YA

Review: You Have a Match by Emma Lord

A REESE’S BOOK CLUB WINTER YA PICK

A new love, a secret sister, and a summer she’ll never forget.

From the beloved author of Tweet Cute comes Emma Lord’s You Have a Match, a hilarious and heartfelt novel of romance, sisterhood, and friendship…

When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie…although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.

But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.

When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents — especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.

The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.

But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.



“If you learn to capture a feeling, it’ll always be louder than words.”

A good dive into sisterly bonds and family secrets, it definitely leaned into those elements but took its sweet time building up to a point where we might fully care about the secrets it can unearth.

Abby is the kind of protagonist where I don’t fully understand so it can be hard to find sympathy for her in certain occasions. She has no plans for the future, demeans those who find work through sources she thinks isn’t the most fun (like, she asks, do influencers even love what they do?), and plays jokes that take it a step too far because someone told on her for breaking multiple camp rules.

That someone being her sister, the one she didn’t know she had. I fully love and understand Savvy a lot more, and this book may have been different if I got to see it through her lens instead. She was a rule follower but she also balanced compassion too, not just a cold, robotic figure who doesn’t care about anything else.

But let me backtrack a little and explain my thoughts on this book. I came in with super high expectations (yet again, this is a Reese’s book club choice so it must be halfway decent right? AND it’s Emma Lord). I don’t know why I thought this would be more focused on the romance, or at least half of the book would be about Savvy and half about Leo. It didn’t turn out that way.

I loved the bits of Leo’s characterization we got to see. He unfortunately was more off-page than I had hoped while Savvy took centre stage during most of the book. He kept the peace but still spoke his mind when he wanted to steer Abby away from another harebrained scheme that bordered on reckless. He was a brilliant budding chef (I’ve been watching MasterChef lately and I could just picture Leo in such a competition) and teased his friends good-naturedly.

So the romance is limited, and pretty cliched if you think about it. I like you but am too afraid to tell you. He likes me but just didn’t find the right time to tell me. Timing is always off, but will it ever be right? It almost felt pointless to have the romance aspect of it except to be the excuse for Abby’s perpetual anxiety. I don’t feel it had to be this way. There are plenty of other things she could and was worried about.

While the pacing was slow for a lot of it, I did eventually grow curious about Abby and Savvy’s history and how their separation came to be. It had good resolution, even if a little predictable, but it was nice to see how family can work things out together with better communication.

However, if its purpose was to give me the feels, it also fell short on that. The only aspect of this book that gave me any sort of tingle was Abby’s grandfather who had passed away prior to this story.

Usually I’m not sad when people bring up Poppy, because I’m already thinking about him most of the time. He’s in the weight of his old camera strapped to my shoulder, in the periphery of every photo I take, squinting at the same views and humming his approval.

Maybe I’m just sentimental, especially about grandparents due to my own upbringing, but having Poppy there was a good touch to a book that just fell short emotionally for me on every other level. I just couldn’t bring myself to care tremendously unless I put in a lot of effort to.

If you’re looking for a sweet romantic read, there are many out there (including Emma’s debut) that are by far more well-suited to that. This book is about family, and the secrets we keep and the issues we bury until they come exploding out. If you come into knowing that’s what you’ll get, it may be better for you.

But even then, don’t expect the waterworks to come exploding.

Overall Recommendation:

You Have a Match sounds like it has the makings of a good romance and heartfelt sister reunion, but the product just fell short from its description. The focus definitely was on Abby and Savvy’s family secrets (how did she become adopted?!), while the crush on Leo was just relegated to the anxious headspace Abby constantly carries around with her. A lot more thinking about him than actually talking to him here. While the family aspect could be entertaining, you have to invest pretty deep into the book to get the answers you’ve come for. This wasn’t the worst book by far, but it definitely didn’t meet my high expectations for being a Reese’s book club pick.

3 star, YA

Review: Fable by Adrienne Young

Series: Fable #1

For seventeen-year-old Fable, the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home she has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one, and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father, and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him, and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men. Fable takes you on a spectacular journey filled with romance, intrigue, and adventure.


Rating: 3/5 Drink Me Potions

There were five rules. Only five.

1. Keep your knife where you can reach it.

2. Never, ever owe anyone anything.

3. Nothing is free.

4. Always construct a lie from a truth.

5. Never, under any circumstances, reveal what or who matters to you.

Fable was a decent story on the complications of love, family and survival. This is definitely a title that joins other recent YA tales on the high seas full of rambunctious seafaring crews. As a Reese Witherspoon YA book club pick, I came in with obviously rather high expectations. Unfortunately, that became a part of its downfall.

Our titular protagonist, Fable, did a lot to survive on her own for four years on the island her father left her on. At first it was kind of hard to understand who was bad (apparently everyone, don’t trust them!) or what exactly she was doing to get herself off to this hunk of rock. The answer is looking for treasure (duh!). And a good thing she was such an expert on foraging for quality minerals. This point was a little confusing at first but eventually Young explains some of that down the road.

Thankfully most of the story does not take place on this lawless island, and the crew she escapes with is quickly introduced. I’m all for a good on-the-high-seas kind of story, but I have noticed that the makings of a really good one is not so much in its plot alone, but in the made-family the protagonist finds in the crew she finds herself in. A great example is Seafire by Natalie C. Parker or even Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller.

Young makes it easier on herself by aptly following this route and giving us a few secondary characters to know. West as the captain/helmsman of the crew needs no introduction as you just know from the synopsis that he’s a character we will get to know and maybe even salivate for. But the rest of the crew? Willa, Hamish, Auster and Paj all have a few words I can use to describe each but otherwise, I don’t really know them. And I think that’s a bit of a shame because it would’ve definitely elevated this book for me.

Much of this book also lies on Fable’s relationship with her father whom she is trying to reach after escaping the island. Instead of harbouring only resentment for his actions, she yearns to prove herself as fit for this world he is so hugely a part of. I liked how it never went down the road of simply hating him or only trying to gain approval. It was a mix of both which felt real for someone in Fable’s shoes. I hope this is something that can be further explored in the future.

This book kept it relatively short. It was a decent introduction to the Narrows where they live and how crews operate on the day-to-day. There is a little mystery behind Fable’s mother’s death that was laid here but will keep us speculating until next time. I will definitely check the rest of the series out, but I wished the story flourished a little beyond these things.

The romance was altogether sudden in my mind. I’m always a sucker for a good romance within a larger, action-heavy plot, but this really came out of left field. Don’t get me wrong, I like West and I’m glad there’s something going on between them. But when he declares that he’s wanted to be with her since he first laid eyes on her since she was stuck on the lawless island, I mean, he barely interacted with her at all during those years. I just want to feel how they came to care for each other so much instead of be TOLD that they do, you know?

But hey, overall I can’t complain. Strong female lead, daddy issues and adventure on the high seas, this was still a fun read to take me away to a wonderful far off land.

Overall Recommendations:

Fable follows its titular protagonist as she navigates a way to escape the lawless island her father abandoned her on. She encounters a small crew of people with their own secrets, meanwhile holding hers close to her chest. As Fable pushes to earn her right to step into this world alongside her father, mysteries surrounding her mother’s death arises as well as complications in relationships with this new crew family she’s starting to fall for. While a little light in plot elements, it sets a decent foundation for the world of the Narrows and the relationships of this family tied by more than blood. Book 2 should hopefully take us to even greater heights!

4.5 star, YA

Review: Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Series: Descendant of the Crane #1

descendant of the crane -joan heTyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, dreaming of an unremarkable life. But when her beloved father is found dead, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of a surprisingly unstable kingdom. What’s more, Hesina believes that her father was murdered—and that the killer is someone close to her.

Hesina’s court is packed full of dissemblers and deceivers eager to use the king’s death for political gain, each as plausibly guilty as the next. Her advisers would like her to blame the neighboring kingdom of Kendi’a, whose ruler has been mustering for war. Determined to find her father’s actual killer, Hesina does something desperate: she enlists the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by
death, since magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of Yan at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?


4.5 Drink Me Potions


**Descendant of the Crane comes out April 2, 2019**

Thank you Netgalley and Indigo Books & Music for this copy in exchange for an honest review

What is truth? Scholars seek it. Poets write it. Good kings pay gold to hear it. But in trying times, truth is the first thing we betray.

Richly atmospheric, inspired by her Asian roots and heritage, Descendant of the Crane delivers a whomping story that cuts deep to my heart for Joan He’s debut novel.

In the aftermath where ancient kings oppressed the poor and used people with special powers, soothsayers, to help them stay in control, the new era has gone to war against anyone with this magic tied to their blood. Soothsayers are now the hunted.

But that’s not where our protagonist starts her story. Hesina is investigating the murder of her father, the king. And committing treason by seeking the visions and powers of a soothsayer.

From there, she opens up a can of worms that may have been best left closed.

What this story does best comes down to a few elements. I mean, if you look at the higher view of this book, there’s nothing extra special about the premise or the world. But it all works out ’cause of these few things.

1. Familial ties and complicated relationships

Hesina’s adopted siblings, twins Lilian and Caiyan, were polar opposites but were genuine and real. Found on the streets and somehow chosen to be taken into the royal family by the king’s benevolence, Lilian was spirited and loyal to the bone while Caiyan was solid, steadfast and the rock Hesina could turn to in any time of need.

On the other hand, her blood brother Sanjing was distant and their relationship was rife with tension from their past that’s not immediately understood.

While their interactions and characters were very well built, they’re also dynamic people! They don’t stay that way in the story. Gasp. I know. That’s so different for a YA fantasy isn’t it? And that’s even more interesting to see unfold.

2. Unexpected (or were they?) twists and additional layers to the world building

The central mystery is the murder of the king. And it’s not a simple whodunnit kind of thing as I had initially thought. There’s more to it that also relates to the world Joan’s crafted. As page kept on flipping, the more I was drawn into the people – with all their individual flaws and courage – and the history that made them into who they were.

The era of chaos from the ancients and the soothsayers.

I loved how they integrated beautifully and the layers that came from simply wanting to learn the truth of what happened to her father. He was king to the people, but he was the man who played with her, loved her and taught her his truths. Their relationship was beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. Even I wanted to know what befell him for her sake. That’s how much I fell into this world.

3. Beautiful prose and depthless creativity

Knowledge is truth, her father had said, yet all knowledge had done was unveil a world of lies.

Quotes from the leaders of the new era in their most scripted text, The Tenets, started every chapter. While the overall story flowed and had a certain grace to it, these individual quotes and words of wisdom were just beautiful and kind of hilarious. Each quoted individual had their own voice, and it felt three dimensional. The leader known as One was wise and solemn while Two sounded kind of snarky and more to the point without wanting to sound pretentious.

And as I mentioned. The world building. The soothsayers and the warring kingdoms were not necessarily original but it worked so well with everything else that was crafted here. I have so much respect for Joan for all that she’s built and I can’t wait for more. For a girl my age, I feel like I could do so much better with my life lol.

Anyway, I will conclude by saying that this debut will knock your socks off. I love the Asian heritage throughout and the relationships were central (including the mysterious Akira I haven’t mentioned much but you’ll just have to see how he fits into the story!) to the overall story that made it stick out above others in the genre. This is the debut you should read this year!

Overall Recommendation:

Descendant of the Crane astounded me with its beautiful rendition of an Asian inspired kingdom, real dynamic relationships between the characters and a mysterious murder at the heart of the story. Each element was more than first meets the eye. Written with elegant prose and the perfect flow between the major arcs, this debut novel is an achievement that I’ll be sure to continue to recommend. Joan He is someone to look out for!