Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Losing the Light by Andrea Dunlop Review

Title: Losing the Light
Author: Andrea Dunlop
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Andrea Dunlop's first novel has been sitting in my library stack for the last three weeks, taunting me, begging me to read it. And I was so excited to start it--I mean, come on. France, a sexy love triangle, wine, betrayal? Yes, sign me up, immediately! I read this novel in three short days, glued to the pages, until I finished it this afternoon. And to say that my feelings are mixed is an understatement. I loved most of the parts of this book, don't get me wrong, but there were also some parts where I was either crying or shaking my head at. At times it seemed like Sophie was really contrived, the catalog mean girl.

Brooke sets out to France her senior year of high school after a youthful mistake on her part. And she falls in love with France, and her future. There, she becomes fast friends with the bright, lovely Sophie. Their lives change forever when they meet Veronique, a beautiful Frenchwoman, and her older, sexy cousin named  Alex. Intoxicated by their new home and one another, Brooke and Sophie find their new friendship pushed to the breaking point after lies, secrets, and betrayals come to light.

What can I say? This book, first and foremost, gave me the travel bug, just like Maestra did. I want to go to Europe so badly now! (Not that I didn't want to before, but you know what I mean.)  I found myself longing to be in France, eating great food and drinking exemplary wine. I was completely swept away in Brooke's dreamy narrative, and I couldn't pull myself away. I was absolutely spellbound, and the pacing was breakneck.

I was caught up in the twisted, strangely seductive love triangle that Brooke, Alex, and Sophie occupied. I was absolutely hypnotized, even when I wanted to look away. It was kind of like watching a train wreck or a car accident--you want to look away, even when you actually can't. I was so caught up in Brooke's dreamy, slightly naive narrative that I literally had to force myself to save the ending.  The bottom line: A tale of travel, food, first love, and finding yourself, Losing the Light was a wonderful debut--I can't wait to see what Andrea Dunlop has for us next! Next on deck: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Maestra by L.S. Hilton Review

Title: Maestra
Author: L.S. Hilton
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Maestra, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Okay, so I have a confession to make: Mystery and thrillers are not my cup of tea, usually. I love them, don't get me wrong, but I always end up predicting them halfway through the novel, and then I give up. When I got the call that this book was in, I was so excited. I was nervous, but those thoughts went out the window the moment I began reading Maestra. I was absolutely mesmerized. Almost against my will, actually. Judith Rashleigh's story reaches out and grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go until the final page.

Judith Rashleigh is a young British woman, an assistant at one of London's top art houses. She is a woman who is unapologetically goes after what she wants, when she wants it. She doesn't hesitate to get a leg up on the rich people she works for, when she uncovers a secret scheme. Furious and humiliated, she turns to her old friend--Rage--to help her on her way to the top. As she becomes a top player in some of Europe's darkest dealings, she must decide what she is willing to risk to win it all.

What can I say? I just finished this novel and my feelings are mixed. This book, for me, was something of a guilty pleasure, in a sense. On the one hand, I was rooting Judith every step of the way on her dark journey. On the other, I was absolutely dumbfounded--this woman is just straight up nuts, what is going on?! I loved every crazy, dark, gory moment of this glorious tale of revenge. Judith herself is an antihero, a femme fatale straight out of a Bond movie--only without the Bond!

The bottom line: I loved this book--every insane, twisted moment of it. And when I realized that this book is the first in a projected trilogy, I was so happy and excited! I can't wait for the next two novels, and what L.S. Hilton has in store for us next!  Next on deck: Losing the Light by Andrea Dunlop!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys Review

Title: Salt to the Sea
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Ruta Sepetys has been an interesting author to me, since her debut, Between Shades of Gray--I've been eagerly awaiting Salt to the Sea, and when I saw this sitting on the shelf of my local library, I just knew I had to take it home with me. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and it always has been. I've always enjoyed learning about history through fictional events, and this book was no different. This is my first novel by Sepetys, and like with everything else, I worried over the hype. What if I didn't like this book? What if I didn't end up finishing it?

But my worries, like usual, were unfounded. Told from the point of view of four very different teenagers, Joana, Emilia, Florian, and Alfred, this book cast a light on a little-known historical event--the sinking of two submarines in 1945, killing thousands of people. (In fact, honestly, before this novel, I had no idea this had actually happened.) You are literally thrown into the narrative, getting to know each character intimately. I was sucked in immediately, and I finished this novel in a day and a half. I loved the characters--well, most of them, anyway. Alfred--I pretty much couldn't stand him. But that aside, this book draws you in with past pacing, beautiful prose, and three-dimesional characters--I loved every fraught, tense moment in this little story.

It was lyrically written, beautiful and brutal. It was so painful to read, and after I was finished, I just held the book in my lap and cried my eyes out. This book was so deeply affecting, so real and frightening and gory, but I'm so glad I read it. One of my favorite books of 2016, and this book certainly won't be the last I'll see of Sepetys's work! The bottom line: A new, surefire hit from a historical darling, Salt to the Sea is one of my favorite novels of 2016--a beautiful masterpiece of the brutalities of war and finding your way home! Next on deck: Maestra by L.S. Hilton!

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury Review

Title: The Forbidden Wish
Author: Jessica Khoury
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

What do you imagine when you think of genies? Is it the 1,001 Nights? Is it the blue, merry, shapeshifting genie voiced by Robin Williams in the beloved Disney film? Would you believe me if I told you that this story in particular stars a female jinni named Zahra? Imprisoned in desert ruins for the past five hundred years, her existence changes forever when she meets the young Aladdin, a petty thief, and her master. When she is offered her heart's greatest desire--her true freedom--she begins to betray Aladdin. When she begins to fall for her charming human mark, she discovers that love can be found in even the darkest places of the soul, and freedom will take every single shred of power she can muster.

I'll be honest: I've been curious about Jessica Khoury since her first book, Origin, came out a few years ago. I heard about The Forbidden Wish through my local library, and didn't hesitate to order it. (Plus, I mean, look at that cover! Sparkling purple clouds, curly, ornate golden script, and a girl's face--YES!) It's been sitting in my library pile for a while now, and after an emergency appendix surgery earlier this week, I returned home, anxious for down time and to finish it.

What can I say? Aladdin is one of my favorite fairy tales of all time, from the moment I first saw the Disney film when I was still young. Retellings unnerve me somewhat, because you can never tell if they're going to do justice to the original, or just flop. But I needn't have worried with this one: The Forbidden Wish literally has everything you'd expect: a compelling, sympathetic narrator, magic,  dark villains, legends, forbidden love, political intrigue, a sly and cunning thief, a princess in disguise! Khoury did the original justice, though if I'm being completely honest, I almost like it as much as the original...

In Zahra, Khoury creates a narrator that is so full of depth--so much so that I didn't realize how much I loved her until the very end of the book--ever since I've been nursing an awful book hangover. Zahra is one of the very favorite characters I've encountered within years of reading ravenously, and I'll never forget her journey! I loved the character development--Zahra is what made this book the glittering jewel it is. The bottom line: I loved everything about this novel, except for some minor quibbles: at times the narrative got a little confusing and hard to follow. But other than that, The Forbidden Wish is one of my favorite books of 2016! Next on deck: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys!