Book of the Month YA: July Book Selections

FYI: This post contains affiliate links for the Book of the Month YA subscription box. If you sign up for a subcription using any of the links in this post I will make a small commission, at absolutely no cost to you. This commission helps support this blog. All thoughts expressed in this post are not influenced by my affiliate position. I was a fan of the BOTM service before I became an affiliate.


Happy Saturday, my dear bookish people! I’m here today to bring you the Book of the Month YA July Book Selections! There are some awesome books this month and I’m excited to break them down for you. But first, some info on the service.

When you sign up for BOTM: YA, you get to choose one hardback book from the monthly selection of five new release books for $14.99 a month. For the month of July, if you use the code WHOA, your first month is only $9.99. You can also add on books from past month selections for only $9.99 per book. There is also the option to cancel at any time or skip a month. More info and FAQS can be found at the BOTM YA website.

So, let’s breakdown this month’s selections:

Wick Fox by Kat Cho
This one is from a debut author and has romance, supernatural elements, and is first in a series. This was the book I selected for my affiliate box and I am so excited to read it. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it! Check out the synopsis:

Eighteen-year-old Gu Miyoung has a secret—she’s a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who must devour the energy of men in order to survive. Because so few believe in the old tales anymore, and with so many evil men no one will miss, the modern city of Seoul is the perfect place to hide and hunt.

But after feeding one full moon, Miyoung crosses paths with Jihoon, a human boy, being attacked by a goblin deep in the forest. Against her better judgment, she violates the rules of survival to rescue the boy, losing her fox bead—her gumiho soul—in the process.

Jihoon knows Miyoung is more than just a beautiful girl—he saw her nine tails the night she saved his life. His grandmother used to tell him stories of the gumiho, of their power and the danger they pose to humans. He’s drawn to her anyway.

With murderous forces lurking in the background, Miyoung and Jihoon develop a tenuous friendship that blossoms into something more. But when a young shaman tries to reunite Miyoung with her bead, the consequences are disastrous … forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon’s.

The Boy and Girl Who Broke the World by Amy Reed
Now this one is going to be the book for my non-affiliate box. I hadn’t heard of this book until I saw the July picks and let me just say I am stoked to read this one. It’s described as a quirky, magic realism novel that explores loneliness and also has dragons and unicorns. SIGN ME UP! Here’s the synopsis:

Billy Sloat and Lydia Lemon don’t have much in common, unless you count growing up on the same (wrong) side of the tracks, the lack of a mother, and a persistent loneliness that has inspired creative coping mechanisms.

When the lives of these two loners are thrust together, Lydia’s cynicism is met with Billy’s sincere optimism, and both begin to question their own outlook on life. On top of that, weird happenings including an impossible tornado and an all-consuming fog are cropping up around them—maybe even because of them. And as the two grow closer and confront bigger truths about their pasts, they must also deal with such inconveniences as a narcissistic rock star, a war between unicorns and dragons, and eventually, of course, the apocalypse.

All of Us with Wings by Michelle Ruiz Keil
This is another debut author novel AND it’s magic realism, so maybe I’m seeing my add on book for the month with this one. Wings definitely sounds a bit dark (there is graphic violence and sexual content warnings), but concept is very intriguing and it is marked as LGBTQ+ friendly. Check out the synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Xochi is alone in San Francisco, running from her painful past: the mother who abandoned her, the man who betrayed her. Then one day, she meets Pallas, a precocious twelve-year-old who lives with her rockstar family in one of the city’s storybook Victorians. Xochi accepts a position as Pallas’s live-in governess and quickly finds her place in their household, which is relaxed and happy despite the band’s larger-than-life fame.

But on the night of the Vernal Equinox, as a concert afterparty rages in the house below, Xochi and Pallas accidentally summon a pair of ancient creatures devoted to avenging the wrongs of Xochi’s adolescence. She would do anything to preserve her new life, but with the creatures determined to exact vengeance on those who’ve hurt her, no one is safe—not the family she’s chosen, nor the one she left behind.

Symptoms of a Heartbreak by Sona Charaipotra
Now this just sounds like the perfect summer, contemporary read. Heartbreak is marked as inspirational, LOL, romance, and light-read. What more could you want for a summer book? This synopsis definitely makes me want to pick up more contemporaries:

Fresh from med school, sixteen-year-old medical prodigy Saira arrives for her first day at her new job: treating children with cancer. She’s always had to balance family and friendships with her celebrity as the Girl Genius―but she’s never had to prove herself to skeptical adult co-workers while adjusting to real life-and-death stakes. And working in the same hospital as her mother certainly isn’t making things any easier.

But life gets complicated when Saira finds herself falling in love with a patient: a cute teen boy who’s been diagnosed with cancer. And when she risks her brand new career to try to improve his chances, it could cost her everything.

It turns out “heartbreak” is the one thing she still doesn’t know how to treat.

Past Perfect Life by Elizabeth Eulberg
Past Perfect Life sounds like an addictive drama that I didn’t know I needed! Small town girl finds out she’s not who she thinks she is via a college application? Yes, please! I’ve seen Eulberg’s name tossed around before in the contemporary side of the book blogging community and it sounds like she knows how to write one heck of a story. Check out the synopsis:

Small-town Wisconsin high school senior Allison Smith loves her life the way it is—spending quality time with her widowed father and her tight-knit circle of friends, including best friend Marian and maybe-more-than-friends Neil. Sure she is stressed out about college applications . . . who wouldn’t be? In a few short months, everything’s going to change, big time.

But when Ally files her applications, they send up a red flag . . . because she’s not Allison Smith. And Ally’s—make that Amanda’s—ordinary life is suddenly blown apart. Was everything before a lie? Who will she be after? And what will she do as now comes crashing down around her?


So the only question that remains is: what book will be your pick for your book of the month?

Book Review: Scythe

Scythe
Author: Neal Shusterman
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: November 22, 2016
Synopsis: Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.


Rating: OMG this book is so good, why did I wait so long to read it???
Stars: 4.5

Scythe is the kind of book that sinks it’s claws into you and drags you through a world you’ve never seen before and will likely never see again. This YA novel is a hugely underrated utopian thriller that devours its reader with break neck plot twists and intriguing insights into what our world could become if we defeated death.

Neal Shusterman draws us into a future where all the world’s problems have been solved and humanity can live forever under the care of the mysterious Thunderhead. Resources are limitless, and death has been conquered. However, over population is the one thing the Thunderhead could not stop. Enter the Scythes. Tasked with keeping the population in check, Scythes “glean” people for a permanent death. There is definitely no way that system could be corrupted and go horribly, horribly wrong…

I cannot begin to describe how much I enjoyed the world in this book. It is a frightening yet hopeful look at how our world could be if such things were possible. The idea of living forever has always been intriguing for me, but it is usually kept in the fantasy realm of a few vampires and eternal mages. I loved reading a story of immortality for the whole world that was framed through the perspective of two youths training to end the immortality of their fellow humans.

The writing was stellar. Shusterman writes in a way that makes this story flow effortlessly from the page. I truly loved the journal entries at the beginning of each chapter. Those little insights were gems. I was never bored and always wanted to keep reading. While I loved all the characters, I will concede to the fact that when I stepped back I thought the two main characters lacked a little bit of depth. However, in the grand scheme of the whole story, they had enough for the plot and I still enjoyed their journeys.

I went into Scythe expecting to like this book, but never did I imagine I’d end up loving it as much as I did. This novel has found its place among my favorite books of all time. Do not be like me and let this book languish, unread, on your book shelves for months or years. Pick it up immediately and start reading.

Book Review: The Crown’s Game Duology

I’m going to start this off by saying that there will be spoilers for each book in the reviews. Normally I try to write non-spoilery reviews, but I just couldn’t avoid spoilers when reviewing these. If you just want my quick thoughts with no spoilers you can read my Goodreads reviews of the books (The Crown’s Game and The Crown’s Fate).


The Crown’s Game
Author:
Evelyn Skye
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: May 17th, 2016
Rating: 4 Stars
Synopsis: Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.


The Crown’s Game is a hard book to review. Because I LOVED IT, but when I step back I see the faults with it. I think I’m giving it 5 stars for the entertainment aspect, but 3 stars for critical reasons, and just landing on 4 stars over all.

From the synopsis you’d expect a deadly, fast paced story of two enchanters battling to win the title of Imperial Enchanter. What you get is an addictive story that has very little action but never the less keeps you entranced. While it is a battle to the death, the stakes never feel that dire while each enchanter is taking their turns in the duel. I did love the way they used their magic, but it never felt like they were really trying to kill each other. Granted, that could be down to the fact that these are teenagers and they shouldn’t WANT to commit murder, but the story is about a deadly game. I’ll loop back to that deadly game in a minute.

The characters were all just okay. The only one I really cared for was Ludmila, the bakery owner who acts as a sort of grandmother figure for Vika. Nikolai was good too, now that I think of it, and I liked his background. Pasha was fun, but the whole love triangle between him, Nikolai, and Vika just sort of grated on me. Also, there is insta love and that bothers me in hindsight, though I didn’t care while I was reading the book.

And then we have the culmination of the game. After the Tsar dies (there is a pretty fun twist in how that happens so I won’t tell you how), Pasha is convinced by his sister to force an end to the game, but having Vika and Nikolai fight to the death. Nikolai, being the love stricken gentleman that he is, stabs himself in the heart with a blade given to him by his mentor, Galina, that will never miss it’s mark. Instead of the Nikolai’s heart being pierced, Vika is stabbed through the heart via magic. I LOVE this twist. Love, love, love! Of course, Nikolai then gives Vika all his life force to save her and he seemingly dies. But a part of him remains in the magical realm. While I usually am one for killing off characters and having them STAY DEAD, I loved this ending. It made me immediately want to jump into the next book.

I did love the writing for the most part. While I am certainly no expert on Russia, it seemed like there was good world building and I’m hoping it was based on real world knowledge. Whenever there was talk of the Russian foods I was drooling. And even though the book lacked a lot of action, it was still a book I didn’t want to put down! I don’t know how Skye did it, but her writing is completely absorbing.


The Crown’s Fate
Author:
Evelyn Skye
Publisher: Balzar + Blay
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Rating: 2.75 stars
Synopsis: Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.

Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.

For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.

With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.


Let’s start with something I didn’t mention in my review of The Crown’s Game: Nikolai and Pasha find out they are half brothers, since the Tsar was a scoundrel. Nikolai’s mother, Aizhana, was a healer out on the steppe and had a one night stand with the Tsar, resulting in Nikolai. I mention this now because not only is Aizhana the cause of a lot of strife in this book, but the story focuses a lot on Nikolai trying to over throw Pasha as rightful heir.

The Crown’s Fate was a 2.75 star for me. I don’t want to give it a 2.5, but a 3 feels too high. And I’m going to be very honest, I skimmed a lot of this book. Well, I zoned out on a lot because I read this one via audio (Steve West’s narration was spot on though). This book, though having a bit more action and stakes then The Crown’s Game, failed to grab my attention in the same way that Game did.

I absolutely could not stand Pasha or his sister, Yuliana. Pasha had zero back bone (not something you want in a future Tsar) and Yuliana was an awful human being. Vika and Nikolai (who is definitely alive) spend a lot of time thinking the other doesn’t care about them, to the point where I was rolling my eyes way too much. The romantic angst in this one definitely started to bother me.

I did enjoy the more political scheming plot line of this story. Though Nikolai’s darker side was kind of grating. The revolution kinda fizzled out towards the end but I mostly enjoyed getting there. The writing was good, but this book just felt lacking compared to the first.

I will say that I liked the ending. I’m normally one for death and tragedy, but the happily ever after felt right for this story. I wont give any details past that, but just know that things tie up quite nicely for everyone.


At the end of the day, The Crown’s Game’s and The Crown’s Fate were fast reads that would be good for people who are just looking to get into fantasy books or who need a break from heavier fantasy novels. I am certainly interested in reading more from Evelyn Skye.

Book Review: Heartless

Heartless
Author:
Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: November 8, 2016
Rating: 4 Stars
Synopsis: Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.
Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.


FYI: while I try not to say spoilers out right, this review could be viewed as mildly spoilery.

Heartless is a beautifully written origin story for the Queen of Hearts. Knowing what we know of the Queen of Hearts, we can surmise that this doesn’t end well. While I was anticipating some good heartbreak, I found myself oddly unfeeling at the tragic plot twist. But that disappointment in not shedding a tear (I like it when books make me cry), did not overshadow the brilliant and often scrumptious writing.

Cath is a nobleman’s daughter with dreams of opening her own bakery with her maid and friend, Mary Ann. Cath is…not my favorite character. At least not until the end when she evolves into the Queen of Hearts (don’t @ me, that isn’t a spoiler). Cath is wishy-washy and reminds me of those rich girls whose lives are just so terrible, even though they have all the money and boys in the world. I don’t know what it says about me that I only liked her when she became a full on, hardcore B. I will say that she does have a lot of terrible people in her life *glares in the general direction of Cath’s parents*, but homegirl just needed to grow up, drop that toxicity, and do what she needed to do to make herself happy. Also, maybe heed creepy prophecies given by creepy little girls.

Just as Cath is about to get betrothed the wimpy King of Hearts, she meets Jest and suddenly she wants more than just a bakery in her life. Jest is mysterious and snarky and all things I love in a book boyfriend. His backstory is really interesting and I love what we find out about his life. And while I really liked him, I just didn’t feel much for him. His courtship with Cath was tortured, which I love, but Cath’s inability to make a damn decision for herself kinda killed it for me, so I was never able to get fully invested in their relationship.

I absolutely loved all the side characters. Heck, I was more emotionally impacted by a early death of a side character than I was for the big tragic twist. Hatta is sheer perfection. His descent into madness and the reveal of his hidden feelings were the hardest thing for me. I was endlessly fascinated by the different creatures and characters of Hearts, from the flamingo croquet mallets to the cards. Everything was so perfectly whimsical.

Even through all my disconnects with Cath and the tragic plot twists, I will say that the writing in this book was stellar. I am fully surprised that I didn’t gain weight while reading this because I constantly wanted to eat desserts every time Cath baked. I don’t know much about Lewis Carroll’s original story of Wonderland, but I’ve gathered from other readers that this novel was respective of, but built more on, the original Wonderland. Based on Meyer’s writing in Heartless, I am now even more excited about starting her Lunar Chronicles series.

Heartless is a damn fine book and I can see why so many of my friends recommended it to me when I asked for tragic book recommendations. But looking back, I was walking myself straight into the trap of hype. I think because I guessed how things would end, I never let myself get too invested in the romance, and that left me feeling…well, heartless.

I buddy read this with the awesome Sabreena @ Books and Prosecco, who also posted her review of Heartless today. Her reviews are always amazing and well written, so I recommend checking it out!

ARC Review: Last of Her Name

This book was provided to me by the publisher at my request. The decision to review this book was entirely my own. My review is in no way influenced and all opinions are my own.

Last of Her Name
Author:
Jessica Khoury
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: February 26, 2019
Rating: 3 stars
Synopsis: Sixteen years ago, rebellion swept the galaxy known as the Belt of Jewels. Every member of the royal family was murdered–down to their youngest child, Princess Anya–and the Union government rose in its place. But Stacia doesn’t think much about politics. She spends her days half-wild, rambling her father’s vineyard with her closest friends, Clio and Pol.
That all changes the day a Union ship appears in town, carrying the leader of the Belt himself, the Direktor Eminent. The Direktor claims that Princess Anya is alive, and that Stacia’s sleepy village is a den of empire loyalists, intent on hiding her. When Stacia is identified as the lost princess, her provincial home explodes into a nightmare.
Pol smuggles her away to a hidden escape ship in the chaos, leaving Clio in the hands of the Union. With everything she knows threading away into stars, Stacia sets her heart on a single mission. She will find and rescue Clio, even with the whole galaxy on her trail.


Last of Her Name is a solid YA science fiction inspired by the story of the Romanovs. The story follows Stacia Androva as she finds out the truth of her heritage and runs away from the revelation across her galaxy (wonderfully named the Belt of Jewels) with Pol, one of her best friends. But when Stacia realizes Clio, her other best friend, has been taken by the Union and its violent leader, Alexi Volkov, her only thought is to save Clio, no matter the cost.

All told, I liked this book, but it almost never evoked any strong emotions from me. I kept getting to the precipice of LOVING the story, but nothing ever pushed me over the edge. The story moves at a fairly fast pace, but the writing style is simple. Looking at all those “but”s, I realize there was just something missing from this book for me. I wanted to reach in and draw out more depths to the story.

I feel like Last of Her Name is a YA book truly meant for young adults. Stacia is seventeen, just found out she isn’t who she thought she was, her best friend is taken from her, and she’s running away with her other best friend who, thanks to a well-timed step into manhood, is suddenly very attractive. Stacia is driven by her emotions, as confused and illogical as they are, and I’ll be damned if that isn’t how many teens are. But with the exception of a few scenes, I never felt much emotion for any of the characters. While I tend to try and balance my YA character opinions by considering that I am not a young adult, I still was not able to bring myself to care much for anyone in the story.

However, I loved loved loved the world building! The idea of how the humans left earth and came to find the Belt of Jewels, the prisms and how they function, the different planets: LOVED IT! I want other stories told in this universe!! Just with slightly older characters. This story didn’t have the most in-depth world building I’ve ever read in SF, but the world I built from Khoury’s words was dazzling.

I cannot speak for any solid connections to the story of Anastasia because my knowledge of the Romanovs extends to that cartoon movie that wasn’t actually a Disney movie, but I always thought it was. I did find the history of the Leonovas very interesting and I liked the twists that we get when we learn more about them.

The big reveal was a surprise to me in some ways, but I know sleuth-y readers will probably figure it out. As far as I can tell, this is a stand-alone book, so take what you will from that about the ending. Some aspects of the ending were a little too easy for me, but I was happy with what I got.

I think that a lot of people will really like this book, but it never quite connected for me. I was talking to a friend about this book the other day and I described it as a good palate cleanser book between heavy fantasy novels. I hope that doesn’t come off in a negative way, but that’s just what this book was for me. The book was fun and it never took too much from me to read. Some books demand your soul, but Last of Her Name asks you to just relax and come along for the ride.

Top Ten Tuesday: Recent TBR Additions!

Oh hello Tuesday! Aren’t you just going so splendidly!! I didn’t think it was possible for a perfect day to exist! (FYI: I’m pre-writing this post so I’m trying to send out positive vibes to the future)

This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is The Ten Most Recent Additions to My To-Read List! (I’m interpreting this as additions to my owned TBR) I’m trying to be better about buying books this year since I have the tendency to buy more books than I read. I have recently had a few additions to my TBR thanks to ARCs and some gift cards because those totally don’t count against my unofficial book buying ban.

  • The Binding by Bridget Collins – So, technically this one doesn’t come out in the US until April, but I ordered a copy from Book Depository because I CANNOT WAIT on this one. Go read the synopsis and try to tell me you don’t want to read this book immediately.
  • King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo – Do I even need to explain myself with this one? IT’S NIKOLAI FREAKING LANTSOV!
  • The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden – So I’ve had The Bear and the Nightingale on my shelves for ages, but I just bought the last two books in the trilogy. I’m hoping to binge read them in March, while it’s still a bit chilly outside.
  • Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi – I was on the fence with this one for a while. There is a lot of hype around it and like I mentioned earlier, I’m trying to buy too many new books. But I’m in the middle of Enchantee right now and I’m really feeling the whole french themed story thing.
  • The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories by Various Authors – I blame this one on my deep love of The Daevabad Trilogy and the kindle sale I found it on. I’m trying to get into more short stories this year so hopefully I get to this one sooner rather than later.
  • The Fever King by Victoria Lee – I cannot begin to describe how stoked I am to get to read this one. It sounds like it has a good mix of science and magic and I do love me a good mash up.
  • Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames – I bought this book thinking that it wasn’t part of a series…I was wrong? I feel like I’ve read people saying I don’t need to read Kings of the Wyld first but I don’t remember where I read that. And honestly, my brain could have been making it up just so I could buy this flipping gorgeous cover.
  • The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera – I have been eyeing this book for a little over a year. I finally pulled the trigger on buying it because the cover just draws me in and promises an epic story.
  • To Best the Boys by Mary Weber – This books sounds all kinds of intriguing. Girls dressing up as boys to enter a scholarship competition that is only for men. Oh, and the competition is a maze! So much yes!
  • The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen – Let me just say that I audibly gasped when I opened my mail the other week and saw this ARC waiting for me. Ever since I read the synopsis I have been aching to read this. It’s not out until July but I’m reading this the moment I am done with any Feb/March ARCs that I have.

What are some books you’ve added to your TBR recently?