Friday, January 29, 2016

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell Review

Title: Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Okay, I'll be honest here: When I first tried to read this novel, it rang a lot of Harry Potter for me, so much so that I had to put it down for a while. I mean, all the elements were there: magic, mystery, loads of food porn, lots of kissing and witty banter. But when I picked it up again, I decided to put Harry Potter out of my head and just let the book lead me where it wished. My first (and favorite so far) Rainbow Rowell novel, Fangirl, references the Simon Snow series a lot, and I was so excited when I found out that Rowell was writing an actual novel for Simon.

What can I say? This book is a fantasy, but to say it's a just a fantasy does this story a real disservice. It's not just a fantasy--it also pays homage to a lot of familiar elements of that genre, but done with Rainbow Rowell's signature panache and style. I loved it, I'm just going to say it. I really, really loved this book when I finally let go of my "this is just a Harry Potter knockoff" thoughts. For a lot of people, this book was so meta that they couldn't read it, but I really enjoyed it.

The pacing was fantastic, breakneck right out of the gate, and I loved the way the narrative bounced between all the different characters. (I'm such a fan of multiple POVs now, before and after this book. Lol.) I also loved the characters themselves, from Simon, to Baz, to Penelope and Agatha, and back again. I loved this book so much. It just seemed to suck me into it, even when I had my heels dug in. It was so gosh darn good. Even when I wasn't sure I was on board or not! Oh, Rainbow Rowell. If you hadn't already made me a die-hard for your writing with Fangirl, Carry On would've done the job too! Absolutely wonderful! There were some points in the book that were just sort of cheesy, which is why this is only getting four stars instead of the full five, but you can't have everything! Next on deck: The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Unforgiven by Lauren Kate Review

Title: Unforgiven
Author: Lauren Kate
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: Fallen, book six
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Okay, so I'll start this review with some brutal honesty here: I really didn't like the Fallen series. Sucks, but it's the truth. Basically, Cambriel was the only character I really cared about in the whole thing--so imagine my delight when I discovered Unforgiven! He was my favorite character, and I was so excited to see the fallen angel's dark, angsty past. It was sort of separate from the whole series--a sort of standalone in the familiar universe of Kate's angels. Familiar characters, good and bad, also make an appearance throughout the book--some to help Cam, others to hinder him.

The pacing of Unforgiven was breakneck--I was completely spellbound by Cam's tragic love story, and his former paramour, Lilith. I also really liked the way the book kept switching from past to present, providing much-needed context about the couple. As I said previously, I loved Cam throughout the books, but it was kind of odd to see Cam in such a different light. It wasn't bad, mind you, it just took a little bit to get used to. I also really liked Lilith--her tough-as-nails, screw-you attitude, her tenacity in the face of near-constant adversity, as well as her unshakable dedication to the welfare of her mother and younger brother, Bruce. She makes a surprising, unexpected foil to Cam's bravado.

I loved all the characters in this novel too, new and old. It was so exciting to actually see Cam in the spotlight, and to get a front-seat view on how he fell, and how he became the sexy, compelling yet still so sad fallen angel we know and love today. It wasn't exactly what I expected, but it was a worthy addition to a series I felt kind of 'meh' about the whole time. Why couldn't the whole series be about Cam and Lilith again? The bottom line: A worthy sequel to the bestselling Fallen series, Unforgiven has something for everyone: romance, drama, and excitement. Next on deck: Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow by Rainbow Rowell!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Menagerie by Rachel Vincent Review

Title: Menagerie
Author: Rachel Vincent
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Menagerie, book one
Star Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

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

This is the second book I've read by Vincent--my first was My Soul To Take, her young adult debut about the dark, shadowy world of banshees. This book, Menagerie, is in much the same vein--it is set in an alternate United States, in which supernaturals, called 'cryptids', are bought and sold much like animals, used as entertainment in a world that fears them. I really enjoyed the premise of this novel, it was dark and frightening and often times all too real. (More than once, I had to set down the novel and walk away to keep from crying and or screaming.)

The main character, Delilah, has everything she loves and cares about taken away from her in one night, when she goes to the menagerie and ends up accidentally killing a carny. She is then bought by the establishment as an exhibit, stripped of even her most basic human rights, and from the inside, she discovers that the power lurking just below the surface may have the power to change her world.

Honestly, I have mixed feelings about this novel. I loved some things, and didn't like others. (I mean, just look at that beautiful cover!) For example: As I said previously, I loved the premise of this novel--it was dark, beautiful, and frightening, as per Vincent's signature. I also really enjoyed the book's format, from multiple character's points of view. But the world-building was really vague to me and fell short; I wish the author had included more information about how the world became the way it did, instead of small, vague snippets just before each chapter.

But overall, this book was highly enjoyable: I loved most all the characters I met, especially Delilah and Gallagher, and to be honest, this book kind of reminded me of Sarah Gruen's Water for Elephants with a dark, gritty urban fantasy spin. The pacing was breakneck, the characters all highly relatable and enjoyable, and I loved the premise. Despite the vague world-building, this book is probably one of my favorite books of the year--absolutely fantastic! The bottom line: The hard-hitting, gritty debut in a brand new series from a household name in fantasy, Menagerie is absolutely fantastic, if you can get past the vague world-building. Next on deck: Unforgiven by Lauren Kate!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Perfume by Patrick Suskind Review

Title: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Author: Patrick Suskind
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Magical Realism
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

My best friend suggested I read this, and so, as soon as there was an opening in my library stack, I ordered it. And this being a favorite of a reviewer I follow on Goodreads, I was really excited to read it. This book has been translated from the author's native German to English (yay for reading translated books!). I love magical realism--it's one of my favorite genres.

Only thing is, after reading this.. I don't even know exactly what to say. Perfume is simply a triumph in adult fiction. This book revolves around Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, born in 18th century France--simply referred to in the novel as Grenouille--who has poor senses. All except his nose. His nose is almost supernaturally acute, and in pursuit of the perfect perfume, he careens into madness--and later, murder. He is the first main character I've ever truly despised, and yet, I could not tear my eyes away from his tale.

This book is gory, dark, and violent, often terrifying and more than a little unsavory. And yet, it's probably one of my favorite books of the year. The prose was so compelling, I could not resist it. The pacing was breakneck, and I was absolutely spellbound the entire time, even as Grenouille's actions repulsed and revolted me. I also learned many interesting  methods about perfumery--it was an interesting process to learn about.

From the beginning to the frightening, and yet somehow fitting conclusion, Perfume was a dark, bloody tale of murder, fine perfume, and beautiful France, and despite the way it frightened and freaked me out, it is a story that was absolutely unforgettable--and isn't that the whole point of a story, after all? The bottom line: A dark, bloody, poetic tale of murder, perfume, France, and of course, human nature, Perfume was a fantastic book! I loved every single moment of it! Next on deck: Menagerie by Rachel Vincent!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Black Iris by Leah Raeder Review

Title: Black Iris
Author: Leah Raeder
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/New Adult
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I'd first like to thank Leah Raeder, for once again, tearing out my guts and squashing them under her feet. Reading this book was like getting hit by a sixteen-wheel semi truck, and I loved every moment of it.

I read Raeder's debut novel, Unteachable, not too long ago, and now, I'll confess it--I am a new adult junkie because of her. Solely because of her. Black Iris has been sitting on my library stack for a while, taunting me to read it. I was a little nervous--I was anxious that Black Iris would somehow let me down and not resonate with me as much as Unteachable.

I had absolutely no reason to fear, because Black Iris is even better. It is a twisted, frightening story that is intense, gory, and frightening, but in a way that is so powerful and compelling you can't hope to tear yourself away from it. It was like walking into a fever dream and not being able to find your way back, where no one, and nothing, not even your eyes, can be trusted.

You're thrust into the main character, Laney's, life. She's the freak, the oddball out, the quiet, poetic misfit with a doomed history of mental illness, passed down from her dark, menacing mother--they are birds of a feather, tied by blood. She has been tortured daily by classmates and even instructors for years on end. Getting inside her head, as I said previously, was like walking through a delirious, darkly beautiful dream that devolves into a nightmare, complete with gore, violence, and a lot of sex. But it was also scary because I couldn't really trust her voice--did that all really happen? She scared me and seduced me all at once.

And then there are the characters in Laney's life, all equally destructive and secretive in their own ways: Gorgeous, patient Armin, and Blythe, the beautiful, compelling and intense Aussie girl who steals the hearts of all she meets. Laney just by herself was like watching a star collapse, but when she meets these two, she goes spiraling toward destruction even more quickly, and when it finally happens, the result is intense, visceral, bloody and dark.

Simply put? Go out and read this book immediately. Go to the bookstore, or the library, lock yourself in a room in a comfy seat and your choice of drink, and walk Laney's path. I can personally guarantee you'll be a Raeder addict forever. The bottom line: Leah Raeder's sophomore novel, Black Iris, is a stunning feat in contemporary new adult fiction--one of my very favorite books! Next on deck: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff Review

Title: Illuminae
Author(s): Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: The Illuminae Files, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I was given this book as a Christmas gift, and to kick off my new reading year, I reviewed it!

One of my cousins gave me this novel for Christmas, and when I unwrapped it, I almost cried. It was so heavy and hefty in my hands, a literal brick. I was so excited to dive in that when I finished Emma, I started reading immediately. At first, I was a little apprehensive; it seems, with this book, it was either loved or hated, no in between. But I'm happy to tell you all that I loved this book.

It was the first work I'd read of either of these authors, even though These Broken Stars has been on my Kindle since the Christmas before last. The format is certainly unusual; it is, literally, an entire dossier.  This won't be for everyone, but I really enjoyed it. It was different and exciting, and even though Illuminae is absolutely massive, the breakneck pace made me fly through the pages, desperate to peel back layers of legal documents to see what was happening. I won't give anything away--I don't want to spoil it!

But to sum this book up: It literally has something for everyone. Exciting characters that were lovable, breakneck pacing, unusual formatting (to say the least), intergalactic plots, action, horror, and humor. I loved every single heart-pounding, frightening, tender moment of this book, and I cannot wait to see what else these two bestselling authors have in store--can I have the sequel? Now? Please? The bottom line: An exciting entry into a brand new series, this bestselling blockbuster, the brainchild of two young adult fiction titans, Illuminae was a high octane thrill ride into space and beyond! Next on deck: Black Iris by Leah Raeder!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Emma by Jane Austen Review

Title: Emma
Author: Jane Austen
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Classic/British Literature
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I bought this book and reviewed it.

Prior to this point, the only Jane Austen novel is the one that has rendered her primary source of fame: Pride and Prejudice. I tried reading Emma when I first bought it last year, and found that the prose went way over my head. When my reading cycle came to my own choice, I decided to give this book a shot. And truthfully, I'm so happy I did, because it is my favorite Austen novel to date.

Emma Woodhouse, the main character of this book--where do I begin? She is, at first, mischievous, though she obviously means no harm to the oblivious loved ones around her. At first, I didn't really like her--I found her to be vapid and vain, as well as painfully foolish and meddling. But what really sold Emma, for me, was the title character's development--it was wonderful! It took me a while to get into the prose--Austen's language takes a little bit to wade into, being a classic and all. But nonetheless, this novel is my favorite of the two of Austen's works I have read.

This book is, first and foremost, a comedy of manners, returning to the integral themes of Austen's world: class, courtship, and of course, marriage! It also definitely helped that I began Emma at the beginning of the holidays. What better time to be reacquainted with the work of the one and only Jane Austen? I loved every single moment of this book--every crazy, confusing moment of it.

But unfortunately, I cannot say that I loved all the characters. I loved Emma, Mr. Knightley, Harriet, Mrs and Miss Bates, as well as Emma's father. I didn't like Mrs. Elton, nee Hawkins, nor did I much like her husband. But regardless, this book was just wonderful--one of my favorites of all time. I'm so happy that there is more Jane Austen in my future! Next on deck: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff!