Review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Can we all just be excited for a second at the fact that my most anticipated book of the year lived up to my own personal hype??

I’ve only read one of Leigh Bardugo’s young adult books, the first book in the Grisha trilogy, and it was right around the time when it was first released and I didn’t really love it. I’ve had no interest in reading any of her other books up until now and when I first read the synopsis for Ninth House I was immediately like “YES, I NEED TO READ THIS”

I like dark stories and oh boy, did this deliver on that. I’m going to say what everyone is saying about this book: it is an adult book and should be categorized as such. This is a very, very dark adult book and is not suitable content for younger readers.

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Before I get into my review, here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

Like I had said at the beginning of the post, this was my most anticipated read of the year. I got nervous as I started to see more and more reviews of people reading this and rating it lower than anticipated and I kept stopping myself from starting it because I didn’t want to be disappointed. Luckily, in the end, I was so far from disappointed, I rated this 5 stars.

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This book was a behemoth and I read it over the course of about three days. Each chapter title gives you the time at which the events in the chapter are taking place. “Winter” and “fall/late fall” were the main ones and the perspective switched between our main character, Alex, and Darlington, Alex’s mentor in Lethe. Lethe is essentially a group that has been created to be guardians to the secret societies of Yale.

From the get go, I connected with Alex and her struggle with being a survivor. The fight for life and for survival is something I relate to deeply and it was emotional to see how strong she was in order to do anything. I also really enjoyed reading from both her and Darlington’s perspectives in order to get a more in depth view of the story. I personally felt like if we had only followed Alex, that we never would’ve learned some of the things that Darlington shared in his chapters.

I genuinely wish that I would have kept a tally of how many times I said “oh my god” or “wtf” while reading this because it was lot. Some parts of the book I totally saw coming, but others blew my mind. I think that I can say that I am a big fan of paranormal/fantasy type thrillers because unlike thrillers that take place in “real life” basically anything can happen. We can get those big twists and shocks because literally anything could happen. This whole book had me turning the next page thinking “what could possibly happen next?” It was compelling and devious and I adored it.

A lot of the reviews I’ve seen are from people who thought that this book was boring, or at least the first half was boring. I felt like this book was chock full of information but to me, it felt balanced. If it had all been jam packed with action, I think it would have been overwhelming. But with less action and more exposition, it would have been too dry. There really wasn’t any point in this that I felt like I wanted to skip sections or chapters because I genuinely wanted to see what every page had in store. If you’re looking for a simple read, this probably isn’t for you! It’s full of names and stories and is so layered that it takes a lot of brain power to really engross yourself in it. But let me tell you, it is well worth it if you like dark adult fantasy.

So when it comes to recommending this, I want to preface this with this book is really disturbing at times. One scene in particular made me physically gag and many others left me feeling drained. It was dark, definitely not quite what I expected, but in the end I was left with overwhelming hope for this group of characters that had been beaten down and broken more times than I could count. I adored the characters in this book, flaws and all and I genuinely can’t wait to get my hands on book two. But please be careful when picking up this book and if you are interested in content warnings I’ll have those at the end of the review.

I think that if you’re a fan of dark stuff, give this a try. If you like a unique cast of characters and a wild story, pick this up.

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy, you can find it here.

Content warnings:

Sexual assault (child rape and date rape), murder, gore, drug abuse, drowning, death, suicide, forced consumption of human waste. 

 

Middle Grade Monday: The Memory Keeper by Jennifer Camiccia

I was super excited when I was granted access to an eARC to The Memory Keeper by Jennifer Camiccia. It follows a girl named Lulu who has a Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory. This is an incredibly uncommon phenomenon but it was such a fascinating concept to center the story around. If you don’t know what HSAM is, it essentially means that Lulu remembers every second of her life.

Lulu lives with her parents, little brother, and grandmother. She had a younger sister who I think passed away from SIDs but it wasn’t explicitly stated. Her parents have struggled immensely with this and on top of that her mother is dealing with postpartum depression as well. So Lulu leans on her grandmother heavily, which makes it even scarier when her grandma starts having problems with her memory. When Lulu realizes the scope of her own memory, she tries to collect her grandmother’s in order to help her in day to day life. Lulu wonders if the reason that her grandmother is losing her memory is because of a traumatic event, just as a traumatic event can trigger HSAM, she reads that it could also trigger memory loss. So Lulu goes in search of her grandmother’s past in order to save her memory and save her family.

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So I loved this book. Absolutely loved it. Was it super realistic? No, but it was emotional and heartfelt and deep while at the same time balanced with lighthearted jokes and fun friendship moments. Memory issues are a hard topic for me and I couldn’t help but get emotional a lot throughout this book. I know a few people that have dealt with or are dealing with Alzheimers and I myself have dealt with a great deal of memory loss due to mental health problems. It was painful to see how much Lulu was scared of losing her grandma if anyone found out what she was struggling with.

There was also quite a candid discussion of postpartum depression and grief and it was hard to see how Lulu struggled with her relationship with her parents but eye opening to read from the side of a child in a situation like this.

The side “quest” I guess is what I would call it that followed Lulu and her friends, Max and Olivia, in trying to also uncover Lulu’s grandma’s past was too funny. They took their roles of detectives so seriously and I really enjoyed seeing how their relationships developed and changed as the book progressed. I genuinely loved each of the characters in this book and it warmed my heart to see them heal even just a little by the time the book ended.

Another thing that I really loved about this book was that each chapter opened with a short description of some part of the brain and how it functions. Considering the book centered around a story in which the brain and memory was a central feature, I thought this was really interesting! It was educational and easy to understand and I really liked that.

This book felt reminiscent of The Ghost Collector  in that both main characters are dealing with something really difficult and are doing everything in their power to fix what they are struggling with. I highly recommend both.

 

Review: Resurrection Girls by Ava Morgyn

Resurrection Girls by Ava Morgyn is all about grief and healing. Telling the story of a girl named Olivia, three years after the death of her younger brother. A new girl named Kara Hallas moves in across the street with her grandma and mother and Olivia is immediately drawn to them.

While hanging out with Kara, Olivia begins to pull herself out of the hole that her brother’s death left her in. The two of them form an unlikely bond while writing letters to death row inmates and Olivia tries to learn who exactly the Hallas family is.

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I received an ARC of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This was beautifully written and utterly heartbreaking. It’s all about grief and healing and it felt so personal to look into the lives of the people within this book. At times I felt like it was too much, like I was reading about the lives of real people and I felt almost bad reading it. Although it was really hard to read I ended up reading it all in one sitting while I was doing some work at the library a few weeks ago.

The prose within this was beautiful and I think that Morgyn did a fantastic job writing her first novel. I thought that the different portrayals of grief added a lot of depth and I appreciated that Olivia and her parents all dealt with the loss of her brother in vastly different ways.

The actual Resurrection Girls subplot in which Olivia and Kara wrote letters to death row inmates was very minor, at least in my opinion. I thought it was interesting but it didn’t lend itself to the plot as much as the descriptions of this book make it out to be. I think in general this book is more about healing and relationships than anything else. There is a bit of a romance subplot as well and I thought it was okay. I loved the overall arc of the book and while I wasn’t so invested in the subplots I did enjoy them for the most part.

In terms of characters, Olivia is the only one that felt fully fleshed out. Every once in a while we got into the depths of the other characters but throughout the whole story Olivia is the sole focus. I appreciated the depth we got from her parents towards the end, it felt right, but I would have loved to know more about Kara and Prescott. Prescott had so much potential to be a really great character and in the end, he lacked depth. I talk more about what I wanted from Kara in my spoilery section later in the post.

Due to the dark nature of this book I’m including content warnings here, and then the next section contains spoilers so if you want to skip them, scroll down to the next picture.

 

 

Content warnings for: death of a child, suicide, overdose, addiction, serial killers, death

This next section contains spoilers:

So this book, I assume, is considered magical realism but I honestly think that the whole subplot of the Hallas family having some sort of “curse” could have been done away with… Or this book could’ve been 50-100 pages longer in order to fully develop what was going on with them. I felt that the ending was extremely rushed and it didn’t really add anything to the story. Kara and her family could have just as easily been a normal family with how little I learned about who they really were. It was easy to imply some of the gaps in the story but I wanted more from that storyline. That was really my main issue with the book.

I am also a tad uncomfortable with the part of this book in which Olivia overdosed. Not saying that this was bad, but I will say it felt unrealistic. Like from what I remember they didn’t even place a psychiatric hold on her? They just let her go home with her mom… The same mom that she got these pills she overdosed on from? I’m probably just being nitpicky here but this is an area where I have a ton of personal knowledge and it felt really brushed over and reduced to something really simple. Definitely not saying it was bad, just that this also could have been expanded on and written differently.

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Resurrection Girls was incredibly dark, hypnotic, moving, and deep. It was fantastic and I highly recommend it. I ended up giving it a rating of 4/5 stars and am looking forward to whatever Ava Morgyn comes up with next.

If you’re interested in picking up your own copy you can find links to the book here:

Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

Middle Grade Monday: Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt

So in today’s Middle Grade Monday post, I’m going to be talking about a book that’s release tomorrow called Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt. I received an ARC of this from Netgalley in order to review.

This book is about Tam and Kate, two girls who have found their stereotyped places to fit in within their middle school but develop an unlikely friendship… And maybe a little more.

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Redwood and Ponytail is all about two girls who are growing up and learning more about who they are every day. It’s a book about identity and acceptance and I loved it.

I grew up reading books in verse, I devoured every one that I could get my hands on, but every single one was far outside of the range of what I should have been reading at that age. Like I was in seventh grade reading Ellen Hopkins (I was definitely a mature reader but those were some heavy, heavy books). If I could go back in time with this book, I would have loved to hand younger me this to read.

There really needs to be more books out there like this. Even with the world becoming more and more accepting, sometimes it’s still so incredibly hard to accept that you might be different. I mean, I’m 23 and I’m still trying to figure out who I am. Books like these are ones that make it easier to be a young girl and say “hey, maybe I like girls too” or a boy who likes boys or anybody who just doesn’t really like anybody like that.

In terms of books written in verse, I found this to be pretty good. There were some parts that really flowed and other parts that really didn’t. But if you were using this to introduce a younger reader to a book in verse I think this could be a good choice.

One of the things that made me love this book so much was that the author got those first crush feelings so spot on. It was so relatable and I think that anyone could appreciate that. The aspects of this that fell flat for me were the other characters, I think that this story focused so much on Tam and Kate that the development of the other characters was completely neglected. I would have loved to hear more backstory about literally any of the other characters, it was a long book so something could’ve been squeezed in. However, I would definitely pass this on to middle schoolers, it’s a good viewpoint to read from, a nice introduction to books in verse, and in the end I rated it 4/5 stars.

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Before I end this post, I will say that people added the trigger warning of homophobia to their reviews and while I could understand where they’re coming from I think it’s important to add that it is very light (if that’s even a thing). The parts that I’m assuming they’re referring to are definitely hard to read in seeing a mom not really know how to react to what her daughter is telling her, but I don’t want to say that it’s the most painful thing to read. In the end everything turns to a “I just want you to be happy with yourself” type of situation. So yes, very minor homophobia but don’t let that deter you from giving this to kids to read or even reading it yourself!

If you’re interested in getting your own copy you can grab one tomorrow from these links:

Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

Review: Again, But Better

Today I’m going to be reviewing Again, But Better by Christine Riccio.

Here’s the synopsis:

Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents…sounds ideal—but Shane’s made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance…what’s that?

Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time’s a ticking, and she needs a change—there’s nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She’s going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure!

Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart.

Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic—the possibilities are endless.

Prethoughts to reading this:

I am SO excited. I feel like I’m going to end up inserting myself into this book and loving it a bit too much, I did the same thing with Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I studied abroad in London and I miss it so much and I already feel like I relate to Shane and her college “inexperience”.

I just read Christine’s note at the beginning and my heart swelled. If this story is what she says it is it’s going to be so great. Reading about someone who hasn’t “done it all” by 20 is going to be revolutionary for EVERYONE who has ever felt less than for not doing what it seems like everyone else is doing.

I got an autographed copy and I honestly still feel so hesitant about annotating books that are hardcovers or that are signed. It gives me so much anxiety even though it’s my own book that I spent my money on and I don’t loan books to people anymore so honestly, why should I care?

I’m also really nervous because I can’t help but wonder if this is going to be a really bad youtuber book but maybe this will change my mind from those thoughts. It’s just really frustrating to see things get so hyped up and then getting disappointed…

Okay… Today is March 8, 2019 and I am beginning Again, But Better… Let’s do this!

Immediate thoughts after finishing this the same day I began reading it:

I honestly don’t know how I feel about this. I want to both love it and hate it at the same time. The story was just what I needed to read right now but at the same time there were so many things that made me either uncomfortable or just feel not happy with the general story.

Non-spoiler review:

After some long thoughts about this I’m rating the book 3/5 stars. Leaning somewhat towards a 3.5/5 stars but I’m rounding down because I just don’t know how I feel. There were some parts of this book that bothered me but I’ll touch on those in the spoilery section.

I loved how this read like a movie, it felt so real to me, I can definitely see Christine’s film background in this. Another thing I really liked was the banter between characters. I found myself chuckling quite a bit at the things they said to each other.

Now, would I have bought this book and read it had I not been following Christine? Yes, 100%. The book itself had a plot that interested me greatly. It was a story that sounded like I could relate to it and in the end it was. It showed a lot about learning about yourself and learning how to be your own person. It showed hard lessons to learn and how important second chances can be. Would I recommend this book? Yes. I think if you’re looking for a quick contemporary read then definitely check this out. This wasn’t the story of my dreams but even going into it with very low expectations that I would like it I was pleasantly surprise.

And lastly, I got one of the first copies that was printed so the end of her note says 2018 instead of Christine and I will be giggling about that for years to come.

If you’re interested in picking up your own copy, you can find the book at this links!

Amazon Affiliate Link // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

Next I’ll be moving into a more in depth review with spoilers included…

SPOILERS AHEAD: STOP READING NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK AND DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED

Continue reading

Review: Once and For All

Oh how excited I was to read this newest book by Sarah Dessen! Ever since she announced that a new book was on the way I have been waiting to get my hands on it! I was pumped to see it in my library the day it came out, usually books like this would have me on the waiting list until August! So as soon as I checked it out I was reading it and basically didn’t put it down until I was done! Sarah’s books are some of my favorite guilty pleasure reads and I enjoyed every minute of this one.

Once and For All is about Louna, the daughter of a wedding planner, who is very cynical about the idea of love.

Here’s my review:

4/5 stars

So overall I really enjoyed the book. It was a pretty typical read by Sarah Dessen and I have continually enjoyed all of her recent releases. I’m not as big of a fan as her older books.

Now I love my cheesy contemporary books so I could rave about this book all day. It was cute with an interesting story about Louna’s lost love. I think that it was highly predictable in the standard contemporary young adult novel way so if you’re not into that then I would pass on the book. I do feel like the characters in this novel fell a bit flat for me and I really wish I would’ve seen them more developed. William was a joy to have in the story and I loved that she had the LGBT+ representation. It also had me overjoyed that William was not so stereotypically gay as some authors make men in contemporary novels.

SPOILERS AHEAD:


I applaud Sarah for speaking about gun violence in this book. When I found out that Louna’s first boyfriend died in a school shooting I was shocked and my heart just dropped. It was not what I was expecting at all. Sarah is very open about her opinions about gun violence on her social media and she is a huge advocate to minimize violence so I was very happy that she brought some of this into her book. I wish that Louna would have been more of an advocate against violence or would’ve spoken more about this but I can understand from her story and personality that she was still grieving throughout the book.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants something fun and lovely to read for the summer. It was bright and healing and a perfect thirteenth novel for Sarah Dessen.

Happy Monday everyone, have a wonderful week!