This Cruel Design by Emily Suvada

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Last week, I reviewed the fantastic YA sci-fi, This Mortal Coil. This Cruel Design by Emily Suvada is its sequel. Like my other sequel reviews, this may contain a few spoilers for the first book in the series so consider yourself warned.

In This Cruel Design, the Hydra virus has mutated, no longer responding to the vaccine that Cat fought so hard to figure out. And worse, the virus has now infected someone close to her. It's spreading more quickly and differently than before, leaving the clock ticking on finding a patch for the vaccine. On top of all this, Cat is still trying to defeat her evil genius father. This leads the gang to Entropia-a city of genehackers that deals completely in code-in order to solicit help. Will they find the assistance they are looking for and stop the Hydra virus? And what other things might Cat uncover in the process?

There were a few twists in this book that completely blew me away! Also I loved the tie in of the birds from the first book. They were mentioned so much in This Mortal Coil and now you get to see why! The new characters introduced in this installment were great additions to the cast, and I really enjoyed getting to see some plot set in the city of Entropia.

There were a few times this book got to be a little confusing. There was definitely a lot to absorb and you must pay very close attention or you could miss an important detail that may come into play later. But it's this elaborate world building and complex plot that really gives this book that extra something.

There will be another book in this series, and I can't wait to see what Suvada has in store for us!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

A big thanks to Simon Pulse for sending over a finished copy of both This Cruel Design and the first book, This Mortal Coil! Both books are out now!

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I reviewed Riley Sager's book Final Girls a while back, and absolutely loved it. I knew I had to give this one a shot and really hoped it would deliver as well as Final Girls did. Fortunately, The Last Time I Lied lived up to all my expectations! I do want to place trigger warnings on this book for drowning and mental illness.

This story follows Emma, whose three cabin mates mysteriously disappeared without a trace during her first summer at Camp Nightingale. The camp was shuttered, and the girls were never found. Now, years later, Emma is headed back to Camp Nightingale as an adult, at the request of its wealthy owner. Emma hopes returning will give her closure, and hopefully uncover some answers to what happened to Vivian, Natalie, and Allison all those years ago. But what answers could she possibly find that the police could not? And what are these answers going to cost her?

This had a very similar vibe to Final Girls, with the plot focused heavily on something that happened in the woods, as well as the main character seeking closure after a traumatic incident. It was fast-paced and read extremely quickly. I really enjoyed all the characters, and thought the twists and turns of the plot were all interwoven beautifully. This story was part teen movie, part urban legend, part treasure hunt, and part mystery all wrapped into one.

I loved that it was told through both flashbacks and present day scenes, and I really enjoyed getting to know Emma's cabin mates through those flashbacks. I also appreciated how Emma coped with her trauma, by hiding the missing girls in her now-famous artwork. 

I did think there were a few unnecessary elements, but nothing that distracted from the story in a major way. Overall I really enjoyed this book, and I can't wait for Sager's next book, Lock Every Door, which comes out this coming summer!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I have just been itching for a good sci-fi and This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada sure did deliver! In this dystopian society, a fast-spreading new virus called Hydra has split the world in two: those hiding out in bunkers and those trying to still survive out in the world. Catarina Agatta is one of the latter. 

Having been abandoned when her father, a famous geneticist, was captured by the shady organization Cartaxus, Cat has been doing everything she has to in order to survive, including trying to hack Cartaxus systems and eating human flesh to remain immune to the Hydra virus. But when a Cartaxus agent shows up saying that Cat's father is dead, and he has left a message requesting her help with a Hydra vaccine, Cat has to go against all that she has believed about the evil Cartaxus to try to save the human race.

This world was just incredible. The gene manipulation, the apocalyptic plague that literally makes people explode, and just the technology in general were all amazing. There were some crazy plot twists that I absolutely loved, and in no place did this book get slow or drag whatsoever. The characters were very likable and it was so easy to visualize everything taking place. 

If you liked The Hunger Games, Zombieland, or any book about having to survive in a dystopian world or dealing with a terrifying virus epidemic, this read is definitely for you!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

A big thanks to Simon Pulse for sending over a finished copy of both This Mortal Coil and its sequel, This Cruel Design! Both books are out now!

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Hearts Unbroken, an own voices YA contemporary by Cynthia Leitich Smith, follows Louise Wolfe, a Native teen navigating the difficult worlds of high school and racism. When her boyfriend makes some inappropriate remarks about Native people, she dumps him through email and moves on with her life. But when inclusion casting for the upcoming school musical The Wizard of Oz stirs up trouble, Louise realizes that racism and hatred go much further in the community than just her ex-boyfriend.

I really wanted to love this book. I think it brings to light a lot of issues and shows how we can all be more educated and do better regarding stereotypes and cultural appropriation (a specific instance mentioned is people dressing up like Native Americans for Halloween). I just think it could have been done better. 

This book tried to tackle so much: racism, cultural appropriation, slut shaming and sexism, bullying, the list goes on. I think the overall message was lost because the author tried to address so much. There were also an insane amount of side characters and subplots. The story often got confusing when the author would cut off a chapter at an awkward place then start the next chapter with something completely unrelated.

I liked the story fine, and enjoyed the main plot overall. This book read extremely quickly, which was good because I'm not sure how much longer I could have handled the awkward, jerky chapter transitions. Even though there were a lot of errors in execution, this book is an important one in the issues it addresses, which is why I'm still giving it a middle of the road rating.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

A big thanks to Candlewick Press for an ARC of this read! Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith is out now!

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

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I was in desperate need of a short, fluffy read, and I thought The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle would be the perfect answer. This was a Book of the Month pick for me a few months back, and the gorgeous yellow cover drew me right to it. Well, fluffy, this coming of age contemporary was not. But I did really enjoy it!

You know the premise. If you could have dinner with any 5 people, living or dead, who would they be? But Sabrina never expects to actually get to have that dinner. Yet on her thirtieth birthday, she walks into the restaurant and there they all are: Audrey Hepburn, her estranged father, her best friend, her favorite college professor, and her ex. Throughout the course of the evening, Sabrina learns and laughs with this unexpected group, as well as reminisces on times both good and bad, and tries to pinpoint what went wrong with the main relationships in her life.

I was not expecting this book to get to my emotions as much as it did. Whether it was the relationship with her estranged father, drifting apart from her best friend, or trying so hard to make a doomed romantic relationship work, I really felt for Sabrina. I saw her grow and mature a lot throughout the dinner, and enjoying seeing how she interacted with and learned from each guest.

This read super quickly, so it was definitely the short read I was looking for. It was just a little more emotional than I was expecting! I liked how it alternated between the dinner scenes themselves (prefaced by times so you knew how much time was left in the night before the group had to disband) and flashbacks to different parts of Sabrina's life.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

As a side note, I think my 5 people would be Walt Disney, Stevie Nicks, Princess Diana, my late grandfather, and Steve Irwin.

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Lost Soul, Be At Peace by Maggie Thrash

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This is the first graphic novel ARC I've ever received, and the black and white threw me a little bit. I had to keep reminding myself that the final version would be in color, and keep trying to imagine what the color palette would be. Lost Soul, Be At Peace by Maggie Thrash is a graphic novel that acts as a pseudo-memoir and follows Maggie as the main character. When Maggie's cat Tommi goes missing in their own home, Maggie goes in search of her, only to find a ghost boy instead. Who is he, and what does he want? 

This book touched on a lot, and I mean a lot, of hard hitting subjects, including eating disorders, physical abuse, and sexual assault. It also focuses very heavily on Maggie's relationship with her parents. There was some LGBTQ+ representation, which I did enjoy, but overall this story seemed like a hodge-podge of topics thrown together. 

Unfortunately I did not like this story. It made no sense, and aside from maybe 10 panels, I didn't really see the point. I also did not like the art style, because like the story, it seemed rushed and thrown together. There was also a scene that seemed to make fun of a Chinese accent and that really rubbed me the wrong way.

I have not read Maggie's other book, Honor Girl, so I don't know if it's like this one or not. Personally, I don't understand the point of calling a book a memoir then saying at the end that only parts of it were accurate representation. Luckily this was a quick read, so I didn't waste too much time on it.

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Thanks to Candlewick Press for sending me an ARC of this read! Lost Soul, Be At Peace by Maggie Thrash is out now!

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
This is definitely a read where the beauty of the writing inside is worthy of the beauty of the cover outside. Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan is a gorgeously written fantasy steeped in Malaysian influence. 

This story follows Lei, a member of the Paper caste, the lowest caste in the kingdom. When royal guards come to take her away from her small village to become a Paper Girl, she is completely distraught. Paper Girls are the carefully selected courtesans of the Demon King himself, a man Lei deems responsible for her mother being taken away 10 years ago. The plot is all about Lei refusing to simply accept what has happened to her and her family and rebelling against what is expected of her, and maybe even finding love along the way in the most unexpected of places. 

I absolutely adored this read! I didn't really get into it for a few chapters, but once I did I was completely hooked! Ngan's writing is beautiful and completely envelops you in the culture of Ikhara. I loved all the characters, especially Lei, as they all responded to their fate differently. I loved the LGBTQ+ and Asian representation in this story. I loved the female empowerment and overall theme of girls taking their fate in their own hands. I do want to put a trigger warning on it for sexual abuse and violence, as this can get pretty heavy at times. There is also a pretty disturbing pet death. 

I am so excited that this is going to be a trilogy and am already desperate for more after that ending. This read has action, romance, intrigue, and so much more. I can't go into too much more detail without spoiling things, but I will just say that you definitely need to give this one a read! 

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Little Brown/Jimmy Patterson Books for an advanced copy of this beautiful read. Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan is out TOMORROW, November 6th, so be sure to pick up a copy!

Hocus Pocus and Edison Beaker, Creature Seeker Mashup

So this is definitely not my normal type of post, but I hope you'll find it to be a lot of fun! I was fortunate enough to partner with Penguin Young Readers for their Wicked Reads Middle Grade campaign, where I got to pick a Halloween candy and be sent a corresponding mystery read! I was so happy when I opened my package and found not only some candy and other goodies, but a copy of Edison Beaker, Creature Seeker: The Night Door! I've been living for graphic novels lately, so this was the perfect cutesy/creepy middle grade read to wrap up the Halloween reading season.

Synopsis from Penguin Young Readers: Edison Beaker and his young sister Tesla are staying with their uncle Earl, manager of the family pest control company, when an alarm sounds and he has no choice but to drag them along on a service call.
Cover Art Courtesy of Penguin Young Readers

They should have listened when he warned them, "stay in the van."

Monster-sized mayhem ensues when the kids chase their escaped hamster into a mysterious warehouse--and suddenly they are the ones being chased as all sorts of creepy creatures scurry, slink, and stomp through a secret Night Door.

The Fun Part: I wanted to take some of my favorite Halloween characters, the Sanderson Sisters from Hocus Pocus, and put them in the world of Edison Beaker, just to see how they would handle the story (without giving away too much of the plot, of course)! Here are my predictions:

Winifred: True to form, Winnie would be the leader, so she would replace Edison. When the gang gets lost in the Underwhere, I think Winnie would use her powers to force the monsters to bend to her whim, ultimately turning on their leader, similar to the way she tried to control Billy in Hocus Pocus. This would come back to bite her as soon as the monsters realized that she didn't care about them and their loyalty switched back.

Image Courtesy of IMDB
Sarah: Hyperactive Sara is always getting herself into trouble, so to me she would replace the hamster, Scuttlebutt. Scuttlebutt keeps rolling away, causing the gang to search for him, ultimately leading to chaos. I can definitely see Sarah wandering off and getting herself lost in the Underwhere, and also creating some pretty good diversions by using her...*ahem* assets, to distract everyone.

Mary: Mary is very whiny, so I definitely identified her as Tesla, Edison's little sister. She comes up with ideas that aren't the best and is pretty annoying, and is definitely a big tag along. As incompetent as she may seem, she is always willing to step up for her sisters when needed and she would definitely be a resource for the team during the final battle.

Overall, the sisters would succeed but chaos and hilarity would ensue throughout. Ultimately these three are a team, just as Edison, Tesla, and Scuttlebutt are a team. With a shared goal and trust in each other, there's nothing that can stand in their way!

A huge thanks to Penguin Young Readers for inviting me to be a part of this campaign, and for sending over a copy of Edison Beaker, Creature Seeker: The Night Door by Frank Cammuso! Be sure to pick up this adorable read for that young ghost or ghoul in your life, or even for yourself!

You Are The Everything by Karen Rivers

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
When this book was sent to me, I was excited because I thought it was something I would really enjoy. Unfortunately it just missed the mark for me. You Are The Everything by Karen Rivers is a YA contemporary that follows Elyse Schmidt, a teenage girl with a hopeless crush on a classmate named Josh Harris. But when Elyse and Josh are the only survivors of a terrible plane crash, suddenly everything falls into place. It's almost as if they were destined to end up together, and that alone is what allowed them to live while everyone else perished. 

Then Elyse starts experiencing confusion, memory loss, and other symptoms of PTSD and her life is suddenly not looking as perfect as it initially seemed. Will destiny prevail, or will everything turn out to be different than originally thought?

I just personally couldn't connect with this book. I didn't care about the characters, and nothing that happened really mattered to me. Elyse was just not likable, and even though I wanted to feel for her, I just couldn't make myself care. Everything that happened just seemed too perfect, too serendipitous, even when you factor in the twist (which I also saw coming from a mile away). It was also written in second person point of view, which while it was interesting and a nice change, got really old very quickly. The stream of consciousness was just too much.

I did really appreciate the representation of an interracial relationship here, and thought that was a great thing to address. 

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Thanks to Algonquin Young Readers for sending me a finished copy of this book! You Are The Everything by Karen Rivers is out now!