Book Review

Book Review: Escaping from Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3) by Kerri Maniscalco

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: YA Historical fiction + Mystery
Length: 437 pages
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Expected Release Date: September 18th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are en route to New York to help solve another blood-soaked mystery. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, they’re delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.

But then, privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow ever more freakish, with nowhere to escape except the unforgiving sea.

It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation as even more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?

THOMAS CRESSWELL DESERVES BETTER.

BETTER BETTER BETTER. Oh my goodness. Usually I give a book higher marks for making me feel intense feelings for all the things. In this case, the intense feeling was rage, so instead I marked it lower.

HOW DARE AUDREY ROSE WADSWORTH. This was cheating and I will stand by that firmly. I’m tired of seeing this as a plot device and it makes me upset every time.

Something kind of funny though? If this was a different story without a boyfriend and the girl was having this kind of flirtations and kisses with a magician with a mask? Yes. I would have loved the banter and the set-up of that. BUT IT’S THOMAS FREAKING CRESSWELL. WHAT.

Wow, I can’t get over this. My review is running away from me. It was the entire plot which is why it’s very much on my mind. Other than that, the plot consisted of the same as the previous two books. People die, Thomas & Audrey Rose try to find the murderer. Nothing new. It’s a kin to watching CSI (or something similar) where the same show essentially happens every time but you can’t look away. This is how I felt.

I love my boy Thomas though. And I missed him this book! Since Audrey Rose and her shenanigans took up most of the page time, I felt he was barely on screen. There wasn’t much banter between them, mostly angst and angry words.

This was honestly a big letdown for the entire series. I am curious how Capturing the Devil will play out because I’ve seen very mixed reviews.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction + mystery
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses
  • Violence: physical, a lot of murder (by knives, hangings, animal attacks)
  • Trigger warnings: cheating

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Book Review

Book Review: Spin the Dawn (The Blood of the Stars #1) by Elizabeth Lim

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: YA fantasy + romance
Length: 392 pages
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: July 9th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.

THE MASH-UP I DIDN’T KNOW I NEEDED.

Ohhhhh I’m so happy I picked up this debut! Mulan? Project Runway? TOGETHER?

IT WORKED SO WELL. I got all of the Mulan vibes (my favorite Disney movie, by the way) from Maia’s actions and decisions. Then add in the competition to be the best tailor where there were even unconventional materials challenges?! Yessssss. The vibes this book gave off alone gave it a star. This was exactly what the synopsis gave me.

Maia and Edan were absolutely precious too. I had seen on multiple reviews that the banter is on point, and I’m here to put my vote in that THEY’RE RIGHT. It’s witty, sassy, and so stinkin’ cute. I really liked the way their relationship developed. I was surprised by a few bits of information about Edan that reminded me of other books and I was cool with it. I liked those additions and thought it gave another layer to who Edan is.

The adventure that these two went on was magical and enchanting. I was surprised that this was able to take only one book. I think it could have expanded into more if it wanted and still been captivating. Since this plot kind of wrapped up I’m curious where the next story will take us.

This is one of those typical YA fantasy books that WORKS. It’s why I love and read the genre regularly. The writing is delightful, the romance is on point, and the story is full of magic. I loved the world-building and the way the magic is set-up. Maia is such an easy character to love. I appreciate her loyalty to her family and how everything circles back to them. She’s brave, but also able to accept help. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses, make-outs, one or two fade to black, barely any detail love scenes
  • Violence: magic, fire, physical, arrows

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Book Review

Book Review: Warbreaker (Warbreaker #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ 
Audience: Epic fantasy
Length: 592 pages
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: June 9th, 2009
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Warbreaker is the story of two sisters who happen to be princesses, the God King one of them has to marry, the lesser god who doesn’t like his job, and the immortal who’s still trying to undo the mistakes he made hundreds of years ago. 

Their world is one in which those who die in glory return as gods to live confined to a pantheon in Hallandren’s capital city and where a power known as BioChromatic magic is based on an essence known as breath that can only be collected one unit at a time from individual people.

By using breath and drawing upon the color in everyday objects, all manner of miracles and mischief can be accomplished. It will take considerable quantities of each to resolve all the challenges facing Vivenna and Siri, princesses of Idris; Susebron the God King; Lightsong, reluctant god of bravery; and mysterious Vasher, the Warbreaker.

BOOK TWO COMES OUT WHEN?

Note: I listened to this on Audible (not an ad, just an FYI). It was narrated by Alyssa Bresnahan. Unfortunately, I didn’t love her. She did the female voices totally fine, but it with trying to do the male voices that was iffy.

This book did take me a little to get into (though, I’m learning that might be the case anytime I listen to an audio book). It has a SUPER complicated magic system that took me a minute to figure out. Once I did, everything was fine and things made sense. And now I’d love color-changing hair, k thanks universe.

I absolutely adored all of these characters. Even the evil ones. They were somehow lovable (for at least a time) and I enjoyed everyone’s personality. Vivenna seriously had the worst time and I felt so bad for her! She got the short end of the stick every. single. time. Til about the end. But I’m really feeling her vibe with Vasher, so YES. SOMEONE GIVE ME THE SEQUEL.

Siri was a bit frustrating, but I did appreciate that she didn’t take anything lying down. Not letting the God King, Susebron, frighten her (or any of the priests). Y’all, I loved Susebron. This precious King, DIDN’T KNOW WHAT SEX WAS. And I burst out laughing. That might be the best little nugget in a book I’ve read in awhile. Their relationship progressed in the sweetest way. You could really see them fall in love and when Susebron really shows his godliness, you could hear me clapping outside. YOU TELL ‘EM GOD KING.

Can we give a shoutout to Lightsong? I should have seen his purpose from a mile away, but didn’t realize it til after it happened *whoops*. I thought he was a great comic relief type of character and really gave some humanity to the gods.

Sanderson yet again weave this crazy beautiful tale filled with world-building and long planned story lines. The last few chapters are always the best part because you can’t help but be like ooooooh over and over as it all falls into place. I love his writing.

Overall audience notes:

  • Epic fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses, an implied love scene
  • Violence: knives, poison, torture, war

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Book Review

Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Contemporary fiction
Length: 327 pages
Author: Gail Honeyman
Publisher: Viking – Pamela Dorman Books
Release Date: May 9th, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine. 

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. 

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . . 

The only way to survive is to open your heart.

I’M FINE.

I wasn’t sure what kind of book I was diving into when I picked this up. Just that Reese Witherspoon had it in her book club, so I should read it too (I love her y’all).

It was different than I imagined, and I had a hard time getting into it. I still was invested and finished the book and liked it overall.

The biggest meaning of Eleanor was the struggle that is, mental health. This was hard to read at times as Eleanor had to first, deny then confront her demons head-on. I thought the author approached this really well. I had a lot of empathy for her and so deeply understood how the past can try to hold you back.

Her personality was directly affected by all that she had locked away in her mind. The quirks she had (such as talking so formally and maybe a touch too blunt at times) made her, her. I thought she was clever and funny in her own right.

One of my favorite portions was that there was no romance. Yes, maybe a hint in the future at the very end, but that was not the point of the book. Raymond was the friend Eleanor needed and I LOVED IT. He was kind, caring, and understanding in so many ways. I adored watching their friendship blossom and seeing Eleanor open up to what a good relationship looks like in her life.

I also want to give a special shout-out to Eleanor’s boss. Whenever she had to take time off of work for her mental health she wasn’t resented for it. He made sure she took her time and came back when SHE was ready. This seriously needs to be a world wide example.

I felt like the book was missing something. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it honestly might be for the fact this isn’t my usual genre. I was missing the portions I generally seek out in reading in this book. I still appreciated Eleanor Oliphant as a whole and enjoyed the story.

Overall audience notes:

  • Adult contemporary fiction
  • Language: a few strong words
  • Romance: none
  • Trigger warnings: domestic abuse, verbal/emotional abuse, discussion of suicide, alcoholism, depression, mentions of rape, animal abuse, survivor’s guilt

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Book Review

Book Review: Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy
Length: 336 pages
Author: Tricia Levenseller
Publisher: Fiewel & Friends
Release Date: February 26th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

How do you kill a god?

As her father’s chosen heir, eighteen-year-old Rasmira has trained her whole life to become a warrior and lead her village. But when her coming-of-age trial is sabotaged and she fails the test, her father banishes her to the monster-filled wilderness with an impossible quest: to win back her honour, she must kill the oppressive god who claims tribute from the villages each year or die trying. 

RESONATING.

“Each scar marks me as a survivor. A warrior of the wild.”

This was a book that really caught my attention. A lot of powerful phrasing that really hit home for me. I love this authors writing and the way she builds her characters and the story as a whole.

I absolutely love the dialogue throughout WotW. It was impressive. It felt real and had me flying through the book. I didn’t want to put it down! I vaguely figured out where the book was going, but loved the progression all the same.

I appreciate that the romance was believable. That can be a hard task in a standalone. I adored Soren and his practical, loving nature was precious. Things moved at a steady pace and never went too far, which made absolute sense for the time frame/plot. The banter between Sorren and Rasmira had me chuckling and begging for more.

Each of the main characters (Rasmira, Sorren & Iric) all went through these characters arcs that dove into deeper waters. Conquering fears, realizing one’s true nature and abilities, and learning to communicate were just a few of the aspects broached. I feel like I really got this book. Which is probably why I’m gushing over it now.

The only “eh” thing was the god Peruxolo. There wasn’t much to him so he wasn’t a completely believable antagonist. The scope of the story was so much broader than him that his background took a backseat. I was at least satisfied in the fact that the truth was fully explained at the end.

“My soul has worth, and I won’t let it depart this world just yet.”

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy (vikings)
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: light kisses to barely intense make-outs
  • Violence: ax, knives, physical

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Contemporary
Length: 304 pages
Author: A.K. Small
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Expected Release Date: May 21st, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

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.

Thank you to Netgalley, and the publisher, Algonquin Young Readers, for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

SURPRISINGLY DARK.

I went into this book blindly reading because the synopsis was intriguing and I haven’t read any dance books before. I was really happy with how much I enjoyed it! I devoured it in hours.

This is one of those very rare instances where insta-love works. Dear independent Kate, really struggled in the boy department. And I was so angry and upset at her and for her. Her mental health is so poor and turning to boys only made things worse and this broke my heart.

Marine is the softer of the two and is completely wrapped up in her own grief. I liked how she overcame her personal struggles and allowed love into her life. Luc was way too precious and I LOVE him. He was the real hero of this story if you ask me.

On the other hand I’m going to personally destroy the snake, Cyrille. While I think the nickname “The Demigod” is a bit lame it made sense from a teen perspective. He was seriously the worst though y’all. Don’t even get me started.

The real danger is when passions rule your life. This ballet school is a deadly mash-up that kept me on my toes. I legitimately was concerned that this book wouldn’t have a happy ending. I’m grateful that the story was wrapped up and everyone went the direction they needed to.

One of the few issues I had with it was the amount of unexplained dance phrases. Anyone without a full knowledge (like myself) would be a tad confused with the dance scenes. I gathered enough, but I did get confused on occasion. The transitions to flashbacks was also a touch perplexing. I often didn’t realize we had gone to the past when the book had already come back to the present.

Overall audience notes:

Second Note: The Trigger Warning section will contain mild spoilers. I generally try to keep it free of those, but I feel it’s important to know what you might stumble across because this book has some difficult themes that shocked me and I would want others to know before reading.

  • YA Contemporary: difficult themes, please see Trigger Warning section
  • Language: a little
  • Romance: lots of kisses/make-outs, a few very little detailed love scenes
  • Violence: personal (detailed in trigger section)
  • Trigger warnings: anorexia, general obsession with weight, smoking, drug-use, underage drinking, self-harm, abortion, sexual exploitation, and suicide

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Book Review

Book Review: Verity by Colleen Hoover

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: Adult romance, thriller
Length: 314 pages
Author: Colleen Hoover
Publisher: Independently published
Release Date: December 10th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

WHAT. DID. I. JUST. READ.

I have read the darkest book I believe I will ever read.

“I hear the crack of his skull before the spattering of blood reaches me.”

I mean, I cringed at the first sentence as the mental image ran through my head! That was only the beginning for the maliciously wicked book.

I sat there moments after finishing not knowing what I had read. I haven’t read any CoHo books in awhile, but picked this up for the different nature from her usual NA romances. AH, I am finding it hard to put this review into words.

So much happened. My heart was racing and I could only focus on finishing this (which I did in hours). That’s how intense things became. I thought I had figured out where the book was going, and I thought I was right, until I got to the ending. I love unreliable characters making morally iffy choices.

Whoa. If you have anything for romance thrillers, try this one out.

But please, this book is not for the faint of heart. CoHo wrote a completely unpleasant story that is a lot to take.

Overall audience notes:

  • Adult romance thriller
  • Language: a lot: cursing, vulgar, slurs, etc.
  • Violence: physical, murder (in various forms, but don’t want to spoil!)
  • Romance: a LOT of sex & very very (too much honestly) descriptive
  • Trigger warnings: death of a child, death of a parent, car accident, attempting to abort, child abuse