I'm back! And I have a fun blog tour post to share today, with my review of Across a Broken Shore by Amy Trueblood. You can follow along here to see reviews and features by other bloggers, and scroll to the bottom to read my review and enter a great giveaway as well.
The Book and its Author
The last thing eighteen-year-old Wilhelmina “Willa” MacCarthy wants is to be a nun. It’s 1936, and as the only daughter amongst four sons, her Irish–Catholic family is counting on her to take her vows—but Willa’s found another calling. Each day she sneaks away to help Doctor Katherine Winston in her medical clinic in San Francisco’s Richmond District.
Keeping secrets from her family only becomes more complicated when Willa agrees to help the doctor at a field hospital near the new bridge being built over the Golden Gate. Willa thinks she can handle her new chaotic life, but as she draws closer to a dashing young ironworker and risks grow at the bridge, she discovers that hiding from what she truly wants may be her biggest lie of all.
Amy Trueblood grew up in California only ten minutes from Disneyland which sparked an early interest in storytelling. As the youngest of five, she spent most of her time trying to find a quiet place to curl up with her favorite books. After graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in journalism, she worked in entertainment in Los Angeles before returning to work in Arizona.
Fueled by good coffee and an awesome Spotify playlist, you can often find Amy blogging and writing. Nothing But Sky, a 2018 Junior Library Guild selection, is her first novel.
Thank you to Flux and the Fantastic Flying Book Club for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review.
An inspiring historical fiction novel about a girl’s exploration of 1936 San Francisco’s medical community, Across a Broken Shore is a great read for those who, like me, enjoy reading about women in STEM.
This novel was very character driven, and I enjoyed reading from Willa’s perspective. Her curiosity and drive to help her community was so honest and open-hearted. She recognized the prejudices against women in her time, and although she wanted to meet her family’s expectations, she also had no qualms about being ambitious and dedicated. Willa’s large family (four brothers, two parents) were also featured, and they each had distinct personalities and reflections on Willa’s role in the family, something that she considered often: how her family seemed to speak over her and turn her into their perception of who she should be. By meeting and working with Dr. Katherine Winston, Willa finds a place away from her home where she can make whatever she wants of herself.
A central part of the story revolves around the doctor that Willa shadows, Dr. Winston. I loved the development of their relationship, which I felt had a very natural progression. Dr. Winston was so encouraging to Willa, and taught her about the role a doctor plays in the community as well as the details of medical procedures. Women supporting and teaching younger women is a particularly special plot thread to me. I think the importance of generational recognition and sharing of knowledge can be represented in so many ways, and I’m glad that Trueblood made it a key aspect of this novel.
The main conflict for Willa was her struggle to balance her family’s dream that she take her vows as a nun, and her own desire to learn medicine and become a doctor. She values her religion strongly, and cares deeply for her family, but is also feeling massive guilt because many generations of MacCarthy women have become nuns. As the only girl in her family, she is expected to do the same, but her wish for education wars with her sense of familial obligation. Willa is admirably dedicated to her family, but we can see equal joy when she’s learning from Dr. Winston and seeing another path she could take.
I haven’t read many historical fiction books set during the Depression in the US, so the world-building in this novel was interesting for me. I liked that Willa’s story coincided with the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, tying her to a major American landmark. Through the novel, we got to read about the difficulties of building the bridge, and the risks the workers took to earn a living for their families. We also got to see a Hooverville in the city, which emphasized the extreme poverty felt by many during the Great Depression. Willa’s view of the Hooverville was unique in perspective because she didn’t view herself as well off, especially in comparison to some girls she knew, but gained new appreciation for her family's pub and livelihood once she saw how little other families had to live on. This strengthened her desire to aid her community as well, by checking up on families who needed medical attention, and bringing food to a couple of kids she’d met earlier.
There was also a sweet romance in the novel, between Willa and a bridge worker she meets. They were so cute, and I’m glad their relationship developed in the story, but I’m also glad that Willa’s journey didn’t begin to revolve around the boy.
My only problem is that at times, the plot felt repetitive. By this I mean that since most of the conflict in the novel was Willa’s choice between her two possible futures, she tended to go back and forth in her convictions every couple of chapters. There are other events in the novel, but a significant amount of page time is dedicated to Willa changing her opinion about being a doctor or being a nun. I wish her line of thinking had been a bit more linear. There’s definitely a place for indecisive characters, but in other regards Willa did not strike me as such, so I found this aspect confusing.
All in all, 4/5 stars! I am pleased to recommend Across a Broken Shore to any historical fiction fans, especially those who enjoyed The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, a notable title (and one that pops up often here!) featuring a girl exploring science in the early 20th century. Calpurnia Tate is a middle-grade novel, so perhaps readers who picked it up a couple of years ago might like to revisit similar themes in Across a Broken Shore.
It's....... SPOOKY SEASON! I'm back today with a Blog Tour post for Penguin Teen's Wicked Reads campaign, sharing the stories that go bump in the night. My book is The Haunted by Danielle Vega, and a massive thank you to Penguin Teen for sending me a copy! Below the summary, I'm sharing costume designs for the main characters! I hope you pick up this spooky ghost story in celebration of Halloween.
Hi all, I'm so excited to share this post with you for the Beyond the Black Door Blog Tour! I've got an exciting feature, along with a summary of the book and information about a fun giveaway. Follow along on the tour to see reviews and other content from FFBC bloggers!
The Book and its Author
Kamai was warned never to open the black door, but she didn't listen ...
Everyone has a soul. Some are beautiful gardens, others are frightening dungeons. Soulwalkers―like Kamai and her mother―can journey into other people's souls while they sleep.
But no matter where Kamai visits, she sees the black door. It follows her into every soul, and her mother has told her to never, ever open it.
When Kamai touches the door, it is warm and beating, like it has a pulse. When she puts her ear to it, she hears her own name whispered from the other side. And when tragedy strikes, Kamai does the unthinkable: she opens the door.
A.M. Strickland's imaginative dark fantasy features court intrigue and romance, a main character coming to terms with her asexuality, and twists and turns as a seductive mystery unfolds that endangers not just Kamai's own soul, but the entire kingdom...
AdriAnne Strickland was a bibliophile who wanted to be an author before she knew what either of those words meant. She shares a home base in Alaska with her husband, her pugs, and her piles and piles of books. She loves traveling, dancing, vests, tattoos, and every shade of teal in existence, but especially the darker ones. She is the coauthor of SHADOW RUN and SHADOW CALL (Delacorte/Penguin Random House) and author of the forthcoming BEYOND THE BLACK DOOR (Imprint/Macmillan).
10 Historical Figures with Fascinating Soul Houses
Sappho – As one of the earliest known lady poets, and most famous of lesbians, I just want to get to know her better.
Siddhārtha Gautama – I have some questions about enlightenment.
Plato – Would everything be in perfect form inside or would it be a junk show?
Cleopatra VII Philopator – I mean, her soul house just has to be cool.
Leonardo DaVinci – I want his soul house to be a flying machine and I’ll be disappointed if it’s not.
Ching Shih – I have to get pirates in here somehow, and who better than the infamous pirate queen who commanded tens of thousands? Four words: PIRATE SHIP SOUL HOUSE.
Edgar Allan Poe – I’m practically obligated to say this, as a writer of dark stuff. Maybe it would be like a house of horror.
Oscar Wilde – Because I love him, and his soul would somehow be witty and charming and sad and fabulous and gay all at the same time.
Salvador Dali – I feel like this is self-explanatory … as in, I want to see some melting clocks on the walls.
Katherine Johnson – Because holy crap, this woman’s mind. Her soul must be a stunner as well.
Aaaahhh!! Incoherent screaming! I've loved Ruta Sepetys's books forever (see my recent #bookstagram post on Salt to the Sea), and I'm so thrilled to be part of the blog tour for The Fountains of Silence! I have my review here today, as well as a cool moodboard for the novel.
The Book and its Author
Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming promise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of an oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother's birth through the lens of his camera. Photography--and fate--introduce him to Ana, whose family's interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War--as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel's photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of difficult decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.
Master storyteller Ruta Sepetys once again shines light into one of history's darkest corners in this epic, heart-wrenching novel about identity, unforgettable love, repercussions of war, and the hidden violence of silence--inspired by the true postwar struggles of Spain.
Ruta Sepetys (www.rutasepetys.com) is an internationally acclaimed, #1 New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction published in over sixty countries and forty languages. Sepetys is considered a "crossover" novelist, as her books are read by both teens and adults worldwide. Her novels Between Shades of Gray, Out of the Easy, and Salt to the Sea have won or been shortlisted for more than forty book prizes, and are included on more than sixty state award lists. Between Shades of Gray was adapted into the film Ashes in the Snow, and her other novels are currently in development for TV and film. Winner of the Carnegie Medal, Ruta is passionate about the power of history and literature to foster global awareness and connectivity. She has presented to NATO, to the European Parliament, in the United States Capitol, and at embassies worldwide. Ruta was born and raised in Michigan and now lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee. Follow her on Twitter @RutaSepetys and Instagram @RutaSepetysAuthor.
Thank you to Penguin Teen for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review!
The Fountains of Silence is a beautiful knockout of a novel. Ruta Sepetys has done it again. I am constantly amazed by her characters and worlds, and this novel is no exception. I knew almost nothing about Franco’s Spain going in, but by the end I felt that I had learned so much about a part of history rarely spoken of (at least in American culture). This novel portrays powerfully the traumas that Spaniards went through under Franco’s fascist regime, and also the contrast between locals in Madrid and the American tourists who traveled there unaware of the horrors perpetuated by the government.
This novel instantly sucked me in. I didn’t intend to finish it in one sitting, but Sepetys’ writing is so magnetic that I couldn’t stop reading. Most of the book is character building: I spent so much time getting to know Ana, Daniel, Rafa, Julia, and Puri that they felt incredibly real to me. The Fountains of Silence is long, but every page is worth the read. There’s also a small mystery subplot that heightens toward the end and ties all of the characters together while revealing another impactful side of Spanish history. For fear of spoilers, since I KNOW you’re going to read The Fountains of Silence, I won’t say more.
Daniel and Ana were the main characters in my opinion, and I loved their chemistry and dynamic. Daniel is the son of an American oil tycoon, and Ana works as a maid at the Hotel Castellana Hilton, where Daniel stays in Madrid. Her parents were Spanish Republicans, and they were tortured and killed because of their political views. Therefore, Ana and her siblings must work hard to be seen as loyal to Franco to avoid being linked to their parents’ ideas. Daniel knows little of life for Spaniards, but I appreciated how respectful he was of Ana and how he was willing to learn more about Spain and try to make change through his photography instead of just brushing off the struggles of the Spanish people. Daniel and Ana’s relationship was one of my favorite parts of the novel.
I also enjoyed reading about Daniel’s photography. When I was reading his POV, I was struck by the ways in which he observed the world differently: framing shots in his mind, thinking about composition, separating moments into frames, and creating a story with a picture. This allowed him to explore the unseen in Spain and look deeper into the country’s hidden truths than his society peers. These shadowy elements of life in Spain during Franco’s regime were always in the background (and sometimes frighteningly in the foreground) of the novel, and there were moments when I literally stopped breathing while reading. Sepetys portrays the fear and tension in the country masterfully, and the care that she put into her research is evident.
Sure enough, part of writing a historical fiction novel is placing the events within a larger historical context, which Sepetys did well. She included sections of letters and news excerpts from the time period relating to Franco and Spain. She also included a bibliography in the back, which I appreciate. I know I will be reading some of those works to gain a better understanding of the time period she portrayed.
The Fountains of Silence is a gripping novel, full of empathy and the power of human connection. I give it 5/5 stars, and insist that everybody pick up a copy.
Hi all! This week is such a big week for blog tours! This is the second out of three, and I'm so excited to share this post with you! The Memory Thief by Lauren Mansy is a new fantasy novel that you'll want to add to your TBRs straightaway. Follow along with the tour here, and don't forget to enter an exciting giveaway down below!
The Book and its Author
In the city of Craewick, memories reign. The power-obsessed ruler of the city, Madame, has cultivated a society in which memories are currency, citizens are divided by ability, and Gifted individuals can take memories from others through touch as they please.
Seventeen-year-old Etta Lark is desperate to live outside of the corrupt culture, but grapples with the guilt of an accident that has left her mother bedridden in the city’s asylum. When Madame threatens to put her mother up for auction, a Craewick practice in which a “criminal's" memories are sold to the highest bidder before being killed, Etta will do whatever it takes to save her. Even if it means rejoining the Shadows, the rebel group she swore off in the wake of the accident years earlier.
To prove her allegiance to the Shadows and rescue her mother, Etta must steal a memorized map of the Maze, a formidable prison created by the bloodthirsty ruler of a neighboring Realm. So she sets out on a journey in which she faces startling attacks, unexpected romance, and, above all, her own past in order to set things right in her world.
Lauren lives in the Chicago area, where she's spent years working with youth, from young children to high schoolers. When she’s not writing, Lauren is usually with her family or exploring the city to find the best deep dish pizza. The Memory Thief, which was inspired by Lauren's own journey with her mother, is her first novel.
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Thank you to Blink YA and the Fantastic Flying Book Club for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review.
The Memory Thief is a new, expansive fantasy that follows Etta, a memory thief, as she learns about her family and grapples with guilt while attempting to remove the tyrannical ruler of her city from power. I quite liked that The Memory Thief is standalone fantasy. I think the story wrapped up well in the pages allotted, if a bit neatly. However, I would say that this novel’s strength here is also its greatest weakness. I always felt one step removed from the tale, and I was never fully immersed. I was always cognizant of the fact that I was reading a book.
Starting with the world building, which is intricate, if a bit clumsy: I was intrigued by the relationship between memory and wealth that Mansy built. Memories are used as currency, with people trading them through touch (as Gifted) or sight, (for Shifters). In this way, robbers can prey on those without the ability to transfer memories, creating an inequitable society. The Shadows, the organization that Etta has a fraught relationship with, aim to help those who can’t help themselves, providing protection to orphans and Gifted who don’t wish to join the army. There was a lot of information thrown into the first couple of chapters, but I quickly understood the general rules of the magic, and the different kingdoms. From the beginning, the reader is dropped into Etta’s world, and the action never stops.
Etta was an interesting character: throughout the novel, she dealt with the guilt she felt after her best friends died and her mother fell into a coma. She was very protective of her mother, and the novel is about her journey to saving her and preserving her memories of her childhood. Etta’s mother is in an asylum controlled by Madame (the villain), and Etta must save her or else Madame could have her killed. Etta’s feelings grief and shame change over the course of the book, and she goes on an emotional journey as she encounters old friends on her quest.
She also falls in love, which actually became a small quibble of mine. Reid and Etta started off extremely distrustful of each other, and then quickly grew to love each other, which I found sort of ludicrous. I’m never a huge fan of insta-love, and especially here when the circumstances of their meeting do not lead to a realistic relationship in my opinion.
Most of my issues with The Memory Thief stem from the length of the novel. For an introduction to a new fantasy world, the book is incredibly short: only 320 pages. This length made world building feel rushed at times, and did not allow for sufficient development of the characters and relationships. Especially towards the end, character development was sacrificed for plot. There was a massive twist that was just… not explained well, and it began to seem as though the characters were just being put through scenes to get to the planned ending, no matter whether or not it was believable. This hurt my understanding of the characters and world, and while I love standalone fantasy, I think The Memory Thief could have been taken in a different direction to form a more satisfying first book in a series.
Overall, I rate The Memory Thief 3/5 stars. Its problems impeded my enjoyment towards the end, but before that it made a delightful read. I’d recommend ordering a copy from your local library!
Hi all! So excited to be on the Blog Tour for The Library of Lost Things by Laura Taylor Namey! Thank you to HarperTeen and the Fantastic Flying Book Club for sending me a copy in exchange for my review. If you'd like to follow along, click here to see other tour stops, and be sure to participate in the FFBC's giveaway (details below).
The Book and its Author
From the moment she first learned to read, literary genius Darcy Wells has spent most of her time living in the worlds of her books. There, she can avoid the crushing reality of her mother’s hoarding and pretend her life is simply ordinary. But when a new property manager becomes more active in the upkeep of their apartment complex, the only home Darcy has ever known outside of her books suddenly hangs in the balance.
While Darcy is struggling to survive beneath the weight of her mother’s compulsive shopping, Asher Fleet, a former teen pilot with an unexpectedly shattered future, walks into the bookstore where she works…and straight into her heart. For the first time in her life, Darcy can’t seem to find the right words. Fairy tales are one thing, but real love makes her want to hide inside her carefully constructed ink-and-paper bomb shelter.
Still, after spending her whole life keeping people out, something about Asher makes Darcy want to open up. But securing her own happily-ever-after will mean she’ll need to stop hiding and start living her own truth—even if it’s messy.
Laura is a Cuban-American Californian who can be found haunting her favorite coffee shops, drooling over leather jackets, and wishing she was in London or Paris. She lives in San Diego with her husband and two superstar children.
This former teacher writes young adult novels about quirky teens learning to navigate life and love. Her debut, THE LIBRARY OF LOST THINGS will be published 10/08/19 from Inkyard Press/HarperCollins. Her #ownvoices sophomore project, A CUBAN GIRL'S GUIDE TO SWEATERS AND STARS is coming fall 2020 from Atheneum Simon and Schuster.
Thank you to the Fantastic Flying Book Club and Inkyard Press for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review!
The Library of Lost Things is a sweet romance full of self-discovery and connection. Darcy and Asher had great chemistry, and every page of this book was a treat.
The literary connections strewn throughout were the charm of the whole novel. Darcy is an avid reader, with a boundless love for words. As a reader myself, I can always appreciate a literary heroine such as Darcy. She often finds herself holding books, which Namey touches on in a humorous way. I also relate to the parts of Darcy that wish she were reading when she’s uncomfortable. The bookstore that she works in plays a significant role in the novel, and I could see any bookworm loving Darcy’s job at the Yellow Feather.
Besides her job, another major part of Darcy’s life is her best friend, Marisol. Darcy and Marisol are friendship goals, honestly. I love positive female friendships in contemporary novels, and these girls will warm your heart. Marisol’s family is so welcoming to Darcy, and I was struck by how close the girls were. Marisol, the fashion queen, is always there to support Darcy and help her with various troubles, and is a wonderful guiding friend. The supporting characters in The Library of Lost Things are amazing. They push the novel and each have unique traits and fully-developed arcs. Tess, Darcy’s Grandmother, and Mr. Winston were each a joy to read about as they went about their lives and intersected Darcy’s story.
Darcy’s arc with her mother shines in this novel. It’s an incredible story of compassion, family, and memory. It was interesting to read about Darcy balancing her love for her mother with the anger she feels about her mom’s compulsive shopping. I haven’t seen a lot of YA with complex mother-daughter relationships like this one, and I recommend reading it. Darcy talks about counseling, her and her mom’s relationship with her grandmother, and her literary coping method, all of which develop the issue of mental illness so strongly in the novel.
Of course, I couldn’t review a romance novel without actually touching on the love story. Asher, Darcy’s love interest, is a great, well-developed character who is sure to make any reader swoon. His backstory? Tragic. His adoration for Darcy? Boundless. Watching them fall in love was a highlight of my reading experience. Their whole relationship is so sweet and charming, complete with romantic gestures and surprises.
Overall, this beautiful romance is a must read! 4/5 stars.
Today I'd like to share my blog tour post for By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery, out October 8th from Page Street Kids. Follow along here to read reviews and guest posts from other bloggers!
The Book and its Author
On the day Torrey officially becomes a college freshman, he gets a call that might force him to drop out before he’s even made it through orientation: the bee farm his beloved uncle Miles left him after his tragic death is being foreclosed on.
Torrey would love nothing more than to leave behind the family and neighborhood that’s bleeding him dry. But he still feels compelled to care for the project of his uncle’s heart. As the farm heads for auction, Torrey precariously balances choosing a major and texting Gabriel—the first boy he ever kissed—with the fight to stop his uncle’s legacy from being demolished. But as notice letters pile up and lawyers appear at his dorm, dividing himself between family and future becomes impossible unless he sacrifices a part of himself.
Candice “Cam” Montgomery is an LA transplant now living in the woods of Seattle, where she writes Young Adult novels. Her debut novel, HOME AND AWAY can be found online and in stores now, and her sophomore novel, BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY will be released October of 2019. By day, Cam writes about Black teens across all their intersections. By night, she bartends at a tiny place nestled inside one of Washington’s greenest trees. She is an avid Studio Ghibli fan and will make you watch at least one episode of Sailor Moon and listen to one Beyoncé record before she’ll call you “friend.”
Thank you to Page Street Kids and The Fantastic Flying Book Club for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review.
By Any Means Necessary has a super interesting premise, a great cast of characters, and tackles complex social issues in a thoughtful way. For that, I commend Montgomery on this novel. However, several elements of the execution have lowered my opinion and rating of the book.
The… not so good:
i had a lot of mixed feelings about By Any Means Necessary, but I think it’s a case of “it’s me, not you.” I know this book is perfect for someone, but it just wasn’t me. A lot of my grievances are nitpicks, so I’m rating it 3/5 stars.
Today I'm joining the blog tour for The Athena Protocol, out October 8th from HarperTeen! I'm here to share my review, and you can follow the tour here to find more interviews, reviews, and guest posts from other bloggers. Enjoy!
The Book and its Author
Jessie Archer is a member of the Athena Protocol, an elite organization of female spies who enact vigilante justice around the world.
Athena operatives are never supposed to shoot to kill—so when Jessie can’t stop herself from pulling the trigger, she gets kicked out of the organization, right before a huge mission to take down a human trafficker in Belgrade.
Jessie needs to right her wrong and prove herself, so she starts her own investigation into the trafficking. But going rogue means she has no one to watch her back as she delves into the horrors she uncovers. Meanwhile, her former teammates have been ordered to bring her down. Jessie must face danger from all sides if she’s to complete her mission—and survive.
Born in the UK, Shamim is an award-winning novelist, screenwriter, and director.
Her next book, The Athena Protocol, is an all-female YA contemporary action thriller that is published by Harper Teen in September 2019. Her debut novel, The World Unseen, won a Betty Trask award and the Pendleton May First Novel award.
Shamim has adapted and directed the films of three of her novels including, most recently, Despite the Falling Snow. The book was published by Headline in the UK and St Martin’s Press in the US. The movie stars Rebecca Ferguson and Charles Dance in a story of love and betrayal in cold war Russia. Her films have won 47 awards internationally.
Shamim’s third novel, I Can’t Think Straight, formed the basis of her cult hit film of the same name. Shamim’s book festival appearances include Hay-on-Wye, Cheltenham and Edinburgh. An accomplished speaker, Shamim has spoken at TED events worldwide, at the INK Conference in India and DLD in Munich. Corporate speaking events have included Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, Citibank and Disney.
Shamim lives in London with her wife, Hanan, and their two sons.
Thank you to HarperTeen and the Fantastic Flying Book Club for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review!
The Athena Protocol is a fun, fast-paced spy thriller that’s sure to excite readers. I read the book in a couple of sittings, which I consider a great advantage. The plot was well-developed, as were the characters and their relationships.
I was first swept up by the vigilante justice and feminist aspects of the novel. The Athena organization focuses on taking down human traffickers and other monsters who hurt women around the world, but through one of their founders, they also help these women obtain educations and healthcare. If only we had something like that in the real world. I liked The Athena Protocol partly because it’s wish fulfillment fantasy for me. I would 100% join them, because they’re taking an active stance to end suffering. That being said, the ethical dilemmas of their vigilante-style missions is also fully explored in the novel, which makes for a more interesting read. Living outside the law while still existing in the world takes a difficult toll on Jessie, our protagonist. She needs to learn to mute her actions, because they could endanger her whole organization.
I admit, I didn’t like Jessie at the beginning of the novel. Her self-professed arrogance and aggressive demeanor didn’t seem to suit the work she did. She also didn’t seem to respect her teammates very much, unless they were in a position of power over her. Cooperation wasn’t exactly her strong suit. She did, however, experience consequences for her actions, which I liked. I absolutely hate when characters get free passes just because they’re “special,” and while Jessie is a skilled operative for Athena I think she needed to be kicked out to learn her lessons.
Of course, this also kicks off the plot. Stung at being left out of the mission she helped research—taking down a human trafficker in Belgrade—Jessie tags along. I liked that the action was practically non-stop, and how quickly the story moved. The plot twists, which I won’t describe but which appealed to me, and the tension between Jessie trying to learn about the trafficker’s operation and her teammates doing the same while hunting her, drove the story to exciting places. Sarif can write a mean action scene, too! Some parts were genuinely frightening, and her descriptions really evoked the creepiness of the villains and setting.
One of the other main points of the novel is the relationships between all of the female characters. Jessie had great friends within her team, and I’m glad she learned to treat them with respect and honor those bonds. For me, the most intriguing elements were Jessie’s interactions with her mom, Kit. Kit is also a member of Athena, but she spent a lot of Jessie’s childhood on tour as a rock star, so it was interesting to read about her involvement as a parent in Jessie’s live, and the impact her absence had on Jessie growing up. I was surprised and happy about the romance, as well! The Athena Protocol delivers a well-written and electrical f/f romance between Jessie and the daughter of the trafficker, Paulina.
Overall, I recommend The Athena Protocol to any reader seeking a quick spy thriller and a fearsome female operative team. 4/5 stars.
Hi all! So excited to participate on the Shadow Frost Blog Tour for the Fantastic Flying Book Club! Click here to follow along, and be sure to enter the giveaway down below!
The Book and its Author
IN THE KINGDOM OF AXARIA, a darkness rises.
Some call it a monster, laying waste to the villagers and their homes.
Some say it is an invulnerable demon summoned from the deepest abysses of the Immortal Realm.
Many soldiers from the royal guard are sent out to hunt it down.
Not one has ever returned.
When Asterin Faelenhart, Princess of Axaria and heir to the throne, discovers that she may hold the key to defeating the mysterious demon terrorizing her kingdom, she vows not to rest until the beast is slain. With the help of her friends and the powers she wields — though has yet to fully understand — Asterin sets out to complete a single task. The task that countless, trained soldiers have failed.
To kill it.
But as they hunt for the demon, they unearth a plot to assassinate the Princess herself instead. Asterin and her companions begin to wonder how much of their lives have been lies, especially when they realize that the center of the web of deceit might very well be themselves. With no one else to turn to, they are forced to decide just how much they are willing to sacrifice to protect the only world they have ever known.
That is, of course… if the demon doesn’t get to them first.
Coco Ma is a Canadian-Chinese author and pianist. She wrote her first novel, Shadow Frost, at the age of 15. Since she began playing the piano at the age of five and a half, she has also performed on some of the world's greatest concert stages and graduated with a pre-college diploma in piano performance from The Juilliard School in New York City. Currently, she studies at Yale University. When she isn't practicing piano, writing, or studying, you might find her bingeing Netflix or eating cake. Lots of cake.
Follow Coco on Twitter @shadowfrost2019 and Instagram @CakeForCoco or visit her website at Coco-Ma.com!
Thank you to Blackstone Publishing for sending me a copy!
Shadow Frost is a fun, immersive high fantasy read that’s perfect for a fall evening. I enjoyed the magical elements and reading about the queens, princesses, and warriors adventuring to save their land.
I thought the affinity system of magic was neat to read about. I liked that it was simple to explain and easy for the reader to understand, but that the characters could still produce powerful magic and fight demons just as if in a “raw magic” system. The affinities were elemental (earth, water, and fire being the main trio), but could be used in a variety of ways, including as weapons in combat. One thing I noted is that Asterin isn’t a chosen one, per se, because she isn’t unique in her powers. I liked that her obligation to go on the quest stemmed from a sense of duty to her country, and not because she was the only person who could save her world.
This brings me to the great teamwork also featured in the novel. I enjoy high fantasy stories with a mid-large sized cast, and Shadow Frost absolutely delivered. The interpersonal dynamics of the team were great to read about, and I loved seeing them work together and learn to trust each other, when some of them had expressed differences beforehand. Each of them stepped up with extreme bravery and willingness to sacrifice everything for the realm and each other.
Asterin: Great leader, but has flaws! She was a very well rounded character, and as I mentioned earlier I appreciate how she didn’t have to take on the whole burden of the quest. She was open to the possibility of teamwork and letting other people assist, which I like in a hero. This is also incredibly necessary in a high fantasy—you can’t have a main character who takes on too much, because then the different plot threads begin to feel all the same. I’m so happy none of that happened in Shadow Frost. Though I have all the admiration for Asterin, Luna is probably my favorite character. She never failed to help those she loved and further the quest, and I felt so so hard for her. Her life story is so intriguing, and at some points I kept reading just to find out what happens to her.
The romance was nice but felt fairly average. Asterin and Quin were cute, as were Luna and Eadric. Orion also has a romance, but in the name of no spoilers I won’t say anything else about it.
I found the plot rather predictable until the last quarter, when I was taken by surprise by some unexpected twists. Until then, everything had been straightforward, and though Shadow Frost wasn’t always the most enthralling read, I remained entertained and I was always driven to find out the ending of Asterin’s journey.
