Sunday, August 28, 2016

Huntress by Malinda Lo Review

Title: Huntress
Author: Malinda Lo
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I bought this book and reviewed it.

I bought this book for myself at the end of 2014, as part of my yearly Christmas book haul. It's been sitting on my shelf, neglected, ever since. My husband finally put his foot down and insisted I read books I've purchased, as well as library loans and review copies I asked for. So I've started my cycle, and I couldn't really decide what I was in the mood for, so I just went hunting through my shelves and picked Huntress at random. I wanted to buy Ash, its companion novel, but I decided to buy Huntress instead, since it was longer. (I'm kind of mad that I didn't buy Ash with it, because now I need it!)

I was intrigued by the plot--two young women saving the world on an epic quest--and the cover really drove it home for me. This was the first novel I've ever read by Lo, and I wasn't certain what to expect. But reading Huntress has completely whetted my appetite for fantasy, all over again. Not just for any fantasy, but the kind that Huntress was: epic quests! Magic! Political intrigue! Romance--and the gay kind! To say that Huntress embodies all of these things is true, but it is so much more than that: I really loved this book for everything, for the sum of its beautifully written parts. There was real love put into this story, and it is one of the best I've read so far. Can I have more please?

The prose was gorgeous, the pacing breakneck, and it had just the right amount of sensuality and romance--I was literally swooning through the book. And I loved, loved, loved the way Lo gave two female characters a relationship that didn't revolve around coming out, or being themselves, it was just organic to the narrative. The worldbuilding was fantastic--solid and so full of mystery. But the characters were what really sold Huntress for me--it, and they, completely stole my heart. Kaede, the stubborn young woman who wants more to her life than her meager ability with magic, Taisin, the other young woman forced to choose between her life's duty and her heart's desire, and Con, the reluctant prince who journeys through the treacherous, magical Wood to save his people. I'm so happy that I bought this book, because it was worth it. The bottom line: A tale full of magic, romance, and adventure, Huntress is one of my favorite books of 2011, and probably of all time--Lo is now one of my go-to authors! A delectable treat worth savoring! Next on deck: The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory Review

Title: Three Sisters, Three Queens
Author: Philippa Gregory
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: The Tudor Court, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I first read Philippa Gregory's books back in high school--I'd always enjoyed historical fiction up until that point, but when I read The Other Boleyn Girl, it really ignited my fierce love for history, especially British history. I've bought and borrowed some of her books since then, but I'd hadn't really read any recently until I heard about Three Sisters, Three Queens. I reserved it at my library immediately, hoping and praying that it delivered.

And I'm so happy to tell everyone that I didn't have a thing to worry about. With her usual meticulous research and exemplary writing skill, Gregory more than delivers--she packs over thirty years of history in this hefty novel, told from the point of view of Margaret Tudor, who grows up to be the famed 'Bloody' Mary, Queen of Scots. She is the primary focus of the novel, as well as her two sisters: the devout, pious Katherine of Aragon, and Margaret's little sister, Mary. The entire novel revolves around these three women, often so maligned by history that no one now really knows the truth about them. I really liked the way the story was told, through Mary's present-tense, first-person point of view, with letters from Katherine and Mary serving as a different take on the events of the book. Margaret's relationship with her sisters was totally captivating, loving and gentle at one turn and furious and cutthroat the next. And then there was Margaret herself--I was really sympathetic toward her throughout the novel, because she was always being overlooked, despite her fierce loyalty to her family. This book was thick with political intrigue--it was so exciting and informative, all at once!

The novel spans over three decades, from the time Mary is a child and meets Katherine, closing with Anne Boleyn's fierce and bloody ascent to the throne of England. Three Sisters, Three Queens was a sort of reminder to me, about how historical fiction is so important. I really, really enjoyed it. I loved the amount of research and care that was put into this book, though I'd expect nothing less from the woman who has made a rich, rewarding career from the genre. I didn't realize after I'd read it that it wasn't a standalone, but it wasn't a big deal--I really liked the story on its own. This book is definitely one of my favorites of this year, and I can't wait until I can start more of Gregory's work. I'm officially addicted. The bottom line: One of my favorite books of the summer, Philippa Gregory has woven another spellbinding, well-researched story about three women who are often overlooked or besmirched by history--absolutely amazing! Next on deck: Huntress by Malinda Lo!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine Review

Title: Paper and Fire
Author: Rachel Caine
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Great Library, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

Ink and Bone was one of my favorite novels of last year. The premise of the novel enchanted me entirely. I mean, a worldwide, gigantic evil Library? Yes, sign me up. I've been anticipating the sequel ever since I finished the first book. And, for the most part, Caine delivered. The sequel was meaty and satisfying, full of action, thrills, and excitement, as well as a healthy dose of political intrigue and plenty of twists and secrets to keep readers turning the pages, until the terrifying, jaw-dropping conclusion.

As far as sequels go, this one wasn't bad--it was satisfying, for the most part. I was a little nervous at first, because sequels are so hit and miss with me. But this book was lovely. Not as good as the first book, unfortunately, but it wasn't bad. I really enjoyed it. Paper and Fire picks up where Ink and Bone left off--Jess is now a full-fledged member of The Great Library, in the thick of the seductive political game that runs the organization. Forced to go deeper into the Library, Jess discovers that secrets hide in the most unlikely places, and he must decide whether to dedicate his life to the tyranny of the Great Library, or fight to change the world, even if it means risking death.

Like I said, I really enjoyed this book, though not as much as the first one. It delivered in some ways and fell short in others. It was so satisfying and exciting, full of twists and turns and lots of context and continuation. I loved the way the worldbuilding was expanded, and the way that all of the characters were expanded on, especially Jess and Morgan. But I think my favorite part of the novel was the political intrigue. That's part of what really drove the novel, and it was wonderful. There were also so many twists and turns that I kept frantically turning pages, unable to put it down until the final page. But at times the narrative felt like it fell through a little bit. I feel like some of the magic that made the first one so awesome was lost in translation in Paper and Fire. The bottom line: A satisfying and meaty sequel, for the most part, Paper and Fire delivered--I can't wait for the third book! Next on deck: Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn Review

Title: Sharp Objects: A Novel
Author: Gillian Flynn
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I was given this book as a gift and reviewed it.

I've heard of Gillian Flynn--honestly, by now, who hasn't? I've heard many good things and since I've been trying to cycle some of my own books as well as my library loans, I decided to take the plunge and picked up Sharp Objects. Flynn's debut, her first novel, published back in 2006, and I'm just now picking it up. (I'm so freaking behind on my reading.) I wasn't exactly sure what to expect, but I'm so glad that I read it. Flynn is more than deserving of her place as the queen of gritty, gory crime fiction, and I can't wait to read Dark Places and Gone Girl! Pretty sure it's safe to say I have a new favorite author now.

Sharp Objects opens with the tortured, tormented reporter, Camille Preaker, trying desperately to drown her demons in drink. I really liked Camille--she was tortured, sympathetic, flawed, and I really related to her a lot. She's at turns strong and weak, desperate and resolute. When she discovers that two little girls have been murdered in her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, her boss sends her home to investigate. Reluctantly obeying her boss's orders for a story, she returns, forced to face her family and her past. When the past and present begin to collide, Camille discovers that the danger may be a lot closer than she realizes...

Where do I begin? Okay, first, pacing. I was utterly hypnotized by Flynn's beautiful, sparse prose, and Camille's voice. I was spellbound, often times against my own will. Even when I wanted to put the book down, I couldn't. The other characters throughout the novel, too, were what sold it for me. They were almost typical, almost caricatures, but it was really enjoyable. The atmosphere of the novel was amazing, too. I felt like I was in tiny, claustrophobic Wind Gap, desperate to escape the nail-biting tension. And there were twists! God, so many twists. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. There was so much tension and emotion in Flynn's dynamic, simple prose, I couldn't get enough!

But the real kicker, what really sold this book for me? Camille, and her dysfunctional family. I loved trying to figure out who was doing what, who was lying and who was the killer. I'm not sure why, but I love books about families, about relationships, especially when put in the center of a taut, tension-filled mystery thriller--especially if those relationships are twisted and screwed up, leading up to the explosion, the ending, so bright and surprising and freaking terrifying that you don't see it coming. And you just sit there, wondering how you didn't realize it from the start.

This book was almost perfect--almost. There were some characters I didn't really like, but I enjoyed their role in the story. The bottom line: Gillian Flynn's debut novel, Sharp Objects, delivers on almost every front--a twisted, gory thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat! I can't wait to read more of her work! One of my favorite books ever. Wonderful! Next on deck: Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine!

Monday, August 15, 2016

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott Review

Title: You Will Know Me
Author: Megan Abbott
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I've heard of Megan Abbott through several different channels: librarians, my fellow readers on the Tumblrsphere, and general word of mouth-- and she is one of the best mystery and crime fiction authors of our time, and she's a woman! When I saw that she had a new book coming out this month, I just knew I had to get my hands on it. (Yay for kick-butt female authors! Always a good way to win this girl over.)

A mystery/thriller with a timely, exciting premise and morally ambiguous characters, wrapped in sensual, seductive prose--God. To say that this book is one of my favorites of the summer, of the year, is a huge understatement. What initially got me interested in this novel was the premise, a peek into the cutthroat world of competitive gymnastics. With the summer Olympics in full swing, I found it a timely and relevant premise that was so surprisingly dark and frightening, but enlightening at the same time.

You Will Know Me is told backward, sort of out of order--the format is unusual, with small snippets of the past in between what's happening in the present. It focuses on the Knox family: Katie, her husband, Eric, her son, Drew, and her daughter, Devon. Abbott weaves a spellbinding tale full of  familial tension, secrets, and desire that bleed off of the pages of the book and come into our world, as visceral and messy and gory as any real crime. The primary focus of the novel is Devon, a young gymnast who will stop at nothing to be the best.

What can I say about this book? Megan Abbott has completely won my heart. She has such an immense gift for telling stories, and I'm in complete and total awe of her skill. I was completely spellbound--it was like this beautiful, dark, scary story held me by the throat and didn't let go. I was desperately, frantically turning pages, trying to figure out who was lying, who was telling the truth, and who was dangerous. The ending was so neat and surprising and unexpected. I've fallen in love with thrillers again, thanks to this book. I loved it. The bottom line: One of the best books of the year, Megan Abbott has completely won me over with this dark, tautly twisted thriller--I'm a lifelong fan and I can't wait for more from this promising author! Can I read her other books now? Please? Next on deck: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas Review

Title: A Court of Mist and Fury
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I don't even know how and when to go about this review. I've literally just been sitting here, in complete shock, my emotions roiling like the ocean in the middle of a storm. I don't even know what to say, except for Sarah J. Maas, what in the world have you done to me?! I can't do this! I can't wait until May of next year! My soul and internal organs have officially been crushed into a million pieces. I. Can't. Do. This. I'm almost halfway into having a major freakout... Okay, for real this time, on to the review.

I don't want to say too much about the plot, as it is a sequel and I don't want to spoil anything for my readers who haven't read the first one and this one yet. But I will say that on the whole, sequels make me so anxious. I can't even begin to tell you all how many times I was excited for a sequel to a series debut, only to read it and be entirely let down. (It's a serious issue, I'm telling you. So much anxiety!) But Maas delivers, in every possible way. Continuity? Check. Angst? Check. Tension? Triple check, to the tenth millionth power. Maas hit almost a complete homerun with A Court of Mist and Fury, and I loved every minute of it. Every emotional, gasping moment, frantically flipping pages...

Like I said, I don't want to give anything away--I would hate to spoil this book for anyone. But just go read it. Read the first one, then have A Court of Mist and Fury sitting at the ready when you're done. Lock your doors, turn off your phones, and clear a few days. I promise you, you won't regret it. The bottom line: A meaty, satisfying sequel to the runaway romance A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury more than delivers--one of my favorite series, and books, of 2016! Next on deck: You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott!

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Helling Review

Title: The Girl From Everywhere
Author: Heidi Hellig
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Girl From Everywhere, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

Time travel books. God, it's a trope that I both love and hate. And it's a trope that's grown increasingly popular. When I see a book's premise involving time travel, I immediately get anxious. Because when they're done well, they're one of my favorite tropes in fiction, not just young adult. But when they're done badly, they're bad. Sometimes, unforgivably so. Some miss the mark so entirely you're sitting there thinking, "What in the world did I just read?". There's only so much suspension of disbelief one can use, even as an avid, voracious reader.

But, as usual, I'm getting ahead of myself here. My worries were for the most part unfounded. The Girl From Everywhere tells the story of the sad, lonely Nix, whose only home has been her father's ship, The Temptation. A reluctant co-conspirator at her father's side, she longs to learn to Navigate (the term for time travel in this book), to forge her own path and escape her father's ghosts. Nix's father has spent the entirety of her sixteen years alive Navigating, hopping from time and place in hopes of finding her late mother alive. When she is forced to go into the past, despite her doubts about her own future, Nix discovers that this might be the adventure she doesn't escape from unscathed...

First of all, I really liked the prose. I loved it, in fact. It was beautiful and simple, full of power and magic. (If there's a way to win my heart from the get go, it's amazing writing.) The pacing was breakneck--when I began reading, I couldn't put it down. I was absolutely spellbound. But it was Nix herself that really stole my heart--I found a friend in her. She was so bogged down by doubt, anxiety, and fear, but she put on a really good front and for the most part didn't show it. I loved her, every flawed, crazy part of her. I really related to her. (And the addition of the seductive, comically talent Kashmir didn't hurt either... My baby! <3 And Blake, my heart!) It also didn't hurt that this book was an adventure in every sense of the word--I was hanging on the edge of my seat as I traveled with Nix, her father, and friends across time and space. I couldn't get enough of this book, and I was so sad when it was over! When does the sequel come out?

Unfortunately, I couldn't give this book a complete five stars--at times the time travel got confusing, and it was never really explained how the people in the book came to have the ability to Navigate. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic, exciting adventure of a debut novel! I can't wait for more from Heidi Hellig! The bottom line: A swashbuckling, romantic adventure through time and space, The Girl From Everywhere is one of my favorite novels of 2016! I need the sequel right now! Next on deck: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas!