Thursday, November 2, 2017

Invictus by Ryan Graudin Review

Title: Invictus
Author: Ryan Graudin
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I found Invictus through one of the many book sites that I follow; the plot (time travel! Always time travel for the win!) and the gorgeous, modern cover was what caught my eye. I've heard of Ryan Graudin, with her books about fairies and then a weird, wonderful take on World War II, but this is the first novel I've ever read by her. And what a book it was! Time travel, high-speed chases, hilarious banter, sexual tension so high it'll make you scream in frustration, and characters who I loved instantly, I loved Invictus! Despite some issues that had me confused, it has become one of my favorite books of 2017!

Farway Gauis McCarthy is a boy born outside of time, literally. His mother, Empra, fell in love with a Roman gladiator. And Farway wants nothing more than to be a Recorder just like his mother. But when his final sim exam at the Academy goes wrong, all of his dreams seem to go up in smoke. That is until he is approached by a mysterious benefactor, offering the opportunity of a lifetime: He can be the captain of his own ship, but only if he jumps through time and steals valuable historical objects. But when a mysterious girl botches his crew's first mission, Far begins to realize that bigger forces than he could've ever realized are coming, and if they catch up to him, it could be the end of time itself...

This book was a fun, wild thrill ride through time and space, and I really enjoyed it! Time travel is iffy for me, personally, because first of all, it's an overdone trope in sci-fi, and it can be hard to follow. But Invictus, regardless of the confusing parts, really won me over. The plot was like a futuristic Ocean's Eleven, and it was really exciting. But more than that, I loved the characters; by the end of the book, I felt like I had lost a great group of friends. (All the ugly crying!) The pacing was breakneck, the format unusual, and by the end, I was frantically turning pages, desperate to know what was going to happen. I laughed, swooned, and cried, sucked into Far's adventure across time. I also really adored the way that family (in all of its forms) was emphasized. And that ending, goodness! I cried so hard! I couldn't give this a full five stars, though, because some of the technological information was hard to follow. Nonetheless, it was great! The bottom line: Invictus was a wonderful, heartfelt romp through time and space, complete with action, romance, and more than a few twists and turns! One of my favorite books of 2017! Next on deck: Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popovic!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Little Monsters by Kara Thomas Review

Title: Little Monsters
Author: Kara Thomas
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

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

I found Little Monsters the way I usually find my library books; a recommendation. It's been sitting in my library stack for a few weeks now and after some rearranging, it sat at the top of the stack, beckoning me with its curiously colorful, ominous cover. And what better thing to read in preparation for Halloween, but a twisty, taut thriller that had me on the edge of my seat? Normally I'm leery about thrillers because usually, I can predict the ending/killer before the book is half over. But Little Monsters surprised me in the best kinds of ways, and it's become one of my favorite novels of 2017. Dark, thoughtful, and genuinely frightening, I devoured this book in two and a half days, until the shocking, explosive conclusion. Kara Thomas has become one of my new favorite authors with this hair-raising, creepy thriller!

Kacey Young is a girl that doesn't fit in, with her messy family situation. After a feud with her volatile mother, she moves to Broken Falls, Wisconson, to live with her distant father. Alone in her new, wintry surroundings, Jade and Bailey take her under their wings. They are a tight-knit trio who do everything together. But when Kacey isn't invited to the biggest party of the year, she can't shake the feeling that something is wrong. That feeling only worsens when Bailey disappears. Forced to dig deep into Broken Falls's history and the rich, dark inner lives of its residents, Kacey realizes that she can't trust anyone and that Bailey's disappearance may be closer to home than she could've ever realized...

This book was so much fun! From the unusual format, revealing Bailey's mysterious motivations between chapters, to the breakneck pacing, and the constant red herrings, Little Monsters has restored my spotty love for the mystery/thriller genre. I devoured it in a short, frenzied two and a half days, and even when I wasn't reading, the grim, chill setting of Broken Falls seeped into my mind, sending my mind spinning in circles. It also helps that I have a special love for friendships gone bad stories, especially teenage girl friendships gone bad. I was captivated, and I couldn't figure out who did it until the end. Even then, I wasn't expecting it; the ending had me screaming in shock! Kacey's terse, tight narration kept ratcheting up the tension, and even when I was finished, I was still reeling. If you're looking for a good mystery because you don't want to be done with Halloween, (and I count myself among that number) you should definitely check out Little Monsters! The bottom line: Secrets, lies, gossip, and poisonous jealousy all combine in a lethal cocktail in Kara Thomas's sophomore novel! One of the best thrillers of 2017! Next on deck: Invictus by Ryan Graudin!

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Special Ones by Em Bailey Review

Title: The Special Ones
Author: Em Bailey
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

The Special Ones was the book club pick for one of the libraries that I go to, and I checked it out even before I knew that it was the Halloween pick for our book club. It sat in my library stack until the week of book club; I always like to read the book on the day of, or a few days prior, to the meeting so it stays fresh in my mind. I started reading The Special Ones on Sunday and finished it the next day. A dark tale of cults, religious fanaticism, and the surprising endurance of hope in the face of terrible danger, Em Bailey's creepy novel had me spellbound against my will, grabbing me by the throat and not letting go until the very end. Even when I wasn't reading it, it remained in my thoughts, taking up resident space in my brain and sending my thoughts into a whirlwind. If you're looking for a creepy, dark psychological thriller to read in preparation for Halloween, you need to check out this visceral debut Aussie novel!

Esther is one of The Special Ones, chosen by a mysterious man named 'He' to be reincarnated. As His most devout disciple, she keeps her head down, does as she's told, and keeps the delicate way of life of their farm going. She tries to convince herself that she is happy, but the only thing that brightens the monotony of her days is her friend, Harry. When the chance for freedom comes along, Esther risks everything to break free of her leader and get back to the normal world. But He won't let her go without a fight, not when his obsession with her has reached its peak...

I'll start this review off by saying that I have mixed feelings about The Special Ones. It was enjoyable as a story, but it ended up bringing up some bad memories. My family and I were in a cult throughout high school, and it ended with us leaving when I was a senior. It didn't affect me as much as it did my family, and I couldn't help but picture the mysterious 'Him' as the man who tried to ruin our lives. Nonetheless, this debut was creepy, dark, and often bittersweet. With gorgeous prose that explores both the horrors and tiny miracles that make humanity, The Special Ones really captured my imagination, often against my will. I was frantically flipping pages to try and unravel the mystery. I really liked Esther and her creepy, sparse narration. The resilience of her spirit was really encouraging and inspiring. And her forbidden love with Harry! Gah, it killed me!

I didn't really like any of the other characters, and it was a little jarring when the point of view switched. I liked the way that we were given a glimpse into the mind of the villain, but I still have so many unanswered questions; I feel like though it was open-ended, there were a lot of things that weren't cleared up. I liked the ending, but I wish there had been more information about how the characters were doing in the aftermath; like a longer epilogue? Nonetheless, what a book to read in preparation for the spookiest night of the year! The bottom line: A dark, frightening tale of secrets, lies, scary villains, and a quest for freedom, I really liked The Special Ones! Next on deck: Little Monsters by Kara Thomas!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George Review

Title: Speak Easy, Speak Love
Author: McKelle George
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I'm currently reading It, per my best friend's recommendation, and I decided to have a backup book to read at night so I wouldn't have nightmares. Speak Easy, Speak Love was the first backup book in what I'm sure is to be a series. It had a hold on it and I wanted to finish it before it went back to the library. The cover was what drew my eye in the first place, and I was even more intrigued by its contents: a young adult retelling of Much Ado About Nothing, set in the Roaring '20s? To say that I was on board with this is a huge understatement. Speak Easy, Speak Love has made McKelle George one of my new favorite authors, and it's one of my favorite books of 2017!

Beatrice Clark is a strong, independent young woman, down on her luck, who is forced to depend on long-lost relatives' generosity to decide what to do about her future. When she arrives at her uncle Leo's lavish estate, named Hey Nonny Nonny, she is soon drawn into a glittering world full of illegal alcohol, glittering parties, and secret alliances, loves, and friendships. When she meets the infuriating yet intriguing Benedick Scott, she finds that they have a particular chemistry that may, in fact, be something more than attraction. But she may have to dodge bullets, stitch up a few people, and piece her family back together in order to explore those feelings.

I really, really liked this book! First of all, I love Shakespeare retellings, and The Roaring 20s is one of my favorite eras of history, so the mashup of both was one of my favorite aspects of the novel. The prose was electric and had me often swooning or laughing. The setting of lush, gorgeous  Hey Nonny Nonny stole my imagination and took my breath away. But what really made me love this book were its characters, all well-written and three dimensional, so much so that they felt like friends almost at once. George paints a beautiful scene, populated with characters that I really grew to love and root for. Independent, fierce Beatrice, worldly and sophisticated Hero, jaded, prickly Benedick, and Maggie, the African-American jazz singer are especially standouts. And I cried so hard, especially at that ending! It killed me! This book has become one of my favorites of 2017. I can't wait for more from McKelle George! The bottom line: A historical twist on a classic Shakespeare play, Speak Easy, Speak Love is one of my favorite novels of the fall! What a lovely, emotional romance!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett Review

Title: Even the Darkest Stars
Author: Heather Fawcett
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Ever the Darkest Stars, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I found Even the Darkest Stars through a recommendation, and it's been sitting in my stack for a while. I had one last renewal on it, so I decided to put it at the top of my stack and dive in. I wasn't sure what to expect; this is Fawcett's first novel and a fantasy! Nonetheless, I was very excited. I love adventure stories, quests that make me think of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. It's probably the nostalgia factor. Fawcett has penned a well-written, exciting adventure, with a great heroine, witches, ghosts, magic, demons, twists, and turns, and a killer ending that had me screaming in frustration. There were some issues with the world-building, but it was nonetheless an exciting, refreshing debut! One of my favorite books of 2017, and I can't wait for the next book in the series!

Kamzin longs for a life of adventure, and to be an explorer like her late mother. Unfortunately, she is stuck in her tiny home village, Azmiri, forced to learn magic and study to be the next Elder after her father steps down. Her relationship with her sister Lusha is also fraught with tension, and she is desperate to find a way out of her shadow. But her quiet, mundane existence is turned upside down with the arrival of the explorer River Shara, who wants to hire her, not her sister, in order to help him climb the deadly, mysterious summit of Mount Raska. But as Kamzin climbs the mountain, she realizes that all manner of deadly creatures lurks in the sky and snow, and her crewmates are hiding more than their fair share of secrets, and the most deadly of all may mean the destruction of the whole world as she knows it...

I really, really liked this book! What a wonderful debut! First of all, I loved that it was an old-fashioned adventure, complete with mountaineering! The prose was hypnotic and fast-paced, and once I began, I couldn't stop reading! I loved Kamzin, and her sheer will to achieve her dreams, even at the price of leaving her home and family behind. This book is full of strong, powerful women who aren't afraid of going after what they want, regardless of the cost. I also really enjoyed the world-building, which gave a new spin on dragons, demons, witches, and magic, but I really wish that it had been fleshed out a little more; it was hard to follow and at times I couldn't understand the context of it and how it related to the story. I loved the relationship between Kamzin and her family members, especially her forbidding, beautiful older sister Lusha. And the chemistry between Kamzin and her love interest! Oh my God, it was heart-melting, knee-weakening! And the ending! Ugh, I can't wait for the sequel! It wasn't perfect, but it is still one of my favorite books of 2017! The bottom line: A lush, romantic series debut with magic, demons, monsters, and mountains, I loved Even the Darkest Stars! One of the best books of the year! Next on deck: It by Stephen King!

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge Review

Title: The Lie Tree
Author: Frances Hardinge
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I've heard things and been eyeing The Lie Tree since it came out last year, here in America. When I saw in our library's database that it was available at my local one, I put a hold on it. I picked it up when I could, and I was excited when it reached the top of my stack. First of all, a brand new, female British author to try! I'm always happy when I have the opportunity to experience a new author, and The Lie Tree did not disappoint! Unapologetically feminist, bold and brash, yet beautiful, The Lie Tree took me on a magnificent adventure that had me cheering, crying, and inspired! Frances Hardinge has become one of my newly minted favorite authors. One of the best books I've read in a while!

Faith Sunderly is not the most typical British Victorian girl. She doesn't at all care about marriage, her reputation, pretty clothes, and proper, prim behavior. She longs to be a scientist, just like her father, though she knows that the realm of knowledge is forbidden to young women. Chafing against the conventions of her time, she hates that she's nothing more than a caretaker. But when her father mysteriously dies, and she finds a fruit that is nourished from lies, she realizes that in order to find the truth, she must use all of her knowledge and expertise. But she may end up next in the killer's crosshairs if she digs in too deep...

 This book was a welcome, wonderful story that left me awed, inspired, and excited. With its gorgeous prose, take no prisoners heroine, lush, beautiful setting, and amazing pacing, The Lie Tree was an empowering, feminist tale set in forbidding, constraining Victorian Britain. It was thought-provoking, exciting, and emotional. It captured my heart and imagination entirely, and because of that, Hardinge is one of my new favorite authors! Faith was a flawed, well-written protagonist that won my heart and had me cheering throughout the novel. I loved that despite everything, she went after what she wanted. The pacing was breakneck, and I was glued to the pages in the two days that I was reading it. I was so enthralled with the book that I took it into the tub with me, twice! (And no, I didn't drop it!) And that ending! Oh my gosh, I was absolutely floored! I won't spoil the surprise, but my jaw was on the floor! One of my favorite books of 2016, and I'm so happy that I had the time to read it! The bottom line: A fantastic, feminist mystery that took my breath away and inspired me down to the nerves, I loved The Lie Tree! One of the best books I've read recently! Next on deck: Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett!

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart Review

Title: Genuine Fraud
Author: E. Lockhart
Age Group: Teen/Young 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 discovered the work of E. Lockhart when I was a freshman in high school. First, it started with The Boyfriend Book. I read it once, and I loved it. (It was also one of the first feminist novels I'd ever read in my lifetime, and it changed my life.) I remember going back to the school library, again and again, searching out that little white spine, hoping and praying it was still there. It gave me comfort in a very turbulent time in my life. From there, I moved on to The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. (In fact, that little gem is sitting on my shelf to this day.) So when I heard that she had a brand new book coming out, I just knew I had to get my hands on it. Immediately I set a hold on it from the library and spent my days waiting for it to come. When it did, I put it at the top of my stack. I spent the next day and a half fervently glued to the pages, breathless as I followed Jules's journey backward. This book has become a new favorite, and I can't wait for more from E. Lockhart!

Jules is a woman whose origins are foggy, and her best friend is Imogen. I don't want to say too much about the plot because that's half the fun of this book! The two girls cling to one another, sources of comfort in uncertain times. The format of the book is unusual, being told backward. But honestly, this book; it won my heart, and it's one of my favorites of 2017. I'm a total sucker for unreliable narrators, first of all, and the prose had me laughing, cheering, cringing. Genuine Fraud wormed its way into my heart and soul and refuses to let go, even now, two weeks after I've read it. It was a delicious, salacious mystery that had a powerful, no-holds-barred antihero its the center. It was worth waiting for, and I really enjoyed it! The bottom line: A fantastic mystery that had me constantly guessing, cheering, and screaming, I really enjoyed Genuine Fraud! One of my favorite books of 2017! Next on deck: The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge!