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!