“Silent” a Historical Thriller

Silent by David Mellon is a suspenseful story of a young woman, Adi, who unknowingly offends a certain man, a man who kidnaps her twin brothers in an act of vengance, leaving her only a watch and two riddles to direct her to where her brothers are. In a race against time, Adi struggles to solve the riddles before her time is up and her brothers lost forever. Set in 1914, Silent takes place in the time leading up to, and during World War I.

A story, or plot, driven book, Silent did a great job of keeping me invested, not only in the mystery, but also in the characters. I found them all interesting and believable.

The villain, always a determining factor in such books, was creepy, sometimes otherworldly, and coldly calculating. But he also very human in surprising ways. He made me curious, and drew pity, even sympathy, from me at times.

While this is a YA novel, I would really recommend this compelling novel to anyone middle grade or older. Personally, this book held me captive from beginning to end. While there were a few lulls near the middle of the book the initial premise and promise of the novel pulled me through and I found it well worth the time and effort of seeing it through to the end. 4.5/5.



Dystopian Sci-Fi: “Crewel” By Gennifer Albin

Based in a world were control is everywhere and everything, Crewel by Gennifer Albin is about a sixteen-year-old girl, Adelice, who is elected to become a “spinster,” part of an elect group able to weave the very fabric of the universe into being. Despite breaking many of the strict laws that keep women under the tight control of the government, she is left alive thanks to her singular abilities to weave space and time without the use of a loom.

As she comes to terms with her abilities and the complicated workings of the government she is now a part of, Adelice struggles to free herself from the (largely male) tyranny of those who claim to be “protecting” her.

As far as dystopian novels go, Crewel impressed me with its imaginative world and the complicated workings of said world. The idea of weaving the fabric of the world felt new and it was exciting to explore the possibilities and limitations of such an ability with Adelice.

This novel was also filled with lots and lots of themes about control, women, and the value of freedom and respect for individual agency to choose. I was surprised that I didn’t mind the overwhelming amount of thematic material incorporated into this book. Albin did an excellent job using the themes rather than allowing the themes to use her.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and would rate it a 4/5 stars, points taken off only because I’m not a fan of the dystopian genre in the first place. But if you like dystopian YA novels, and like themes about women’s independence, you will love this book.

“The Crown’s Game” in Imperial Russia

I was surprised when I read the premise of The Crown’s Game at how similar it sounded to a book I read a couple of months ago called The Night Circus (see review here). I loved The Night Circus and I was interested, and a bit worried, to see how The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye would compare.

My verdict is this: The Crown’s Game is much too-familar if you have read The Night Circus, but you will still find an enjoyable story that interweaves new elements into setting, character, and plot. It felt like a younger version of The Night Circus with a heavier emphasis on character relationships.

In The Crown’s Game, two enchanters, Nikolai and Vika, are pitted against each other in a deadly game to see who will be the Tsar’s Imperial Enchanter. As the two young enchanter’s try to outdo the other in magical feats, they find themselves irresistibly drawn to each other even as they fight to the death.

I loved the premise of course, but I also enjoyed the elements I wasn’t expecting. The setting in particular was something that set it apart as excellent. I loved the idea of placing a magic duel in Imperial Russia. The magic fit perfectly into an alternate and idealized version of such a place. It provided just enough newness to the story that I was held in wonder for the magical place Skye had created that was so new to me.

I loved the magical elements, and the characters too. Unlike Morgenstern’s The Night CircusThe Crown’s Game delved more deeply into helping the reader get to know the main characters. I loved the relationships between said characters and the attention Skye paid to help the reader feel, and not just observe, the love, jealousy, friendship, and disgust between them.

There was no clear villain in this story, something else that I enjoyed. I find that some of the best stories are like life: they are complicated, messy, and have no true villains. Instead, every person has elements of good and bad, and cycle somewhere in-between, often in shades of gray.

While I am disappointed that The Crown’s Game was so similar to something I’d just read (and I do prefer The Night Circus overall), I was pleased with the execution of this story in the YA fantasy genre with a rating of 8/10.

Immigration and Loss in “The Last Days of Café Leila” by Donia Bijan

I picked up The Last Days of Café Leila by Donna Bijan based on a hope to find something engaging, well-written, and mature but clean. I was in need of a change of pace from the last couple of YA books I’d just finished. So, skimming the new part of the adult section at the library (while also trying to keep my toddler from pulling down shelves of books) I picked up this one, read the back, found out it partly took place in Tehran, and brought it home.

Since my senior year of college when I read Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, a book that has forever changed my life, I have been especially interested by the middle east, and most especially Iran.

The main character of this book grew up in Iran, and then attended college in the United States and is living there when the book begins. As an immigrant to the US, Noor holds on to some of her family’s culture she has left behind, but also becomes thoroughly westernized in her ideals, way of living, and expectations of life.

Consequentially, when Noor returns to Iran with her US-born daughter Lily to visit Noor’s father after discovering her husband’s infidelity, she sees Iran with new eyes: the perfect lens for an American reader.

As Noor quickly sinks back into her childhood role, Lily struggles to transition to a new culture and environment, and their mother-daughter relationship is brought to an all-time low. As Noor attempts to salvage their relationship, she discovers the importance of standing your ground not only as a parent, but as an individual.

The Last Days of Café Leila is predominantly a story of family with underlying political undertones. While Noor and her father rekindle their relationship, we are brought to feel the tragic loss of beauty and common decency in the recovery stages of revolution.

These political undertones brought depth to this family drama, grounding the story in a very real setting.

While this book definitely had a pro-western bias, the fundamental themes of insecurity, the messiness of life, the difficulties of immigration and assimilation, and ultimately the sacrifice needed to achieve self-actualization were powerful.

This book consumed me until I had read every page. And while I loved the prose, I did feel that the ending left something to be desired. Ultimately, I would rate it a 7/10. I would recommend The Last Days of Café Leila, but I won’t be adding it to my personal collection.



Continue reading “Immigration and Loss in “The Last Days of Café Leila” by Donia Bijan”

YA Fiction from Germany: “The Book Jumper”

I picked up The Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser on a whim while at the library. Honestly, that’s how I find most of my books with varying results. In this case, I was thoroughly pleased. A book about living in books was just what I wanted to read.

An award-winning German author, Gläser makes her debut into English readership with The Book Jumper, a book about a girl who discovers that she can jump into books and interact with the stories and characters. As she learns more about her unusual ability, she also discovers that someone is stealing from the stories she visits, damaging and changing beloved classics such as Alice in WonderlandPride and Prejudice, and The Wizard of Oz.

Perfect for anyone who loves reading, has felt ostracized or betrayed by someone they love, or loves reading books set in Scotland with romantic sub-plots, this book is a solid 8/10 in my mind. Gläser beautifully imitates characters canonized in time like Sherlock Holmes, and Alice from Alice in Wonderland and I loved how many famous books Gläser incorporated into The Book Jumper.

While reading it was a fantastic journey that I wish I had written myself, I have to say I was not satisfied with the ending. It felt too easy and too predictable. Such an amazing story deserved an amazing ending. Instead, we got an okay ending. Which was . . . okay.

Overall, this is a book I would love to add to my collection. It felt fresh, vibrant, and yet so familiar (what book-worm doesn’t feel at home in a book about books?). And I loved the characters, the adventures and the setting. It is definitely a book I could see myself reading again as soon as I add it to my own little library.



Garth Nix’s Fairytale Cliché “Frogkisser!”

I first discovered Garth Nix with his Old Kingdom Trilogy (SabrielLiraelAbhorsen), and found that he had a distinct flavor to his books that I found alluring and intelligent. While I thoroughly enjoyed the Old Kingdom Trilogy, I never got into any of his other series or novels, perhaps due to Nix’s focus on story and lack of complex character dynamics.

So when I picked up his latest novel Frogkisser! I was unsurprised to find these same traits inherent throughout the story. Despite somewhat flat characters and a distant tone, I found this book charming and enjoyable. In fact, his use of uninteresting characters helped create a cohesive tone throughout the book. It felt like reading a drawn-out, very detailed, comical children’s fairytale.

Let me preface my review with this warning: do not take this book too seriously. It is sometimes slow, and silly, and definitely a just-for-fun read. Nix took fairytale clichés and used them in particularly obvious ways that poked fun at more traditional uses. I loved the reasons Nix gave for the evil sorcerer clichéd cackle, the use of Quests (v. quests), the retelling of Snow White (not a princess), and the beautiful and hilarious portrayal of dogs.

Dogs play a huge role in this book, both in plot and character, and really help to drive the story forward and bring life to the pages. Nix captured all the lovable, infuriating, and odd characteristics of man’s best friend, and anyone that is a dog-lover or even likes dogs a little bit, will find themselves giggling at Ardent and the other royal dogs through to the end.

While this book begins quite slowly, it picks up about three-quarters of the way through, and ends quite decently. Personally, I think it would be ideal for reading aloud (lots of fun voices to do). Younger children, and adults will love the comical fairytale world Nix has created, I know I did, and I hope to see more like this from him in the future!

Vivid Writing and Complex Characters in The Winner’s Trilogy

The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski made me sleep-deprived for three whole days, that’s how badly I wanted—no, needed—to finish those three books. Each book was fast moving, beautifully developed, and highly addictive. I’ve been on a high fantasy kick, and this trilogy has only made my love for the genre greater.

The premise is this: A general’s daughter buys a slave and finds that the price she paid for his life is much higher than she ever could have imagined (it basically turns her whole world upside down). This trilogy delves into intriguing strategy and deadly politics, and is overall slightly reminiscent of Kristin Cashore and Rae Carson’s respective novels.

I loved the characters, the world, the plot, the intricate details Rutkoski wove throughout the trilogy and the themes she incorporated into her stories.

Throughout the trilogy, Rutkoski used themes such as: the value of human life,  being true to one’s self, independence, the meaning of loyalty and love, and the importance of familial relationships.

The first book especially focused on the value of human life and the importance of equality within relationships. The relationships displayed in Winner’s Curse were complicated, and yet quite tangible. I fell in love with the main characters, and I hated the villains.  Rutkoski drew me in to her world with these complex and vibrant characters who cultivated beautiful and sometimes problematic relationships in a world reminiscent of ancient Greece and Rome.

The second book, Winner’s Crime, was, perhaps, my least favorite, if only because my hands were stiff from clutching the book for so long. The tension within this middle installment filled my mind and body through to the end, making it almost impossible to put down. I loved the change of scenery and the depth that Rutkoski continued to give her characters and world they live in.

The final installment in Winners trilogy, Winner’s Kiss, was beautifully done as well. Rutkoski masterfully wrote fast-paced action sequences that cut between parallel plots in the best, and most intense, way possible.

I don’t want to say too much about the last two books and give anything away, but I will say that I would highly recommend this trilogy.