Reviews

Check back often for new book and movie reviews!

Until then, take a look at these :)

Bharat Movie Review

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Chasing Happiness

Wowow. So much has changed for the JoBros recently. I was never a fan of the Jonas brothers when they were originally together, mainly because I just wasn’t into music as much back then. Still, ever since Priyanka and Nick got married, he’s basically been grouped into my stan list, and all the brothers by extension.

Chasing Happiness follows the band’s entire journey, from their formation to their comeback. How the band was formed and all that is probably old new to fans, but it’s not common knowledge for everyone. Not only does the documentary explain how each of them became interested in music, it also shows all the struggles they went through in order to reach the levels of success that they achieves in the 2000s. However, things obviously get really juicy only when they discuss exactly why the band broke up. The brothers also ask each other some tough questions about the decisions that they made at the time, and recount some of their roughest patches over the years. They also talk about why and how they decided to bring the back together, and their biggest regrets over the years. 

I found the documentary to be pretty interesting. It’s put together with strong (albeit chronological) storyline, and it really shows all the sides to the story, including aspects that were brand new to me. It’s definitely worth the watch, whether you’re a hard core fan or new to the band!


Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray

 So, I am notoriously bad at Star Wars. I really try, but I’ve only been initiated into the new trilogy, which means I’m basically clueless about everything. I gave this book a shot because it was by Claudia Gray, author of A Thousand Pieces of You.

A Jedi must be a fearless warrior, a guardian of justice, and a scholar in the ways of the Force. But perhaps a Jedi’s most essential duty is to pass on what they have learned. Master Yoda trained Dooku; Dooku trained Qui-Gon Jinn; and now Qui-Gon has a Padawan of his own. But while Qui-Gon has faced all manner of threats and danger as a Jedi, nothing has ever scared him like the thought of failing his apprentice.

Obi-Wan Kenobi has deep respect for his Master, but struggles to understand him. Why must Qui-Gon so often disregard the laws that bind the Jedi? Why is Qui-Gon drawn to ancient Jedi prophecies instead of more practical concerns? And why wasn’t Obi-Wan told that Qui-Gon is considering an invitation to join the Jedi Council—knowing it would mean the end of their partnership? The simple answer scares him: Obi-Wan has failed his Master.

When Jedi Rael Averross, another former student of Dooku, requests their assistance with a political dispute, Jinn and Kenobi travel to the royal court of Pijal for what may be their final mission together. What should be a simple assignment quickly becomes clouded by deceit, and by visions of violent disaster that take hold in Qui-Gon’s mind. As Qui-Gon’s faith in prophecy grows, Obi-Wan’s faith in him is tested—just as a threat surfaces that will demand that Master and apprentice come together as never before, or be divided forever.

This book took a long time to build a feel for the characters. Even though Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are beloved staples in the franchise, it doesn’t excuse them from character building. So, it took me far too long to actually become invested in these two and their complicated relationship, especially when it is literally the main point of the story.

The book also changes points of views randomly and without warning. It isn’t like each chapter has one narrator, it just switches from paragraph, with no clear demarcation. 

The plot also stretches on, and there were long periods of time where nothing really relevant was happening. Something like this might work for a movie, with random battles in different locations just thrown in, but it was not really a blast to read. Constantly changing locations and a plethora of bad guys just made the book confusing instead of exciting. Credit where it’s due, the plot twist really shocked me. I liked it, but it was too little and too late. Master and Apprentice could have been saved if the plot was a bit more snappy and less convoluted, but this book failed to thrill me.

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

 I’m a sucker for fairy tale retellings, okay?

Isabelle should be blissfully happy - she's about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn't the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince's heart. She's the ugly stepsister who's cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella's shoe . . . which is now filling with her blood.

When the prince discovers Isabelle's deception, she's turned away in shame. It's no more than she deserves: she's a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a bold girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.

Isabelle has tried to fit in. She cut away pieces of herself in order to become pretty. Sweet. More like Cinderella. But that only made her mean, jealous, and hollow. Now she has a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.

Evoking the original version of the Cinderella story, bestselling author Jennifer Donnelly uses her trademark wit and wisdom to send an overlooked character on a journey toward empowerment, redemption . . . and a new definition of beauty.

I read this book in one day. In one sitting, pretty much. Stepsister is a powerful reimagining of the classic Cinderella story, and one that does not focus on revenge. Isabelle is not out to hurt Ella. She knows that she made a mistake, and she is trying to find herself. She is working toward making herself whole again, and to find out exactly who pushed her off her path, and why she allowed it to happen. Stepsister makes some sound points, and the story made my heart soar. 

The plot gets a little muddled with the introduction of the three fates, and Chance, but it all comes together later on. The storyline is a little cliche, but it’s still far from expected. The book moves along at a fantastic pace, and revelations and plot twists are evenly sprinkled throughout the story. Flashbacks and catastrophes are used sparingly and effectively. At no point does this book feel either overwhelming or underwhelming, although it borders on confusing at a couple points.

Despite its grim beginning, Stepsister does not feel heavy or dark anywhere. It’s fun and light, even as it wrestles with big themes. Isabelle isn’t trying to change the world, she’s just trying to find a little bit of happiness in her word.

This is a short quick read that tackles big problems while still being witty and light. For anyone that is tired of the predictable fairy tales, Stepsister is for you. 

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

 Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle. 

But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic--the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience--have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims. 

Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them. 

To have a chance at surviving—and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s underway—Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.

This book takes a while to catch on. The beginning third is full of complicated world building, and sets the scenes for the story to come. There is so much going on at the beginning of the book that it easily feels overwhelming. 

However, the story really picks up as the book progresses, and it settles into a fun rhythm. The plot is relatively interesting, and it has a couple of plot twists thrown in that make it more fun.  

The book attempts to make commentary on slavery and personal freedom, but it gets a little lost in all the other noise, and everything seems a little too chaotic for any unified message to come through.  

The characters are all pretty one dimensional. The evil ones are evil. The suspicious ones do some bad stuff, and so on. The world building is interesting, and was something that I’d never seen, even though the process of scriving just seems so complicated, and I really zoned out every time they started talking about gods or mythology or history. 

Nothing really stands out about the book, and it’s really neither good nor bad. However, I like the cover, so there’s that. 

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After She's Gone by Camilla Grebe

Out of the frozen depths of a forest in Ormberg, Sweden, a woman stumbles onto the road. Her arms are covered with scratches, her feet are bare, and she has no memory of who she is. Local police identify her as psychological profiler Hanne Lagerlind-Schön, who, with her partner, had been helping investigate the cold case of a young woman’s murder. Hanne begins to recover but cannot recall anything about where her partner is, or what their investigation had uncovered before her disappearance. Police have only one lead: a young woman in a sequined dress who was spotted nearby the night Hanne was found.
The young woman doesn’t come forward because she doesn’t exist: Jake Birgersson, a local teenager, had been out walking in his mother’s dress and sister’s makeup, his secret shame and thrill. Terrified of discovery, Jake hid and watched Hanne get into a car, leaving behind her diary.
Reading Hanne’s notebook, Jake realizes that it contains the key to a major breakthrough in the case—but turning it in would mean admitting the truth about who he is. When another murder victim is found in the woods, Jake realizes that Hanne herself is in danger, and his only choice is to find and warn her so that together, they can stop the killer before he strikes again.


I don’t know exactly why, but I’m drawn to thrillers. However, it’s rare for me to find one that is fully satisfying. After She’s Gone, though, hit the mark. 

The book is full of twists and turns, and the multiple POV is handled very effectively. The plot takes some time to build up, and the story seems to lag at a few points. However, the resolution is well done, and it caught me by surprise. The solution is intentionally surprising, but it’s tied together well enough that it feels absolutely plausible. 

The characters also add a lot to the story. Jake’s story really shows a different side of the “small-town life” and it’s a good reminder that real life isn’t always accepting of change, and how old beliefs can become dangerous to people who don’t fit in. His musings on toxic masculinity are interesting, and his character growth is fun to read. Malin, on the other hand, falls into a lot of stereotypes. The woman who returns to her small hometown to investigate a strange occurrence that is revealed to be linked to some trauma that pushed her to leave home is something I’ve read many times. Bonus points for her being engaged, and then breaking up with her fiancé for a hometowm bum. I found myself a little disappointed when Malin checked off every single cliché, but the different POVs helped alleviate that. 

The fictional town of Ormberg in Sweden also functions almost as a character in itself. The residents’ suspicion of outsiders and fierce protectiveness of each other warp their perceptions of the world. The story carried sharp commentary about refugees of war as well, but it isn’t until the very end that it really hits home. And when it does, it’s powerful, and one of the book’s hidden gems. The punch snuck on me, but it was well-executed, and thought-provoking to say the least. 

While it wasn’t perfect, After She’s Gone was a delightful read that manages to weave in powerful social commentary, without ever taking away from the plot. It was terrifying, exciting, and exhilarating all in one; the signs of a successful thriller.  

The Inspection by Josh Malerman

 I was so excited to jump into this book because it was by Josh Malerman (author of Bird Box!)

J is a student at a school deep in a forest far away from the rest of the world.

J is one of only twenty-six students, all of whom think of the school’s enigmatic founder as their father. J’s peers are the only family he has ever had. The students are being trained to be prodigies of art, science, and athletics, and their life at the school is all they know—and all they are allowed to know.

But J suspects that there is something out there, beyond the pines, that the founder does not want him to see, and he’s beginning to ask questions. What is the real purpose of this place? Why can the students never leave? And what secrets is their father hiding from them?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the forest, in a school very much like J’s, a girl named K is asking the same questions. J has never seen a girl, and K has never seen a boy. As K and J work to investigate the secrets of their two strange schools, they come to discover something even more mysterious: each other.

I found the first half of this to be very gripping. It was extremely suspenseful and thrilling. Layer after layer of the conspiracy is slowly revealed, and it grows more and more twisted as you progress. However, once the two sides find out about each other, the book devolves into a slight mess. Here, the book starts to drag on and on, and things stop progressing logically. The way the children behave is completely unbelievable, and it detracts from the story. They’re twelve years old! 

Also, the book does not end cleanly. The mystery is closed, the evil is defeated, and the book just .. keeps going. The book goes from clean and efficient to just confusing and uninspired. 

The premise of the book is very interesting and thought-provoking, but the execution could use some work. Especially because the reader already knows about a lot of things that are hidden from the children, the book feels boring when the children spend so long figuring these things out. This book would have been much better if it was much shorter. Many parts of this book could have been left to the imagination; not all of it had to be spelled out for the reader. Rather, leaving it open to interpretation might have increased its value. 

The Inspection has its moments, but they are distressingly few of them.

A Danger To Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel

 Four walls. One window. No way to escape.

Hannah knows there's been a mistake. She doesn't need to be institutionalized. What happened to her roommate at that 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. Those college applications aren't going to write themselves. Until then, she's determined to win over the staff and earn some privileges so she doesn't lose her mind to boredom.

Then Lucy arrives. Lucy has her own baggage, and she's the perfect project to keep Hannah's focus off all she is missing at home. But Lucy may be the one person who can get Hannah to confront the secrets she's avoiding―and the dangerous games that landed her in confinement in the first place.

This book seemed like an amazing thriller. I was sure that Hannah had been wrongly accused, that someone was trying to set her up. I thought that the book would lay out clues, agonizingly slow, building up to the finale that would take my breath away.

I was wrong.

This book started off at a good pace, and then completely dropped the ball. I understand what the author was trying to go for, but it was not enjoyable. This book was thrilling, until the end. Rather than ending with a bang, it just kind of died. Instead of an explosive ending, it settles for something lukewarm. Hannah is guilty … but only somewhat. Who wants to read that? 

Presenting: how is should have been.

A) She’s innocent. Someone really did something bad, and they set her up to take the fall. She has to figure out who it was in order to clear her name. Why did they do it?

B) She’s guily. She actually committed the act, and her mind erased the memory. Why? Guilt? Trauma? Why did she do it?

The book takes the bland third route, and it leads the story down the wrong path. It goes from a thriller to something that resembles a poetry/ monologue/ memoir style that I did not sign up for. The book lures you in with false promises of a psychological thriller, and instead tries to feed you a bitter pill about mental illnesses (?). 

In the hopes of creating something different and cool, this book lost its way. I would have settled for a cliché nail-biting suspense thriller over this any day. 

The Supervillain and Me by Danielle Banas

 Never trust a guy in spandex. In Abby Hamilton’s world, superheroes do more than just stop crime and save cats stuck in trees—they also drink milk straight from the carton and hog the television remote. Abby’s older brother moonlights as the famous Red Comet, but without powers of her own, following in his footsteps has never crossed her mind. That is, until the city’s newest vigilante comes bursting into her life. After saving Abby from an attempted mugging, Morriston’s fledgling supervillain Iron Phantom convinces her that he’s not as evil as everyone says, and that their city is under a vicious new threat. As Abby follows him deeper into their city’s darkest secrets, she comes to learn that heroes can’t always be trusted, and sometimes it’s the good guys who wear black.

The premise of this book sounded amazing; a look into the lives of superheroes from a powerless spectator? Sign me up! The book really delivers on this front, not going to lie. From hilarious meet and greets with the Red Comet, to a best friend who writes fanfiction about her brother, Abby’s experiences with her superhero brother are downright hilarious. 

It’s only when the book starts moving towards an actual plotline that things get a bit messed up. First off, the major problems in the book make little to no sense. No spoilers, but don’t think about the plot too much. Also, it is absolutely ridiculous how long it takes Abby to figure out who Iron Phantom is. The book literally has a random character that serves no purpose throughout the story except being really nice to Abby … I wonder why! (And Iron Phantom’s mask only covers HALF his face.)

From there, the book goes from weird to ridiculous real quick. Abby’s town is pretty run-down … like, people don’t go outside after it’s dark run-down. And yet, Iron Phantom lives in a mansion? How? Why? What? And this isn’t even touching on the book’s actual plot. 

The characters in the book all seem to revolve around Abby. Other than her, no one really has any fixed character traits. Her brother can be sloppy at times (but not always?). He is super dedicated to saving the world (but sometimes he falls victim to fake news?). Her dad is super busy with his job as mayor (but sometimes he just sits at home and watches old tapes?). This basically just makes it really hard to get attached to any of the characters, and really takes away from the book’s overall charm. 

I found the beginning of the book really hooking, but the end didn’t really deliver. It’s a light novel, without any majestic fight scenes, but it does a great job of humanizing heroes. Major aspects of the book seem awkward and/ or forced, but it was funny and touching at times. I wasn’t expecting too much from the book, but I did read it in one day! It was a quick, sweet read, and there wasn’t much under the surface. Sometimes, you need a book like this. 

An Assassin's Guide to Love and Treason by Virginia Boecker

 When Lady Katherine's father is killed for being an illegally practicing Catholic, she discovers treason wasn't the only secret he's been hiding: he was also involved in a murder plot against the reigning Queen Elizabeth I. With nothing left to lose, Katherine disguises herself as a boy and travels to London to fulfill her father's mission, and to take it one step further -- kill the queen herself.

Katherine's opportunity comes in the form of William Shakespeare's newest play, which is to be performed in front of Her Majesty. But what she doesn't know is that the play is not just a play. It's a plot to root out insurrectionists and destroy the rebellion once and for all.

The mastermind behind this ruse is Toby Ellis, a young spy for the queen with secrets of his own. When Toby and Katherine are cast opposite each other as the play's leads, they find themselves inexplicably drawn to one another. But the closer they grow, the more precarious their positions become. And soon they learn that star-crossed love, mistaken identity, and betrayal are far more dangerous off the stage than on.

Not gonna lie, this book took a while to pick up. The first half of the book really dragged on. I already know that Katherine is going to disguise herself as a boy, and that there’s a Shakespeare play going on; I don’t need to read 150 pages setting that up. I honestly gave up on this book halfway through and didn’t come back for three weeks. 

The second half, on the other hand, has way too much action packed in. Things just keep happening, and there is really no rhyme or reason to it. I did find the plot twists to be interesting, and I was thoroughly shocked a couple of times throughout the book. The ending, however, was much too neat for my satisfaction, and rather unrealistic in my opinion. 

While half the book drags on and the other half is a hodgepodge of unrelated events, the storyline was relatively solid. The historical context is interesting and entertaining, especially in regards to Shakespeare and his plays. It was somewhat similar to My Lady Jane, and enjoyable nonetheless. Historical London and the persecution of Catholics was portrayed in a digestible way while still relaying relevant information. 

Katharine and Toby were also well-fleshed out and interesting enough, although I’d hardly put them on my list of favorite fictional characters. The rest of the ensemble cast kind of blends into the background, with their generic English names and sheer unimportance, and don’t really help move the story forward. 

Overall, An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason is a book that should have been a fun, light read but missed it’s mark by a bit. 

Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks

Miriam's family should be rich. After all, her grandfather was the co-creator of smash-hit comics series The TomorrowMen. But he sold his rights to the series to his co-creator in the 1960s for practically nothing, and now that's what Miriam has: practically nothing. And practically nothing to look forward to either-how can she afford college when her family can barely keep a roof above their heads? As if she didn't have enough to worry about, Miriam's life gets much more complicated when a cute boy shows up in town . . . and turns out to be the grandson of the man who defrauded Miriam's grandfather, and heir to the TomorrowMen fortune.

In her endearing debut novel, cartoonist Faith Erin Hicks pens a sensitive and funny Romeo and Juliet tale about modern romance, geek royalty, and what it takes to heal the long-festering scars of the past (Spoiler Alert: love).

I picked this book up for the cover, okay? It’s beautiful. And the premise sounded great. A girl who was cheated out of her grandfather’s comic book legacy bumps into the guy who stands to inherit the entire empire. 

The issue is that the book doesn’t focus on the comics enough. In an effort to diversify its reach to non-nerds, the story has so many normal YA plot points that it becomes undistinguishable from every other novel. Instead of being a book about two people obsessed with superheroes, it’s about two people, one of whom is rich and the other is poor. There is no Rome-Juliet style family feud. In fact, both families seem eager to heal the wounds of the past, and no one stops Weldon and Miriam from hanging out. 

In total, this book is mainly about Miriam, and her “coming of age” story, as she tries to figure out whether she wants to go to college (This was a nice change of pace because every single person I know has known they were going to college since they knew what college was). The majority of the book is her angst over leaving her friends behind if she ends up going to college, and moaning about how poor she is. There is really not that much going on for Weldon, except that he doesn’t want to go into comics like his dad, and … that’s really it. The thing is that he’s not under any kind of pressure to make a decision anytime soon, because he can afford to take his time and figure it out.

I have to admit, the small-town setting was written in a refreshing way. I can’t recall reading about a teenager who grew up in a small town and loves it, but still wants to go away and explore. Mostly all I hear is “the troubled adult who comes back to their small hometown to uncover secrets that have been long been buried and is forced to confront what happened on that night seventeen years ago” or something along those lines. As someone who’s happy with where they live, but aware that there is more to world, reading about Miriam’s sentiments toward Sanford was a welcome change of pace.

I came for a book about superhero nerds fighting a bitter conflict, but what I got was a bunch of college decision-making, which I’m already facing enough of in my day-to-day life. For such a wonderful premise (and title! and cover!) Comics Will Break Your Heart turned out to be a little disappointing. Although, it did fuel my desire to someday visit SDCC (San Diego Comic Con, for you fake nerds)

Aladdin Movie Review

Endgame Movie Review

Shazam Movie Review

DC Icons

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Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Mass

When the Bat's away, the Cat will play. It's time to see how many lives this cat really has. . . .
Two years after escaping Gotham City's slums, Selina Kyle returns as the mysterious and wealthy Holly Vanderhees. She quickly discovers that with Batman off on a vital mission, Batwing is left to hold back the tide of notorious criminals. Gotham City is ripe for the taking.
Meanwhile, Luke Fox wants to prove he has what it takes to help people in his role as Batwing. He targets a new thief on the prowl who seems cleverer than most. She has teamed up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, and together they are wreaking havoc. This Catwoman may be Batwing's undoing. 

I loved it! Honestly, the DC Icons series seems amazing so far, and it’s easy to see why these authors are loved far and wide. They are able to take characters that we have been hearing about for ages and make them seem fresh and new. 

Selina/ Holly’s story is as wild as it is exciting. The trials and adventures that she goes through are thrilling and jarring, and the adrenaline never really dies down.

Throughout the story line, Mass kept me on my toes, with surprises coming from all sides. The ending was a complete surprise, and Holly’s character has so many sides that you don’t get to see until later on. While she is initially portrayed as a villain, you slowly begin to realize that her life’s goal is not simply attacking other people. There’s something bigger at play here. Her sacrifices speak volumes, and her entire story is full of twists and turns.

Holly is a good person at heart, but her mission requires her to put on a façade. She ends up hurting people, because she can’t sacrifice her goals. She slowly learns how to let people help her, and whom to trust, and it’s interesting to say the least. The story brings in a plethora of characters to dissect, from Luke Fox, to Poison Ivy, to Harley Quinn and the Joker. No one is there just for name recognition, and they all serve as vital parts of the novel.

As far as superhero stories go, Catwoman shows that they can be complicated and nuanced. There are fights, but the book doesn’t rely on them, and the plot is powerful. The time jump midway through the novel also serves a stark before and after, while the story slowly fills in the missing years through flashbacks and revelations. 

Overall, I loved this view of Gotham city, and Selina’s growth as a character; can’t wait to dive into more of these!

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Honestly, the Wonder Woman movie did not work miracles on me like it seemed to have done on everyone else. But I was still excited to jump into this book, because, Leigh Bardugo.

Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world. Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery. Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war. Watching Diana come into the modern world is entertaining no matter what. Whether its her throwing her bracelets up when Alia calls “shotgun” in her brother’s car, or her complaining about impractical shoes, Diana is a special kind of fun. The plot was pretty expected. Alia has been cursed to bring about … well, war. Hence the name Warbringer. If they complete some special magic tasks, they might be able to lift the curse that has plagued generations. Diana commits herself to this cause, along with Alia’s brother Jason, his best friend Theo, and Alia’s best friend Poornima “Nim”. The best part of this story was: Jason Keralis. After their parents died, Alia’s responsibility has fallen on his shoulders. He’s always fought to keep her safe, first from rivals after the Keralis fortune, and now from a curse that he can’t control. Not only is he a super overprotective older brother to Alia, he also gives Diana the space and respect that she needs. But … no spoilers, but it’s not that simple. The only complain I could find with this book was the weirdly intertwined love triangle-type things going on. A little strange, to be honest. Other than that, it was a superb story that showed Diana’s heart and grit, with a riveting storyline. 

Batman Nightwalker by Marie Lu

So, I’ve always liked Batman, but he’s never exactly been my favorite. Marie Lu showed Bruce Wayne in a VERY different light, however, and I really liked what I saw.

The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list. The city’s elites are being taken out one by one as their mansions’ security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. Meanwhile, Bruce is about to become eighteen and inherit his family’s fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Industries and all the tech gadgetry that he loves. But on the way home from his birthday party, he makes an impulsive choice and is sentenced to community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city’s most nefarious criminals. Madeleine Wallace is a brilliant killer . . . and Bruce’s only hope. The most intriguing inmate in Arkham is Madeleine, a brilliant girl with ties to the Nightwalkers. A girl who will only speak to Bruce. She is the mystery he must unravel, but is he convincing her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees? 

First off, I have to applaud DC for its DC Icons Initiative, where they pair superheroes with tried and tested authors. These heroes are complex and have hooking backstories already. Once put in the hands of master authors, the plot and language clicks into place. It’s magic. Second, teenage superheroes need to be a thing. Like, actually. Hullo. Not all comic book fans are middle aged men. Eighteen-year-old Bruce Wayne is a lot more interesting than forty-year-old Bruce Wayne; no shade. The characters in the story were fleshed out well; I’m sure that everyone already has some thoughts on Bruce, so it was easy enough to fill in any gaps on his character. But Madeleine was definitely one to watch as well. It’s tricky to craft a villain that genuinely fills you with fear; one that twists into a character’s deepest fears. Madeleine did it, and it was just as frightening as you’d expect. She’s ruthless, and more than a little unsettling. Honestly, I’d just say that Bruce’s friends seemed to slip in and out of the picture a lot. I’d have loved to either see them more, or maybe not discuss them as much, because they fell into an awkward middle ground. Still, Dianne and Harvey seem amazing, and it warms my heart to see Bruce with people that love and appreciate him ❤ Marie Lu manages to bring up racism, poverty and sexual harassment, into a book about a rich white boy. It’s magic. This was actually the first book I’ve read by Marie Lu, and I definitely liked. I read Warcross immediately after this (by coincidence :) and I loved it as well! Definitely check out this book, whether you’re a Batman fan, or new to the fandom. 

Superman: Dawnbreaker by Matt de la Pena

Honestly, I have loved the DC Icons series so far. I loved Batman because of the way that Marie Lu fleshed out the main character, Wonder Woman because of the storyline, and Catwoman for both. The issue with Dawnbreaker is that neither of these points work out.

Clark Kent has always been faster, stronger--better--than everyone around him. But it's not like he's earned his powers . . . yet. Lately it's difficult to hold back and keep his heroics in the shadows. When Clark follows the sound of a girl crying, he comes across Gloria Alvarez and learns that people are disappearing from the Mexican-American and undocumented worker community in Smallville. Teaming up with his best friend, Lana Lang, Clark discovers that before he can save the world, he must save Smallville.

The characters in this book were muddled. Clark’s best friend is a reporter; but it’s not Lois Lane. Now, why exactly did they have to hook Clark with a reporter again? Was it that difficult to come up with another hobby? Also, Clark has a really boring life. Unlike Batman or Catwoman, he just goes to high school and does farmwork. That’s literally it. Clark is smart, super strong, very righteous, and lowkey boring. All the characters, in fact, come off as exaggerations rather than real people. The bad guys are really bad, and the good guys are all good, the eh people switch sides a couple of times. There’s no real character development for anyone in the story, and nothing is really revealed about Clark throughout the story. Also Lex Luthor is important, but he’s not the villain? Another confusing reference that was just thrown in there.

 The whole subplot with Gloria Alvarez is also extremely suspicious. It seems like it was just shoved in there in order to build a connection between Clark and the Mexican-American community. It’s weak. They hardly meet three times throughout the book, and they really don’t have a very strong relationship. It would have been a lot better if the book simply focused on the relationships that were actually essential to the story; Clark’s best friends, his parents, and the friends that drag him into the case. Extra characters make the story feel cluttered and superficial. Why couldn't his best friend just have been a Mexican-American reporter???

The plot also drags on. The main issue in the story does not involve Clark, and therefore he feels removed from the conflict. Undocumented immigrants are disappearing. Legit, but how is that related to Clark? The resolution of the conflict is also pretty predictable, and something that’s been used over and over. Matt de la Pena tries to use Clark’s alien heritage to build a connection to immigrants … and it doesn’t work. It’s a great idea, but the pieces do not connect. All things considered, Clark is an all-American guy. Hell, the football team follows him around, begging him to join the team. He’s not rich, but he’s hardly an outcast. Both the human connection and plot are missing from this story, and I personally was hoping for more from this series. 

Stalking Jack the Ripper (seires by Kerri Maniscalco)

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Stalking Jack the Ripper

"Hurry along, then,” I said, grabbing my journal. “I want to sit by the window.” “Hmm.” “What now?” I asked, losing patience. “I usually sit by the window. You may have to sit in my lap.” (Can you see why Thomas is my favorite character?)

Groomed to be the perfect highborn Victorian young lady, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has a decidedly different plan for herself. After the loss of her beloved mother, she is determined to understand the nature of death and its workings. Trading in her embroidery needle for an autopsy scalpel, Audrey secretly apprentices in forensics. She soon gets drawn into the investigation of serial killer Jack the Ripper, but to her horror, the search for clues brings her far closer to her sheltered world than she ever thought possible. 

The amazing thing about this book is that the mystery is literally the least of my concerns. Of course, Audrey Rose is running around for months trying to figure out who the murderer is, but it felt like a road that she followed that led her to confrontation with the multitude of characters that she had issues with. Before the story is through, she argues with her uncle, classmate, father, brother, and kind of her aunt too. The murder is what pushes her to do these wild things that get her into trouble. Finding the criminal is what forces her to prove herself and disobey her father’s wishes. And finally, Jack the Ripper is the one who opens her eyes. But throughout the story, the investigation itself doesn’t take much precedent. The story is still absolutely brilliant, mainly because of Thomas. If you want to know who he is, read the book!!! Apparently, the murders are extremely brutal, but I just closed my eyes. Just kidding, I skimmed, okay? Still, keep that in mind, if disfigured corpses are not your thing. And Audrey Rose is apprenticing in forensics, so she spends her free time cutting open bodies. Just warning you. Even though they’re dealing with such a terrifying murdered, Audrey Rose always sneaks in a joke or two. And Thomas is a great sidekick? More like partner. Audrey Rose and Thomas reminded me so much of Zoe and Digby (Trouble is a Friend of Mine) that I actually almost cried. Actually characters like Thomas are really fun to read about but would probably be really annoying in real life. The climax was great, with a terrific plot twist. The murderer actually gets an incentive, rather than just killing for fun. Anyways, this was an amazing read and I can’t wait to get on to Hunting Prince Dracula! 

Hunting Prince Dracula

"Next stop, Bran Castle. And all the delightful miscreants who study there.” “We’re about to study there,” I reminded him. He sank into his blanket, doing a poor job at hiding his smile. “I know.”

Hunting Prince Dracula was such an amazing book. I loved Stalking Jack the Ripper so much; especially because of Thomas. Thomas is literally wonderful; don’t fight me on this, okay? 

Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper's true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe's best schools of forensic medicine...and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend. But her life's dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school's forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again. Beyond Thomas, though, Audrey Rose has achieved her forensic dreams by studying at a Romanian forensics academy. However, she is still haunted by the Ripper case and is struggling to move forward in her forensic career. But when strange murders start popping up, she still can’t quell her curiosity. Doesn’t help that the forensics academy is housed in Dracula’s old castle in the middle of a reportedly haunted forest. To complicate things, her relationship with Thomas is becoming strained as well.

 Honestly, Audrey Rose has grown so much as a character; she changes so much through these two books. She doesn’t let the horrors of the Ripper case stop her; no matter how brutal it was on her. She doesn’t let the demons overcome her, but fights them as much as she can. She breaks sometimes, but she pushes on more than she lets up. The literal opposite is happening to Thomas. He starts off cold and clinical; but Audrey Rose twists him into an emotional mess, and he starts messing up the things he’s the best at. Both Audrey and Thomas are kind of in a mess, and things get even more messed up in Hunting Prince Dracula. But by the end of the book, they’ve still decided to focus on the bright side. God, they’re amazing. The plot itself is pretty interesting. The murders compel you to find the killer; you have to figure what on earth is going on. Audrey’s curiosity is contagious and you get swept up in the mystery. Maniscalco manages to keep the story from becoming too dark. She balances the brutal murders with banter between Audrey and Thomas, and lighter moments that Audrey shares with her friends. Speaking of friends, Audrey struggles to fit in at the academy, but embraces the few friends that she does make. Competition between the students is fierce, and the others look down on her already. The headmaster is awful to her, and her investigations keep getting her in trouble. There’s quite a few characters, but not enough to be confusing. Most of them are unimportant, but they add so much to the story. (Although I love Thomas, it’s nice to see Audrey interacting with other people as well.) All in all, Hunting Prince Dracula carries on the legacy of Stalking Jack the Ripper splendidly. There are so many Thomas moments that I used up all my sticky notes marking them. And the best is yet to come: check out the new excerpt from Escaping From Houdini, and the gorgeous cover! 

Escaping From Houdini

Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.  

But privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The strange and disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow more and more bizarre. It's up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation before more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer's horrifying finale?


Honestly, I’m sad. This book ruined my favorite part of the Ripper Series: Cressworth. In my opinion, Stalking Jack the Ripper was the best book plot wise, and Hunting Prince Dracula was the best relationship-wise. And Escaping From Houdini was the best in …. nothing.

First of all, the fact that they are on a ship makes the setting very claustrophobic. There are only so many suspects. You get to know almost each and every possible murderer very quickly, and then you spend the rest of the book chasing them down one after another. Because you already know everyone on the ship, there are no new suspects halfway through the book, and it starts to drag on after a point. In Hunting Prince Dracula, Audrey Rose and Thomas had so much more freedom, and here they are barely allowed to talk to each other in case someone sees them. It really limits where the story can go. 

These suspects are mainly all part of a suspicious travelling circus, the Moonlight Caravan. The Caravan made a deal with the captain of the ship: they will entertain the first class passengers in exchange for free passage. The Moonlight Caravan is creepy and weird and everyone wears masks. Oh, and at the end of each performance, someone is killed. It’s creepy the first two times, and then it just seems gaudy. 

But honestly, I wasn’t here for the plot. How Audrey Rose and Thomas uncover it is the fun part. Guess what? I was robbed of that too. Basically, Audrey Rose makes a bargain with the ringmaster. She will take part in his finale performance. As a renowned scientist, her participation will give his caravan’s magic tricks more authority. In return, he will tell her some important information about her cousin, who has gone missing (Honestly, this angle got to me too. I love Liza, and this was not cool.). The only catch is that she’s not allowed to tell anyone about their agreement. So she’s spending all her free time with this guy, either learning tricks, or observing the other performers. The she realizes that the others will only trust her if she pretends to be in love with the ringmaster, and then she actually falls in love with him and everything goes downhill from there. She doesn’t get any scenes with Thomas in the last two-thirds of the book, and when they do, they’re fighting. 

And it was all for nothing, because she still isn’t able to figure out who the murderer is until they literally attack her. And even when the ringmaster is exposed as a lying jerk, she isn’t even angry. She just thoughtfully realizes that she likes Thomas more than she likes him. Huh?

I suppose it’s unrealistic to have Audrey Rose and Thomas always get along, but their fight didn’t need to drag on for so long and make up such a major plot point of the book. They fought in Hunting Prince Dracula too, but they got over it. Their dynamic in this book was weak, and I found the plot to be weak as well. I had high expectations from this book, and it disappointed me on every front. Here’s hoping that things work out for them in the next book. 

The Thousandth Floor (series by Katharine McGee)

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The Thousandth Floor

COMING SOON <3

The Dazzling Heights

 New York, 2118. Manhattan is home to a thousand-story supertower, a breathtaking marvel that touches the sky. But amidst high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, five teenagers are keeping dangerous secrets…

LEDA is haunted by memories of what happened on the worst night of her life. She’ll do anything to make sure the truth stays hidden—even if it means trusting her enemy.

WATT just wants to put everything behind him…until Leda forces him to start hacking again. Will he do what it takes to be free of her for good?

When RYLIN wins a scholarship to an upper-floor school, her life transforms overnight. But being there means seeing the boy whose heart she broke, and who broke hers in return.

AVERY is tormented by her love for the one person in the world she can never have. She’s desperate to be with him… no matter the cost.

And then there’s CALLIOPE, the mysterious, bohemian beauty who arrives in New York determined to cause a stir. And she knows exactly where to begin.

But unbeknownst to them all, someone is watching their every move, someone with revenge in mind. And in a world of such dazzling heights, just one wrong step can mean a devastating fall.

I found this book to be much better than The Thousandth Floor. Mainly because this book involves growth and rebuilding, rather than tearing everything down like the first book did. 

Most of the characters are realistic enough. All of them are overdramatic, though, except Watt and Leda. Which is why they’re my new favorites. Leda is still sharp, but she’s thoughtful. When she takes people in, she will do anything to protect them, which is a lot, actually. Watt tries to be angry with Leda, but he’s literally not capable of it. This guy is just so nice, and his arguments with Nadia are on a whole different level. As Leda starts to calm down and recover, she begins to let go of her anger and suspicion, and she really grows through the story. 

Personally, Audrey and Atlas have always bothered me; Audrey needs to stop acting like a child and realize how lucky she is. Rylin and Cord were the definite highlight of the first book, but here they become kind of irrelevant. Rylin needs to pull it together and apologize properly. Her random romp through LA is interesting enough, I guess, but I’m not really sure what purpose it served. Calliope, on the other hand, offers a lot to unpack. She’s sly, smart, and fabulous. She’s also exhausted with all her lies and treachery. 

Considering how important Eris was in the first book, we barely hear about her here. Her story was pretty interesting in The Thousandth Floor, and her dynamic with Leda was really well-done. But all of that kind of disappears here, and it was a bit disappointing. 

The plot carries along at a similar pace to the first book, but there isn’t the same kind of major climax to tie it all together in the end. Still, I enjoyed The Dazzling Heights, because of the more hopeful tone, and the way that the characters start banding together. Hopefully, this carries on into the third book, although I’m only coming back for Watt :) 

Also, I have to say that this is the best cover in the entire trilogy. 

The Towering Sky by Katharine McGee

Welcome back to New York, 2119. A skyscraper city, fueled by impossible dreams.

LEDA just wants to move on from what happened in Dubai. Until a new investigation forces her to seek help—from the person she’s spent all year trying to forget.

RYLIN is back in her old life, reunited with an old flame. But when she starts seeing Cord again, she finds herself torn: between two worlds, and two very different boys.

CALLIOPE feels trapped, playing a long con that costs more than she bargained for. What happens when all her lies catch up with her?

WATT is still desperately in love with Leda. He’ll do anything to win her back—even dig up secrets that are better left buried.

And now that AVERY is home from England—with a new boyfriend, Max—her life seems more picture-perfect than ever. So why does she feel like she would rather be anything but perfect?


Haha, I loved it! In this book, we really see everyone starting to work together. They’ve stopped fighting with each other, and have banded together. Seeing their teamwork made my heart happy. Watt, Leda, and Avery gel together so well, and their dynamic was a blast to read. Still, I have to say that Rylin gets left out a bit, especially since she was on the roof that night. Her story lacks continuity; for example, we never hear anything about Xiane, even though it was a pretty major plot point in The Dazzling Heights. Now, she’s just got another class with Cord. Calliope’s storyline is not related at all to the other four. Now she’s not even targeting Atlas, so she basically never bumps into any of the other characters. Her storyline wrapped up a little too neatly, and very unrealistically. But I have to say that it was the one I was least invested in. 

I think that Avery and Calliope need a firm talking-to, because their whining really got to me. I’m still proud of Leda and Watt; they continue to grow and are much better people at the end of book.

It’s a little strange how every attractive every single character is in this series though. First off, you’ve got the girl genetically engineered to be perfect (Avery). But somehow, her adopted brother is also extremely good looking (Atlas)? And then you have the skinny druggie (Leda), who is also flawless. And the orphaned maid, who is also beautiful. And then there’s the hacker, who is also perfect. So I guess, the point is, everyone’s beautiful. And they’re all good people. 

The plot was also well-done. There were at least two major plot twists that left me blindsided, and plenty of smaller moments that kept me on my toes throughout. I read the entire book in one sitting, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

No matter where the story went, I’m glad that it never painted anyone as a villain. They were all good people who made some bad decisions when they were hurt. I think that the story wrapped up nicely (maybe a little too nicely) and I felt extremely satisfied after finishing the book. 

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Crimes of Grindelwald Movie Review

If worrying means you suffer twice, high expectations lead to double disappointments. 

Honestly, I loved Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Like, with my whole heart and this movie let me down. 

In Crimes of Grindelwald, my protagonist was completely lost in between the ten other characters that this movie tried to throw at you. Fbawtft had six main characters; Newt, Tina, Jacob, Queenie, Credence, and Grindelwald (in Colin Farrel’s body). Crimes of Grindelwald has all these characters, and then it throws in Dumbledore, Leta LeStrange, Thesues Scamander, and Nagini. Newt’s character takes time. He is not commanding or loud. You have to focus on him, give him time. He doesn’t speak fast, he needs time to explain himself. This movie feels like it’s rushing him. He can’t compete with the fast pace of the other characters. They drown him out, and I missed him. 

Also this movie should not have been Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald. There were no fantastic beasts. Newt captures one (1) beast the entire movie. And it was nothing compared to the erumpent mating dance from the first movie. Also, we spend no (0) time in Newt’s case. Instead, we get to see his apartment, which is like his case, but less cool. Where, exactly, did Newt learn this kind of magic and why is he the only one that can do this? I assume this is something along the lines of the “purse enlarging spell” that Hermione whips out, but how the hell is this actually possible.

Newt has an assistant too, named Bunty, who has absolutely no effect on anything whatsoever. Her most important line is, “Shouldn’t you take off your shirt?” to Newt, and that basically sums up her entire character. Like, it’s fine, but it’s frustrating when you consider that other characters seem to be slighted. Nagini’s role is so minimal it’s laughable. All she does is follow Credence around as he looks for his family. 

Newt and Tina do get some brilliant scenes that made my heart happy, especially as Newt struggles not to compare Tina to a salamander. It’s everything everyone loved about Newt. The best worst part about the whole thing was that Tina read in a gossip magazine that Newt was engaged to Leta LeStrange, when it was actually his older brother that was marrying Leta. This brings up a whole different horde of questions that never really get answered. We get flashbacks to Leta and Newt’s time in Hogwarts, but instead of explaining why they had a falling out, we get to find out that Newt’s boggart is an office desk. Again, it’s cute, but it comes at the expense of the actual story. We figure out that Leta and Newt were really tight, but we never find out exactly why she ditched him for his older brother, and exactly what is going on with the three of them. 

Considering that the movie is called Crimes of Grindelwald, it was severly lacking any crimes at all. All Grindelwald does in this movie is give speeches. He only kills two people, and that’s only because he wants their house? He’s in the movie a lot, but he doesn’t do anything. 

And finally, the climactic battle was … confusing. This threw us all for a loop, and it had some very complicated magic that didn’t really make much sense. Like some people were dying, but some were not, and some just apparated away but some didn’t? It was extremely unclear what was going on, and it was definitely not enough to redeem the movie.

I’m personally upset about the setting as well. New York looked beautiful, and it just kept on raining in freakin’ Paris. All the colors were cool, and everything felt dark. Fbawtft had a muted color palette as well, but it was warm and soft. This movie felt like an ice bucket.

You should watch this movie if you care about the potterverse. Here’s a trick: Do you know the name of Albus Dumbledore’s sister? If you answered yes, this movie is for you. Otherwise, good luck trying to understand what the heck is going on. If you’re just here for Newt, Tina, Jacob, and Queenie, prepare for disappointment. 

Johnny English Strikes Again

I felt so blessed when I heard about his movie. I was so excited to go check out a fun light-hearted movie that would me laugh until I cried, and I had already yelled about it to every single one of my movie buddies. I was so ready. Maybe I hyped myself out, but this movie didn’t live up to my expectations. Of course I laughed. I laughed a lot. But almost every single good joke is already in the trailer?? There was one solid joke that I didn’t already know. 

Obviously, the plot wasn’t the highlight of the movie. But it sure felt like it was trying to be. With a hack on the British government, a random Silicon Valley billionaire who looks suspiciously like Lex Luthor, and some out of place commentary about the weaknesses of technology (?) this movie went seriously off track. The overarching plot isn’t complicated, but it’s the little steps in between that bordered on downright random. There are haphazard scenes in the movie that are thrown for no reason other than to make the audience laugh. As in, they have no impact on the plot whatsoever, and are just … there. And it’s not a problem; just know that the plot is hardly the movie’s primary concern.

This movie relied on its humor, and it was lacking. It was funny, for sure. But it wasn’t as funny as it should have been. There were long stretches of time where nothing funny happened, and the audience was left alone with the nonsensical plot. That’s where things got a little uncomfortable. For a comedy movie, it needed a little bit more. 

The characters were nothing to remember, and were mainly just caricatures. Still, they elicited all the right responses from the audience, and we were all laughing out loud in the theater. It was a good watch overall, but not as great as my memories of the first two Johnny English movies. 

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The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

"I envied her dark skirts. Mine would show every trace of mud and filth the city had to offer. But I had to wear white, knowing I would see Victor."


 Elizabeth Lavenza hasn't had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her "caregiver," and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets . . . until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything--except a friend.

Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable--and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable. 

But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth's survival depends on managing Victor's dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost  as the world she knows is consumed by darkness.  

Ouch. I loved it.

This book was a retelling of the classic Frankenstein tale, but from the point of view of Victor’s love, Elizabeth. Why did Elizabeth marry a monster like Victor Frankenstein? Why did she not tell anybody about his madness? How did she manage to escape unscathed? (She doesn’t btw).

This book starts off slow and then it… I think it’s best approximated by an exponential approximation. The first one-third goes along at an easy pace, slowly ramping up to something comfortable. And then all hell breaks loose, and it just. Keeps. On. Escalating. 

The story pulls you in, and then it doesn’t let you go. The plot is well laid out, and feels awfully realistic. The story starts off when Elizabeth and Victor are teens, and is interspersed with flashbacks that reveal incriminating evidence as the timeline forges ahead. It's genius.

The characters are whole different kind of treasure. Elizabeth is constantly performing for the people around her. She is cunning, shrewd, but ultimately a kind person. She tampers down her moral compass when the occasion calls for it, and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. Still, she feels. She loves and fears, and shows kindness and believes. But she hides it all away, doing whatever needs to be done. On the other hand, Victor hides nothing. He is exactly what he says he is, and he has no qualms about it. He is decidedly … wrong, but he has no doubts about his decisions. And so the story is about two very different people wound tightly together to each other and no one else until they lose all sense of what is right and wrong. 

Elizabeth is trying so hard to hide her worthlessness that it comes to her as a shock that she may be worth anything at all. For all her meticulously-laid plans, it’s the one outcome she didn’t consider.  

It’s a horror story, but at the end of the day, it’s just so inexplicably sad. Perhaps I’m the only one who thinks of the lives lost, and the families shattered, but it’s what stays with me long after the story is over. 

For readers like me, who know the story of Frankenstein in their peripheral knowledge, this book was wonderful because it filled in the gaps, twisted some facts, and shone lights into the cracks. It changed my perspective on the story, but Elizabeth in general. 

Also, do read the author’s end notes, her comments about Mary Shelley are … thought-provoking to say the least. 

If you didn’t get the vibe: go read The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein.


Mirage by Somaiya Daud

 In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection...because one wrong move could lead to her death.

Mirage is the latest in the new trend of books about subjects being forced to serve royalty and then slowly coming to join a rebellion. Still, it’s an interesting idea: a body double for a hated princess? The story had real potential. 

The book is written in flowery language that attempts to capture the beauty of classical poetry. The issue is that barely anything happens. The plot is so barren, and the book ends just as things start to pick up. The story seems like a series of small moments strung together with no real overarching plot holding everything together. The premise was rather fascinating, but the story didn’t make the most out of it. For a story about “violence and fear” there is no fighting at all, and basically no rebelling either. Amani spends a lot more time cooking than she does rebelling, and she spends a whole lot of time examining how beautiful everything is.

The world building is complex. You’ll need to pay attention if you’re hoping to understand who is conquering who, who hates who and why. Maram’s family tree is also overly complicated, and there are just so many characters that float in and out of the story for no apparent reason.

The characters are well fleshed-out, if not completely likable. You have the stubborn and resilient Amani who keeps fluctuating between her conflicted emotions. Idris, who is basically the Prince Charming of the story, and nothing more. Maram turned out to be a surprise package in this book. She hides a spectrum of emotions behind her tough exterior, and suffers from the burdens placed on her at such a young age. 

The plot moves much too slowly, and it doesn’t seem like anything of value really happened anywhere in the story. The story drops off in the middle of the climax, possible hoping to attract readers to a sequel? Even said climax seems forced and could have been easily avoided with some rational thinking on Amani’s part. 

The only reason I’d come back is for Maram, a worthy addition to my list of favorite literary teenage royals. 

Sadie by Courtney Summers

 Sadie hasn't had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water. 

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie's entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late. 

Sadie was an interesting read. It took me a while to ease into the dual timelines: Sadie’s actions, and then West finding her footprints weeks later. Still, it was an engrossing read, and a gritty one at that. The story is layered and nuanced, and it kept me on the edge of my seat. The characters were sharp and unflinching, and realistically flawed. Sadie’s journey to find the murderer never felt rushed, and the resolution feels realistic. West’s podcast shows the story from a different angle, and helps fill in the holes. 

The story keeps you engaged and reveals things one at a time, lulling you into a false sense of security before dropping a bombshell. 

Characters come in and out of the story, exactly as one should expect from a girl on the run. Still, none of them really stick with you except the villain. Fitting, as the murderer is the driving force of the story.

Frighteningly enough, the story feels like something you’d see on the news, yet it remains far from predictable. Doesn’t hurt that its got an absolutely stunning cover. 

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn't so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

I went into this book super excited. Korean Brazilian food truck? Sign me up! 

Maurene Goo tried so hard to make this relatable to today’s teenagers, and it worked! Clara’s parents are Koreans who were born in Brazil, then immigrated to America. Clara’s mom is a social media influencer which was literally just as amazing as you’d expect. 

All the characters were brought to life so well. Clara’s snarky attitude is so much fun to read, as is her dad Adrian. Rose and Hamlet are the character foils to Clara’s longtime friends Felix and Patrick, and they really turn up the tension. But their character traits can’t do enough to save this story.  

This book let me down. It felt a bit fragmented, and things were brought up that were just forgotten later on. There was no real overarching plot that carried the story. I thought that the main issue was her frenemyship with Rose. They are left together to work the food truck for one week, and they go from enemies to friends. Sounds interesting. But the week where they become friends is not in the story?! It just flashes forward and the story continues with them being friends. 

Such a let-down. 

Then there’s the angle with Hamlet. Why is his name Hamlet? Who knows? Not me. Why does he live with his parents' friend's parents and not his own parent's parents? Who knows. Clara gets annoyed by people that are rich (like Hamlet). What happens to these feelings? Who knows. Her best friend’s parents are filing a lawsuit against her boyfriend. What happens? Who knows. 

But you do get to find the verdict of a food truck competition :)) 

Am I the only one who doesn’t find that to be the most interesting part of this story?

This book started off with such a great premise, but then it lost its momentum rather quickly. As a light summer read, it was fine, but it starts to fall apart if you think about it too much.

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

 Darcy Patel is afraid to believe all the hype. But it's really happening - her teen novel is getting published. Instead of heading to college, she's living in New York City, where she's welcomed into the dazzling world of YA publishing. That means book tours, parties with her favorite authors, and finding a place to live that won't leave her penniless. It means sleepless nights rewriting her first draft and struggling to find the perfect ending... all while dealing with the intoxicating, terrifying experience of falling in love - with another writer.

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy's novel, the thrilling story of Lizzie, who wills her way into the afterworld to survive a deadly terrorist attack. With survival comes the responsibility to guide the restless spirits that walk our world, including one ghost with whom she shares a surprising personal connection. But Lizzie's not alone in her new calling - she has counsel from a fellow spirit guide, a very desirable one, who is torn between wanting Lizzie and warning her that...

BELIEVING IS DANGEROUS.

Afterworlds alternates chapters between the story of a young author, and the book she’s writing. You get to see how her real-life experiences affect her manuscript. The issue is that neither of the stories are even mildly interesting enough. 

Darcy has hooked a publishing contract over her senior year. Now, instead of going to college, she’s decided to move to New York to work on writing. Why the hell does she need to go to New York? Why can’t she live at home and save money? Why can’t she live somewhere cheaper? For whatever reason, she’s decided to blow money on rent by living in New York. And of course she can’t live somewhere cheap. For some reason, she is hell-bent on living in an illegal dance studio. Why??? She literally sleeps in a locker room.

She spends the entire book fighting her parents who are telling her that she’s wasting money. Honestly, I agree. She spends eighty dollars on noodles nearly every day, and is on track to blow all three hundred thousand dollars of her contract in a year. She voluntarily chooses to buy flight tickets to tour the country in a book tour where she’s planning on … handling lines for another author’s fans. *sigh*

Speaking of her parents, they’re apparently extremely traditional Gujarati Hindu parents that are freaking out about her taking a gap year and don’t consider writing an actual career. Yet they named their first born child DARCY. Explain por favor. 

Darcy is hell-bent on focusing on her writing, yet she randomly gets a girlfriend (?) that seems lowkey forced to include diversity. Her girlfriend is also extremely sketchy and is writing a book about a guy who’s mom is a crazy cat lady and then he begins to develop cat powers and turns into a cat burglar.

Darcy’s writing is also not the greatest. Her story about a girl who is wills herself into the afterworld after a near-death experience starts off random, gets a little thrilling and goes back to random.

The book touches on cultural appropriation, which is only fitting as you have a white guy writing about a hindu girl writing about the Vedas. It seems so whack that I was honestly wondering if was some sort of satirical commentary about the publishing world. Nope, it’s just whack.

The only meaningful point of this book is the discussion between authors about the “Sophomore slump” and how they feel like they can only write one good book. This seems to apply to Scott Westerfeld. Verdict: read Uglies.

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

 You may think you know the story. Penniless orphan Jane Eyre begins a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester—and, Reader, she marries him. Or does she

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Bronte, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

I was a little worried that this book wouldn’t live up to My Lady Jane, but it totally did. My Plain Jane is hilarious, honestly, and I loved it. It’s very light-hearted and borderline satirical even. The plot is well-done and intricate, if outlandish at times. The characters are all very lovable and realistic, and you’re rooting for them all the way through. I wasn’t really expecting this, but the ghost hunting plays a very large part in this story. It’s basically the story of Jane Eyre (which I actually don’t know at all) reimagined with ghosts and evil government officials.

The book starts off a bit bland, but you really get into the groove of things halfway through, and it’s pretty hooking from there on out. The book is rather long, but it’s definitely worth the time. 

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Teenage Monarchs

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Kids Running Countries?

Hhmmmm…. So. It seems that I have developed a slight obsession with a fictional character.  

Yikes. Okay. Anyone that knows me can attest that is a vast understatement. In an effort to figure out exactly which characters retain my attention, I’ve started classifying them. One category is teenage monarchs. I definitely have an affinity towards young souls who are prematurely forced to carry the burden of entire civilizations on their backs.  

So, here are my top seven teenage monarchs.  

7. Maxon Schreave {The Selection by Kiera Cass} 

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks. Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself—and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined. 

Okay, so Maxon’s actually pretty nice, and watching him make this super skewed and nearly-impossible decision made me like him (tbh, I liked him more than Aspen from the get-go :). The first time America meets Maxon, she’s having a panic attack. She breaks down and insults him, but he responds graciously and still tries to make friends with her.  Despite all his overwhelming responsibilities, he still makes time for the little things. If he wasn’t the crown Prince of Ilea, he’d like to be a photographer. When America mentions how she used to go to bed hungry before the Selection, he instates a massive program to feed the poor--nearly overnight.  

6. Maven Calore {The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard} 

This is a world divided by blood – red or silver. The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change. That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power. Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime. But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart. 

So Maven Calore is this mysterious Silver prince mentioned in this blurb. He’s pretty quiet and shy, and obedient. He’s constantly overshadowed by his older brother, crown prince Tiberias “Cal” Calore. This totally sold me. Cal comes off as a brag and a show-off, while Maven is underestimated and quietly kind. Despite being a prince, he’s surprisingly powerless. The way to he acts with authority and then sneaks around behind the scenes is great. Maven and Mare finally join forces, but … well. No spoilers today.  

5. Kaito {Cinder by Marissa Meyer} 

Sixteen-year-old Cinder is considered a technological mistake by most of society and a burden by her stepmother. Being cyborg does have its benefits, though: Cinder's brain interference has given her an uncanny ability to fix things (robots, hovers, her own malfunctioning parts), making her the best mechanic in New Beijing. This reputation brings Prince Kai himself to her weekly market booth, needing her to repair a broken android before the annual ball. He jokingly calls it "a matter of national security," but Cinder suspects it's more serious than he's letting on. Although eager to impress the prince, Cinder's intentions are derailed when her younger stepsister, and only human friend, is infected with the fatal plague that's been devastating Earth for a decade. Blaming Cinder for her daughter's illness, Cinder's stepmother volunteers her body for plague research, an "honor" that no one has survived. But it doesn't take long for the scientists to discover something unusual about their new guinea pig. Something others would kill for. 

Prince Kai comes all the way down to see Cinder, who is a lowly cyborg, for help. A prince asking for help from a commoner? Like him already. Throughout the story, he provides humor and care to Cinder, even though he has many, many issues to deal with as the crown prince of Eastern Commonwealth. Even though Cinder lies to him and misleads him, he still shows her sympathy and respect. 

 4. Eadlyn Schreave {The Heir By Kiera Cass} 

Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, her mother entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon—and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she'd put off marriage for as long as possible. But a princess's life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can't escape her very own Selection—no matter how fervently she protests. Eadlyn doesn't expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn's heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her . . . and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn't as impossible as she's always thought. Note: This is the fourth book in the Selection series, and it obviously contains spoilers as to whom Maxon picked. Read at your own risk. 

Eadlyn is actually a pretty annoying person. She is not loved as much as her father, Prince Maxon, and she is severely struggling to show Ilea that she will be a worthy ruler someday. However, her attitude towards life in general is very relatable. Her public façade around others makes her feel in control, but quickly pushes them away. This is a relatable character, as it is tough to find a balance. If someone is too open, they will have fun and be loved. But they risk being manipulated and hurt. If someone stays brisk and aloof, they will always be in control and on track. But then they risk being lonely, and never forming true connections. It’s a timeless conundrum. Throw in Eadlyn’s responsibilities to her country, and the hawk-eyed media, and you have a monarch to watch.  

3. Tyrus {The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid} 

Nemesis is a Diabolic. Created to protect a galactic Senator's daughter, Sidonia. There's no one Nemesis wouldn't kill to keep her safe. But when the power-mad Emperor summons Sidonia to the galactic court as a hostage, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Now one of the galaxy's most dangerous weapons is masquerading in a world of corruption and Nemesis has to hide her true abilities or risk everything. As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns that there is something stronger than her deadly force: the one thing she's been told she doesn't have - humanity. And, amidst all the danger, action and intrigue, her humanity might be the only thing that can save her, Sidonia and the entire Empire. 

This book is filled with so many plot twists. Like, I can’t even. Tyrus isn’t even briefly mentioned in the blurb. He starts off as the next in line to the throne. Some stuff is off about him, the reason to why he’s the successor is very strategic for the gain of some, and the protection of others. As the plot twists and twists, Tyrus does become increasingly important. Despite being the next in line to become Emperor, he gives Nemesis’ life equal value to his. He looks up to her and wants to learn from her. From a diabolic. The respect that Tyrus gives Nemesis helps her learn to respect herself, and his faith in her helps her believe in herself. Tyrus isn’t all fluff though. He’s more than willing to blow people up, stab people, poison people … well, you get the idea.  

2. Khalid Ibn al-Rashid {The Wrath and the Dawn By Renee Ahdieh} 

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all. Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets? 

Tormented heart? Sign me up! I went into this story expecting lots of action, but there really isn’t. What you see here is what you get. Aside from that, though, the way that Khalid is portrayed in this story is wonderful. At the beginning, it’s easy to see Shahrzad’s quest for revenge. You kind of want to see a sword go through Khalid. But very quickly, you start to see the inner turmoil and confusion. Khalid is doing his best to keep his kingdom together, even if it means sacrificing his own conscience.

  1. Rhiannon Ta’an {Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza}

 CROWN PRINCESS RHIANNON TA'AN WANTS VENGEANCE. The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, RHEE has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne - and her revenge. ALYOSHA is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye. Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder. The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding - even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee's name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy. 

 Rhee is such a great character because she defies expectations left and right. Everyone thinks that she is docile and obedient, and she uses it to her advantage. She shows that underestimating your opponents is a costly mistake. She was helpless once, and she has made sure that it will never happen again. As her empire crumbles around her, she is forced into hiding to find out who is behind her—and why. Her need to avenge her family’s murder and lead her empire to peace are warring interests as Rhee struggles to win back all that she has lost.   

BONUS. Tony Stark {Iron Man Robert Downey Jr.} 

Okay, so Tony Stark is not a teenager. And he’s not really a monarch, more like a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, but c’mon. That’s basically a 21st century monarch. And he was definitely a teenager at some point.  

Tony is great because he is super sharp; literally a cacti. He can be rude and flippant, mean and sarcastic. He’s used to being left behind and fending for himself. He’s never found the benefits of teamwork, because he’s always, always, had to watch his back. No one has ever given him a hand just for the sake of helping. He’s learnt to distance himself. He’s not a bad person, but he is afraid of being hurt. Also, he’s a genius! Literally.