Saturday, December 26, 2015

Happy holidays, everyone!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, full of food, family, laughter, and of course, books! I can't believe it was Christmas yesterday. Did you guys get anything good for your gifts? Are you all looking forward to the new year?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Underneath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul Review

Title: Underneath Everything
Author: Marcy Beller Paul
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher, Balzer and Bray, through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review--thank you so much!

Relationships in novels fascinate me--a lot of the time, they're just as much a star as anything else in a book for me. I love novels that focus specifically on them, especially, because sometimes watching them unfold is like witnessing a star implode in the night sky: bright, searing, terrifying, and absolutely impossible to look away from. And this story is like that; once you begin, even as you begin to feel the terror escalate, you can't tear yourself away from it, even while you want to.

Underneath Everything tells the story of Mattie, a young woman who has had everything stolen from her. Her friends, her life, and most of all, Hudson, the boy she could've had, but doesn't. It all belongs to Jolene now, her oldest and closest friend, and the one she had to walk away from. And while she's on the outside looking in to what could've been, she has a secret, tucked way down deep that she cannot tell anyone: She never left Jolene in the first place. Caught in the web of the other girl's compelling, seductive manipulation, Mattie decides that she's going to take her old life back, until the two collide, with frightening and life changing results.

I've read books about toxic relationships before, and they've all rang of the same quality: Compelling, darkly thrilling, and even erotic. But this one is different. I felt sympathy for Mattie, pliable and easily manipulated, and her want to be accepted, all the while giving off the appearance of shedding what was left of her old life. At the same time, as the book went on, I was a little frustrated at the pacing of it, the eventual pattern.

And then, of course, there is Jolene herself, beautiful and confident and intoxicating, everything that Mattie is not and wants to be. To be honest, she terrified me. In a way, she was like a siren, not just to Mattie, but to the other characters in the book, Hudson and Kris, as well as her classmates, able to hold sway with nothing more than a sly smile and a bat of the eyelashes. And as she and Mattie intertwine, to the point where they see nothing but each other, it's like watching a bomb go off, or a massive explosion: terrifying, but so destructive you cannot hope to look away.

The bottom line: I loved this book, and its frightening, compelling, and oddly erotic premise--a must read for people who love books about friendships gone wrong--an amazing contemporary young adult debut not to be missed! Next on deck: Emma by Jane Austen!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman Review

Title: Almost Famous Women
Author: Megan Mayhew Bergman
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Short Stories/Anthologies
Series: N/A
Star Rating:  4.5 out of 5 Stars

I was given a copy of this book through Netgalley by the publisher, Scribner, in exchange for an honest review--thank you so much!

Almost Famous Women is a short story collection about women who are the siblings of famous people, women on the fringes of history. Bergman writes thirteen short stories, all with beauty and finesse. Each story was an insight into the author's imagination, as well as these nuanced, complex and very fragile women. I'll pick my favorites and review them individually, since my rating for the entire book is at the top:

Norma Millay's Film Noir Period, 5 out of 5 stars: Dark and chilling, an insight to Edna St. Millay's younger sister, and her relationship with her. I loved the gothic, ghostly feel of this story--it felt a little bit like Psycho, but it was exciting and rang of familial love. Possibly my favorite of the volume.

Romaine Remains: 4 out of 5 stars. Darkly comic and sad all at the same time, about a reclusive, aging artist and her poor, resentful caretaker, I was halfway between crying and laughing the entire story. I felt strangely sympathetic toward both characters. I really enjoyed the strange bond between two misfits, but at times it was hard to follow.

The Autobiography of Allegra Byron: 5 out of 5 stars. The story of Lord Byron's illegitimate daughter, and the nun who loves her. This story was so sad--the nun's story made me cry, and I fell in love with little Allegra, who wanted nothing more than her father's love, cookies, and freedom. It rang of a mother's love, and the sadness of an orphan without family. It was one of the contenders for my favorites.

Saving Butterfly McQueen: 5 out of 5 stars. I loved the style of this story, of a woman of color, who wanted to give her body to science, and made her living acting. It was deeply poignant and affecting for me--it told a story of a woman who was a minority, and the very personal struggles she went through, in her career and her own faith. Fantastic!

Who Killed Dolly Wilde? 5 out of 5 stars. Oh, this story. This was so painful. It told the story of Dolly Wilde, a descendant of the infamous Oscar Wilde, and an addict, and the close friend that loves her dearly. It dripped of the raw power of hopeless, unrequited love, and the horrors of war, and untreated PTSD. Absolutely amazing.

The Lottery, Redux: 5 out of 5 stars. I remember reading the inspiration of this story, by Shirley Jackson (may she rest in peace--she's an amazing writing inspiration for me, and a titan), in high school, and being absolutely terrified of it for weeks afterward. Bergman's take on it did a fantastic homage, and I loved every heart-pounding, frightening second of it!

I loved this book of beautifully written and meticulously imagined stories--absolutely amazing! Next on deck: Underneath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Rose Society by Marie Lu Review

Title: The Rose Society
Author: Marie Lu
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Young Elites, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Oh my God. Oh my God. How am I supposed to go on?

This book was amazing. I loved The Young Elites, which also happened to be my very first book by Marie Lu, and I honestly thought I couldn't get any better. I thought, There's no way that that can be topped. No way. I was wrong. So, so wrong. How do I put into words just how amazing this book is? I'm always afraid when I read a sequel, because I worry that after all the hype, after all that time I waited for it, would be let down by the explosive momentum of the first book, for the series to fizzle.

I'm so happy to say that this book did more than fair justice to The Young Elites. The White Rose begins a mere three weeks after the first novel, with Adelina fleeing from The Daggers and setting off to create her own society of Elites to do her bidding--and begins to plot her revenge. I don't want to say too much about the plot--this book is just too good to be spoiled. It is a book, and series, that deserves to be savored, with all its twists and turns and thrills.

The pacing of this book was breakneck--it took me a little while to wade back into the series, as I'd had it for a while, but when I was fully immersed, it completely took off--I was gasping for breath as I read, frantically turning pages to discover the fate of Adelina and all the other characters. If you're a fan of action-packed fantasies, this book is for you. This book is also for you if you love political intrigue, and plots driven by multiple points of view.

The characters, both familiar and brand new, were part of the reason I loved this book. If I love the characters--actually, if the characters provoke anything in me, not just love--I'm sold on a series completely. It was absolutely fantastic, and Adelina's character development was rich and exciting. I hung onto every page with bated breath, eager to see the book to his conclusion.

The world-building of this series is also very exciting--it was explained and doled out in a way that felt really organic to the narrative. (Can I just have a separate book full of this world's folklore, Marie Lu? Pretty please?! I'm dying here.) In short, I just can't wait for the third book. Can it just be 2016 already? I need to know what happens! Next on deck: Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Decided to Switch.

I'm really enjoying Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow by Rainbow Rowell, but it rings too much of Harry Potter for me, so I'm just putting it next on my library pile and switch to The Rose Society by Marie Lu.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell Review

Title: Fangirl: A Novel
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/New Adult
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I want to start off this review by saying that this is my first Rainbow Rowell novel. I've heard great things about this author from all quarters, and with the publication of Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow, I said to heck with it and had my local library hold it for me. I was a little nervous; all too often when I hear about a writer, I find that I'm not as in love with them and their books out of the gate.

I'm so happy to tell you guys that I was wrong. My doubts were rootless. Fangirl was everything I expected, and a whole lot more. How many times, and how many different ways, can I say that I loved it? It was a completely new stratosphere of contemporary young adult fiction for me. It was contemporary young adult fiction, but it was also a treatise of sorts on family, mental illness, books, the love of a fictional world.

In short? My heart is in a million pieces on the floor, and I will follow Rainbow Rowell anywhere if the rest of her novels are like this. (I'm looking at you, Eleanor and Park! But that's a whole other review.) This book was just fantastic, in almost every way. I enjoyed every single moment of it, and I'm looking forward to so much more from Rowell!

Fangirl begins with two twin sisters, Cath and Wren, and the two of them are going off to college. Cath and Wren, Wren and Cath--they love each other so much, you can practically taste it leaping off of the page. They are also growing apart--Wren wants to experience everything college has to offer, whereas shy, socially awkward and anxious Cath wants desperately to just stay the way she is.

I loved all the characters in this book--that was what really sold it for me, even though I was already invested. I felt like all the characters--Cath, Wren, Levi, Reagan, and even Simon and Baz--were real, flesh and blood people. I related to all of them so much that it hurt me. Rowell creates characters that stick to the fabric of your very soul, and I loved it.

There was also the added bonus of the story: contemporary, new adult, and fantasy fiction all smashed together, but in a way that felt so natural (despite all the obvious Harry Potter references! Lol.) This book, if you haven't read it, will steal your heart as well as your imagination. It was amazing, and one of the best of the year for me, hands down. The bottom line: A fantastic coming of age tale, with perfectly toned elements of heartwarming romance, mental illness, and more than a few nerds, Fangirl completely won me over--an amazing feat of young adult fiction! Next on deck: Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow by Rainbow Rowell!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Cursed by Monica Wolfson Review

Title: Cursed
Author: Monica Wolfson
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Tysseland Chronicles, book one
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review--thank you so much, Monica!

