Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore Review


Title: Dark and Deepest Red
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                Anna-Marie McLemore has been one of my favorite authors, ever since I read her debut novel, The Weight of Feathers. I’ve read all but one of the books she’s written, but this one might well be my very favorite. Full of lush, gorgeous prose, this book is actually two stories in one. It goes back and forth in time in Strasbourg, France. In 1518, Lavinia and her family, of Romani descent, are blamed for a mysterious plague that makes men and women dance, until they, quite literally, fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft ensue, Lala must count on every one of her wits to write her own story. 500 years later, Emil, Lala’s descendant, finds himself lost in his own history. But Rosella Oliva’s family, known and renowned shoemakers, have always had a special way with shoes. When Rosella fixes red a pair of shoes that her own grandmother destroyed to spite a jealous, angry customer, they seal themselves to her feet. Drawn to Emil for her own reasons and his history, the two must solve a mystery that intertwines their lives over five centuries.

                I loved this book; it’s definitely a contender for one of my favorite books of 2020. It might be my favorite in McLemore’s entire body of work. I love fairy tale retellings, but I especially adored the way that the story used Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Red Shoes’ for its backbone and basis. The prose was gorgeous, lush; more than once, I found myself going back and rereading lines. The pacing was breakneck, and though it took me a little getting used to, the going back and forth, it was so smooth as the book went on. One of my favorite parts of this novel was the real historical fact that the author used to frame her story. (A dancing plague actually did happen in the little French town of Strasbourg!) But I loved the characters, first and foremost, especially Emil and Rosella. I felt like they were sitting in my living room, telling me their magical, dark and bloody tale. I loved the setting of medieval and modern France; I felt like I could taste the magic in the Olivas’ family, and smell the sharp, bitter scent of Emil’s chemicals and compounds. This book might be one of my favorites of 2020, and I can’t wait to see what masterpiece she pens next! The bottom line: Gorgeous, dark, beautiful and tender, I loved Dark and Deepest Red! Next on deck: 19 Love Songs by David Levithan!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles Review


Title: Not So Pure and Simple
Author: Lamar Giles
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.

                So, since the coronavirus has come to pandemic status, I’ve been on lockdown for about a week and a half now; none of my family has left the house, aside from work. I’ve been trying to keep busy, writing, working, reading, and other leisure activities. I decided to tackle my library books, and I’m also rereading my Harry Potter illustrated editions, because I need something to maintain my sanity and mental health. Practice social distancing, kids, stay inside as much as you can, but don’t forget to get fresh air! When I finished Salvaged, I moved on to Not So Pure and Simple. Lamar Giles is one of my favorite authors, so I’ve been looking forward to it since before it came out. And this book might be my favorite of all of his books! I loved the way the book was from a male point of view, and how Giles examined masculinity. This book should be required reading for everyone, regardless of age. I loved it. It was funny, honest, thoughtful, and topical. This book is one of my favorites of 2020; I loved it so much. Easily my favorite of all of Giles’ work!

                Delbert ‘Del’ Rainey has had it bad for his gorgeous classmate, Keira Westing, since they were in kindergarten. So, when the boyfriend spot opens up, Del quickly starts angling for the role, even signing himself up for a Purity Pledge with Keira’s church. His best friend, Qwan, is skeptical, but Del is in it for the long game. He wants to be Keira’s boyfriend, even if it means acting like something he really isn’t for a while. And to sweeten the deal, Del asks Keira’s friend Jameer for a good word. But the other guys in school are circling her like hungry sharks, and in all of Del’s scheming, he doesn’t stop to consider if he’s doing the best thing, for the girl he loves and himself. What does it really mean, to be a man?

                I loved, loved, loved this book. I cannot properly express just how much I enjoyed it.  Del’s voice was so honest, thoughtful, and funny; I was immediately entranced by his voice. The pacing was breakneck; I finished this book in a few short hours. I also adored the way that Del, his friends and family talked honestly about sex, masculinity, love, faith and other things that come with growing up. I was laughing, crying, and cheering throughout the book. There were a few times I had to put it down and walk away, because my brain was churning, or I was so angry that I was holding back screams. But this book; it needs to be talked about, especially in the current political climate. It asks essential questions that need to be spoken about. This would be a great book for book clubs; it was contemporary, but it was fresh, funny, honest and thoughtful. One of my favorites of 2020! The bottom line: Tackling toxic masculinity, the patriarchy, and other essential things, I loved Not So Pure and Simple! Next on deck: Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore!

Salvaged by Madeleine Roux Review


Title: Salvaged
Author: Madeleine Roux
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                When I went to book club last month, before the coronavirus ground the world to a screeching halt, I was browsing and noticed this book sitting on the new display. I’ve been obsessed with Roux ever since I read her House of Furies series, so I took it home that night. I’ve been chilling at home, trying to work, read, watch TV; anything to take my mind off of how stressful my real life has become. Stay safe, all, practice social distancing and stay at home! But don’t forget fresh air. As soon as I finished Serpent and Dove, I dove into Salvaged; this book might be one of my most recent favorites. I’m a huge sucker for science fiction, but to call this book a sci-fi would be to lie. It was like science fiction and deep space, Alien-esque horror had a love child, and I absolutely loved it. This book may be my favorite in Roux’s entire body of work. I finished it in less than two days; it was nothing less than a masterpiece, and its characters will stay with me for a long time.

                Rosalyn ‘Roz’ Devar knows that her life is an absolute trainwreck; why else would she be stashed on a distant planet, working on an intergalactic janitorial detail? She’s an intelligent and prickly xenobiologist, running from a tumultuous past on Earth. But she receives one final chance to redeem herself: salvage the Brigantine, a vessel gone dark, her crew assumed dead. But when Rosalyn arrives at the ship, she finds the crew very much intact, if not entirely human. Rosalyn finds herself trapped on a dead ship, with a crew kept alive by an insidious, parasitic alien. The captain, Edison Aries, seems able to still control himself and his crewmates, but only just. Time is running out, and they may be the only thing standing in the way of Earth’s utter destruction…

                This book was such a cerebral, dry and layered surprise! It was completely different from anything else Roux has ever written. The pacing was breakneck, and one of my favorite parts of the book was Rosalyn’s dry, fractured narration. Deep space dread seeped into every word of the book, and there were several times I had to put it down and go back to it. It was so vivid and strange that it even slipped into my dreams. Dark, menacing, beautiful and thoughtful; this book will never leave me! It was also so human; I loved every single character all the more for their flaws. And the freaking villain of this novel; I’ll never look at fungi in the same way again! Madeleine Roux is one of my very favorite authors; this book was unique, dark, and wholly original! Easily one of my favorite books of all time! The bottom line: Dark, terrifying in more ways than one, thoughtful and human, I loved Salvaged! Next on deck: Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Serpent and Dove by Shelby Maruhin Review


Title: Serpent and Dove
Author: Shelby Maruhin
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Serpent and Dove, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                I have a confession to make: I’ve had my eyes on this gorgeous, dark debut since before it came out. I’ve had to return this several times to the library before I got the chance to read it. Since I had no more renewals on the book, as soon as I was finished with P.S., I Still Love You, I dove in. This debut wasn’t perfect; the cast was so expansive it was near impossible to keep up, and some of the pacing and worldbuilding was shaky, but nonetheless, Maruhin has penned a dangerous, dark romance that had me laughing, crying, and swooning! I loved many things about this book, but the characters were my absolute favorite. This dark and delicious romance was fantastic; I loved the way the book went back and forth between Reid and Lou. Where magic and religion collide, Belterra is a dangerous place for religious soldiers and witches alike. Full of political intrigue, action, romance, and more than a few surprises, I can’t wait to read the sequel!

                In the land of Belterra, the church has taken over everything, and witches have gone into hiding to avoid being burned at the stake. Louise ‘Lou’ de Blanc has been on the run for days, trying desperately to hide from those who wish her bodily harm. She also has another secret: she is a witch, able to manipulate patterns around her to work magic. When she meets Reid Diggory, a soldier for the Church, called a Chassuer, Lou finds herself in a situation she cannot talk her way out of: The Archbishop orders that the couple be wed, and Lou reluctantly agrees. But there’s a fine line between love and hate, and Lou and Reid are about to see just how fine it can get…

                I very much enjoyed this book! There were a couple of little flaws, and I wish that the worldbuilding was explained better, but overall, this was a really strong debut! The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately captivated by Lou’s sparkling and hilarious voice. I also loved the way the book went back and forth between she and Reid. Honestly, the Church in this book gave me the creeps, which I suppose was the point. I loved that in Belterra, religion and magic were constantly at odds. I also adored the romance between Lou and Reid; one of my favorite, classic tropes is enemies to lovers, and this book just knocked that part out of the park! I hope more information, particularly about the world, is revealed in the next book, but this book might be one of my favorites of the last year! Romantic, dark, chilling and surprising, I loved Serpent and Dove! Forbidden, hate-to-love romance is one of my favorite forms of literary catnip! The bottom line: Rich, hilarious, dark and delicious, I loved Serpent and Dove! Next on deck: Salvaged by Madeleine Roux!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

P.S., I Still Love You by Jenny Han Review


Title: P.S., I Still Love You
Author: Jenny Han
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                I desperately needed something light after finishing Long Bright River, and so I pushed P.S., I Still Love You to the top of my stack. I’ve been eager to catch up with the Song Covey girls since I finished To All the Boys, and I wanted an excuse to watch the sequel movie! I dove in immediately, and almost right away, I knew what was going on. P.S., I Still Love You picks up where To All the Boys left off: with Lara Jean and Peter, at long last, have become a real couple. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. After a risqué video surfaces of LJ and Peter online, she finds one of the most treasured moments of her life being dissected and torn apart by her classmates. Despite being fully in love with Peter K, she’s thrown for a loop once again when an old flame’s letter shows up in the mail. Lara Jean must decide, again, whether to follow her heart, wherever it may lead, even if it means disappointing the boy she loves most.

                I really, really liked this book! Sequels tend to make me nervous, as all too often, they don’t live up to the hype. But I had nothing to worry about here. Even though it’s been a few months since I’ve read To All the Boys, P.S., I Still Love You, I had no trouble remembering where things had left off. I was instantly charmed by Lara Jean’s hilarious and sweet narration. The pacing was nice; after Long Bright River, I devoured this book in a day and a half. I loved the Coveys, their whole family; I especially loved the way that their father was at the forefront of this novel! And of course, one of my favorite parts of this was the way it shone the spotlight on Lara Jean and her hilarious sisters. And oh, my gosh! The romance and drama in this book were practically killer! I was dying over it. And the oh, so sweet surprise of John Ambrose McClaren! The only part I didn’t like was the whole thing with Peter. Throughout this whole book, he was a complete jerk to LJ! I was a Peter K. fan, but now I’m leaning toward JAM. But I guess we’ll see what happens for our young lovers in Always and Forever, Lara Jean. I’m so excited, I can’t wait! The bottom line: Hilarious, heartbreaking, romantic and painful, I loved P.S., I Still Love You! Next on deck: Serpent and Dove by Shelby Maruhin!

Long Bright River by Liz Moore Review


Title: Long Bright River
Author: Liz Moore
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

                I’ve been interested in Long Bright River before it officially came out, so when I reserved it at my local library, imagine my surprise when I was chosen to loan one of our library’s first copies! As soon as I was finished with Alien: Echo, I dove in. Taking place in Pennsylvania in the midst of the opioid crisis, Long Bright River tells the story of a police officer, Mickey, and her wayward younger sister, Kacey. Mickey is used to her sister disappearing; that’s nothing new. But when Kacey leaves a mysterious trail, Mickey is determined to find her sister, once and for all, to untangle the snarled threads that family secrets have left behind. But what Mickey uncovers goes far deeper, and she discovers that unearthing the past will hold a price that she may not be able to pay…

                Though this is Liz Moore’s third book, Long Bright River was the first I’ve ever read by her, and damn, talk about a doozy! Despite wanting something lighter after Alien, I pushed it up to the top of my stack, because I didn’t want to return it without reading it. This book is billed as a literary mystery thriller, but to sum up this meaty, heavy novel as only that would be to do it a major disservice. I’m from the Midwest, Ohio, specifically, and I’d be lying if I said this book didn’t hit really close to home. The opioid crisis is a huge deal, but especially here; I’ve seen more than one person I’ve known die from drug addiction. For that reason, I didn’t review right away; some books just need to marinate in your brain before you can write down your thoughts on it. At first, I didn’t know if the book would even be for me; I got one hundred pages in and wasn’t feeling it. But I decided to give it a chance, and I’m so, so happy that I did. The pacing was a little weird and took a bit for me to get used to, but once I did, I was thoroughly absorbed. Even if I didn’t have the book with me, it consumed my every thought. I was captivated by Mickey’s grave, quiet narration, and as I followed her through the Philly streets, the tension only grew. At times, there were so many characters that I had trouble keeping track. But overall, I loved this book, and I loved the fictional way that it laid out the awful and still climbing tolls taken by the crisis every day, particularly in my part of the country. I also loved the way that it called out the patriarchy (no spoilers!). Mickey, Kacey, Thomas, Simon, and Truman were all standout characters, so human and flawed that they seemed to come alive off of the page. And that ending! I had no idea it was coming, and when it did, I was so shocked I had to put the book down for a while! This book is one of the best I’ve read in 2020, and I can’t wait to see Liz Moore’s next novel! The bottom line: A rich, layered story about family, betrayal, and all kinds of secrets, I loved Long Bright River! Next on deck: P.S., I Still Love You by Jenny Han!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Alien: Echo by Mira Grant Review


Title: Alien: Echo
Author: Mira Grant
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

                Mira Grant has piqued my interest for years, because it’s a pseudonym for bestselling author, Seanan McGuire, and I’ve had Alien: Echo sitting at the top of my stack for a few weeks. As soon as I was finished with The Downstairs Girl, I dove in. Something weird to know about me: I HATE horror movies in all forms, but I love them in books! Drawing on the classic Alien film series, Echo tells the story of the twin Shipp sisters, Olivia and Viola. Reluctantly following their parents across the galaxy to the planet Zagreus, all Olivia wants to do is woo a pretty girl from school. But the new colony has dark, fatal secrets, and it will take all of Olivia’s instincts, her parents’ knowledge of alien wildlife, floral and fauna, and more than one adaptation to survive the unknown threat that is working to take over the planet.

                This is the first book I’ve read under Seanan McGuire’s pseudonym, Mira Grant, and I’m happy to report that this will not be my last! I loved the way Grant took the strange but familiar world of Alien and made it her own. I love science fiction, it’s one of my favorite genres, but I love it even more when it’s mashed up with horror! The pacing was breakneck and I was immediately captivated by Olivia’s voice. The stark and terrifying planet of Zagreus will probably haunt my nightmares from now on. The sense of dread and terror only mounted as the book continued. I loved the entire Shipp family, but Olivia and Viola, as well as their bond, were my favorite part of the book. And that ending! I loved the way it ended. Having narration in the present tense only added to the terror! The only thing that bothered me was that at times Olivia seemed ruled by her hormones. Nonetheless, I very much enjoyed this book! Easily one of the best sci-fi novels I’ve read recently! The bottom line: Terrifying, dark, thoughtful and shocking, I loved Alien: Echo! Next on deck: Long Bright River by Liz Moore!