Heartless By marissa Meyer
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, 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.
It’s rare for the actual writing to grab me quite like this. I was so immersed in Cath’s head. Every comparison sounded so natural, exactly the way that she would describe it or see things. The prose was top notch.
Some of the plot twists were a bit easy to figure out, but I think that worked to the book's benefit. Rather than shocking me when the truth came out, it built that suspense and yes, a little bit of dread as I waited for the truth to be revealed in all its monstrosity.
I have read very few negative-arc stories before, so I was very curious going into this one. Mainly because Marissa Meyer did such a good job getting me into Cath’s head, I almost didn’t realize what was happening. Until halfway through the book I suddenly jerked to attention and realized how selfish Cath was being. Looking back, I could trace the slow evolution all the way back to the beginning.
No good person in this story is completely good. And no bad person is completely bad. Even Jest (who next to Mary Ann was probably the most noble character in the story) has his undeniably selfish moments.
Jest and Cath are brilliantly contrasted to each other. We watch Jest struggle to overcome his selfish tendencies, even though he certainly slips up at times. Meanwhile, we watch Cath become more and more consumed with what she wants, what she thinks will make her happy. And when she is unable to get it, she blames those around her—some justly, but eventually more and more unjustly—for her unhappiness.
It balanced this all perfectly with my sympathy to Cath, hoping that the likable girl from chapter one would somehow open her eyes and avoid her inevitable end.
Was any of this Cath’s fault at all? Was it those who made her so miserable—her abusive parents, for starters? Or was it her own subtle selfishness? Heartless forced me to consider my own life and where I might be more like Cath than I’d like to think. A negative-arc story, while not always quite as enjoyable to read, has a unique power in that sense.
One more quick note before I move on is that this book brilliantly handles the topic of body-shaming and food-shaming. While it may not offer much of a happy ending for those who struggle with it, it does illustrate how hurtful these words (and other words) can be, an important and timeless thing to hear.
This is a negative-arc story, otherwise known as a tragedy. You have been warned. Please also note that while it is clean, this is also not an explicitly Christian book, although it does have healthy messages.
Heartless is a tragic tale, one that might prove too bitter to swallow. But if you stop and savor a while, you might be subjected to some interesting flavors you wouldn’t have encountered otherwise.
Ignite By Jenna Terese
What if superhumans weren't considered heroes?
When Scarlett Marley is attacked by an illegal super with fire powers, she doesn’t get burned, but now she has a fire-like glow flickering in her eyes.
With superpowers criminalized, she has no choice but to turn herself over to the Superhuman Containment Facility, or risk hurting everyone she loves.
Her normal life seems lost forever, until she is selected to be one of the first to receive the experimental cure to destroy her powers. In exchange, she must first complete one mission:
Infiltrate and capture one of the largest gangs of supers in the remains of once-great Rapid City.
With the cure and all her future at stake, Scarlett is prepared to do whatever it takes to bring these criminals to justice so she can return to her family. But this gang and their leader, Rez, aren’t what everyone says, and Scarlett begins to question everything she was ever told about the SCF and the fire flowing in her veins.
The cure is her only hope for returning her life to what it was before, but is that life worth returning to after all?
On a not really positive or negative note, the book is very differently paced than what I was expecting. It is marketed to appeal to fans of the MCU films, and while it does, it is a much more slow and thoughtful ride. While a Marvel film can be very thoughtful, Ignite is much less focused on the action and more focused on inter-character relationships and what’s going on inside their heads.
While as I’ll mention below, sometimes that thoughtfulness took up a lot of page time, I can’t really blame it. The different characters and their motivations are so well thought out, it’s incredible. They react in unexpected ways that still make perfect sense with where they’re coming from.
Ares was my favorite character, hands down. While ultimately, the author decided he was not the right character to tell this story, I would have loved to see a version of this story from his perspective. His conflict with his father seems like it could be rife with potential.
The conflict with superhumans not being seen as “people” also has a lot of potential to become a powerful allegory for modern judgements and prejudices as well. It was unpacked very thoughtfully in this installment, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it unfolds.
Some of the scenes did get to feeling repetitive. There were quite a few scenes of them going for their “recess” at the compound. While these did become important at the end of the story, it took quite a few repetitions to get there. Other events did seem to have the same things happening over and over again.
We also spent a lot of time in Scarlett’s head. I get that we were supposed to, she’s the main character. But there was a lot of time where she was just thinking and nothing else was happening in the scene.
That is the one and only weakness I could find with this book—just a few too many “filler” scenes without much happening.
Ignite is a different installment in the superhero genre. One where perhaps we slow down and think more than rush into battle. And that’s okay.
Wishtress By Nadine Brandes
Her tears grant wishes. Her next tear will end her life.
She didn’t ask to be the Wishtress.
Myrthe was born with the ability to turn her tears into wishes. But when a granted wish goes wrong, she is cursed: the next tear she sheds will kill her. She must travel to the Well to break the curse before it can claim her life—and before the king’s militairen find her. To survive the journey, Myrthe must harden her heart to keep herself from crying even a single tear.
He can stop time with a snap of his fingers.
Bastiaan’s powerful—and rare—Talent came in handy when he kidnapped the old king. Now the new king has a job for him: find the Wishtress and deliver her to the schloss. But Bastiaan needs a wish of his own. He gains Myrthe’s trust by promising to take her to the Well, but once he gets what he needs, he’ll turn her in. As long as his growing feelings for the girl with a stone heart don’t compromise him.
Their quest can end only one way: with her death.
Everyone seems to need a wish—the king, Myrthe’s cousin, the boy she thinks she loves. And they’re ready to bully, beg, and betray her for it. No one knows that to grant even one wish, Myrthe would pay with her life. And if she tells them about the curse . . . they’ll just kill her anyway.
This quite possibly was my most anticipated title of this year. It’s been three years since Romanov came out, two years since I read it for the first time, so I was beyond excited when Nadine announced a new book. As you can see, Wishtress doesn’t quite run in the same vein as Fawkes and Romanov, so I was curious to see what she would do with it.
It. Is. Amazing.
First off, can you tell me the last time you’ve seen a fantasy world built in Dutch/Norweigan culture? The fantasy world was wildly creative without being overwhelming to immerse myself in.
The allegory is just as strong in this novel as in her previous novels, and a very timely message. I related so much to her characters—particularly Bastiaan who’s just trying to protect Runt and do all the right things that somehow keep going wrong. It delivers a message about grace that we’ve probably heard a million times before—but in the lenses of this story, it’s something new and fresh and the true impact really hits home.
I binge read most of this on a Saturday evening. I could NOT stop reading. These characters never really got a break, did they? Every time I thought it was as bad as it was going to get . . .
Myrthe is a really interesting addition. Emotional women in fiction have gotten a bad rap, just because they have been really horribly written in the past. This book illustrated a little bit of that bad rap, that expectation to be strong and exactly what everyone else expects us to be. And then it showed us a heroine who rebelled against that, which is an incredibly empowering thing.
And Runt. Oh my goodness, Runt. If you do not love Runt . . . then I don’t even know what to say.
THAT ENDING. I mean, it’s satisfying, and it’s fun to imagine your own ending, but still . . . I really hope that means there’s a sequel in the works? Please?
And last but not least . . . the cover! Isn't it gorgeous?
Wishtress is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. It reminded me of what grace really is in a fresh new way. And plus, it’s just a good story, the way stories should be.
To Best The Boys By Mary Weber
The task is simple: Don a disguise. Survive the labyrinth . . . Best the boys.
Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port have received a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. The poorer residents look to see if their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.
In the province of Caldon, where women train in wifely duties and men pursue collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.
With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone is ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the deadly maze.
Welcome to the labyrinth.
To Best the Boys was, for me, a book of contradictions.
This was perhaps one of the first times that I had an aspect of a story that I liked and didn’t like at the same time. Ultimately, I think that’s a wonderful thing. This book authentically shared some ideas to think on and succeeded in getting me to think about it. So I’ll present my ideas below, but I highly encourage others to read it and see what conclusions you draw.
I was ecstatic to see sexism being dealt with in a Christian book. It was one of the things that drew me to it. I am in no way saying women are better than men or that all men are evil. Men and women are created as equal in Christ and there are good and bad examples in any gender. The fact is, while our world has come a long way, sexism is still a thing, and so many women are coming face to face with it every day. This book comes alongside girls and women who have been told they have no place to speak, that they are less than, and that they are only good for whatever they can do. I found it to be a relatable and beautiful thing.
You could tell that the author made an effort to not make all her men sexist jerks. Whether or not you like those characters will probably depend on your tastes, but the extra effort went a long way.
The third quarter of the book blew me away. The series of tests inside the maze—I couldn’t put it down!
It was also neat to see a female-empowering book that has to do with math and science. While I’m not a math and science girl myself, there are plenty of us who are, and the representation was much overdue.
Speaking of representation, a number of disabilities are included in the story—but the story isn’t really about them. (For instance, Rhen has dyslexia, but the whole book isn’t about her bemoaning her dyslexia and trying to get rid of it.) This approach helps to normalize disabilities and to show that those who have them are people just like everyone else.
The idea of "I belong to me" was an interesting one. I do believe it's something girls need to hear and is a healthy thing to learn. At first glance, I thought it unnecessarily left God out of the equation. Or did it? The idea of "I have value just because I'm me" automatically prompts the question of Who put that value there. This story never says God's name, but He's in there.
However, those aspects above had a side I wasn’t quite as sure about. Repeat: It made me think, which was wonderful! And I might change my opinions in a couple weeks or months or even years after more thought. Who knows? I feel like this book will stick with me.
I was reading along, enjoying the rare YA book where the female protagonist isn’t having romantic feelings for anyone, when WHAM. There Lute was. Don’t get me wrong. I like Lute and all, and I think he was probably necessary to show the “good man” representation of this issue, as well as to show that love/romance/marriage aren’t bad. But could he have done it without being in love with Rhen?
A little background. For me personally, I’m not in a book as much for a romance, and I had been really excited about the possibility of a heroine without romance. The back cover copy didn’t indicate a romance, so I got my hopes up. Nothing against Lute and Rhen’s romance, But I just thought this might have been a neat story to overthrow that trope.
While the sexism of Rhen’s teammates angered me, and rightfully so, sometimes she was just as mean back. I completely understand—when you’ve been forced to live with that your entire life, you do feel some ugly feelings and sometimes they spill out in ways you don’t want. But honestly, if she had just listened to what Lute was trying to say early in the story and let him explain things, she could have saved herself some trouble.
I would have liked to see her progress to having more respect for her teammates, male or female, because she knew what it felt like to be disrespected. But, on the other hand, the book leaves Rhen’s actions mostly to the interpretation of the reader, which is really cool. So honestly, maybe when I go back for a reread, I'll see subtle hints of where she completes that arc.
The disabilities in question do serve to normalize it—but otherwise, they don’t really affect the story. (Ben’s Down Syndrome does more than Rhen’s.) Especially in Rhen’s case—a point is made of her having dyslexia in the first couple chapters, but it doesn’t change the way she sees things at all throughout the book (that I saw). Some people may feel this crosses the line from normalizing a disability into just brushing it off. I personally think it could have been used a pinch more and could have had some really interesting effects on the plot.
I loved that third quarter, but it was wildly different in pace than the rest of the story. The first two quarters largely center on Rhen’s efforts to cure the disease and navigate society, as well as her plan to enter the labyrinth. Then the third quarter is explosive intense action. And then we’re back to the fourth quarter which is a lot of working on cures, putting pieces together, and more society parties.
*cringe* That makes it sound like I hated this book. I didn’t. I thought it was well-written and sensitively thought out. I’d give it five stars just based on how much it made me think. Truly, your opinion on this book is going to depend a lot on your background and personal preferences. This is mine.
To Best the Boys has made me think through a lot of things in a new light. And for that, it’s a complete success. I highly encourage everyone to read it and draw your own conclusions. Even if your conclusions are different than the author, the thinking time alone is worth its weight in gold.
Solve the clues. Face your fears. Survive the Trials.
All Alice Liddell wants is to escape her Normal life in Oxford and find the parents who abandoned her ten years ago. But she gets more than she bargained for when her older sister Charlotte is arrested for having the infamous Wonder Gene—the key to unlocking the curious Wonderland Reality.
Soon, Alice receives a rather cryptic invitation to play for Team Heart in this year’s annual—and often deadly—Wonderland Trials. Now she has less than twenty-four hours to find her way into Wonderland where nothing is impossible . . . or what it seems.
The stakes are raised when she discovers players go missing during the Trials each year. Will she and her team solve the clues and find the missing players? Or will betrayal and distrust win, leaving Alice alone in a world of her own? Follow the White Rabbit into this topsy-turvy fantasy where players become prey, a sip of the wrong tea might as well be poison, and a queen’s ways do not always lead one where they ought to go.
Alice was definitely a jog away from some of Sara Ella’s characters in the past. Some of the past heroines have had more stereotypical “girly” interests, and I had a hard time relating sometimes. Alice is a smart, strong girl with her own goals and her own ways of getting around to them.
Each of her teammates had unique personalities and vibes as well, and I was constantly wondering who was good and who was bad. She created strong dynamics for each of them, and it was neat to watch those all play out with other characters.
I would also like to take this moment to note that Chess Shire is AMAZING. In real life, he’d probably annoy the heck out of me, but on the page, perfection. I’m not normally into the romantic interests very much, so points are due here.
For context, I actually hated Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. Still do. I thought it was the dumbest creepiest thing I’d ever seen as a kid. The author did a great job of putting a special new spin on the story. I mean, a dystopian London? How cool is that? The trials had a neat “escape room” feel that I haven’t seen very often in books. And really, there’s just not that many Alice in Wonderland retellings out there.
As a very logical girl myself, it was a good reminder that sometimes the best things in life can’t be explained.
None. Oh, wait, I can think of one, um . . . WHERE IS BOOK TWO? WHEN IS IT COMING OUT? Inquiring minds would like to know.
The Wonderland Trials passed my trial and lived up to all the hype I’d imagined for it before it released. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to plunge down that nearby rabbit hole in search of the second book.
Coral By Sara Ella
Inspired by “The Little Mermaid,” Coral explores what it means to be human in a world where humanity often seems lost.
Coral has always been different, standing out from her mermaid sisters in a society where blending in is key. She fears she has been afflicted with the dreaded Disease said to be carried by humans: emotions. Her sister had the Disease, and Red Tide took her away. Will it come for Coral next?
Above the sea, Brooke has nothing left to give. Depression and anxiety have left her feeling isolated. Forgotten. The only thing she can rely on is the numbness she finds within the cool and comforting ocean waves. If only she weren’t stuck at a new group-therapy home that promises a second chance at life. But what’s the point of living if her soul is destined to bleed?
Merrick may be San Francisco’s golden boy, but he wants nothing more than to escape his controlling father. When his younger sister’s suicide attempt sends Merrick to his breaking point, escape becomes the only option. If he can find their mom, everything will be made right again—right?
When their worlds collide, all three will do whatever it takes to survive. But what—and who—must they leave behind for life to finally begin?
This is an odd book to try and review.
I had been considering reading this book for a good long while, but honestly got scared away by its trigger warning on Amazon. Years passed, and suddenly, I realized I was an adult who could stop reading if it gave me bad vibes. Story Embers also conveniently ran a book study on it right about that time.
With that in mind, I checked it out from my local library and dove in.
It’s a lot. I do not have triggers related to the subject matter in the book (which sounds very cold to say, but there it is), and there were a couple times I had to take some time to process after reading it. It doesn’t pull any punches. It is both tactful and frank about mental health and suicide, which is honestly refreshing.
But on the other hand, while we’re dealing with deep darkness, we also have this floofy beach romance going on. That’s the best way to describe it. I don’t normally fawn over romance, so after a while, I was ready for Coral and Merrick to just explain their feelings to each other. But it also illustrated really well what living with someone with mental illness is like.
Also, the pinkie promise scene is possibly the best romantic scene I’ve ever read. So.
A couple times, when it veered into floofy territory, I feared losing interest. I was still struggling to figure out what these three characters had to do with each other at all, and felt like I was trying to read three stories at once. But about halfway through the book, some clues get dropped that everything wasn’t as it seemed. It had me racing for theories and waiting to see the payoff. Yeah, none of my theories were right. Those twists alone would make me read it again. The ending doesn't go as anyone had planned, and forces the characters to acknowledge the hard places.
Plus, the settings are gorgeous. Crystal clear, the kind of read that immediately transports you into summer.
The trigger warning is not a joke. This is some deep, heavy stuff. I, as a reader who am ordinarily not triggered by any of the ones described, still needed to process some of the harder scenes.
(A couple that spring to mind off the top of my head was one where the protagonist walks in on the *non-graphic* aftermath of a suicide attempt, as well as a scene where a mentally ill character who has been generally encouraging is revealed to have gone back and committed suicide.)
So if you are triggered by anything of the type, you might want to find someone who can read it with you or just avoid the title for now.
Coral is a perfect beach read, as long as you’re looking for a book to dive into and not just dip your toes in, and as long as those trigger warnings aren’t a concern to you.
Once, in a cottage above the cliffs on the Dark Sea of Darkness, there lived three children and their trusty dog, Nugget.
Janner Igiby, his brother, Tink, and their disabled sister, Leeli, are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that they love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang, who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice. The Igibys hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.
You might want to grab a coffee or chai or something and find a comfy seat. This is going to be a long one.
People had been telling me for years that I really ought to read the Wingfeather Saga, but I had never gotten around to it. Lo and behold, LifeWay had the complete collection on sale, and my momma asked me if I would pre-read them for my siblings.
This was my chance! And now I understand why so many people said I should read it.
First off, can we appreciate that INCREDIBLE cover art? My brother pestered me for weeks asking if I was done yet because he wanted to read the book because the cover art was so cool. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but really, look at it. And all four covers look that good!
With that properly appreciated, next up, the narrator! This is such a quirky story. If you don’t believe me, just read both the prefaces to book one. Or just the title of book one, really. That’s not to say the story wasn’t ever serious. It really is, especially the further you go into the story. But the quirky descriptions of the world via the footnotes add that extra charm that pulls you into the story world.
On that note, the footnotes were perfect! (Pun intended.) That way, if someone found the narrator’s commentary annoying, they could just read on without being interrupted. Or, if they were like me and found it utterly hilarious, they could read every single one.
The quirky humor gives way to creative, beautiful imagery at just the right moment. I could see everything so vividly in my head. Those images had the power to make me laugh, breathe in deep, or cringe, depending on the vibe. It gave a very poetic feel to the narrative.
The Wingfeather Saga moved from the twists being fairly easy(ish) to predict in book one to twists that slapped me out of nowhere in book four. This is a story that’s not afraid to take the hard, unexpected route.
My favorite character, hands down, was Nugget. (Not what you were expecting?) Okay, but if I have to choose someone other than the dog, I’d choose Janner right away. I related to him from the first chapters. Janner captures the struggle of an oldest child, torn between his duty to protect his siblings and his desire to discovering himself and the world around him. Add to that all the wild feelings of adolescence, and he has his hands full.
Speaking of Janner . . . THE ENDING. I won’t spoil it here, but suffice it to say, Andrew Peterson stabbed my soul multiple times. And then had the nerve to leave the ending to my imagination! How much do I have to pay to get that final chapter? In all seriousness, the ending was unexpected and shocking, but bittersweet and beautiful all at once.
Going into The Wingfeather Saga, I thought I knew exactly what it was going to be. Let’s face it, after a while, many Christian fantasy allegories start to look alike. But the further I got, the less this seemed to be an allegory, and the more it seemed to be just a good story. And, as all good stories should, it nodded to a few things in real life, too. It left a lot of food for thought and a new perspective.
It’s one of those stories that reminds me what it was like to be a child. Makes me believe I can be one again. It rekindles wonder.
This would be a fabulous family read-aloud. Also, much to my excitement, I discovered there is a short film available on Amazon Prime and YouTube. There’s also a soundtrack. And there’s also a show slated for seven (seven) seasons that begins in December of this year.
(First off, a faith-based show with quality animation and story work? Based on an amazing book series? Sign me up. And second off, did I mention this show also has the head of story from How to Train Your Dragon 2 behind it? Meep!)
Yeah, I might have joined the fandom.
The Wingfeather Saga has earned a special spot in my heart and reawakened a sense of wonder and excitement in me. Highly recommend to all families.
Lillian’s city is dying. Slowly. Strangled by dust, drought, and oppressive laws that cut down commoner and noble alike. Even Lillian, as daughter-in-law to the Governor, can’t help them.
When a stranger climbs through Lillian’s window with the mythical knowledge needed to spin heat into rain, it seems too good to be true.
But the first real storm in months hardly means the drought is over. With the demand for more rain on one side, and threats from encroaching enemies on the other, Lillian’s choices are limited.
Except maybe the stranger is more than he appears. And maybe the city needs more aid than simply a change of weather.
A Rumpelstiltskin retelling, The Stormbringer’s Name blends timeless elements of unspoken names and bitter sacrifice with clouds of treason, betrayal, and a fine-spun gold thread of courage.
The fifth novella in the Legends of the Light series, this short novel is a stand-alone story and contains a handful of allegorical themes.
I have been so excited for this book to come out! It was one of my handful of most anticipated releases for 2022 and it did not disappoint.
Oh my goodness, all the characters were so well-developed. I didn’t feel like there was one that I was rolling my eyes going, “Ugh, I have to read their chapter before I can go back and figure out what so-and-so’s doing.”
Lillian’s dynamic of being part of the nobility, but feeling as if she didn’t have a voice to speak, resonated deeply with me and drew me into her struggle. Royce’s remorse was presented so deeply and his internal struggle made me love him even more.
Each of the characters, both main and side, had their own motivations and goals. It didn’t resort to the normal “I’m an evil bad guy ha ha ha” tropes; the villain’s motivation was very unique and not what I would have guessed.
While you technically don’t have to read the rest of the series to understand this book, it will be a lot more fun if you have. Cameos from previous books pop up everywhere—one of the amazing plot twists revolved around one of my favorite characters from an earlier Legends of Light, which made the twist all the more excruciating. In the best way possible, I mean.
Did I mention the amazing plot twists? Nothing played out quite as I thought.
The theme and message is so dang deep. I can definitely see that a lot of thought and life experience went into it. It dug deep into my own mind and made me think and wonder long after I finished the book.
The prose is gorgeous. The imagery was spot-on and so unique to the world. Even the sentence lengths seemed used to their very fullest potential. (Coming from a writer who struggles to remember to vary her sentences at all. That would be me.)
Did I get to all the things I wanted to rave about in this post? I think so.
Due to my general inexperience with fantasy of this type, I did struggle occasionally to keep up with what was happening. (I honestly hesitated to put this under the negatives section because it’s not really the book’s fault.)
You absolutely CANNOT miss this book, especially if you’re a fan of fantasy. Even if you’re not a fan of fantasy, I think you should give it a try. All around solid and well-developed, from the characters to the plot to the worldbuilding to the theme. But it doesn’t stop there. It keeps pushing deeper.
Sweep By Jonathan Auxier
For nearly a century, Victorian London relied on “climbing boys” - orphans owned by chimney sweeps - to clean flues and protect homes from fire. The work was hard, thankless, and brutally dangerous.
Eleven-year-old Nan Sparrow is quite possibly the best climber who ever lived - and a girl. With her wits and will, she’s managed to beat the deadly odds time and time again. But when Nan gets stuck in a deadly chimney fire, she fears her time has come.
Instead, she wakes to find herself in an abandoned attic. And she is not alone. Huddled in the corner is a mysterious creature - a golem - made from ash and coal. This is the creature that saved her from the fire.
Sweep is the story of a girl and her monster. Together, these two outcasts carve out a life - saving one another in the process. By one of today’s most powerful storytellers, Sweep is a heartrending adventure about the everlasting gifts of friendship and hope.
While intended for a middle grade audience, this is a children’s book that speaks more to the grown-up world than one might think. Nan and her group of friends face down big things, dark things and come out better. At its glowing heart, Sweep is a story about all the things that make up life—the sweet and wondrous, and the dark and painful.
The friendship between Nan and Charlie is just the sweetest thing ever. From the back cover copy, I expected Charlie to be this more mature protector type. He sure is the protector type but his child-like questions and curiosity about everything warm the heart.
Unlike Nan, I adored Toby and wished he would have had more time on the pages. But if he were to have more time on the page, then something else would have had to be taken out, and we just can’t have that.
The inclusion of Jewish heritage and characters was a lovely touch and I enjoyed having it in there. It’s such a rich and interesting history to read about and a group of people that need representation in fiction beyond victims in WWII novels.
Miss Bloom was a brilliant adult figure—showing where she’s made mistakes and where she’s gotten it right. Her care for the kids in the story added a lot. And seeing an adult regain her sense of wonder is a beautiful thing as well.
The climax is gorgeous. And bittersweet. And . . . well, I won’t spoil it.
None. (If you have a more sensitive reader, you may want to consider that this book tactfully but realistically portrays what chimney sweeps of that time faced. This can lead to some intense scenes for younger readers such as a chimney fire intentionally started by another sweep, one sweep who is killed in an accident, and illnesses brought on by inhaling soot.)
Don’t sweep this book aside. No matter what age you are, this should be required reading for everyone and is sure to grab readers who still hang on to their sense of wonder. (It would definitely be a fabulous choice for a family read-aloud!)
The Electrical Menagerie, one-of-a-kind robotic roadshow, is bankrupt.
Sylvester Carthage, illusionist and engineer, has the eccentric imagination the Menagerie needs to succeed creatively -- but none of the people skills. Fast-talking Arbrook Huxley, meanwhile, has all the savvy the Menagerie needs to succeed commercially -- but none of the scruples.
To save their show, Carthage & Huxley risk everything in a royal talent competition, vying for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to perform for the Future Celestial Queen. In this stardust-and-spark-powered empire of floating islands and flying trains, The Electrical Menagerie's bid at fame and fortune means weathering the glamorous and cutthroat world of critics, high society, and rival magicians -- but with real conspiracy lurking beneath tabloid controversy, there's more at stake in this contest than the prize.
Behind the glittery haze of flash paper and mirrors, every competitor has something to hide... and it's the lies Carthage & Huxley tell each other that may cost them everything.
Oh my goodness. This book is amazing.
First off, can I just say this is one book that’s being marketed accurately? It’s described as The Greatest Showman as fantasy, and that is EXACTLY what it is. It has enough Greatest Showman vibes while also being its own unique story.
Second, LOOK AT THAT AWESOME COVER.
Next up--the characters. The dynamic between Carthage and Huxley is INCREDIBLE. Both of their characters are so interesting, in personalities, in reactions, their viewpoints (at one point, we got to see them both describe the same person and it was so neat to see the different way they saw things), and in backstories. Then when the two of them clash and work together, I just sit back and watch the show. Perfect.
All her side characters had their own personalities and motivations and were almost as interesting as Carthage and Huxley. (But not quite, which is exactly the job of a side character.)
The mystery plot is intriguing—I was kept guessing right up until the perfect moment when my stomach sank and I was like “oh no, Huxley don’t take the bait . . .”'
Speaking of intriguing, the worldbuilding! It’s a different kind of fantasy world and the little details sprinkled throughout the story helped me understand it perfectly and feel like I was really there. (Without being overwhelmed by all the new information or annoyed that it interrupted the story.)
The climax was AMAZING. I could not quit reading it. I actually had trouble getting stopped reading throughout the whole book.
The book is very clean. While it does include some material that you may not want to hand young kids (a murder, attempted murders and kidnappings, drinking), for tweens on up, this seems like it would be a really good family read.
The only imaginable negative is that book two hasn’t released yet and I can’t find a release date anywhere. :)
I have a feeling this will definitely be making my Top Ten for 2022. As soon as I finished reading it, I turned around and read it again, it was that good. Highly recommended for fantasy fans, Greatest Showman fans, and any fans in between! (If you read it, leave a comment below and please let me know! I’d love to discuss it with someone.)
(And maybe if enough of us ask, we’ll be able to find out about book two. :) )
Hi there! Rachel again. Check out this section for book reviews and cover reveals of some of my favorites!