Saturday, May 18, 2019

Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen by Serena Valentino Review


Title: Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen
Author: Serena Valentino
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Villains, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                I was reading an article a few weeks ago and discovered that Serena Valentino’s series of retellings of Disney villains’ origins is becoming a TV series, so I decided to start it. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while now, but I couldn’t renew it anymore, so I pushed it to the top of my stack as soon as I was finished with The Guest Book. I adored this adaptation of Disney’s first villain; it really gave a new perspective on how Grimhilde became The Wicked Queen. It humanized her, and I very much enjoyed it. I can’t wait to read the rest of this book series, especially since it’s officially concluding in July!

                Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. A beautiful girl, a jealous queen, an apple, and a happy ending. We think we know the story. But what about The Wicked Queen’s side of things? How did she become so evil? Fairest of All imagines an origin for Grimhilde, the only daughter of a renowned mirror maker. Plucked from obscurity when her father passes away, she marries the King and becomes Snow White’s stepmother. Fairest of All documents the queen’s decline from a loving wife and mother to a monster capable of killing her own child. I really liked this book; I love retellings, but one of my favorite things is one told from the point of the view of the villain. The writing was simple but gorgeous, and the pacing was really nice. I liked how it took the Disney movie and expanded on it. This book really made me sympathize with The Wicked Queen, and I loved watching her descent into the darkness. The ending, too, really redeemed this book; I loved the continuity of it. One thing I can’t help wondering about, though, is the mysterious Odd Sisters. If it hadn’t been for them, would Grimhilde have stayed good? Or would her envy and insecurities have gotten the better of her anyway? A thought-provoking novel about beauty, envy, insecurity, and society’s heavy and unrealistic expectations for women, I never imagined that before now, I would ever feel sorry for The Wicked Queen! I can’t wait for the next books in this deliciously dark new series! The bottom line: Beautifully written, dark and seductive, I loved Fairest of All, and I can’t wait to read more from Serena Valentino! Next on deck: America Was Hard to Find by Kathleen Alcott!

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake Review


Title: The Guest Book
Author: Sarah Blake
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


                I received an advanced readers’ copy of this book from the publisher, Flatiron Books. Thank you so much!

                I received The Guest book in the mail a few months ago, and since I’ve been alternating between library books and ARCs, I recently made the decision to sort them by month so I could make my reviews line up as the books were officially published. As soon as I was finished with a comic book I’d borrowed from the library, I started The Guest Book. At first, I wasn’t sure about it; I’d never read any of Sarah Blake’s work before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It took me a bit to get into the book, but once I did, I was spellbound. The Guest Book is one of the most anticipated books of 2019, and I can see why it has so much hype. A family saga reminiscent of Downton Abbey, only American. I absolutely adored The Guest Book, and it has become one of my favorite novels of the year. I feel so lucky to have received an early copy. Rich, dynamic, and thoughtful, The Guest Book takes a harsh, unflinching look at American culture, its oppression of marginalized peoples, but especially Jews and black people. This book should be required reading for all.

                The Guest Book goes back and forth in time, between different members of the affluent Milton family. But the main focus is on one of the granddaughters of Kitty and Ogden Milton, Evelyn. A historian with a passion for piecing together the past, she is brought to an emotional crossroads when an offer for the island her grandparents bought comes to light. Haunted by the secrets lurking just beneath the shiny veneer of her family’s past, she is determined to uncover the truth. Even if shatters what remains of her family…

                This book was a surprising gem! It really snuck up on me and gripped me by the throat, long after I’d closed it. It took me a little bit to get into it, mostly because I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was a little worried I wouldn’t enjoy it. But once I got into it, I was spellbound. The prose was both spare and gorgeous, and I loved the way that the point of view jumped between each member of the family, as well as Len Levy and Reg Pauling, a Jew and a black man invited to Crockett Island for the summer. I also really enjoyed the way the book went back and forth between the past and the present; it provided a much deeper scope on the characters and events that were happening. But my favorite thing about The Guest Book was its timeliness: it took a good, hard and unflinching look at the American cultural system, and how white people, especially the rich, have contributed to the oppression of other people, especially black people and the Jews. Len and Reg made a compelling, painful foil to the Miltons, who are so blinded by their own privilege that Kitty, its matriarch, issues a refusal that haunts her until her dying day. Evelyn has always loved Crockett Island and treasures the memories of her summers she spent there as a girl. When her family begins to look into selling it, she bucks against it at first, not wanting to lose such a valuable piece of her family’s legacy. But she starts to dig deep into the secrets her family has long kept hidden and finds that her family’s wealth comes from an association with an awful organization. (I won’t say what, because I don’t want to spoil the book for people who haven’t yet read it.) I loved that Evie was a historian, and how she dug deep into what her family’s secrets were, even as it upended everything, she thought she knew. I loved the way it ended; it was bittersweet and very real to life. I will never forget the Milton family, Reg, Len, or Evie; these characters will forever have a place in my heart. Sarah Blake has penned a masterful sophomore novel, full of heart and social commentary in equal measure, and I will never forget it! The bottom line: Beautiful, rich, hard-hitting and thought-provoking, I loved The Guest Book! It was one of my favorite books of 2019, and I can’t wait for more from Sarah Blake! Next on deck: Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen by Serena Valentino!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Slayer by Kiersten White Review


Title: Slayer
Author: Kiersten White
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: Slayer, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


                I won a signed copy of this book in a contest from Fierce Reads. Thank you so much!

                Shows like Buffy and Angel were things that I was obsessed with as a teenager because they contained all of my favorite things: monsters, magic, darkness, high stakes, and forbidden love. I haven’t seen either of them in years. But I ordered this book from my local library and before I could finish it, I had to take it back. Which was just as well, because a few days later, I received a copy of Slayer from Fierce Reads, and it was signed! I was so excited. It’s been sitting on my ever-growing book stack for a few months now, and once I was finished with The Everlasting Rose, I started Slayer. Taking place in the same universe as Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer but after the events of the comics. Dark, hilarious, heartfelt and scary, I loved this take on the Buffyverse by one of my favorite authors! One of my favorite books of 2019!

                Nina Jamison-Smythe knows her place in the world. She and her twin sister, Artemis, are both in training to become Watchers, the organization of individuals that help guide Slayers.  She is the healer, the medic, the gentler of the two. She lives in her sister’s shadow, something she both takes refuge in and resents. But when Buffy literally breaks magic, The Watchers are rendered obsolete. Consumed by rage and hatred toward Buffy and Slayers in general, whom she blames for her father’s death, Nina is determined to make a difference in the world. But everything changes when she becomes a Slayer. And not just a Slayer, but the very last Slayer in existence. Forced to bear the burden of powers she never wanted; people begin to die around the castle. Enmeshed in the mystery, Nina must use her newfound powers to save the people she loves. But is she meant to save the world? Or to destroy it?

                Kiersten White is one of my favorite authors, and so when I found out that she was writing a novel set in the Buffyverse, I was so excited! And I was lucky enough to receive a free, signed copy! I loved this book; it felt like I was returning to a place that I had dearly missed, without even knowing! Right out of the gate, I loved it so much. It had all of the darkness, humor, and mystery of Buffy. It’s not a requirement to be a Buffy fan to read this book; it can be read without knowing anything about the comics or show. But I loved the little Easter eggs I kept finding. The pacing was breakneck, and I loved the characters, but especially Nina; I really related to her. I loved her character development, her growth from a timid, resentful child to a fiercely powerful and kind young woman who uses her Slayer powers for the good of her loved ones. Artemis, Leo, Honora, and the girls’ mother were also distinctive characters who provoked a strong reaction with me. Dark, terrifying, and full of humor and heart, this book felt like coming home. I very much enjoyed it, and I can’t wait to read Chosen! At times, Nina butting heads with everyone got on my nerves; it kind of took away from the book, but overall, this series starter was strong, and I can’t wait for the next book! Next on deck: The Guest Book by Sarah Blake!

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton Review


Title: The Everlasting Rose
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Belles, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
       
         I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
    
            Dhonielle Clayton is one of my favorite authors, and my favorite book in her body of work was this book’s predecessor, The Belles. I’ve been salivating for the sequel to that explosive, thought-provoking and dark series debut since I finished it. So, when I realized there was a copy sitting on the shelf of my local library, I went and grabbed it as soon as I possibly could. It’s been sitting on the top of my library stack for a while, and I was delighted when I realized that it was next in line. Unfortunately, this sequel didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but I greatly enjoyed it nonetheless. Action-packed, thoughtful, shocking and romantic, I loved The Everlasting Rose!


                The Everlasting Rose picks up where The Belles left off, with Belle favorite, Camellia Beauregard, fleeing the royal palace from the mad princess, Sophia. Realizing the rotten core that lies under the luxurious, glittering veneer of the country of Orleans, she is rightfully furious and desperate for revenge and freedom for herself and her sisters, her fellow Belles. Camellia soon realizes that revolution is brewing right under the surface of everything, and that to do what is right, she may have to bargain with an even more secretive enemy, The Iron Ladies. With the help of her sisters, Edel and Amber, and her bodyguard, Remy, Camellia must decide if she is strong enough to see this mission through, or fall into a web of intrigue and deception that she may never claw her way out of…

                I really liked this book! It fell a little short for me, in comparison to The Belles, but it was a solid sequel. I just hope that this isn’t the end! The ending seemed as if it was a cliffhanger, but I couldn’t tell for certain. Sequels unnerve me, every time: all too often, it just doesn’t hold up to the first book. But overall, The Everlasting Rose really delivered! It took me a little while to remember what was going on, but once I did, I was all in. This book grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go, not for a moment. I also adored all of the characters, particularly Sophia, but it was Camellia that really stole the show for me. I loved her development from a na├»ve, ambitious girl to a fierce, angry warrior of a young woman. I also really liked the way that old and new characters were brought in, to great effect. But I think my favorite part of this whole book was the way that Clayton peeled back the extravagant, glittering layers of Orleans to expose its black, rotten heart.  I really enjoyed the way that Clayton finally elaborated on Orleans, and how it was created, but we finally got to what I was most curious about: The Belles and how they were created. The ending was good, but I’m hoping that there’s more: It can’t end like that! I still have so many questions! Dhonielle Clayton has created a beautiful, dark, gilded world full of thorns and secrets and intrigue, and I was absolutely captivated by it! I really hope that there’s more because this book was just not enough! The bottom line: Dark, beautiful, romantic and twisted, I loved The Everlasting Rose, and I really hope that there’s more, because I won’t be able to deal with it if there isn’t! Next on deck: Slayer by Kiersten White!

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Cape May by Chip Creek Review


Title: Cape May
Author: Chip Creek
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


                I was given an advanced readers’ copy of this book by the publisher, Celadon Books. Thank you so much!

                I started alternating between library books and review copies, so when I was finished with The Vanishing Stair, I decided to push Cape May to the top of my stack. This book is fantastic, gorgeously written and full of heart and emotion. I wouldn’t put it any particular genre; to me, it was a drama. But I absolutely adored it. The prose was gorgeous, the pacing breakneck, and I loved the way that it was a coming of age story. Lush, emotional, painful and satisfying, I loved this debut from a brilliant new talent! Chip Creek has penned an unforgettable first novel that had me in awe. I was crying, laughing, cringing, and there were several times that I had to close the book and walk away to process my feelings.

                Cape May opens with two young, lovestruck newlyweds, Effie and Henry, on their honeymoon. Given Effie’s uncle’s beach house for the week, they are drunk on one another. But boredom begins to set in when they realize they’ve come to the oceanside town on the off-season when there is no one there. But their ennui is soon alleviated when they become friends with three bored, young rich people: effervescent, bubbly Clara, smooth jokester Max, and his younger half-sister, Alma. Pulled into the drama of these strangers, Effie and Henry soon find their young marriage in jeopardy, and they must decide if their new love is worth saving…

                This book was wonderful and nearly perfect. It came as a surprise in the mail, and as soon as I was done with The Vanishing Stair, I dove in. The prose was gorgeously wrought, and the pacing was breakneck. I was utterly seduced by the empty seaside town of Cape May; the setting was vivid and beautiful, and I could almost taste the salt in the air, feel it fall on my skin. I also loved all of the characters in this book, particularly Effie, Henry, and Alma. This book was beautiful, seductive, and erotic; it was a debut that swept me away and stole my heart. Watching Effie and Henry ingratiate themselves into this group of wealthy, bored young people were both stunning and painful. As the book went on, I found my heart breaking, for Effie, in particular. This book was about fidelity, lust, marriage, and friendship, but most of all, it was about watching a new marriage crumble in the summer heat. I really didn’t like Henry as the book went on; he was foolish, selfish, and was rationalizing his indiscretions in the worst, possible way. By the end of the book, I hated him. But the ending saved the book for me; I loved the way that it ended. It was beautiful, heartbreaking, lush and seductive, and I loved every moment of it, even the ones that were painful and made me cry. The bottom line: A beautiful, poignant novel about lust, fidelity, marriage, and desire, I loved Cape May! Next on deck: The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton!

Friday, May 3, 2019

The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson Review


Title: The Vanishing Stair
Author: Maureen Johnson
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Truly Devious, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                Truly, Devious was one of my favorite books of last year, so I was so excited when the sequel finally dropped back in January. I had to return it to the library the first time I checked it out, as I couldn’t read it before it had to go back. It’s been sitting on the top of my stack for a while, and I realized that I couldn’t renew it anymore, so as soon as I was done with Saving Meghan, I pushed it to the top of my stack. I devoured it in less than two days, and even though I finished it last night, my head is still spinning! Maureen, how could you end it like that?! How am I supposed to wait until 2020 for the last book in the trilogy?! Smart, shocking, and chilling, The Vanishing Stair was a fantastic sequel, and I can’t wait for the next book! A great sequel to one of my favorite books of last year!

                The Vanishing Stair picks up where Truly, Devious left off, with Stevie still reeling from the events of the last book. For the sake of those who haven’t read it yet, I won’t say too much about the plot; I don’t want to spoil it. But Stevie returns to Ellingham, trying to refocus on the famous case that brought her to the school to begin with. Unable to leave well enough alone, she begins to investigate the deaths that caused her to leave. But it turns out that the deeper she digs, the more she realizes that nothing stays truly stay buried, forever…

                The Vanishing Stair was absolutely wonderful! Truly, Devious was one of my favorite books of last year, and I’m so happy that I finally got the read the sequel! I really enjoyed it. Sequels made me so nervous; all too often, they don’t live up to my expectations. But The Vanishing Stair more than delivered; I almost enjoyed it more than the first book. The pacing was breakneck, and it took me a little while to remember what was going on, since it’s been more than a year since I read Truly, Devious. I loved the way that Johnson braided two mysteries together; I was constantly left wondering and scratching my head. I was also screaming, laughing and crying; this book gave me so many feels! The transition between the past and present were really smooth. I also adored the characters, but Stevie and Janelle were my favorites. The twists and turns of the book had me dealing with literary whiplash, and more than once I had to walk away so I could puzzle them out. And that ending! That ending! Oh, my goodness, how on Earth am I supposed to wait until 2020 for the next book?! Come on, Maureen, you’re killing me here! I loved this book, but the ending was what really clinched it for me; I can’t wait for the last book in the series! Absolutely amazing! The bottom line: Dark, twisty, and thrilling, I loved The Vanishing Stair, and I can’t wait for the last book in the series! Next on deck: Cape May by Chip Creek!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Saving Meghan by D.J. Palmer Review


Title: Saving Meghan
Author: D.J. Palmer
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


                I was given an advanced readers’ copy of this book from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press. Thank you so much for the book!

                I started alternating between library books and advanced readers’ copies, and once I finished Bad Blood, I decided to read Saving Meghan. (I’d read two library books in a row, so I wanted to read two ARCs as well.) I’ve had it on my rapidly growing stack for about two months now, and I decided, why not give it a shot? I was still in a dark, thriller-type mood after I finished Bad Blood, so I decided to go for it. Normally, thrillers and mysteries as a genre make me anxious. Either I can guess what’s going to happen within the first hundred pages, or I’m completely blown away; there’s no in-between for me. But I’m quite happy to report that D.J. Palmer has penned a fantastic, dynamic mystery, complete with thrills, chills, twists, and so much heart. It took me a bit to get into it, but once I did, I was glued to the pages! Twisted, creepy, unpredictable and shocking, I loved Saving Meghan, and I cannot wait for what he’s got up his sleeve next! This book is one of my favorites of 2019.

                Meghan Gerard is a very sick young woman. So sick, in fact, that people are pointing the finger at her fiercely protective and devoted mother, Becky. There are whispers that Becky has Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy; in layman’s terms, she’s purposely making her teenage daughter ill for attention. But could it be that Meghan is making herself sick? Or her father, Carl? Tensions begin to mount as suspicion clouds the entire family. Who is lying? Meghan? Carl? Becky? Her doctor, Zach Fisher? Or something else entirely? Is this a desperate child’s bid for attention? Or something much more sinister and frightening?

                This book was incredible! Saving Meghan kind of reminded me of Jodi Picoult’s works: thriller and mystery with a lot of medical jargon thrown in. It took me a little bit to get into the story, as the viewpoints were constantly shifting between Becky, Meghan, and Dr. Fisher, but once I did, I was glued to the pages! The medical jargon was kind of confusing at first; I kept having to go back and reread parts of the dialogue to make sure I was understanding what I was reading. I was spellbound, and for the life of me, I could not figure out who put this sick, twisted set of events into motion; I think that’s half the reason I loved the book so much. But even more than the mystery, the characters were particularly compelling; I loved them all, even in all of their ugliness. But my favorites of them all were Meghan, Becky, and Dr. Zach Fisher, who is determined to help figure out what’s wrong with Meghan. The pacing was breakneck, the prose taut and snappy, and that ending—I didn’t see it coming! It was absolutely amazing. Definitely one of the better mysteries I’ve read this year. One thing’s for sure: I’ve got D.J. Palmer on my radar, and I can’t wait to see what sick, twisted thriller he’s got up his sleeve next! The bottom line: Compelling, sick, twisted and shocking, I loved Saving Meghan! One of my favorite books of the year! Next on deck: The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou Review


Title: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
Author: John Carreyrou
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

                I won this book and another in a contest on Instagram and reviewed it. Thank you so much, Alfred A. Knopf Books!

                I saw a giveaway on Instagram and threw my name in the ring, not expecting to win it. It’s been sitting on my ever-growing ARC stack, and once I decided to start alternating between them and library books, I chose Bad Blood as my next choice. Normally, I’m really picky about nonfiction; I find it rather dry. But I decided to take the plunge in this brutal, thought-provoking expose, and I wasn’t disappointed. Theranos, one of the most infamous Silicon Valley startups, is the topic of Bad Blood, and it carries all of the elements of a great story: a quick rise, a young woman in a profession dominated by men, emulating mystery and Steve Jobs, a deep voice and a dream perhaps too noble to be made real. I loved every moment of it; I’d heard of the scandal when it happened but didn’t take a deep look into what caused it. John Carreyrou, an investigative journalist with The Wall Street Journal, pulls back the curtain and exposes every sordid secret, from the beginning to the end. I’m in awe. It was informative, hard-hitting, thought-provoking and shocking. It was scandalous and surprising and one of the best works of nonfiction I’ve ever read, period.

               Theranos had every chance to be successful, and for a while, it was. Elizabeth Holmes, a Stanford dropout who is driven, articulate, and determined to become the next Steve Jobs. She proposed something that would completely revolutionize the health care industry: a device that could take a variety of blood tests in a fraction of the time that traditional machines could. Soon health care providers like Walgreens were taking an interest in the young innovator’s mysterious technology. There was only one problem: the technology did not work. Decidedly in denial, Holmes was trying to get her technology put in stores and even used in the United States military. Backed into a corner and desperate to hold on to her newfound success, fame, and celebrity, Holmes’s rise and fall, and the subsequent crumbling of her company are documented in this investigative book. The pacing was breakneck and I really enjoyed the tone; it was factual but not so dry that I wasn’t interested. I also enjoyed the format and the way that things were presented. This kind of book, I have a feeling that there was a lot I didn’t pick up on. I’ll have to read it again, this time with a thorough look at the notes. Nonetheless, I very much enjoyed it. I feel like I really know the issue now, and the book; I was just in awe, and shock. Here was this wildly successful, smart and innovative young woman, but she’d messed up by overshooting and overpromising, and so, she failed. It shocked me, saddened me, made me think. It certainly made me look at nonfiction in a completely different way (and that’s a good thing). I’m definitely more open to it as a whole now. I can’t wait to read the other book that came with it! Thank you again to the publisher! The bottom line: Informative, shocking, and in-depth, I loved Bad Blood! Definitely one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read! Next on deck: Saving Meghan by D.J. Palmer!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Wrecked by Maria Padian Review


Title: Wrecked
Author: Maria Padian
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
          
      I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                Wrecked was the April book pick for one of the clubs I go to, Young Adult for Adults. I’ve been curious about Wrecked since I first heard about it. I attempted to read it when it first came out, but I had to return it before I could. Wrecked is a searing, thought-provoking novel about consent, agency, and the insidious, pervasive nature of rape culture. I’ve always enjoyed books that have been pulled straight from the headlines, but this book did more than that. It showed the taboo topic of rape of college campuses, through the eyes of two witnesses: Richard, roommate to the rapist, and Haley, roommate of the victim. Sucked into the issue despite wanting to stay out of it, these two characters provide an outsider’s point of view on a traumatic and dehumanizing event. This book was heavy and at times it was really hard to get through, but I’m happy I read it. This book should be required reading for everyone.

                Haley’s roommate, Jenny, claims that she was raped after drinking at a college party, by Richard’s roommate, Jordan. Jordan says that it was just a hookup, but Jenny did not consent. Soon, word starts spreading around the entire college, and it seems no one but the two involved really know what happened. Against their will, both Haley and Richard are drawn into the conflict, and lines are drawn as an investigation is carried out. Who is telling the truth? Who is lying? Will justice be served properly, or will a monster walk free?

                This book was hard to get through, I’m not going to lie. It was heavy and at times uncomfortable. But this book is absolutely necessary reading, for all ages, boys and girls alike. Searing, thought-provoking, and unfortunately true to life, reading Wrecked was like watching a trainwreck: terrifying and unforgettable, but you’re unable to look away, even if you want to. The point of view is split between Haley and Richard, two bystanders turned witnesses. The pacing was breakneck and I was immediately transfixed. I really liked the way that Padian used the point of view of two bystanders to get a read on the situation; it was a new, refreshing way to look at an uncomfortable, but all too necessary, topic. I also liked Haley and Richard as characters, and the way that they developed as the novel went on. At first, they didn’t want to be involved, then, through both of their roommates, they are entangled in the terrible, confusing web of lies and deception that surround the case. One of my favorite parts of it was the bittersweet ending because it was very true to life. Jenny and Jordan were also characters that leaped off the page for me. They were a stark contrast to one another, and I hated Jordan. My heart broke for Jenny, as well as Haley and Richard. At times, there were so many different characters that I had to go back and reread; it got hard to keep track of everything at times. Nonetheless, this book was heart-wrenching, thought-provoking, searing, and absolutely necessary. Required reading for all and highly recommended! The bottom line: A searing, thoughtful and necessary book that pulls no punches, I loved Wrecked! Next on deck: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman Review


Title: The Secrets of Clouds
Author: Alyson Richman
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                I was at the library a few days ago, and The Secret of Clouds caught my eye, sitting on a display next to the checkout desk. The cover was colorful and intriguing, and I was curious about the title. I just finished it last night and I was blown away. This is the first book I’ve read by Richman, and it certainly won’t be the last! Compassionate, tender, and full of heart, I loved The Secrets of Clouds and I will never forget it! The end of the book had me bawling like a baby but in a good way. I was blown away by this novel.

                Katya, a gifted ballerina and her star on the rise, falls in love with Sasha, a passionate and gifted scientist, in Kiev. When tragedy strikes, the young couple emigrates to the United States. They are overjoyed when they discover that they are expecting. Years later, their son Yuri is born with a delicate heart condition. A gifted and compassionate teacher, Maggie, begins to tutor him in language arts. From this bond a friendship is formed. The boy’s insatiable curiosity and unique wisdom light a fire in Maggie, despite being associated with painful childhood memories for her. But when horror strikes the family and Maggie all over again, she must decide to sink into despair or live a full, bright life full of joy and pain.

                This book was a sucker-punch; it bowled me over and blew me away. I was swept away from the first line, absolutely enchanted. The prose was beautiful and rich, and the pacing between Katya and Sasha and Maggie’s journeys flowed smoothly. I adored Maggie and her loving, quirky family, and I also really liked Katya, Sasha, and their tenacious, intelligent son, Yuri. I loved everything about this book, and I read it in all of two days. Even when I wasn’t reading, I was constantly itching to go back to it. And that ending! It totally gutted me in the best kind of way. Even having seen it coming, it still hit me hard, and I dissolved into bittersweet tears. Full of heart, compassion, and tenderness, I loved this book; it was like a balm to my soul. Alyson Richman has become one of my new favorite authors with The Secret of Clouds! Absolutely stunning! The bottom line: Beautiful, tender, compassionate and heartfelt, I loved The Secret of Clouds! Next on deck: Wrecked by Maria Padian!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Circe by Madeline Miller Review

Title: Circe
Author: Madeline Miller
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

                I bought a copy of this book and reviewed it.

                I’ve had this book for a while; I bought it on Amazon for less than four dollars. I don’t know if it was a clerical error or what, but I bought it. I’ve been cycling through advance readers’ copies and library books recently, and I decided to read Circe. I’d read The Song of Achilles, Miller’s debut novel, and loved it, so I was really excited about this new perspective of a minor goddess turned villainess. It didn’t disappoint. I’ve always thought that beings like The Gorgons and Medusa got a bad rap, so this book was really refreshing! The prose was gorgeous, there was an index of characters in the back of the book (bonus!), and it felt like I was really there, in the myths and histories that Miller so vividly described. Madeline Miller has established herself as one of my favorite authors with Circe.


                If you’re familiar with Greek mythology, chances are high that you know who Circe is. Shapeshifter, seductress, powerful witch and legendary schemer. But Miller gives us a front-row seat to some of the oldest tales in the Greek pantheon, with Circe being the daughter of a social-climbing nymph and her father the god of the sun, Helios. I loved this book; I felt as if Circe herself was sitting across from me, setting the record straight for me. I also really liked that this book has an index; with all of the gods, nymphs, demigods, and humans, it was absolutely essential. I knew the majority of the characters, but some I hadn’t yet heard of. I felt like Circe was a familiar friend to me. I also enjoyed the large cast that surrounded Circe, particularly at the beginning of the book. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately transfixed. Oh, my goodness, that ending! It was so bittersweet for me. But I have to say that I enjoyed every moment, and I’m so very happy that I bought it for my own collection. Madeline Miller is an immense, complex talent that I absolutely adore, and I will probably read everything in her body of work. I’m in awe of her talent and sheer power with words. The bottom line: Raw, gorgeous, searing and thought-provoking, I loved Circe; it is one of my favorite books I’ve read in 2019! An absolute epic worthy of Homer himself, Circe has won my heart and I will never forget her. Next on deck: The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts Review

Title: Finding Dorothy
Author: Elizabeth Letts
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                The Wizard of Oz is a facet of Americana, a gem in film, and I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t know of Dorothy Gale and her glittering ruby slippers. But I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I didn’t know much about the man behind Oz, the books or the movie, until now. This sparkling, beautiful gem of a novel captured my heart and bewitched my imagination, wrung my heart out until it was empty, then full again. It was like this book pulled back the curtain on one of Old Hollywood’s most beloved film, seen through the eyes of L. Frank Baum’s fierce, strong widow, Maud. One of the reasons that I love historical fiction so much, as a genre, is that it puts a fictional perspective on real events, and this book delivered in spades. I can’t wait to read more from Elizabeth Letts!

                Finding Dorothy tells the story of Maud Gage-Baum, the unsinkable widow of the visionary, Lyman Frank Baum, and her fierce determination to see her late husband’s vision brought to life. It begins in Hollywood, in 1939, with Maud meeting Judy Garland at 16; Maud was 76 when she met the starlet for the first time. But to say that this book is wholly about the movie production of The Wizard of Oz would be to do this whole book a disservice. Frank Baum’s legacy is but a small part of this book, for the focus of it is Maud. From her girlhood, to college, to her marriage to Frank, the book moves back and forth between 1939 and moments from Maud’s own past. I was immediately spellbound by the gorgeous prose, and my heart was stolen by Maud, her husband, and children, as well as other members of her family. I love how this book did justice to one of America’s best loved films, and how it also tied in the creator’s history. But Maud was, unapologetically, the star of this book, and I loved every moment of it. And that ending! It had me bawling like a baby, in the best kind of way. This book is like one of the best kinds of wish fulfillment; I loved the way that it talked about Old Hollywood and Judy Garland! One of my favorite parts of the novel was the way that it emphasized that iconic song ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’; that, for me, is what I remember Judy Garland most for. Honestly, I adored this book, and I loved the way that Letts researched every single detail. Finding Dorothy is about so much more than the magical land of Oz. It is just as much about the real people who helped inspire it, and come into being.

           
     I absolutely adored this book; it was a sweet reminder of how much I love historical fiction, and why. It was thoroughly researched and well written, and I adored the way that it put the spotlight on the woman behind the innovator and inventor, Lyman Frank Baum. I also really liked the way that his and Maud’s personalities complemented each other:  Maud with her feet firmly planted on the ground and in reality, ready to ground Frank whenever possible, and Frank constantly dreaming of a brighter future, of dreams that eventually culminated into the bestseller The Wizard of Oz. I also enjoyed the cast of characters that framed our lovely couple: Maud’s mother, Matilda, her sister Julia and her brother T.C., and her darling niece, Magdalena. And that ending! It was so perfect, and had me in joyous tears when I finished it last night. A beautiful, wonderful book as sparkling and promising as The Emerald City itself! The bottom line: Rich with historical detail and gorgeous prose, I loved Finding Dorothy! I can’t wait to read more of Elizabeth Lett’s work! Next on deck: Circe by Madeleine Miller! 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides Review

Title: The Silent Patient
Author: Alex Michaelides
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


                I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in a contest by Bookish, thanks for sending me a free copy!

                Recently, I started alternating my library books with books I’ve been sent by publishers (and the stack keeps growing by the day). I wasn’t quite sure where to start, but I’ve heard so many good things about The Silent Patient that I decided to go with that. Thrillers and mysteries as a genre are iffy with me; sometimes I’m blown away by what I’ve read and other times I can figure it out within the first hundred pages. But The Silent Patient did not disappoint; Alex Michaelides pens a cutthroat, breakneck thriller that had me scratching my head, screaming in confusion, and frantically flipping pages until the crazy, twisted ending! The book I’d been reading before just was not holding my attention, so I moved on to this, and read it in two and a half days! I finished it on Sunday night, and have been wrestling with my feelings ever since. Michaelides has cemented himself as one of the debut thriller writers to watch, and I can’t wait to see what he has in store next!

                Alicia Berenson has a life most people would envy. She has a prominent career as a painter, a beautiful home, a loving husband, Gabriel, who is a highly sought-after fashion photographer. But that life is torn to pieces when Alicia shoots Gabriel, and has not spoken a word since. Known now for entirely different reasons, Alicia refuses to speak. Locked up in a psych ward, she meets criminal psychoanalyst, Theo Faber. He is determined to solve the mystery of why Alicia snapped, even as their lives begin to dangerously intertwine. But as Theo begins to piece the truth out of the puzzle that is Alicia, he realizes that solving this mystery must just consume him totally…


                This book was a stunner, an absolute knockout. I wasn’t sure what to expect, honestly. But the book I’d tried to read before it just was not working for me at all; I was over a hundred pages in and I just wasn’t feeling it. So, I decided to get started on my gigantic review copy stack, and chose The Silent Patient. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately enthralled by the unusual format. The narrative went back and forth between entries from Alicia’s diary and Theo’s first-person as he forces his way into Alicia’s life, for reasons unknown. I devoured this book in less than three days, and I was absolutely captivated. I couldn’t put it down. Theo’s voice was so distinctive and creepy, but I loved it! All of the twists and turns had me dealing with literary whiplash, and I was constantly guessing who was the bad guy. And that ending! It was amazing! It blew me away; I would’ve reviewed it sooner, but I needed some time to process everything. The Silent Patient has become one of my favorite books of 2019, and I can’t wait for what Alex Michaelides has in store next! The bottom line: Disquieting, creepy, and shocking, I loved The Silent Patient, it has become one of my favorite books of 2019! Next on deck: Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith Review

Title: Bloodleaf
Author: Crystal Smith
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Bloodleaf, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                I found Bloodleaf on a book recommendation list for the new books of January 2019, and I ordered it. It’s been sitting on my book stack for a while, and I recently had to start over entirely. But I chose not to take Bloodleaf back, as I had already started it and was invested. With Bloodleaf, debut author Crystal Smith pens a dark, surprising fantasy that evokes Grimm’s Fairy tales and classics, like The Lord of the Rings. It wasn’t perfect, there were some flaws, but overall, this was an amazing book, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next for Aurelia, Conrad, and Zan!

                Aurelia is the princess of Renalt, the daughter of the late king. Unwanted, surrounded by spirits, and forbidden from using her powerful blood magic, she is forced to flee to the country of her betrothed after a brutal assassination attempt. Disguising herself as a common girl, she finds the happiness she’s never known in her old life. As she begins to actively hone her magical skills, Aurelia finds herself falling for a man that can’t rule at her side. But the ghosts that haunt her so completely refuse to leave her be, and she finds herself giving in, despite the prejudices she’s carried all her life. But she soon finds herself trapped in a web of deceit, evil, and magic that only she can stop. Will she be able to balance the weight of the crown and her newfound freedom?

                This book was such a pleasant surprise! I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect with Bloodleaf, but I really enjoyed it! I loved the way that it took the classic fantasy tropes and turned them on their heads. The pacing was breakneck, and I loved Aurelia’s voice. I also loved the way that the author paid homage to classic fairy tales, specifically Grimm’s fairy tales and The Goose Girl. I also really liked the worldbuilding and the magical system of the book. But what really won me over about this debut was the characters. Aurelia was the princess no one wanted, who was forced to grow from a meek, passive girl into a strong and powerful young woman who shamelessly fights for those she loves. Lisette, Conrad, Kate, Nathaniel, and Zan made really good foils for her. Zan, though, was my absolute favorite! I almost related to him more than even Aurelia. The ending—oh, my goodness, it was crazy! I was absolutely blown away. I can’t wait for the sequel! There were a lot of times when I had to go back and reread because there were so many different characters and places to remember, and some of the romance between Zan and Aurelia felt a little contrived. Nonetheless, Crystal Smith has created a fun, dark fantasy that left me reeling, and I’m so excited for what’s coming next! The bottom line: Dark, magical, and surprising, I loved Bloodleaf, and I’m so excited for the sequel! Next on deck: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides!

Monday, April 8, 2019

Lovely War by Julie Berry Review

Title: Lovely War
Author: Julie Berry
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                A few years ago, I tried reading one of Julie Berry’s most popular novels, The Passion of Dolssa. For personal reasons, I had to shelve it. However, when I heard that she was writing a brand-new book, this time revolving around World Wars I and II and the Greek gods, I was so intrigued! I reserved it at my local library and was lucky enough to receive the first copy. Brutal, beautiful, and totally unforgettable, I was completely blown away by this epic worthy of Homer himself! This book is definitely one of my favorites of 2019, if not of all time!

Braiding together two bittersweet love stories at the dawn of World Wars I and II, Lovely War is narrated by four of the Greek gods: the lovely Aphrodite, brutal Ares, musical Apollo, and the stoic Hades. After being caught with Ares yet again, her disgruntled husband, Hephaestus, demands that she be put on trial before the entire pantheon of Greek gods. Aphrodite, however, persuades him to listen to her privately. Showcasing her best work, she tells her husband about two love stories that she had a hand in creating, with the help of a few witnesses. What unfolds is two stories, told across time, as the Goddess of Love sets out to show her family her trade.


I absolutely adored this book! Honestly, it felt as if it were written just for me. I wasn’t even in twenty pages and I was hooked. The pacing was breakneck, and I couldn’t put it down. I loved the premise of the novel—Greek gods having a family dispute! —and the different viewpoints from Aphrodite, Ares, Apollo, and Hades gave a great perspective on the events of the novel. Even more than the gods, though, I loved the humans that they watched over: James and Hazel, and Aubrey and Colette. I also adored the way that Berry adhered to historical accuracy; the notes at the back of the book and the acknowledgments fleshed out and answered any lingering questions I had about the historical details. I loved all of the characters and the gods that cupped their lives in their hands. The writing was beautiful, gorgeous, and raw. The horrors of both brutal world wars were a stark, sobering contrast to the glow of new love, against all odds. I was spellbound and horrified all at once. Meticulously researched, beautifully told, and wonderfully unique, I loved Lovely War, and it’s become one of my favorite books of the year, if not of all time! It was utterly wonderful, heartbreaking, and rewarding. The ending, for all involved, made all of the emotional investment worth it! Julie Berry has penned a modern classic in Lovely War! The bottom line: Rich, lush, beautiful and brutal, I loved every moment of Lovely War! One of my favorite books of 2019, if not of all time! Next on deck: Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith!

Friday, April 5, 2019

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus Review

Title: Two Can Keep a Secret
Author: Karen M. McManus
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


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

                Before now, I haven’t read any of Karen M. McManus’s work. I’ve had an audiobook of her debut novel, One of Us is Lying, in my arsenal for a while now. When I saw her sophomore novel sitting on a shelf at my local library, the creepy cover and strange title caught my eye. It reminded me of that Pierces song that plays on the Pretty Little Liars credits! Creepy, dark, and shocking, I really enjoyed Two Can Keep a Secret, but there was also a lot of different threads that were confusing to me. Luckily, the ending was what saved the book for me; it was like a brutal punch to the gut! I can’t wait to listen to One of Us is Lying, and I can’t wait to see what this amazing author has in store next! This book was a bit overambitious, but it was an awesome read anyway! One of my favorite books of 2019 for sure!

                Echo Ridge is the essence of small-town America. But not everything is as picture-perfect in Echo Ridge as it seems. Twins Ellery and Ezra have to move to their mother’s hometown after an unfortunate accident that forces her to go to rehab. Living with a grandmother they’ve never known, Ellery, a true crime buff, knows that something is going on just under the surfaces of this town’s shiny veneer. When she meets Malcolm, the little brother of the man accused of murdering a missing girl, things grow even more complicated. But another woman disappears, and Ellery and Ezra are determined to unearth the town’s dangerous secrets. Even if it means risking their own lives…


                I really liked this book. For a mystery, though, it was a little too ambitious for me. There were three separate storylines happening throughout the novel, and it was really hard to keep track of all of the different characters and all of the events straight. There were times that I had to go back and make sure of what I was reading. Nonetheless, it was really enjoyable. Echo Ridge felt creepy and claustrophobic, and I constantly found myself wondering who the bad guy was. The pacing was good; I liked the way the viewpoint went back and forth between Ellery and Malcolm. Both of their voices were very distinct, but I think Ellery was my favorite, being a true crime buff myself. I liked all of the side characters, though they could’ve been fleshed out a little bit more for me. I also liked Ellery and Ezra’s family, particularly their mother and grandmother, and I loved how the history of Echo Ridge tied into their own personal pasts. The ending, though, was what really saved the book for me; it chilled my blood and I’m still thinking about it, nearly a week later. What a creepy, dark little book! The bottom line: Though it was a little overambitious for me, I really liked Two Can Keep a Secret, especially the ending, and I can’t wait for what Karen M. McManus has up her sleeve next! Next on deck: Lovely War by Julie Berry!

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Enchantee by Gita Trelease Review

Title: Enchantee
Author: Gita Trelease
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Series: Enchantee, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
  
              I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                Enchantee has been one of my most anticipated books of 2019, and for the most part, it didn’t disappoint. I ordered it at my local library, and it’d been sitting at the top of my library stack for a while. As soon as I was finished with Superman, I dove in. It had all the things that I love in a novel. Magic, romance, revolution, intrigue, dark secrets, strong sibling bonds! I really enjoyed a lot of elements in this book, but there were some aspects that I wish had been fleshed out more. Nonetheless, this was a knockout series debut, and I can’t wait for the next book in the series! Gita Trelease is a new author to watch, and I can’t wait to see what’s up her sleeve!

                Camille Durbonne is a young woman who is trapped. After the brutal death of her parents from smallpox, she and her sister, Sophie, are left penniless. Their older brother, Alain, has become a drunkard. Despite his position as a soldier for the French crown, he spends all of his money gambling and drinking. With her dreams to be the first female printer nearly crushed, she is forced to use the forbidden magic passed down through her family to disguise herself as a wealthy baroness. Infiltrating the sparkling, dangerous world of Versailles and the wealthy royals and nobles that rule it, Camille must use all of her wits, the la magie she inherited from her mother, and find a way to save herself and her sister. But even with the sudden arrival of a man she may love, she discovers that everyone has something to hide, and no one can be trusted…


                This book was very good! I really enjoyed it. I’m such a sucker for historical fiction, and this story had elements of magic and fantasy thrown in! It made for an intoxicating debut. The pacing was breakneck, and I was spellbound by the very first page. The setting was gorgeous: Versailles! The period of The French Revolution is one of my favorite historical periods to study, and the prose was so lush and beautiful I felt like I was really there. I also adored the characters, especially Camille, Sophie, Lazare, and Seguin. I also really liked the intrigue and secrets that permeated the French court, seductive and frightening. The only thing that I wish had been better was the experience of Lazare, as a person of color, in that time period. I wish it had been fleshed out more. Nonetheless, with the breathtaking ending, I cannot wait for the next book in this beautiful, tense new series! I’m so excited to see what’s coming for Camille, Sophie, and Lazare! The bottom line: Beautiful, lush, and seductive, I loved Enchantee, and I can’t wait for what Gita Trelease is going to do next! Next on deck: Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus!

Superman: Dawnbreaker by Matt de la Pena Review

Title: Superman: Dawnbreaker
Author: Matt de la Pena
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Action/Adventure
Series: DC Icons, book four
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
      
          I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                The DC Icons series has become one of my favorites within the last year, and I’ve been waiting to get my hands on the last one since last year. I reserved it at my library and didn’t have any more renewals on it, so I pushed it to the top of my stack as soon as I was finished with Love and Luck. DC is one of my favorite comic companies, and I was so excited when they announced a young adult series, focusing on some of DC’s brightest stars. This one was written by Matt de la Pena, and I’d like to note that I wasn’t aware of his sexual harassment allegations until after I borrowed the book. But Clark Kent is the focus of this story, and I loved the story of young Superman! It reminded me of why he is one of my favorite superheroes ever, and possibly one of the world’s. This one is probably my favorite of the whole bunch, aside from Catwoman. What a fantastic ending to one of my favorite series!

                Clark Kent has always known that he was different, and not just in a common adolescent way. He can run impossibly fast, heal from wounds almost instantly, and has the strength of several human men. But when he begins to hear rumors about people disappearing from Smallville, he and his best friend, Lana Lang, take it upon themselves to investigate. When a mysterious scientific experiment called Project Dawn comes to life, Clark must decide to turn away from his otherworldly powers, or embrace them, in hopes of saving those he loves…


                I really enjoyed this book! My personal opinion of Superman has changed throughout the years, but Dawnbreaker reminded me of how much I love Clark Kent. I loved the way that the author took the familiar superhero and gave him a brand-new spin. It felt like I was being introduced to him all over again. The pacing of this book was breakneck, and I was instantly spellbound. I also enjoyed the way the author used the narrative to address one of the hottest topics in our political climate right now: immigration! This book is probably my favorite of the series, aside from Soulstealer; it was so well-written and thoughtful. Clark’s journey from a misfit desperate to fit in to the boy who would become one of the world’s most iconic superheroes was fantastic! His character development was wonderful. I also enjoyed the little cameos that felt like Easter eggs for DC fans: Lex Luthor and Lana Lang! The Mankins family was also a great foil to the small-town folks of Smallville; I especially loved Bryan. I just wish that Lana had gotten more of a space in the narrative instead of a supporting role. And that ending! Oh, my goodness! It was amazing. This is bittersweet for me, because I had so much fun reading this series; I wish it wasn’t over! The bottom line: Thoughtful, action-packed, and bittersweet, I loved this take on a teenage Superman! Long live Clark Kent! Next on deck: Enchantee by Gita Trelease!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Love and Luck by Jenna Evans Welch Review

Title: Love and Luck
Author: Jenna Evans Welch
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

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

                Love and Luck was the Match pick for one of the book clubs I attend, Young Adult for Adults. I was very excited when I heard: I’d loved Welch’s debut novel, Love and Gelato. Love and Luck picks up where that left off, with Lina’s best friend, Addison, now in the spotlight. Unfortunately, I didn’t like it nearly as much as I enjoyed Love and Gelato. There were a lot of inconsistencies that I wish had been addressed in the book. Regardless, it was a light, enjoyable read, and I felt it was a really good pick for March!

                Addison is visiting Ireland for her aunt’s ostentatious, ridiculous destination wedding. She’s counting down the days until she can get to Italy and finally see her best friend, Lina. Never mind that she’s running from a dangerous, embarrassing secret, or that her family is always in her business. Or that her very future is at stake, or that her brother and closest friend, Ian, hates her now. When she finds an old guidebook in her hotel, she begins to wonder if her heartache will end. But things quickly go wrong when Ian tries to ditch her for an unknown, charming Irish stranger named Rowan. Soon drawn into a reluctant cross-country trip across Ireland, Addie begins to discover that despite all the heartache in her life, she’s pretty lucky as well, and a fresh start may be awaiting her once she returns home to the States.

         
       I liked this book, but it wasn’t nearly as good as Love and Gelato. There were a lot of inconsistences that bothered me. Addie’s family wasn’t very well fleshed out; I found a lot of it lacking and I was left with a lot of questions about them. I was also left wondering about Addie’s relationship with Lina; there were a lot of loose ends that I felt really needed to be addressed. The big buildup to the life-changing event for Addie kind of felt like a letdown; I was expecting something more, or worse? Regardless, I really enjoyed it. I loved the voice of the author of the guidebook at the beginning of each chapter; it made the pacing and transitioning really smooth and easy to follow. The lush, green setting of Ireland stole my heart and had me wishing for a long vacation. I liked Addie, fierce and funny and loving, and I also enjoyed her brother Ian, the perfect foil for her. Quiet, brooding, and secretive, I really liked him, and his weird, quirky sense of humor. But the person who really stole my heart in this book was Rowan. I really liked him. He was sweet, funny, and charming, with a hurting side that he kept hidden very well. I also very much enjoyed the ending. This book was a good attempt, but I was hoping for the magic and spirit of Love and Gelato. I liked it, but it wasn’t spectacular. The bottom line: Though I didn’t like Love and Luck as much as Love and Gelato, I really liked it nonetheless. Next on deck: Superman: Dawnbreaker by Matt de la Pena!

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid Review

Title: Daisy Jones and the Six
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I’ve been hearing about Daisy Jones and the Six for months now, and on impulse, I ordered it from my local library. Much to my delighted surprise, I was lucky enough to receive my own library’s copy the same day it arrived! This book was unusual, but gritty, heartfelt, and deep; I loved it. The format initially threw me off; it was more like reading a dossier or a movie script rather than a novel. But honestly, once I got past that, I really enjoyed it. It was like the author used the implosion of the international musical sensation, Fleetwood Mac, and used it as inspiration for this raw, emotional novel, complete with original music and song lyrics! I was swept away by this novel, and I can’t wait to read more of Reid’s superstar work. Daisy and the Six has become one of my favorite books of 2019!

Daisy Jones and the Six took the world by storm when they debuted in the late 70s and early 80s. They were an international sensation, with the magnetic, sultry Daisy Jones headlining alongside Billy Dunne, a moody guitarist and songwriter. But at the height of their popularity, the band split and fractured. No one knows why… Until now. Going deep into each band member’s mind and psyche, the author uses documents and in-depth interviews to get the real story. Full of music, drugs, alcohol, and of course, rock and roll, we are given a front row seat to the band and their family members as they reveal what really happened the night of the final split.


This book was fantastic. I devoured it in a little under three days. There were nearly a hundred holds on it at my local library, so as soon as I was finished with The Afterward, I pushed it to the top of my stack. The format threw me off a little bit; I didn’t really know to expect, but it really fit the mood of the novel. It felt like I was reading a juicy celebrity tell-all, even though I knew that it was all fiction. It brought to mind one of my favorite eras of music: the 60s and 70s. It also reminded me of one of my favorite bands: Fleetwood Mac. The format meant the pacing was breakneck, and one of my favorite parts was that we got the view point of every single person involved: managers, band members, Daisy, Billy, and the rest of the band. It was so detailed, and it felt like I was really there! And that ending! Oh, my goodness, I didn’t expect it at all. This is my first time reading Taylor Jenkins Reid’s work, but I can promise it won’t be the last! This searing, sexy novel stole my heart and bewitched my imagination, and I loved every moment of it! The bottom line: Daisy Jones and the Six was a rich, exciting novel about one of my favorite musical eras: the 60s and 70s! Told in an interview and dossier style, I loved it! One of the best books of 2019! Next on deck: Love and Luck by Jenna Evans Welch!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Afterward by E.K. Johnston Review

Title: The Afterward
Author: E.K. Johnston
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
                E.K. Johnston is one of my favorite authors, so when I heard that she was writing a brand-new book coming out in February, I ordered it from my local library. After I finished Archenemies, I pushed it right to the top of my stack; I renewed it once and didn’t want to have to return it without reading it. And this book… It’s probably one of the most unique in her entire body of work. It is an adventure story, told from two points in time and three points of view. It was full of brave, courageous female knights, a just queen, forbidden love, thievery, magic and mayhem, and I really enjoyed it! It wasn’t entirely perfect, but it is easily one of my favorite books of 2019. I’m almost wishing that it was a series, waiting for a sequel, so I don’t have to say goodbye to all the friends I’ve made!

                A group of female knights set out at the behest of a young prince, in hopes of eradicating an ancient, untold evil. After defeating the Old God and stopping his tyranny from spreading across the world, they return to their old lives. But the girls, save their leader, Sir Erris, are having troubles readjusting, particularly Kalanthe Ironheart, a knight-in-training burdened by debts and doubts and the futility of her future, and Olsa Rhetsdaughter, a ne’er do well thief who longs for freedom, in every sense of the world. But it turns out that even though they’ve finished their epic quest, other problems arise, and this time, it’s possible that more than hearts will be broken…


                I really enjoyed this book! I loved the way that it took the classic adventure trope and turned it on its head. I also really liked the format, and the way that the book went back and forth between the before, during the actual quest, and the after, where the women had to deal with the aftermath. This book has everything that I love in a fantasy novel: tough girls who take no prisoners and are strong and feminine at the same time, forbidden love, magic, war, (lady) knights, and strong friendships! It was a wonderful novel. The pacing was breakneck, and I loved the way that the different times were shown. I also adored Kalanthe and Osla’s distinct, authentic voices, and the way the narration was made more interesting by both of their perspectives. I’m also such a sucker for a good love story, and this book delivered several times over on that score! I loved the ending, too. The only thing that really bothered me was that several of the side characters weren’t sketched out very well, and there were so many to keep track of that I wish there had been a dramatis personae at the front of the book. It also got confusing when the time periods switched; but after rereading some passages, it got easier. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed The Afterward; it’s probably my favorite book in Johnston’s extensive body of work. Easily one of my favorite books of 2019! The bottom line: Rich, enchanting, funny and heartfelt, I loved The Afterward! Next on deck: Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer Review

Title: Archenemies
Author: Marissa Meyer
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Renegades, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                Renegades, the first book in this projected trilogy, was one of my favorite books of last year. I’d checked out Archenemies three different times, but was never able to read it before it went back to the library. I went to book club a few weeks ago and saw it sitting on the shelf, and I couldn’t resist! Archenemies is a great sequel, and though it took a little while for me to remember what was happening, I loved it. I can’t wait for Supernova! It wasn’t perfect, there were some things that had me confused and frustrated, but overall, Meyer did a really great job, and I can’t wait for the last book! I was absolutely blown away. Superheroes are one of my favorite classic tropes, and I loved Meyer’s dark, morally gray take on it. Aside from Heartless, the Renegades series has become my favorite series in Meyer’s repertoire.

                Archenemies picks up where Renegades left off, with Nova finally infiltrating the Renegades and waiting for an opportunity to destroy them from the inside. But things swiftly become even more complicated as she struggles to hide her true identity. Even worse, her loyalties are muddled the longer she stays with the heroes, and with Adrian, the boy she is undeniably attracted to. When a deadly new weapon being created to neutralize prodigy’s powers, Nova must decide where she truly stands, with her family, the Anarchists, or with the heroes, the Renegades. For war is coming once again, and everyone has something to hide…
      
          This book was amazing! Sequels always freak me out, to be honest. All too often, they don’t live up to the hype. Though there were some slight issues at times, I really enjoyed it overall. The prose was sharp and cutting, the pacing breakneck; I especially loved the moral dilemmas that were happening throughout the book, and not just for Nova. I loved the way Meyer ratcheted up the tension throughout the novel. It took me a little while to remember what was happening, but it was really easy to get caught up as the story went on. The romantic tension between Nova and Adrian had me absolutely riveted. All the slow burn feels! I also enjoyed all of the characters, but especially the Anarchists and Renegades. And that ending! Oh my God! How am I supposed to wait until November for Supernova?! I am dying here. What an amazing sequel, and I can’t wait for the last book in this dark, thought-provoking trilogy! The bottom line: Thought-provoking, shocking, and action-packed, I loved Archenemies, and I can’t wait for Supernova! Next on deck: The Afterward by E.K. Johnston!  

Friday, March 8, 2019

Damsel by Elana K. Arnold Review

Title: Damsel
Author: Elana K. Arnold
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
       
         I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                Happy International Women’s Day, everyone! I was browsing the shelves at my local library, and I had to return Damsel before I could read it the first time. When I saw it sitting on the shelf of the other library I frequent, I snatched it up. Honestly, what got me at first was its beautiful, gorgeous cover. But the story inside ripped me apart, put me back together, and had me roaring with triumph and rage. With gorgeous, lush prose, a premise that tipped a familiar fairy tale onto its head, and wonderful characters, I will never forget Damsel! One of my favorite books of 2018, hands down! A triumph of heart, audacity, and horror, all juxtaposed together! Elana K. Arnold has outdone herself with this book.

                You think you know the tale of Sleeping Beauty. A prince, a sleeping damsel, and a dragon. But in Prince Emory’s world, a prince can only become king after he’s slain a dragon and rescued the damsel imprisoned by the creature. He rescues a beautiful damsel, who he names Ama and has no memory of her life before being the dragon’s captive. Everything is as it should be… Or so it seems. When Ama discovers that art, thinking, and being anything but a wife and mother are barred to her, she begins to question everything she thought she knew. There are fiery secrets to be uncovered by the lost young woman, and she soon discovers that nothing is as it seems to be…


                I just finished this book last night and I’m still reeling. It was brutal, beautiful, unapologetically feminist, fierce and thought-provoking, and I loved every moment of it. That isn’t to say, of course, that there weren’t times when I was so emotionally overwhelmed that I had to put the book down and do something else. By all means, this book was not easy to get through. It had violence of every sort, but I think by doing so, Arnold was paying homage to the original fairy tale. I am, still, absolutely blown over. The writing was beautiful, and the pacing was breakneck; even when I wasn’t reading, it was still heavy on my mind. I read through half of it the first day I started, and I broke the second half over two days, as I’ve been busy with personal issues. I finished it last night in the tub and was blown away, in the best way! I loved Ama, and her character development from a lost, confused girl into a confident and self-assured young woman. Emory, Pawlin, the queen mother, Tillie, and Alyss helped provide great foils to her. I loved the way that this book called out misogyny and sexism, and talked about consent and agency. And that ending! I’m still thinking about it. Arnold did a fantastic job. The only thing I would say would be to be cautious and give this to older teens, as the violence gets a big focus throughout the book. Nonetheless, this book is definitely one of my recent favorites. Absolutely phenomenal! The bottom line: Dark, gorgeous, and surprising, I loved Damsel, especially the surprising ending! What an amazing book, especially considering the political climate we’re living in currently. Next on deck: Archenemies by Marissa Meyer!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi Review

Title: The Gilded Wolves
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Series: The Gilded Wolves, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                Roshani Chokshi captured my heart and imagination with her debut novel, The Star-Crossed Queen, so when I found out that she was writing a new book, I was so excited. I had some space in my library stack, so when I saw it sitting on a shelf at my local library, I snatched it up. I started it as soon as I was finished with Dry, and I just finished it last night, in a mess of emotions and tears. The Gilded Wolves is a fantastic series debut. I’m not sure how to describe it, actually, but I’ll do my best. This book was like a gorgeous, hilarious, dark mashup of Six of Crows, National Treasure, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them; original, lush, and seductive, I loved The Gilded Wolves! Easily one of my favorite books of 2018, and I’m already dying for the sequel!

                The Gilded Wolves opens in Belle Epoque Paris, with a group of lovable misfits working to right the wrongs of the past. But they are led by Severin, a young man with many scars and even more secrets. Desperate to reclaim the birthright that was so cruelly taken from him, he jumps at the chance to acquire true power and avenge his late mother. Enlisting his friends to help him, Severin finds himself drawn into a deadly game of monsters, gods, forbidden magic and secret loves. But he is hellbent on becoming who he’s always wanted to be, even if it means risking everything and everyone, he cares about…


                This book was a total knockout! I was blown over. There wasn’t a thing I didn’t like about The Gilded Wolves, except for the fact that I’m going to have to wait for over a year for the sequel! Beautifully written, expertly paced, with lovable, diverse characters, it felt like after I read this book, I was losing a beloved group of friends. I’m so excited for the sequel! The format was really cool; I liked the way that the author broke the narrative apart with different ‘case files’ and worldbuilding tidbits. I also adored the way that Chokshi took a time period that I thought I was familiar with and insert magic, mystery, and romance into it. I loved all of the characters, especially Zofia, Hypnos, Tristan, Laila, Enrique, and Severin, but I can’t decide who is my favorite! I loved them all so much; they felt like a family to me. And that ending! I was an absolute mess. All the ugly crying. All I can say is that I hope the sequel comes soon, because I am dying here! A beautiful, twisty puzzle wrapped in a mystery with more than one surprise in its center, I loved The Gilded Wolves! The bottom line: Gorgeous, surprising, and hilarious, I loved The Gilded Wolves! One of my favorite books of 2018, and I can’t wait for what’s coming next! Next on deck: Damsel by Elana K. Arnold!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman Review

Title: Dry
Author: Neal and Jarrod Shusterman
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                When I heard that Neal Shusterman was writing a brand-new book with one of his sons, I was so excited! Shusterman is one of my favorite authors, and even though I had to return it to the library a few times, I pushed it straight to the top of my stack when I realized I couldn’t renew it anymore. As soon as I finished How to Fracture a Fairy Tale, I started Dry, and this book blew me away, especially considering how dire the current climate change situation is. Timely, searing, thought-provoking and beautifully written, Dry is one of my favorite books of last year, and I can’t wait to see what this father-son author pairing has up its sleeves next!

                The Tap Out happens, an event that leaves many across the United States without one of its most vital natural resources: water. Alyssa Morrow and her brother Garrett must journey across the country to find their parents, who have gone missing in their quest to find drinkable water. They must team up with their weird doomsday prepper, Kelton, in order to survive. But other obstacles get in their way: water zombies, marauders, fires and rockslides and the utter destruction of human civilization as they know it. Because when things go completely dry, everyone is out to survive, by any means necessary…


This book is hard to describe. I finished it on Monday and I’m still trying to untangle my thoughts to put them down on paper. Part of the reason I picked up this book was because it was about something very important to me and my generation: climate change. That, and the cover was just gorgeous. I didn’t want to return it to the library again without reading it, so I was eager to start it as soon as I was finished with How to Fracture a Fairy Tale.  The pacing was breakneck, and the prose was so compelling that I was spellbound from the beginning. I loved the way that the view point went from Alyssa, to Kelton, to a drifter that they pick up, Jacqui, Alyssa’s little brother, Garrett, and Henry, who uses the disaster to his own ends. Sharp, brutal, thought-provoking and dark, I was neck deep in this book; it lingered in my thoughts even when I wasn’t reading it. I also loved the way the authors were constantly showing both the brutality and altruism of the human race, even in the face of terrible tragedy. What really got me, though, was the ending; my heart was pounding and I was either crying with sadness or ready to rip my hair out, I was so afraid! I loved the way that it ended, on a knife’s edge. I loved this book, and it deserves every single one of its five stars. I cannot wait to see what this dynamic duo has in store for us next! The bottom line: Sharp, brutal, cutting, and thought-provoking, I loved Dry, and it’s become one of my favorite books of 2018! Next on deck: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Choksi!