"What she needs are stories. Stories are a way to preserve one's self. To be remembered. And to forget. Stories come in so many forms: in charcoal, and in song, in paintings, poems, films. And books. Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives—or to find strength in a very long one.” The invisibile life of Addie LaRue
Thank you so much, NetGalley, Avon and Harper Voyager and Harper Voyager, for the chance to read and review one of my most anticipated reads this year in exchange of an honest review.
TW: abuse, peadophilia, violence, emotional manipulation, gaslightining, cannibalism, bulimia, self-harm, PTSD, gore and body horror
Marlinchen and her two sisters live with their wizard father in a city changing from magic to industry and they are the last true witches of Oblya, seen as little more as a tourist trap, with their remedies and charms. Marlinchen spends her days with her clients, but, mostly, taking care of her xenophobic and cruel father, cursed by a witch with an unquenchable appetite. Sequestered by their tyrannical father from the outside world, Undine and Rose manage to rebel, sneaking out to enjoy the city’s amenities, theater and so on and when Marlinchen joins them everything changes when she meets a dancer that captures her heart. As she keeps sneaking away, her father’s rage keeps growing and so a mysterious threat to the city, when people are found murdered and missing organs. Marlinchen finds herself battling between her loyalty to her father and her desire to discover her love and identity out her prison house.
Juniper & Thorn is a gothic retelling of The Juniper Tree, set in another time and place, but always within the world created of The wolf and the Woodsman. It’s a very dark and gruesome story and the themes explored are dealt with care and sensitivity by the author. Juniper & Thorn is a brilliant, eerie and intense standalone. The story is narrated in first person by Marlinchen, set in a claustrophic and tight setting and it explores traumas, abuse and violence and their consequences, and, through magic and fairytales, examines nationalism. Through Marlinchen’s voice the reader is captured right away and thrust into the story, following Marlinchen and her sister, dealing with their tyrannical and cruel father, with clients and mysteries and their deep desires to get away and to be free. The story setting is, mostly, the family manor and its garden, claustrophobic and restricted, with its monsters and peculiarities, but known and it violently contrast with the outside world, both coveted, but unknown and scary. This contrast is replayed by Marlinchen with her routines, taking care of her father, the house, the food and so on and by her new desire to see the world, to know Sevas, to be a bit like her sisters, more conscious of the outside world and its dangers.
Marlinchen is a very peculiar narrator, a truly unreliable one. Since the readers get know the story through her, it’s through her thoughts and actions they start to question themselves and to try to understand what is exactly happening. Marlinchen is different from her older sisters. She’s more quiet and introvert, more, at least apparently, scared and SEEMS more passive, if she’s seen in contrast with Undine’s energy and spite and Rose’ determination and calm, but she’s a very complex character. She has always had little power in her life and lived in fear and almost as a servant, taking care of her father and house, bending and hiding her own desires, or, almost refusing to having and beliving in them. When she gets out of the house and meets Sevas, when her father’s rage worsens, Marlinchen starts to see how her life could be and her growth is so impressive and moving to read. Marlinchen is a victim and she’s been through horrible things, narrated in intense and heartwrenching moments, letting the readers know what happened and her reactions, and she deals with her traumas and abuses in her own way, hiding from them, being angry and upset, reacting in certain ways. The author did an outstanding job in describing her and her own way to survive and giving us this brilliant and nuanced portrait of a victim and an empowering heroine, in a feminist retelling of The Juniper Tree. I loved reading this book, mostly thanks to Marlinchen’s voice and characterization and her growth, curiosity and desires are truly magnificent.
Ava Reid did a wonderful job not only with the setting, tight and claustrophobic, written in such a skillful way I felt prisoner too, but also with the characterization, from the main character to the side ones and I truly enjoyed how the author dealt with themes like traumas and abuse in different character in various way, depicting their being victims and their reactions and way of surviving, from Marlinchen, to Sevas, Undine and Rose, each of them abused and kept prisoners in their own way. Nationalism, xenophobia, paedophilia and traumas are only some of the themes dealt in this book and Ava Reid did a magnificent job writing about them.
Juniper & Thorn balances romance and horror, magic and modernity, fairytales and reality in a very compelling way, capturing the readers’ heart since the beginning, using a writing style evocative and lush, skillfully timed plot twists and revelations and complex and thrilling characters.
Hello and welcome to my stop for “Anything but fine” by Tobias Madden. An huge thanks to Tbr and beyond tours for this chance and to the publisher for the earc!
Thank you NetGalley, Page Street Publishing and Page Street Kids, for the chance to read this book in exchange of an honest review.
TW: homomisia, islamophobia, grief, parental death (previous)
Luca Mason has everything planned. He’s going to be accepted into the Australian Ballet School and leave his private high school behind to become a ballet star. But when he falls down a flight of stairs and breaks his foot everything changes. His doctor tells him he will never be able to dance again, he loses his scholarship, he’s forced to transfer to a public high school, leaving all his previous life, ballet and friends included, behind. The only bright side in his new school is the friendship with the brilliant and nerdy Amina and his new crush, the apparently very straight school captain, Jordan Tanaka-Jones. While their bond become more and more stronger, Luca starts to ask himself who is he now, without ballet and what he will be.
Tobias Madden wrote a brilliant and deeply relatable story about a young man whose dreams are shattered and his heartbreak, rage and strength in moving on, in finding a new dream and path. Luca’s life rotated around ballet. His dreams, his friends, his scholarship and when a life-changing injury changes everything he’s forced to upturn his whole life, reacting in a pretty relatable way. His pushes away his ballet friends, couldn’t bear to listen to them talking about dancing and his old school and traditions, his own father, his old dreams to become a dancer. In a very realistic way for a teenager, Luca lashes out, he makes mistakes, he pushes people, loved ones, away, he obsesses over people who could hurt him, like his crush on a straight boy. Luca’s life is turned upside down and now he has to adjust to a new school, new friends, new possible heartbreaks, bullies, studying, exams and so much more and the way the author wrote about him is realistic, heartwrenching and so beautiful.
It was both moving and inspiring reading how Luca faces everything, every changes in his life with righteous anger and pain, but also finding the strength into making new friends and moving on, picking up the pieces, forging new paths, strengthening relationships, cutting abusive and cruel ones. This book was really inspiring and strong, I loved the author’s writing style and how, through Luca’s voice, I was able to understand his suffering and determination, his curiosity and love. I loved his relationship with the witty and funny Amina, with Jordan and, later, with Grace too and his bond with his father was really well written and moving, I loved how they understand, support and love one other, realzing their mistakes, apologizing and moving on.
Benji is a sixteen year old trans boy, on the run from the cult that raised him, a religious extremist sect that unleashed Armageddon and decimated the world’s population and infected him with a bioweapon. Desperate to find a place where they can’t find, hurt and use him. Benji is rescued by a group of teens from the local Acheson LGBTQ+ Center, known as the ALC. Its leader is Nick, gorgeous and autistic and he knows Benji’s darkest’s secret, that the bioweapon is turning him into a deadly monster. Rescued and sheltered, Benji decides to learn how to control the monster and use its power to defend his new family. Even if that means confronting the cult’s hate and power and escaping from it alive and free.
Hell followed with us is a magnificent and furious queer debut, about embracing your monster and fighting back against your oppressors, to be alive and free. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world, with destroyed cities, dead and/or mutated bodies, where the survivors are fighting to live, eat and be safe from the monsters, humans or not. Benji was raised by a fundamentalist cult, struggling with their hate and ideas, trying to get free and to live as a boy, when everyone in the cult wants him to be their savior girl, battling transphobia, deadnaming and violence from abusive parent and partner. When he’s rescued by the ALC, a ragtag group of queer teens, with different ideas, but who built a safe place for them, Benji starts to see another world, a chance to be himself and to find his own home, place and love.
The ALC is strongly opposed to the cult’s ideas and violence and there Benji starts to make friends, to find a new family and a place to survive and he will be willing to do anything to keep them all safe, even getting back to the lion’s den and destroy it from within. The worldbuilding created by the author is eerie and scary, filled with violence and surviving, monsters and mutations, virus and religious fanatism and religion used and abused to justify genocide and bigotry. the writing style, the prose is so vivid I could imagine everything so clearly and I absolutely loved how immersive and evocative the story was.
Benjii is a great main character, struggling with victim self-blaming, religious brainwashing and wanting to be free and himself. He’s stubborn, brilliant and filled with justified anger and the desire to destroy those who hurt and still threaten him. I loved his relationship with Nick and how they slowly start to understand, respect, protect and love one other in a very messy and violent situation. I’ve also loved the disability rep and how wonderfully written was Nick’s character. The extremism, the constant use of religion to justify hate and violence is strongly opposed by the ALC and by these wonderful queer kids, fighting back and resisting a world bent on destroying them, by loving and taking care of one other. The horror, grief, rage and hate are mixed with hope, found family and love in this awesome dystopian story.
The author wrote a book full of gore, fire and justified anger, about monsters who decide to fight back for themselves and their loved ones. A story about embracing yourself and the monster within and fighting against your oppressors, finding your own home and family.
Hell followed with us represent a cruel world and the amazing queer teens who fight to survive.
I’ve just finished reading this book by the Amazing Vanessa Len and it’s absolutely one of my favourite ever! It has everything I could have hoped for and more! Monsters pov, time travel, enemies to lovers, wonderful rep, twelve families with peculiar powers, heists… I loved everything! The worldbuilding is Amazing, so is the characterization, there’s a grumpy cinnamon rolls I’ve already adopted (Aaron❤️) and I loved how the author explored grief, family, morally grey characters in a fascinating and intriguing setting, full of twists And surprises, secrets, lies, enemies who are not enemies and lovers who are not lovers and so much more in this AWESOME book that left me breathless, shaking, crying and squealing all the time. It was so rare to feel so invested in a book.
I loved the references to Doctor who,Back to the future and Friends (I laughed so much when he talked about that hairstyle) and I couldn’t love this book and these characters more. I’m gonna hug it ASAP and I suggest to preorder it right away.
A monster anti hero pov, a peculiar squad and found family, mysterious powers, love and family set in a London you can’t help fall in love with…whenever that is 😏 I loved the vibes, the adventures, the everything and how this book filled me and wrecked me at the same time.
First of all a huge thank you to Jordon Greene for the amazing ARC and the chance to read and review one of my most anticipated books of 2022!
Skylar Gray is adopted, nonverbal and he feels most comfortable in skirts and dresses. His life wasn’t easy, he was bullied and abused, he doesn’t trust easily and he’s scared to be seen as defective, a burden, to be unable to find family and friends. Now, living with new parents, going in a new school and in a different state, Skylar is a bit more hopeful things will get better for him. His life and feelings are complicated when he meets Jacob, with his white hair and gorgeous eyes, who is as anxious and nervous as he is.
Jacob’s life isn’t easy, either, since he came out over the summer, receiving his homophobic father’s hate and disgust, struggling to live in his own family and trying to live his life as freely as possible, even though painting his nails and dyeing his hair mean getting grounded every time. When Skylar wearing skirts prompts his father to propose a sexist dress code, Jacob refuses to remain silent and decides to take a stand.
I LOVED reading Every word you never said. The story is absolutely fantastic, very sweet and with care and sensivity the author deals with many important themes, like homophobia, ableism, bullying, sexism, abuse and so much more. Told by two POVs, Skylar’s and Jacob’s, with wonderful drawings of the boys at the beginning of their chapters, it’s impossible not to be involved in this story, to love these characters, who are so realistic, relatable, brimming with feelings, so alive and complex. Skylar’s life wasn’t easy, he’s been through so much, he struggles to trust, to see himself as his new parents and new friends see him, to let himself go and trust he’s loved and cared for. His new friends, Imani and Seth are amazing, supportive and really brilliant. I loved reading their interactions, Imani’s loud voice and Seth’s quiet presence, their unconditional love and support. I also loved reading Skylar’s interactions with his new parents, who love him right away, supporting his decision to wear what he wants, to use makeup, to do whatever he’s comfortable with.
On the other side, Jacob is struggling with his coming out and the hate from his father, against his homophobic and sexist ideas, against his obsession for the church and the use of religion to support his ideas and hate speech. When he starts to feel something for the new student and when Skylar is threatened by the new dress code, Jacob is determined to take a stand and to fight for what is right.
I loved how the author talked about their relationship, between cute and sweet moments, sexual tension, romantic dates, but, also, doubts, anxiety problems, frustrations, it was really relatable and skillfully written. I also loved how the author addresses Skylar’s disability, how he, sometimes, struggles with it and with the difficulty of being understood through sign language, reading lips, or having to use his phone to communicate, but also with how, with Jacob, his friends and parents, Skylar uses other languages, the body’s, eyes’ expressions, movements and so on, to communicate. It was my first read with a nonverbal main character and I loved everything (mostly because I’m trying to learn sign language, so I was interested in that, too). I loved Skylar’s and Jacob’s relationship, how they help, support and love one other, between music and books, dates and friends.
I loved Jacob’s and Skylar’s friends, how they joke and are supportive, how they are willing to do the right things and support them. I loved how the author addresses important issues in this book and, through the new sexist dress code, how, even now, people struggle to understand that clothes, makeup and so on, have no gender, how is, basically, through and because of some culture that dresses or skirts are seen are feminine and associated to a certain sexual orientation, giving bullies their ammutions to attack and hurt people. This could open, and it should, a discussion about gender and clothes, but I think it’s better to finish my review, without writing a poem.
I loved Every Word You Never Said. The characterization is brilliant, the writing style was immersive and evocative, I loved reading about Skylar and Jacob, their struggles and ideas, their pains and traumas, but, also, their love and friendships and how they learn to fight to be themselves and to be together. I loved everything.
Hello and welcome to my stop for The Night When No One Had Sex by Kalena Miller Book tour! Thank you, TBR and Beyond Tours, for this opportunity!
When Julia and her friends make a sex pact, involving a secluded cabin in the woods, no parental supervision and condoms, they expect to have a fun night, but nothing goes as planned. Alex’s grandmother is undergoing emergency surgery and his date, a girl he barely knows, decides to keep him and his family company, Zoe is struggling with her college decisions, Morgan, her girlfriend, is obsessive about her twin Madison, who has a chronic illness and who only wants to live without fear and like a normal teenager with her boyfriend and Kevin and Julia are trying to have sex, but she ends up locked in a closet. So, what about having the sex pact?
I loved reading The Night When No One Had Sex! It’s funny, it portrays realistic relationships, between siblings, friends and lovers, common teen fears and doubts and it’s really sex-positive. The story is hilarious, told by different POVs and their funny and brilliant group chat, while they navigate this disastrous night, their relationships with one other, fears, doubts, desires and strong bonds, family’s issues and pressures. The characterization is brilliant, they are complex and relatable, funny and moving, their interactions well written and realistic in their intricicacies and dramas and desires. Zoe with her doubts and her strong relationship with Morgan, who is supportive and a bit obsessive, Madison, who is struggling with her disease and desires, Julia and Kevin and their strong bond, made of laugh, understanding and love, Alex with his family’s problems, his relationship with his parents and grandmother and they navigate their own problems, expectations and unexptected problems on their prom night.
The story is really good, hilarious, sometimes moving and utterly amazing. I totally recommend this book to those who wants to enjoy a funny book, well written characters and plot.
And there is also a Demon Cat in this story, so what are you waiting for?
Today 1.33 AM: Julia named the conversation “ALL CATS ARE EVIL”
“For the love of pancakes?”
“Wait, is Julia still in the closet?” I ask.
“Julia is STILL in the closet” a very agitated Julia yells from behind the door.
If she sees me and Leah together, she’ll have our entire wedding planned before she gets off bed rest.
It’s the end of an era.
I don’t want Demon Cat to launch itself at my face and claw me to death. The idea of kidnapping scares me, but cat mauling is the kind of stuff I had nighmares about.
“My point is I’m all in. And I’m pretty sure you are too.”
“I definitely am.” I squeeze Kevin’s fingers.
Kalena Miller grew up in College Station, TX with her mom, dad, and the most photographed hamster in history. After high school, she moved a thousand miles north to attend Carleton College, where she graduated summa cum laude with a BA in Religious Studies. After a brief stint working as a paraeducator in Seattle, Kalena decided she missed school too much, so she spent the next two years pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Hamline University. Kalena currently lives in Hopkins, Minnesota with her husband, Kenny, and Toy Australian Shepherd, Toshley. She writes middle grade and young adult fiction and co-authors narrative nonfiction with her mom, Kathy Miller (check out her website here). She loves books that make her laugh and make her cry, preferably at the same time, and she firmly believes all quality novels should feature a cat.
“Mystical, magical, and wildly original…If Alice Hoffman and Sara Addison Allen had a witchy love child, she would be Paige Crutcher. Do not miss this beautifully realized debut!”— JT Ellison, New York Times bestselling author of Her Dark Lies on The Orphan Witch.
A deeper magic. A stronger curse. A family lost…and found.
Persephone May has been alone her entire life. Abandoned as an infant and dragged through the foster care system, she wants nothing more than to belong somewhere. To someone. However, Persephone is as strange as she is lonely. Unexplainable things happen when she’s around—changes in weather, inanimate objects taking flight—and those who seek to bring her into their family quickly cast her out. To cope, she never gets attached, never makes friends. And she certainly never dates. Working odd jobs and always keeping her suitcases half-packed, Persephone is used to moving around, leaving one town for another when curiosity over her eccentric behavior inevitably draws unwanted attention.
After an accidental and very public display of power, Persephone knows it’s time to move on once again. It’s lucky, then, when she receives an email from the one friend she’s managed to keep, inviting her to the elusive Wile Isle. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. However, upon arrival, Persephone quickly discovers that Wile is no ordinary island. In fact, it just might hold the very things she’s been searching for her entire life.
Answers. Family. Home.
And some things she did not want. Like 100-year-old curses and an even older family feud. With the clock running out, love might be the magic that saves them all.
Thank you so much, NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and St. Martin’s Griffin, for the chance to read and review this book in exchange of an honest review.
Persephone May has been always alone. Abandoned as infant, grown up in foster care, strange things happen when she’s around, weather changes, things take flight and so on. So Persephone, to protect her heart and feelings, decides not to get attached, not to make friends or to date anyone, always ready to move from town to town. After another scary and accidental display of power, she’s ready to move again and she, luckily, gets a letter from the only friend she’s managed to get: Hyacinth, inviting her on Wile Isle. The timing is perfect, but as soon as she arrives Persephone understands the island isn’t an ordinary one. She can feel its power and mystery and Hyacinth and her sister Moira will open a brand new world for her, making her feel at home, accepted, loved and protected. But answers and family come with a price and Persephone finds herself involved into a 100-hundred-year-old curse, family feud, a Library of the Lost, a rude and fascinating librarian and, maybe, a way to save them all.
I really loved reading The orphan witch. It’s a brilliant fantasty story, captivating, the plot full of twists, secrets and discoveries and Persephone is a wonderful main character. She’s very realistic in her longing, pain and desires. She wants to belong to somewhere, to someone, she’s looking for answers about her past and family, finding more she was looking for, involved in a world full of magic, curses and so on. Persephone is dragged in a complex and scary reality, where she discovers her powers, where she belongs and her role in everything. The setting(s) are truly mystical and enchanting…and enchanted, too. The island is beautiful, rich and evocative and its description made me feel like I was there with Persephone, discovering it slowly, smelling the flowers and the sea, the herbs, learning magic and connections, falling in love and so much more. On the other side the library is another captivating setting, with the rude and mysterious Dorian, books and secrets, voices and clues, scattered everywhere.
If the setting is evocative and intense, so the characters. As I’ve already written, Persephone is brilliant and a very relatable character. She’s also brave and stubborn and she’s, as she will discover in time, surrounded by love and bonds. Except for Dorian, the book presents only female characters, wonderfully complex and intricate in their feelings, emotions, past traumas, connections and mistakes. The jovial Hyacinth and her struggles and pain, the strong and stubborn Moira, hiding her past and losses behind a facade, the mysterious and elusive Ariel and Ellison, the witches Amara and True, who started everything years and years ago. The side characters, as the main one, are brilliantly written, very relatable in their actions and feelings. The writing style is captivating, it was impossible not to feel Persephone’s feelings and longing, her desires and fears, her dreams, to be involved in her adventure, following her discovering herself, her strength, her family and her love. It’s an intense and magical fantasy with romance, action and sisterhood.
The orphan witch is a book about family and bonds, about belong to somewhere and someone, the sacrifices one would do for love and the right things, about being brave. It’s a wonderful, evocative, sometimes sad and others funny, fantasy story about sisterhood and love, action and magic, family and curses to be broken.
Paige Crutcher is a former Southern Correspondent for Publishers Weekly, an artist and yogi, and co-owner of the online marketing company Hatchery.
Olivia Prior has grown up in Merilance School for girls, and all she has of her past is her mother’s journal—which seems to unravel into madness. Then, a letter invites Olivia to come home—to Gallant. Yet when Olivia arrives, no one is expecting her. But Olivia is not about to leave the first place that feels like home, it doesn’t matter if her cousin Matthew is hostile or if she sees half-formed ghouls haunting the hallways.
Olivia knows that Gallant is hiding secrets, and she is determined to uncover them. When she crosses a ruined wall at just the right moment, Olivia finds herself in a place that is Gallant—but not. The manor is crumbling, the ghouls are solid, and a mysterious figure rules over all. Now Olivia sees what has unraveled generations of her family, and where her father may have come from.
Olivia has always wanted to belong somewhere, but will she take her place as a Prior, protecting our world against the Master of the House? Or will she take her place beside him?
New York Times bestselling author Victoria Schwab crafts a vivid and lush novel that grapples with the demons that are often locked behind closed doors. An eerie, standalone saga about life, death, and the young woman beckoned by both. Readers of Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Melissa Albert, and Garth Nix will quickly lose themselves in this novel with crossover appeal for all ages.
A huge thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for the chance to read and review one of my most anticipated reads in 2022! I cried when I saw this! I love everything Victoria Schwab writes and this book is absolutely fantastic!
TW: bullying, murder
The secret garden meets Crimson Peak and Coraline in Victoria Schwab’s new standalone, a brilliant and lush story told by the main character Olivia, in her journey to belong somewhere and to find her family and place in the world.
“Home is a choice”
Olivia Prior has grown up in Merilance School for girls, she can’t speak and the only thing she has of her family is her mother’s journal, words she committed to memory, trying to understand and know her, even when words unravel into madness. When a letter invites Olivia to come home, to Gallant she accepts right away, hoping to find her own family. There, though, no one is expecting her, no one wrote the letter, her cousin Matthew is hostile and the house is haunted by half-formed ghouls. But Olivia had always seen ghouls and she doesn’t want to leave the first place she feels like home and she’s ready to unravel every secret of the house. Crossing a mysterious and ruined wall brings her to another Gallant, a place haunted by solid ghouls, a place crumbling and ruined, a world where Death rules and Olivia has to take a stand against it, while learning to belong finally somewhere.
Gallant is absolutely amazing, a story about life and death, shadows and demons and a young woman beckoned by both worlds. It’s a story about belonging, family and struggling to find one’s place in the world, a dark fairytale. Victoria Schwab’s writing style and creativity are, like always, amazing and I couldn’t stop reading this book, I was hooked since the first page. It’s haunting, beautiful, moving and heartwrenching and filled my heart with longing, love and hope.
Gallant is told by Olivia, who is a magnificent main character, brilliant and stubborn. She lived almost all her life in Merilance, in a place where she wasn’t able to belong, bullied because she can’t speak, hurt and ignored, but still full of resiliance, strength and determination. Almost like in a fairytale, where the orphan gets a letter from a lost family member, beckoning her home, Olivia follows the letter, that brings her in a place that seems to her like a paradise, where she can finally know more about her family, what happened to them, how they were and to belong somewhere. But Gallant is full of secrets, losses and risks and Olivia has to prepare to defend it and its inhabitants from the dark forces.
The plot is brilliantly written, full of twists and it’s a character driven one, beginning with a lost and curious Olivia and ending with a stronger main character, more confident and conscious of herself and her family’s history. The story is intertwined with entries from Olivia’s mother’s journal and with eerie and peculiar drawings and, with Olivia, the reader follows them, trying to understand them. I loved the setting, how Olivia went from the grays in Merilance to the colours in Gallant, with flowers and grass and sunshine and how strongly the two Gallants differed from one other, the first luminous, even though filled with few inhabitants, but full of memories and losses, the one in the shadow world eerie, gray and lost. I think it was peculiar how Olivia was attracted by colours, in the outside world, in her clothes’ choices, shedding the grays of Merilance, fighting against the world beyond the wall and its Master.
If Olivia is the main character of Gallant, her mother’s words “haunts” her and the whole story, woven together, swinging from past to present, helping her and the reader piecing all the parts, in a moving and heartwrenching story of love, loss, sacrifice and bond. It’s almost like we have two stories, Olivia’s and her mother’s, past and present intertwining and living side by side. The side characters are also skillfully written, Matthew with his losses and sacrifices and anger, Hannah and Edgar in their stubborness and ways of protecting themselves and the Priors and they represent something for Matthew and Olivia: a home, a family, people ready to fight for them.
It’s a story about love, loss and sacrifice, about belonging somewhere and to someone and the strength in resisting one’s own shadows, nightmares and bad thoughts. I loved the book’s message, about strength and resiliance and the importance of holding on, keep fighting against all kind of shadows, reals and in our minds.
First of all, I wanted to thank the publisher and Edelweiss, for the chance to read and review this book in exchange of an honest review.
Dark Rise is the first book of the new epic fantasy series by C.S. Pacat and it was one of my most anticipated read in 2021. I loved reading Captive Prince and Fence and I was so happy when the publisher sent me the earc!
Once upon a time there was an ancient and magical world, but not its heroes are dead, the great battles between Light and Dark are forgotten and only the Stewards remember the ancient time, protecting their memories, keeping their vigil and swearing to protect humanity if the Dark King ever returns. In London, Will Kempen is sixteen years old, he’s on the run and he’s escaping the men who killed his mother, without knowing why and who are they, when an old servant finds him and tells him his destiny is to find the Stewards and fight beside them. Finding himself involved in a battle against Light and Dark, magic and power, with a peculiar ally in the almost stranger Violet, Will has to train and play the role of the Chosen One against villains, violence and death. In a complex world made of reborn heroes and villains, past and present intertwined, magic and pawns, Will and Violet are the main characters in a fight between light and darkness, for themselves, their world and future, between love and hate, destiny and reality.
I loved reading Dark Rise! The worldbuilding is fascinating and complex, set in the Victorian London mixing knights, magic, powers, loves, deaths, allies and enemies, in a battle between light and darkness, good and bad. The Hall, the Stewards, the magic…everything was so intriguing and captivating, the plot full of twists, characters and amazing descriptions it felt like I was there with them.
The story is told by Will and Violet’s POVs and they are wonderfully complex characters, in their intricacies, with their traumas, doubts, fears and desires. Both of them find themselves in a strange and ancient world, in a battle fought in the past and that still threatens their future and everything they love. Will and Violet find each other by chance, fitting right away allies and then as friends, helping and supporting each other in a beautiful relationship, supporting one other in their battles, intrigues and discoveries.
One thing I noticed is how every character fits the role in the epic fantasy. The Chosen one, the villain, the helper, the love, the interest, some right away, others struggling with it and I loved them all. Even though we just get few glimpses of James, his character is complex and intriguing and I loved how he and Will face each other, feeling attraction, desire and curiosity, in their roles and fight of light and darkness. At first I didn’t like how they fit their roles, because I was scared they would have been to stereotypical, but I was impressed by how wrong I was. Nothing is how it appears at first glance, nothing is fixed and the story and its characters are evolving, changing, twisting, with new secrets, plot twists and so many surprises I was left breahtless. Nothing is like it appears and I had so many theories, some good, some outlandish and the story is incredible, because it keeps me on my toes. The pacing is good and it feels like it’s the first book, since the author is laying down the beginning of the story, with the history and descriptions, so some part appears more slower than the others, but in the end the book is brilliant, captivating and I can’t wait to know more.
I totally recommend this book! It’s impossible not to love and cheer on Will and Violet, to be intrigued by James and their fight, to be fascinated by the ancient world and magic!
The author of The Gravity of Us crafts another heartfelt coming-of-age story about finding the people who become your home–perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli
Marty arrives in London with nothing but his oboe and some savings from his summer job, but he’s excited to start his new life–where he’s no longer the closeted, shy kid who slips under the radar and is free to explore his sexuality without his parents’ disapproval.
From the outside, Marty’s life looks like a perfect fantasy: in the span of a few weeks, he’s made new friends, he’s getting closer with his first ever boyfriend, and he’s even traveling around Europe. But Marty knows he can’t keep up the facade. He hasn’t spoken to his parents since he arrived, he’s tearing through his meager savings, his homesickness and anxiety are getting worse and worse, and he hasn’t even come close to landing the job of his dreams. Will Marty be able to find a place that feels like home?
Thank you so much, Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books and Bloomsbury YA, for the chance to read and review one of my most anticipated reads of 2021.
Marty is seventeen, when he decides to leave his own home in Kentucky, where he feels unwelcomed and trapped as a gay young man and to move to London. With his meager savings, his oboe and the support of his cousin Shane, Marty is determined to live his life, not longer closeted, exploring his sexuality, without his parents’ disapproval, making new friends and finding new opportunities. But even though in a few weeks he’s made new friends, travelled around Europe and, maybe, he’s also gotten his first boyfriend, he hasn’t spoken with his parents in a long time, his anxiety and homesickness are becoming worse and worse and he doesn’t know how to financially support himself, without managing to find a job, his dream job. Will Marty be able to find his own home?
As far as you’ll take me is the kind of book that makes you cry, laugh and clap your hands at the same time. It’s a wonderful story about finding your own home and family, your own people, becoming stronger and more confident, an intense coming-of-age story, with a main character so relatable it’s impossible not to love him. There are so many things I loved about this book. The writing style is brilliant and it made me feel so connected with Marty, the characterization is so good and the way Phil Stamper wrote the story it felt like I was there with them.
The author dealt skillfully with important themes such anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorder (the beginning of one), abusive relationships and the strength in realizing the truth about them and self-preservating oneself. With sensivity and care, Phil Stamper talks difficult relationships, between sibling, parents and son, friends and boyfriends, in a very realistic way, with their fights and misunderstanding, but also withthe hope of changing something for the better. This is the kind of book that, in the end, leaves you drained, but in a very good way.
The story is divided in two, swinging between Marty during this summer in London and a diary assignment he had to do for his school, set in the last summer. Chapters after chapters the reader is able to know what happened last summer, what pushed Marty to lie to this parents and move to London, what gave him the last push and strength and to follow Marty in his time in London, between music, art and new friends.
Marty is an incredible main character and I felt so connected with him, with his anxiety, fears and attacks and his mental health. He’s strong, stubborn and it was amazing reading how much he changed and grew and realized things during this book. I loved seeing him pushing himself, finding new friends, trying new things, being more confident and sure of himself and his talent. I followed him falling, making mistakes, realizing them, growing up and I’m so incredibly proud of him.
The characterization is brilliant. Not only the main character is relatable and so lifelike, but all the characters, main and side ones, are amazingly written and their relationships so true and realistic, with their feelings of envy, jealousy, resentment, love, affection and so on. Exactly what you would find in a group of teenagers. I really enjoyed reading the parts about music and art and their importance. Above all I loved reading about the relationships and their complexities, like Marty’s bond with Shane, who is a wonderful and supportive cousin, his friendship with Sophie, Dani and the others. Marty is surrounded by great friends, with their own intricacies and problems, tensions, hopes and dreams. I absolutely love Shane and his relationship with Marty, he’s such an amazing character.
The trope of found family is one of my favourite ever. I love the idea of finding your own people and home, a place where you can be accepted and loved, even though your biological family doesn’t get you. I loved the way Marty was able to find his place and people, his home and the courage and strength of cutting away those who were hurting him.. It takes great strength and the way the author wrote this part was heartwrenching and so true.
I was really impressed by this book and I saw myself so much in this story, about abusive friendship, the struggle with anxiety and his lists and being able to function every day and the importance of support, help and healing.
I totally recommend this book to…basically everyone! It’s such a wonderful and intense story, with friendships, love, found family, the courage of being oneself and to find your own home and people. It filled me with so much warmth and joy!
The author was so amazing to create a blogger interview form, so here’s my Q&A!!!!
Where did you get the inspiration for As far as you’ll take me?
I took a lot of inspiration from my own life while writing As Far As You’ll Take Me, which is why it’s such a personal story to me. As a queer teen, I always felt like I needed to escape my conservative rural village, and I was able to do that in college, studying music, falling into a group of wonderful and accepting friends who became family.
But even though I could finally be myself for the first time, I really had to come to terms with my anxiety, I fell in love with the wrong guys, and I struggled with a ton of body image issues. I lived in London for a while, which is what inspired the setting. So, putting all of that together, I was able to fictionalize a lot of my own experiences and bring them into the dazzling environment in London and across various European travels.
What advices would you give to aspirant writers?
I’d say my main advice is to keep trying. Focus more on the process of writing than on one specific book. The market’s always moving, and things are so subjective. I know every time I write a book, I get the feeling that that is my best work. But as soon as I put my soul into another piece, I realize it’s not true. So keep improving your craft. Keep trying out new stories. Write what comes naturally to you, even write what doesn’t. Try a bit of everything, really.
I received 92 total rejections from agents between two books, and 84 rejections from editors between three books. (And I’ll likely have plenty more rejections in my future!) This industry is not kind to its artists—even the nicest rejections hurt, bad. But I think you grow so much with each rejection and with each new story, that as long as you keep trying, one day it will turn around. Just know that for every supposed “overnight success” there’s usually years of frustration leading up to it that we never hear much about. Know you’re not alone, and stick with your writer friends—they’ll get you through the worst of it!
Could you tell me five random things about you?
Whew, I’m always bad at this, but let’s try: 1) I’m a classical pianist and studied music in college, 2) After I graduated from college, I moved into my friend’s walk-in closet in D.C. while trying to find my first job, 3) I used to have a blue truck named “Rio”—this is a character name in As Far As You’ll Take Me, but there’s no relation other than that I like the name, 4) I don’t collect cassettes, like Cal does in The Gravity of Us, but I do collect a lot of retro stuff: old magazines, retro video game systems, and records. I really got to explore my own feelings about nostalgia while writing that book, and 5) I put Frank’s Red Hot sauce on pretty much everything.
Phil Stamper grew up in a rural village near Dayton, Ohio. While it could be seen as a boring lifestyle to some, he kept himself entertained through playing the piano and writing stories that stretched his imagination. He has a B.A. in Music from the University of Dayton and an M.A. in Publishing with Creative Writing from Kingston University. And, unsurprisingly, a lot of student debt.
When he first left his home state, he landed in Washington, DC with no job prospects, $800 in graduation money, and the promise of a walk-in closet to live in. Not long after—and he’s not totally sure how—he was jumping headfirst into a career in non-profit PR and sleeping in a real bed. He loved writing for a living, even if he was writing press releases and news stories… and hundreds of emails to annoyed journalists. But after a while, the dry writing started to get to him, so he thought he’d finally work on that book he always wanted to write…
Years later, with a new degree and two new cities under his belt, he works in publishing development for a major book publisher in New York City. He lives in Brooklyn with his husband and their dog. That book he always wanted to write never sold, and neither did the second or third. But at the intersection of hard work, talent, and luck, his bestselling debut novel, The Gravity of Us, was first published by Bloomsbury YA in February 2020. His sophomore novel, As Far As You’ll Take Me, comes out February 2021.