Monday, November 18, 2019

Review: The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh

Title: The Beautiful
Series: The Beautiful #1
Written by: Renee Ahdieh
Published: October 8, 2019 by G.P. Putnam Books for Young Readers (Penguin Group)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she's forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city's glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group's leader, the enigmatic Sébastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of La Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sébastien's guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.

I really enjoy Renee Ahdieh's writing so when I heard she was coming out with a book about vampires set in New Orleans I was so excited to read it. And then I was even more excited to get a copy at ALA in June. And while the writing was beautiful and the concept is fantastic but it didn’t quite deliver on what I was hoping for.

One thing that I did like about this book is Renee’s writing. I have red all her books and she is an incredibly descriptive writer. Everything really comes to life in her books. In this case she is taking New Orleans in the 1870’s and adding supernatural elements. I remember going to New Orleans and hearing all the stories about ghosts, vampires, and witches so it made for the perfect setting for a book like this. And while I don’t know that there was a real feeling of time and place, I do feel like the setting was lush and engaging.

However, the plot was a little lacking for me. There really could have been a fantastic murder mystery to this book but it just didn’t deliver on that. I felt like the main character wasn’t really trying to figure out who was responsible for what happened. She was just sort of on the periphery of what was going on. I wish she had been much more involved in everything. When it comes down to it, this just felt like a serious case of first book syndrome when it came to the plot.

I think my biggest issue is that I am realizing how hard I am to please when it comes to books about vampires. To be honestX I really cannot handle the dramatic irony involved in most of the stories that involves vampires. I know there are vampires, and the characters do not so they look obtuse and it gets in the way of me liking them and the book.

And as far as the characters go, I think think they other thing that I didn’t love was the romance. This really felt like a throwback to an mid-2000’s YA with the romance. Not only did we have a love triangle but it was with two guys who were former best friends turned rivals who are obsessed with this girl after first meeting her. See what I mean about it all being a throwback? It just felt so trope-y and that really is not my thing. If it played with and attempted to subvert the tropes I would be here for it but it bought into them too much for my taste.

On the whole, I didn't enjoy The Beautiful as much as I was expecting. I know a ton of people loved this book, it just wasn’t for me. I wanted more from the plot and less from the romance. I think I am just the black sheep here.

I give The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh 7.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you are a fan of supernatural romances and are looking for something with a throwback YA vibe then check this out. But if you want a dark and gothic adventure and mystery, look elsewhere.

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

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Book Review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Ninth House
Series: Alex Stern #1
Written by: Leigh Bardugo
Published: October 15, 2019 by Flatiron Books (Macmillan)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her? 

 Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive. 

The mesmerizing adult debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo.

If you were not aware, I am a huge fan of Leigh Bardugo’s books. I have read, and loved, every single one of them. So I was extra excited when I heard she was coming out with a new Adult book that was about secret societies and ghosts. And seriously, you guys, this book did not disappoint. Ninth House was everything I wanted it to be and more.

First and foremost, I absolutely loved the plot development of this book. There were so many elements to this story and they all worked together to create something truly fascinating. This was one of those books with a complex and intriguing mystery which elements that slowly unfold throughout the story. I usually consider myself really good at figuring out mysteries but this one truly stumped me. I had no idea what was happening until the big reveal. And it’s not that there weren’t clues, there was just so many elements that you needed to know them all first. Leigh masterfully unraveled the mystery here and it truly had me on the edge of my seat.

Another fantastic thing about this book was the world. This is the perfect book to read during the Halloween and fall season because it really had amazing atmosphere. The main character of Alex can see ghosts so of course they were a huge element of the story but the magic and supernatural elements does not stop there. Each secret society has their own magic which is tied to their house. We only got the barest hint of each of their powers but I was fascinated by them. But we also only got a little of Alex’s powers as well. I don’t want to give too much away but there is so much more to explore in the next book.

Part of what made to world fantastic was the setting. I absolutely loved the New Haven and Yale setting. As a New Englander, I love books set in New England. But honestly, you don’t really see many books about New Haven. And after this book, I don’t really understand why. There is so much to this city and it made for the perfect setting for this book. First of all, there is the real ghost stories and unexplained phenomena of the city. I wonder how much research Leigh did into these elements. I know she went to Yale and was a part of a secret society but it is the actual history of the city that interested me most. I wonder how much of these are real those stories from New Haven. It for sure makes me want to go on a ghost tour the next time I am there. But the other thing that made this city a good setting for this book is the dichotomy between the haves and have nots. Most New England cities with Ivy League colleges have an element of that and I love the way it was explored in this book. It made for one more complex and engaging element of the book.

As far as the characters, this is one more example as to how good Leigh is at doing dark and odious characters. So many of the secondary characters were terrible people doing terrible things, which honestly was something I love. Then you have the main character Alex, who is one of those unlikable female protagonists that I love so much. She is prickly and sullen with a tortured past that she is still trying to get over. She’s not the kind of person you really want to relate to, but you can’t help but do it. I was definitely rooting for her, even when she was making stupid and sometimes self-destructive choices. Darlington, however, was easy to like. He’s charming and intelligent. My friend Pili pointed out that he has Gansey vibes and she is totally right. He is the kind of person who wants there to be magic in the world and is looking for it. They were great fools for one another and therefore made a great team. And honestly, I’m so glad there wasn’t a romantic element to their relationship. It didn’t need it, and I didn’t miss it. The characters here really were fantastic and complex.

Seriously, this book was so amazing. I have heard nothing but great things and I am not at all surprised I loved it. Leigh is a master storyteller and she did just as amazing job with an Adult paranormal mystery as does with YA high fantasy. This book was brilliant, dark, and complex.

I give Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo 9.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: BUY! Definitely get this book. If you are a fan of Leigh's or not you should read this book. It is unlike anything she has previously written but still has all the elements of why she is one of my favorite authors. It is atmospheric and dark and is the perfect read for fall. You must pick it up!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor Blog Tour: Review and Favorite Quotes

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

Title: Tarnished Are the Stars
Written by: Rosiee Thor
Published: October 15, 2019 by Scholastic Press

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: The Lunar Chronicles meets Rook in this queer #OwnVoices science-fantasy novel, perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer and Sharon Cameron. 

A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher's chest: an illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog -- donning the moniker Technician -- to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner's tyrannical laws. 

Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner's son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father's respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father's elusive affection is worth chasing at all. 

Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner's secrets at any cost -- even if it means betraying her own heart.  
When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic -- before the Commissioner ends them first.

There needs to be more standalone science fiction novels and I was really excited to read this one. It seemed like it was totally up my alley so I was glad to be a part of the blog tour for it. It was an engaging story with great characters and an interesting world.

My favorite thing about this book was the characters and character development. This is one of those books which alternates perspectives. Those can be incredibly tricky because often I like one character more than others, and feel like the multiple narrators make things complex. But that was not the case with Tarnished Are The Stars. Each character added to the story and offered a unique perspective. I never felt like a section was unnecessary or that I wanted to go back to someone else. However, I did have a favorite character. While I liked Anna and Nathaniel, it was Eliza who I loved. She was a kickass female who is trying and often succeeding at being the smartest person in the room. I found myself rooting for her and loved her development throughout the book as she discovered who she wanted to be and then became that person. But that was the case for each of the characters. They were all easy to root for and had great development.

One of the other things I liked about these characters was the LGBTQIA representation. Because seriously, this book is super queer. Not only is there a good f/f relationship that develops throughout the book but we also had asexual and aromantic representation. I firmly believe there needs to be more ark and ace rep in books. I’m constantly feeling like a romance is unnecessary and having a character who states on the page that they are not only not interested in a relationship but not even attracted to anyone was so amazing. Having Nathaniel come to terms with his own identity was part of what I liked about him and the book.

I also liked the world of this book. It is one of those books that reminds you that dystopia is a subgenre of science fiction. It had subtle sci-if vibes with the use of technology to impact the lives of the people, but it also had dystopia feels with a new planet being colonized because of the fact that earth was negatively affected years ago. There was also that ever present shady government adding to the drama and a disease impacting the you people like our main characters. However, as interesting as the world was, I did feel like we weren’t given a lot of information about it. I felt like some of the big reveals were not as impactful as they could have been because there was so much going on and the pacing was so fast. If it had scaled back a little bit and given more information I think I would have liked the world even more.

But my biggest frustration with this book was with the fact that it was so fast paced. I usually like a quick read that moves quickly from element to elements but here it was just jarring. I had no sense of how much time had passed and things just moved on with or without me. Instead of what I assumed was the desired effect of keeping me connected to the story, it actually pulled me out. I kept wondering to myself how much time had passed and whether they had actually spent time making this plan or if they were just winging it. And it even affected the character development at times because I was asking myself how they had gone from enemies to friends so quickly. This is about average length for a YA novel but I honestly wish it had been a little bit longer and was fleshed out a bit more. It was a very engaging story with tons of twists and turns but that was negatively impacted by the breakneck speed.

On the whole, Tarnished Are the Stars was an interesting read and a good debut novel. It had great characters, an interesting world, a fat-paced plot. But I wish the story had been fleshed out a little more.

I give Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor 7 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you are looking for a standalone dystopia with queer characters and a fast-paced plot then I would suggest checking this one out.

Have you read Tarnished Are the Stars?  What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stooping by and HAPPY READING!


"A good weapon, she found, needn't draw blood to be effective. A controlled target was better than a dead one."

"Murder comes in many shapes... You don't always have to look someone in the eye and watch them die to be their killer."

"But that was the thing about loss: Death could rip love from life, but those memories stayed behind, burning a hole through the heart."

"I don't give much credence to regret. I can't go back and change what's done. All I can do is take what I learned and do better next time."

"It matters because this is who you are - but it is not all you are. It does not make you weak, nor does it make you strong. You make yourself one or the other through the choices that you make."

"Power is not the same as strength... Some days strength is control, and some days strength is release. Perhaps today strength is understanding that being like your father isn't inherently bad, and two men can be alike and still make different choices."



Rosiee Thor began her career as a storyteller by demanding that her mother listen as Rosiee told bedtime stories instead of the other way around. She lives in Oregon with a dog, two cats, and four complete sets of Harry Potter, which she loves so much, she once moved her mattress into the closet and slept there until she came out as queer.

Goodreads / Website / Twitter / Instagram / Facebook


GIVEAWAY Prize: Win a signed hardcopy of TARNISHED ARE THE STARS by Rosiee Thor (US Only) Stars: 15th October 2019 Ends: 29th October 2019

Monday, June 17, 2019

Review: To Best the Boys by Mary Weber

Title: To Best the Boys
Written by: Mary Weber
Published: March 19, 2018 by Thomas Nelson

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: The task is simple: don a disguise. Survive the Labyrinth. Best the boys.

In a thrilling new fantasy from the bestselling author of the Storm Siren Trilogy, one girl makes a stand against society and enters a world made exclusively for boys.

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port have received a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. The poorer residents look to see if their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women train in wifely duties and men pursue collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone is ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the deadly maze.

This book was recommended to me by a friend who doesn’t read a lot of fantasy. I decided to pick it up from the library and give it a try. And despite a good beginning, this book was a bit of a disappointment for me.

The best thing about this book is the world. The author did a great job of establishing the setting. It was one of those fantasies where the changes are subtle but enough to interest you. It honestly felt more like a dystopia. There is this place where the haves and have nots are in sharp contrast and there is rumblings of rebellion within the two oppressed lower class. Then on top of that you have this disease ravaging the poor people. It made for a great set up for the story and motivation for the characters. Unfortunately that’s all it was, set up. The general rule of thumb is to show instead of tell and that less is more. But in some cases, less is less and this was one of those cases. After awhile I was less intrigued and more confused. I wanted more from this world because it was actually very interesting.

The character, however, were fine but nothing special. The main character of Rhen was interesting enough. I appreciated the way she was torn between the two worlds, not really fitting in either. I also felt her motivation to find the cure for the disease and go to university. But I still kind of kept her at arms length for some reason. I just don’t know if she was fully fleshed out as an individual. She felt more like a symbol, which is fine but you kind of have to address that. The other thing is, I think some of what made Rhen likable is the fact that I detested basically every other character. I didn’t want her to beat the boys because feminism, I wanted her to win because the boys were truly terrible. It wasn’t about her succeeding, it was about then failing. This might not be a problem for a lot of people but for me if just felt a little off.

My biggest frustration however was with the plot. This book started out very strong with a great introduction to the world and a fascinating plot full of action and adventure. But it just didn’t stick the landing. The ending really fizzled and it never really resolved some of the more interesting aspects it introduced in the beginning. The sections individually were really interesting. The diseases and unrest had me excited for what was to come, the character dressed as a boy to play with conventions and stick it to those in power added some drama, and the maze was definitely thrilling. But as a cohesive story, they just didn’t work. If this was the first book in a series I would have said that it had first book syndrome and moved on, but this was a standalone. If just felt rushed and incomplete at the same time. I’m a plot-driven reader so that was a big disappointment for me.

I had high hopes for this book, but by the end of it my hopes were kind of dashed. It’s not a bad read it just isn’t one that I felt I connected with enough. I think there are much tighter of fantasy stories.

I give To Best the Boys by Mary Weber 7 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Bypass. As I mentioned, I think there are much tighter fantasies. I think the premise for this one is great but it didn't deliver for me and because of that I hesitate to recommend it.

Have you read To Best the Boys?  What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stooping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Review: Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Title: Daisy Jones and the Six
Written by: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Published: March 5, 2019 by Ballantine Books (Random House)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

I had recently read Maybe in Another Life and really loved it so when this one came out I knew I wanted to read it as well. And while it was definitely an interesting and engaging read but didn’t blow me away.

One of the more interesting things about this book is the style in which it is is written. It is told in an interview format that made it feel like a rock mockumentary. It’s kind of a year in the life kind of story as each of the characters is explaining what happened and they wrote their most famous album and toured together. I listened to the audiobook which was a great decision because it is a full cast made up of mostly film actors, so you really got the personality and different perspectives. In that sense, it was a really unique and interesting story.

However, the plot itself wasn’t the most interesting. Yes, there was a lot of drama with the band and their goings on. It was the late 70’s and so you had that classic rock ‘n roll mentality of sex, drugs, and partying. You also had the band who didn’t totally see eye to eye and wanted to be stars in their own rights. It reminded me a lot of Almost Famous which used to be one of my favorite movies. But I was not impressed with the ending. There was one twist that caught me by surprise but then it just sort of fizzled out. Plus then a larger purpose for telling the story was revealed and I just didn’t connect with that. I wouldn’t say that it made the whole book seem pointless, but the book did lose some points for me after that.

I will say, however, that this is probably a much more character-driven story anyway and I did like the characters. Because the audiobook had a full cast each character had their own unique feel and personality. The two main characters were probably the titular Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne. Billy and Daisy were interesting but they felt a little bit predictable. There was nothing that really blew me away about them. The characters I found the most interesting were side characters. Karen Karen was probably my favorite. She’s the keyboardist and definitely had the most engaging side plot. She was also voiced by Judy Greer which was a real plus in her column. The other character I found interesting was Eddie, the guitarist. He added a lot of drama to the book and I wish they had played up his dislike of Billy more. There could have been a lot more to the plot if these two had come to blows more often.

The thing about the characters though is that, they all kind of had an unreliable narrator thing to them. Not only are they telling this story 40 years after it happened, so obviously they don’t remember it fully, but there are other reasons why they might remember things differently or not be completely honest. I really enjoy books with unreliable narrators and for me, it was something that made this book and the characters interesting and unique.

All and all, this was an interesting story but not my favorite from the author. I’m interested to read more of her books because she is tremendously talented at developing characters and hooking a reader but I this one just wasn’t what I was hoping for.

I give Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reed 8 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Bypass. I would recommend it to anyone who likes books about rockstars or wants a character-driven book with unreliable narrators. I picked this up from the library and I would maybe suggest that. It's a pricey book.

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

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Review: Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Title: Aurora Rising
Series: The Aurora Cycle #1
Written by: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Published: May 7, 2019 by Delacorte Press (Random House)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: From the internationally bestselling authors of THE ILLUMINAE FILES comes an epic new science fiction adventure. 

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch… 

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm 
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates 
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder 
An alien warrior with anger management issues 
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering 

 And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy. 

They're not the heroes we deserve. They're just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.

Wow! This book was fantastic. I mean, I am not surprised because both Amie and Jay are fantastic science fiction writers and I have loved all their books (both together and apart).

 The squad was completely amazing. My favorites were probably Scarlett and Fin. Scarlett gave me some amazing Nina Zenik vibes, Nina is space kicking ass and being fabulous. Fin was the comic relief for sure but he also is a big old softie. But honestly, every character was fantastic and likable. I didn’t even mind the multiple perspectives because I enjoyed each character so much. Although, I listened to the audiobook which definitely helped with that. Each character had a different narrator, including some of my favorites, which I enjoyed.

The world was also really fantastic. It’s a complex and engaging science fiction world with a deep history that I think we are only just beginning to scratch the surface on. This is one of those books where when it was all over I’m theory crafting about what it all means and what the big reveals are going to be for the next book. Honestly, that usually only happens in a fantasy so the fact that it is happening in a science fiction says something.

My favorite thing however was the plot. One of the best things is that it has classic space opera vibes but goes even deeper than that. Because you guys... this is a heist novel. That’s right... SPACE HEIST! I’m a huge fan of heist novels. The world definitely needs more of them. But they have to be done right. They need to hit the right emotional notes, the reveals need to be slow and steady, and there needs to be big surprises. This book did all of that. It was an emotional roller coaster full of surprises and I loved every minute of it.

 I really needed a book like this right now. I have been going through a pretty serious reading and blogging slump and this book pulled me out of it I think. It might be the catalyst to get me going again. But even if it isn’t, it was a fantastic read and an a great start to what I am sure will be an amazing new series.

I give Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff 9.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. I definitely recommend this book. I read a fair amount of YA science fiction and these two are masters of the genre. If you like science fiction or want something with found family or unlikely teams definitely check this one out.

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

Monday, June 3, 2019

May Wrap Up and June TBR

Read in May: 

Remember in April when I said I was in a blogging slump? Oh boy was that true. I mean I think I posed only twice last month and one of the times was a blog tour so I had that added obligation.  But I think I am starting to come out of it. I actually wrote reviews on Goodreads which is a good sign and I wanted to do this wrap up post so I would say that is progress. As for reading, it was an okay month. I was travelling a lot for work and pleasure which made it a little bit challenging. I read 10 books this month which okay. Not where I want to read but again, April was awful so we will take this.

For challenges, I am once again low key doing challenges. The only one I am legit doing is how many books in a year. I set a Goodreads goal of reading 150 books in a year. My original goal last year was 150 but I had to lower it so I want to make that happen this year. Adding these 10 books in May brings my total to 54 for the year which is definitely behind. I should lower it to 120 again just so I don't feel bad about missing it. For the rest of the challenges I only low key set them. I want to read 20 debuts this year and I read 3 this month and 2 last month which is 12 for the year and on track. I want to read 15 books from Netgalley/Edelweiss this year. I read 3 this month and 1 last month which is a total of 8 for 2019. I also want to read 20 backlist books. This month I read 1 backlist books and last month I read 2 which is 10 for the year. I am on track for all of these goals which is definitely good.

The Books

1.) The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman Rating: 8 out of 10
2.)  The Hummingbird Dagger by Cindy Astley Rating: 7 out of 10
3.) The First Scream by R.L. Stine Rating: 7 out of 10 [Podcast Website]
4.) Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff  Rating: 9.5 out of 10 [Review to Come]
5.) Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small Rating: 8.5 out of 10
6.) Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy by Ray Terciero and Bre Indigo Rating: 9 out of 10 stars
7.) The Near Witch by V.E. Schwab Rating: 9 out of 10 stars
8.) There's Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon Rating: 9 out of 10 stars
9.) We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal Rating: 9.5 out of 10 stars [Review to Come]
10.) DEV1AT3 by Jay Kristoff Rating: 9 out of 10 [Review to Come]

To Be Read in June: 

And here is hoping that I can continue the strong reading month and actually get more blogging done. I am going to ALA in a few weeks and that usually reinvigorates a lot of my desire to reconnect with the bookish internet so here's hoping that happens. I am hoping to read at least a dozen books this month but I am honestly not sure which books I want to read. I have a busy month but I that might mean more time to read.

Books for Review

The Raven's Tale by Cat Winters - Add to Goodreads
I have an e-ARC of this one and I wanted to read it but haven't been able to yet. I love a historical mystery and this one sounds really fantastic. Not only is it about Edgar Allen Poe but it's Cat Winters which is always a good thing.

Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen - Add to Goodreads
This is another one I have an e-ARC for and have not yet had the chance to read. I have heard really good things about this author and the book sounds really good.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power - Add to Goodreads
This debut sounds totally amazing. I love a mystery/thriller set in a boarding school so this feels totally up my alley.

Romanov by Nadine Brandes - Add to Goodreads
A historical fantasy reimagining of Anastasia? Yes please. My friend Michelle let me borrow her ARC and I am going to see her at ALA so I want to finish it beforehand.

New Releases

Comics Will Break Your Heart  by Faith Erin Hicks - Add to Goodreads
I recently read one of Faith Erin Hicks' graphic novels and it was really good so when I saw the audio for this from the library when I needed a new one, I picked it up.

To Best the Boys by Mary Weber - Add to Goodreads
This is another book Michelle recommended. I picked it up from the library and have yet to read it. I feel like I'm in the mood now so we'll see.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid - Add to Goodreads

I have heard great things about this book and the audio looks really good. It's a full cast and I am all for that. I put a hold on the audio from the library and my hold should be coming in.

These Witches Don't Burn by Isabel Sterling - Add to Goodreads
Another debut that sounds really fantastic. I love modern witch books and I am totally excited to read this one. I have a hold on a book from the library so I'm hoping it comes in soon.

Backlist Books

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik - Add to Goodreads
I really like Uprooted and I am super interested in reading this one as well. It's another book I put a hold on from the library and the hold should come in soon. I'm not realizing all my lirary holds are going to come in at the same time.

Other than that, I have no plans. I want to keep my options open and read whatever I feel like or if I get any good books at ALA I want to read. There you have it. Some of the books I hope to read in June. As always, these are subject to change. I may read all of these or I may only read a few and then read a bunch of different ones. But honestly I think this list I can stick to. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small Blog Tour and Review

Title: Bright Burning Stars
Written by: A.K. Small
Published: May 21, 2019 by Algonquin Young Readers
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Best friends Marine Duval and Kate Sanders have trained at the Paris Opera Ballet School since childhood, where they’ve formed an inseparable bond forged by respective family tragedies and a fierce love for dance. When the body of a student is found in the dorms just before the start of their final year, Marine and Kate begin to ask themselves what they would do to win the ultimate prize: to be the one girl selected to join the Opera’s prestigious corps de ballet. Would they die? Cheat? Seduce the most talented boy in the school, dubbed the Demigod, hoping his magic would make them shine, too? Neither girl is sure. 

But then Kate gets closer to the Demigod, even as Marine has begun to capture his heart. And as selection day draws near, the competition—for the prize, for the Demigod—becomes fiercer, and Marine and Kate realize they have everything to lose, including each other.

*** I received an advance copy of this book

I was really excited to read this book. I'm not someone who reads a ton of contemporaries but I love boarding schools, a Parisian setting, and have enjoyed books about dancers in the past so this seemed totally in my wheelhouse. And while this isn't my typical read, I really enjoyed this one.

One the things that surprised me most about this book was the plot development of this book. For someone who reads mostly genre fiction, I honestly didn't think a book about ballet would be all that exciting but this book definitely showed me how wrong I was. Bright Burning Stars takes you into the savage and cutthroat world of competitive dance. It definitely made for an exciting read, although it is probably not for everyone. The characters are competing against each other and themselves to win "The Prize," a coveted spot on stage at the Opera Garnier. It's not an easy story to read sometimes. There is a lot of serious and hard to read moments including characters dealing with eating disorders, abortions, and thoughts of suicide. They put their blood, sweat, and tears on the floor which means a lot of pressure and regret when things don't go well.

This is very much a character-driven narrative. The story alternates between Marine and Kate who are both students at an elite ballet boarding school and best friends. Marine is a Parisian who is inspired by the tragedy of her twin brother who died and was also a ballerina. Throughout the book she struggles with the pressure of being the best and having the perfect ballet body. She makes some really bad decisions in the face of proving that she can be a great dancer. Kate is an American, something that makes her an outsider, who will do whatever it takes to succeed. A lot of Kate's struggle is her need for approval. She wants to be loved and makes some really bad decisions because she thinks that being the best will give her the approval she so desperately deserves. I liked each of the characters on their own, but interestingly this was one of those rare occasions where I wanted the characters to fail. I hated how much pressure it put on them and I honestly just wanted them to give up it all and be happy. But that wasn't what their character development was all about. Well not entirely.

And while I loved the characters alone, the two of them together was what I wanted the most. In the beginning when they were best friends who would do anything for one another it gave the book a lot of heart. Their Moon Sisters backstory and all their Beyonce dancing was amazing. But then as the book development and they let boys and dance come between them, I started liking the characters a lot less. I am a big fan of books about female friendship and with a narrative with so many serious issues, I think this book could have really benefited from some more of those light and fun moments.

I did however like the setting of this book. For one thing, I loved the boarding school setting. It was more on the subtle side but I loved seeing the characters in their classes and interacting around the school. The other really subtle thing about the setting was it's use of Paris. There were few mentions of known landmarks but honestly the school could have been anywhere. I love books set in Paris and I wished that the book did a better job of establishing Paris as the setting. The better setting was of course the world of dance. I am not at all familiar with ballet or dance at all but I felt like it really came to life in this book. Small's descriptions of the dances in particular made it all so beautiful and visual in the best possible way.

This is not my typical read but I really enjoyed it. There were some elements that could have been fleshed out a little bit more but on the whole this was a brutal and engaging read about the brutal world of dance and the toll it takes on the ballerinas. It's not an easy ready but it is very entertaining.

I give Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small 

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. I think this is going to be one of those books where people either love it or they don’t. It's a good contemporary read especially for those who like more serious books.


A.K. SMALL was born in Paris. At five years old, she began studying classical dance with the legendary Max Bozzoni, then later with Daniel Franck and Monique Arabian at the famous Académie Chaptal. At thirteen, she moved to the United States where she danced with the Pacific Northwest Ballet for one summer in Seattle and with the Richmond Ballet Student Company for several years. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary and has an MFA in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she’s not writing, she spends time with her husband, her puppy, and her three daughters, and practices yoga. Bright Burning Stars is her first novel.


Twitter: @aksmallwords
Instagram: @aksmallwords

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

Monday, April 29, 2019

Book Review: The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynne Herman

Title: The Devouring Gray
Series: The Devouring Gray
Written by: Christine Lynn Herman
Published: April 2nd, 2019 by Disney-Hyperion

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: On the edge of town a beast haunts the woods, trapped in the Gray, its bonds loosening… 

Uprooted from the city, Violet Saunders doesn’t have much hope of fitting in at her new school in Four Paths, a town almost buried in the woodlands of rural New York. The fact that she’s descended from one of the town’s founders doesn’t help much, either—her new neighbours treat her with distant respect, and something very like fear. When she meets Justin, May, Isaac, and Harper, all children of founder families, and sees the otherworldly destruction they can wreak, she starts to wonder if the townsfolk are right to be afraid. 

When bodies start to appear in the woods, the locals become downright hostile. Can the teenagers solve the mystery of Four Paths, and their own part in it, before another calamity strikes?

I was super excited to read this book when I first learned about it. Not only is it pitched as the kind of atmospheric fantasy I usually enjoy but it also takes place is the part of New York where I grew up. So I got a copy from the library and brought it home with me when I was visiting family. And while this was definitely interesting, it didn’t quite blow me away.

One thing I will say about this book is that it had good characterizations. This is a book full of messy and imperfect characters who are trying to figure things out and making lots of mistakes along the way. They are far from perfect and that what made them interesting and realistic. The book alternates perspectives between three main characters and it is one of those books that lends itself well to that kind of format. It gave each of the characters a lot of depth because you got to know them on a more personal level. And while Violet is arguably the main character, I didn’t at all feel like Justin or Harper’s perspectives were unnecessary (and I can’t say that very often in these kinds of books). I think a lot of that can be attributed to the characterization.

However, the format did make for a kind of muddled plot and pacing. The overall concept of definitely a cool one. A sinister force in the woods murdering people, and families with inherited powers are the only ones who can protect the town. It should have been a perfect book for me with the combination of mystery and fantasy, but it never quite delivered on either of those aspects. There was a mystery which I enjoyed but it didn’t feel solvable for the readers. I like being able to figure things out along with the characters not have them just tell me they found the answer. It just felt too simple for me. And that may have also lead to the pacing issues for me. The beginning of the book I loved and was incredibly engaged. I read most of the first half on a train and didn’t want to put it down. But then when I got home the plot seemed to slow down enough that it took me five days to read the rest. The second half should have been the most gripping but it didn’t quite recapture my interest until the last 50 pages. I’m just such a plot-driven reader so this was big for me. One thing I did like however is the fact that this is the first book of the series and it had a clear ending. It set up future books but it had a solid conclusion.

The other thing I liked but didn’t love was the setting. Now granted, this is really a personal problem. I grew up where this book takes place so I am probably way more critical than the average person. But if you are going to try and ground a book in a specific location, you really have to get that place right. And this honestly felt like the kind of book that could have been anywhere. There was only one reference to something from Rochester and then it went and called it “Upstate New York.” Clearly I am nitpicking because I’m from there but it brought up the whole Upstate vs. Western NY debates I haven’t had since college. This is not a problem most people will have with this book, but I just wanted to rant a little bit.

But as far as the other aspects of the world, it was an atmospheric and interesting setting. It’s one of those books that walks a fine line between fantasy and magical realism. The magical system is tied to the family and the location where they are from like magical realism but it is a little bit more of a general fantasy kind of structure. I really liked learning about the powers of the different families and seeing them talk about their rituals. I think we have only scratched the surface with the magic and I am excited for more. I also am excited for more about the Gray and the Beast. The book definitely didn’t overwhelm us with information about either of those things but it did capture my interest. I was honestly expecting this book to be a little bit more creepy and lean more towards horror but instead it was more magical realism. And honestly, I have no complaints about that.

On the whole, this was definitely an enjoyable read. The Devouring Gray was one of my most anticipated debuts of the year and it was a good book. Some aspects didn’t blow me away but the characterizations were great and the setting was intriguing.

I give The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman 8.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. Not a perfect book but very entertaining. I would recommend this to fans of magical realism or atmospheric YA fantasy in the vein of Maggie Steifvater.

Have you read The Devouring Gray? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thank for stopping by and HAPPY READING.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Review: The Fever King by Victoria Lee

Title: The Fever King
Series: Feverwake #1
Written by: Victoria Lee
Published: March 1, 2019 by Skyscape

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.

I can't remember when I first learned about this book but it sounded interesting enough to add it to my TBR. Then when I saw that it was one of the Amazon First books for the month of March I picked it up without any hesitation and I am really glad I did. This is one of those under the radar type of books that I was incredibly surprised by. I found it gripping and thoroughly engaging.

This is the perfect book for plot-driven readers like myself. It is one of those books that is full of non-stop action and thrilling twists. Seriously, every time I thought there couldn't possibly be another surprise there was. The overall plot kind of felt like three different books combined into one but it never felt jarring or strange to switch between storylines. The author did a great job in developing a flow that created a cohesive book that had me entertained from beginning to end. It was incredibly fast paced as well. There was not a dull minute at all in this book. And the best part is that the plot still built to a huge and exciting conclusion that had me on the edge of my seat.

I think one of the things that made the plot so good was that world was so complex and engaging. There were a lot of great elements to this world that combined some of my favorite things to read about. First and foremost was the dystopian aspects of the story. I don't read a ton of dystopia but I do like the genre overall. This book was dystopia at its finest. It took a modern problem and the treads in our current society and kicked everything up a notch to develop a fictional world that felt current and outrageous at the same time. There were elements of an oppressive government and revolutionaries that were fighting for their rights which all combined to make thoroughly engaging political unrest. Then it through the main character between the two factions which led to a lot of uncertainty in who was right and who was wrong. I love when books make me question rulers and I loved that about this book.

I also really liked the magical system in this book. I love a magical system where the characters each have different powers and they feel like superheroes, and if they get these powers through a virus that kills a bunch of people, all the better. Seriously, when did that become a trope because it definitely is and I am here for it. I loved seeing Noam use his powers and learn about them throughout the book. And each characters powers were fascinating. I like my magical systems to be based in logic and rules and this was one of those times where it was like that. Even if you had powers, in order to use them you needed to know physics and how the forces of the universe worked which was an interesting layer. My only criticism of the powers is that it almost felt like they had endless possibilities. You could unlock new powers with new knowledge and in some respects it just felt like you were giving the characters magic in order for them to get out of situations that there was no other way out of. If you are going to have a magical system like this there needs to be limits.

As far as the characters go, this is a book that had some great diverse characters. First of all, the characters were of different races, genders, and ethnicities which I really enjoyed. Although if I am being entirely honest, this book needed more women. There was really only one or two and they had much smaller parts than the male characters. The main character was biracial, Jewish, and bisexual. Yes, we also had LGBTQIA representation. And Noam was a great main character. He was easy to root for and had been through a lot of hard times before and during this book. He was easy to empathize with throughout the book and that made his development all the more sweet when he came into his own by the end of the book. The rest of the characters were complex and more odious. Because there was so much uncertainty about right and wrong throughout the book it made for characters who walk in a very grey area. Dara was really interesting and I totally ship him with Noam. Lehrer however was the most complex. He's a very charismatic leader with a great set of powers but is also kind of ruthless. All the characters really worked so well in this kind of narrative.

All in all, I really liked this book. It was the perfect change of pace for me with a dystopian world full of magic and mystery. The plot was gripping and engaging, and the characters were complex and engaging. It's not a book a lot of people are talking about and I wish more people would because it's really fantastic.

I give The Fever King by Victoria Lee 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. This is definitely worth a read for anyone who likes dystopia or is loking for a thrilling read full of diverse characters. It reminded me a lot of books like The Darkest Minds and The Reckoners which are some of my all-time favorite dystopians.

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