Book Review

Book Review: Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Contemporary fiction + romance
Length: 320 pages
Author: Katherine Center
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: August 13th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

From the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away comes a stunning new novel about family, hope, and learning to love against all odds. 

Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s excellent at dealing with other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to uproot her life and move to Boston, it’s an emergency of a kind Cassie never anticipated.

The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie’s old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren’t exactly thrilled to have a “lady” on the crew, even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the handsome rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because she doesn’t fall in love. And because of the advice her old captain gave her: don’t date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…but will she jeopardize her place in a career where she’s worked so hard to be taken seriously?

Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt, affecting novel about life, love, and the true meaning of courage.

WELL. THE SECOND HALF WAS MUCH BETTER.

I truly almost DNF this. I only kept reading because everyone else seemed to enjoy it and I was trying to figure out what I was missing. I did NOT like the MC, Cassie. She was quite full of herself, and I personally didn’t like how much she hated love. It came off as short-sighted and unwilling to be open-minded.

I also struggled with the writing style. Most of the time things were being TOLD to me and not SHOWN. I wanted more dialogue and interactions with characters, especially with Owen. Speaking of Owen, one large, annoying fact: I didn’t know his name until 49% way through the book. WHAT. I was so sick of him being called rookie. And I was so grateful when that bit was *mostly* over. I really couldn’t stand her co-workers at the fire department either. I feel like everything was laid on thick. Their crude jokes, misogynistic remarks and hazing really rubbed me the wrong way. Hallelujah that drifted off as the book went on.

Enter the second half of the book.

What a difference. I thought the writing picked up speed and that there was more showing vs. telling. While the relationship between Cassie and Owen was a touch insta-love, it was done well. It still wasn’t immediate which let me warm-up to them. I thought Owen was sweet, cute, and full of feelings. I liked their interactions and how Cassie had to learn to trust and rely on someone again.

There was additional drama thrown in from her Mom being present in the book. It was pretty obvious what that side plot line was and it didn’t make me feel one way or another. I did like that Cassie and her Mom got to connect again and to learn forgiveness. That was a big part of this book, forgiveness is more than saying sorry…(please someone name that movie)! I like how it wove into the story.

Cassie did win me over by the end of the book. I thought the growth she went through actually played a part in her actions and decisions. She didn’t say she was going to be different and then wasn’t, Cassie actually put into action the type of woman she wanted to be. The ending was super cutesy and all the heart eyes. Made me smile at least.

Overall audience notes:

  • Contemporary romance
  • Language: some strong language throughout
  • Romance: some kisses, one love scene (little detailed, mostly fade to black)
  • Violence: massive fires, physical, see Trigger section for more
  • Trigger warnings: sexual assault (unwanted touching – Chapter 2), inappropriate workplace jokes, sexism, misogynism, harassment, hazing, suicide attempt (by drug overdose – Chapter 28), addiction to painkillers, a description of past rape (mostly vague, chapter 28)

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Book Review

Book Review: When the World Didn’t End: Poems by Caroline Kaufman

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult poetry
Length: 192 pages
Author: Caroline Kaufman
Publisher: HarperCollins
Expected Release Date: August 20th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Teen Instagram sensation and author of Light Filters In @poeticpoison returns with a second collection of short, powerful poems about love, forgiveness, self-discovery, and what it’s like living after a hard-fought battle with depression, in the vein of poetry collections like Milk and Honey and the princess saves herself in this one.

Thank you to BookSparks and their Fall Reading Challenge Campaign for a gifted copy. All thoughts are my own!

WOW. I NEED TO READ MORE POETRY.

This made me realize that I’m really missing out on poetry books. I generally don’t pick them up. Not because I don’t like poetry, it’s just not what I first think of. Clearly, I need to add a few more into rotation.

As someone who personally struggles with depression, I felt a lot of these poems. I was able to connect with Kaufman’s powerful words and meanings. Words matter y’all.

“I am a book
with the pages all worn.

the cover is tearing,
the ink is fading,

but I swear I’m worth the read.”

This is a shorter review because the poetry book itself is less than 200 pages, but trust me, there is a lot of substance within those pages. I read it in one sitting because I was entranced by the vulnerability and rawness of her words.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult poetry
  • Language: a few words
  • Trigger warnings: There is an author’s note in the beginning of the book mentioning that some of the poems include themes of: mental illness, suicidal ideation, self-harm, disordered eating, and sexual assault

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Book Review

Book Review: Crown of Feathers (Crown of Feathers #1) by Nicki Pau Preto

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 496 pages
Author: Nicki Pau Preto
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Expected Release Date: February 12th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

I had a sister, once… 

In a world ruled by fierce warrior queens, a grand empire was built upon the backs of Phoenix Riders—legendary heroes who soared through the sky on wings of fire—until a war between two sisters ripped it all apart.

I promised her the throne would not come between us. 

Sixteen years later, Veronyka is a war orphan who dreams of becoming a Phoenix Rider from the stories of old. After a shocking betrayal from her controlling sister, Veronyka strikes out alone to find the Riders—even if that means disguising herself as a boy to join their ranks.

But it is a fact of life that one must kill or be killed. Rule or be ruled. 

Just as Veronyka finally feels like she belongs, her sister turns up and reveals a tangled web of lies between them that will change everything. And meanwhile, the new empire has learned of the Riders’ return and intends to destroy them once and for all.

Sometimes the title of queen is given. Sometimes it must be taken. 

Crown of Feathers is an epic fantasy about love’s incredible power to save—or to destroy. Interspersed throughout is the story of Avalkyra Ashfire, the last Rider queen, who would rather see her empire burn than fall into her sister’s hands.

I LOVE PHOENIXES.

Since the only book I can remember having anything to do with a phoenix in it is from HP, I didn’t realize just how much I love these mythical birds. The heavy focus on them in this story was AWESOME. And I can’t wait to learn more about the Phoenix Riders.

This book starts out a bit slow, there is a lot of history to catch up on and grasp. Honestly, it took me about 100+ pages to really get the story-line. I did appreciate all of the chapter break-ups where I got a glimpse into how the original story with Avalkyra Ashfire happened. It helped me understand everything and be further invested in the story. If there’s every a chance for a prequel novel with that story I would be allllllll over it.

SLOW BURN. Oh the slow burn romances. There’s two brewing and I kept thinking I was at least going to get a kiss out of someone, BUT NO Y’ALL. I was left hanging. And I love it. I know we all often see how fast some relationships tend to move in books and the fact that this one is making me wait to book two, MAKES ME WANT TO READ BOOK TWO. Clever. I ship both of them and like how both of the relationships developed. A little bit of enemies to lovers and genuine time together really sealed the deal.

There were twists and turns throughout the book, yet when the last 100 pages, WHOA HOT DANG. I had an inkling about some of them, but definitely was surprised by a few of them. I love being surprised. While I did mention this story was slow in developing, the bones are really great. Lots of world-building, understanding character motives, and getting a grasp of the politics really was necessary to fully appreciate this book.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some *almost* moments
  • Violence: fire attacks, physical beatings, throats being cut, swords, knives, animal attacks, animals being harmed, battle scenes, poison

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Top 10 Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Character Traits I Love

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!

This was kind of a hard topic for me this week. I know when I love or hate a character, but truthfully, I don’t think a lot into specific traits I appreciate about them. I started thinking about some of my favs and tried to break down why I really love them. It led me to a couple of key characteristics that make a great character.

Hope y’all are having a great October so far!

As usual, these are in no particular order.

Decisive

Goodness gracious. What makes me annoyed more than anything is watching a character run around in inner monologue circles of trying to figure out what to do next. MAKE A CHOICE ALREADY PLEASE.


Wit/Sass/Snark

Any of the above in any amount. I like a character that I find so snarky that I laugh at their conversations (in a good way). They make me smile and it seriously ups the banter game on all accounts.


Brave

I love a character acknowledging that yes, they may be frightened, but that also, they do the dang thing.


Able to communicate

Ugh. Don’t even get me started when it is GLARINGLY obvious that a character could have had one tiny conversation with another and it would have solved EVERYONE’S problems. Talk to each other y’all. It doesn’t add intrigue by hiding secret after secret.


Lover

If you’ve been on my page before, it might be a bit obvious that I love love. Add a bit of romance to any story and I’m practically sold. I love when a character loves another. Whether that’s a friendship or relationship. I love the passion they exhibit.


Open to change

It’s cool if you’re a bit stubborn, but resisting every tiny thing will immediately turn me off. I love seeing someone who may stumble a bit, but realizes the necessity of change. Whether it’s to a plan, goal, or something in between. Change is our only constant.


A good friend

Don’t be that guy. LOVE YOUR FRIENDS. They are supporting you and a character should do the same in return. Mistakes may be made yes, but I love when they understand and change the error of their ways to really become someone that can lift others up too.


Reliable

If a character tells someone they’re going to do something, please do it. That’s all I’m asking.


Emotional

And I don’t mean that ridiculous drama filled emotional kind (though that does have its place and can work well too!), but more the fact that I LOVE when a character has emotions. Especially those tough book boyfriend types. Shed a few tears, actually care about a situation/someone? YES ALL DAY.


Confident/Bold

I know this may take a bit while reading for a character to hit this spot. And that’s okay! I love a great character arc. When by the end, they are who they are and own it. YES. When they can be confident in themselves and their situation? YES.

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Book Review

Book Review: Bloodleaf (Bloodleaf #1) by Crystal Smith

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 373 pages
Author: Crystal Smith
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 12th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Princess Aurelia is a prisoner to her crown and the heir that nobody wants. Surrounded by spirits and banned from using her blood-magic, Aurelia flees her country after a devastating assassination attempt. To escape her fate, Aurelia disguises herself as a commoner in a new land and discovers a happiness her crown has never allowed. As she forges new bonds and perfects her magic, she begins to fall for a man who is forbidden to rule beside her. But the ghosts that haunt Aurelia refuse to abandon her, and she finds herself succumbing to their call as they expose a nefarious plot that only she can defeat. Will she be forced to choose between the weight of the crown and the freedom of her new life?

I’M NOT SURE WHERE TO START.

This was nothing new in the world of young adult fantasy. That’s not generally an issue because I know it must be crazy hard to be completely new. My issue here was that the story didn’t anything else to help me ignore the fact I had seen this all before.

What I did like is how dark it actually kinda turned out to be. Holy wow there was a lot of people murdered in this book. It followed the story line well and only two people weren’t actually dead which is pretty solid considering almost everyone never actually dies (it’s okay to kill characters off sometimes guys, I stand by this).

It was a pretty short book (under 400 pages) and everything happened SO DANG FAST. I felt like I was running while reading this. I really wanted some slow down moments where we got to know characters on a deeper level that helps me form bonds with them. I was on the cusp of hitting that with a few and wanted MORE.

All of the twists were so well telegraphed I saw them from a mile away. No, scratch that, 10 miles away. From the moment they walked onto the screen I knew what was going to happen eventually. It was probably the biggest factor in bringing down the rating. I wanted more intrigue and confusion. Instead, all of the big moments were announcing themselves as bright as humanly possible.

Did I ship the relationship? Yes. Could have used an extra dose of enemies to lovers but nonetheless, it’s sweet and I like where it’s going. I did not understand the point of throwing out the first guy within the first quarter of the book (you’ll understand if you read it). Since I didn’t know anyone that well it made shrug and roll my eyes.

My evil characters are luckily, pretty dang evil. So I’m here for that. I want to see what they do next because it’ll definitely be interesting. This book ended in a way that made things seem like *the end,* but it turns out there’s more. We’ll see what happens next!

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses and confessions of love
  • Violence: blood magic, poison, knives, murder (better detailed in triggers)
  • Trigger warnings: murder of an animal (pretty gruesome and detailed), murder of a pregnant woman (baby does survive), other detailed and gory murders, attempted sexual assault and a suicide (a mother does it to save her son)

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Book Review

Book Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Fiction + Fantasy + Mythology
Length: 393 pages
Author: Madeline Miller
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Expected Release Date: April 10th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

LOVED THIS STORY.

I have always been a huge fan of Greek Mythology. It’s fascinating and I am enamored by the stories. This was no different. I didn’t know much about Circe prior and I was swept away with how Miller created her story. Props to the audiobook too because that was STELLAR. Great narration and easy to follow.

The writing was beautiful and lyrical. Completely entrancing seeing Circe live her life. It was amazing seeing all of the characters that were in this book. I couldn’t get enough of knowing and learning about the titans and gods and all of the humans Circe loved. It is a bit of a slower paced book that is still able to hold your attention. I wanted to keep reading and following Circe on her journey.

Odysseus played a huge role in this story. From reading (and all together loving, because let’s face it, I was in high school and could care less at the time) the Odyssey and only barely grasping what happened there to feeling like I got a whole new side of him. I know this is all mythology, but everything FELT real. I was deeply in love with all of these characters, especially Circe and Odysseus. Circe was strong, brave, and cunning. A goddess in her own right.

There was a magical world built around the myths of Circe and the titans. I loved exploring the land and even though this book is mostly set on an island, you would never know it. A lot continually happens and I am wholly impressed by this book. I’m definitely interested in reading The Song of Achilles now!

Overall audience notes:

  • Fiction + Fantasy + Greek mythology
  • Language: a little strong language
  • Romance: kisses, mentions of lying with each other and spending the night together, so you definitely know what happened, but nothing is descriptive
  • Violence: torture, poison, physical, shipwrecks, monster attacks, magic
  • Trigger warnings: rape (end of Chapter 14, a little detailed; happens to Circe from a group of sailors that come to her island); two descriptive birth scenes

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Book Review

Book Review: Rage (Stormheart #2) by Cora Carmack

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult historical fantasy
Length: 460 pages
Author: Cora Carmack
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: August 27th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Princess or adventurer.

Duty or freedom.

Her Kingdom or the Stormhunter she loves.

If Aurora knows anything, it’s that choices have consequences. To set things right, she joins a growing revolution on the streets of Pavan. 

In disguise as the rebel Roar, she puts her knowledge of the palace to use to aid the rebellion. But the Rage season is at its peak and not a day passes without the skies raining down destruction. Yet these storms are different—they churn with darkness, and attack with a will that’s desperate and violent. 

This feels like more than rage. 

It feels like war.

SO YOU’RE SAYING THERE’S A CHANCE.

This is how I feel about #teamcassius. Anyone with me?! We’ll come back and visit this in a few paragraphs.

Okay, so I maaaay have over-hyped this for myself a bit and maaaay have been a little disappointed. What picked up my spirits though was that by the end, it was clearly a book two. Book two syndrome is alive and well here. So while I was bit let down, and thought this was slow more often than not, the ending was ON POINT AND I AM SO HERE FOR WHERE IT MAY LEAD.

Where may it lead you ask? Oh yes, back to #teamcassius. It isn’t even a love triangle [yet] and I am pushing for it. Who am I? I’ve loved Cassius from day one (I can’t handle a brooding Prince trying to be a better person than his father). And this caused me to never be fully on board with Kiran. Kiran got better over the story, but his protective and dramatic streaks left me wanting to put him on the side. There were some really sweet and cute moments with Aurora though. I’m clearly conflicted.

I love the rotating multiple POV. I am a sucker for a bit that gives it to me in all the angles possible. The POV flashbacks with the Stormlord weren’t necessary though. It took up too much page space and I wanted to go back to the present. I don’t think it really gave new information (other than I supposed a deeper understanding of his mistreatment). Ooh, well, okay it did drop one HUGE tiny tidbit, but then nothing happened with it so I think it could’ve waited.

Aurora is not my favorite heroine. I enjoy her character and think she is pretty tough and mostly brave. She is trying so hard to be a good royal for her kingdom that she is making so many mistakes it’s distracting. We’re building through a character arc with blunders left and right. I have high hopes for her in book three (like being nice to Cassius – y’all agree with me right?!).

Claps all around for the ending. It was just what the book called for and had me begging for more. And you know what relationship I’m excited for? The brewing something between Novaya and Jinx. They’re SO CUTE. I was cool with all the screen time they got. That’ll be one to watch for. I also can’t get over the creativity of the storm magic concept. It’s a big ticket item here. It’s so cool and well thought out. I love the dynamics of this magic system!

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: kisses, make-outs, one little detailed fade to black scene, multiple mentions of *what they did* the night prior
  • Violence: violent storms, physical, swords, murder

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