Posted in Misc, Recommendations

My Top 10 Reads of 2020

At long last, I have attempted to narrow down my favorite reads from last year to a top 10 list!

I read some really memorable books and series throughout the long course of 2020, many of which I feel will remain personal favorites of all-time. I’ve included mostly YA books, but also some adult titles that I really enjoyed and feel have some crossover appeal for YA readers! So let’s get into it… 

  1. The Empirium Trilogy by Claire Legrand

I read all three books in this series last year and felt totally transformed into its world and fierce, unapologetic characters. I’ll just picture the finale, Lightbringer, here because it is the one that was released in 2020, but please do pick up this series ASAP if you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind YA series to spark a new obsession. Also, be sure to check out my review of the first book, Furyborn, here.

  1. Saga: Compendium One by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

In the same vein, I binge-read the entire Saga comic series and completely fell in love. This series totally renewed my interest in comics and set me off on a quest to read more graphic novels (see some of my recommendations here). I loved the episodic nature of each volume, yet also how the unending twists and turns and cliffhangers made me never want to stop reading.

  1. House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

As a long-time Maas fan, I was so excited to dive into her newest series and was not disappointed! I have a full review of the book, so won’t go too in depth now, but just wanted to say don’t be intimidated by the size of this behemoth. It’s worth it!

  1. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I read this book pretty early on in the year (as evidenced by my note about it being my mid-year fave in this post), but it left a lasting impression on me! Reid is such a compelling writer whose work I would definitely recommend. Daisy Jones & the Six was one of my top reads of 2019 and I cannot wait for her upcoming release, Malibu Rising, later this summer.

  1. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

An absolutely dynamic story, this is one of those books that I consider a must-read and instant recommendation! I had not read Bennett’s work before, but after the amazing impression this novel left on me, she is definitely a writer whom I will be following for her new books.

  1. The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski

What I consider to be an underrated gem, this spin-off to The Winner’s Trilogy (one of my long-time favorite series) totally worked for me and I cannot wait for the next installment! Check out my full review of this book here.

  1. We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Just in time for the release of We Free the Stars, I read and adored We Hunt the Flame. This will go down as one of my go-to recommendations for YA fantasy lovers from now on. Make sure to read my full review for more thoughts!

  1. Skyhunter by Marie Lu

Can Marie Lu ever disappoint? For real, I have adored each of her series and Skyhunter is no exception! A thrilling adventure from start to finish, this book was so much fun. Check out my review here.

  1. The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

One of my last reads of the year, The Magic Fish is the perfect mix of heart, fantasy, and storytelling magic. The art is beautiful and the interwoven storylines are seamlessly explored. If you’re looking to get into graphic novels, this is the book I would recommend to get you started.

  1. Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

Another recent review of mine, Grown is an unforgettable contemporary thriller that shows just how masterful of a writer Jackson is and tells a heart-wrenching, important story. Please do check it out!

It was difficult to narrow down this list to just 10 (and really with the two series at the beginning, it’s technically more like 15, but shh…), yet I still have so many honorable mentions that I will be sure to discuss throughout the coming months in recommendations posts and the like, so stay tuned 🙂

Feel free to let me know some of your favorite reads of 2020 in the comments.

Happy reading!

Posted in Reviews

THE MEMORY OF BABEL by Christelle Dabos

4/5 Stars

I really enjoyed the third installment of the Mirror Visitor Quartet! I won’t get into too much detail to not spoil any of the earlier books, but long story short: you should read this series, especially if you’re a fan of YA fantasy!!!

The Memory of Babel was a fun follow-up to The ​Missing of Clairdelune, particularly in terms of Ophelia and Thorn’s character and relationship development. They were really the stars of the book for me and I always looked forward to their scenes together. While I quite enjoyed the way the first two books focused on the Pole, this book exposed the reader to an all new setting. Dabos once again shows her great knack for worldbuilding as she explored all the unique and intricate customs of Babel.

I was expecting a bit more of an expansion of the setting beyond Babel since the early chapters seemed to indicate that there would be more travel between the other Arks that we haven’t gotten a chance to see yet. But hopefully this will be something we will get to see in the grand finale!

I also felt like I didn’t grow as attached to the new characters as I did with the cast of characters from the previous two books. One of my favorite scenes was in the beginning when Ophelia reunited with Archibald and her other friends from the Pole after three long years apart… only for her to split up from them and not see them again for the rest of the book. So I can’t wait to see what’ll happen in the next book where all these forces Dabos has set up will come together for a dramatic conclusion!

Comparable titles:
Furyborn by Claire Legrand
Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski

***I received an e-ARC from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Reviews

GROWN by Tiffany D. Jackson

5/5 Stars!

Wow, this book was absolutely chilling!

Grown is an utterly addicting contemporary YA thriller about a teenage girl named Enchanted Jones and her toxic relationship with famous singer Korey Fields… who is found dead, alone in a room with blood on Enchanted’s hands. A thriller from start to finish, Jackson uses flashbacks to show the descent of Enchanted and Korey’s relationship from what she thought was a dream mentorship to its reality as an abusive nightmare.

Enchanted was such a compelling character. Her hope and aspirations were so inspiring, which made me root for her so much. Even though the reader knows from the start that her road with Korey will end in the worst possible way, you want so badly for her to achieve her dreams of stardom like she imagines.

Jackson’s writing is really unique and I have felt stunned after finishing each book I’ve read from her. I really recommend her as a standout YA contemporary writer, especially as one who features diverse characters at the forefront of her timely, relevant stories.

It’s important to note that this book includes very sensitive subject matter and includes content warnings at the start of the book, which I thought was a really apt way to caution readers of potential triggers before diving in. So I would definitely recommend you read through the warnings before you begin!

Comparable titles:
Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
Whisper Network by Chandler Baker
Shackled by Tom Leveen

***I received an e-ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Recommendations

Happy Halloween!

I hope you’re enjoying this spooky celebratory day by reading a good book! From dark fantasy stories to scary mysteries and thrillers, I put together this fun list of 5 YA book recommendations for reads that are delightfully sinister and perfect for the Halloween spirit.

Here is the full list with links to check out the books:

Let me know if you have any other go-to books for Halloween that you’d recommend! 🎃👻🕸

Posted in Reviews

WE HUNT THE FLAME by Hafsah Faizal

5/5 Stars

I LOVED We Hunt the Flame!!!!

I can’t believe it took me so long to finally pick this up because I adored every second of it. At the same time, though, I’m kind of glad because this means I won’t have to wait as long for the sequel!

A quick listing of some of the high points of the novel for me:

Dynamic, memorable characters: check
Slow-burn romance: check
Interesting magic system: check
Fun relationships between the characters: check

Basically, what isn’t there to love?

Don’t get me wrong, some of the plot elements could have gone wrong. I tend to find the pacing of fantasy adventure novels that take place over a long journey to be a bit slow and sometimes rambly. And while this one had some side quests and smaller obstacles along the way, they all seemed super important for the end goal and allowed the protagonists to experience further character development.

To get a bit more specific, I really enjoyed the way this story embraced darkness and explored the main characters’, Zafira and Nasir, inner selves and insecurities to portray them as complex, believable characters. The setting was also richly detailed and totally transformed me into the story.

Pick this one up! What are you waiting for??

Comparable Titles:
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Posted in Blog Tour

Happy Book Birthday to A GOLDEN FURY by Samantha Cohoe!

Today is the day you can finally get a copy of A Golden Fury in your hands!

I was very excited to be asked to be a part of the blog tour for this magical, historical new release! Make sure to check out my review from last week here.

And just to get you even more pumped about this story, I have included some praise about the novel, provided by the publisher, below:

*A Nerd Daily YA Debut to Watch Out for in 2020*

“Sharply written with a crackling, compassionately determined heroine, A Golden Fury is a vivid ride through eighteenth century Europe with darkness and dread creeping at its corners. Utterly enchanting.” – Emily A. Duncan, New York Times bestselling author of Wicked Saints

“An engaging concoction of fantasy, romance, and historical fiction.” Booklist

“Cohoe situates the supernatural among the historical, referencing the French Revolution and the Enlightenment while…keeping a sense of urgency as Thea struggles with the magical, demonic pull of the Stone.” Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“The attention to detail in the story is excellent. Thea herself is a confident lead with a strong voice. A solid fantasy to flesh out the world of alchemy that most readers know only from ‘Harry Potter.'” School Library Journal

“Cohoe transmutes the legend of the Philosopher’s Stone into a dark, intoxicating tale of ambition, obsession, and sacrifice. Prepare for a magic that will consume you.” – Rosamund Hodge, New York Times bestselling author of Cruel Beauty and Bright Smoke, Cold Fire

“Steeped in mystery and magic, Samantha Cohoe’s A Golden Fury immerses readers in beautifully rendered world where magic and science mix, and where the intoxication of power can be deadly. Whip-smart Thea is a heroine readers will root for.” – Lisa Maxwell, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Magician

Jacket Copy: Set in eighteenth century England, Samantha Cohoe’s debut novel, A GOLDEN FURY (Wednesday Books; October 13, 2020), follows a young alchemist as she tries to save the people she loves from the curse of the Philosopher’s Stone. The streets of London and Oxford come to life as this historical fantasy unravels. Weaving together an alluring story of magic and danger, Samantha’s debut has her heroine making messy decisions as she toes the line between good and evil while it becomes blurred.

Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.

While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.

But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.

A GOLDEN FURY and the curse of the Philosopher’s Stone will haunt you long after the final page.

About the Author: Samantha Cohoe writes historically-inspired young adult fantasy. She was raised in San Luis Obispo, California, where she enjoyed an idyllic childhood of beach trips, omnivorous reading, and writing stories brimming with adverbs. She currently lives in Denver with her family and divides her time among teaching Latin, mothering, writing, reading, and deleting adverbs. A Golden Fury is her debut novel.

Posted in Blog Tour, Reviews

A GOLDEN FURY by Samantha Cohoe

3/5 Stars

I’m feeling a bit conflicted about this one!

A Golden Fury follows 17-year-old budding alchemist Thea Hope in French Revolution-era Europe. She has a toxic, complicated relationship with her mother, a renowned alchemist who views her more as her apprentice than her daughter. As they work on forging the infamous Philosopher’s Stone, an unprecedented danger greets them and Thea must branch out on her own to save her mother. She goes to Oxford to seek help from her father, who hadn’t known she existed, but finds that this familial bond is also lacking in trust, driving her to create the Stone on her own.

I found Thea’s journey toward independence to be quite interesting. She found that she could not rely on her family, nor the other few people she placed her trust in over the years. With such a burden on her shoulders, Thea stands out as an inspirational character who was easy to root for.

However, my main issues with the novel involve the plotting. There was a lot of movement and travel involved in the story and I feel like it never quite found its footing in one storyline. The major motivating factor of creating the Philosopher’s Stone was a solid thread that drove the plot. But then there were a lot of characters and obstacles thrown in there that I wish were further developed.

While I appreciated the concept of alchemy in this story, I found the execution of this magic system to be a bit too ambiguous to fully enjoy. I just couldn’t quite picture what Thea was doing to make her so talented. This vagueness also messed with my understanding of alchemy’s limitations in this world. It seemed at any point anything could go wrong, so I never knew what to reasonably expect.

While there were some points that took away from my overall enjoyment of the novel, I did really like how fast-paced this story is. I enjoyed Cohoe’s writing and will likely pick up her future works!

Comparable titles:
The Falconer by Elizabeth May
The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh
Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

***Thank you to Wednesday Books for sending me an e-ARC as a part of the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Reviews

KIND OF A BIG DEAL by Shannon Hale

3/5 Stars

Unfortunately, I wasn’t a big fan of this one!

I really wanted to like Kind of a Big Deal because it was one of my most anticipated reads of the fall, I had heard a lot of hype about it before its release, and hello: that cover!! The concept alone sounds like total clickbait for me: a girl literally gets sucked into the books she reads. But the execution of this plot device and the circumstances surrounding it just really didn’t do it for me.

The protagonist Josie Pie is an interesting character. She is a star performer in high school who drops out at her theater instructor’s encouragement to chase her Broadway dreams in New York City. Unable to make it in the cutthroat world of acting, she moves away for a nanny job. Now, she feels like a failure who peaked in high school.

I really liked this idea of an older YA protagonist talking about the realities of post-high school life. But, for me, Josie just wasn’t the best character to lead this story. While her background was intriguing, she came across pretty unlikeable a lot of the time. I don’t mind a protagonist being flawed (in fact, I typically prefer that), but Josie’s decision-making seemed a bit all over the place. I think I needed a better foundation for who she was in the past in order to grasp who she is now (and how far she’s fallen). The plot seemed to focus on the present day with references to important people in Josie’s lives, who we barely get to see her interact with other than in her imagination.

Plus, the way the narrative shifted between reality and Josie’s adventures in the fictional stories she read was pretty jarring. There wasn’t a lot of continuity or character development within those sections. Then, when you find out why this is happening, it just seemed so out of left field!

Anyone who knows me can attest that I love fantasy, but this really was set up like a contemporary story with just one magical element dropped in there to stir up Josie’s life, so that’s what I wanted from it as the reader. Instead, the story turned into what should have been a much larger, more complex low fantasy plot. Also, not to get into spoilers too much, but I thought Josie’s relationship with her boyfriend should have been explored much more to warrant the ending.

Comparable titles:
Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult
The Library of Lost Things by Laura Taylor Namey
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Posted in Reviews


5/5 Stars

Marie Lu has done it again, folks! This was such a fun, addictive YA read that I would absolutely recommend.

To me, Skyhunter took the spirit that made LegendWarcross, and The Young Elites so great and ran with it, while still totally holding its own as a distinct new sci-fi/fantasy series. The fast-paced, easily digestible writing style is characteristic of Lu’s voice. I also think the story works great for fans of Laini Taylor and Marissa Meyer.

The main characters Talin and Red are so complex and interesting to read about. I also really enjoyed the thread running throughout the narrative that explores Talin’s complicated relationship with her country as she balances her identities as both a Striker (fiercely loyal warriors that defend the free nation of Mara) and a refugee of the war (targets for a lot of ingrained prejudice from her peers). Throughout all the high-stakes action of the plot, Talin continually has this conversation with herself about loyalty and all the nuances that come with such a phenomenon.

While the pacing of the ending went a bit fast for me, I think this book set up a great foundation for a blossoming series/duology in the YA SFF universe. Definitely check it out!

Comparable Titles:
Renegades by Marissa Meyer
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

***As a volunteer member of the Skyhunter Street Team, I received a free e-ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Posted in Reviews

Series Review: THE CARLS by Hank Green

5/5 Stars

I recently finished this duology and was honestly so surprised by how much I LOVED it!

I’m a big sci-fi/fantasy nerd and I’ve found I really like books that are surrounded by video games and/or aliens so An Absolutely Remarkable Thing had kind of the perfect set-up for me. I loved April’s super frank voice. I felt like she had become my friend by the end of the book and I really knew her as a person. I also really recommend listening to this book as an audiobook because it really put me in the story in a transformative way by reading it in that medium!

I’ll be honest—I didn’t know this was going to be a duology when I read the first book. I finished it and was like OKAY, that’s a bit of a rude cliffhanger, gave if 5/5 stars, then walked away and sort of forgot about the series… but then when the sequel, A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor, came out this summer, I dusted up on my knowledge of the world with a quick reread and dove right back in.

With the sequel, I really enjoyed how Green expanded on the side characters from the first book. This really felt like an ensemble cast and I grew attached to each perfectly flawed and lovable character. The main plot was so urgent and like kinda existentially scary to think about in the context of a global pandemic right now… Anyway, such an engaging read! Kind of hard not to include spoilers, but I would definitely recommend walking into this series with an open mind and letting it drift you away with fun, quirky details, lots of humor and heart, and characters that you will want to call your new best friends!

Comparable titles:
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller