Book Review: All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

All the Stars and Teeth is a dark fantasy book set in a world of mermaids, pirates, and princesses. Written by author Adalyn Grace, the book does it’s fair share of dramatics. Where people are gifted with powers allowing for displays of power and entertainment. The world is set in a series of magical islands with each one containing a singular power. In this world, you can master numerous powers, however it will bring death and destruction if you do. To prevent this, there is a long time tradition of picking a power based on your home and only practicing that single power.

At the heart of the kingdom, Visidia, lives Amora Montara, a princess. Who wields the power of soul destroying. She is soon to be the queen but must face a trail. A trial where she will read the souls of 5 people, and determine who is truly evil. If she passes, she shall be queen. If she does not- well, let’s just say it won’t be pretty.

Under a lot of stress, she panics and her powers consume her. Killing a man and melting his body, the people of her kingdom are disgusted and scared at this display. They scream how Amora is a monster and how she must be locked away. Amora is taken to a cell, where she awaits either execution or exile. Until a pirate named Bastian comes offering help, but for a price.

There is a bigger issue besides Amora. Where a man is not only trying to master numerous powers and soul destroying, but has cultivated a mass army to take over Visidia. After realizing the stakes, Amora sets off with Bastian. However this is a book of secrets and many will be uncovered, whether Amora wants to know or not.

Personally, I thought this book was sadly average at best. I think it’s perfect for getting into fantasy and YA. However, there isn’t much to it besides the plot. The romance was good in the middle and I enjoyed the witty banter and suspense. However, I found myself bored and a bit surprised because at the end it felt so rushed over. The plot was wonderfully done, although a little lengthy at some points. The villain was also rarely seen until the end, and was a bit underwhelming despite all the characters “fearing” him. 

It’s a bit confusing with the magical and political fantasy aspects, but I figured it out by the middle of the book. The plot was also extremely well written with twists and turns I kind of expected, but none the less enjoyed. It’s similar to books such as To Kill a Kingdom or Daughter of the Pirate King. I definitely enjoyed the pirate’s character and the side characters were beautifully done. 

Overall this book is a 3.5 out of 5 for me. Whereas it’s perfect for beginners. I definitely think that there are better books with more in depth characters. But, if you need a quick read or are in a reading slump, this is the book for you. Easy characters, heavy plot, and a sly villain make for a simple yet intriguing story.

-Ashley Y.

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Killing November by Adriana Mather

Killing November by Adriana Mather is a murder mystery novel, surrounding a teenage girl named November and her suspected involvement of a classmates death. It’s based in a woodsy boarding school full of secrets. 

November is a clever and extroverted protagonist. She is brought to a remote boarding school after her father disappears and is informed that she is enrolled in a school for spies and assassins. The school environment however is cold and toxic. Where none of her classmates talk to her except for her roommate Layla and her brother Ash. 

Unlike most places, this school is based around “families” who control and influence the students. November, much like the reader, is clueless in the beginning but slowly begins to understand the dynamic. We learn that the main family are called “The Lions” and that they’ve killed others to gain control of everyone. We also learn that November is the daughter of two very powerful leaders and is wanted dead by the Lions. 

In order to accomplish this, someone frames her for the murder of a fellow classmate. Frantic and desperate to prove her innocence November, Ash, and Layala, investigate the school to find the true culprit.

This book was moderately twisty and a great introduction to murder mysteries. There’s not too much gore and it’s easily the least scary book I’ve read. It’s fantastic if you love dark hollowy castles, sparring matches, and knives. Lots and lots of knives. The book is also extremely plot driven and is fast paced. Personally I would recommend this book to ages 12+ and to anyone who enjoys “One of us is lying” by Karen M. McManus. 

-Ashley Y.

Killing November by Adriana Mather is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Reid Jenkins

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Reid Jenkins is a phenomenal book depicting the harsh life of 60s Hollywood Superstar, Evelyn Hugo. It’s a beautiful historical fiction, perfect for fans of old Hollywood icons. It’s plotline of scandals and fame are similar to those such as Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and even Anna Nicole Smith. If you recognize any of those names, this book will probably be your new ride or die.

Retired and tucked away from the public, Evelyn Hugo offers a once in a lifetime opportunity: A personal interview after decades of silence. This decision especially sends shockwaves when Evelyn chooses none other than Monique Grant for the job. Even though Monique is an underqualified small writer working at Vivant, Evelyn will accept only her. Monique accepts thinking this might be a huge break in her career and a distraction from her ongoing divorce.

Meeting Evelyn Hugo, one of Hollywood’s most treasured stars, is intimidating. She is a woman of beauty and charm. Known for her eye catching figure, gorgeous blonde hair, and killer eye brows. She was the 60’s IT girl. But time has taken it’s toll and Evelyn means business. Evelyn announces to Monique two things. First, this interview is actually for Monique to write a tell-all memoir about Evelyn’s life. No secrets, no lies, and any money made from the book will be Monique’s. Secondly, only Monique can know about it and it can only be released after Evelyn’s death. Unsure, Monique warily agrees and the story of Evelyn Hugo finally unravels.

The book immediately switches narratives to Evelyn and we see a the young thirteen year old, Evelyn Herrera. She is a gorgeous brunette Cuban girl living in a poor area of New York. Evelyn is also plagued with the burden of a dead mother and a deadbeat father. Spending years unhappy, she craves to escape and live out her dreams of being an actress. By age fifteen, Evelyn meets Ernie Diaz, a young man moving to California for work. Using her body and wits to her advantage, Evelyn manipulates poor Ernie Diaz into marrying her.

Everyday, Evelyn would sit at a popular café, while Ernie worked. Celebrities were known to eat there and eventually she was spotted by famous producer, Harry Cameron. From there here life rapidly changes. After manipulating numerous wealthy men and rebuilding her image. A gorgeous blonde, Evelyn Hugo is introduced to the world.

She beings to learn the industry overtime and chase her dreams. But sadly, it comes with a price. With Evelyn remarrying and divorcing for countless reasons. As while as struggling to find her own happiness through fame and the public eye. She becomes one of the most complex and human character, I have ever read. Even though, Evelyn isn’t written to be likeable or heroic with the book even stating, that she realizes she is a horrible person. I can’t help but relate to her vulnerability and bond with the beautiful writing. Her journey and the people she meets are so well written, that I was brought to tears.

Evelyn, even after her seven marriages, chases after her greatest love. A love which is forbidden, as this book tells of societal standards and sexualities. It teaches you, the meaning of love and it’s many forms. Your greatest love. Your purest love. Your motherly love. This book was an absolute heartbreaker. Grab your tissues and be prepared to stay up well past 3 am, because this is just a glimpse into the glamourous life of Evelyn Hugo. (Recommended 16+)

– Ashley Y.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Reid Jenkins is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library and can be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Memory Book by Lara Avery

The Memory Book by Lara Avery

The Memory Book, by Lara Avery, is the story of a girl who is diagnosed with Niemann-Pick C (NPC). I’m not the biggest fan of books based on illness. But this book was charmingly extraordinary and ideal for crying at 2:00 a.m.

The book is written by our main character, Samantha/ Sammie McCoy. She writes about having NPC. Which is a rare, life-threatening disease that will affect her motor functions, metabolism, cognition, and eventually it will steal her memories. In order to combat this, Sammie carries a laptop everywhere and writes down everything in her life. From talking to her guidance counselor about college to her long time crush, Stuart Shah. 

Sammie is a smart girl, who has won countless debate awards and plans to graduate as Valedictorian. Her dream is to eventually move to New York and attend university there. She’s determined to overcome her illness and not let it stop her. She makes lists about “Future Sam”, who is a mature and successful young woman, who is living out her best life. But instead of looking forward to “Future Sam”, we slowly watch Sammie deteriorate. She starts to forget things, At first, she loses the debate championship, after forgetting where she is. And decides it’s best not to tell her debate partner/ best friend, about her disease. But she does tell her old childhood friend, Cooper Lind. 

Even though she lost the debate championship, she is determined her life will be fine. Starting off with telling Stuart that she likes him and eventually becoming his girlfriend. This is great until Sammie is forced to tell him about her disease which she’s been hiding for months. Stuart handles it greatly and is attentive and caring. But he’s stressed about it and feeling less like a boyfriend and more like a caretaker.

As this is happening, she begins to have more frequent episodes. She forgets about her little sister’s existence, the names of her pets, and even where she is while driving to a party. You can feel her frustration and confusion in her writing. And it’s completely heartbreaking. Especially, reading about her family seeing all of this. Watching how her little brother’s confused when she brushed her teeth 3 times in a row, or her parents crying in the living room. But the upside of all this happening is that she’s grown closer to Cooper. They even manage to rebuild their friendship and admit their feelings to each other. 

This resulted in a fight between Stuart and Cooper, when Stuart found them sleeping together. This was my least favorite part since cheating (even if you’re sick) is not okay. But you can feel Sammie’s emotions, and how this disease is making her unsure of who she loves and who she thought she loved. She eventually breaks up with Stuart and goes to Cooper. There’s this huge scene, where she shows up at his work. Then goes on the intercom and tells him how she’s sorry and that she loves him. It’s a light-hearted and satisfying scene. It almost feels like the book should end right there.

But it doesn’t. Instead, we are cheerfully greeted by Cooper, who is writing a few pages explaining how he fell in love with Sammie. And how she had a seizure and was sent into shock. This part made my stomach drop. But luckily, Cooper wrote that Sammie woke up and is talking. There are a few cute pages of Cooper and Sammie leaving each other notes via computer/memory book. But there are also some parts, where Sammie doesn’t even recognize Cooper and asks why he’s there. But she eventually remembers and leaves the line “Coop I don’t know what I would do without you. I’m really happy- Sammie”

The next pages are characters writing in the book their favorite memory with Sammie. Again I thought the book was over, and that Sammie is okay. But then my eyes froze on the last page. It’s a single paragraph, a note really, from Cooper. It talks about how Sammie is now gone, and how his favorite memory is this entire book since it’s a recording of her life. My heart shattered when I read this and I started sobbing. Because the emotions you feel during this book are so genuine. You feel as if you watched Sammie grow, and learn to experience her life. You watch her chase after her dreams and connect with her friends. You watch her fix her mistakes and become a better person. Although you don’t see Sammie dying in her entries. You can put it together from Cooper’s note. 

This book is definitely a tragic, romance book. But I felt as if the romance and “love triangle’ were a bit too forced. I also felt like her death was so sudden and how we barely saw Sammie at this point. But I understand why the author didn’t do that. This is Sammie’s book. It’s Sammie’s life, and she can’t document her own death.

-Ashley Y.

The Memory Book by Lara Avery is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval Series, Book 1 - National Library Board Singapore - OverDrive

This book is for lovers of magic, heartbreak, and suspense. This book is incredibly twisty and will sweep you into an enchanting dream. When I first heard of this book, I was incredibly intrigued by the cover. Besides its obvious beauty, I was drawn to the slogan above the title. It says “Remember it’s only a game” and already sets the mood/tone. Stephanie Garber, who is an author from northern California, manages to create a one of a kind fantasy world. Where you will question the characters’ actions and what’s real vs fake.

You open the book to the line “It took seven years to get the letter right”. Then learn that our main character, Scarlett Dragna, has been writing to a mysterious man named Legend. Legend is the master of the magical, Caraval, which is a once-a-year performance on a small faraway island. Every year Scarlett wrote a letter asking him to come to her island. It wasn’t until her last letter, where she announced her new arranged marriage, that he finally responded. Legend congratulated her engagement and sent two tickets for Caraval.

At home Scarlett and her sister, Tella Dragna, live a horrible life on the Island. Although they are well off, their father is a cruel and abusive man, and their mother left them at a young age. Scarlett is quiet and soft. While Tella is bold and rebellious. Scarlett’s arranged marriage seems to be the only escape until they meet a mysterious and handsome sailor. Tella plans to run away to Caraval with the stranger and invites Scarlett, who refuses claiming that her fiance will save her. Tella and the sailor, Julian, then arrange Scarlett’s kidnapping by bringing her to Caraval. But by the time Julian and Scarlett arrive, Tella disappears and it’s revealed that this year’s challenge is to find Tella. The winner gets a wish granted, by Master Legend himself.

Scarlett is now forced to make the decision to either play the game or return home. But before she goes, the performers remind her not to believe anything she sees or hears. Even when she hears screams and watches people die, she’s told to not fall too deep or else she may never leave. She may even go mad because of this strange magic. Now Scarlett is swept into Caraval, for five nights of magic, heartbreak, and beauty. Where reality turns into fantasy, and death is almost a game. This book was an absolute delight, and I devoured it within a day or so. Its characters are whimsical and its world-building is similar to the movie, The Greatest Showman. There are also so many page-turning plot twists, that had me constantly on edge. Stephanie Garber delivered a stellar book for magic lovers of all ages. In fact, it’s so enchanting that you might never want to leave.

-Ashley Y.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.