Imagine waking up naked, in a cell with two rotting corpses, and then a man in rags with two katana’s breaks down your prison door and basically says “come with me if you want to live”. That’s how we start “The Last Day in Hell” where our main female MC, January, wakes up confused, not knowing anything about herself or who she was, not even her real name, the only fact she knows is that she is naked, dead, and the date she died. When our main male MC, Jack, and his crew find her they explain the world January suddenly finds herself in, and how they have to traverse this hellscape full of monsters in order to reach a door that could potentially lead them out of Hell if they are chosen. They don’t know why they are in Hell to begin with, so proving themselves worthy of getting out of this place becomes difficult when no one really knows what to do in order to atone. The book starts off action packed and full of intrigue. I originally loved the premise of this story, but the more I read, the more I realized this book just wasn’t for me.
“The Nature of Witches” is a true, and beautiful, YA story featuring a heroine born with a wonderful and strong power that she does not want because of the devastating effects it can have on those closest to her. Clara, as the only Ever in over a century, is desperately needed to hold the world’s atmosphere together while witches and non-witches alike figure out how to reverse the effects of climate change. But Clara feels too out of control, too scared of her own magic to want the responsibility. If she can’t keep her magic from hurting those she loves, she’d rather not have it at all. See what I mean about this being a true-blue YA novel? This book is very much a coming of age, self-discovery novel with the overall message being: love heals, but you have to be willing to let it. It’s a beautiful message, and there were some equally beautiful scenes in this book, too. So why was I kind of “meh” about it?
“The Changeling” feels like two books in one. You have the contemporary fiction of a young black family navigating their new life changes when welcoming a baby in New York City, which includes dealing with the racism they face as very bookish people—Apollo is a book man, hunting down rare books, and Emma is a librarian. But it’s also a story that closely aligns with the traditional folklore around changelings (I won’t go into details just in case you aren’t familiar and want to be completely surprised by this novel). Marrying those two stories is tricky, at the best of times, but Lavelle does a fabulous job, for the most part, of weaving a chilling, slow burn contemporary thriller with a fantasy horror story. The effect is a literary fiction that I can totally see college or advanced High School students dissecting in their English classes. But the connections between these two worlds wasn’t always there, so the author had to take great leaps on occasion, plus there is just one thing I cannot forgive Emma for…
“Seacity Rising” is a sweet, middle grade novel that follows a group of four aquatic animals on a quest to save their pond from a prophecy that promises doom in the near future. Babak is the only frog left in Seacity, and as such, he is the first to truly believe the prophecy and want to set out and find a solution to this impending doom. He is joined by princess turtles, and a genius fish who travel far from their pond to discover what is coming, and what they can do about it. While the main premise is a quest to save the home they love, the themes of friendship, caring for the environment and its animals, and avoiding climate catastrophe is strong and beautiful—without feeling sanctimonious. This would make for a great read aloud book for a parent and their young child!
“Mastermind” is the third book in Swed’s “League of Independent Operatives” series, so if you haven’t read the first two books then… hey, hi, you should read those and then come back here so we can better discuss this baby. Because in “Mastermind” we are once again put in the middle of two different groups of powered vigilantes who love to point fingers at each other, while bigger, badder problems and forces loom on the horizon. In this third book, we get more emotion from our main character, Mary, as she deals with the consequences of her actions from book 2, and while Mary is forced to confront those demons and learn to trust herself again, she’s pretty much the only character that faces their inner misgivings head on, whether for good or ill.
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