Book Review

Book Review: The Dire King (Jackaby #4) by William Ritter

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult historical fiction +fantasy
Length: 352 pages
Author: William Ritter
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: August 7th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The fate of the world is in the hands of detective of the supernatural R. F. Jackaby and his intrepid assistant, Abigail Rook. An evil king is turning ancient tensions into modern strife, using a blend of magic and technology to push the earth and the otherworld into a mortal competition. Jackaby and Abigail are caught in the middle as they continue to solve daily mysteries in New Fiddleham, New England—like who’s created the rend between the worlds, how to close it, and why the undead are appearing around town.

At the same time, the romance between Abigail and the shape-shifting police detective Charlie Cane deepens, and Jackaby’s resistance to his feelings for the ghostly lady of 926 Augur Lane, Jenny Cavanaugh, begins to give way. But before the four can think about their own futures, they will have to defeat an evil that wants to destroy the future altogether.

The epic conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Jackaby series features wry humor and a cast of unforgettable characters facing off against their most dangerous, bone-chilling foe ever.

READ EVERY LAST DANG PAGE OF THIS BOOK.

Or you might feel like throwing it across the room. Like me. Then I read it all. Then I got the ending I was demanding from my bookish soul.

This was a great finale! Definitely the best book of the series by far.

I loved watching all of the story lines come together. Seeing all of the characters align. It all was beautifully woven and closed the ending as it should be. I wasn’t left with questions or concerns. I closed the book at peace. That’s a good ending. There was even a double crossing betrayer that I had no idea was coming. It was a twist that added an edge.

ABIGAIL AND CHARLIE ARE SO DANG CUTE. Absolutely precious. This was the first time I wish they had some more screen time. I was smitten with Charlie and their interactions. They were a great, simple, no drama relationship that added the touch of romance to round out this series.

Jackaby and Abigail are once again a dynamic duo. Jenny became team member number three and I loved having her around more! The banter and dynamics between everyone always make me smile and really appreciate their friendships. I was so happy that Jackaby got the ending he deserved. It made a lot of sense and I figured it would have to move in that direction to bring closure.

This is one of those books that handles the addition of literally every magical creature from fairytales and folklore well. They’re SO MANY CREATURES. I love learning more about them and the way they each added their own touch.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction/fantasy/paranormal mystery
  • Language: one word (witch)
  • Romance: a few kisses
  • Violence: knives, magic, swords, murder, animal attacks, vampire attacks, physical

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Book Review

Book Review: One Day in December by Josie Silver

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Contemporary romance
Length: 409 pages
Author: Josie Silver
Publisher: Broadyway Books
Expected Release Date: October 16th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Two people. Ten chances. One unforgettable love story.

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic… and then her bus drives away.

Certain they’re fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn’t find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they “reunite” at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It’s Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.

What follows for Laurie, Sarah and Jack is ten years of friendship, heartbreak, missed opportunities, roads not taken, and destinies reconsidered. One Day in December is a joyous, heartwarming and immensely moving love story to escape into and a reminder that fate takes inexplicable turns along the route to happiness.

INFINITELY BETTER AS IT WENT ON.

So close.

This was another so close to DNF. I have unfortunately hit a streak of these, but luckily I am still giving them a chance! I started this as an audio book while owning a copy. I did NOT like the audio. I have no concrete reasons, couldn’t connect with the narrator, hated the MC and there was too much language for me to listen comfortably.

So I turned it off and instead tried reading the book. I read it over a month in short spans when I didn’t have to pick up my next book immediately. Did this help? YUP. Game changer.

Laurie really annoyed me at first with her inability to chill about Jack. I couldn’t handle the crazed enthusiasm to find this ONE GUY after seeing him ONE TIME. Then her continual pining for him while he was dating her best friend really bothered me.

Finally, finally. Laurie grew up a bit. Accepted the fate in her hands at present and went about her life. They all did. And from there I saw a growth in friendships, relationships, work, family, many areas! It was terribly difficult to watch the struggles, pain, and hardships that these three had to fight through. The story really blossomed and I was falling hard for Laurie, Jack, and Sarah.

By the end, the story had wrapped around my heart and held it in a tight grip as the movie-like ending rolled on the page. IT WAS SO PRECIOUS. And while cheesy was exactly what this book called for and made me hand over four stars. Why four? I personally could not handle the unnecessary use of language. It was flagrant, out of place and I didn’t like it. Also, since it took so long for me to go give this story a chance I knocked it down a bit.

If you’re like me and curious about this book, I would definitely give a try! Reese Witherspoon picked this book for a reason!

Overall audience notes:

  • Contemporary fiction romance
  • Language: a lot of strong language
  • Romance: kisses, make-outs, love scenes (ranging from fade-to-black to mildly descriptive)
  • Violence: car wreck, physical, emotional
  • Trigger warnings: cheating (by way of kisses), cheating (emotionally attached to someone while with someone else, yes, I do count this as a form of cheating)

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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: 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: The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆  
Audience: Fiction + Contemporary Romance
Length: 291 pages
Author: Tracey Garvis Graves
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: April 2nd, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Annika (rhymes with Monica) Rose is an English major at the University of Illinois. Anxious in social situations where she finds most people’s behavior confusing, she’d rather be surrounded by the order and discipline of books or the quiet solitude of playing chess.

Jonathan Hoffman joined the chess club and lost his first game–and his heart–to the shy and awkward, yet brilliant and beautiful Annika. He admires her ability to be true to herself, quirks and all, and accepts the challenges involved in pursuing a relationship with her. Jonathan and Annika bring out the best in each other, finding the confidence and courage within themselves to plan a future together. What follows is a tumultuous yet tender love affair that withstands everything except the unforeseen tragedy that forces them apart, shattering their connection and leaving them to navigate their lives alone.

Now, a decade later, fate reunites Annika and Jonathan in Chicago. She’s living the life she wanted as a librarian. He’s a Wall Street whiz, recovering from a divorce and seeking a fresh start. The attraction and strong feelings they once shared are instantly rekindled, but until they confront the fears and anxieties that drove them apart, their second chance will end before it truly begins.

A QUICK READ WITH ALL THE FEELS.

This is one of those books that came in hard and fast and left me reeling.

Annika is a brave, strong, caring and loyal woman. She is on the autism spectrum and while I can’t speak to whether this was a good depiction or not, I love how quirky, unfiltered, and sweet she was.

This was a second chance love story with Annika’s first everything love, Jonathan. I ADORED HIM. He was someone who may not have always understood Annika, but never tried to force her into something she wasn’t comfortable with or treat her poorly otherwise. I think we all want to feel that kind of respect and love in our lives. Their relationship flowed beautifully and I appreciated that this second-chance wasn’t because of some over dramatic break-up. Both Annika and Jonathan may not have handled the break-up in the best way (which they both acknowledged), they were at least finally able to discuss what needed to be said.

JANICE. What a friend y’all. I also think everyone needs a friend like her. She was absolutely wonderful and I thought her and Annika’s friendship was amazing. Their friendship grew and changed over time as well, and I love that they continually reached out to one another even when states apart.

I thought this was a great use of the back and forth timeline trope. Sometimes it can get bogged down in one area or another, but this one flipped back and forth at the perfect times. The chapters are shorter and easily flow. I literally finished this book in one day because I could NOT PUT IT DOWN.

The twist towards the end did blindside me a bit. There were definitely a few hints I am now looking back and realizing. Was it necessary to add that craziness? Maybe not, but I still panicked and flipped out nonetheless. I didn’t love how quickly it ended, but since I got my tender and sweet love story I’m okay with it. I could have definitely used an epilogue though.

Overall audience notes:

  • Fiction + Contemporary romance
  • Language: a little throughout
  • Romance: kisses, make-outs, a few explicit love scenes (but not vulgar if that makes sense)
  • Trigger warnings: bullying, miscarriage, depression, suicide ideation, plane crashes

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult historical fiction
Length: 512 pages
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: October 1st, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming guise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of a Texas oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera. Photography–and fate–introduce him to Ana, whose family’s interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War–as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel’s photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.

Master storyteller Ruta Sepetys once again shines light into one of history’s darkest corners in this epic, heart-wrenching novel about identity, unforgettable love, repercussions of war, and the hidden violence of silence–inspired by the true post-war struggles of Spain.

QUEEN OF HISTORICAL FICTION.

I had a friend gracious enough to let me borrow this book and Y’ALL. It was amazing and I loved it.

I absolutely love the way that Sepetys puts together her stories. I own all of her books, but have only read two and clearly I need to up the rest on my TBR. The chapters are written in a fast, short, rotating POV way that keeps you flipping faster and faster. It’s so easy to read this book and keep you interested at the same time.

THE ROMANCE WAS PRECIOUS. Incredibly cute. It was slow and sweet and was exactly what this book needed. I loved watching Daniel and Ana interact and grow to be each other’s confidante. I think they both helped one another see the world from another perspective. I literally SHOUTED at my book when we had a date change in the book because I needed a happy ending for Ana. NEEDED IT. (And Daniel, but really, Ana).

I didn’t love Rafa and Puri’s point of views as much as the others. That is why I took off half a star. By the end, their contributions really made sense though and I do appreciate that. It absolutely broke my heart reading about the deception of the nuns and doctors in Spain during the 1950s-80s. I can’t put into words how that must have felt to be a mother in that time.

The work that went into this novel is clearly seen and I loved having all of the tidbits from speeches and publications that were layered throughout the book. It really brought the history to life and reminded me that things like this really did happen.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction + romance
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: kisses, a not detailed love scene where you do know they spent the night together
  • Violence: guns, torture, imprisonment, murder, physical
  • Trigger warnings: mentions of miscarriage, kidnapping of babies and children

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Book Review

Book Review: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult fantasy (retelling)
Length: 416 pages
Author: Erin A. Craig
Publisher: Delacorte
Release Date: August 6th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

SO CREEPY.

I did this as a buddy read with some friends on Instagram and it was so much fun! It really made this book even better being able to discuss it with everyone.

I thought it was incredibly creepy. The descriptions of what Annaleigh was seeing would flat out make me full body CRINGE. And nobody would believe her! It was the perfect dose of eerie and disturbing that I’m comfortable with (which is low, I don’t love horror-ish stuff).

The mystery itself kept me busy the entire book. I never knew where to point my finger! The author was able to draw attention to character after character that could be the murderer and wow, I was impressed. By the end though (and the reason I gave it 4 stars) was because the ending was a little cliche. I did appreciate that it wasn’t clear and that truthfully, they weren’t inherently evil.

The ball scenes were beautiful and descriptive but I wanted more of them! I love ball scenes and since this is based off of Twelve Dancing Princesses I was hoping for even more dancing. It was amazing to see how this was woven into the murder mystery though. It brought out a very macabre side to the story that I was all over.

I did ship Annaleigh’s endgame from the beginning, but I also don’t know that the romance was entirely necessary. It did give her a chance for a romantic happy ending. They didn’t get a lot of chances to connect on screen, leaving me wanting more of them or not at all.

All of the death left me shocked. I only flipped pages faster and faster wondering who was going to die next. SO MANY DEAD. I mean whoa. No wonder there had to be twelve princesses for this story to work out. It was unpleasant and occasionally gruesome. Definitely a great read.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: very little (maybe one word?)
  • Romance: some kisses
  • Violence: murder, possession, drownings, falling from buildings, fire, freezing to death; fairly detailed and cringe-worthy

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