The villains were pretty great, but I definitely feel like they could have been deeper. I think the concepts were there, though, and I liked seeing the royal family drama become part of a world-destroying plot.
Overall, definitely pick up Shadow Frost for a light high fantasy read perfect for a fall evening in! 4/5 stars.
I am so so so so so EXCITED to be part of Penguin Teen's Daring Debuts Blog Tour, to introduce some of the hottest books of the Fall 2019 season! These books are all written by debut authors, and they are all shining new voices in YA lit. My post today features a review of The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus, as well as graphics for my favorite quotes. i hope you check out some other tour posts when you have the chance!
Thank you to Penguin Teen for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.
Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.
Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.
In The Stars and the Blackness Between Them, Junauda Petrus introduces readers to lovable characters and a sense of breathless spirituality that will soothe all who pick up the novel. I have a lot of words for how I felt when I finished this story, but I don’t want to use all of them for fear of sounding redundant: most of them are synonyms of amazing.
*note: From here forward I will be abbreviating The Stars and the Blackness Between Them to “The Stars,” for ease and flow in this review.*
The first thing I noticed was the writing. This alone makes The Stars a standout. Mabel and Audre are the two primary narrators of the novel, and each of them has a distinct voice and view of the world around them, which comes across perfectly to the reader. Not only that, but their voices fit together perfectly, which made it so easy to fall into their world. I especially appreciated the moments when Mabel and Audre were sharing the same space, because I was interested in the similarities and differences of what they noticed about their setting and about each other. Petrus’s writing is smooth and flowing. The pacing of the story was gentle, but I was always compelled to turn the page and keep reading. Each page had some sort of revelation, which I would have to stop and wrap my mind around before moving on. I love that. I love that it was impossible to rush through The Stars, and that I was forced to slow down and fully consider what I was reading, and how it made me feel.
One concrete aspect I appreciated were the astrological poems interspersed throughout the book. Two of my favorite quotes down below come from those poems, because I loved the language Petrus used in them to connect themes and history. They went chronologically, from Gemini Season after the Prologue, to Cancer Season in the end.
Since Petrus shared Mabel and Audre’s stories in first person, I grew incredibly attached to them over the course of the novel. Mabel was an absolute sweetheart. She connected with the world through music, and I like that she was so open with Audre immediately. They had beautiful chemistry and watching them become friends and then fall in love was perfect. I found it interesting that Mabel got into astrology, but I liked the parallel of both girls pushing themselves spiritually: Mabel in learning astrology and star charts, and Audre in reading her oracle stones without her grandmother.
Speaking of whom, Queenie is one of my favorite characters in The Stars. I think the most important aspect of the novel is about human connection and relationships, both expected and new. Audre’s bond with Queenie was beautiful to read, and I liked the memories she shared with Mabel, and reading about how the two of them would dance and read stones and go to the beach and explore natural energy to connect with each other. In such a technological world, reading a story about women leaning into nature, feeling their emotions, and exploring natural healing is a breath of fresh air, especially in YA. We need to send the message that not every problem can be solved with Google, and a look into one’s consciousness can go a long way.
Part of this is putting a real face out to family and friends, which is why I liked the parent and friend relationships in the novel as well! Like always, family can be complicated, but reading in Mabel’s perspective how much she loves her parents and shares with them brought me joy. Audre’s family is a bit more complicated, but I liked that her dad made the effort to connect with her and welcome her into his life in the States.
Before I close, I want to mention the fabulous representation The Stars brings. I had so much fun learning about Audre’s life in Trinidad, and what Caribbean culture is like. Her descriptions of the island and the memories associated with her life put me in such a good mood. I also love love love books about queer women of color! There were mentions of homophobia and some of Audre’s narrative featured characters who were bigoted and even violent, but for the most part The Stars honors women who love women.
This novel is absolutely a celebration of spirituality and self-recognition, and I love how open and freeing the narrative is. I was one hundred percent in tears by the end because of some particular moments of clarity. Despite being topically heavy, The Stars and the Blackness Between Them folds the reader into the story fully, and I finished the novel with a sense of peace despite my grief at leaving Mabel and Audre. 5/5 stars for a wonderfully written and shaped novel. I recommend this to everyone!
Hey, I'm Shreya! I love to read, write, travel, and drink coffee.