Friday, January 30, 2015

A Small Indiscretion: A Novel by Jan Ellison Review

Title: A Small Indiscretion: A Novel
Author: Jan Ellison
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Thriller
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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

This book really hit a chord with me. It was beautiful, in a painful kind of way. It's not a thriller in the traditional sense--I would call it an emotional thriller, because that's what it is: a journey into a woman's secrets, appetites, and humanity. Meet Annie Black, a woman who is content with her life.. for the most part. She has a loving husband, three beautiful children, a store, and a house. Sounds idyllic, right? Wrong! Annie longs for something--that something being absolution and forgiveness.

Annie is what we all are: human, erring, and sometimes, selfish. But she makes no excuses for her sins, at all, in fact, she seems to lament them, because in spite of her happiness, she is still wanting. And despite her multiple grievances, I couldn't really hate her; in fact, I related to her a lot. We all make mistakes--sometimes tiny, other times, earth-shattering, life-altering. And in Annie, Ellison creates a sympathetic protagonist. If you enjoy drama, particularly domestic ones, I would highly recommend this novel. It's a little slow at first, but it's really worth waiting for. A wonderful novel exploring timeless themes such as secrets, forgiveness, and what it means to be loved. Next on deck: Illusionarium by Heather Dixon!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace Review

Title: The Storyspinner
Author: Becky Wallace
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Series: The Keepers' Chronicles, book one
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

DNF at 48%. Despite its potential, it was just really boring, and it wasn't for me. It was too slow and too fast, oddly. Next on deck: A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Chairaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton Review

Title: Tiny Pretty Things
Author(s): Sona Chairaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a ballerina. It was a little-girl dream, a faltering one that faded with my love of writing, but my love for ballet has always been intense. I mean, who wouldn't want to be a ballerina? To be light as air, graceful, ethereal, beautiful? Strong? I love books about ballet, and this one shows the dark underbelly of that glittering world: Under the pink tutus and toe shoes, Gigi, Bette, and June all have secrets they'd like to forget: All Bette wants is her boyfriend back, Gigi wants to hide a health condition from the other girls, and June just wants to be on top, no matter what it takes.

I liked this novel--it was a dark little escape for me, and I enjoyed the soap opera-esque feel of it: the backstabbing, the secrets, the hookups, and of course, the dance moves. The pacing was great--I couldn't put it down once things started rolling, and I really enjoyed the way both authors made each character flawed--so flawed, in fact, that half the time I couldn't believe what they were saying. (Yay for unreliable narrators!)

This book was a dishy little escape for me, but for some reason left me unsatisfied. The drama added up, but it felt like nothing was really revealed, so most of the book I was really confused. I felt a bit lost--sometimes the secrets took up so much of the plotline I couldn't really focus on anything else. The bottom line: A dishy little book about the drama and grit of the world of ballet, but a disappointing finish. Next on deck: The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio Review

Title: None of the Above
Author: I.W. Gregorio
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Coming of Age
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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

This book.. This book should be required reading for this day and age. Sexuality and gender: what is it defined by? This book is unflinching, honest, beautiful, heartbreaking. Kristin Lattimer is just a normal young woman: Homecoming Queen, track addict, girlfriend to one of the hottest boys in school. But when she finds out she is intersex (in less politically correct terms, a hermaphrodite), her life falls apart.

This book was an amazing feat of self-exploration, of raw honesty. I loved it. At times, though, it was incredibly painful. When people don't understand difference, it makes them afraid. And it's human Cnature, but it doesn't make it right. This book made me cry, made my heart ache. One of the primary things that defines us as human beings is gender.. And nowadays, a lot of people don't fit in with the typical gender binary. And who cares, right? We're all human, and honestly that is what should matter.

I didn't understand the struggle, no one who isn't intersex can. But Gregorio creates a sympathetic, relatable character in Kristin--her entire life is thrown for a loop with this revelation, never mind what the rest of the people in her life think. I loved her father, and Darren, and Vee and Faith. I enjoyed this novel for what it was: a humane and honest peek, albeit a fictional one, into the lives of intersex men and women. The bottom line: A beautifully raw and rare debut, None of the Above should be required reading for all ages! Next on deck: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Razorhust by Justine Larbalestier Review

Title: Razorhurst
Author: Justine Larbalestier
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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

Welcome to Razorhurst, city of blood, ghosts, and darkness. This book made me want to curl up into a corner and watch every gangster movie in existence (particularly The Maltese Falcon, Gangs of New York, The Departed, and Goodfellas, but I'm getting sidetracked here.) If you've ever wanted to live in a hard-boiled crime thriller, this book is for you. Another thing that made me love it was that it reminded me of Neil Gaiman's creepy masterpiece, The Graveyard Book, and Daniel Waters's Break My Heart 1,000 Times.

The style of this novel was slick, too. I loved the way that the author kept my mind on the crime, but took the time to flesh out every character introduced, and deeply. While there were obviously some characters I didn't like, I enjoyed the way the author gave information, and made you care about each person: particularly Kelpie, the little orphan girl who wants nothing more than to stop seeing ghosts, and Dymphna, the not-so-typical moll with killer wit and cunning. I loved the way the book made me feel--like I was actually experiencing the darkly glittering streets of haunted Razorhurst. The bottom line: Equally thrilling for crime readers and those who want something supernatural, this book completely swept me away! I will definitely be looking for more from Justine Larbaleister! Next on deck: None of the Above by I.W. Greggorio!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Song for an Approaching Storm by Peter Hoeberg Idling Review

Title: Song for an Approaching Storm
Author: Peter Froeberg Idling
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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

DNF at page 123. The constant political talk was really hard to follow--this book was just not for me. Next on deck: Razothurst by Justine Larbalestier!

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George Review

Title: The Little Paris Bookshop
Author: Nina George
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book was given to me through the publisher by Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Do you love books? Do you love nuanced, flawed characters? Spontaneous adventures? If you answered yes to any of these questions, The Little Paris Bookshop is for you!
Jean Perdu loves his floating bookshop, The Literary Apothecary. So much so, in fact, that all he does is sell people books. But when he decides to go out searching for a lost love, he realizes that he may just end up finding her, and himself.
This book was magical, in that it was beautiful. Every character that you come across is funny, flawed, and human, and the love of books is papable--it jumps off the page at you. I loved everything about this novel--Nina George understands the human condition, if you'll pardon such grandiose phrasing. The characters that populate this novel, Jean Perdu, the man so numb he perfers books to people, Max Jordan, the young author lost in Paris trying to find himself, Manon, Jean Perdu's lost lover, Samy, the young drifter, and Salvo, the Neopolatian chef, all are flawed and beautiful and human. That's what sells me on a novel: the characters must feel like real people to me, and this book did that beautifully.
The bottom line: A treat for lovers of all things literary, The Little Paris Bookshop sparkles like the City of Light herself. Next on deck: Song for an Approaching Storm by Peter Hoeberg Idling!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Orphan of Torundi by J.L. McCreedy Review

Title: The Orphan of Torundi
Author: J.L. McCreedy
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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

DNF at page 90. It was an intriguing idea, but I just wasn't into it--there was too much information going out at one time, and I just wasn't feeling this book. Next on deck: The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George!

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins Review

Title: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Thriller
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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

Do you like thrillers? Especially Gone Girl? If you've answered yes to either of these questions, this book is for you! This book was incredibly creepy--claustrophobic, even. The pacing was spot on--I couldn't put it down. I devoured this book in a day and a half. Rachel, the ex-wife, the drunk, the woman whose life fell apart, is trying so hard not to let her drinking get the best of her.. And often, she loses to that vice. Then there's Anna, the ex-mistress, the new wife to Rachel's ex, Tom. She doesn't really care about anyone about herself, Tom, and her daughter, Evie. And lastly, there's Megan, the discontent neighbor, restless and secretive.. I love the way the story wove together, the way every little detail mattered, and I was breathless through most of this novel. The bottom line: A top-notch debut from a promising author, I loved The Girl on the Train--easily one of my favorite books I've read this year! Next on deck: The Orphan of Torundi by J.L. McCreedy!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Lost Remnant by J.N. Race Review

Title: The Lost Remnant
Author: J.N. Race
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Series: The Pieces of Eden, book one
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 stars


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

Where do I start with this book? It had a lot of potential, but I couldn't finish it. I stopped at page 113. The writing was clunky, and I was bored through most of it. Next on deck: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Under Different Stars by Amy A. Bartol Review

Title: Under Different Stars
Author: Amy A. Bartol
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Kricket Series, book one
Star Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

This book was given to me by the publisher, 47North, through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

DNF at page 48. due to instalove between the boring main character and the jerky alpha male. I just really wasn't feeling it. Next on deck: The Lost Remnant from J.N. Race!

The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes Review

Title: The Ship of Brides
Author: Jojo Moyes
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

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

DNF at page 26. It was just really boring and it didn't hold my attention. Next on deck: Under Different Stars by Amy A. Bartol!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Watched by C.J. Lyons Review

Title: Watched
Author: C.J. Lyons
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Thriller/Mystery/Contemporary Fiction
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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

Trigger warning: sexual abuse, more specifically pedophilia, mental illness, more specifically, agoraphobia

This book. This book. It should be required reading for everyone living in this day and age--that is, the digital age. It seems like if you don't have a presence online, you don't have a presence anywhere. And it's definitely fun: Youtube, and Vine, Snapchat and Twitter.. But Watched shows us the drawback of the digital age: if you post something to the Internet, it's there forever (unless you're like my husband and know how to take it off).

We are introduced to two kids, Jesse and Miranda, who are pawns in a man named King's game. King, quite simply, has ruined Jesse's life, and Miranda's, too. I'm not going to lie: This book is hard to get through. Most of the time reading it, I was nauseated, disgusted. But I admire Lyons' approach: she knows what this stuff is like, up close and personal. I applaud her for not shying away from the hard topics: how to be safe in a world where digital risk is constant, sexual abuse, particularly pedophilia, and secrets, and how they change us all.

The pacing of Watched was absolutely breakneck--I couldn't put it down, even though there were many, many times when I really wanted to. I loved both Jesse, the boy forced to hide his true self from everyone, his mother, his sister, his classmates, cornered and angry but ready to fight back, and Miranda, the young woman who had a night of carefree fun that went viral, and has made her agoraphobic. What was so compelling about the two of them was that they were flawed, undeniably human, and yet still heroes--protagonists worth cheering for, and loving.

The bottom line: An incredibly dark, sometimes grotesque, tale worth reading--it should honestly be required material for this digital age--simply amazing! Next on deck: The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Suspicion by Alexandra Monir Review

Title: Suspicion
Author: Alexandra Monir
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

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

Where do I begin with this book? The concept sounded awesome, but it just got.. muddled. It was an ungainly combo of Rebecca, the Princess Diaries, and Downton Abbey, and it just didn't work. The main character, Imogen, suddenly becomes a duchess, and must move to England to take over her family's estate. I didn't mind Imogen, I actually enjoyed her, but the execution of this novel does Rebecca a terrible disservice. Don't get me wrong, it was a valiant attempt, but it was just really, really bad. The whole novel seemed to jump all over the place, and Imogen's obsession with Sebastian got annoying. The bottom line: A valiant, but poorly executed, attempt to modernize Rebecca for teen audiences--I'm disappointed, to say the least. Next on deck: Watched by CJ Lyons!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay Review

Title: Princess of Thorns
Author: Stacey Jay
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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

High fantasy: It's recently become a favorite genre of mine. I love the scope of it, the crazy amount of characters, the political intrigue, and most of all, the magic. And Princess of Thorns didn't disappoint on that front; it had everything: a warrior princess disguised as a boy, a playboy prince hiding some dark secrets, ogres, and enchanted forests. I enjoyed Aurora, the young woman blessed with fairy magic--she was flawed, at times so much so it was difficult to understand her choices, Niklaas, her playboy foil hiding a terrifying family legacy.

I liked the pacing, too--once the ball started rolling, I couldn't put it down, but unfortunately, it just seemed.. predictable? The bottom line: I enjoyed it, it was a nice read. But I wasn't wowed. Next on deck: Suspicion by Alexandra Monir!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Fire Seekers by Richard Farr Review

Title: The Fire Seekers
Author: Richard Farr
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Babel Trilogy, book one
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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

The bottom line: I wanted to love this novel, I really did, but I didn't finish it. There was just far too much going on and not enough narrative to back it up--I didn't like it, unfortunately. Next on deck: Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip Review

Title: Secret of a Thousand Beauties
Author: Mingmei Yip
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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

Embroidery--I don't know much about it, but this book showcases it for what it is: an ancient art form, and the way it wove into the narrative was skillful. Spring Swallow is a woman who has had more than her fair share of trouble, and when she runs away from a ghost marriage, she finds herself in the house of Aunty Peony, a cold, foreboding yet regal old woman who teaches her how to embroider.

There were many things I loved about this book--the setting, the characters, the pacing--but what I loved most was Spring Swallow: even at nineteen, she was a woman well-versed in tragedy, in desire, in hope. What sold this book for me was her transformation throughout: from a strong young woman, to an even stronger one? It's hard to explain, but I really loved the way that she chose to deal with the circumstances handed to her.

There's the other characters as well: Leilei, obsessed with fame and men, only caring about herself, Purple, the young woman who took pity on Spring Swallow and wants nothing more than love, Little Doll, 'kind of slow', but sweet and lovable nonetheless, and then there's Aunty Peony, mysterious and cold, and hiding all kinds of secrets. I didn't like either Leilei or Aunty Peony for most of the novel, but they were definitely human and flawed--real.

I liked the pacing of this book, too, I couldn't put it down! The bottom line: A gorgeous, beautiful novel about embroidery, family, life and love--definitely worth reading! Next on deck: The Fire Seekers by Richard Farr!

Friday, January 2, 2015

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell Review

Title: The House We Grew Up In
Author: Lisa Jewell
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I won this book from a Goodreads first reads giveaway, and reviewed it. Thanks, Goodreads!

The House We Grew Up In tells the story of the unusual Bird clan, led by sweet, eccentric Lorrie, her passive husband, Jack, and their children: Megan, Bethan, Rory, and Rhys. A frighteningly tender, poignant portrait of a family--in all the ways a family can be: fucked up, loving, full of dark secrets--for the most part, I enjoyed it. The pacing of this novel was breakneck--I couldn't put it down.

This book, at times, even made me a little uncomfortable. Lovable Lorrie has a bad hoarding problem, and is clearly mentally ill, but, as she doesn't believe anything's wrong, well.. Her hoarding problem has driven her entire family away: Stolid, solid Megan, unmovable even in the worst circumstances, is so averse to the way her mother lives that not one speck of trash can be found in her home, Rory, who has run off to Thailand to find himself, and Bethan, still living in her mother's house at the age of thirty three. And Rhys, well.. That's a whole other can of worms for everyone in the family. I enjoyed this novel, in that it was an honest portrayal of a normal family. But there were definitely times I wanted to shake all of them. Next on deck:Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip!