Tuesday, February 25, 2020

All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle Review


Title: All the Bad Apples
Author: Moira Fowley-Doyle
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                Moira Fowley-Doyle is one of my very favorite authors; I adored The Accident Season and I’ve been looking forward to All the Bad Apples ever since. I’ve had to return it to the library a few times before I could actually read it, but as soon as I was finished with Daughters Unto Devils, I dove in. This book is a tangled, sharp mystery that goes back and forth in time, telling the story of a family fractured by loss, rage, and tragic expectations. This book might be my favorite in Fowley-Doyle’s entire body of work; I loved the way that it took on the patriarchy and dismantled it, piece by piece and lie by lie. Lyrical, suspenseful, compassionate and tender, I loved the story of the cursed Rys family, and their complicated, secretive family tree. This book asks: How well do you know your loved ones and your family history? What secrets and skeletons hide in the closets and the shadows?

                Deena Rys, the family’s youngest daughter, is still reeling from the death of her older sister, Mandy, who the family suspects committed suicide. On top of that, everyone at her traditional Catholic Irish school knows that she’s gay. Forced to hide the truth about herself from her peers and her own family, something inside Deena tells her that Amanda is still alive. Her instincts are further proven correct when she finds a mysterious note from her sister, telling her that she has gone to the end of the world to break a curse that has haunted their family for generations. Deena is soon led on a dangerous journey through the past and present, seeking the truth that her family and her hometown have hidden for years. Will she discover the truth, or let the past stay buried?

                I really, really enjoyed this book! It might be my favorite in all of Fowley-Doyle’s work. The prose was lyrical, beautiful, and as brutal as the oceans surrounding Ireland. I was immediately captivated by Deena’s voice, stalwart and strong and refusing to take any flack for being the person she was meant to be. But the real focus of this novel was long buried secrets, hidden across time. This book was such a great call-out for toxic masculinity and rape culture, and I loved every painful moment of it. The pacing was a little staggered at first, but once I got the hang of it, I loved the way that the book went back and forth in time. The curse of the Rys family was also unique; one of my favorite traits of Fowley-Doyle is her ability to play with language and the sense of surrealism you get in her stories. I adored the way she brought traditional Irish mythology—fey, ancient curses, banshees—into the narrative. But my very favorite part was uncovering all the secrets of the Rys family, buried so deeply that they were almost invisible. I also loved the way that Fowley-Doyle spoke of the Catholic church, pious and kind on the outside but rotten to the core. I loved every character in this book, but Deena, Rachel, Mandy, Finn, Ida and Cale were among my favorites. And that ending! I loved it so much! The secrets of the Rys family were so numerous, at times I had to go back and reread some parts. Nonetheless, Moira Fowley-Doyle’s third novel might just be my favorite of them all! The bottom line: Shocking, dark, surprising and as tart and sweet as ripe apples, I loved All the Bad Apples! Next on deck: The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee!

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics Review


Title: Daughters Unto Devils
Author: Amy Lukavics
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                I’ve been a fan of Amy Lukavics for a long time now: We read Nightingale for one of the book clubs I go to, and a friend from there begged me to read The Women in the Walls so we could talk about it. I finished The Ravenous a little over a week ago, and when Amber and Dusk wasn’t working for me, I decided to push Daughters Unto Devils up to the top of my stack. I devoured this chilling, creepy book in less than a day, and I still can’t get the ending out of my mind. This book has been billed as Stephen King meets Little House on the Prairie, and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. Amy Lukavics has become one of my very favorite authors, and I’m in awe of her talent! I’m just bowled over by it.

                Amanda Verner knows that she’s a sinner, and she’s scarred by a traumatic event that happened the previous winter. After sleeping with the post boy who comes to the mountain periodically, she finds that her rash decision carries terrible consequences. Add to that disturbing visions, the wailing of her disabled baby sister, Hannah, and sounds outside, as well as the feeling she’s being watched, and she fears she’s losing her sanity. But Amanda soon discovers that even the land may be infected with an unshakable evil, and that her family is in mortal peril…

                I really enjoyed this book! I’m a huge fan of Lukavics already; I’ve read almost her entire body of work, but this one is one of my favorites. I never imagined that the vast, empty prairie could be terrifying, but this book changed my mind. Amanda’s voice was chilling, and the sense of dread and unease was so sickening at times that I had to put the book down to fully process it. I just finished it on Friday night, and I’m still haunted by it. The twists and turns, as well, were so intense that I felt like I was getting whiplash. But perhaps the most terrifying part of this book was Amanda’s family, and watching them all unravel, as well as the last, final nailbiting moments. That ending! I just closed the book and sat in the tub, numb with shock. This could be one of my favorites of hers; she’s for sure one of my favorite, to-die for authors! I hope I get to meet her someday! The bottom line: Dark, chilling, and as isolated as the prairie itself, Daughters Unto Devils was a fantastic horror novel! Absolutely unforgettable! Next on deck: All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han Review


Title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                This book has been on my TBR pile for a long time, but the thing that really made me want to read it was the Netflix film! So, as soon as I was finished with The Ravenous, I figured this book would be the perfect antidote to refresh my literary palate, if you will. I’m a secret sucker for romance novels, especially ones that employ the fake dating trope! But to say this was a romance novel would be doing this book a major disservice. This book was also a book about family, loss, friendship and self-discovery, and I loved every hilarious, sweet and tender moment. I can’t wait to read P.S., I Love You and Always and Forever, Lara Jean! Jenny Han has become one of my new favorite authors!

                Lara Jean Song Covey is a self-professed romance expert, even though she’s never had a real boyfriend in her life. She writes love letters to the boys she’s had crushes on, as a way to get closure for herself. But when she finds out that the five letters she wrote have been mailed out, life as she knows it is over. Lara Jean hatches a plan with the most popular boy in her class and becomes his fake girlfriend, all to hide the fact that she used to be in love with her big sister, Margot’s, boyfriend, Josh. But things get even more complicated when the fake dating leads Lara Jean to wonder what her heart truly wants: a fantasy, or something real for the first time ever.

                I loved, loved, loved this book! Lara Jean’s voice was frank, fresh, and utterly hilarious. I was immediately captivated, and this book was a perfect antidote to the delicious darkness that was The Ravenous. The pacing was breakneck, and I was laughing through much of the novel. I loved Lara Jean, but the characters that were really amazing were her family: her widower father and her two lovable but quirky and annoying sisters. I loved the bond that the Coveys shared in this book. But one of my favorite things about this book was watching Lara Jean fall in love and grow into a better person. I’m also dying over that cliffhanger ending! The only thing that really bothered me was I felt like it was a bit crappy for LJ to be lusting over her older sister’s boyfriend for years, but it wasn’t a total dealbreaker. This book might be a favorite of recent years, and I’m so excited to read the next two books in this sweet, heartwarming trilogy! Romance novels for the win, folks! The bottom line: Warm, funny, sweet and surprising, I loved To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before! Next on deck: Amber and Dusk by Lyra Selene!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Ravenous by Amy Lukavics Review


Title: The Ravenous
Author: Amy Lukavics
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                When I finished the first book I’d ever read by her, Nightingale, a friend recommended The Women in the Walls, Lukavics’s first novel, and I read that. Right after I finished it, I ordered The Ravenous through my library’s interloan system. Since then, it’s been sitting on the top of my library stack, the creepy cover drawing me in. When I realized I was not able to renew it any more, I pushed it to the top of my stack to read after Big Lies in a Small Town. As soon as I finished, I dove in to The Ravenous, and it might be the most gruesome book I’ve ever read by Lukavics. Dark, terrifying, thoughtful and chilling, I loved The Ravenous! I love monster stories of every type, but zombies are one of my favorites; this might be my favorite of all of Lukavics’s work.

The Ravenous tells the story of the Cane family: their military father, who is overseas so much that his daughters barely remember life with him, her alcoholic, moody and distant mother. On the outside, they appear to have the perfect family, and no one reinforces that image more than the Cane sisters. But when a terrible accident happens, their mother uses desperation and a secret ritual in order to bring the youngest sister, Rose, back to life. But her sacrifice has awful, unforeseen consequences: Rose is alive, but not quite. After returning from the dead, she develops a terrible craving for human flesh. When their mother disappears, in search of a permanent cure, the sisters are forced to take care of Rose themselves. But helping their sister may cost them their very souls…

I loved, loved, loved this book! The prose was permeated with suspense and dread, as sharp and cutting as knives. This book was terrifying, chilling, and had a killer ending (pun fully intended, sorry not sorry!)! I finished this book in less than two days, and I’m still stunned by the ending. I was instantly spellbound, hypnotized by the spare, sparse prose. The words were invoked with such a sense of dread. I love monster stories, but especially monster stories full of blood, gore, and body horror! The Cane family was such a strange facsimile of perfect; from the outside, they looked like a well-knit family. But on the inside, they were all falling apart: Mona, the middle sister, has crippling alcoholism, Juliet trying her best to hold the family together, even if it means murder, and Taylor becomes a clone of Juliet, trying not to anger her oldest sister. And there’s Anya, more into her books and her girlfriend, Everly, than her sisters. Rose, though, is the glue that holds the family together, and the Cane sisters must do unthinkable in order to keep her. And that ending! Oh, my goodness, I just finished it last night and I’m still floored over it. I can’t get it out of my head! The Ravenous is my favorite of Amy Ludavics’s work, and I loved it so much! I can’t wait to read the rest of her work! The bottom line: Dark, chilling, and so scary you’ll sleep with the lights on after! Next on deck: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han!

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain Review


Title: Big Lies in a Small Town
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                I have a confession to make: Before now, I haven’t read Diane Chamberlain’s work. I’ve had an ARC of The Dream Daughter, but I haven’t read it yet. When I heard about Big Lies in a Small Town through one of my book clubs I’m in on Facebook, my curiosity was such that I just had to order it at my local library. I was lucky enough to receive my library’s first copy! This is my first Chamberlain book, and I can happily tell you all that it most definitely won’t be my last! A rich, compelling mystery, I loved every dark and surprising moment of this beautiful book; it might be one of my favorites of 2020 so far. Tender, compassionate, dark and shocking, I loved Big Lies in a Small Town!

                In 2018, Morgan Christopher is sitting in a dark, tiny jail cell, stewing over the incident that may well have ruined her life, as well as that of an innocent. When a lawyer visits her, telling her that she has a way out, she jumps at the chance. But her freedom is contingent on one thing: She must restore a mural that is sixty years old by August sixth, or she will go back to prison to serve out the rest of her sentence for a crime she didn’t commit. Despite not knowing a thing about painting restoration, Morgan starts the job. But in doing so, Morgan discovers that the mural hides dark and deadly secrets, and what she uncovers will have repercussions that echo through the quaint little town’s history…

                I really, really enjoyed this book! Mysteries and thrillers can be so hit and miss with me; either I don’t see anything coming or I’ll have solved it within the first hundred pages. But this wasn’t the case with Big Lies; I was captivated, and the pacing was spot-on. A sense of suspense and dread had me constantly on edge, and I really enjoyed Morgan’s frank, honest voice. I also enjoyed the way the book went back and forth through time, from 1940 to 2018. It took a little while to get used to it, but once I got the hang of it, I really enjoyed it! Big Lies in a Small Town exposes the often glossed-over underbelly of a very real town in North Carolina. I also enjoyed the way that Big Lies intertwined two different but similar stories, sixty years apart. I also adored every single character in this book, but Morgan holds a special place in my heart, as does Oliver. Anna Dale, the artist who comes to Edenton as a young woman after winning an art contest was also a compelling character; I loved her growth as a character. The only thing I wish had been more fleshed out was her mother and her mental illness. Nonetheless, I loved this book; it is easily one of my favorites of the entire year so far. The bottom line: Detailed, compassionate, and surprising, I loved Big Lies in a Small Town! This may be my first Diane Chamberlain book, but I can promise you all that it definitely won’t be my last! Nothing less than a work of art! Next on deck: The Ravenous by Amy Lukavics!

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black Review

Title: The Queen of Nothing
Author: Holly Black
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Folk of the Air, book three
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                Holly Black and I have a bit of a strained relationship: Some of her books I’ve fallen heads over heels for, and others just weren’t my cup of tea. I loved The Cruel Prince and its sequel, The Wicked King. If I’m being totally honest, I put it off for as long as I could because I’d heard that there were quite a few people who disliked the series’ last book. I just finished it yesterday and I’m still shocked that it’s all over! This book had everything: romance, dangerous secrets, political intrigue, magic, and shocking twists and turns! I loved it. I was screaming, crying, tearing my hair out the whole time I was reading it. And I’m more than a little sad that it’s all over! But I enjoyed every crazy, emotional minute of it all.

                The Queen of Nothing starts where The Wicked King left off, with Jude being exiled to the mortal realm and stripped of her title as High Queen of Elfhame. Forced to return to her sister, Vivi, who lives in the mortal world, Jude is resigned to a fate worse than death: to be exiled from Elfhame and the land of faeries forever. But when her twin, Taryn, arrives, pleading Jude for help, she finds herself once again within Elfhame. Forced to disguise herself, she infiltrates the castle, determined to plead her case to Cardan, her husband and former lover. But time stops for no one, not even Jude, and she realizes that while some enemies are closer to home than others, she must force herself to confront the darkness inside, or risk losing everything she’s ever fought for and everyone she’s ever loved…
                I really, really liked this book! As I said, I was nervous (and if I’m being totally honest, I was putting it off), so I held it off as long as possible; I didn’t want to be disappointed. But I’m very happy to report I wasn’t! The pacing was breakneck, and despite not rereading the first two books, within ten pages I knew what was going on. I loved Jude, Cardan, Taryn, and Oak, as well as their parents, Madoc and Oriana. To be honest, there wasn’t a character that I didn’t love in this trilogy’s finale. There were twists and turns, political intrigue that had me gasping and almost full-on screaming, romance that had my heart fluttering, and several other surprises I won’t go into detail revealing, in case any of my readers hasn’t read it yet. I wasn’t upset about the ending; in fact, I really don’t know how Holly Black could’ve ended this explosive trilogy any other way. I loved every single nail-biting moment in The Queen of Nothing, and I’m so, so sad that one of my favorite series of recent years is over! Cue the major book hangover, slump, and the eternal question: What to read next? The bottom line: Richly detailed, meticulously plotted, and surprising, I loved The Queen of Nothing!

Friday, January 24, 2020

The Fragile Ordinary by Samantha Young Review


Title: The Fragile Ordinary
Author: Samantha Young
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                Before Wednesday, I’d never read anything by Samantha Young. The Fragile Ordinary was the chosen book for one of the clubs I go to for the month of January, and I was intrigued. I didn’t finish it until this morning, and holy smokes! Samantha Young, where have you been my whole life?! This book was unique, powerful, and heartfelt, but I wish that there had been more clarification on some issues, but nonetheless, this book packs one heck of a punch. Lyrical, painful and true to life, The Fragile Ordinary was a fantastic novel, despite a few little things that I wish had been wrapped up. A contemporary romance with a healthy dose of coming of age, I loved this book so much! It makes me wish that I’d picked up one of her books a whole lot sooner! This may be one of my favorite books of 2020!

                Comet Caldwell hates her name with a burning passion. Comet is the name of a girl who isn’t shy, awkward, and greatly prefers books to people. Her two best friends, Vicki and Steph, have been encouraging her for years to take a leap of faith, be a normal teenager for once. But after being bullied at school by classmates and being ignored by her parents for pretty much her whole life, Comet has decided that life is better avoiding the spotlight. But when a young American boy named Tobias comes to her school, she feels an almost immediate attraction to him. Comet must decide whether to stay the same, or change and become a better person.

                This book; honestly, at first, I didn’t know what to think. I saw Comet’s name and almost laughed; it was such a surprise. It took me a little while to get into it, but I took Wednesday and yesterday off work so I could at least read most of it before we met last night. The pacing was breakneck, and I was almost immediately entranced by Comet’s voice, colorful and shy and sweet, but also ringing with so much pain. I really related to Comet, at first: the insecurity, the desire to hide in literature, as well as her writing aspirations! I loved watching her character development as the book went on. She transformed from a shy, quiet and kind of repressed little mouse into a freaking lioness who takes what she wants, whether it’s first love, her career and what she wants to do after high school, or making amends with her distant, cold parents. And the ending! I adored it! The only issue I had with it was that I wish there had been things in the narrative that were explained more clearly, and it made me cry! A lot! But nonetheless, I will be looking into more of Young’s books, because this one was a total knockout! The bottom line: Emotional and cathartic in the best way, I loved The Fragile Ordinary! Next on deck: The Last Wish: Introducing The Witcher by Andrzej Sapowski!