Saturday, February 25, 2017

Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Fireman by Joe Hill Review

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch Review

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 17, 2017

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult Review

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee Review

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Graces by Laure Eve Review

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 4, 2017

My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry Review

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Roseblood by A.G. Howard Review

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

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

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

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

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

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