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!

I Am More Than A Daydream by Jennae Cecelia Review

I Am More Than A Daydream by Jennae CeceliaI Am More Than A Daydream by Jennae Cecelia

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Release Date: April 15, 2017

Pages: 74

Summary: How often do you daydream? For most, it is many times a day. We stare out the window instead of the task in front of us. We fantasize about where we would much rather be, the significant other we long for, our ideal job, the body we hope to see in the mirror, a healthier mindset, pure happiness in our lives and the lives of others, peace in this chaotic world. However, how many of us daydreamers believe these pleasant thoughts will truly turn into our reality? Daydreams are more than just short bursts of happiness that only our minds can see. I know I am more than a daydream; and you are, too.

My Rating:★★★★★

My Thoughts: I Am More Than A Daydream is inspirational, filled with messages of positivity, self-growth, and finding the confidence within yourself to follow your dreams!

Earlier this year I read Cecelia’s Uncaged Wallflower and adored it and I loved her latest collection just as much! ❤

Her poems always leave me feeling hopeful and inspired!

Discussing body image, following your dreams, and finding your inner strength, this latest collection reminds the reader that while we all are set on differing paths and may face obstacles along the way, that doesn’t mean we can’t overcome them to make our dreams come true!

If you haven’t read Cecelia’s collections, please do!
All throughout her poems she weaves in messages to inspire daily growth and positivity!!

Above all, I Am More Than A Daydream is a wonderful collection of poetry that reminds us that our daydreams can become reality!

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.

Flying Witch Volume 1 by Chihiro Ishizuka {Manga Review}

Flying Witch Volume 1 by Chihiro IshizukaFlying Witch Vol. 1 by  Chihiro Ishizuka {Flying Witch #1}

Publisher: Vertical Comics

Release Date: March 8, 2017

Pages: 160

Summary: Prepare to be Bewitched!
Makoto Kowata, a novice witch, packs up her belongings (including her black cat familiar) and moves in with her distant cousins in rural Aomori Prefecture, in the far north reaches of Japan, to complete her training and become a full-fledged witch.

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Flying Witch explores magic in the quiet, but normal everyday while also being comedic and heartwarming as Makoto continues her training to become a witch!✨

This manga was the cutest!! ❤ (´▽`ʃƪ)
From page 1 I could really sense the magic. Its a “quiet” type of magic that I enjoy reading about and overall made this story a real treasure.

I adored the characters and loved how, while it has magical elements stuck to a more “slice of life” approach.

It had a slow pace to it, but it really worked with the tone of story. It gives you the time to understand these characters, the magic that is infused throughout the story, and really take in the plot.

The characters were all fantastic! I adored Makato, Nao, Chinatsu, Kei, basically everyone ❤

Makato finds herself moving in with her cousins as she continues her training to become a witch. Throughout the manga, there’s tidbits of info that get revealed about the history and traditions of witches (the age they are recognized as adults, which regions of Japan they reside in, etc.) and I loved how it introduced more background of the witches and above all really helped to build the magic of the story.

I adored the friendship that develops between Makato and Nao!~ I loved their dynamic, but I do wish Nao was in the story a little bit more.

The story heavily focuses on family and self-growth and I adored that. While its clear Makato may still have a lot to learn, it was great seeing her have family and friends along the way to join her on her journey.

The artwork is simplistic, but really delivers the “quiet” and magical atmosphere of the story.

The plot itself goes in places I didn’t really expect, but I loved that! It kept me intrigued in the story, world, characters, etc. Additionally there are some hints and surprises that have me so excited to read Volume 2!

My only minor issue was that I did want more plot-wise.

Regardless…

Flying Witch Volume 1 is a story that proves magic is everywhere around you. The characters, plot, and world are wonderfully developed and truly deliver a sense of wonder and enchantment from the very first page.

Shadow Run by Adrianne Strickland + Michael Miller Review

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

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: March 21, 2017

Pages: 400

Summary: Nev has just joined the crew of the starship Kaitan Heritage as the cargo loader. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person to command her own ship, but she brooks no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. Nev can’t resist her, even if her ship is an antique.

As for Nev, he’s a prince, in hiding on the ship. He believes Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, and when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, Nev resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary.

But before they know it, a rival royal family is after Qole too, and they’re more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive.

Nev’s mission to manipulate Qole becomes one to save her, and to survive, she’ll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. He may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power–and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew.

My Rating:★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Shadow Run is a fun, action-packed space adventure, with a diverse cast of characters + twists and turns!

The characters were all phenomenal! They are not who you expect when you’re first introduced to them and there are secrets and unexpected surprises uncovered about them along the way. While told through Nev and Qole’s 1st person POV, you really get attached to these characters and really feel the bonds they have with each other and how they are strengthened as the story progresses!

As always I’m always on the look out for diverse books and loved reading the gender-fluid representation + POC characters!

The inclusion and discussion of Shadow (a dark energy of sorts) that travels freely across space was such a fascinating concept of this novel and it really brought a unique element to the story that I don’t really read much about in science fiction! It was definitely reminiscent to me of fantasy/Sci-Fi video Games!! ❤ ❤

Nev Dracorte (a prince) finds himself on Qole’s ship, the Kaitan as he tries to convince Qole to return to his home planet so they can better study Shadow (which Qole harbor’s within her).

I was not expecting Qole to have a shadow ability and felt it added a great twist to the story!

The banter and interactions between the characters was amazing! I could really feel the connections and bonds they had with each other!

I don’t want to go too much into the plot, b/c there’s so many twists and turns, that I feel its just best for you to read it for yourself!

The writing (1st person POV) really helped me to connect so much to Qole and Nev! Understanding them fully through their POV also helped me to better understand their own worlds and the internal struggles they face!

While there were so many wonderful aspects to Shadow Run,  the pacing did make it difficult to stay in the story every now and again and I wish there was more description for the atmosphere + background of the different planets that are discovered along the way, it would have helped to connect me more to the world!

Regardless, I’m definitely eager to read the 2nd book in the Kaitan Chronicles to see where the story is headed! ❤

Shadow Run is a character-driven story that puts its characters first, delivers a unique world and premise, while also adding tons of twists and turns to keep the reader turning the page!

Highly recommend if your looking to get into more Young Adult Sci-Fi!

Another Castle: Grimoire by Andrew Wheeler and Paulina Ganucheau Review

Another Castle GrimoireAnother Castle Grimoire by Andrew Wheeler and Paulina Ganucheau (Illustrator)

Publisher: Oni Press

Release Date: February 28, 2017

Pages: 152

Summary:We are thrilled to invite you on a journey of courage, friendship, and rebellion—Another Castle: Grimoire! This volume gathers all the issues from the hit comic book series centered on the adventures of Princess Misty of Beldora, whose courageous spirit leads to her capture, and ultimately, to a heroic adventure that spans two kingdoms.

Our tale begins when Princess Misty of Beldora, who longs for a more exciting life, gets more than she bargained for when she is captured by Lord Badlug, the ruler of the neighboring kingdom of Grimoire. He intends to marry her and conquer Beldora, leading the land into ruin and chaos. The people of Grimoire already suffer under his rule and desperately need a hero… luckily, Badlug has just kidnapped one! Together with the citizens of Grimoire and a certain bumbling prince, Misty must fight to protect her kingdom and free both realms from Badlug’s tyrannical rule. Misty is determined not to be another damsel in distress; and with her new friends to protect, she’ll discover just what it takes to be the hero of the story.

My Rating:★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Another Castle Grimoire is packed with action, fantastic art, and spins classic fairy tale+ fantasy tropes! 

The story centers around Princess Artemisia (Misty) of Beldora as her father prepares her for a marriage to prince Pete, however when she senses danger is lurking within her kingdom, she automatically begins conjuring up a plan. Taking her kingdom’s sword, The Leveler, she sets out for Grimoire with the only sword capable of destroying Badlug, ruler of Grimoire.

I loved Misty from page 1! She takes charge of her kingdom on her own and uses all her training to ensure her kingdom’s safety. While her father may not approve, its clear he only wants to keep her protected.

She questions and takes initiative to figure out answers on her own.

She soon discovers she is forced to be a prisoner of Badlug’s and must marry him, or her kingdom will perish. Prince Pete goes on a mission to rescue her, while encountering monsters along they way.

No matter what, she finds a way to ensure her kingdoms safety. Along the way she comes to know her attendants Fogmoth & Gorga (a gargoyle-human hybrid + a woman with Medusa-type abilites)

They forge a strong/beautiful friendship with Misty, though she doesn’t warm up to them right away. They come to trust Misty as she vows to escape Castle Grimoire and meet up with Prince Pete to get The Leveler and destroy Badlug.

I loved the twists/turns on tropes or classic hero story elements! The monsters the prince encounters, you expect to be ferocious, are friendly and kind. Everything from the characters to world, had me immersed into the story right away!

There’s a big emphasis on friendship and independence and I loved that so much. Throughout this story, there’s also an important/powerful message of acceptance and finding yourself.

The plot unfolds easily and you get a lot more backstory on Grimoire, Badlug, Misty’s mother and it all comes together in a way where it pieces together the story once you’ve reached the end.

However my only minor issue was the slow pacing around the middle and nearing the end.

Aside from Misty, Prince Pete, Gorga & Fogmoth were definitely my favorite characters! However, overall I loved each character (even Badlug!). They were all enjoyable to read about and while you don’t figure out everything about them, you learn enough to understand and sympathize.

Ever since reading Zodiac Starforce, I’ve really loved Paulina Ganucheau’s artwork! It’s colorful and bright! I love it!

I love that through the artowork, you see POC in power and characters with different body-types and there’s even GLBT-Rep.!

Another Castle Grimoire is a graphic novel with so much depth from its worlds to characters. The plot unfolds in ways you don’t expect, non-stop action, empowering female characters, and emphasis on friendship. There are so many fantastic elements!

Once I reached the end, I needed more! Hopefully there will be a Volume 2, because I adored everything about this story and I’m not ready to leave it just yet!