Review: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

5 stars (I loved it).

Like The Hate U Give, this book centered on a fully realized character and her choices. Like The Hate U Give, it handles racial issues with grace and power and authenticity. Like The Hate U Give, the moment when the main character truly finds out who she is and what she needs to stand for, it’s explosive.

You should absolutely read it.

That said, be prepared for a main character who isn’t as easy to like as Starr was. She’s flawed and stubborn and complex, and that’s a lot of what I liked about her, but you should be prepared going in for a story that is less . . . I don’t know if “heartwarming” is the right word for The Hate U Give, but you get the idea.

Angie Thomas, though . . . she’s a force. I am blown away by her phenomenal talent. And once again, I was blown away by Bahni Turpin’s narration.

(Do note that, once again, there’s a fair amount of swearing.)

Children of Blood and Bone

4 stars (I really liked it).

Children of Blood and Bone cover (link to Goodreads)

If you haven’t heard of this book, you haven’t been paying attention to book hype the last few years. As a west-African-based fantasy about systemic oppression, it is an important book, a book that is doing what few other books are. And for the most part, it does it well. The plot clips along at a good pace, the writing is strong, the conflict is compelling. I had issues with the romance, though I might come around to it in a sequel or two . . .

For me personally, it was a bit dark and violent. But lots of people like dark, and I’m not opposed to it in small doses (like, reading one book but not diving immediately into the sequel, for example). I’d probably recommend this to older YA readers and adults for this reason.

I listened to the audiobook, and Bahni Turpin is as amazing in this as she is in The Hate U Give. Her versatility is unbelievable.

Review: Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus

4 stars (I really liked it).

Two Can Keep a Secret cover (link to Goodreads)

This book has kind of mediocre reviews on Goodreads, but here’s the thing: if this had been McManus’s debut rather than following One of Us Is Lying, I don’t think anyone would have a problem with it. It’s just that McManus’s first book is so brilliant and expectations were sky high that this one felt like a letdown. And yeah, it’s not as good. But it certainly isn’t *bad.* It’s even above average, in my opinion. It’s twisty and romantic and compelling.

I liked the characters. I especially liked Ellery’s relationship with her mother. So if you want a fun YA mystery, I recommend this one. Don’t expect the moon and you’ll like it just fine.

Review: Giftchild by Janci Patterson

5 stars: It was amazing!

Giftchild cover (link to Goodreads)

Background: When we were in college, Janci and I were in a writing group together briefly. I knew as soon as I read her writing that she was going to be published someday, and I was right! Her debut is good, so maybe you’ll like it too (Chasing the Skip). Just don’t expect a romance.

I’ve been reading Janci’s books ever since. I got this one for Christmas 2017, but since I rarely have time to sit and read, I hadn’t picked it up yet. When I finally had a sick day, I burned through the whole book in less than 24 hours. I was completely hooked. I mean, this character is a MESS. She’s a teen, and she makes VERY BAD DECISIONS for what she thinks are VERY GOOD REASONS, and reading it felt a bit like watching a train wreck, but I couldn’t look away. It was utterly gripping and heartbreaking and deep. My favorite Janci book to date, in other words.

Do note that the main character’s goal is to get pregnant, which obviously involves sex, but it’s not shown on the page.

Review: Mirage by Somaiya Daud

4 stars: I really liked it.

Mirage cover (link to Goodreads)

This book surprised me. In some ways it feels familiar (court intrigue, forbidden romance, evil empire vs. rebellion), what’s really great about it is what it says about colonialism (the setting is based on historical Morocco) and the complex characters who fill the two starring roles. Maram is the cold, cruel princess, and Amani is her slave/body double. Despite the princess, the balls, etc., this is actually a space opera, not a fantasy. The story sizzles as Maram and Amani get gradually more familiar with one another and realize that things are not as simple as they seemed at first. The romance beween Maram and Amani’s fiance is well done also. I enjoyed the difficult decisions Amani was forced to make over the course of the book and the way the book made me think. Recommended.