Thursday, December 1, 2016

Possession by Elana Johnson Review

Title: Possession
Author: Elana Johnson
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Series: Possession, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I bought this book and reviewed it.

I'm not even sure where to start with this review, honestly. To say that my feelings are mixed is a major understatement. Elana Johnson is one of my favorite authors, and she has been ever since I read the first book in her other dystopian series, Elemental Hunger. Although I liked Possession, for the most part, it just fell short for me. Maybe it was just a little bit too late to the dystopian fiction party? I can't quite put my finger on it, but Possession was just meh. Just okay. I liked some aspects of it, but others just fell really flat.

Violet lives in a world where there is no sickness, no crime. It is a world that is near perfect. But Violet longs for something more, for something different. Other. Contentment is far away, even though she is Matched to her best friend, sweet and gentle Zenn. She rebels against The Thinkers who control her world, even when it means teaming up with the enigmatic bad boy Jag, who, despite her relationship to Zenn, is irresistibly drawn to her. Forced to make an irreversible choice: join the Thinkers, or flee to the Badlands, Violet discovers that there are dark secrets hiding in her past and future, and everything she thought she knew turns out to be a lie...

Like I said, I have very mixed feelings about this book. I wanted to love it, and I did love some of it. Violet, for the most part, was a really relatable character, and I enjoyed her deep and complex character development. But I feel like that was almost cheapened by the love triangle angle--it really bothered me that most of the book revolved around Violet picking a boy to be with. The worldbuilding was also pretty hard to wrap my head around, I didn't really get it. Honestly, the thing that saved this book was the pacing and the ending--that's pretty much the only thing that would get me to continue the series. It was a good attempt at a dystopian series debut, but it fell really short. I wish I'd borrowed this book from my local library instead of buying it. The bottom line: A valiant attempt at a dystopian series debut, Possession, for the most part, fell short. Next on deck: The Restaurant Critic's Wife by Elizabeth LaBan!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel Review

Title: Every Hidden Thing
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Adeventure/Romance
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I'd like to start this review on a slightly personal note: I'm sorry I've been inactive lately! My husband and I just moved into our brand new house, and these past couple of weeks have been a hectic flurry of packing, unpacking, cleaning, and getting our affairs in order. You guys have been on my mind through it all, and I've missed all of you terribly, so I'm playing catchup now! Okay, on to the actual review.

Kenneth Oppel already won my heart with his teen Frankenstein series, so I'm not going to lie: I'm just the tiniest bit biased. But bear with me, I promise that this review is worth it. Do you love historical fiction? How about adventures, complete with exciting twists and treasures? Forbidden romance so real and bittersweet that your knees get weak? Beautiful prose? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you need to go to your local library or bookstore and get this book. Make sure you clear your schedule, because once you start this novel, you won't be able to put it down.

Rachel Cartland and Samuel Bolt are the two children of prominent, successful academics who have devoted their lives, at the turn of the eighteenth century, to unearthing bones of beasts long gone from our world: dinosaurs. The two teens race against each other to find dinosaur bones before their rival, and in the process, somehow, manage to fall in love. Forced to choose between what their fathers want for them and each other, the two realize that despite everything, first love might be worth risking it all...

I loved this book. Truly, I loved it. It was just so good. The premise and concept were wholly original, and I also really loved the way that Oppel blended genres like a pro: historical fiction, romance, action and adventure, to create something totally new. While this and the prose was wonderful, it was honestly the way the book went back and forth between Sam and Rachel that really made me love this book. The pacing, too, was breakneck; I couldn't put it down, and when I did, it was constantly on my mind. It was absolutely lovely, and the only real flaw was that there isn't more! This book is easily one of my favorites of the whole year! The bottom line: A fantastic, completely original book from one of my favorite authors, Every Hidden Thing is one of my favorite books of the year! Next on deck: Possession by Elana Johnson!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes Review

Title: Until You're Mine
Author: Samantha Hayes
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: DCI Lorraine Fisher, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Broadway Books, through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review--thank you so much!

 This is the first book I've ever read by Samantha Hayes, and it most definitely won't be my last. Mysteries and thrillers, normally, for me, are hit and miss. Sometimes, I can predict the ending within fifty pages. Other times, there comes a book--like this one--that grabs me by the throat and doesn't let go. I love thrillers, especially when I can't guess what's going to happen!

Until You're Mine has three unique, first-person points of view: Claudia Morgan-Brown, a social worker that is expecting a baby girl in a few short months, DCI Lorraine Fisher, a detective assigned to investigate the murders of several young pregnant women in the area, Zoe Harper, her nanny who has secrets of her own to hide, and a first-person, unknown character that longs for nothing more than a child of their own. Young To say that this novel is creepy is a huge understatement--the prose is meticulous and frightening, setting off a feeling of unease as you go along. The pacing was fantastic--I couldn't put it down, and when I did, it stayed crouched in the back of my mind like a dark shadow.

I really enjoyed the way the narrative jumped between the three women, all of whom have skeletons in their closets they'd do anything to hide. The creep factor only grows as the book goes on, the desperation ratcheting up more and more as Lorraine races against the clock to find the depraved killer. Plus, there was also the four different points of view--sometimes, this is used as a plot device and everything gets confused, but Hayes was really skilled--I can't wait to read more from this promising British thriller author! It really added a lot of depth. This is probably one of my favorite thrillers ever, and I'm so excited for more from Hayes!

As far as a series debut goes, this book was really solid--it's definitely one of my favorites I've read so far. But there were times when I was a little confused, especially when the domestic details came in. However, this book was really enjoyable--absolutely wonderful! Chilling prose, deeply realized characters, and a shocking ending that caught me completely by surprise--this book was so much fun!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Half Bad by Sally Green Review

Title: Half Bad
Author: Sally Green
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Half Bad Trilogy, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I bought a copy of this book and reviewed it.

We are currently in the process of moving, and a lot of my books have been packed away. I still have my library stack, but I decided to pick a book I'd bought on my Kindle to mix it up a bit. I bought Half Bad as a Christmas gift to myself back in 2014, and it's been sitting on there ever since, waiting to be read. I knew that the book was a series debut from a brand new author, and that it revolved around witches. It is both of these things and so much more, I really enjoyed it!

Nathan is the son of the most dangerous, notorious Black Witches in Britian. His mother was a powerful White Witch, but despite that, Nathan is viewed with fear and disgust by most, even by some members of his own family. Forced into servitude to White Witches who seek to use him for thier own ends, Nathan is forced to leave his family behind and search for what it really means to be himself, as well as a human being. But he soon discovers that to embrace his magic may mean paying the ultimate price...

Half Bad is a volatile, exquisitely written story, told through several strange lenses. The narration bounces from one point to another, depending on where you are in the story. It jarred me before I really got used to the pacing; nonetheless, it was refreshing, even if it was hard to follow at first. Once the book really hits its stride, I couldn't put it down--I was captivated by Nathan's dangerous world, where Black and White witches live in war and secrecy, rife with intrigue and betrayal. It was so much fun, and that ending freaking killed me. I need Half Wild immediately! Strange, captivating, and heartbreakingly human, Half Bad has got to be one of my more recent favorite books; I can't wait to finish this series! Next on deck: Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Front Lines by Michael Grant Review

Title: Front Lines
Author: Michael Grant
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Solider Girl, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I bought Gone for myself as a Christmas present a few years back, and I haven't yet finished the series. But that was my introduction to Michael Grant's work, and I've been looking forward to Front Lines ever since. I'm pretty much a die-hard fan now, with Front Lines winning my heart entirely. I loved this book--it was wonderful. It was dark and frightening, heartbreaking and relevant--every single one of these characters has carved a place into my heart, and I'm so happy there's going to be a sequel!

Front Lines reimagines World War II in an amazing way--in this narrative, women fight right alongside men in one of the most brutal wars in not just America's history, but the world's. It was amazing--it really opened my eyes to familiar history, in a brand new way. This book was so dark, and scary, and sad, but I love it all the more for its relevance. It was a depiction of war that I could fully understand, and it made my heart break and heal all at once--the horrors of war, and how it can also bring soldiers together. I couldn't help but admire that.

The characters, though, were what really made this book so unforgettable. Almost every character forced their way into my heart, and I loved them completely. They were all so real. This book--it seemed to burrow into my soul, and I won't be forgetting it anytime soon! I'm so, so happy that there's a sequel! I can't wait for more from the Soldier Girl series! The bottom line: A riveting, meticulously researched historical novel that imagines World War II in a brand new light, I loved Front Lines! One of my favorite books of 2016!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst Review

Title: The Queen of Blood
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Age Group: Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Series: Queens of Renthia, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Sarah Beth Durst is one of my all-time favorite authors--I read her book Vessel and fell completely in love--there was no turning back. (Maybe I'm just a little bit biased...) So when I heard that she was writing a new book--a high fantasy novel, with magic and quests and dark forces, as well as tons of political intrigue, I knew that I had to order it through the local library. It's been sitting at the top of my stack ever since, begging to be read. I was a little nervous at first, but I'm so glad to report that I had absolutely nothing to worry about. This book was almost perfect--I loved it so much.

Daleina longs to become an heir, to have the chance to hone her magic and become Queen of Renthia, even though she is hiding a dangerous, dark secret about her abilities. Ven, a disgraced champion formerly in service for the current Queen, Fara, takes his work where he can, despite his scandalous exile. He chooses Daleina to be his heir, and trains her to the best of his ability. But when tragedy begins to strike in suspicious places, champion and heir must team up and figure out who's behind it, before the body count rises...

First of all, the world-building of this book was amazing--I really liked it! Durst says in the acknowledgements that she spent her entire childhood dreaming up imaginary worlds, and it shows spectacularly in this novel. The world of Renthia is by turns beautiful, but also terrifying and dangerous--what a fun adventure! But what really sold this book for me wasn't the world-building, or even the delicious heaps of political intrigue dolloped throughout the chapters. The pacing, too, really sold this book--I couldn't put it down. The characters--I loved them, with all of my heart and soul. I loved all of them, every last one, but the star was Daleina, the book's main character. I really related to and sympathetized with her. I loved her character growth, and I can't wait for the next novel in this series! There was also Ven, her disgraced champion, and Hamon, the young doctor who insists on accompanying Daleina on her journey. Even Queen Fara--I loved the characters so much, and I can't wait to see what's in store for the rest of Renthia! Wonderful! The bottom line: The debut of a new series, The Queen of Blood has something for everyone: political intrigue, magic, danger, adventure, and well-drawn characters--I can't wait for the sequel! Next on deck: Front Lines by Michael Grant!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova Review

Title: Labyrinth Lost
Author: Zoraida Cordova
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Brooklyn Brujas, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I have a confession to make: I'd tried to read Cordova's first series--a young adult trilogy offering revolving around mermaids--and I wasn't into it. But when I saw the gorgeous cover for her first book this year, I just knew I had to get my hands on it. It's been sitting in my library stack for a while, begging to be read. And I figured, since it was Halloween, why not? (Plus, look at that gorgeous cover--I'm swooning over it!)

Labyrinth Lost begins with Alex, Alejendra, a bruja who wants nothing more than to be a normal kid. She can't stand her family's powerful magical legacy, and she desperately longs to be like everyone else, not the most powerful bruja her family has seen in centuries. When her Deathday approaches, she comes up with an idea: If the ancestors gave her her power, surely she could give it back? But her brilliant plan backfires when her family is swept away to the magical, mythical land of Los Lagos. Forced to trust a mysterious boy named Nova, Alex embarks on a quest to get her family back, and finds herself and who she really is in the process.

I loved this book--it was so good! The pacing was breakneck, the prose gorgeous and so funny I couldn't stop laughing as I read. It also doesn't hurt that this book contained magical quests, beautiful creatures, betrayal, and magic in every single chapter. It was by turns dark and frightening, but also original, creative, and exciting. The characters, too, really sold this for me--I loved Alex, and her unshakable love towards her family. Plus there was Nova, the bad boy with secrets of his own, and Rishi, Alex's best friend, who cares for her so much that she does the unthinkable for Alex. This book was so, so good--an entertaining and well-wrought Halloween romp that champions diversity--I can't wait for the sequel! Next on deck: The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst!