Thursday, March 31, 2016

Seven Black Diamonds by Melissa Marr Review

Title: Seven Black Diamonds
Author: Melissa Marr
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Lilywhite Abernathy, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I'll be honest here: Melissa Marr is one of my favorite authors, so when I saw that Seven Black Diamonds was in our library system, I wasn't exactly impartial. After all, her debut, Wicked Lovely, was one of my very first fantasy novels about faeries, and to this day it remains one of my favorite young adult series of all time. (Does it count if I haven't technically finished it yet? Lol.) I was so excited to read this: I mean, a brand new journey into a world I thought I knew! This isn't technically a sequel or a standalone--more a spinoff, set in a familiar but still different world, a world in which humans and faeries are in the middle of a bloody, centuries-long battle for the earth they both share.

At the center of it all is Lilywhite Abernathy, the daughter of a notorious crime lord--a fae crime lord, no less. She is used to being at her fae father's side, and she lives a privilged, happy life. That is, until she is thrust into the dangerous realm of faerie politics, and into a sleeper cell of half-fae, half-human terrorists who work for two of the most powerful faeries in existence. Tangled up in a web of intrigue, secrets, and danger, Lilywhite must learn how to truly be herself and master her power, or else the consequences will be steep...

I loved this book, plain and simple, for pretty much everything. I loved the pacing--I was immediately thrown into the narrative, and its short, breakneck chapters, shifting between characters, helped with the overall effect. If there wasn't heart-stopping action and gore, there was plenty of political intrigue and secrets for me to ponder on, as well as sweet, heartbreaking romance. God, I want more! There better be a sequel, or I'll die! (Please!?)

But what really sold this book for me were its characters: hard-as-nails Lilywhite, the angsty, swoon-worthy Creed, sharp-tongued Violet, quiet, obedient Zephyr, sweet, supportive Alkamy, and last but certainly not least, Roan and Will, mysterious and often quiet. And then there were characters outside of the Diamonds themselves: The King and Queen, their family, and the fae that live out of the human realm. If a book has characters that I care for and grow to love, I'm going to love the book itself. The bottom line: What can I say? This fantasy book has something for everyone: faeries, political intrigue, sweeping romance, heart-stopping action--I loved it, and I can't wait for the sequel! Next on deck: Riders by Veronica Rossi!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken Review

Title: Passenger
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Passenger, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Truthwitch turned out to be a major bust, so when I got to Passenger, I had mixed feelings. I'd heard good and bad things about it, and I was worried that I wasn't going to enjoy it. I've read her debut novel, The Darkest Minds, a few years before, and really liked it. So to say that I was ambivalent about this novel is to make a huge understatement. (Plus, look at that cover! It's so beautiful! The bottle! The city! The lettering!)

But, happily, my worries were unfounded, especially when I really let myself go, and enjoy the story. This book was, for me, like throwing the door open to a new and dangerous world, where time is used for man's own ends and nothing is really as it seems. I was absolutely spellbound by this lovely, gorgeous adventure that this Passenger. I loved every single moment of it, and the only bad thing is that the sequel won't be here until 2017! (Excuse me while I curl up in a ball and cry for the next ten months...)

Passenger begins with seventeen year old Etta, a promising young virtuoso, at her debut. But things are quickly thrown off course when she finds her mother has disappeared. And just to complicate things a wee bit, she discovers that her mother's past is riddled with dark secrets, and as if that wasn't enough, throwing in dynamic characters that only cause its star to shine further--I loved Etta completely, as well as the other characters that populated the novel.

The pacing of this novel was immediate--I was sucked in immediately, the book holding my heart from the very first line. It was such a meaty adventure story, with so many other wonderful elements tucked away inside it, like romance, suspense, and intrigue. And it helped a lot that there were so many twists and turns that I was frantically reading, breathless, hanging on every single word until the very end. If all time travel stories are like this, I may have found a brand-new subgenre for 2016. Yay!

I loved pretty much all of this book, but it wasn't totally perfect: Sometimes, with the information dumping, I had to go back and reread so I could fully understand everything. But nonetheless, Bracken has crafted a beautiful tale that I loved--I can't wait to see where the series is headed! The bottom line: A breathless adventure full of twists, romance, and excitement--one of my favorites of the year! Next on deck: Seven Black Diamonds by Melissa Marr! (P.S: Happy Easter everyone! May you enjoy pleasant company, great food, and of course, candy!)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard Review

Title: Truthwitch
Author: Susan Dennard
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Series: Witchlands, book one
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

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

DNF at 105 pages. I was so excited about this book--I've literally been raring to get my hands on this one since before it came out--but unfortunately, this novel, my first by Dennard, suffered from some serious overhype. It just didn't hold my attention. I was expecting so much, but unfortunately, I couldn't keep my attention on the narrative long enough to actually be interested in the story. I'm so sad about this--my very first DNF of 2016. The bottom line: I had high hopes for this novel--I've been wanting to read it since before it came out--but it just didn't hold my interest and really suffered from some serious overhype. Next on deck: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken!

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens Review

Title: Those Girls: A Novel
Author: Chevy Stevens
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this from my local library and reviewed it.

My best friend came home from work and asked me if I'd heard of a book called Those Girls, by Chevy Stevens. I told her it sounded familiar, but I wasn't sure. One of her friends at work had been currently reading it at the time and she wanted me to read it, just to see what I thought of it, and since she recommended Perfume, and I loved it, I figured I'd give it a shot. (Yay for best bud recommendations!) It's been sitting in my library loan stack for a few weeks now, and I finally got to it!

Normally, mysteries and thrillers scare me, but not for the reason you'd think. If I can predict a mystery, I lose interest immediately and want to move on. After all, what's the fun in reading a mystery novel if you can predict everything that's going to happen? I love them, if they're done correctly. (That is to say, if I can't predict every single twist and turn, but on to the point.)

This is the first novel I've ever read by Chevy Stevens. To be frank, I'd never even heard of her, until my best friend prompted me to order Those Girls through the library system. I'm so happy that this was my first novel by her though, because it certainly won't end up being my last!

Those Girls tells the story of the Campbell sisters: Dani, Courtney, and Jess, all three with dreams and ambitions, and a deep and fierce love for one another, and that love carries them deep into darkness. The book begins in 1995, when Jess, one of the narrators, is fourteen, and continues to go back and forth between each sister, until the second half of the book, where the reader meets Skylar, Jess's young teenage daughter. The pacing of this novel was what initially sold me in the first place--Once I began reading, there was no hope of putting it down.

I don't want to give too much away about the plot--this was such a good book, and I'd rather not spoil it for my readers who may want to check it out. But this mystery literally has something for everyone: a trio of tight-knit, fiercely loving sisters, twists and turns so abundant I kept gasping at almost every chapter, sympathetic characters, frightening villians, and a great ending. Don't miss out on this book, especially if you love mysteries or thrillers! The bottom line: My first novel by Chevy Stevens, and most definitely not my last, Those Girls was a high-octane, nail-biting mystery that I devoured in a matter of days--highly recommended for fans of mysteries, thrillers, and dark revenge stories! Next on deck: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab Review

Title: A Gathering of Shadows
Author: V.E. Schwab
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: A Darker Shade of Magic, book two
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

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

I ordered this book from my local library just after Christmas last year--I knew as soon as I saw it in the system that I had to get my hands on it as soon as possible. A Darker Shade of Magic was one of my favorite books of last year, so I was salivating for the sequel. And sequels are a touchy subject for me--I'm always worried I'm going to be let down, or that the hype is just that--hype, or that the rest of my friends are going to love it and I'm going to hate it.

This was definitely not the case for A Gathering of Shadows. I was so excited, yet so sad, because I didn't have a copy of A Darker Shade of Magic to prepare. (I usually like to reread before my reading a sequel--I'm so anal, I have to be thorough!) But I needn't have worried at all: A Gathering of Shadows thrust me straight back into Kell and Lila's dangerous, seductive world immediately.

I don't want to say too much about the plot of the novel; I don't want to give anything away for my readers who haven't read it just yet. But I will say that A Gathering of Shadows takes place a mere four months after A Darker Shade of Magic. It literally has something for everyone: magic, romance, fighting (including a fair amount of daring swashbuckling!), thrills, twists and turns, heart-stopping action, and naturally, a healthy pinch of political intrigue and more than enough knowledge to tie up any loose ends that might be on readers' minds from the previous novel.

But really shines aren't just all of these things, and more: It is, for sure, V.E. Schwab's electric, powerful prose that makes this novel sparkle like the gem it is. If I wasn't a complete convert upon reading A Darker Shade of Magic, I am now. It also helps a lot that she makes real, three-dimesional characters who I loved, hated, and cheered for, right up until the last page. The pacing of the novel was absolutely fantastic--I couldn't look away, even when I wanted to. Be warned, you will be reading through your fingers throughout this book! An absolutely amazing sequel to one of the best books of last year! I couldn't put it down! The bottom line: A fantastic, satisfying sequel to one of my favorite books of 2015, A Gathering of Shadows is sure to enchant you, from start to finish! Next on deck: Those Girls by Chevy Stevens!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Wild by Cheryl Strayed Review

Title: Wild: From Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction, memoir
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: Until very recently, nonfiction was a genre that didn't appeal to me in the slightest. As a woman who has grown up on a steady diet of fantasy and adventure novels, books about the 'real world' have never appealed to me. But as I've grown older, my longing for stories, both real and imagined, has grown so much that I've wanted to expand my literary horizons, which led me to Wild: From Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, and yes, I'll admit that my interest was piqued because of the movie, directed by and starring Reese Witherspoon.

But, as usual, my I'm getting ahead of myself here. After the too-early death of her mother, Cheryl, lost, bereft, and grieving, makes an impulsive decision, in the midst of her entire life falling apart, mostly by her own hand, to hike the legendary Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from Washington all the way to Mexico, in an effort to come back to herself.

I have mixed feelings about this memoir, to be honest. I loved it, but there are also some parts that confused me. I really liked Strayed's writing: it was honest, refreshing, and I felt an almost immediate kinship to her--she felt like a friend, if that makes any sense, in that she was also a writer and seemed to see the world through the same eyes as I, the worldview of a writer. (If a writer sounds the slightest bit dishonest or untrue to me in nonfiction, I cannot and will not finish it. I just can't do it.)

Her writing, describing her emotional agony and the beautiful, unforgiving terrain of the trail, really sold the book for me: I laughed and cried in turns throughout the entire book, and I felt as though I was walking in Strayed's footsteps, right behind her as she traveled through the harsh and naked landscapes. That means I also was witnessing, in my head, her lowest and most terrifying moments: her mother's death, come far too early, the shattering of her marriage as a result of her pain and grief, and her seeming salvation on the trail.

I enjoyed the book, a lot. It was a true story of grief, longing, and inspiration, also of self-loathing, loss, and the journeys we take in life, in every sense of the word. It also made me realize just how much mankind is separated from nature, and frankly, it saddens me. Wild especially made me want to go and explore the natural world, and access a different sphere of myself, if that makes any sense. But there were some parts of the story that confused me, as honest as the author was. Why had she spiraled into heroin addiction, as well as sex addiction, resulting in her divorce? It just seemed to be difficult to believe for me. Some parts of it in general just didn't make sense to me. Why, also, had the author walked on foot, and in some places hitchhiked? Maybe I'm being too judgmental, but that's the way I felt.

Nonetheless, I'm happy that I chose Wild as one of my first serious ventures into nonfiction. I'm so happy that I read it--and truthfully, it's only whetted my appetite for more of this genre. If you guys have any suggestions, please let me know! The bottom line: A truly inspiring and courageous memoir, Wild: From Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail: is one of the best memoirs I've ever read--highly recommended to all! Next on deck: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Medici's Daughter by Sophie Perinot Review

Title: Medici's Daughter: A Novel of Marguerite de Valois
Author: Sophie Perinot
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Historical fiction has always been one of my favorite genres, even when I was a tiny little grade-schooler back in the day, scheming to do my homework as quickly as possible so I could read my books. And this hasn't changed a bit, even though now I'm twenty-four. I've always loved the idea of learning about a historical period through the eyes of someone who lived it--even those that often have a fictional angle to them.

I heard about Medici's Daughter, and on top of part of the focus of the novel being on one of the greatest queens of that time, Catherine de Medici, otherwise known as 'La Serpente' to her enemies, which were many. There was also the added bonus of the book taking place in sixteenth-century France, and the narrator is Marguerite de Valois, a beautiful princess who wants nothing more than to please her family. It all sounds like a real-life fairy tale, right? Wrong. I didn't know very much about this particular period in history, but I will be doing more research as soon as possible, thanks to Perinot.

Simply put, this is one of the best historical fiction novels--or maybe just one of the best novels--I've read all year. I loved it. All historical fiction should be this good. Honestly, what really gets me when it comes to this kind of novel is that it is compelling, but still well-researched and rooted in fact. Perinot does that several times over, and it was so exciting and refreshing.

And then there were the characters themselves: the frightening, nail-biting political intrigue that was rife throughout the novel, with poor, innocent Margot at the very center of it. I loved the character development, but none shone so bright as Margot's: She transforms from an innocent child and pawn for her family's social climing and scheming, to a woman who claims the power of her birthright, all amidst frightening religious war and personal strife as well. She is the shining star of this book, though her mother and brothers were also equally complex (and often morally ambiguous) characters, and I found myself periodically screaming, crying, or just in shock.

This novel has literally something for everyone: meticulous research, political intrigue, complex characters rooted in real history, a strong heroine who fights to slay her own dragons, real and imagined, and a satisfying conclusion. The bottom line: A novel rooted in history, Medici's Daughter is a delectable treat of a novel that has something for everyone--one of my favorite books of all time! Next on deck: Wild: Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed!