I’ve got four reviews for you today: a YA contemporary, a YA fantasy, a graphic novel (adult, I suppose, though it’s appropriate for YA), and a MG fantasy. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
Don't Read the Comments by Eric Smith
Published by Inkyard Press on January 28, 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Cover Artist: Mary Luna
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing; Themes of bullying, sexism, racism and past sexual assault)
Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya—better known as popular streaming gamer D1V—regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent.
Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun—and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V.
At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line…
And she isn’t going down without a fight.
I was incredibly excited to read Eric Smith’s newest, just because he is such an amazing presence on Twitter. I figured if half of his Twitter wit and intelligence showed up in his book, I’d be happy.
Don’t Read the Comments is an astute commentary on the joys and very real dangers that come with being a major online presence. It also tackles topics like sexism and racism (in the online gaming world, but also in the “real world”) in a very realistic way. I think that teenagers today will easily be able to see their favorite You-Tube stars in Divya. She is charismatic in her gaming videos, but she also has to deal with the insecurities that come from putting your name and face out into the world on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the reality is that many people who have an online presence face harassment on a regular basis, and often the typical response is that they somehow “deserve it” because they’ve chosen to put themselves out there. This book shows just how far these trolls will sometimes go and how insecurities can turn into actual fear (and rightfully so). This is especially true for women and girls, and the book shows how Divya and her friend Rebekah have to be so much more vigilant about keeping themselves safe than their male counterparts (and also highlights violence against women in a past tragic attack against Rebekah).
But the story isn’t all doom and gloom. It also features a sweet online romance between Divya and Aaron, who is dealing with parental issues and career issues of his own. And the ultimate message is one of triumph and hope and of finding where your dreams truly lie. This book will be incredibly appealing to teens today, and their parents just might learn a thing or two by reading it as well! 🙂
***Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Find Me Their Bones by Sara Wolf
Series: Bring Me Their Hearts #2
Also in this series: Bring Me Their Hearts
Published by Entangled Teen on November 5, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Narrator: Em Eldridge
Length: 14 hours 3 minutes
Source: The Publisher, Library
Cover Artist: Yin Yuming
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Some violence)
No one can save her.
In order to protect Prince Lucien d’Malvane’s heart, Zera had to betray him. Now, he hates the sight of her. Trapped in Cavanos as a prisoner of the king, she awaits the inevitable moment her witch severs their magical connection and finally ends her life.
But fate isn't ready to give her up just yet.
With freedom coming from the most unlikely of sources, Zera is given a second chance at life as a Heartless. But it comes with a terrible price. As the king mobilizes his army to march against the witches, Zera must tame an elusive and deadly valkerax trapped in the tunnels underneath the city if she wants to regain her humanity.
Winning over a bloodthirsty valkerax? Hard. Winning back her friends before war breaks out? A little harder.
But a Heartless winning back Prince Lucien’s heart?
The hardest thing she’s ever done.
I absolutely adored Bring Me Their Hearts, so I was excited to read this sequel, especially after everything ended with more than a little craziness in the first book. We pick up right where we left off, with Zera facing the consequences of revealing to everyone that she’s Heartless (and that she’d been on a mission to take Lucien’s heart). Of course, because of that little revelation, all of the people she’d come to consider friends are more than a little wary of her. She’s lost not only Lucien, who she’d come to care about enough to sacrifice her own goals and wishes for, but also her only real friendships. So, this book is much more focused on Zera’s internal journey and acceptance of herself than on the romance (which was featured more prominently in the first book). Zera is constantly conflicted because she wants to hold onto the bonds she’s forged with these people, but she also believes that she can’t get them back and that she probably doesn’t deserve them. So, she spends a lot of time both pulling them back into relationship and pushing them away. Plus, she once again has to decide what lengths she’ll go to in order to get her heart back. It’s always a little hard to tell who’s actually on Zera’s side, which I love, and Varia’s characters is a distinctly gray villain, another plus in my book. While I mostly hated her, Zera herself can often see where Varia is coming from, and she also thinks about how Lucien will be affected by everything his sister is doing—both of those things make Varia’s character seem a lot more complicated. While this did feel a bit like a middle book at times, it definitely kept me interested and made me want to pick up the final book in the trilogy!
NARRATION: I ended up switching back and forth between the audiobook and the physical book for this one, and I thought that Em Eldridge did an excellent job with the narration!
***Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Snug: A Collection of Comics about Dating Your Best Friend by Catana Chetwynd
Illustrator: Catana Chetwynd
Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing on February 4, 2020
Genres: Adult, Graphic Novel
My content rating: Geared toward adults, but suitable for YA (beyond the fact that the characters are shown sharing a bed, the romance is all sweet and simple)
Why bother getting out of bed when you could stay bundled up with that special someone and a book of cozy, cute comics.
From the author of the bestselling Little Moments of Love comes Snug, a collection of comics that perfectly captures the honest, playful, and relatable snapshots of romantic life.
Chetwynd’s second book has the same charming and inviting style as her first and includes 50 percent new, never-before-shared comics. Snug is a celebration of the quirks and peculiarities of every one of us—and the magic that happens when we find our matching puzzle piece.
This little collection of comics is utterly sweet and adorable. It’s filled with the everyday moments of a relationship—the little things that make you smile. The comics feature the myriad of simple ways the author and her boyfriend are similar and different and the ways that they encourage and complement each other. They highlight the author’s quirks in amusing ways and just remind us how the mundane moments in life can be made better with someone by your side. I found myself smiling a whole lot while reading this collection, so it did its job!
While I suppose this comic is geared toward an adult audience there’s no “adult” content, and I could see YA readers enjoying it as well—people of all ages like the idea of everyday romance and the fun and quirky moments that come with young love.
***Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
The Real Boy by Anne Ursu
Illustrator: Erin Mcguire
Published by Walden Pond Press on September 24, 2013
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Narrator: Chris Sorenson
Length: 8 hours 40 minutes
My content rating: MG (No romance, Some minor violence and bullying, death of a character)
On an island on the edge of an immense sea there is a city, a forest, and a boy. The city is called Asteri, a perfect city saved by the magic woven into its walls when a devastating plague swept through the world years before. The forest is called the Barrow, a vast wood of ancient trees that encircles the city and feeds the earth with magic. And the boy is called Oscar, a shop boy for the most powerful magician in the Barrow, who spends his days in the dark cellar of his master's shop grinding herbs and dreaming of the wizards who once lived on the island. Oscar's world is small, but he likes it that way. The real world is vast, strange, and unpredictable. And Oscar does not quite fit in it.
But it's been a long time since anyone who could call himself a wizard walked the world, and now that world is changing. Children in the city are falling ill; something sinister lurks in the forest. Oscar has long been content to stay in his small room, comforted in the knowledge that the magic that flows from the trees will keep his island safe. Now, even magic may not be enough to save it.
Anne Ursu has written an unforgettable story of transformation and belonging—a spellbinding tale of the way in which the power we all wield, great and small, lies in the choices we make.
This unique middle grade fantasy is about a boy on the spectrum who’s plunged into a role he’s not quite sure he wants to take on when his mentor disappears and leaves him in charge of his magic shop. I loved Oscar as a character. I believe that Ursu did a wonderful job capturing the way that he thinks—how he doesn’t quite understand the world the way everyone else does and has to spend extra time parsing out basic things like facial expressions and conversational skills. I felt that she portrayed his frustrations and doubts in a believable way. And, as always, I adored Ursu’s wonderful prose.
I’ll confess that at one point in the book, I got very nervous about a message related to Oscar’s autism (View Spoiler »For a short time Oscar believes that he’s different because he’s actually not human—but he’s proven wrong later in the book, thank goodness! « Hide Spoiler). But in the end, the message was just what I was hoping it would be—one of acceptance and self-worth. I enjoyed the magical elements and the twists and turns in the story! Overall, this book was a win for me!
NARRATION: Chris Sorenson did a lovely job bringing Oscar’s unique childlike voice to life!
I was very pleased with my first Eric Smith book. I loved the characters he created, especially Aaron and his family, and like you, I thought he did a great job tackling the upside and downside of life online. I also thought the in-game scenes were really immersive, and it was an interesting experience for me as a non-gamer
You make a good point about the gaming scenes. I agree with you!
I haven’t read any of these. I have Bring me their hearts but I just haven’t fit it in yet. Don’t read the comments looks really good.
I own plenty of books that I haven’t gotten to reading yet, so I can definitely relate to that.
I haven’t read any of these but will definitely be reading several.Love your reviews
I hope you get to read them!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these books,
Thanks for visiting!
Looks like you had some great reads. I really loved Bring Me Their Hearts so hopefully I can find time for Find Me Their Bones soon.
I hope you get to read it soon!
I really want to read Don’t Read The Comments. Online gaming culture is weird, and the author seems to be an excellent person. Great reviews!
Online gaming culture is weird; I have to agree. My daughter plays a lot of online games, so I’ve seen a little bit of it.
They all sound pretty good.
love your banner. i haven’t read any of them but i am lovin’ the covers
Thanks! I think this is a fun way to show off all the covers for these bite-sized reviews. 🙂
I don’t think I would be interested in Snug, but the design looks really cute
The design is what caught my eye at first.
I haven’t read Eric Smith’s book yet, but my library did order a copy. I hope to be one of the first readers when it arrives.
Hope it works out that way and you love it!
Great reviews! I think I want to pick up Don’t Read the Comments.
I hope you do!
Aww Snug looks so cute!
Karen @ For What It’s worth
It is! Cute is the perfect word for it.
Well now I obviously must read Don’t Read the Comments! I will confess I was nervous, BECAUSE I am so fond of Eric Smith, and I was too scared to read it for review, but this way is better because I will buy it and support him! I agree with you completely about Find Me Their Bones (shocking, I know ?) and I look forward to the next one. Snug sounds adorable but it would fill me with rage and jealousy so I’ll go ahead and skip that one hahah. VERY glad that the spoilery bit didn’t turn out to be true, that would be a big yikes! Great reviews, so glad you enjoyed these!!
I totally get being scared to pick up a book by an author you already admire—there’s just an extra level of pressure there. And, yes, I was SO glad that the spoilery thing did not end up being true. There was a short period of the book where I was sort of horrified because Oscar himself was sure it was true and he had semi-good reasons to think so. I was very nervous about the message being sent there, so I breathed a big sigh of relief when it turned out he was mistaken!
I really enjoyed Don’t Read the Comments as well. I was impressed at how many timely subjects Smith touched on and how accessible he made the gaming world even to an old mom like me.
Ha! Yes, that was how I felt about the gaming aspect. I know a LITTLE bit about it because my oldest is a gamer, but I’m still way out of touch.
Snug sounds like a really cute collection of comics and sometimes I really enjoy reads like that, that are easy and fun and done well too. I might have to pick it up. I also really like the sound of Don’t read the comments. While I am an ex-gamer, I still love reading about games and the gaming community so much. It sounds like it tackles some important and topical themes running through the gaming community at the moment, but still is a cute romance at heart.
Yes, sometimes it’s so nice to pick up a cute little collection of comics that you can read quickly and get enjoyment from. And Don’t Read the Comments seems like it would be right up your alley!
I was nodding my head yes while reading your review of Find Me Their Bones. I didn’t love it as much as the first, but I’m excited to see how it’s going to be wrapped up in the final book. And I’m hoping there’s more romance too. Wonderful review!
I have high hopes for the series finale!
Oh my gosh! I read and loved Little Moments of Love a few years ago, but I had no idea that Snug was a thing! After I read your review I immediately put it on hold from my library! Snug reminds me of Soppy a lot, which is another adorable comic compilation that focuses on the small things that happen between you and the one you love. Since Soppy is one of my favorite things ever, I’m always happy when I find a book that has a similar concept!
I’ll have to check Soppy out. Thanks for telling me about it!
I plan to read Don’t Read The Comments. I’ve followed the author on Twitter and really like his positive posts. Plus, he supports teachers!
I LOVE Eric’s Twitter feed—I agree that it’s nice to see some positivity out there, and it’s wonderful that he supports teachers!
Ahh Don’t Read The Comments is on my TBR already, I’m really glad to hear you enjoyed it, makes me eager to discover it 🙂
I hope you love it!