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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One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake – Three Dark Crowns #2

When I had read the first book in the series, I had not liked it. It had been too slow and I did not feel a connection with the characters. I wasn’t planning on reading the sequel … but I decided to give it a shot. Here is my review:

The Quickening was an unforgettable time that revealed many hidden secrets and plots revolving the three queens. Now that the Ascension Year is underway, all bets are off. Katherine, once the weakest sister and the least likely champion for the throne, is proving herself to be stronger than ever. Arsinoe, who has finally discovered the truth about her powers, must figure out how she can use this to her advantage while keeping it a secret. And Mirabella, once thought to be the certain Queen Crowned, is facing attacks that she cannot seem to fight against. Only one thing is guaranteed: this year will be the bloodiest yet.

When compared to Three Dark Crowns, I thought this novel was a LOT better. The story starts up right where it ended, and the scheming begins almost immediately. The author was kind enough to include a list of characters and their connections to each other at the beginning of the novel, which came in handy for me when I forgot someone’s name. If it’s been a while since you read Three Dark Crowns, I strongly urge you to read it before beginning this one or else you will find yourself confused for a good bit of the story. I felt like this time around the author made it easier to understand and identify with the sisters. At least, that’s how I felt! I liked reading about Arsinoe and Katharine the most. Arsinoe has a really great personality and I like how she is connected to Jules. However, I still feel that the naturalist aspects of the story were more about Jules than Arsinoe, and I would have preferred if that had been more balanced. Katharine’s character went through the greatest change (as was hinted through the description) and I really liked that because she got a whole lot more interesting! However, I wish the author had dug deeper into these changes, instead of just having it explained at the end of the novel; there was definitely room for some horror aspects in Katharine’s story but they were muted because they weren’t explored as much as I would have liked. Mirabella didn’t really spark my interest in this story but at least the terrible love triangle from before wasn’t taking front-and-center stage like last time! The romance elements that were included in the story were not too bad this time. Overall, I had a much more enjoyable experience with this novel than its predecessor. Does it still have room for improvement? Yes. Is it the best YA fantasy series I have read? No. But it has potential and it has me intrigued so I will probably keep myself aware of the release of the next book in the series and give it a shot.

Happy reading ~

Skullsworn by Brian Staveley

This novel is apparently a standalone that is linked to a previous series written by this author: The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne. I’m really happy that the author created a book like this because getting into an epic or high fantasy series can be daunting at times, and I felt that this would kind of give me an idea of what I would be getting into if I did. So here is my review:

Pyrre Lakatur doesn’t like the word skullsworn. It fails to capture the faith and grace, the peace and beauty of her devotion to the God of Death. She is not, to her mind, an assassin, not a murderer–she is a priestess. At least, she will be once she passes her final trial. Pyrre has no qualms about killing people. Her trial gives her 10 days to kill 10 people, as depicted in an ancient song, which includes  “the one you love / who will not come again.” Pyrre has never been in love, doesn’t even know what love feels like. And that is her biggest worry: how can she complete her trial when she cannot even find someone she can love? If Pyrre fails to complete her test, then she will be given up to the god. And while Pyrre doesn’t fear death, she hates failing. So, with a month before her trials begin, she returns to the city of her birth in the hope of finding love… and ending it on the edge of her sword.

I’m a sucker for stories with assassins. It’s what really drew me to this book. The author created a beautiful background and a wonderful setting. Everything was thought through and described wonderfully. I loved learning about the Dombang’s and the old gods and the new gods. I really liked Ru Lun Lac, the man Pyrre is trying to fall in love with; he was cunning and harsh and hard to read. I also liked all of the minor characters in the story. In fact, the only character I didn’t like was Pyrre. I felt as if her personality didn’t have the fire I wanted. Yes, she was this cool badass who kills like nobody else, but she didn’t really pique my interest. The other thing I didn’t like was the actual chemistry between Pyrre and Ru Lun Lac…. because there was none. It was just weird and I didn’t understand what was really going on between them. I actually loved reading about Pyrre’s backstory and that was what I wanted to keep reading about; I felt like if I understood more about what her childhood was like and her connection with old gods was, I would like her better. I didn’t like the ending of the story. I’m not going to tell you what it was but it was disappointing for me. Overall, this novel was not what I was expecting. Yes, I got the gore and violence and awesome story-building that I wanted. But I didn’t like the main character that much and the ending wasn’t up to my expectations. I will, however, give the actual series a chance because the world itself is too awesome to pass up on. 2.5 stars rounded up to 3!

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 ~

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 ~

The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

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

When I heard that this novel was being compared to Station Eleven, I knew I had to give it a shot. Station Eleven was a book I absolutely adored so I was hoping I would enjoy this one just as much. Here is my review:

England, 1853: William gave up on his research in order to be a seed merchant and provide for his family. What he didn’t account for was the melancholy that would take over him and prevent him from doing anything. But when he stumbles upon a book that rekindles his passion in biology, he decides to set out and build a new type of beehive, one that will bring fame and honour to him and his children.

United States, 2007: George is a beekeeper who loves his traditional farming methods, and is opposing the tide of modern farming. But he is getting older every day and knows he can’t keep up with modern innovation. His only hope is in his son, Tom.

China, 2098: Now that the bees have disappeared, hundreds of workers must hand-pollinate. Tao has been doing this arduous task for years, trying to save enough money so that she and her husband can have another child, while also trying to educate her young son so that he can aspire for more in his life. When Tao’s young son is taken away by authorities after a tragic accident, she sets off on a dangerous journey to find out what happened to him.

Going into this book, I knew that it was a slow-burner that would take time to develop intrigue. I actually knew nothing about bees or pollination or the vital role that they play in our world, so I thought that was extremely interesting. The author really takes this environmental issue and beautifully connects it across 3 different generations and 3 very different groups of people. Each story was unique but presented the same content: parent-child relationships and how they are affected by parents’ expectations or hopes for their child. I thought that the author did an amazing job in portraying this relationship in each of the stories. However, I found it hard to get into the story itself. This was mainly due to the fact that the characters didn’t invoke any emotion from me. I didn’t feel invested in them and found it hard to make a connection with them. I also found that while the topics that the novel addresses were important, the author never reached the core of anything; it just felt like some depth was missing. So while this is a very interesting story told from 3 very different perspectives, it didn’t give me the overall effect I was looking for, which is why I’m giving this a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

 

Someone You Love Is Gone by Gurjinder Basran

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

I don’t often read emotional stories. But when I do, you can believe that I become a hot mess. This novel made my heart ache so many times that I didn’t know if I would be able to finish it. But I’m glad I did because it was a very thought-provoking story. Here is my review:

When Simran’s mother dies, Simran finds her world crash down around her. As she tries to make sense of the grief she feels, she sees her marriage disintegrate in front of her eyes and faces estrangement from her own daughter. As the days go by, Simran is haunted by memories and her mother’s ghost. As her life starts to fall apart, Simran must confront one of her most painful memories – when her parents sent her younger brother away. As the past starts flooding in, she wonders what could have caused her parents to send away their only son. Now, facedAs the past comes flooding back, she wonders what could compel her parents to turn their backs on their only son. Now with her mother gone, Simran must find the answers to these painful questions in order to finally put her ghosts to rest.

This book looks at grief in a multitude of ways. Not only does it focus on the actual moment of loss, it also depicts the stages and transitions one makes in the days that follow. It is a long and painful journey, and the reader feels every emotion that the main character does. As someone who has been fortunate enough to not have experienced the loss of a loved one, this was an eye-opening journey. There are so many nuances, so many elements to this state of being that I would never have thought possible. And the author allows each one to manifest itself and be understood by the reader. I really liked that the author flitted back in time and even delved into Simran’s mother’s past. This novel showed me the different ways people deal with grief, and how some accept and move on while others struggle to do so. This story is powerful even though it has a quiet voice, as it makes the reader aware of the strength it takes to carry grief in your heart and yet, continue to live life. I’m so glad that I had the chance to review this ARC and would recommend this book to anyone looking for a thought-provoking story.

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 ~

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

I’m a sucker for murder mysteries of all kind. But this one had a unique premise. It’s been called a mashup of The Breakfast Club and Clue. After reading this book, I couldn’t agree more. Here is my review:

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention. There’s Bronwyn, an intelligent and driven student whose only desire is to go to Yale; Addy, a pretty girl who is always considered an airhead; Nate, the delinquent who sells drugs; Cooper, the star athlete who everybody loves; and Simon, resident gossip blogger who is hated and feared by everyone. However, what begins as a typical time in detention soon ends up as the scene of a tragedy: Simon dies. And according to the police, his death wasn’t an accident. As the investigation begins, it is revealed that Simon was planning on revealing some juicy gossip about all 4 of his fellow detention buddies – which means they’re all suspects in his murder. Everyone has secrets…. but how far will you go to protect them?

The first page of this book reminded me of Gossip Girl, which is a guilty pleasure show of mine. As the story took off, I found myself loving the intrigue and the gossip. It felt like one of those teen shows like Degrassi … but more sinister. I loved it. It was interesting to read from each character’s perspective and I was itching to know each of their secrets. Some characters I liked more than others, but each one was unique and well created so I have no complaints there. The author also set up the story very nicely; there were plenty of clues and hints so that the reader could guess the ending, and there were quite a few moments where you really felt sympathy for the characters and what they were going through. I also liked that the ending was realistic; it’s not just puppies and rainbows with everything being perfect. I think this novel would be perfect for anyone who likes shows like Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars. It was a fun read that is addictive and I could totally see this made into a miniseries. If you like those shows and if you like teen drama and murder mysteries, you are going to love this novel as much as I did!

Happy reading ~

Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

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

I keep having issues with my laptop that has caused me to be severely delayed in writing up my reviews. This time, my screen completely shattered. Luckily, I was able to get myself a replacement laptop until my old one gets fixed. Hopefully, I will be able to get in some more reviews! Anyways, this novel was released on August 22nd, but it has been on my mind for a whole lot longer. Described as a cross between Everything I Never Told You (which I adored) and Luckiest Girl Alive (which I had mixed feelings about), it is a thriller that is “unputdownable”. I decided to test that by reading it and so … here is my review:

One morning in a sleepy Colorado suburb, a horrible tragedy occurs: high school freshman Lucinda Hayes’s dead body is found in a playground. But who caused her demise? As accusations spread, 3 strangers are brought into contact. One is oddball Cameron Whitley who has always loved – and continues to love – Lucinda. While they have never talked and Cameron is considered Lucinda’s stalker, Cameron is convinced that he knows Lucinda better than anyone else. But when he finds out that she has died, he becomes completely unhinged …. and his behaviour makes him a prime suspect. Meanwhile, Jade Dixon-Burns is one of the few people who hates Lucinda. Lucinda took everything from Jade and the worst part was Lucinda’s blissful ignorance. And finally, there is officer Russ Fletcher who doesn’t know Lucinda but knows Cameron, the boy everyone suspects may have killed her. Russ must make a painful journey in order to solve this murder, while trying to keep a promise he made long ago.

Let me start by saying that this is not a thriller, even though that is how it is being marketed. This is best described as a character-driven story. It is slower paced and revolves completely around the perspectives and experiences of Russ, Cameron, and Jade. While I thought the novel was thought-provoking and interesting, I felt that there was a lack of connection with the characters, especially Lucinda. The murder faded away into the background and while this isn’t really something that bothers me at all times, I didn’t feel as if the novel or story had enough to keep me interested. I quite liked Jade and Cameron’s characters as they at least had some tangible connection to Lucinda. However, Russ was a misnomer in that he really wasn’t a necessary component of the story. In fact, he was an officer who really didn’t do much in terms of solving the murder, and that really bothered me. Overall, this was an interesting take on a murder mystery, where the story focused more on the characters. However, there was a lack of connection between me and the characters and the plot really didn’t have any movement. For those reasons, this novel gets 2.5/5 stars from me.

Happy reading ~