Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter Review

Title: Lost Voices
Author: Sarah Porter
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Lost Voices, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from the Kindle Unlimited library and reviewed it.

From the time I was a child, I've been obsessed with mermaids. I guess The Little Mermaid is to blame for that. Ariel was my favorite Disney princess until I was sixteen. And I've wanted to read Lost Voices since it was published a few years ago. When I saw it in the Kindle Unlimited library, I borrowed it right away.

Lost Voices opens in grim, dark, wild Alaska, starkly beautiful against Luce's struggle as an unwanted girl, invisible to all, except her alcoholic Uncle Pete. When her life and abuse becomes too much to bear, she transforms into a mermaid. Freed from a life of fear and shame, she finally finds acceptance from Catarina, the queen of her tribe, and the other mermaids.

But such acceptance comes at a terrible pride: Luce must sing humans to their deaths. Torn between her bitterness at life's cruel circumstances and her guilt over taking human life, she discovers that power may be too much to control.

This book was beautiful, exquisitely dark and chilling. It reminded me slightly of The Lord of the Flies I loved that. A bunch of teenagers, tossed aside by society and blessed (or is it cursed?) with murderous power, seductive, destructive music no human can even hope to resist.

Luce was the shining star of this novel. A lonely girl, forgotten by all except her dead father, forced to live with a drunk, resentful uncle, and then thrust into a painful, frightening transformation into a killer fish girl, literally. I really related to her, to get struggle for acceptance, and family. She was a great character.

The other mermaids managed to get into my heart as well. All castoffs, pariahs, and so drunk with power they don't seem to mind getting the blood tithe that fuels their way of life. They scared me, even as I sympathized with them. Catarina, especially, was a dear character to me.

The pacing of this book was breakneck, I couldn't put it down, from the first page. I wanted to give this book five stars, but at times the drama between all the girls got to be too much, and it seemed to take away from Luce's struggle as a new mermaid. The bottom line: A darkly enchanting tale about loss, acceptance, and ethics, I loved Lost Voices! Next on deck: Waking Storms by Sarah Porter!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Every Ugly Word by Aimee L. Salter Review

Title: Every Ugly Word
Author: Aimee L. Salter
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from the Kindle Unlimited library and reviewed it.

Bullying--I'm sure that isn't a new concept to most people. And it's unfortunately something that is an epidemic among young people. I'm no stranger to the scars--I was bullied a lot as a kid, so much that I loathed going to school. That sometimes it was too much to even get out of bed in the morning. And those words have a lasting effect--I will never forget the hell that middle school was for me. It was nothing short of torture.

Every Ugly Word is a frightening, dark little book--but what's so frightening about it is that it utterly exposes what life can be like for the majority of students: fear and paranoia, self-loathing and rage. This book just ripped my heart right out of my chest--and I mean that in an entirely good way. Despite the sensitivity of the subject matter, Salter completely conveys what it's like.

Ashley Watson wants nothing more to be left alone. Left alone, and for her best friend, Matt, to fall in love with her. And her older self, her twenty-three year old self, lurks in a mirror, watching her as she goes through all this--telling her that she'll get through it. But when things become too much, how will she go on?

Ashley--God. I felt for her so much. I related to her so much--it was honestly like looking through a mirror. Albeit a very painful one. She was a great character, trying so hard to keep her head above water when most of the other characters in the book wanted her to drown. This book scared me, in that reminding me children can be incredibly, and often senselessly, cruel. I felt for her, even down to the ugly emotions--when it goes on and on, where do you go? Who do you turn to?

The other characters often disgusted me, especially Karyn and Finn. And sometimes, Ashley's best friend, Matt, was right up there with them. It was chilling to read. But this book needs to be read. It is a frightening, twisted, often fucked up commentary on what it's like to be an outcast. I am completely in awe, and I will love this book forever. The bottom line: A dark, twisty little mindfuck of a novel, Every Ugly Word should be required reading for anyone whose ever felt like an outcast. Next on deck: Lost Voices by Sarah Porter!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

To Bear an Iron Key by Jackie Morse Kessler Review

Title: To Bear an Iron Key
Author: Jackie Morse Kessler
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: To Bear an Iron Key, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

This book was given to me by the publisher, Month9 Books, in exchange for an honest review.

Fairies are one of my favorite supernatural tropes, whether they be tiny pixies, kappas, or any other sort of magical being. I just love the way that fairies can differ, depending on the author--and Jackie Morse Kessler doesn't disappoint in the slightest.

Bromwyn Darkeyes, a young witch, makes a grave mistake in refusing the king of the fey, who offers her forever in the land of the fairies. And when her best friend Rusty picks exactly the wrong pocket, all hell threatens to break loose--literally. Forced to face the fairies in a frightening battle of wits, she discovers that she must try to tap into her powers, and try to save her village and the world, or the sinister, deceptively beautiful fairies will be able to come through the World Door every night of the year, wreaking havoc on all she holds dear.

I'll start with the things I enjoyed: I liked the world-building, it was unique and not hard to understand. I also enjoyed the concept, because come on, evil fairies! The best kind of fairies! I liked the way the author wrote the fairies--I really feel like they were just the right amount of creepy and sinister, but still somehow tempting.

The characters were the best part for me, though, especially Bromwyn, a young woman determined to make her own fate, even as her familial responsibilities restrain her from trying to live her own life. I really enjoyed her; her fight between her duty to her family and herself. Rusty, too, was really fun: a joking trickster of a boy that probably has never done anything serious in his life, until he picks the wrong pocket.

Bromwyn's family, too, was wonderful: Jessamin, her mother, the card reader and widow, and Niove, The Wise One of the village, often angry and stern but at times loving and strong. The pacing of this novel was completely breakneck--I couldn't put it down, and I really enjoyed it!

There were times, though, when I was frustrated with almost everyone in the book: the villagers, Bromwyn and Rusty, and their families, but overall, this book was great!

The bottom line: This was a really strong little book--a wonderful start to a brand new series, and I think it's safe to say I'll be looking for more of Jackie Morse Kessler's work! Next on deck: Every Ugly Word by Aimee L. Salter!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Chaos by Sarah Fine Review (Possible Spoilers!)

Title: Chaos
Author: Sarah Fine
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror/Romance
Series: Guards of the Shadowlands, book three
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from the Kindle Unlimited Library and reviewed it.

Wow. That's all I can say, sitting here, realizing that the series is over. I can't believe it--I'm so happy and sad all at once. I'm in for a killer book hangover after this. It's been a long time since a book has done this to me, so I'm thrilled, and I will be looking forward to more of Sarah Fine's work.

After the unthinkable happens, Lela must go on a journey she never imagined, and in the process, possibly lose everything she's ever wanted.

Holy crap. The description is so short because I don't want to risk giving anything away. This whole series is absolutely amazing, but Chaos was the perfect end to it. This book was so much fun! Frightening quests, blood and gore, heart-melting romance and sexual tension, scary villains and betrayal. I get nervous over starting a series, and I am livid when it doesn't end well. (*cough* Allegiant *cough*) I feel like I've wasted my time if an author doesn't do justice to her main characters. Luckily, Sarah Fine ends it beautifully--I absolutely loved it!

I thought I was in love with the characters before Chaos--now, I'm afraid, they're inside my heart, and I have a feeling they're going to be making themselves comfortable. Lela and Malachi are definitely one of my favorite couples of all time. My babies! I liked that this book left no stone unturned and no question unanswered. I like feeling satisfied by the ending of a book. The bottom line: The final and most explosive volume in The Guards of the Shadowlands series, Chaos is the best one yet--this series is not to be missed! Next on deck:  To Bear an Iron Key by Jackie Morse Kessler!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fractured by Sarah Fine Review

Title: Fractured
Author: Sarah Fine
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror/Romance
Series: Guards of the Shadowlands, book two
Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from the Kindle Unlimited Library and reviewed it.

Oh my God. My heart.My heart. I have been sitting here for a while, bawling my eyes out, pondering how to put this into words.

I am speechless, and this hasn't happened to me in a long time. This series is reminding me how much I love young adult fiction. And thank God that I don't have to wait for Chaos, because otherwise, I would be absolutely livid.

Where to start with this? I don't even know where to begin. Picking up where Sanctum left off, Lela is now Captain of the Guard. And the evil Mazikin have escaped the dark city and come to Rhode Island. As if she didn't have enough problems. Caught between her love for her fellow Guard, Malachi, and trying to protect her human friends, what's a girl to do? And how much can one person sacrifice for her loved ones?

I'll start off with the things I liked: Lela. Lela Santos has got to be one of my favorite heroines of all time. And she gets better with every book. I love her character development, and I love her nonstop ability to kick a hell of a lot of ass. But I also love her vulnerability, and her fear: She is, essentially, human, and humans err and make mistakes, but they can also be heroes, and Lela fits that perfectly. I love her!

And then there's Malachi: dreamy, sexy Malachi, who had me swooning completely at times throughout Sanctum and Fractured. I liked him as a character a lot, because he too was deeply nuanced and flawed--sometimes to the point where I was about to throw my Fire at the wall. I also deeply enjoyed their relationship.

The new characters, as well, Jim and Henry, ended up in a soft place somewhere deep in my heart. I loved them, wholly and completely. Sarah Fine has an almost otherworldly talent for making amazing characters. I'm applauding silently in my head while simultaneously screaming. I loved the fight scenes as well. I love an author that can pull off an amazing fight scene.

Now with the bad: The reason I'm so nervous to start a series is for the book in the middle, and this book unfortunately just had the predictability that a second book has--I won't say specifics for spoiler reasons! I was really frustrated for a good amount of the book, and the ending..

Well, my God. I'm so nervous and excited and scared for the last book, but I might wait a few hours before starting it, just for my heart's sake. Next on deck: Chaos by Sarah Fine!

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Forgotten Fairy Tales by Angela Parkhurst Review

Title: The Forgotten Fairy Tales
Author: Angela Parkhurst
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: The Forgotten Fairy Tales, 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, Angela!

I am a total junkie for fairy tales. I'm absolutely obsessed. They're honestly like literary crack for me--I could read them happily all day long. There's just something so beautiful and timeless about them, deep and endless wells of inspiration for writers like me. So if anything even slightly smacks of fairy tales, I am all over it, just on principle.

Norah Hart loves fairy tales--but her life is over when she's sent to a mysterious boarding school. And everyone seems absolutely cracked out--everyone is convinced that they are the modern incarnations of fairy tales--Cinderella, Goldilocks, the whole nine yards. Convinced that she's ended up in a European loony bin, she realizes that she, too, is connected to this strange world, where magic is real and happily ever after requires fighting for.

I'll start off with the things I liked: I really enjoyed the concept of this novel, and the way it mixed modern and fantasy, fairly skillfully. Norah, though, was definitely my favorite part of the book, I really related to her, longing for a place in the world and some stability. I liked her a lot--her character development was rich and real, and it was even better that she was a kick-ass protagonist.

The pacing of this novel was great, too--I couldn't put it down once things started rolling. That was another great thing about this: once things began, they didn't stop, and the twists and turns made it that much more fun.

The whole clique-esque vibe of the school kind of bored me, but overall, I really enjoyed it. The characters were what sold this for me: head-strong Norah, shy, stand-offish April, and Wolf, the bad boy who is insufferable and sexy all at once. And then there's Finn, the drunk prince searching for a happy ending, and Pearl, and Desiree.

My favorite part of this book was that I really couldn't predict the characters, and it really made it fun. The bottom line: A fun, wonderful romp through the world of fairy tales, The Forgotten Fairy Tales was a hit--I loved it! Next on deck: Sanctum by Sarah Fine!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Very Best of Kate Elliott by Kate Elliott Review

Title: The Very Best of Kate Elliott
Author: Kate Elliott
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Literary Collection
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Since this is a collection, I'm going to rate each piece individually.

I'd never heard of Kate Elliott before this delicious collection--I know, I know, shame on me! But I think it's pretty safe to say that she's definitely got my attention; I will most definitely be looking into her other work, especially the forthcoming Court of Fives! But what refreshed me most about this collection was that Kate Elliott is a woman, and writes from the point of view of multiple ones. Women can be titans in the writing industry, and she's part of the proof!

Riding the Shore of the River of Death: 5 out of 5 Stars. A thrilling, yet mysterious and dark tale of female power and independence, this story completely swept me away--a beautiful tale.

Leaf and Branch and Grass and Vine: 4 out of 5 Stars. A dangerous journey begins for a young widow, and she must leave her family in order to fight for what she thinks is right, even if it means sacrificing herself. I really enjoyed this one, mostly because of the main character--a badass in her own right!

The Queen's Garden: 5 out of 5 Stars. This was probably my favorite piece of the whole volume; two clever princesses scheme to win the throne out from their clever, ambitious father's fists--I loved the entire story, especially the two main characters!

On the Dying Winds of the Old Year and the Birthing Winds of the New: 4 out of 5 Stars, Set in the world of the best-selling Crossroads series, this tale was wonderful: a story of female camaraderie and friendship, set amidst the frightening world of the Crossroads, but it was a little hard to follow.

The Gates of Joriun: 5 out of 5 Stars, I really enjoyed this story, mostly because of the magic in it--and the main character. A young woman risks her life for her brother, and his quest to take his rightful place--even as she skids toward the edge of madness.

The Memory of Peace: 4 out of 5 Stars. This tale was heartbreaking and brutal, the account of a war on a poor village family. I really liked this story, a lot because of the family dynamic--it was sad and terrible, but beautiful as well, even though it was hard to follow.

With God to Guard Her: 5 out of 5 Stars. This story is another contender for my favorite of the volume; a young woman, lusted after by a rich duke, is forced to turned to God, and her own strength, to protect herself and her family. I loved the main character: a fighter named Merofled who wrests her independence from her circumstances. Brava!

My Voice Is In My Sword: 5 out of 5 Stars. This one was just hilarious, in a dark, baleful kind of way! Ross and his friends are at the rehearsal for Macbeth, and things go wildly awry when they perform the play for alien creatures that can sense emotions. You're in the dark for most of the story, but then it becomes laughably clear--wonderfully dark humor that I enjoyed!

Sunseeker: 3 out of 5 Stars. I wanted to love this story--I loved Eleanor, and the way she stood up for herself, but it was really hard to follow and I didn't really get it. Disappointed with this one.

A Simple Act of Kindness: 4 out of 5 Stars. Set in the world of A Crown of Stars, the story begins with a storm, and a young woman named Daniella. I really liked this one because it crept up on me, and it was just spooky enough to give me chills, but not terrible nightmares. Wonderful!

To Be a Man: 4 out of 5 Stars. This story was the sexual one, and despite it all, I enjoyed it! A cat--or is he a man--maybe both?--ends up outside a castle. Charmed by two voluptuous maids, he ends up entangled with them--and ends up literally saving their lives. Hilarious, warm, and frank! Wonderful!

Making the World Live Again: 5 out of 5 Stars. Eili doesn't want to marry; she wants to work in the temple. And she gets her wish. What sold this tale to me was Eili; I loved the way she wanted her own path, social mores be damned! Wonderful and engaging!

The Omniscient Breasts: The Male Gaze Through Female Eyes: 5 out of 5 Stars. This essay had my inner feminist roaring out in approval; where has this woman been all my life? Elliott points out that male gazes in literature--that is to say, often too sexual ones--are not accurate, and must be changed, though it isn't necessarily someone's fault.

The Narrative of Women in Fear and Pain: 5 out of 5 Stars. Again, Elliott makes an excellent point in literature; not only are we asked to identify with abuse, it is often unnoticed, and it was scary to me that I never realized this; often, women are in pain, but it is never told from the woman's perspective. Enlightening, eye-opening, and truthful. Amazing.

And Pharaoh's Heart Hardened: 5 out of 5 Stars. Speaking more generally of prejudice, Elliott tells us about a significant moment in her life. In explaining Rosa Parks to her children, she realizes just how predominant prejudice is in society, and it really touched me. Highly personal and poetic, I enjoyed this essay the most!

The Status Quo Does Not Need World Building: 4 out of 5 Stars. Speaking of world-building and its complexities, and namely, the unsaid in it--I really enjoyed this essay as well. Amazing!

The bottom line: Though I'd never heard of Kate Elliott before this, I'm now definitely a fan! A feminist titan in the fantasy/science fiction industry, Elliott's writing is just like magic! Next on deck: The Forgotten Fairy Tales by Angela Parkhurst!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Fragile Reign by Stacey O'Neale Review

Title: Fragile Reign
Author: Stacey O'Neale
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: Mortal Enchantment, book three
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!

All I can say is 'Wow'. Oh, and, 'Is there another book?'. I'm kind of gunshy about series ending, or getting close to it--I'm always afraid that I'm going to get emotionally invested and then it's going to let me down.

And I'm so, so, so happy to report that Fragile Reign did not disappoint me. In fact, this is probably the best book in the series so far! Holy shit. If there isn't more, I just might curl up under my covers and never come out. Fragile Reign picks up after Mortal Enchantment, pulling no punches--O'Neale gets straight to the action!

