Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween Reads for People Who Don't Like Horror

A weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

I have to admit, I'm kind of a big wuss when it comes to horror. I am very easily freaked out and anxiety already makes me fixate on things like weird noises in my house and being alone. So needless to say, I d not read a lot of horror. But I do like atmospheric reads and can handle a spooky book about witches or vampires. So I decided to make a list for people like me who don't love horror but still want something Hallween-y. I did a similar list two years ago so check that out HERE if you want more.

1.) Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
This book is about a girl who brings her dead best friend back from the dead to solve her murder. It's creepy and has series The Craft vibes but it's also really funny.

2.) The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger
This series effortlessly combines Historical Fiction, Steampunk, and Supernatural Fantasy. It's a world where vampires and werewolves rule London society, but it's also super silly and romantic.

3.) City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
This is another one that is kind of low key horror. It's about a girl who can see ghosts. But it's also Middle Grade and Victoria Schwab so like you can handle it.

4.) The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Reading by Alexandra Bracken
This is another Middle Grade with serious Halloween vibes. It's about a boy whose family curse is that he gets a demon inside of him and he lives in like a fictionalized version of Salem, Mass basically.

5.) Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
This series is about a girl who has the power to bind ghosts through art and uses them to do whatever she asks. It has some Magical Realism vibes but it's also got great character development to balance the Supernatural elements

6.) Wayward Children by Seanan McGuire
This series is pretty solid fantasy with worlds within worlds but some of the books take you to super dark worlds including Down Among the Sticks and Bones where you are in a majorly creepy Gothic world.

7.) You or Providence by Caroline Kepnes
Originally I was only going to include Providence because it's inspired by H.P. Lovecraft and has an urban fantasy vibe but You is one of the creepiest thrillers I have ever read which to me is perfect fodder for scary stories that aren't Horror.

8.) Final Girls by Riley Redgate
Final Girls is also a creepy thriller. The general idea is that the book is about girls who survived a serial killer but years later. It has that Slasher Movie vibe to it but it's still a pretty classic mystery which I liked.

9.) The Wicked Deep by Shea Earnshaw
Usually I make this list full of Historical Mysteries because those to me are the perfect books for this time of year. They are atmospheric and often involve demons or ghosts. Like this one which is essential about possession but also has historical elements so I can deal with it.

10.) As I Descended by Rabin Talley
This is another one that is a pretty classic ghost story but it's also a Shakespeare retelling so if you don't like Horror you can tell yourself it's just a retelling. It's also really good and has a creepy boarding school which I am here for.

11.) Odd & True by Cat Winters
This is another historical mystery which is about two girls who hunt demons. But because it's has a historical setting I can focus on that. I also recommend Dark Days Club if you are looking for something similar.

Honorable Mention to The Agony House by Cherie Priest which is Horror but is AMAZING and has a lot of depth to it. Plus there are comics which help break things up and for me made it feel way less creepy.

There you have it, all the books that made my list. What Halloween reads would you recommend?  Any for people who are not fans of Horror? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Review: Witch Born by Nicholas Bowling

Title: Witch Born
Written by: Nicholas Bowling
Published: September 25, 2018 by Scholastic

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Alyce's mother has just been burnt at the stake for practicing witchcraft. With only a thin set of instructions and a witch's mommet for guidance, Alyce must face the world that she's been sealed off from -- a world of fear and superstition. With a witch hunter fast on her trail, she'll need the help of an innkeeper and a boy looking to discover the truth behind his own mother's past. 

But as her journey continues, another war rages: a hidden war of the supernatural, of the living and the dead. Good and evil are blurred, and nobody's motives can be trusted. And Alyce finds herself thrown unwillingly into the conflict. Struggling to understand her own powers, she is quickly drawn into a web of secret, lies, and dark magic that could change the fate of the world she is just coming to know. 

This dark, twisty, and thrillingly original debut will leave readers entranced in its suspenseful plot and rich prose.

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

I first learned about this book at ALA and it sounded like a total me book, historical fantasy with witched and political intrigue, sign me up. I wasn't able to get a copy there but I requested one from the publisher afterwards and they were nice enough to send me a copy. And I am so glad, because this really was a fantastic read.

One of the things that I liked most about this book is the setting. Historical fantasy is one of my favorite subgeneres. I find it so entertaining for the author to take something that from history that I know well, or even a little bit, and make it their own with fantastical elements. That is exactly what Nicholas Bowling did with this book. He took the Elizabethan era and the battle for the throne between Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen and Scots. That in and of itself is an interesting enough full of political intrigue and then Bowling did a great job with establishing the time and place. The 16th Century streets of London come to life along with the witch histeria, the dirty streets, and the distrust of women. I do wish that the figures of Queen Elizabeth I and Marry Queen of Scots had been given a little more attention, but it did make me want to learn more about them which a lot of historical fiction does.

But I think I enjoyed the world of this book so much because of the atmosphere. I love an atmospheric fantasy, especially in the fall, and this book had total fall vibes. I'm not really sure I would call it a dark fantasy but it was full of magic and mystery. What I liked about the magical system is that it seemed to be rooted in historical activities that got women accused of being witches like potion-making and being an apothecary. Then it took things further with magic I like alchemy and necromancy. I wish this magic got a little more explanation because it was really interesting and it felt a little basic.

But there was a lot of this book that was pretty basic, including the plot. Now don't get me wrong, the plot of this book was engaging. I was invested in what was happening and was curious from beginning to end, but the problem is I'm not sure if this was supposed to be a plot-driven narrative or a character-driven one. Is it about Alyce's development as she figures out who she is and her place in the world, or is it about the power struggle between two queens and their witch hunters? Unfortunately I think that the book wasn't quite sure either and that was to its detriment. It had decent character development with some twists along the way, and it had okay plot with the plot intrigue but I think the plot would have been better if it had committed to one or the other. It made for a fast read, an interesting read, but it made for a basic read.

 The characters too were a bit on the simple side, and just like the plot they were engaging but basic. Alyce was a good main character. She was one of those characters who was easy to root for. From the very beginning, things were not easy for Alyce. Society took her mother from her and threw her into an asylum. But despite all that she is strong and determined. The interesting thing too is that throughout the book I spent a lot of time trying to decide which characters were supposed to be the protagonists and which were supposed to be the antagonists. They all felt very dubious and those are the kind of characters I like best. That being said, a book full of those kinds of characters often means I keep them at arms length and never fully connect with them. It made them interesting characters but not particularly likable ones.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. It wasn't perfect but it was a thoroughly entertaining read perfect for fall. It had an atmospheric setting that blended history and magic in a way that drew me in, an engaging plot that had me wanting more when it was over, and dubious characters.

I give Witch Born by Nicholas Bowling 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of historical fantasy. If you are looking for a YA that blends the two in an engaging way then this is a good read. If you like stories about historical witches this is also a good choice.

Have you read Witch Born? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Review: Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

Title: Blanca and Roja
Written by: Anna-Marie McLemore
Published: October 9, 2018 by Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know. 

The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan. 

But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.

I have read and loved every one of Anna-Marie MacLemore's books. I was really excited to learn that she was writing a book based on Snow White and Rose Red, a fairy tale I always loved as a girl. This book was beautiful, and heart-breaking, and enthralling, and amazing.

First and foremost this was an amazing retelling. As I said, I loved the story of Snow White and Rose Red as a kid. I was really impressed with the way that McLemore interpreted and modernized the story. She gave even more magic and wonder with the story and still made it feel very current with an LGBTQIA character and making it about identity. But the retelling also went deeper with elements from The Six Swans and the Ugly Duckling. You would think with all these fairy tales working together it would be confusing and muddled but instead it made for something different and unique.

I think it all worked together because of the plot of this book. It's one of those books that I would call a modern fairy tale. It feels like a classic story but is something new and all it's own. I wouldn't say that the stakes are particularly high in this book but you are still invested in the stakes. McLemore draws you in and before you even realize you are terrified by what will happen to the characters and when bad things do happen you are heartbroken and still so entertained.

What really drew me in however is the characters. This one of those books with multiple perspectives which added a lot to the story. The main two perspectives of course are the titular characters of Blanca and Roja. The character I initially connected with Roja. She's the fiery and independent sister who is tough and emotional. But I also really enjoyed Blanca. She's the sweet and caring sister, but just as tough. Throughout the book the sisters are exploring the idea of who they are versus who other people want them to be, a theme I really enjoy. The sisters are very empathetic not because of who they are independently, but who they are together. The heart of this story is the love that the sisters have for each other. They would do anything for the other person and because they are in conflict it adds to misunderstanding and some really emotional moments.

But that is just the beginning for the characters. Interspersed with their perspectives were their love interests, Yearling and Page. Both of them are just as complex and are dealing with just as many struggles with their identity as the girls. This is the most noticeable with Page, a non-binary trans person. McLemore always does a great job with LGBTQIA rep and this book was no exception. I liked the way she changed pronouns when characters were referring to Page and thought it did a great job with exploring their identity.

But I think what I liked most about this book was the magic. McLemore is a master of Magical Realism. I have read all four of her books and they each have such different and such engaging magical worlds. First you had the curse of the del Cisne girls which in and of itself would have interesting enough but then you had the magic of the forest and how it affected Yearling and Page. I usually like my magic to go big or go home but here it was subtle and it worked so well. it drew you into the world and it made it feel more magical and fantastical like anything was possible. It raised the stakes and drew the reader into the story.

On the whole, I think this really was an amazing book. It has stuck with me long after finishing it and has proven just how good Anna-Marie McLemore is at writing Magical Realism and diverse characters. I think this may have just become my favorite book by her and that is saying something.

I give Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore 9.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. Definitely pick up this book. It's beautifully written full of magic, great characters, and an enthralling plot which is a great retelling. If you like Magical Realism or fairy tale retellings then check this out.

Have you read Blanca & Roja? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Review: One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

Title: One Dark Throne
Series: Three Dark Crowns #2
Written by: Kendare Blake
Published: September 19, 2017 by HarperTeen 

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: The battle for the Crown has begun, but which of the three sisters will prevail? 

With the unforgettable events of the Quickening behind them and the Ascension Year underway, all bets are off. Katharine, once the weak and feeble sister, is stronger than ever before. Arsinoe, after discovering the truth about her powers, must figure out how to make her secret talent work in her favor without anyone finding out. And Mirabella, once thought to be the strongest sister of all and the certain Queen Crowned, faces attacks like never before—ones that put those around her in danger she can’t seem to prevent. 

 In this enthralling sequel to Kendare Blake’s New York Times bestselling Three Dark Crowns, Fennbirn’s deadliest queens must face the one thing standing in their way of the crown: each other.

I am so glad I took the time to marathon this series because this book was amazing. I enjoyed the first book in the series but I got a copy of this one at ALA last year but for some reason I never got to reading it. And I really wish I had because this book was a fantastic dark fantasy.

I am such a plot driven reader and this was definitely a plot-filled read. This book picks up where the last one left off and I have to be honest, I wish I had given myself a bit of a refresher. I remembered the basics but not specifics about what happened to each queen. But very quickly into the book it managed to hook me and get me invested in the story. It's definitely very heavy on the political intrigue as the queens plot for control and how they are going to kill one another. There was a lot of moments throughout the books where I was nervous about what was going to happen and it seriously built to a thrilling conclusion, which honestly is what I ask for in a YA fantasy.

I also really loved the world of this book. In Three Dark Crowns I wanted more of the magic. I wanted to see it in action and I wanted to learn more about the magical system. I feel like I got that in this book. Kendare Blake has managed to craft a fascinating and creative world that is full of magic. I think a lot of that was aided by some of the reveals at the end of Three Dark Crowns. Like I really liked seeing Arsinoe explore her powers and experiment with low magic. Katherine also had some interesting magical moments as well that are more tied to the history of the island. But my favorite character exploring their magic was Jules. Seeing her develop her power was great.

Which is a good segue to talk about the characters. Because Jules is seriously my favorite character. She's as fiercely loyal as she is fierce. She's this badass magic user who cares more about helping her friend than she does in helping herself. She's so easy to like and she's probably the one I would want to be queen. However, with each page I became more and more connected to each of the other queens. I usually don't like books that switch perspectives but this book does a good job with it. It helps to get in the head of each character and makes it easy to root for them. Katherine is pretty odious but she's so sympathetic that you want her to stop being other people's pawn. Arsinoe is easy to want to succeed because she is the underdog but has a power people don't even realize. Mirabella is the one who you won't think you would like because she has been told the crown is basically hers for so long. But through this book she has really good development and becomes her own fierce and strong person with her own wants ans needs. It's so hard to have a book where the three main characters are competing and you like them all, but that is what this book is.

However, I also had problems with the characters. Not problems so much as frustrations. This is one of those fantasy reads with a massive cast of characters. There are so many secondary characters in this book and it was a little annoying. I had the hardest time keeping them straight. Not only could I not remember which family was associated with which queen, but within each family there were two or four people who I couldn't separate in my mind. Sometimes it took me out of the books as I was trying to remember who Cait Milone was and whether or not I should care who Genevieve Arron or Peityr were and what they had done. It's hard enough to keep the queens straight I didn't need more characters to figure out.

But all in all, this was a really amazing series. it was full of adventure and a thrilling plot, a world full of magic and political intrigue, and complex characters who you rooted for even when they were in contrast with the needs of others.

I give One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. I would definitely suggest reading this series if you have not had the chance. It is a great dark fantasy that is getting better and better. If you are like me and waited to read the sequel to Three Dark Crowns then read this book.

Have you read One Dark Throne? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and Happy READING!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Review: Campfire by Shawn Sarles

Title: Campfire
Written by: Shawn Sarles
Published: July 17, 2018 by Jimmy Books (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: While camping in a remote location, Maddie Davenport gathers around the fire with her friends and family to tell scary stories. Caleb, the handsome young guide, shares the local legend of the ferocious Mountain Men who hunt unsuspecting campers and leave their mark by carving grisly antlers into their victims' foreheads. 

The next day, the story comes true. 

Now Maddie and her family are lost in the deep woods--with no way out--being stalked by their worst nightmares. Because there were other, more horrifying stories told that night--and Maddie's about to find out just how they end...

I really wanted to like this book, but unfortunately it really didn’t work for me. I had picked up a copy of this at ALA and I definitely had high hopes. As a mystery/thriller under an imprint from a well-known mystery writer I was expecting a thrilling read that had me on the edge of my seat and that is not what I found.

I had been saving reading this to read as part of a joint review for my podcast because it has that classic teen horror vibe to it, like the Fear Street books we normally read. And honestly, that was one of the best things about this book. From purely a nostalgia feel it definitely hit all he right notes. If I didn’t know any better and you had told me this book was written 20 years ago, I would have believed you. But the thing is, this book was written this year, and I can excuse a lot of things for being outdated but a book written more recently, I expect better from.

Because the thing about this plot is that it was really basic. I read a lot of mysteries and I have gotten pretty good at figuring them out. I am constantly looking for that one which is going to shock and surprise. This book did not do that. In fact I figured out one aspect of the reveal pretty early on and then the other one just felt like it came completely out of nowhere. Instead of hooking me in the narrative i lost interest. Plus the concept here was really good, but it never delivered on it. The idea of ghost stories coming to life is totally brilliant but the stories really kind of felt like an afterthought. I wish they had more bearings on the actual plot of the story and weren’t just a means to an end.

I think my bigger problem with this book however was the pacing. Once again, a synopsis revealed a book’s entire plot. And once again I was incredibly frustrated at that. If it takes you two-thirds of the book to get to what your book is, then there is something wrong. Maybe this is just a problem with the synopsis and I shouldn’t blame to book for that, but I do.

The one thing I did like about this book though is that it went there. This is a book with a huge body count. When people end up dead, they are really dead and often in gruesome and grotesque ways. Like a lot of classic 90’s teen horror the author also reveals in the descriptions of the dead bodies too. It had some really good visuals and that definitely did a good job of capturing my interest.

But maybe I just wanted the characters dead because I really did not enjoy them. It’s not that they were bad characters there were just so many of them. It felt like this was the clown car of camping trips. People kept coming out of the woodwork and I found it so hard to remember who was who and how they were all connected. I needed a cheat sheet to keep it all straight. And because of that, I never really connected with anyone. I mean, the main character Maddie was fine, she just didn’t have that badass final girl vibe I was hoping for.

All in all, this was not my favorite read. I was hoping for a scary and intense thriller and instead I got what felt like a campy teen horror from the 80’s. Not a bad read just not what I was looking for.

I give Campfire by Shawn Sarles 7 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you are looking for a scary Halloween read this is not it. If you are looking for a thrilling mystery this is not it. If you are looking for a campy teen horror nostalgia romp this is it. And if you are going to read this book... do not read the synopsis.

Have you read Campfire? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

A weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine

Title: In an Absent Dream
Series: Wayward Children #4
Written by: Seanan McGuire
Published: January 8, 2019 by Tor Books (Macmillan)

Synopsis: This is the story of a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she's found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.

 For anyone . . .
Why I'm Waiting:

I marathoned this series earlier in the year when Beneath the Sugar Sky came out and I was incredibly impressed. I was hooked almost from the beginning and with every passing book the mythology deepened and the worlds expanded. I am so excited for more of this series.

But I am even more excited to explore a new world and meet a character that we know so little about. What I love about this series is that the first book introduced us to the basics of the world and then with each new book we get to go to a different world and learn about that and the characters who were sent there and why. It's a really cool concept and builds a lot of investment in what could have been a confusing scenario had it all been written as one book.

Plus even if I didn't love this series, I probably would still want to read this because of the synopsis. First of all, goblin market. Those are always such fascinating settings full of magical objects and wonder and mystery. And then in the synopsis you have the concept of a bargain that doesn't end well and honestly, I am intrigued.

I am very excited to read this book. I listened to the audios for the other books in the series and I will probably do that again but it depends on the narrator. I may end up buying an e-book because the novellas tend to be short and I may want to read it instead.

What about you? What are you waiting for this Wednesday? Are you waiting on In an Absent Dream along with me? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Review: Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd

Title: Grim Lovelies
Series: Grim Lovelies #1
Written by: Megan Shepherd
Published: October 2, 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Anouk envies the human world, where people known as Pretties lavish themselves in fast cars, high fashion, and have the freedom to fall in love. But Anouk can never have those things, because she is not really human. Enchanted from animal to human girl and forbidden to venture beyond her familiar Parisian prison, Anouk is a Beastie: destined for a life surrounded by dust bunnies and cinders serving Mada Vittora, the evil witch who spelled her into existence. That is, until one day she finds her mistress murdered in a pool of blood—and Anouk is accused of the crime.

Now, the world she always dreamed of is rife with danger. Pursued through Paris by the underground magical society known as the Haute, Anouk and her fellow Beasties only have three days to find the real killer before the spell keeping them human fades away. If they fail, they will lose the only lives they’ve ever known…but if they succeed, they could be more powerful than anyone ever bargained for.

From New York Times bestselling author Megan Shepherd, Grim Lovelies is an epic and glittering YA fantasy. Prepare to be spellbound by the world of Grim Lovelies, where secrets have been long buried, friends can become enemies, and everything—especially humanity—comes at a price.

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher at ALA in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

I was really excited to read this book immediately after learning that it existed. It has so many things I am looking for in a fantasy read. There is a unique magical system, a Parisian setting, and a dark fantasy feel. I felt like I was going to love this book and I did like it but it was not what I was hoping for.

One thing that I did love about this book was the fantasy elements. I am definitely been in the mood for dark fantasy this fall and I feel like this book did a great job of fitting that bill. It had so many really fantastic magical elements. First you had the Beasties, which were very cool magical creatures. beasts becoming human isn't exactly a new concept in fantasy but I felt like Shepherd did a good job in making them feel unique and different. Plus there were rules and specifics behind them being human which I really appreciated. But the larger magical system in this book was even cooler. I am always looking for a unique magical system and that is absolutely what I found here. There is a magical system with spells that require specific words in a different language along with certain physical requirements. There is also a hierarchy with those inhabit the world. I was definitely fascinated with the world and it was definitely one of the best part of this book.

As far as the setting goes, I do think that is was interesting and a unique setting but it wasn't what I was hoping for. I've desperately wanting to read books with historical Paris as its setting and I thought that was the setting for this book. It was Paris, but it was more of a modern setting. Paris and France as the whole is always a fun and engaging setting but I feel like this book had a hard time establishing that time and place. I wanted Paris to come alive and it just didn't here. There were a few mentions of things like the Eiffel Tower and the lavender fields in Provence but this really could have been anywhere. I wish that it had done a better job in establishing Paris as the backdrop for the story.

I also felt like the plot and pacing of this book didn't quite blow me away in the way I was hoping. Again, it's not that the plot was bad. There was a lot of action and adventure which I totally appreciated, but I think this book just suffered from a little bit from first book syndrome. It was one of those books that took a very long time to set the stage for the plot. There was a ton of exposition in the beginning of the book. Like so much exposition that the synopsis gives away more than half of the book. I thought this was going to be a heist novel but that was really only about the last third of the book and by that point I had lost a little bit of interest. Which is really a shame because that was some of the best parts of the book.

But I think what I liked least about this book was the characters. It's not that the characters were bad, they just didn't feel like they were as complex as they could have been. The main character of Anouk was likable enough but I felt a little bit like she was a Mary Sue. She was just really good at everything including magic and there wasn't really an explanation as to why. I think if there was more of an establishment as to the reason she was so perfect than I would have problem enjoyed her a little bit more. There were also a lot of secondary characters who all kind of blended together in my mind. Like I couldn't tell you the difference between Luc and Beau because they just felt like male Beasties. Which is really problematic because Luc wasn't in most of the book. The one character I did like however was Viggo. I felt like he had fantastic development throughout the book and I wish more of the characters were as complex as he was.

On the whole, Grim Lovelies was an okay read but didn't blow me away in the way I was hoping. It did have a great magical system and a thrilling plot I just wish that the pacing was a little bit better and that the characters had more depth to them.

I give Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd 7.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. I think if you are looking for dark fantasy there are probable better books out there but if you are looking to get into Urban Fantasy for the first time and want a low key intro into the world then get this one from the library.

Have you read Grim Lovelies? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Discussion Post: Do You Need to Read the Book Before Seeing the Movie?

Hi everyone. Wow, it has been awhile since I did a discussion post, or as I like to call it, My Thoughts Figuratively. But I have been mulling over this topic for awhile now after discussing it with CJ from Sarcasm and Lemons on Twitter. And with the movie adaptation of The Hate U Give coming out on Friday and my need for a post for the week I thought it was a good time to talk about this subject.

Movie adaptations of books are not a new concept, it's been happening ever since the dawn of Hollywood I'm sure. But today it feels like every movie that comes out is based on some book or another. And you know what, I am completely cool with that. There are a lot of really awesome books that have made amazing movies and plenty of books I wish would be made into movies or TV shows. And as readers we all have a tendency to want to read the book first. But is that actually a good idea?

How many times has your favorite book been made into a movie and you were just didn't like the adaptation? You felt like the completely changed the source material and it wasn't even the same story. I never read The Shining because the book seriously traumatized me but I know Stephen King notoriously loathed the movie for this reason. It's definitely a risk when you turn the rights over to a story and lose creative control. It's also just a completely different medium. Not to mention you often have an idea in your head of what a character looks like or acts like and if the movie adaptation doesn't live up to that it can be frustrating.

But there are also some benefits to having You can't always do in a movie what you can in a book. Being in a characters head is difficult unless you have a voiceover and there is often a lot of backstory that has to be cut because there is limited time. I have watched a lot of movies and TV shows where I had to explain to my friend what was happening and what it meant for the larger story. If that person had read the book beforehand they wouldn't be in that situation. Not to mention as bloggers, and people in general, we have a tendency to want to say that we liked something before it was cool and before it was popular some

But there are also benefits to not having read the books beforehand. Sometimes movies change things for the better. In my group of friends I was the only one who had read To All the Boys I Loved Before before seeing the movie. We all loved it so I was finally able to convince my friends to read the book. And it's not that they didn't like it but they absolutely preferred the movie, mostly because Noah Centineo's Peter K is way more likable but there were other reasons to. And for me, I absolutely am glad I saw the Lord of the Rings movies before reading the books. Tolkein is great and all but if he could go ahead and shorten everything that would be great. I really didn't need 300 pages of people walking around Middle Earth. And who cares about Tom Bombadill?

But the ability for a book to expand on the movie is actually a benefit to me. If you watch the movie first and you love the story you have something more that gives you background, deeper characterization, and additional storylines to explore and fall into. If you read the book first then you see the movie it will always be a truncated version which will possibly annoy you.

There is no hard and fast rule about whether you should read the book before you see the movie and don't let anyone pressure you into it. If you want to wait and read the book first go ahead and do that. If you want to see the movie and then read the book you should feel like you can do that as well. I think ultimately it is up to you.

Speaking of up to you, what are your thoughts? Do you have to read the book before you go see a movie or can you watch the movie first? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Review: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

Title: The Cheerleaders
Written by: Kara Thomas
Published: July 31, 2018 by Delacorte Press (Random House)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook. 

First there was the car accident—two girls gone after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know why he did it. Monica’s sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they lost. 

That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it’s not that easy. She just wants to forget. Only, Monica’s world is starting to unravel. There are the letters in her stepdad’s desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school. . . . Whatever happened five years ago isn’t over. Some people in town know more than they’re saying. And somehow Monica is at the center of it all. 

There are no more cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, but that doesn’t mean anyone else is safe.

I had really like Kara Thomas' two previous mysteries so I was excited to read this next one. I wanted to read it when it first came out but I didn't have a copy so I put a hold on the audiobook from the library. And honestly I forgot all about it until the hold came in. I needed an audio so I decided to give it a try. And while it was a good mystery, it didn't quite blow me away like I was hoping.

One thing I did like about this book was the plot development of the mystery. I am a big fan of mysteries and I am always looking for a YA mystery that isn't predictable and still has clues to solve. I like when a mystery brings everything together in the end for a big reveal which is exactly what this book did. There were a lot of moving parts and I wasn't exactly sure how they could have been connected but then by the end, everything lined up so nicely. I usually can figure out what happened in a mystery but this one surprised me a little bit. I knew one main aspect but how that played into the larger story I didn't quite know. But I do feel like the reveal could have been a little more exciting. From a procedural standpoint it was interesting but from an emotional standpoint I didn't quite feel it. After I finished reading the book I was talking to my friend Michelle and we actually came up with a really cool way we wish it would have ended. It's not that this wasn't a good mystery, it just could have been more emotional.

But I think maybe part of what the book was missing was thrilling pacing and high stake. It took a really long time for the book to get exciting. I'm with slower pacing if it ends with an exciting ending so I let that go in this book but the more I sit with it, the less okay with it I am. The book definitely had a cold case vibe to it, which is fine, but because of that the main character felt a little bit removed from the story. She wanted to figure out what happened but it didn't have any direct consequences on her life through most of the book. It's not that I wanted a body count and a threat of her being attacked but I just needed some higher stakes than I wanted to figure this out.

The other thing that I think impacted this was the characterization. I didn't really connect completely with the characters here. Monica was a fine main character and I liked her a lot in the beginning. She has to make a really tough decision in the first chapter and it definitely ways a lot on her throughout the book, but this didn't really connect to the larger story in the way I had hoped. She was a sympathetic character but I didn't quite get the empathy for her that is required for a character-driven mystery. I have read some mysteries like this, including a few recent ones, that I think accomplished this must better.

A lot of this book was really hit or miss for me. The best example of that was the setting. Kara Thomas does a great job establishing small town settings for her books. She does such a great job of establishing the interconnectedness of not only the people in the town but the people from nearby. That's perfect for mysteries because when everyone knows everyone's business it's easy to find clues and information for a mystery. But my problem for this book is that I couldn't quite place where this town was. The town they lived in was in Eastern New York State but the nearby towns were in Eastern Massachusetts. A person who isn't from there probably wouldn't even notice that but I did and it threw me out of the book completely. It's just a weird personal thing that was an issue for me.

All in all I thought this was an okay mystery. It had a lot of promise and some parts that I really enjoyed but it was mostly just an okay read for me.

I give The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas 8 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. I am honestly glad I snagged this from the library instead of buying a copy. It's not that it's a bad mystery, it's just one of those books to maybe pick up on your next library haul.

Have you read The Cheerleaders? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Review: Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis

Title: Give the Dark My Love
Series: Give the Dark My Love #1
Written by: Beth Revis
Published: September 25, 2018 by Razorbill (Penguin Group)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: When seventeen-year-old Nedra Brysstain leaves her home in the rural, northern territories of Lunar Island to attend the prestigious Yugen Academy, she has only one goal in mind: learn the trade of medicinal alchemy. A scholarship student matriculating with the children of Lunar Island's wealthiest and most powerful families, Nedra doesn't quite fit in with the other kids at Yugen, who all look down on her. 

All, except for Greggori "Grey" Astor. Grey is immediately taken by the brilliant and stubborn Nedra, who he notices is especially invested in her studies. And that's for a good reason: a deadly plague has been sweeping through the North, and it's making its way toward the cities. With her family's life--and the lives of all of Lunar Island's citizens--on the line, Nedra is determined to find a cure for the plague. 

Grey and Nedra continue to grow closer, but as the sickness spreads and the body count rises, Nedra becomes desperate to find a cure. Soon, she finds herself diving into alchemy's most dangerous corners--and when she turns to the most forbidden practice of all, necromancy, even Grey might not be able to pull her from the darkness.

*** I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review at ALA. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

I really enjoyed this book. I had picked a copy up at ALA and when I saw some really good reviews, I decided to give it a try. I read the first chapter as I was trying to decide what to read next and it immediately hooked me and I wanted to find out what happened next.

I think what interested me most about this book was the world building. First we have a book about necromancy. I have read a few books which dealt with thew subject and this was one of my favorites. I think the author did a great job of creating the magical system. I prefer my magic to have clear rules and that was the case with this book. There were specific things you needed in order to preform necromancy and you needed to do certain things t make it happen. Plus I really like that it was rooted in alchemy. As a magical system that in and of itself was interesting and engaging so adding a darker more sinister level to it had me totally fascinated.

The other thing I liked about this book was the political aspect. One of the things that I love about fantasy is that it often addresses the idea of power and control. Give the Dark My Love had that fantastic undercurrent. Some of my favorite quotes in this book were with the characters discussing oppression and the realities of what that means for both those in power and those they are controlling. There were some interesting aspects of Grey's storyline that also addressed the idea of political intrigue but I don't think they really delved deep enough into this aspect. I know this is only the first book in a series so maybe the next book will explore this more. I think it has a lot of promise in the politics front.

The other aspect of the story I think has a lot of promise is the character development. Arguably the main character here is Nedra and she is definitely the most fully-formed. I really loved Nedra's growth throughout the story. She starts as almost this naive idealist and by the end of the book she is essentially this powerful dark witch. In that respect this book is kind of a villain origin story. I am all for villain origin stories especially if they are with characters who you see fall down the path after some devastating experiences. For me I think Nedra was definitely justified in her action so far but in the next book I think she is going to be even darker and I am here for it.

However, the character who I think could have used more though is Grey. I think Grey just wasn't as fleshed-out for me. He was interesting enough and I liked the direction his story took but it never really seemed like he engaged with anything. He was just around as a vessel for the story, not the actual story itself. In the future books if he has more of an active role I think he will definitely be a better and more complex character.

But maybe  my feelings for Grey were clouded by my feelings about the romance. Surprise, surprise, I didn't like the romance in a book. To me the romance felt like it just happened so suddenly. The went from being classmates who barely knew each other to in a relationship. It's not that it felt forced, it just sort of felt unnecessary. But I think all romance is unnecessary. I don't think the narrative and the characters connection was that much more improved by them being romantically involved instead of them just being friends. But that's what I feel about every book so I'm not the best judge for this aspect f the story.

I did however really love the plot development of this book. This sis the kind of book that is full of action, mystery, and very high stakes. I thought the plague narrative was really engaging. It made for a story that had huge consequences not only for the characters but the world that they inhabited. I was very interested in finding out what was the cause of the disease and seeing the characters figure out how to stop it. I also think Revis did a great job with who the ultimate antagonist was. I thought I had it figured out after ignoring the red herrings and in the end she proved me wrong. And I was so mad that I didn't figure it out because the clues were there the whole time.

All in all, I think Give the Dark My Love was a fantastic dark YA fantasy. The world was engaging and the magical system was fascinating, the characters had good development and the plot had me guessing until the very end. I really enjoyed it and I am excited to see where the story goes.

I give Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. I really liked this book. It's a great dark fantasy that I think is a good start to an interesting series. I would maybe suggest waiting until there are more books out though and marathoning it. It's not that there is a cliffhanger I just think it will be better if you read the books back to back.

Have you read Give the Dark My Love? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

A weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine

Title: The Gilded Wolves
Written by: Roshani Chockshi
Published: January 15, 2019 by Wednesday Books (Macmillan)

Synopsis: Set in a darkly glamorous world, The Gilded Wolves is full of mystery, decadence, and dangerous but thrilling adventure.

Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can't yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they'll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.
Why I'm Waiting:

Will I ever stop running my mouth about how I wants books set in Paris, particularly during the Belle Epoque? No, probably not. I mean come on! It's such a great setting and there are definitely not wnough books that take place during the era. But lucky for me, and all of us, Roshani Chokshi has heard my pleas and wrote a book that takes place in Paris in 1889.

Also, I think Roshani is a perfect author for this kind of setting. I really loved the worlds in her Star-Touched Queen series. They were lush and beautifully crafted in a visual and engaging way and that is the kind of author I want writing historical Paris.

But even if it wasn't a setting I really wanted to read and an author who I wanted to read books from Is till think I would read this book. Just look at that synopsis. Darkly glamorous world, mystery, dangerous and thrilling adventure? Plus the main character is a treasure-hunter. Like, I really need this book.

I definitely have this book preordered but I am still holding out a little hope that I might get an advanced copy. I would seriously give anything to read this book.

What about you? What are you waiting for this Wednesday? Are you waiting on The Gilded Wolves along with me? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Longest Books I've Ever Read

A weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

1.) A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
If I included these books separately they would make up half my list. I mean most of them are over 1,000 pages so that's really not much of a surprise.

2.) The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Another adult fantasy series which is amazing and super immersive with an author who is taking forever to finish the series. But the second book weighs in at a hefty 994 pages.

3.) Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Not all the books in this series make this list but the last fur definitely do. Order of the Phoenix is the longest at 870 pages but Goblet of Fire and Dealthy Hallows are both over 700 pages.

4.) Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
I have only read the first book in this series and that is mostly because the length of these books makes it hard to read anything else and so I never continued. But the first one is 850 pages so it comes in at number 4.

5.) Winter by Marissa Meyer
The last book in The Lunar Chronicles series at 827 pages is so long they had to change the paper so it wasn't a massive brick of a book.

6.) The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray
The last book in the Gemma Doyle trilogy is a very serious 819 pages. Libba has been known to write long books since then and I am kind of surprised that none of the books in The Diviners series made the list.

7.) The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
Is this really the only classic that made my list? How have I not read some tomes like War and Peace? Well, either way, I actually loved this book and it's one that I changed my mind about after going back to these 797 pages years later.

8.) Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer
Am I surprised and a little embarrassed that this book made my list? Yes. Yes I am. But it is 756 pages so for someone who has read mostly YA in the past 10 years that is not much of a surprise I guess.

9.) Lies of Locke Lamora by Stephen Lynch
I have only read the first book in this series for mostly the same reason I haven't finished Outlander. I guess I just don't want to devote that much time on one book.

10.) The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
One of my all-time favorite reads is this 704 pages. I have read this book multiple times and it is definitely a fast read despite the amount of pages.

There you have it, the longest books I have read! All of them are over 700 pages. What books made your list? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!