Jessie & Dani's April Recap

Thursday, April 30, 2015
April was a mix of good and eeehh reads for me. I at least had a Rosamund Hodge novel to keep em going, but there were a fair amount of duds in this group. Real life is picking up -- working more to pay for the wedding, planning the wedding, freaking out about the wedding --- but we're trying to at least keep content up most days. Hopefully we succeed going forward!

Reviews Posted:
Book Tour Review: Miramont's Ghost by Elizabeth Hall
Book Tour Review: The Tapestry by Nancy Bilyeau (Joanna Stafford #3)
Two Minute Review: 99 Days by Katie Cotugno
Book Tour Review: The Masque of a Murderer by Susanna Calkins (Lucy Campion #3)
Lady of the Eternal City by Kate Quinn (The Empress of Rome #4)
Backlist Review: Fade Out by Rachel Caine (Morganville Vampires #7)
Backlist Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth (Divergent #1)
The Queen's Secret by Victoria Lamb
The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver
Backlist Review: Dead Ends by Erin Jade Lange
Book Tour Review: Helen of Sparta by Amalia Carosella
Review Talk Two: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Enormity by W.G. Marshall
Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

 Book Of the Month:


Fun Stuff:
Challenge: Burn, Rewrite, Reread
Book Tour Spotlight and Giveaway: The Scent of Triumph by Jan Moran 

Review: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Title: Crimson Bound
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Genre: fantasy, retelling
Series: None
Pages: 448
Published: Expected May 5, 2015
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

When Rachelle was fifteen, she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption

Mother said,
"Come what may,
Follow the path
And never stray."

Just so, little girl-
Any path.
So many worth exploring.
Just one would be so boring.
And look what you're ignoring…1

Rachelle strayed off the forest path when she was fifteen. She thought she could outsmart the monster she met, but instead she ended up marked, bloodbound to serve the Devourer of the sun and moon. Rachelle pledges her service to the king instead, fighting the monsters that cross over from the Devourer’s realm, the Great Forest that exists alongside her world. She knows she’s destined to end up a forestborn, the same as her maker, and thus beyond redemption, but when she finds out the Devourer is going to return by summer’s end, she’s willing to try to do one good thing in the world.

Instead, she’s assigned to play babysitter to a false saint, the king’s bastard, Armand, who supposedly met a forestborn and survived marked but not bound. This is hogwash, of course, as Rachelle knows what it means to be marked. Armand lost his hands to the Forest, becoming a saint and martyr to the common people. As rebellion swirls, it’s Rachelle’s job to keep him from being assassinated or raised up.

Like Hodge’s first book, Crimson Bound is a lot more than a fairy tale retelling. Rachelle’s story starts very similarly to Red Riding Hood, true, but it ends with far more in common with Persephone. While Armand is a spin on The Girl Without Hands, there’s also a healthy dose of Hansel and Gretel in Tyr and Zisa, legendary twins who trapped the Devourer. Instead of feeling disjointed or derivative, Hodge’s world building and magic system blend them all into something new and surprising.

Unfortunately, also like Cruel Beauty, there are some plot holes that are hard to overlook, particularly in regards to the difference between the bloodbound and the forestborn they become. There’s also a love triangle that I found less than effective.

Hodge’s writes amazing, complex and unlikeable women that I can’t help falling in love with, and Rachelle is no exception. While the love interest is no Ignifex, the world is tighter, the magic more focused, and the action well integrated. The influences are diverse and blend together to build a truly one of a kind experience. Cruel Beauty was one of my best books of last year, but Hodge has outdone herself in her sophomore effort.

1. Sondheim, Stephen. Into The Woods. 1987

Newest Additions to the Towering TBR Pile

Tuesday, April 28, 2015
It's been just about five weeks since I've posted a book haul. Don't worry -- it's definitely not because I have somehow acquired some heretofore undiscovered well of self-control and have stopped buying books. Oh noo. I've just been hit with a lot of Real Life Stuff and haven't had as much time for blogging. But that said....

Books I've been sent:

Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George.
Many thanks to the awesome people at Bloomsbury for this one!

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan.
I have loved the snark and banter of these two for years so a finished review copy is much appreciated. Thank you, Grand Central/Hachette!

Mireille by Molly Cochran.
This thing is a tome but I love that cover and the premise. Thanks to Lake Union and TLC Book Tours for this ARC!

The Predictions by Bianca Zander.
This is about a free-love commune in the 1970s named Gaialand. That's all I needed to know to be interested.
Thank you William and Morrow and TLC Book Tours!


All the Rage by Courtney Summers.
Thanks to B&N Teens for one of my most anticipated 2015 reads.

Books I shamelessly bought myself/manipulated the fiance into buying for me:

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman (Seraphina #2). Having read the ARC, I knew a finished copy was a must for my shelves. And that blue? GORGEOUS.

The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace (The Keeper's Chronicles #1). Friends' reviews had made me curious about this YA fantasy and THANK YOU FRIENDS. And also, I hate you all for the feelings this book inflicted upon me.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. Okay so this is probable the fourth edition of this book that I own, but COVER. LOVE.

Look how pretty:

Night Film by Marisha Pessl. I already own this on Kindle but it's such a brick I couldn't resist a hardcover copy for under $5.

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows (Orphan Queen #1) so a lot of hype about this made me eager. I've read it and liked it.. but..... it's gotten a bit overhyped.

The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas - so I read these online but of course I had to own that cover. It looks so pretty with my other ToG books.

The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes. I bought this book for three reasons: Title. Also the author lives in my home town. And he is often very funny on twitter.

The Queen's Lover by Francine du Plessix Gray - this has earned some pretty good reviews and I cannot resist a bargain... especially for a hardcover!

I went on a very specific binge at B&N.

Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn (Mistress of Rome #3)
The Serpent and the Pearl by Kate Quinn (The Borgias #1)
The Lion and the Rose by Kate Quinn (The Borgias #2)

I have already raced through these and Katw Quinn is fast becoming a favorite author for me.

Half-Price Books Haul (aka my reward for doing Adult Responsibilites with Ryan):

Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville. This had completely snuck under my radar but then Nafiza read it and talked about it. I was intrigued.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This is slow moving but quite lovely. The diamond plotline was the only thing keeping it from being a full five-star read for me.

Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black, et al. With all the WWII seriousness of the previous two, I thought this anthology was the perfect pickerupper.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. Another bargain for another magical realism book I've been curious about for ages.

Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein. I will read anything this woman writes.

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld. I have been a fan of this author for over 10 years. Her work is creative and often hits me right in the feels.

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales. I had read and loved this as an e-ARC. I am so glad I waited to buy a paperback copy because that cover is perfection.

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney (The Mockingbirds #1). This is an older title I only know about thanks to twitter. It sounds like a book I will love and that will make me righteously angry about patriarchy. Bring it on.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. This is often called the first feminist novel. How have I not read it yet?

and, lastly:

Daughters of the Nile by Stephanie Dray (Daughters of the Nile #3). Last in a series about Cleopatra Selene. That cover is hard to look away from.

Review: Enormity by W.G. Marshall

Monday, April 27, 2015

Title: Enormity
Author: W.G. Marshall
Genre: post-apocalyptic, science fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 280 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: February 6 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 2/5

ENORMITY is the strange tale of an American working in Korea, a lonely young man named Manny Lopes, who is not only physically small (in his own words, he's a "Creole shrimp"), but his work, his failed marriage, his race, all conspire to make him feel puny and insignificant - the proverbial ninety-eight-pound weakling.

Then one day an accident happens, a quantum explosion, and suddenly little Manny is big - really big. In fact, Manny is enormous, a mile-high colossus! Now there's no stopping him: he's a one-man weapon of mass destruction. Yet he means well.

ENORMITY takes some strange turns, featuring characters like surfing gangbangers, elderly terrorists, and a North Korean assassin who thinks she's Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. There's also sex, violence, and action galore, with Manny battling the forces that seek to seduce or destroy him. 

Straight out: this is a weird book - as you can tell from the blurb but those last two sentences are really the only clues for what a crazy mix of weird, uncomfortable and gross this novel can be and often is. There's definitely a lot of imagination at play in this tale of a quantum mishap and a Creole who suffers from a massive height complex, but unfortunately, a lot of the possibilities here are unexplored, unexplained or just beyond nasty. This wasn't necessarily a book that I wanted to finish; it was a fight for me especially towards the end. I knew by page 150 that we weren't exactly going to see eye-to-eye, Enormity and myself, but it's like a giant car collision - you just can't look away from all the gruesome horror and body parts. I'm not a huge fan of gross-out humor or fiction and this book just went way beyond what I felt was necessary in regards to bodily fuctions, fluids, and suchlike to the detriment of any originality or humor that may have been present.

I'm not a prude by any meas but this book made me squirm uncomfortably. Sure when two humans are quantum'ed into giants, their respective parts would be as well. But repeatedly focusing on them was just distasteful to me as a reader and left open and ignored many possibilities for a stronger novel; focusing on the social commentary/global repercussions of two uncontrollable giants would've been far more interesting. I don't know if other readers will have issues with things like Manny's giant penis ("as long and broad as the Hindenburg") ripping through his pants. I just.. don't know. I never thought I'd have to write - or read - a sentence like that in a book. The fixation on sex, penises, vaginas and such just felt crude, unnecessary and immature -  for Manny as a regular person, as giant and as well for the people who have sex in Manny's ear. Outside of the reproduction-fixation of the main characters, there's also things like giant bugs, flesh-eating parasites and beheadings by giant, metallic bee-things. Enormity is, quite simply, over the top and it just didn't work for me.

I also had issues with the style of the story at times. Though this is a darkly "humorous" story about monsters, there is a correspondingly large element of military and military operations key to the plot. What would've vastly helped my understanding of exactly what was going on behind the scenes is if more than half the acronyms tossed about were actually explained. It's annoying and distracting for non-military personnel to try and decode all the shortened names used by the characters and narrators. Who knows thought - my disconnect from any involvement could be entirely due to the flat, bland and frustrating characters. Manny at least provides an interesting and different viewpoint 6000 feet into the atmosphere, but that doesn't make this self-pitying and self-involved Creole any more likeable. The other characters - Karen, Queen - also felt cookie-cutter and undeveloped. I don't even want to get into how unauthentic and weirdly timed their sexual escapdes were - let's just say they were an obvious ploy for drama in the story as well as lacking any chemistry or reason for their actions.

So much of this just felt shoehorned in or randomly tacked on - the dwarven village? The abovementioned gang-banger surfers? I couldn't connect to the story, the characters, the ideas here. Nothing, even outside of the acronyms, is explained enough to make sense. What happened to the "spider-thing" at the top of Manny's head that was killing Queen's men? If the quantum bullshizz was supposed to create a mini-blackhole, how exactly were Manny and Yoon-sook turned into giants instead? All in all, this just wasn't for me. I should've thrown in the towel in the first two nonsensical and random chapters. A very frustrating and unrewarding read for yours truly - others might try this one and I wish them well of it. Just be prepared for a lot of nasty/fascinating/immature turns.

Challenge: Burn, Rewrite, Reread

We were tagged by Lyn at Great Imaginations. The video for the challenge can be found here.

We used a random number generator to pick three books from our "read" lists and, like FMK, pick which to burn, rewrite, and reread.

First Round


Burn: King's Dragon (Crown of Stars #1) by Kate Elliott. This wasn't even hard. I detested this series when I first read it and remembering it now does it no favors.

Rewrite: The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon. So much potential with this combination of Snow White and Rapunzel inspirations but it failed at characterization and/or making me care about the story.

Reread: Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie. Let me introduce you to Monza Murcatto. Monza is the definition of antihero and I could not love her -- or this dark, gritty fantasy book about revenge -- more.



Burn: WHYYYYYY? Two of these are from my favorite series, so I have to, by default only, pick How to Date a Henchman.

Rewrite: Cinder. It certainly doesn't need rewritten, but I think the writing and plotting have gotten tighter as the series has gone on and Cinder could be just a smidge more focused. 

Reread: Catching Fire. Five star book in a five star series. 

Second Round


Burn: Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton. Second-person. SECOND. PERSON. And other reasons. But I rest my case.

Rewrite: Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham. This was so aggressively average. It was the John Smith of novels. The egg white of books.

Reread: India Black and the Widow of Windsor (India Black #2) by Carol K. Carr. Great series, great character, great ship. I can reread that anytime.


Rewrite: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place. I really liked the idea of this book, but there were some execution issues both with the characterization of the girls and the red herrings in the mystery. 

Reread: The Blade Itself . I actually really do need a reread of this book so I can continue the series!

Third Round


Burn: From What I Remember by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas. It was a cute idea but the execution left something to be desired. I liked it okay-ish, but not nearly as much as the other two.

Rewrite: Inamorata by Megan Chance. This was a nearly perfect read, expect for the spoiler: maybe incest? I would like that element clarified, so I know to what level I should be squicked out spoilerre: the siblings.

Reread: Doubleblind (Sirantha Jax #3) by Ann Aguirre. I will reread this series forever, but this is my favorite in the entire six-book series. Jax and March forever. READ THIS SERIES OKAY.


Burn: The Princess of Nowhere. Do we need more mediocre historical fiction?

Rewrite: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Hear me out. Two words: Albus. Severus.

The defense rests.

Reread: Cruel Beauty

Backlist Review Take Two: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Saturday, April 25, 2015
Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Genre: contemporary
Series: N/A
Pages: 313
Published: 2012
Source: purchased
Rating: 3.75/5

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green's most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

I can take or leave John Green. I enjoy his books but they aren't my favorites. He is not The Coming of YA, or its Chosen (S)One. Of the three I've read, one has been a 3 (Looking for Alaska), one was a almost a four (this), and only one was a 5 (Will Grayson, Will Grayson). You won't find me amongst his nerdfighters, but nor does he irritate me as much as the small but vocal group of detractors he has amassed. Yes, he can be pretentious. Yes, a lot of his characters act the same, think the same, etc. But still, he can turn a phrase. He can make you care about his MPDGs.

I think the key to enjoying his books is to space them out. I read about one a year, and it keeps me from noticing (too much) the similarities between them all. I can also separate the man-as-an-author compared to his smarm on twitter or in interviews. Though I do think this will be the last of him I read, he's not a bad author. He's just not that perfect either. He lacks the originality I crave in characters and plot.

That said, the reason this is rated so highly is purely personal. I read it on the anniversary of the death of someone I loved immensely. Someone who died at 19 - way too young. Someone who was funny, handsome, and full of life. So I am not the be the most objective in how I feel about The Fault in Our Stars, but Green knows how to write grief. It got to me, it resonated with me, and this book will stick with me for all these reasons.  John Green can turn a phrase, but his writing is largely lost on me.

Book Tour Review: Helen of Sparta by Amalia Carosella

Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Title: Helen of Sparta
Author: Amalia Carosella
Genre: mythic fiction, historical fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 416
Published: April 1 2016
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating: 4.5/5

Long before she ran away with Paris to Troy, Helen of Sparta was haunted by nightmares of a burning city under siege. These dreams foretold impending war—a war that only Helen has the power to avert. To do so, she must defy her family and betray her betrothed by fleeing the palace in the dead of night. In need of protection, she finds shelter and comfort in the arms of Theseus, son of Poseidon. With Theseus at her side, she believes she can escape her destiny. But at every turn, new dangers—violence, betrayal, extortion, threat of war—thwart Helen’s plans and bar her path. Still, she refuses to bend to the will of the gods.

A new take on an ancient myth, Helen of Sparta is the story of one woman determined to decide her own fate.

The life of (and war for) Helen of Troy, as she is more famously known, makes for excellent, and dramatic story fodder. Numerous authors have given her well-known tale new voices and interpretations in the thousands of years since her name was first heard, but Amalia Carosella's version here of both the person and the legend in Helen of Sparta is both inspired and noteworthy. So many tales use Helen as a plot piece or as a reason for Agamemnon to conveniently use, but Carosella's is a novel entirely about her, the person. It's wonderful to see a version of Helen that gets to be less passive and more active in her own life. Spanning a far-too-short of time period, this historical fiction novel is a fresh and detailed character-driven read.

This author chose to begin the story before Helen's infamous marriage(s), before Paris; it instead focuses on Helen's early adulthood in Sparta and Athens. It's alluded to in the title, but it's inherently Carosella sees Helen as much more than a pretext for war or a possession made for a king (or Prince) and her novel shows it. Though Helen's beauty is always part of the discussion when it comes to this particular historical figure, Carosella develops her character into much more than just a pretty face. She's a smart, giving, and intelligent woman. Her choices are like any others -- made of mistakes and fear. It's easy to care about this strong character because Carosella develops her into a well-rounded and three-dimensional person. Helen carries this novel, and her first person narration chapters are the ones that worked best.

I liked the originality that Helen of Sparta brought to the table throughout the entire four hundred pages. Not many novels about Troy or Helen really concern themselves with her life before marrying Menelaus and running away, willingly or not, with Paris, or even before Tyndareus hosted her suitors in her early/mid teens. But that is happily not the case here. Amalia Carosella has envisioned a fully believable version of what Helen's life could have looked like. Even the setting benefits from the same authentic creativity shown elsewhere; Sparta, and later Athens, are each wonderfully rendered with careful detail and attention.  

For all that Helen is remembered for an epic, decade-long war, this is not a book all that concerned with action or fighting. It's a character-driven and slower-paced novel; a thorough examination and imagination of what could have been for Helen and Theseus. Alternating between her's first person narration and Theseus's third person allows a lot of room to imagine their lives, but can also highlight the fact that it's also a work of fiction. Helen of Sparta had also better have a sequel on the way because the abrupt ending is one of the few unfortunate aspects of this novel. That ending was surprisingly frustrating. However, I hope to see Carosella further deliver on the promise shown here with this novel.

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Helen of Sparta Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, April 1
Review at Unshelfish
Review at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, April 2
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Friday, April 3
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Saturday, April 4
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Monday, April 6
Review at Curling Up By the Fire
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Tuesday, April 7
Spotlight at

Wednesday, April 8
Review at Historical Reads and Views

Thursday, April 9
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book!

Friday, April 10
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Monday, April 13
Interview at Book Babe
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Obsession

Tuesday, April 14
Review at Forever Ashley

Wednesday, April 15
Review at Just One More Chapter
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, April 16
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Friday, April 17
Review at Impressions in Ink

Monday, April 20
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Interview at The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, April 21
Review at Broken Teepee
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, April 22
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Backlist Review: Dead Ends by Erin Jade Lange

Monday, April 20, 2015
Title: Dead Ends
Author: Erin Jade Lange
Genre: contemporary, young adult
Series: N/A
Pages: 336
Published: September 3 2013
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3/5

Dane Washington is one suspension away from expulsion. In a high school full of “haves,” being a “have not” makes Dane feel like life is hurtling toward one big dead end. Billy D. spends his high school days in Special Ed and he’s not exactly a “have” himself. The biggest thing Billy’s missing? His dad. Billy is sure the riddles his father left in an atlas are really clues to finding him again and through a bizarre turn of events, he talks Dane into joining him on the search. 

A bully and a boy with Down syndrome makes for an unlikely friendship, but together, they work through the clues, leading to unmarked towns and secrets of the past. But they’re all dead ends. Until the final clue . . . and a secret Billy shouldn’t have been keeping. 

Dead Ends is a different sort of book. It's not brash and loud, but it's not exactly a quiet story either. Lange's characters are fairly unique and the story spun around them is fresh, if not wholly involving. Tying together two very different and unlikely main characters, Lange's sophomore effort touches on another of of today's key issues: bullying. Dead Ends isn't the most obvious choice to pick for a fast read, but it suffices to entertain while making a point, all without preaching to her audience.

The characters shown in the novel were decent, on the whole. Billy, a kid with high functioning Downs Syndrome, and Dane, a bully with "standards" obviously receive the most time and attention. With serviceable writing, Lange illustrates her main characters with humor, selfishness, anger, and sadness. Both young men are adrift, both are missing their fathers, and they are thrown together under rather unrealistic circumstances, but Lange sells it. Where the characters fall apart is when the story focuses outside of these two: Dane's mother is nonsensical, and Seely, the love interest, needs a bit of development.

The writing isn't too noteworthy, but Lange can hold the reader's attention. It's decent enough, and the main storyline will keep readers curious, it's just that there is not a lot to grab onto and care about here. The small mystery about Billy's dad adds another layer to the two young men's stories, but in the end, it all falls a bit flat.

Not many books, especially in YA - chose to focus on a bully and a special needs child for their main characters. Dead Ends deserves some recognition for showcasing two largely-ignored POVs. I just wish the story framing them had more depth, and didn't come together so haphazardly. I was somewhat disappointed that Dead Ends failed to evoke much emotion from me. I'm left without a lot to say about it, because while it's not a great book, it's also going to prove to not be all that memorable, either.

Review: The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver

Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Title: The Spindlers
Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: middle-grade, supernatural
Series: N/A
Pages: 256 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected October 2 2012
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 5/5

One night when Liza went to bed, Patrick was her chubby, stubby, candy-grubbing and pancake-loving younger brother, who irritated and amused her both, and the next morning, when she woke up, he was not. In fact, he was quite, quite different.

When Liza’s brother, Patrick, changes overnight, Liza knows exactly what has happened: The spindlers have gotten to him and stolen his soul.

She knows, too, that she is the only one who can save him.

To rescue Patrick, Liza must go Below, armed with little more than her wits and a broom. There, she uncovers a vast world populated with talking rats, music-loving moles, greedy troglods, and overexcitable nids . . . as well as terrible dangers. But she will face her greatest challenge at the spindlers’ nests, where she encounters the evil queen and must pass a series of deadly tests—or else her soul, too, will remain Below forever.

From New York Times best-selling author Lauren Oliver comes a bewitching story about the reaches of loyalty, the meaning of love, and the enduring power of hope.

Lauren Oliver is a truly talented writer, be it in the young-adult field, or when writing for a younger audience, like here in The Spindlers. I was impressed with Before I Fall, and I am even more so after reading this richly imaginative, darkly creepy, and thoroughly lovely middle-grade novel.  I'm in my twenties and I loved every page - I can't imagine what this book would have meant to me had I read it when I was at the age of the intended audience. It's wonderful, magical, creepy adventure all about the power of love, family, hope, and believing in yourself. It's a quick read, but the beauty of Oliver's prose and her feisty main character Liza will leave a lasting impression long after the book is finished.

The Spindlers is a highly imaginative novel with echoes of some beloved favorites - Labyrinth (the abduction of a loved/hated younger brother), Alice in Wonderland (a hidden magical world Below filled with anthropomorphic animals), and Coraline (the dark, sinister aspect of a lot of what Liza uncovers.) Despite being vaguely reminiscent of those loved novels, Oliver's The Spindlers is a unique adventure filled with both wonder and magic. This charming tale of a young girl who uses stories and her vivid imagination to escape her tension-filled house (the casual hints of money problems at home - the overdue bills and shout-off notices, the broken plates and furniture, her mother's constant worry and pacing) is filled with creative new spins on monsters, what it means to be a friend, and the fun of seeing what weirdly beautiful creations Oliver can come up with next.

The illustrations are few - at least in the ARC edition that I was granted - but they are both lovely and easily capture the feel of what Oliver creates with her words. I fell in love with how this author writes because of this book. I loved Before I Fall, but The Spindlers is truly engrossing and immersive, and a lot of that is down to how well Oliver can spin a tale. This fable-like story is imaginative, interesting, and above all, entirely fun and over too soon. I highly recommend this to anyone searching out a quick but moving read. My favorite quotes from the novel:

"The spindlers had gotten him: they had dropped down from the ceiling on their glistening webs of shadowed darkness and dropped their silken threads in his ear, and extracted is soul slowly, like a fisherman coaxing a trout from the water on a taut nylon fishing line. In its place they deposited their eggs; then they withdrew to their shadowed, dark corners and their underground lairs with his soul bound closely in silver thread."

"The world is a freak, she should have said. Everything that happens in it is strange and beautiful."

"This was what her parents did not understand - and had never understood - about stories. Liza told herself as though she was weaving and knotting an endless rope. Then, no matter how dark or terrible the pit she found herself in, she could pull herself out, inch by inch and hand over hand, on the long rope of stories."

"Liza stared at her. 'Impossible.'
Mirabella swept her tail around her wrist and gave an imperious sniff. 'That is a human word,' she sad. 'And a very ugly one at that. We have no use for it Below.'"

"Liza felt she now knew many things she had not known yesterday. She knew, for example, that even rats could be beautiful, and hope grew from the smallest seeds, and sometimes there was great truth in made-up stories."

This is an absolutely wonderful middle grade novel, one that holds vast appeal for older readers no matter what their age. Lauren Oliver is a wonderful storyteller and she proves it once again here, with a unique way with words that can evoke pathos as easily as breathing. I was caught up in this story, anxious and excited to see what new ideas and creatures this able author would throw my way. From nids to troglods to the nocturni, this is a world alive with promise and horror, and all the more unique for it. 

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