San Marcos High School ~ Santa Barbara, CA

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December Book Reviews

Hi, and welcome to book reviews with Anna. With winter break approaching I wanted to share some books I have really liked recently in case one catches your eye. I hope you enjoy it!

Dive into this month’s reading list of magical, mythical, and suspenseful stories! (Anna Jacobsen)


LAY YOUR BODY DOWN by Amy Suiter Clarke

GENRES: Suspense, Mystery-Thriller, Fiction


Years ago, Del Walker fled her hometown and the cult-like church she belonged to with one vow: she would never return. At the time, the man she loved — Lars — left her and married the local pastor’s daughter Eve, and turned their romance into the focus of Eve’s viral blog about their church’s philosophy about women and marriage.

But now, Lars is dead. And Del is convinced that it wasn’t an accident.

The incident drives her to return to her hometown for his funeral, where she discovers that the small town church she once belonged to is now a megachurch. Something that has grown not only in size, but in influence. But despite the church’s “perfect” appearance, Del is determined to cut through the church’s lies and corruption to find out what really happened to Lars.

I love most mystery-thriller books I find, so when I saw this new arrival at the library, I had to read it. Right from the beginning, the plot started off wild—in the best way possible. Throughout the entire story, it’s riddled with twists and turns that I never saw coming. Each time I thought I had the mystery solved, something would happen that totally changed my mind. Clarke does a really good job of dropping hints throughout the story to reveal the mystery, but I still didn’t see it coming! Only once I finished the book did everything come crashing in, and I really realized what the real outcome was.

Something that I found interesting about the book was how the relationships were built. Del, the main character, conveyed her opinions on different characters very clearly, which made the relationships easy to understand. There are flashbacks and mentions of her past that made me dislike or love characters before I even really got to know them, and there’s a depth in most interactions between characters that I loved a lot.


But overall, my favorite part was the formatting. As mentioned in the synopsis, Lars’s wife Eve had a blog—and throughout the book, Clarke drops excerpts and little snippets of her blog posts that add so much to the book. The posts make it very clear that the church’s views are warped and that something is clearly wrong, but nobody says anything. Everything about the blog feels too good to be true, and it makes Del’s hunch feel very real.

This book wasn’t my favorite book ever, but it was a really fast-paced mystery story that I enjoyed reading, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a good horror read!


DIVINE RIVALS by Rebecca Ross

GENRES: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance


After centuries of sleep, the gods are warring again. As this is happening, eighteen-year-old Iris Winnow just wants her family to stay together. But her mother is suffering from addiction and her brother is missing-in-action — so, her best bet is to win a columnist promotion at the Oath Gazette to support her family.

To combat her worries, Iris writes letters to her brother and slips them underneath her wardrobe door, where they mysteriously vanish—only to end up in the hands of her cold (and insufferably handsome) rival at the paper, Roman Kitt. When he begins to anonymously respond, the two of them form a connection that will follow both of them wherever they go. For Iris, that means to the front lines of the war. For her brother, the world’s fate, and possibly love.


I heard about this book randomly when I heard someone comment about how much they liked it in a bookstore. I ended up taking their advice and buying it, and it ended up being a great decision. This book was really engaging, and I could not put it down. 

Usually, I don’t feel like someone who likes to read a ton of fantasy books, but this one was an exception—and I loved it a lot. The plot was very much centered around the war that the two characters are caught up in, but it didn’t feel overwhelming and felt well written. Ross showed the different angles that people looked at the war, from those who chose to ignore it to others who gave everything to it. Also, the characters were very well-crafted! Their emotions and traits were tangible and very much incorporated into the story and shown in what the main characters do and how they act. For Iris, it makes it easy to love her and root for her, with her strong will, compassion, and empathy. 

Something interesting about the book was how valuable the letters that they wrote to one another were to the story. They were one of my favorite parts of the book. Between both the characters, everything they wrote was so intimate and there was so much raw honesty that I could almost feel what they were feeling. Overall, this is one of my favorite fantasy books that I’ve read recently, and I can’t wait for the sequel to be released so I can keep reading about them.


MEDUSA’S SISTERS by Lauren J.A. Bear

GENRES: Mythology, Retellings, Historical Fiction


Even before they were known as the horrible Gorgons, the sisters Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa lived very unique lives. Curious about mortals and their lives, the sisters enter the human world, each searching for something different. But quickly they find themselves caught up in the gods’ rivalries and games, and realize too late that a god’s love is something more dangerous than precious.

Forgotten by most and doomed by their stories, the other two Gorgon sisters have never been more than terrifying hags, deformed and cursed. But they were sisters first, and their journey from sea-born origins to the temple where their lives were torn apart is a story they hold close, even under their horrifying looks.

They may be monsters, but they are not monstrous. This tale follows the sisters Euryale and Stheno as they try to find who they are and lose nearly everything in the process. It tells the story of how all three sisters lived and were changed by one another as they struggle against the conflict of sisterhood and individuality.


In original myths about the Gorgons, Medusa’s sisters are virtually unknown. Other than their names, we know nothing about them. However, in this rewrite Bear brings them to the forefront and gives their stories just as much importance as their famous sister. They are given personalities that are so well defined through the choices they make and the lives they lead that I felt like I got to know them personally. All the sisters are so amazingly written. There’s Stheno, the classic eldest sister who relinquishes herself to care for her sisters, and then there’s Euryale, the jealous middle sister who hates Stheno for her complacency and Medusa for stealing the spotlight. Then, of course, there’s Medusa—the last of their trio, their golden little sister.

I’ve read lots of mythology retellings, but this is by far one of my favorites. What initially caught my eye was that it was apparently “perfect for fans of Circe by Madeline Miller,” a book that I also loved.

As soon as I started reading, I felt entirely captivated by the book and everything about it—but I mainly loved it because of the writing style. The writing is so gorgeous that it felt like I was reading poetry at points and I enjoyed it so much because of how unique it was. Another thing I found interesting was how the author didn’t just focus on only when the sisters become monsters. The myths only really describe them for who they were cursed to be, but this book goes past that, and it felt refreshing to learn about both their backstory and what became of them afterwards. Not only this, but Bear cleverly weaves other myths into the story, and it was really nice to see them connect and see them all come together. All in all, this was probably the best retelling I’ve read; I loved every part of it!


Since winter break is right up ahead, I think now is the perfect time to check out our school’s library to find a good book to get cozy with over the long time off. Otherwise, thank you for reading, and happy holidays!

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Anna Jacobsen
Anna Jacobsen, Staff Writer
Anna is in 10th grade at San Marcos High School. She has been a part of The King’s Page since her Freshman year. Her favorite section to write in is A&E. Her favorite subjects in school are History and English. Anna is a part of the water polo and swim team, and she likes to read and spend time with friends in her free time.
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