“The Spec Set” is a little piece of neurodivergent lit that is part superhero adventure, part spy thriller, part alien encounter, and sprinkled with a healthy dose of coming-of-age drama for our MC, Emile. Emile has always taken care of his little brother Max; making sure he gets around, that he’s safe, that he has what he needs. But Emile knows that Max is brilliant, that he is capable of more, even though he doesn’t talk, if only their over protective father would stop coddling the kid. Then Max finds a therapist whose young daughter (Lily) not only helps Max, but introduces Emile to a whole new world, one where he can play a part—as long as he, too, can see his little brother for who, and what, he truly is. I really loved the narrative voice of this novel from the onset, it’s fun and just my kind of sarcastic. I also really loved how Emile views Max early on; as someone with a neurodivergent brother, I related to being a sibling’s keeper, and feeling like they were playing the system more than necessary. But there was also a lot happening in this short read, and I often felt like chunks were missing from the story.
If you’ve read or heard or even watched anything even remotely centered around Alice in Wonderland, then you’ll understand “Queen of Hearts” which is a Wonderland retelling, but focused on the future Queen of Hearts, and without an Alice. The twist the author gives her version of Wonderland is truly stunning, it sounds like a beautiful and terrifying land all at once. I also really enjoyed the twist she gave to familiar elements of Wonderland: The Cards aren’t actual cards, but different ranks and classifications for soldiers. Cheshire is a conniving, manipulative advisor to the King instead of a cat, the Mad Hatter is the main character’s (Dinah) troubled brother who does love making some pretty lovely hats, and while there is no white rabbit, we all know Dinah’s tutor is the little rabbit always afraid of being late. Unfortunately, that about sums up the things I really liked about this novel.
So here’s the thing about “King of Scars”, in order to really “get” it, and appreciate the book, and just know what the heck is happening or who is who, you HAVE to read all other books in the Grishaverse first. If you don’t, you won’t understand Nina and her new powers or her pain, you won’t know who Zoya is or why Zoya is, well, Zoya, or how Adrik lost an arm, or even why lovely Genya loves the booknerd David. You won’t know why Nikolai is plagued by a monster, or truly love him as much as you should because his real wit shines in Alina’s books. So, honestly, if you haven’t read all those other books, you shouldn’t really read this review, or even look at “King of Scars” synopsis. Don’t spoil yourself for this baby, you’ll be sad if you do. That being said, however, the Six of Crows duology remains my favorite of this universe even though I, like Zoya, will fight everyone and everything for my boy Nikolai.
I am kicking myself over how long it took me to start this series, and I am so glad that I was able to discuss this book with a group of friends, all of us reading and racing toward the end together. “A Darker Shade of Magic” follows Kell, one of the last Antari, a type of magic wielder that can travel between the 4—now 3—different London’s. Kell’s London (Red) is vibrant and thriving, magic is embraced and enjoyed, Kell revered as the adopted brother to Prince Rhy (who is adorable and I love him). Whereas the other MC, Lila Bard, comes from Grey London, where magic has disappeared completely, and then there’s Creepy—I mean White London, whose ruthless rulers enslave magic and drink blood, as one does. The different London’s magic system, the sharp steel of Lila Bard paired with Kell’s steady cool made for an amazing first book in this trilogy, and while it’s a complete story, there are still so many mysteries left to uncover.
This is only the second book I’ve read that’s written in verse, but it’s my first book from this author, so I went into this pretty blind. While I still can’t say anything about the structure of the verses and how that plays into the story tempo, I can say that this was an immensely powerful book. “Clap When You Land” is the story of two sisters who only learn of each other’s existence when unthinkable tragedy and grief pulls them together. The story gives us both sister’s POV so the reader can really see how these two girls, connected by blood, view their world and home, their parents and culture, and how they process grief and betrayal differently. I felt Acevedo captured the different voices of her main characters incredibly well and how she captured their grief, their anger, and just the rawness of their tragedy in an incredible and moving way, but the heavy to the light ratio did seem just a tad disproportional to me come the end.
Click the book images to see them on Amazon!