Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan Mcguire

When I read Every Heart A Doorway, I have to tell you it was the most amazing experience ever. I loved the dark fantasy tale and I needed more. While this novel is part of the series, it can easily be read and enjoyed as a standalone. I finally got around to reading it today, and I finished it in one sitting. So here is my review:

Jacqueline and Jillian were never given any choices on who they wanted to be. For their mother, Jacqueline was molded into the perfect daughter: polite, quiet, and always dressed like a princess. Jillian was her father’s perfect girl: adventurous, tomboy-ish, and always looking for the next thrill; it was the closest he could get to a son. By the time they were 12 years old, these identities had been fixed upon them and no matter how much they hated it, they had no choice but to act the way their parents expected. But one rainy day, the twins find an impossible staircase that took them to a different world altogether, one filled with dangerous beings and death and the ability to make decisions for themselves…

I absolutely loved this story. It’s just as dark and weird as Every Heart A Doorway. It was so easy to get caught up in the journey of Jacqueline and Jillian. I loved the Moors, the vampire, the mad scientist … it was so much craziness that shouldn’t have made sense but did. The author manages to take the most random and insane ideas and tie it together to create this fantastic story. I also loved how the girls changed and developed over time, and how their past influenced their future choices. It says a lot about the expectations others can have about you and how that can affect you. Seeing these twins pursue completely opposite destinies was just so interesting, and yet the author still manages to make them connect with each other. I remembered Jack and Jill from Every Heart a Doorway, but this story made them all the more real to me. I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who likes weird and interesting fantasy and/or is a fan of Seanan Mcguire!

Happy reading ~

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The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix

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

I’ve never read Christian fiction. It’s not like I go out of my way to avoid it but I generally try to stay away from any books that focus on any religion. However, I thought this novel had an intriguing premise and I wanted to give this genre a chance. So here is my review:

When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she wants to do is run away. But her best friend Patrick urges her to reconsider her decision. Reluctantly, she agrees to continue with the trip they had planned before the tragedy. During a stop at a county flea market, Jessica discovers an antique sewing kit that contains a faded document. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French in the papers, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who had been condemned for practicing her faith centuries ago. Adeline and her community had been decimated by the Huguenot persecution. But the documents showed that there were those who had managed to escape the brutality, including Adeline’s siblings. Determined to learn the fate of the Baillard’s, Jessica retraces their journey from France to England, spurred by a need she doesn’t understand. Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?

I was quite surprised to find that I really enjoyed this novel. It definitely went beyond my expectations and I loved that the author had a historical aspect for this story. I really knew nothing about the Huguenots until this novel, so that was a huge revelation for me. It is always a sad thing to hear about people being persecuted for their beliefs, and the fact that this still happens to this day is just terrible. I liked how Jessica goes on this journey to understand the Baillard’s continual belief in their faith, while also figuring out what happened to them. Jessica became invested in finding out their truth, and so I as the reader became invested in it, too. I always love reading about documents that start a journey, and this one was no exception! In fact, I think the author did a great job of making the journey progress the way that it did. As expected from a novel in this genre, there is a focus on faith and religion, but it is really quite mild and it is presented in a way where people of all different religions can enjoy and appreciate the message. I will admit that I was more intrigued by the historical aspect than what Jessica was going through, but the author did a good job of showing how PTSD can traumatize a person and shake their identity. Overall, this was a really solid novel, with good writing and a good journey!

Happy reading ~

The Lives of Desperate Girls by Mackenzie Commons

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

I was intrigued by both the premise and the location of this novel. I really like novels where teens are dealing with something difficult and take it upon themselves to find out what’s really going on. I also wanted to see how the author portrays Northern Ontario; as a Torontonian who has never really gone up north, I was excited to read about what life is like there. Anyways, here is my review:

When 16-year-old Helen Commanda is found murdered just outside Thunder Creek, no one pays any attention to it. All her death does is shed light on the earlier disappearance of Chloe Shaughnessy. Chloe is everything Helen isn’t: beautiful, wealthy, and white. The fact that Helen was from the reservation only seems to make it easier for people to dismiss her. Only Jenny Parker, Chloe’s best friend, seems to think it is important to look into Helen’s death, and so she takes it upon herself to look for answers about Helen’s life and death. But what can a teenage girl really accomplish where adults have failed? And how much is Jenny actually complicit in a conspiracy of silence?

I have mixed feelings about this novel because there are a few things that the author does that I like but an equal amount of things that I don’t like. I really liked that the author highlighted the problems of the First Nations people of Canada. Not many people are aware of their struggles and the things they have endured – and continue to endure – are heartbreaking. And the author really does do justice to them: she tells it like it is. I only wish it had been told from the perspective of an actual Native and not just from that of a white teenage girl. While Jenny is definitely trying to understand and be aware of the oppression and racism that the Aboriginal people face, I don’t think she is necessarily the best spokesperson for it since she really isn’t a part of their community or culture. I wish there had been more emphasis on the way life is on the reserves and the traditions that the First Nations value, as that would have allowed the reader to see some of the wonderful aspects of their culture. However, the idea that a Native girl’s death is not as important as a Caucasian girl’s disappearance was an interesting one and I think the author did a really good job of bringing that to the forefront. I actually found the writing style compelling, even if it was confusing to follow at times what with the various jumps in time that Jenny took; it was hard to tell if something was happening in the present or if it was just a memory. I did not like the love angle that the author tried to force into the situation; it didn’t add anything to the novel and it was not well planned or executed. It was literally just two teenagers hooking up and doing drugs and drinking, none of which screams romance or bonding. I didn’t like the incompetence of the cops, and I’m not just referring to their dismissal over the case of Helen. I’m referring to the almost comical way they question and interrogate Jenny over Chloe’s disappearance; you would think adults would know how to run an investigation and ask the right questions but clearly, that is not the case in this novel. The author also takes on another topic: slut-shaming. While I think this is an important topic to discuss, I don’t really like Jenny’s role in that aspect and I wish the author had made her more … sensible or intelligent. I also didn’t really like how things were resolved in the novel because, well, it didn’t really feel resolved. I understand that not everything can have a happy ending but this just felt messy and unfinished. Overall, I think the author chose 2 very important topics to center her novel around. While the writing was compelling, the main character’s decisions as well as the actual ending of the novel left me disappointed. For those reasons, I’m giving this novel a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

 

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

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

I’ve only read one other book by Alice Hoffman, but I really loved it. So I was super excited for the chance to read this one! This novel is a prequel to Practical Magic, which I have not read before and which the reader does not have to have read in order to understand what is happening in this story. But let me get on with my review:

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Even though it has been hundreds of years, and there have been many changes in the world, Susanna Owens knows that her 3 children are talented – and dangerous. There’s Franny, perpetually grumpy but with an ability to communicate with animals; Jet, who is beautiful and kind, with the ability to read others’ thoughts; and Vincent, charismatic and addictive, with a penchant for getting into trouble. Knowing all this, Susanna has set down rules for her children: no walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they really are. And when they come back home to New York City, each sibling sets off on a risky journey to escape the family curse.

If you think this is just a story about spells and potions, then you would be wrong. This is about so much more than just magic. It’s about families filled with regret, it’s about gaining the courage to live life to the fullest, and it is about daring to love and dream and LIVE. As usual, the author has written a beautiful story about family and love and loss, with gorgeous prose. I really could not stop myself from turning the pages. Every character has been wonderfully created, and it is so easy to feel connected to them; I felt truly invested in their lives and their pursuit for happiness. This novel had me so emotional; I was literally sobbing at times because I could feel their emotions so deeply. One thing is for sure: I am DEFINITELY going to read Practical Magic. If you have never read a book by Alice Hoffman, I urge you to do so ASAP because she is such a talented author and everything she writes is amazing! I’m just glad she’s written as many books as she has, because now I have more books to enjoy!

Happy reading ~

Once, in a Town Called Moth by Trilby Kent

I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while now, but I’ve been putting it off every time in lieu of some other urgent reading task. But I decided to make time for it now, so here is my review:

Ana grew up in a tiny Mennonite colongy in Bolivia. Her mother fled the colony when Ana was a young girl. Now, as a teenager, Ana and her father have also run away from the community, but Ana doesn’t know why. All she knows is that things were not right for her and her father and they needed to leave in a hurry. Now, they’ve arrived in Toronto and Ana must fend for herself in an alien country, completely disconnected from everything she knew. She has no idea where to begin with fitting in. But begin she does: she makes a friend, then two. She goes to school and tries to understand the hierarchy that is present and all the unspoken rules and codes that govern teenage life. She goes to the library, the mall, and even parties. And all the while, she is desperate to find her mother who left her so long ago, and understand her father who has always been a stranger to her.

This is definitely a character-driven story, and it is quite well done at that. The story is told from Ana’s perspective, in third perspective when she is in Toronto and in first perspective when she is describing her past in the Mennonite colony. I really liked that the author made that differentiation, as I’ve never seen an author do that before and it added a unique touch to the story. I really liked Ana’s character and the author did a really great job in expressing the emotions she was going through; as a reader, I found it very easy to connect with and understand Ana. I didn’t know much about the Mennonite community before this novel, but it is clear that the author did due diligence in researching and presenting the information about this community in a non-judgemental way. This novel is definitely more of a slow-burner and it’s really just about how Ana adjusts to Toronto after leaving Colony Felicidad so if you are expecting something more fast-paced or with action, then this is not the novel for you. However, it is a well-written YA novel that is all about growing up, fitting in, and finding your identity. I’m giving this a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Select by Marit Weisenberg

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

Sometimes, all I really want is to read some YA fiction. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often given my work and my looooong TBR list. Happily, this was one of the novels on that list so I could shoot two birds with one stone! Here is my review:

17-year-old Julia Jaynes comes from a very wealthy family. She is freakishly athletic, intelligent, and beautiful. But everyone in her community is like that. That’s because they all come from a race of highly-evolved humans living in the heart of Texas. In order to protect themselves and preserve their elite society, Julia’s powerful father has forced her to suppress her abilities. But when she accidentally demonstrates her powers in public, she is banished to the local public high school. Not only must Julia navigate through the confusion that is high school, she must also pretend to be a normal human being, which is not an easy task. Julia just wants to keep her head down and leave as soon as possible – but then she meets John Ford. And there is an instant connection between the two. She can even read his mind! But as Julia’s newfound powers grow, so do her feelings for Josh. When she discovers her father’s secrets, Julia begins to question her restrictive upbringing. Now, she must decide who she truly is – and who she will betray to maintain her new identity.

So what drew me to this book in the first place was the science fiction element. Of course, from the blurb, I knew there was a fair bit of romance. What I wasn’t expecting was that 90% of this novel would be romance and only 10% would be actual science fiction. That part was a big disappointment because I thought there would be more to her powers than what the author had in mind. I think if the author had spent more time developing the science fiction aspect of the story, there would have been more depth to the story. However …. I still really enjoyed the book. I usually don’t like romance novels; they make me cringe with the clichéd phrases. But for some reason, this one worked. Now, I’m not saying that the romance between Josh and Julia was spot-on; there were some definite holes in the way things worked and developed between the two. But it also reminded me of my own high school experiences, the friendships that blossom into something more, and the sweetness of first love. It was cute and sweet and simple and I liked it. I also liked that the author showed how Julia was affected by the actions and thoughts of other characters. While this made the story more of a realistic fiction than science fiction, it was an aspect that was still well done. Now, if you were looking for a good science fiction novel, then this is not the one for you. I mean, it seriously has nothing to offer in terms of that genre. If you like sweet romance mixed with family drama, then you would probably enjoy this story. Because that’s pretty much what it’s all about. Because the science fiction part was misleading but I actually enjoyed the romance part of this story, I’m giving this a 3.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff – Nevernight Chronicles #2

I loved Nevernight so much so that I bought it. I have been eagerly anticipating the release of this novel and I had to wait FOREVER to get my hands on it. But I did. And I kid you not, I put every other book aside so that I could devote all of my time to this novel. I even skipped out on doing work (sorry not sorry) to finish it and savour this amazing sequel. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here is my review:

Assassin Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church don’t think she’s earned it just yet. As she successfully completes one mission after the other, she finds herself no closer in her quest to kill Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo. And after a deadly confrontation with an enemy, Mia starts to suspect the allegiance of the Red Church itself.  When she finds out that Scaeva and Duomo will be making an appearance in the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia hatches a plan. She defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium in the hopes of reaching the conclusion level of the games and finally getting the chance to seek her revenge. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.

This was one of the best sequels I’ve ever read. Usually, I find that in a trilogy, the second book is just filler. NOT THE CASE WITH THIS GEM! The darkness, brutality, and violence that made this story so believable in the first book carried over here. If anything, it was more intense than before! Mia is an amazing character and I love how sneaky and cunning she can be with her friends – and the reader. I love how she grows and changes, and I love that this novel showed a different side to her world than what we had seen in Nevernight. The gladiator battles were amazing, and I liked the new characters that were introduced. The writing style was just the same (meaning BRILLIANT) and it was great to see how the author flitted between past and present in the first part of the story. I think what really makes this story work for me is that the author doesn’t cheat the reader out of the experience. This book promises gore and then it delivers it. It promises an evolving and fast-paced story and that’s exactly what the reader gets. And there are so many surprising events that occur, which the reader could never have guessed and they just add to the intrigue and make you want to know more! Suffice to say, it was worth making all of the sacrifices that I did (like skipping work, and not studying or reading anything else). Now, I just have to wait in agony for the next book to be released!

Happy reading ~

 

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

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

This is one of thsoe cases where I chose a book simply because its title and cover looked interesting. I wanted to see if the story would match its outward appeal, and was very excited to have received this ARC. Here is my review:

Aviva Grossman is a bright and ambitious congressional intern… until she makes the mistake of having an affair with her married boss, the congressman. What’s worse is she wrote about her experience in an anonymous blog. When the affair comes to light in an unfortunate turn of events, it’s not the congressman who takes the fall, but rather Aiva. Suddenly, she can’t find herself a job anywhere, and she is slut shamed by everyone everywhere. Determined to get out of this unpleasant situation, Aviva leaves her home, changes her name, starts her own event planning business … and continues her surprise pregnancy. But when “Jane Young” decides to run for public office, that long-ago mistake comes back to haunt her.

This was a really interesting novel in terms of its premise. However, I’m still on the fence about whether it achieved its goals or not. This story is narrated from quite a few perspectives (all female), which I wasn’t expecting. Since this was Aviva’s story and the premise only mentions Aviva, I thought that this story would be from her perspective alone. While this made it interesting, it also made it a bit confusing. The novel begins with Aviva’s mother’s perspective, and while I loved her character, it took me a while to figure out where exactly the story was going. Then there was another switch in perspective, and again, I felt as if I had been uprooted from one story and put into another. This feeling was persistent for a large portion of the novel. However, I will say that I enjoyed reading from each perspective. All of the characters were wonderful and just so funny to read about. I also think that the author really makes a fine point of how unfair it is that a publicly drawn-out affair only affects the woman involved and not the man. However, I wish the author had elaborated on this aspect; while it is the main reason why Aviva takes such drastic decisions, it also never felt like it was fully addressed and resolved. This novel was a really enjoyable and funny read with great characters. However, it didn’t really address the elephant in the room and left me a bit disappointed. For that reason, I’m giving this novel a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Now I Rise by Kiersten White – Conqueror’s Saga #2

When I read And I Darken, I immediately fell in love with the unique protagonist. Lada is like no other in her ferocity and determination. The author stays true to her vicious nature and I loved that the author never made that aspect of Lada go away. It was no surprise then that I would be anxiously waiting for the sequel. So here is my review:

Lada Dracul is only after one thing: Wallachia. And she will do anything to get there. Filled with rage, she storms the countryside with her loyal men, terrorizing all those who defy her. But brute force isn’t working as well as it should. What Lada needs is her younger brother, Radu. But she left him – and Mehmed – behind. What Lada has yet to discover is that Mehmed has sent Radu to Constantinople – as a spy. Mehmed wants to control the city, and Radu would do anything for Mehmed. Radu longs for Lada’s confidence and bravery – but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. As nations crumble, the Dracul siblings must decide if they will make the ultimate sacrifice to fulfill their destinies.

I didn’t think the story could get any better – but it did. I loved everything about this book but let me try to break it into components. First off, I loved Lada (as usual). She maintained her ferocity, but also realized that she needed to change her style at times. She had her own unique way of deciding to govern her people, one that was influenced by her time with the Ottomans as well as by her memories of her father. She grows as an individual and the reader gets to see her vulnerable side (but not for too long!) This is the one character that does not require a man to complete her, or help her fulfill her goals and that is what I love about her. I’ve always been fascinated with the historical figure Vlad the Impaler but I never thought anyone would be able to reimagine him as a female. I’m happy to say that the author has succeeded! The next amazing thing about this novel is that the author made Radu a more prominent character. Before, he had been overshadowed by Lada, but in this novel he had his own moments. He also grew and changed as events unfolded. He became wiser, and struggled with himself at times. Was he my favorite character? No. But that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t well developed. In fact, he was an amazingly developed character, and the author kept him true to his original personality. What I actually liked about this novel was that Mehmed took the back seat. I was worried that this second novel would be more of a love triangle than a story filled with action and warfare, but I needn’t have worried. There was a ton of bloodshed and cunning in this story, enough to keep me satisfied. The story had a lot of twists and turns and it forced the reader to pay attention to all of the details (not that I had to be forced!) Overall it was a very compelling read and I really could not put the book down. And that ending? Well, it was fantastic and I cannot wait for what the author has in store for the Dracul siblings! Definitely a 5/5 stars from me!

Happy reading ~

Burntown by Jennifer McMahon

I love weird stories. The wackier, the better. It’s one of the reasons I love Joan Aiken’s Wolves Chronicles series. While I’ve never heard of this author before this book, I read that she had a reputation for coming up with wild stories. So I decided to get started with this one. Here is my review:

Eva grew up watching her father, Miles, invent strange and wonderful things in the small workshop behind their house on the river that runs through their old mill town. But the most important invention that Miles every made came from the mind of Thomas Edison: a machine that lets you talk to the dead. The bluepritns for this machine has been passed down to Miles and he’s been using it to protect his family. But one night, when a fierce storm is raging and there is the threat of a flood, the machine comes to life and delivers a single message: you’re in terrible danger. The next thing Eva knows, she is waking up by the river and only her mother is there. Her father and brother are dead, the house is gone, and there is an evil man out to get them. Eva changes her name to Necco and tries to forget about her past as she and her mother live life off the grid. But when her mother dies and her boyfriend is murdered, Necco is convinced that her past is catching up to her. What really happened that night? As Necco tries to discover the truth, she connects with 2 other women who are on their own desperate quests. And as the trio follow the clues, they discover that sometimes it’s the smallest towns that hold the strangest secrets.

Before this novel, I would never have thought that so many mismatched parts could come together to create a cohesive and interesting story. But they did. And I loved every minute of it. There is a paranormal aspect, with visions and psychic abilities and machines that let you communicate with the dead. There is a mystery element where people keep dying but you don’t know why. There’s a thriller aspect where the main character is being hunted by a man wearing a chicken skin mask. In all, it’s a crazy mess. But it worked on so many levels. There was not a single boring moment in this story. And the author managed to run so many different storylines at the same time! There are 3 main female characters and they each got their moment in the spotlight, which I really loved. The way it all got tied in was unexpected but it worked with the weirdness of the premise. I’m still shocked by how everything was put together … but I definitely enjoyed this read! This is not a traditional book in any way so I would recommend this to people who enjoy crazy stories with super interesting and zany plots! I can’t wait to read more by this author!

Hapyp reading ~