Review: The Valiant (The Valiant #1) by Lesley Livingston

30375703The Valiant (The Valiant #1) By Lesley Livingston

Published by: Razorbill/Penguin Random House

Publication Date: February 14th 2017

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Pages: 384 pages

Format: Physical ARC 

Rating: ★★★★ (3.75 STARS)

*HUGE thanks to Gretchen from Chicnerdreads for her arc copy of The Valiant, Razorbill & Lesley Livingston

 

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Lost to history, the story of the female gladiator has never been told. Until now.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king and the younger sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha. When Fallon was just a child, Sorcha was killed while defending their home from the armies of Julius Caesar.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in her father’s war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured by ruthless brigands who sell her to an elite training school for female gladiators owned by none other than Julius Caesar himself. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.
Now, Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries, deadly fights in and out of the arena, and perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier and her sworn enemy.

A richly imagined fantasy for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Cinda Williams Chima, “The Valiant” recounts Fallon’s gripping journey from fierce Celtic princess to legendary gladiator and darling of the Roman empire.”

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This is one of those books where Goodreads has pretty much spelled out the plot for you in their blurb so i’ll just add to it here & there. Perhaps the best part of The Valiant were the many plot twists along the way that kept me flipping pages til the very end. You quickly figure out that nothing is as it appears & the second half of the book has a different tone/pace than the first. We are first introduced to Fallon on the night of her 17th birthday, she is getting ready for her father’s festivities where she believes he will officially make her a part of his war band. The celebration itself ends up being the night that sets her on her true course after things take a very wrong turn. Faced with heart break, betrayal and murder, Fallon must pave her own path to freedom…

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Our main protagonist Fallon quickly earned my respect from the very start when she opted to put her wants/career before a possible relationship. Fallon is ambitious, brave, and has known which path she wants to take ever since she was a little girl watching her older sister fight for her father. She’s had her sister as a role model & wishes to follow in her footsteps. Every day she practices riding her chariot and honing her skills in fighting. Her sister’s words always playing in the back of her head…

“Are you a weapon or a target? Choose!” 
― Lesley LivingstonThe Valiant

Fallon has chosen to mold herself into a weapon and is ready for any curveball that is thrown her way. I enjoyed Fallon’s character development along the way & seeing her take control of her life. In the second half of the book we get to see Fallon’s relationship with another girl who was also sold to be a Gladiatrix. Elka & Fallon’s friendship was actually my favorite part of this book. It’s rare when we come across positive female friendships on the pages we read & therefore I tend to appreciate that a whole lot more than say a love interest (jussayin lol). The exchanges & witty banter between these two also proved to be entertaining. Fallon does have a love interest towards the second half however their story isn’t too fleshed out. I got the impression that this being book 1 in a series (or trilogy, not sure) that their relationship will unfold in the 2nd installment. I was ok with this because it meant that their budding romance didn’t take center stage to Fallon’s journey/experience as a Gladiatrix. There are some other characters who I enjoyed however for fear of spoilers I won’t mention. I will say though, that I hope to get a bit more depth to some of the supporting characters that are pivotal to the story.

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The Valiant is honestly a solid start to what has the potential to be a very entertaining new series featuring strong female leads. I immediately got Spartacus vibes when I started reading, and being a lover of that series I just knew I was going to devour this book. The first half of this book was a bit slow for me however, once I reached THAT point…you know the part in the story that sinks its teeth into you? yea THAT point lol, I couldn’t put the book down. I seriously took this book with me into the shower (not a drawn bath with candles that you see on tv) & read it through to the very end. The concept of female gladiators in a bloody Rome intrigues the hell outta me & the fact that this is a Historical Young Adult book made for some interesting familiar faces. We not only get to meet Julius Caesar himself but we also get Cleopatra & some actual facts were thrown in there to give it that authentic Roman history feel. I appreciated the fact that the author did not try to paint a pretty picture of life as a Gladiatrix & was actually very detailed in the brutalities experienced while training and while in the arena fighting for their freedom. I actually read the author’s note & I’m glad I did because in it I learned that Gladiatrices did actually exist. Through excavation, the remains of what appear to be female gladiators have been found. I’m a big history fanatic & these types of facts will always reel me in, knowing that they actually existed has increased my interest exponentially. I look forward to continuing with this series & seeing what Fallon has been up to since last I saw her in the Ludus.

Review:The Education Of Margot Sanchez

margotThe Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: February 21st 2017

Format: eGalley

Genre: YA Contemporary

Page Count: 304 pgs

Rating: ★★★★ (4.5 STARS)

I’d like to thank Simon & Schuster for approving me to receive an eGalley of The Education Of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.

THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES:

Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
This supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot
Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

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Ok Guys & Gals, the time has come for me to review this awesome book & I cannot tell you how excited I am to do so! the Goodreads synopsis more than covers the plot so I won’t repeat what’s already up above, instead i’ll touch on some of my fave plot points. The Education Of Margot Sanchez is first & foremost a Own Voices book about a Puerto-Rican family living in the Bronx, New York. Margot’s dad is the owner of two Grocery Stores from which he provides for his wife, son, and daughter. Margot attends a prep school in Manhattan along with the children of wealthy families. Her brother Junior works with their father in the grocery in hopes to one day take over the family business. We start off with Margot getting caught stealing her fathers credit card to order clothes online. Her punishment is to work off the debt in one of the grocery stores throughout the summer. This does not bode well for Margot who has a social life to maintain back in the city if she ever wants to “fit in” with the wealthy kids in her school. We follow Margot’s daily routine as she fulfills her duties in the grocery store by stocking shelves, working in the deli with the meat, and basically handling all of the grunt work. Her dad has every intention of teaching her a lesson but also utilizing her knowledge of social platforms to possibly give the store a new edge. The neighborhood is experiencing Gentrification and the family business is feeling the side effects. Situated next to a college and a new and upcoming food market, the family business can either benefit or be hurt by the change in demographics in their neighborhood. Margot however, could NOT be bothered with these things. Her thoughts are occupied by that guy back in her prep school who may or may not be interested in her and the “friends” she’s made by appearing to be someone she’s not. Margot is pretty much living a double life, something she has learned to do in one way or another by her own family. When Margot meets a guy while working in the grocery store, who is the complete opposite of the guy she’s had her eyes on in prep school…everything she worked so hard to create starts to fall apart. Moises represents everything her family does not want for her & yet he seems so right. This story is about Margot & how certain events lead to her growing up & learning some hard lessons from those she loves most.

characters-bannerI’ll start off with saying what I’ve seen many readers say about Margot…she’s not the nicest, she’s self-absorbed, selfish, deceitful, and ultimately an unlikeable protagonist. However, I understood this to be the whole point in educating her. Margot hasn’t had the best examples at home. Yes, her dad does pay for her to attend a pricey prep school in Manhattan but her values are all screwed up. Her parents marriage is not all that it seems and her brother is going through substance abuse issues. The problem is, there is no communication whatsoever between any of these family members. All is solved by simply not talking about it. On the surface this family appears to have it all but underneath they are hurting and divided. As a Latina woman, my childhood/family set up looked a lot like Margot’s. I experienced first hand what it’s like to look towards Papi (dad) as the bread winner and more than anything wanting to please him with success in school. Both Margot & Junior (son) want to succeed but get lost while trying to please a man who himself was failing. Mami (mom) was pretty much a silent figure in the background but you could feel her pain through her compulsion to keep everything extremely clean & tidy all day every day. I took this as her way of keeping control over something in her life when underneath it was all a giant mess. This family touched me because I was able to relate to their experiences, culture, and pain. This after all is the beauty of reading books by Own voice authors. I still think about this family & wonder whether these fictional characters are ok now…

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The Education Of Margot Sanchez was a light read that I flew through in just under two days. I enjoyed reading from the perspective of a Puerto-Rican family since it truly is rare to come across. This family felt familiar and relatable making this read one that I devoured all the while making comparisons to my own experiences growing up Puerto-Rican. I was pleasantly surprised to see the topic of gentrification play a role in this neighborhood since it’s one that i’ve personally seen have an affect on local mom & pop stores. There are other more serious topics covered in this book however, I feel that mentioning them is very spoilery since when I came across them I was taken aback and was moved by them. Although I know that at it’s core the story is about Margot and her family, I would’ve enjoyed seeing her take on a more hands on approach with the issues & concerns affecting her community as a symptom of gentrification. I do however appreciate how Lilliam Rivera explored the morals and values of this family in a very realistic sense. These characters were deeply flawed and were all weathering internal battles that seeped into their relationships with one another. Sometimes parents don’t always have it right themselves. A lot of times the kids get caught up in the unspoken. Such is the story of Margot & her brother Junior.

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14358410Originally from the Bronx, NYC, Lilliam Rivera is a 2016 Pushcart Prize winner and a 2015 Clarion graduate. She has been awarded fellowships and grants from PEN Center USA, Elizabeth George Foundation, and A Room of Her Own Foundation. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Los Angeles Times, Bellevue Literary Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Latina, among others. She hosts the Los Angeles-based radio show Literary Soundtrack on Radio Sombra and lives in Los Angeles with her family. Visit her at LilliamRivera.com.

Review: American Street by Ibi Zoboi

30256109.jpgAmerican Street by Ibi Zoboi

Published by: Balzer + Bray/ Harper Collins 

Publication Date: February 14th 2017

Genre: YA Contemporary/Diverse/Own Voices

Pages: 336 pages

Format: eGalley

Rating: ★★★★ (4 STARS)

*Click on cover for Goodreads

Thank you Balzer + Bray, Harper Collins, and Ibi Zoboi for the eGalley of American Street in exchange for an honest review.

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On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

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American Street tells the story of Fabiola Toussaint, a young teen who has returned to the United States with her mother in search of a better life or as they’ve come to call it, Une Belle Vie (a good life). Fabiola was born in the states however, her mother took her back to Haiti when she was still a baby. Fabiola was raised in Haiti where she and her mother are all they have. The books opening scene takes place in the airport, Fabiola and her mother had just landed and were to be picked up by their family in Detroit Michigan. Immigration however, detains Fabiola’s mother on grounds of suspicion to stay in the country longer than her Visa allows. In years past, Fabiola’s mother had stayed in the country with an expired Visa and she was thought to be returning with the intent to stay. Fabiola is forced to go on with her American family-her 3 cousins and aunt. She was in her last year of High School and is to finish in the states as planned by her mother and aunt. Fabiola’s mother is taken to a detention center in New Jersey where her fate is unknown and there is no way of communicating. Getting updates on her status is made extremely difficult & Fabiola’s aunt Matant Joe wants her to focus on school while she attempts to help her sister, Fabiola’s mother. We follow Fabiola’s journey in Detroit, she speaks English very well since her aunt paid for her to receive the equivalent of an American education while in Haiti. However, Detroit looks nothing like Haiti-not the land, people, food, or customs. Fabiola’s dream of a better life never had a chance to manifest before it was taken away. While in Detroit she tries her best to fit in with the family she has now been thrust into and attend school. All the while thinking of ways to get any bit of information on her mothers status & how she can get her out of the detention center. Fabiola’s family in Detroit love and accept her however, they have fallen to the gritty life of Detroit’s streets and it proves almost impossible for Fabiola to stay out of their dealings. Matant Joe has had to survive and care for her 3 girls as best she could all the while financially supporting her sister and Fabiola in Haiti. When the truth unravels, Fabiola finds herself at a crossroads. How far will she go to help her mother?

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I’ve read a ton of Fantasy and therefore, have come across many heroines and strong leaders. However, I have never come across a stronger protagonist in contemporary Fiction let alone Young Adult. Fabiola is loyal and strong in her ideals, spiritual beliefs, and love for her family. She takes the lemons she’s been given and proceeds to turn them into lemonade. We never get the sense that she is giving up on her mother or her current situation. She is observant and strategic, with one goal in mind. I admire Fabiola’s determination to maintain her identity; from the language she speaks, to the spirits that guide her, and the flavor with which she cooks food for her cousins and aunt. We also get introduced to & follow Fabiola’s three cousins Primadonna, Chantal, and Princess AKA The Three Bees. They are known for intimidating those around them and NEVER EVER allowing either one of them be disrespected. They value family over everything and in order to survive the ruthlessness of Detroits streets, have built a reputation for being untouchable. Primadonna is known as the beauty for her fashion sense, we see her journey through an abusive relationship. Chantal is known as the brains, she has sacrificed the opportunity to go to a prestigious University in exchange for staying close to home to care for her mom and sisters. Princess is known as The Brawn and goes by just “Pri”, she is the muscle and we see her deal with her sexuality. Matant Joe, Fabiola’s aunt isn’t in too many of the scenes for health reasons but nonetheless we feel her strong presence over her household. She’s been through a lot since she arrived in the states herself and it has all taken a toll. All of the characters in this book are strong in one way or another. They all are chasing a dream whether it’s theirs or their parents. In the end I was left wanting more for all of the girls who lived in the house on the corner of America and Joy Street…

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The writing in American Street is a mix between Fabiola’s native culture and the raw grittiness of Detroits mean streets. Fabiola’s religion is that of Voodoo & we get a different take on it from Fabiola than what is portrayed in main stream media. Fabiola is very vocal about the fact that her religion is not all that is seen on tv. She speaks of the different spirit guides and what they are known for. One in particular is Papa Legba the watcher of all crossroads, this is the spirit guide we see throughout the book and Fabiola believes is there to show her the correct path. I LOVED the parts we got to see and learn about Fabiola’s religion, i’ve always been very open minded and I was able to recognize many of the names for her spirit guides who go by other names in other religions. This book is also a very fast paced read and I found myself flipping the pages almost too quickly. In between chapters we do get a couple of pages where we are given a bit of story from the perspective of one of the supporting characters. Giving us backstory on events that have shaped them into who they are now and the actions they have taken to survive in a concrete jungle. I do wish we had seen a bit of Fabiola’s mothers story, its not often we see such close bonds between mother & daughter like Fabiola and her mom. I can’t speak too much on the ending for fear of spoilers but I will say that by the end of this story, Fabiola isn’t the same girl her mother last saw in the airport. We do get some character development in a very realistic sense. This is a story of new beginnings after all your dreams have been shattered. It’s not an easy one but life for immigrants/emigrants rarely is…

I recommend American Street for readers who are looking for cultural and socio-economic diversity. Readers who want a realistic portrayal of what its like for immigrants & emigrants leaving the familiar for the foreign. Lastly, I recommend this book to those with an open mind and an open heart

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

25489134The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Published by: Del Rey

Publication Date: January 10th 2017

Genre: Adult Fantasy/Historical Fiction

Pages: 336 pages

Format: Physical ARC (Bookcon) 

Rating: ★★★★★

HUGE thanks to Del Rey & Katherine Arden for the ARC copy of The Bear and the Nightingale at Bookcon.

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At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

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The Bear and the Nightingale weaves the tale of Vasilisa, a child who grew up listening to the Russian Fairy Tales told by her nurse every night. Tales of the blue-eyed demon and the belief that honoring the house spirits would offer protection from the demon were taken seriously. Everyone in the village would leave out milk & bread to the house spirits in hopes to ward away the evil. The difference between everyone else & Vasilisa however, is that these tales were true and she is known as what is called a seer. Vasilisa’s mother who died in childbirth knew that she was leaving behind a very special girl. A girl that one day would be needed & as such she asked that her husband take much care of Vasilisa. When the tales/demons of Vasilisa’s childhood begin to come to life and threaten her village, she is the only one who could fight the impending war. Many years later, Vasilisa’s father is advised to re-marry in order to provide his daughter with a woman to guide her in life. Her father who was still very much devoted to the memory of his late wife, decided to take this advice and travel to Moscow where he was to find a wife…and here is where all of Vasilisa’s troubles begin…In a village where she is viewed as a witch and the people are easily swayed to convert to christianity, Vasilisa herself must be weary of a witch hunt while trying to protect the entire village.

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Besides the lush world building (see writing & thoughts) in The Bear and the Nightingale, the characters quickly turned out to be some of my favorites. Our female protagonist Vasilisa hasn’t had an easy life, losing her mom on the day she was born and her seer abilities have ensured a challenging road for her. I immediately loved Vasilisa, compared by many to a wood sprite, she loved running into the woods where she would lose track of time. Vasilisa was able to see the spirits in her home as well as in the woods and the water. She maintained a good relationship with them all, many times bringing them offerings to keep them peaceful and in high spirits. She refused to be treated like a maiden & opted instead to wear her brothers clothes. If given the opportunity, she would also carry daggers like her brothers. I loved her spirit and kindness, the warrior in her made me root for her and smile whenever she got her way. The sibling relationship between Vasilisa & her brothers and sisters was interesting & at times fun to read. Vasilisa was very fond of her siblings but i particularly enjoyed seeing her relationship with her brother Alyoshka. He absolutely knew that Vasilisa was not meant to be tied to a man bearing children. As much as he feared for her safety, he also respected her free spirit and was the only one to believe her no matter what. The witty banter between these two also got a few chuckles out of me. The relationship between Vasilisa & her father on the other hand is a bit more complex. He loves his daughter & doesn’t resent her for the death of her mother (the love of his life) but he also would like if she could conform to tradition & be wed. Of course, he knows each of his children and knows that Vasilisa settling down is a challenge he can’t see himself taking on by himself. This man is as old school Russian as they get, yet he himself realized that Vasilisa doesn’t fit the mold of a traditional wife. Some may say that he wasn’t a good dad because of certain scenes where he went old school on her with a “thrashing” whenever she would disappear for days into the woods. I saw the good & the bad in this man burdened by traditions and the fact that he is a Lord of the lands with a reputation to maintain. A widow with a house full of daughters & sons to raise and marry off to ensure their good futures. I didn’t enjoy certain scenes but I saw what the author was giving us… a complex man, flaws & all who loves all of his children and fears seeing any one of them alone. Dunya who is Vasilia’s nurse is hands down my new Grandma! not only can she spin a good tale by the oven in the middle of winter, but she loves all of the kids as hard as she loved their mother when she was her nurse. Last but not least we have the house spirits who all serve their own purpose. All of the different house & wood spirits take offerings whether it be food or blood. The Vazila, a  little old man that lives in the horse stables in essence is the soul of all horses and was my favorite of all the spirits. Add talking horses to these amazing characters & it just doesn’t get better than this cast ❤

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The Bear & The  Nightingale is the ultimate cozy read which I found ideal for this winter season. Every time I opened this book & entered the village and home of Vasilisa, I found it incredibly hard to leave. This book is atmospheric, lush in Russian folklore, culture, and language. The world building is insanely magical and transcending, from the scenes in the woods to the scenes in this families home. There’s plenty about this world to gush about but I really think that it would take away from your reading experience if I were to include it in this review. Some things are just better to discover on your own, I promise you will not be disappointed with all the interesting characters both alive & not so alive that you’ll encounter along the way 😉

I’ve never been to Russia, but this author has lived & studied in Moscow and it’s clear to me that she truly loves & appreciates its culture. The well fleshed out characters made me connect further with this story & that’s key for me whenever i’m reading no matter the genre. The cover for this book captures the heart of the story…Vasilia’s home which is what she chose to protect. The strong familial bonds between Vasilisa and each of her family members was a major focal point & made this into a Fairy Tale of its own. Lastly, I appreciated that nothing was rushed especially not the ending. Instead we see the framework set down for the continuation of Vasilia’s adventure since this is book 1 in an Adult Fantasy trilogy. I am BEYOND excited & READY to go back into this world…kind of hoping that we see book 2 this Fall *fingers crossed* 

Have any of my bookish peeps read The Bear & The Nightingale? if so, who was your favorite character/house or wood spirit? Looking forward to the sequel? if you’ve reviewed TBATNG, drop that link down below and i’ll swing by ❤ ❤ ❤

Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

wintersongWintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Published by: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: February 7th 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/Re-telling/Romance

Pages: 448 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★ 1/2 (3.5 Stars)

I’d like to thank St. Martin’s Press, S. Jae-Jones, and NetGalley for the eGalley of Wintersong in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

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Wintersong weaves the tale of Leisl, a young woman who has more than her fair share of duties in her home. Kathe’s father is a fallen musician who is mostly inebriated, Mother is more of a partner in running the household, younger sister is seen as the beauty, and younger brother is a musical prodigy. Leisl herself is musically talented, specifically in composition but has set that aside in favor of helping her brother perfect his craft and one day gain notoriety. Besides the fact that she is running the household, her gender is one of the reasons for which her father discourages her from taking interest/composing music. As young children both Leisl & her young brother Josef would play their music in the Goblin Grove for the Goblin King, a mysterious figure who played music with them. As time passed & Kathe’s responsibilities grew, the Goblin King was slowly forgotten. That is until Leisl’s sister is taken by the Goblins into the Underworld by order of the Goblin King. Leisl finds her way into the Underworld and strikes a bargain with the King to release her sister…A life for a life…she will remain in the Underworld & marry the King and he will let her sister return to the land of the living. Although it may seem harsh at first, Leisl’s “selfless” deed is a bit selfish. She is tired of being unseen , unheard, not beautiful, and cast aside in the shadows of her younger brother’s musical genius. What Leisl didn’t know, was that her sacrifice was much heavier than at first it seems. Leisl & the Goblin King reconnect through their love for music & soon enough a love for each other. As long as her passion shines bright, the Underground will sustain and the land of the living will see Spring instead of being thrust into a deep dark never ending winter…she is essentially it’s life force all while she physically fades away…

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Our main protagonist Leisl isn’t your typical YA character & this was both a good and I wouldn’t say bad thing, but definitely someone to get used to lol. She is very much aware of her musical talent & oftentimes a bit of envy sneaks up when she is helping her brother Josef in composition. Josef is precise, he has been able to play the violin since the age of 5 while Kathe is wild passion and emotion in her composition. She also looks upon her younger sister’s beauty & is self-aware of what comes across as her own plain Jane appearance (nothing wrong with a plain Jane *winks*). Her sister is already betrothed to someone that Leisl also can’t stop herself from wanting for herself. It isn’t so hard for her to (at first) leave this life behind in favor of one where she is the center of the Goblin King’s attention & her musical abilities are praised. We get to see major character development with Leisl which I came to appreciate because it provided a better understanding of all her underlying emotions. Although her family were central to her story, they also weren’t the focus & were more in the background of the story. The Goblin King himself is actually perfectly suited for Leisl in many ways lol, he’s pretty arrogant and controlling which probably can be credited to being immortal & seeing many brides come and go. He’s also musically talented and although he comes off as having this jerk-like exterior, can actually be a decent guy…it’s a common trope, I know but it happens to work well in Wintersong. This is a a 448 page book and the author gives us full on character development & history. The Goblin King’s history is interesting and I can understand how his story and how he came to be the king of the Underworld, molded him into such a undesirable character. I wasn’t a fan of the Goblin King, particularly because of his selfishness which he fully owns up to. Also, certain parts regarding Leisl’s appearance & what he thought of her made me a bit squeamish. I appreciate however, that these characters weren’t your typical cookie cutter personalities found in YA. They were flawed & complex, which oftentimes led to me holding back judgement until I got more story. There were however, two characters that I ABSOLUTELY loved and couldn’t get enough of. Twig & Thistle are two Goblins who are tasked with the not so easy job of tending to Leisl’s needs & wants as Queen of the Underworld. Although all Goblins can’t be trusted, Twig came as close to a friend to Leisl as possible. Twig is the sweeter of the two Goblins. Thistle is Twigs opposite, sarcastic & not happy whatsoever with having to tend to Leisl. Twig is also very vocal about this and gets a kick out of withholding information from Leisl. Thistle’s mischief really added the Goblin touch & those scenes were very entertaining.

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The writing in Wintersong is beautiful, atmospheric, lyrical, and dark which managed to keep me enthralled whenever I picked this book up. However, there were two things that I struggled with just a bit. This is a slow paced book which typically I don’t have any problems with, however it may just be the dark mood and setting that made this one feel a bit too slow. The second issue I had isn’t really one that bothered me too much but it did affect the reading experience a bit, the heavy use of Classical music terminology. Its been years since I took the basics of Classical music in college but that didn’t help me much here. Although one can easily say that it’s not necessary to be knowledgable of the subject, because it was such a focal point & the author used a lot of terminology…I did feel left out of the story on more than one occasion. I won’t however, take away from the writing because it is seriously some of the most beautiful writing I have come across. I also couldn’t stop diving back into this world which leads me to the excellent world building. The Underground came to life through vivid description, the author left nothing out down to the Goblin furniture. I loved the attention to detail that was given in creating this world & can honestly say it played out like a movie for me. I will most definitely keep an eye out for this author’s future works & recommend Wintersong for those who love great world building, Romance, Fantasy, lyrical writing, and especially those who enjoy Classical music/Composition 😉

Review: Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano

lost-girlsLost Girls by Merrie Destefano

Published by: Entangled

Date of Publication: January 3rd 2017

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller, Mystery

Pages: 360

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating:★★★★★ 5 Stars

 

Goodreads:

Fight Club meets Black Swan—Rachel wakes up in a ditch to find she doesn’t remember the last year of her life, and that everything—including herself—is vastly different than she remembers.

Yesterday, Rachel went to sleep listening to Taylor Swift, curled up in her grammy’s quilt, worrying about geometry. Today, she woke up in a ditch, bloodied, bruised, and missing a year of her life.

She doesn’t recognize the person she’s become: she’s popular. She wears nothing but black.

Black to cover the blood.

And she can fight.

Tell no one.

She’s not the only girl to go missing within the last year…but she’s the only girl to come back. She desperately wants to unravel what happened to her, to try and recover the rest of the Lost Girls.

But the more she discovers, the more her memories return. And as much as her new life scares her, it calls to her. Seductively. The good girl gone bad, sex, drugs, and raves, and something darker…something she still craves—the rush of the fight, the thrill of the win—something she can’t resist, that might still get her killed…

The only rule is: There are no rules.

*I’d like to thank Entangled Teen for approving me to receive an eGalley of Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The 1st sentence in the synopsis for this book immediately had me clicking Request This Book over at Netgalley because my mind sees Black Swan & Fight Club as the ultimate mashup & i’m all for it.

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I can happily confirm that the description doesn’t lie & if you’re looking for your next adrenaline infused read then Lost Girls is the book for you! The book opens up with Rachel in a ditch in the middle of no where with no recollection of how she got there. Rachel makes her way on to an open road and is able to flag down some help & call her parents. It turns out that she’s been missing for the past 2 weeks however, her last clear memory is of being in her room studying for a class she took 1 year ago. See, Rachel has lost all recollection of the past year and can’t provide any insight as to what led to her disappearance. Once she is back home and begins to settle in, she sees that her room looks completely different than it did 1 year ago. Everything went from light colors to black. Digging around in her closet she finds a box with articles of clothing and items that indicate she was quite possibly living a double life–one that isn’t so much Girl Next Door but more Good Girl Gone Bad. In school she realizes she is now popular, a part of the cool kids, and dating the hottest guy in the school. Yet last she can recall, her best friends name is Molly & they enjoy dressing up in Lord Of The Rings Cosplay. Everything had changed in Rachel’s life and she was intent on getting answers. She went along with her new friends and quickly realized they knew more than they were letting on. She finds it easy to establish herself as the leader of their crew of friends, something that she is almost positive would NOT have been the norm 1 year ago. Rachel is the Alpha whether she has her memories or not, she also has a new found love for danger & fighting but no clue as to how long those feelings have lived with her. Rachel returns to ballet practice to try & bring some normalcy back into her life, not realizing that this too is a clue to her missing year of memory. Little by Little she begins to piece together the mystery of her disappearance & her personality change, in doing so she finds that she was involved in a very dangerous lifestyle…

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Rachel is our protagonist and she is not your typical run of the mill YA protog in the sense that I wasn’t able to fit her into any of the YA roles. She is not a hero, anti-hero, or what some would call a “good character”. Rachel is flawed in a lot of ways & this made her all the more relatable. I understood that she had made a ton of mistakes and that she has this calling towards fighting. She struggles reconciling the person she was a year ago with the person she changed into. Was it really a gradual change? or was it something embedded in her personality all along? is this just her nature? I loved this character so much because she understood that there is no good or bad but there’s plenty of gray. Seeing how she handled her returning memories was also interesting and played into her need for control. She internalizes a ton and that brings me to another character I loved who plays a major role in building her trust, her dad. Rachel’s dad was formerly a Navy Seal and is the more quiet and observant type of parent, her mom is a nurse who handles crisis in the hospital well but not so well when it comes to her kids (I can totally relate lol). It was her dad who kept a close eye on her even when she wasn’t aware he was doing so. One of my favorite scenes in this book is between Rachel & her Dad…a few tears were shed *no shame*

There’s also the crew of Girls & Guys that run with Rachel (don’t want to giveaway too much) that each add personality to the group. Loved the loyalty they all had for each eachother & how protective Rachel was over each of her girls. We get to learn a bit of back story on each of the girls who ALL can fight & crossing paths with Rachel may have just saved their lives. There is a love interest in the story & he also is a part of the underworld Rachel thrives off of, a fighter and a poet. No instalove here though since when we meet him, they would have been dating for more than the past year. Rachel’s reconnection with him feels fated & I enjoyed learning how exactly they fell down the rabbit hole they are in when the story begins. I also can’t go without mentioning Molly who was/is Rachel’s nerdy best-friend. I absolutely ADORED Molly and seeing how fiercely loyal she is to Rachel even when she didn’t exactly deserve it. Molly is that one friend you have that you know is ride or die HAHA!

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The world Merrie Destefano has created in Lost Girls is so DARK & ADRENALINE FUELED…I couldn’t put this book down. I’m talking full on phone slapping me in the face awake at 2am because I thought I could break night just to find out what was going on. There are both female and male groups that fight in this underworld for the most part they are all high school students. This isn’t some luxury club in  a good neighborhood either, she took us into the worse of the worse. The part of town you don’t want your car to break down in & she accurately describes what it would look like & the characters that you would come across. Of course, you can’t realistically fashion an underworld with illegal fighting without the appearance of drugs. There are different types of drugs with names like Pink Lightning or Blue Thunder that the fighters are given so as to get them addicted. The writing (specifically fighting scenes) is descriptive enough to make you imagine how much pain was being inflicted. The plot & pacing were on point and maintained my attention to the very end. I look forward to reading more from this author and hope we do get another book soon *crosses fingers*

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Photo Credit: The Planet’s Last Dance

 

Review: Fractured by Catherine McKenzie

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Publisher: Lake Union

Publication Date: October 4th 2016

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Genre: Suspense/Mystery

Page Count: 360 pgs

Rating: ★★★★ (3.75)

Goodreads Synopsis:

Julie Prentice and her family move across the country to the idyllic Mount Adams district of Cincinnati, hoping to evade the stalker who’s been terrorizing them ever since the publication of her bestselling novel, The Murder Game. Since Julie doesn’t know anyone in her new town, when she meets her neighbor John Dunbar, their instant connection brings measured hope for a new beginning. But she never imagines that a simple, benign conversation with him could set her life spinning so far off course.

After a series of misunderstandings, Julie and her family become the target of increasingly unsettling harassment. Has Julie’s stalker found her, or are her neighbors out to get her, too? As tension in the neighborhood rises, new friends turn into enemies, and the results are deadly.

*I’d like to thank Lake Union for approving me to receive an eGalley of Fractured by Catherine Mckenzie via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT

Fractured is the 2nd mystery/suspense novel I’ve read this year in which I was unsure whether one of the main protagonists was a unreliable narrator or not. This novel kept me in the dark for almost the entirety of the book with incredible build up. Formatted in past & present tense, Fractured is narrated by Julie Prentice who is the newly moved in neighbor & John Dunbar who has resided in the close-knit neighborhood all his life. This book gave me such Stepford/Desperate Housewives feels & I wasn’t complaining since I loved the movie & tv show. I will say that any time I read or watch anything that takes place in a suburban community, I am always left feeling creeped out and thankful for my city and the neighbors who couldn’t be bothered to watch my coming’s & going’s HAHA! So, Julie Prentice who is looking to start a new life far away from her stalker decides to move to Cincinnati with her husband and twins. Julie has had much success from her debut thriller The Murder Game based loosely on old law school games she used to play with her law school buddies. “The Book” as Julie refers to it, runs parallel to her own life with many similarities between her and The Book’s protagonist Meredith. In “The Book”, someone is murdered and it just so happens that within Julie’s circle of real life law school buddies, someone was murdered while they were all at a frat-like party many years ago. Now a well known debut author with rising fame, Julie is used to all of the rumors swirling around The Murder Game aka “The Book” except that her stalker isn’t just some random Jane. Julie’s stalker actually attended the same law school & claims to know the truth. Julie struggles with depression & is a recovering alcoholic. Her transition into the new neighborhood is awkward from the very beginning & unfortunately only takes a downward spiral after a series of encounters with some of the neighbors (cue The Stepford Wives jeje). John Dunbar is the first to befriend Julie over a mutual love for morning runs. They develop a friendship since he’s a work-from-home dad & she an author with a deadline for book 2. In a community where every move is watched & reported, a friendship like theirs is sure to stir up some talk. However, it is the decisions they make that put into effect a series of life changing events. Since this is a Mystery/Suspense novel I don’t want to go to in depth. I went in blind like I do with most mystery/suspense novels & I think it works best with Fractured.
 

CHARACTERS

Since this book is told by Julie & John both in past and present tense, we get to see a mixture of old and new friends for each of these characters. Their family set-up is almost identical except for that Julie’s twins are I believe around 5 or 6 years of age and John has two teens. They are both married and their spouses work coincide with one another. Everyone is connected one way or another and everything is treated as public knowledge with very little room for privacy. We get introduced to some of the neighbors who under the leadership of one of the residents, have formed a committee. The leader of the committee throughout the book sends out these memos updating & revising (more like adding) the policies (rules) for the neighborhood and monthly block party which served to insert some humor into this book. I found myself thinking how it could be possible for all of the neighbors to follow these rules without protest but chucked it off to group thinking. The neighborhood as a whole down to some of the teens were pretty intense and very quick to pass judgment on Julie. The giph below perfectly describes how I pictured the women of Mount Adams would look at Julie every time there was a so called “incident” on their street. Most of the time I disliked the way the other women were towards Julie but there were some occasions that made me raise a brow. John I wasn’t too fond of at all, he came across as weird in a gross way and cowardly. Catherine McKenzie gave us two very complex protagonists & for that I am thankful since I like my characters roughly shaped LOL. 
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THOUGHTS

I read Fractured in a fairly short amount of time which usually means that I enjoyed what I was reading, and I did. I was desperately trying to figure out what exactly happened and didn’t see that ending coming at all. I especially enjoyed the formatting of the chapters in past & present tense counting down to the final present hour. It all felt like flashbacks and you the reader get the full picture of how exactly the cookie came to crumble. There were certain things that played key roles in Julie’s life that I wish weren’t so easily tucked away (won’t say what due to spoilers) & some questions from her past that lingered in my mind. Overall though, this was an enjoyable read. What I loved most about reading Fractured had to be Catherine McKenzie’s writing style, which means I will definitely be looking into her other books. If you’re looking for the next suspense filled mystery novel this one is sure to hold you in it’s grasp till the very last page 😉

 

P.S. It aint a block party if the punch aint spiked! BAHAHAHA! 

Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Publication Date: November 8th 2016

Format: Paperback ARC

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Re-telling

Page Count: 464 pages

Rating: ★★★★★

 

 

 

Goodreads Synopsis: 

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Heartless…the ARC I scored at Comiccon/Bookcon this past October and still am shocked because I didn’t expect it. In truth, nobody was prepared for this ARC to be available for grabs and Macmillan wasn’t outright announcing it lol. Instead, a tweet was blasted for a Heartless T-shirt if you stopped by & said code word Jaberwocki LOL! My hubby (who was acting in for Gretchen @Chicnerdreads) headed on over & gave the code word, we were handed each a T-shirt which felt a bit heavy. Wrapped inside was the beautifully boxed ARC of Heartless, I almost went over the table and hugged the Macmillan girls handing them out…almost lol. I immediately texted Gretchen & proceeded to jump in the middle of the aisle like a 5 yr old…not unlike my 5 yr old actually. Plans for a buddy read were made btwn Gretchen aka my Book Twin & I. We never expected to be sucked into this world so quickly or to have life get in the way of reading and fangirling. We def tried, but i’ll be honest by saying that Heartless is a very selfish book that really doesn’t let you go once it pulls you in through the looking glass 😉 nonetheless I’ve enjoyed our swooning through voice notes & often times outright frustration with The King Of Hearts.

*Thank you Macmillan for the ARC giveaway hosted at Bookcon, all opinions are my own*

 PLOT

 I’m a HUGE fan of fairy tale re-tellings & after meeting Marrisa Meyer last year at a Barnes & Nobles signing for Winter, I became an instant fan. I love her Lunar Chronicles series & when I heard Heartless would be a standalone, the greedy Lilly came out and asked BUT WHYYYYY?!?! turns out I really didn’t have a reason to doubt that Heartless would be just as enchanting and wonderful as all of her other books. We are introduced to Lady Catherine Pinkerton who dreams of one day opening up a bakery with her maid who is also her best friend Mary-Anne. Catherine is the baker & Mary-Anne is the brains behind the business, she’s also the one reminding Catherine that their dream is a far fetched one. Catherine’s parents (specifically her mother) have plans for her…BIG plans…ROYAL plans. Catherine has her pick of suitors however, her pastries (self proclaimed BEST in the land) have won the attention and admiration from the King of Hearts himself. The king, an eligible bachelor who truly loves his kingdom and court, goes about arranging a marriage to Catherine. The only issue with this is that Lady Catherine Pinkerton isn’t some doe eyed lady waiting to be set up with a man of her parents choosing, for the rest of her life. Catherine also didn’t anticipate falling in love with the King’s new court Jester. Her love & passion was always in baking but Jest with his wit, charm, and air of mystery snuck into her heart and began to court her in private unbeknownst to Cath’s parents. Their love is a slow burn that leaves you aching for the impossibility of acceptance their love presents. They are faced with more obstacles than just Cath’s parents, In the kingdom of Hearts and beyond there are other forces at play. One characters mistakes in the past can change the fates of many. As hard as Catherine may try to make her dreams come true, we the reader get the sense that her fate has already been written. This is the story of Lady Catherine Pinkerton & just how she came to be the Queen Of Hearts…

CHARACTERS

Lady Catherine Pinkerton- I truly enjoyed this character for all of her optimism and determination, she just would not let anyone sway her from her dreams & aspirations. Cath knew what she wanted from life and it wasn’t to be royalty, she was perfectly fine with living a more humble existence. my favorite scenes were when she was was dreaming up recipes and bringing them to life. She is solely responsible for me craving pastries every time I sat down to read this book. Marissa Meyer nailed Catherine’s character development down to a tee! I can honestly say that this re-telling (the only i’ve read based on the Queen Of Hearts) is so fitting and is one that I can accept. I don’t know if I watch Alice In Wonderland now, if I can ever truly hate her again…even when she’s shouting out her most infamous orders to behead someone LOL!.

Jester aka Court Joker- Witty, mysterious, loyal, and oh so CHARMING! this guy! *SwooooN* smh lol. The minute he crosses paths with Catherine, they begin this dance of romance that neither of them really wanted to begin with. As the saying goes, we can’t help who we love right? such is the case here with Jest & Cath. There is however, so much more to Jest than meets the eye. Getting to know his character and how it played a big role in Cath’s life was irresistible. I could NOT stay away from these two for long & began long walks in the park just so that I could return to their story every day. 

Raven-travels on Jest’s shoulder for the most part and who Marissa Meyer (during blog tour) described as “Jest’s friend, Raven, who is my quirky take on the brooding, haunting bird from “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe” this bird only speaks in poem and made me chuckle on Occassion at the things he  was quick to recite in response to anyones witty remarks. He’s also extremely loyal to Jest, he’s got his back 100%

The King of Hearts- LOL just the thought of this guy is enough to make me giggle and shake my head. I mean, I cut him some slack only because he couldn’t hurt a soul even if he wanted to. He is well loved by the people of Hearts and his court (Jester included) because he truly cares for their happiness. That being said! the people of Hearts are notorious for not indulging in pain & sorrow, preferring to as the saying goes KEEP IT MOVIN lol. They don’t want to be brought down by tragic events or fear of monsters but they exist & The King isn’t the bravest in all the land. Short, plump, and Jolly—he’s just not cut out for slaying anything really haha!

Mary Anne- Catherine’s Best Friend who also happens to be her maid and business partner for a bakery they have conspired to one day open. Mary Anne is Catherine’s only friend & confidante at times, she is also a key player.

The Mad Hatter aka Hatta- Yes! he makes an appearance in true Hatta fashion & I was so excited when he made his way onto my page. He legit brought with him all the crazy of Wonderland and added that touch of oddity to the land of Hearts. Marissa Meyer did not stray much from Lewis Carroll’s Hatter and it legitimately felt organic. Plays a major role.

Chesire Cat-My all time favorite character in Wonderland made his way into Heartless & he was dead on, the cat that we’ve all come to love disappear & reappear into thin air. I LOVED his interactions with Cath! he was always up to something & I can clearly picture that grin while he was going about gossiping. 

 

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Gretchen @Chicnerdreads has created a monster with image hunting LOL! I can’t stop now smh

 

WRITING

Marissa Meyer became an auto-buy author for me once I started The Lunar Chronicles and that hasn’t changed. I still haven’t read a re-telling by another author that I’ve loved as much as hers. They have some elements of the original story but are truly her own. Heartless is no different because, we’ve never been given the Queen Of Hearts story we have only come to know her as the head chopping psycho from Alice In Wonderland. This book is heavy in character development (my favorite) & will slowly weave it’s tale up until the very last page. The Land Of Hearts was brought to life through Meyer’s writing such that I felt like I was actually back in Wonderland. She stayed true to the original characters but what I loved most was getting her take on some of the characters history. LOVED the story she gave the Hatta because Alice In Wonderland was very plot heavy & we just don’t get to know our characters pasts at all. Well Marissa Meyer gave us a bit of how they came to be who they are now in Hearts and it was original and interesting, almost like the extras on the collector’s edition of a DVD 😉

 

THOUGHTS

If you’ve ever wondered about the Queen of Hearts or even if you’re that person who loves a good villain, then Heartless is the book for you. If you loved Alice In Wonderland with its wide array of eccentric and fun characters then this is the book for you. If you enjoy a good & slow burn romance then this is the book for you. You will smile, swoon, hurt, and…no spoilers! HAHA! Marissa Meyer in my eyes is one of the best fairy tale re-telling authors out there in the book world. This book gave me back a piece of my childhood that played a big role in my becoming an avid reader. Alice In Wonderland was the 1st book I ever listened to on an audio cassette that came in a McDonalds Happy Meal. I must’ve played that cassette tape til it burned out, I was OBSESSED with Wonderland and Cheshire. Getting a different character’s back story such as The Queen Of Hearts was a real treat so in closing, THANK YOU MARISSA MEYER!!!! ❤ ❤

I didn’t get to see Marissa Meyer this time around but stumbled across a photo of her book signing/reading of Heartless where she dressed up in costume (down below) and I LOVED IT! it really is something else listening to her tell you a fairy tale in person & they’re always dark *evil grin* haha!

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Review: Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger

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Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger 

Published by: Touchstone

Date of Publication: June 7th 2016

Genres: Mystery Thriller/Paranormal/Urban Fantasy

Pages: 352

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★★ (4.75 stars)

 

 

Goodreads Synopsis:

An instant page-turner (Lisa Gardner) that straddles the line between thriller and horror…sure to appeal to a wide range of readers, including Stephen King fans. (Booklist, starred) A young woman’s mysterious gift forces her into the middle of a dangerous investigation of a little girl’s disappearance. 

Twenty-year-old Finley Montgomery is rarely alone. Visited by people whom others can’t see and haunted by prophetic dreams, she has never been able to control or understand the things that happen to her. When Finley’s abilities start to become too strong for her to handle – and even the roar of her motorcycle or another dazzling tattoo can’t drown out the voices – she turns to the only person she knows who can help her: her grandmother Eloise Montgomery, a renowned psychic living in The Hollows, New York.

Merri Gleason is a woman at the end of her tether after a ten-month-long search for her missing daughter, Abbey. With almost every hope exhausted, she resorts to hiring Jones Cooper, a detective who sometimes works with psychic Eloise Montgomery. Merri’s not a believer, but she’s just desperate enough to go down that road, praying that she’s not too late. Time, she knows, is running out.

As a harsh white winter moves into The Hollows, Finley and Eloise are drawn into the investigation, which proves to have much more at stake than even the fate of a missing girl. As Finley digs deeper into the town and its endless layers, she is forced to examine the past, even as she tries to look into the future. Only one thing is clear: The Hollows gets what it wants, no matter what.

 

I’d like to thank Touchstone for providing me with a eGalley of Ink & Bone by Lisa Unger via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I guess I should start off by saying that horror is NOT my thing! this gal right here has avoided the Freddy intro ever since first hearing it at the age of 10. I was the girl who avoided spook every Halloween & somehow always managed to get “accidentally” egged LOL. The mere mention of a spirit or ghost in my home was enough to keep me up several nights & my dear old g’ma used this as a way to get my sister & I settled down when being too rowdy at night. Fast Forward to 2016 & Spookathon Read-alongs are EVERYWHERE! can’t escape them. I decided to start Ink & Bone since it was described as a mystery thriller with an ominous cover but no mention of spook just a couple of psychics….I can do psychics right?…

Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger sunk its teeth into me from the 1st page & never let me go. It starts off with a prologue which I surprisingly enjoyed. It gives us a piece of the puzzle & lingers in your mind as the story unfolds. We get introduced to a couple who have been married for 16 years (unhappily so) with 2 kids. They are both night & day, Wolf is a writer and Merri is an editor. Wolf is also quite the charmer & the player, being unfaithful from day 1. Merri is aware of his philandering but has come to accept it as the norm, knowing that he hasn’t been faithful for longer than a year at a time. Merri also knows that Wolf loves her, they have amazing sexual chemistry, and when its good its great. Its the every day cycle of their lives as parents filled with repetition and very little adventure that bores Wolf. While carrying on a relationship with another woman (complete opposite of Merri), Wolf decides that the family needs a little getaway, packs them up, and heads to The Hollows. A town filled with mystery, death, and sadness but of course at the time Wolf had no idea. Wrapped up in his own needs & wants, Wolf hasn’t found a way to cut ties with his lover and instead is stringing her along. At the end of the day he knows that he loves Merri & that he wants to be faithful, that Merri is the only woman that can truly have a hold on his heart. It’s during a outing with the kids on a hiking trail in The Hollows that everything changes for the worse. Even though we are shown what happens in the prologue, I won’t do so beause I want you ALL to read it for yourselves & enjoy it just as much I did of course HAHA! the events however, only further put a strain on their marriage. Throw in resentment, regret, guilt and what you have is a recipe for divorce…or not? won’t give that away 😉

We also get introduced to Finley Montgomery who i’ve already added to my collection of fave female protagonists. Finley is described as having neon pink & black hair, tattoo sleeves (most of her back is covered), and a motor bike she rides all over town. Finley lives with her grandmother Eloise in The Hollows, they both are survivors of a tragic accident that left them with the powers to connect to the dead. Finley is able to see the dead who linger in this town with unresolved business. Kudos to Unger, the descriptions of these dead ones was haunting & bone chilling which led me to have to read Ink and Bone with the lights on. The Hollows is a place with abnormally high levels of abductions, murder, and abortions. It calls to others who like Finley, are able to see or feel those that have crossed over to the other side. It isn’t long before Finley’s path crosses with Merri & her family. Eleven months after the disappearance of Abbey (Merri & Wolf’s daughter), Meri still feels that there is hope and decides to resume her search by hiring an independent detective known for his work with psychics. Detective Jones Cooper has solved many cases alongside Eloise (Finley’s g’ma) but this time he will find himself working with Finley who is trying to learn how to control & set boundaries for her powers.

Thoughts

This book had me at the edge of my seat in certain parts & in others it had me searching for the light switch. The writing is haunting and a bit disturbing, I found myself wanting to know more about The Hollows but NEVER wanting to visit. The Hollows is described by Eloise to be some sort of vortex or place of power (maybe even a vacuum) that acts like a magnet for negativity which would explain all of the death. We even get to see dead spirits of three young girls who were accused & burned as witches. Unger brought The Hollows to life for me, it was a very atmospheric read that left me googling to see if it exists…haven’t found it yet (thankfully lol). I also felt that although there was resolution, we also get a sense that she’s leaving the door open for more. I can only hope that this gets turned into a series since there seems to be plenty of material & Finley is only just now getting acquainted with her powers. I did find The Whispering Hollows which is a collection of 3 short stories introducing us to The Hollows (before Ink and Bone was published) & I will be reading this in November since it’s only 159 pgs. & my curiosity for The Hollows is unusually great. If you’re looking for your next Booktober or fall read, Ink and Bone is the way to go 😉

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Review: Leave Me by Gayle Forman

Leave Me by Gayle Forman

Published by: Algonquin Books

Publication Date: September 6th 2016

Pages- 352 pages

Format- eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★ (3.5)


Goodreads Synopsis:

International bestselling author Gayle Forman’s trademark humor and insight abound in this masterful adult debut, showing us that sometimes you have to leave home in order to find it again.

For every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, for every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention–meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who’s so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn’t even realize she’s had a heart attack.

Afterward, surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: She packs a bag and leaves. But, as is so often the case, once we get to where we’re going, we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is finally able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from those she loves and from herself.

With big-hearted characters who stumble and trip, grow and forgive, Leave Me is about facing our fears. Gayle Forman, a dazzling observer of human nature, has written an irresistible novel that confronts the ambivalence of modern motherhood head-on.

 
I’d like to thank Algonquin Books for approving me to receive an eGalley of Leave Me by Gayle Forman via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Maribeth Klein used to have big dreams of one day climbing the ladder to success in the world of magazine publishing. She had a bestfriend/roommate & they were as inseparable as Thelma & Louise. Both Maribeth & Elizabeth worked for the same magazine, they shared the same career dreams and were on the fast track to making them come true. Then Maribeth married her college sweetheart, the guy who 10 years’ prior had decided to move to San Francisco & persue his career. They had made plans for a life together in New York & he ditched them. This unexplainable break-up would stay with & follow her to NY 10 years later. Maribeth & Jason re-connect in NY and one things leads to another. They get married and have twins, life gets a bit challenging but Maribeth takes it all on with little to no help from her husband. Her relationship with Elizabeth has changed, she is now her boss and Maribeth is just trying to maintain both home & career. The book opens up to Maribeth having a heart attack in a period of 48 hours. I had mentioned in my Monday Musings this week that I found this interesting because the percentage of women who are asymptomatic while experiencing a heart attack is startlingly high. It was very realistic to see a working mom overwhelmed by life’s many stresses.

I requested this eGalley because I thought to myself…harrowed mother of twins experiences a heart attack & isn’t able to recuperate w/out her family making her feel like she’s a huge inconvenience…this could very well be me. What happens when you’re everything to everybody & then one day you’re not physically able to fulfill that role…will they notice your absence? will they reciprocate all of the love, care, and attention you’ve invested in them? I’ll be honest, while reading Maribeth’s story I was split in two halves. One part of me was angry at her husband Jason for not stepping up to the plate to take over the reins with the kids. The second half, not at the fact that she chose to pack up & leave but rather, that it was for such an extended period of time & another issue I can’t mention because *spoilers*.

Ever read a book & just reject every single character & their story from the minute you meet them? such was the case with Leave Me. I wasn’t a huge fan of the passively aggressive Maribeth OR the sub-par husband Jason. I also wasn’t keen on her best friend Elizabeth for that matter. It took the last 100 pages for Maribeth & crew to win me over (wish it hadn’t taken this long) & make me understand that this was her journey. Sometimes it’s the road less traveled that we must take. To take care of others (especially little ones), we must first take care of ourselves. Maribeth leaves her home in need of respite & recuperation from bypass surgery post heart attack but gets so much more than what she left to obtain. Truly unhappy in her life she at some point lost herself in the day to day cycle. Maribeth is also a woman with tons of unresolved issues. She is adopted & her heart attack has managed to stir up a need to dig in to her origins. Her journey was of mind, body, and soul. During her time away she made some friendships & it was these supporting characters that lifted her up & helped her find her way. I absolutely loved the age disparity between Maribeth & her new neighbors (in her new home away from home) Todd & Sunita. Todd is a gay young man who is obsessed with all things Steelers. Todd has been entrusted by Sunita’s parents to room with & look over her. Sunita is a young college aged Indian woman who is very high spirited & able to keep up with Todd’s quip’s. Along the way, Maribeth also befriends Janice who played a crucial role in her journey. There is one other character that Maribeth meets, Stephen…a doctor with a mysterious past. I appreciated the end results of this relationship however, I was not in agreement with certain happenings 😉



Photo from Theharriedmom

 In conclusion (lengthiest review yet lol), I think every mother has had the fleeting notion of liberating themselves. We are human & the ultimate sacrifice we make is when we decide to have children. Life will throw many curve balls your way & with age come health issues. We can either meet these challenges OR retreat & replenish until we can build up the strength needed to meet such challenges. Although I don’t see myself taking Maribeth’s road, I do believe that we all need a bit of space so as to not lose ourselves. If there is a partner at home, a little appreciation goes a long way. Similarly, all relationships need to be watered to grow. I closed this book feeling like Gayle Forman sneak attacked me in the heart…