Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Always Watching by Chevy Stevens Review

Title: Always Watching
Author: Chevy Stevens
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.

Chevy Stevens first came to my attention with a mutual friend's recommendation. I loved the first novel I ever read by her, Those Girls--I was completely blown away by it. It awoke my love for thrillers again, and when that same friend told me she was reading Always Watching, I reserved it in my library system right away. Since then, it's been sitting in my library stack, beckoning me every time I glance at it. I had really high hopes for this book, but the result is honest one of mixed feelings. I loved the story, and the characters, as well as the breakneck pacing and the chilling twists and turns, as per Stevens's signature. But as much as I enjoyed the story, it also brought back some pretty nasty memories.

Always Watching begins with Dr. Nadine Lavoie, a compassionate and dedicated psychiatrist. The book really drew me in because of Nadine--I loved her. She was such a caring, gentle person, and that made it easy for me to relate to her. But despite Nadine's talent for helping her troubled patients, her own tumultous past has its own demons. When one of her patients begins to speak of a cult that Nadine herself was involved in as a child, she discovers that dark secrets hide in the most unexpected and frightening places.

I loved this book, for the most part. It was a solid, hefty mystery that grabbed me by the throat and didn't let go. From the moment I began, I couldn't put it down--though there were times I had to walk away because the book was so intense. My family and I were in a cult several years ago, and we are still dealing with the damage, so it was painful to see that, even though the book was a work of fiction. The cult reminded me of some scary times in our lives that left serious scars on our psyches.  The bottom line: Personal feelings aside, this book was absolutely fantastic. I really enjoyed it, though not as much as Those Girls. Next on deck: The Midnight Assassin: Panic, Scandal, and the Hunt for America's First Serial Killer by Skip Hollandsworth!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke Review

Title: Wink Poppy Midnight
Author: April Genevieve Tucholke
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Magical Realism
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I've wanted to read April Genevieve Tucholke's work ever since her debut novel, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, came out a few years ago. I hadn't got a chance to read her first two novels yet, so when I heard that Wink Poppy Midnight was in our local library's system, I reserved it, impatiently waiting for the book to make its way to me. What really sold me was the plot, and also the cover. (I mean, just look at it! Spiderwebs and strawberries and owls and snakes...) But though my hopes were high, things were different for me when I started reading the actual story.

Not to say that this book was bad--quite the contrary, in fact. The pacing was breakneck--I was sucked into the dangerous, frightening love triangle immediately, and the writing--God, the prose was gorgeous! I was completely spellbound. It also helped that this novel was told in three different, unique voices: bright, soft, imaginative Wink, wild, reckless, beautiful Poppy, and the vulnerable, sweet, bookish Midnight, the boy thrust in the middle. I loved every bit of this book, from beginning to end, if we're just going by the prose.

I didn't like Poppy, though. God, for most of the book, I hated her. She just seemed like the typical high school mean girl. (I kept picturing Regina George in my head--oops!) She grew on me by the end of the book, but through most of it I was just rolling my eyes through her parts. All things considered, though, I liked that each character was unique and exciting and 'not all one thing'.

But what really sold me was the constant twists and turns. I read most of this book last night in the tub, and I was frantically turning pages, sucked into the characters' crazy, and often emotional, dynamic. I loved, loved, loved the prose, the pacing, and the twists (especially the kicker at the end! I didn't see that one coming!) This is the first book I've ever read by April Genevieve Tucholke, and it most definitely won't be my last! The bottom line: A lush love story with secrets and a mystery tucked away in its dark heart, Wink Poppy Midnight is one of my favorite books of 2016! Absolutely amazing, despite its flaws! Next on deck: Always Watching by Chevy Stevens!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter Review

Title: Pretty Girls
Author: Karin Slaughter
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Thriller/Mystery/Suspense
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

God. I just finished this book, and to say that my feelings are mixed is a major understatement. Did I like it? Most definitely. Was it scary and screwed up and dark and twisted? You bet. And to add to my confusing ambivalence, this is my first novel by runaway favorite thriller writer, Karin Slaughter. (Though, to be honest, I have to admit that Gillian Flynn and Tess Gerritsen's praise on the back cover did influence my decision to pick it up.) Where do I even begin with Pretty Girls? A thriller hasn't affected me so deeply in a long, long time. I love them, it's actually one of my favorite genres, but more often than not I can figure it out when I'm not even halfway through, which really puts me off.

But Pretty Girls was so much more than a thriller. It is a thriller, but at its heart lies the Carroll family, which after the disappearance of its eldest daughter, Julia, falls apart. Sisters Claire and Lydia haven't spoken for more than two decades, and each woman has her own life. Claire is the trophy wife of Paul Scott, and Lydia is a single mom and recovering addict. Thrown together after another tragedy throws Claire's life into chaos, they realize that dark secrets lie buried, waiting to be uncovered. But the two women just might be in way, way over their heads...

As I said, this book--I loved some parts of it, others, not so much. I love a novel with characters that I can relate to, and are likable, but this book took it over the top with me--it was like the characters bled right off the page, as real as you and I. It kind of scared me, because it takes special kind of talent to do that.  I loved the pacing--I was sucked into the novel as soon as it began, and I couldn't put it down. When I had to, I was thinking about it constantly. I loved Lydia, but honestly, for the first part of the novel, I didn't like Claire--it took time for her to grow on me. A lot of the characters in this book made a deep impression on me, though not all of them are likable, so Slaughter did her job right.

Thrillers are usually hard to sell for me, but this book literally had so many secrets, twists, turns, and darkness that I was constantly gasping, or on the end of my seat, practically biting my nails as I continued. I really enjoyed this dark, frightening ride--it was a fantastic mystery that constantly kept me guessing, but I wasn't crazy about the constant graphic violence. In fact, I had to literally force myself to put down the book and remind myself that it was just a novel. It was so dark and gritty and infinitely painful--if I wasn't freaking out, I was on the verge of tears. This book gutted me and stomped on my heart, and left me to bleed, in the best kind of way. The bottom line: A dark, delightfully creepy thriller, hardcore horror and suspense fans will love Karin Slaughter's Pretty Girls! I will never forget this book! Next on deck: Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby Review

Title: Bone Gap
Author: Laura Ruby
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Magical Realism
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I've had Bone Gap sitting in my library stack for the last month and a half, taunting me, pleading with me to read it. From the moment I saw it on the shelf of my local library, my excitement for it hasn't died down, especially with all the positive feedback from my fellow book reviewers, and book lovers in general. I hadn't read any of Laura Ruby's work before now--despite this being one of several of her novels for young adults, and to be honest, I'd never heard of her prior to the buzz that accompanied Bone Gap.

I was a little bit nervous at first--you know how I feel about hype, guys--but once I actually began the book, I was completely swept away. The prose of this novel--beautiful, hypnotic, and absolutely all-consuming--grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. And part of what makes this novel so compelling is Bone Gap itself: a secret, hidden town with magic bursting to its very seams--if only magic of a very subtle kind. And this dreamy, enchanting enviroment serves as an oddly chilling foil to the thriller that is contained at its heart.

And with that, we are brought to Finn O'Sullivan, his older brother Sean, and the dark, beautiful girl that comes to town and steals their hearts, and every other in Bone Gap, Roza, and her disappearance. I loved everything about this novel--the creepy, frightening prose that both draws the reader in and seeps into the mind, the characters that populate the frightening, beautiful town of Bone Gap, especially Finn, Sean, Roza, and Petey, to the chilling mystery that lies at the very heart of the novel--and perhaps the town itself.

Magical realism has been one of my favorite genres since my first discovery of it, but Ruby really does the genre justice, mixing chilling mystery, heartpounding thrills, magic in all its forms, and of course, beautiful prose. The bottom line: Bone Gap was a book I thoroughly enjoyed, and I can't wait to see more of Ruby's work! Highly recommended for fans of Neil Gaiman and Nova Ren Suma! Next on deck: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter!

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Tyranny of Petticoats by Jessica Spotswood Review

Title: A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers, and Other Badass Girls
Editor: Jessica Spotswood
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: N/A, anthology
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I've always loved short story collections, ever since I was a child, having fairy tales read to me at my grandmother's side. They served as glimpses into different worlds, and in some ways were easier to read than a full novel. Today, they still appeal to me. I love the themes, the new stories, the happy possibility of being introduced to a new author's work. I also wanted something like a palate cleanser, considering the last book I read was Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare.

A Tryanny of Petticoats was a collection of fifteen stories about young women, all throughout different periods of American history. I was especially intrigued by it because of the historical fiction angle--I've never read an anthology with such a theme, and that's one of my very favorite genres. As there are quite a few stories in this, I'm going to select a few of my favorites. Overall, I loved this anthology, and it opened my eyes. I also really loved the diversity of all the characters.

The Journey by Marie Lu: 5 out of 5 Stars. Set in The Great Land in 1723, this is the first historical fiction story I've read from Lu. Blending mythology and history, Lu paints an enchanting, magical tale set in the snowy, stark wilderness of a young woman forced out of her village, only to encounter her village's history, and the courage to stand on her own two feet. Absolutely wonderful!

El Destinos by Leslye Walton: 5 out of 5 Stars. This story takes place in Southwest Texas in 1848. I loved this story! It was a wise, heartbreaking tale that blinds Greek mythology with American history--specifically, after the Texan Annexation. I was absolutely enchanted, by both the desert and this creative retelling of the Three Fates. (If you haven't read it, her debut novel, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, I highly reccomend it!)

Pearls by Beth Revis: 5 out of 5 Stars. This is possibly one of, if not the, favorite of the volume anthology. Set in 1876, a young woman flees an arranged marriage, from Chicago to Wyoming, and forms a new friendship with the girl who becomes Annie Oakley, and finds the courage to fight her demons--literally. I loved the main character of this story!

The Color of the Sky by Elizabeth Wein: 5 out of 5 Stars. Wein is one of my favorite historical fiction authors, and her story takes place in 1926, focusing on the legendary pilot Bessie Coleman, the first American, black or white, to receive an international pilot's license. This story was heartbreaking, eye-opening, and uplifting--I loved every single moment of it, and I'm looking into more about Bessie Coleman as soon as possible.

City of Angels by Lindsay Smith: 5 out of 5 Stars. Set in Los Angeles, in 1945, a young riveter falls in love with a coworker, and discovers the sweetness and the pain that comes with first love. This story was so hearbreaking, sweet, and painful--it felt real. I loved this story so much, it's one of my favorites from the entire volume. I'll definitely be looking forward to more of Smith's work!

The bottom line: An exciting, diverse collection of stories of women who can kick butt and take names, A Tyranny of Petticoats is a must-read for people of all ages! Next on deck: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare Review

Title: Lady Midnight
Author: Cassandra Clare
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Dark Artifices, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I'll be honest: I've wanted to get my hands on this book since before it had a cover, before it even had a title. I wanted this book that badly. The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices are two of my all time favorite series, and so naturally, when I heard about Lady Midnight, I just had to get my hands on it. Unable to buy it myself, I did the next best thing and went to my local library and put a hold on it. I'd been waiting for this book for more than four months, and to say I was nervous was an understatement--hype scares me, even from authors I dearly love.

I'm so happy to tell you guys that I had no reason at all to worry--Clare pulls out all the stops with this book, delivering in every way imaginable: breakneck pacing and action, wonderful, three-dimensional characters, both new and familiar, intriguing puzzles, and, of course, heartbreaking romance that still manages to make a reader hot under the collar! (Though, to be fair, I'm not exactly the most impartial reviewer when it comes to this lady's books, so feel free to take my words with a grain of salt!)

I don't want to give anything away about the plot--I don't want to ruin the book entirely for you guys--but Lady Midnight takes place six years after the events in City of Heavenly Fire, picking up in Los Angeles instead of Manhattan. Emma Carstairs is all grown up, with Julian Blackthorn as her parabatai. Desperate to find out why exactly her parents were murdered, she discovers that trouble is never far away, and love might be right where you least expect it, and comes in many different forms.

As I said before, I loved this book--every single heartbreaking, terrifying moment of it. Every single page. I was drawn in immediately, and I couldn't put it down--I literally had to make myself walk away from the novel at points, because not only is it hugely long, but it is packed to the brim with every single treat a reader could want--magic, secrets, romance, action, and of course, your favorite characters from Clare's other series (though my lips are sealed as to who they are!) The bottom line: Lady Midnight was one of my favorite books of the year, and probably of all time! I loved it, and all I can say now is that I need the sequel--I can't wait for the next installment in Cassandra Clare's new series! Next on deck: A Tyranny of Petticoats, edited by Jessica Spotswood!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Riders by Veronica Rossi Review

Title: Riders
Author: Veronica Rossi
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Apocalyptic Fiction
Series: Riders, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Veronica Rossi, where have you been all my life? I'll be honest: I bought the first two installments of her debut series, Under The Never Sky, on my first ereader. And they've sat there ever since. But when I saw Riders in our library system, I put a hold on it immediately. I was so excited, not just by the author, but by the premise of this novel. I mean--The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I've been waiting my whole life for this book. (Confession: This is my first Veronica Rossi book, but most definitely not my last.)

I loved it. I really just did. The exciting, original premise, the unusual format, the characters, the pacing! This book has completely ruined my life, in the best kind of way. Can I have the sequel now? Like, yesterday? Because I just can't do this! (Between V.E. Schwab, Alexandra Bracken, and now Veronica Rossi, I don't know how I'm going to wait for sequels!)

Riders revolves first around Gideon Blake, an eighteen-year-old, kind of undead U.S. Army Ranger, who is the literal incarnation of War. The literal human(ish) embodiment of the concept. And there are, of course, three more Horsemen: Famine, Death, and Conquest. And they've been called for a mission with the very fate of humanity on the line. Add in a beautiful, dynamic young woman with lots of secrets and chemistry, some dastardly villains straight out of the pit, heart-pounding action and pacing, and some witty banter? That about sums up Riders, and I'm so excited for the sequel! One of my favorites of 2016! Next on deck: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare!