Monday, April 24, 2017

One Blood Ruby by Melissa Marr Review

Title: One Blood Ruby
Author: Melissa Marr
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Seven Black Diamonds, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Melissa Marr is one of my favorite authors, and I've made no secret of that. She won my heart way back in high school with her debut fantasy novel, Wicked Lovely. Ever since, I've been an unapologetic, die-hard Melissa Marr fan. Initially, I didn't even know that Seven Black Diamonds had a sequel, and I was so happy when I discovered that that was indeed the case. I was so happy when I realized that Seven Black Diamonds was a brand-new series in the same world. One Blood Ruby picks up where Seven Black Diamonds left off, and what a sequel it is! I always, always get nervous over sequels, but I shouldn't have worried. Marr packs character development, twists and turns, dangerous secrets, political intrigue, and heart-pounding action in her powerful sequel--I can't wait for more! I don't want to say too much about the plot, because I don't want to give anything away for my readers who haven't read it yet.

One Blood Ruby picks up where Seven Black Diamonds left off, leaving all of the members of the now defunct terrorist sleeper cell to deal with the violent, bloody aftermath of the events of the previous book. All of them reeling from their own choices and their leader's, the Diamonds must band together now more than ever, as more attacks on the humans continue. Unable to trust anyone but one another, they must find the culprit behind these secretive attacks, or risk destruction of both of their shared worlds...

I really, really enjoyed this sequel, so much so that I'm really hoping there's another! This sequel was pretty much perfect, and I loved it. I'm always worried that a sequel is going to be 'meh', in comparison to the original, but I shouldn't have worried in the first place. Melissa Marr hasn't disappointed me so far, and hopefully she never will! This book has everything you want in a sequel: twists and turns, hefty political intrigue and secret pacts, more character development, thrills and chills, and a killer ending! The bottom line: A meaty, satisfying sequel to Seven Black Diamonds, I loved One Blood Ruby, and I hope there's more to this fun, dark new series! Next on deck: A Psalm for Lost Girls by Katie Bayerl!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle Review

Title: The Accident Season
Author: Moira Fowley-Doyle
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Magical Realism
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

The Accident Season was the April pick for one of the book clubs I go to, but I've been interested in it since I heard about it. Magical realism has recently become my jam. I love the way the genre blends contemporary and unnatural elements, and Fowley-Doyle has done that with her debut novel, to varying effect. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed it. It was a beautifully written, enchanting tale of a seemingly cursed family in crisis, each member with their own host of secrets, some of which prove fatal. Cara, the youngest member of the family, begins to wonder if there is more to these gruesome family stories than she knows. When she begins to look deeper into her family's history, she discovers that no one seems to be who they say they are, and magical forces are gathering in the background...

I really liked this book! It had a dreamy, creepy, enchanting feel that I immediately took to. It was a bonus that I also really loved the setting; lovely, green, mysterious Ireland. But what really fascinated me was this family, loving and tight, but full of dark secrets and half-remembered tragedies. The book unwinds from beginning to end, jumping around in the narrative from past to present. That kind of confused me a little, because it made it hard to follow, but perhaps that was the point. Maybe to add to the mystery of it? It was a lovely, dark story that had me horrified and spellbound. The twists and turns had me dumbfounded and constantly wondering who to trust, to believe. What a fun, gothic story with dark secrets at its center. And that ending! Mind-blown. Add to all of this more than a few forbidden romances, and you've got a pretty potent mix for a good book! What a lovely addition to the magical realism genre! The bottom line: A darkly powerful and twisty mystery about a cursed family, The Accident Season was a darkly funny, beautifully written treat, and I loved it! Next on deck: One Blood Ruby by Melissa Marr!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Here We Are by Kelly Jensen Review

Title: Here We Are: 44 Voices Write, Draw, and Speak About Feminism for the Real World
Editor: Kelly Jensen
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Nonfiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

This book has been sitting in my library stack for a while now, and I've really been looking forward to it. To put it simply, there is a staunch, intense need for feminist literature of all kinds, nonfiction and otherwise. Here We Are is such an essential breath of fresh air. I really, really loved it, even as it made me feel the full spectrum of emotion; rage, sadness, fear, and most of all, sympathy. This book needs to be read by all, no matter your age or gender. I'm so, so happy with this book, and I can only hope that the authors and editors in this book have more to come in the future! What a great, well-written eye-opener of a book!

Here We Are is edited by Book Riot writer, Kelly Jensen, and she has brought together forty-three authors, women from all races, sexual orientations, and walks of life, to discuss the feminist issues that are important to them, including, but not limited to, Roxane Gay, Kody Keplinger, Laure Halsie Anderson, and Courtney Summers. I loved it. I loved the sheer volume of the contributors, the lush illustration, and the variety of the prose. This book is so necessary and exciting--this is what we need to get the ball rolling on the whole discussion of feminism. I won't name every piece I loved, as there are so many, but I'll write briefly about the standouts.

Bad Feminist, Take Two by Roxane Gay: I loved this essay, unapologetically feminist and unique. I loved the way the author explained that she is full of contradictions, but definitely a feminist, even if that makes her a 'bad' one in the other ones. It really opened my eyes on how personal feminism really is, even if the onslaught of information is overwhelming at times, even frightening.

I Have Always Eaten the Bread by Lily Myers: I loved this one! I loved the way Myers talked about her sometimes toxic relationship with food, and how she discovered that she can enjoy it and still be happy with herself, even if it means eating a little more bread at the dinner table. It was at times hard to read, but I really enjoyed it!

Don't Cash Crop on My Cornrows by Amandla Stenberg: This essay really opened my eyes about the growing racist trend that is called cultural appropriation, and black culture in general, It made me realize that black culture in America is loved, even in high-demand, but a lot of black people end up stigmatized or avoided in general, or associated with the darker side of sexuality. (Yay for education!)

I loved each and every story in this book, beautifully written and honest and raw. What an essential read, for everyone, of all ages! What a great book for the year of 2017! The bottom line: Forty-four authors write, draw, and speak about feminism, across all walks of life in an essential read on the importance of feminism in this day and age--one of my favorites of the year! Absolutely amazing! Next on deck: The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle!

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle Review

Title: The Marriage Lie
Author: Kimberly Belle
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I'd heard of The Marriage Lie through several reviews and, if I'm being totally honest, a few intriguing ads. So I ordered it from my local library. It's been sitting in my library stack for a little while, beckoning to me with its darkly thoughtful cover. I've grown to be a fan of mysteries, especially ones that take place in a fairly domestic setting. It makes the suspense and twists even more stark. This book was an interesting one, one that had me wondering: exactly how well do you know a loved one, one that is intertwined with your own life. It was a really enjoyable, meaty mystery, but I do wish that the villains had been more creative. Regardless, the ending more than made up for it--what a book!

Iris is a schoolteacher, happily married to the love and light of her life, Will. But her happy existence is shattered when the unthinkable happens: On a flight to Orlando, the plane goes down in a tragic accident. But things get even more confusing and frightening when she discovers that Will was in fact on a different plane altogether. Uncovering this clue leads Iris into a dangerous, taut web of deception and secrets, where she discovers that the truth may end up costing her everything, even her life...

I really liked this book. It wasn't perfect, there were some small issues. But nonetheless, I enjoyed it. It was a beautifully written, tightly wound mystery that had me turning pages frantically and suspecting everyone. I was even thinking about it when I wasn't reading it; I would get so distracted! The pacing was fantastic, breakneck; I couldn't put it down, and I was hypnotized by the lovely, tense prose. The characters, too, sold me on this book. I loved Iris and her family. I also enjoyed the other characters, though to a slightly lesser extent. This book was a lovely, thought-provoking examination of a marriage and a family, and it was just lovely. The bottom line: My first book by Kimberly Belle and definitely not my last, I loved The Marriage Lie! Highly recommended! Next on deck: Here We Are: 44 Voices Write, Draw, and Speak Feminism for the Real World by Kelly Jensen!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Valiant by Lesley Livingston Review

Title: The Valiant
Author: Lesley Livingston
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Series: The Valiant, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I'm familiar with Lesley Livingston's work; she won my heart a few years ago with her first series, Darklight. So when I came across a recommendation of her newest book, The Valiant, I was all over it. And frankly, that was just the cover's effect on me. When I read that it featured female gladiators, I was well and truly sold. And man, did this book deliver, on every front! You like complex, developed female characters? Got them. Political intrigue? That too! Forbidden, heartbreaking romance? Yup. And that ending. I am so incredibly floored, and I'm so happy that this book is a series debut! Yay, there's more to come! This book has got to be one of the best of 2017, for me personally! This book was just a knockout!

Fallon is a Celtic princess, and she looks forward to the day when she can join the royal war band. She dearly loves her family, and mourns those she has lost in battle, longs for love. But her future is suddenly thrown into doubt when she is captured by Roman slavers. Forced into captivity, thrust far below her station, she becomes a reluctant gladiator. But she discovers far more than a new future lies in Rome, including answers about herself. She must decide if freedom is worth fighting with everything she has...

This book was just so perfect. It was fantastic, historical fiction given an exciting and mystical twist. Frankly, that is something that is pure Livingston, and I'm so happy that this book is a series debut. There's more, thank the book gods! I loved everything about this book: its characters, the setting, the lush, gorgeous prose, and the development! God, the character development! I also really enjoyed the time period that it was set in. I've read few books set in it, and to imagine both the fine culture and the brutish customs of the Romans was really fun. This book was an exciting, wonderful journey, full of surprises and lovable characters! I honestly cannot wait for the sequel! The bottom line: An excellently written series starter about a dynamic warrior princess in the apex of the Roman Empire's rule, I loved The Valiant! One of my favorite books of 2017! Next on deck: The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Camp So-and-So by Mary McCoy Review

Title: Camp So-and-So
Author: Mary McCoy
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Magical Realism
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Camp So-and-So has been sitting in my library stack for a while now, begging to be read, and when I realized that it was due today, I pushed it to the top of the stack and I got started on it right away. Frankly, until I'd come across this book in an article for recommendations, I'd never even heard of Mary McCoy. And this book; I'm really not sure how to explain it? It's definitely weird, and I just finished the book this morning, so I'm still trying to process my feelings. First, the recommendation was fantastic and intriguing, but the cover was what really sold me: a raven, crouched on a sign in a forest, staring into the camera, beautiful and foreboding all at the same time.

As I said before, this book is unusual in almost every single way. The format, the multiple points of view, the settings, the magical realism, the pacing. And it took me a little bit to get into it, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. It was a weird, wild, magical ride through Camp So-and-So, where nothing and no one is what it seems. A group of young women is summoned to the mysterious Camp-So-and-So, and they discover that this summer, up in the Appalachian mountains, will be unlike any other that they have experienced before...

This book was such a weird, wild ride. I really enjoyed it, once I got the hang of the unusual format and narration. This book was nothing less than magical realism at its very best. It wasn't perfect, though; at times, because of the unusual format and narration, and even though the characters were named through every act, it got a little bit confusing and hard to keep up with. But nonetheless, I really enjoyed this foray into magical realism. The pacing was breakneck, and I finished the book in a day and a half. I don't want to say too much about the plot, because it's so much better when you're caught by surprise! The bottom line: A fantastic, wild ride that transforms into a breakneck adventure, Camp So-and-So was a fun, thrilling book that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I can't wait to see what's next from Mary McCoy! Next on deck: The Valiant by Lesley Livingston!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Novice by Taran Matharu Review

Title: The Novice
Author: Taran Matharu
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Summoner, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I won this book in a giveaway by the lovely folks at Book Riot--thank you so much, guys!

I won this book in a Book Riot giveaway a few months ago, and my husband came to me, looking for something to read. (And of course he does, because I'm bomb at that, lol.) He wanted something with magic and adventure, and I thought about it for a while. I suggested The Novice, and he devoured it in the space of a few days. Naturally, after he was finished with it, he asked that I read it, while he read the sequel. The Novice is a fantasy allegory that talks of important issues through a magical, dangerous new lens. It kind of rang a bit like The Lord of the Rings, for a younger audience. What a series debut! (And after reading the sequel just a little bit ago, I'm so excited for what happens in the final book, Battlemage!)

Fletcher lives in the village of Pelt, a young commoner living in a complex, brutal caste system. He is a normal boy, an orphan with no worth or origins, as far as the world itself is concerned. But that all changes when the boy accidentally summons a demon; he is soon whisked off to the prestigious Vocans Academy to learn the art of summoning for real. He is soon drawn into a war that could topple the entire world as he and his friends know it, and he must decide what is worth fighting for...

I loved this book. First of all, my husband really enjoyed it. That alone made me happy, but the experience of reading it together made it a different, more exciting way of reading. I really liked the allegory angle; normally, if it is too heavy-handed, I'm immediately turned off. But I really enjoyed the way Matharu talked about important issues through a fictional lens, like sexism and racism. It wasn't just that, though: the worldbuilding was excellent, and there was a great variety of characters that ranged the gamut from love to hate. The political intrigue really sold it for me, though: I'm such a sucker for an author that can do that well. This book has become the debut of one of my new favorite fantasy series--what a fun, brand new talent! I can't wait to see what's in store in the final book! The bottom line: A hard-hitting and promising fantasy series debut, The Novice was a fantastic book--Taran Matharu is now one of my new favorite authors! Next on deck: Camp So and So by Mary McCoy!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst Review

Title: Of Fire and Stars
Author: Audrey Coulthurst
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

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

I've been looking forward to Of Fire and Stars since before it had come out. It was the cover, initially, that drew my eye to the book in the first place. And when I heard that this book featured creative worldbuilding, not one, but two strong, independent heroines, beautiful writing, and more political intrigue that you could throw a stick at, I was so excited. When I found it at one of the libraries I go to, I had to grab it, before someone else could snatch it. Since then, it's been sitting in my library stack, calling to me insistently. I finally picked it up, and I finished it last night, feeling a mixed cocktail of emotions. To be honest, I'm still not sure how to put how I feel into words, but I'll do my best!

Dennaleia is a princess, groomed from birth to fill her fortuitous political position, but she secretly longs for her own life, full of meaning and what she longs for most: true love. Mare is a princess who has spent her life rebelling against the painful yoke of her duties. The girls' paths cross when Dennaleia arrives at court, betrothed to Mare's older brother, the prince. Forced into a tentative alliance, the girls become friends, and later, more than that. But there is more than their romance at stake; if they dig any deeper, the cost just may be their lives...

I have very mixed feelings about this book. I've been sitting on it for half a day now, and even as I type these words, I'm still not sure exactly how I feel. There are some things I loved about the book, and other things that needed a lot of work. Nonetheless, I can't say that my time was wasted; it was a really fun experience. I'll get the bad things out of the way first, just to make things easier.

The worldbuilding in Of Fire and Stars was basically nonexistent. It was disappointing, and it made reading the book sometimes confusing. What made it more frustrating was that it had a lot of potential, and I didn't understand it. Honestly, that was really the only issue I had with the book at all. Another thing, though: I wish, more than anything, that there would be a female character that actually likes makeup, dresses, and shoes, and parties. Is that so much to ask? Lol.

I loved so many things about Of Fire and Stars: the chapters going between both girls, giving me a unique and in-depth view of the story, the girls themselves, distinctly different  young women who were feminist, independent, and absolutely worth cheering for. I also fell in love with their beautiful, sensual love story; that was what won me over totally in this book. It wasn't perfectly executed, but darn it if it didn't carve a place in my heart anyway. The political intrigue was amazing, and I loved the way Denna and Mare teamed up to save both of their kingdoms. And that ending! Oh, I cried. So much. Straight up ugly cried. Though this book wasn't perfect, I'm nevertheless looking forward to what Audrey Coulthurst has in store next! The bottom line: Though it wasn't perfect, Of Fire and Stars won me over regardless, carving a place in my heart! I will never forget this book! Next on deck: The Novice by Taran Matharu!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco Review

Title: The Bone Witch
Author: Rin Chupeco
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Bone Witch, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Rin Chupeco is one of my favorite authors; she won my heart with the deliciously creepy, dark debut, The Girl from the Well. So when I heard that she had a brand new book coming out, words aren't enough to explain my excitement. And I was even more stoked when I discovered that this book was diverse; you really can't ask for anything more. But a high fantasy, with political intrigue, a powerful heroine, excellent, complex world-building, dark magic? Sold, sold, and sold again! I'm so excited that this lovely little gem of a book is a series debut--I can't wait for the sequel!

Tea is a dark Asha, a bone witch. She discovers this when she--wait for it--accidentally brings her brother back from beyond the grave! Though at first she is reluctant, she is forced to answer her unusual, grueling calling. Finding that she blooms, despite her dark power, Tea grows to love the hard, unforgiving life of a bone witch, though it grants her fear, scorn, and hate more than anything else. When she becomes involved in a dangerous political plot, she discovers that it is not just her way of life that ends up threatened, and she must decide whether to use her training to save her kingdoms, or to use it for other, more nefarious purposes...

I'll be honest: This book reminded me of a magical, young adult Memoirs of a Geisha. I loved it, it was absolutely enchanting, if in a dark kind of way. I loved the format of the novel, the way it went back and forth, from past and present. I was absolutely spellbound, though it took a little bit for the ball to get rolling. The world-building was excellent, and I loved that the author included a glossary in the back of the book, which was helpful, because there was so much information that was hard to remember. I also really adored the other characters that Tea came to love; her brother, Fox, her other brothers and sisters, and the other asha, even the unpleasant Zoya. But that ending though! I did not see it coming; I need answers, and I can't wait for the sequel! What a fantastic, groundbreaking series debut! I'm so excited for what more Rin Chupeco has to offer! The bottom line: A beautiful, fantastic series debut, full of dark magic, demons, and political intrigue, The Bone Witch is one of the best books of 2017! Next on deck: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst!

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas Review

Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I've heard so much delicious, wonderful buzz among the book lovers I know, online and in real life, about Angie Thomas's debut novel, The Hate U Give. The title was taken from a Tupac song, and the novel itself was inspired by the many shootings that have taken place in America. That, honestly, was the reason that I wanted to read it in the first place. This is a huge issue, for all Americans, whether they be black or white. It made me laugh, I cried through most of it, and it completely opened my eyes to a reality that I have only recently began to understand the repercussions of. The Hate U Give made me ashamed, outraged, inspired, and enlightened all at once. It made me think, and it is a book I will never forget. Angie Thomas has cemented a place in my heart and on my bookshelf.

Starr Carter is a young woman with one foot in two different worlds: She is, at once, a girl from the ghetto, the rough but familiar and beloved neighborhood, and the token black girl, cool by default and turning a blind eye to most of her white friends' racism. Balancing two different versions of herself is exhausting her, but her already fractured world shatters completely when her best friend is shot, right in front of her, by white a police officer. Terrified, outraged, reeling from the loss, Starr must decide to raise her voice and speak out, because she's the only one who can tell the world what really happened...

This book was hard to get through. It was provocative, eye-opening, well-written, beautiful in its unflinching honesty about racism, and what further evil stems from it. I cried through a lot of it, and I felt myself feeling outraged, woefully ignorant, ashamed. This book got under my skin and in my head, made me ill and heartsick and angry. It felt like a punch to the gut and a kick from behind, and I loved it all the more for it. The relevance of this book; I cannot express it enough. Part of the reason that the book hurt so much was because it was ripped from the headlines. And it really made me think of racism, the all too often casualty of it, and I really feel like I'm more aware. All I know is, everyone needs to read this book. It's scary, emotional, real and raw, but it's worth the journey! What an amazing, timely book! The bottom line: A fantastically written novel with a premise ripped from the headlines, I loved The Hate U Give--this should be required reading for everyone! Next on deck: The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco!

The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser Review

Title: The Book Jumper
Author: Mechthild Glaser
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Book Jumper, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

One of my librarian friends recommended this to me (this totally pays off, always good for conversation and a bomb book rec!), and she told me that it was similar to Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. Sold and sold! I was so excited for this book, and that was only amplified when my friend told me that there was going to be a trilogy. (Always a good thing to hear.) Words were not enough to describe my excitement. The Book Jumper was translated from German into English, and published by Feiwel and Friends. First of all, the cover. So gorgeous and colorful! It spoke to me, as someone who has loved words as long as she can remember. This book was a promising, romantic, and utterly original series starter, and I'm so excited for the sequels! (That ending, though, I'm dying!)

Amy Lennox, and her mother, Alexis, are both fleeing to Scotland after personal tragedy strikes. Once there, they reunite with Alexis's family, most of whom do not know either of them. Amy discovers new family, new friends, a crush, and a more than healthy dose of secrets. When she realizes that she can literally jump into novels, whole new worlds are opened up to her. But more than pleasure lies within the pages of literature. Someone is gathering the jewels of literature and is about to use them to unleash dark forces, and Amy and her friends are the only ones who can protect it all...

I really enjoyed this book! It was beautifully written, original, a fairy tale of a more modern flavor--I can't wait for the sequels to The Book Jumper! I loved all of the characters, and I also loved the experience of 'jumping' through several classic books, including The Jungle Book and The Sorrows of Young Werther! But one of my favorite parts of this book wasn't just several artful odes to literature, and readers, it was the budding romance that Amy experiences. The ending was a bombshell, my jaw hit the floor. The Book Jumper also made me really excited and hopeful for what translations hold for the world of literature--what a hidden gem!

I loved almost everything about this book, except for a certain character I'm not going to name, because you'll see. It wasn't perfect, at times, the family politics got in the way of the main story for me, but nonetheless, what a wonderful book! The bottom line: A fantastic, beautifully written gem of a series starter, The Book Jumper was a wonderful book, an exciting, romantic romp through beloved works of literature! I can't wait for the sequel! Next on deck: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman Review

Title: Norse Mythology
Author: Neil Gaiman
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Anthologies/Short Story Collections
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, one of my go-to's, really. His work is endlessly creative and inspiring, and ever since I've discovered his work, I've looked up to him, voraciously devouring a good amount of his books. Last year, when I heard that he was releasing a brand new book, a new interpretation of Norse myths, I was so excited! Ever since, I've been waiting to reading it. It's been sitting in my library stack for a while now, the stark black cover, emblazoned with Mjolnr, Thor's hammer of thunder, has been beckoning to me, begging to be read. I'm kind of kicking myself now, because I loved it so much!

I'll say this, before I officially begin. I'm familiar with many different types of mythology, but Norse is not one of them. I know only the bare bones of the stories, so I was so excited for the opportunity to have these stories told, through Gaiman's unique lens. Norse Mythology contains sixteen different tales, all told with Gaiman's own particular magic. I loved it. I devoured it in less than a day. The lush, gorgeous prose created such an atmosphere, and it really made me long for the cold, bitter environment of Norway--if only to add to the ambiance of it all! I really want to dig deeper into these myths, especially those of Hel.

I loved these stories so much, and it's so wonderful to be able to get a glimpse of the world through the eyes of the ancients, of magical rites, oaths made by powerful yet fallible gods. I loved the way Gaiman spun the gods, so that they were like the way they were from the myths, but at the same time, somehow, they feel modern! What a book! The prose hypnotized me entirely, and I laughed and cried as I made my way through the stories, imagining the wild, wily gods fighting ice giants, pulling pranks on mountain trolls and one another. And that ending story! I loved it so much. Easily one of Neil Gaiman's best works, and I only wish that there was more! The bottom line: A fantastic collection of Norse myths told by a titan in fiction, I loved Norse Mythology, and I wish there was more! Next on deck: The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz Review

Title: The Hired Girl
Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

The Hired Girl was the March pick for one of the book clubs that I go to. I've been curious about The Hired Girl since it came out, so when this was announced, I was so eager, excited, and happy. I wasn't sure what to expect, though, since I've never read a book before by Schlitz, and the format was unusual. But honestly, I needn't have worried, because this book has become one of my all time favorites. I loved it so much--it was just so beautifully written, and the narrative was so engaging! Easily one of my favorite books of all time, and I will be looking into more of Schlitz work as soon as I can.

Joan Skraggs, only fourteen years old, longs for a life beyond her loveless family's farm. With a head full of dreams, longings, and things that lie beyond what's normal for her sex, she knows that she's different, the odd duck of her family. With a voracious love of reading and writing, she knows that she is meant for more, even if her cruel family tries to stop her. Forced to run away from home and fend for herself, Joan finds family, the education she longs for, and the pangs of first love, and she finally realizes that her destiny is in her hands alone!

I loved this book. Easily one of the best books I've ever read. It kind of reminded me of the Dear America books; it's been ages since I read a book that was in epistolary format. I loved the nostalgic feel of the diary format. Plus, it's no secret to any of my readers that historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. But most of all, I really loved Joan! Especially considering the time period that the book was set in, I loved the way she didn't let anything, not being a woman, or her horrid family, stop her from doing what she thought was right. What a character to root for! What made it even better, for me, was that this historical fiction was rooted partially in fact.

I loved this book, it was almost perfect. I loved almost all of the characters, including the kind, erudite family that takes Joan in, her instructors. But the characters I did not like were Joan's entire family, save her late mother, and David. I hated David! I don't know exactly why, but I did not like him at all. Nonetheless, The Hired Girl is a must-read for historical fiction fans, and for readers looking for a compelling, strong heroine! This book was absolutely wonderful, feminist and exciting and engaging! I can't wait for book club tomorrow! The bottom line: A beautiful, epistolary historical novel partially rooted in fact, The Hired Girl is one of my new favorite books of recent times! Next on deck: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Poison's Kiss by Breeana Shields Review

Title: Poison's Kiss
Author: Breeana Shields
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Poison's Kiss, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I'd heard about Poison's Kiss as I usually find out about the books I read: through an online article. But to be honest, I was intrigued. First of all, that gorgeous, bright green snake on the cover, as well as the pretty, Indian ornamentation. But it was what was inside of the book that really captured my imagination: Indian mythology, given a unique, exciting spin, forbidden love, political intrigue, betrayal! This book was absolutely fantastic. The world-building needed a little work, but nonetheless, this series debut was solid, beautiful, and exciting--I can't wait for the sequel!

Marinda is a visha kanya, or a poison maiden. Immune from the toxic effects of poison from birth, she is an extremely valuable weapon for a secretive, powerful sect. But Marinda is tired, worn down from a life of senseless killing. Unfortunately, those in power over her have her sickly little brother, Mani, for leverage. When she meets a mysterious, kind boy named Deven, she begins to hope, against her will, for her own freedom. When she discovers that the myths of her country may be more true than she ever realized, she is thrown into webs of political intrigue, betrayal, and she must decide who she can trust, or she may not escape unscathed...

I really, really liked this book! One of the things that initially drew me to this book was its diversity. (Diverse books for the win, forever!) I loved the way the author took Indian mythology and spun it to make an original world, even if the world-building didn't quite make sense to me. That was really the only thing about this book that wasn't flawless. But more important, I really enjoyed the story, and its characters. Marinda was amazing; I really loved and sympathized with her, especially with how much she loved and adored Mani. I loved the way, too, that she was fierce and independent, a young woman with her own longings and desires. The chemistry between her and Deven was electric, a slow-burn romance that really paid off in the end! I'm so, so happy that this book is going to have a sequel! Yay! I'm so happy about it! This book was wonderful: beautifully written, romantic, heartbreaking. Definitely one of my favorite books of the new year. The bottom line: A feast for the senses, full of romance, magic, and a bevy of frightening villains, Poison's Kiss is a smashing series starter that I adore! One of my favorite books of 2017 for sure! Next on deck: The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones Review

Title: Wintersong
Author: S. Jae-Jones
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I'd heard about Wintersong the way I usually do about my books; I found it on a list of popular young adult books for the month of February. It's been sitting in my library stack for a while, waiting to be read. I wasn't sure what to expect, as this is Jones's first novel, but it certainly wasn't a Labyrinth retelling, with feminist overtones, set in beautiful, eighteenth-century Bavaria. The idea initially sounded odd, but I'm so happy with this book; it's easily, hands down, one of the best books of 2017. I can't wait for more from this highly talented, promising debut author!

Liesl is the forgotten, overlooked child in a family full of musical talent. She is used to her life, mundane though it is: taking care of her younger siblings, Kathe and Josef, cooking, cleaning, and running her parents' inn. But she longs for more, things forbidden to her because of her sex: to be a famous composer, to have a fruitful life making music.  But what she doesn't realize is, the legend of her childhood, Der Erlkonig, The Goblin King, has been watching over her since childhood. And he longs for a human bride. When Liesl's sister is taken, she journeys to the dangerous Underground to rescue her. Forced to participate in the magical ruler's games, the young woman discovers love, sexual awakening, and the meaning of the ultimate sacrifice...

I feel like I've been waiting my whole life for this book to be written. Labyrinth has always been one of my favorite stories, and to have a feminist, romantic spin on it? It was like a dream come true. I loved this novel. Easily one of my favorite books of 2017. I loved the world-building of this novel; The Underground was a dark, magical world full of promises and ancient rites, and I didn't want to leave, even when things got scary. The pacing was breakneck, the prose magical and beautiful, and most of all, I loved the characters, particularly Liesl. I really related to her a lot, and that was part of the reason I loved it so much. But wrapped up in it all is a dark romance, a fierce battle of wills, a playful, powerful treatise on the power of love and sacrifice. Jae-Jones also managed to take my heart and wring it out dry; by the end of the novel, I felt like I'd lost some good friends. I can't wait for more from this amazing debut novelist! One of my favorite books of 2017! The bottom line: A magical, powerful novel of love, sexual awakening, and the magic of music, Wintersong was seductive and captivating--I can't wait for more from S. Jae-Jones! Next on deck: Poison's Kiss by Breeana Shields!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill Review

Title: Ever the Hunted
Author: Erin Summerill
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Clash of Kingdoms, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I've been curious about Summerill's series debut since before it came out, so when I saw it on a display at one of the libraries I frequent, I snatched it up before someone else could, and took it home. (Plus, look at that gorgeous white and gold cover! So pretty, and it practically screams girl power! I dig, I dig!) With the due date looming, I dove into this book. I wasn't quite sure what to expect; after all, this is a debut novel as well as a series debut. But nonetheless, this book is strong--it's definitely one of my favorite books of 2016! I mean, adventure, magical lands, slow-burn forbidden love, political intrigue, clear, well-thought out world-building, twists and secrets aplenty; to me, this book was everything that a good fantasy novel is made of! I can't wait for the sequel, especially with that ending! I'm so sad that I have to wait for the sequel!

Britta, a brave and tenacious young woman, has just lost her father. Unfortunately, his death is ruled a murder, and to Britta's horror, it is her closest childhood friend, Cohen, who committed the heinous crime. Lost without her only family and bereft at the knowledge that her only friend did this, she is backed into a corner and forced to work for the King's soldiers to find the man that murdered her father. But she soon discovers that nothing is as it seems, least of all herself. Forced to go outside borders for answers, Britta must decide who she can believe, even if the price to pay is her very life...

What can I say? This book was like a breath of fresh air. This is a fantasy world that seemed like a pleasant, fast-paced dream. The world-building was fantastic, and I really enjoyed the characters, especially Britta. I loved the way that she took charge of her own fate and wasn't afraid to go after what she wanted. I do wish, though, that there were more female characters in books that loved to be feminine, as well as being a warrior. I also really enjoyed the political intrigue; that's one of my favorite parts of a novel like this one, especially when done well. The secrets, too, and revelations, were doled out perfectly; if I wasn't laughing, or shaking my head, I was screaming or swooning. But the best parts, my very favorite parts, were the slow-burn, passionate romance between Cohen and Britta--the chemistry was so killer! And the ending! That ending. How am I supposed to wait for the sequel?! *sobs pathetically*

This book was amazing, almost perfect, and I really enjoyed it! What a solid, lovable debut to a brand new fantasy series! One of the best books of 2016, hands down! I can't wait for more from this promising author! The bottom line: A fantastic, nuanced fantasy for all ages, I loved Ever the Hunted, one of my favorite books of 2016! I can't wait for the sequel! Next on deck: Wintersong by S. Jae Jones!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth Review

Title: Carve the Mark
Author: Veronica Roth
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Carve the Mark, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I'll start this review by being honest: Veronica Roth and I are kind of on uneven footing. I loved Divergent, but I didn't like the way the series ended. Because of that, I decided that I would no longer spend my own money on her books. When I heard about Carve the Mark, I held it at my library, and waited for it. It's been sitting at the top of my stack ever since. I was really excited to pick it up; I mean, space opera. Again: Space opera! One of my very favorite science fiction subtropes! I wasn't sure what exactly to expect when I began reading, but I'm very happy to report that despite some little quibbles, Carve the Mark is an engaging and promising series debut--I can't wait for the sequel!

Cyra and Akos are from two different worlds, and I mean that quite literally. Their fates collide when Cyra's people invade Akos's planet. Taken from everything he knows, Akos is forced to work for Cyra's family. Gifted with something called currentgifts, (a kind of magic that kind of reminded me of The Force), Cyra is known as a warrior, a scourge, a vicious, violent weapon for her tyrannical older brother. Akos has secrets of his own. Tapping into their own different reservoirs of strength, the two individuals have to do the unthinkable in order to save themselves and their loved ones.  Forced against their will to become allies, the two friends must decide if saving both of their worlds is worth the ultimate sacrifice...

For the most part, I really enjoyed this book. I loved the space-opera, Star Wars kind of feel of the novel. I also really loved the characters; honestly, that's what sold this book for me. I loved all of them, especially Cyra and Akos, and the tentative friendship that blooms out of their adversity. The pacing of the novel was breakneck, and I couldn't get it out of my head, even when I wasn't reading it. But I also really adored the political intrigue of the novel; that's one of my favorite things in books, especially when it's done right! And the ending; oh my goodness, I need the sequel right now! I mean, right now! I can't wait for more from this promising new series.

Unfortunately, I couldn't give it a complete five stars, because the worldbuilding was vague and confusing; it really needed some work and I didn't understand it completely. Nonetheless, this book is exciting, promising, and engaging, and I can't wait for more from Veronica Roth! The bottom line: A fantastic, promising series opener, Carve the Mark is a must-read for science fiction fans and fans of Veronica Roth--despite some little quibbles, I really enjoyed it, and I can't wait for the sequel! Next on deck: Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

I See You by Clare Mackintosh Review

Title: I See You
Author: Clare Mackintosh
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

One of my book club buddies was nervous about this book, so when I saw it lurking on a table at my local library, I took it upon myself to read it ahead for her, to let her know that it's worth checking it out. And it is! (You know who you are! Wink wink!) I've been really curious about Clare Mackintosh, ever since her first novel, I Let You Go. Frankly, I'm kicking myself over it now, because wow. Just wow! I am blown away, bowled over, my blood still chilled, and I've sat on my thoughts for a night because I was still processing. I've seen quite a few thrillers in my short life, but this is one that is electric, paranoia-inducing, and fearsome. A slick, creepy thriller with enough turns to boggle the mind, I See You is one of my favorite books of 2017!

Zoe Walker lives a relatively normal life in London with her husband and children. She's happy, or at least tries to be. But when a picture of her shows up in the local paper, she soon discovers a tangled web of deceit and betrayal, and the deeper she digs, the closer the danger looms. Forced to choose between having answers and her life, Zoe begins to realize that the danger may be in the one place she didn't suspect...

This book, in a word, was insane. This thriller seemed to creep into my mind, squirrel its way under my skin, until I was constantly thinking about it, even when I wasn't reading it. It was so creepy and scary; it had me jumping at every small noise and constantly looking over my shoulder when I went out, even if it wasn't alone. I loved every crazy moment of it. It's been a rather long time since such a type of book got into my head that way. While it wasn't entirely pleasant, I enjoyed the experience. It also made me think of just how much of myself I want to put out on the internet, because after all, you never know.

The prose was sparse and hypnotic, casting an eerie spell over me as I went on, until I literally couldn't stop turning pages. I also really liked the way that Zoe's narrative intersected with Kelly Swift's, the law enforcement officer who interacts with her. The whole Walker family was absolutely fascinating. And that ending--I did not see it coming! Wow! I've definitely become a fan of Clare Mackintosh! I can't wait to read I Let You Go! The bottom line: A creepy, twisty thriller that scared the wits out of me, I See You is one of the best books of 2017! Next on deck: Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Caraval by Stephanie Garber Review

Title: Caraval
Author: Stephanie Garber
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Caraval, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Caraval is one book of 2017 that I was very nervous about--it's one of those books that people either love or hate, no in between. And I'm sorry to tell you all that while I loved it--and I did--there were some flaws in the novel that prevented me from giving it a full five stars. The worldbuilding needed some work and more explanation. Nonetheless, this book was absolutely fantastic, and it is and will remain one of my favorite books of the new year. A magical game! A pair of runaway sisters! Dark secrets! Forbidden love!

Caraval has romance, action, adventure, twists and turns that will have you flipping the pages frantically, and did I mention the gorgeous prose? Scarlett and Donatella Dragna have dreamed of the magical game of Caraval since they were little girls. But their dreams shortly become reality after Scarlett receives an invitation from the mysterious, magical Legend, overseer of the game. But getting to the isle is easier said than done, and when the game begins, Scarlett has no idea to trust. Getting her sister back may require sacrificing her true love and everything she holds dear...

This book. God, I wanted to love it. And I did. I loved most of it. The prose was beautiful, hypnotic, It was the first thing to win my heart when I started the book. I also really adored the characters, especially Scarlett; I loved her character development! Strong heroines for the win! I was also seduced by the darkly magical and secretive Caraval, where everything has a high price--sometimes so high, the player pays with their life. I also really liked the constant twists and turns, a lot of which had me gasping, crying, or laughing. Also, that ending! Oh my God, I need the sequel. Right now! I can't wait for the next one!

Unfortunately, I really wish that the worldbuilding had been explained better--I didn't really understand it. I loved the world that Garber created, but I honestly had no idea how it had been formed, even after I finished the book. Nonetheless, this book has something for everyone: secrets, magic, forbidden love and cute boys who make you swoon, kickbutt heroines and a killer ending--I can't wait for the sequel! The bottom line: Though there were a few little quibbles, I really enjoyed Caraval, though it wasn't perfect. Nevertheless, I'm so pumped for the sequel! What a debut!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly Review

Title: Lost in a Book
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Jennifer Donnelly won my heart a long time ago in high school when I bought her first novel, A Northern Light. Ever since, I've really enjoyed her novels. When I heard about this book, I just knew I had to read it. I mean, one of my favorite authors, telling a completely original story that kind of ties into the brand new, live-action Beauty and the Beast movie? I mean, this was like literary catnip to me. I was drooling. It's been sitting in my library stack for a while now. (I put all the books that have holds on the top so I can be sure to get to them before I return them.) I wasn't sure what to expect, but I really enjoyed it!

Smart, sweet, bookish and independent, Belle has grown used to her new home, the Beast's castle. But even so, she longs for her father, for friendship and travel and adventure in the great wide somewhere (Sorry not sorry, I couldn't resist). When she finds a magical book in the library that the Beast bestows on her as a gift, she is convinced that she's found the answer, her escape. But darker forces are working behind the scenes, and she soon finds that she has to find the truth about Nevermore, before the book claims her as its own...

I really liked this book! It was absolutely enchanting. The prose was gorgeous, and as I read it, it almost felt like I could see an alternate, mini-movie in my head. It was so much fun. Belle is my character; when I was sixteen years old, I discovered her for the first time, and I found my princess. This Belle was a tiny bit different, but I loved her! She was refreshing and kind, and I loved the way that Donnelly made her her own interpretation. It was also lovely, the pacing, the adventure, the way the other characters were new but nonetheless familiar. Honestly, I gobbled it up in a day and a half. What a sweet, lovely little book, with a heart-pounding adventure at its center!

There were times, though, when I got a little bit lost, when other elements of the book came into play, so I couldn't completely rate it. Nonetheless, this book was so much fun--a brand new adventure in one of my favorite classic stories! The bottom line: An original story in the Beauty and the Beast universe (the live action movie, coming out next month), I loved Lost in a Book! A must-read for fans of the original tale and those who are looking to whet their appetites for the movie! Next on deck: Caraval by Stephanie Garber!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Fireman by Joe Hill Review

Title: The Fireman
Author: Joe Hill
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I'd heard of Joe Hill's The Fireman right after it came out in the spring of last year, and I really have to admit, the book has been on my mind ever since. I went to the library two weeks ago for my book club, and a lovely woman kindly searched for it all through, until she could sneak in and give it to me. Since it had a hold on it, I pushed it up to the top of my library stack, as one is wont to do when they have a lot of them. But The Fireman is a horror story, and so much more than that: social and political satire, careful, meticulous detailing of a crumbling marriage, as well as the formation of a dangerous cult. This is all in one book. I'm a seasoned reader, and some of these story threads became gnarled and tangled as the book went on.

This book--I'm not even quite sure how to describe it? This is horror at its finest, but to call The Fireman just a horror story isn't the best way to put it. It was so much more. An epic that had me simultaneously spellbound and revolted. I feel like Joe Hill just took all of my organs and wrung them out of my body, with The Fireman. It is the story of a violent, sudden epidemic. In this reality, the world as we know it has basically been burned to cinders, razed down by the infection of Dragonscale. At the center of it all is Harper, a heavily pregnant nurse, who accidentally contracts the disease by taking care of the infected. Her life spirals out of control, and soon her life and what's left of it are slipping out of her grasp. Forced to face a mad cult, government officials trying to kill the infected, and things even closer to home, she meets The Fireman: wry, British, fierce and mysterious. Turning to him when she has no one else, Harper discovers that she and her child may not make it out alive...

I really liked this book. It wasn't perfect; there were times when the coinciding story threads got confusing to follow, I didn't like many of the characters, and frankly, it was really depressing. But really, what was I expecting? Can't have a book about the world ending and it be all unicorns and rainbows! I really liked it, nonetheless though. It was full of pop culture references, many of which were relevant to my generation, so that was really fun. The pacing was breakneck, and I really liked the plot, but it was mostly the characters, particularly Harper, that sold this book for me. I felt like I really made some friends in this dark, funny, scary book. The bottom line: Though not as good as I expected, I really liked The Fireman, and I hope I can read more of Joe Hill's work soon! Next on deck: Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch Review

Title: Love and Gelato
Author: Jenna Evans Welch
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Love and Gelato was the February pick for one of my library book clubs. And really, why not? What better kind of novel to read, in honor of Valentine's Day? (And plus, we actually get to eat gelato at book club next week; I'm so excited, I've never had it before!) When I finished Small Big Things, I was looking forward to this book, as it was kind of a romantic palate cleanser. I just hoped it wouldn't be as heavy. I loved this book, wholly and completely, but I was a little bothered by the fact that there was a lot of Italian dialogue, and there wasn't a glossary. Nonetheless, this book is perfect for readers looking for love!

Carolina, who goes by Lina, has had her whole world upturned by her mother's painful, tragic death from severe cancer. Still reeling from grief and forced to move all the way to Italy, she makes new friends and falls in love with the country, just as her mother did before her. When she receives her mother's journal, she discovers that there is a huge secret about her life, one so big that it may rock her entire foundation. Navigating clumsily through her new surroundings, first love, and the meaning of family, this novel was a one-two punch of a coming of age story, with a bittersweet, slightly angsty love center at its core. I really enjoyed it.

First of all: The setting. God, when can I book my vacation to Italy? I was dying reading the sumptuous prose, and I could almost imagine a rich, buttery cornetta melting on my tongue. I also loved the characters and their development, especially Lina, Ren, and Howard. I liked the way that love was really shown in lots of different forms: romantic love, family love, platonic, friendly love. The ending was to die for. There were quite a few times as the book went on that I got more than a bit angry, and if you read it, you'll see why. (I don't want to spoil it!) This book, overall, was just lovely. I wanted a glossary at the end, so I didn't have to pull out my phone to translate the dialogue, but it was such a good book regardless! So happy! The bottom line: A fantastic coming of age story with a romance tucked in its heart, I loved Love and Gelato! Jenna Evans Welch has won me over! Next on deck: The Fireman by Joe Hill!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult Review

Title: Small Great Things
Author: Jodi Picoult
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I've read several of Jodi Picoult's novels, all of them hard-hitting, thoughtful, and peppered with flawed, believable characters, and I loved almost all of them. My grandmother bought it when it first came out last year, and ever since, she's been begging me to read it so we can talk about it. (Now that I think about it, I need to call her as soon as I get this written, but moving on!) It caught my eye, sitting on a library display table, and on impulse, I decided to take it home with me. I pushed it to the top of the stack, because I wanted to read it as soon as possible. And I'm so glad that I did, because it really opened my eyes to the broken justice system that we live in, and that I, as a white person, has directly and indirectly benefited from the oppression of minorities, particularly African Americans. (I usually don't bring politics into my reviews, but this is absolutely neccessary!)

Small Great Things is told from the point of view of three different people: Ruth, an African American nurse, her lawyer, Kennedy, and a white supremacist and new father, Turk. Ruth is soon put on trial for murder when Turk's newborn son dies on her watch, despite the fact that Turk requested that Ruth not touch the baby. What ensues is a national legal battle, thick with tension, and all three lives hang delicately in the balance of the verdict. Picoult deftly weaves another medical/legal thriller with relevant social and political questions, and it was really well done. There were a few little things that bothered me, though I didn't count them toward the rating. I didn't like the way circumcision was addressed, because I don't agree with it, and there were times when the medical jargon got a little confusing, though it was all explained later on in the book.

The prose was really engaging, and I really liked the way that the narration went back and forth between each character; I liked how detailed everything was and how I got everyone's point of view; it really made me understand the whole story, and what Jodi Picoult was trying to say about racism in the first place. There isn't going to be any difference made until white people are just as outraged as minorities about inequality. I really feel like my eyes have been opened, and I will be making more of an effort to use my voice for everyone. What a timely, relevant book! The bottom line: Another legal/medical thriller from one of literature's darlings, Small Great Things was absolutely amazing! I can't wait for Jodi Picoult's next venture! Next on deck: Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough Review

Title: Behind Her Eyes
Author: Sarah Pinborough
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

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

This book was kind of a recommendation mixed with an impulsive library pick. I'd heard about it through several articles, some lauding it as the most explosive thriller of the new year. When I was walking by a display table, the dark blue cover with its roving, dark eye caught my eye and immediately made me stop in my tracks. I put it right on top of the library stack, as this is a popular book and I didn't get to have any renewals on it. I'm so glad that I borrowed this book, because it's one that will haunt me, probably for the rest of my life.

Thrillers and mysteries have always been a huge point of contention for me. Half the time, it feels like I'm guessing what's going to happen within the first twenty pages of the book. And other times, like this one, a book grabs me by the throat and refuses to let go, relentless, until I read the final page. If you're looking for a powerful, dark mystery with a love triangle at its center and more than a couple of shocking twists, you need to run to your library, or your bookstore, right now, and clear your schedule until you're finished. Because, I guarantee you, that once you start Behind Her Eyes, you won't be able to put it down until the ending that had my jaw on the floor!

There are three key players to the nail-biting, spine-tingling thriller that is Behind Her Eyes: David, a handsome and charismatic psychiatrist, his beautiful, troubled wife, Adele, and finally, his secretary, Louise. When Louise and David meet by chance at a bar, Louise is certain that she's found something that feels a little like love; even if the man she has her eye on happens to be married already. But things get even more complicated when David's lovely wife, Adele, reaches out to Louise, longing for friendship. None of the parties involved realize that the secrets they're hiding could not only be potentially damaging, but deadly. As the tension ratchets up and the book goes on, you won't know who to trust, or to believe, until the last page, with its final, jaw-dropping twist.

I really loved this book; it's easily one of my favorites of the new year. Pinborough has penned another success, for me, her first, and I can't wait to see what's next from her! I was constantly guessing, my brain whirring even when I wasn't reading the book, and I was still so shocked! That ending though, gah! What am I supposed to do with my life now?! I'll never recover! The bottom line: A dark, tense thriller that showcases a modern love triangle, Behind Her Eyes satisfies in every way--I can't wait for more from this promising British author, one of my favorite books of 2017! Next on deck: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee Review

Title: The Secret of a Heart Note
Author: Stacey Lee
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Magical Realism
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Stacey Lee won my heart last year with her gorgeously written and lushly detailed novel, Outrun the Moon, and shortly after that, she became one of my new favorite authors. When I heard that she was writing a brand new book about first love, perfumery and botany, and family, I just knew that I had to read it. It's been sitting in my library stack ever since I ordered it, patiently waiting to be read. This book has completely stolen my heart, and has become one of my favorite books of the new year.

Mimosa, or 'Mim', as she's called by her friends and family, is the only daughter of an armoteur, or, as she's called by the locals, a 'love witch'. Like her female descendants before her, she is gifted with a near supernatural sense of smell. But because of that, she cannot fall in love. And when she begins to work her own love magic, she quickly discovers that some things are out of her control, and that first love may be closer than she thinks...

I loved this book. Frankly, it reminded me a bit of Emma by Jane Austen. Though, to be fair, if there's matchmaking of any sort involved, I'm thinking of Emma. It was a hilarious, sweet, and often heartwrenching comedy of errors, full of the exhilarating highs and painful lows of first love. But love isn't the only thing showcased in this lovely, beautiful novel. Family was also at the forefront, and I loved it; this book touched me, all the way down to the soul. This unique, wonderful book is not to be missed, one of my favorite novels of 2017! The bottom line: A fantastic, beautifully written novel about family and first love, Stacey Lee has stole my heart yet again; one of my favorite books of the new year! Next on deck: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Graces by Laure Eve Review

Title: The Graces
Author: Laure Eve
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Graces, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I'll be honest. This book did not come as a recommendation, I hadn't heard about it previously. I was browsing through the stacks and the bright red cover caught my eye, from all the way across the room. I was even more intrigued by the plot, by the Graces and River, the young woman who desperately wants to find a niche inside of their family. I brought it home, and when I started it, I couldn't stop; I was completely and utterly spellbound. The prose was gorgeous, hypnotic. The pacing was subtly breakneck, and I really loved the characters, especially River, but it was almost against my will, as if the powerful, magical, mysterious Graces had cast a spell on me as well...

The Graces. Everyone's heard of them, and some people say that they like to dabble in dark magic. River, a lonely girl who longs for friendship, is drawn to them, specifically the youngest sister, Summer. When River becomes friends with Summer, as well as her siblings, Thalia and Fenrin, she begins to feel like she finally belongs somewhere. But it will take more than black magic to become a Grace, and they aren't the only ones with secrets...

Like I said, this book was just so much fun. Laure Eve is a British author, and this book marks her debut in the United States. I'm so happy that this book is a series, because after that ending, there was simply no way for me to be okay otherwise. It wasn't perfect, but it was pretty darn close. I love books about witches, but this book took the trope and turned it on its head, for a new interpretation. The ending was surprising and exciting, and I definitely have more of a wanderlust for England now. At times, though, it seemed a little hard to follow, and River's narrative was a little harder to dig into, especially as the novel went on. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to the next book in this magical, beautifully written series! The bottom line: Laure Eve's first U.S. debut, The Graces has all the magic its main characters are known for, and despite some little flaws, I can't wait for the sequel! Next on deck: The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry Review

Title: My Husband's Wife
Author: Jane Corry
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I read an article about this book, hailed as the newest thriller of the year, and ordered it from the library, my curiosity piqued. I've learned recently that winter is the best season ever to read books like this one; the ones that will have you staring out into the night, pondering dark things, jumping at loud noises, huddling under warm blankets, keeping the lights on when dusk falls. My Husband's Wife more than fits that bill. It is a spine-tingling mystery, one that puts domestic bliss, and what defines it, into the spotlight. It thrusts marriage into the limelight, and all the commitments, and often secrets, that come with it. It was positively chilling.

Lily Macdonald is happy with her new husband, romantic and sensitive artist, Ed. at least on the surface. They love each other, and the neighbor next door, little Carla, comes into their orbit. But what none of them realize is that everyone has their own secrets, some willing to kill to hide. When Lily takes on a case that involves a man falsely accused of murdering his girlfriend, she is strangely drawn to him. As they all inexplicably come intertwined, Lily discovers that the darkest shadows may lay closest to home...

This book was unlike anything I've ever read. It is a chilling, dark mystery with more than a little gore, domestic riddles, and raises the vital question: Do we really know the people we love? Can we? My Husband's Wife was a cat and mouse game, an explosive triangle bound between three people: Lily, Ed, and Carla, who worms her way back into the Macdonalds' lives, seeking revenge. The pacing was breakneck, and my mind was constantly racing, wondering who had done what, and how everything came together. Normally, mysteries are hit and miss, but this book was so twisty, fascinating, and scary. And I loved every crazy, unpredictable moment. I hope that Jane Corry has more planned for the U.S., because this book is one of my favorites of 2017! The bottom line: A chilling and fascinating thriller, My Husband's Wife was a great start of 2017! I hope there's more in the U.S. of the promising Jane Corry!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Roseblood by A.G. Howard Review

Title: Roseblood
Author: A.G. Howard
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

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

A.G. Howard won my heart a few years ago with her debut novel, Splintered, and I still need to finish the series. But when I heard she had a new book coming out, inspired by The Phantom of the Opera, I just knew that I had to get my hands on it. It's been sitting in my library stack for a few weeks now, and it had some holds on it, so I pushed it up my stack. I'd been looking forward to it, and I really wanted to love it. It wasn't terrible, but it definitely wasn't a knock out of the park, either.

Rune Germain has been sent away to the mysterious French boarding school, RoseBlood, not far away from Paris, to nurture her voice talents. But she is hiding a dark, deadly secret: Using her voice makes her ill, and somehow she manages to enchant everyone in spite of it. Upon her arrival, she begins to dig deeper into the boarding school, as well as the chilling legend that inspired it: The Phantom of the Opera. Drawn into a web of lies, intrigue, and dark magic, she discovers that love may be in her reach, if it doesn't cost her her life...

As I said, RoseBlood has given me a lot of mixed feelings. I liked some parts of the book, while others really fell short. I liked that the novel was inspired by a legend that has fascinated me; honestly, that was part of the draw to it. I also like most of the way that the original story was interwoven into the narrative. The prose was beautiful and poetic, per Howard's signature. I loved the romance and the intrigue; it really added to the creepy gothic feel of the novel, and the school itself. I even liked Rune, and the way that a common paranormal trope was given a unique, sexy spin.

But there were parts of the plot that didn't make sense to me, and I was more confused and skeptical as the book went on. That was a huge part of the reason why I didn't love this book. I wanted to love it all, but at times, it was hard to follow and understand. Still, it wasn't a complete loss; I enjoyed it, even if it wasn't perfect. The bottom line: The first book published in this year that I've read, RoseBlood is a lush, romantic retelling of The Phantom of the Opera, but it wasn't perfect. Next on deck: My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier Review

Title: My Sister Rosa
Author: Justine Larbalestier
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror/Thriller/Mystery
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Justine Larbalestier and I haven't always got on, as far as books go. I tried reading one of her books when it first came out, coauthored by Sarah Rees Brennan, and it just wasn't my kind of book, so I shelved it. Nonetheless, I've been really curious about her work since. I came across an article praising My Sister Rosa, and my curiosity piqued as a result. I mean, first of all, the cover--it's so creepy, dark, and minimalist. Honestly, it was part of the reason that the book caught my eye in the first place.

As for the book itself, well, to be honest, I have mixed feelings. Nothing bad, I swear! First of all, I love that Che is Australian--diverse books for the win!--and that he was such a nuanced individual. Honestly, he was probably my favorite character in the entire novel. But the focus of the novel is Rosa, the cherubic, adorable little sister whose sweet smile hides the darkest of secrets. Trying his best to keep his sister under control and get used to living in New York City, Che discovers that the darkness inside of his baby sister runs deeper than even he could've ever imagined...

This book was, in a word, amazing. Was it dark, frightening, serious, and often funny? Absolutely. I loved the way that Larbalestier used the narrative to talk about important, often uncomfortable issues, like religion and the nature of evil in human beings. Is it something learned, or something you're born with? And, most of all, even if you do unspeakable things, are you able to be redeemed? I also loved the pacing; once I picked up My Sister Rosa, I couldn't put it down, and it was on my mind long after I put it down.

But what really sold this book for me wasn't even Che, or Rosa, or the pacing or gorgeous prose. It was the shocking, nail-biting ending that even I didn't see coming--wow! It threw me for such a loop I even woke up in the middle of the night, thinking about it, turning it over in my mind incessantly. Frankly, I finished this book just last night and I'm still bowled over because of it. Wow! What an entry for young adult fiction in 2016! I loved it so much--this book is like a Hitchcock movie, in novel form, and I loved every single creepy, dark moment! A book that's not to be missed! The bottom line: My Sister Rosa is a horror novel of a different sort, and it held me spellbound until the shocking, unexpected ending--I can't wait for more from Justine Larbalestier! Next on deck: Roseblood by A.G. Howard!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson Review

Title: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
Author: Bryan Stevenson
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction, memoir
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Just Mercy was one of my library's book club selections for the month of February. I hadn't heard of the book before, and I wasn't sure what it was about. I was a little leery at first, as nonfiction normally isn't my jam. But I'm so, so glad that I read this book. It is inspiring, heartbreaking, at times frustrating and angering. It is absolutely a necessary book--this book will remain in my heart forever, and at the end of it, I feel so many emotions: anger, despair, hope, motivation. My entire worldview is changed by every single word of the shocking, true stories that Bryan Stevenson tells, with tenderness, passion, and complete humanity. It made me laugh, cry, and want to tear my hair out in frustration. In turn, it inspired me, to be a better person, for myself and for my fellow human beings. Frankly, I'm just bowled over.

Bryan Stevenson's extensive tenure in the broken, biased machine that is the American justice system begins at Harvard Law school, with an internship. Later on, he begins the Equal Justice Initiative, and spends the whole of his career tirelessly working at righting wrongs, like a saint in the flesh, almost. He soon felt he found his calling, and that's certainly true to me; he casts a harsh, blinding spotlight on the cracks, big and small, in the law, as well as the glaring racial bias in law enforcement around the country. Despite a lot of lawyer terms, Stevenson explained everything very well.

This book was like a punch to the gut, a blow to the heart; I'm still weeping thinking about it as I write this. It was so shocking, and eye-opening, especially considering that I'm white. Stevenson passionately defends the impoverished, the helpless, what a lot of people would consider the dregs of society. And it is his passion, driven by personal experiences that draw on the mercy in the title.

Frankly, I haven't thought much about the death penalty. But after reading this book, I do not agree with it. It is inhumane and cruel, and nobody deserves to die for making a bad choice, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, whatever it may be. This book should be required reading for everyone. It is often difficult, and will bring up some big questions, but that's exactly why we should read it. Now that I have, I'm really kicking myself for having not read it sooner. God, this book got me feeling all the feels! The bottom line: An extremely relevant memoir about the American justice system and the death penalty, Just Mercy should be necessary reading for everyone. Next on deck: My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Boy Robot by Simon Curtis Review

Title: Boy Robot
Author: Simon Curtis
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Boy Robot, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I was reading an article on the top favorite teen books for the month of October, and found Boy Robot that way. It's been sitting in my library stack ever since, patiently waiting its turn to be read. First of all, I loved the cover--it was so eye-catching and seemed to scream science fiction. I love science fiction, it's one of my favorite genres, but sometimes, it can get a little confusing. Regardless, Boy Robot was an excellent, and pretty darn near perfect, debut novel. I'm so happy that this book is in the works for a sequel! I can't wait for more from the plucky, kindhearted Simon Curtis!

Issak is a normal boy--or so he thinks. But when his eighteenth birthday comes around, his entire life is ripped apart at the seams, all because of a power inside of him he didn't even know existed. Forced to leave his hometown and embark on a dangerous journey with a bunch of strangers, he discovers that no one can really be trusted, and the power that lies raging inside of him could change the fate of the entire planet as we know it...

This book, at first, was really difficult for me to get through; at one point, I was seriously considering shelving it for good. It was just really slow, and the format took some getting used to, especially with the chapters being as long as they were. But when I talked to my husband about it, he told me to stick with it. "It might pick up soon. Just give it another try and see what you think." Encouraged by his input, I did as he asked. It took a while to pick up, probably close to half of the novel, but I'm glad that I stuck with it. This book picks up and takes off, and grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go until the final page. Even then, you're reeling, and soon you're itching to read the sequel.

This book was lovely and refreshing; Issak was a great, deep main character, and I felt really sympathetic toward him, especially as the book went on. This book was like taking some of the best sci-fi premises and mashing them all into a book, specifically for the teen audience, often sprinkled with deep questions about ethics and the state of humanity itself. It was a really fun, high-octane thrill ride, especially when it picked up. But there were also times when the science fiction jargon was a little bit confusing, and as a result, I got more than a little lost as the book went on. The bottom line: Though it took me a while to get into, Boy Robot is a debut science fiction thriller worth waiting for--I can't wait for more from Simon Curtis! What a debut! Next on deck: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling Review

Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay
Author: J.K. Rowling
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Cinema, screenplay
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I've been wanting to see Fantastic Beasts since I've known of its existence, and unfortunately, it was pulled out of theaters in my area before I could go see it. Ever since, I've been dying over the possibility to read the screenplay. When I found it at my library, tucked away on a shelf, I was almost so beside myself with glee I wanted to jump around and cheer. I brought it home, and I finally got the chance to devour it today after the disaster that was Dumplin'. Honestly, I loved it. I would've preferred to have it in book form for my detail, but I was nonetheless happy with it.

I don't want to give away a lot about the plot--the last thing I want to do is ruin the movie for those who haven't yet seen it. But I will say that this new tale into the Harry Potter world, from the American perspective, was both exciting and worrying. It was really refreshing. I loved the characters, but Newt is my favorite and probably will be forever. One of my favorite characters in the Harry Potter universe, hands down! It was also really cool to get more information on magical creatures, I loved it!

Frankly, reading this just makes me that much more pumped to see the film. And even though it was Rowling's first time at writing a screenplay, she did it really well. On the whole, a great piece of literature for 2016! The bottom line: The screenplay for the hit movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, penned by Rowling, makes me even more excited for the movie; it was so much fun! Next on deck: Boy Robot by Simon Curtis!

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy Review

Title: Dumplin'
Author: Julie Murphy
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Dumplin', book one
Star Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars

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

Dumplin' has been sitting in my library stack for a while now, for a least a couple of weeks. And frankly, I've been really curious about it since it came out in 2015. So I was absolutely ecstatic when one of the librarians for the book club I joined chose it for January. Unfortunately, this book, which has been heavily lauded as 'body-positive' and laugh out loud funny, just did not read for me in a good way at all. I wanted to love it, but I did not. In fact, this book is one of the worst I've ever read, and if I'm being totally honest about the whole thing, (There's another book coming out?! Seriously?!) I'm really mad that I wasted my time on it.

Dumplin' revolves around Willowdean Dickson, a young woman who is, in a word, 'fat'. And she's totally cool with her body and how she looks... Sort of? But that doesn't stop her from literally insulting and belittling every single person she comes across, who doesn't look like her. I just did not relate to Will at all, and it certainly isn't because I'm skinny. I didn't like her at all. She was unpleasant and rude and really mean to everyone around her. And hey, sometimes I like a main character who isn't the nicest, but Will just grated on my last nerve.

To be honest, all of the characters in this book, save probably Bo, didn't even have any substance for me, not even Will's supposed best friend, Ellen. Frankly, this book was hypocritical, unpleasant, and off-putting. Don't get me wrong; I love it when scary subjects are brought up in fiction, because it's that much easier to talk about. But I just did not like this book at all. I really wish I had, but it was just not for me. The bottom line: Heavily praised as 'body-positive' and 'inclusive', Dumplin' was just not a good book for me; it screamed hypocritical, poorly done, and painful. Julie Murphy is just not for me. Next on deck: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills Review

Title: This Adventure Ends
Author: Emma Mills
Age Group:Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

This book has been sitting in my library stack for a while now; I was intrigued by the plot and fell in love with the front color--so much color! Stars! I was swooning. I finally got to it, and I'm so happy that I didn't take it back before reading it! This book was so exquisite, surprising, and lovely--a truly unique and heartfelt tale of new friendship, the highs and lows of first love, and the love that comes from family, whether it be the ones you were born with, or the ones you choose. It really touched my heart--I loved it so much!

Sloane is a natural loner with not many friends, so when her parents decide to move down to Florida, she embraces the change, hoping that life will be different for her, even though she is wholly uncertain about the future, as any of us, young or old, are often wont to do. She meets a compelling group of people who become her friends: the bright, vivacious Vera, and her brooding twin brother, Gabe, shy, sweet Remy, standoffish Aubrey, and Frank Sanger, a force of nature unto himself. Sloane discovers that love can come from all sorts of places, and that even ones closest to you can hurt you the most...

I really loved this book. Simply put, I fell in love with Sloane and her friends. It felt like I found a family instead of this little book's pages, and for that alone it will remain in my heart forever. I cried and laughed and felt with these characters, and it was such a great experience. The prose was lush and beautiful, tender and funny. I fell in love with Sloane's narrative voice, and it was all so bittersweet. A wonderful novel, and I will definitely be looking forward to what Mills has to offer! The bottom line: A contemporary novel highly reccomended for fans of Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti, This Adventure Ends is one of my favorites of 2016! Absolutely amazing! Next on deck: Dumplin' by Julie Murphy!

Unrivaled by Alyson Noel Review

Title: Unrivaled
Author: Alyson Noel
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Beautiful Idols, book one
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

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

I'll be honest: Alyson Noel is one of my favorite authors, and I've been looking forward to Unrivaled since I first knew of its existence. I had a space free in my library stack, so I picked it up a little over a week ago. God, I really wanted to love this book. And I did enjoy some parts of it, but overall, as a whole, this book just really fell short for me. I loved the concept--something like The Apprentice and a secret, glamorous celebrity party, all mixed together--but the execution really left a lot to be desired.

Three teens, all with vastly different goals: Layla longs to be a journalist, reporting the biggest stories, Aster longs for stardom, and all the benefits and trappings that come with it, and finally, Tommy yearns for a stage, a guitar, and thousands of screaming fans. When the infamous Ira Redman recruits all three of them to work as promoters for his clubs, the teens must decide just how far they will go for what they want. And then there's Madison, Hollywood's hottest young starlet. When she mysteriously disappears, suddenly no one knows who to trust, and soon the teens risk everything to start digging toward the truth...

Like I said, there were some parts of this book that I loved, and others that really fell short. I loved the writing, and I really enjoyed the whole Madison aspect of the book. If I'm being totally honest, that was my favorite part. I enjoyed the playful, snarky tone of the prose as well. I liked Tommy; frankly, of the three teens, he was the one who seemed the most authentic. Layla and Aster almost felt like thin, barely-there cariactures. Honestly, it was the shocking, surprising ending that saved the book, and I enjoyed that part, but I don't think I'm going to be pursuing this series any further. The bottom line: A new series debut from one of my favorite authors, Unrivaled was woefully disappointing; it just wasn't that good. Definitely in the 'meh' category of 2016 for me. Next on deck: This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner Review

Title: Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction, memoir
Series: N/A
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Jennifer Weiner has been one of my favorite authors for a very long time. My grandmother, when I was a senior in high school, began to insist that I read 'adult' fiction and start branching out. I was a little reluctant, because I wasn't sure what to expect. But I picked up Little Earthquakes, and loved it, and that was shortly followed by In Her Shoes. I instantly fell in love with her prose, and even though I haven't read anything more recent, I'd heard about Hungry Heart and been looking forward to it. It's been sitting in my library stack, and I'm so happy that I read it. I laughed, I cried, I raged. I really related to her, especially from a career standpoint. I felt inspired by her; I still do.

Weiner, in this collection of insightful and hilarious essays that chronicle her life as well as a generous offering of topics, wrought with signature humor and wit. Frankly, I'm inspired and really impressed. She writes with such honesty, such skill, and I found myself entirely moved. If I wasn't weeping, I was laughing. I really feel like I got to know her, and those that she dearly loved. A stalwart feminist, activist, writer, and mother, she speaks of a childhood being distinctly different, and the insecurities that she fought valiantly as she grew toward a tempestous adulthood. Rife with emotion, humor, and plenty of advice on writing, this book felt like a new, suddenly dear friend, and I was really sorry when it ended!

I'm so happy with this book. It inspired me, made me laugh more times than I could count, comforted me, and made me cry more than once! In Hungry Heart, Jennifer Weiner does nothing less than bare her soul in this touching, beautiful book. I'm so glad that I read it! The bottom line: A memoir from one of my favorite authors, Hungry Heart is an inspiring, honest, and hilarious book! One of the best of 2016! Next on deck: Unrivaled by Alyson Noel!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare Review

Title: Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy
Author(s): Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, and Robin Wasserman
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

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

I've made no secret about just how much I love Cassandra Clare and her books. My love affair began with City of Bones, and has only grown since. She's one of my favorite authors, and frankly, I would follow her anywhere, as long as she continues to crank out such promising, powerful stories. And I have to admit that I have a bit of a bias when it comes to this book--I've been eagerly looking forward to it since I've known of its existence. I'm a Shadowhunter, through and through, and these characters feel like one of my families, if that makes any sense.

Tales from the Shadowhunter takes place after the Mortal Instruments series ends. But each story expands on a certain time in the existing universe of the previous novels. (And that's all I'm going to say, because I don't want to give anything away for my readers that haven't read it yet!) These stories fill in the gaps left by the Mortal Instruments series, and honestly, I loved every one of them. There wasn't a time during this book that I wasn't laughing hysterically. This book felt like coming home, and as such, it has become one of my favorite books of the last year. It was just so much fun!

It also really made me happy that Clare collaborated with other bestselling authors that I love: Sarah Rees Brennan, the author of the bestselling The Demon's Lexicon series, Maureen Johnson, author of Thirteen Envelopes, and Robin Wasserman, author of the runaway hit, the Skinned trilogy. I loved how each author brought their own unique, individual flair to Clare's world. It really expanded a lot of things for me. It was so satisfying. And that ending! All the ugly crying! I really loved that, too, even though it was really bittersweet. The bottom line: A collection of short stories that take place after the bestselling Mortal Instruments series, Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy was so much fun! One of my favorite books of 2016! Next on deck: Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love and Writing by Jennifer Weiner!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Avenged by E.E. Cooper Review

Title: Avenged
Author: E.E. Cooper
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Mystery/Thriller
Series: Vanished, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Avenged is the sequel to the smash hit published last year, Vanished. (Review can be found at this link: http://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2015/04/vanished-by-eecooper-review.html) I loved that book so much. I loved that the main character was diverse, the creepy premise of a group of girls who were all hiding skeletons in their closets. Honestly, it was one of my favorite books of last year, and I didn't realize until I'd ordered it that there was a sequel. It's been sitting in my library stack, and I've been looking forward to it. I'd hoped that it would be good, but this was completely beyond my expectations.

Avenged picks up where Vanished left off, and that being said, I don't want to say too much about the plot--I don't want to ruin it for anyone. But this book was so good. Breakneck pacing, creepy tension, and amazing prose all combine to form a sequel that is deeply satisfying. The payoff was so killer, it was worth waiting for! Cooper has a real talent for writing chilling, spine-tingling mysteries. (And what better time to read a thriller than winter?!) It is honestly one of my favorite books of 2016, easily my favorite duology. It was so much fun! What a thrill ride! The bottom line: The sequel to Vanished, Avenged is a meaty, satisfying end to a great mystery duology of the last year! I loved it so much! Next on deck: Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, and Robin Wasserman!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Choksi Review

Title: The Star-Touched Queen
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Star-Touched Queen, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Okay, so I'll be honest: I've been looking forward to this book since I knew of its existence, way back in April of last year. Because of all the books I've had to read, I haven't gotten to it until now, and frankly, I'm really kicking myself over it. I mean, it's literally almost everything I wanted in a novel, especially a debut, and I'm so happy with it! I can't wait for the sequel! There were a few little things that made it not completely perfect, but I really enjoyed it nonetheless. What a great book!

Maya is cursed, born under a set of stars that foretell death and destruction, literally. Because of that, everyone in the kingdom that her father rules fears her. Whispers about her. Avoids her entirely. Consumed by loneliness because of something she cannot even control, she longs for something more to her life: friends, a family that truly loves her. But all of that changes when the political tides churn with war, and Maya soon finds her life changed forever. Forced to go on an epic quest to save everything she's come to know, she discovers that the answers she craves lies in the place she least expects: inside herself...

Like I said, this book was just wonderful. I mean, what first sold me was the main character, and how diverse she is. (The world needs diverse books, and I'm so happy that we're making more headway now! Fingers crossed for more next year!) But more than that, the story was just so good! Excellent worldbuilding, breakneck pacing, magic, mayhem, gods and goddesses! I loved The Star-Touched Queen so much, and I can't wait for the sequel later this year! But there were a few little things that bothered me; I wish more about Amar had been explained, and Gupta as well. It also bugged me a little, how Maya and Amar's relationship was basically instant. But regardless, this book is definitely a favorite! The bottom line: A brand-new, magical adventure through dangerous, seductive worlds of Indian mythology, The Star-Touched Queen was a fun debut--I can't wait for the sequel! Next on deck: Avenged by E.E. Cooper!