Once & Future: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I am beyond thrilled to review Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy due out March 26th, 2019 from Little Brown. I was sent an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest feedback. As always, there will be no spoilers.

The book follows Ari who after crash landing on old planet Earth finds a sword. Removing the sword triggers the rebirth of Merlin – ie King Arthur’s guide and mentor – who has been aging backwards and is now a teenager. Merlin’s goal is to keep Arthur alive while Ari’s goal is to overthrow a galactic company and find her moms. Despite having a rough start, Merlin and Ari come together for a mission way bigger than themselves. They however can’t do it without help from an amazing cast of friends.

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Upon hearing about this book, I immediately wanted to read it. Not only does it offer a sci-fi twist to the tale of King Arthur, but was promised to be an inclusive queer story. I can say the authors completely delivered on the wide representation of narratives. We have not only a pansexual MC, but a nonbinary character using they/them pronouns, gay rep, and on page f/f and m/m romance. The authors never once shy away from having these characters out in the open and it’s beyond refreshing to see in a sci-fi world.

On top of this, there’s important discussion around capitalism, government, the link between power and influence, immigration, non nuclear family structures, rebellion, and how blood doesn’t always make a family. As Ari and Merlin dive further into taking down Mercer – an organization that controls and creates everything for all planets – readers gain a sense of the struggles with revolution. How do you fight back against who provides for you? How do you fight back despite consequences? Who do you choose when you feel that you’re alone? Capetta and McCarthy force readers to question their place.

While in places, I felt I had to reread to properly grasp some plot twists, I loved the approach and honest commentary about societal issues. I loved the diversity of the cast and how their sexuality wasn’t a big deal. It was just a part of who they were. There’s so much in Once & Future to dive into and I urge you to pick it up for not just a great story, but to open up necessary discussion.

This gets 4/5 swords from me!

xx
Megan

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Starworld: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I am beyond thrilled to review Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst and Paula Garner due out April 2019 from Candlewick Press. I was sent an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest feedback. As always, there will be no spoilers.

Content Warnings for cancer and cancer treatment. 

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When I first heard about this book, I was excited to see a powerhouse duo combined into a single novel. I knew Audrey from Of Fire and Stars and Inkmistress while I knew Paula Garner from her gut punching novel Phantom Limbs. I didn’t know how these two authors would blend together, but it didn’t take long to find out once I began Starworld.

The story follows Sam and Zoe – who both have their own realities they’d like to escape. Sam hides the truth from her mother that she’d like to go away for college while Zoe wrestles with a mom recovering from cancer and a disabled brother who is being sent to live in a facility.  On opposite ends of social circles, they bond over fanfiction and find joy in the stories they create. The future looks less daunting until Sam’s feelings for Zoe grow into something she can’t quite explain. Together, Sam and Zoe navigate what their friendship means and how they impact one another’s lives.

There’s a lot of heavy topics handled in this book despite it being a quick read and centered around fanfiction. Sam and Zoe have a lot on their plate that builds as the school year progresses. The authors do a fantastic job of exploring how teenagers not only change, but how scary change can feel. I sympathized with each of the protagonists and the choices they had to make. What I loved especially was the utilization of fanfiction and how it’s used as a coping mechanism. This was extremely relatable to teen me who got into writing full time through fanfiction.

Starworld is a blend of friendship, good writing, and finding escape within reality. It also appropriately navigates everyday issues that teens face like mental illness, discovering one’s sexuality, and difficult home situations. What most stuck with me through the book – aside from the very realistic ending – was the message that what people project and act like does not always reflect who they are.

This gets 4/5 stars from me.

Xx
Megan

Internment: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

Happy 2019! I hope the New Year turns out to be a great one.

I’m back on the blog with a review of Internment by Samira Ahmed due out March 2019 from Little Brown Books. I was sent an ARC from Novl in exchange for my honest feedback. As always, there will be no spoilers.

Set in a near-distant future, Muslims American citizens have had their rights stripped away and are being put into internment camps. We follow Layla and her family as they are taken in the middle of the night and escorted to what will be their new “home” indefinitely. While trapped inside the camp, Layla comes face to face with those in power as she and her friends fight for freedom.

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This was a hard book to read and I think it will be for many as it outlines how racism and fear are tactics used by the government in order to produce a certain outcome. By controlling widespread media, creating propaganda, and enacting laws against Muslims, we follow Layla through a world she does not recognize anymore, a world against her and her family. Ahmed makes the reader understand from the very beginning how dangerous things are. We are introduced to the direct consequences of hate rhetoric and how it can affect others.

Layla’s narrative is a powerful one and never once does Ahmed soften her words. There are parallels to what happened during World War II and tactics used in campaign elections. While for some, this may be seen as blowing things out of proportion, Ahmed’s writing says otherwise. It tells the reader to examine their complacency, examine their privilege, and speak up when something happening around them is wrong. By not taking action, there is always the risk of the worst case scenario.

While, I thought there could have been a bit more clarification and motivation for some characters – particularly the soldiers that wound up helping Layla and her friends – the overall message of the novel is too important to ignore. Internment, through its chilling scenes, is a necessary read, especially for teens and young adults wondering if their voice matters. This book states it does and it can do more than you imagine.

This gets 4/5 stars for me.

Xx

Megan

You Asked For Perfect: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I am beyond thrilled to review You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman due out March 2019 from Sourcebooks Fire. I was sent an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest feedback. As always, there will be no spoilers.

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This book dives into the life of Ariel Stone, a senior in high school who has done everything in his power to be the example applicant for college. Between his extracurricular activities and perfect grades, college applications should be a breeze, but that changes when he fails a Calculus quiz. Ariel’s plan is ruined and he must do whatever he can to stay on top without anybody noticing that he’s slipping. He reluctantly and by accident gets a tutor, a friend of the family named Amir. Their relationship only adds to the complications and pressure building in Ariel’s life.

As someone who strove for academic perfection – or as close as I could get – You Asked for Perfect hit home. Silverman does an incredible job of pointing out the pressures of academic life, applied by family, friends, self-expectations, and the education system. Together, these factors create a whirlwind of a mindset for Ariel and how not hitting any one of these goals becomes a failure in his eyes. We see from the beginning what Ariel wants to accomplish and how piece by piece, the dream that once seemed so close, inches further and further away. Towards the end (in a set of pages that resonated with my own case of academic anxiety), Ariel is forced to confront what matters most, but also what he must do to function in a healthy way.

What I loved about this book was the honesty. Sometimes, Ariel doesn’t come across as the greatest friend or the most composed individual. We see him make mistakes. We feel his desperation. We unravel with him as readers in the same way he begins to unravel.

All of this begins with one bad grade. It’s easy to forget about the pressures of academia in literature where teenagers have to save the world, fight a mortal enemy, or exist in a world where school is run differently or may not exist. What’s brilliant about this contemporary novel is Silverman focuses on something I haven’t seen in a while in a young adult novel and that’s how hard school is. I feel like some may say, well yeah school is hard, but seeing it represented on page can resonate with students who feel like Ariel.

Despite Ariel’s hardships, the book doesn’t end on a depressing note, but a hopeful one about figuring out what you need to do for yourself and your goals, but without compromising your health (physically, emotionally, and mentally).

Couple this message with a wonderful cast of characters, bisexual rep, Jewish rep, and Silverman’s storytelling, and this is a highly recommended read of mine for teens.

This gets 4.5/5 notebooks from me.

Xx

Megan

The Fever King: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I am beyond thrilled to review The Fever King by Victoria Lee due out March 2019 from Skyscape. I was sent an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest feedback. As always, there will be no spoilers.

The book follows Noam, the son of undocumented immigrants fighting for the rights of refugees who are trying to escape from terrifying and deadly magical outbreaks. When he wakes up as the lone survivor of the most recent outbreak, he catches the attention of the government who are interested in what Noam’s abilities might be. Offered a chance to be taught by the minister of defense, Noam thinks he can use his newfound grace as an advantage to help those in need. But as secrets unravel and he grows close to one person in particular, Noam has to decide what’s worth fighting for.

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The Fever King was a book that I was mad about having to take breaks from. This is a character driven story where Lee never once loses the interest of their reader. You become invested in Noam’s passion for change in an alternate world that speaks to our current political climate. I found myself holding Noam’s same anger and desire for change. Most important, I was rooting for him to succeed.

A lot of time in this book is spent figuring out who can be trusted and what pieces of the puzzle Noam will need to find that trust. I loved how compelling not only Noam was as a main character, but the villain too. We see motivation driving both of them that keep you invested from beginning to end. I want to spend time on Dara, but I think I’ll need at least ten pages to discuss how precious Dara is and how HE MUST BE PROTECTED AT ALL COSTS. Seriously, you’re going to love Dara.

But back to the plot: what I loved about The Fever King the most was how wickedly smart it was, how it makes you examine your own world the way Noam does his, how it shows each person as a key player in the world and the we are all connected. It takes a ripple to disrupt the order of things and Lee shows how the world breaks as the ripple grows. Magic may be a component of The Fever King, but it is used to expose the intricacies and lies of a failing political system.

You will not be disappointed with this book. The more you sink your teeth in, the better it gets. Lee does a fantastic job of exploring morality, human nature, flawed people, revolution, and trauma (Tw: Sexual Assault).

This gets 5/5 stars from me.

Xx
Megan

Four Dead Queens: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I am beyond thrilled to review Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte due out February 2019 from Putnam Books. I was sent an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest feedback. As always, there will be no spoilers.

Four Dead Queens is a multi-pov story about the murder of the four rulers of Quadara. The main pov is Keralie, a thief who intercepts a comm disc containing information that would change the fate of the entire nation. Interspersed are the queen’s POVs, which not only give a glimpse into how they rule, but the secrets they’ve all kept upon the throne. Most of the time in murder stories, we never get to know the characters that are killed off except through memories or conversation. Scholte does an incredible job of investing you in every queen’s perspective and leaves you wondering how Keralie will tie into the mix.

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Keralie is a wonderful narrator. She’s brave, stubborn, outspoken and fights against demons she’s had for years. She may not always come across as likable but you see her grow as she gets pulled deeper into the mystery. You feel as if you’re reading a real person and not a caricature. By the end, I had developed so much sympathy for her that I hadn’t realized would be there to start. I want the best for her and it’s a wonderful feeling to want to a character to get their happy ending.

There’s a lot to love about this book, particularly the blending of thriller and fantasy. While Four Dead Queens has fantastical elements, it is heavily focused on putting the pieces together of a complex puzzle. Scholte uses past and present narratives to give you an all around view of the events that have taken place. When the past and present finally meet, I was left screaming because tucked away for the reader is a bit of hope and want. You want the queens to be okay. You want to believe the story can take a different turn then we’ve seen so far. However, don’t fret about this too much as every character involved gets what they deserve and that is beyond satisfying especially for a standalone novel.

Another great part of Four Dead Queens is how the world is structured and explained in a single book – something that doesn’t often happen in a fantasy novel. Each queen rules over a section of Quadara and each section is responsible for producing a particular service or media for the nation as a whole. We see Scholte challenge the idea of if a nation is better working together or separate, what is best for said nation, and what cracks are left in a system that has been in place for dozens of years. We see commentary on progress, the worth of a life, and the medical system. While Four Dead Queens is a work of fiction, there are messages to take away.

Four Dead Queens is a debut that deserves the hype and praise it has received so far. With multiple features in place to keep the reader interested, a mystery you feel compelled to solve, and culprit you won’t see coming, Four Dead Queens will easily become a book to yell about.

This gets 5/5 crowns from me.

Xx
Megan

 

 

Beneath the Citadel: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I am beyond thrilled to review Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria due out October 9th from Amulet books. I was sent an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest feedback. As always, there will be no spoilers, but there will be a lot of gushing because this book was incredible.

Beneath the Citadel is a multi-pov story that follows a group of teens trying to fight against the High Council and a world run by prophecies. We have Cassa, the daughter of rebels as the leader who never takes no for an answer; Evander, a daredevil able to manipulate silver; Newt, a boy with complex family issues and the ability to bend his body past normal human limits; and Alys, a seer who is afraid of telling the future but is nonetheless awesome. These four are thrown into a situation where the truth gets muddled, their friendship is tested, and they must ultimately decide what they’re fighting for: the government, themselves, or something more.

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I feel as if everyone is wary of multi-povs because the story may get lost or the characters will begin to sound the same. This is very much NOT the case in this book. Each character has a unique force driving them forward and it’s through the povs that you see not only how deeply their friendships with one another run, but who they are. Destiny crafts a world where her characters become close to you without realizing it, where you are rooting for them so damn hard. Every character tugged at me whether it was Cassa trying to fight for what had been done to her, or Evander painting on a smile and continuing to fight, or Newt trying to find his place, or Alys overcoming her anxiety to prove to herself what she can do. Readers will easily find a home in one of these characters.

The world-building in this book jumped off the page. It felt as if each sentence was put there with an intention to add another layer to the story. I found myself hating that I had to stop reading because I was hooked by every chapter or twist or detail.

Beneath the Citadel explores important themes, particularly those of trust, war, and what to do when the government may not be on your side. An added layer to this discussion is the ability for memories to be taken and shared. Among the major POVs, we are shown memories of important people on the playing field, meant to not only craft empathy, but make the stance that no issue is ever one sided – even if it’s the wrong issue. Just as the story challenges the main characters regarding their beliefs and memory, this book also asks the reader to do the same.

You will not be disappointed with this book as it has something for everyone with all of the characters involved and the heavy subject matter. It also has amazing gay, bisexual plus sized, and anxiety rep that came across effortlessly. By the time I finished, I not only wanted a whole other book, but the characters had become my friends (and I screamed at the ending which was like a punch to the gut).

Bottom line here: Don’t wait to pick up this book. Preorder it. Reserve it at your library. Pick it up in a store. It is well, well, worth it.

This gets 5/5 coins from me.

Xx

Megan