The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

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Remember reading Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark as a child? Because this is that, come to life.

I love dark modern fairy tale twists and this was one of them. It reminded me of Vassa in the Night, ancient magic and monsters seeping into our world, killing and changing it ever so slightly. Our MC is, of course, with a secret past, where we know it relates to the magic world but don’t know exactly how until the big reveal.

I could read a dozen more of these kinds of books and never get tired of them.

I loved the prosaic writing. I LOVED the little tales with their creepy characters and gray endings. It was strange and unique and I wish there were more. The shockers shocked me and it held me until the very end.

If you enjoy reading the Brothers Grimm tales and want to see something new that molds with today, this is a perfect read. If you’re looking for a YA fantasy that mostly takes place in a fairy-tale world, you may be disappointed since it’s only a small portion of this one. If you want Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark come to life, this is the book for you.

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Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

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Ooooh look at this pretty cover! The Spanish vibe was strong with this book (though the world was a fully fantasy one). I absolutely had to request it on NetGalley.

Now I read a lot of YA fantasy, and this was pretty much what you’d expect from one. A world where women are oppressed, a rebellion to change it, balls and princes and inevitable betrayal. If you’ve read the Red Queen this is that but feminist instead of magical.

What makes it unique though, is that instead of having one MC doing what we’re used to: unexpectedly going from rags to riches or riches to rags, we get both sides. One sister is meant for royalty (aka Grace) and the other for serving, and their roles reverse where one becomes a Grace and the other goes to prison island to compete in the ‘Hunger Games’. It’s a 2-for-1 deal!

I enjoyed reading it, though I think it’s meant for the younger side of YA (13-16). While teen girls will definitely relate to the sisters’ thoughts and actions, to me it felt too dramatic.

Overall, a great book to purchase for a teen girl, full of feminism and girl power (you can preoder it now as it releases on July 31!). If you’re older and like more mature main characters in your YA (17-19), you’d probably be rolling your eyes a lot, but it’s still worth checking out for a guilty pleasure read (think The Selection).

And of course, tons of thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

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I know, I know, I’m SUPER late to read this book. For some reason I thought it was a Robin Hood retelling, not Beauty and the Beast. Oops. But when I finally realized what it really was, I got it immediately. And it’s molded with Russian lore? Yes please.

I loved it. I mean what’s not to love?

Yeva would have preferred to be admired for her skill, but she’d suffered the great misfortune of having been born a girl.

Every book I read needs to start with this sentence. I loved the writing, the toeing the line between the original and being original. I loved the characters and the moral of the tale. Some may say they’re tired of Beauty and the Beast retellings, and to them I say NAY. This was meant to be.

So if you like this kind of thing (like I do) it’s a perfect read. Not too light, not too dark, and just familiar enough.

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

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So. Many. Amazing. Quotes.

“The point is what you do when you don’t have the details. Do you interrogate? Do you examine? Or do you settle for the obvious answer?”

I mean seriously. This book was Snowpiercer on a spaceship and everyone is queer. I loved it. I loved that the characters were complicated and both likable and unlikable. I loved that it was haunting without the supernatural. I loved that it had faith but it wasn’t preachy.

How Lucifer felt upon leaving the Heavens. He didn’t fall. He dove.

Oh, and spoiler alert: they’re all dead.

Juuuust kidding (I think?) This book has plenty of scientific explanations and medical terms, but one thing stood out to me:

She’d been helping Aster scrub down X deck with ammonia and bleach, a failed attempt to rub out the stink of what had happened there.

For a second there as I read it I thought I had a ‘EUREKA’ moment. They’re all dead from toxic gas and this book is about them as ghosts trapped in the ship for all eternity!

But then I was like nah, it was probably just an oversight on the writer’s/editor’s part. The rest of the book seems to uphold the sentiment (which is why I don’t count this as a spoiler), unless you consider Earth actually being Heaven/the afterlife. Who knows? (Dun dun dun…)

Anyway, I don’t like depressing stories and while this book was dark it was also full of hope. I loved it and I think fans of Snowpiercer would love it too.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

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The first day my husband came home after he started listening to this audiobook he told me I had to read this book. I said ok, I’ll check it out, but it seems too real-world for me. Guy wakes up to find his whole life is different – his family doesn’t exist and he’s a famous scientist instead of a teacher. An interesting premise but meh. I didn’t expect to get through chapter one.

I finished it the next day.

This book was WOW. I loved the staccato writing style, it made me feel like I was watching scenes in a movie. The inner thoughts of the people were like seeing someone’s dreams. Intense and relateable and just perfect for the story. I couldn’t tear my eyes from it I had to know what happened every page. It made me think of the TV show Legion (X-Men universe) and how insane it was and how it just kept getting more and more insane. This is that kind of book. By the end I had no idea how it was going to get resolved but it did.

Overall, I absolutely loved it and would recommend it to anyone who likes sci-fi because it’s a fun crazy romp worth the time and satisfaction of flying through it.

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

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Yes yes YES! I am SO GLAD I gave this book a chance because now I see the -point- of Inkmistress. In this book we’re thrown into a land of magic without any explanation, and without the worldbuilding I got in Inkmistress I would have been lost. Lucky for me, I read it first, and this book was such a JOY to read afterwards.

The basic premise is Denna is engaged to a prince she doesn’t care for, but his horse-taming sister is way more her style. Also there’s imminent war and magic and all that other fantasy goodness.

This is the first f/f YA fantasy with a queer but not outwardly bi main character princess I’ve seen. The romance was fantastic, and while I didn’t quite connect to Denna, I absolutely LOVED Mare (the OTHER princess). Their slow-burning romance was what made this book. Every chapter I was like YES THIS IS AWESOME. And it was. I was awesome.

We need more books like this. More fantasy aimed at teens with positive queer relationships like this. It was a good story and I’m glad it’s out there in the world. Yes, it’s your typical YA fantasy but it’s exactly what queer girls need in their life – a book where they’re represented as normal human beings. Five fiery stars!

Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst

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I first heard of this book because of the outrage over its Kirkus review alluding to the fact that the MC’s bisexuality is undermined by the fact that she falls in love with a guy. As a queer woman in a m/f marriage, this made me immediately put this book on my to-read list.

It took a while but I finally did it! I finished this book.

(But I almost didn’t.)

Here’s what I loved about it. It starts off with a beautiful portrayal of an f/f relationship in a really intriguing world full of gods and magic. As it continues, we are taken on a journey and get to see so much as we follow two characters falling in love. It had everything I love about fantasy and more.

And yet, as I got to the 40% mark I started skimming. First sentences, then paragraphs, then entire PAGES. Something about it just made me want to know what happens but not how? I don’t know. I felt disconnected from the writing, which has never happened to me before. It’s like even though it was in first person, it felt like an omniscient narrator telling us about days and weeks passing and I just kind of wanted more connection.

I did end up finishing it, and I’m glad I did. I think it’s just personal preference that the writing style wasn’t for me, even though the story itself was. I’m going to check out Of Fire and Stars and see if it’s a little better.

Overall, a good story and a great addition to queer fantasy we need so much more of.