The Darkest Part of the Forest (Holly Black)

There’s a monster in our wood.
She’ll get you if you’re not good.
Drag you under leaves and sticks.
Punish you for all your tricks.
A nest of hair and gnawed bone.
You are never, ever coming…

Fairfold is a town in between the normal world and the world for faerie. The townspeople have lived side-by-side with the Folk for years, a dangerous balance. Locals are generally safe, but tourists have been known to disappear. Hazel and Ben have spent most of their lives navigating this strange, beautiful, sometimes deadly place and they understand the dangers better than most.

In the woods there is a horned boy lying asleep in a glass coffin. For years he has lain there, an object for tourists to gawk at and the teenagers to have parties around. Both Ben and Hazel have spent years pouring their secrets and dreams to the horned boy. One day, the coffin is shattered and he wakes up. This one act changes everything irreversibly. Now, Hazel finds herself being the knight she always wanted to be, but at what cost?

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Image via Hachette Book Group

We should know after The Raven Cycle I love dark and dreamy. This was loaded with both. Fairfold is like living in a dream on the edge of a nightmare. These are not sweet peaceful faeries from childhood stories, but tricky creatures with little regard for human life. Even the monster is beautiful and horrifying. Holly Black did an amazing job of blending together the modern world and the world of the faerie almost seamlessly.

Hazel, to be blunt, is a total badass. There is romance brewing here, however, it is Hazel, not Jack, Ben or Severin that is the hero. It’s not that the guys aren’t great characters; they are all strong, solid characters with fascinating stories. This isn’t just your run of the mill fairy tale with a damsel in distress. Hazel is not content to sit back and let the guys solve her problems, instead she takes matters spectacularly into her own hands.

I also found Jack to be a particularly interesting character. He is a changeling, one of the fae, but raised by humans. Like the family of his birth, he has many secrets, but still walks a fine line between the world of the Folk and the human world.

And did you see that cover? Gorgeous!

Holly Black is not an author I was previously familiar with, but you can be sure I’ll check out more of her books in the very near future. So glad I stumbled upon this at the library.

The Graces (Laure Eve)

To keep things nice and legal: I received a copy of The Graces from the publisher (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review. That did not affect my opinions.

Looking for Mean Girls, but darker and with a twist? Have I got a book for you.

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Image via Abrams Books

The Graces rule the school. Fenrin, Thalia, and Summer Grace are the be all, end all of high school: wealthy and beautiful, suspected to be witches, they are popularity itself. River is none of these things. Poor, lonely and unpopular in a new school, like everyone else she would give anything to be a part of the Grace’s circle. But, once she finds herself inside, all is not what it seems. Something dark is cultivated that none of them could have imagined. And when things go wrong, the results are tragic.

I’m not sure quite what I was expecting from this book when I started, magic and everyone lives happy ever after, I suppose, but what I got was something else entirely. That’s not to say I didn’t like it. I did. It was fantastic actually; it just wasn’t quite what I thought it would be. No silly love-of-my-life teen romance here.

When I first began reading, the worshipful attitude surrounding the Graces was a little off-putting. I mean seriously, how great could they really be? It makes a certain amount of sense, given that River is new and lonely, but even then it seemed a little excessive. However, it did eventually become clear to me why exactly she holds them in such an exalted status. I can’t tell you why, it gives too much of the twist away.

I don’t know that I can really say that the characters are totally realistic, at least not at first. River seems to be, initially, with her lonesome desperation to be a part of the popular crowd. But things don’t stay that way. I was never at her level of obsession, but I can certainly commiserate: there was a time in my life when I would have loved to have been a part of the “in” crowd (it turns out the crowd I was actually in was FAR better than the popular crowd. But that’s a whole separate story). At first the Grace’s themselves don’t seem very real, they seem like an ideal. As time goes on, however, there this a little tarnish to that ideal, which does make them seem more like mere mortals. But, just like River, I couldn’t help but want to get closer to them.

The story also took a darker turn than I was expecting. With a lot of YA novels they are obviously dealing with apocalyptic scenarios. This one did not, exactly, so I was not looking for events to go where they did. I loved it. So much better than a bunch of lovey-dovey nonsense.

On a side note, you should definitely check out Laure Eve’s website. There is a Spotify playlist just for The Graces and all sorts of other goodies.

I have to recommend this one. It kept me coming back anytime I had to put it down to live in the real world. I definitely would love to see more of the Graces! You can preorder it now and it will be released September 6!

Labyrinth Lost (Zoraida Cordova) + Giveaway!!

As usual, I will mention that I received a free copy of Labyrinth Lost from the publisher (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review. That fact did not affect my opinions.

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Sourcebooks

For Alex and her family, magic is part of life. She is a bruja and the most powerful witch in her family for generations, but she would give it all up to be normal. When she attempts to banish her powers during her Death Day ceremony, things go terribly wrong and her entire family vanishes.  She is forced to travel to Los Lagos, a realm in-between with handsome and complicated brujo Nova who has an agenda all his own, in order to get them back.

Anyone who knows me well could have told you I would have picked up this book initially just on the cover alone. I love sugar skulls. Again, I know, I should probably not pick books based on the cover. I can’t help it, I pick wine the same way. Fortunately, Labyrinth Lost really delivers.

I think that it’s not much of a stretch for many of us to identify with Alex’s desire to be normal. She is different in a world that doesn’t always value the unusual. Being unusual myself, I find her very relatable, except for the whole magic thing. I, much to my chagrin, have yet to discover my magical powers. I liked that it was clear from the beginning, even though she didn’t always appreciate it, that she had the love and support of her family. It was easy to see why she would risk her life to save them.

And what is a book about a journey with out good traveling companions? I think that both Rishi’s unwavering friendship and Nova’s dark mysteriousness and strength helped ultimately shape Alex into someone confident and powerful. Rishi is a great character, but I like complex and mysterious, so Nova really appealed to me. Is he good or bad? Is he some combination of both? Read and see.

Los Lagos is suitably creepy and full of mystery and magic. It’s like a combination Limbo and Wonderland. On Zoraida Cordova’s website there is a map, if you’re into that sort of thing. I am. It also will tell you more about her other books… but that’s another post. I’ll be reading them all, soon I hope.

For me, this reminded me quite a bit of the Beautiful Creatures series, the last book in particular. For those keeping score, that’s a good thing. I loved those books.

In even better news, this is only the first in the Brooklyn Brujas series, so there will be more! More Alex and Rishi! Hopefully we’ll find out even more about Nova! Yay! I know I needed another series to read like a hole in the head, but I just can’t seem to stay away from them.

Labyrinth Lost comes out September 6, and I definitely recommend pre-ordering a copy. For fans of Beautiful Creatures, or  just YA in general, I think it’s one you won’t want to miss.

Finally, to get a little extra into the spirit of Labyrinth Lost, I created a wreath based on the book!

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Want to win the wreath? Enter the giveaway below!

Labyrinth Lost Wreath Giveaway

The Raven Cycle (Maggie Steifvater)

I’m a little ashamed to say that the first book in this series was recommended to me via Goodreads over a year and a half ago by a high school friend who is now a librarian. Normally, I try to pay more attention when people who I know appreciate books tell me to read something. I slacked off in this regard.  I recall being intrigued (the email sat in my account forever), but at some point I forgot about it.

Enter: this blog. While wracking my brain for books to add to my TBR pile, The Raven Boys, the first book in the series came back across my radar. Lucky for me, my local library’s app had the ebook, so I put a hold on it and waited. About a week later, it was all mine for 21 days. I finished it in two. It would have been less, but, sigh, the need to actually go to work and sleep got in my way.

The next day I got online and ordered not only The Raven Boys for my very own, but also the rest of the series (The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue and The Raven King).

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Pictured: poorly photographed book porn

Wow.

Guys. Guys. If you have not already, you must read these books. I was floored.

Sometimes there are books that just are so enjoyable and so satisfying that it makes it difficult to function in the real world. I can give a book no higher compliment. These books fall solidly into that category.

I didn’t plan on reviewing them as a whole unit, but given that I consumed them so quickly, it just seemed right that I look at them all together.

To briefly give you an idea of the plot, Blue lives in a house full of psychics and is a girl destined to have her true love die after a kiss. Gansey, Ronan, Adam and Noah are all Raven Boys, students of the affluent private school Aglionby. Aglionby boys are trouble and Blue wants nothing to do with any of them. Reluctantly, she is drawn into their orbit and ultimately for their search for the mythical Welsh king, Glendower. All of them are much more than they seem, including Blue herself.

These books are at once lush, dark, dreamy and real. They were magical while at the same time they seemed made the impossible seem more than possible, made it seem almost normal. It was a really glorious experience. I finished The Raven King less than 30 minutes ago as I write this and I already cannot wait to read them again.

And the descriptions!! Holy moly. Unbelievable! I found myself rereading sentences more than once because I was just so amazed at their construction, at the word she used to describe objects, people, situations. She describes things in such a way that, even though they wouldn’t be the words anyone else might pick, they are exactly right. I could never have thought of it, but it was wonderfully perfect. That really helped to add to the dreamlike atmosphere.

I also loved that the romance didn’t have a complete chokehold on the whole series. As you may know, I really love my YA books, but with so many of them, the love story between the protagonists is almost cloying. With these books, that romantic connection is there, it is in fact rather key to the story, but it doesn’t overwhelm the entire plot. It compliments it, which makes it much more convincing.

The Raven Cycle truly makes an outstanding summer read. So, go read them. Read them now! What are you waiting for?