First off, I want to say that I'm a fantasy novel junkie. It doesn't really matter what kind--urban, medieval, science fiction oriented--if it's a fantasy, I'm all over it. And the cover on this book--it's so freaking pretty! And I was very excited to read this. I wanted to love it, but unfortunately, there were a lot of issues with this book that really bogged down the narrative. I loved the idea of it--it had everything I wanted in a fantasy novel--magic, new worlds, romance, and excitement, and of course, an evil queen! But there are some parts of the novel that really need to be ironed out.

The editing of this novel really needs some work; at times the writing kept jumping back and forth between past and present tense, so it was hard to follow in some spots. The world-building was vague and confusing--I couldn't really picture Tysseland, except as a vague, confusing picture of a magical world slightly infused with our world's modern technology.

I liked the characters, especially Sasha, though at times it seemed like she was concentrating more on her infatuation with Evan, the hot guy who happens to save her life throughout the book. I also really enjoyed Evan and Sasha's relationship--it wasn't instant and moved along at a good pace. But other characters, like Sasha's sister Hannah, Vania, and Willow, seemed to only be vague people in the book--I didn't get to know them, and so they didn't feel real.

This book has a lot of potential--a fantasy foundation, a kick-butt main character, an exciting premise and good pacing, but it really needs to be cleaned up. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it--it was fun! Next on deck: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Boleyn Bride by Brandy Purdy Review

Title: The Boleyn Bride
Author: Brandy Purdy
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars

This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review--thank you so much, Brandy!

I have a fascination with history that started from the time I was a kid. It doesn't really matter what time period--I am, indiscriminately, a history junkie. But a time that has always captured my imagination is the Tudor era, even now. Henry VIII and his many wives have always ignited my imagination, exciting me and spurring me to do my own research. Anne Boleyn is one of the most notable, as she seduced the monarch and caused him to leave his wife of some twenty-odd years, Catherine of Aragon.

The Boleyn Bride is about the mother of Anne Boleyn, the beautiful, vain and shallow Elizabeth Howard, married at sixteen to the notorious 'court toady', Thomas Bullen. It begins just after the execution of her daughter Anne and son George, and goes backward from there, to explain her political ascension, and her many paramours, as well as her children's fate--beautiful, golden Mary, moody, mercurial George, and ugly duckling Anne.

Ugh. I wanted to love this book--historical fiction is one of my favorite genres--but Elizabeth Howard really just rubbed me the wrong way. She was spoiled and rude and mean, even to her own children. She was so selfish that her own needs took precedence over everyone else's, and any sympathy I had for her was long since lost by the end of the novel. If I felt sorry for anyone in this book, it had to be her three children, used by their parents and their king as they saw fit, until they were no more.

I also didn't like Elizabeth's spouse--Thomas was, I daresay, even worse than his shallow, superficial wife. But perhaps their dark deeds only served to shine an even greater spotlight on their children, who, for me, through the eyes of their mother, were the real stars of the novel.

King Henry, too, that pompous and foolish old windbag, really had me frustrated, though Purdy portrayed him perfectly--by turns joyous and jolly one moment, then screaming for someone's head the next.

I liked the clothing and food porn of this novel, as well as the characters of Mary, Anne, and George, but that was about it. In the eyes of Elizabeth, everything seemed to be so trite and false, and it really bothered me. Nonetheless, though, I enjoyed some of the novel. The bottom line: An untold story in Tudor history, Elizabeth Howard--the mother and grandmother of England's queens--tells her story--and I wanted to love it, but I just couldn't relate to the main character at all. Next on deck: Cursed by Monica Wolfson!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld Review

Title: Zeroes
Author(s): Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Zeroes, book one
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

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

I'll start out this review with a little bit of personal history: Ever since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by the idea of superheroes. It didn't really matter which one, or which company created them: Batman, Spiderman, Superman were the chief three, until I grew older. I just find them so fascinating, even now, because it asks a question that is timeless: What makes a hero, and also a villain? I was drawn to this book immediately; it had been resting in my library stack for a while.

And I'm so happy that I read it. This book is one of my favorites of 2015. A big claim, I know, but it was just fantastic! A diverse cast of characters, all with complex morals, and powers ripped straight from the comics, only better! Breakneck pacing! Multiple points of view! (I'm such a diehard for this kind of story now, it adds so much depth.) Humor, excitement, and twists!

This book was just so good.

Zeroes begins with five teenagers, all of whom have interesting and plausible powers, split into their own lives after one of them breaks them up. It almost goes backwards in that sense, but I enjoyed it. Each character was unique and oddly lovable, with their own issues and strengths. I really felt like these characters were real, and that's one of the reasons I'm so sold on this novel. I can't wait for book two! I don't want to give away much of the plot--part of the beauty of this book is going into it blind.

I also love that this novel, though mammoth, (it clocks in at over 500 pages, but it goes by quickly!) was a collaboration from three titans in the young adult fiction industry: Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti. (Can this series never end? Please? It was just so good!) I've read a lot of superhero stories, but none like this. It was absolute perfection.

The only thing that I didn't like was that sometimes the drama between the characters bogged down the action, but it wasn't enough to make me put the book down--it was still one of the best books I've read this whole year. The bottom line: A triumph of an urban fantasy novel delivered from three titans of young adult fiction, Zeroes is a must-read for action and adventure lovers, as well as readers who have been craving more diverse characters--one of the best books of the year! Amazing! Next on deck: The Boleyn Bride by Brandy Purdy!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman Review

Title: Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Wonders
Author: Neil Gaiman
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Short Stories
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Neil Gaiman. It's a name that some, if not all, fantasy readers are familiar with. And I'm not going to lie; even this man's name gives me chills and shivers. His writing is just pure magic. I'm not going to wax poetic about him, though honestly, I could. But both as a reader and a writer, Neil Gaiman is the equivalent to rejuvenation and inspiration for me. He's an author that I never stop being stunned by, and one that I certainly wouldn't mind having at the dinner table one night, if only to see where he seems to get his special brand of dark, creepy compulsions that lead to his stories.

Though I like to be thorough and try to review every piece in an anthology, simply because it's the holidays (Happy Thanksgiving, by the way! Am I the only one in a food coma? Anyway...), I'm going to give an overall review, with just a look at a few of the many pieces that populate this volume of fiction.

Snow Glass Apples, the last story in this book, was actually my first story ever by Neil Gaiman, and ever since, I've been absolutely spellbound. It terrified me, more than a little creeped me out, but I was struck by how a familiar story, one retold countless times, was made new by a single new element--it was darkly exciting, in the way that the original fairy tale was done justice. This story is among my favorites in the volume, along with a few others.

Troll Bridge is another favorite, a retelling of the tale of the three goats. It was darkly comic, fantastically told, though it was short. I really enjoyed the funny prose between the main character, Jack, and the troll he finds living under the bridge.

The White Road was a poem, told in descriptive snippets on a dark, rainy night in a village, dark and frightening, but also funny--I really enjoyed the way the creep factor was amped up until the end of the poem, as per Gaiman's signature.

One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock: This story especially rang true with me, about the pleasures and perils that reading can bring upon a person--I couldn't tell if it was a warning, or parable, but it felt like that to me, and made me kind of afraid to live too deeply in my stories...

The Sweeper of Dreams: Inspired by a song, this short vignette was slightly creepy, and it took me a few readings to figure out what Gaiman was talking about, but it was psychedelic and dark. (I love a story that really makes an impression, no matter the length.)

Foreign Parts: This story was interesting to me because it dealt with the often abstract subject of gender--it was so unlike Gaiman's usual style, but it carried the same seductive, compelling creepiness--I'm not going to lie, I had to put the book down after this one, but it was impressive and exciting, and made me think about what gender really is and what it means to people.

And lastly: Murder Mysteries. This story is the kind I love; a lone main character who gets pulled into a compelling story that may or may not be true after all, complete with angels, murder, and a fun, slightly enigmatic talk with good old God. It was, after Snow Glass Apples, probably my second favorite story of the collection.

The bottom line: An exciting story collection that contains something for everyone, whether you're a Neil Gaiman diehard or a newcomer, Smoke and Mirrors completely stole my imagination--a wonderful triumph for a king of fiction! Next on deck: Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti! 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Review

Title: Six of Crows
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Dregs, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Six of Crows is one of those books that people have spent all year waiting for, and when I saw that it was available through my library ordering system, I just couldn't resist it. The book itself is gorgeous--red end papers, maps, black pages--but what I really wanted was an amazing story. I haven't read the rest of Bardugo's Grisha trilogy yet, but if this is any indication of what I'm in for, I'm ready to sign up immediately.

I'm not even sure, sitting here in my living room, just what emotions are running through me. I have a lot of mixed feelings. But I have to say that all the hype I've heard about this novel, taking place in the same universe as the Grisha trilogy, is well-deserved. More than well-deserved--it is every bit the blockbuster everyone is saying it is.

Do you like novels with adventure? Magic? A large cast of characters, all with exciting depth? Extensive, well-thought out world-building? How about food porn? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, I highly recommend going to your nearest bookstore or library, locking yourself in your room with a glass of your favorite drink and a snack, and giving yourself over to the magic that is Leigh Bardugo, as well as the characters she renders so lovingly.

I don't want to talk about the plot too much, as I don't want to give any spoilers, but here goes: Five outcasts, misfits, are given a near impossible job, and in order to complete it, they must use every skill they possess.

I don't want to mince words anymore, so I'm just going to say it: I loved every single minute of this novel. It was a fascinating thrill ride that left me, more often than not, either breathless, or just plain emotional. The pacing was absolutely breakneck, the characters well-drawn and full of exciting depth that made me turn pages frantically, the premise just new and original enough to keep me glued to the pages, and the world-building was wonderful and exciting--I loved this trip through Ketterdam!

The only problem is: I don't know how I'm going to be able to wait until next September for Crooked Kingdom. It's so far away! The bottom line: An exciting new adventure in Leigh Bardugo's Grishaverse, Six of Crows is a fantastic, hang on the edge of your seat adventure that took my breath away--one of my favorite books of all time! Next on deck: Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions by Neil Gaiman!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Browsings by Michael Dirda Review

Title: Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting and Living With Books
Author: Michael Dirda
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction/Essays/Literary Criticism
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Normally, nonfiction is not my thing. It's not a genre I'm in love with, usually. I just prefer, most of the time, to disappear into a new world. But this book really struck a chord with me--I feel like I've known the author forever. And we would most certainly get along, due to his book addiction. I thought this book was going to be about the books Dirda has read--and it was, it was. But what really was unexpected (in a good way) was the way he spoke about all kinds of books, and reading in general. I thought, Here's a person who loves books just as much as I do. And it's pretty fantastic!

For book lovers, reading Dirda's essays--well-written, meticulously researched, delightfully funny and relatable--is like sitting with an old friend over a cup of tea and talking about one of the things they love most--literature. I really enjoyed these essays--they were so fun and passionate. I also enjoyed the way Dirda gave helpful tips in browsing, in expanding one's horizons towards something new. In fact, I'm going to be seeking out many of the books mentioned myself, once I'm able.

It was also deeply personal for me, because, really, what bookworm doesn't walk into a bookstore and wants to leave with at least three boxes, full of new information, and best of all, new stories? This book is honestly a must-have for anyone who loves literature, is passionate about books. It was a fun, exciting treat, and an intimate look into an author's life.

At times, though, it got a little hard to follow, what with the constant name-dropping of authors throughout the book, but overall, this book was just lovely. It was like sitting next to the fire with an old friend, a cup of tea, and of course, a big book! Wonderfully researched and finely written! Next on deck: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz Review

Title: The Isle of the Lost
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Age Group: Middle Grade
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Descendants, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

First off, I'd like to start by saying that I am just a sucker for all things Disney. A total sucker. If it has the signature curlicue writing of Walt, chances are good that I'm at least checking it out. I've been looking forward to The Isle of the Lost since I found out that it was coming out in May. And de la Cruz is a popular teen and children's book author, so when I saw it at my library, well... I snatched it up.

This book was a light and fluffy, entertaining romp through de la Cruz's world, an alternate one where Disney's greatest villains, Maleficent, Grimhilde the evil queen, Jafar, and Cruella de Vil, were punished for their crimes and sent to the Isle of the Lost--as well as their not-so-evil children, and there's also Ben, son of King Beast and Queen Belle, the heir to the Kingdom of Auradon, the opposite of the Isle of the Lost--a virtual paradise, in comparison.

This book was written as a prequel novel to the Disney Channel movie, The Descendants, and I must admit, I'm curious about the film, low budget though it seems. I loved the constant pop culture and Disney references--more often than not, I was laughing aloud, delighted that the author took to the narration of the story with such gusto and detail.

I'd call this book 'fantasy lite'. It definitely had hints of a fantasy adventure novel--epic quests, magic, curses. But it wasn't dark, not in the traditional sense. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable journey, and I'm really looking forward to more from this author, and this series. It was hilarious.

And then the characters, as well: surly, wicked Mal who wants nothing more to live up to her mother's evil legacy, Jay, the son of Jafar, the dashing, debonair thief who doesn't have a care in the world, Evie, the daughter of the evil queen, who just wants a break from her mother's constant litanies of the benefits of being beautiful, Carlos, the shy son of a certain fur-lover, who wants nothing more than for his mother to love him. I loved each of these characters--they were such a jarring comparison to their parents, each entertaining and battling their own demons.

The pacing and worldbuilding of this book was excellent--I was drawn in from the very beginning, which, of course, opened with 'Once upon a time'. The characters were fantastic, and to be honest, I'm really hoping that there is more to come from this series--it really felt like a trip back to my childhood. The bottom line: A fantastically playful, hilarious start to a new series, paying homage to the great characters of Disney, The Isle of the Lost is a fun, magical adventure worth savoring for all ages!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness Review

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Magical Realism
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Oh, Patrick Ness. I love so. What have you done to me? This book has completely gutted me. Oh, it's fine--I don't need a whole heart or anything. God, this book. This book has got to be one of my favorite books of all time. I'm not even quite sure where to start with this novel, as I just finished it and spent the last fifteen minutes blubbering like a baby:

This book was inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd, a prominent author. The book is introduced by Ness, who explains who she is and how the idea of this novel came to be. And after a slight book slump, I decided to borrow this from my library.

Needless to say, I was absolutely enchanted from the first page. The story itself was spellbinding, delightfully dark and funny, even frightening, but I couldn't bring myself to put it down. It was just so good. The writing was enchanting and beautiful, almost hypnotic, and the dark, black and white illustrations from Jim Kay were honestly just an added bonus.

Conor O'Malley meets a monster in his backyard, a monster seemingly made from the yew tree that sits next to his house. The monster is ancient, wild, and frightening, and demands the one thing from Conor that he cannot give: the truth. To top it all off, Conor's beloved mother, his best and only friend, has cancer.

I don't want to give too much of the plot; this is one of those books when it's best to go in blind. But this book--God. It took everything out of me, and put it all back, if that makes any sense. A Monster Calls is one of those stories that is absolutely essential--if you haven't read it, I highly, highly recommend it, both for fans of Ness's work as well as newcomers. Fans of the infamous Neil Gaiman will also love this book, as it's told in the same dark vein as his work.

If you haven't read anything by Patrick Ness, I highly suggest starting with this book. A heartwrenching, brutal, decidedly human tale all around, A Monster Calls will take your heart and doesn't let go--an amazing triumph of literature, speaking of the profound feelings of grief, guilt, and love! Next on deck: Browsings by Michael Dirda!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison Review

Title: The Butterfly Clues
Author: Kate Ellison
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

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

Sigh. I saw this book on the shelves of my local library and snatched it as soon as I could. I was so excited for this novel. But it turns out I couldn't finish it. I'm not sure quite why, but this book was just not for me. DNF at 110 pages. The main character, Lo, just didn't gel with me, and I couldn't get into the story.

Consent by Nancy Ohlin Review

Title: Consent
Author: Nancy Ohlin
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher, Simon Pulse, through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review--thank you so much!

My previous experiences with Nancy Ohlin's work has been ambivalent--I read her other novel, Thorn Abbey, and I just wasn't feeling it. So I was a little apprehensive when I began to read Consent. For one thing, it talks of self-discovery, the constant up in the air feeling of being young, always so afraid to stand out and desperate to fit in, all at once. And that self-discovery naturally flows into sexual awakening, and the giddy, flying on air feeling of first love.

The main character, Beatrice 'Bea' Kim, is a loner, a deeply defensive young woman with a secretive passion for music, ignored by her family, in doubt about her future. In some ways, I really related to her. She was so vulnerable, and so shy. But when she meets Mr. Rossi, her music teacher, there is an immediate spark between them. Bea's voice almost becomes manic as the novel goes on, which gave the volatile and shaky feel to the relationship that felt real.

This novel was really intense, and really painful. It evoked the agony of growing up, and being seventeen, perfectly. It made me hurt for Bea; she just wanted to be loved and accepted, and when Dane shows that toward her, she gravitates and stays in his alluring, seductive orbit, and it spurs the novel at a breakneck pace. And then there's Dane himself, hopelessly attracted to Bea, unable to control himself. It really bothered me that he seemed to prey on her insecurities--it made it feel wrong, despite Bea feeling like she's in love.

Regardless, though? This book is dark and real and raw, ripped right from the headlines, and I enjoyed it. It was an eye-opening look into relationships such as these. I really liked it. The bottom line: A dark and gritty novel that had me feeling everything, Consent is a fantastic peek into the consequences of a passion gone too far! Next on deck:The Butterfly Clues by Katie Ellison!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer Review

Title: The Sea of Trolls
Author: Nancy Farmer
Age Group: Middle Grade/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Sea of Trolls, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Nancy Farmer was one of the first authors I'd ever encountered, way back in middle school. In the dusty library in eighth grade, I was drawn to one of her first novels, taking place in Africa, called The Girl Named Disaster. (I loved it and plan to reread it as soon as possible!)

But this book, The Sea of Trolls, takes place in what now would be considered Scandinavia. It really reminded me of Lord of the Rings, but to sum it up there would be to do this book a terrible injustice, because this book was a masterpiece, a triumph in fantasy literature. It reminded me of why I grew to love reading in the first place. Nancy Farmer is a fantastic writer, but what really sold this novel was the meticulous research put into the time period--even the fantasy elements! I love when an author goes all out like that. (Don't be daunted by the many pages in this novel; it goes by quickly!)

But really; this book was just wonderful. It tells the story of a young farm boy, Jack, and his little sister, Lucy. Jack becomes the apprentice to the village's bard, and how both their lives get turned upside down when they get stolen from home by berserkers, or, as we would call them today, Vikings. The two children are drawn into an epic quest that leads them all over the world, complete with dragons, magic, trolls, and hilarious characters.

There was really nothing about this book I didn't like: The world-building was solid and believable, and didn't feel too heavy as the information was doled out. The pacing of this novel was breakneck--I couldn't put it down once things began to roll. The characters, too, were wonderful: from Jack, to his sister Lucy, to the wild pack of raiders that become their family, including the feral, frightening Thorgil, and Olaf One Brow, the oddly noble and likable Viking leader, each, whether they were human or some otherworldly being, was wholly three-dimensional, seeming to jump  off of the page.

This book was a fun, dark adventure that completely swept me away, in a way that few other books have done. It was so atmospheric and huge, and highly enjoyable and fulfilling. Anyone looking for a fantastic, consuming adventure will surely fall in love with The Sea of Trolls! The bottom line: A deeply fun and fulfilling adventure, The Sea of Trolls is a true treat for anyone looking for an epic quest! Next on deck: Consent by Nancy Ohlin!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Da Vinci's Tiger by L.M. Elliott Review

Title: Da Vinci's Tiger
Author: L.M. Elliott
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

This book was given to me by the publisher, Katherine Tegen Books, through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review--thank you so much!

I don't know if you guys know this about me, but one of the things I love dearly is history, and one of my favorite periods in history is the Renaissance. It was just such a fruitful time for cultural growth--art, culture, literature and music exploded, becoming revered professions from the fame garnered from that period. And one of my other favorite things about this period was the art. (Although, guys, don't take Art History in college. One of the hardest classes I ever took! Lol.)

Da Vinci's Tiger tells the story of Ginevra de Benci, a young woman who longs desperately to be a part of the cultural world, ruled by men's iron fists. Try as she might, she is just not content with the life of a mere domestic housewife--she wants more from the world, and to contribute to it. Her wish is granted when she catches the eye of the promising young artist Leonardo da Vinci, and she realizes that even though the world is more open to her now than ever before, real love just might be right out of reach..

I don't want to mince words, so I'll just say this right now: This book, for me, is a new classic. It really spoke to me, as a woman and as a writer, just like Ginevra, to balance the domestic sides of herself, and the longing for true meaning, and for an artistic career, which, for a woman, was out of bounds in those days. I really related to her, and her desire for love and fulfillment, in the days where a business marriage wasn't uncommon.

I loved Ginevra, and Elliott does an amazing job of bringing this bright and exceptional young woman to life--it felt, almost, as if I were sitting with a dear friend, and having her tell me about her life. She was indeed a muse, a poet, and revolutionary in her own right! I also loved how deep she was; there were so many different facets to her, (as there are with any person), and I liked the way the author expressed that.

I also really enjoyed the political intrigue aspect of the novel--it didn't really come into play into the second half of the novel, but it was really well balanced with the other events going on in the story, it wasn't at all heavy-handed. The author also did a great job in conveying that time period, especially where women were concerned. The characters, though there were many, were easy to follow, and I loved how each made an impact on Ginevra's life, great and small.

And then, of course, there's Leonardo, the mysterious, beautiful artist, alluring in his intellect and his blunt, honest manner, who becomes one of the muse's dearest friends. Their relationship was what really sold this book for me. Their bond seemed so deep and genuine, and I really enjoyed it. Everything about this novel was just wonderful; so much so, in fact, that I finished it in one day! The bottom line: A fantastic imagining of what could've been a life for a great woman, Da Vinci's Tiger is a spellbinding work of historical fiction, bulked by fact and made richer by great detail and research--a new favorite! Next on deck: The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer!

All The Rage by Courtney Summers Review

Title: All The Rage
Author: Courtney Summers
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

This is the latest book from Courtney Summers, but it just so happens to be my very first novel from this author. I've heard great things about this author's work, but when I saw All The Rage at my library, I was drawn to it without even immediately knowing what it was about. It just seemed to call me, so I checked it out as soon as I possibly could.

And God, what a ride it was. I feel, after reading this, that my reading life has been missing something crucial, and Courtney Summers just happens to be the missing link.

I'm not quite sure where to start, so I'm just going to wing it from here. This book is a blazing, searing testament to the exposure of rape culture, and its negative effects, as well as a nail-biting mystery that kept me hanging on, even as I wanted to stop. Often, with teen fiction, it feels contrived, fake, like the author is trying too hard. But this book just pulled on every single one of my heartstrings, because not only did it capture the fear and uncertainty of being a teenager in today's modern age, but it also brutally shows rape culture for what it is, in a way that was totally organic. It also perfectly captures the bad sides of living in small towns, in a way that resonated with me.

There were times when I really wished I could put the story down: it was at times sickening, frightening. But it was like watching a trainwreck: as sick as it made me, I couldn't look away from it. I tried, but this book just kept bringing me back. All The Rage tells the story of Romy Grey, a girl who has been ostracized by her classmates after she accuses the sheriff's son, Kellan Turner, of rape.

 Romy's story, though painful, was entirely necessary. It exposed rape culture in a totally brutal way that really drove the point home. The cast of characters around her, her parents and schoolmates, as well as people in her hometown, made this book doubly painful in the way that Romy was treated.

All I can say about this book is that it completely turned my heart and soul inside out. It tore me apart and put me back together, in the best kind of way. This book needs to be read by all; it is all at once a terrifying parable and a light in the darkness. The bottom line: A frightening and eye-opening novel, All The Rage is a book to be shared with everyone--a searing, heartbreaking story that opened my eyes and tore out my heart--an all time favorite! I can't wait to read more of Courtney Summers's work! Next on deck: Da Vinci's Tiger by Laura Malone Elliott!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Young Elites by Marie Lu Review

Title: The Young Elites
Author: Marie Lu
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Series: The Young Elites, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I've had my eye on this book since before it came out last year, and, ever since the hype of the Legend series from almost every quarter, I've been interested in Marie Lu's work. I was a little skeptical at first, because almost every single person I've heard talk about her work has raved about it. But seriously, this was me, at the end of this book:

Holy crap. Holy crap. This book was absolutely amazing! Where do I start with this? Marie Lu, you're officially one of my new favorite authors. I need The Rose Society, immediately! How am I supposed to wait until my library gets me a copy? I'm dying here!

Okay, okay. As usual, getting ahead of myself. But honestly, if this is what Marie Lu has to offer the world, I will gladly spend everything I am able to get my hands on this series for my personal collection. The worldbuilding of this novel was excellent, doled out in little bits and pieces throughout the novel, in a way that I enjoyed. It gave facts without seeming to be heavy or overwhelming. I loved the terrifying world that Adelina was born into, every gory, terrifying moment of it.

And then there are the characters themselves: Adelina, the narrator, so tainted by inner darkness that even she doesn't quite know where her loyalties lie, Enzo, the almighty (and pretty darn hot, too, while I'm at it) leader of a mysterious society, of a group of young people touched by disease, and gifted (perhaps cursed?) with powers the world has never seen, Rafaelle, the gentle lieutenant, and Teren, who is hiding secrets of his own, at the helm of the opposing forces.

I don't want to give anything away, so I'm going to stop talking about the plot. But man, Lu has a unique talent for beautiful writing, sympathetic characters, and amazing pacing. God, there aren't enough words in the English language that can describe just how much I love this book, and I cannot wait for the sequel. Holy crap, what a way to start a series: with a huge bang!

This is what a high fantasy novel should always be like. It literally had everything: a frightening world, so well-drawn I couldn't fight its hold over me, dynamic characters, political intrigue, more than enough twists and turns, and epic battles! I didn't want this book to end--in fact, I was more than a little tempted to start the book over just so it wouldn't be over so fast. The bottom line: A new, dark fantasy sure to make fans of Lu's writing, The Young Elites was a sweeping high fantasy epic that completely stole my heart! Next on deck: All The Rage by Courtney Summers!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch by Daniel Kraus Review

Title: The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch: Volume One: Age of Empire
Author: Daniel Kraus
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Horror
Series: Zebulon Finch, Volume 1
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

This book was given to me by the publisher, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review--thank you so much!

When I finally got to this book, Halloween was coming, and what better book for Halloween than the coming of age story of a modern ghoul? This book--I have so many emotions about it, that truly, it's hard to get those feelings into cohesive, coherent thoughts. First off, it was long, and long for me, it took me a week to get through this giant tale. This book also spans a good sixty years, quite a timeline, especially for a young adult novel.

But, as per usual, I'm getting ahead of myself here. Zebulon Finch, a gangster in early America, gets resurrected by unknown individuals, after a deadly shootout in gangster-ridden Chicago, and, locked up in an empty chamber, forever seventeen and yet rotting at the core, tells you, the reader, his story--every nasty, gory bit of it. The pacing of this novel was breakneck--I honestly couldn't put it down, even when it got too frightening or macabre.

I had a love/hate relationship with our hero throughout the novel. I loved him, but at times, I really wanted to shake him. Perhaps I should be more forgiving of our young narrator--I mean, I'd guess it would be hard to be seventeen for one's entire existence. Another thing that I loved about its novel was its scope. This book literally begins in turn of the century Chicago, and ends at the dawn of the second World War, with Zebulon finding out about the invasion on Pearl Harbor.

There are also many characters that pepper the novel throughout Zebulon's many long years, some friends, other enemies, crawling out of the woodwork at the most unexpected times. All of these people are affected in some way by Finch, and it was interesting to see how one character, from a previous arc, would reappear, insidious and full of malevolence. My favorites among this cast were Church, a war buddy, The Barker, Dr. Leather, and of course, last but not least, the beautiful film siren, Bridey Valentine.

This novel was greatly ambitious, huge in scope, exciting and dark and macabre, in fact, so much so at times that I didn't really think this novel could be classified as young adult. Don't get me wrong, I love dark, gory, and frightening, but at times, it was just a little bit too heavy. Regardless, though, I honestly cannot wait for more from the brave and darkly hilarious Zebulon Finch--a triumph in dark fiction! The bottom line: A highly ambitious, dark novel that is gigantic in scope and minute in detail, The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch was a wild ride, a true tale of a modern ghoul--wonderful! Next on deck: The Young Elites by Marie Lu!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Even When You Lie to Me by Jessica Alcott Review

Title: Even When You Lie to Me
Author: Jessica Alcott
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Have you ever had a crush on a teacher? A college professor? I'll be the first to admit to you all that I've definitely had quite a few, especially in my younger years. And for me, it was always the artsy types. The English teachers, who loved words as much as I did. It was safe, because it was a mere fantasy that would never happen. But this book completely takes it to the next level, and the result is searing, uncomfortable, sexually charged, honest.

The main character, Charlie, is not the pretty girl. In fact, the only reason that people in her school seem to halfway tolerate her is her gorgeous, charismatic best friend, Lila. Bookish, shy, and awkward, she knows that she doesn't fit in with her classmates. She meets her new English teacher, Mr. Drummond, who seems to truly, honestly understand her, as a person and as a young woman. I really could relate to Charlie, especially when we're talking about years in high school--insecure and bookish, unable to really fit in. It hurt me, often, to read just how much she was hurting, because I'd been in that same position before, wondering when I would blossom into someone worth knowing, worth caring about. (And I still struggle with that to this day.)

The affair that follows is, for most of the book, sexual tension, culminating in a hot encounter at her teacher's apartment. I'm not going to lie: there are parts of this book that were really hard to get through, even though the narration was absolutely hypnotic. I could see that Drummond was preying on Charlie's innocence, but I have to admit, their toxic sort of chemistry was one that I couldn't look away from. I also really enjoyed the way Alcott portrayed Charlie's budding sexuality--it was really frank, and honestly refreshing.

This book was hard to get through, but regardless, I enjoyed it. It was, at its core, at least to me, a coming of age story. The only thing that really could've been done better was the affair's impact on Mr. Drummond--I would've liked to see him punished in some way, and not just by Charlie. The bottom line: A searing and honest look at sexuality and what it means to be comfortable in your own skin, Even When You Lie to Me opened my eyes in the best kind of way. Next on deck: The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch by Daniel Kraus!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Conversion by Katherine Howe Review

Title: Conversion
Author: Katherine Howe
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Mystery
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

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

Where do I start with this book? God. I wanted to love it, I really did. I was so excited for it. And I loved the concept. The Salem Witch Trials has been a historical event that has fascinated me and captured my imagination for years, and I especially like hunting out fiction for it, seeing it through the unique light that the author shines upon this very dark and bloody period in history.

I've wanted Conversion since before it came out, and I was so excited when it finally came in at my library. I really liked the format of it: the contemporary chapters alternating with the ones Ann Putnam Jr. narrated, from the actual time period. But it was really slow in the beginning, and gleaning information was like pulling teeth. I wanted to love it, and I did love some of the book--I didn't hate it. But I definitely have mixed feelings.

Colleen Rowley is the narrator, and a student at the highly competitive St. Joan's School for Girls. I liked her as a character--she was funny and wry, and it was really refreshing to have a teenager's 'voice'. I could feel her tension and stress as, she not only struggles to keep her grades up, but the mounting pressure of the 'Mystery Danvers Illness of 2012' begins to affect her classmates--girls twitching, often with nervous tics.

I liked the mystery of it all--it was enticing and exciting--but it got confusing as the novel went on, what with the big cast of characters. I liked Colleen and all of her friends, as each was different in her own way, and quite memorable, but overall, the mystery, at least in the contemporary parts of the book, were a real letdown. I'm not sure why--I was just expecting more and I really felt unfulfilled.

The ending(s) were both satisfying, and did justice to the characters, but as I said, I just really felt let down. I was expecting more from Colleen's time period, and was disappointed. It wasn't a bad book by any means, but it just didn't blow me away. The bottom line: I really wanted to love Conversion, but the contemporary parts of the book were just a huge letdown--I was really expecting more. Next on deck: Even When You Lie to Me by Jessica Alcott!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Curiosities by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff Review

Title: The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories
Author(s): Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Anthology/Short Stories
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff are three titans in the young adult literature industry. All are bestselling authors, two of which have series under their belts. They have also started a blog called 'The Merry Sisters of Fate', where most of the pieces in this collection first appeared. (That site can be found at: I have read books from Yovanoff and Stiefvater, and will be looking into Gratton's work as soon as I'm able. (Norse mythology in young adult fiction? I am so excited for The Songs of New Asgard series!)

This book completely blew me away. A collection of pieces from all three women, complete with drawings and notes in said pieces. It was an unusually formatted book, but I loved it. As both a reader and writer, it spoke to my soul. It was beyond thrilling to be granted a window into all three women's writing processes, as well as to read these beautiful, though often dark, stories. I'm not going to review it like I normally do for a short story collection, as there are just far too many to review one at a time. But you can also see, through this volume, the deep friendship that the authors share: as women, as authors, and as readers. This book was such a treat, in that the stories were so intensely personal.

This book really has me tempted to go to my library and grab as many books by these three as possible. The short stories in this collection were like brief, tiny windows into the worlds (and minds) of these blockbuster authors, and I enjoyed every single dark, twisted, crazy minute of it. There was not a story in this book that didn't speak to me in some way--I loved them all. It was such a fun journey into how these women think and work--it felt like I was being admitted to a secret world, the world of people who do what I do for a living: write, even when they want to tear their hair out. It was so fun.

What can I say? This book was just wonderful, and if anyone has ever been curious about the writing process, or love short stories, you need to get your hands on this must-have collection. I promise you, you won't regret it. The bottom line: A fun, and often dark, window into these writers' brains, The Curiosities is a fantastic, can't miss collection--a short story volume to be read by all who have a passion for stories and writing! One of my very favorite books! Next on deck: Conversion by Katherine Howe!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Ghostly by Audrey Niffenegger Review

Title: Ghostly: A Collection of Ghostly Tales
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Short Stories/Anthology
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I was given a copy of this book through Netgalley by the publisher, Scribner, in exchange for an honest review--thank you so much!

It's fall, and you know what that means: rain, chilly nights, falling leaves, Halloween, Thanksgiving. But I'll be honest: Halloween is just my favorite holiday. I mean, candy? Costumes? Spooky movies and books? (Especially spooky movies and books!) It makes me feel like a kid again. Even now, at the age of 24, I still get excited for Halloween. And it's so much fun to get in the spooky mood with Halloween reads. Especially ones about ghosts. What's better near Halloween than ghosts?

This collection is edited and illustrated by Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry. I've read her first novel, and her second is waiting on my bookshelf. For the most part, I really enjoyed this collection, even though there were a few that were so archaic I couldn't really follow them very well.

The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe: 5 out of 5 stars. It wouldn't be a spooky story anthology without the king of horror himself! The narrator and his wife take in a black cat, as they both love animals, but cats especially. As the story goes on, the narrator begins believing that his cat is a supernatural force of evil, and the consequences of that madness are dire indeed.. Delightfully spooky!

Secret Life, with Cats by Audrey Niffenegger: 4.5 out of 5 stars. A story of female friendship, and old houses haunted by cats. I really enjoyed this one. The main character's friend leaves her a house shortly after passing away, and she discovers a gruesome secret when she stays a little bit too long.. This had a lot of black humor that I really liked.

Pomegranate Seed by Edith Wharton: 5 out of 5 stars. This story was more unusual because it was a domestic ghost story, with a wife suspecting her husband of having a secret affair when a mysterious set of letters, addressed to him, arrives. I really loved the ending of this story, and I will be looking for more of Wharton's horror fiction as soon as possible.

The Beckoning Fair One by Oliver Onions: 1 out of 5 stars. This would be one of the few tales I didn't like; the prose was so hard to follow it was difficult to ascertain what was going on in the story. I really tried with this one, but it just didn't gel with me. The parts I understood were scary, but most of it I couldn't figure out.

The Mezzotint by M.R. James: 4 out of 5 stars. A friend of the narrator, who works for the art museum of Cambridge, comes across a piece of art that needs to be identified, that just might be haunted. This story was creepy in that the prose slowly turned up the scary factor--I love an author that can scare in a subtle manner!

Honeysuckle Cottage by P.G. Wodehouse: 3.5 out of 5 stars. This story, at least at first, read to me more like a reluctant love story than a horror story. But, as it went on, I really enjoyed the creepy factor. James Rodman, a crime author, discovers a young woman and her dog, and as the story goes on, the infallible James finds himself falling in love with this pretty new boarder..

Click-Clack the Rattlebag by Neil Gaiman: 5 out of 5 stars. I first came across this story in Gaiman's newest book, Trigger Warning, so it was familiar. The thing about Neil Gaiman is that he scares readers in a way they don't often expect. The narrator, babysitting his girlfriend's little brother, gets told a scary story of darkness by the child, and ends up paying the price. Wonderful!

They by Rudyard Kipling: 2 out of 5 stars. This was creepy, most definitely. (I love stories where the ghosts are kids!) But the prose, from so long ago, was difficult to follow and understand, as I'm only familiar with The Jungle Book. Nevertheless, it was enjoyable.

Playmates by A.M. Burrage: 5 out of 5 stars. This story was particularly frightening. The main character's young ward begins to play with shadows, with invisible beings, scaring her benefactor and everyone else in the house. Again, I love dark, subtle humor, and this story hit the nail on the head in that aspect.

The July Ghost by A.S. Byatt: 4 out of 5 stars. This story really touched me on a personal level, as Byatt's own son died in a car accident. A couple begins seeing the ghost of a beautiful young boy, who appears when they least expect it, and it ends up tearing them both apart. This story really rang of loss to me, and it hurt me in the best kind of way. One of the best stories in the collection.

Laura by Saki: 5 out of 5 stars. This story was darkly funny and more than a little bit terrifying. Laura and Amanda, two best friends, are talking about dying, and hilarity, accidents, and terror ensue in rapid succession. This story is one of the reasons I love Saki.

The Open Window by Saki: 5 out of 5 stars. Again, this story is a contender for my favorite in the volume. A group of friends is waiting on a dark, rainy night for a set of their friends to come home. This was what I considered a story of 'classical' terror, and my favorite part was the ending. Amazing!

The Specialist's Hat by Kelly Link: 5 out of 5 stars. Oh, Kelly Link. Where have you been all my life? This is probably my favorite story of them all. Samantha and Claire, twins who live in a spooky castle, end up with a babysitter for the night. And when they find The Specialist's Hat, they discover that some of the ghost stories they've heard just might be true.. So delightfully spooky!

Tiny Ghosts by Amy Giacalone: 4 out of 5 stars. This story wasn't traditionally scary--in fact, it really struck me more as humorous. The main character, Angie, and her husband, discover their house inhabited by tiny, quite mouthy ghosts. This story was so funny, and I really enjoyed the ending.

The Pink House by Rebecca Curtis: 5 out of 5 stars. This story scared the pants off of me. It was so spooky. A woman is hosting a dinner party at her house, and she begins to tell a ghost story that is quite personal. I loved the subtly creepy feel of it, the way the hairs of the back of my neck. It was so raw and it felt real. Wonderful!

August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury: 5 out of 5 stars. This collection also wouldn't be quite complete without the father of science fiction. This story was definitely spooky, but it seemed to me that it was more a parable about the constant dependence of technology and its power to change our entire lifestyle. It was so scary, especially because it rings true of this day and age. The ending was perfect!

The bottom line: This collection was wonderful--a must-have for those getting ready for Halloween and any spooky story junkie! Next on deck: The Curiosities by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The White Rose by Amy Ewing Review

Title: The White Rose
Author: Amy Ewing
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Series: The Lone City, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

This is going to sound a little bit off topic, especially for a book I feel so strongly about, but, I really love my library. I go to that place almost every day. And that's how I found out about this series. I love dystopian novels, even though nowadays you see them all the time. (though I'll never forgive Veronica Roth for that horrible ending..) and my librarian, after reading it with her daughter, ordered a copy for me so I could read it.

And as I've said before, sequels are scary for me, especially when I particularly enjoyed the book preceding it. But I'm so happy to say that The White Rose didn't let me down in the slightest! With just as much oomph of The Jewel, The White Rose completely captivated me from start to finish, and as someone who waited for this sequel with bated breath.. Well, Amy Ewing did a fantastic job. I can't wait for the final book in this powerful, thought-provoking trilogy!

This book begins only moments after The Jewel ends. I don't want to give too much away and spoil it all, but I'll say that Violet and the characters from it don't disappoint, as well as new ones with compelling histories and memorable personalities. The pacing was completely breakneck; I couldn't put it down. (In fact, so I could enjoy it more, I made myself deliberately stop. Lol.) And that ending! The ending was even more explosive than the first one! Please don't tell me I have to wait another year for the third one! What am I supposed to do before then?

In all seriousness, though: I need the third book, and will be waiting with extreme anticipation and impatience for the next installment! Wonderful! The bottom line: The thought-provoking and satisfying sequel to the bestseller The Jewel, The White Rose was absolutely fantastic! Next on deck: Ghostly by Audrey Niffenegger!

*The photo used above was from Amazon--it is not mine and I do not claim credit for it, but used it as rather as I would've used a gif.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Everything She Forgot by Lisa Ballantyne Review

Title: Everything She Forgot
Author: Lisa Ballantyne
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 3.5 Out of 5 Stars

This book was given to me by the publisher, William Morrow Paperbacks, through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review--thank you so much!

I love mysteries and thrillers. I'm drawn to them, lately, more than other types of fiction, and the bite has gotten even worse with Halloween coming up in two weeks time. I love the constant, creepy, anxious feeling that I get when trying to figure out who did it, and mysteries done well are really rather satisfying for me, especially when I don't make the jump halfway through the novel.

Maybe it's one of the side-effects of binge-watching Scooby Doo all the time?

Whatever the cause for my recent addiction, I was really excited to receive a copy of this book. When one thinks of thriller and mystery fiction, especially of the whodunit variety, I'm sure Lisa Ballantyne is up there with the titans: Ann Rule, Sandra Brown, Tana French. I was very excited, but for some reason, while the ending was satisfying in a way I enjoy for a mystery--all the loose ends tied up--something about Everything She Forgot just let me down. Maybe I picked the wrong book of hers? I'm not sure.

Not to say, of course, that the book wasn't enjoyable. It was a good book. The three main characters, Margaret, Big George, and Angus, were all flawed in their own ways. Margaret trying to tread water when she ends up in a huge pileup, unearthing memories from a childhood event that happened years ago, Big George, the mobster with the heart of gold, and Angus, the disgusting, misogynistic reporter, holy and devout to everyone he meets, save those closest to him.

The mystery of the book itself was intriguing, enough to pique my interest, but it was frustrating, because through eighty percent of the book I kept getting distracted by other details. I don't know how to explain it--I have so many mixed feelings about this book, and despite it all, I really liked it, regardless of its flaws. I'm definitely going to be giving The Guilty One a shot when I'm able. The bottom line: Though at times frustrating and confusing, Everything She Forgot is a compelling thriller that focuses deeply on characters--I really enjoyed it! Next on deck: The White Rose by Amy Ewing

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore Review

Title: The Weight of Feathers
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Magical Realism
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Wow. Just.. Wow. This book. This book is definitely a favorite, and one I will treasure forever. The author dedicated it to her husband, with the words, 'for being the boy I fell so hard and so fast that I will never forget what it feels like to be seventeen'. This book brought back so feelings for me, the feeling of first falling in love with my husband, with a connection so tense and beyond anything I'd ever felt for anyone else before.

I loved this book. There were definitely elements of a Romeo and Juliet, forbidden romance vibe, but it made it all the sweeter for me. And then there were the characters, one Spanish, the other, French, and the two cultures that melded throughout the novel. (Each chapter is introduced with a nugget of wisdom from one of the two cultures.) The writing was gorgeous, captivating, so much so that I devoured almost half the book in a single sitting.

But it wasn't just the prose, or the characters, though that definitely helped. It was also the dark, almost silent family secrets lurking in the background of both characters' families--that was one of the reasons this book was just so compelling for me. The Corbeaus and the Palomas, eternal enemies. One French, one Spanish. Two families who often come close to one another, as they are all performers, but never cross without some blood or violence.

I won't lie, though: Parts of this book were particularly hard to get through, so much so that I had to get up and walk away to avoid screaming in rage, or crying, in pain or frustration. That was just another reason why I loved it. This book made me feel so much, touched me to the heart and soul.

I know that this is McLemore's debut novel, but.. Could you please write another book? Please? The love story, Lace and Cluck, and the incredible characterization. God, I loved all of it, even as the frustration mounted and the families infuriated me beyond measure. Lace, headstrong, brave, just coming into her own as a person as well as a young woman, and Cluck, the one no one wants around, the misfit, the ugly duckling in a family of beautiful, sure-footed swans. I loved them both.

But what really sold this, as I said before, were the shocking twists and turns involving both families, hiding dark secrets and clinging to lies. I've seen Romeo and Juliet stories time and time again, but none have ever touched me like this. The bottom line: A beautiful love story wrapped in dark family secrets and lies, with a few dashes of coming of age angst, The Weight of Feathers is a gorgeous debut--absolutely amazing! Next on deck: Everything She Forgot by Lisa Ballantyne!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Shadow Behind the Stars by Rebecca Hahn Review

Title: The Shadow Behind the Stars
Author: Rebecca Hahn
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

This book was given to me by the publisher, Atheneum Books for Young Readers through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review--thank you so much!

'A life contains a thousand stories, but we know them all. And they always end the same way: snap.'

I'm a total nerd for mythology, from every culture, but the one that I happen to be most familiar with is Greek. I had quite the passion for it from a young age, and even now, at 24, go hunting for books that contain elements from the canon. I just love seeing the gods reinterpreted for the sake of a good old fashioned story.

What do you think of when you think of The Fates of Greek mythology? For me, it's always this:

But the story that Hahn presents completely blew my mind, and completely spins a story that is both seductively compelling and utterly heartbreaking, for the young adult set. God. There really aren't enough words to describe just how much I loved this story. It was a tale of love, friendship, and humanity--it was dark, beautiful, heartwrenching, and it really rang true of a story that was well-loved.

There are three sisters of Fate, Xinot, the old one, Serena, the middle-aged, and the youngest, Chloe, who happens to be the narrator of the novel. The Fates are solitary creatures on a small island, somewhere close to Greece. They enjoy and find purpose in their work, and are content, in a way that mortals are not. But that all changes when a young woman, Aglaia, comes to their door, and changes their lives forever.

First off: The prose was what drew me into the story. The pacing wasn't breakneck, so some readers may have a hard time sticking with this one, but that's not what mattered, at least for me. The writing was gorgeous, lush and descriptive and utterly hypnotic when I started reading. And then there's Chloe herself, who regards mortals with mixed feelings, in turn. Awed, inspired, indifferent? She was a very dynamic character, and her narration was perfect.

Her sisters, too, are equally compelling: Serena, who is quick to love anything that shows her affection, despite her inability to die, or to interfere with human affairs. Xinot, of all of the Fates, showed the indifference I expected in one of the Fates. But that all changes when, Algaia, a beautiful and troubled young woman, comes to stay at their hovel, disrupting the women's routine, brought by pain and tragedy.

What really made me love this book was its characters, as well as its premise. As much as I like to think of pillars of the Greek myths, I've never thought of them. But whatever I would have, it was changed completely by Hahn's telling. This book was beautiful, and at times, incredibly painful, ringing of Chloe's helplessness, and what it really means to be human, to have pain and suffering but beauty and joy as well.

I don't want to reveal much of the plot; this book is best read going in blind. But fans of love stories, Greek myths, fantasy and historical fiction will love The Shadow Behind the Stars, if they stick with it! The bottom line: A gorgeous, tender love story wrapped in fantasy and Greek mythology, The Shadow Behind Our Stars is not to be missed! Next on deck: The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys by April Genevieve Tucholke Review

Title: Slasher Girls and Monster Boys
Editor: April Genevieve Tucholke
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Anthology/Short Story Collection
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Am I the only one who's incredibly excited for Halloween? No? Yeah, I figured as much. During the month of October, probably more than any other month of the year, I crave scary books, in order to get into the creepy mood. And I'm sure I'm not the only one, either. I love Halloween reads. It just prepares me for one of my favorite holidays. And if any of you are looking for a great Halloween read, pick this book up. Run to your local library or bookstore and purchase this book. This has got to be one of my favorite short story collections, ever. Hands down. Bar none. There wasn't one I didn't enjoy! I promise you, you won't regret it, because this was my face after reading this amazing collection of gory, creepy, spooky tales:

Because I like to be incredibly thorough, I really like giving the whole book a rating, and then each story individually, so I'll stop talking and get to the review already. (Lol.) Also, the theme is stories inspired by various horror movies, and novels. Okay, for real this time, here we go:

The Birds of Azalea Street by Nova Ren Suma: 5 out of 5 stars. Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's classic horror film, The Birds, and Rear Window. I loved this story, told with Suma's signature, sleepy, dark flair, flirting with the line between real and imagined events. A group of friends sees that a girl has moved in with their creepy, lecherous neighbor, and end up drawn into a grisly murder--wonderful!

In the Forest Dark and Deep by Carrie Ryan: 5 out of 5 stars. This story was inspired by one of my very favorites--Alice in Wonderland, of course! This story has got to be one of the most gory of the collection. A forest, ruled by the elusive and frightening March Hare, is frequented often by a young woman named Cassie. I liked this story, not just because it went back and forth, because it had the same dark playfulness of the original.

Emmeline by Cat Winters: 4 out of 5 stars. Inspired by an old vampire horror movie. This one was a little hard to follow, but it was highly enjoyable nonetheless. A young woman named Emmeline lures a young soldier up to her ruined bedroom, where he nearly meets his death. I loved the dark, Gothic feel of it, as well as the tones alluding to what--and who--the monster really was. Really enjoyable and dark!

Verse Chorus Verse by Leigh Bardugo: 3.5 out of 5 Stars. Inspired by Frances Farmer by Nirvana. A mother and daughter, Kara and Jaycee, reunite after Jaycee's court-mandated stint in rehab. It was really creepy, genuinely so, and I liked the way that they incorporated Hollywood into the horror. The ending was amazing, but I wish Bardugo had been more clear in what exactly the monster was. (Perhaps that only added to the terror?)

Hide and Seek by Megan Shepherd: 4.5 out of 5 stars. Inspired by The Crow and Final Destination. Expanding on a character in local folklore, this tale tells of Crow Collum, and the girl who beats him at a game of hide and seek. I really liked this one, its gore factor, the way the author incorporated lore I was unfamiliar with, and of course, its unlikely heroine. Wonderfully told!

The Dark, Scary Parts and All by Danielle Paige: 4 out of 5 stars. Inspired by The Omen and Frankenstein. This story was highly enjoyable. Marnie, the resident misfit, begins experiencing strange things happening at her school.. She's suddenly able to control things with her mind, and when she meets the hottie of her dreams, she discovers that it might not be so bad to be a monster.. Seriously spooky! Loved it, despite it being a little confusing.

The Flicker, The Fingers, The Beat, The Sigh by April Genevieve Tucholke: 5 out of 5 stars. Inspired by I Know What You Did Last Summer and Carrie. This is quite possibly my favorite story of the whole collection. I really loved this story. It was creepy and oddly tender, full of guilt and what it means to really be yourself. Theo and his friends, all drunk, end up hitting a classmate one rainy fall night, and as a result, all end up with their dreams shattered, and Theo himself goes mad. So amazing!

Fat Girl with a Knife by Jonathan Maberry: 4 out of 5 stars. Inspired by Zombieland and Night of the Living Dead. This story was frightening, but it was also quite humorous, in a black kind of way, if you're into that kind of thing. What would I expect from the King of Zombie fiction himself? Dahlia is a girl that gets bullied and picked on, who doesn't take crap from anyone. She's having a pretty crappy day already, when, you guessed it! Zombies begin to eat her classmates! Delightfully funny and really relatable.

Sleepless by Jay Kristoff: 5 out of 5 stars. Inspired by the film Psycho and Mudvayne's 'Nothing to Gein'. 5 out of 5 stars. I'll be honest: This book scared the pants off of me. Straight off. A boy named Justin longs to meet his true love, a girl he met online, and ends up with his dream coming true. But, be careful what you wish for.. (Even though I kind of saw what it was inspired by, it was still terrifying. Jay Kristoff, why haven't you written any horror novels?!)

M by Stefan Bachmann: 3 out of 5 stars. Inspired by the film M and the TV series Upstairs Downstairs. This story was confusing. The blind main character, Misha, for whom the story is named, struggles to solve a murder in her mistress's crowded house. I really liked the Gothic and historical themes of this story, but it was slightly hard to follow. Nonetheless, the ending made up for it.

The Girl Without a Face by Marie Lu: Inspired by the films What Lies Beneath and Los Ojos de Julia: 4 out of 5 stars. I really liked this story because it contained supernatural elements, mixed with good old psychological thrills and terrors. It was a really skillful blend of both, resulting in an unearthly and terrifying tale. Richard has his whole life ahead of him, when he finds his closet to be haunted, and goes mad. Loved the way the terror just escalated as the story went on.

A Girl Who Dreamed of Snow by McCormick Templeman: Inspired by the film Kuroneko. 5 out of 5 stars. Told with the rhythm of a folk or fairy tale, this story was supernaturally scary. Nara, a young woman, and Mowich, a young hunter, meet through less than savory circumstances, and he and his friends end up paying with their lives. Loved the lore in this story, as well as the characters and pacing.

Stitches by A.G. Howard: Inspired by Frankenstein. 5 out of 5 stars. Yet another contender for my favorite story of the volume, this story was incredibly creepy. Born to a drunk father, Sage Adams is not a typical young woman. And when her father comes to her with a gigantic check in exchange for various parts of his body for an experiment, she steps up to the plate to make him whole again, and she just might find love along the way.. Gory and creepy, but tender--I loved the ending!

On the 1-5 by Kendare Blake: 4 out of 5 stars. Inspired by the films The Hitcher and Death Proof. I was very excited for this story--Blake is one of my favorite horror novelists. But I felt a little let down. It was gory, and scary, as per Blake's M.O., but the monster aspect was confusing and kind of hard to follow. The bottom line: A dark, creepy, and gory set of tales perfect for preparing for Halloween, I loved this collection--amazing! Next on deck: The Shadow Behind the Stars by Rebecca Hahn!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Cage by Megan Shepherd Review

Title: The Cage
Author: Megan Shepherd
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: The Cage, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Megan Shepherd, you've done it again. I loved The Madman's Daughter, and I almost love your sophomore novel more. Wow, just wow.. After reading this book, this was my reaction:

All I can do for a moment is just sit here, in shock. This book. This book was amazing! Probably one of my favorite books--ever. And I'm not just saying that. I'm a junkie, for all sorts of stories, but the beauty about ones with aliens is that it can be interpreted in many different ways, despite their recent spike in popularity. Where do I begin with this book?

Well, first of all, I'll explain the concept in the best terms I can: What do you get when you mix in a zoo on a distant planet, several distrustful teens, aliens, and forbidden love? You get something close to The Cage. It was a wonderful novel, full of Shepherd's signature twists and turns, as well as a very hot love triangle, along with excellent world-building and, for good measure, some serious Lord of the Flies elements. The result is explosive, terrifying, and most of all, a portrait of what humanity really is.

This book scared the crap out of me. Scared me to death in the best kind of way. I love it when a novel makes me feel something, as well as a story that opens my eyes and makes me think. For me, that is the best kind of tale. This book will remain in my heart and head forever. I'm still in shock.

And the ending! That ending! But, as usual, I'm all over the place, so let me go back and explain. Cora, Lucky, Leon, Mali, Nok, and Rolf all wake up on a distant planet, in an environment that, at first glance, looks like paradise. But, as the stress escalates, and their captors, the Kindred, begin to explain why they were brought there, everyone turns on each other. (So. Creepy!)

And that's not even counting the scorching, forbidden love affair budding between Cora, the main character, and Cassian, a Kindred who clearly has secrets of his own, despite his growing attraction to her. God, that part of the book was so raw and heartbreaking. (My poor heart!)

I know this sounds cliche, but I just loved this book, everything about it. Megan Shepherd has definitely improved from her first novel, and there had better be a sequel! (Hopefully I don't have to wait too long!) The bottom line: A survivalist story, a love story, aliens, a cage--this book genre-bounces in the best kind of way--I loved The Cage and can't wait for more from this promising series! Next on deck: Slasher Girls and Monster Boys by April Genevieve Tucholke!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas Review

Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Sarah J. Maas, how could you do this to me?! I haven't even finished the Throne of Glass series, and I finally get my hands on this book, and.. How could you do this to me?! Do you enjoy stomping on your readers' hearts and then simultaneously gutting them? The feels of this book! How am I supposed to read my next book after this? How am I supposed to wait until May for the second book?

What have you done?

Me, after reading this book:

I literally just sat with this book, hugging it, a complete mess. In fact, as I'm struggling to clean up the various viscera that used to be my heart, I told my husband that I need my own copy of this book, come Christmas. I'll admit that I was really nervous, as some of my reviewer friends had said that they were disappointed.

I'm happy to say that I wasn't. I was really, really nervous. Beauty and the Beast is one of my very favorite fairy tales, if not the favorite. But Sarah J. Maas captivated me with Throne of Glass, so I'm so glad I picked this up when I did. I loved her writing before, but this probably takes the spot of my favorite Sarah J. Maas novel.

I'm struggling to gather my thoughts into anything close to coherent. This book has crept into my heart and soul, and I'm pretty sure that I'll be ordering the second book come May. (Arrgh, how in the world am I supposed to wait that long?!) This book was just fantastic. Honestly. Every single heartbreaking, terrifying, beautiful bit of it.

I loved everything about this novel. (I know, I know. Get it together, there had to be something bad about this!) Everything. The world-building was excellent, well-thought out, easy to understand, and believable. I loved the way Maas took a fairy tale I thought I knew and gave it a dark spin that reminded me of the old Grimm tales

 But what really made me fall in love with A Court of Thorns and Roses weren't even its characters, though those certainly helped: icy, cold Feyre, mysterious, seductive Tamlin, the terrifying and yet coldly beautifully Rhysand, it was the love story that really made me treasure this story. I may not seem it, but I'm quite the hopeless romantic, and stories like this make me believe that love can be found for all--even in the darkest, most unlikely places.

The prose, too, was beautiful, and at times I felt like shriveling up in jealousy at how Maas seems to seduce with her words. (Bonus points for Feyre and her artistic mind--so pretty!) I loved the journey; Feyre and Tamlin will always and forever be one of my very favorite literary couples. 5 stars. 5 stars, completely won and well-earned. I will be looking forward to more in this series. (Psst--I can't wait to finish the Throne of Glass series! Eeeeeee!) The bottom line: A love story wrapped in an old story I thought I knew, A Court of Thorns and Roses is a sweeping fairy tale of epic proportions, as well as a story I will hold in my heart forever! Next on deck: The Cage by Megan Shepherd!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins Review

Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Romance
Series: Anna and the French Kiss, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I'll be honest, you guys: I'm so confused right now. I thought I had mixed feelings about a book before, but that's nothing compared to how I feel at this moment. I've just finished Anna and the French Kiss, and, with rave reviews on Goodreads as well as Tumblr, I was nervous.

I was expecting a romance. And darn it if I didn't get one, because I did. But said romance was so confusing. This whole relationship was incredibly confusing. On one hand, I loved both characters involved, and was rooting for them, but I didn't like the whole cheating business. Now, even as it was resolved at the end of the novel, I am so confused. If there were other people in the equation, said cheating never should've happened..

Okay, I'm sorry. Getting ahead of myself here, so I'll just start from the beginning. As I said in the paragraph above, I've heard both good and bad things from all quarters about this book, so when I was able to pick out a new library book, I just said to heck with it and went for it.

First of all: Love the setting. I mean, a romance novel set in bright, beautiful Paris, the City of Light? Bonus points for Perkins for describing the city so beautifully--I really felt like I was really there. It was so wonderful, and it only deepened my desire to travel to said city and experience it for myself.

I'll move on to the characters: Anna, who at turns drove me crazy and made me laugh out loud. Anna, funny and sweet and utterly herself. I loved her, for the most part, but at times it felt like she was thinking with her hormones rather than her brain, and her reaction to things had me nearly tearing my hair out. (Communication, people! Learn it!) St. Clair, Anna's best friend in this huge city, funny and infuriating, and naturally, adorable. (And of course he's British!) And then there are Josh, the artist, Rashmi, the caustic overachiever, sweet Mer, who loves hot chocolate and sports.

I loved all the characters, but as I said before, the cheating and constant misunderstandings had me really confused. I loved most of this book--I mean, the setting, the characters, the first love--but some aspects of the romance really threw me off, and even now, I still don't quite know how I feel.. Regardless, I'm glad I read it finally! The bottom line: A novel of Paris, falling in love, friendship, and self-discovery, despite the confusing messages, Anna and the French Kiss is a sweet, romantic read--wonderful! Next on deck: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler Review

Title: What We Saw
Author: Aaron Hartzler
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Me, after reading this book:

How do I explain my feelings on this novel? I'm pretty much emotionally exhausted after reading What We Saw. I'll start off with the most basic of my thoughts: this book is a searing exploration of what it means to be raped in today's day and age--and the often life shattering effects it has on the victim, as well as what it means for boys that 'will be boys'.

Obviously, rape is never, ever, okay, but this book hit me even harder because it was based in part on the Steubenville rape case. I remember when the case first hit the airwaves: I was disgusted, horrified, sickened. Not only had this horrible thing happened, it had been covered up, and social media only made the backlash worse for the victim. It happened here in Ohio, in my state, probably forty or fifty minutes from here. (For more information, visit this link:

Aaron Hartzler's What We Saw was amazing, but it was also dark, terrifying, and often sickening. More often than not as the book went on, my stomach was turning, or I had to put it down to avoid screaming. I liked the way Hartzler used Kate, a fictional character at the catalyst of it all, to tell both sides of the story: the rapists, and the victim. It was utterly heartwrenching.

Kate has just found a niche, thanks to her best friend turned boyfriend, Ben, and she is thrilled to be included--that is, until she gets word of something terrible happening at the party she left the night before. A former friend and fellow student, Stacy, has just filed charges against their classmates, who just happen to also be basketball stars. The whole town explodes from the impact of this awful, inexcusable crime, and soon, everyone starts taking sides.

Despite the heavy subject matter, I loved it, and it brought up the more frightening points of what makes rape culture: She was asking for it. She was drunk. She took her top off. She's been a slut since seventh grade. It brings to mind, for me, that rape culture, even in 2015, is still raging and prevalent, and it needs to stop. But while making his points, the author doesn't come off as at all preachy.

This book needs to be read by all. Everyone. Teens and adults. It is eye-opening and dark, horrifying and sickening, but it is nothing less than a necessary, grim triumph. An amazing work of fiction, rooted deeply in fact. The bottom line: A necessary story rooted in fact, unafraid to go deep to speak the truth, What We Saw was a dark, essential story that should be read by all. Next on deck: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins!