ARC Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: Wintersong
author: S. Jae-Jones
pages: 401
format: Kindle e-ARC
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 4.5/5 (from hated to loved) or 8/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of Labyrinth (duh), The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Choksha, Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, and other lyrical fairy tale retellings.

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

in depth

  • Wintersong is a captivating, expansive tale of legend and folklore, mischief and music, sacrifice and self-determination.  It is a story darkly whimsical and poignant, with the chilly gravity of Grimm and the velvety sensuality of a gothic romance.   It's a languid, slow-burning book that takes its time; have patience, and you're in for a breathtaking experience that tugs at every sense and leaves you feeling just a little more magical.  

  • The skeleton is Labyrinth and German folktales; being an obsessive fan of both, it was impossible not to luxuriate in the sneaky references to the movie, the nostalgia, the familiar fairy tale characters.  Jae-Jones does justice to these inspirations but builds something entirely new and glorious upon them.  

  • It's the story of sisterhood and family.  Liesl is plain, prickly, and self-sacrificing, but her soul radiates with passionate music.  Kathe is beautiful and vibrant, but naive, impulsive.  Josef is the virtuoso destined for fame, whose fate is the center of the family's existence.  When Liesl must make choose between her brother and sister, it results in a devastating bargain with the Goblin King--a bargain that brings to light just how much she has always chosen both of them over herself.  

  • Jae-Jones navigates the complexity of Liesl's relationships with her siblings beautifully, unflinching from the layers of resentment and selfishness that mingle with deepest love.  Her characterization of Josef and Kathe is less robust, because this is really Liesl's story.  The story of her inner soul.  Of her darkness, insecurities, lusts, desires.  Of the wild passions she has kept hidden to the point of withering.  Liesl's character screams vibrantly from every page, so that I felt by the end that I knew her, knew her soul.  Even when she frustrated me, I loved to see her change and stumble and discover herself.  

  • My biggest complaint about the book was its pacing.  The first half was breathtaking and I hardly knew the time was flying.  Yet, we reached the second half and I felt that I had lost sight of the plot and the stakes.  Everything I had expected to happen had already happened, and I didn't understand what was left.  Jae-Jones recovers the threads quickly, but that middle lull definitely worried me. The second half is also less about the whimsy of the goblin world and the deals, more about Liesl and the Goblin King's relationship.  Which is fine, except I wanted more whimsy and dealing and trickery.  The final quarter felt so rushed when it was, in my mind, the crux of the second half.  Of course, there were some totally shocking reveals slipped in before then that really smacked of excellent storytelling. 

  • Despite all this, Jae-Jones caught me by the end.  Her prose is so precise and fluid, with a lyrical quality that reflects the music she writes about.  And the music!  I could almost hear it.  The language wrapped me up in an atmosphere of eerie magic that made reading Wintersong a sensory experience.  I felt transported.  I also really don't like when people fall in love quickly, but the fantasy of the scene-setting and the rash, expansive personalities of the characters made me believe in their sudden passion--and there's a twist that really clinched it for me.  But be prepared for some steam.  This is probably more New Adult than Young Adult.  That sexual awakening you had when you watched David Bowie in leather pants?  Oh boy.  

  • Above all, Wintersong truly captured the darkly comedic, benign devilry that made Labyrinth so beloved, and the enchanting severity that makes German folktales both beautiful and unsettling.  The goblins are wanton, sinister things with a playful side.  Liesl's servants, Twig and Thistle, are deliciously wicked.  The Goblin King himself is the perfect amalgam of boyish awkwardness and seduction.  (But despite his tricks and riddles, he's also refreshingly pro-consent, which was an amazing change from the toxic maleness of many fae characters I hear swooned over all the time.  Hem.)  

  • I know Wintersong has gathered mixed reviews.  It might not appeal to everyone.  But I challenge you to try it for yourself because, if you are like me, if you love the dark carnivals and grim poetries and enchanting madness of the world, then Wintersong will trap you too.  

  • I swear, someday I'm going to set out to write a short review and actually write a short review.  Thanks, y'all, for enduring my word vomit.  

in a sentence

Wintersong is a captivating, expansive tale steeped in grim legends, breathtaking romance, and music.  


will i read this author again?  Yes!  
will i continue the series?  SO MUCH YES   

Note: I received this copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


Cover Love: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

cover love 

This cover is just too freaking cute.  First of all, the perspective is a really neat take on the usual girl-face cover.  It creates this really nice focal point for the comic characters.  It's a nice image, Eliza holding her art, and with the speech bubbles, doodled starts, and brush-stroke letters, it gives you a sense of the quirky whimsy the book promises.  I only am a little hung up on the author name.  The text just doesn't seem to fit. Not sure if it's the font or the size, but it's a little too stark against the blurred body. Maybe the title text needs to be bigger? I'm gonna shut up. Either way, it's a fun, colorful contemporary cover and I can't wait to read it. 



Who Wore It Better, Covers: The Sun is Also a Star vs The Problem With Forever

who wore it better             book covers

Books have so many options when they dress for their big debut, but sometimes, they end up wearing very similar styles.  In the vein of all my favorite trashy Hollywood magazines... 

who wore it better?  

the sun is also a star by Nicola Yoon VS the problem with forever by Jennifer Armentrout

c.j.'s vote 

I haven't done one of these in ages, but hopefully you love these posts, because I love them.  Today's covers aren't total doppelgangers, but they could definitely be variations on the same theme...that theme being rainbow explosions over white backgrounds.  Both covers went with vibrant primary colors (plus a splash of orange and purple, but clearly they were both green-shy).  Both accessorized their ensembles with bold white block text for an artsy stenciled look.  But The Sun is Also a Star got out their old Spirograph (points if you know what this is) for an edgy, chaotic string-art look (I'm pretty sure that actually IS ditigal string art), while The Problem With Forever capitalized on the watercolor and hand-lettering trend for a softer feel.

While I'm much more interested in reading The Sun is Also a Star, I have to give my vote this time to The Problem With Forever.  The big splash of blue adds some needed contrast to the sunset colors, and the clean text is easier on the eyes than the jagged edges of Sun, which for some reason kind of make me squint.

the winner:  the problem with forever 

Which cover wins?  Are there similar covers you think did it better?  

Who wore it better?

The Sun is Also a Star
The Problem With Forever


ARC Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: Caraval
author: Stephanie Garber
pages: 401
format: Paperback
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 5/5 (from hated to loved) or 9/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of Alice in Wonderland, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Pirates of the Caribbean, RoseBlood by A.G. Howard, and magic, pure magic.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

in depth

  • If you haven't heard glowing things about this debut, then you might quite possibly live under a rock.  Caraval was a sensation months before its release, and only stands to take over the YA world in January--with good reason.  It's a tightly-plotted, gorgeously written fantasy that draws elements of The Night Circus, Alice in Wonderland, and even Pirates of the Caribbean into one astounding story.  But don't let the comparisons box in your view.  Caraval shares some atmosphere and style with these titles, but it goes far beyond its predecessors, leaving an impression that is unforgettable and quite its own.  

  • It's a tale of two sisters.  There's Scarlett, good and inhibited and idealistic.  Her unnamed fiancee is a ticket away from her abusive father, for her and her sister.  There's Tella, flighty and pragmatic and bold, who sees escape in a different kind of ticket.  One to Caraval, the legendary five-day theatrical game where the lines between game and reality, players and playactors, blur.  When Tella vanishes and becomes the prize of the game, Scarlett must find her before their father knows they're gone, and the marriage that contains all her hopes is ruined.  

  • And that's where the fun begins.  What first seems a matter of merely returning home before they're missed soon becomes dangerous as Scarlett learns more about the game.  About Legend, the gamemaster with a dark past.  About Julian, the questionably reliable sailor who allies himself with Scarlett with uncertain movies.  About the people who die, who go mad, whose lives suffer very real consequences from what is meant to be an elaborate fantasy.  Or is it?  Stephanie plays with the reader as much as with Scarlett, dangling clues like candy and forcing you to question everything you think you know.  You'll make your guesses, think you know the answers, and she'll deceive you again in the cleverest ways.  

  • It's a massive, heart-stopping, breath-stealing mystery that's impossible not to race through in one sitting.  More than that, it's an experience.  Stephanie's mastery of her world is evident from the first page.  She describes the scenes, the outfits, the people, the magic, in such vivid, cinematic clarity that I could see Caraval in my mind's eye as clearly as if I were in it.  Not to mention, the atmosphere!  You know that feeling you get when you first step into Harry Potter World, or Disney, or a really wonderful stage play, and you're breathless and bubbling over with hilarity and a tingly, expansive sense of magic?  That's what reading this book feels like.  Like being on an adventure.  Like being in a fairy story.  Like flying.  

  • If I had to complain, it's only that this book could never be long enough.  I also admit, some of the initial glamour and WOW-factor was sidetracked once the focus pulled away from the game towards the actual revealing of secrets.  But it's so minute a criticism, I don't want to spend much time harping on it.  Really, I just wanted to live in this world forever.  I want everything, every rich and luxurious detail of Caraval's enigmatic fantasy island, every clue and mystery and side character.  Nothing could ever be enough to satisfy my craving for Stephanie's writing and world.  

  • But that's what rereads are for, and Scarlett's story stands stolidly on its own.  She undergoes so much growth through the pages, in her own confidence and desires, in the way she relates to other people--Julian, whom she likes too much but is afraid to trust; Tella, who pulls both for her love and resentment, and all the shades of emotion a sisterly bond can offer.  I loved seeing her come into her own.  I loved how Stephanie let us get to know Tella even though she wasn't always present.  How she let us come to know Julian, Legend, even Scarlett's father and fiancee, even the side characters, as real and wondrous people with their own stories.  I loved how she created a world in which I could believe that you could fall in love in five days, because sometimes, magic happens.  

  • And that ending?  Everything I hoped and expected and so many things I would never have expected but that were so much more satisfying that what I could have guessed.  In short, mind-blowing.  I'm running out of words, and I could never find the right ones to capture what this book makes you feel and dream.  You just have to experience it for yourself.  I've already pre-ordered two copies, and they couldn't come too soon. 

  • Have you ever heard of Theater Bizarre? Because I went to it before reading this and it's the same feeling of being subsumed by fantasy.  It was a feeling I never thought could be duplicated...until I read this book.  

        in a sentence

        Caraval is a massive, magical, heart-stopping, breath-stealing mystery that's impossible not to race through in one sitting.


        will i read this author again?  Yes! Now please? How about now? 
        will i continue the series?  I need the companion book like AIR.  

        Note: I received this copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


        Cover Love: Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope

        cover love 

        This is a 2015 release I haven't read yet, but I came across it recently and just adored the cover.  First of all, fierce-looking black woman on the cover, always a plus.  Second, that color scheme is gorgeous, with the semi-monochrome, delicately patterned background, and muted shadows.  I can only imagine it looks even prettier in person.  The simplicity of color gives it a very classy look, and there's something rich and glowing about the text against that redness, with just a hint of starlight and city behind her.  And the way the text cuts in and out and has those licks of flame, it's like it's on fire.  Now that I've spent some time gawking, I can't wait to read it. I've been on the search for a New Adult that isn't about brooding bad boys in college... 



        ARC Review: Roseblood by A.G. Howard

        review         book

        I'll Meet You Theretitle: RoseBlood
        author: A.G. Howard
        pages: 432
        format: Paperback
        buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
        rating: 4/5 (from hated to loved) or 6.5/10 (all books I've ever read)
        recommended for: Fans of Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, and other stories with a dark beauty and supernatural bent.
        In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

        At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

        in depth

        • When I heard that one of my favorite authors was going to be writing a retelling of one of my favorite musicals, I had a small heart attack and then immediately added it to my TBR.  I wasn't disappointed.  RoseBlood combines Howard's lavishly lyrical prose with authentic characters and imaginative world building to produce an exciting, memorable standalone.  It's just another proof that she is, indeed, the master of the modern gothic fairy tale.  

        • Cue glitz and gothic glam, day-glo and lace.  The aesthetic that served Howard so well in her remarkable Splintered series is back in force, now in the dank halls of a French opera house turned boarding school.  The very opera house where the Phantom allegedly wreaked havoc over a century before.  Teenage prodigy Rune is there for a cure. She has an angelic voice, but with a curse: she's compelled to sing or endure great pain, and when the voice escapes her, it leaves her weak and sick.  I loved this twist on the idea of a magical gift of song, and the way Howard cleverly weaved it into the Phantom mythos.  

        • Rune's curse connects to the truth behind the legendary Phantom and cements her fate with his in delightful, dangerous ways.  Howard's playful reinterpretation of the Phantom myth was a strength of the book.  Even if you only have a cursory knowledge of the musical, you'll notice how she weaves parallels from the musical and its real historical underpinnings into her own mystical lore.  I won't say too much, but suffice to say, Howard's supernatural take on the Phantom is insanely clever and fits seamlessly into the already-established canon.  

        • You'll notice I didn't give it five stars, unlike Howard's other four books.  It was bound to happen eventually.  It was just a slow read for me at first, a little too meandering.  The first third came off as a great deal of build-up without a clear direction.  There were also elements that seemed contrived.  The fact that it was a boarding school for American students only.  Why? Also, RoseBlood seems like a very weird name for a French school, or any school, so that required some suspension of disbelief.  Or the mean girl rival, who seemed an unnecessary complication, or else needed a bigger role.  And Rune's day-to-day at school was somewhat neglected--a shame, because I loved her friends and was frustrated that they were professed to be so important to her but were given somewhat cursory page time.  I also just personally don't love soulmate stories, so that part of the romance was never going to entice me.  It's a testament to Howard's mastery as a writer that I loved this book so much despite the trope. 

        • Regardless of the flaws (and if you read my reviews often, you know I'm nitpicky), I also found a great deal to love.  The characters feel quirkily authentic, edgy self-sacrificing Rune and self-effacing Thorn and the incomprehensible Erik.  (Sunny's southern drawl is a little over-the-top, but she, like Rune's other school friends, has a compelling personality that makes you want to know more.)  The plot, once it picks up, is a clever mystery, with little breadcrumbs luring you along and piecing slowly together into a final shocking revelation.  I felt hooked into Howard's world and, if anything, I wanted to know more.  

        • The biggest strength, of course, is Howard's writing.  She could take the most banal plot and suck me in with her prose.  Luxuriously descriptive, it flows like music and paints each scene in striking detail.  With cinematic clarity, I could imagine myself into the fluorescent underground rave, the gilded masquerade, the dank cemetery chapel, the decaying garden.  I could hear the music and feel the chill in the air.  And the scenes between Rune and Thorn?  I may not love soulmate books, but there was no denying their palpable, spine-tingling chemistry.  

        • If you have any love of pretty writing, RoseBlood will entrap you as surely as the Phantom's charm.  Phantom fans and newcomers to the story alike will appreciate the supernatural mystery, quirky characters, and rich world of Howard's retelling.  

              in a sentence

              RoseBlood is a gorgeously written retelling that spruces up the Phantom mythos with supernatural flair and gothic glamour.  


              will i read this author again?  Yes! I'm already dying to read the companion to Architect of Song. 
              will i continue the series?  N/A 

              Note: I received this copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


              ARC Review: The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee

              review         book

              I'll Meet You Theretitle: The Secret of a Heart Note
              author: Stacey Lee
              pages: 384
              format: Paperback
              buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
              rating: 5/5 (from hated to loved) or 8/10 (all books I've ever read)
              recommended for: Fans of Simon vs The Homo-Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertallli, The DUFF by Kodi Kepplinger, and Geek Girl by Holly Smale.
              An evocative novel about a teen aroma expert who uses her extrasensitive sense of smell to mix perfumes that help others fall in love while protecting her own heart at all costs

              Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking—all while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make.

              At once hopeful, funny, and romantic, Stacey Lee’s The Secret of a Heart Note is a richly evocative coming-of-age story that gives a fresh perspective on falling in love and finding one’s place in the world.

              in depth

              • I'm going to let you in on a secret.  Beneath my cynical, snarky veneer, there is a hopeless romantic who delights in the fluffy and fun.  I know.  I was shocked too.  So, after Stacey bowled me over with Outrun the Moon, there was little chance I'd read this book and not love it.  I just didn't anticipate how much.  With a quirky plot, strong characters, and heartfelt optimism, The Secret of a Heart Note is the perfect lighthearted contemporary--with a touch of fantasy.  

              • Mim is an aromateur.  Like her mother, she can smell emotions and bottle love--but she can never fall in love, or she'll end up with a useless, ordinary nose like her estranged aunt.  She never thought she'd be in danger, until the day she accidentally gives a classmate's mother a love elixir meant for someone else.  That classmate, soccer star Court, becomes her partner in crime as she schemes to undo the magic before her mother finds out and grounds her for the rest of eternity.  Oh, and there's the little nuisance of Court's ex, who threatens to out Mim's best friend if Mim doesn't help her re-snag Court's affections.  

              • If it sounds like a Disney Channel Original Movie, that's because it could be, in the best possible way.  It's hilarious and light from page one, peppered with smell-related swearing and perfume-y puns that let you know it doesn't take itself too seriously.  There are elements, like Mim basically being able to skip school without consequences, that would never fly in a more realistic setting.  But, with magical super sniffers, we're not in a realistic setting; suspend a little disbelief and it's a wildly fun adventure.  

              • But that doesn't mean it's without substance.  The heart note of the book (chortle) is in its characters.  Mim is sheltered in some ways but shockingly pragmatic and worldly in others, with an awkward bluntness that was both endearing and hysterical.  Her relationship with her mother is surprisingly fraught; her mother is obsessively career-focused, where "career" means "aromateur" and any other parts of life (friends, school, boys) are just chaff.  This creates friction for Mim, who worries that her mother only loves her as a perfume-making, not a daughter.  The importance of family is a huge theme across the novel, weaving its way into Court's mother and sister as well.  All the adults are lovely and well-meaning (though still flawed!), which is a nice change from the usual clueless or cruel YA set.  

              •  I did wish we had more of Kali, Mim's best friend.  She's a proud Samoan girl and secretly gay.  She's fierce, prickly, and unabashedly herself.  I loved her, and I wanted a deeper exploration of her friendship with Mim.  I wanted her to be more present.  Instead, most of the emotional weight of the story falls on Mim and Court.  Admittedly, their Courtship (I swear, I'll stop) is sweet and lovely and full of shoulder grazes, banter, insecurity, and innuendo.  It's impossible not to root for them.  But there was so much richness in the relationship between Mim and Kali that could have been explored.  

              • Despite this snag, it's an epically entertaining novel of first love, family, and fate.  Stacey's prose is clear and airy, an authentic teenage voice shot through with so many rich descriptions of scents that, even though the perfume part of the book made me wary at first, I was enthralled by the end.  You can tell how much fun Stacey had writing this book, and that bubbly spirit is infectious as a reader.  It's not as serious and dramatic as her historical books, but it's just as vivid, just as compelling.  

              • Read this book and try not to smile.  I dare you.  

                    in a sentence

                    The Secret of a Heart Note is a summery romance, light and vivid and enchantingly funny.  


                    will i read this author again?  Yes, as soon as possible
                    will i continue the series?  N/A 

                    Note: I received this copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


                    ARC Review: The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

                    review         book

                    I'll Meet You Theretitle: The Darkest Corners
                    author: Kara Thomas
                    pages: 336
                    format: Paperback
                    buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
                    rating: 4/5 (from hated to loved) or 6.5/10 (all books I've ever read)
                    recommended for: Fans of Far From You by Tess Sharpe, Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, and other dark, character-driven psychological thrillers.
                    The Darkest Corners is a psychological thriller about the lies little girls tell, and the deadly truths those lies become.

                    There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them.

                    Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.

                    Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.

                    But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.

                    Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.

                    in depth

                    • This review is going to be short and sweet, like this book.  Well, "sweet" is another way to say "psychological thriller mindtrip," I suppose. Thomas establishes herself firmly in the small but fierce world of young adult thrillers with this twisty, treacherous debut.  Dive in and put on your water wings, friends, because you're going to need them.  

                    • Welcome to Fayette, small-town USA with a dark past.  Tessa is only back to visit her dying father in prison--but finds herself embroiled in an old mystery: what really happened the night when she and her ex-bestie Callie saw Callie's cousin Lori kidnapped?  Was it really Wyatt Stokes, who sits on death row for Lori's murder?  

                    • It's a set-up worthy of Gillian Flynn (think Gone Girl and Dark Places) and Thomas executes it with masterful precision.  From page one, she layers her prose with a procedural tightness and sense of eerieness, of wrongness, building up an atmosphere of suspense that leaves you forever uneasy.  She throws out little breadcrumbs of knowledge at the right pace, letting you get sucked into the mystery and pulled along one wrong path while she prepares for the smack of a twist. 

                    • There were parts that tend to be sticking points for me in young adult mysteries.  Teens being overly adept sleuths and getting away with questionably legal things.  Adults being unbearably obtuse.  A few overly convenient plot points.  Some major suspension of disbelief.  (We can't all be Gillian Flynn.)  That said, Thomas also managed to surprise me, which doesn't happen often, and it was a surprise with such a clever lead-up that I got to enjoy one of those "Aha!" moments of satisfying revelation. 

                    • A solid foundation for the twists of the murder mystery is the constellation of Tessa and her family and friends.  Tessa is a brusque, quiet girl, prickly but endearing.  Her friend Callie is a compulsive party-girl.  Their fractured friendship is as central to the story as the murder, and mending the cracks as much a plot-driver .  Even more than her crime chops, Thomas shows mastery in the delicacy and poignancy of Tessa's dysfunctional family and friendships, and Tessa's own struggle to fit the night of Lori's disappearance into her self-concept.  

                    • If you're looking for a quick read that will having you white-knuckling it page after page, Thomas' debut is your perfect next read.  While not mind-blowing, it's solidly memorable and wildly entertaining.  Fellow crime junkies, assemble!  

                          in a sentence

                          The Darkest Corners is a dark, twisty thriller that brings domestic drama to the young adult scene.  


                          will i read this author again?  Yes!  I'm so excited for her newest! 
                          will i continue the series?  N/A 

                          Note: I received this copy from an ARC tour unaffiliated with the publisher. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


                          Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I magically discovered in this unmagical year of 2016

                          top ten tuesday                new

                          Hosted by The Broke and Bookish.  

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                          Not new, but new to me     

                          c.j.'s selections                         ten ten ten

                          When the Moon Was Ours - Anne Marie McLemore 

                          I've been meaning to read her since Weight of Feathers came out, and instead began with her glorious, lush coming-of-age tale about a girl with a rose garden wrist and a trans boy who paints the moon. I will get to Weight of Feathers eventually!  

                          And I Darken - Kiersten White 

                          I'll be getting to all of White's beautifully-covered books later, because And I Darken was viciously beautiful, a rich, multifaceted, dense epic of an unlovely girl and a gay boy growing up as hostages in the Ottoman Empire.  Oh, and the girl is the female version of Vlad Dracul.  
                          1Q84 - Haruki Murakami 

                          I finally read the great Murakami, and I started light (har har).  His spin on Orwell was vast and nigh unconquerable, but I devoured it during my internship interviews and loved its intricate detail, stark weirdness, and Japanese everything. 

                          The Memory Book - Lara Avery 

                          Lara Avery isn't actually new, I just hadn't encountered her until she shredded my heart out with her quirky tragicomedy about an obsessive, awkward girl whose determined to meet her diagnosis of a progressive dementing disorder with a bucket list of essential life goals.  

                          Passenger - Alexandra Bracken 

                          I didn't love Passenger.  It was okay.  The portal-driven time travel adventure was great in concept, but I didn't connect with it as much as its 2016 time travel counterpart, The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig. However, I do plan to go back and read The Darkest Minds, because Alex is super sweet and I've heard good things. 

                          Outrun the Moon - Stacey Lee 

                          Lee totally enraptured me with her spirited historical drama of a young Chinese girl trying to make her way in a white girls school on the eve of the San Francisco earthquake.  She's since bowled me over with The Secret of a Heart Note, and I'll be swinging back to catch Under a Painted Sky in the coming months while I wait for her next offering. 
                          Geek Girl - Holly Smale 

                          I finally read this and it's freaking adorable and hysterical, like a British version of The Princess Diaries (which was one of my favorite series as a teen).  Gawky girl becomes newest model sensation on accident.  Hilarity totally ensues. 
                          The Lie Tree - Frances Hardinge 

                          Despite having A Face Like Glass on my shelf for ages, I read this first. And I'll be backtracking for sure, because The Lie Tree, a historical fantasy murder mystery about a tree that feeds off of lies, was phenomenally clever and beautifully written. 

                          Your turn!  What books did you read this year by new-to-you authors?