Friday, November 30, 2018

Review: Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: Little White Lies
Series: Debutantes #1
Written by: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Published: November 6, 2018 by Freeform (Disney)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: "I'm not saying this is Sawyer's fault," the prim and proper one said delicately. "But." 

Eighteen-year-old auto mechanic Sawyer Taft did not expect her estranged grandmother to show up at her apartment door and offer her a six-figure contract to participate in debutante season. And she definitely never imagined she would accept. But when she realizes that immersing herself in her grandmother's "society" might mean discovering the answer to the biggest mystery of her life-her father's identity-she signs on the dotted line and braces herself for a year of makeovers, big dresses, bigger egos, and a whole lot of bless your heart. The one thing she doesn't expect to find is friendship, but as she's drawn into a group of debutantes with scandalous, dangerous secrets of their own, Sawyer quickly discovers that her family isn't the only mainstay of high society with skeletons in their closet. There are people in her grandmother's glittering world who are not what they appear, and no one wants Sawyer poking her nose into the past. As she navigates the twisted relationships between her new friends and their powerful parents, Sawyer's search for the truth about her own origins is just the beginning. 

Set in the world of debutante balls, grand estates and rolling green hills, Little White Lies combines a charming setting, a classic fish-out-of-water story, and the sort of layered mystery only author Jennifer Lynn Barnes can pull off.

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

I loved Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ The Fixer series and I want to read more of her books so when I heard that she was coming out with a new book that was about debutantes with secrets I was completely on board. And while it was a pretty good read, it didn’t blow me away like I was expecting.

The characterization has this real Gilmore Girls feel. Our main character is the daughter of a former rich girl who got pregnant at seventeen and left home to raise her child. The difference is that these two didn’t have the charm and connection of Rory and Lorelei. It was like later seasons Gilmore Girls where they’ve had a falling out. The grandmother however had strong Emily vibes. She was like this tough an prickly woman who has a surprising heart of gold when it comes right down to it. I loved seeing her walls break down throughout the book along with Sawyer’s. They weren’t quite unlikable characters but they were pretty dubious ones and I always like that in a mystery.

But that was just the start of the dubious characters. This book was full of characters who walk the line between good and evil. So many of them do terrible things throughout the book, some for good reasons and some for terrible reasons. There were some truly devious characters like Campbell and some characters who just made really terrible decision like Lily. I was pleasantly surprised by the relationship that developed between the girls. It started out feeling like a catty mean girls sort of situation but by the end they really came together and made a great team.

However, I do think that the mystery here was kind of lacking. I come to expect JLB to write a twisty series full of last minute surprises so that’s what I wanted here. But it never delivered on that. I think the problem was there were just too many plot points so it lacked a cohesive story. The book was told with these interludes that were happening in the past (or was it the future) that were supposed to explain why the girls were arrested but honestly I think they just confused me needlessly. And then throughout the main novel there was the idea of who Sawyer’s father was thrown in with at least three more side storylines. They all were interesting they just took away from the overall connectedness of the story. I know JLB can write a good thriller, this just wasn’t her best work. I wish she had scaled back a little bit.

But all and all this was a good read. It was fast and entertaining. I read it on a train ride home from seeing my family for Thanksgiving and it was the perfect vacation read.

I give Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 8 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. I would recommend this book to someone who is not a huge fan of thrillers but wants a book with some mystery to it. I think contemporary fans will like it more than fans of mysteries.

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

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Review: Pulp by Robin Talley

Title: Pulp
Written by: Robin Talley
Published: November 13, 2018 by Harlequin Teen

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: In 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares with her best friend Marie a secret. It’s not easy being gay in Washington, DC, in the age of McCarthyism, but when she discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in Janet. As she juggles a romance she must keep hidden and a newfound ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself—and Marie—to a danger all too real.

Sixty-two years later, Abby Zimet can’t stop thinking about her senior project and its subject—classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Between the pages of her favorite book, the stresses of Abby’s own life are lost to the fictional hopes, desires and tragedies of the characters she’s reading about. She feels especially connected to one author, a woman who wrote under the pseudonym “Marian Love,” and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity.

In this novel told in dual narratives, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley weaves together the lives of two young women connected across generations through the power of words. A stunning story of bravery, love, how far we’ve come and how much farther we have to go.

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

I've read a few of Robin Talley's books and I really enjoyed them so when I saw she was coming out a new book that historical fiction elements I was really excited to read it. And it was a really interesting and engaging read with more layers than I was expecting.

One of the most interesting things about this book for me is the fact that it read like a historical mystery. Historical mysteries are one of my favorite subgenres and I have enjoyed both Robin's historical fiction and her mysteries so I knew this book was in good hands. This was one of those stories where a modern character finds something from the historical character who she has to learn more about. Their stories are linked and often mirror each other. That is exactly what happened in Pulp. Despite how different their lives were, in so many ways Abby and Janet's lives mirrored one another as they dealt with their feelings of attraction to their best friends, found a book that spoke deep into their soul, and their desire to write the perfect story.

My favorite part about this book was the subtle themes in the plot. Books about books is not rare by any means but Pulp handled it so well and in a way that was much more subtle. Pulp is very much a book for fans of reading and writing. It perfectly expresses how you feel when you find that perfect book with that character and experiences so much like your own that you relate to it so completely it overtakes you. It also communicates the idea of writing an own voices book. A book that captures your story in that cathartic way that you not only get it out of your head but out in the world. Despite my massive failure of NaNoWriMo this was the perfect book to read for this month because it is so much about writing.

I also really enjoyed the historical aspect of this book. Robin Talley is a master of write not only the LGBT experience in a historical perspective but what it was like in the mid-20th Century. This book took some of the more unspoken and undiscussed aspects of the 1950's and early-60's and brought them into the light, well as light as possible with such dark and difficult topics. She really showed the pressure and anxiety caused by McCarthyism and the witch hunt not only for Communists but anyone who was different including homosexuals. I love exploring not only this time period but some of the aspects that don't often get the attention they deserve so I really enjoyed this book for that reason.

As far as the characters go, I felt like the author did a great job in balancing the two perspectives. The story alternated between Janet and Abby and they both had interesting stories but if I am being completely honest I enjoyed Janet's story a bit more. Abby was super relateable and the way she was dealing with her writing and the anxiety of how she was handling the forthcoming change felt so genuine and real. However, I found myself wanting to learn more about Janet and how her story unfolded. In her chapters there was drama and tension. For a plot-driven reader, Janet's story was the more engaging. I also think I just liked Janet a bit more. She had a lot going against her but she knew who she and stayed fiercely herself despite the adversity. I had a lot of respect for her because of that.

I really enjoyed Pulp a lot. It was a fast and interesting book and I devoured it. I read it so much faster than I expected because I was invested in the stories of both Janet and Abby. It was a subtle historical mystery with great themes and engaging characters.

I give Pulp by Robin Talley 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. If you are a fan of historical fiction, especially historical mysteries, then I would recommend reading this book. It's also a great read for people who like books about books and writing. I thoroughly enjoyed it for that aspect.

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

Monday, November 26, 2018

Review: In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

Title: In Other Lands
Written by: Sarah Rees Brennan
Published: April 15, 2017 by Big Mouth House

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: “What’s your name?” 
“Serena?” Elliot asked. 
“Serene,” said Serene. “My full name is Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle.” 
 Elliot’s mouth fell open. “That is badass.” 

The Borderlands aren’t like anywhere else. Don’t try to smuggle a phone or any other piece of technology over the wall that marks the Border—unless you enjoy a fireworks display in your backpack. (Ballpoint pens are okay.) There are elves, harpies, and—best of all as far as Elliot is concerned—mermaids. 

Elliot? Who’s Elliot? Elliot is thirteen years old. He’s smart and just a tiny bit obnoxious. Sometimes more than a tiny bit. When his class goes on a field trip and he can see a wall that no one else can see, he is given the chance to go to school in the Borderlands. 

It turns out that on the other side of the wall, classes involve a lot more weaponry and fitness training and fewer mermaids than he expected. On the other hand, there’s Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle, an elven warrior who is more beautiful than anyone Elliot has ever seen, and then there’s her human friend Luke: sunny, blond, and annoyingly likeable. There are lots of interesting books. There’s even the chance Elliot might be able to change the world.

Amazing! Seriously, this book was so good and I am glad that I saw someone mention it on Twitter recently because I picked up the audiobook and devoured it.

This book is a creative love letter to portal fantasies that plays with the tropes and turns them in their head. I am a huge fan of fantasies that take the tropes and play with them in a way that feels like a parody and that’s exactly what In Other Lands does. It makes for a book that feels both familiar and unique at the same time. This is a world It’s a world full of supernatural creatures like elves, trolls, unicorns, and mermaids but they are unlike the creatures that they are used to mostly because a lot of them are murderous including the unicorns. I am always looking for a unique magical setting and this book got that bill by simply just breaking with convention in a way that you can tell comes from a place of total affection for the genre.

The biggest shift I think this book makes is it’s hero, or should I say antihero. Because Eliot Schaffer is the farthest thing from a Chosen One as I think is humanly possible. He’s the bookish, sarcastic, and rude secondary character who often gets relegated to comic relief and Sarah makes him the narrator. And I gotta say, I loved that! The voice on Elliot was absolutely amazing and is without a doubt the highlight of this novel. He’s kind of an asshole but he had me laughing out loud so often that I had to make sure I didn’t look like a total weirdo on my train ride home. And Elliot is a great main character in that he’s not very heroic and yet you still root for him. Sarah does a great job with his development throughout the book and by the end he really is very likable. He makes for an amazing antihero and a great main character.

Part of what I think makes Elliot so likable is that the plot of this book is really a coming of age story. It’s got plenty of action and adventure but it’s not a plot-friend narrative. It’s about war, yes, but also how diplomacy and getting to know people who are different from you can solve conflicts. But the real heart of this story is about found family and first love. The love triangle is another trope that Sarah plays with here and she does it in such a brilliant way and with a bisexual main character. Seriously though, it was such a great hate to love slow burn that I found myself wanting to smoosh the characters faces together so my ship would sail. She actually had me rooting for the romance which is huge for me with my cold dead romancephobic heart. But Elliot was enough of a hopeless romantic for the both of us.

Finally, this book was amazingly feminist in the perfect parody of classic fantasy tropes. Usually when you hear people talking about feminist fantasies it’s because there is a kickass female character who shows the men who’s boss. But that’s not what In Other Lands does. Yes, it has a kickass girl but she comes from a matriarchal society that thinks men are the sensitive fairer sex. By flipping our societies treatment of women on its head she is not only drawing attention to the absurdity of it while developing a fantasy culture wholly unique and amazing.

I seriously cannot rave about this book enough. It is without a doubt one of my favorite books I’ve read in 2018. I absolutely loved it and I couldn’t put it down. It’s the perfect fantasy and parody at the same time. It creates a unique and interesting world, populates it with likable and hilarious characters, and takes you on a coming of age story that is disguised as a portal fantasy adventure.

I give In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan 9.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. This book is definitely worth it. Especially if you, like me, are fans of irreverent fantasies that don't take themselves too seriously and play with the tropes. It's a fun romp of an adventure and I think everyone should read it.

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

Monday, November 19, 2018

Review: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Title: Manhattan Beach
Written by: Jennifer Egan
Published: October 3, 2017 by Scribner (Simon and Schuster)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: The daring and magnificent novel from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad. 

Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.  ‎

Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished. 

With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world. It is a magnificent novel by the author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, one of the great writers of our time.

I read A Visit from the Good Squad years ago, before I really started blogging and was reading a lot more literary fiction. I really enjoyed it so when I saw Egan was coming out with a new book last year I had wanted to read it but never did. So when I saw the audiobook for download from the library I snagged it and I am so glad I did because this was just what I was interested in reading.

Lately I have been really enjoying historical fiction and this book was a great example of the genre. I know I've said this before but I like historical fiction which takes a lesser known event from a period of time and explores it with fictional characters. That's exactly what this book did. The book took place in the late 1930's and early 1940's in New York City. It explored many different aspects of the period including gangsters, the Great Depression, and World War II. I liked the portions about WWII the most as we got to see life on the homefront, particularly women working in factories and other jobs in which the men had left to go fight. Seeing Anna becoming a diver for the Navy was incredibly interesting and I enjoyed seeing her overcome the assumptions people have over her strength do to her sex. But there were also more interesting layers to this story of the war that I think fans of historical fiction, particularly those who like books about WWII, will enjoy.

But I think the heart of this story was the characters. Like A Visit from the Good Squad this book is about multiple people and how their lives intertwine and overlap. The main character here is arguably Anna. When we first meet her she is twelve and following her father around on his jobs for local gangsters. We see what family life is like for her through both her eyes and her fathers which adds to the story even more. You can feel their love for one another and know how much it is reciprocated. Then as Anna grows up we follow her working at the Navy Yard and making some not great decisions. But she is seriously so sympathetic so when she is faced with the consequences you are invested. The final perspective is Dexter Stiles, a gangster who Eddie works for who Anna ends up meeting again years later after her father disappears. While Dexter's perspectives didn't have the same emotional resonance they still drew me in and added to the overall story.

Speaking of the story, this was a much slower narrative than I usually enjoy. It wasn't all action and adventure with high stakes although there were definitely aspects of that in this story. One of the storylines in particular had an extreme survival component and I really enjoyed that. For the most part these were really three, maybe even four, very different stories that only seem to connect because the characters were connected. Narratively speaking they were all very different but in the end I think they came together in a way that was interesting and engaging. Oddly enough, this book read like a historical mystery even though there wasn't really a mystery. It just had those vobes and as a fan of that genre I appreciated that.

As I mentioned, i listened to the audiobook of this one and I am really glad that I did. Each perspective had a different narrator. and they all did a fantastic job of developing the characters and setting the tone of the story. Both Eddie and Dexter were narrated by actors and they did a fantastic job. One of the reasons I wanted to read this is that Eddie is narrated by Norbert Leo Butz who I love. He really should narrate more audios because he did an amazing job. Over time I found myself forgetting it was him and falling into the story and the characters he was creating. But all the narrators did a great job and I loved the way that they would switch mid-chapter when the perspective would change. I usually hate that when I'm reading but with an audiobook with more than one narrator it works really well.

On the whole, I really enjoyed Manhattan Beach. It's not my usual read so it was a nice palatte cleanser which is just what I needed. It has a good historical setting, engaging characters, and an interweaving plot that pulls you in a takes you on a surprisingly emotional journey.

I give Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. If you are a fan of historical fiction and have not read this yet I recommend picking it up wither next time you are at the library or if you are in a bookstore and looking for something to read. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it.

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

Friday, November 16, 2018

Discussion Post: Am I Becoming a Mood Reader?

Hi Friends,

Welcome to another installment of My Thoughts Figuratively where I wax philisophically about things relating to reading and blogging. I used to do try and do discussion posts monthly and this is actually the second month in a row that I have posted one. Maybe I am actually going to be able to do that moving forward. But lately I have been thinking  a lot about my reading and I wanted to talk about here to get my thoughts out and see if you all have experienced it.

If you have been a longtime reader of the blog you know that I used to do monthly themes where I would read a bunch of books based on certain topic. It could have been a genre like historical fiction or high fantasy, or something more specific like pirates of "island adventures." I really liked the structure and being able to explore certain types of books in depth. But as time went on I wasn't able to think of ideas anymore and the themes stayed the same. Plus as I started to read more it became harder to predict what I was going to read each month and stick to a specific theme. Over time I slowly dropped the theme and just decided to read what I wanted every month.

But reading what I wanted in any given moment was easier then it looked. So instead of knowing exactly what I was going to read next I was faced with crippling indecision on what book to pick up after I finished one. I mean, I had a general idea of what I was hoping to read for the month based what new books were coming out and what books I had review copies of, but in general I didn't have a plan. And when I don't have a plan I tend to get overwhelmed and give up. Call it anxiety or whatever else but it made deciding what to read next a tough choice. So in those cases I have taken to Twitter and let my followers make the decision for me. It's sometimes easier when someone else tells you what to do.

So for a few months everything has been working out. I've been getting tons of reading done and there hasn't been much of a struggle deciding what to read next. Then suddenly, I feel like I've hit a wall. I feel like I have been getting burned out from fantasy, one of my favorite genres. When I do read fantasies, the ones that I have read haven't really been impressing me.And yes, that could just be the nature of the book but it felt like more than that. So I decided maybe I should take a break from fantasy, refresh myself a little bit before the winter when I know some highly anticipated books are coming out.

Then Wednesday night, as I'm deciding what to read next I asked myself what I was in the mood for. And that's when I realized that I have been asking myself what I am in the mood to read. A question I have never really thought about. I know that a lot of people are mood readers. It's a thing you hear all the time in the blogoshere "I'm a mood reader so I'm not interested in that right now." And I honestly never understood that. If a new book that you were really excited to read just came out, how are you not in the mood for it?

But now I think I get it. The type of book you are interested in reading can really shape your opinion of it. Often reading is just an expression of your feelings at the time of your reading it. How many times have you reread something that you loved only to be shocked at how not good it was? Don't lie to me, we all know you liked Twilight 10 years ago. I guess that's what mood reading is. Being in the mood for something can make you love it, and not being in the mood can make you not enjoy it. The fact that I am now in that boat completely changes the way I decide what to read next and honestly I am not sure how to proceed.

Are you a mood reader or can you set a TBR for the month? If you are a mood reader then let me know how you decide what to read next? HELP ME! Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Amber and Dusk by Lyra Selene Blog Tour: Review


Title: Amber & Dusk
Author: Lyra Selene
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: November 27, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Synopsis: Sylvie has always known she deserves more. Out in the permanent twilight of the Dusklands, her guardians called her power to create illusions a curse. But Sylvie knows it gives her a place in Coeur d'Or, the palais of the Amber Empress and her highborn legacies.

So Sylvie sets off toward the Amber City, a glittering jewel under a sun that never sets, to take what is hers.

But her hope for a better life is quickly dimmed. The empress invites her in only as part of a wicked wager among her powerful courtiers. Sylvie must assume a new name, Mirage, and begin to navigate secretive social circles and deadly games of intrigue in order to claim her spot. Soon it becomes apparent that nothing is as it appears and no one, including her cruel yet captivating sponsor, Sunder, will answer her questions. As Mirage strives to assume what should be her rightful place, she'll have to consider whether itis worth the price she must pay.


**** I received an advance copy of this book from the published in exchange for an honest review as a part of the blog tour. This fact has not changed my opinion. ****

I am usually looking for a new and different YA fantasy so when I read the synopsis for this book and saw the opportunity to take part in the blog tour for this one I jumped at the chance. And while I do think that this felt like a classic fantasy, and while it had a lot of promise it didn't quite deliver on that.

The thing that I think best expresses this for me is the characters.. This is a book full of odious and interesting characters. I usually prefer my fantasies to have characters who are on the darker side. People who have allegiances that are hidden and plenty of secrets. These were those kinds of characters. It made for interesting characters who I was curious to learn more about, but I feel a little bit like we didn't get that payoff. Some of the characters got good reveals towards the end of the book but for the most part they didn't strike an emotional chord for me. I think honestly because most of them weren't really very big surprises. The main character of Sylvie felt like a classic YA fantasy protagonist. She was tough and brash which I liked but she was also incredibly dense which I found a little frustrating. To be honest, that was one of the things that added to the classic feel of this book for me. It was the find of book where I preferred the secondary characters.

What I enjoyed most about Amber and Dusk was the world. For one thing, the magical system is one of those where each character has their own power and they feel almost like superpowers, which is a magical system I always enjoy. Plus the author was great about how the magic had clear rules and before the main character was able to use her powers in a significant way she had to learn how to control them, which is something I prefer in my magic. But the world also had a ton of political intrigue. I love when fantasies deal with court politics and the secrets surrounding the court and this book definitely handled that well.

I do think however that this book had too much world building and that's at the expense of the plot. New fantasy books always have a lot of exposition. I expect at least 100 pages of set up and world building. But this book kind of took things way too far. The most interesting part of the story for me didn't really kick in until about the last 80 pages and then it was over way too soon even though it sent into motion so much of the book's final act. There was one section that was only 20 pages long that I really wanted more from and I felt like this portion of the plot could have been expanded on. I need a very plot-centered story though so maybe most people won't mind about this too much.

All in all, I think this was an okay read. It had a lot going for it like odious characters and an interesting world full of political intrigue, plus it definitely read like a classic YA fantasy but it didn't quite blow me away.

I give Amber and Dusk by Lyra Selene 7.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you are looking for a YA fantastic that is heavy on the world and political intrigue and light on the plot development then check this out. It has classic fantasy vibes that I think fans of the genre will enjoy.


฀Barnes & Noble:
฀Book Depository:



Lyra Selene was born under a full moon and has never quite managed to wipe the moonlight out of her eyes. When she isn’t dreaming up fantastical cities and brood-ing landscapes, Lyra enjoys hiking, rainstorms, autumn, and pretending she’s any good at painting.

She lives in New England with her husband, in an antique farmhouse that’s probably not haunted. AMBER & DUSK is her debut novel.


 •AMBER & DUSK by Lyra Selene
 •US Only
 •Starts: 11/12
 •Ends: 11/30

Monday, November 12, 2018

Review: Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

Title: Outrun the Moon
Written by: Stacey Lee
Published: May 24, 2016 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (Penguin)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes. 

On April 18, a historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Though fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the army to bring help—she still has the “bossy” cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenage girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?

If you saw my Top Ten Tuesday post last week you know that this book was a backlist book I own but hadn't read. So as I was looking for an audiobook to listen to for two really long trips I had last week I saw this one and had to download it.

This book really solidified the fact that Stacey Lee is a fantastic author of historical fiction. I usually prefer my historical fiction to take a well-known or even lesser known event in history and then add fiction characters to explain and expand on the world. That is what this book did. It took the 1906 earthquake of San Francisco and told the story of it from the perspective of a young Chinese American girl. Stacey's writing really brought the even to life. You could feel the tremors along with the characters and the uncertainty of what was next after most of the city was leveled or in flames. It made for a very interesting and engaging read that had me worried for the characters and the city of San Francisco. You can tell that Stacey did her research into what happened during the earthquake. It felt interesting and like I was learning something at the same time.

And while that was the backdrop, there was so much more to this book than just the earthquake. It also showed the reader what it would have been like for a Chinese American with not only what it was like to grow up in Chinatown but the oppression that she experienced because of her race. And while it's easy for something like that to feel over-wrought this wasn't. It served to add drama to the narrative and to establish the historical time period. It also gave the story a timely quality as well. The heart of this story was really a young woman who is the child of immigrants trying to overcome her circumstances and thrive. And that will always be an engaging and inspiring story.

But maybe I enjoyed that so much because I really liked the characters on this book. Mercy Wong is a fantastic main character. Her voice really comes through in throughout the narrative. I felt like I knew who Mercy was, where she came from, where she wanted to go, and what she was going to do to get there. What I think I liked most about her is that she's equal parts tough street kid and vulnerable young woman. She's ballsy and abrasive sometimes but she's also kind and caring. She was a really complex character and I enjoyed her a lot. The secondary characters in this book were also really great. There was a great theme about family and loss, but also a running thread of found family and friendship. There were also really complex characters who had great development like Elodie and Headmistress Crouch. The characterization was one of the best parts of this book.

Finally, I couldn't conclude this review without mentioning San Francisco because the city itself was as much a character as anyone else. San Francisco is a place I have only been to once but but it is also a city that I loved. It has beautiful architecture, a gorgeous landscape, and an interesting history. All of that came alive in this book. I think Stacey Lee is from the Bay Area and she obviously has a lot of love for the city. But what I especially loved is the idea that she really considered what the city was like over 100 years ago. I am always someone who thinks about those things and wonders what a city and building was like when it was first built and if you are like me then you will really enjoy this book.

All in all., I really loved this book. It's a fantastic historical fiction novel with an engaging plot that explores a historical event from a unique perspective, amazing complex characters, and a great setting that really comes to life. I'm so glad I took the time to read it and I wish I hadn't waited so long.

I give Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee 9.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. If you like historical fiction then I would definitely recommend this book. But even if you don't it has great characters and a fantastic storyline that I think everyone would enjoy.

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

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Title: Girls of Paper and Fire
Written by: Natasha Ngan
Published: November 6, 2018 by Jimmy Books (Little, Brown Books)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It's the highest honor they could hope for...and the most cruel. 

But this year, there's a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she's made of fire. 

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it's Lei they're after--the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king's interest. 

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king's consort. But Lei isn't content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable--she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she's willing to go for justice and revenge. 

TW: violence and sexual abuse.

This book was one of my most anticipated debuts of the year. I read a lot of YA fantasy (because I love it, obviously), and I am always excited to see a standalone, especially one on the darker side with political intrigue. And this was a really good read.

One of the best things about this book is the world. I'm surprised by how rich and engaging the world of this book is even though it's more subtle. It's a book inspired by Asian cultures and the emphasis is interesting and makes for a lush and beautiful setting. I usually like my fantasies to go big when it comes to magic but this one didn't. Instead it just developed the story around the world where people have animal features. These are the people who are the most revered and powerful within this world and there is a firm caste system between the others with people just being human at the lowest level. And like a lot of fantasy there is a brutal and authoritarian ruler. It added more depth to the world and a lot of political intrigue to the plot.

But I will say, that I still have a lot of questions about the world of this book. I know the general rule of them is to show instead of tell when it comes to world building but then you have to actually show these things. Maybe I was just reading more into it then it actually was but I thought there was some opportunities for big reveals in the explanation of the world and magical system. This boiok never went there and I wish that it had.

However, it may be possible that the world building was simple because the plot took more of the focus. This is one of those books where I think the trigger warning is good because this is very much a brutal read. It doesn't shrink away from the abuse of power of the Demon King, not only on the people in general but the young women who are his courtesans. It's often hard to read but it made for a dark and engaging story that had me wanting the protagonists to succeed in their goal to overthrow the king. I'm a plot-driven reader and usually I prefer a book full of action and surprises but this too was on the more subtle side. It was a simple sort of rebellion story but it was an interesting one nonetheless. I was invested in the story and it definitely did build to an exciting conclusion.

As far as the characters, I am not entirely sure how I feel about them. I already mentioned the brutal antagonist and I feel like Ngan did a great job in developing a terrible villain that was easy to dislike. But I would have like some more from the protagonists. Lei was a good enough main character, the kind of person who goes through so much that you can't help but root for her over the oppressors. But as an individual, I don't think she really came to life. It's not that she didn't have individual traits, because she was definitely fierce and determined in a way that usually endears me to a character. I mean she has some serious Sansa Stark vibes and you know how I love me some Sansa. But she just didn't make that strong an impression on me.

What surprised me though it that I did however like the romance. It's a f/f relationship and I actually liked the way that it developed. It is a little bit of a instalove, I mean it develops very quickly, but I think the author does a good job of showing the character's inner thoughts about the relationship. It's a bit of a forbidden fruit sort of thing but it never got to over the top with that. I liked that the character was torn about her feelings which makes it all the more satisfying when it came together. It had a good balance too and didn't overpower the story for me.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book even though it wasn't perfect. It had a rich and engaging world, a plot that pulled me and kept me reading until the exciting conclusion, and a romance that I actually enjoyed.

I give Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan 8.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. This is a good debut fantasy and I am interested to see what's next for this author. It may actually be a sequel with the way this book ended.

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

Friday, November 9, 2018

Review: Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

Title: Kingdom of Ash
Series: Throne of Glass #7
Written by: Sarah J Maas
Published: October 23, 2018 by Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Years in the making, Sarah J. Maas’s #1 New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series draws to an epic, unforgettable conclusion. Aelin Galathynius’s journey from slave to king’s assassin to the queen of a once-great kingdom reaches its heart-rending finale as war erupts across her world. . . 

Aelin has risked everything to save her people―but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. Aware that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, though her resolve begins to unravel with each passing day… 

With Aelin captured, Aedion and Lysandra remain the last line of defense to protect Terrasen from utter destruction. Yet they soon realize that the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save them. Scattered across the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian are forced to forge their own paths to meet their fates. Hanging in the balance is any hope of salvation―and a better world. 

And across the sea, his companions unwavering beside him, Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen―before she is lost to him forever. 

As the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight, if they are to have a chance at a future. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever in the explosive final chapter of the Throne of Glass series.

That's right friends, the Throne of Glass series is over. It's been a great four year ride with the series and I have been crazy impressed with how complex and engaging this series is. And while the last book in this series is not my favorite, it was a great ending to an amazing YA fantasy series.

The thing that continues to impress me about this series is the plot development. This is one of those series where clearly everything was planned out since the very beginning. Little things from the early books in the series and even the novellas come back in a big way in the final book as things start unfolding and everything was unfolding. Plus it is crazy action-packed. I have come to know this series for the fact that it has always been full of action, adventure, and surprises. This being that it was the final book, of course that was all of that was heightened. The stakes were high and a lot of this book took me on a crazy emotional ride.

That being, said the pacing was not great. This is a really long book. It comes in at a whopping 992 pages which not only makes it the longest book I have read this year but one of the longest I have ever read. But it's not out of the ordinary to read a fantasy book over 800 pages but they don't always feel like they are as long as they are. But this book felt long. There were a lot of moments where there were lulls in the story that had me not at all minding that I put it down.

I think one of the reasons why that the pacing was a bit problematic for me is that this is a series that is full of perspectives and in this book that was a little out of control. I honestly lost count with how many characters got to narrate a portion of the book but it had to be at least a dozen. And yes, that't not out of the ordinary for fantasy books but with this series it is always a bit jarring, especially because often it would change perspectives in the middle of the chapter. I have never liked that about this series and like everything else with this book that was heightened too.

But I do really love the characters in this series. Over the past seven main books and a collection of novellas I have definitely fell in love with these characters. So many of them are amazing and badass. It's been amazing seeing Aelin's development over the course of the series. She's maintained her heart of being arrogant and sarcastic while being an amazing leader and queen. So many of the other characters have also had great developments, including my two favorite Dorian and Manon. They both have some seriously kickass moments. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Lysandra was freaking amazing and Yrene was fantastic. Even Chaol wasn't actually wasn't the most self-righteous asshole in this book. No, that distinction went to Aedion even though I still love him. All the characters really had great development and seeing them change and grow throughout the series was really enjoyable.

But my favorite thing about this book may have been the world. Sarah has managed to craft a totally complex world. We have learned so much about it over the past seven books and watching it all unfold in such a meaningful way was the best thing about this book. This series went from one where there was no magic to a sword and sorcery novel full of magic and mystery. There was so much to learn about when it comes to the Valg, the wyrdkeys, the gods of this universe, and how they are all connected. I do still feel like there are some unanswered questions when it comes to all of that, especially the word keys and some of the answers felt like cop out but it is still an amazing world that I loved.

All in all, this was a great ending to one of my favorite series. It was full of action and adventure, great characters, and a fascinating world. It wasn't perfect and felt a little long with way too many perspectives but I thoroughly enjoyed it and am not ready to see it end even though I liked the way it did.

I give Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. If you are a fan of this series you definitely need to read the last book to find out how it all ends. This is definitely one of my favorite YA fantasy series. It's not perfect but it is incredibly entertaining.

Have you read Kingdom of Ash? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and happy reading.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Backlist Books I Own and Want To Read

A weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

1.) The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne
I was super interested in this contemporary before it came out in 2015 because I kind of worked in politics at the time but I never read it. Then after the election I didn't have the heart to read it but I do still want to.

2.) Dissonance by Erica O'Rourke
I heard really good things about this YA science fiction when it came out four years ago from blogger friends and I even received a copy as a gift but I still haven't read it.

3&4.) The Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson
*runs and hides* I have read most of Brandon Sanderson's books but this one intimidates me because it is so long. I even started the audio but I just couldn't devote the time.

5&6.) Out of Sight Out of Time and United We Spy by Ally Carter
I have really been dragging my feet on this series. I got the last three books in a used book store haul over a year ago and I still haven't read the last two.

7.) Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
I loved Stacey's debut and even though I got a copy of this one (signed!) at ALA last year I still have not read it. I'm super interested in her book that's coming out next year but I feel like I should read this first, even though they are not related.

8.) A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
I have read most of Mindy's books but not this one even though I have owned a copy of both the e-book and a physical copy. I keep thinking I will read this one and never do.

9.) That Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
I have read The Fixer series by Jennifer and loved it so I want to read this one. I mean it's about spies and the main character's name is Cassie.

10.) The Imposter Queen by Sarah Fine
I read Sarah's Phantom of the Opera retelling and I really enjoyed it so it made me want to read more of her books including this series. I got a copy of this I think from a Book Outlet haul but still haven't read it.

11 & 12.) Dark Triumph and Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
I saved the worst for last. I really hope people don't defriend me over this one. I loved the first book in the series but never continued. I plan to before the new book comes out in January.

There you have it! All the backlist books I own but have not read. What backlist books are still on your TBR. Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Review: Boneless Mercies by April Geneviee Tucholke

Title: Boneless Mercies
Written by: April Genvieve Tucholke 
Published: October 8, 2018 by Farrar Straus Giroux (Macmillan)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: A dark standalone YA fantasy about a band of mercenary girls in search of female glory.

Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are the Boneless Mercies—girls hired to kill quickly, quietly, and mercifully. But Frey is weary of the death trade and, having been raised on the heroic sagas of her people, dreams of a bigger life. 

When she hears of an unstoppable monster ravaging a nearby town, Frey decides this is the Mercies' one chance out. The fame and fortune of bringing down such a beast would ensure a new future for all the Mercies. In fact, her actions may change the story arc of women everywhere.

This book was a really solid meh for me. I had heard some mixed reviews but my friend Michelle who never reads fantasy actually liked it so when I needed something new to read I let Twitter decide and this one was the winner. But, I just don’t think it was my kind of read.

For one thing, this is a character driven fantasy. Much of the book is about the characters hunt for glory and then deciding where they should go and what they should do to fight for themselves and for others. A lot of people love that sort of thing but I do not. I don’t like travel and only in rare cases do I like when the characters drive the plot. This was not one of those cases. It felt like an incredibly slow read for me. Now don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of fights and pretty high stakes but it felt like I had to wait entirely too long to get to those parts. The book definitely built to an exciting climax but by that point I was just skimming to get to the battle scenes.

I’m also surprised that I didn’t like the characters more than I did. A band of female assassin’s! How could they be anything but amazing. And yeah, they were pretty badass. And yes, they kicked ass and took names. And the sisterhood and teamwork between them and some of the other female characters we meet along the way was amazing. But as individuals I just didn’t connect with them. I didn’t feel why Frey wanted glory. Hell, I even forgot her name at one point in the book. If you are going to have a character-driven novel to enjoy it, you really have to enjoy the characters and I didn’t.

On thing I did love however was the world. It’s a really atmospheric world that is perfect for the fall. Tucholke’s writing pulls you in and the locations come to life in your mind. I could perfectly picture the sea breezes and the witches that inhabited their shore. I could see the fields of reads and the women who lived and wrecked havoc among them. I could see the monsters and creatures that inhabited the woods and mountains. It is one of those fantasies that is visually beautiful. The world is inspired by Scandinavian culture and myth and that’s a setting I really enjoy so this book really checked all the boxes in that respect.

The other really interesting thing about this book is that it is a Beowulf retelling. A genderbent Beowulf retelling. I love a genderbent retelling. However, I have not read Beowulf so I can’t really speak to the book on that level. I’m curious what fans of the epic poem think about this book. It did kind of make me want to read that, so I guess that is something.

All in all, this was only an okay book for me. I loved the world but I found the plot a little too slow and I didn’t connect with the characters, which made the book all the more challenging because it’s a character-driven narrative.

I give Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke 7.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. Maybe this is just a book for people who aren’t big fantasy fans, or maybe it is a book for people who like a slower more atmospheric read. I know some people really liked it so it is probably just one of those hit or miss kind of reads.

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