Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Golem's Eye by Jonathan Stroud Review

Title: The Golem's Eye
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Bartimaeus Sequence, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

My husband and I have been doing this series as a couple read, and part of the reason I've enjoyed it so much was because we got to kind of experience together. Plus, Jonathan Stroud has become one of my favorite British authors of recent times. The sequel to the quirky, hilarious debut The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem's Eye takes place two or so years after the events of the first novel, with Nathaniel climbing his way up the British governmental ladder, and Bartimaeus returning in all of his beloved flash, style, and sly humor. I won't say too much about the plot, so as not to give things away, but I loved this sequel! Rife with humor, political intrigue, fantastic world-building, exciting characters, with twists and turns aplenty!

This book took me a while to get through, as with personal engagements and work schedule, I didn't have as much free time as I would've liked. Nonetheless, this sequel was really strong and enjoyable. I've stated time and time again that sequels scare me, but this was wonderful. I loved Bartimaeus, as well as his sly, out-there sense of humor. Nathaniel was kind of hit and miss for me; I didn't know whether his character development was good or bad. I also really liked the way Kitty and the British commoners came to the spotlight more; the world-building made a lot more sense. And that ending! Gah! I'm so excited to read Ptolemy's Gate, and as I read further through the series, I find myself itching to read the prequel--I really want to see how old Barty got his start in ancient Egypt! The bottom line: A really exciting, meaty sequel that had me salivating for more, I loved The Golem's Eye, and I'm both scared and excited for the last book! Next on deck: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

By Your Side by Kasie West Review

Title: By Your Side
Author: Kasie West
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I've heard of Kasie West and her cute, contemporary romances, as well as her successful science fiction duology. I've been curious about her ever since I knew of her, and when I heard about By Your Side, I knew I just had to read it! I mean, a shy good girl and a mysterious, brooding bad boy stuck in a library with each other for an entire weekend? It literally sounds like the perfect plot for a romance, and when I saw the recommendation for it, I was so excited. It sounded so perfect, and to be honest I needed something kind of light. Not to say that this book is shallow; quite the opposite, in fact. The characters were well-developed, and I really liked the way the romance progressed. A love story with two lovable characters at its center, just starting to find themselves? Part of the reason I don't much like contemporary fiction is that often, it seems forced, but that wasn't the case here. I loved this book, and Kasie West has won my heart completely!

Autumn Collins has the perfect weekend ahead of her, and she has plans to make the most of it. Plans to make her longtime crush, Jeff, into something more than a crush. But those plans go wildly awry when she finds herself locked inside the local library with the resident bad boy, Dax Miller. Forced to work together against their will, they grudgingly begin to open up to one another, and their relationship blooms into a real friendship, and maybe something more. But will Autumn go with what makes her feel safe, or will she gain the courage to be true to herself, even if it means risking the ultimate price?

As I said, I really loved this book! At first, it seemed like a sweet, light romance, and a good part of the book was focused on the relationship. But it also focused on important issues: love in all of its forms, the stigma and misunderstanding that often comes with mental illness, and what it really means to be true to yourself, and live your life for yourself. I enjoyed Autumn, and the way she grows from an anxious, frightened girl into a beautiful, brave young woman. I also really loved her aodrable, loving family, and Dax, the unlikely object of her affections. Plus, I just loved the premise. Being locked away in a library with a cute boy? Sigh, so cute! I really enjoyed By Your Side! The bottom line: A sweet love story that talks about mental illness and how to be yourself, By Your Side was like one of my childhood fantasies come true! One of my favorite books of 2017! Next on deck: The Golem's Eye by Jonathan Stroud!

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud Review

Title: The Amulet of Samarkand
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Bartimaeus Sequence, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

My husband got this book as a recommendation from the lovely, helpful readers on Reddit. (Thanks so much, guys!) And, in true form, he asked me to read it with him, so how could I say no? I watched as he laughed and cringed its way through it, before it made its way into my hands, but that was an experience all its own, and I was really excited when I finally got around to reading it. I'd read it before, way back when it first came out, in eighth grade, but I didn't remember much. What resulted was a rip-roaring, breakneck adventure, full of magic, political intrigue, action, and beautiful, descriptive writing that totally immersed me in Nathaniel's dangerous world. What a series debut! I can't wait for The Golem's Eye and Ptolemy's Gate!

Nathaniel is a young magician, eager to prove his prowess and serve his country. Bartimaeus is an ancient, powerful djinn whose history dates back to the Egyptian ancients. These reluctant allies' worlds collide in an explosion of animosity and half-hatched revenge schemes. Begrudging partners at best, the two work to take revenge on one of Nathaniel's enemies. But what the boy doesn't realize is that his actions cause irrevocable collateral damage, and that his desires may cost him more than he ever imagined, and for Bartimaeus, cooperation, however reluctant, is the only way to gain the freedom he craves again...

This book was wonderful.  I was laughing and crying, sometimes in tandem, throughout the story. As far as series starters go, this book was more than solid. I loved the world-building, and the way that magical Britain was reinterpreted. But I think, most of all, what I loved was the characters. Nathaniel, the small human boy who wants greatness, to satisfy his ambitions and rise above mediocrity, and his unwilling partner, the ancient, powerful djinn, Bartimaeus, wily, sly, and full of slightly arrogant humor. I was captivated, especially once the ball really got rolling! I was left longing for more, though, and there were a few questions that were unanswered, but I'm sure that I'll get my fill in the two huge sequels waiting for me! The bottom line: A seductive, magical series debut, I loved The Amulet of Samarkand! What a wonderful book! Thanks Cody, for asking me to read it! Next on deck: By Your Side by Kasie West!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Heartbeats of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber Review

Title: The Heartbeats of Wing Jones
Author: Katherine Webber
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Magical Realism
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I'd heard of The Heartbeats of Wing Jones the usual way I discover new books that I might like; it was recommended as one of the best books of March 2017, and as if that wasn't enough, it had a main character that was biracial! I was so excited. Plus, that cover, so colorful and pretty! Okay, okay, I'll get to the actual book now. Lol. Simply put, I loved The Heartbeats of Wing Jones! Easily one of my favorite books of 2017, hands down. Wing Jones, as well as her quirky, lovable family, has forced her way into my heart, and I will never forget her story! What a poignant, wonderful coming of age story, with elements of magical realism and romance! I cannot wait for more from the talented and promising Katherine Webber!

Wing Jones is used to being called different, and she's used to blending in to the background. Besides, it's her older brother, Marcus, that shines in the spotlight. He's the perfect boyfriend, the perfect brother; to Wing, and the key to a better future for her and her quirky, unique family. But all of those dreams are shattered when Marcus injures himself and several others driving drunk, resulting in a young woman's death. Bereft and un-moored after the tragedy, she begins to run, finding joy even in her sorrow. When that leads to a first love and a new opportunity, she must decide if she has what it takes to seize her dreams, or let her grief swallow her whole...

I loved this book. It hurt my heart and shone bright spots on my soul. It was so beautiful and inspiring, and I loved the way that the main character was biracial! I'm so, so happy that 2017 seems, so far, to be the year of diversity! Yes! (Excuse me for a moment while I leap up and down at this small but giant step...) Wing stole my heart, and I cried for her, laughed with her. I feel like I made a good friend. The best books are always like that. I also really adored her family, and the bond that they shared. But more than that, what really shone the most in this book was Wing, and her evolution from an insecure, uncertain girl into a fully realized, powerful young woman. I cried a lot, I laughed a lot, and I finished the book smiling. I also really adored the way the magical realism elements blended in with everything else, but were still very real and exciting. What a great debut! I honestly cannot wait for more from Katherine Jones! The bottom line: A beautiful, inspiring coming of age novel, The Heartbeats of Wing Jones was lovely, slipping its way into my heart when I wasn't looking--I can't wait for more from this promising debut author! Next on deck: The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Psalm for Lost Girls by Katie Bayerl Review

Title: A Psalm for Lost Girls
Author: Katie Bayerl
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I came across an interesting article online about the new books of March, and this book was listed as one of them. I'll be honest, though: that beautiful, creepy cover caught my eye, even before the tantalizing, sparse synopsis. So, in short, this was a recommendation, and I was more than a little apprehensive about it when I realized that faith was a central theme in the book. I have nothing against people who practice it, but because of events in my personal life, I have no idea if I believe in God or not. This resulted in mixed feelings about the book, but it was quite enjoyable nonetheless. A haunting story about family, faith, and the price of grief, with a slow-burn romance and a dark mystery at its center, A Psalm for Lost Girls was simply fantastic! What a promising, thought-provoking debut! I can't wait for more from this hard-hitting author! What a book for 2017!

Callie de Costa (Diverse books for the win, forever! What a touchdown!) is still grieving for her older sister, Tess, even though she passed away a few years ago. She and her mother are still reeling from the loss, each woman dealing with it in her own way. As if losing her big sister weren't enough on her, Tess was also hailed as an honest to God, real-life, modern-day saint. When Callie discovers evidence about Tess's death, she begins to dig deeper, even when it means crossing her mother, the law, and the rest of her neighborhood. But she realizes that, even as she begins to get closer to her sister's boyfriend, that finding out the truth about what really happened to Tess may cost her everything...

This book was amazing. I really enjoyed it. The prose was haunting and beautiful, and I was absolutely spellbound by Callie's voice. I also really liked the themes used in the book: family, coming of age, faith, grief, and first love, even though, at times, it made me uncomfortable. The pacing was breakneck, and I loved the way the book seemed to jump genres. I was honestly surprised when I discovered that A Psalm for Lost Girls was Bayerl's first novel; this book was just so good! I finished it the day before yesterday, and honestly I'm still dumbstruck. Callie's family and friends has carved a permanent place in my heart, and I will never forget them. Also, I loved the way that mental illness was addressed in this book, with an unexpected degree of understanding and sensitivity. And that ending! All the ugly crying! What a great book, with a dark, twisty mystery at its center! As I said, the frank discussion of faith made me uncomfortable, but it wasn't so off-putting that I didn't like the book. The bottom line: A book about faith, grief, and love in all its forms, A Psalm for Lost Girls is a thought-provoking, hard-hitting debut that I loved--highly recommended, especially for mystery fans! Next on deck: The Heartbeats of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber!

Monday, April 24, 2017

One Blood Ruby by Melissa Marr Review

Title: One Blood Ruby
Author: Melissa Marr
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Seven Black Diamonds, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Melissa Marr is one of my favorite authors, and I've made no secret of that. She won my heart way back in high school with her debut fantasy novel, Wicked Lovely. Ever since, I've been an unapologetic, die-hard Melissa Marr fan. Initially, I didn't even know that Seven Black Diamonds had a sequel, and I was so happy when I discovered that that was indeed the case. I was so happy when I realized that Seven Black Diamonds was a brand-new series in the same world. One Blood Ruby picks up where Seven Black Diamonds left off, and what a sequel it is! I always, always get nervous over sequels, but I shouldn't have worried. Marr packs character development, twists and turns, dangerous secrets, political intrigue, and heart-pounding action in her powerful sequel--I can't wait for more! I don't want to say too much about the plot, because I don't want to give anything away for my readers who haven't read it yet.

One Blood Ruby picks up where Seven Black Diamonds left off, leaving all of the members of the now defunct terrorist sleeper cell to deal with the violent, bloody aftermath of the events of the previous book. All of them reeling from their own choices and their leader's, the Diamonds must band together now more than ever, as more attacks on the humans continue. Unable to trust anyone but one another, they must find the culprit behind these secretive attacks, or risk destruction of both of their shared worlds...

I really, really enjoyed this sequel, so much so that I'm really hoping there's another! This sequel was pretty much perfect, and I loved it. I'm always worried that a sequel is going to be 'meh', in comparison to the original, but I shouldn't have worried in the first place. Melissa Marr hasn't disappointed me so far, and hopefully she never will! This book has everything you want in a sequel: twists and turns, hefty political intrigue and secret pacts, more character development, thrills and chills, and a killer ending! The bottom line: A meaty, satisfying sequel to Seven Black Diamonds, I loved One Blood Ruby, and I hope there's more to this fun, dark new series! Next on deck: A Psalm for Lost Girls by Katie Bayerl!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle Review

Title: The Accident Season
Author: Moira Fowley-Doyle
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Magical Realism
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

The Accident Season was the April pick for one of the book clubs I go to, but I've been interested in it since I heard about it. Magical realism has recently become my jam. I love the way the genre blends contemporary and unnatural elements, and Fowley-Doyle has done that with her debut novel, to varying effect. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed it. It was a beautifully written, enchanting tale of a seemingly cursed family in crisis, each member with their own host of secrets, some of which prove fatal. Cara, the youngest member of the family, begins to wonder if there is more to these gruesome family stories than she knows. When she begins to look deeper into her family's history, she discovers that no one seems to be who they say they are, and magical forces are gathering in the background...

I really liked this book! It had a dreamy, creepy, enchanting feel that I immediately took to. It was a bonus that I also really loved the setting; lovely, green, mysterious Ireland. But what really fascinated me was this family, loving and tight, but full of dark secrets and half-remembered tragedies. The book unwinds from beginning to end, jumping around in the narrative from past to present. That kind of confused me a little, because it made it hard to follow, but perhaps that was the point. Maybe to add to the mystery of it? It was a lovely, dark story that had me horrified and spellbound. The twists and turns had me dumbfounded and constantly wondering who to trust, to believe. What a fun, gothic story with dark secrets at its center. And that ending! Mind-blown. Add to all of this more than a few forbidden romances, and you've got a pretty potent mix for a good book! What a lovely addition to the magical realism genre! The bottom line: A darkly powerful and twisty mystery about a cursed family, The Accident Season was a darkly funny, beautifully written treat, and I loved it! Next on deck: One Blood Ruby by Melissa Marr!