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!