Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Shadow Prince by Stacey O'Neale Review

Title: The Shadow Prince
Author: Stacey O'Neale
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Mortal Enchantment, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

It's no secret that I'm a total junkie for fairy stories, and for stories about elementals, and this book just happened to be about both! I've always found something incredibly enchanting about being able to control an element; I've never really known why. I've just always thought it would be cool to manipulate such a force of nature at will.

Rowan is a fire elemental, the only biological son of Prisma, the Queen of the Fire Court. He is forced to live under the iron fist of his mother, and when he receives word that he is to be crowned King of the Fire Court, he's naturally suspicious, and for good reason: in order to obtain the throne from this mother, he must kill the halfling daughter of the Air Elemental King, Taron. He is sickened by what his mother asks, but he must, for the fate of the natural world hangs in the balance.

I loved everything about this book: It was just wonderful. The world-building was spot on, the characters were all wonderful, nuanced and flawed and real, and I loved the ending--the only thing that was bad was that I need more! Rowan, especially, was my favorite character, and I can't wait for more from Stacey O'Neale! The bottom line: An action-packed start to a deeply engaging series, I loved The Shadow Prince! Next on deck: Love and Other Ways of Dying: Essays by Michael Paterniti!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Pretty in Black by Rae Hachton Review

Title: Pretty in Black
Author: Rae Hachton
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Romance/Fantasy
Series: Evermore, book one
Star Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

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

As I mentioned in my previous review, I asked for far too many books and have been trying to catch up. I've had a really bad problem with book getting lately. But on to the actual review.

I like vampires. I like romance. I like dark supernatural elements. But somehow, this book just didn't work for me--the plot was muddled, and I really felt like the two main characters, Marcus and Ellie, just met each other and fell in love. It wasn't exactly bad, but it wasn't spectacular, either. I liked the spin that Hachton put on the vampire legend--the claiming instead of the bloodletting, trying to make it more romantic, but it just wasn't for me. It felt like a darker Twilight. I didn't really like any of the characters, they all felt disposable to me, and it just put me off the story. Next on deck: The Shadow Prince by Stacey O'Neal!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford Review

Title: The Sea House
Author: Elisabeth Gifford
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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

This was the first book I ever requested from an author, and I'll admit here that I asked for a lot of books all at once and got overwhelmed, and have been spending months trying to catch up. (I know, I know, I have a problem. And it's bad.) I had trouble getting into this book at first--it was hard going. I've tried several times to read it, and finally I made myself sit down and read it. And I'm so glad I did.

Elisabeth Gifford tells a story that goes across multiple generations, beautifully and skillfully; first of Ruth, the young woman who is struggling to come to terms with an unhappy childhood and dark past, navigating her marriage. But when she comes across a child's remains in the new house she buys with her husband, Michael, she finds that it brings up ghosts she'd rather not disturb. Still, the prospect of finding out what happened to the baby remains too much to resist, and in doing so, she begins to sift through her past.

We are also brought to 1862, the same house--The Sea House--and introduced to Alexander Ferguson, a young reverend who tries to do his best to stay true to God, and his religious calling. Moira, his maid, is an uneducated Gaelic girl, and she begins to fall in love with him, even as Alexander is nearly driven mad in his quest to find the elusive selkies from his family's stories.

This book was just beautiful. I really, really enjoyed it. The journey of Ruth, trying to make peace with her past, and Alexander's, a mad journey to find the elusive seapeople--I really enjoyed the way the two narratives intertwined, and all the characters, especially Ruth, were relatable and human. This book was undeniably dark, but it was done in such a fantastic way. A great debut from a promising author, I'm looking forward to more from her! The bottom line: A dark, yet cathartic debut from a promising talent, The Sea House is a great debut, shimmering with wisdom and self-discovery! Next on deck: Pretty in Black by Rae Hachton!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill Review

Title: Only Ever Yours
Author: Louise O'Neill
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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

I've been a total junkie for dystopian fiction--all kinds of it, actually--for more than two years now. It's one of my favorite genres, often because of how twisted and creepy it can get. And Only Ever Yours completely goes over-the-top creepy--just the way I like it.

In what used to be Great Britain, "Eves", genetically designed women--literally--are trained to be a tool to the men of their society, and Frieda and Isabel have been friends their entire lives. They will become Companions together, and their sons will be best friends. But Isabel is pulling away from Frieda, for reasons she can't understand, and Frieda's beauty, her only asset, is in jeporday when the stress begins to get to her.

This book was many things: heartbreaking, frightening, but the biggest word that comes to mind about this book is disturbing. This book is so frightening because it is entirely believable: a world built by men, and women only valued for their beauty and their ability to bear children, raised from the age of four by often very cruel tactics. At times, I was nauseated. I had to put the book down to break from this awful world that the author paints.

It sickened me all the more because it showed me how often women are pitted against one another in a world where we should be supporting each other. This book isn't for the faint of heart at all; it requires a really strong stomach sometimes. But that being said, I loved it anyway; this book is incredibly revelant and should be read by women of all ages.

But the society aside, I really enjoyed the characters, too: Frieda, who wants nothing more than to be liked, and to be secure, I could relate to that, because, after all, who doesn't? Horribly bitchy, social climbing Megan, and all the other Eves, desperate for companionship but also trying to look out for herself in a world where nothing is safe for them. And the men, of course: the almighty Father, his son, Darwin, and the other Inheritants. The bottom line: A cross between The Handmaid's Tale and Mean Girls, Only Ever Yours is a dark, disturbing dystopian achievement! Next on deck: The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight Review

Title: Where They Found Her
Author: Kimberly McCreight
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I've been a fan of Kimberly McCreight ever since I read her debut Reconstructing Amelia (which can also be found on this blog). I love her thrillers, and Where They Found Her didn't disappoint me!

In Ridgdale, a small, idyllic town, the peace is shattered when the body of a female infant is found washed up in a creek. Molly Sanderson, a local reporter and a mother herself, is assigned the case, and is forced to confront her own difficult memories about her lost daughter. She tries valiantly to hold it together, wanting closure for herself and the dead infant. As she struggles to piece together a puzzle long before her own time there, she realizes that the story just might cost her everything.

I'll start with the good parts: I loved the setting. Any thriller set in a small town is an instant hit for me; it makes it all the more creepy when the crime is committed. And Ridgdale was idyllic, tiny, nearly perfect, but there were also dark, almost forgotten skeletons in closets in the most unexpected places.

The characters, too, were a huge part of why I loved this book: Molly, the struggling mother trying to piece her life back together after her own heartbreaking loss, Justin, her loving, literature-obsessed husband working at the local university, Jenna, the residential whore and screwup, and her daughter, Sandy. And let's not forget Steve, Barbara, Hannah, and Cole: the perfect family--on the surface, at least. I loved how each character was flawed and nuanced, and just a smidge dark and twisted as well.

The pacing of this novel was breakneck--a signature of McCreight's work. I couldn't put it down once I started, because that's her gift: McCreight gives you piece by tiny piece, trying to draw out the mystery in your head as well as Molly's.

I really, really liked this book, but it wasn't perfect: It felt a little too neat, a little too easy, toward the ending, and it was a little disappointing, but this book is solid, though I preferred Reconstructing Amelia. The bottom line: A solid, dark, twisting mystery, I enjoyed Where They Found Her! Next on deck: Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Siren's Song by Heather McCollum Review

Title: Siren's Song
Author: Heather McCollum
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: Siren's Song, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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

This book was just wonderful. I loved everything about it--I loved the characters, the pacing, the paranormal elements.

Jule Welsh loves to sing, and boy, can she sing--she enchants people with her voice, literally. Her life is, for the most part, normal. That is, until her mother is committed to a psych ward, convinced that her best friend's family is evil and out to get Jule and her family, and the arrival of the mysterious Luke Whitmore throws her life into chaos. He loves her, but he wants to kill her as well.

What I really enjoyed most about this novel was the supernatural elements, and the way that they were incorporated--curses are more popular than ever now, but McCollum did it with real flair--it was believable. I loved the pacing, too, and the way she kept me guessing--I couldn't trust almost any of the characters, mostly because I couldn't discern their motives.

The characters, too, were wonderful: I liked Jule's narration, she was really relatable too me, and Carly, her best friend, was possibly my favorite throughout the book. Luke's relationship with Jule, and his friends, Matt and Taylin, were wonderful too--I really liked the relationships in the novel. The ending, too, was perfect. The bottom line: I'm looking forward to more from Heather McCollum! Next on deck: Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller Review

Title: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I bought this book and reviewed it.

Ever since I was a kid, I've loved mythology, especially Greek, and it's definitely become even more appealing to me as an adult. I haven't read the Aeneid, or the Iliad, or the Odyssey, (yet!) but when I saw that this was about Achilles, one of the greatest Greek heroes of all time, I just knew I had to have it. And I'm so glad I bought it.

This book makes classical Greek works more accessible to young adults, and I love that. I love that this took The Iliad, and not only made Achilles a hero, but a gay one at that! This book, by all accounts, is not just a retelling--it is a bittersweet, gorgeous love story that made me cry.

Patroclus, an exiled prince, is forced to go to Pithia, and his life changes forever when he meets Achilles, a demigod, and eventually, his best friend and his lover. The two journey to Troy to change the tide of the war, but that isn't nearly so easy with various gods trying to even the playing field in their favor. The focus of this story, for me, was not the war, but the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. It was flawed and complicated, and heartbreaking in its reality--even more so because of the time period.

I think Miller did a fantastic job--a fascinating character study of one of the most profound heroes in history. I felt like I knew all the characters in the book intimately. But unfortunately, it wasn't exactly perfect. The constant shifts in tenses had me entirely confused, but luckily it wasn't a huge part of the book. The bottom line: Highly recommended for fans of Greek mythology, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Song of Achilles is a triumphant, heartbreaking novel about love and war! Next on deck: Siren's Song by Heather McCollum!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Inked by Eric Smith Review

Title: Inked
Author: Eric Smith
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Series: Inked, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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

I haven't told you guys this before, but I love tattoos--I have three of them myself. A sprout on my left wrist, and 'It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live-Albus Dumbledore' on my arms, and the quote starts on my right arm and ends on my left And when I saw the description of Inked, (magic associated with tattoos! Eeee!) I was all over it.

I liked the high fantasy feel of it, and I loved the way Eric Smith found a way to make tattoos--now, for the most part, part of mainstream society--magical. I also really enjoyed the way that the world was ruled by the Citadel--evil people who want destruction and power, even if it costs lives. This book was a wonderful adventure, perfect for fans of Percy Jackson and the Olympians. But there was one thing that bothered me though: The world-building. It wasn't explained very well.

The characters, too, are what made me love this book: Caenum, afraid of his Inking, Dreya, his best friend and maybe something more, Kenzi, the reluctant runaway, and of course all the characters you meet as the story goes on. I really enjoyed the way that all the characters were relatable and flawed. If a book has characters that I can't relate to, simply put, my ass isn't wasting my time! The bottom line: Despite its minor flaws, Inked makes a wonderful young adult debut! Perfect for fans of Rick Riordan and Sara Raasch! Next on deck: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury Review

Title: The Sin Eater's Daughter
Author: Melinda Salisbury
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Series: The Sin Eater's Daughter, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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

This book was one of the best I've read all year. I loved it. The Sin Eater's Daughter has it all: fantastic world-building, flawed characters with very real moral dilemmas, beautiful writing, and oh, did I mention an evil queen? An evil queen!

The story opens with Twylla, a Goddess Embodied, doing her job for the kingdom: killing people with her poisonous touch. She is engaged to be wed to Prince Merek, one of the only people who can actually touch her. But when her guard comes down sick, she receives a new one, a man who sees her for what she really is, a girl, not a Goddess. And she discovers that she must make a choice that is near impossible..

I liked that this book was so character-driven; it reminded me of Game of Thrones that way. I loved the high fantasy feel of it, and the world-building was well-thought out and made sense. (If any of you are fans of Rosamund Hodge, go out and buy this book! Lol.) I also really enjoyed the pacing, once I started the novel, I really couldn't put it down. But my favorite thing about this novel was that I couldn't tell whether any character was trustworthy, and I was being shocked by revelation after revelation.

Recommended for: fans of Marie Rutoski, Rosamund Hodge, Sarah J. Maas, and Sarah Fine. The bottom line: A rich, deeply realized confection of a high fantasy novel, The Sin Eater's Daughter was a delight to read--a favorite of all time! Next on deck: Inked by Eric Smith!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Dante's Kiss by S.L. Nadathur Review

Title: Dante's Kiss
Author: S.L. Nadathur
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Romance/Fantasy
Series: Dante's Kiss, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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

Angels and demons are a topic that I will never get tired of. I love supernatural stories, but ones about angels and demons just might be my favorite. I think it's cool when an author takes a supernatural creature like that and puts her own great spin on it. If you're a fan of Supernatural, chances are good you'll love this novel.

Kiriela is an angel, with a quarter human side, a music muse. Despite her devotion to God and her fellow angels, she yearns for love. (And come on, what girl doesn't, at sixteen?) She thinks she's found it with Jadiel, an angel who has fallen. But when a human boy named Dante comes into her life, she finds her entire life--everything she's ever known--turned upside down.

I loved this novel, mostly because I really related to both Dante and Kiriela. I really enjoyed how well-thought out all the characters were, them especially. Dante, the boy who wants nothing more than to be himself and loved for it, and Kiriela, wanting to do her part but be loved in the process. The supernatural elements, too, weren't over the top and ridiculous, just believable enough.

There were some things that confused me, though; like Jadiel, for instance. His motives were cloudy, but maybe things will be cleared up in the next novel. The bottom line: An enjoyable, dark young adult novel, Dante's Kiss is perfect for fans of Supernatural! Next on deck: The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Hidden by Donna Jo Napoli Review

Title: Hidden
Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: N/A, companion novel to Hush
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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

I read Hush a long time ago, when it first came out, about the mute Gaelic slave woman named Melkorka. (Great book, by the way--one of my favorites by Napoli!) This book, Hidden, is about her little sister, Brigid. Brigid jumps off the slave ship that has taken her and her sister far from home, and ends up being taken in by a small farm nearby. This book takes place over a period of eight years, and I liked the way that it went--it was all very quick, and I enjoyed the ending as well.

But honestly, even though I loved Brigid and her journey, I wish more of it had been about the actual pirates--that's what I was expecting to read about. But all the same, I really liked this novel: I loved the way Napoli took such pains to research the novel; I really felt like I was immersed in the culture of medieval Europe. Brigid was the shining star of this novel, a woman determined to make her own way and survive, on her own terms. This book screamed "GIRL POWER!" and I was in love with it. The pacing was breakneck--I couldn't put it down, I finished it in a matter of hours. Every character in this novel, however fleeting, really stuck with me, and this book really felt like a window back into that time--it was an enjoyable novel. The bottom line: Meticulously researched, immersive, and powerful, Hidden (and its 'prequel', Hush) was a wonderful novel! Next on deck: Dante's Kiss by S.L. Nadathur!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Rodin's Lover by Heather Webb Review

Title: Rodin's Lover: A Novel
Author: Heather Webb
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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

I took an art history class in my sophomore year of college, and Rodin happened to be one of the artists we studied. It wasn't much, just a few sculptures and that was it, but ever since, I've been drawn to historical fiction, especially about artists.

Rodin's Lover follows the life of Camille Claudel, the lovely artist who wants nothing more than to spend her life creating beautiful things for the world. This book really spoke to me as a person, but more than that, a woman, because it showed me the very real struggle that women still deal with today: recognition, power, and talent, and the want to be seen, not just as a woman, but as a person in general.

Camille is by all accounts a wonderful character: fiery, desirable, independent and stubborn, but at times arrogant and angry. I also really enjoyed the way the author took creative liberty with the rumors of Camille being mentally ill, and it made me sympathize with her. The relationship between Camille and Rodin, one of the best sculptors of that time, really took the spotlight for me. It was deep, volatile, as all-consuming as an addiction, and at the same time, filled with dangerous barbs.

I loved everything about this novel, except the ending--I really feel like the author could've at least had Camille and Rodin speak one final time before the novel's end. The bottom line: Meticulously researched, written with grace and tenderness, I loved Rodin's Lover, and I'm looking forward to reading more from the promising Heather Webb! Next on deck: Hidden by Donna Jo Napoli!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge Review

Title: Crimson Bound
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Cruel Beauty Universe, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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

I've made no secret of my love of Rosamund Hodge's novels--and I'm not going to lie, I full-on squeed when I got the email approving me for Crimson Bound. And I'm happy to say, just like Cruel Beauty, this book was amazing. It had everything: dark, beautiful prose, characters that constantly kept you guessing, great pacing and of course, a ton of blood and gore! (And some awesome world-building, but I digress.)

Rosamund Hodge knows how to write a fairy tale retelling: she keeps to the dark material and then expands, which is exactly the way I like it. I loved Rachelle, too, the obvious antihero, and her constant battle between her human and forestborn selves. Armand, too, was a great foil for her: witty, sarcastic, able to hold his own. Another thing I love about Hodge's novels is the political intrigue: in Crimson Bound, for the first time, she shows her skill for it. I loved most the twists and turns throughout the novel--I couldn't really tell what anyone was thinking, so I kept getting twists in such continuity that I kept getting tripped up. (Yay, I couldn't predict it! Lol.)

The bottom line: I loved everything about this novel, plain and simple: It was just what I was expecting from Hodge, and I'm so happy that I wasn't disappointed. Next on deck: Rodin's Lover by Heather Webb!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Illusionarium by Heather Dixon Review

Title: Illusionarium
Author: Heather Dixon
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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

I love steampunk novels. If it's got gears, technology, Victorian sensibilities, all of the above? I am all over it. I'm a total junkie, actually, and if I had more time I would hunt them down so I could read them. Illusionarium intrigued and enchanted me--advanced technology, multiverses, a smart-ass main character, and dark futures, and for the most part, I really enjoyed it. There were twists and turns, some of which had me gasping. And the fights--Heather Dixon knows how to pen a great fight. (And Lockwood! Lockwood was easily one of my favorite characters of the book, if not the favorite!)

But. Yes, here it comes, the inevitable but: I really liked it, but there were some things that were really confusing. At times, it was hard to keep up with everything happening, it almost seemed like it went too fast. And the explanation for the multiverse was a little confusing. Actually, a lot of the technology seemed poorly explained too. I had a grand adventure with this book, which I absolutely loved, but I wish there had been more information given on the world-building. I really liked this book, but hopefully more information is given, it just wasn't enough for me. Next on deck: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge!