Thursday, August 17, 2017

Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger Review

Title: Follow Me Back
Author: A.V. Geiger
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Follow Me Back, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Follow Me Back was brought to my attention the way most of my library loans are; I found it as a recommendation for one of the book sites I follow religiously. I was absolutely intrigued from the get-go; the cover was compelling and creepy all at the same time. I was even more excited to read it when I realized that Geiger was a sleeper hit on the writing forum, Wattpad. I had my last renewal on it through the library, and as I'd been looking forward to it, I didn't want to return it without reading it. And I'm so, so glad that I didn't take it back without reading it! Geiger has penned a spine-tingling, creepy thriller of a series debut for the modern digital age! I was blown over, and I can't wait until next year for the sequel! Ugh, that ending! I'm so mad! (How could you do this to me?!)

Tessa Hart has severe agoraphobia, a result of a traumatic event that happened over the previous summer. One of her coping mechanisms is the pop star, Eric Thorn, and being part of the fandom she has made her internet persona comfortable in, mostly through Twitter and Tumblr. When Eric sets out to troll her for his own amusement, an unexpected friendship forms between them. The friendship leads to the possibility of more, but soon obsession begins to spring up from all sides, all because of the handy little follow button...

I really, really enjoyed this book, a lot more than I expected to! The cover was one of the first things that drew me to it, honestly; it looked so spooky and unnerving. But what shocked me the most was what lay between the covers. The format was deliciously different and unusual; it was told in a mix of third person narration between Tessa and Eric, with more than a healthy portion of tweets, blog posts, and police transcriptions.  I was immediately drawn in. I loved the way Geiger created a creepy, modern horror story for the digital age. But even more than that, I loved Tessa and Eric, their ill-fated, more than a little twisted love story. I also really liked the way that Tessa's mental illness was depicted, it was frank and refreshing. Plus, the pacing was breakneck and I couldn't put the book down. And that ending! I can't wait until June 2018 for the sequel! You're freaking killing me here! The bottom line: A creepy, spine-tingling thriller for the digital age, I loved Follow Me Back, and I can't wait for the sequel! One of my favorite books of 2017! Next on deck: House of Furies by Madeleine Roux!

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody Review

Title: Daughter of the Burning City
Author: Amanda Foody
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Thriller/Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

This book was a recommendation, as a lot of my books are. But it was honestly the cover that drew me in. A gorgeous, mysterious shade of purple, with columns of smoke billowing from what looked like a circle of circus tents? Sold. But what lay inside the book was what was really amazing. A unique, darkly fantastic coming of age story with a mystery at its heart, Daughter of the Burning City was an enthralling, spellbinding fantasy that won my heart and wormed its way into my mind, even when I closed it. Amanda Foody has penned a solid, achingly lovely debut that explores the true meaning of family, sense of self, and what it really means to be human.

Sorina is the daughter of the proprietor of the traveling, burning city of Gomorrah, where the most secret and forbidden of desires are doled out like currency. She enjoys a status that no one else in the city has; she is also a performer in her very own freak show. But though she likes performing, and deeply loves her family, she knows that she even among freaks, she is unusual. She can create illusions, and her family is just that. Her position and her safety are put at risk when one of her beloved family members is brutally murdered. Sorina is forced to team up with a boy named Luca, who is hiding his own secrets before the killer gets to her next. And when she begins to dig, she discovers that the murderer may be closer than she could have ever imagined...

This book was amazing! First of all, the prose was gorgeous, and I was sucked into Sorina's world almost at once. I loved the world-building of this book as well; it was so dark and lovely and frightening. Gomorrah was such a dark, forbidding, beautiful place that held me spellbound. But my favorite things about Daughter of the Burning City were the characters, especially Sorina and her family. And Luca! Ugh, all the romantic tension. I love it when an author can skillfully master political intrigue, and Foody has that mastered in spades! The pacing was breakneck, and I could only hold on tight as the tension ratcheted higher and higher. The format, unusual and surprising, also made this debut original. I loved the setting--it was so circus-like, and I loved the feel of it! And that ending--talk about a surprising twist! Oh my God, it's been two days, and I'm still reeling over it. What a gorgeous, magically written standalone about a loving, magical group of misfits!

Sometimes, though, it got confusing, trying to keep up with the names of cities, characters, and political figures; I almost wish that there had been a glossary or reference at the back that I could've refreshed with. Nonetheless, what a lovely, enchanting debut! The bottom line: A gorgeous, beautifully written debut about a magical family with a dark mystery at its heart, I loved Daughter of the Burning City! Next on deck: Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy Review

Title: The Disappearances
Author: Emily Bain Murphy
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

The Disappearances was the next book in my library stack, and I wanted to be able to read it before I had to return it. I found it the way I find most of my library books; it was recommended to me on one of the sites that I follow. But what initially drew me in, even more than the intriguing synopsis, was the cover, haunting and creepy and compelling all at once. I started the book not quite sure what to expect; this debut novel was kind of like a mashup of Stephen King, with more than a healthy dose of magical realism, with romantic and supernatural elements sprinkled throughout. Add to this formula gorgeous prose, a creepy, gothic setting, breakneck pacing, and secrets and twists and turns, and you'll have something close to The Disappearances.

Aila and her younger brother, Miles, are being shipped off to the tiny town of Sterling after their father goes to fight in the war. Simmering with resentment and grief after the mysterious death of her mother, she begins to realize that everything in Sterling isn't quite what it seems. Ostracized by the townspeople and confused by her feelings for her house mother's son, she decides to dig deep into Sterling's past. But someone out there doesn't want their secrets unearthed, and Aila and her friends are on a race against the clock to set things right....

I really liked this book! The prose was so gorgeous, and I was sucked in immediately. The pacing was breakneck, and I'm not gonna lie, there were times when I got really upset, when I had to set the book down. There were times when I was obsessing, even when I wasn't reading it. But more than that, I loved Sterling, and the creepy, Stephen King vibes that I was getting from it, as well as its people. One of the most intriguing parts of this book was the mystery that the town held. But I also really adored the characters, especially Aila, Miles, George, and William. Aila was an awesome heroine, feminist and fierce and flawed. I also really enjoyed the way Murphy deftly blended genres: historical fiction, magical realism, and romance. One of the best parts of the book was Aila and her friends working their hardest to unravel the mystery of Sterling and how the town (and the surrounding towns) became cursed. And the villains in this novel! Some of the best I've ever seen. This book was a fun, twisty mystery that emphasizes the themes of family and first love. At times, though, it was kind of difficult to keep up, because of the unusual format, but it wasn't too terrible! The bottom line: A deliciously creepy, gothic mystery with plenty of twists, turns, and shocking secrets, The Disappearances was a wonderful debut! I look forward to more from Emily Bain Murphy! Next on deck: Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandya Menon Review

Title: When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I finally got to this book in my library stack, and I had my last renew on it. I'd heard many great things about When Dimple Met Rishi, and I didn't want to miss it. I'm so glad that I read it. First of all, Indian main characters! Diverse books for the win always! Plus, that cover was just so adorable; it felt like I was standing with the smiling girl in the sunshine. But the cover was nothing next to what this lovely, bittersweet book contained. I fell in love with it, and it was an insanely funny, inherently hopeful roller coaster of a rom-com. The romantic in me just melted. Sandya Menon has become one of my favorite authors of 2017 with this book!

Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel are both Indian, but they are two very different people. Dimple is headstrong and independent, intensely focused on making her dreams of being a well-known coder come true. Rishi is a practical romantic with a deep love of tradition and family, as well as his own Indian identity. The two young adults collide at a workshop in San Francisco, and, with a series of events straight out of a romantic comedy, begin to actually think that they have a chance together. But Dimple begins to pull away, and the two must decide if their budding love is worth fighting for.

I loved this book! I loved the way that it gave the reader a peek into real Indian culture. I loved the pacing, the tone of it, but especially Dimple and Rishi, two very real and contrasting individuals. One of my favorite parts of the story was the spark between them. I live for an author that can do banter well, from a reading and writing standpoint! It was so cute, funny, romantic, and hopeful. It made me remember the feeling of what it is to be in love for the first time, and it was so bittersweet. I laughed often, and cried just as much. This book made me feel so much. I loved Dimple and Rishi's families as well, the thing that brings them both together in the first place. It was just so lovely and fresh and hopeful, and I enjoyed every minute of it! One of my favorite books of 2017! The bottom line: A romantic first novel that made me laugh, cry, and swoon, When Dimple Met Rishi is one of the best books of 2017! Highly recommended! Next on deck: The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Hunger by Roxane Gay Review

Title: Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body
Author: Roxane Gay
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Biography/Memoir
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Roxane Gay has become a household name in the arenas of both fiction and nonfiction, and when I heard that she had a new book coming out, a memoir about her body and her own personal experiences, I was really excited. I've read short fiction and articles by her, and was so stoked to finally get my hands on her work, to gain some personal insight on one of my favorite authors of all time. What I discovered is a deeply honest, painful, and poignant memoir that highlighted the pain of severe trauma, the deep love of family, both blood and not, and resilience of every kind. I read this book and came away with a feeling of inspiration and hope; I feel like everyone should read this moving, wonderful memoir. Gay lays herself bare for the reader, all of her scars and wants and hopes and regrets, welcoming you into her mind. One of my favorite books of 2017, hands down!

Roxane Gay is a highly successful author and professor at a university in Indiana, but in Hunger, she talks about her childhood, her past and how it formed her into the woman she is today, and I was just awed by the sheer degree of honesty. Memoirs are very touch and go with me, because if I feel that the author is not being truthful, that can turn me off and make me hate the book. But Hunger was so honest and so open, about every great and ugly thing that ever happened to Gay. I'm so awed, moved, inspired. (And it also didn't hurt that she talked about writing, a lot!) Gay writes frankly about feminism, body image, the meaning of self-love and getting there on her own terms, as well as a whole life's worth of personal growth. What an amazing, outstanding memoir; I can't wait to see what Roxane Gay has in store next! The bottom line: A warm, funny, and completely no-holds barred, honest memoir that had me feeling everything, I loved Hunger! One of the best books of 2017, hands down!

Rise of the Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz Review

Title: Rise of the Isle of the Lost
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Descendants, book three
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

UGH! This book. This book. I'm so freaking sad now! I know it had to end, but I still can't help feeling like I came away with a group of lovable, hilarious new friends. It ended really well, but methinks that the ending leaves room for another story. (Maybe it's just wishful thinking?) I think, of all the books, this one was my favorite of the series. Twists and turns, new characters, magic and mayhem and adventure... As far as series closers go, this was amazing! I was as satisfied as I was sad. (You know a series is great when you walk away from it feeling like the characters are your friends.) I can only hope that this isn't the end of The Descendants, because it was just so much fun!

The Rise of the Isle of the Lost picks up where Return left off, with Mal and her friends doing their best to lay rest to their dark, wicked histories. But their peace is interrupted when King Triton's trident goes missing. Forced against the clock and other villains throughout the Isle, the kids are determined to set the rogue magic to rights, leading them on a mission on the ocean. But other forces are brewing, doing their best to stir up trouble and get the trident for their own uses. If the kids don't hurry, evil and villainy will triumph once again...

I loved this book! The pacing was breakneck, leading the reader to Auradon, the Isle of the Lost, and the ocean as the book goes on. I loved the characters, both the old ones and the new. (Especially a certain someone I won't mention because spoilers!) Adventure, magic, mayhem, secrets and political intrigue--this book delivered in spades. I also really enjoyed the way all the loose ends were tied up; it was a nice ending, and I really enjoyed it! I was laughing, crying, screaming, throughout the whole book. This series has straight up won my heart, and cemented my status as the ultimate, die-hard Disney fan! I had so much fun with the next generation of Disney villains, and I can't wait to see what de la Cruz has in store next! The bottom line: The last book in a trilogy about mini Disney villains, I loved The Rise of the Isle of the Lost! Next on deck: Hunger by Roxane Gay!

Return to the Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz Review

Title: Return to the Isle of the Lost
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Descendants, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I found out that the third, and possibly last, book of this fun series was coming out soon, so in order to prepare myself, I ended up ordering Return to the Isle of the Lost. As you guys well know, I'm pretty much a sucker for anything Disney. I loved Isle of the Lost, and I was so stoked when I realized that this was an ongoing series. And as far as sequels go, this was a really good one! I'm so excited for what the last book in the trilogy has in store for me and the characters I've grown to love so much.

Return to the Isle of the Lost picks up where the first book left off, with the children of Disney's most notorious villains settling somewhat uncomfortably into their new places on the island of Auradon. But soon, the kids start receiving threatening messages that warn of trouble in the place they once called home. Forced to go back, the kids realize that they may be the only thing standing between Auradon and a wave of catastrophic destruction, and unless they band together and stop their parents, they just might have to kiss their brand-new, good lives goodbye...

I really liked this book! I liked the premise and concept of the whole series (I mean, mini villains? Come on now, de la Cruz, you're killing me here!). But this sequel was good; it tied up a lot of loose ends, fleshed out characters, brought in new and old ones, as well as more twists and turns. It also didn't hurt that the book was full of adventures and magic, as well as many familiar characters, spun different ways, for a modern audience. That ending, too, was wonderful, and I'm so happy that the sequel is sitting next in my book stack. However, I couldn't give it a complete five stars, mostly because some of the references were a tad cheesy. Nonetheless, a solid, fun sequel, full of action, magic, and adventure! The bottom line: A meaty sequel in a fun series about the next generation of Disney villains, I loved Return to the Isle of the Lost! Next on deck: Rise of the Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor Review

Title: Definitions of Indefinable Things
Author: Whitney Taylor
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars

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

Definitions of Indefinable Things was one of my book club's picks for July, and frankly, I was excited, though the blurb didn't sound very good to me. I was also really excited to see the topic of mental illness was being covered, having dealt with crippling depression and anxiety my entire life. We need more books about the trials and pain that come with being mentally ill, but this book missed the mark in so many different ways. I was sorely disappointed with this debut novel, and because of it, I will be avoiding Taylor's work. Mental illness was not depicted correctly, and it really bothered me, how the characters in the book ended up seeing it and dealing with it. I came away from this book with a lot of feelings, none of them good.

Reggie Mason isn't necessarily what you'd call a romantic; she's more of a pessimistic cynic, and she finds the honest truth preferable to pretty, sweet lies. She's always dealt with depression, but after two traumatic events, she hits rock bottom. And to add to all that, she meets a boy named Snake. The two hit it off almost immediately, but there's one small problem: Snake has a very pregnant ex named Carla. The three teens collide in a messy, frightening way, and Reggie must decide if her life is worth living fully, even if it means embracing the pain she dreads.

Like I said, I had high hopes for this book. We need to talk more about mental illness and its effect on humanity. But this book... It was just done all wrong, for me. Mental illness was portrayed completely wrong, I didn't like any of the characters, and the plot was so ridiculous. It just didn't make any sense to me. The prose was good, but I just didn't like the book. The ending felt trite and not true to life at all, and the characters--I didn't like any of them, save Carla sometimes, and Reggie's dad. But I wish that the subject matter had been handled more delicately. I was hoping that I would really like this book, but it was, at most, just 'meh' for me. I wasn't feeling it, and I didn't enjoy it at all. I get the point that Taylor was trying to make, but she went about it completely wrongly. The bottom line: Though I had high hopes for this debut novel, Definitions of Indefinable Things just came across as flat and trite, and I didn't like it at all. On down the library stack for me. Next on deck: Return to the Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud Review

Title: Ptolemy's Gate
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Bartimaeus Sequence, book three
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

My husband and I have a little routine when it comes to books. Either I read to him aloud so we can experience the story together, or he reads it first, and I read it after him, so we can talk about it. This was the Bartimaeus Sequence for us most recently, thanks to the lovely people of the Reddit-sphere. It took me a little while to get to it, but when I did, I was drawn in immediately, and when I had to put it down, there were times when I was irrationally angry. But Stroud closes this hilarious, heartfelt trilogy with surprising tenderness and skill. Honestly, I really feel like I've lost a new set of friends, finishing this series. That ending though! Just stomp on my heart, why don't you?! (Authors and endings are going to be the death of me, I swear...)

Ptolemy's Gate picks up where The Golem's Eye left off, and I don't want to give any details away, for my readers that haven't read it yet. But what I will say is that this trilogy closes with beautiful, dazzling prose that had me laughing and crying, sometimes at the same time. Action and adventure abound as Nathaniel and Bartimaeus embark on their final quest. Kitty also shows up, trying desperately to save her country from brewing unrest and rebellion. All three of their heroes' fates collide, and none of them will make it unscathed...

I loved this book. Every crazy, hilarious moment of it. Sequels usually make me anxious, but this one delivered in every way. Breakneck pacing, twists and turns, tying up loose ends, lovable characters, old and new, all the tension that I could handle, and some that I couldn't bear, and that ending! Gah, I couldn't take it! I also loved the way the author shifted from one point of view to another, giving a fully rounded perspective on the events happening in the book. This series closer took my heart and guts and stomped all over them, and I have to say that it was worth it. I loved the way the trilogy ended, though it broke my heart and made me cry. Bartimaeus's wry, humorous commentary had me laughing and screaming in frustration. (I don't want it to end, so I ordered the prequel from my library. All the Egyptian shenanigans!) And Kitty! I loved the way she got a leading role in this book, instead of a supporting character. And Nathaniel! I loved the character development! What a book! The bottom line: The final book in the Bartimaeus Sequence, I loved Ptolemy's Gate! What a series closer! I can't wait for The Ring of Solomon! Next on deck: The Definition of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Grace and the Fever by Zan Romanoff Review

Title: Grace and the Fever
Author: Zan Romanoff
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

This book was a recommended selection for the month of May, and due to browsing, shifting, and my personal and professional life getting in the way, I only just finished it yesterday. And frankly, I was bowled over. I have been waiting for this book my whole life. I don't know a woman who didn't have a period in their youth where they were obsessed with boy bands. Grace and the Fever taps into that vein and cuts it open, creating a modern tale of fandom, music, self-discovery, first love, and, wait for it, my favorite part: feminism! This book! It made me laugh, cry, cheer, and cringe. I loved every painful, funny, almost too good to be true moment of it. Easily one of the best of 2017, hands down, and Zan Romanoff has become one of my new favorite authors! What a book!

Grace has been obsessed with Fever Dream from the time she was a teenager, though it is something that she tries to hide from her friends. On the Fever Dream fandom, she's known as Gigi, and she runs a very popular blog. But it turns out that Grace's two lives are about to collide. She meets Jes, one of the boys from the band, and before she realizes what is happening, she is drawn into a web of reluctant fame, shaky alliances, and maybe, just maybe, her first love, if she can make peace with her new, accidental fame.

I loved this book! It was pretty much perfect, and feminist, to boot! I've been waiting for a book like this since my teenage years. It brought back lots of memories, albeit ones before the rise of the digital age. It made me remember my first band crushes, all the days where I'd watch concerts on TV, wishing I was there. It brought back many good memories, and it was also a creative, tender, cautionary tale about privacy and online presence. But more than its themes and original premise, I loved the characters, especially Grace, whose personal and private lives blur when she actually crosses paths with her favorite band, and the boys of Fever Dream itself. I loved this story; the prose was beautiful, the premise weird, thoughtful, and original. What a novel, full of love and tenderness and understanding, and that ending! Just stomp all over my heart, why don't you, woman?! The bottom line: A feminist coming of age novel that explores identity and first love, Grace and the Fever is one of my favorite books of 2017! Next on deck: Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud!

Friday, July 14, 2017

A City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson Review

Title: City of Saints and Thieves
Author: Natalie C. Anderson
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Adventure/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I found this book at one of the libraries that I frequent; it was standing on a display, its cover glimmering like a garnet-colored jewel. And with that gorgeous picture of a knowing girl staring out at me, I knew I just had to bring it home and discover what it was that lingered in the book's pages. (I know, I know, this wasn't a recommendation, but an impulse find. Yay! Gotta break routine every now and then, right?) What I discovered was a hard-hitting, ripped straight from the headlines novel that combines Ocean's Eleven and Blood Diamond. I also loved that the main character was African--diverse main characters, especially young women, for the win! This book was amazing, a high-octane thriller that leads the reader across the globe and into the deep reaches of cyberspace.

Christina is a thief, a person who blends in with the shadows, a woman who fights fiercely for herself and those she loves. But her ultimate motive is revenge against the man she believes murders her mother. Her journey for retribution leads her far across the globe and into the dark, deep reaches of cyberspace, desperate for answers. Forced to take a former friend as an ally, Tiny Girl must decide if she is willing to pay the ultimate price for vengeance, or if there is more to the story than even she realizes...

This book was amazing. Easily one of my favorite books of 2017. I loved pretty much everything about it. What a sizzling, eye-opening debut Anderson has penned! The premise of this book was something that was ripped straight from the news headlines and spun into a surprisingly tender, brutal debut novel that explores the horrors of war and the meaning of family. But what really won me over was not even the gorgeous, dangerous setting, from African cities to the dark depths of the bush, it was Tiny Girl, and her resilience, her sheer determination to find out what happened to her mother, though the path is fraught with peril. The pacing was breakneck, and soon I was absorbed, turning pages, desperate to make it to the end. I also really enjoyed the supporting cast of the book, especially Michael. (And the romantic tension between he and Tina! UGH, just kill me!)

The twists and turns were incredible, and that's coming from someone who guesses the ending of most mysteries and thrillers she reads. I can't wait to see what Anderson has in store next! I was really impressed with the depth of the research that went into forming the story. The bottom line: A heart-pounding thriller that combines Ocean's Eleven and Blood Diamond, City of Saints and Thieves is a fantastic debut, featuring lush prose and a diverse, strong female main character of color! I can't wait for what Anderson has in store next! Next on deck: Grace and the Fever by Zan Romanoff!

Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon Review

Title: Done Dirt Cheap
Author: Sarah Nicole Lemon
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.

This book. This book! I have been waiting my entire life to read a young adult book like this one. I loved it. Easily one of my favorite books of 2017, if not the one. Done Dirt Cheap stole my heart, bewitching me with beautiful prose, gorgeous setting, and amazing characters that walked straight off of the page and into my heart. God. This book was a modern fairy tale that was a delightful, dark mix of Sons of Anarchy and Stand By Me. I really hope that SNL has another project in the works, because now, there is nothing that she writes that I won't read. Where has this book been all my life? What a heartfelt, beautifully written debut! I love strong female characters, and this book has a wealth of them, as well as adorable boys for them (and the reader) to swoon over. It was so much fun!

Tourmaline Harris is a girl who understands her place in her world, even if it happens to be ruled by her father and feels more like a role to play than anything else. But she is tired and in a rough spot, missing her mother and wishing that things were different. She meets Virginia Campbell, the tough and guarded daughter of a woman who cares more about herself than anyone else. Joining forces in a reluctant alliance, the girls discover that the world may be bigger than they realize, and that their enemies just might be the person that they need the most.

This book was amazing. The prose was beautiful, hypnotic, and I was spellbound by the end of the first chapter. I loved the premise of it as well, a plot that places two strong, flawed heroines at the forefront. (Yay strong female main characters!) It was quite near perfect. What an electrifying, sexy debut that had me laughing, crying, and tingling with emotion! All of my senses were enchanted, and two of the best parts of this story were Virginia and Tourmaline's friendship, as well as their sizzling, knee-weakening love stories. I loved the ending--it was so true to life! There was nothing that I didn't love about this book, even its villains and supporting characters. I'm so excited for whatever Sarah Nicole Lemon has in store! The bottom line: A modern, rough-riding fairy tale, Done Dirt Cheap is one of the best books of the year! Next on deck: City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer Review

Title: Spindle Fire
Author: Lexa Hillyer
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Spindle Fire. book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Everyone who knows me or reads this blog also knows that I am a huge sucker for fairy tales and retellings of them. Perhaps it's because fairy tales are the first group of stories that I really grew attached to. They are some of the first stories that bore deep into my heart, and it has placed a sort of enchantment and romance on my own writing and my reading material. So when I heard that this new book was coming out, I reserved it at my library as soon as I could. I mean, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty? Wicked fairies with dangerous secrets? Political intrigue? A pair of brave, courageous, lovable sisters? This book contained some of the best elements in fantasy, taking the fairy tale and spinning it anew, all the while staying true to the original.

Aurora and Isabelle are two daughters of the same king, and they have both been tithed by the two of the many powerful fairies that populate their land. The fairies and the humans have been at war for years, but it all ended when the most powerful of them went into hiding. Forced out of their castle, Aurora, who has had her sense of touch stolen, is the favored, legitimate daughter. She is sheltered and coddled. Her sister, Isabelle, is blind, her sight the price of a fairy tithe. The two sisters must go beyond their castle, for if they don't, the sleeping sickness will swallow all.

I really enjoyed this book. The prose was lush and gorgeous, almost hypnotic in its intensity. Before anything else, the prose really caught my attention. I liked the worldbuilding, though at times it was a little bit confusing. But it was the characters, mainly the two sisters, sweet, naive Aurora, and her headstrong, fierce, unwanted sister, Isbe, that really captured my heart. All issues aside, it was this pair of sisters that I really grew to love and care for. I liked the political intrigue; that was one of the aspects that kept me turning the pages. I liked the way the familiar elements of the original story, woven up in a new tale, rife with fairies and magic and darkness. I can see why a lot of people thought it was slow, but I liked the style. And I'm super stoked to hear there's a sequel! The bottom line: A new telling of the classic Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, Spindle Fire was a beautiful, dark series debut that I really liked, despite some flaws. Next on deck: Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab Review

Title: Our Dark Duet
Author: Victoria Schwab
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Series: Monsters of Verity, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

God! My literary pain is insurmountable. Between Cassandra Clare, Sarah Dessen, and this half of a heartbreaking, action-packed duology, that tore my heart out and made me cry until my chest hurt. These last three books really got under my skin, but especially this one. This is going to be a book hangover that I just might not ever recover from. I mean... Just, really?! I can't even deal with this. I've been reeling for a day and a half, and I'm still not sure how to put my feelings into words. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME, VICTORIA?! HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO MOVE ON AFTER THAT?! GAH!

This Savage Song, the first book in this duo, was one of, if not the, best book of 2016, at least for me. Schwab completely captured my imagination, in all of its blood, gore, and horror. In the broken world of August Flynn and Kate Harker, sin is more tangible, insofar that bad acts literally create monsters. The Sunai, musical monsters that can steal your soul with a song, The Corsai, ghostlike wraiths that rend, rip, and break, and the Malachi, fanged and red-eyed all result in the dark hole of the city of Verity.

But this time, picking up where This Savage Song left off, a new monster has an eye set on Verity, a being that is even more terrifying than the usual ranks of dark creatures that populate the city. Kate and August must come together again to save their city as well as each other, if the growing body count does not overwhelm them and their loved ones. Kate must dig deep inside herself and find the strength to save her city. August must find the delicate balance between the dark urges inside and the humanity that he longs to imitate. That if, if both of them can make it off of the expanding battlefield unscathed...

This book killed my soul. It made me feel everything, the entire gamut of emotions. Sequels give me such horrible anxiety, because they hold so much promise and anticipating for me. But I needn't have worried. This book was perfect. All of the loose ends were neatly tied up, the pacing was breakneck, so by the time that my heart and mind caught up to the pages, I was so invested that there was no way of me putting it down, even when I wanted to. I loved the twists, the way Schwab cranked up the tension until I was ready to scream or cry, and the way old and new characters were brought in. Plus: the villain(s). I love it when an author can make awesome bad guys! The ending. God, that ending. It killed me! All the ugly crying, guys! I'm still trying to process it, even while I type this. Easy, hands down, one of the best books of the summer, if not the year! The bottom line: The second half of a smash hit duology, Our Dark Duet tore my soul to pieces and sewed it back together again--what a book! I'm still heavy from the hangover. Next on deck: Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Once and for All by Sarah Dessen Review

Title: Once and for All
Author: Sarah Dessen
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Sarah Dessen is the author that made me believe in the merits of contemporary fiction. Add to that, that she is one of the bestselling young adult authors of recent times, and I'm sold. Anything that she writes, I want to read it. So when I heard that she would be publishing a new book in June, I just knew that I had to order it through my local library. (I really love my library!) This book was classic Dessen: lovable, sweet characters that were making me laugh aloud, situations straight out of a rom-com, a good, healthy dose of angst, both of teen and regular kinds, and a true-to-life ending that was both bittersweet and satisfying! This book was described as 'sweet as wedding cake and bubbly as champagne', and those two words definitely fit, but there were sad parts to it as well.

Louna Barrett is a girl who doesn't like to make attachments, despite her loneliness and longing for more from life. She also happens to be the only, beloved daughter of a world-famous--literally--wedding planner. Having been helping her mother with her business her whole life, she doesn't believe in happy endings or fairy tales. Especially when she experienced a loss so deep it changed her entire sense of life, and the world around her. But when she crosses path with a boy named Ambrose, she discovers that there might be hope for her yet.

I loved this book. I loved every messy, hilarious, painful moment of it. It was a beautiful coming of age, second chance tale that was lushly written a tender reminder to enjoy all facets of life, even when times are dark. It really gave me hope for my present and future. But more than that, I loved Louna and her quirky, adorable family. I loved the character development of them all, but especially that of Louna. It was such a slow, sweet joy to watch her open up to the world again. Ambrose and his family were equally funny and exciting. God, this book. It broke my heart and tore my soul, then sewed it all back together again. I'm not going to lie, this book straight up made me bawl. But I'd expect nothing less from one of the queens of young adult fiction! Hands down, one of my favorite books of 2017! The bottom line: A beautiful, funny book about the small miracles of life and second chances, Once and for All stole my heart completely. One of the best books of 2017! Next on deck: Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab!

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare Review

Title: Lord of Shadows
Author: Cassandra Clare
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Dark Artifices, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Oh my God. Oh my freaking God. How am I supposed to go on after this?! My life is over. God, Clare, just stomp all over my heart, why don't you?! How could you do this to me?! I'll be honest: I finished this book two days ago. But since I was basically a sobbing, emotional wreck, unable to process, I had to let the review sit. I didn't want to write a review still raw with emotion. I'm still reeling and haven't completely processed everything yet. I don't want to say too much, because I don't want to give something away. (You should all suffer! SUFFER THE EMOTIONAL AGONY! Kidding.)

Lord of Shadows takes place after the events of Lady Midnight, and in this installment of The Dark Artifices, our heroes are led into dangerous places, fighting forbidden, angsty feelings along the way. UGH. I knew this book was going to kill me, but I didn't know just how badly. Clare delivers in spades, as usual: dangerous secrets, forbidden love and killer sexual tension, twists and turns and trips to magical worlds. Add to that beautiful prose, characters that you will have no choice to fall in love with, and that ending--gah! I'm dead. Dead. What am I supposed to do with myself until 2019?! (Excuse me while I find a corner to sob pathetically in....) Ugh. This book, and this series, will make you feel everything, all the feels. Prepare yourselves, guys, because this sequel was definitely one of the most brutal. I am still reeling, and I'm even angrier that I have to wait two years from now to read the next book! One of the best and worst books of 2017, I can't wait for the third book in this series! The bottom line: A meaty, satisfying sequel with a heck of a zinger for an ending, I loved Lord of Shadows, even while it broke my heart. Next on deck: Once and For All by Sarah Dessen!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson Review

Title: The Unexpected Everything
Author: Morgan Matson
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

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

The Unexpected Everything was the library book club pick for June, and honestly? I wasn't expecting much, and it took me a while to get invested in it. But I'm very happy that I stuck with it, because Matson weaves an equally tender and brutal coming of age tale in the tradition of Sarah Dessen. The story of Andie and her life, as well as the people who populate it, really got into my heart. I feel like I've come away from the book with a new group of friends, and everyone knows that those kinds of books are the best. I love my book club! Plus, with its summery, gorgeous cover, bright and colorful and animal-filled, I was absolutely won over. What a winner! I can't wait for more from Morgan Matson!

 Alexandra Walker, better known as Andie, is not a girl who makes attachments. With her mother gone and her father more occupied with his campaign than their relationship, she thinks it's better that way. She is also someone who takes comfort in organization, in planning. But all of that is derailed when her plans for the summer suddenly go up in smoke. Forced to let go and come face to face with her demons, she realizes that instead of focusing on the past, she must learn to live in the moment.

This book was amazing. It was a coming of age story in the best kind of way, and I loved that it was set during the summer, a season that, to me, always seems full of possibilities. I also really enjoyed Andie, as well as her deep, heartbreaking character development in the book. Her friends and family created a really stark foil for her. At the end of the book, these characters felt like dear, beloved family members, who'd I'd loved with my whole heart. But my favorite part of the entire book was the romance that took center stage. I'm such a sucker for love, especially when it's the nerdy kind! (That's all I'm going to say; I don't want to give it away!) Clark was absolutely adorable, and I loved the way that he and Andie met--it was straight out of a rom-com!

The ending was kind of bittersweet, though I liked the way that it stayed true to life. It was realistic, even while it brought tears to my eyes and grief to my heart. This book was so much fun, it was like a day at the beach, basking in the sun. It felt like a hug from a trusted friend after you've just got done crying. This book was just so warm and wonderful, so sweet and full of love. The Unexpected Everything is a beautiful book, a celebration of friendship and love in every form. One of my favorite books of recent months! I cannot wait for more from Morgan Matson! The bottom line: A beautiful celebration of friendship and love, The Unexpected Everything took up a big space in my heart, and I'm so excited for more from this promising author! Next on deck: Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz Review

Title: Alex and Eliza: A Love Story
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Okay, so I'll admit it: Part of the reason this book nabbed my attention because of Hamilton. I've never listened to the soundtrack, but I just love Lin Manuel-Miranda. But de la Cruz won my heart with her book, Isle of the Lost, and when I heard she was writing a romance novel with Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler at its center, I was gone. Completely sold. I was happily, pleasantly surprised. I've only recently gotten into the romance genre, so this was lovely. I don't know if it's necessarily historically accurate, but I enjoyed it immensely nonetheless. A love story forming in the thick of The American Revolution, it captivated me totally, making me laugh and cry and cheer and scream in frustration. I loved de la Cruz's interpretation of these historical figures, as well as many of the supporting characters! One of my favorite books of 2017, hands down. It was just so much fun!

Eliza Schuyler is the middle sister, bookish and sharp-tongued, the brightest of three, and she longs to do something to help her country, fighting for its independence from Great Britain. But when she meets Alexander Hamilton at a ball, a relationship begins, one fraught with miscommunication, laughter, and genuine romance. The camp-de-aide and the general's daughter draw close, despite the many odds stacked against them, and they must decide what they are willing to sacrifice for each other.

I loved this book. I haven't been a real romance fan until recently, and this was a pure love story, to the core. It also didn't hurt that I've always been a hardcore historical fiction, and The Revolutionary War is a period in history that I've done extensive research on. So some of the elements were familiar about that aspect of things. But I really, really loved the clever banter between Eliza and her sisters, and the dashing, rakish Hamilton. The prose and pacing had me laughing, crying, cringing, screaming. This book was a wild, joyful ride through history, albeit one with several embellishments. I'm definitely going to do research into the figures that inspired it! The bottom line: Melissa de la Cruz has penned another winner in Alex and Eliza, a tender, romantic love story rooted in history! What a fun book! Next on deck: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson!

Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis Review

Title: Given to the Sea
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Given to the Sea, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Mindy McGinnis won my heart last year with her groundbreaking, thought-provoking novel, The Female of the Species. It was one of my favorite books of 2016. When I heard that she was writing a new fantasy novel, due out in April, I was so stoked, and so intrigued by the plot that I reserved it at my library as soon as possible. (Plus, bonus: She lives in Ohio and is coming to my local library in August! I'm so excited! I only wish I had a copy of one of her books to sign.) A dark and politically charged series debut, Given to the Sea was an exciting, thought-provoking story that sent my head spinning and my heart racing. I can't wait for the sequel!

Khosa is the Given: Her life is a necessary sacrifice for her nation, after she bears an heir. She must give her life to the ocean that Stille borders, to save her people. Despite this, she cannot bear another person's touch. The exception is the Indiri, the last of an extinct race, two siblings called Donil and Dara. Their adoptive brother, Vincent, stands to inherit the throne of Stille. Will rules the Pietra, a brutal warrior race who will stop at nothing to conquer every bit of land of Stille for themselves. All of these individuals collide when war comes to call. Meanwhile, hearts are broken, political schemes are hatched, and Khosa must heed the call of the ocean, or else risk losing everything...

I really, really liked this book! It was really weird, but in a good way. I love books that use political intrigue as a plot device; it adds another layer of depth to the story. The pacing was breakneck, though at times it was kind of hard to keep track of everyone and their role in the story. The plot was really what drew me to the book, it was different and exciting and gave a new take on the 'chosen one' trope. But what really won this book for me was the characters, especially Khosa, Will, Donil and Dara, and Vincent. There were times when I was frustrated with several of the minor characters, and sometimes the world-building was confusing. But the pacing, political intrigue, twists and turns, and the ending--that ending though--really won me over, and I really enjoyed it! I can't wait for the sequel! The bottom line: A fantastic, meaty first book in a projected duo, I really liked Given to the Sea! Despite some flaws, I can't wait for the sequel! Next on deck: Alex and Eliza: A Love Story by Melissa de la Cruz!

Fireworks by Katie Cotugno Review

Title: Fireworks
Author: Katie Cotugno
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I'll start this review, first, with an apology. Due to the recent busyness that has become my life, I haven't been able to post as much, and I've been sitting on a few reviews. I'm so sorry! I will be doing my best to remedy that, guys! Between personal and medical issues in my family, I haven't had nearly as much time as I would like, to read or write. Now, moving on to the actual review.

Katie Cotugno and I--frankly, we're not on the best of terms. I didn't really like 99 Days, the first novel of hers that I actually read. But when I read that she was writing a new book that came out in April, set in--get this--nineties Orlando, with two young women who travel south to follow a dream of being in a girl group, well. I was pretty much sold. I mean, this has my childhood written all over it. This, for me, is nothing less than literary catnip. And overall, I really enjoyed it. It wasn't perfect, and I have some mixed feelings about it. But it was better than 99 Days, and that's good enough for me.

It was always supposed to be Olivia. Dana is just the sidekick, the wingwoman, the moral support. But they've been friends their entire lives, and so when Olivia asks Dana to come to Orlando with her for a girl group audition, being the good friend that she is, she agrees. But something unexpected happens when they get to Orlando: Dana is selected as well. Thrust into an unfamiliar, cutthroat world of fame, backstabbing, and endurance, Dana is overwhelmed, even as Olivia begins to drift away from her. When the girls are forced to go all out against each other for the ultimate shot at fame and stardom, Dana realizes that everything has changed, perhaps her relationship with Olivia most of all...

Like I said, I enjoyed this book. But, with that being said, there were also some things that I didn't like. Not enough to make me hate the book totally, but just enough to get under my skin. I loved the plot, as well as the pacing; I breezed through this book in barely a day and a half. The plot was original and exciting, and spoke to my childhood dream (however brief) of being in a popular girl group myself. I really enjoyed Dana, and related to her; she seemed really lost at the beginning of the book, and her character development really saved the book. Olivia--I get that she was necessary to the plot, but I didn't really like her at all; she seemed more focused on her career and what she wanted, rather than her relationship with Dana. But I digress. Full of drama, the bittersweet pangs of first love, and what happens when we grow apart from our childhood friends, I really enjoyed Fireworks. I didn't like the way female sexuality was dealt with in the book though, which was one of the same reasons I had an issue with 99 Days. I really think that women cutting other women down is not at all okay. The bottom line: Though there were a few issues with it, Fireworks--a coming of age story full of drama, swoony moments, and the glittering world of fame and fortune, was a fun, hilarious book that I really enjoyed. Next on deck: Given to the Sea by Mindy McGinnis!

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor Review

Title: Strange the Dreamer
Author: Laini Taylor
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Series: Strange the Dreamer, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

When I finally heard that one of my favorite young adult authors, Laini Taylor, who won my heart with her fantasy smash hit, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, had another book coming out in March of this year, I was absolutely thrilled. I had to return it because I couldn't read it in time, but when I went to book club, I couldn't resist taking it home with me to try again. I ended up getting sick over the weekend, but when I was well enough to read, I began Strange the Dreamer and was totally spellbound. With gorgeous prose, a strange, twisty plot that could only come from Taylor, as well as plenty of action, swoon-worthy romance, and more than a healthy dose of mystery and intrigue, Strange the Dreamer stole my heart, and I'm so happy that this weird, lovely tale has a sequel coming out next year! Easily one of my favorite books of 2017, hands down!

Lazlo Strange is a nothing, a no one, taken in by the monks of the library that he calls home. He is orphaned, and has no friends. But he has longed for adventure since he was a little boy, and when a mysterious man called The Godslayer turns up, he jumps at the chance to go with him, and see what the world is outside of his beloved stories. What he finds is more astonishing--and appealing--than his love of books, and combined with a group of outsiders, the boy discovers that he just might be the only thing standing between the hidden city he's found, and total annihilation...

I loved this book, so much. The prose was hypnotic and beautiful, the pacing breakneck. I also loved the strange (ha ha, Strange!), weird plot that Taylor weaves. What worldbuilding, as well! (I'm so freaking happy that this book has a sequel!) But I think what I loved most, more than anything, were the characters, especially Lazlo. I really identified with him, because he was a man that found excitement through stories, but wanted more. I laughed, I cried; I loved this book. It was so weird, fantastic, and romantic! I loved the political intrigue, the mystery, and that ending--just stomp on my heart, why don't you, woman?! I can't wait for the sequel! The bottom line: A beautiful, heartbreaking fantasy tale that stole my heart and healed my soul, I loved Strange the Dreamer! I can't wait for The Muse of Nightmares! Next on deck: Fireworks by Katie Cotugno!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert Review

Title: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

One of my friends has encouraged me to cycle through my fiction with motivational books, as well as  nonfiction books on writing, to become more well-rounded. Since I was on my self-motivation part of it, I chose to read Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Gilbert is an author widely known, due to the success of her popular memoir, Eat Pray Love. But I've been wanting to read Big Magic since it was published, and now I had an excuse! I was really excited to dive in, and I came out the other side feeling validated and inspired. I feel like I've made a friend who gave me a hug right when I needed it, and now I feel like I don't have to apologize for seeking to create art, whether or not a career comes out of it.

Gilbert divides the book into six different sections: courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, trust, and divinity, and gives advice to people who long to leave the grind behind, if only for a little while. She argues that anyone, no matter their career choice or circumstances, can live a creative life. But you have to go out of your own way to enable yourself to do so. A lot of advice helped me, and I obviously needed to hear it. It made me feel better about my budding writing career, and about my future. Gilbert is kind, gentle, and sometimes gives the reader a good kick in the pants when they need it. I also really loved the way she emphasized the sheer love and joy that comes from making things, from creating. What a wonderful book! (I ended up writing several things down to remember them; I feel so inspired and happy after reading this!) The bottom line: A self-help, nonfiction book that encourages readers to let go of their creative inhibitions and create just for the fun of it, I loved Big Magic--I feel so inspired! Next on deck: Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Battlemage by Taran Matharu Review

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

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

My husband and I decided to read this series together, as I won the copy of the first book in the series through a giveaway at Book Riot. He's been reading them first, and then I follow suit. He's been warning me all about Battlemage, about how it was so good, but it was going to make me feel everything. I finally started it a few days ago, and was glued to the pages until the end, collapsing on my couch in a screaming, crying fit of emotion. How could you do this to me, Taran?! Haven't you made us feel enough pain?! As far as sequels go, especially for a series closer, this book was pretty much perfect. I loved it, even though my heart is bruised and battered, broken into a million tiny pieces. (You're lucky that you've already won my heart, sir, because otherwise I wouldn't forgive you!)

The Battlemage picks up where The Inquisition left off, with the repercussions of the previous book finally coming into play. I don't want to say too much about the plot, because I don't want to give anything away for the people that haven't yet read it. But I will say that Fletcher plays a bigger role than he had in the previous books, and I loved the character development! I also really enjoyed the way the loose ends were tied up. The ending was perfect, and despite the emotional agony, I really enjoyed it! I have to say that I'm really sad, though; I feel like I've lost a group of dear, beloved friends. I can't wait for more from Taran Matharu, and I'm hoping that it takes place in the same world as Fletcher's! Political intrigue, romance, twists and turns, secrets and loss--The Battlemage has something for everyone, and was a perfect ending to one of my favorite series! The bottom line: The final book in the Summoner trilogy, I loved The Battlemage, and I can't wait for more from Taran Matharu! Next on deck: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas Review

Title: A Court of Wings and Ruin
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses, book three
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Sarah J. Maas won my heart with A Court of Thorns and Roses, so I reserved the last book in the trilogy as soon as I possibly could. I finished the book on Thursday, and with my life's current craziness right now, I couldn't review it immediately. Plus, there were just so many feels to process. It's been almost a week, and I'm still reeling. Sequels make me so nervous, especially when they come out to mixed acclaim. I was half scared that I would hate it, based on everyone else's reviews, but I find that that isn't the case. I enjoyed it, but there were just a few kinks that kept it from being totally perfect. I don't want to say much about the plot, because I don't want to spoil anything! Despite my mixed feelings and apprehension, I really liked this book; it was a strong end to the series, even if there were a few things that could've been ironed out more.

A Court of Wings and Ruin picks up where the last book left off, with Feyre at the center of a war that could rip the entire world as she knows it to shreds. Forced to come to terms with her past, her family's checkered reputations, and what the more the conflict will cost her, she realizes that now more than ever, she must fight to save those she loves, even if it means sacrificing herself in the process. This story had a few little qualms that could've been fixed, but overall, I think the trilogy ended really strongly, and I'm really excited to see more of what Prythian and its inhabitants have to offer.

Sequels scare the crap out of me. Occupational hazard, I suppose. Often, they are lauded with praise, but they fall short. As far as A Court of Wings and Ruin go, it could've been a lot worse. It had almost everything: rich character development, good flow, heaps of political intrigue, characters old and new, all of whom I really grew to love. And I also really loved the way things were tied up. For the most part, all of my questions were answered, though not without a significant amount of bawling and screaming. (This series will make you feel everything. You have been officially warned!) And the ending--it was good! I wasn't entirely satisfied, because there were a few things I was still left wondering about, but I'm happy with the way things turned out, and I'm excited for more! The bottom line: The third and last book in the bestselling smash hit series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Wings and Ruin was not perfect, but it was a wonderful journey nonetheless! I really had fun! Next on deck: The Battlemage by Taran Matharu!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Golem's Eye by Jonathan Stroud Review

Title: The Golem's Eye
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Bartimaeus Sequence, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

My husband and I have been doing this series as a couple read, and part of the reason I've enjoyed it so much was because we got to kind of experience together. Plus, Jonathan Stroud has become one of my favorite British authors of recent times. The sequel to the quirky, hilarious debut The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem's Eye takes place two or so years after the events of the first novel, with Nathaniel climbing his way up the British governmental ladder, and Bartimaeus returning in all of his beloved flash, style, and sly humor. I won't say too much about the plot, so as not to give things away, but I loved this sequel! Rife with humor, political intrigue, fantastic world-building, exciting characters, with twists and turns aplenty!

This book took me a while to get through, as with personal engagements and work schedule, I didn't have as much free time as I would've liked. Nonetheless, this sequel was really strong and enjoyable. I've stated time and time again that sequels scare me, but this was wonderful. I loved Bartimaeus, as well as his sly, out-there sense of humor. Nathaniel was kind of hit and miss for me; I didn't know whether his character development was good or bad. I also really liked the way Kitty and the British commoners came to the spotlight more; the world-building made a lot more sense. And that ending! Gah! I'm so excited to read Ptolemy's Gate, and as I read further through the series, I find myself itching to read the prequel--I really want to see how old Barty got his start in ancient Egypt! The bottom line: A really exciting, meaty sequel that had me salivating for more, I loved The Golem's Eye, and I'm both scared and excited for the last book! Next on deck: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

By Your Side by Kasie West Review

Title: By Your Side
Author: Kasie West
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I've heard of Kasie West and her cute, contemporary romances, as well as her successful science fiction duology. I've been curious about her ever since I knew of her, and when I heard about By Your Side, I knew I just had to read it! I mean, a shy good girl and a mysterious, brooding bad boy stuck in a library with each other for an entire weekend? It literally sounds like the perfect plot for a romance, and when I saw the recommendation for it, I was so excited. It sounded so perfect, and to be honest I needed something kind of light. Not to say that this book is shallow; quite the opposite, in fact. The characters were well-developed, and I really liked the way the romance progressed. A love story with two lovable characters at its center, just starting to find themselves? Part of the reason I don't much like contemporary fiction is that often, it seems forced, but that wasn't the case here. I loved this book, and Kasie West has won my heart completely!

Autumn Collins has the perfect weekend ahead of her, and she has plans to make the most of it. Plans to make her longtime crush, Jeff, into something more than a crush. But those plans go wildly awry when she finds herself locked inside the local library with the resident bad boy, Dax Miller. Forced to work together against their will, they grudgingly begin to open up to one another, and their relationship blooms into a real friendship, and maybe something more. But will Autumn go with what makes her feel safe, or will she gain the courage to be true to herself, even if it means risking the ultimate price?

As I said, I really loved this book! At first, it seemed like a sweet, light romance, and a good part of the book was focused on the relationship. But it also focused on important issues: love in all of its forms, the stigma and misunderstanding that often comes with mental illness, and what it really means to be true to yourself, and live your life for yourself. I enjoyed Autumn, and the way she grows from an anxious, frightened girl into a beautiful, brave young woman. I also really loved her aodrable, loving family, and Dax, the unlikely object of her affections. Plus, I just loved the premise. Being locked away in a library with a cute boy? Sigh, so cute! I really enjoyed By Your Side! The bottom line: A sweet love story that talks about mental illness and how to be yourself, By Your Side was like one of my childhood fantasies come true! One of my favorite books of 2017! Next on deck: The Golem's Eye by Jonathan Stroud!

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud Review

Title: The Amulet of Samarkand
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Bartimaeus Sequence, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

My husband got this book as a recommendation from the lovely, helpful readers on Reddit. (Thanks so much, guys!) And, in true form, he asked me to read it with him, so how could I say no? I watched as he laughed and cringed its way through it, before it made its way into my hands, but that was an experience all its own, and I was really excited when I finally got around to reading it. I'd read it before, way back when it first came out, in eighth grade, but I didn't remember much. What resulted was a rip-roaring, breakneck adventure, full of magic, political intrigue, action, and beautiful, descriptive writing that totally immersed me in Nathaniel's dangerous world. What a series debut! I can't wait for The Golem's Eye and Ptolemy's Gate!

Nathaniel is a young magician, eager to prove his prowess and serve his country. Bartimaeus is an ancient, powerful djinn whose history dates back to the Egyptian ancients. These reluctant allies' worlds collide in an explosion of animosity and half-hatched revenge schemes. Begrudging partners at best, the two work to take revenge on one of Nathaniel's enemies. But what the boy doesn't realize is that his actions cause irrevocable collateral damage, and that his desires may cost him more than he ever imagined, and for Bartimaeus, cooperation, however reluctant, is the only way to gain the freedom he craves again...

This book was wonderful.  I was laughing and crying, sometimes in tandem, throughout the story. As far as series starters go, this book was more than solid. I loved the world-building, and the way that magical Britain was reinterpreted. But I think, most of all, what I loved was the characters. Nathaniel, the small human boy who wants greatness, to satisfy his ambitions and rise above mediocrity, and his unwilling partner, the ancient, powerful djinn, Bartimaeus, wily, sly, and full of slightly arrogant humor. I was captivated, especially once the ball really got rolling! I was left longing for more, though, and there were a few questions that were unanswered, but I'm sure that I'll get my fill in the two huge sequels waiting for me! The bottom line: A seductive, magical series debut, I loved The Amulet of Samarkand! What a wonderful book! Thanks Cody, for asking me to read it! Next on deck: By Your Side by Kasie West!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Heartbeats of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber Review

Title: The Heartbeats of Wing Jones
Author: Katherine Webber
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.

I'd heard of The Heartbeats of Wing Jones the usual way I discover new books that I might like; it was recommended as one of the best books of March 2017, and as if that wasn't enough, it had a main character that was biracial! I was so excited. Plus, that cover, so colorful and pretty! Okay, okay, I'll get to the actual book now. Lol. Simply put, I loved The Heartbeats of Wing Jones! Easily one of my favorite books of 2017, hands down. Wing Jones, as well as her quirky, lovable family, has forced her way into my heart, and I will never forget her story! What a poignant, wonderful coming of age story, with elements of magical realism and romance! I cannot wait for more from the talented and promising Katherine Webber!

Wing Jones is used to being called different, and she's used to blending in to the background. Besides, it's her older brother, Marcus, that shines in the spotlight. He's the perfect boyfriend, the perfect brother; to Wing, and the key to a better future for her and her quirky, unique family. But all of those dreams are shattered when Marcus injures himself and several others driving drunk, resulting in a young woman's death. Bereft and un-moored after the tragedy, she begins to run, finding joy even in her sorrow. When that leads to a first love and a new opportunity, she must decide if she has what it takes to seize her dreams, or let her grief swallow her whole...

I loved this book. It hurt my heart and shone bright spots on my soul. It was so beautiful and inspiring, and I loved the way that the main character was biracial! I'm so, so happy that 2017 seems, so far, to be the year of diversity! Yes! (Excuse me for a moment while I leap up and down at this small but giant step...) Wing stole my heart, and I cried for her, laughed with her. I feel like I made a good friend. The best books are always like that. I also really adored her family, and the bond that they shared. But more than that, what really shone the most in this book was Wing, and her evolution from an insecure, uncertain girl into a fully realized, powerful young woman. I cried a lot, I laughed a lot, and I finished the book smiling. I also really adored the way the magical realism elements blended in with everything else, but were still very real and exciting. What a great debut! I honestly cannot wait for more from Katherine Jones! The bottom line: A beautiful, inspiring coming of age novel, The Heartbeats of Wing Jones was lovely, slipping its way into my heart when I wasn't looking--I can't wait for more from this promising debut author! Next on deck: The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Psalm for Lost Girls by Katie Bayerl Review

Title: A Psalm for Lost Girls
Author: Katie Bayerl
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I came across an interesting article online about the new books of March, and this book was listed as one of them. I'll be honest, though: that beautiful, creepy cover caught my eye, even before the tantalizing, sparse synopsis. So, in short, this was a recommendation, and I was more than a little apprehensive about it when I realized that faith was a central theme in the book. I have nothing against people who practice it, but because of events in my personal life, I have no idea if I believe in God or not. This resulted in mixed feelings about the book, but it was quite enjoyable nonetheless. A haunting story about family, faith, and the price of grief, with a slow-burn romance and a dark mystery at its center, A Psalm for Lost Girls was simply fantastic! What a promising, thought-provoking debut! I can't wait for more from this hard-hitting author! What a book for 2017!

Callie de Costa (Diverse books for the win, forever! What a touchdown!) is still grieving for her older sister, Tess, even though she passed away a few years ago. She and her mother are still reeling from the loss, each woman dealing with it in her own way. As if losing her big sister weren't enough on her, Tess was also hailed as an honest to God, real-life, modern-day saint. When Callie discovers evidence about Tess's death, she begins to dig deeper, even when it means crossing her mother, the law, and the rest of her neighborhood. But she realizes that, even as she begins to get closer to her sister's boyfriend, that finding out the truth about what really happened to Tess may cost her everything...

This book was amazing. I really enjoyed it. The prose was haunting and beautiful, and I was absolutely spellbound by Callie's voice. I also really liked the themes used in the book: family, coming of age, faith, grief, and first love, even though, at times, it made me uncomfortable. The pacing was breakneck, and I loved the way the book seemed to jump genres. I was honestly surprised when I discovered that A Psalm for Lost Girls was Bayerl's first novel; this book was just so good! I finished it the day before yesterday, and honestly I'm still dumbstruck. Callie's family and friends has carved a permanent place in my heart, and I will never forget them. Also, I loved the way that mental illness was addressed in this book, with an unexpected degree of understanding and sensitivity. And that ending! All the ugly crying! What a great book, with a dark, twisty mystery at its center! As I said, the frank discussion of faith made me uncomfortable, but it wasn't so off-putting that I didn't like the book. The bottom line: A book about faith, grief, and love in all its forms, A Psalm for Lost Girls is a thought-provoking, hard-hitting debut that I loved--highly recommended, especially for mystery fans! Next on deck: The Heartbeats of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber!

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!