Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale by Marina Warner Review

Title: Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale
Author: Marina Warner
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This book was given to me through the publisher by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book caught my eye because hey, I love fairy tales. They are the foundation of modern literature to me, and a wealth of inspiration for me as an author. And Warner doesn't disappoint; she provides a wealth of knowledge about fairy tales: where they came from, and their lasting effect on modern society, for good and for ill. I really, really liked this book, because it was an enlightening journey into what fairy tales are, the first stories that we possibly ever had, and our enchantment with them. I enjoyed the exploration into them, and the motifs that they provide, though at times, the prose seemed a little bit too academic for me, though, being published by an university press, I really should've expected it. The bottom line: A pleasantly informative, meticulously researched book about one of the cornerstones of modern literature!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sennar's Mission by Licia Troisi Review

Title: Sennar's Mission
Author: Licia Troisi
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Series: Chronicles of the Overworld, book two
Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This book was given to me by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I love high fantasy novels--recently, I've discovered that. The appeal of them, for me, is their scope, their ability to make it seem like a whole new world is being shown through them. And Sennar's Mission didn't disappoint me. It picks up where Nihal of the Land of the Wind left off, with Sennar leaving to go to the Underworld, and Nihal trying to make her own way as a stronger soldier, avenging the loss of her people. And for the most part, I really enjoyed it; both Sennar and Nihal grew as characters, and Laio and Ido, from the previous book, make appearances and are also deeply fleshed out, and the world-building was wonderful, but something about this installment in the series just left me yearning. Though it was full of action, and emotion, and wonder, something about it, just really fell short. Regardless, though, I look forward to the next installment in the series. The bottom line: This next installment was good, but it wasn't fantastic. Next on deck: Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale by Marina Warner!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar Review

Title: Vanessa and Her Sister: A Novel
Author: Priya Parmar
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This book was given to me by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

I love Virgina Woolf--that's initially the reason that I picked up this novel, and to hear of her sister, the artist Vanessa Bell? Well, I just had to get my hands on it. And when Edelweiss approved me, I was so happy. Part of the reason I love historical fiction so much is that it's rooted in fact, and Parmar did her research. But what was so fascinating to me about this novel wasn't even necessarily the premise of it, itself: it was the relationship between Vanessa and Virginia. Virginia is brilliant, but at times, mad, possessive, and cruel, and all Vanessa's ever wanted is something of her own, even though her sympathy and love for her sister has caused her, more often than not, to put off her own wants and needs.

The relationship between the two sisters is, at times, though tender and beautiful, twisted and frightening. Virginia is so obsessed with Vanessa that she literally wants everything that her sister has, and eventually, does, the most notable of which being Vanessa's husband, Clive. What is so beautiful and compelling about this novel is that though at times you want to look away, you cannot: Virginia seems to careen deeper into madness while Vanessa struggles to hold her, and herself, together. The way Parmar narrates the novel is like that of a psychological thriller, almost: Vanessa writes to the reader as if to a diary, and every ugly incident is exposed and raw.

I also really enjoyed the surrounding cast of characters to the love triangle: Lytton, who wants nothing more to be happy, and loved, Duncan, aloof and yet still magnetic to the others, Thoby, sweet and darling and down to earth, Ottoline, desperate for true love, Roger Fry, Vanessa's lover and great friend. I loved the way that the relationships intertwined with one another, rooted in fact and yet tenderly, lovingly rendered by the author.

There were times in the novel, though, where I wanted to scream: I hated Vanessa's husband with a burning passion for most of the book, and Virginia's selfishness and carelessness toward her sister made me livid.

The bottom line: A beautiful little book about the artists of the conversational Bloomsbury Group, highly recommended to fans of Robin Oliviera and Nancy Horan--a beautiful debut I will treasure forever! Next on deck: Sennar's Mission by Licia Troisi!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Eternal Neverland: Steps Before the Fall by Natasha Rogue Review

Title: Eternal Neverland: Steps Before the Fall
Author: Natasha Rogue
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
 Genre: Horror
 Series: N/A
Star Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

This book was given to me by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The bottom line: DNF at 196 pages. Annoying main character who is stuck between at least six different dudes. The only thing I really liked was the vampire politics, but that was about it. Next on deck: Vanessa and her Sister: A Novel by Priya Parmar!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Famous Last Words by Katie Alender Review

Title: Famous Last Words
Author: Katie Alender
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This book was given to me by the publisher, Point, through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Do you like ghost stories? Hollywood? Creepy thrillers? If you answered yes to any of these questions, Famous Last Words is for you! (I know, I know, I have lame delivery.) Willa and her mother have left everything behind to move to Hollywood after her mother's marriage to a famous director, and that's the least of her issues. Mysterious visions have been cropping up, and she wonders if she's going crazy, as they're connected to "The Hollywood Killer", a psychopathic serial killer who likes to imitate famous movies. I liked the way the horror element was for the most part at the forefront of the novel

I've been a fan of Alender's work since I purchased the first book in a series, Bad Girls Don't Die, and this book didn't disappoint. I highly enjoyed it--The combination of thrills and old-Hollywood glamor were to die for. And then there's Willa herself, a highly snarky protagonist, who just might be going crazy. She's seeing visions, writing on the walls (literally) and she is drawn into the mystery. The pacing of Famous Last Words was great, too--I couldn't stop turning pages, trying to figure out who the killer was.

Sometimes, though, Willa's obsession with her father's death made me want to groan--she seemed so emo about it and it took the focus off of the actual story.

The bottom line: A highly enjoyable novel, though at times bogged down by the main character! Next on deck: Eternal Neverland: Steps Before the Fall by Natasha Rogue! 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Forgive Me If I've Told You This Before by Karelia Stetz Waters Review

Title: Forgive Me If I've Told You This Before
Author: Karelia Stetz-Waters
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Coming of Age/Gay Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book was given to me by the publisher, Ooligan Press, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.

Part of the reason I love young adult fiction is a classic topic: coming of age. We can all relate to being a teenager. But the trick with a coming of age story is that you have to capture an original voice that will resonate with the reader. And Stetz-Waters does just that in Triinu, the young woman who narrates the novel. This book broke my heart, not just because of Triinu and her troubles, but the outcast in me resonated sharply with her story.

Triinu, the young Estonian woman, who might, just possibly, be gay. She longs for acceptance from her peers, and most of all, love. One of the reasons I loved her was because she was, essentially, a teenager, through and through. She thinks no one understands her, she has two loving but eccentric parents, the first love is the last--this book is a powerful, beautiful journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, the portrait of a young woman coming into her own.

People in Triinu's life are not all bad, nor all good, they are all flawed and human, and they all have a huge impact on her and her choices. Isabel, Triinu's best friend, steadfast and smart, all to hide a deep inner pain, her parents, loving and hilarious and beautiful in their tender portrayal of a real family, Ursula, her first friend and love, and finally, Principal Pinn and Pip, two men who hate her for her homosexuality. This is brutally honest tale on what it means to be a teen, and what it takes to truly accept yourself.

The bottom line: This book was wonderful. Next on deck: Famous Last Words by Katie Alender!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Compulsion by Martina Boone Review

Title: Compulsion
Author: Martina Boone
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Heirs of Watson Island, book one
Star Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

This book was given to me by the publisher, Simon Pulse, through Edelweiss.

The bottom line: DNF at 149 pages. Strange, confusing plot I couldn't keep up with. Just seemed like a giant knot of Southern feuds with no real rhyme or reason. It really wasn't for me. Next on deck: Forgive Me if I've Told You This Before by Karelia Stetz-Waters!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond Review

Title: Girl on a Wire
Author: Gwenda Bond
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Magical Realism
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This book was given to me by the publisher, Amazon's Children's, through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Have you ever wanted to run away with the circus? I always hated it when I was a kid, but I enjoyed it as I grew older. There was always a certain romanticism about it to me--living on a train, working with animals and doing amazing stunts! A circus, I've learned, is really a place for dreams, and for dreamers, to take refuge in. And Gwenda Bond completely captures that sensation in Girl on a Wire.

Meet the Maronis, a family whose profession is, you guessed it: circus performers. Julieta, the 'precious only daughter' in this slightly eccentric but very loving family, wants nothing more than for her family to be performing with the best. The best, apparently being, the Cirque American! (I can picture that across a poster, can't you?) And she gets her wish, albeit by rebelling. Soon, her family is taken in by the Cirque American. Family secrets and mystery and forbidden romance abound!

Julieta (Jules) was a fun main character for me, I found myself really relating to her, especially as the novel went on. Getting to know her, and her family, was easy. I enjoyed all the characters, and the pacing of the mystery aspect was good, but despite it all, even with all the facts tied down at the end, something just fell short for me.

The bottom line:It wasn't awful, but it wasn't spectacular. Good mystery, but something about it just really left me yearning for something more. Next on deck: Compulsion by Martina Boone!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Em and The Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto Review

Title: Em and The Big Hoom
Author: Jerry Pinto
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This book intrigued me because of its topic: mental illness. It has a stigma in society, and is a topic not to be discussed in public. I myself have suffered with mental illness, depression, and partially because of that, it really resonated with me. But all in all, Em and The Big Hoom is two stories in one, the story of Em and the Big Hoom, Imelda and Augustine, the narrator's parents, and their relationship with one another, and the narrator himself, and his own emotions. (After all, it isn't easy to have a 'mad mother'.) It is a story of darkness, hope, and hatred. But what really sold this book for me was its poignant, honest portrait of a family.

Em, the narrator's mother, has bipolar disorder, and quite possibly schizophrenia. The book is told in an erratic way, in a way that mirrored Em herself. It never goes in chronological order, but somehow, our narrator, with his watchful eyes, makes sense of the sometimes confusing narrative. The Big Hoom, the narrator's father, is a lovable character unto himself: long-suffering, patient, and calm, but with his own demons, aside from Em. And then there's Susan, the narrator's older sister, trying her best to have her own identity and help her family all at once. And last but certainly not least, there is the narrator himself: a young man trying to understand the confusing, and sometimes hilarious, paths to his mother's mind. Strangely enough, Pinto doesn't just create a real picture of this family; he does it with flair and, surprisingly, humor, and tenderness.

The bottom line: I loved this book wholeheartedly, though it was at times very emotional. Highly, highly recommended for those who want a drama about family! Next on deck: Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Damaged by Amy Reed Review

Title: Damaged
Author: Amy Reed
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

"'...Maybe that's how people get stuck in lives they don't want--assuming that their decisions must be permanent, that there are no do-overs. But what if life is really a series of lives, a series of reinventions? What if the best paths are made up of detours?'"

Kinsey Cole has just lost her best friend, Camille, in a violent, frightening car accident. It doesn't matter that Camille was drunk, nor does it matter that Camille's boyfriend, Hunter, also survived. All that matters is that Kinsey doesn't want to feel anything. Recklessly, she and Hunter decide to run away to San Francisco together, and in the process, realize that running may not be the solution after all.

This book--this book. It just struck me to the heart. Kinsey in particular I felt a kinship with--the young woman lost without her best friend--possibly her only friend. The pacing of this novel was breakneck, but not in the way you'd expect--the transformation of Hunter and Kinsey set the pace. What sold this novel for me was the way the characters were so incredibly raw. Both of them try to deal with Camille's death: Hunter through alcoholism, and Kinsey through desperation and denial. The various characters that the two meet throughout the book are also integral to the growth of Kinsey and Hunter.

 It is a surprisingly tender, and yet brutal, novel that explores the question: When we are lost, how is it that we find our way back? One of the things I love so much about contemporary novels is that they are another sort of escapism, but in almost a bad way, in the way that it is painful. It is unflinching in its stark, yet beautiful, prose, and I loved the way it reminded me of being a teenager, the beautiful and yet frightening idea that the world can be yours, if you only let yourself live. 

But this book wasn't perfect, not totally: At times, Kinsey's denial made the narrative confusing, almost so erratic that it was hard to follow. 

The bottom line: A beautiful, gorgeous book on life, love, and self-discovery. A few little quibbles, but definitely worth checking out for fans of Sarah Dessen.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

True Fire by Gary Meehan Review

Title: True Fire
Author: Gary Meehan
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Series: True Fire, book one
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

This book was given to me by the publisher, Quercus, through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

When I saw this review copy available on Edelweiss, to everyone, not just in the UK--I'm not going to lie. I jumped at it. I love dark stories with high fantasy elements, especially those involving witches. Unfortunately, the blurb was the only thing that was really attractive for me about this novel. Not to say that there were not good things in the novel, they were. But they were few.

Megan is sixteen and pregnant. Sounds like a cliche, doesn't it? She hasn't told anyone but her sister, Gwyneth. But when her small village is destroyed and her sister captured, she flees the ruins of her home to find out the truth--and gets far more than she bargained for in the process. Accompanied by Eleanor, a displaced aristocrat, and Damon, a boy thrust out of the priesthood, she is forced to confront perhaps the most frightening thing of all: herself.

There were some good things about this novel, as I've said before: I enjoyed each of the main characters, Megan, the young pregnant woman struggling just to find her sister and gets far more than she bargains for, Eleanor, the woman with cloudy motives and even more obscure morals, and Damon, the young man whose devil-may-care attitude hides a dark, even shameful, past. Each character was nuanced and had some amazing depth. I enjoyed the ending as well, and how it cleared space for a sequel.

There were some things that really needed work, as well: The pacing stuttered often, try as the author might to make it smooth through gory shows of action and blood-letting--not that I minded the gory factor of the book. It was one of the things I most liked about it. The world-building was at best confusing--I didn't really understand any of it, and the whole witches and priests thing really didn't work for me--it was far too difficult to even follow, and I was lost. Another thing that broke the pacing: the flashbacks were so hard to follow, integral to the story though they were. The second half of the story seemed to be muddled up by political intrigue, so quick and with so many people I couldn't follow it.

The bottom line: A showy debut novel promising much, but a lot of things were lacking. Not a complete dud, but just a 'meh' kind of novel. Next on deck: Damaged by Amy Reed!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sublime by Christina Lauren Review

Title: Sublime
Author: Christina Lauren
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

This book was given to me by the publisher, Simon and Schuster, in exchange for an honest review.

Lucy walks out of a forest, and is mysteriously drawn to Collin. As they grow closer, they fall in love. Collin is desperate for a way to be with her, even as Lucy begins to remember the complicated circumstances of her past--and her death.

The bottom line: The blurb of this novel sounded interesting--and romantic--but I couldn't relate to Lucy or Collin--it just seemed like their relationship, without any real depth, took the spotlight, and I couldn't finish it. The sudden relationship between them--even in the beginning--didn't seem plausible. I didn't finish it. Next on deck: True Fire by Gary Meehan!

Secret of Omordion by Nande Orcel Review

Title: Secret of Omordion
Author: Nande Orcel
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Omordion Trilogy, book one
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review--thanks, Nande!

I'm not going to lie: I really had some issues with this book. The first time I picked it up, I only made it about twenty pages in before trying it again a few months later. And the book itself wasn't bad, once I got through the first half, but there were a lot of issues. The world-building seemed very confusing, it was hard for me to picture the setting of Omordion. But, there were good things about this novel as well: I enjoyed the five main characters and their loyalty to one another.

The story itself wasn't bad; when I read the description, I knew I wanted it. An epic quest for five children to save the world? Sign me up! But there were times when I was scratching my head: a lot of things just didn't seem to make a lot of sense in the storyline. But it wasn't terrible, either. There's some serious potential here, if only some things were fixed.

The bottom line: A good story, but with some world-building issues that made it very difficult to follow. But a great effort nonetheless! Next on deck: Sublime by Christina Lauren!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg Review (Possible Spoiler Alert!)

Title: The Paper Magician
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Paper Magician, book one
Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This book was given to me by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I'll start off this review by saying that it was a Read-Now featured title on Netgalley, and, after skimming a Goodreads review that Khanh posted last week, I decided to go for it. And I'm so very glad I did! The Paper Magician opens with the main character, Ceony Twill, meeting her master, Magician Thane. And the story goes on with a very reluctant Ceony learning the craft of Folding, that is, until her master's heart--literally--is stolen. Forced to go inside her master's heart, she must learn what exactly makes the mysterious Emery Thane tick, because if she doesn't, they might not get out alive..

First off, I want to say that I loved the premise of this novel--it was absolutely magical. The only problem was, the world-building itself was very vague. How, exactly, was the world structured by magicians? How were Excisioners formed? At times it was all I could think about: I need more world-building here!

But I digress. I loved the characters, Thane and Ceony in particular. Thane was so nuanced and complex, and I loved that, but I couldn't exactly follow what was going on during the later part of the novel. How did Ceony get into Thane's heart? How was that even possible, even in a world rife with both kinds of magic, good and bad? Ceony was the shining light of this lovely novel for me--I loved the way that she grew throughout the novel, from an inexperienced young woman to a magician in her own right. But as the novel went on, it was miraculous to see Ceony learn, and grow, in turn from Thane's own mistakes.

The ending was wonderful too, satisfying and sweet but not overly sappy.

The bottom line: Good start to a fun series, but the world-building needs serious work.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Unseen by Katherine Webb Review

Title: The Unseen
Author: Katherine Webb
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review--thanks, Katherine!

'The first time Leah met the man who would change her life, he was lying face down on a steel table, quite oblivious to her..'

This sweeping historical novel opens with that tantalizing first line, and in moments, the reader is sucked in. Moving back and forth between the present year, 2011, and 1911, Leah, struggling after a messy breakup, throws herself into the mystery the dead man presents. And in doing so, begins to cover a mystery forgotten by all but time itself. In 1911, Hester Canning, and her reverend husband, Albert, hire a young servant with a more than checkered past. As if Cat Morley weren't enough to deal with, when her husband takes in a young man with a dangerous obsession, it leads to darker impulses that stain even the purest of hearts..

There were more than several things I loved about this novel: the gorgeous prose, seemingly straight out of an Austen novel and highly recommended for fans of The Thirteenth Tale and Ian McEwan's novels. I also enjoyed the way the novel went smoothly back and forth between past and present, though at times the slow pacing was frustrating--at times it was difficult to hold onto. But the shining triumph of this novel was that it asked the question: What drives a man to his darker impulses, and why? This question is addressed more than once in the book, often in subtle ways that the characters themselves didn't quite understand, even towards the end.

One of the best things about The Unseen are the characters: none of them are necessarily good, but none are quite bad, either, and part of the suspense for me--what kept me hanging on so tightly--was that I couldn't really predict what was going to happen next. Every character, Leah, Mark, Hester, Albert, Robin, Cat, and even Sophie and George had hidden layers that made them nuanced. Despite my disgust, I really sympathized with most of them, save Ryan.

I enjoyed the ending, too--I felt like it fit with the author's writing style, nothing ever explicit, but rather implied.

Unfortunately, at times, the novel got muddled just by the fact that the chapters were so long, but overall, I highly enjoyed it!

The bottom line: 3.5 out of 5 stars, with great Gothic tone and nuanced yet sympathetic characters. A great book nonetheless, and I'll be waiting for more from Katherine Webb! Next on deck: Soulless by Amber Garr!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bleed Like Me by C. Desir Review

Title: Bleed Like Me
Author: C. Desir
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: A frightening, dark, and twisted character study about two broken teens trying to find solace in each other, I highly enjoyed Bleed Like Me--highly recommended for fans of fiction with raw relationships.

This book was given to me by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

The thing that endeared this book was to me was that it depicted an unhealthy relationship. I've discovered that we as humans seem to enjoy watching things fall apart, and this book was an example of that.

Amelia Gannon--just Gannon to the few friends she does have--is for the most part invisible, the lesser priority in her family ever since her parents adopted three young boys from Guatemala. The only way she feels she can handle her family's constant dysfunction is to cut. When she meets Michael Brooks--just Brooks, to her--she knows that there's something off about him, and yet, she can't help but be drawn to his dark, twisted psyche. The two fall in love, and Gannon discovers that this kind of love may not be the one she's looking for..

What I enjoyed:
-I really liked the premise of this novel, dangerous relationships and love gone wrong, because, as I said before, it's fascinating to watch a relationship evolve, and then, fall to pieces
-The pacing of this novel was breakneck--I was thrust into Gannon's skin with force
-Gannon, the troubled young woman so desperate for some kind of love that she finds it in exactly the wrong place--I really felt for her as the novel went on, so twisted up in Brooks's personality that she only found herself at the end of the novel
-Brooks, the boy with so many unresolved issues--I really felt for him too, even though at times he made my stomach twist--he was a really very nuanced character, and I wish the book had been a little longer, so as to learn more about him
 -Ricardo, the boy who seems to be carrying quite the torch for Gannon, and tries to save her from her destructive relationship
-The ending--it was sad and terrible, but it was fitting to the story, and for Gannon's closure

What could've been better:
-I really didn't like Gannon's parents at all, they seemed too focused on their sons and their own dysfunction to deal with their daughter
-The three brothers

Overall, I really enjoyed Bleed Like Me--it was almost like looking into a funhouse mirror. Next on deck: The Unseen by Katherine Webb!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson Review

Title: The Captive Maiden
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Christian Romance
Series: Romance Fairy Tales, book four
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: A romantic retelling of Cinderella with Christian elements and a strong heroine, I really enjoyed The Captive Maiden--in fact, it was my favorite of all the series! Highly enjoyable!

This book was given to me by the publisher, Zondervan, in exchange for an honest review.

Gisela's life has been good, until her father died. Forced to wait on her mean, ugly stepsisters and stepmother, she tries to find solace where she can. When she meets Valten, the duke's son, and learns that he is throwing a ball for all the eligible ladies in the kingdom, she is determined to go. The two fall passionately in love, but they realize that there are forces conspiring against them that even Gisela may not be able to fight against..

What I enjoyed:
-I liked the premise of this whole series: clean, romantic retellings of fairy tales with real meaning
-The pacing of this novel was breakneck, I couldn't put it down
-Gisela, the young woman forced by unpleasant circumstances to serve her evil family members--she is the one that really endeared this book to me, because she wasn't just a damsel in distress--she fought for her own freedom, and I really liked that
-Valten, the macho man that Gisela falls for, searching for something greater than a life fighting as a warrior--I really enjoyed and felt for him, and I was rooting for him--I liked his character development
-Valten's family
-I liked the way the Christian elements were incorporated--skillfully, just enough so that they struck meaning with the reader, but didn't overwhelm the entire story
-Friar Daniel
-The cameos of characters from the previous books
-The ending

What could've been better:
-I hated Evfemia

Overall, I highly enjoyed The Captive Maiden--a wonderful story! Next on deck: Bleed Like Me by C. Desir!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson Review

Title: The Fairest Beauty
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Christian Romance
Series: Romance Fairy Tales, book three
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: The third book in a series of clean romance retellings, The Fairest Beauty was the best so far--I really, really enjoyed this installment!

This book was given to me by the publisher, Zondervan, in exchange for an honest review.

Sophie is no stranger to suffering. But she doesn't let that get her down; she is determined to escape the clutches of her evil stepmother. When a young man named Gabehart comes to rescue her--for his older brother to marry, no less--she leaps at the chance to get away. Thus begins a thrilling adventure. But along the way, the two begin to fall for one another.. And if they don't guard their hearts carefully, everyone they love could be at stake..

What I enjoyed:
-I loved the pacing of this novel--I really couldn't put it down once I started it
-I particularly liked the way the author twisted the fairy tale--it retained some of its darkness, which in my opinion is needed for a retelling, but especially Snow White
-The Duchess--wicked and creepy, just the right amount to make my hair stand up on end, but not too much so
-Sophie, the young woman determined to behave well, but I liked the way that even though she was a Christian, she was still a strong protagonist unto herself--I liked the way that she kept her identity despite her romance
-Gabehart, the foolhardy young man determined to prove his own responsibility to his family, and by rescuing Sophie, turns into a changed man
-The sweet, romantic nature of the relationship in the novel--it, surprisingly, wasn't too sappy
-The Seven--they were easily one of my favorite parts in the novel
-I also enjoyed the way the narrative wasn't altogether clouded by the Christian aspect of it all
-The ending

What could've been better:
-At times the way Sophie was described as beautiful had me constantly rolling my eyes--I know this was supposed to be a Snow White retelling, but sometimes it got to be a little too much

Overall, I really, really enjoyed The Fairest Beauty, and I'm looking forward to the last book! Next on deck: The Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson!

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Merchant's Daughter by Melanie Dickerson Review

Title: The Merchant's Daughter
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Christian Romance
Series: Romance Fairy Tales, book two
Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: The second in a series of clean fairy tale romances, I liked The Merchant's Daughter better than the first book--a lot better, actually. The Christian part of the story didn't take away from anything else.

This book was given to me by the publisher, Zondervan, in exchange for an honest review.

Annabel Chapman wants only one thing--to get through life in her village with her head down. But with lecherous men, a lazy mother and siblings, she is forced to become an indentured servant to Lord Ranulf de Wyse to pay off a debt. But he is grim and moody, and frightening. But as life begins to ease at the manor house, she must choose between her feelings for her lord, and what plans God may have in store for her..

What I enjoyed:
-The pacing--I really couldn't put this book down once I started it
-I liked Annabel a lot--in this, the author really did justice to the original tale, she reminded me a lot of the protagonist in the fairy tale, kind and gentle as can be, but also with visible flaws--I enjoyed that she wasn't too perfect
-de Wyse, the lord whose beastly sensibilities frighten everyone he happens to come near--I really enjoyed the way his issues and flaws shone through, but were improved upon in the end--it made the romance much more relatable
-The way the author addressed serious issues like sexism, in a very subtle way
-Mistress Eustacia
-The ending--it was very sweet and very satisfying all at once

What could've been better:
-I didn't really like any of the villagers Annabel had to deal with
-It was hard for me to picture the setting of the novel--not much of it was described
-Baliff Tom--he was one of the worst characters in the whole novel for me
-Annabel's family, especially her brothers

Overall, I liked The Merchant's Daughter--a fine retelling of my favorite fairy tale. Next on deck: The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson Review

Title: The Healer's Apprentice
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Christian Romance
Series: Romance Fairy Tales, book one
Star Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: I liked this sweet, clean romance, but there were some things about it that kind of threw me off.

This book was given to me by the publisher, Zondervan, in exchange for an honest review.

I first want to start off by saying that I had no idea that this series of retellings were Christian books. That kind of threw me off of the story, as sometimes with Christian fiction the religious aspect overtakes the actual plot of the story. But I digress--I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. It was nice, and sweet, but for me, lacked several things.

Rose has been appointed the healer's apprentice for the royal family, a great opportunity for a mere woodcutter's daughter like her. She's grateful for the work, as it helps her avoid the frightening possibility of marriage to a local brute. When Lord Hamlin, the duke to be, is wounded, Rose tends to him. While she does so, she falls for him, and he for her. But she realizes that God may have other plans for her..

What I enjoyed:
-I liked the way that the prose was in keeping with the time period
-I also enjoyed the way the romance was clean, and tender--it fit with the characters
-Rose, the young woman who tries her best to stay true to God, and her heart--I liked the way she really made an effort to help other people
-Lord Rupert
-Lord Hamlin, the man who falls head over heels for Rose, despite his royal responsibilities and his own sense of duty
-The secret at the end of the novel
-Hildy and Gunther
-Frau Geruscha
-The ending

What could've been better:
-Rose, at times, seemed a bit too perfect, too good to be true, and I found it a little hard to relate to her
-It really bothered me, the way that paganism and demons were portrayed in the novel--it almost seemed as though pagans in and of themselves were bad, and it makes me wonder if it's going to be a continuing trend
-I didn't like Rose's family or Lord Hamlin's--they seemed unnecessarily cruel and rude to all the characters in the novel, and it bothered me

Overall, The Healer's Apprentice was a good read, but in the end, it wasn't spectacular, nor terrible--just somewhere in between. Next on deck: The Merchant's Daughter by Melanie Dickerson!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Dehumanize Us by Emmanuelle Grey Review

Title: Dehumanize Us
Author: Emmanuelle Grey
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Series: Fabricated World, book one
Star Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: I had high hopes for this dystopian thriller, but though the world-building was great, the main character fell flat, so I couldn't finish it.

This book was given to me by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

It's no secret that I love the dystopian genre in every way, and in the past few years, I've gobbled them up, so when I saw this on Netgalley and was approved, I was absolutely ecstatic. Only thing was.. The only thing that I really enjoyed about this book was the unique, well-thought out world-building. The characters throughout the book seemed almost like stock characters, flat and one-dimensional, and it really turned me off the book.

 Circe and Leopold, twins, have only each other to rely on. In their world, a mysterious force called The Others have ravaged the earth, and its people. Now, survival is one day at a time for them. Circe is not the strong one, but when Leopold is kidnapped by the Others, she will stop at nothing to save him, even if it means compromising her already meager morals, even if it means using the cyborg she saved for her own ends..

DNF at 72 pages.

What I enjoyed:
-The world-building was unique and well-thought out, I liked that aspect of the novel

What could've been better:
-The characters seemed flat, almost like stock characters--I couldn't really relate to Circe, and it turned me off of the rest of the book
-The pacing seemed to stutter throughout the book, and I couldn't really follow what was going on

I had high hopes for this book, but ended up disappointed. Next on deck: The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Triple Knot by Emma Campion Review

Title: A Triple Knot
Author: Emma Campion
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: A historical novel both strangely epic in scope, but minute in gorgeous detail, I loved A Triple Knot--it was just what I needed in a midst of a bad book slump!

What I as a reader love about historical fiction novels may turn other readers off: I love the way this genre gives a window into the past, often by embellishing and imagining obscure historical figures, and sometimes, in so doing, gets so caught up in the political aspects of the novel that the characters get left behind. I'd never heard of Joan of Kent before this novel, so I was very intrigued. This novel really shone for me, overall: I loved the way the political intrigue of this novel took a backseat to the most important thing: the characters.

I won this book in a First Reads giveaway--the publisher sent it to me in exchange for an honest review.

Joan of Kent, the niece of Edward III, renowned beauty, has everything: that is, until her father is executed for treason. She realizes that with the position that comes with royal blood, there is a price: She is a pawn in the brutal royal family's schemes. But Joan of Kent isn't a woman who meekly puts her head down and follows orders. She enters into a marriage of love, and, after hiding it after nearly a decade, seeks freedom. But when that man dies, she is forced to think of her own survival, even if it means entering a relationship, and possibly even marrying, the future king.. And so Joan is caught up again in the price of her royal blood..

What I enjoyed:
-The prose of this book was beautiful and unique, in that it still did justice to the language of the time, but I still understood it
-I also really liked the way that while political intrigue was mounting, it didn't overshadow what was happening to the characters--it was part of what really sold this novel for me
-The meticulous research taken into what little facts there were about Joan's life, and the way the embellishments and imaginings at least gave somewhat of a picture of her, even in fiction
-The pacing of this novel was absolutely breakneck--I couldn't put it down, once I started
 -Joan, the young woman determined to take her fate into her own hands--I really, really enjoyed her character development from headstrong child to brave, beautiful young woman--I really sympathized with her as the novel went on, from the age of twelve
-Thomas Holland
-The royal family, but especially the prince Ned--what was so compelling about him was that I couldn't tell if he was friend or foe to Joan and her family--even after the book ended!
 -The ending
-Efa, Blanche, Margaret, John, and Joan's children

What could've been better:
-If I'm being honest, there is really nothing I didn't love about this finely wrought, deeply researched novel! A triumph in historical fiction! Next on deck: Dehumanize Us by Emmanuelle Grey!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Werewolf Asylum by Roxanne Smolen Review

Title: Werewolf Asylum
Author: Roxanne Smolen
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Amazing Wolf Boy, book two; can be also read as a standalone
Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: A story about a young werewolf becoming of age, I liked some aspects of this story, but others just didn't fit with me.

This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review--thanks, Roxanne!

It was Halloween yesterday--did you all enjoy it? I wasn't sure which book to pick up next, so I just chose this one. It's no secret that I love all varieties of the classic supernatural werewolf story, and this book didn't disappoint me. What was so unique about this was the author's ability to balance between the contemporary and the supernatural--as a result, it blended really well.

Cody Forester is a werewolf. He lives in Florida with his Uncle Bob (also a werewolf, by the way.). He's trying hard to maintain his werewolf abilities with his normal life--and to be honest, it isn't going very well. As if this poor kid didn't have enough issues at the moment, his parents want to send him away, again--this time, to a posh medical institute in Europe. But all Cody wants is to get a handle on his powers, and stay with his girlfriend, Brittany. When a mad scientist stops at nothing to get her hands on Cody--and use him for more sinister ends--he finds that even the greatest resistance may not be enough..

What I enjoyed:
-I liked the pacing of this novel--I couldn't put it down when I picked it up!
-Cody, the young werewolf trying to deal with his overwhelming powers--I really enjoyed his character development, as he grew from a scared young man into a hero--I also liked that he was more sensitive than most guys his age
-The lush, hot, sticky setting of Loxahatchee, Florida
-Cody's uncle Bob, he was one of my favorite characters throughout most of the novel, and I really liked his relationship with Cody
-William, the young man who gets inadvertently mixed up in Cody's shenanigans--I liked how even though he wasn't the main character, a lot of the book centered on him too--and I liked his relationship with our young werewolf
-The notorious Doctor Scaarsgard, and her goon--I liked the way she so quickly became a villain, and held her own, even as I grew to dislike her
-Howard, William's father and Bob's best friend--I liked the way he was always off in his own little world, often with a few words of wisdom that no one really understood
-The ending

What could've been better:
-Brittany seemed very wishy-washy, especially about Cody, throughout the entire book, and it put me off of the book
-Cody's parents
-At times the editing needed work--nothing really major, just minor spelling errors here and there
-Cody, when thinking about Brittany, almost seemed obsessed with her, to the point where it wasn't young love, and their relationship was almost a little codependent

Despite some minor flaws, overall, this book was a nice adventure! I really enjoyed it!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Ripper's Wife by Brandy Purdy Review

Title: The Ripper's Wife
Author: Brandy Purdy
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: A vividly gory re-imagining of the chronicles of Jack the Ripper, I enjoyed some parts of this novel, but others just fell flat for me.

This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Jack the Ripper has become a household name in crime--especially of the gory type. And since Halloween is drawing ever closer, I decided to give this book a shot. A fictional account of the exploits of the famous murderer, this book is inspired by the controversial document known as The Ripper Diary. And I mean, come on--what's a better way to celebrate Halloween than a gory horror book?! What's so interesting to me about true crime is that it confirms that tiny little fact we all have to live with: Some monsters are indeed real, and we never know just where they might lurk, because they could wear the most harmless faces..

Florence "Florie" Chandler, a young woman of eighteen in 1880, feels that she has the fairy tale romance she has always dreamed of when she meets the charming and handsome James Maybrick, and marries him. But when the couple settles down in a suburb in Liverpool, Florie realizes that not all is well with her marriage, and that her husband isn't at all who he says he is. Secrets keep piling up, secrets even she cannot contain: He has a mistress, various drug addictions, and an awful temper. But she realizes that even through all that, it is worse than she thinks.. Because her husband just may in fact be the most notorious killer in Britain..

What I enjoyed:
-I loved the premise of this novel, steeped in fact and partially in fiction--Jack The Ripper's wife!
-The pacing of this novel was breakneck--I couldn't put it down even when I wanted to, truthfully
-I also really liked the increasingly creepy feel of the novel as it went on--it was quite gory and more often than not I had to put the book down for a break
 -James Maybrick, also known as Jack the Ripper, charming and genteel one moment and then a demon from hell--almost literally--the next--he really sold the book for me, especially the creepy factor of it
-The ending--I liked the way it wrapped everything up neatly, concisely, and still did justice to every character involved

What could've been better:
-I really couldn't sympathize with or relate to Florie, and it made the book difficult to read--she just seemed so naive and so foolish, even after time and time again of countless mistakes--I just really feel that there was very little character development with her until the very end, and it was unsatisfying
-I didn't like the way Jim's and Florie's relationship was portrayed--I really thought that it was unhealthy and downright creepy, the way Florie took on Jim's "sins" as hers, and she didn't hold him accountable for his actions. Maybe the whole point of this was to show just how twisted love can make a man, but it really rubbed me the wrong way
-I didn't like almost any of the characters, save Jim and Florie, especially Edwin, Michael, and Florie's awful mother
-It seemed as though Jim and Florie almost had a darkly codependent relationship, and it was frightening to watch--it was like watching a trainwreck

I had high hopes for The Ripper's Wife, and while it delivered on the gore, everything else just fell flat. Next on deck: What the Lady Wants by Renee Rosen!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst Review

Title: Chasing Power
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: An enchanting thriller with a wonderful premise, great characters and pacing, and a big heart, I really, really enjoyed Chasing Power--I loved it entirely!

I love Sarah Beth Durst--my first novel by her was Vessel--and this book didn't disappoint me. Durst just has a way of winning my heart with her creative premises, descriptive writing, fast pacing, and relatable characters. This book, if nothing else, has made me a lifelong fan of her.

 This book was given to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Kayla is used to hiding. It defines her whole life. Kind of makes sense, considering she's telekinetic. No, really--she can move things with her mind. Crazy, right? She intends to spend her summer shoplifting, building a safety net for her and her mother, Moonbeam, in case they need to run away from her psychotic father again. But things change when she meets Daniel, who catches her using her power. He needs her help, and he isn't afraid to blackmail her to get it. He can teleport, and the two embark on a wild, thrilling, often life threatening journey. But when Kayla and Daniel fall deeper into the chaos, they both discover things about them that they might not necessarily be able to live with.. Literally.

What I enjoyed:
-I loved the pacing of this novel--I couldn't put it down once I started, and the constant twists and turns had me breathless multiple times
-The premise--two gifted teenagers in a race against time to find their parents, and the secrets of their own pasts along the way
-The lush, beautiful writing, descriptive and full of detail--every time the pair traveled somewhere, I could've sworn I was standing next to them
-Kayla, the young woman who at first is almost apathetic, and she transforms into a heroine worth cheering--I really enjoyed the depth to her, and how complex she was, and her power was amazing!
-Daniel, the boy with his back against the wall, forced to use whatever means necessary to get Kayla to help him rescue his mother--I really enjoyed him as well, the boy who puts on a front but is so fragile inside--I also loved his power, teleportation
-Moonbeam, the frightened woman who, in trying to help Kayla, almost ends up suppressing a part of herself--I also really enjoyed her character development as well
-Selena, Kayla's best friend and most of the comic relief throughout the book
-What really sold this book for me was Kayla's family, and the secrets surrounding them
-The ending

What could've been better:
-I hated Kayla's father
-Evelyn--she was actually one of the worst characters in the whole book, and I didn't like her in the slightest
-When things picked up, the multiple locations got a little confusing

Overall, I loved Chasing Power--a wonderful read, highly recommended for fantasy and Durst fans. Next on deck: My Halloween exclusive, The Ripper's Wife by Brandy Purdy!

Monday, October 27, 2014

My Favorite Halloween Reads.

 It's no secret that fall is my favorite season. I mean, come on! Rain, crisp air, the leaves turning, apple cider, apples in general, hot chocolate. But that is only the beginning. My absolute favorite thing about fall is Halloween. It's been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember. And I figured, since Halloween is only four days away, I'd treat you guys to a list of my favorite spooky books! Here they are, in no particular order:

-Anna Dressed by Blood by Kendare Blake-This book is a must-read for die-hard horror fans. Gore, secrets, and spooky scenes abound! One of the things I love so much about Blake is her timing--she knows just the right way to ratchet up the horror, and then she delivers--often with something even scarier! This book is the first in a series, and its sequel is Girl of Nightmares.

-Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld-This book is more recent. I've been a huge fan of Westerfeld ever since I read his Uglies series, but this one is so much different--two stories in one! The first is the tale of Darcy Patel, a young woman who becomes an author in New York. What the treat is in this book is Darcy's book, Afterworlds, told in alternating chapters. Creepy, dark, thoughtful and thrilling, this book is a must-have for fans of Westerfeld. One of the best reads of the fall for me.

The Girl in the Well by Rin Chupeco-I received this book from Netgalley, and I really enjoyed it! Chupeco deftly mixes elements of gory horror with Japanese mythology. I also enjoyed the gore factor--it was so over the top and cinematic, paying homage to horror movies like The Ring. Very, very well done! Highly recommended!

Beautiful Creatures by Magaret Stohl and Kami Garcia-I really liked this series, though it hasn't gotten exactly rave reviews. I liked the way the authors took a classic supernatural--witches--and gave it their own unique spin. I also enjoyed its dark tone, Gothic feel, and the couple--Lena and Ethan. My reviews of this series can be found on this blog.

Unbreakable by Kami Garcia--The author of Beautiful Creatures debuted on her own. If you're a fan of creepy prose, a mystery, and dark--and I do mean dark, you hardly ever get a break!--horror stories, you will love Unbreakable, I certainly did! Wonderful, highly recommended.

The Mortal Instruments/The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare--It's no secret that I love this series, the former of which just ended this August. I love the feel of this series, as well as the main character, Clary. This series--both of them--are beautiful, and highly recommended. One of my favorites, be it Halloween or any other time of year!

Coldhearted by Melanie Matthews--Though this book is a little long (be brave, my readers--it's completely worth it!) I really enjoyed it. Edie moves to another town after her parents die. But when a ghost named Tristan Lockhart fixates on her, she discovers that her new start might come to an end sooner than she thinks.. Recommended to those who enjoy old-school horror.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte--Though this traditionally isn't a horror novel per se, I can't help but gravitate toward it as fall comes to Ohio, turning the leaves. Aside from the tragic slash way creepy relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff, I love the author's use of Gothic tone, and horror: ghosts, dark moors, dark, creepy houses. One of my favorite classics of all time.

Nevermore by Kelly Creagh--Are you a fan of Edgar Allan Poe? Who isn't?! When I saw this book, I just knew I had to have it. The first book in a trilogy, Nevermore tells the story of Isobel, who becomes Varen's partner for a literature project. As expected, the two don't exactly get along, and Varen is obsessed with Poe, with dreams. As Isobel discovers just how deep his confession runs, she is wrapped in a web of darkness and anger, one that just may be too big to get out of.. Another great Halloween book!

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin--You guys, I love this book. I love the way the story is told, and the way the horror is perfectly pitched against the romantic aspects of the book. This story is dark, twisted, and creepy, and just perfect for Halloween! Mara Dyer killed her best friend. And that's only the beginning.. (Bonus: The last book in the series comes out in November!)

Break My Heart 1000 Times by Daniel Waters: Do you like ghost stories? Maybe with a twisted villain? Well, this book is for you! I treasure this book not just because the author sent to me, but also because it is a remarkably dark, grisly tale. This ghost story is dark, creepy, and full of chills. Veronica is one of the generation who survived The Event: the dead are seen in ghost form. But the ghosts are gaining power. When Veronica and one of her classmates, Kirk, stumble upon something chilling: One of their teachers wants his dead daughter to return as a ghost. And he wants Veronica to host her, literally! I loved it so much. (His series Generation Dead is highly recommended as well, check it out!)

The Nightshade Prequel Series by Andrea Cremer, Rift and Rise--This book series is special to me because not only is it high fantasy, it is the prequel series to Nightshade. (Which I loved until Bloodrose, but that's another review, folks. Lol.) Ember Morrow wants more than to be a highborn lady--she wants to be a warrior. When she is granted her wish, she discovers her own strength. Meanwhile, a woman named Eira wants to claim her dues.. Even if it doesn't exactly make her a good girl anymore..

Perennial by Ryan Potter--I loved this story, in and of itself--I loved the way the contemporary, often gritty and frightening setting of Detroit, Michigan--nicely contrasted with the spooky feel of this novel. Alix Keener has a boy haunting her dreams--literally. But when Lewis Wilde, sexy, mysterious, and secretive, draws her into a world of demons, ghosts, lies, and dangerous drugs, she must find the secret of her psychic powers, before it's too late..

And last, but most certainly not least: Bliss, by Lauren Myracle. My husband bought this book for me in high school--I still have it on my bookshelf, and whenever I need a creepy book, this is my go-to. Bliss is a hippie's daughter, and is dropped off in the South to live with her grandmother. She goes to a boarding school and meets Sandy--a girl who has no friends. When Bliss takes her under her wing, she realizes that Sandy wants more than friends, and she wants to use Bliss to do it.. This book is easily one of the creepiest young adult novels I've ever read--I didn't sleep for a week! I really enjoyed it, and if you choose to pick it up, I know you guys will too!

What are your favorite Halloween reads? You can feel free to comment below!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Elemental Reality by Cesya MaRae Cuono Review

Title: Elemental Reality
Author: Cesya Marae Cuono
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Elemental, book one
Star Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: Though this novel about faeries intrigued me at first, I just couldn't finish it--the potential for this debut novel just got lost for me in a jumble of hormones, instalove, and dull characters. I really tried, but this book just wasn't for me.

This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review--thanks, Cesya!

DNF at 154 pages.

Callie Pierce's mother has been missing for over a decade. On the very eve of her disappearance, she begins to notice strange differences: the elements seem to almost speak to her. When she realizes that that is only the beginning of her problems, she recognizes her life for what it is: a lie. But now the truth is out, and Callie and her sister are the most powerful elemental faeries to ever exist. Forced to face a world that has been normal until now, she and Lola must find the strength to save their family.

What I enjoyed:
-I loved the premise of this novel--two young women awakening their magic powers and saving their family!
-This novel had a lot of potential, and it really intrigued me at first
-I liked the world-building
-Emery and Ady
-Callie's parents

What could've been better:
-The writing--mainly from Callie's point of view--was dull and boring, and she sounded like a boy-crazy, hormonal teen than an actual protagonist close to my own age--I didn't relate to her much and it made the book hard to read
-Despite the worldbuilding, which I really liked, it was really hard to follow
-Oli and Callie's relationship seemed instant to me, without much real depth, and it seemed like a love triangle was forming between him, Callie, and Cayden--it really put me off the story
-None of the faeries even seemed relatable, and the connection between them and the way the world worked was really confusing

I really, really tried, but this book just wasn't for me. Next on deck: Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Fire Artist by Daisy Whitney Review

Title: The Fire Artist
Author: Daisy Whitney
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: A tale of elemental magic, romance that melted my heart, a badass main character I loved, and a dangerous world--I loved The Fire Artist and couldn't put it down!

This book was given to me by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have never read any of Daisy Whitney's work, but this book--this book!--just had everything for me. I really, really enjoyed the world-building, and the pacing. But most of all, I loved Aria, the fierce, fiery young woman who risks it al to try and rise above her own circumstances--highly recommended!

Aria is used to hiding, to faking it--she has to, after all. In a world where the world is no longer at war, but where elemental magic runs rampant in a society that longs for entertainment, she has to stoke her sputtering fire powers with lightning--literally. When she is offered a chase at performing--and at escape--she jumps at it. But when she has no other choice but to turn to a Granter--a modern word for genie--she makes a wish that has a price too steep to pay. Aria discovers that just plain old luck won't be able to help her now, and if she wants to be free, she has to fight harder than ever..

What I enjoyed:
-I loved the pacing of this novel--it was absolutely breakneck and I was quite reluctant to put it down
-The premise of this novel--a young elemental trying to break free of her confines and harness her powers--I really enjoyed it!
-The world-building--I liked the concept of the world being saved by magic--even if it wasn't intended in the best way
-Aria, the main character, was the real selling point for me in this novel--I really liked the way that she related to me as a reader, and as a young woman, but my favorite part of her was her character development--she really turned into a hero that I respected and really cared for
-Taj, the young man who wants to help Aria out in a tight pinch--but who also just might be hiding his own reasons for their partnership
-Aria's mother
-I loved the ending--I really, really enjoyed this novel! Daisy Whitney has definitely made a fan of me!

What could've been better:
-I hated Aria's father

Overall, The Fire Artist was a book that I really enjoyed escaping into! Highly recommended for fans of fantasy fiction! Next on deck: Elemental Reality by Cesya Marae Cuono!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Unnatural Creatures: Stories Selected by Neil Gaiman Review

Title: Unnatural Creatures: Stories
Editor: Neil Gaiman
Age Group: All Ages
Genre: Anthology/Short Stories
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: This darkly glittering selection of beautiful, creepy stories, selected by one of the most treasured authors in America, completely captivated me.

I bought this book and chose to review it.

Neil Gaiman--this is a household name, in fiction. Though I have never read his any of his major work (yet), I will always be a fan. So when I was at Books A Million! last weekend and it caught my eye, I decided to go with my gut and buy it. And I am so glad that I did! Creepy, dark, and unnerving tales pepper this anthology, peppered with stars of the last generations of writing. Though, as with every anthology, not all of them were necessarily my cup of tea, the majority of them captured my imagination, and in some cases, made my skin crawl..

Because this is a short story collection--I will, though I have given the anthology an overall rating, give each of the stories their own separate rating. That's the beauty of short story collections--more often than not, a reader can find something in them for everyone, and for every taste.

The title of this story--literally--is a sketch, by Gahan Wilson: Wilson is a cartoonist, and uses his unique talent for drawing to tell a creepy, spooky story about a blot that seems to be appearing throughout Reginald Archer's grand house.. A blot that seems to be a monster, capable of disposing of one of the people in his life. 4.5 out of 5 stars. Creepy, unique, and well-told. Highly enjoyable!

The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu: A curiously compelling dystopian tale, I really enjoyed the writing style of this story, as well as its unique angle: Wasps and bees, fighting subtly for control over their hives! 5 out of 5 stars. An extraordinarily unique tale, told in a classic style. This one vies for the spot of my favorite in the collection.

The Griffin and the Minor Canon by Frank R. Stockton: A classic from one of the great vets of fantasy storytelling, I liked the writing style of this story--as well as the use of the theme friendship between the quiet, intelligent Minor Canon and the rough, gruff manner of the Griffin. 4 out of 5 stars--brilliantly told, but at times it dragged.

Ozioma The Wicked by Nnedi Okorator: A strange tale taking place in the magical, dangerous setting of Nigeria, this story also is another favorite: Ozioma is a girl shunned in her small village because she can talk to snakes. But when something strange demands a tree, she is the only one to help her fellow villagers--and she may just receive something beautiful along the way. 4 out of 5 stars. I liked the mythological angle of this story, but at times it got a little confusing.

Sunbird by Neil Gaiman: A darkly amusing tale about a club of unusual eaters--literally--this story just rang of Gaiman's signature charm and humor. When the group decides to taste the elusive Sunbird, they find that they just might be in for a lot more than they bargained for.. 5 out of 5 stars. Hilarious, dark, and charming--even a little chilling at the end! Even sweeter is that Gaiman wrote the story for his daughter!

The Sage of Theare by Diana Wynne Jones: I have always been a huge fan of Wynne Jones--I was very upset at the great fantasy writer's passing a few years ago. With the Sage of Theare, she tells a story of gods, riddles, and a sage capable of tipping the balance of the very world. Exquisitely told, rife with humor, wit, and wisdom. Highly enjoyable, though at times the gods' names were confusing.

Gabriel-Ernest by Saki: Though I'd never before heard of this author, I really enjoyed the dark, creepy tone of this short story about a mysterious, wild little boy a family takes in--and in doing so, unleashes something dark! I loved the tone, the writing style, and the ending--I also enjoyed the tentative promise in how short the story was. 5 out of 5 stars

The Cockatoucan, Or, Great-Aunt Willoughby by E. Nesbit: Nesbit has had great influence on children's literature. This story was an absolutely delightful treat about a little girl named Matilda who finds her way to another world, and where a bird's laugh has the ability to turn things upside down! I really, really enjoyed this light, humorous tale with a hint of a darkness. (Also, a bird is a villain! That's awesome!) 5 out of 5 stars.

Moveable Beast by Maria Dahvana Headley: A darkly delicious tale of werewolves, a town that isn't so politely named, and a young woman who just wants to get out. The odd, unique tone helped sell this story's creepy factor, and I loved the ending--it reminded me of a Brothers Grimm tale, almost. 4 out of 5 stars. Great dark setting and tone, but one character kept throwing me off.

The Flight of the Horse by Larry Niven: Another veteran of science fiction, Larry Niven's tale of horses and time travel was intriguing at first, but overall, it was too confusing for me to follow, despite the novel concept. Good base, but bad execution. 2 out of 5 stars

Prismatica by Samuel R. Delany: An entertaining, rollicking adventure of a tale! I really liked this story. A young man volunteers to help another, and in turn, ends up saving a magical kingdom! This story was highly enjoyable, a romp and a riot to read! 5 out of 5 stars

The Manticore, The Mermaid, and Me by Megan Kurashige: A strange little tale about two kids stealing from a museum--and meeting a mermaid. The tone was a little weird, but I liked the idea of it. 2 out of 5 stars.

The Compleat Werewolf by Anthony Boucher: A hilarious tale about a shy, awkward German professor--who happens to be a werewolf, practices white magic, and his girlfriend just might be a spy! A darkly humorous story that definitely didn't take itself too seriously. Wonderful voice, great premise, and I loved the tone and main character. 5 out of 5 stars

The Smile on the Face by Nalo Hopkinson: This story was one of the scariest and creepiest in the collection. A young woman named Gilla swallows a cherry from an ancient tree--and ends up with some deadly abilities! I loved the way gender and sex played into the story, and the role of Gilla. Definitely a girl power story, dark and powerful. Wonderful! 5 out of 5 stars

Or All The Seas With Oysters by Avram Davidson: Two bike salesman part on less than great terms, and something strange is happening in their shop.. Told backwards, I liked the unique format. I also liked the creepy tone, but I didn't really like any of the characters in the story. 3 out of 5 stars

Come Lady Death by Peter S. Beagle: Peter is a household name nowadays--his novel The Last Unicorn is a children's classic. In this lovely, finely wrought tale, the Lady Neville has grown bored of the parties she has thrown throughout the years. Struck by an idea, she decides to invite Death to her last party--and ends up with a proposal she can't refuse.. I loved everything about this particular story: the prose, the characters of Lady Neville and Death--it was just beautifully written, and I loved the ending. One of the best tales of the volume.

Overall, this anthology is worth buying--I enjoyed every tale present in the volume in some way. A wonderful collection! Next on deck: The Fire Artist by Daisy Whitney!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

First Impressions by Charlie Lovett Review

Title: First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen
Author: Charlie Lovett
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: An enchanting, lovely novel, I really liked this tale of Jane Austen, love, and books--it is just as worthy its predecessor, The Bookman's Tale!

This book was given to me by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Charlie Lovett just has a way with words, and not just with words, but with readers. What is so magical about his writing, to me, is that he understands the reader in all of us--that thrill of a good story, the magic of reading--can inspire and touch us all, and in this novel, he does not disappoint.

Sophie Collingswood is a young woman fresh out of school, and a great British literature fan--especially Jane Austen. But her life changes forever when she takes a job at an antique bookshop, and finds herself approached by two men who want the same obscure book: the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield. Drawn into a mystery that may put the very reputation of Jane Austen in jeopardy--and may get Sophie killed. Moving back and forth between Austen's and the present day, she discovers that the answer may lie in places she couldn't even imagine.

What I enjoyed:
-The premise of this novel--a fictional account into a treasured author's life, and a young woman finding her way
-I loved the research taken into this novel, peppering facts into a great novel
-The pacing of this novel--it was completely breakneck from the first
-Sophie herself, the spunky, tenacious book-loving woman--I really enjoyed the way that the story went with her, finding comfort in her favorites novels while at a crossroads to her life
-The dual narrative between Jane's day and the present day--it was nicely paced, smooth, and it gave the story so much depth and scope
-Jane, the bold and passionate young writer, fumbling to find a foothold and do something she loves in a man's world
-Mansfield, the foil to sweet, vibrant Jane, seasoned with wisdom and still flawed--I really loved him and his deep relationship with Jane
-Sophie's parents, a fitting frame to the shy but somehow still vibrant and relatable Sophie
 -Eric Hall
-The ending--it was perfect, and it really did justice to everyone in the story, and it was very satisfying

What could've been better:
-Once the mystery picked up, I actually predicted most of what would happen, unfortunately

Overall, First Impressions was a truly magical book, with few flaws, that I thoroughly enjoyed!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Winterspell by Claire Legrand Review

Title: Winterspell
Author: Claire Legrand
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: Though Winterspell had some great potential, this book was just really bad--it wasn't for me.

This book was given to me by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

When I received the email that I'd been approved for Winterspell, I was completely overjoyed--I could've cried, I was so happy. (I know, I know. I need to get a life! Lol.) It seemed like it had everything I wanted in a young adult novel: a dark retelling of the Nutcracker, action, romance, steampunk, evil faeries.. Sounds enchanting, doesn't it? Yeah, I thought so too. But unfortunately, it didn't live up to the hype for me.

Clara Stole is a young woman who is quite tired of being pushed around. Forced to do everything she shouldn't, she is, understandably, frustrated. But on a dark, cold winter's night, she discovers that her beloved Godfather has been hiding secrets--secrets about her, her world, and the dark, mysteriously magical world of Cane. Thrust into a web of temptation, lies, political intrigue, and magic, she finds that she must confront her heritage, and find the strength to save our world, and another.. Because if she doesn't, true evil just may find its way to our doorstep..

What I enjoyed:
-I loved the gorgeous prose--that was why I was partially so excited for the book in the first place
-The premise of this novel was so cool--a dark, novel, adventurous take on the Nutcracker
-The frightening, darkly magical world of Cane

What could've been better:
-Despite it all, Winterspell just didn't work for me
-Clara was so wishy-washy throughout the entire novel it took a lot of time for me to even care about what was happening to her
-Nicholas, the prodigal prince that was so blinded by hatred and prejudice that it took him a while to even think about something other than himself--I didn't like him for most of the novel
-I know this was a retelling of the Nutcracker, but it seemed a tad ridiculous, the fact that Nicholas was stuck inside a statue
-This book had a lot of potential, but the two main characters really bogged it down for me

I really, really wanted to love Winterspell, but it just wasn't to be. Next on deck: First Impressions by Charlie Lovett!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai Review

Title: The Hundred-Year House
Author: Rebecca Makkai
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: A very strange, odd little book about a hundred-year old house, I liked the idea of this novel, but the execution threw me off a little bit.

This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Here's the thing: I gobble up contemporary novels with as much joy as high fantasy ones. Contemporary novels, to me, are essentially windows into the human soul in the way other genres aren't: They show us that even people without imaginary superpowers have problems. To me, the magic of this genre isn't just that a narrative can be created; it is that they show us that everything, even little things, can be special.

The narrative of The Hundred-Year House moves backward, offering us a glimpse of three generations of an old family. First, there is Zee, and Doug, a married couple trying to get back on their feet; then there is the tale of Zee's parents, Grace and George, and finally, the house is populated by a group of eccentric artists. Taking the reader back in time, we are shown what exactly happened to the family all the way back to 1900.

What I enjoyed:
-The premise of this novel was intriguing, because even though there were many characters showcased, the house itself was the darling of the story
-The gorgeous prose
-I liked the pacing of this novel--once I picked it up, I couldn't think of putting it down
-Zee, the hilarious young woman trying to make her own identity known to others--sometimes in a very brash manner
-Shy Doug, who at times seemed more than a little bit ill-suited for Zee
-Grace, possibly one of the best characters in the whole story, in that she had a lot of depth
-Chase and Miriam
-My favorite part was the chunk of the book taking place in the 20s
-Zilla, Eddie, Josephine, Fannie, Marceline, Armand--there wasn't a character introduced in that part of the story that I didn't genuinely enjoy
-The ending--it was satisfying, especially for a book about a family saga

What could've been better:
-I didn't like George in the slightest
-The format of the novel took a little getting used to
-At times the pacing stuttered a little
-At times the novel was told in different tenses, which made it hard for me to follow

Overall, The Hundred-Year House was an enjoyable read. Next on deck: Winterspell by Claire Legrand!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld Review

Title: Afterworlds
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Series: Afterworlds, book one
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: Wow, wow, wow! A thrilling, creepy story with many tales in one, Afterworlds completely captured my imagination--aside from a few minor flaws, I loved this book! Highly recommended!

This book was given to me by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

It's no secret that Scott Westerfeld is a household name, especially in the young adult genre, especially his smash hit series, Uglies. But this was a completely different novel: A novel with many stories in it, all intertwining, and all different genres. I don't know what it is about him, but Scott Westerfeld just has a special brand of magic all his own. One thing's for sure, if I wasn't a fan before, I definitely am now!

Darcy Patel has put everything on hold: college, a career, and a life in general, all to publish her young adult novel, Afterworlds. A new implant to vibrant, colorful New York, she discovers herself--literally--when a group of other young writers take her in. Told in alternating chapters is Darcy's own saga, as well as her novel, where a young woman named Lizzie finds that she can drift between our world and the ether, and realizes that the past cannot be toyed with, and even her own powers may not be enough to save her own future..

What I enjoyed:
-I loved the pacing of this novel--once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down, it was completely breakneck
-I also really enjoyed the cool new format of the novel--it was so fun to have so many different stories all in one, it was pure magic
-Darcy, the young woman just trying to write her novel and be secure in big, bad New York City--I really enjoyed her character development from a kid fresh out of high school to a mature young woman
-Darcy's novel--it was completely magical, the dark tale that "she" wove--I really, really enjoyed it
-At times it felt as though Westerfeld took all of my personal feelings on writing and put it on the page for all to see
-The cast of characters that surrounded Darcy, particularly Carla, Sagan, Kiralee, and Imogen
-Darcy's family
-Lizzie, the young woman who seems to attract Death--literally
-Lizzie's mom
-I loved the ending to both Darcy's and Lizzie's story--it was wonderful!

What could've been better:
-At times the narrative got a little confusing

Overall, Afterworlds was a wonderful book that I really, really enjoyed! Highly recommended to people looking for a different young adult novel. Next on deck: The Hundred Year House by Rebecca Makkai!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier Review

Title: Dreamer's Pool
Author: Juliet Marillier
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Blackthorn and Grim, book one
Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
The bottom line: An enchanting new high fantasy novel from the bestselling author of Shadowfell, Dreamer's Pool was a fun, engaging mystery, but the format and some other things threw me off.

This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I love Juliet Marillier's work--magic, action, and mystery, abound--and have been a fan since reading  the smash hit Shadowfell series. She just has a way of utterly enchanting readers, weaving magical worlds full of perilous adventures, magic, and darkness--and this book proves to be no exception!

Blackthorn and Grim are two convicts, locked up in a prison in medieval, magical Ireland. Blackthorn, stewing in anger and bitterness over a momentous, dark event in her past--is the first person to tell you that she isn't one for people. Even for her cellmate, the bulky, burly, silent Grim. But when she is offered a deal--an opportunity for the vengeance she so craves--she jumps at it. Released from prison--of course on several conditions--she finds herself becoming a wise woman near Dreamer's Pool. Though both of our heroes prefer a life of quiet, they are drawn into a web of lies and dark magic, and something that could threaten the very kingdom in which they live..

What I enjoyed:
-I loved the premise of this novel--two sleuths in medieval, magical Ireland out to solve a mystery--I enjoyed the way the author combined high fantasy and mystery so skillfully
-The pacing of this novel--I couldn't put it down once things really began to roll, especially with the mystery aspect
-Blackthorn, the young healer who is all but broken--who seems to live on anger and bitterness--I really enjoyed her character development, and I also liked that she wasn't the most likable antihero
-Grim, the silent, hulking bear of a man who accompanies Blackthorn on her journey, for reasons unknown--I liked the way his silence balanced out Blackthorn's rage, and they really made a good team
-Oran, the naive young man who has his head in the clouds--I really liked him, and his character development especially, from a boy to a man, and a leader, and hopefully, eventually, a king
-Flidias, and the mystery surrounding her and her strange behavior--I really liked her part in the story all together
-Donagan, Oran's best friend and favorite servant
-The ending--I can't wait for the sequel to this exciting new series!

What could've been better:
-The format of the novel was very confusing--it was told from Blackthorn, Grim, and Oran's point of view, and they were also told in different tenses, which made it hard to follow
-I wish there had been more divulged about Grim's history
-The world-building seemed a little bit vague to me and wasn't explained all that well

Overall, I really enjoyed Dreamer's Pool--a fun read, and a must-read for fans of this author! Next on deck: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Catch Me When I Fall by Vicki Leigh Review

Title: Catch Me When I Fall
Author: Vicki Leigh
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: Dreamcatcher, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: Though the romance was a bit too quickly developed for me, overall, this was a fun read--I enjoyed it.

This book was given to me by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I love books that merge the supernatural and the contemporary, but I especially enjoy when books have magic surrounding dreams--that's why I picked this up, though at times it seems a bit Twilight-esque.

Daniel Graham is eternally seventeen. He is a Protector of the Night, guarding humans from evil Nightmares that feed off of people's negative dreams. He hates his job, but he's the best at it. When he is assigned to watch over sixteen year old Kayla Bartlett, he thinks it's just another routine assignment--but he is dead wrong. Despite himself, he falls for Kayla--even though it means betraying everything he holds dear. But he realizes that while this job isn't routine, neither is Kayla herself.. And his very immortality may hang in the balance if he can't protect her..

What I enjoyed:
-The premise of this novel was so cool--people protecting humans from bad dreams!
-The pacing of this book was excellent--once I started, I couldn't put it down, and I was sucked in right away
-Daniel, the forever-seventeen Protector of the Night, jaded and complex but not too broody--I really enjoyed him, he was deeply nuanced and full of exciting depth--I really cheered for him as the novel went on
-Kayla, the troubled young woman that Daniel falls in love with--I really liked the delving into her origins, and I liked that she gave Daniel a run for his money as a main character--she really helped sell the story for me
-Seth, Daniel's best friend, he provided a lot of comic relief throughout the novel
-Tabbi, the hilarious young woman who is by Daniel's side throughout the novel
-The ending, and how it kept everything open for a sequel

What could've been better:
-As I said before, I feel like Daniel and Kayla's relationship formed too rapidly to be realistic, and it put me off of the story

Overall, Catch Me When I Fall was a fun, fast-paced read.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige Review

Title: Dorothy Must Die
Author: Danielle Paige
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Dorothy Must Die, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: A rich, dark retelling of an American classic, I really enjoyed Dorothy Must Die, for the most part. But the insta-love really put me off the other aspects of the story at times.

I bought this book and reviewed it.

What was so appealing to me about this book wasn't even just that it retold a timeless classic--it was that it depicted a darker, scarier Oz. Ever since reading Wicked by Gregory Maguire, the child in me has been stomping her feet--give me an Oz like that, and I'm sold! And for her part, Paige did the entire series of books justice, but with a more adult spin. Highly recommended.

Amy Gumm is a nobody. So much of a nobody that no one in her hometown of Flat Hill, Kansas, even likes her. Angry, desperate for change, and furious at the hand life deals her, she gets her wish. Amy ends up in Oz. But it isn't all sunshine and rainbows like it seems in the books or movies.. Oz is dying. All of its magic is being sucked up by a dangerous, psychotic despot--a despot named Dorothy. Thrust into a world of dangerous magic, frightening creatures, and a war on the horizon, this nobody has to find the strength inside her to make her own magic.. Or Oz may be completely destroyed..

What I enjoyed:
-I loved the premise of this novel--Dorothy breaking bad and destroying Oz!--and that alone sold me
-The dark, frightening, and yet still magical setting of Dorothy's Oz--it was delightfully creepy, in a Tim Burton kind of way
-The pacing of this novel was breakneck--I couldn't put it down once I started
-Amy Gumm, the young woman who wants nothing more than change, and gets way more than she bargained for in the process--I really enjoyed her character development, and I look forward to seeing where the series is going
-Dorothy, the terrifying, power-drunk monarch who crushes what is left of Oz with an iron fist--what made her so scary to me was her ability to switch moods (and practically personalities) in the space of two seconds
-The Tin Woodsman, The Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow, all twisted to grotesque versions of themselves--all three of them were really frightening, in different ways
-Ollie and Maude
-The witches, especially Gert and Glamora--I really liked the way the script was flipped in this novel, when it came to villains and heros
-That constant question--what is one willing to sacrifice in the name of what is right?--it was kind of creepy the way all the moral lines were blurred
-The ending--I can't wait for the rest of the series!

What could've been better:
-I didn't really like Nox at all, even as he began to soften--his constant arrogance and pestering annoyed me greatly--even as a love interest for Amy, I didn't really like his character
-It bothered me immediately, the way Amy was instantly attracted to Pete, and Nox, later on--it distracted from the other nuances of the story, a lot

Overall, Dorothy Must Die was a dark thrill ride--I really enjoyed it! I look forward to more from this author! Next on deck: Catch Me When I Fall by Vicki Leigh!

Monday, September 29, 2014

No Place Like Oz by Danielle Paige Review

Title: No Place Like Oz
Author: Danielle Paige
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Dorothy Must Die, prequel novella
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: An enchanting start to a promising series--where Dorothy is the villain destroying Oz, no less!--I thoroughly enjoyed No Place Like Oz, and I can't wait to start Dorothy Must Die!

I bought this book and reviewed it.

I love fairy tale or classic retellings; I always have. What's so intriguing to me about this subgroup of literature is its ability to put a different spin on what we consider traditional books. Modern settings can be used to refresh a reader in a classical story, such as the example used here, The Wizard of Oz.

Dorothy Gale--yes, yes, that Dorothy Gale--is unsatisfied with her life in Kansas. Bored, frustrated, and isolated, after seeing the magical, colorful land of Oz, Dorothy just longs for.. more. Suddenly desperate to escape to Oz on her sixteenth birthday, she gets her wish. She is back in Oz, the place where she was a star. But things aren't exactly the same.. And just maybe, neither is Dorothy..

What I enjoyed:
-I loved the premise of this novel--Dorothy breaking bad!--it was really different, and that alone intrigued me and endeared me to this novella
-The pacing of this novel was breakneck--I couldn't put it down!
-Dorothy Gale, the sweet little farmgirl you thought you knew--I loved the way Dorothy was so nuanced, and I liked watching her turn into the bad guy--it was weird and creepy, but in a good, refreshing way
-Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, plain Kansas folk who get swept up in Dorothy's mad quest for power
-The Tin Woodsman, The Cowardly Lion, and Tin Woodsman--I enjoyed the way the author really seemed to make them flawed--it was part of what made the story so compelling
-Ozma, the fairy princess who has the misfortune of being in Dorothy's way--I really enjoyed her, and her complex, love-hate relationship with Dorothy
-Glinda, the witch who brings Dorothy back to Oz
-I loved the ending of the novella--it was amazing, and now I can't wait to read Dorothy Must Die!

What could've been better:
-I wish more had been said of Paige's interpretation of the character of Ozma

Overall, I really, really enjoyed No Place Like Oz! A darkly refreshing take on an American classic! Next on deck: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch Review

Title: Snow Like Ashes
Author: Sarah Raasch
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Snow Like Ashes, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: A rich, well-thought out fantasy with a compelling story and an amazing heroine, I really, really enjoyed Snow Like Ashes! Despite some minor flaws, this book is highly recommended to fans of high fantasy!

This book was given to me by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Meira is one of the few precious orphans that escaped the slaughter of the country of Winter. Lost and desperate to help the cause--namely, the war between the Seasons and Rhythms--she struggles between her duties and her affection for her best friend, Mather--a friend that grows to be so much more. But when she digs deeper into her past, and as she falls farther into a web of shadowy, clandestine political alliances, she discovers that in order to make a difference, she must find the resilience to become a true hero, and just maybe sacrifice everything she holds dear in the process..

Here's the thing about me as a reviewer: Recently, I got bitten by the high fantasy bug. So when I got approved for this title, I was completely stoked. I read through this book with real excitement, because to me, it had everything: a strong, badass heroine who was more than what she seemed, strong, richly thought-out world-building, amazing battles and magic abounded. Despite some minor quibbles, this novel was highly enjoyable for me!

What I enjoyed:
-I loved the pacing of this novel--it took off immediately and I couldn't put it down, especially when things were starting to pick up toward the end
-The rich, strong world-building--for me, this is a high fantasy dealbreaker, and everything was explained really well and seemed plausible, given the scope of the story--I really liked that aspect
-Meira, the young woman who feels lost and alone, despite being one of the orphans prophesied to save the kingdom of Winter--I really related to her, and I really enjoyed her character development, as she went from apathetic orphan to a true hero
-Meira's past
-Mather, the boy she loves and cherishes, and is closer to than anyone else in the world
-Sir, the gruff man who seems to be so hard on Meira--I really liked his role in the story, as well as his relationship with his young charges
-The various band, the motley crew of bedraggled Winter soldiers that Sir leads
-I really liked Theron, and the chemistry between him and Meira
-What made this novel so compelling were the amazing, sometimes gory, battle scenes
-I really enjoyed the ending, as well--I can't wait for the sequels in this series!

What could've been better:
-At times Meira's self-contemplation made it difficult to focus on the politics at the novel
-Sir, though he had his heart in the right place, seemed rather rude to Meira at times

Overall, I really, really enjoyed Snow Like Ashes--wonderful! Next on deck: No Place Like Oz by Danielle Paige!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Spark by J.B. North Review

Title: Spark
Author: J.B. North
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Legends of the Shifters, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The bottom line: A magical adventure highly recommended to those who love strong heroines, I really enjoyed Spark, despite the vague world-building.

This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Ivy Oliver has spent more than a decade in the orphanage after her parents perished. Her only hope is for a trial, where her second birth has will be revealed, awakened for the first time since her birth. She transforms into a rate, beautiful creature that rips her away from the only home and friends she has ever known. Moving on to a school full of both friends and foes, she discovers the key to her past and her future, if she can only free her spirit..

What I enjoyed:
-I loved the high fantasy theme that permeated this novel--it really hit the spot
-The pacing of this novel was breakneck--I couldn't put it down
-I really liked reading about the world that Ivy and the other characters inhabit, but it was a bit vague--I would've enjoyed more explanation into the whole world's past
-Ivy, the timid, quiet young woman who is forced to undergo a quest and accept her destiny, who changes into a true hero--I look forward to the next book in the series, I really liked her character development
-The twists and turns throughout the novel, especially concerning Ivy
-Roland, whose sunny disposition seems to be hiding something dark
-Kurt, the young scarred man forced to work at the school
-The mysterious headmaster of the school Ivy goes to, who is clearly hiding something
-I liked the ending as well--I can't wait for the sequel!

What could've been better:
-The world-building was vague--I could detect a fantasy vibe, but there was no explanation for how the world formed, or the government of any kind in the book
-Roland's constant antics kind of gave me whiplash
-At times it felt very Harry Potter-esque in flavor sometimes, but very vaguely

Overall, Spark was an enjoyable read--it was a good start to a great series! Next on deck: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch!