Monday, December 23, 2019

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys Review


Title: The Fountains of Silence
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                Ruta Sepetys is one of my favorite authors, and has been for a long time now. Salt to the Sea, her third book, was my first by her. So, when I found out that she was writing a new book, I put it on hold as soon as I could. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while now. I couldn’t renew it, so as soon as I was finished with Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, I began to read it. Historical fiction ie one of my favorite genres, because it gives me perspective into times of upheaval and change that I wouldn’t otherwise have. The Fountains of Silence opens not long after the end of the Spanish civil war, with several young people struggling to find their dreams in the aftermath. Daniel Matheson is a young Texan, come to Spain with his wealthy parents for a business meeting with Spain’s dictator, Francisco Franco. A passionate photographer, his eyes are opened to Spain’s dark secrets, some in places long before he was even born. But Spain also holds hope, promise, unexpected allies and perhaps, true love?

                I’ll be honest: This was a time period in American and Spanish history that I didn’t know much about. I knew the basics, of course, but even then, they were bare. I love how Ruta Sepetys takes so much care and meticulous research when she tells a story; I was immediately spellbound by her prose, but even more than that, the characters. I laughed, I wept, I raged, especially at my own ignorance. The thing about studying history, at least, for me, is that you have to study its nuances so the situations don’t repeat. And The Fountains of Silence was like a front-row seat to the conflict, but also to the many triumphs and flaws of humanity itself. The characters were beautifully drawn, especially Ana, Daniel, his parents, and Ana’s family members. As with all of Sepetys’s books, it was written with empathy and heart, and I loved the ending! It wasn’t quite perfect, but I loved the way that it was so true to life. This book may be my favorite in her entire body of work. It was just so good. I loved the characters, the lush, gorgeous Spanish setting, the attention to detail, and just about everything else. This is a great book to read if you want a behind the scenes look at a more obscure time in history, and I very much enjoyed it. The bottom line: Rich with detail, heartbreakingly sad and empathetic, I loved The Fountains of Silence! Next on deck: Runaways: Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughn!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki Review


Title: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me
Author: Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero O’Connell
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Graphic Novel
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                I went to my book club last month and saw this book sitting on the new book display; I was immediately intrigued by the color palette and the fluid, emotional way that the pictures were drawn. I took it home with me that night and it’s been sitting at the top of my library stack ever since. I finished Monster, She Wrote and tried to read Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, and ended up not finishing it. So, I moved on to Laura Dean and devoured it in less than a day. This graphic novel was beautifully drawn, and the story broke my heart. I loved it so much; Laura Dean is one of my favorite books of 2019, and I can’t wait to see more from this dynamic duo! A fantastic, fresh graphic novel that won my heart completely! Highly recommended to all!

                Laura Dean, the most popular girl at school, was Frederica ‘Freddy’ Riley’s dream girl. She’s funny, sweet, beautiful, and sexy. The only problem is she’s fickle and mean, and is not the greatest girlfriend. Reeling from their latest breakup, Freddy’s best friend, Doodle, takes her to a psychic, mysteriously called The Seek-Her. Seek-Her leaves Freddy with advice, even though Freddy doesn’t want to hear it: break up with Laura Dean. But when LD spins back into her life with all the force of a hurricane, Freddy begins to wonder if she is the problem. Maybe Laura Dean is only part of it, Freddy wonders as she loses friends left and right. Luckily, though, there are new friends, which she desperately needs, and the insight of an advice columnist to get her through the throes of teenage love. With Laura Dean, Tamaki and Valero-O’Connell asks us to consider what happens when we quit the toxic relationships we crave and embrace the healthy ones we need instead.

                I loved, loved, loved this graphic novel! The art style was what grabbed me initially, but it was the perfect antidote to the nasty feelings I had after the disappointment of Ninth House. The color palette was gorgeous, and I loved the way that the pictures were drawn. But I was instantly captivated by Freddy’s honest, sweet voice. The pacing was breakneck; I finished this book in a few short hours. I loved all of the characters, especially Freddy, her friends, and Laura. But I think my favorite part of this graphic novel was the way that it dealt with real issues, especially toxic relationships. The relationship between Freddy and Laura felt really familiar, with all of its ups and downs. I related to this because when I was younger, I had a lot of friends who weren’t really friends, and it brought back a lot of mixed, bittersweet feelings. I absolutely adored this graphic novel, even though there were several times when I had to put it down to cry. The bottom line: Rich, realistic, and honest, I loved Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me! Next on deck: Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys!

Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson Review


Title: Monster: She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction
Authors: Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                I heard about this book from the free magazine, Bookpage, and as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to order it. I’ve had it for a while now, and it’s been sitting at the top of my library stack ever since. I realized I couldn’t renew it any more, so, when I finished The Never Tilting World, I plunged in, not certain what to expect. Simply put, this book shines a spotlight on the many women who have helped forge the modern horror and speculative fiction genres, complete with illustrations and reading lists. This book is one of my favorite books of 2019, because it was funny, informative, and surprising. This book begins with women from the 16th century and goes all the way to the present day, with a wealth of information about them all.

                Everyone knows Mary Shelley, the young woman who wrote Frankenstein when she was just a teenager. But did you know that she wrote that novel in response to the grief she was feeling over the child she lost? (She was also rumored to have her late husband’s heart tucked into a desk drawer!) There is also Margaret ‘Mad Madge’ Cavendish, who wrote a science fiction epic 150 years earlier, and liked to wear risqué dresses to the theater and opera. Shirley Jackson, one of my personal favorites, also gets an honorable mention; despite her career as a wife and mother, she used al of that as inspiration for her writing; she came into the public eye again when Netflix adapted her book, The Haunting of Hill House. This book contained profiles for authors I knew and some I’d never heard of. Containing information about so many women who had a hand in developing the horror and speculative fiction genres, this book was funny, informative, and interesting, and it might be one of my favorites for the nonfiction genre of this year. If I had one little quibble, I wish there had been more authors of color discussed. Nonetheless, this book was wonderful: meticulously researched, beautifully illustrated, and informative, I loved it so much! The bottom line: Hilarious, informative, and surprising, I loved Monster, She Wrote! Next on deck: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco Review


Title: The Never Tilting World
Author: Rin Chupeco
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Never Tilting World, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                Rin Chupeco is one of my favorite authors, so when I found out she had a new book coming out in October, I put it on hold immediately. Ever since, it’s been sitting at the top of my library stack, begging to be read. I couldn’t renew it anymore, so as soon as I was finished with Good Omens, I dove in. In this rich, fully realized fantasy world, two goddesses are at war. After a catastrophic event called The Breaking, the planet has stopped turning, literally. Resulting in one side of the planet stuck in endless night, and the other in constantly scorching sunlight, four young people are forced to try and fix their world, even if it means unearthing secrets that could change everything. Full of monsters, magic, deadly secrets and political intrigue, I loved this series opener and can’t wait for the next book in this duo!

                Lady Tianlan is a Catseye, a bodyguard for the goddess she serves. Still reeling from being the only survivor of a deadly mission in the Abyss, she is drawn to her goddess’s sickly daughter, Odessa. When she ordered to go back to search for answers, she wonders if her demons and ghosts will conquer her. Odessa, for her part, knows that she can do more than what her mother allows. Frustrated from being stifled and looked after all the time, she steals away on the ship Lan is commanding. On the other side of the world, the other goddess’s daughter, Haidee, comes across a fire worker, and together they leave The Golden City. Forced to work with her people’s worst enemy, she discovers that her mysterious companion has secrets of his own. Two sister goddesses broke the world, and now two sisters must save it. But it turns out there are forces bigger even than the goddesses, and they are working to bring about a darkness more dangerous than anyone could ever know…

                I adored this book! It wasn’t perfect, but it was damn near close. With this series opener, she has penned a fantastic debut with multiple voices. The worldbuilding was fantastic, and the pacing was breakneck. As soon as I was done with Good Omens, I started this book and devoured it in less than three days. I loved the magic system, as well as the broken world that the characters lived in. This book had everything I love: war, magic, romance, monsters, political intrigue and secrets. There were times when the narration was a bit stilted, and at times it was difficult to keep track of who was speaking. Nonetheless, this series debut was absolutely wonderful; it might be one of my favorite books of 2019, and I can’t wait for the next one! The bottom line: Richly detailed, romantic, dark and mesmerizing, I loved The Never Tilting World!  

Monday, December 9, 2019

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett Review


Title: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
Authors: Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                I’ve been a fan of Neil Gaiman for years, but I’m sorry to say that Good Omens is the first and thus far, the only book I’ve read by Terry Pratchett. But it certainly won’t be my last. I wish I’d read this book a long time ago, but I did it now because my husband and I watched the miniseries on Amazon Prime first. I’m glad that I watched it beforehand; it made it a lot easier to imagine what was happening in my mind. The story of a demon and an angel trying to stop the end of the world, this book was unique, funny, and well-written. It might be one of my favorites in Gaiman’s entire body of work; I almost feel cheated by myself, waiting until a show was made to read this gem. I loved it so much that I just finished it on Sunday afternoon, and I want a copy for my own collection. I was crying with laughter from practically the first page; there aren’t enough words to tell you all just how much I loved this book.

                Aziraphale and Crowley are two unlikely friends on opposite sides of a war older than humanity itself: Aziraphale is an angel of God, and Crowley is a demon, sly and wily and full of mischief. When the order comes through on both sides that they must kickstart Armageddon, they are both reluctant to usher in the end of humankind. Nonetheless, when Crowley is dispatched to find the Antichrist, he obeys. Add in a fake psychic, an old, angry Scot who hunts for the supernatural, witches in particular, and the descendant of a slightly mad witch, and you’ve got something close to Good Omens. Is humanity worth saving, or will the slate be swept clean for a new start?

                This book may be my favorite in Gaiman’s body of work, and for the moment, is my favorite work by Terry Pratchett. I love books that make me laugh, and from the first page, I was laughing constantly. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately drawn into the story; I could picture Michael Sheen and David Tennant as I read the book. Despite the long cast of characters, I loved what each of them brought to the story. Hilarious, thoughtful, and full of the power of laughter and true friendship, I loved every moment of this crazy, cheeky novel. And the adaptation was pretty close to the book; aside from taking a few characters out, it was pretty faithful to the source material. I devoured this book in less than a week, and I loved every moment of it. Humanity, through Crowley and Aziraphale’s eyes, is redeemable, and thus they decide to stop The End of Days. I loved every character in this novel, but my favorites were Aziraphale, Crowley, and Adam and Them, as well as the various denizens of Heaven and Hell. I’m kind of upset that this wasn’t the novel that got me obsessed with Neil Gaiman; despite that, the book still means so much to me, and one day, I hope to own a copy so Neil can sign mine! The bottom line: A tale of how Armageddon almost happened but didn’t, I loved Good Omens! One of the best books I’ve ever read, hands down! Next on deck: The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics Review


Title: The Women in the Walls
Author: Amy Lukavics
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                Amy Lukavics wasn’t an author I’d read before, until the October book for our book club was chosen. On the very night I finished Nightingale, one of my friends in the club dragged me over to the shelves and found The Women in the Walls, demanding that I take it home, because it was even scarier than Nightingale. I didn’t believe her, honestly, because Nightingale was pretty damn freaky, but this book, man! This is the second book I’ve read by Lukavics, and I can promise you all that it will not be my last. In fact, I’ve already got The Ravenous in my library stack, and she also begged me to read her debut, Daughters Unto Devils. I’m an addict for this woman’s writing. I’m obsessed! This chilling and ghoulish, gory ghost story is still stuck in my head, and I just finished it this afternoon! The Women in the Walls just might be my favorite in her entire body of work, depending on how I find The Ravenous.

                Lucy Acosta’s mother died when she was three years old, and ever since, she’s lived in an old, Victorian mansion with her cold, distant father and her eccentric aunt, Penelope. Penelope’s daughter, Margaret, is Lucy’s cousin and best friend. When Penelope disappears one cold, rainy night, Lucy finds herself entirely alone as well as utterly devastated. Margaret begins spending time alone in the attic, claiming that she can hear her mother’s voice through the walls. Forced helplessly to watch while her only friend’s sanity unravels, Lucy slowly begins to realize that her family, as well as the house itself, is hiding ancient and deadly secrets that have led her to a dark legacy that has marked her and the rest for generations. And Lucy realizes, too late, that some secrets are better left buried…

                This book was, in a word, weird. But I’m starting to realize that that’s Lukavics’s thing: gothic, spine-tingling horror with a ton of gore and more than a healthy heaping of terror. It was a little confusing for me at first, because I could not figure out, at first, whether the story took place in the Victorian era. Once I got past though, this book sucked me in entirely. There were times when I wanted to put it down, but I couldn’t, because I just had to know what was going to happen! I was thoroughly creeped out as the book went on; I was constantly paranoid and jumpy, due to the claustrophobic feeling of the Acostas’ home. I was hypnotized by Lucy’s chilling, honest narration, and the pacing was breakneck. This book grabbed my throat and didn’t let go, even after the last terrifying page. This might be a ghost story, but it’s certainly not run-of-the-mill; it is decidedly unique. I don’t want to give away anything about the twists and turns and the monsters of the novel; I’ll keep those as a surprise for anyone reading who hasn’t read the book. The other characters, particularly Margaret, Penelope, and Lucy’s father, were fantastic foils to her, and I especially enjoyed the creepy, terrifying promise of the ending. As I said before, this book may be my favorite of the two books I’ve read by Lukavics; I’ll certainly never forget it. The bottom line: Spooky, chilling, gory and shocking, I loved The Women in the Walls! Next on deck: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett!

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly Review


Title: Stepsister
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
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.

                Jennifer Donnelly won my heart, all the way back in high school, with her debut novel, A Northern Light, and I’ve been reading her books obsessively ever since. When I found out she had a new book coming out, I was so excited that I had to put it on hold at my local library immediately. Since then, it’s been sitting at the top of my library stack, begging to be read. I finally was able to push it up to the front after I finished There’s Something About Sweetie, and I’m still just stunned. I finished it yesterday and I’m completely in awe; this might be the best book in Donnelly’s entire body of work, and one of my favorite books of 2019.

I’ll officially start with a confession. When I was a little girl, I hated princesses and all things pink and feminine. Snow White and Cinderella in particular, because they weren’t ‘feminist’. I gravitated toward Ariel when I was younger, and then Belle, later in life. But Stepsister gives us a glimpse of what happens after the happily ever after. Even before I knew the original story by The Brothers Grimm, I couldn’t help wondering what exactly happened to Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters. Donnelly focuses on one of Ella’s stepsisters, Isabelle. After being caught trying to deceive the crown prince into thinking that she is her lovely, sweet stepsister, she and her family are soon caught up in a game of truly epic proportions. All Isabelle has ever wanted is to be beautiful, but it turns out that the price of beauty may be too high for her to pay, and mysterious forces are working to change her fate. Will Isabelle succumb to the vices that got her labeled an ‘ugly’ stepsister? Or will she find the courage to forge her own path, in spite of her mistakes?

                I have to say that I absolutely adored this book. Written with Donnelly’s signature humor, fantasy, and style, I loved it so much. I also really liked the way that she flipped the script and started the story after Isabelle tried to fool the prince. But the real star of this was Isabelle and her growth throughout the book; it was so cool to watch her transform from a mean, petty child into a young woman capable of finding her own strength in the face of adversity. This book felt like a fairy tale, with distinct echoes from the original tale: the fairy godmother, the glass slippers, magic and mayhem. But I liked the way that she used war, love, and compassion to temper Isabelle into something stronger, in the end. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately drawn in by Isabelle’s tale; I loved the way Chance and The Fates worked throughout the book to try and deter her from her true path. This is Cinderella as you’ve never seen it before, with the spotlight on the ugly stepsisters and given feminist twists! This is the Cinderella story I’ve been waiting on my whole life. Donnelly, once again, has penned a fantastic, beautiful and honest fantasy story with strong female heroines at its heart, and I loved it so much! Is it too much to hope for a sequel about Isabelle’s sister, Tavi? The bottom line: Rich, funny, romantic and brave, I loved Stepsister! Next on deck: The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics!

Monday, December 2, 2019

There's Something About Sweetie by Sandya Menon Review


Title: There’s Something About Sweetie
Author: Sandhya Menon
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: When Dimple Met Rishi, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                Sandhya Menon is one of my favorite authors; she won my heart last year with her debut romance, When Dimple Met Rishi. (Diverse books for the win!) There’s Something About Sweetie is the companion novel to Dimple, and it’s been on my list since before it came out. I’ve checked it out from my library a few times, but unfortunately had to take it back before I could read it. When I was at one of my book clubs, I saw it sitting on a new book display and had to take it home. I just finished it over the long weekend, and just thinking about it, I haven’t been able to stop grinning. With her signature romance, humor, and heart, Menon has continued the story, this time focusing on Rishi’s younger brother, Ashish. Fresh out of a painful breakup, his friend suggests that he let his parents set him up with a good Indian girl. Said Indian girl is Sweetie, a kind, gentle, and sweet fat athlete who is desperate for people to accept her and look past her weight. Thus ensues a romance straight out of a rom-com, complete with misunderstandings, cute banter, and a happy ending. I wish romances were written like this one, because if they were, I would read them more often! Sandhya Menon has knocked her third novel out of the park, and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

                Sweetie is fat, and she knows it. She’s totally fine with it, but the same can’t be said for her well-meaning mother and other people who think they’re doing her a favor by telling her she’s overweight. Certain that if she can look past it and love herself, so can others. But unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Then there’s Ashish, fresh off of a bad breakup. Half as a joke, he asks his parents to set him up with a proper Indian girl. When Ashish and Sweetie meet for the first time, their attraction to one another is instant. Going against her parents’ wishes for the first time in her life, Sweetie begins seeing Ashish. Will true love win the day? Or will these two crazy kids’ love affair end before it has a chance to truly begin?

                I loved, loved, loved this book; there aren’t enough words in the English language to properly express just how much I loved this romance. When Dimple Met Rishi was one of my favorite books of last year, so I’ve been looking forward to Sweetie since before it came out. I loved the way it put emphasis on Ashish, Rishi’s younger brother. The pacing was breakneck and I was immediately spellbound by Ashish and Sweetie and their distinct voices. I’m such a sucker for love stories, especially ones where I’m rooting for both halves of the couple! This book might be my favorite in Menon’s entire body of work; it’s one of my favorite books of 2019! My favorite part of the book, though, was Sweetie, and her fierce devotion to herself. She was so gentle, sweet, and kind, and I really related to her because of that. Ashish, Dimple, Rishi, and the parents all made wonderful, heartfelt foils to both Ashish and Sweetie. The only thing that really upset me was Sweetie’s strained relationship with her mother; I understood where she was coming from, but it still seemed to me, at times, that she couldn’t accept Sweetie for who she was, until the end. But I loved this book, and I will never forget Sweetie and Ashish and their young, new love! A romance that should be required reading for all! The bottom line: Romantic, honest, and insightful, I loved There’s Something About Sweetie! Menon has outdone herself once again! Next on deck: Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly!

Toil & Trouble by Augusten Borroughs Review


Title: Toil & Trouble
Author: Augusten Borroughs
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction/Autobiography
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                Okay, so I have a confession to make: Before now, I’ve never read any of Augusten Borroughs’s work until now. Of course, I’ve heard of him; by now, he’s a household name. Running with Scissors, anyone? But I’ve been curious about this witchy, magical memoir since before it came out. Toil and Trouble explains how Borroughs is a witch, and so have many of his relatives, including his own mother. But Kelesea, you say! Witches aren’t real! Ah, but we all know that myths and folklore, and that other dreaded m word, are often rooted in truth. And to discount everything he says, well. I can’t really ignore the proof. Funny, honest, and entertaining, I usually tend to steer away from anything that even slightly smacks of religion. But that isn’t to say that I don’t have an open mind; this book was unusual and informative, and I very much enjoyed it. Now I’m curious about the rest of the books in his body of work. Full of unusual wisdom and magic that is very real, I loved Toil and Trouble!

                Augusten Borroughs is a witch. And no, not the kind with warts, green skin, and flying monkeys, but a true witch, more aware of the natural world and the forces that move within it. A family gift passed down by his maternal grandparents, he has always been able to sense when something is wrong. Sort of like Lassie, but a lot vaguer. He does work spells, that’s for sure, but it’s definitely not over a bubbling cauldron of unusual ingredients. Turns out that real witchery is worked in tiny, miniscule doses. Borroughs uses this opportunity to get to know himself better, and to form a connection with his roots, his strained relationship with his mother notwithstanding. Desperate for answers and trying to combat crippling mental illness, particularly depression and anxiety. This memoir was honest, hilarious (I was snorting with laughter practically every other paragraph), and heartbreaking. I loved learning about Augusten, his husband and dogs, and his complicated family history.

                This is the first book I’ve ever read by this literary powerhouse, and I can promise you all that it won’t be my last. It was honest, funny, heartbreaking and surprising. Nowadays, people believe witches to be pure fiction, forgotten relics of an earlier, simpler time. But Augusten, digging deeper into his family history has always known that he was different, though in a way that he didn’t understand at first. Almost all of his relatives on his mother’s side of the family have different manifestations of the gift. One of my favorite parts of the book was exploring the author’s complicated relationship with his mother. But I also adored the way that he used magic in small, tiny ways that change the course of his life little by little: keeping trees and other plants alive, trying to convince his husband, Christopher, to move out of New York and into the countryside, to help stave off cancer. It’s clear that magic is in Borroughs’s blood as well as his family tree, and I really liked it. At times, I wish I’d read more of his biographical work; it would’ve given more context to what was happening. Nonetheless, this memoir was one of my favorite books of 2019, and I enjoyed it very much. The bottom line: Funny, honest, and raw down to the bone, I loved Toil and Trouble! Next on deck: There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon!