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!