Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees
★★★★☆ (3.75)
Genre – Young Adult Fantasy

Summary – She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her 24934065hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him… or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

Initial Thoughts – I enjoyed this book, but it just felt like every other fantasy/Western novel I’ve read recently. I loved Amani and the setting, but nothing else really stood out.
Plot – ★★★☆☆ Nothing plotwise caught my attention in this book. There were no twists that truly surprised me.
Characters – ★★★★☆ I loved, loved, loved Amani and her sharp tongue. She was strong because she taught herself to be and somehow, choosing to save herself instead of someone else, made her even more likable to me. The rest of the characters were okay, though they could have used some more developing.
Story world – ★★★★☆ Throughout reading this, I could practically feel the sand sticking to my skin. However, the history and mythology surrounding the djinni could have used just a little more detail and mention.
Style – ★★★★☆  Nothing about Hamilton’s style really stood out. It was developed and fluid, but it didn’t have that extra something.
Closing Thoughts – This book would have been a pretty good book, if I hadn’t already read several like it. Hopefully in the next book, we can experience Amani’s awesome character in a much better plot.
Recommendation – Recommended for lovers of mystical creatures, sharp wit, and wild shoot-outs.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees
★★★★★ (4.50)
Genre – Young Adult Contemporary

Summary – When Quinn Sullivan meets the recipient of her boyfriend’s donated 17571215heart, the two form an unexpected connection.
After Quinn loses her boyfriend, Trent, in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the pieces of her now-unrecognizable life. She hears back from some of them, but the person who received Trent’s heart has remained silent. The essence of a person, she has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent’s, then maybe she can have peace once and for all.
Risking everything in order to finally lay her memories to rest, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn’t want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they’re connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost…and all that remains at stake.

Initial Thoughts – I was a little unsure when I read the summary for this. However, this was a super cute romance with some serious issues.
Plot – ★★★★★ Kirby throws obstacle after obstacle at Colton and Quinn, making their growth together interesting and complicated.
Characters – ★★★★☆ I love both Colton and Quinn. They could have used just a little more quirks to make them stand out.
Story world – ★★★★★ Kirby has a lovely setting of bright beaches and hidden coves. I loved exploring these places along with Quinn.
Style – ★★★★☆  Kirby has a nice light tone that carries the novel.
Closing Thoughts – This book made me want to go to the beach and fall in love.
Recommendation – Recommended for lovers of sunny days, complicated backgrounds, and sweet romances.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees
★★★☆☆ (3.25)
Genre – Young Adult Contemporary

Summary – Every story needs a hero.23203106
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying.

Initial Thoughts – This book…I don’t think I got it. Maybe I did, and it just didn’t affect me in the way it affected others. I don’t know. I have a lot of mixed feelings.
Plot – ★★☆☆☆ There really wasn’t much of a plot, at all. The first part of the book is just giving background, and there really is only one event that happens the entire time. The book just felt like a reaction to the single event.
Characters – ★★★☆☆ The characters were okay. I found Poppy the most interesting, yet I didn’t really relate to any of them. The ending twisted my opinion, but it still didn’t make me connect with them.
Story world – ★★★☆☆ The story world was pretty average. There’s really not much I can add that stood out.
Style – ★★★★★ This is by far the best part of the novel. Tucholke created a haunting and eerie narrative that kept me reading when the plot didn’t.
Closing Thoughts – This book had a good theme: good vs. evil and how the impressions you have of people can be wrong. I just felt like it was a lot of unnecessary story to portray that theme.
Recommendation – Recommended for lovers of haunting style, misconceptions, and deeper themes.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees
★★★★★ (5.00)
Genre – Young Adult Fantasy

(This is the third book in The Winner’s Trilogy. Spoilers below.)

Summary – Some kisses come at a price.20443235
War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.
At least, that’s what h e thinks.
In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.
But no one gets what they want just by wishing.
As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?

Initial Thoughts – I don’t have reviews of the other books in this series, but I absolutely loved them. I couldn’t wait to read this book, though I really didn’t want the series to end.
Plot – ★★★★★ Rutkoski’s plot was flawless as always. She has talent for mentioning seemingly innocent details throughout the book that come together at the end for an amazing plot twist.
Characters – ★★★★★ Kestrel and Arin’s relationship makes me want to sob. I absolutely love the intelligence and confidence Kestrel possesses.
Story world – ★★★★★ To write this book, Rutkoski not only had to create one culture, but several. I really enjoyed the way this book showed the differences between the three main cultures in the book.
Style – ★★★★★ I love the way Rutkoski uses wit and intelligence to tell her story.
Closing Thoughts – I’m terribly sad to see the end of this series, but I can’t wait to read whatever Rutkoski writes next.
Recommendation – Recommended for lovers of wit, complicated love, and dangerous adventures.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

 

Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees
Publication Date: September 13th
★★★★★ (4.75)
Genre – Young Adult Nonfiction

Summary – Every Falling Star, the first book to portray contemporary Nort28818317h Korea to a young audience, is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his “brothers”; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.

Initial Thoughts – When I received this ARC from Netgalley and Abrams Kids, I was so excited to read it. I had never seen a nonfiction book geared towards young adults about North Korea.
Plot – ★★★★★ This book held on to me from the beginning to the end. The high risks that Sungju faces and bravely fights through shows the terrifying truth about North Korea and didn’t read like a “boring nonfiction book”.
Characters – ★★★★★ The boys in Sungju’s gang captured my heart. I fell in love with the way the brave boys fought against their circumstances and found their roles in their broken lives. Their misfortune hit me again and again as I remembered this is a nonfiction book, not another fantasy book.
Story world – ★★★★★ Sungju was from the high class military city of Pyongyang, before his family was disgraced and sent to a poor city in the north. Because of this background, readers are able to see the two sides of North Korea. The rich life the wealthy military leads and the poor, crime and hunger filled lives the rest of the population leads.
Style – ★★★★☆  The style of this book is simple, letting the horror of the actions speak for themselves.
Closing Thoughts – This book has influenced me greatly. Throughout reading it, I kept thinking “Thank goodness stuff like this doesn’t happen today.” And then I remembered this happened very recently and is still happening today. The honest memoir has opened my eyes to more of the world.
Recommendation – Recommended for lovers of bravery, strong friendships, and the important, though hard, truth.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees
★★★★★ (4.50)
Genre – Young Adult Fantasy

Summary – Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between 22055262parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.

Officially, Kell is the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see, and it is this dangerous hobby that sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to take her with him for her proper adventure.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save both his London and the others, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — a feat trickier than they hoped.

Initial Thoughts – I had heard a lot of good things about this book, so I was really excited when I got it from my library.
Plot – ★★★★☆ This book took a while to pull me in. I’m not sure why; however, once it did pull me in, I enjoyed the plot a lot.
Characters – ★★★★☆ I never really connected with Kell. But, I absolutely fell in love with Lila.
Story world – ★★★★★ The story world was very well developed in this story. I loved learning about all the different cultures and the different ways they treated magic.
Style – ★★★★★ Schwab has a talent for descriptions. She described all the different Londons beautifully.
Closing Thoughts – While this book had a few minor things that kept me from falling in love with it, it was an intense read.
Recommendation – Recommended for lovers of magic, thieves, and adventure.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees

★★★★☆ (4.00)
Genre – Young Adult Fantasy

Summary – In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in 16113606the girl was a secret…

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

Initial Thoughts – I LOVE fairy tale retellings. And I LOVE Beauty and the Beast. And I LOVE dystopians. Was I pumped for this book? Yup. Did the book live up to my high expectations? Kind-of.
Plot – ★★★★★ This book was very well paced. It kept me interested and I never didn’t want to read it.
Characters – ★★★☆☆ The characters were a little one-dimensional for my taste. I was so excited to have a main character who was blind, but (SPOILER!!!) that didn’t last for long either. This type of thing irritates me because it basically states that you can’t be a hero as long as you have some type of disability.
Story world – ★★★★☆ The story world was a little one dimensional as well. I wish there had been more details about customs and culture, for both the humans and the Monstrous.
Style – ★★★★☆  Stacey Jay’s style was pretty well developed, though nothing about it really stood out.
Closing Thoughts – This was a good, enticing read. However, it lacked the complexities that good books have to make them great.
Recommendation – Recommended for those who want star crossed lovers, dystopians, and fairy tale retellings.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)