Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

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

(This is the second book in the The Grisha series. Spoilers may be found below.)

Summary – Darkness never dies.14061955

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

Initial Thoughts – I loved the first book and I loved Six of Crows, so I simply could not wait to read this book. And this book did not disappoint.
Plot – ★★★★★ I opened this book late at night planning to read for half an hour or so. I read it for three. It was full of ups and downs and unexpected twists.
Characters – ★★★★★ As Alina’s power grows stronger and darker, she struggles to remain the girl she was. Mal remains dreamy, while we are introduced to a variety of new characters, my favorite being Nikolai. His sarcasm had me laughing on nearly every page.
Story world – ★★★★★ We are introduced to more of the ridiculous politics of the  country. We also learn more about the complex rules of magic and how they can be twisted for darker use.
Style – ★★★★★ Bardugo’s style flows smoothly and beautifully. Her sense of humor shines through the pages, constantly making me smile.
Closing Thoughts – This book didn’t suffer at all from Second Book Syndrome, which I admire greatly. It was everything I wanted and more.
Recommendation – Recommended for lovers of complicated love, beautiful magic, and wild adventures.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees
★★★★★ (4.75)
Genre – Young Adult Fantasy

Summary – “Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell 22544764outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Initial Thoughts – If you are in need of a classic fantasy novel, this is the one for you. It has the princesses and princes, wizards and witches, good and evil, and anything else you could want in a fantasy novel.
Plot – ★★★★★ Once we got past the introduction of the story, there was never a point in the book where Agneishzka and The Dragon weren’t in a battle against the Woods. This novel had bloody battles, intense magic, and brave explorations. It was terrifyingly exciting.
Characters – ★★★★★ I loved Agnieshzka’s bravery and loyalty. Though she was a little dumb or clueless in the beginning, she grew as she better understood the world around her. The Dragon was an asshole for the only purpose of being an asshole, yet somehow I still loved him too.
Story world – ★★★★★ The story world was amazing in this novel, specifically the Woods. It was haunting, but intelligent, making me feel like there was someone watching me as I read the book.
Style – ★★★★☆  Novik’s writing style is perfect for fantasy, with the beautiful prose and detailed descriptions. I thought some of the descriptions were just a little long, but other than that, it was perfection.
Closing Thoughts – While reading this novel, you will realize that this is the fantasy book you have been waiting for. It is everything the genre needs.
Recommendation – Recommended for lovers of the medieval age, haunting magic, and intense battles.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

Fire by Kristin Cashore

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

(This is the second book in the Graceling Realm trilogy. Spoilers below.)

Summary – It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his 6137154throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.

This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.

Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there’s more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.

If only she weren’t afraid of becoming the monster her father was.

Initial Thoughts – So I was stupid and didn’t read the summary of this book before reading. I spent the first half of the book trying to connect this story to the vague memories of the first one that I had read a year or so ago. However, the stories aren’t related, only written in the same world. Once I finally read the summary and understood, the book got a lot better.
Plot – ★★★★☆ The intensity of this book kept me interested for the entire novel. I was never not worried for Fire and the characters she grows to love.
Characters – ★★★★★ Fire has an amazing character arc to acceptance from others and, most importantly, from herself. Archer was another favorite due to his unapologetic temper and adorable love.
Story world – ★★★★★ I wish I could live in this story world. (Without, you know, all the danger and death…) The monsters and Gracelings entranced me with their magical powers and beauty.
Style – ★★★★☆  Cashore has a nack for explaining unnatural things as if they were completely natural. I loved how she explored how closely adoring obsession and hatred are related.
Closing Thoughts – I wish the  Graceling trilogy followed the same characters, because I would love for Fire and Katsa to meet each other. However, I am looking forward to reading the last book in the trilogy.
Recommendation – Recommended for lovers of enchanting lands, mystical monsters, and slow love.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees
★★★★★ (5.00)
Genre – Historical Fiction

Summary – San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break26192915 from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.

On April 18, a historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Though fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the army to bring help—she still has the “bossy” cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenage girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?

Initial Thoughts – This book covers so many important issues, especially the racism and sexism of the past. I learned so much from this book about discrimination and the horror of the earthquake in San Francisco.
Plot – ★★★★★ The plot is pushed forward again and again by Mercy’s bravery. She refuses to be cheated from a good education and a happy future just because of her skin color and gender. When tragedy strikes, she gets up and faces it head on. Her bravery was infectious.
Characters – ★★★★★ Mercy isn’t afraid to do what’s necessary to gain her education, even if it’s slightly illegal. The friends that she gains along the way captured my heart, especially Francesca.
Story world – ★★★★★ Lee clearly did her research while writing this novel. On every page, there was a little mention of culture that taught me so much without being overwhelming or info dumping. I felt truly connected to Mercy’s world.
Style – ★★★★★ The style of this novel just might be my favorite part. Lee has a talent for creating beautiful metaphors that steal your breath away.
Closing Thoughts – This might be one of my favorite books. Though I don’t often venture into the historical fiction genre, Lee always manages to capture my attention with her novels.
Recommendation – Recommended for lovers of breaking down expectations, impossible bravery, and going back into time.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

The Rest Of Us Just Live by Patrick Ness

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

Summary – What if you aren’t the Chosen One?22910900

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Initial Thoughts – I LOVED this book. The characters, the themes, the plot, I loved the IDEA of it. It was just perfect.
Plot – ★★★★★ This story follows the secondary characters of a fantasy novel in which the “Indie Kids” fight off a strange blue light. At the beginning of each chapter, there was a short segment that explained what was happening to the Indie Kids, but otherwise the events affect the main characters here only a little. This follows Mikey as he struggles with anxiety, the stress of his mother’s political campaign, and many issues with his friends and the future.
Characters – ★★★★★ The characters were real people with real problems and easy to relate to. Mikey’s narrative was honest and hilarious.
Story world – ★★★★★ I loved all the references to famous YA literature that were woven into the story world. The past of vampires and zombies taking over the school or the indie kids who had names like “Flynn or Dylan or Satchel”.
Style – ★★★★★ Ness has the lovely style that’s light hearted and hilarious, yet manages to speak honestly and seriously about important issues. It was perfect for the ups and downs of this novel.
Closing Thoughts – I want more of this. I need a series, a sequel, even a novella. I just need more. I highly, highly recommend this novel to everyone who loves YA.
Recommendation – Recommended for lovers of satire, important issues, and great characters.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)