The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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

Summary – It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders 10626594attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

Initial Thoughts – I love Maggie Stiefvater. After falling in love with The Raven Boys and being slightly disappointed with Shiver, I was both excited and nervous about reading Scorpio Races.
Plot – ★★★★☆ The plot was a little slow in the beginning, but once it picked up, I couldn’t put it down.
Characters – ★★★★★ Stiefvater wins at characterization. She somehow manages to sneak in small details that make them seem so real, without it being overloaded with description.
Story world – ★★★★☆ I was a little confused about what the Scorpio Races were until they actually happened. I wasn’t sure if they lasted the course of several days or a single day. I think it could have used a little more clarification. However, I loved the smalltown island that it took place on and all the culture incorporated in the Races.
Style – ★★★★★ Maggie Stiefvater is a writing goddess and nothing more can be said here.
Closing Thoughts – I really wish this was a series, because I want to see more of the characters and setting. I mostly just want more from Stiefvater.
Recommendation – Recommended for lovers of dangerous games, slow love, and brave characters.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

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

Summary – Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, 17661416there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. This is a compelling and provoking literary debut that will appeal to fans of Wes Anderson, Silver Linings Playbook, and Liar.

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

Initial Thoughts – I really, really appreciate this book. Before the insight that this book gave me, I assumed schizophrenia was a dangerous mental illness that consisted only of voices in someone’s head. I am embarrassed by that assumption. This is why diverse books are so important.
Plot – ★★★★★ I spent the whole book worried for Alex and Miles. Alex’s schizophrenia is an important part of the story, but there are plenty of other plot threads to pull the story along.
Characters – ★★★★☆ With the unreliable narrator, I spent the whole book questioning what was true and what wasn’t. And that’s what Alex’s schizophrenia is like. I cared deeply for both Alex and Miles. While I thought there might have been a few too many side characters, they all had pretty unique traits.
Story world – ★★★★★ The story world is confusing, as told from Alex’s point of view. However, it was a confusing that added quite a bit to the story, not a bad confusing.
Style – ★★★★★  Zappia gives her readers a clear look at what schizophrenia really is like. There’s no breaks. There’s no easy way to ask for the truth. There’s no certainty. It was terrifying and educational and so important for me to read. Zappia also has a distinct voice with a lovely level of humor and sass.
Closing Thoughts – This is the first book that I’ve ever read about schizophrenia and I really appreciated the education it gave me. It was an interesting and well paced read.
Recommendation – Recommended for lovers of unreliable narrators, slow love, and diversity.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour, David Levithan

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

Summary – Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger 27158835you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is, until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other—and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour and David Levithan, You Know Me Well is a story about navigating the joys and heartaches of first love, one truth at a time.

Initial Thoughts – I always love the refreshing narratives of David Levithan and Nina LaCour. When I found out they wrote a book together, I was ecstatic and read it in one day.
Plot – ★★★★☆ The plot was pretty well paced, however I felt like it could have used one or two more subplots.
Characters – ★★★★★ Nina LaCour’s characters are everything I aspire to be. Artists with big city dreams. Mark captured my heart. I wanted to wrap him in a blanket and keep him safe from the horrors of the world.
Story world – ★★★★☆ The story world didn’t receive a lot of attention, as it often doesn’t in contemporary fiction. However, I would have liked to learn more about San Francisco during Pride Week.
Style – ★★★★★ Both LaCour’s and Levithan’s styles are perfect for the stories they write. They are light, smooth, and humor-filled, making all of their books enjoyable. Seeing the two next to each other felt like a dream come true.
Closing Thoughts – This book is perfect for a light fluffy read. I hope that Levithan and LaCour continue to work together in the future.
Recommendation – Recommended for lovers of art, diverse characters, and fluffy romance.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

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

Summary – In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.21414439

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden – lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls’ heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

Initial Thoughts – I met this author at a writer’s conference. I had never read any of her books (somehow), but after hearing her hilarious advice, I was interested. After reading her book, I feel so honored to have spoken to her. (*fangirls*)
Plot – ★★★★★ This book never bored me. It starts with an attempted robbery and never slows from there.
Characters – ★★★★★ There was a variety of characters on all different sides of the fight. Somehow I related to all of them. Their interactions were interesting and hilarious.
Story world – ★★★★★ The story world of this book is very complex and well developed. The beginning is a little confusing as all the different elements and witches are introduced, but it quickly explains itself well.
Style – ★★★★★ This story was beautifully crafted. Dennard’s sense of humor shines through the pages, making me laugh so many times.
Closing Thoughts – I can’t wait to read the next book in this series and Dennard’s other series. I care for all of the characters too much.
Recommendation – Recommended for lovers of complex fantasy worlds, lovable characters, and hilarious sass.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

The Romantics by Leah Konen

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees
Publication Date: November 9th, 2016
★★★★★ (4.50)
Genre – Young Adult Contemporary

Summary – Gael Brennan is about to have his heart broken when his first big 29917071relationship crumbles on the heels of his parents’ painful separation. Love intervenes with the intention of setting things right—but she doesn’t anticipate the intrusion of her dreaded nemesis: the Rebound. Love’s plans for Gael are sidetracked by Cara, Gael’s hot-sauce-wielding “dream girl.” The more Love meddles, the further Gael drifts from the one girl who can help him mend his heart. Soon Love starts breaking all her own rules—and in order to set Gael’s fate back on course, she has to make some tough decisions about what it means to truly care.

Initial Thoughts – I received this ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I’m so glad I requested this book because it was positively adorable.
Plot – ★★★★☆ The plot was simple and well paced. I took one star off because it dragged in just a few spots.
Characters – ★★★★★ I connected incredibly well with Love, who was hilarious. I wanted Gael to fall for his chosen love so badly it hurt.
Story world – ★★★★☆ The story world isn’t described often in this novel. While it worked without a lot of background, I could have used just a few more details.
Style – ★★★★★ The style was probably my favorite part of this novel. The narrator, Love, is witty and intelligent. I loved seeing her cause “coincidences” that brought lovers together and her classifications of different lovers.
Closing Thoughts – This book was so cute and now I want to fall in love. It’s perfect for those in need of a fluffy read.
Recommendation – Recommended for lovers of narrators with a different perspective, hard to find love, and humor.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

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

(This is the third book in the The Grisha Trilogy. You can also  find my review of the second book, Siege and Storm. Spoilers may be found below.)

Summary –  The capital has fallen. 14061957

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

Initial Thoughts – This series has been absolutely amazing adventure. Everything was near perfect, from the lovable characters to the intense plot.
Plot – ★★★★★ Once I sat down to read this book, I could not stop. I never expected the plot twist halfway through and Bardugo tied together everything perfectly. I was (heartbrokenly) content.
Characters – ★★★★★ Alina has an amazing character arc throughout this series of acceptance and confidence. I loved all of the other Grisha we grew closer to in this novel and, of course, Nikolai.
Story world – ★★★★★ In this novel, we learned more about the surrounding nations and the rocky alliances between them. We also discovered more about the powers of the Grisha and how the lines between them can be blurred.
Style – ★★★★★  Bardugo has one of those styles that is so clean that you don’t notice it. It’s not super flowery, yet she somehow describes everything well.
Closing Thoughts – This book was everything I wanted and more for the end of the series. Now I just need Crooked Kingdom. (*cries for days*)
Recommendation – Recommended for lovers of wild adventures, amazing friendships, and difficult decisions.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

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)