The Best Kind of Magic by Crystal Cestari

I cannot handle how much I loved this book.  When I found out that I would be hosting Crystal’s launch at the store, I decided I needed to read it.  Plus, all of the blurbs described it as Gilmore Girls meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  So I was interested.  What it ended up being was so much more.

Amber Sand, our matchmaker but not-a-witch lead is fantastic.  Actually, all of the characters are great.  Going in, I was expecting a sappy YA romance but ended taking me on a completely unexpected adventure.  As the book went in, I found myself thinking that the TV show it reminded me the most of was actually Veronica Mars which is one of my all time favorite shows.  (To be honest, I am actually watching it right now as I write this.)  This book is filled with great snark, and Amber, like Veronica, has a great snarky retort to everything.

The world that Cestari has created is so fun.  It takes place in the Chicago that I know and love but is filled with fun magical beings.  I loved the competition between the different types of magic and seeing how all of the different types of magical beings interacted.  She has fully developed this world, so much so that I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw a troll crossing the street when I go downtown next.

My only complaint about this book?  It made me so hungry!  Amber spends so much time baking or talking about baking or eating sweets and it just made me want to stuff my face.

At the launch, Crystal told us that the second book on the series is coming out in February and I got so excited because I need more of these books in my life immediately. And to my great surprise, I went into work the other day to find a galley of the second one sitting there!  I cannot wait to start reading it.

5-stars

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby

Since I started working in a bookstore in Chicago, people have been telling me that I need to read Samantha Irby’s Meaty and, while I want to do that so badly, it is really hard to motivate myself to read something that I don’t have a copy of already or easy access to since my shelves are covered in more books that I can possibly read, all of them books that I want to read immediately.  So when a co-worker handed me the galley for Irby’s new book We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, I felt a little bit like I had won the lottery.

This is a great collection of essays.  Incredibly varied in both topics and form, each essay brought forth new ideas and a new way of reading.  Some essay collections feel like the author is following a formula for how each piece should be written but that was most definitely not the case here.  I looked forward to each essay, wondering what new and interesting thing she was going to talk about.

I also enjoyed this book because even though Irby’s experiences are completely unique to her, I saw her dealing with some of the same insecurities and such that I deal with.  It’s always refreshing to see someone dealing with the things that pull me down and see that they are able to make themselves move past it and actually laugh about them.

I’m excited for this collection to come out so that the wider world can get to know Irby and her amazing sense of humor.

4-stars

The Art of Holding On and Letting Go by Kristin Bartley Lenz

This was another book that I read because of YA Fest.  I had a galley of it on my bookshelf from Heartland Fall Forum and so it was the first book I claimed when we were deciding who would read what.

This was a great book.  It dealt with tragedy, as many YA books today do, but it also dealt with the idea of starting over, making it a hopeful book in the end.  I very much enjoyed the way the novel looked at the way adults and children grieve and how tragedy affects these groups in similar and different ways.  I absolutely loved Cara, the protagonist, who dealt with trying to figure out who she was when she loses the things that she has used to define herself her entire life.  Bartley Lenz’s characters speak for themselves.  They aren’t monsters with ulterior motives.  You don’t spend time thinking , “Oh, I can’t like this guy because he is going to turn out to be the stereotypical YA asshole male.”  Instead, the characters all come together to create a great story showing that it is possible to start over, even when it might feel impossible in the moment.  (As someone who moved across the country halfway through the 8th grade, I loved this and definitely connected to the story on a weird level.)

The writing is beautiful, the characters are amazing, and I loved my time with this book.  In a world of dystopian and sci-fi adventure, as well as incredibly dark stories, this was a great realistic book that, while incredibly sad at times, left me feeling hopeful and reminded me that there are good people in the world.

Also, between reading this book and After the Fall by Kate Hart, I have decided that I will not be going hiking anytime soon.  Nope.  Will not happen.

4-stars