Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sometimes, I like to take a break from reading heavy books and switch it up with something lighter. I find that books aimed for little kids are just adorable in the way they portray the classic good-vs-evil story with a whole host of cute characters; they can definitely be appealing if you want something light-hearted. With that, let me start my review:

Warren the 13th comes from a long line of hotel owners. He is the sole bellhop, waiter, valet, and groundskeeper for his family’s ancient hotel. Once, it was a glorious place that was always booming but now it’s more of a shadowy mansion full of crooked corridors and musty rooms. However, the hotel has a secret: it just might be the home for a magical object called the All-Seeing Eye. Can Warren make sense of all of the clues to find the treasure before his evil Aunt Annaconda does?

What a cute book! Warren is such an adorable character, and he is the sweetest kid you will ever read about! The story reminded me a little of The Wolves Chronicles by Joan Aiken (which I’m still in the process of reading) because of its wackiness and weird plot twists. The ebook ARC version that I read had some illustrations in it but they were not always in the best format; I think the final completed version of this book has made the illustrations a lot clearer so that will be another element that kids will enjoy. This is definitely a story I can see middle schoolers enjoying because it’s got great elements, great pictures, and a great theme!

Happy reading ~

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I haven’t read a nonfiction novel in a long time and I don’t think I have ever blogged about it. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to broaden my reading range. I’m so glad that I chose to read this book because it was such a fantastic experience. Here is my review:

As World War I took its tool, hundreds of young women were employed at radium-dial factories to paint clock faces with a new miracle substance: radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was completely safe, the women used the “lip-painting” technique to do their job, happily surprised to find themselves glowing from head to toe by the dust that collected after a day’s work. With such a coveted job, these girls were considered to be the luckiest of all – until they all began to fall ill. As the radium poisoned their bodies, they found themselves battling not just their physical ailments but the working industry themselves in one of America’s biggest scandals.

I never expected a nonfiction novel to be so moving and gripping. I could not read this novel in one sitting; I had to take multiple pauses because it was just so emotional. I didn’t know much about this topic before I began reading. I had just thought that this was an interesting event that involved radium, a substance I’m familiar with through my course work. I got so much more than that through this book. The author creates a vivid story that looks at the lives of all of these women, full of their hopes and dreams and despairs. It shows all of the different people involved that either hindered or aided in justice being meted out. There was so much courage and strength portrayed here and the author made the reader care about every single woman mentioned in the story; they weren’t just names but real people that I could connect with. While the novel was definitely more in favor of the women than the radium companies (which totally makes sense!), I was happy to see that the author did take into account the reasons why the companies did what they did; it didn’t make me sympathetic to them on any account but it did make an attempt to give a more well-rounded picture of the scandal. This was a gripping story where I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how the women would get past each obstacle thrown in their way. The best thing about this story was the message of perseverance and hope and bravery that these women showed in every facet of their lives; they may have been dying but they wouldn’t give up on living and fighting. It made me feel so proud to see all that they accomplished even after facing such adversity. I can honestly say that I have never felt this emotionally invested in a novel before. What an amazing story and the author did such a brilliant job of making it relevant and appealing to the masses. This is definitely a nonfiction book you don’t want to miss out on!

Happy reading ~

Based on A True Story by Delpine de Vigan

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What would you do if your closest friend tried to steal your life?

Today I know that L. is the sole reason for my powerlessness. And that the two years that we were friends almost made me stop writing for ever.

When Delphine’s latest novel ends up a huge success, she finds herself overwhelmed and unable to write her next book. And then she meets L. L is the kind of woman who has always fascinated Delphine, a woman with perfect nails and hair, and who knows just what to say at all times. Delphine can’t help but be drawn to her, and their friendship evolves slowly yet surely. But soon L begins to dress like Delphine, and, when Delphine admits that she is unable to write, L even offers to answer her emails. As L becomes more involved in Delphine’s life, Delphine begins to discover that L has had complete control this entire time …. and refuses to let go.

This is one of those cases where the novel and reader just weren’t compatible. I thought that the story had definite promise and the premise was very intriguing. However, it was a very slow buildup and I quickly lost attention. By the time the story got good, I realized that I wasn’t very invested in it and didn’t really care too much about the outcome. I will say that I quite enjoyed the writing style of the author; it flowed very nicely and you can tell the author took the time to carefully choose her words. I think that this novel would be best suited for someone looking for a slow, deep character-based book rather than something thrilling.

Happy reading ~

Visions by Kelley Armstrong – Cainsville #2

It’s been a while since I read Omens by this author but I really enjoyed that foray into urban fantasy. I hadn’t planned on waiting so long to read the sequel but … life … happens. Anyways, I finally got around to it so here is my review:

In Omens, Olivia Taylor-Jones discovers that she is the daughter of notorious serial killers. She finds an ally in Gabriel Walsh, a selfish, morally ambiguous lawyer. Together, they were able to find a devious killer and partially cleared Olivia’s parents from their crimes. Their success, however, doesn’t last long. While Olivia continues to take refuge in Cainsville, Gabriel’s past comes back to haunt both of them.

When Olivia finds a dead woman in her car, dressed just like her, she is shocked. What makes it worse is that the body disappears before anyone else sees it. Olivia is convinced it’s another omen. But when she learns that a real young woman went missing just a few days ago, it makes Olivia question whether the body she saw was just a simple omen – or a message. Who would have left this kind of warning and why? As Olivia tries to uncover the truth, she finds herself in the crosshairs of old and powerful forces that have their own agenda and secrets.

It took me a while to get into this novel because I couldn’t really remember what had happened. But after just a chapter or two, everything started to fall into place. It helped that the author provided recaps of important events from the first book to help set the tone for this novel. Again, we are thrown into a murder mystery that has some supernatural elements to it. I liked that the novel actually managed to answer some of the underlying questions that I had had from before. She also added a whole host of new elements that led to more questions. I will say that there is a whole new level of romance seen in this book that I was not expecting so …. readers be prepared! The dynamic between Olivia and Gabriel gets better in this novel and you really start to admire their witty friendship. One of the things that made me really happy about this novel is that the supernatural elements of the story were a lot more visible, even though it still maintained its main murder mystery plot; what drew me to the series in the first place was a promise of fantasy, and the author definitely delivered on that account. Overall, this is a novel filled with intrigue, supernatural forces, and an interesting murder mystery. If you liked Omens, you will definitely enjoy Visions!

Happy reading ~

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier – Hogarth Shakespeare

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I first requested this novel, it was because I really enjoyed reading Tracy Chevalier’s earlier work. Imagine my delight when I discovered that this novel is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series! So far, I’ve loved every book that has been part of the Hogarth concept, so I was very excited to give this novel a shot!

Osei Kokote has not had it easy. The son of a diplomat, it is his first day at his fifth new school in as many years. He knows that in order to survive his first day, he needs to find an ally, and he is lucky enough to find a friend in Dee, the most popular girl in school. For her part, Dee genuinely seems to like Osei and soon their budding relationship takes flight. But there is one person who is not happy to see this and is determined to wreak havoc on this friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. BBy the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.

The Shakespeare play that served as inspiration for this novel is Othello, which is one of the few works by Shakespeare that I actually don’t like too much. I’ve never been a fan of tragedies, especially ones that deal with the whole concept of misunderstandings. I was quite impressed by the originality of this novel, in taking a serious adult tragedy like Othello and transplanting it into a Washington school playground. It reminded me of my cringe-worthy days in elementary school, struggling to fit in with my peers, facing the social hierarchy that was constantly shifting, and dealing with betrayals and crushes. The author did a great job of giving each character a unique voice and exploring the playground politics in a serious tone that went beyond the surface. This novel speaks at length on the issue of race in an unusual setting that is really just a microcosm of our own society; it both surprised and delighted me to see this concept work out as well as it did! Was this novel a complete success? No. It had its flaws and the ending, while tragic, was a bit too dramatic for the setting the author was trying to maintain. However, this is still a powerful rendition of Othello, and I appreciate its uniqueness. Overall, an interesting novel!

Happy reading ~

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I love books with unusual characters. Actually, I love almost anything that has to do with unusual people. Sometimes it is the thing that can take a decent story and make it absolutely fabulous. From the blurb about this book, I gleaned that Eleanor would be a very different protagonist than what I’m used to so I decided to give it a go. Thank you to the First To Read program and Penguin Random House for this ARC!

Eleanor Oliphant lives a solitary life and she is perfectly happy with that. She finds it difficult to maintain or even initiate social interactions, as she has a tendency to say exactly what she thinks. Her personality, combined with her unusual appearance, means that Eleanor has always been a loner. Her weekends are spent alone in her apartment, with just pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy for company. But this little bubble of isolation is broken when Eleanor meets Raymond, the IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond save an elderly gentleman named Sammy, the three become friends who help each other get past the loneliness that dominates their lives. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor repair her own damaged one.

This novel is not your average chick-lit. While it is funny and uplifting, it also deals with some deep emotional elements that I wasn’t really expecting but was glad to read about. I quite enjoyed this novel because it had more depth to it than a usual chick lit but it didn’t bog me down with a sob story. I was also pleased to see that the author stuck true to her words and created a quirky personality that remained quirky throughout the novel; sometimes, you find that the interesting bit is only true in the beginning and the author forgets to maintain it as the focus shifts more to plot, but that definitely didn’t happen here! I loved Eleanor and she is definitely a character I have never read about! The best part about this novel is how it maintains the initial concepts and characteristics, even as they change and evolve throughout the story. I never had a moment where I felt that the story wasn’t quirky. I never had a moment where I felt that the plot was moving in a completely different direction with a markedly different tone and mood. Everything made sense and the story was just so enjoyable! Overall, I really liked this novel and would recommend this to anyone looking for a chick lit with a little more depth and quirkiness than the norm!

Happy reading ~

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson

You may expect that an idyllic community of wealthy California families would be the perfect paradise. Instead, when a middle school tragedy occurs, it becomes a nightmare. The reverberations from that tragedy still shake the community … and the privileged students involved in it. Now, new teacher Molly Nicoll enters the scene, hoping to inspire her pupils and understand them, not knowing the effects that the disaster has already had on them. At every turn, there is a child hiding under high school stereotypes: Nick, the brilliant scam artist; Emma, the gifted dancer and party girl; Dave, the B student who strives to meet his parents’ expectations; Calista, the hippie outcast who hides her intelligence for reasons of her own; and Abigail, the girl who has her life charted out but makes a rash decision that will change her world.

The first story that this novel opens up with is emotionally-charged, and it is what got me into this book. It reminded me a lot of my own middle school and high school days, and every miserably memory that I had from that time. It was powerful and showed the very dark side of adolescence. However, the rest of the novel didn’t really work for me. Each chapter is like a vignette into a character’s life, and reading this novel, it began to feel as if I was reading short stories instead of a cohesive novel. The characters were also a bit too flat for me because they didn’t always get enough time in their chapter to be explored and developed; I ended up not really caring about any of them. At one point, I began to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters, which took my attention away from the main message. It’s clear from this novel that the author is very passionate about the drama and bullying and difficulties that arise in adolescents who are in high school. And she did a great job of exploring the various issues. That passion is evident throughout the novel and was the force that propelled the plot forward. However, this passion wasn’t enough for me to like this novel. If you like novels that deal with these issues, then you should definitely give this one a read. However, I will be giving this novel a 2.5/5 (the 2.5 is for the passion).

Happy reading ~

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine – The Great Library #2

After the spectacular journey in Ink and Bone, it was all I could do to not rush out and get this next novel. I wanted to read it leisurely, when I knew I would have enough time and energy to devote to this series. As soon as I finished my last final, I put everything else away and began to read this book. Here is my review:

Jess Brightwell survived his introduction to the Library, but serving in the army is nothing like what he imagined. With his best friend lost and Morgan, the girl he loves, locked away in the Iron Tower, his life and the lives of his other friends has changed forever. After embarking on a mission to save a friend, Jess and his group of allies make one wrong move and find themselves being hunted by the Library’s automata, forcing them to flee Alexandria and head to London. But London is no longer safe. The Welsh army is approaching, London is burning, and Jess must decide where his loyalties lie.

Did this novel live up to the standards of Ink and Bone? Not a chance. To be quite honest, this novel was so lackluster in comparison to its predecessor. Nothing happens. Seriously, it’s just a lot of talking and conspiring. Almost all of the novel was spent with Jess and the rest of the gang trying to figure things out. It was quite annoying to continually read about this, especially once it became clear how things were headed. The craziness and the intrigue and the characters that had me so fascinated were very dull in this book. Jess had almost no personality, and none of the other characters sparked my interest like they did in the previous novel. There was just no growth and no forward movement except in little jerks. This book was definitely a disappointment, especially following the amazing quality of the first book. I hope that the next installment redeems this series!

Happy reading ~

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sports has never been my thing. I’ve never understood the sports culture and many of the rules of the various games just flies over my head. I’ll admit part of it is because I’ve never really given it a fair shot. This novel was me giving it a chance to win me over!

Beartown is a tiny community nestled deep in the forest. But down by the lake, there is an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. This ice rink is the only thing that makes people believe in a brighter future. Beartown’s junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys. Naturally, this is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match acts as a catalyst for a violent act that will leave a girl traumatized and a town divided.  When accusations are made and the truth threatens to come out, the reverberations  travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

You do not need to know anything about hockey in order to understand this novel. That being said, you’d probably enjoy this novel more if you are a fan of the game. There is A LOT  of hockey talk in this game. I don’t mean that the author puts in useless jargon or anything; it’s just that every other sentence has something to do with hockey. Now, you may think that I’m saying this as an off-putting thing but it actually wasn’t. It allowed me to understand and appreciate the hockey culture. This novel actually helped me see what the hype was all about and how people can make hockey the center of their lives, a fact I’m sure my boyfriend will be very happy to hear! This novel is very well-written and involves a whole host of characters, some adults and some teenagers. Each one has their own unique perspective, their own backstory, and the author does a fantastic job of making them relevant without bogging down the story. This novel is emotionally engaging, which was a happy surprise for me as I wasn’t expecting it. There is so much to this novel, so many issues that it highlights, and I could keep talking forever and ever on them…. but I won’t. I’d rather you read this novel and form your own impressions instead. This novel was something that I approached warily but by the end of the story, I was an absolute fan of this book and author!

Happy reading ~

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – Nevernight Chronicle #1

I didn’t really know what to expect when I got this novel. It seemed interesting enough with its amazing cover art and its blurb about assassins. I love all things dark and anti-heroes are my favorite, especially when they’ve got a pretty kick-ass revenge plot. I was quite excited to read this novel … and it shows because I stayed up until 4am in the morning to finish this book, and I forgot to eat lunch and dinner!

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Mia Corvere barely escaped her father’s failed rebellion with her life. With him executed as a traitor, her mother is sent to a prison with her younger brother, and Mia was sent to her death. She manages to escape and finds herself alone and friendless in a city built from the bones of a dead god. But she finds solace at the doors of a retired killer, who leads her to a future she could never have imagined. Now, Mia is sent to train with the deadliest group of assassins in the entire Republic: the Red Church. If she can beat her classmates in the areas of steel, poison, and the subtle arts, she will be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder – and one step closer to the revenge she seeks. But with a killer loose within the church, Mia may not even survive to initiation.

I find that the more I love a book, the worse I am at articulating what it is I like about the novel. I’m going to try my best to overcome that here.

This is not a novel that is light-hearted. You are reading a story about assassins and as such, this novel is grim and dark and full of complexity. Every person is a cold-blooded killer and you really cannot trust anyone. On top of that, there is a murder plot going on that becomes quite important as the story goes on. What I loved about this story was that it kept its theme throughout; the same intensity and darkness were maintained and the novel was engaging to read. I loved that the characters themselves were so dark and broken and messed-up – it made for such interesting characters. The author did a great job with creating the anti-hero and showing her growth. The story flits between her past and present in such a way that I felt like I knew her and also felt like she was an enigma all at the same time. Every character introduced has a purpose – but whether they are good or bad remains to be seen. This novel was a rollercoaster ride and it was one of the best rollercoasters I have ever been on!

I am not a fan of lengthy descriptions and overusage of metaphors and similes. But it worked for this novel. The first chapter that I encountered was written in alternating paragraph form, depicting 2 distinctly different scenes in a similar manner. It hooked me. It was such a unique and interesting way to write and as soon as I read it, I had to reread it again to make sure of what I had just read. It was one of those woah-epiphany moments for me, and after that, I was captivated by the writing style employed in this novel. I loved that there were footnotes included that gave little funny tidbits from an unknown sarcastic narrator. I enjoyed having glimpses between the past and the present, and the way the author wrote made it a mystery as to who is actually on Mia’s side and who is a potential threat.

Overall, I found this book spellbinding from the start, with its unique (and humorous) prose, its sinister plot, and its amazing characters. I am anxiously waiting to read Godsgrave, the next novel in this series!

Happy reading ~