Kalin is struggling to maintain her grip on the throne. And she has to marry another Air Elemental, Sebastian. (Thanks to Cassandra Clare, I hate that name. Lol.) Struggling desperately to remain true to herself and her own desires and keep a steady grip on elemental courts going out of control? Not an easy task. And it just gets worse when Rowan's issues come to light. (Trying to inform you guys without spoiling anything is difficult.. Lol.)

The pacing was fantastic--I couldn't put it down. It was amazing. The characters, old and new, were great--Kalin and Rowan especially! I was so happy that their relationship evolved, and took a real center in what was happening. It was really well balanced with the court intrigue and politics as well. I loved the way the book ended, but I need more! The bottom line: Another fantastic entry in the Mortal Enchantment series, Fragile Reign was absolutely captivating! Next on deck: The Very Best of Kate Elliott by Kate Elliott!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Mortal Enchantment by Stacey O'Neale Review

Title: Mortal Enchantment
Author: Stacey O'Neale
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: Mortal Enchantment, book two
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, Stacey!

Elementals. Elementals are one of my favorite sort of beings to read about. I mean, who hasn't dreamed of having dominion over the most powerful forces in nature? To own the waves of the ocean, to call upon the fire deep within the earth? Oh, I'm getting distracted. On to the review.

Mortal Enchantment picks up after the explosive climax of The Shadow Prince, this time turning to Kalin as the main character. On her birthday, she must go to Avalon to learn to use her gifts of elemental power--being the Air Court princess and all. But when she goes to Avalon, her father is missing. Forced to be completely on guard within a court full of secrets, intrigue, and clandestine power struggles, she also is distracted by the sexy Rowan, who seems to have his own motives for protecting her.

I'll start off with the things I enjoyed: I really liked the world-building. It was great, and I really enjoyed the way the faerie courts were structured--it still fit the world, but it was unique all at once. I liked the characters, too: Rowan, Kalin, and Marcus and Ariel were all relatable and well-nuanced. And the evil characters, too, which I won't name for spoiler reasons.

The pacing was awesome--once things started rolling, I couldn't put it down. I was completely glued to the pages, especially towards the end. There were things I didn't like, too, and that's why I gave it 4 out of 5 stars instead of 5: Kalin seemed really hormonal and boy-crazy toward Rowan, and their relationship seemed to evolve out of thin air. I would've liked to see them develop more, rather than Kalin lusting after him every two seconds.

And that ending--Oh my God! If I didn't have the third and last novel lined up, I would be dying! I'm so excited to read Fragile Reign! The bottom line: A fantastic sequel to The Shadow Prince, Mortal Enchantment was riveting--I loved it! Next on deck: Fragile Reign by Stacey O'Neale!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Life From Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family and Forgiveness by Sasha Martin Review

Title: Life From Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family and Forgiveness
Author: Sasha Martin
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction; memoir
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I love memoirs, but particularly, I love memoirs about food. I could read food porn all day. Even though I live in Ohio, (I know, not a very big place for haute cuisine. Lol.) food is one of my great loves. That's initially why I was drawn to this book in the first place, and I loved it.

Life From Scratch is told in a strange manner--it jumps all over the place, but it seems fitting of Martin, a young woman trying to find her own place in the world. Food has always been her anchor through all the thick and thin of her life, and it shows. But what touched me most about this book is how blisteringly honest it was.

Martin lays bare her entire life for the reader to see: the eclectic chaos of her childhood, particularly her mother. She doesn't have a normal family--in fact, she is sent to live with her mother's close friends until she is eighteen. She pulls no punches, honesty and raw pain bleeding from every word for most of the book. I really loved the way she was so frank--because if a memoir isn't frank, it isn't real, and it turns me off.

The food, too: the food descriptions were absolutely to die for. And she grows with it. Creating a blog to cook the world's various foods, she finds some semblance of peace, and happiness, even as she waits for it all to shatter. I really related to her; what person doesn't want to find a place where they belong? The bottom line: A searing, raw memoir full of love, honesty, and emotional turmoil, Life From Scratch is a gem of a memoir--recommended for readers of Julie and Julia and the like! Next on deck: Mortal Enchantment by Stacey O'Neale!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Love and Other Ways of Dying: Essays by Michael Paterniti Review

Title: Love and Other Ways of Dying: Essays
Author: Michael Paterniti
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction; essays
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars

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

I didn't finish this at 35 percent. I loved the way the author wrote, but the essays themselves were just strange and didn't hold my attention. Next on deck: Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness by Sasha Martin!