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!

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas Review

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

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

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

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

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

The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman Review

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Poison's Kiss by Breeana Shields Review

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones Review

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 10, 2017

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 5, 2017

I See You by Clare Mackintosh Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Caraval by Stephanie Garber Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Fireman by Joe Hill Review

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch Review

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 17, 2017

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult Review

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough Review

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

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

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

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

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

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