Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala

Disclaimer: I received this audiobook from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Be Dazzled

Author: Ryan La Sala

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: Gay MC, m/m relationship

Recommended For…: contemporary readers, ya readers, LGBT+

Publication Date: January 5, 2021

Genre: YA Contemporary

Recommended Age: 16+ (language, drug usage, alcohol mention, sexual content, and slight gore for cosplay)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Pages: 336

Synopsis: Who’s ready to sparkle??

Project Runway goes to Comic Con in an epic queer love story about creativity, passion, and finding the courage to be your most authentic self.

Raffy has a passion for bedazzling. Not just bedazzling, but sewing, stitching, draping, pattern making–for creation. He’s always chosen his art over everything–and everyone–else and is determined to make his mark at this year’s biggest cosplay competition. If he can wow there, it could lead to sponsorship, then art school, and finally earning real respect for his work. There’s only one small problem… Raffy’s ex-boyfriend, Luca, is his main competition.

Raffy tried to make it work with Luca. They almost made the perfect team last year after serendipitously meeting in the rhinestone aisle at the local craft store–or at least Raffy thought they did. But Luca’s insecurities and Raffy’s insistence on crafting perfection caused their relationship to crash and burn. Now, Raffy is after the perfect comeback, one that Luca can’t ruin.

But when Raffy is forced to partner with Luca on his most ambitious build yet, he’ll have to juggle unresolved feelings for the boy who broke his heart, and his own intense self-doubt, to get everything he’s ever wanted: choosing his art, his way.

Review: I really like this book. I thought that the concept would be a bit tropey, but I am so glad that I was wrong. The two main characters were not at all enemies to lovers or vengeful x or anything like that, they felt like real people in the book. They had their tips and everything but the whole book didn’t dwell on those little tips, but rather their relationship as a whole. I thought that the characters were wonderfully well developed and the world building was amazing. I really liked the concept of the book and that it takes place during conventions and with cosplay, something that I don’t see a lot in books. I also thought that the book was wonderfully well written and the audiobook narrator did a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life.

the only thing that I really had an issue with was the way that the story was told. I really did like how the story was told for the most part, and that the book is told in this back and forth between the now and the then. But the story got a little bit metal towards the end, and I wish that the author took the last two chapters of the then and combine them into one big chapter and then left the last two chapters of the now complete. But the book is very poetic in that sense because while you’re seeing the relationship fall apart in the then you are seeing it come back together in the now and there’s something that’s just epically poetic about this and I am so happy that I got to listen to this book. I highly recommend this book if you’re interested in cosplay or if you’re looking for those one of the million best ya romance contemporary books.

Verdict: Highly recommend!

Into The Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth Meyer

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Into The Heartless Wood

Author: Joanna Ruth Meyer

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 2/5

Recommended For…: fantasy lovers, retelling readers, ya readers

Publication Date: January 12, 2021

Genre: YA Retelling

Recommended Age: can’t recommend, DNFed

Publisher: Page Street Kids

Pages: 368

Synopsis: The forest is a dangerous place, where siren song lures men and women to their deaths. For centuries, a witch has harvested souls to feed the heartless tree, using its power to grow her domain.

When Owen Merrick is lured into the witch’s wood, one of her tree-siren daughters, Seren, saves his life instead of ending it. Every night, he climbs over the garden wall to see her, and every night her longing to become human deepens. But a shift in the stars foretells a dangerous curse, and Seren’s quest to become human will lead them into an ancient war raging between the witch and the king who is trying to stop her.

Review: I DNFed at 16% in. While the story seemed pretty good, it was really confusing to read. The writing was kind of all over the place. The writing also feels so middle grade when it’s adult and I feel like it’s luring kids into reading stuff above what they might be comfortable doing. The character development and world building was also hit and miss.

Verdict: It was a weird book.

Fractured by Shay Siegel

Disclaimer: I received an arc from the author. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Fractured

Author: Shay Siegel

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5

Recommended For…: contemporary readers

Publication Date: October 27, 2020

Genre: YA Contemporary

Recommended Age: 17+ (attempted rape, sexual assault, self harm, depression, toxic masculinity, upsetting female representation)

Publisher: Indie Published

Pages: 290

Synopsis: Mason Vance is the guy everybody wants to be, and he knows it. He’s the best high school quarterback in New York, a shoo-in for a football scholarship at any school he chooses, and he’s expected to land in the NFL one day. That is, until a broken wrist leaves him fearing whether he’ll ever play again.

Desperate to save his damaged ego, Mason sets his sights on Lace. No cheerleader or homecoming queen like his usual type, she’s too wrapped in her own misery to fall for his pickup lines. Even though she tries to shut him out, she’s surprised to find he’s there for her when no one else is. Slowly, she lets him into the sad workings of her mind and less-than-perfect life, and Mason finds himself caring about Lace more than he’d ever thought possible. That’s why neither of them sees his huge mistake coming—one that instantly fractures everything between them.

Will Mason confront the ugliest side of himself, and in the process see who he’s capable of becoming, or will he fall back into the life he knew before Lace and his injury?

Review: Overall, I thought the book was ok. The book covered a lot of hard topics and while it did so in a pretty good manner, it is still a bit of a difficult read. The book had some good character development with some of the side characters and the world building was good as well.

However, the story was really bad. The book is from the viewpoint of the main character and while I understand why the author wrote the story in such a degrading manner, it’s still really concerning for me that most of the time Mason doesn’t change his stance on his positions. I also don’t believe that the main character, who supposed to be a high schooler, doesn’t know what sexual assault is or what rape is. This isn’t something you teach a 16 year old. This isn’t something you teach 16 year olds. This is something you teach small children. Mason also had a pity party through most of the book. I feel like he was sad about himself having sexually assaulted women more than he should have been sad for the women he sexually assaulted. I don’t feel like he learned that doing those actions leaves real victims with everlasting scars. Overall, the book left me feeling kinda icky but I can see the message the author meant to leave behind.

Verdict: It’s okay for me, but please don’t read if you have triggers with any listed above.

The Remaking by Clay McLeod Chapman

Disclaimer: I received this arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: The Remaking

Author: Clay McLeod Chapman

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 1/5

Recommended For…: horror fans

Publication Date: September 15, 2020

Genre: Horror

Recommended Age: Can’t recommend, DNFed

Publisher: Quirk Books

Pages: 305

Synopsis: Ella Louise has lived in the woods surrounding Pilot’s Creek, Virginia, for nearly a decade. Publicly, she and her daughter Jessica are shunned by their upper-crust family and the Pilot’s Creek residents. Privately, desperate townspeople visit her apothecary for a cure to what ails them—until Ella Louise is blamed for the death of a prominent customer. Accused of witchcraft, both mother and daughter are burned at the stake in the middle of the night. Ella Louise’s burial site is never found, but the little girl has the most famous grave in the South: a steel-reinforced coffin surrounded by a fence of interconnected white crosses.

Their story will take the shape of an urban legend as it’s told around a campfire by a man forever marked by his boyhood encounters with Jessica. Decades later, a boy at that campfire will cast Amber Pendleton as Jessica in a ’70s horror movie inspired by the Witch Girl of Pilot’s Creek. Amber’s experiences on that set and its meta-remake in the ’90s will ripple through pop culture, ruining her life and career after she becomes the target of a witch hunt. Amber’s best chance to break the cycle of horror comes when a true-crime investigator tracks her down to interview her for his popular podcast. But will this final act of storytelling redeem her—or will it bring the story full circle, ready to be told once again? And again. And again…

Review: Had to DNF at 204 pages. It’s an ok book but I became quickly bored with it after the shift from Amber to adulthood. The scariness toned down significantly and it left me with repeating dialogue and slow pacing. The book has different paving throughout it and not well developed characters. The world is also not adequately developed and it’s just not for me.

Verdict: Not for me and needs more work.

Lore by Alexandra Bracken

Disclaimer: I received the e-arc from the publisher and then bought my own copy. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Lore

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 1/5

Diversity: one gay side character by the time I DNFed

Recommended For…: Greek Mythology lovers

Publication Date: January 5, 2021

Genre: YA Fantasy

Recommended Age: can’t recommend, DNFed

Publisher: Hyperion

Pages: 480

Synopsis: Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality.
Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family’s sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt’s promises of eternal glory. For years she’s pushed away any thought of revenge against the man–now a god–responsible for their deaths.

Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods.

The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore’s decision to bind her fate to Athena’s and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost–and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.

Review: I DNFed this read at 134 pages. I really like the concept of it, but Alexandra Bracken basically drops you into the middle of a story and 134 pages in and I’m still so lost and confused about what’s going on. The characters aren’t developed, the book expects you to know the backstory and to have read the blurb before you read it, the timeline and world building are disastrous, and the whole thing is just so cluttered. If you didn’t have any knowledge of Greek Gods you’d be utterly confused throughout the book and even with my basic knowledge I’m still very lost. The author didn’t take the time to set up anything in the book, we hit the ground running from page 1. I feel like I’m reading the rough draft of this book while I’m actually reading the first edition. I think this would have been a good sequel book, but as a first it’s bad and underdeveloped.

Verdict: I wish it was just a little bit better in the beginning and helped bring you into the world.

A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Disclaimer: I received an arc in a contest I won hosted by the author. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: A Danger to Herself and Others

Author: Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5

Recommended For…: contemporary lovers, mental health readers, mystery readers, ya readers

Publication Date: February 5, 2019

Genre: YA Contemporary

Recommended Age: 16+ (mental health, suicide mentions, gaslighting)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Pages: 341

Synopsis: Four walls. One window. No way to escape. Hannah knows there’s been a mistake. She didn’t need to be institutionalized. What happened to her roommate at her summer program was an accident. As soon as the doctors and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can go home to start her senior year. In the meantime, she is going to use her persuasive skills to get the staff on her side.

Then Lucy arrives. Lucy has her own baggage. And she may be the only person who can get Hannah to confront the dangerous games and secrets that landed her in confinement in the first place.

Review: I had to DNF this book at page 71. While the book is wonderfully well written and I love that I won it, I just couldn’t read it at this time and it’s time for me to put it off my TBR for awhile. The book has some graphic detail about mental health and some various ways the character and her therapists try to deal with it. I don’t feel like I’m in the best health myself to read that and unreliable narrator books don’t really interest me as they are sometimes wrote too confusingly. However, the book didn’t shy away from calling people out who dehumanize people with mental health issues and I love how raw and unapologetic it is. 

Verdict: It wasn’t for me this time, but it could be for you!

My Last Summer with Cass by Mark Crilley

Disclaimer: I received this arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: My Last Summer with Cass

Author: Mark Crilley

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 4/5

Recommended For…: graphic novel readers, ya readers, contemporary lovers

Publication Date: March 16, 2021

Genre: YA Contemporary Graphic Novel

Recommended Age: 12+ (losing a friend)

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Pages: 256

Synopsis: Megan and Cass have been joined at the brush for as long as they can remember. For years, while spending summers together at a lakeside cabin, they created art together, from sand to scribbles . . . to anything available. Then Cass moved away to New York.

When Megan finally convinces her parents to let her spend a week in the city, too, it seems like Cass has completely changed. She has tattoos, every artist in the city knows her—she even eats chicken feet! At least one thing has stayed the same: They still make their best art together.

But when one girl betrays the other’s trust on the eve of what is supposed to be their greatest artistic feat yet, can their friendship survive? Can their art?

Review: I really liked that this was a graphic novel book. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous and I loved how the author drew the two girls. I thought the story was pretty good. The characters were pretty well developed as well and this is a super quick read if you’re in a time crunch!

The only things I felt could have been better was the pacing (it was too quick for me to get attached to the story) and the character development, which I think suffered because of the quick pacing. I also felt like the book didn’t have a solid conflict. I understand losing a friend all too well, but maybe I’m at an age and place in my life where that doesn’t affect me anymore or as much. However, I can see where that can be a worldending event for teens and I totally recommend this for teens who have went through this or who fear this thing happening.

Verdict: It’s a solid friendship novel.

Wench by Maxine Kaplan

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Wench

Author: Maxine Kaplan

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5

Recommended For…: ya readers, fantasy lovers

Publication Date: January 19, 2021

Genre: YA Fantasy

Recommended Age: 15+ (TW self-harm, violence, gore, sexual content)

Publisher: Amulet Books

Pages: 400

Synopsis: Tanya has worked at her tavern since she was able to see over the bar. She broke up her first fight at 11. By the time she was a teenager she knew everything about the place, and she could run it with her eyes closed. She’d never let anyone—whether it be a drunkard or a captain of the queen’s guard—take advantage of her. But when her guardian dies, she might lose it all: the bar, her home, her purpose in life. So she heads out on a quest to petition the queen to keep the tavern in her name—dodging unscrupulous guards, a band of thieves, and a powerful, enchanted feather that seems drawn to her. Fast-paced, magical, and unapologetically feminist, Wench is epic fantasy like you’ve never seen it before.

Review: For the most part I thought that this was an okay book. The plot is really interesting and the book hooks you in immediately upon reading it. And I also like the premise of the book and the ending was very satisfying I like some of the books that I’ve read in this genre.

However, there were some things that didn’t make this a memorable book. The character development is literally non-existent and the author takes no time to world build. The pacing is super fast and within about 30 pages I was in a completely different setting and very confused. the author also doesn’t explain the backstory and expects us to feel sorry for this character for the death of a father figure to her but yet we are given no information on how he was a father figure to her. I think that this book read more like a first draft than it did a book.

Verdict: It’s good, just needed more work.

This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: This Golden Flame

Author: Emily Victoria

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 4/5

Recommended For…: sci-fi readers, fantasy readers, ya readers

Publication Date: February 2, 2021

Genre: YA Fantasy

Recommended Age: 15+ (slight violence and gore, death)

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Pages: 384

Synopsis: Orphaned and forced to serve her country’s ruling group of scribes, Karis wants nothing more than to find her brother, long ago shipped away. But family bonds don’t matter to the Scriptorium, whose sole focus is unlocking the magic of an ancient automaton army.

In her search for her brother, Karis does the seemingly impossible—she awakens a hidden automaton. Intelligent, with a conscience of his own, Alix has no idea why he was made. Or why his father—their nation’s greatest traitor—once tried to destroy the automatons.

Suddenly, the Scriptorium isn’t just trying to control Karis; it’s hunting her. Together with Alix, Karis must find her brother…and the secret that’s held her country in its power for centuries.

Review: Overall, I really liked this book. I do want to remark that the book was really good. The book is diverse, having aro/ace characters, gay, and other lgbt+ characters and also showing and writing disabled characters. I really liked how the story flowed and for a debut novel this was really well done. The characters were well developed and, from what I could tell, wrote with care in who they are. The world building was also well done.

However, I did have issues connecting to some of the characters, specifically Zara, and the pacing in some places was really too slow for my liking.

Verdict: It’s pretty good!

The Girl from the Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: The Girl from the Channel Islands

Author: Jenny Lecoat

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5

Diversity: Jewish main character and side characters

Recommended For…: historical fiction fans, ya readers

Publication Date: February 22, 2021

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Recommended Age: 16+ (violence, racism, genocide, war, slight gore, sympathy to a German officer)

Publisher: Graydon House

Pages: 304

Synopsis: The year is 1940, and the world is torn apart by war. In June of that year, Hitler’s army captures the Channel Islands—the only part of Great Britain occupied by German forces. Abandoned by Mr. Churchill, forgotten by the Allies and cut off from all help, the Islands’ situation is increasingly desperate.

Hedy Bercu is a young Jewish girl who fled Vienna for the island of Jersey two years earlier during the Anschluss, only to find herself trapped by the Nazis once more—this time with no escape. Her only hope is to make herself invaluable to the Germans by working as a translator, hiding in plain sight with the help of her friends and community—and a sympathetic German officer. But as the war intensifies, rations dwindle and neighbors are increasingly suspicious of one another. Hedy’s life is in greater danger every day. It will take a definitive, daring act to save her from certain deportation to the concentration camps.

Review: For the most part I liked the book. I thought it did well to bring historical facts pertaining to the island to light and to show what happened in a country left to fend for itself after Germany took it over and it was forgotten by the rest of the world. I liked that the book stuck to linear events and the plot was really intriguing to me. I liked the character development and the world building as well.

However, I am a bit confused as to why there are two titles to this book on Goodreads and I didn’t really like how slow the book was. I also have a problem with the book having a sympathetic German character. While I believed that there were some German officers who thoughts twice about what they were doing, I don’t think it’s right in a story about a Jewish girl to have sympathy on a German officer. It sends a little bit of a racist message and gives the undertone of that their pain and suffering compares to a German officer of privilege having second thoughts.

Verdict: It was good and historical from what I could see and research, but it rubbed me the wrong way.