row, but his determination to prove himself before his first match against a classmate. The characters from Issue #2 are getting better developed as is the gay rep. The perfect pacing, development for plotting, characters, and slight twists + turns make Issue #3, such a brilliant addition to the Fence series!

Love Sugar Magic-A Dash Of Trouble by Anna Meriano9.Love Sugar Magic: A Dash Of Trouble by Anna Meriano (W/ Cover art by Mirelle Ortega)

Library | Started January 25 + Finished January 27 | Rating:★★★★★  | Love Sugar Magic: A Dash Of Trouble Full Review

Overall Thoughts: Easily one of the best middle-grade novels I have ever read! Themes of family and friendship, alongside a delightful writing that delivers a sweet and magical tale, Love Sugar Magic was a truly unforgettable read! The story follows Leo Logroño and she comes from a family of bakers, they run the Amor y Azúcar Panadería. She’s always felt left out of the family business + feels her mother + sisters are hiding something, so a day before the Día de los Muertos festival, she sneaks her way into the bakery to see what really goes on (she soon discovers she comes from a family of brujas, who use their powers within the bakery + their treats). Now that her oldest sister Isabel knows, Leo begins to use the powers within her & experiments with the special family recipe book. However as Leo begins to lie about using her abilities to the rest of her family, she soon gets into trouble & must make very important decisions. The magic system is one of my favorite aspects about this novel, it really builds and you see how unique it is for each member of Leo’s family. The plot is perfectly developed, the writing is beautiful, the characters are spectacular, & so much more!! Such a fantastic novel, I highly recommend it!

Additional Posts From This Month:

Latinx YA Book Releases To Add To Your TBR {2018}

What Books Did You Read This Month? 😄✨📚

You may have noticed, I never posted one for December. Well, that was mainly because of vacation, but also because as the months passed nearing the end of 2017 when making my monthly wrap-ups, I noticed that I began to lose my enjoyment for making/posting them because I felt like I had to (being a pretty common post in the book-community). While I do enjoy them I felt it was time to change up the review format a bit to add more to make a bit more personal (adding the format of the book + when I started/finished). And I think doing that really brought back my enjoyment for them~

So similar to this one, I may be trying out this new format for the upcoming monthly wrap-ups, but again I’m really liking how this one turned out! 😄✨📚📚💻~ But, feel free to let me know what you think of the new format in the comments!

The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes Review

The Arsonist by Stephanie OakesThe Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes

Publisher: Dial Books (PenguinTeen)

Release Date: August 22, 2017

Pages: 493

Summary:It starts with a fire. A diary. A murder.

Molly Mavity is not a normal teenage girl. For one thing, she doesn’t believe that her mother killed herself three years ago. And since her father is about to be executed for his crimes, Molly is convinced that her mother will return to her soon. Finally, the hole in her heart will stop hurting.

Pepper Al-Yusef is not your average teenage boy. A Kuwaiti immigrant with serious girl problems and the most embarrassing seizure dog in existence, he has to write a series of essays over the summer…or fail out of school.

And Ava Dreyman—the brave and beautiful East German resistance fighter whose murder at seventeen led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall—is unlike anyone you’ve met before.

When Molly and Pepper are tasked with finding Ava’s murderer, they realize there’s more to her life—and death—than meets the eye. Someone is lying to them. And someone out there is guiding them along, desperate for answers.

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Arsonist is a thriller, mystery, historical-fiction, and coming of age all in one! With such depth to the main characters, threads of mystery that weave together so perfectly, and surprises at every turn, Oakes novel will have you immersed in this brilliantly crafted story! 

Having been such a huge fan of Oakes debut The Sacred Lies Of Minnow Bly, I knew I wouldn’t miss out on her upcoming books! Though while this one has a lesser rating compared to her 1st book, I still really loved it and had such a fun time reading it!

We follow 3 differing POV’s that all end up weaving together in such a way, you don’t expect! I know as I saw all the pieces coming together, I found the twists and turns of the story to be so well done and left me surprised!

Told through essays (Pepper), letters (Molly), and diary entries (Ava), the story unfolds in such a unique and interesting way!

Starting with Molly Mavity, she’s somewhat of an outcast at school and knows she’ll never really fit in. Her father is a convicted arsonist and currently in jail and as for her mother, is dead. But Molly believes she’s still out there somewhere and is waiting for her return.

Ibrahim, aka, “Pepper” Al-Yussef is just trying to graduate high school, so he’s given an assignment by his counselor to write essays about each of his classes.

And Ava Dreyman, a girl living in East Germany who, along with her family resist the Stasi rule and hope to one day be free of the Berlin Wall.

Molly and Pepper soon team up when a mysterious letter brings them together to solve the mystery of what happened to Ava Dreyman.

They find themselves reading her diary titled The Arsonist, visiting people from Ava’s past, traveling to Berlin, and forging a complex friendship along the way.

What I loved about Pepper & Molly so much, was the complex but underlying strong friendship that forges between them as they try to solve the mystery. While Pepper later admits he could possibly imagine a nice relationship between them, he also states their friendship was so much more important and I loved that!

Its clear throughout the novel, that they both feel pretty lonely and really want someone to connect to, feeling like they don’t really belong. Seeing just how alike they are through their POV and seeing them slowly forge their friendship was so beautiful!

Through Ava’s POV we see just how independent and brave she is, when she’s forced to leave her home in East Germany to avoid the Stasi from capturing her. She grows and undergoes so much pain and betrayal when she must leave her family and her home behind. While I loved each of the POV’s equally, her’s was just filled with so much pain and heartache that you just feel so connected to her story and want to see her be reunited with those she loves and be free.

We also get so much depth to her as we see how these traumatic events from her being forced to flee her home, to seeing her members of her family put in danger & even killed, to the betrayal she endures and how it just causes her to become a shadow of who she once was.

I wish I could put into words the complexity of the story, but truly can’t. There’s just so many brilliant points that bring these characters together in ways you just don’t see coming!

What I found made me difficult to truly rate this book a 5, was the writing-style. While I loved that it truly gave you such depth into each of the characters minds and their personalities, I couldn’t help but feel that other aspects fell a bit short. From the setting descriptions to some side characters, they weren’t given as much depth as I would have hoped, which did make it a bit difficult to truly immerse myself in this book. Additionally, the story does get slow paced throughout and due to its length did drag a little bit at some points.

Aside from that, what the writing-style brings that really makes the book stand out and truly shine, is the uniqueness of each POV and how its just brilliantly executed.

There were definitely a few side characters that I felt truly were given such depth and you felt you really knew them by the end of this novel. To start with, Pepper’s father, as we learn what brought him to the U.S. and the heartache he also endures with the loss of his wife, Lido, a friend Ava makes who allows her to find hope again when she finds herself mistakenly put into a mental institution, and Heinrich Werner, a Stasi officer who is in charge of eliminating those who rebel against current republic or attempt to flee.

Overall I highly recommend this book if your looking for a unique mystery that really delivers complex and interesting characters, while keeping you putting pieces together till the very end!

The Arsonist is a uniquely woven tale that brings in mystery, coming-of-age, historical fiction, as you follow 3 distinct POV’s that bring to life such unique and memorable main characters! With such deep underlying messages about family, fighting for what you believe, and the depths of love and loss, Oakes The Arsonist, is not one to miss!

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco Review

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri ManiscalcoHunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco (SJTR #2)

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson

Release Date: September 19, 2017

Pages: 434

Summary: Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Hunting Prince Dracula takes you on another murder mystery, this time set in Romania as detective duo Audrey and Thomas head to a school of forensics! Maniscalco’s writing builds an atmospheric setting and keeps you in suspense as you follow Audrey on her adventure to solve another case!

While I didn’t rate this higher than book 1, rating aside, this was still a great book! Hunting Prince Dracula, immerses you from the start as Audrey Rose Wadworth and Thomas Cresswell are in Romania on a train, headed to compete for the few remaining spots at the Academy of Forensics and Medicine.

However when a murder on the train continues to lead suspicion about the infamous Vlad Dracula’s return, Audrey and Thomas feel this may be one of their darkest mysteries to date!

What I loved about Hunting Prince Dracula so much was the rich and expansive history, Maniscalco weaved into the story from the Romanian folklore to the legends and tales surrounding Vlad Dracula! Before deciding to read this book, I had actually watched an interesting documentary about Dracula recently and was able to recall a lot of the info from it in this book which was really cool to revisit in this book + even learn some new tidbits of fascinating history + folklore!

Audrey Rose is dealing with the aftermath of the events in Stalking Jack The Ripper and essentially over the course of the story finds her strength to continue doing what she loves while accepting what happened and is determined to claim one of the limited spots in the academy! Her determination never wavers even as guys at the academy question and doubt her, she never once backs down!

We learn much more about Thomas which was great + it was great to get even more into Audrey’s head too as we follow grief, mystery, and so much more that she tackles throughout Hunting Prince Dracula!

Maniscalco’s 1st person POV allows us to brilliantly explore this dark addition to the Stalking Jack The Ripper series, from the clues that leave us unsure of who to trust to following Audrey’s inspiring journey to pursue what she loves no matter what gets in her way! Mansicalco also continues to build such a detailed and immersive atmosphere into this novel which really makes for a setting and tale that really come to life!

And what made this novel such a perfect December read was the vibrant winter setting!

What I really love about this series so much is how Maniscalco really tackles this genre of mystery in such unique ways to deliver a new, interesting, and complex strings of murder and mystery that weave together + overall just brings such heart to her stories!

She builds plot twists, mystery, and suspense so well and I will continue to be on the look out for the next book!

As for diversity, we have Audrey Rose who is biracial (white + Indian) and there was an f/f romance introduced, that weaves throughout the story!

Now as for why I didn’t rate it as high as I’d I hoped…For me I did find the pacing to be much slower than in Book 1 and found the beginning to be rather slow to get through. And there were certain aspects about Thomas’s character (in relation to how he handles Audrey admitting her worries/fears to him) that had me feeling like he wasn’t the same as he was in SJTR. While there were so many great elements to this book, overall it just felt like a 4-star read to me.

Aside from that, I will continue to love this series with all my heart with Audrey and her unwavering determination to the new and interesting mysteries, she and Thomas unravel!! (Plus it was also recently announced to be a 4-book series! ❤ )

Hunting Prince Dracula is a brilliant addition to the Stalking Jack The Ripper series! Following a much darker mystery, Maniscalco continues to deliver on the detailed setting to her brilliantly complex characters and plot that all weave together in such a way that will leave you wanting to read even more adventures from the brilliant and witty duo of Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell!

M.F.K.: Book One by Nilah Magruder Review

M.F.K. by Nilah MagruderM.F.K.: Book One by Nilah Magruder

Publisher: Insight Comics

Release Date: September 26, 2017

Pages: 129

Summary:A fantastic adventure following the story of Abbie, a deaf girl with a mysterious power, who is traveling across a vast desert to scatter her mother’s ashes.

In a world of sleeping gods, a broken government, and a fragile peace held in the hands of the corrupt, one youth must find the strength to stand up against evil and save humanity.

This story is not about that youth.

It’s about Abbie, who just wants to get to the mountain range called the Potter’s Spine and scatter her mother’s ashes. But the way is filled with sandstorms, wild beasts, and rogues that wield inhuman powers and prey on poor desert dwellers. When one of these rogues threatens the town where Abbie takes refuge, she must choose between running, or unleashing her own hidden power to meet danger head-on.

Journeys are hard on the social recluses of the world. 

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: M.F.K.: Book One is an intriguing graphic novel with a delightful cast of characters, colorful + wonderfully illustrated artwork, and sets up for an epic-fantasy adventure in future volumes!

Magruder’s M.F.K. immediately pulled me in with the vibrant and rich colors and the unique desert setting!

The story starts with Jamie and his grandfather gathering sand during a sandstorm on the outskirts of their desert town of Little Marigold.

Jamie soon spots Abbie, a young girl who’s carrying an urn of her mother’s ashes & is making a journey across the desert to scatter them. While joined by her Moa (giant bird), Abbie has been gravely injured and is in need of medical attention.

Abbie wakes to find herself being cared for by Jamie’s aunt, Nifrain. While spending her time recovering, she learns about the town + Jamie & his family.

It turns out the residents of Little Marigold have been constantly bullied by Parasai (or those with supernatural abilities) and are forced to give goods to them or risk their anger.

She quickly sees just how rudely they treat the residents and we soon learn that she herself is a Parasai that’s gone rogue!

M.F.K. is such a diverse graphic novel, from the cast being characters of color to our main character Abbie who uses a hearing aid! I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel with a deaf main character before & it was just so great to see that representation! 

The plot itself is slow but in a way that really works with the story. Based on the summary it very much gives a broad scope of the overall story, and having finished M.F.K., its obvious there’s a larger story in the works.

I absolutely loved all the main characters introduced! They are really given such depth and you feel you know them just from this 1st volume! From Jamie with his optimistic and upbeat personality, to the differing sides of aunt Nifrain. I also really loved Jamie & Nifrain’s comedic sides & the banter/friendship that develops between Abbie & Jamie! ❤

We learn much more about Jamie and his past (where his parents are & how he hopes to one day go on adventures) as he and Abbie get to know each other better while she recovers to continue on her journey!

 The main fantasy elements are expanded on nearing the end of the story and while its very much an introduction, I did want a little bit more background to how they came about. 

This is really wonderfully developed and immersive graphic novel that had me eager for the next one as soon as I reached the end! It does have its emotional and somewhat dark moments, but definitely has an upbeat adventure feel throughout & its comedic moments! Overall it just left me captivated and intrigued in this fantasy world!

M.F.K.: Book One is a vibrantly colored and illustrated story, with an intriguing  plot+ fantastic cast of characters that immerse you from the very beginning! If your looking for a diverse, comedic, magical, and mysterious graphic novel, M.F.K. is one to definitely check out!

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum Review

The Wicker King by K. AncrumThe Wicker King by K. Ancrum

Publisher: Imprint (FierceReads)

Release Date: October 31, 2017

Pages: 320

Summary: The Wicker King is a psychological young adult thriller that follows two friends struggling as one spirals into madness.

When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: The Wicker King is a dark and thrilling mystery that will keep you immersed and on the edge of your seat! The lyrical and raw writing delivers such emotion and conveys a dark and gritty atmosphere of mystery and suspense!

From the summary, I knew The Wicker King would be an intriguing mystery, but there were so many elements that surprised me and I became so invested into the world, plot, and characters!

Set in 2003, we follow August and Jack have been long time friends, since they were kids. Now as the years passed, they have their own friend circles, but outside of school still manage to maintain their deep and complex friendship.

There are also side characters, such as Rina + twins Roger and Peter, play a much more central role in Jack and August’s story as it progresses. Though for me personally a lot of the other minor side characters weren’t as developed as I would have hoped.

Then Roger suspects that Jack may be losing sight of reality and implores August to help his friend. As August begins to find out for himself, he soon learns more about Jack’s alternate fantasy with magic, monsters, and a quest, which tells of a prophecy only they can fulfill!

There’s discussion of co-dependency between Jack and August as its clear that Jack is very much in control of the dynamics of their friendship. While August wants to ensure Jack’s well-being, he can’t help but continue to feel obligated towards him and keep their relationship from fracturing.

Ancrum explores the dark and complicated elements of their codependent relationship and how it above all, impacts August the most.

The lyrical and vivid 3rd person POV flows perfectly with the overall dark and mysterious tone of the story, while really allowing you to see the characters (especially Jack and August)  in such a unique way, focusing more on their inner psyche and unique sides to their character.

What also brings so much more to the novel is the format of the novel! With pages going from light to dark as the story progresses, which was brilliant and further conveyed how the story grows into a much more complex, darker, and mysterious tale! There’s also additional illustrations, newspaper clippings, photographs, etc. all which really add more depth & an intriguing element of mystery!

Both August and Jack are developed so well that you really understand whats going on their heads through the short, but impactful sentences and chapters.

While this is a pretty quick moving mystery-thriller, its done in such a way where it slowly descends and unravels into a darker tale as the story progresses.

Arcum delivers dark mystery and suspense so perfectly! Alongside the quick, emotional and raw writing-style, it just brings together the plot and intricacies of August & Jack so perfectly!

From just such few sentences, we know about Jack & Augusts parents and how their neglect for their kids really impacted them and caused them to rely heavily on each other. (With Jack’s parent’s absence & August’s mother’s depression).

Mental Illness and health slowly gets weaved into the story and really cements itself into the story as it progresses.

As for diversity, we have one of our main characters August Bateman who is biracial and bisexual (as is Jack) and a GLBT+ relationship that clearly develops among Jack and August.

The story is brilliantly plotted and honestly had me up late reading just to unravel the mysteries of this book and the fascinating characters, August and Jack.

With twists, dark and atmospheric writing, discussion on mental health,  brilliantly crafted main characters, among other fantastic elements, The Wicker King is a perfect mystery read!