Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Tattoo Atlas by Tim Floreen Review

Title: Tattoo Atlas
Author: Tim Floreen
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction/Horror/GLBT Fiction
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I've been interested in the work of Tim Floreen since his debut novel, Willful Machines, came out a few years ago. I was scrolling through an article that happened to recommend Tattoo Atlas as one of the best books of October this year, and, after reading the premise of the novel, I ordered it from my library. It's been sitting in my library stack for a while now, waiting to be read, and to be honest, I'm really mad at myself for not reading this book sooner. With Tattoo Atlas, Tim Floreen has carved a permanent place in my heart--this was one of my favorite books of the fall, if not the year. What an amazing story!

Tattoo Atlas is an incredibly revelant novel: the issues of excessive violence and its effect on society as a whole, gun control, and what we do in the face of unspeakable, irrevocable acts that defy human nature, and it never comes across as preachy--it's all wrapped up in a creepy, sleek mystery that skillfully evokes Robert Louis Stevenson-esque horror and an intense, forbidden attraction. God, I loved every moment of it, even as I glanced around my empty, creaky house to make sure no one was hiding around the corner...

Rem Braithwaite's classmate, Franklin Kettle, did something unspeakable, unforgivable: He shot up the classroom and personally murdered one of Rem's best friends. Rem, a gay boy who's been out for a while now, is still reeling from the murder. When his mother announces a new, groundbreaking technology that could fix Franklin's sociopathic tendencies, the spotlight for the troubled boy gets even more uncomfortably bright. As more of Rem's classmates turn up dead, he must decide if Franklin is a new man, or if the killer is just out for more blood, or he could be next on the hit list...

This book was wonderful. And not wonderful in the way of a happy ending, or a heartwarming story. Tatttoo Atlas goes to the darkest depths of the human mind and soul, taking the reader on a rollercoaster ride of ethics, chilling twists and turns, and surprising, exciting characters that grab you by the throat and don't let go. I loved every moment of it, and couldn't put it down. (That ending! Gah!) What a fantastic book! I can't wait for more from Tim Floreen! The bottom line: A dark, frightening story that ponders whether or not evil is innate, learned, and if it can be cured, Tattoo Atlas is one of my favorite books of the year! Absolutely amazing! Next on deck: The Amateurs by Sara Shepard!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu Review

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

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

I'll be honest: This review is going to be emotional. I will do my very best not to give things away, because I don't want to spoil it all for you guys! Marie Lu completely won my heart with The Young Elites series; it was a fantasy with an ultimately different flavor that I immediately found addictive. And like with other series that I've finished this year, I really got invested in the story, as well as its characters. The Midnight Star has been sitting in my library stack for a while now, and I wasn't sure what to choose, so I just picked this and dove right in.

I'll admit that I was more than a little nervous. Sequels give me seriously bad anxiety, more often than not, due to the high payoff I'm expecting. But I'm very glad to say that Lu's final offering fully lives up to, and then exceeds, expectations. The story picks up where The Rose Society left off, delivering satisfying twists and turns and closure at all once. I loved the ending--I wasn't quite sure where it would go, though I'd made some predictions before reading it. I cried so hard at the end--I was so sad! And frankly, I still am. I'm so sad that the journey is over! It was so much fun. I know it had to end, but I'm so sorry to see it go! This book was one of my favorites of 2016, it was fantastic. All I can say is, I really want more!

The pacing was breakneck--I couldn't put it down when I was reading it, and was often distracted this week, thinking about it. I probably should've slowed down to make it last longer, but I just couldn't. It was so satisfying, and everything was neatly tied up with no loose ends. And the characters, as always, were dynamic, morally ambiguous, and fascinating. I want world-building lessons from this woman, by the way! Such a complex and well-thought out world she created--I loved the ride, and this series will be one that remains in my heart always. It was pretty much perfect, and I'm so happy. The bottom line: The final book in a highly successful fantasy series, The Midnight Star proves to be satisfying, emotional, and exciting--I'm so sad it's over! Next on deck: Tattoo Atlas by Tim Floreen! 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove Review

Title: The Glass Sentence
Author: S.E. Grove
Age Group: Middle Grade/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Mapmakers, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I heard about The Glass Sentence the way I usually do, reading up on popular books. Frankly, after reading about it, it's been on my mind quite often since. It's been sitting in my library stack, patiently waiting to be read. It's due today at the library, actually, so last night, after I got done with my Christmas shopping, I was in a mad rush to finish the last hundred pages. This book was an ambitious, exciting debut, a delicious puzzle wrapped inside excellent worldbuilding and an adventure that captivated me totally--I loved it, though it wasn't completely perfect.

Sophia lives in a world not quite like ours. She has lived after an event called The Great Disruption, the event that caused all of the world's ages to be split across different eras. When her uncle is mysteriously kidnapped, she realizes that her family secrets are so much deeper than she ever could've imagined. Forced to rely on her wits and a few allies, Sophia realizes that the fate of the world as she knows it is resting on her shoulders...

This book was so good! Where do I begin? First of all, I loved the ambition of Grove, especially considering that this book is her first. She created a whole world inside of this book, and it was wonderful. It was absolutely fascinating, and the pacing was breakneck--I couldn't put the book down. It was exciting, and even when I wasn't reading, I was thinking about it, constantly pondering it in the back of my mind. I also really liked the way this book blended genres: fantasy, science fiction, and more than a little metaphysics.

I also really enjoyed the characters: determined, willful, loving Sophia, her mysterious companion, Theo, who has secrets of his own to hide, and the allies they meet across ages. There's also the mysterious villain, Blanca, who is determined to turn back the clock and make things right, even if it means shedding blood. Sophia's character development was wonderful--I loved the way she grew from frightened, helpless little girl into a heroine in her own right. And that ending--holy crap, I wish I had the sequel! Right now.

But this book wasn't entirely perfect: There were times when the worldbuilding got a little bit confusing, and towards the end the threat in the book didn't seem to make sense, at first. Nonetheless, this book was a real treat, recommended for all ages! I can't wait to read the sequel! The bottom line: An ambitious new series debut, The Glass Sentence has it all: adventure, deep worldbuilding, exciting characters, and a nail-biter of an ending--I can't wait for the next book! Next on deck: The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Restaurant Critic's Wife by Elizabeth LaBan Review

Title: The Restaurant Critic's Wife
Author: Elizabeth LaBan
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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


I wanted to read a novel about food, and when I went searching through all the books I have yet to read, The Restaurant Critic's Wife jumped out at me, so I went with my gut and just dived right in. And I'm so happy that I did! This novel wasn't perfect, but it was pretty close! It was entertaining, laugh out loud funny, intensely detailed, and a moving, convincing portrait of normal family life.

Lila Soto is overwhelmed. Heavily pregnant, lonely, and bereft, she is the restaurant critic's wife. Her husband, Sam, makes his living by reviewing restaurants, and, more often than not, ends up antagonizing their neighbors; people, who, in another life, would be Lila's friends. Lately, home life for Lila has become unsatisfying. Forced to do everything in her power to keep Sam's anonymity, it has resulted in frustration. Forced to really look at her life and what she wants from it, Lila comes to the conclusion that her husband's job might cost her more than she ever imagined.

This book was wonderful. With its rich detail, beautiful prose that had me laughing constantly, I was rooting for Lila throughout the novel. I loved it so much! It was almost perfect, and would've been, had it not been for Sam. There were times when I really liked him, but there were also times throughout the book that I wanted to throw my Kindle across the room, I was so frustrated with him. Minor flaws notwithstanding, Elizabeth LaBan penned a lovely story that I will cherish in my heart forever; it was a perfect book for the dark, dreary days of winter! The bottom line: A fantastic novel about food, family, and forgiveness, The Restaurant Critic's Wife was wonderful, I loved it! Next on deck: The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Possession by Elana Johnson Review

Title: Possession
Author: Elana Johnson
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Series: Possession, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I bought this book and reviewed it.

I'm not even sure where to start with this review, honestly. To say that my feelings are mixed is a major understatement. Elana Johnson is one of my favorite authors, and she has been ever since I read the first book in her other dystopian series, Elemental Hunger. Although I liked Possession, for the most part, it just fell short for me. Maybe it was just a little bit too late to the dystopian fiction party? I can't quite put my finger on it, but Possession was just meh. Just okay. I liked some aspects of it, but others just fell really flat.

Violet lives in a world where there is no sickness, no crime. It is a world that is near perfect. But Violet longs for something more, for something different. Other. Contentment is far away, even though she is Matched to her best friend, sweet and gentle Zenn. She rebels against The Thinkers who control her world, even when it means teaming up with the enigmatic bad boy Jag, who, despite her relationship to Zenn, is irresistibly drawn to her. Forced to make an irreversible choice: join the Thinkers, or flee to the Badlands, Violet discovers that there are dark secrets hiding in her past and future, and everything she thought she knew turns out to be a lie...

Like I said, I have very mixed feelings about this book. I wanted to love it, and I did love some of it. Violet, for the most part, was a really relatable character, and I enjoyed her deep and complex character development. But I feel like that was almost cheapened by the love triangle angle--it really bothered me that most of the book revolved around Violet picking a boy to be with. The worldbuilding was also pretty hard to wrap my head around, I didn't really get it. Honestly, the thing that saved this book was the pacing and the ending--that's pretty much the only thing that would get me to continue the series. It was a good attempt at a dystopian series debut, but it fell really short. I wish I'd borrowed this book from my local library instead of buying it. The bottom line: A valiant attempt at a dystopian series debut, Possession, for the most part, fell short. Next on deck: The Restaurant Critic's Wife by Elizabeth LaBan!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel Review

Title: Every Hidden Thing
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Adeventure/Romance
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I'd like to start this review on a slightly personal note: I'm sorry I've been inactive lately! My husband and I just moved into our brand new house, and these past couple of weeks have been a hectic flurry of packing, unpacking, cleaning, and getting our affairs in order. You guys have been on my mind through it all, and I've missed all of you terribly, so I'm playing catchup now! Okay, on to the actual review.

Kenneth Oppel already won my heart with his teen Frankenstein series, so I'm not going to lie: I'm just the tiniest bit biased. But bear with me, I promise that this review is worth it. Do you love historical fiction? How about adventures, complete with exciting twists and treasures? Forbidden romance so real and bittersweet that your knees get weak? Beautiful prose? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you need to go to your local library or bookstore and get this book. Make sure you clear your schedule, because once you start this novel, you won't be able to put it down.

Rachel Cartland and Samuel Bolt are the two children of prominent, successful academics who have devoted their lives, at the turn of the eighteenth century, to unearthing bones of beasts long gone from our world: dinosaurs. The two teens race against each other to find dinosaur bones before their rival, and in the process, somehow, manage to fall in love. Forced to choose between what their fathers want for them and each other, the two realize that despite everything, first love might be worth risking it all...

I loved this book. Truly, I loved it. It was just so good. The premise and concept were wholly original, and I also really loved the way that Oppel blended genres like a pro: historical fiction, romance, action and adventure, to create something totally new. While this and the prose was wonderful, it was honestly the way the book went back and forth between Sam and Rachel that really made me love this book. The pacing, too, was breakneck; I couldn't put it down, and when I did, it was constantly on my mind. It was absolutely lovely, and the only real flaw was that there isn't more! This book is easily one of my favorites of the whole year! The bottom line: A fantastic, completely original book from one of my favorite authors, Every Hidden Thing is one of my favorite books of the year! Next on deck: Possession by Elana Johnson!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes Review

Title: Until You're Mine
Author: Samantha Hayes
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: DCI Lorraine Fisher, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

 This is the first book I've ever read by Samantha Hayes, and it most definitely won't be my last. Mysteries and thrillers, normally, for me, are hit and miss. Sometimes, I can predict the ending within fifty pages. Other times, there comes a book--like this one--that grabs me by the throat and doesn't let go. I love thrillers, especially when I can't guess what's going to happen!

Until You're Mine has three unique, first-person points of view: Claudia Morgan-Brown, a social worker that is expecting a baby girl in a few short months, DCI Lorraine Fisher, a detective assigned to investigate the murders of several young pregnant women in the area, Zoe Harper, her nanny who has secrets of her own to hide, and a first-person, unknown character that longs for nothing more than a child of their own. Young To say that this novel is creepy is a huge understatement--the prose is meticulous and frightening, setting off a feeling of unease as you go along. The pacing was fantastic--I couldn't put it down, and when I did, it stayed crouched in the back of my mind like a dark shadow.

I really enjoyed the way the narrative jumped between the three women, all of whom have skeletons in their closets they'd do anything to hide. The creep factor only grows as the book goes on, the desperation ratcheting up more and more as Lorraine races against the clock to find the depraved killer. Plus, there was also the four different points of view--sometimes, this is used as a plot device and everything gets confused, but Hayes was really skilled--I can't wait to read more from this promising British thriller author! It really added a lot of depth. This is probably one of my favorite thrillers ever, and I'm so excited for more from Hayes!

As far as a series debut goes, this book was really solid--it's definitely one of my favorites I've read so far. But there were times when I was a little confused, especially when the domestic details came in. However, this book was really enjoyable--absolutely wonderful! Chilling prose, deeply realized characters, and a shocking ending that caught me completely by surprise--this book was so much fun!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Half Bad by Sally Green Review

Title: Half Bad
Author: Sally Green
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Half Bad Trilogy, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I bought a copy of this book and reviewed it.

We are currently in the process of moving, and a lot of my books have been packed away. I still have my library stack, but I decided to pick a book I'd bought on my Kindle to mix it up a bit. I bought Half Bad as a Christmas gift to myself back in 2014, and it's been sitting on there ever since, waiting to be read. I knew that the book was a series debut from a brand new author, and that it revolved around witches. It is both of these things and so much more, I really enjoyed it!

Nathan is the son of the most dangerous, notorious Black Witches in Britian. His mother was a powerful White Witch, but despite that, Nathan is viewed with fear and disgust by most, even by some members of his own family. Forced into servitude to White Witches who seek to use him for thier own ends, Nathan is forced to leave his family behind and search for what it really means to be himself, as well as a human being. But he soon discovers that to embrace his magic may mean paying the ultimate price...

Half Bad is a volatile, exquisitely written story, told through several strange lenses. The narration bounces from one point to another, depending on where you are in the story. It jarred me before I really got used to the pacing; nonetheless, it was refreshing, even if it was hard to follow at first. Once the book really hits its stride, I couldn't put it down--I was captivated by Nathan's dangerous world, where Black and White witches live in war and secrecy, rife with intrigue and betrayal. It was so much fun, and that ending freaking killed me. I need Half Wild immediately! Strange, captivating, and heartbreakingly human, Half Bad has got to be one of my more recent favorite books; I can't wait to finish this series! Next on deck: Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Front Lines by Michael Grant Review

Title: Front Lines
Author: Michael Grant
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Solider Girl, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I bought Gone for myself as a Christmas present a few years back, and I haven't yet finished the series. But that was my introduction to Michael Grant's work, and I've been looking forward to Front Lines ever since. I'm pretty much a die-hard fan now, with Front Lines winning my heart entirely. I loved this book--it was wonderful. It was dark and frightening, heartbreaking and relevant--every single one of these characters has carved a place into my heart, and I'm so happy there's going to be a sequel!

Front Lines reimagines World War II in an amazing way--in this narrative, women fight right alongside men in one of the most brutal wars in not just America's history, but the world's. It was amazing--it really opened my eyes to familiar history, in a brand new way. This book was so dark, and scary, and sad, but I love it all the more for its relevance. It was a depiction of war that I could fully understand, and it made my heart break and heal all at once--the horrors of war, and how it can also bring soldiers together. I couldn't help but admire that.

The characters, though, were what really made this book so unforgettable. Almost every character forced their way into my heart, and I loved them completely. They were all so real. This book--it seemed to burrow into my soul, and I won't be forgetting it anytime soon! I'm so, so happy that there's a sequel! I can't wait for more from the Soldier Girl series! The bottom line: A riveting, meticulously researched historical novel that imagines World War II in a brand new light, I loved Front Lines! One of my favorite books of 2016!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst Review

Title: The Queen of Blood
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Age Group: Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Series: Queens of Renthia, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Sarah Beth Durst is one of my all-time favorite authors--I read her book Vessel and fell completely in love--there was no turning back. (Maybe I'm just a little bit biased...) So when I heard that she was writing a new book--a high fantasy novel, with magic and quests and dark forces, as well as tons of political intrigue, I knew that I had to order it through the local library. It's been sitting at the top of my stack ever since, begging to be read. I was a little nervous at first, but I'm so glad to report that I had absolutely nothing to worry about. This book was almost perfect--I loved it so much.

Daleina longs to become an heir, to have the chance to hone her magic and become Queen of Renthia, even though she is hiding a dangerous, dark secret about her abilities. Ven, a disgraced champion formerly in service for the current Queen, Fara, takes his work where he can, despite his scandalous exile. He chooses Daleina to be his heir, and trains her to the best of his ability. But when tragedy begins to strike in suspicious places, champion and heir must team up and figure out who's behind it, before the body count rises...

First of all, the world-building of this book was amazing--I really liked it! Durst says in the acknowledgements that she spent her entire childhood dreaming up imaginary worlds, and it shows spectacularly in this novel. The world of Renthia is by turns beautiful, but also terrifying and dangerous--what a fun adventure! But what really sold this book for me wasn't the world-building, or even the delicious heaps of political intrigue dolloped throughout the chapters. The pacing, too, really sold this book--I couldn't put it down. The characters--I loved them, with all of my heart and soul. I loved all of them, every last one, but the star was Daleina, the book's main character. I really related to and sympathetized with her. I loved her character growth, and I can't wait for the next novel in this series! There was also Ven, her disgraced champion, and Hamon, the young doctor who insists on accompanying Daleina on her journey. Even Queen Fara--I loved the characters so much, and I can't wait to see what's in store for the rest of Renthia! Wonderful! The bottom line: The debut of a new series, The Queen of Blood has something for everyone: political intrigue, magic, danger, adventure, and well-drawn characters--I can't wait for the sequel! Next on deck: Front Lines by Michael Grant!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova Review

Title: Labyrinth Lost
Author: Zoraida Cordova
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Brooklyn Brujas, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I have a confession to make: I'd tried to read Cordova's first series--a young adult trilogy offering revolving around mermaids--and I wasn't into it. But when I saw the gorgeous cover for her first book this year, I just knew I had to get my hands on it. It's been sitting in my library stack for a while, begging to be read. And I figured, since it was Halloween, why not? (Plus, look at that gorgeous cover--I'm swooning over it!)

Labyrinth Lost begins with Alex, Alejendra, a bruja who wants nothing more than to be a normal kid. She can't stand her family's powerful magical legacy, and she desperately longs to be like everyone else, not the most powerful bruja her family has seen in centuries. When her Deathday approaches, she comes up with an idea: If the ancestors gave her her power, surely she could give it back? But her brilliant plan backfires when her family is swept away to the magical, mythical land of Los Lagos. Forced to trust a mysterious boy named Nova, Alex embarks on a quest to get her family back, and finds herself and who she really is in the process.

I loved this book--it was so good! The pacing was breakneck, the prose gorgeous and so funny I couldn't stop laughing as I read. It also doesn't hurt that this book contained magical quests, beautiful creatures, betrayal, and magic in every single chapter. It was by turns dark and frightening, but also original, creative, and exciting. The characters, too, really sold this for me--I loved Alex, and her unshakable love towards her family. Plus there was Nova, the bad boy with secrets of his own, and Rishi, Alex's best friend, who cares for her so much that she does the unthinkable for Alex. This book was so, so good--an entertaining and well-wrought Halloween romp that champions diversity--I can't wait for the sequel! Next on deck: The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis Review

Title: The Female of the Species
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror/Mystery/Thriller
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

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

What can I say about this book? Well, first of all, it's the first novel I've had the pleasure of reading by Mindy McGinnis. And let me tell you guys, what a doozy! Plus, really, what better book to read to get in the mood for Halloween? I've been nonstop excited about this book since hearing about it--I mean, a dark, messed-up antihero for a female main character, multiple first-person points of view, and searing prose that sounds like it's been written with a scalpel. Let me warn you guys, though: This book is dark. Dark as in, goes to the dark side and never returns. I freaking loved it, every searing, uncomfortable, emotionally charged moment of it.

The Female of the Species revolves around three people, mainly: Alex Craft, the young woman who lost her sister to a vicious killer, and who takes vengeance when she can in her small Ohio town, Jack, the young man who can't forget Alex, unable to let go of his guilt toward her and her deceased older sister, despite his best efforts, and Peekay, the preacher's kid, who forms a tentative relationship with Alex. The pacing of this novel was absolutely breakneck, and combined with the killer prose, I couldn't put it down, even though there were many times when I wanted to walk away from it. This book has got to be one of the best of the year--a searing, dark, and disturbing novel that brings rape culture to the forefront, through Alex's eyes.

This book is a dark, disturbing rabbit hole down into the brain of a killer, and the people who come to know and love her, despite her sins. There were times when I was disgusted, even nauseated. But this book has burrowed its way into my mind and heart, and I definitely won't be forgetting it any time soon. Despite the way it made me uncomfortable, I loved it, so much--it was such a riveting story! And that ending--absolutely killer. This is my first Mindy McGinnis novel and it certainly won't be my last! The bottom line: A searing, dark novel about how far we will go for revenge, The Female of the Species will be a story that I can't ever forget--absolutely amazing! One of my favorite books of 2016! Next on deck: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Replica by Lauren Oliver Review

Title: Replica
Author: Lauren Oliver
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Replica, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I've made no secret of how much I love Lauren Oliver's books--she's one of my favorite authors, despite the debate about her popular Delirium series. And when I heard that she was writing a brand-new book, this one with two stories in one novel, and that it was science fiction, I was so sold. I waited for the novel to come to my library, nervous because of its mixed reception. Now that I've actually read it, I get it. And this book was lovely, but there were also times when flipping the book upside down and back and forth that the actual story got a little bit muddled. Lyra's story begins at one end of the book, and Gemma's story begins at the other side. You can start from either point, but I decided to read one chapter for Lyra, and one for Gemma, so it would all remain fresh in my mind. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed it!

Replica tells the story of two very different people: Lyra, the replica stored in Haven, just one of the many who have been created for unknown purposes, and on the other side, Gemma is a normal teenager girl, riddled with insecurities and unhappy with her parents. The girls' stories eventually intersect as the book goes on, and Oliver's beautiful, sparse prose spurs the story on. I liked the formatting, even if it it was a little hard to get used to. And I also really liked the way Oliver took on a new genre for her--science fiction--and put a fresh spin on it. Through the story of these characters, told side by side, Oliver brings up relevant questions that have my brain whirring, even after I finally closed the book. For example: Where does technological advancement put us, ethically, religiously? Does medical and scientific advancement mean we are playing God, doing things we shouldn't?

The pacing of the novel stuttered a bit, since getting the hang of flipping the book from one side of the other, but I really liked the way Oliver breathed life into a classic, if overdone, genre. But the characters were what I really loved about this book: Gemma, longing to fit in and somehow knowing that there's something wrong with her, and Lyra, who is content to float along until her entire world comes crashing down, secrets raining down on both the girls until the end of the book. Oliver's signature--beautiful writing, and tantalizing secrets and foreshadowing--really sold this for me. I'm really, really looking forward to the next book! The bottom line: Breathing life into a classic, albeit tired, genre, Oliver's science fiction debut is sure to please her fans and some newcomers! Next on deck: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis!

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan Review

Title: The Perfect Girl
Author: Gilly Macmillan
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

This is the first book I've ever read by the uber talented Gilly Macmillan, who made a splash last year with her debut novel, What She Knew. When I saw that she was publishing another book, a standalone mystery-thriller, with a multitude of secrets, deceit, and dark domestic drama, I just knew I had to order it from my local library. It's sat in the library stack, waiting for me to pick it up. Since my third renewal was my last, I decided to take a chance and read it--I didn't want it to go back, without having read it. And I was pleasantly surprised by The Perfect Girl.

Zoe, the main character, did something that she could never take back, three years before. The narrative goes back and forth in time, eventually catching up to the present events. When her mother is found dead after an explosive scene the night before, Zoe can't help but wonder if the killer wants something to do with her. As she frantically searches for the truth about her mother's passing, Zoe discovers that the murderer might be closer than she ever thought possible...

 I'll start with the things I enjoyed. I loved the format of the book, which goes through multiple points of view. There's Zoe, the main character, her aunt Tessa, her Uncle Richard, her solicitor, Sam, and occasionally, her stepbrother, Lucas. However, the execution was the slightest bit sloppy; sometimes, when it was going back and forth, the narrative got muddled in my head. Despite it, though, it really lent an authenticity to the narrative. It gave it a lot more depth than I expected. The pacing was absolutely phenomenal--I couldn't put it down, even though I tried several times. I was constantly turning pages, spurred on by Macmillan's creepy, beautifully fraught prose, desperately trying to figure out who was innocent, who was guilty, and who lay somewhere in between.

I also really liked the characters, all deep and flawed and tangled in their personal dramas, but my absolute favorite was Zoe, the young woman who made a terrible and irreversible mistake three years prior to when our story begins. At times, I didn't like her throughout the book. At others, I found myself weeping for her in sympathy. I really enjoyed the way all the characters were fairly morally ambiguous--it made it that much harder to figure out,  right up to the shocking and satisfying ending. Was it perfect? No, not really. But it was a really fun book, and it definitely won't be my last from Gilly Macmillan! Next on deck: Replica by Lauren Oliver!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo Review

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

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

What can I say? This book is one that I've been looking forward to all year, and waiting for impatiently ever since I put a hold on it at the library. I've been religiously avoidiing most social media outlets, because I hate spoilers and I definitely didn't want this spoiled for me. Any of it. And I succeeded! This book--it is one of my favorite books of the fall, if not the year. Holy crap. You all know that sequels make me terribly leery, because they have so much potential and sometimes they can just fizzle out. But I had nothing to worry about with Crooked Kingdom--it was everything I wanted and more.

In other words, there better be a sequel, or I'm going to cry until I'm dead. (Seriously, Leigh! Don't do this to me, I can't take it!)

Crooked Kingdom picks up where Six of Crows ended, with our ragtag gang of adorable misfits just barely able to pull off the job in the Ice Court. Bloodied and bruised and reeling from the aftermath, Kaz and the others take on an even more precarious job--one that could tip the scales forever in their favor, should they play their cards right. But some things can't be foresaw, and some of their beloved crew might not make it out of this one alive...

This sequel was wonderful, it really had everything. I'm going to be vague on purpose, just in case there are some people that haven't yet read it. The bottom line: There was action, romance, all the hilarious banter I could've hoped for, magic and mayhem and twists and thrills with every page. There was also lots of character growth and backstory--this sequel was honestly nothing less than perfect! I loved it so much--the only flaw I can truly think of was that it was too short. I hope that there is more to the world of the Dregs, because I don't want it to be over! Next on deck: The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

American Gods by Neil Gaiman Review

Title: American Gods
Author: Neil Gaiman
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I was at the library a few weeks ago, browsing. I was almost up to the checkout counter when a book caught my eye. The cover was stark, with a dark sky lit with lightning, illuminating a lonely road. But that was only part of what caught my eye. The other part, of course, was the author. Neil Gaiman is one of my very favorite authors, probably in the top ten, and I can't resist anything Neil Gaiman--ever. When I carried it up to the check out desk, my librarian pleasantly surprised me by being excited. He said that one of the characters in the book was the African spider god of stories, Anasi. (I won't spoil the fun by telling which one!) By now, I was even more excited to read it. Plus, now that I think of it, what better book to read to get in the mood for Halloween?

When I opened it, I wasn't sure what to expect--with Neil Gaiman, you can get anything and everything, and that's part of the reason I love his books so much. The book opens with the main character, Shadow, being released from prison. But his freedom is short-lived when he becomes inevitably entangled in a skirmish between the old gods and the new ones. He uncovers deadly secrets, about himself and the world around him, and must make the decision whether to join the bloody tides of the brewing war, or to stop it--even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice.

What can I say? Neil Gaiman is like literary catnip for me. And mix in a ton of mythology, and I'm sold all over again. I loved the concept of this novel--old gods, made for the modern world, and the new ones, birthed of the golden age of technology. Anything with mythology, I'm all over it, but Neil Gaiman did it with such originality and finesse. The pacing was absolutely breakneck--I couldn't put it down, and I finished it in the tub last night, feeling like I'd found and lost some brand new friends. (Luckily, later on, there is the Anasi Boys, but that's another review.)

I really loved the characters, too. The gods were familiar to me, but they were made for the modern world, and I really liked the angle. But my favorite, my absolute favorite, was Shadow. He's probably one of my favorite protagonists to date, especially where Gaiman is concerned. I loved the whole antihero angle, and the fact that he wasn't white. (And I hear they're honoring that in the Starz adaption for next year, too! Yay!) But my favorite thing about Shadow was his innate goodness, even as the world falls apart around him. He doesn't lose his integrity.

Plus, that ending. I loved it so much--I only wish that there was more! This book was so much fun, I'm so happy I read it! The bottom line: A powerful, gripping, hilarious allegory, American Gods took me on a road trip I will never forget--one of my favorite Neil Gaiman books of all time! Next on deck: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess Review

Title: A Shadow Bright and Burning
Author: Jessica Cluess
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Kingdom on Fire, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I was kind of nervous about this book--it seems that people either love it or hate it, no in between. And I did love it--parts of it. Overall, this debut was really solid--I mean, Dickensian England? Demons and dark magic? A take-charge heroine? Adorable, brooding boys? It all seemed perfect--and parts of it were. I really enjoyed it, overall, but there were some parts that I founding lacking. First, the love triangle. I like love triangles, as long as they're done in a way that isn't instant love. Why is it in nearly every single teen novel, there has to be a love triangle?

But my favorite parts of the novel were the setting, a Victorian England straight out of Dickens novels--I was really impressed. It captured my imagination, and I really liked it. But the real star of the book was Henrietta, the mysteriously magical young woman that is the focus of the novel. She was spunky and couragerous, fierce and fiesty, and all at the same time insecure and longing for love. She was really complex and exciting, and I really related to her a lot. I also really liked the other characters, especially the boys that become Henrietta's friends. The worldbuilding was also wonderful--I really enjoyed it.

The pacing also really sold this book for me--I couldn't put it down. Watching TV, or anime wih my husband, last night, was an ordeal--I couldn't pull myself away from this book. Despite its shortcomings, like the love triangle, I really liked it--it was a fantastic debut, and I can't wait for the sequel! Next on deck: American Gods by Neil Gaiman!

Monday, October 10, 2016

As I Descended by Robin Talley Review

Title: As I Descended
Author: Robin Talley
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Holy crap, Robin Talley. Holy crap. What have you done to me?! This book. This freaking book. There aren't enough words to describe just how much I loved this book. First off, the concept was killer for me. A Macbeth retelling, with two lesbians as the main characters? Ghosts, tons of gore, creepy, gorgeous, terrifying prose. Okay, so I'll be honest. It's not the most original--a Shakespeare retelling--but darn it if it didn't steal my heart anyway. This is my first book by Robin Talley, and it most definitely won't be my last. This book was one of my favorites of the autumn, if not the year. What a way to get in the spirit of Halloween!

As I Descended (plus, look at the cover! So sinister and creepy) opens with in-the-closet couple Maria and Lily, fooling around in their dorm room with their friends. Sounds pretty normal, right? But when Lily orders an Ouija board online, and it begins to speak to them, a sinister plan is hatched: They will eliminate everyone in their way, any way they must. When the girls act out their plan, things begin to go dangerously awry: Fellow students are dropping like flies, and the girls are beginning to see and hear things that aren't really there. The couple must decide what their dreams are really worth, or risk body count increasing...

What can I say? I loved this book--with my entire body and soul. This book made me fall in love with the horror genre all over again. It reminded me why I love it in the first place--I love getting the pants scared off of me! And this book had everything: old curses, ghosts, blood--it really did justice to the original play, even while it spun the story for a contemporary teenage audience. I love retellings, especially when they're done with such finesse!

The prose was easily one of my favorite parts of the book--it really did a good job of setting the creepy, macabre vibe of Acheron, and its students. The pacing was breakneck--I couldn't pull myself away from the book, even during the gory and frighening parts. I also really liked the characters, every single one of them, and the way Talley told each chapter from their different points of view. It only made the story better. It almost felt as if the school itself were a character in its own right, hiding secrets from the other characters as well as the reader. The bottom line: One of my favorite books of 2016, Talley delivers a homerun with her macabre, creepy retelling of the beloved Scottish Play--absolutely amazing! Next on deck: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake Review

Title: Three Dark Crowns
Author: Kendare Blake
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Series: Three Dark Crowns, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I'll start this review by being honest: I love Kendare Blake, and her books. Ever since her bloody horror debut, Anna, Dressed in Blood, I've been in love with her writing style. And when I found out that her newest book was a dark horror fantasy about three sisters who literally have to fight to the death to become queen, I just knew that I had to read it. So I put a hold on the book and waited until it came. I was nervous, at first, because there was mixed reviews on it. It seemed people either loved it or hated it, no in between.

I can see how some readers found the book boring, but I really enjoyed it. The concept was original, the worldbuilding was absolutely on point, and I loved the way that the plot was carried by the characters of the book. (Plus that political intrigue though! If there's one surefire way to win me over, it's to add politcal intrigue, and lots of it!)  For me, and this is going to sound biased, this book was nothing less than a home run, and I can't wait for more from this promising series debut!

Triplets Mirabella, Arsinoe, and Katharine have always known their lot in life: To wield the ultimate power, first they must eliminate each other. Mirabella can command the elements, summoning fire and lightning with a simple snap of her fingers. Arsinoe is a naturalist, able to coax animals into doing her bidding. Katharine is a poisoner, able to ingest deadly toxic substances with little more than a stomachache. As the holiday of Beltane approaches, each sister must decide what they are willing to do to seize their crown--even if it means resorting to tactics of a nefarious sort...

As I said, I really liked this book. It had everything: a unique and original concept, magic, political intrigue, vivid, exciting worldbuilding, sympathetic, well-thought out characters, and a killer ending--that ending though! I can't wait for the sequel! As much as I enjoyed it, though, I couldn't give it a full five stars, simply because a lot of the time the family drama got in the way of everything else. Nonetheless, Three Dark Crowns is one of my favorite books of the year! Next on deck: As I Descended by Robin Talley!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Reader by Traci Chee Review

Title: The Reader
Author: Traci Chee
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Series: Sea of Ink and Gold, book one
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

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

God, this book. I'm so disappointed! When I read the plot and the concept, I was so stoked. The Reader had so much potential--amazing worldbuilding and fascinating characters. I wanted to love it, and for a while, I really did. But the author lost me when it came to the magic and how it worked--I didn't understand it at all. Really, really sad--I had such high hopes for this book, but the magic could use some work. I ended up DNFing at 219 pages. Next on deck: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi Review

Title: Furthermore
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Age Group: Middle Grade
Genre: Fantasy
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Tahareh Mafi had already stolen my heart with the first book in her dystopian series, Shatter Me. I haven't read the other two--I simply haven't had time. But when I found out that she had a middle grade novel coming out at the end of August, I ordered it through my local library as soon as I could. I mean, a middle grade fantasy that celebrates individuality and being your own person? Yes please, forever! (And plus, the cover. I mean, look how colorful and pretty it is! Slayed.)

Alice Alexis Queensmeadow lives in Ferenwood, a fantastic world full of color and excitement. And though Alice loves her family and her land, she longs for adventure, and for her father, her best and only friend, who has been missing for the past three years in the mysterious and treacherous land of Furthermore. Forced to team up with her worst enemy, Oliver, Alice is led on a dangerous journey through seductive, magical worlds, and finds out who she really is in the process.

What can I say? This book--I loved it. It was an engaging, hilarious fantasy that had me laughing and crying and panicking at every turn. I was immediately drawn into Alice's wondrous, magical world, where color is currency, foxes are made out of paper and can talk, and people can live in gigantic eggshells. I was absolutely enchanted--even when the danger ratcheted up with every page. The pacing was breakneck, and I found myself often laughing at the narrator, a wonderful character in its own right. And while the writing itself was beautiful and the worldbuilding wonderful, the real star of this book was Alice herself--almost entirely colorless in a world drenched with it, but loving and passionate and strong and insecure. I found like I really found a friend in her, and I was sorry to say goodbye to her and her story. The bottom line: Furthermore is one of my favorite books of 2016--a triumphant fantasy that teaches readers it's perfectly okay to be yourself, flaws and all--I loved it so much! Next on deck: The Reader by Traci Chee!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Torch Against the Night by Sabba Tahir Review

Title: A Torch Against the Night
Author: Sabba Tahir
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: An Ember in the Ashes, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Sabaa Tahir, once more, you have completely ruined my life.

I don't want to give any spoilers! I dread doing that, and risk ruining someone else's reading experience. But I will say this: A Torch Against the Night does complete and utter justice to its predecessor, and it completely blew my mind. Sequels often make me nervous, especially for a book that I really enjoyed, because I'll often be disappointed. But I had nothing to worry about here. You are thrust immediately into Elias and Laia's world once again, and the pacing is so breakneck that it grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. It was so, so good! It had everything I wanted in a sequel and more. The only problem is, the third book doesn't come out until 2018. (Cue me sitting in a corner in the fetal position, weeping pathetically.)

A Torch Against the Night picks up where the last book left off, with Laia and Elias heading for the dreaded Kauf Prison, in hopes of freeing Laia's older brother, Darin. And that's all I'm going to say about the plot, because as I said previously, I don't want to give anything away. But rest assured that if you choose to read this, you will not be disappointed! Breakneck pacing, gorgeous, beautiful prose, twists and turns at every chapter, characters old and new, and so much character development! Easily one of my favorite books of 2016! I demand a sequel! Next on deck: Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien Review

Title: The Fellowship of the Ring
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Classic
Series: The Lord of the Rings, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I bought an omnibus edition of this book and reviewed it.

I'll be honest: Tolkien and I haven't been on the best terms for a long time now. I bought this book ages ago, intending to read it, back in 2014, and I tried. Truly, I tried to take a stab at it. But it seemed muddled and heavy-handed to me, like a rock I was holding that was too heavy for me to lift. Add to that lots of intimidation and fear that I would hate it, because it is a classic, after all. Tolkien is essentially one of the modern fathers of fantasy. I got through to the second chapter on my first try and had to reshelve it. At the time, it seemed like too much to take on. Fast forward to a few days ago. My husband and I were standing in our living room, about to go visit friends. I was staring at my bookshelf thoughtfully. I tried choosing a few things, but I'd had no luck. So I turned to my husband for help. "I need something new to read. Help me?" He reached over to the bookshelf and plucked The Lord of the Rings off the shelf, putting it on the table. "How about this? You should try it."

Unable to resist the suggestion, I took it and began to read in earnest, and I'm so glad that I gave this book another chance. It took me a while to get past its sheer size and the language, but once I waded in, I could feel myself giving in to the story. And I really enjoyed it. It has the elements of every great story: rich mythology and worldbuilding, detailed descriptions of the setting, great characters, good and evil and everything in between. It also had breakneck pacing too, and I also loved the rich, constant history of Middle-Earth that served partially as a backdrop. It was pretty close to perfect, and here comes the unpopular opinion time in the review.

I didn't really like Frodo. I mean, I did. There were some parts of him that I really enjoyed: his sense of humor, his courage and bravery, his sheltered innocence, his kindness. But there were also parts of him that I didn't really enjoy: his tendency to lash out at his loved ones, his unfortunate habit of saying the occasional foolish things. But I suppose I should give poor Frodo some slack--every hero has flaws.

For me, though, my favorite character was and is by far, Samwise. I just love his patience and undying loyalty, and the way he loves his friends. He's definitely my favorite, with Aragorn, Pippin and Merry being close seconds.  But nonetheless of Frodo's few qualms, I'm definitely invested for the adventure! Thanks to my wonderful husband for the suggestion! Next on deck: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Night Night, Sleep Tight by Hallie Ephron Review

Title: Night Night, Sleep Tight
Author: Hallie Ephron
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

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

 Hallie Ephron is a household name when it comes to thrillers, but this is the first book I've ever read by her. And frankly, I was captivated. Ephron combines the glamour and glitz of old Hollywood with a chilling, page-turning mystery that will send chills up and down your spine. I loved every creepy, subtle moment of this novel. I've never outright read a noir novel before, but I'm so glad I did--it opened the door to another facet of mystery stories for me.

Night Night, Sleep Tight is told from the point of view of Deidre Unger, and opens when she finds her father's body, floating in the family pool. Deidre is disabled from a car accident that happened when she was a teenager, and she's never really got along with her family that well--she doesn't fit in anymore, and after her parents' divorce, she mostly stays away. But when she finds her father's body, she is soon drawn into a web of lies and secrets that have been in place for decades. And if she doesn't watch her step, the consequences could be lethal...

This book was such a treat, especially for a thriller. For me, they can be really hit and miss--sometimes, they'll have me reeling, and other times, I'll be able to guess who did it in the very beginning. But that's the real selling point for this book--you never see anything coming, it has a subtle, creeping tone that lets you know that trouble is brewing on the horizon. I also loved the old Hollywood royalty angle--it provided a really compelling backdrop to it all. The Unger family is the focus of the novel, dangerous and cunning and full of frightening old secrets. This book was so much fun, and I can't wait for more from Hallie Ephron--what a talent! Next on deck: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock Review

Title: The Smell of Other People's Houses
Author: Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I go to my library all the time--at least two or three times a week. As a result, I'm constantly taking books home, by my own selection and through recommendations, from other patrons and from the librarians themselves. One of them was telling me about this book, and when she told me the title, I wasn't enthused. I mean, The Smell of Other People's Houses? It sounded disgusting. But she reassured me that it was a work of historical fiction, told from multiple perspectives, in 19th century Alaska! So I figured, why not give it a shot? She's never steered me wrong before.

I finally got to it in the stack and I devoured it in a day. It was a beautifully written novel of family, coming of age, and the stark, wild beauty of Alaska. I love novels with multiple perspectives--the stories I read using that style usually resonate with me more. And it was even better because it was in first person. There are four young people at the center of this novel: Ruth, whose first love results in a life-changing ordeal, Dora, who wishes to escape the demons of her past and truly belong, Alyce, a fisherman's daughter who hesitates to leave home, even for her dreams, and Hank, who is running away from his ghosts. I really loved the pacing, too: It was quick and smooth, switching from each narrative and back again. But the shining stars of this novel were its characters, as well as its setting, Alaska.

I've always wanted to visit Alaska, but this book made that desire even stronger. I really felt as if I were there, in the crisp, clean air, white ice floes floating in dark ocean water, huge, shadowy shapes twisting through the waves... This book completely captured my imagination. It was a wonderful, thrilling debut. It was highly enjoyable. There were moments between the characters that seemed a little bit too contrived, but it was a wonderful novel. I'll be looking forward to more from Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Huntress by Malinda Lo Review

Title: Huntress
Author: Malinda Lo
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I bought this book and reviewed it.

I bought this book for myself at the end of 2014, as part of my yearly Christmas book haul. It's been sitting on my shelf, neglected, ever since. My husband finally put his foot down and insisted I read books I've purchased, as well as library loans and review copies I asked for. So I've started my cycle, and I couldn't really decide what I was in the mood for, so I just went hunting through my shelves and picked Huntress at random. I wanted to buy Ash, its companion novel, but I decided to buy Huntress instead, since it was longer. (I'm kind of mad that I didn't buy Ash with it, because now I need it!)

I was intrigued by the plot--two young women saving the world on an epic quest--and the cover really drove it home for me. This was the first novel I've ever read by Lo, and I wasn't certain what to expect. But reading Huntress has completely whetted my appetite for fantasy, all over again. Not just for any fantasy, but the kind that Huntress was: epic quests! Magic! Political intrigue! Romance--and the gay kind! To say that Huntress embodies all of these things is true, but it is so much more than that: I really loved this book for everything, for the sum of its beautifully written parts. There was real love put into this story, and it is one of the best I've read so far. Can I have more please?

The prose was gorgeous, the pacing breakneck, and it had just the right amount of sensuality and romance--I was literally swooning through the book. And I loved, loved, loved the way Lo gave two female characters a relationship that didn't revolve around coming out, or being themselves, it was just organic to the narrative. The worldbuilding was fantastic--solid and so full of mystery. But the characters were what really sold Huntress for me--it, and they, completely stole my heart. Kaede, the stubborn young woman who wants more to her life than her meager ability with magic, Taisin, the other young woman forced to choose between her life's duty and her heart's desire, and Con, the reluctant prince who journeys through the treacherous, magical Wood to save his people. I'm so happy that I bought this book, because it was worth it. The bottom line: A tale full of magic, romance, and adventure, Huntress is one of my favorite books of 2011, and probably of all time--Lo is now one of my go-to authors! A delectable treat worth savoring! Next on deck: The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory Review

Title: Three Sisters, Three Queens
Author: Philippa Gregory
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: The Tudor Court, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I first read Philippa Gregory's books back in high school--I'd always enjoyed historical fiction up until that point, but when I read The Other Boleyn Girl, it really ignited my fierce love for history, especially British history. I've bought and borrowed some of her books since then, but I'd hadn't really read any recently until I heard about Three Sisters, Three Queens. I reserved it at my library immediately, hoping and praying that it delivered.

And I'm so happy to tell everyone that I didn't have a thing to worry about. With her usual meticulous research and exemplary writing skill, Gregory more than delivers--she packs over thirty years of history in this hefty novel, told from the point of view of Margaret Tudor, who grows up to be the famed 'Bloody' Mary, Queen of Scots. She is the primary focus of the novel, as well as her two sisters: the devout, pious Katherine of Aragon, and Margaret's little sister, Mary. The entire novel revolves around these three women, often so maligned by history that no one now really knows the truth about them. I really liked the way the story was told, through Mary's present-tense, first-person point of view, with letters from Katherine and Mary serving as a different take on the events of the book. Margaret's relationship with her sisters was totally captivating, loving and gentle at one turn and furious and cutthroat the next. And then there was Margaret herself--I was really sympathetic toward her throughout the novel, because she was always being overlooked, despite her fierce loyalty to her family. This book was thick with political intrigue--it was so exciting and informative, all at once!

The novel spans over three decades, from the time Mary is a child and meets Katherine, closing with Anne Boleyn's fierce and bloody ascent to the throne of England. Three Sisters, Three Queens was a sort of reminder to me, about how historical fiction is so important. I really, really enjoyed it. I loved the amount of research and care that was put into this book, though I'd expect nothing less from the woman who has made a rich, rewarding career from the genre. I didn't realize after I'd read it that it wasn't a standalone, but it wasn't a big deal--I really liked the story on its own. This book is definitely one of my favorites of this year, and I can't wait until I can start more of Gregory's work. I'm officially addicted. The bottom line: One of my favorite books of the summer, Philippa Gregory has woven another spellbinding, well-researched story about three women who are often overlooked or besmirched by history--absolutely amazing! Next on deck: Huntress by Malinda Lo!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine Review

Title: Paper and Fire
Author: Rachel Caine
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Great Library, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Ink and Bone was one of my favorite novels of last year. The premise of the novel enchanted me entirely. I mean, a worldwide, gigantic evil Library? Yes, sign me up. I've been anticipating the sequel ever since I finished the first book. And, for the most part, Caine delivered. The sequel was meaty and satisfying, full of action, thrills, and excitement, as well as a healthy dose of political intrigue and plenty of twists and secrets to keep readers turning the pages, until the terrifying, jaw-dropping conclusion.

As far as sequels go, this one wasn't bad--it was satisfying, for the most part. I was a little nervous at first, because sequels are so hit and miss with me. But this book was lovely. Not as good as the first book, unfortunately, but it wasn't bad. I really enjoyed it. Paper and Fire picks up where Ink and Bone left off--Jess is now a full-fledged member of The Great Library, in the thick of the seductive political game that runs the organization. Forced to go deeper into the Library, Jess discovers that secrets hide in the most unlikely places, and he must decide whether to dedicate his life to the tyranny of the Great Library, or fight to change the world, even if it means risking death.

Like I said, I really enjoyed this book, though not as much as the first one. It delivered in some ways and fell short in others. It was so satisfying and exciting, full of twists and turns and lots of context and continuation. I loved the way the worldbuilding was expanded, and the way that all of the characters were expanded on, especially Jess and Morgan. But I think my favorite part of the novel was the political intrigue. That's part of what really drove the novel, and it was wonderful. There were also so many twists and turns that I kept frantically turning pages, unable to put it down until the final page. But at times the narrative felt like it fell through a little bit. I feel like some of the magic that made the first one so awesome was lost in translation in Paper and Fire. The bottom line: A satisfying and meaty sequel, for the most part, Paper and Fire delivered--I can't wait for the third book! Next on deck: Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn Review

Title: Sharp Objects: A Novel
Author: Gillian Flynn
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I was given this book as a gift and reviewed it.

I've heard of Gillian Flynn--honestly, by now, who hasn't? I've heard many good things and since I've been trying to cycle some of my own books as well as my library loans, I decided to take the plunge and picked up Sharp Objects. Flynn's debut, her first novel, published back in 2006, and I'm just now picking it up. (I'm so freaking behind on my reading.) I wasn't exactly sure what to expect, but I'm so glad that I read it. Flynn is more than deserving of her place as the queen of gritty, gory crime fiction, and I can't wait to read Dark Places and Gone Girl! Pretty sure it's safe to say I have a new favorite author now.

Sharp Objects opens with the tortured, tormented reporter, Camille Preaker, trying desperately to drown her demons in drink. I really liked Camille--she was tortured, sympathetic, flawed, and I really related to her a lot. She's at turns strong and weak, desperate and resolute. When she discovers that two little girls have been murdered in her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, her boss sends her home to investigate. Reluctantly obeying her boss's orders for a story, she returns, forced to face her family and her past. When the past and present begin to collide, Camille discovers that the danger may be a lot closer than she realizes...

Where do I begin? Okay, first, pacing. I was utterly hypnotized by Flynn's beautiful, sparse prose, and Camille's voice. I was spellbound, often times against my own will. Even when I wanted to put the book down, I couldn't. The other characters throughout the novel, too, were what sold it for me. They were almost typical, almost caricatures, but it was really enjoyable. The atmosphere of the novel was amazing, too. I felt like I was in tiny, claustrophobic Wind Gap, desperate to escape the nail-biting tension. And there were twists! God, so many twists. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. There was so much tension and emotion in Flynn's dynamic, simple prose, I couldn't get enough!

But the real kicker, what really sold this book for me? Camille, and her dysfunctional family. I loved trying to figure out who was doing what, who was lying and who was the killer. I'm not sure why, but I love books about families, about relationships, especially when put in the center of a taut, tension-filled mystery thriller--especially if those relationships are twisted and screwed up, leading up to the explosion, the ending, so bright and surprising and freaking terrifying that you don't see it coming. And you just sit there, wondering how you didn't realize it from the start.

This book was almost perfect--almost. There were some characters I didn't really like, but I enjoyed their role in the story. The bottom line: Gillian Flynn's debut novel, Sharp Objects, delivers on almost every front--a twisted, gory thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat! I can't wait to read more of her work! One of my favorite books ever. Wonderful! Next on deck: Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine!

Monday, August 15, 2016

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott Review

Title: You Will Know Me
Author: Megan Abbott
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I've heard of Megan Abbott through several different channels: librarians, my fellow readers on the Tumblrsphere, and general word of mouth-- and she is one of the best mystery and crime fiction authors of our time, and she's a woman! When I saw that she had a new book coming out this month, I just knew I had to get my hands on it. (Yay for kick-butt female authors! Always a good way to win this girl over.)

A mystery/thriller with a timely, exciting premise and morally ambiguous characters, wrapped in sensual, seductive prose--God. To say that this book is one of my favorites of the summer, of the year, is a huge understatement. What initially got me interested in this novel was the premise, a peek into the cutthroat world of competitive gymnastics. With the summer Olympics in full swing, I found it a timely and relevant premise that was so surprisingly dark and frightening, but enlightening at the same time.

You Will Know Me is told backward, sort of out of order--the format is unusual, with small snippets of the past in between what's happening in the present. It focuses on the Knox family: Katie, her husband, Eric, her son, Drew, and her daughter, Devon. Abbott weaves a spellbinding tale full of  familial tension, secrets, and desire that bleed off of the pages of the book and come into our world, as visceral and messy and gory as any real crime. The primary focus of the novel is Devon, a young gymnast who will stop at nothing to be the best.

What can I say about this book? Megan Abbott has completely won my heart. She has such an immense gift for telling stories, and I'm in complete and total awe of her skill. I was completely spellbound--it was like this beautiful, dark, scary story held me by the throat and didn't let go. I was desperately, frantically turning pages, trying to figure out who was lying, who was telling the truth, and who was dangerous. The ending was so neat and surprising and unexpected. I've fallen in love with thrillers again, thanks to this book. I loved it. The bottom line: One of the best books of the year, Megan Abbott has completely won me over with this dark, tautly twisted thriller--I'm a lifelong fan and I can't wait for more from this promising author! Can I read her other books now? Please? Next on deck: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas Review

Title: A Court of Mist and Fury
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I don't even know how and when to go about this review. I've literally just been sitting here, in complete shock, my emotions roiling like the ocean in the middle of a storm. I don't even know what to say, except for Sarah J. Maas, what in the world have you done to me?! I can't do this! I can't wait until May of next year! My soul and internal organs have officially been crushed into a million pieces. I. Can't. Do. This. I'm almost halfway into having a major freakout... Okay, for real this time, on to the review.

I don't want to say too much about the plot, as it is a sequel and I don't want to spoil anything for my readers who haven't read the first one and this one yet. But I will say that on the whole, sequels make me so anxious. I can't even begin to tell you all how many times I was excited for a sequel to a series debut, only to read it and be entirely let down. (It's a serious issue, I'm telling you. So much anxiety!) But Maas delivers, in every possible way. Continuity? Check. Angst? Check. Tension? Triple check, to the tenth millionth power. Maas hit almost a complete homerun with A Court of Mist and Fury, and I loved every minute of it. Every emotional, gasping moment, frantically flipping pages...

Like I said, I don't want to give anything away--I would hate to spoil this book for anyone. But just go read it. Read the first one, then have A Court of Mist and Fury sitting at the ready when you're done. Lock your doors, turn off your phones, and clear a few days. I promise you, you won't regret it. The bottom line: A meaty, satisfying sequel to the runaway romance A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury more than delivers--one of my favorite series, and books, of 2016! Next on deck: You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott!

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Helling Review

Title: The Girl From Everywhere
Author: Heidi Hellig
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Girl From Everywhere, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Time travel books. God, it's a trope that I both love and hate. And it's a trope that's grown increasingly popular. When I see a book's premise involving time travel, I immediately get anxious. Because when they're done well, they're one of my favorite tropes in fiction, not just young adult. But when they're done badly, they're bad. Sometimes, unforgivably so. Some miss the mark so entirely you're sitting there thinking, "What in the world did I just read?". There's only so much suspension of disbelief one can use, even as an avid, voracious reader.

But, as usual, I'm getting ahead of myself here. My worries were for the most part unfounded. The Girl From Everywhere tells the story of the sad, lonely Nix, whose only home has been her father's ship, The Temptation. A reluctant co-conspirator at her father's side, she longs to learn to Navigate (the term for time travel in this book), to forge her own path and escape her father's ghosts. Nix's father has spent the entirety of her sixteen years alive Navigating, hopping from time and place in hopes of finding her late mother alive. When she is forced to go into the past, despite her doubts about her own future, Nix discovers that this might be the adventure she doesn't escape from unscathed...

First of all, I really liked the prose. I loved it, in fact. It was beautiful and simple, full of power and magic. (If there's a way to win my heart from the get go, it's amazing writing.) The pacing was breakneck--when I began reading, I couldn't put it down. I was absolutely spellbound. But it was Nix herself that really stole my heart--I found a friend in her. She was so bogged down by doubt, anxiety, and fear, but she put on a really good front and for the most part didn't show it. I loved her, every flawed, crazy part of her. I really related to her. (And the addition of the seductive, comically talent Kashmir didn't hurt either... My baby! <3 And Blake, my heart!) It also didn't hurt that this book was an adventure in every sense of the word--I was hanging on the edge of my seat as I traveled with Nix, her father, and friends across time and space. I couldn't get enough of this book, and I was so sad when it was over! When does the sequel come out?

Unfortunately, I couldn't give this book a complete five stars--at times the time travel got confusing, and it was never really explained how the people in the book came to have the ability to Navigate. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic, exciting adventure of a debut novel! I can't wait for more from Heidi Hellig! The bottom line: A swashbuckling, romantic adventure through time and space, The Girl From Everywhere is one of my favorite novels of 2016! I need the sequel right now! Next on deck: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee Review

Title: Outrun the Moon
Author: Stacey Lee
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I've heard countless people talk about Stacey Lee and her books--she made a splash last May with her historical fiction debut, Under the Painted Sky. I haven't read that, but when I heard about her new novel, called Outrun the Moon, I reserved it at my library immediately. It took me a while to wade through my library pile and get to it, but I'm so happy I read it. It's one of my favorite historical fiction novels of 2016, and probably one of my favorite books ever. Stacey Lee completely stole my heart with her beautiful, empathetic prose, and the book's heroine, Mercy Wong. A young Chinese-American woman growing up in 1906 San Francisco, she is determined to be successful and rise beyond her circumstances.

Mercy completely stole my heart. I loved her immediately, and I really enjoyed her voice, especially when it came to integrating Chinese culture into the book. It was enlightening and informative, and that's one of the reasons I love the genre of historical fiction: I can learn about real things while seeing through a fictional lens. Mercy is spunky, tenacious, kind and caring. I fell for her immediately--I really found a friend in her, as well as the other characters in the book. The first half of the book revolves around Mercy securing a spot at a prestigious American school, and the second half is really what makes the book shine--it really showed the tenacity of the human spirit, even in times of crisis.

This book was absolutely lovely: a strong, willful heroine, shown with unapologetic ambition, with a lot of Chinese folklore and culture, sparkling, sympathetic secondary characters, natural disasters, all in San Francisco in 1906! A meaty and heartbreaking work of historical fiction and one of my favorite books of the year! Next on deck: The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Hellig!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman Review

Title: Girls On Fire: A Novel
Author: Robin Wasserman
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I've read a lot of Robin Wasserman's young adult work, most notably the first two novels in her Skinned trilogy. I've been looking forward to more of her work ever since. Ever since I'd heard of the existence of Girls on Fire, I've been salivating for it. I was really looking forward to it, and I enjoyed it, for the most part. But there were also some things I weren't crazy about, so my feelings are mixed.

Girls on Fire is a twisting and magnetic mystery/thriller wrapped in a coming of age story wrapped in one of the most twisted love stories I've ever come across. It is the story of Lacey Champlain and Hannah 'Dex' Dexter, two volatile and uncertain young women who find in each other in little, podunk Battle Creek, and cannot live without each other. When dark secrets come to light, the two young women must decide if their relationship is worth paying the ultimate price...

Told in prose as electric as this sleepaway hit's title, the girls become intoxicated by one another, alternately loving and betraying as they see fit. I was captivated, as I always am, by Wasserman's bright and electric prose. Through Dex, we see Lacey, and the little town that she finds so stifling. This book was impossible not to relate to--it really spoke to me. Growing up is hard, and even harder if you happen to be a young woman. In Dex, I saw some of myself--the longing to belong, to be content, to love and be loved--even if it means sacrificing who you are. Lacey, Dex's emotional, wild, I don't give a crap foil, was just as compelling, if not more so. The girls' relationship--deeper than friendship--is so all-consuming that everything around it is destroyed, ripped to tatters by the end of the novel.

I really enjoyed the style of the novel--it was told in a frighteningly stoic voice, from the end to the beginning and back again. This book also tackled one of my favorite topics in fiction, especially contemporary: a toxic friendship. I don't know why it is, but I'm drawn to books about destruction, degeneration. Bonus points if it's personal. The format was fantastic, and by the end, I was frantically flipping pages, desperate to find out what would come of these girls on fire--if they would flare so bright they would eclipse the sun, or if they would flicker and burn out. I was spellbound, almost against my will. Even when I wanted to put it down, I couldn't.

That being said, there were times when I was reading that I was kind of let down--but the ending was worth it, and I'm so glad that I stuck with it. Dex and Lacey were the main characters, the focus, and the characters around them, including their parents, seemed almost like caricatures in comparison to them. Even when they were included more in the story than just supporting characters, they didn't seem real to me. The bottom line: A mystery thriller wrapped in a twisted love and coming of age story in the golden age of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, Girls on Fire was, for the most part, mesmerizing! Despite the stiffness of the supporting characters, I really enjoyed it. Next on deck: Outrun The Moon by Stacey Lee!

Monday, July 25, 2016

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows Review

Title: My Lady Jane
Author(s): Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I won't mince words: This book is one of my favorites of the summer, the year, and probably ever. The concept is certainly unusual: a fantasy retelling of British history, chock-full of humor, wit, and pop culture references. Think The Tudors mashed up with Monty Python, and you'll have something close to My Lady Jane. I loved it, and I'm hoping that these three authors will collaborate again. (Please? It was absolute perfection!) The authors use the first half of the novel to lay the groundwork for the history that inspires it, and they use the second half to drive the novel home. It was so fantastic--I was literally laughing out loud the entire time I was reading. (If all 'history' was taught like this, I promise even the haters would happily be on board.)

There are three main characters in this book: Edward, as in Edward, the King of England, Lady Jane Gray, a young woman who loves books more than she loves people, (yay for a bookish main character! Always a good way to win over this reader) and Gifford, also known as 'G', Jane's reluctant spouse.  All three characters intersect, all different and equally witty and hilarious. This England, too, is not what you think: this England has magic, in the form of Edians (pronounced Eth-y-uns): people who can change into animals at will. Forced into a dangerous web of political intrigue, the three royals must unite (with many sparkling, wicked secondary characters) and save their country, despite all of the forces around them conspiring to have the crown for themselves.

As I said before, this book was just lovely, a breath of fresh air. I loved the way the authors spun history to such humorous and witty effect. It was pretty much perfect in every way--the pacing was breakneck, the prose flowing and full of sparkling humor, wit, and a treasure trove of pop culture references. It was so refreshing and fun and delightful, and it was a good thing to read after This Savage Song. It's something like a literary palate cleanser: it was fun and light and full of heart. The bottom line: A more than worthy addition to an already large bounty of young adult literature this year, My Lady Jane was a wonderful, humorous spin on English history--a gem of 2016! Next on deck: Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab Review

Title: This Savage Song
Author: Victoria Schwab
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Monsters of Verity, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Okay, so I'll be honest with you guys: I'm a little bit biased here. Victoria Schwab won my heart entirely last year with her smash hit, A Darker Shade of Magic, and its sequel this year, A Gathering of Shadows. And to call me a devotee is kind of an understatement, but... I can't help it. Schwab is one of my favorite fantasy authors, probably one of my go-tos, and This Savage Song only helped cement her place in my heart, as a reader and an author (if albeit an un-established one). God, where do I even begin with this book?

I loved it, honestly. Schwab's electric prose and her signature, atmospheric world-building, and the characters--it just all added up to a wholly original and exciting fantasy. This Savage Song paints a broken, dark and frightening world where monsters are literally formed from bad acts. There are three different types: ghostly, bloodthirsty Corsai, dark and sly Malachi with sharp teeth and terror, and finally, the Sunai, the special breed of monster who can steal your soul with a song (literally.)

Kate Harker and August Flynn are two people from completely different worlds: Kate is the daughter of Callum, the ruler of North City, the safe part of Verity. Tough and scary and full of fire and spunk, she fights to live up to her father's expectations. August is a monster who longs to be human, who dreams of more to his existence. The two are thrown together in a crazy, catastrophic turn of events, and are forced to trust each other, even as the city they both live in falls to pieces.

As I said previously, I really enjoyed this book. The premise was original and exciting. The pacing of the book is breakneck--you're thrown into Schwab's world, hanging on for dear life as you turn the pages, sucked into the story almost against your will. Almost. I loved the characters, pretty much all of them, but the stars of the novel, Kate and August, were really the ones who stole my heart. Dynamic and flawed and three-dimensional, they seemed to fly off of the pages of their story and straight into my soul. More please! There had better be a sequel, or I'll die! (Waiting for the last A Darker Shade of Magic has been hard enough!) The bottom line: Another original, groundbreaking hit for the fantastic Victoria Schwab, This Savage Song is one of my favorite books of 2016! More please! Next on deck: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando Review

Title: The Leaving
Author: Tara Altebrando
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Mystery/Thriller
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

How do I describe this book? Honestly, I'm not sure where to even start. The Leaving is a powerful, dark, and sad meditation on grief, memory, life and death, and family. Is it a total mind-screw? Yup. The characters in this novel are many, but they are each unique and real, and full of flaws and tiny triumphs. And that's part of what made this book so powerful for me--it's something unlike anything I've ever read. I don't want to say too much about the plot, because the fun of it is going in blind. But six kids were taken mysteriously eleven years before the story starts--Max, Scarlett, Kristen, Adam, Lucas, and Sarah. But only five children come back, miraculously unharmed but without any memory whatsoever.

Avery, Max's little sister, is desperate for answers. When she begins to dig into her older brother's disappearance, she bonds almost immediately with Lucas. But when the kids begin to realize that The Leaving is so much bigger than they ever imagined, will they regret digging where they shouldn't? Will they wish they had left well enough alone? This book--it is one of my favorite books of the summer, if not the year. If all mysteries were written like this book, I would be absolutely ecstatic. One of the other selling points for me with this book was the format--it was so unusual and intriguing.

The pacing of The Leaving is absolutely breakneck, truly--you are thrown into the narrative and Altebrando doesn't let go. Even if you have to put the book down, it will haunt you until you can finish it. And there were so many twists and turns I'm pretty sure I received whiplash while reading it. (Beware!) An exciting, dark and beautiful novel, The Leaving is one of my favorite books of the year--a dark mystery wrapped in mediations on life and death, family, and memory! Absolutely stunning! Next on deck: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Asking For It by Louise O'Neill Review

Title: Asking For It
Author: Louise O'Neill
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Oh, Louise O'Neill. You've done it again. Just like with your first novel, Only Ever Yours, I feel as if my internal organs have been rearranged, my heart and entrails scattered into a million different, scattered pieces. I loved this book, because it was more than fiction--it is a powerful and unflinching treatise on sexism, rape culture, and victim-blaming in today's modern society. It made me cry, it made me rage, it made me think--and isn't that the purpose of fiction, after all? To hold up a mirror towards the world and weave a story, all the while telling the truth about it? I am absolutely blown away, bowled over by O'Neill's gift to write stories that glimmer with truth, just below the surface. I'm just amazed.

Asking For It revolves around eighteen-year-old Emma 'Emmie' O'Donovan, a beautiful young woman who seems to have the entire world worshipping at her feet. When she goes to a party and is sexually assaulted, her life spins out of control as the accused and the media document everything. Her life ruined, Emma is left wondering if she indeed was 'asking for it'. I'll be honest: For the first part of the book, I didn't really like Emma at all. She just seemed like the typical mean girl. But during the second half, my heart broke for her, knowing that her story is just one of many.

Asking For It made me weep, made me rage to my very soul. I'm not going to lie, like Only Ever Yours, this book was really hard to get through, especially when I think about the most recent sexual assault cases that have surfaced in the media lately. It takes a razor-sharp look at rape culture and victim-blaming, in a way that condemns the actions of those who do those things. Emma is just one of many young women who are blamed for the actions of her attacker, and it disgusted me. God, this book. It made my heart weep, it enraged me so much I was seeing red, and I wish I could tell everyone I know to read this book. I want to shout from the rooftops about how this book should be required reading, not just for women, but for everyone. This book is so very vital and important, and it is one of my favorite novels of the year, and probably ever. Just read it. Go get it from the library, or the bookstore, clear your schedule, and read it. I can personally guarantee that you won't be disappointed. The bottom line: An absolutely important and vital piece of literature that shines a light on rape culture, sexism, and victim-blaming, Asking For It is one of my favorite books ever--O'Neill has won me over for the second time! Next on deck: The Leaving by Tara Altebrando!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh Review

Title: Ivory and Bone
Author: Julie Eshbaugh
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Series: Ivory and Bone, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Where do I even start with this book? The pitch for it was prehistorical fantasy with allusions to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice--and all of these things are true. But Ivory and Bone is also so much more than that--a coming of age story, a romance, and a complete literary breath of fresh air. I've never read anything like this book. I was kind of nervous about it because I didn't know exactly what to expect. But never fear, my friends, because now Julie Eshbaugh is one of my must-read authors of 2016!

I don't want to say much about the plot of Ivory and Bone--part of the fun is in the mystery of this book, but I'll try to sum it up as simply as possible. Kol and his clan hunt and gather, working to survive each year. When another clan comes to their shores, the camp is abuzz with hope, praying for an alliance. But when rumors abound and long-kept secrets are discovered, war begins to brew, with Kol right in the middle of it. Can he save his clan and stop the bloodshed, all the while trying to follow his heart?

I really enjoyed this book--it was unlike anything else I've ever read. It really stimulated my imagination, and was a wonderful story. I was pulled in immediately, and I couldn't let go until the final page. (It's been on my mind all week.) To say that this is one of my favorite books of the summer is a major understatement. It was almost entirely perfect--familiar elements of fiction mixed together with a unique story and unusual format to create something wholly original. Unfortunately, at times the whole romance angle seemed to take the focus of the book, and it kind of took away from the plot for me a little bit. Nonetheless, I look forward to more from Julie Eshbaugh! The bottom line: One of my favorite books of the summer, Ivory and Bone is an original, fantastic debut--absolutely amazing! Next on deck: Asking For It by Louise O'Neill!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Marked Girl by Lindsey Klingele Review

Title: The Marked Girl
Author: Lindsey Klingele
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Marked Girl, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

The Marked Girl is a series debut, and unlike any fantasy I've ever read. It was thrilling, exciting, and totally original, a work all its own. It had familiar elements: magic, evil villains, portals to different worlds. But the way Klingele works them to her advantage is totally original and exciting. It kind of reminded me of Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older, but without the magical art elements. Frankly, I really enjoyed it. Normally with fantasy, it gets kind of tiring, seeing magical worlds, because if they're not overdone, they don't do justice to the genre. But The Marked Girl is something totally different, a fantasy of a different kind.

The Marked Girl begins with two people, Liv and Cedric. Liv is just a normal girl living in LA with her foster mother, and Cedric is a prince from the magical world called Caelum. Their lives collide, quite literally, when Cedric is forced to from his home and to Earth, with a huge burden on his shoulders: He must find ancient scrolls that open the portal back home. Thrust into an uneasy alliance, Liv and Cedric are on a race against time to return home before evil creatures called wraths take over the world.

On the whole, I really enjoyed this book. It was fast-paced, original, and exciting. I literally read this book in two days--it's so breakneck that Klingele grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. I really liked the idea of different people falling through a portal to get to our world, from a place that is mysterious and magical and exciting. But what really sold this novel for me were the characters. There truly wasn't one that I didn't like, but my favorites were Liv and Cedric--they felt the most real to me.

At times, though, I felt like the family and love drama took a little bit away from the story--it felt like sometimes that was a huge focus on the story, and it was a bit of a distraction from the whole epic quest trope. Nonetheless, The Marked Girl was a fun and enjoyable fantasy novel, and I look forward to the next book in the series. The bottom line: A fun, fantasy-filled series debut, Klingele creates a series debut that is magical and exciting--a promising book for the summer of 2016! Next on deck: Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh!

Monday, July 4, 2016

The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman Review

Title: The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction
Author: Neil Gaiman
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

First of all: Happy Fourth of July, all! Hope your Fourth is full of family, friends, and food, and of course, books!

Okay, so just so you know, I'm going to be unapologetically biased in this review: I love Neil Gaiman, ever since I read Snow, Glass, Apples a few years ago. (I know, I know, I sound like a rabid fan, but no Misery-esque craziness here, I promise) Reading his work for the first time was like being introduced to someone new, but you feel like you've known them forever. And frankly, The View from the Cheap Seats was like having one of my inspirations all to myself for the three days I was reading it. I felt like Neil himself was sitting in my living room, telling me stories and encouraging me and telling me all the things he cares about. If all nonfiction were like this book, I would be an avid fan.

This book is a hefty one--over five hundred pages of pure Neil Gaiman, who I thought I knew before now. And I did--through his fiction. But there is so much more to him than his writing and literature career; he cares about all of that and more. Comics, fairy tales, movies and music, writing, reading. And he explains a topic in such a way that even if you didn't care about it when the essay began, you did when it ended. I love how especially thorough and personal and incredibly emotional it is--Neil Gaiman is one of my heroes, and now, because of this lovely tome, I feel like I know and love and am inspired by him that much more, that much better. It was highly enjoyable, full of stories and knowledge and love. I'm so enlightened and inspired, and I have a lot of food for thought from this wonderful, absolutely essential volume from one of the brightest stars in literature! The bottom line: A thoughtful, loving tome on Neil Gaiman and all of his loves, The View from the Cheap Seats is absolutely essential for any fan, whether they be devotees or new to the author! Next on deck: The Marked Girl by Lindsey Klingele!