Monday, March 8, 2021

ARC Review: Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson

Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson
Published: May 4th, 2021
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 416 
Series: N/A  
Source: Netgalley eARC 
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off meets Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist in this romp through the city that never sleeps from the New York Times bestselling author of Since You’ve Been Gone.

Two girls. One night. Zero phones.

Kat and Stevie—best friends, theater kids, polar opposites—have snuck away from the suburbs to spend a night in New York City. They have it all planned out. They’ll see a play, eat at the city’s hottest restaurant, and have the best. Night. Ever. What could go wrong?

Well. Kind of a lot?

They’re barely off the train before they’re dealing with destroyed phones, family drama, and unexpected Pomeranians. Over the next few hours, they’ll have to grapple with old flames, terrible theater, and unhelpful cab drivers. But there are also cute boys to kiss, parties to crash, dry cleaning to deliver (don’t ask), and the world’s best museum to explore.

Over the course of a wild night in the city that never sleeps, both Kat and Stevie will get a wake-up call about their friendship, their choices…and finally discover what they really want for their future.

That is, assuming they can make it to Grand Central before the clock strikes midnight.⠀

Morgan Matson’s Take Me Home Tonight was utterly charming. I absolutely loved the book’s message about expanding your horizons and trying new things. I think it’s a really common storyline for high school seniors to freak out about not knowing what they want to do and then “find” themselves, and it was refreshing to see the exact opposite happen in this book.

Stevie and Kat start out so sure of themselves and their world until it shatters around them. These two best friends realize how big the world truly is and how many opportunities they truly have available to them. This is such an important message to be sending, and it’s what I would go back and tell my younger self if I could. Maybe you love something you haven’t even considered yet. Before one thing becomes THE THING that pays all of your bills, try as many things as you can and find out what makes you happy. What makes you happy doesn’t have to be one thing, it can be lots of things, and just because you don’t think you can “make it” professionally doesn’t mean that you should cut whatever that is out of your life. You don’t have to be the best, you don’t have to do everything professionally, you just have to enjoy your hobbies and your free time.

Another component that made Take Me Home Tonight so special, was that it centered Stevie and Kat’s friendship and highlighted important platonic and familial relationships that they have and/or struggle with. It was especially endearing to watch Stevie navigate interacting with her step-siblings. Whether ‘traditional’ or ‘blended,’ families are complicated. Suddenly having three older siblings can be daunting and there are good and bad ways to cope with that change. Stevie isn’t perfect, well, really none of the characters are perfect, but their faults don’t define them. Their faults show them where they need to grow.

Lastly, The Teri Timeline, as I like to call it, was such an unexpected and fantastic twist and I can’t wait to be able to talk about it with others!

Thursday, March 4, 2021

ARC Review: My Contrary Mary by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

My Contrary Mary by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Published: June 22nd, 2021
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
Series: Mary #1
Source: Netgalley eARC 
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Welcome to Renaissance France, a place of poison and plots, of beauties and beasts, of mice and . . . queens?

Mary is the queen of Scotland and the jewel of the French court. Except when she's a mouse. Yes, reader, Mary is an Eðian (shapeshifter) in a kingdom where Verities rule. It's a secret that could cost her a head—or a tail.⠀

Luckily, Mary has a confidant in her betrothed, Francis. But after the king meets a suspicious end, things at the gilded court take a treacherous turn. Thrust onto the throne, Mary and Francis are forced to navigate a viper's nest of conspiracies, traps, and treason. And if Mary's secret is revealed, heads are bound to roll.⠀

This series as a concept had me so unbelievably excited. After completing a trilogy of historical Jane retellings, Hand, Ashton, and Meadows have set their sights on Marys. The very first, My Contrary Mary, is a Mary Queen of Scots retelling. Get ready to be transported to Renaissance France where Mary is a ward of the French Court!

The book's narration comes from several shifting POV's (primarily Mary), as well as some third-person narrator comments. The narrator's are really what makes this book so special. They are absolutely hilarious, providing a 'so-here-is-the-scoop' tone. They are terrible gossips, but charmingly witty at the same time. They are that friend in college/high school that you always turned to when you wanted to hear about the latest scandals without going through the effort of snooping things out for yourself. Before the book even properly started I was cry-laughing at the dedication: "For the people who feel like they have to be perfect; and for France. We're sorry for what we're about to do to your history, but it was your turn."

I found myself enjoying the return to the Eðian/Verity dynamic (shapeshifter/pure humans) as a metaphor for the disparity and tensions between Catholics and Protestants at the time. It is a cool way to reframe this time period, and was pretty genius!

On top of the comedy, the characters were so well developed. I truly felt for Mary and Francis, and even the side characters like Mary Livingston and Ari. Their actions and motivations felt real, and the stakes and betrayals in court were gutting. While of course this is a series of Marys, in a sense each book is also a stand alone, which I think is a boon to the work. Readers don't necessarily have to read The Lady Janies series to enjoy this latest work. Comedy and Historical Fiction blend together effortlessly in this gem of a book. Bonus points? Bonus points! On top of everything, I actually feel like I learned a lot reading this book. The plot was surprisingly historically accurate, if we overlook the whole fantasy shapeshifting element haha.

All in all, My Contrary Mary is a must-read, and I impatiently await the additions of Marie Curie and Mary Mallon to the new Mary series!

Friday, January 15, 2021

ARC Review: The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

Published: February 23rd, 2021
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
Series: The Initial Insult #1
Source: Netgalley eARC 
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the first book of a suspenseful YA duology, award-winning author Mindy McGinnis draws inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe and masterfully delivers a dark, propulsive mystery in alternating points of view that unravels a friendship. . .forevermore. Perfect for fans of 'One of Us is Lying' and 'Truly Devious'!

Tress Montor's family used to mean something - until she didn't have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. The entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the "White Trash Zoo".

Felicity Turnado has it all: looks, money, and a secret. One misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she's worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors' the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can't even remember what it is. . .only that she can't look at Tress without feeling shame and guilt.

But Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity - brick by brick - as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. Tress will have her answers - or settle for revenge.


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Published: September 24th, 2013
Publisher: Tor Books
Pages: 384 (paperback)
Series: Villains #1
Source: Bought
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates--brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find--aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge--but who will be left alive at the end?

In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn't automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Review: All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Published: October 10th, 2017
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 320 (hardcover)
Series: N/A
Source: Bought
My Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

From bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater, a gripping tale of darkness, miracles, and family. Saints. Miracles. Family. Romance. Death. Redemption.

Here is a thing everyone wants: A miracle.

Here is a thing everyone fears:
What it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.