Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees
★★★★☆ (4.00)
Genre – Young Adult Fantasy

Summary – For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods beh6068551ind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without.

Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human… until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human—or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

Initial Thoughts – Maggie Stiefvater is one of my favorite authors, due to The Raven Boys and The Raven Cycle series.  I was excited to read another of her series. While it wasn’t quite up to The Raven Cycle standards, it was still a relatively good read.
Plot – ★★★☆☆ I always say that it’s hard for books that are predominately romance to be unpredictable. While there were very few parts that felt original, the book was well paced and drew me in nonetheless. The romance moved a little too fast for my taste, to the point of what seemed unrealistic.
Characters – ★★★★☆ While I connected pretty well with Sam and Grace, they both were quite impulsive, especially towards each other. I didn’t mind it as much in Grace, but I thought that Sam might be a little more careful, considering his life was at risk.
Story world – ★★★★☆ I would have liked a little more detail surrounding the werewolves. Stiefvater has done a pretty good job, but I think some people accepted their werewolf-ness a little too easily. Wouldn’t they experiment more for a solution?
Style – ★★★★★ While the story wasn’t as good, Stiefvater’s storytelling is still beautiful. She has a way of crafting words that pulls you in and doesn’t let you go until the story is over.
Closing Thoughts – This book felt a little predictable and the romance felt a little unrealistic. I will likely read the rest of the series, though not with great urgency.
Recommendation – Recommended for lovers of  paranormal fantasy, high levels of sass, and complicated love.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)
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The Diviners by Libba Bray

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

Summary – Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped 7728889off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

Initial Thoughts – This book was pretty terrifying for me, mostly because I rarely read books with horror components. If I had read the summary, I don’t know if I would have read it. However, I enjoyed the intensity of this book, though I thought the plot was a little lost at times.
Plot – ★★☆☆☆  I felt like Bray was trying to accomplish too much with the plot. She had so many side characters that had their own story lines, but they didn’t really come together in the end. The plot of Naughty John was terrifying and interesting, but it was too often pushed aside by the interesting, but unfortunately unimportant side plots of these characters. This book felt more like a set up for the whole series, not a complete book.
Characters – ★★★☆☆ Evie was selfish and arrogant and not really all that intelligent. I found myself irritated by some of the choices she made that endangered or hurt the other characters unnecessarily. I did however fall in love with some of the side characters, like Theta, Memphis, and Sam. However, while their stories were somewhat intertwined, they had no part in the final defeat, making me wonder why so much detail of their stories were included in the narrative.
Story world – ★★★★★ I LOVED the 1920’s story world. Bray clearly, clearly did her research when writing this novel. The New York city, the slang, the issues, everything was perfect.
Style – ★★★★★  Just as with the story world, Bray entertwined the history of the 1920’s seamlessly into her narrative. I loved how I was immediately transported into that world.
Closing Thoughts – While I (surprisingly) enjoyed the horror and adventure of this novel, I found the main character too irritating and the plot a little too much to completely enjoy it.
Recommendation – Recommended for lovers of the 1920’s, paranormal activity, and being terrified.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

Break Me Like A Promise by Tiffany Schmidt

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

(This is the second book in the Once Upon a Crime Family series. Spoilers below.)

Summary – No one is unbreakable.26073071
   All Magnolia Vickers has ever wanted was to follow father’s path as head of the Family Business. But new legislation is poised to destroy the Family’s operations in the black-market organ trade and Maggie’s recent behavior has wrecked the business-savvy reputation she’s worked her whole life to build.
She’s given an ultimatum: shape up or step aside.
Then Maggie messes up: she downloads a virus onto her father’s computer, and must sneak it off-estate for repair. When Alex, a tech whiz, uncovers the type of information on the machine, he offers Maggie a choice: her Family can give him a kidney, or he’ll irreparably scramble the data. Maggie agrees, but has no intention of keeping her promise or ever seeing him again. That night Alex shows up at her Family estate with copies of confidential Family files and a shocking revelation—the kidney is for him.
The Vickers aren’t willing to let Alex out of their sight, so he moves onto their estate and Maggie is assigned to be his keeper. A task she resents and he enjoys making as challenging as possible. But procuring black market organs is becoming increasingly difficult, and as Alex’s health declines, she’s surprised to find herself falling for him.
Like it or not, Maggie must accept that if she wants to save Alex’s life and carve out a place in the new legalized organ business, she’s going to have to fight for both.

Initial Thoughts – Despite the mediocre reviews on GoodReads, I absolutely loved the first book in this series, Hold Me Like a Breath. I was so excited to read the next book in the series. While Break Me Like a Promise wasn’t quite as amazing as the first book, I still enjoyed it.
Plot – ★★★★☆ The plot moved along quickly, but I felt like most of the plot was just waiting and a reaction to other things. There wasn’t enough action to really gain my attention.
Characters – ★★★☆☆ While I did fall in love with Alex, I didn’t really connect to Maggie. I sympathized with her, but I didn’t support her in everything she did.
Story world – ★★★★☆ Schmidt has a good basis of politics surrounding the Organ Act, however I think expanding on that could have really improved the plot.
Style – ★★★★☆ Nothing about Scmidt’s style truly stood out to me. It was smooth and clean, but it just was missing that special something.
Closing Thoughts – This book was fast paced and kept my attention. However, it just was missing that extra layer that makes a good book great.
Recommendation – Recommended for lovers of medical backgrounds, complicated love, and illegal activities.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

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)

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)

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees

★★★★☆ (3.75)
Genre – Young Adult Fantasy21393526

Summary – Aza Ray is drowning in thin air.
Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live.
So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn’t think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.
Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia.
Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?

Initial Thoughts – First of all, look at that cover. It’s gorgeous. I want to own this book, just so I can stare at it all day.
Plot – ★★★☆☆ In the beginning, the plot is great. It kept me turning the pages. But in the middle, something happened and I was just confused. At the end it began to pick up again, but the middle lost me.
Characters – ★★★☆☆ I didn’t really connect with Aza. I loved her voice in the beginning, but it got lost along with the story. However, I absolutely adored Jason. I wish he had gotten to tell more of the story.
Story world – ★★★★☆  As far as a fantasy novel goes, the story world in the clouds was pretty unique. I fell in love with all the different creatures that lived in the clouds.
Style – ★★★★★  Headley has that style that slips in little facts seamlessly into the novel, so that you learn while you read. I absolutely love when authors do this, so it earned a lot of bonus points with me.
Closing Thoughts – This story had an interesting story world and one fantastic character, but the plot and the rest of the characters fell flat. Recommended for those who want to explore the clouds and the creatures living among them.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

A 60 Second Review by Anne Brees

★★★★☆ (4.25)
Genre – Young Adult Historical Fiction25614492

Summary Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.
As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Initial Thoughts – I love all of Ruta Sepetys work, so when I found out she was writing another piece, I was so excited.
Plot – ★★★☆☆ It took a while for the plot to pick up. With the four different view points, it took me a while to become connected and interested in the plot line. After the first a hundred pages, the plot really picked up and I loved it.
Characters – ★★★★☆ The characters in this novel were pretty well developed, but it was difficult to get close to them with the four different view points. However, I did eventually root for all of them.
Story world – ★★★★★ This was by far the best part of the novel. Sepetys certainly has a talent for historical fiction. I was transported  back in time with this novel and I loved every second.
Style – ★★★★★  Ruta Sepetys has the perfect style for historical fiction. It’s simple, yet very descriptive.
Closing Thoughts -While the plot may have been slow in places and the characters were at times confusing, I still loved the concept of this novel. The story of the Wilhelm Gustloff told through  Salt to the Sea will stay with me a long time.
Recommendation – Recommended to someone who wants a unique historical fiction about a rarely known event in history.

(summary and cover from GoodReads)