September Wrap Up

Friday, September 30, 2016
You guys are just fucking with me now, right? There is no earthly way it can be October.

I'm going to level with you, friends. This is the most embarrassing write-up I've ever done. I did not post on this blog for 30 days. There is no reason. My health, physical and mental, is fine. I spent two weekends preserving the summer fruits with my family and a day chilling by the gravina with Meg and Ellis, but there is literally not one excuse for the other 27 days. I promise to do better in October.

Books Read: 13

Notable Favorites:
Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
As I Descended by Robin Talley ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Purchase of the Month:

Gimme those Crooked Kingdom tears
TwitPic of the Month: 

Me, Ellis, and Meg!!!
So since it literally couldn't be worse than mine, tell me about you September friends!

DNF Round Up

Tuesday, September 27, 2016
It's been a few months since I've posted these up, so this one is a little longer than usual. There is a pretty good variety on the genres here, but as always, YMMV.

Jess, Chunk, and the Roadtrip to Infinity by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

The last time Jess saw her father, she was a boy. Now she's a high school graduate, soon to be on her way to art school. But first she has some unfinished business with her dad. So she's driving halfway across the country to his wedding. He happens to be marrying her mom's ex-best friend. It's not like Jess wasn't invited; she was. She just never told anyone she was coming. Surprise!

Luckily, Jess isn't making this trip alone. Her best friend, Christophe-nicknamed Chunk-is joining her.

Along the way, Jess and Chunk learn a few things about themselves-and each other-which call their feelings about their relationship into question.

This is a short book, but I didn't even make it 100 pages into this 272 total length. I had a few issues with how it chose to portray sensitive issues though obviously well intentioned. There are more nuanced reviews than mine that go into depth about it. Just not a book that was for me.

Not Just Jane by Shelley DeWees

Jane Austen and the Brontës endure as British literature’s leading ladies (and for good reason)—but were these reclusive parsons’ daughters really the only writing women of their day? A feminist history of literary Britain, this witty, fascinating nonfiction debut explores the extraordinary lives and work of seven long-forgotten authoresses, and asks: Why did their considerable fame and influence, and a vibrant culture of female creativity, fade away? And what are we missing because of it?

You’ve likely read at least one Jane Austen novel (or at least seen a film one). Chances are you’ve also read Jane Eyre; if you were an exceptionally moody teenager, you might have even read Wuthering Heights. English majors might add George Eliot or Virginia Woolf to this list…but then the trail ends. Were there truly so few women writing anything of note during late 18th and 19th century Britain?

In Not Just Jane, Shelley DeWees weaves history, biography, and critical analysis into a rip-roaring narrative of the nation’s fabulous, yet mostly forgotten, female literary heritage. As the country, and women’s roles within it, evolved, so did the publishing industry, driving legions of ladies to pick up their pens and hit the parchment. Focusing on the creative contributions and personal stories of seven astonishing women, among them pioneers of detective fiction and the modern fantasy novel, DeWees assembles a riveting, intimate, and ruthlessly unromanticized portrait of female life—and the literary landscape—during this era. In doing so, she comes closer to understanding how a society could forget so many of these women, who all enjoyed success, critical acclaim, and a fair amount of notoriety during their time, and realizes why, now more than ever, it’s vital that we remember.

Rediscover Charlotte Turner Smith, Helen Maria Williams, Mary Robinson, Catherine Crowe, Sara Coleridge, Dinah Mulock Craik, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon.

I tried with this one but I just couldn't get into it in my multiple attempts. It has a brilliant idea and I love it in theory but this nonfiction was just a taaaad too dry for me. 

Red Velvet Crush by Christina Meredith

Rock music, a broken family, challenging sisters, and the crush of first love—Red Velvet Crush has everything you need in a summer read. For fans of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Eleanor & Park, and This Song Will Save Your Life.

Teddy Lee’s mother ran off when she was in second grade. And ever since, Teddy Lee, the often-overshadowed middle kid, has tried to keep her family together. But her older brother Winston usually keeps himself busy with smoking, drinking, and girls, and who knows what else. Her younger sister Billie is occupied with her shoplifting habit and boys . . . and who knows what else. So when Teddy Lee finally takes the songs she’s always written and forms a band, maybe it’ll bring everyone closer together, maybe it’ll be her time to shine. Unless Billie steals the spotlight—and the boy—just like she always does. 

Christina Meredith explores the complicated relationship of sisters—both the unconditional love and the unavoidable resentments—in a novel full of music, urgency, the first blushes of love, and the undeniable excitement of hitting the road.

This just bored me. I did not caaaare and  found there little to be excited about either plotwise or characterwise. The premise itself wasn't strong enough, the book went for poignancy and nuance and found neither. It felt more like a gimmick and even the sister relationship wasn't enough to keep me reading.

This is My Brain on Boys by Sarah Strohmeyer

Addie Emerson doesn’t believe in love. Not for herself, anyway. With one year left of high school, she’s more interested in snagging a full scholarship to Harvard than a full-time boyfriend.

That doesn’t mean she’s oblivious to the ways of the heart. Or, rather, the head. Because after months of research, Addie has discovered how to make anyone fall in love. All you need is the secret formula.

But will her discovery be enough to win the coveted Athenian Award and all its perks? (See above, full scholarship to Harvard.) Or will she be undone by Dexter, her backstabbing lab partner, who is determined to deep-six her experiments at their exclusive private school?

Those are the least of her problems now that she’s survived a death-defying flight with a mysterious, dark-haired boy, who has delicious chocolate-brown eyes and a few secrets of his own.

With an experiment to mastermind, an infatuated exchange student on her hands, and at least one great white shark (more on that later), can Addie’s prefrontal cortex outwit her heart? Or will she have to give in to her amygdala and find out, once and for all, if this thing called love is more than just her brain on drugs?

This could technically get its own post and a short review because I did finish this novel --- but damn I wish I hadn't. What a disappointment from an author that has produced some genunely fun YA contemporaries. 

Autofocus by Lauren Gibaldi


It’s always been a loaded word for Maude. And when she is given a senior photography assignment—to create a portfolio that shows the meaning of family—she doesn’t quite know where to begin. But she knows one thing: without the story of her birth mother, who died when Maude was born, her project will be incomplete.

So Maude decides to visit her best friend, Treena, at college in Tallahassee, Florida, where Maude’s birth mother once lived. But when Maude arrives, she quickly discovers that Treena has changed. With a new boyfriend and a packed social calendar, Treena doesn’t seem to have time for Maude—or helping Maude in her search.

Enter Bennett, a cute guy who lives in Treena’s dorm. He understands Maude’s need to find her mother. And as Bennett helps Maude in her search, she starts to find that her mother’s past doesn’t have to define her own future.

Lauren Gibaldi has crafted a beautiful and timely coming-of-age story that poses the question: Is who we are determined at birth, or can we change as we grow?

Oh wow, so this is a story that just put me straight to sleep?  And then I skimmed after about 115 pages and the ending was not satisfying at all. Now that I think about it, 0/2  is enough for me to move on from this particular author and just know her contemporary isn't for me.

Spark by Holly Schindler

The local Avery Theater was just a run-down building to Quin—until her mother told her the tragic love story of Nick and Emma that played out on the theater’s stage all those years ago. Quin is convinced it’s the perfect story to rewrite for her drama class, but when she goes searching for more information, she makes a startling discovery—the Avery is rapidly regaining its former splendor and setting the stage for her classmates Dylan and Cass to relive Nick and Emma’s romance. Quin can see the spark between them, but it’s up to her to make sure her friends—and the Avery—can both be saved this time around.

A bit of magical realism can go a long way but it wasn't enough to save Spark.  The beginning is rough and has clarity issues and it never really coalesces into a sensible plot with dimensional characters.

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard (Dominion of the Fallen #1)

A superb murder mystery, on an epic scale, set against the fall out – literally – of a war in Heaven.

Paris has survived the Great Houses War – just. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens continue to live, love, fight and survive in their war-torn city, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over the once grand capital.

House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.

Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen, a alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires’ salvation. They may be the architects of its last, irreversible fall…

I wanted to love this so much I tried it twice. Both attempts got me to about the30% - 35% but I just... fell off reading. I won't say this is a forever DNF because I am curious to see more of Aliette de Bodard's world, I just need to buy a paper copy. 

5 to 1 by Holly Bodher

In the year 2054, after decades of gender selection, India now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, making women an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of marrying off their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women who form the country of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife.

Sudasa doesn’t want to be a wife, and Contestant Five, a boy forced to compete in the test to become her husband, has other plans as well. Sudasa’s family wants nothing more than for their daughter to do the right thing and pick a husband who will keep her comfortable—and caged. Five’s family wants him to escape by failing the tests. As the tests advance, Sudasa and Five thwart each other at every turn until they slowly realize that they just might want the same thing.

Told from alternating points of view—Sudasa’s in verse and Contestant Five’s in prose—allowing readers to experience both characters’ pain and their brave struggle for hope.

So this is definitely a "me" issue when it comes to 5 to 1. I can see why this is so loved and why it could be good -- but I cannot get into verse novels.  I tried with this and it is even relatively short but I never feel connected to a story being told in verse; it's too remote and often abstract. 

Two Minute Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Monday, September 26, 2016
Title: Labyrinth Lost
Author: Zoraida Córdova
Genre: fantasy, supernatural
Series: Brooklyn Brujas #1
Pages: 336
Published: September 2016
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 2.5/5

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

I fall to my knees. Shattered glass, melted candles and the outline of scorched feathers are all that surround me. Every single person who was in my house – my entire family — is gone.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange markings on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Beautiful Creatures meets Daughter of Smoke and Bone with an infusion of Latin American tradition in this highly original fantasy adventure.

So this 2.5 rating is perfect because it's exactly half of the five possible stars. I loved half of what Labyrinth Lost had to offer and I tolerated/rolled my eyes/disliked the other half. Overall, there's a lot of potential and an abundance of imagination, but some of the execution was muddled and/or confusing.  

Things I Greatly Enjoyed:
Authentic AND diverse cast 
Writing/turn of phrase
Creative and original take on supernatural/fantasy

Things I Disliked:
Slow and uneven
The romance
The descriptor "bipolar eyes"
Tropes abound -- love triiiiiangle

So, while this is book one, I am willing to be a bit lenient because there is a lot of promise here. 2.5/5 is not great but also not to the level of giving up on this series. I loved the inclusivity of the characters and the strong supernatural element. A little more time and depth on the how and why of everything and I will be on much firmer ground with this series. Not a perfect start, but a promising one.

Review: Leave Me by Gayle Forman

Sunday, September 25, 2016
Title: Leave Me
Author: Gayle Forman
Genre: general fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 343
Published: September 6 2016
Source: Book Expo America
Rating: 4/5

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.

Gayle Forman is a wonder. No matter if she is writing novels for teens or adults, her stories and her characters have a way of sinking into your heart. Her books are nuanced and thoughtful; careful explorations of many different kinds of lives and the people in them. Before, where she had tackled teenage growing pains, she now focuses on adult relationships and all their issues. It's a different stroke for an experienced writer, but like the pro she is, Forman handles the transition from YA to adult with aplomb. 

The strength of a Forman novel lies in first her characters and in then in their complicated, evolving relationships. From romantic to platonic to familial, she is an author that understands human nature and the bonds between people. There's a give and take to every relationship and Leave Me is the story of Maribeth stretching that tether for the first time in a long time. There's not a lot that I personally can relate to in the book from my own life and marriage -- I am not a middle aged mother of two -- but it's the talent of Forman that I found myself solidly in her shoes before 150 pages.

The ending of Leave Me may be a tad too easy and too happy to fit with the bittersweet honest nature of the story that preceded it. The sap in me was satisfied at the romance angle, but it was a little too neat for the mess of a life Maribeth had been leading upto the beginning of the novel. There was a definite sense of resolution for her and for the plot, but it wasn't a perfect fit; one of the few reasons this was not a full five star read for me. Still, I would definitely call Forman's first foray into adult lit a success.


Review: Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta

Friday, September 23, 2016
Title: Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil
Author: Melina Marchetta
Genre: thriller
Series: N/A
Pages: 407
Published: expected October 11 2016
Source: ARC via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5/5

Bashir “Bish” Ortley is a London desk cop. Almost over it. Still not dealing with the death of his son years ago, as well as the break-up of his marriage.

Across the channel, a summer bus tour, carrying a group of English teenagers is subject to a deadly bomb attack, killing four of the passengers and injuring a handful of others. Bish’s daughter is one of those on board.

The suspect is 17 year old Violette LeBrac whose grandfather was responsible for a bombing that claimed the lives of dozens of people fourteen years ago; and whose mother, Noor, has been serving a life sentence for the part she was supposed to have played in the attack.

As Bish is dragged into the search for the missing Violette, he finds himself reluctantly working with Noor LeBrac and her younger brother, Jimmy Sarraf.

And the more he delves into the lives of the family he helped put away, the more Bish realizes that they may have got it wrong all those years ago, and that truth wears many colours. Especially when it comes to the teenagers on board the recent bus bombing. Including his daughter.

Tell the truth. Shame the devil. Bish can’t get Violette LeBrac’s words out of his head. But what he may get is some sort of peace with his own past as the worlds of those involved in two bombings, years apart, collide into the journey of his life.

This is a tough one; I have been thinking about my review on this novel for weeks. I wanted to love this book so badly -- the Marchetta hallmark of excellent characters helps -- but ultimately (a bit like its title), Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil was just a bit too long, too convoluted, and a bit too overwrought for me to love. I did like it enough to finish, but that was mainly due to the strength of the characterization and my love for the author. 

This is Marchetta's first novel for adults and also her first thriller. And while I do think there's a great story at the center of Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil it just takes a seemingly interminable amount of time to get to it. There are a lot of characters and backstory and history to unfurl and unravel and while it's all being done with a lot of care and reason, it slow the pace down to a crawl. Add in a plot that was destined to more covert than overt with more than few iffy twists and turns, and it makes a lot of those 400 pages slow-going.

The saving grace of TtT,StD is found in its many characters. From sneaky teens to weary adults to mysterious grandmas, there are so many different kinds of people to be found in its pages. Marchetta's YA's have long been favorites because she understood teenagers so well and could then write them realistically and with empathy; that talent is displayed here, but also with older protagonists and narrators. 

There may have been a little to much set up, a few too many but well-drawn characters in Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil but it still is a readable thriller. I liked it while still freely admitting it is my least favorite Marchetta novel.

Top Ten Recent 5-Star Reads

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is all thanks to Broke and the Bookish!

I have had a recent run of good to great  reads. I am pretty stingy with my 5-star ratings but I have enough for this TTT!

1. This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills

Sloane isn't expecting to fall in with a group of friends when she moves from New York to Florida—especially not a group of friends so intense, so in love, so all-consuming. Yet that's exactly what happens.

Sloane becomes closest to Vera, a social-media star who lights up any room, and Gabe, Vera's twin brother and the most serious person Sloane's ever met. When a beloved painting by the twins' late mother goes missing, Sloane takes on the responsibility of tracking it down, a journey that takes her across state lines—and ever deeper into the twins' lives.

Filled with intense and important friendships, a wonderful warts-and-all family, shiveringly good romantic developments, and sharp, witty dialogue, this story is about finding the people you never knew you needed.

2. One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
3. The Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie (Mistress of Versailles #2)
4. The Spider's War by Daniel Abraham (The Dagger and Coin #5)
5. Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn
6. The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley (Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne #3)
7. A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab (Shades of London #2)
8. Gemina by Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman (Illuminae Files #1)
9. Saint's Blood by Sebastien de Castell
10. Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2)

When you can’t beat the odds, change the game.

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties.

A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

 Check 'em out!

Two Minute Review: Fear the Drowning Deep by Sarah Glenn Marsh

Monday, September 19, 2016
Title: Fear the Drowning Deep
Author: Sarah Glenn Marsh
Genre: historical fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 304
Published: expected October 11 2016
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 3/5

Witch’s apprentice Bridey Corkill has hated the ocean ever since she watched her granddad dive in and drown with a smile on his face. So when a dead girl rolls in with the tide in the summer of 1913, sixteen-year-old Bridey suspects that whatever compelled her granddad to leap into the sea has made its return to the Isle of Man.

Soon, villagers are vanishing in the night, but no one shares Bridey’s suspicions about the sea. No one but the island’s witch, who isn’t as frightening as she first appears, and the handsome dark-haired lad Bridey rescues from a grim and watery fate. The cause of the deep gashes in Fynn’s stomach and his lost memories are, like the recent disappearances, a mystery well-guarded by the sea. In exchange for saving his life, Fynn teaches Bridey to master her fear of the water — stealing her heart in the process.

Now, Bridey must work with the Isle’s eccentric witch and the boy she isn’t sure she can trust — because if she can’t uncover the truth about the ancient evil in the water, everyone she loves will walk into the sea, never to return.

Short and mysterious, Fear the Drowning Deep is a quietly unsettling novel set in the early 1910s. The atmosphere of Glenn's mix of history and fantasy is a rich one; enveloping and encompassing from the get-go. The overall feel of the novel is eerie, and though the plot centered at the heart of Bridey's story is somewhat shallow and full of some out-dated YA tropes, it remains a well-executed and engaging read despite.

Main character Bridey and the atmosphere of the novel are the high points for me. I was much more interested in the mythology and 'version' of the world that she lived in than say, the romance with Fynn. Bridey is not the most defined of protagonists, but she's reasonably well-rendered and she's inquisitive enough to get the plot rolling when it needs to. There's just not much depth to her -- much like the world around her. It's a very superficial kind of story.

Series Review: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Author: Rhiannon Thomas
Genre: Fantasy, retellings
Series: A Wicked Thing #1 and #2
Pages: 337 and 368
February 2015
February 2016
Source: publishers via edelweiss

Rhiannon Thomas's dazzling debut novel is a spellbinding reimagining of Sleeping Beauty and what happens after happily ever after.

One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.

Her family is long dead. Her "true love" is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept.

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.

Rhiannon Thomas weaves together vivid scenes of action, romance, and gorgeous gowns to reveal a richly imagined world … and Sleeping Beauty as she’s never been seen before.

This was a solid YA duology filled with magic and mayhem, curses and kisses, death and dragons. Rhiannon Thomas's fantasy slash fairytale remixes are fun, memorable and entertaining adaptations and inventions. Beginning with the after-ever part of Sleeping Beauty's Aurora's story in book one, the eponymous A Wicked Thing, and then following her to a new kingdom and plotline in Kingdom of Ashes, Thomas makes each book a well-rounded adventure with a hint of mystery and a lot of danger.

The first book is the somewhat the stronger of the two, but each has its own distinct plotline and the second  gives a real sense of resolution. A Wicked Thing does a great job of introducing this version of Aurora and the secondary characters that surround her; Kingdom of Ashes gives her plenty of room to grow and evolve in an ever more political situation, along with a few of the characters from before. One of the things I like most about Aurora is that she is always an active main character (though in a thoughtful, strategic manner rather than outright fighting) , even if she has made silly decisions for no plot reason.

Creative, inventive and original while still being recognizable as a retelling in nature, A Wicked Thing was a promising start for the series and this author. While the conclusion Kingdom of Ashes offered may have waxed a little long and overwrought, it was still a solid ending. The romance is a bit hit or miss but it's not overwhelming and there are some good scenes between Aurora and her various love interests. One twist in the second story was particularly telegraphed before the "reveal" but it's still very possible to have fun with both books. 


Two Minute Review: Yesternight by Cat Winters

Thursday, September 15, 2016
Title: Yesternight
Author: Cat Winters
Genre: historical fiction, mystery, supernatural
Series: N/A
Pages: 384
Published: expected October 4 2016
Source: ARC via edelweiss
Rating: 2/5

In 1925, Alice Lind steps off a train in the rain-soaked coastal hamlet of Gordon Bay, Oregon. There, she expects to do nothing more difficult than administer IQ tests to a group of rural schoolchildren. A trained psychologist, Alice believes mysteries of the mind can be unlocked scientifically, but now her views are about to be challenged by one curious child.

Seven-year-old Janie O’Daire is a mathematical genius, which is surprising. But what is disturbing are the stories she tells: that her name was once Violet, she grew up in Kansas decades earlier, and she drowned at age nineteen. Alice delves into these stories, at first believing they’re no more than the product of the girl’s vast imagination.  But, slowly, Alice comes to the realization that Janie might indeed be telling a strange truth.

Alice knows the investigation may endanger her already shaky professional reputation, and as a woman in a field dominated by men she has no room for mistakes. But she is unprepared for the ways it will illuminate terrifying mysteries within her own past, and in the process, irrevocably change her life.

Cat Winters has written several creepy, eerie, haunting novels that blend the historical with the fantastical -- like her adult novel The Uninvited or her first YA book In the Shadow of Blackbirds. Sadly, this latest novel is not one of her better efforts. Yesternight is a rather long book with a distant and restrained main character in Alice Lind and turns around a shallow plot; the combination of all three makes for slow, often dull read.

For an author with so much experience and such a proven imagination, Yesternight is a rare misstep. The pacing is deliberately slow but it takes far to long for the plot to really engage or for Alice to engender interest. It wasn't all bad; the atmosphere of the novel is evocative. And it's also just as unsettling and off as a story centered around madness and reincarnation would need to be. There was enough to keep me reading until the end but once all was revealed, it felt like that was rather a lot of work for very little reward.

Two Minute Review: This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills

Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Title: This Adventure Ends
Author: Emma Mills
Genre: contemporary
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Published: expected October 4 2016
Source: ARC from publishers
Rating: 5/5

Sloane isn't expecting to fall in with a group of friends when she moves from New York to Florida—especially not a group of friends so intense, so in love, so all-consuming. Yet that's exactly what happens.

Sloane becomes closest to Vera, a social-media star who lights up any room, and Gabe, Vera's twin brother and the most serious person Sloane's ever met. When a beloved painting by the twins' late mother goes missing, Sloane takes on the responsibility of tracking it down, a journey that takes her across state lines—and ever deeper into the twins' lives.

Filled with intense and important friendships, a wonderful warts-and-all family, shiveringly good romantic developments, and sharp, witty dialogue, this story is about finding the people you never knew you needed.

Awesome Things You Need to Know About This Aventure Ends, a list 

banterrific teens with a found family vibe
stable family situation that adds to overall story and characterization
best YA dad club new member addition -- impossible not to be charmed
slow-building romance with oodles of chemistry
strong, tested friendships between all kinds of relationships
pivotal growing pains handled with humor
shippy feels everywhere!!
introspective nature and so relatable
thoughtful exploration of teen issues
realistic, flawed characters
tropes used for good, not for evil
memorable main character that sinks into your brain and heart

5/5 stars, the YA contemporary novel of the year. It's the book to beat and just.. go read it and then hug it to your chest for moment sobbing in happiness and pain. If you aren't sold by how fun and entertaining This Adventure Ends is, well, you might be a robot.

Top Ten Favorite 2016 Fantasy Books

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is all thanks to Broke and the Bookish!
This topic was originally "Top Ten Fantasy Novels" but I've read nearly 100 of them so far this year. So clearly that is impossible. So in order to keep this from being the same fantasy faves, I narrowed it down to fantasy books read in 2016.
1. The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #3)

2. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows #2)
3. Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
4. Saint's Blood by Sebastien de Castell (Greatcoats #3)
5. A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab (Shadoes of Magic #2)
6. Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn #6)
7. The Spider's War by Daniel Abraham (The Dagger and Coin #5)
8. Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn
9. The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May (The Falconer #2)
10. The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Choksi (STar-Touched Queen #1)

Review: Nemesis by Anna Banks

Title: Nemesis
Author: Anna Banks
Genre: fantasy
Series: Nemesis #1
Pages: 368
Published: expected October4 2016
Source: publishers for review
Rating: 3.5/5

Princess Sepora of Serubel is the last Forger in all the five kingdoms. The spectorium she creates provides energy for all, but now her father has found a way to weaponize it, and his intentions to incite war force her to flee his grasp. She escapes across enemy lines into the kingdom of Theoria, but her plans to hide are thwarted when she is captured and placed in the young king’s servitude.

Tarik has just taken over rulership of Theoria, and must now face a new plague sweeping through his kingdom and killing his citizens. The last thing he needs is a troublesome servant vying for his attention. But Mistress Sepora will not be ignored. When the two finally meet face-to-face, they form an unlikely bond that complicates life in ways neither of them could have imagined.

Sepora's gift may be able to save Tarik’s kingdom. But should she risk exposing herself and her growing feelings for her nemesis?

So, objectively, this is not perfect fantasy. I know that; I do. But it was just really entertaining and the characters had memorable and fun qualities and I somehow could not stop reading? It's a great example of why some books are just readable despite flaws in worldbuilding or plotting. Nemesis may be more of a "crack fantasy" than epic in nature, but I was here for it and I am going to be here for the inevitable sequels. 

Nemesis has a pretty interesting main character in Sepora. She's strong willed, smart, stubborn, and determined -- a little bit Lia from the Remnant Chronicles or Raisa from Seven Realms. I loved her POV and how active she was in determining her own path and her role to come. It wasn't easy and she isn't a perfect person but she was tough and easy to engage with her and her storyline. Her chapters worked somewhat better than Tarik's but the instalove they both feel for one another is a big disappointment for two otherwise canny individuals.

I was a little iffy on the magic angle  of this fantasyland and how it comes into the play for both the characters and for the plot -- it's supposedly this BIG deal and then the rules seem to change? Midway through the novel? <Spoiler>I thought Sepora's value was that she was the ONLY Forger and now the eyes are a sign of the talent and there's a bunch of hidden ones??? Then how did Serubel have such a monopoly on spectorium??</Spoiler> I am not sold on how that turned out but  did feel it lessens the impact of Sepora's awesome beginning.  

A bit slow moving, a bit convenient, but still tons of fun, Nemesis makes for a pretty good launchpoint for the series. There's plenty of world to explore and the outcome from the ending to discover so the sequels are already anticipated.


Review: Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

Monday, September 12, 2016
Title: Long May She Reign
Author: Rhiannon Thomas
Genre: fantasy
Series: N/A
Pages: 432
Published: expected February 2017
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 3.75/5

The Girl of Fire and Thorns meets The Queen of the Tearling in this thrilling fantasy standalone about one girl’s unexpected rise to power.

Freya was never meant be queen. Twenty third in line to the throne, she never dreamed of a life in the palace, and would much rather research in her laboratory than participate in the intrigues of court. However, when an extravagant banquet turns deadly and the king and those closest to him are poisoned, Freya suddenly finds herself on the throne.

Freya may have escaped the massacre, but she is far from safe. The nobles don’t respect her, her councillors want to control her, and with the mystery of who killed the king still unsolved, Freya knows that a single mistake could cost her the kingdom – and her life.

Freya is determined to survive, and that means uncovering the murderers herself. Until then, she can’t trust anyone. Not her advisors. Not the king’s dashing and enigmatic illegitimate son. Not even her own father, who always wanted the best for her, but also wanted more power for himself.

As Freya’s enemies close in and her loyalties are tested, she must decide if she is ready to rule and, if so, how far she is willing to go to keep the crown.

This is one of the rare unicorns in bookland --- a strong YA fantasy standalone! Long May She Reign is indeed a solo offering, but that doesn't mean author Rhiannon Thomas  pulls any punches in her newest novel. For once I found the comparison titles to be a fairly accurate representation of what this story has to offer: with its unlikely but competent female heroine, clever plotting, and a strong cast of secondary characters and subplots, this is an entertaining one-off.

I quite liked this medium-sized fantasy standalone. There were several aspects to it that I loved:  the strong female friendship at the core of the story,  having a girl main character who loves science and experiments and forging her own path, and a romance that didn't rush or overwhelm the real plot. In short, Long May She Reign was a quick but involving read with one of my favorite and unique fantasy premises to date.

Strong writing, creative thinking, and well drawn characters are the norm for any book I've read of Thomas before and Long May She Reign is another great example. The main character of Freya is not the only distinct personality; her counterparts and companions are also lively and realistic, and far from passive. Even the antagonist of the book is shown to be three dimensional and unexpectedly logical. The clever maneuvering of the plot keeps the end a mystery until the right time for a reveal. 

Review: A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

Friday, September 9, 2016
Title: A Promise of Fire
Author: Amanda Bouchet
Genre: fantasy, romance
Series: Kingmaker Chronicles #1
Pages: 448
Published: August 2016
Source: ARC from NetGalley
Rating: 2.75-3/5

Catalia "Cat" Fisa is a powerful clairvoyant known as the Kingmaker. This smart-mouthed soothsayer has no interest in her powers and would much rather fly under the radar, far from the clutches of her homicidal mother. But when an ambitious warlord captures her, she may not have a choice…

Griffin is intent on bringing peace to his newly conquered realm in the magic-deprived south. When he discovers Cat is the Kingmaker, he abducts her. But Cat will do everything in her power to avoid her dangerous destiny and battle her captor at every turn. Although up for the battle, Griffin would prefer for Cat to help his people willingly, and he's ready to do whatever it takes to coax her…even if that means falling in love with her.

2.75-3 stars because there was some A Promise of Fire that worked really well both in a fantasy sense and in a romance sense, but there were was just as much that fell flat, was too rushed, or was left too open-ended.

This has some really creative aspects to it especially when it comes to the worldbuilding, but Cat and Griffin's relationship is problematic afffffff and kept me from really feelings the feels or shipping the ship. I liked each of them individually, though they bothfell very very close to expected romance stereotypes, just in a fantasy setting. But speaking of problematic: I wanted more outright consent on Cat's part when it came to their interactions. I understand she's a feisty and fiercely independent character but the imbalance of power between her and Griffin dampens any spark they create.

My issues with the main two characters aside, I readily admit to adoring the secondary characters Bouchet has accompany her mage and her hero. Kato and Carver and Flynn are great foils and companions for both and challenge each in different ways. I did wish for more present, active female characters for Cat to interact with because this is a very male-dominated story. Griffin's family comes into play later in the story, but none of those late-in-the-game faces add much to the plot or relationships established.

A Promise of Fire was an uneven start for the series, but good enough to pique my interest and curiosity for the forthcoming sequel. The idea behind the novel was intriguing and if the execution was imperfect, it still kept me reading and invested in the characters and the resolution.


Book Tour Review: Aphrodite's Choice by Christy English

Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Title: Aphrodite's Choice
Author: Christy English
Genre: romance, supernatural fiction
Series: The Goddess Diaries #1
Published: May 2016
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating:  3.5/5

Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, still walks the modern world. No longer thronged by worshipers, Aphrodite heals the bodies and souls of the men she touches, one man, one night, at a time. But not everyone thinks of her as a long-dead myth. Someone is stalking her. The men who have hunted her kind as witches for centuries have passed their hatred on to their sons.

As she flees her enemies and tries to warn her sisters of the danger facing them once again, Aphrodite is followed by one of the members of the Brotherhood, a man who has been given the task of killing her, and any of her sisters who cross his path. But it does not take her long to discover that Steven Wharton is not a murderer, and his soul is one she has known before.

In this paranormal romance, a goddess’s past is brought to life, from the Greek city of Corinth to the shores of the island of Cyprus, at the court of Versailles to the burning city of Persepolis. But it is not until she meets Steve that Aphrodite falls in love for the first time. As she faces an ancient enemy, Aphrodite discovers that the love she feels, not the love she gives, is the root of her soul. And that love might even be the path to her freedom... 

A mix of Greek mythology and modernity, veteran author Christy English launches a new paranormal romance series with her newest novel, Aphrodite's Choice. By updating the familiar Goddess of Love legend and further adapting it for the romance novel-worthy twisty plot (also one that  involves Ishtar, Ares, and even more mythological figures) the author keeps this a fun and entertaining read. Aphrodite's Choice is a creative blend of the known legends, with an unexpected new love story, and an encompassing plot and world.

Somewhat short for a novel that encompasses so much plot and so many twists at under 350 pages, Aphrodite's Choice also feels a bit light and occasionally predictable. It's an engaging read, and one that raises the stakes early, but the danger never feels real to the two real main characters. It's an expected and rote kind of antagonism, and the threat to Adele and Steve never really materialized. I liked Steve well enough for the inevitable love interest, but he also pales in comparison to any other character on the page. He just doesn't have the range or the charazterization I needed to connect more than superficially.

The idea for this series makes for a great premise and English begins to explore it throughout book one.  The overall mythology and magic of the book are important but not distracting from the events; there's no infodumps but also very solid answers. I did really like the inclusion of the various "sisters" in Aphrodite's story.  I wasn't drawn to continue reading the story because of the insubstantial love story  but rather because of Adele's unflinching character and her relationship with her far-flung sisters. It kept the story moving along - literally and metaphorically - and allowed a wider world view for the series. The inclusion of flashbacks for Addy, moving a chapter from modern storylines to ones set much further back in Ancient Rome, Cyprus, etc. were a bit jumpy and weird to me.

Aphrodite's Choice was a light and interesting read; good for an afternoon's entertainment. It was a good beginning for a new series and leaves the series open to further expansion with a new set of characters while closing out this chapter with finality. Though some of the end results for the story were rahter predictable, it was a fun read getting there with this version of Aphrodite.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 29
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, August 30
Review at Luxury Reading

Wednesday, August 31
Review & Excerpt at The Silver Dagger Scriptorium
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, September 1
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Review & Guest Post at Historical Fiction Obsession

Friday, September 2
Review at Just One More Chapter
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Monday, September 5
Review at Broken Teepee
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Tuesday, September 6
Review at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, September 7
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Interview at A Bookish Affair
Excerpt at Buried Under Romance

Thursday, September 8
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Excerpt at A Literary Vacation

Friday, September 9
Review at Eclectic Ramblings of Author Heather Osborne
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