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!