“They say every child has an imaginary friend. Mine never left.”
And so goes the inspiration for the novella The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson. Fern Johnson has an imaginary friend who has been with her since she was eight years old, when a trauma that even Fern can’t remember or face left her terrified and alone. Now nineteen and taking care of her young niece, Fern doesn’t have time for Tristan and his fantasy worlds and messages of doom.
Or does she? After all, skyscrapers don’t just sink into the ground by themselves, as FBI agent Barstow reminds her. But that’s just what’s happening in Los Angeles.
And Tristan warned Fern about it.
Could Tristan—and all his stories—possibly be more than imaginary? Could Fern really see into a world that no one else can? And just what would the wrong person give to be able to see the way she does?
This is one of a few books I’ve read that I can say is truly whimsical. There’s something beautiful about the imagination presented in the story. The book is eerily vivid, full of strong characters and beautiful prose—the first time Fern had a “hallucination” and saw the beam slicing through the floor, I actually looked around my living room just to check and felt my heart jump a little. I saw just what Fern saw.
I could not put this book down and my heart pounded through it all. The ending was so very sad . . . leading to a soaring resolution that I would love to detail more, but SPOILERS.
I also loved how the author portrayed different aspects of mental health—anxiety, depression, trauma, etc., things that everyone struggles with to different degrees—without making the characters seem broken, in need of fixing. It was a very encouraging perspective on the topic.
I cannot think of anything negative about this story. Seriously.
This is truly one of the best reads I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying this year. This little book is certainly worth your while—truth be told, we all need an encouragement to jump into the impossible and see what the world has forgotten to see.
Prince Ethelrex has been sent to find the lost princess Emmaline, the last of the lost princess of Mercia at all costs. He has been sent to use her to find the legendary treasure of King Solomon at all costs. In doing so, he finally hopes to appease his father and prove his worthiness to ascend the throne. A stolen throne, but a throne none the less.
Only one little hiccup. He has also been instructed to marry Princess Emmaline at all costs.
And he might have, maybe, accidentally, kind of sort of fallen in love with her.
Hereafter has a creative premise. The prince is a villain, for heavens' sake! I can't remember the last book I read that had that as a plot point. Rex's internal struggle and surprising choices as he has to choose between his father and Emmaline was tense and gave so much to the plot.
We also get to see all the threads from the previous Lost Princesses novellas come to a climax. And this is one treasure hunt that has quite the unexpected ending.
As many of Jody Hedlund's young adult books do, Emmaline explores what it means to be truly strong and truly courageous . . . and how she can do that as she faces her nation's enemy frightened and alone.
All in all, Hereafter delivered all the series had me hoping for by the end without taking pat answers or endings.
Maribel is completely content at the convent.
Well, mostly. But only her best friend, Edmund, realizes she's not. And he's willing to take her hunting in the woods whenever she needs to satisfy her thirst for adventure.
In fact, that's how the biggest adventure she's ever had begins--an intruder in the woods who claims Maribel is actually a princess. Who claims she holds a key to a long-lost treasure. And who claims she must meet up with her recently-discovered sister to save her nation.
Oh, and Edmund can come along too, of course.
While we're already on the topic of Edmund--I was very pleasantly surprised with his character. In most medieval fiction (especially for young adults), the male character is able to do any physical activity presented to him, likely a general or somebody in the army, and good-looking besides.
Edmund is admittedly weak. He couldn't keep up with the training his mentor gave him. He fails sometimes. He gets hurt. Sometimes he loses. And that's what kept him interesting.
His dynamic with Maribel was also very well-written--the story of two best friends realizing they're changing. And changing together.
The element of the Fera Agmen was very interesting--how Edmund can talk to animals in their language. It added a new, intriguing element to the story. (And really, what's not to love about a wolf named Barnabas?)
Only negative I can think of off the top of my head was that a scene in the climax felt a bit rushed, but it might have had to be to convey the character's feelings.
That being said, that's why I've chosen Hereafter as my book of the month. Unique characters, unique relationships, and a wolf named Barnabas.
Adelaide has just been one of the cousins her entire life. She played with Christopher and Mitchell and learned the same skills they did.
No one ever guessed she was a princess. And no one ever guessed she would be called upon to save her nation from the evil Ethelwulf. And no one ever guessed that she would be the one to fulfill an ancient prophecy of a young ruler who would rise up in wisdom.
I loved Adelaide's character from Chapter 1. She was strong and determined, yet every inch the lady. The way she and Christopher both learn when to hold on and when to let go was beautiful.
But the character that intrigued me most was Mitchell. *A few spoilers ahead* I loved him in the first couple chapters, grew gradually annoyed with him in the majority of the book, hated him for a couple chapters, and then felt sorry for him in the end. His character was written well, with strong motivation for his actions that forced this reader at least to sympathize.
Evermore is a bit heavier on the romance side than some of the author's other young adult books. While that was a negative for me, that will be a positive for a lot of readers.
All that being said, Evermore would make a wise choice for the bookshelf.
On the same night, the king and queen died together.
The king entrusted his elite guard, Lance, to save the three princesses from the evil Ethelwulf.
The queen entrusted her lady-in-waiting, Felicia, to save the three princesses from the same.
So begins the adventure of two fiercely loyal subjects who couldn't be more different--but have to save the kingdom together.
First off--DO NOT READ THE BACK COVER BLURB! It spoils the end of the story. You have been duly warned.
The author brought good blows to her characters--placed things in their path that would chip away at the things they held most dear and the beliefs they trusted the most. The book winds things up quickly and tightly at the end--while still leaving room for the series to follow.
By all appearances, the book is about depending on God above all else. And as mentioned above, the plot teaches the characters that in powerful ways. However, even after chapters where characters come to the end of themselves and change their minds, they still make statements such as "you are all I need" to their romantic interests. Which seems to sabotage the theme made evident a few chapters earlier.
Is Always always on the point? No. But it is most of the time. And that makes it a read I'm willing to give some time to as well.
Isabelle is simply not a rebel.
Her sister, Olivia, is. But Olivia left the castle to begin a life of her own. Now it's just Izzy. Just Izzy to make an advantageous match and save her people. Just Izzy to discover the truth about her intended, Sir Thomas.
And just Izzy to save her people from him.
As Olivia battled her strength in the preceding book, Izzy battles her weakness. She wants to be like her brave older sister, but she's not. That being said, Izzy's weaknesses are never portrayed as obnoxious and annoying, so bravo. I love how she wrote the journey of Izzy learning to be comfortable in her own skin and use her weaknesses as strength.
This book continued the trend of some odd recap paragraphs (as in, "here, let's summarize what's happened the past week--oops, I forgot we were in a battle"). Maybe this is because it's more of a novella length and didn't have the word count of a full book?
Subtle threads of mystery were woven in so very well--when I found the answer, I could look back and go, "How did I not see that? It makes perfect sense." (Unlike some mysteries I've read where the answer has nothing to do with the rest of the book, or there were no clues leading up to it.)
And Thomas. I have not been that angry with a Noble Knights villain since the first book in the series, An Uncertain Choice.
A Worthy Rebel is a worthy read. Maybe even a worthy re-read.
Archer Keaton is a dreamtreader.
He protects the dream world and the waking world from merging together. He keeps the things you dream from coming true and wreaking havoc. He mends tears in the dream fabric--tears Lucid Walkers keep making by breaking in to the dream--from becoming rifts that would take out the entire world.
And he's only fourteen years old.
I was surprised by how drawn in I was to this story. I am not a huge fantasy reader, and I expected to make it a couple chapters in and lose interest.
Dreamtreaders is an incredible allegory of spiritual warfare--with so many wacky and shocking twists along the way. It brings the reality of the importance of our choices to life in a fantastical way.
Archer and his friends aren't perfect. They're human (most of them). And the characters do experience real consequences for their choices--when they make a bad choice, they don't get off scot-free. They face up to what they've done and make it right--which is rare in young adult fiction.
*Light spoilers ahead*
I have mixed feelings about the ending. On one hand, it's a dramatic conclusion that didn't disappoint. But on the other hand . . . WHAT ABOUT ALL THOSE OTHER CHARACTERS? It's an imperfect ending (again, due to choices the characters made). But maybe that was the best ending for it.
I have been so very VERY excited for this release! (It may possibly be my most anticipated release of 2020!) Kara is one of my instructors on the Young Writer's Workshop, so I got to see some of the behind-the-scenes work (without spoilers, of course). So I eagerly counted down the days until Dust found its way to my mailbox.
I. Was. Not. Disappointed.
But first, what's this Dust deal about?
Claire Kenton hasn't given up on her brother. Not through anything--and she's been through a lot. Abandoned as a child, tossed in and out of foster homes, tested due to the strange dust that seeps from her skin at the oddest of times.
Even losing her twin brother, Connor.
Claire Kenton also hates Peter Pan. Because it was him--or his story, rather--that convinced her brother to step on a plane with a stranger to London.
Which is why Claire is headed for London herself.
She's about to find out that Peter Pan is no fairy tale. In fact, he's stuck in London, with a dozen things he can't remember, and all too many memories he wishes he could forget. He's hunted by his own Lost Boys, he can't fly, and worst of all, he's aging.
His only hope to get back and save his island? A girl named Claire Kenton.
A girl who hates him.
So much was packed into this modern-day Peter Pan retelling. Almost any issue a teenager faces was addressed through this sparkling allegory, even heavier topics such as depression and suicide. The themes of self-image and facing your past flew side-by-side and never faltered.
The imagery in this book is absolutely gorgeous. There were scenes that literally took my breath away. I saw it all and felt like I was there.
And the character voices were largely to blame for that. Both were so unique. I was especially interested in Peter's--how Kara conveyed both this new mature side of him that he's not quite sure how to deal with, and then sometimes even in the next second, his fun-loving childish side would jump out into the light.
The retelling was very interesting--hints of the original story seeped into the plot and characters, while at the same time created something entirely new.
Dust has quickly become one of my most recommended books and one of my very favorite. Now I'm looking forward to Shadow's release next year!
Evangeline feels like a songbird trapped in a cage.
Every day, she sings for the servants and watches the world go by beneath her window. She should be happy. As the overprotective king's ward, she has everything she could ever want--save freedom. She's even engaged to be married to Lord Shively, his advisor.
Alright, with a name like Shively, who could trust him, really? Rumors are he murdered his first wife, and Evangeline has seen enough to believe it of him.
Evangeline will not stay silent any longer.
Or rather she will. Because to disguise herself when she runs from the castle, she pretends to be mute. It seems like a perfect plan until she meets Westley le Wyse.
Then it doesn't seem like a good idea at all.
This is a Little Mermaid retelling without the irritating "my-parents/guardian-hate-me-they're-so-mean-because-they-like-have-rules" feel that so many of them have. Evangeline is a little headstrong, it's true. But no one can really blame her for running away from Shively, honestly. And she seeks out the right, lifts her chin, and faces the consequences when her actions don't go as planned and hurt others.
This book has a fantastic view of women. It shows readers women can be strong and feminine at the same time--and that neither makes them any less to be valued.
The author also did a great job when we were in Westley's head. He wants to be a strong leader, but fears he is too naive when it comes to his subjects. His and Eva's journeys together to become strong, responsible individuals (and to defeat Shively) make this one of my favorites in Melanie Dickerson's Hagenheim Series.
Adela is the daughter of a duke, and she dreams of being a peasant.
All her brothers and sisters have grown up before her eyes, gone on adventures, and found their true loves. Now Adela wonders when adventure will come for her.
And how it will come, considering she is a duke's daughter, and expected to make an advantageous marriage.
And that's what leads Adela to disguise herself as a peasant and explore her village . . . where she meets Frederick, a farmer's son who dreams of being an artist.
I've been intrigued by the premise of this book since I heard it was releasing. I'd never read a reverse Cinderella story before and was interested to see how it was. The author created an excellent reverse Cinderella character who holds tight to his dreams--but doesn't just wait to be rescued. He works towards his dreams.
The author also did an excellent job of writing the perspective of a youngest daughter--a bit spoiled youngest daughter--without making her completely obnoxious. She wrote her realistically and sensibly.
Granted, a good deal of the story is based on a lie. But never do we feel like Adela's less-than-honest actions are being approved of. In fact, even Adela herself sees how she could do better.
While romance is a strong plot in this book, it's not a romance driven only by feelings. Both Adela and Frederick think about how their decisions will affect others.
We experience the story from diverse perspective, all of them as shining as the main characters'. I loved seeing this story from two artists' eyes and felt like it made a huge contribution to the story.
The faith of those who lived in medieval times is portrayed realistically, while not feeling cheesy or preachy, even while including a "miracle" scene.
I have to admit, I'm sad to see Melanie Dickerson's Hagenheim Series that I've followed so long end. (And what about Toby? Please tell me he gets his own book in the next series!) The Peasant's Dream did not disappoint, and provides a sparkling conclusion to this series I've loved so well.
Hi there! Rachel again. Check out this section for book reviews and cover reveals of some of my favorites!