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ARC Review – When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

28220826Title: When the Moon Was Ours

Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I admit, I haven’t read Anna-Marie McLemore’s award winning debut, but when I got When the Moon Was Ours in my goodie bag from #TeensReadFeed back in May, the premise had me completely intrigued. This is a novel about defying odds, encompassing identity, and it just offers a plethora of wonder and enchantment to the reader.

This book focuses on magical realism, sexuality, a transgender protagonist, and a Latina main character, who both inhabit each others worlds in the most beautiful and thoughtful way. The beautiful writing sweeps the reader into such an amazing space, and I found myself completely glued to the words on the page. Sam and Miel’s journey is so cleverly written, and McLemore makes you the reader feel like you’re along for the ride. Their friendship was perfect, perfect, perfect. I loved them, I cheered for them, I wanted them to have everything in the world. I felt like I knew both protagonists so well, and I loved the way in which McLemore dealt with Sam’s identity in particular, as it was so methodically done, and I had so much sympathy for him throughout the story.

I also urge readers to please read the Author’s Note at the end of this novel. It was actually one of my favourite parts of the book as it offers so much insight into how this novel was crafted and cared for. When the Moon Was Ours is a stunning journey for readers who love complex relationships and magical storytelling. I was so sad when I got to the last page of this book, simply because I just didn’t want it to be over.

Late to the Party ARC Review – The Gallery of Lost Species by Nina Berkhout

26114471Title: The Gallery of Lost Species

Author: Nina Berkhout

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Edith grows up in her big sister Vivienne’s shadow. While the beautiful Viv is forced by the girls’ overbearing mother to compete in child beauty pageants, plain-looking Edith follows in her father’s footsteps: collecting oddities, studying coins, and reading from old books.

When Viv rebels against her mother’s expectations, Edith finds herself torn between a desire to help her sister and pursuing her own love for a boy who might love her sister more than he loves her. When Edith accepts a job at the National Gallery of Canada, she meets an elderly cryptozoologist named Theo who is searching for a bird many believe to be extinct. Navigating her way through Vivienne’s dark landscape while trying to win Liam’s heart, Edith develops an unlikely friendship with Theo when she realizes they might have more in common than she imagined; they are both trying to retrieve something that may be impossible to bring back to life.

Huge thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me a copy of this book for review!

Molly’s Review:

This book was just okay for me. It’s an adult novel but the main character, Edith, is a teen and then in her early twenties for the entire book, so it’s bordering on the YA side of things. I went into this expecting things from the synopsis and it really didn’t deliver.

I did enjoy the writing and the story of the two sisters. Edith and her sister Viv are two very different girls. Edith loves to read and collect junk with her father while Viv lets her mother parade her around in child beauty pageants. The mother is a piece of work and I loved how complex her relationship was with Viv. Viv is also an artist, like her father, but she succumbs to drug and alcohol abuse and kinda ruins her artistic career.

Edith grows up into a normal young woman and she gets a job at an art gallery. She works in the collections room cataloging items. I was lead to believe that she was going to forge a deep friendship with one of the researchers who frequents the collections room and that that was going to be a core part of the story. But that was very brief and I didn’t even feel like their friendship and connection went that deeply. I was also disappointed that there wasn’t more done with the researchers quest for the mythical extinct bird.

And the whole love story with Liam was just weird and kinda gross and I didn’t really like him or the relationships that he had with either sister. I felt like Edith was rather pathetic when it came to Liam and even when she did get into a normal relationship she was still kinda pathetic about it.

And Viv’s ending was very unsatisfactory. I really was disappointed with the lack of resolution with her and her family.

Overall this book looks and sounds like it’s going to be gorgeous but it’s kinda just meh.

ARC Review – Romancing the Dark in the City of Light by Ann Jacobus

21525983Title:  Romancing the Dark in the City of Light

Author:  Ann Jacobus

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: A troubled teen, living in Paris, is torn between two boys, one of whom encourages her to embrace life, while the other—dark, dangerous, and attractive—urges her to embrace her fatal flaws.

Haunting and beautifully written, with a sharp and distinctive voice that could belong only to this character, Romancing the Dark in the City of Light is an unforgettable young adult novel.

Summer Barnes just moved to Paris to repeat her senior year of high school. After being kicked out of four boarding schools, she has to get on track or she risks losing her hefty inheritance. Summer is convinced that meeting the right guy will solve everything. She meets two. Moony, a classmate, is recovering against all odds from a serious car accident, and he encourages Summer to embrace life despite how hard it can be to make it through even one day. But when Summer meets Kurt, a hot, mysterious older man who she just can’t shake, he leads her through the creepy underbelly of the city-and way out of her depth.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy for review!

River’s Review:

This book… was a weird one for me. The first half was terribly boring and I struggled to get myself to read it. Once I was actually reading it I had trouble putting it down. And then about half way through I really started to like it. The second of the book is much stronger than the first half and I think that there should have been a few more hints in the beginning that something a little more “other-worldly” was going on.

I really… I don’t know if enjoy is the right word, but appreciate books that deal with suicide. I find the subject important and one that needs to be talked about. I was once told by someone that I cared about that I “reminded them of a past love” and that the person was gone because they’d killed themselves. This has stuck with me since I heard it (over 10 years ago). How could I be like someone who killed themselves? I’ve never been suicidal or even really thought about it. I’ve had a few bouts of depression here and there and have some anxiety issues but to be compared to someone who’s killed themselves… it’s just always been there with me. And I sometimes wonder if that’s part of why books that deal with suicide intrigue me as they do.

So the suicides that occurred in this book, Kurt’s purpose, Summer’s struggled with drinking and her own depressed thoughts… they worked for me. I loved the way that everything was tangled together and how we see different sides of the characters. The thing that didn’t work for me so much at times was the writing style. It was abrupt and boring at times. And beautiful and flowing at other times. I wish it had been a little more consistent.

I did enjoy the characters though. Mooney was a sweetheart and total inspiration. Kurt was a total scumbag. And Summer was just a girl who struggled with life, her family and herself.

ARC Review – The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

20734002Title: The Weight of Feathers

Author:  Anna-Marie McLemore

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: For twenty years, the Palomas and the Corbeaus have been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows—the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find.

Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she’s been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees.

Huge thank you to the publisher for letting me read an advanced copy of this book!

River’s Review:

Holy shit the writing in this book is fucking GORGEOUS. It was like reading the sound of your favorite song or swimming in the most refreshing crystal blue ocean. It was like touching the softest fabric, silk slipping through your fingers. I couldn’t stop reading it because it was so. damn. pretty.

This is a very unique story and I can’t help but compare it to a book I loved earlier this year, Bone Gap, due to the magical realism and the quirky story. I really admire books that are like this, that take a chance on a story that I wouldn’t normally run across. There needs to be more like this out there.

I loved the characters in this. Lace and her family are a traveling pack of show mermaids. Cluck and his family are faeries in trees; ex-tightrope walkers that dance in the tallest trees. Both have magical aspects to them: the Paloma women have scales on their bodies, the Corbeau’s grow feathers out the back of their heads, under their hair. Both are signs of their affinity with the water or the heights. Both are described as important and beautiful.

The families have been at war with each other for over 20 years because someone killed someone, someone caused someone’s death and someone sank the trees that the Corbeau’s used to perform in. There’s magic and superstition and rivalry.

Then, one day during a show, a tragedy occurs. The local chemical plant suffers a malfunction and acid is rained down on everyone. Lace isn’t lucky enough to get out of the rain, and Cluck is off trying to find a rouge cousin when he finds Lace hiding under a tree, her skin burning off as the chemicals hit her. She has no idea who he is, he has no idea who she is, and he saves her.

Only once Lace’s family finds out that a Corbeau touched her… well… that’s forbidden.

I loved the mystery and the tragedy, the way the puzzle pieces slowly fit together, and how everything was connected. I think the only thing that didn’t really 100% work for me (hence the 4.5 stars and not a full 5) was the romance. It was a bit stiff for me and there were only a few times when I did any swooning (sadly it was usually when Cluck was being called by his real name, I had a lot of trouble with his nickname). I also felt it was a bit rushed. But that’s it. The rest of this was beautiful and amazing and I’m so glad that I read it.