Monday, July 20, 2020

Beware the Kitten Holy (Lumberjanes (Collected Editions) #1) by Noelle Stevenson

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At Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's camp for hard-core lady-types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together... And they're not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! The mystery keeps getting bigger, and it all begins here.

I wasn't sure if I would end up liking Lumberjanes because I thought that the story line might not interest me or that the art style might not be for me. 
I've never been so happy to be proven wrong! I started off reading the first pages on my own and my son ended up becoming interested when he began reading over my shoulder. We ended up reading it together which was a really fun experience for us. He tends to like books like Dogman or Captain Underpants which I can't seem to like no matter how hard I try. It was interesting to see him so taken with a group of girls who are goofy and end up being pulled into crazy situations with monsters. He is now begging me to read the rest of the series with him. 
If you are looking for something that is fun, light-hearted, and a little bit crazy at times than this is the graphic novel that you have been waiting for. The art style is so vibrant and beautiful! The jokes are funny and can be a bit on the childish side but enjoyable nonetheless. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

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While the Titanic and Lusitania are both well-documented disasters, the single greatest tragedy in maritime history is the little-known January 30, 1945 sinking in the Baltic Sea by a Soviet submarine of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German cruise liner that was supposed to ferry wartime personnel and refugees to safety from the advancing Red Army. The ship was overcrowded with more than 10,500 passengers — the intended capacity was approximately 1,800 — and more than 9,000 people, including 5,000 children, lost their lives.
Sepetys (writer of 'Between Shades of Gray') crafts four fictionalized but historically accurate voices to convey the real-life tragedy. Joana, a Lithuanian with nursing experience; Florian, a Prussian soldier fleeing the Nazis with stolen treasure; and Emilia, a Polish girl close to the end of her pregnancy, converge on their escape journeys as Russian troops advance; each will eventually meet Albert, a Nazi peon with delusions of grandeur, assigned to the Gustloff decks.

I had heard that if I wanted to read more historical fiction that Ruta Sepetys writes books that are easily digestible in that genre. I have wanted to dive more into the historical fiction genre but haven't felt ready to read adult historical fiction quite yet. 
I had seen rave reviews for Salt to the Sea so I thought that I would read it first. I don't know why I felt intimidated by this novel and thought that I wouldn't like it. I loved it! I was amazed at how well the author was able to paint the picture of a war torn country and people that are fleeing in order to reach safety. I felt as if I were there. I was frightened at points and felt as if I understood the characters and their actions. 
I was surprised to find that I loved all of the characters in the book. I usually have issues with novels that have multiple points of view because I end up disliking at least one character. This can decrease my enjoyment and feel like the pacing has slowed. I found myself intrigued and enjoying each point of view in novel. Each character strengthened the book in some way because they were different nationalities and came from different backgrounds. The author was able to broaden the emotional impact and world view within the story by including the characters that she did. This is definitely a character driven story and normally I would want strong characters and plot but found that the characters were enough to drive the story forward. 

Friday, April 17, 2020

Shadow of the Fox (Shadow of the Fox #1) by Julie Kagawa

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One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.

Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.

Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.

There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.

With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.

I have had mixed luck with Julie Kagawa's books. I loved The Immortal Rules series but didn't like The Iron Fey series. I wasn't sure if I wanted to read The Shadow of the Fox series because of this but since I have so much time on my hands lately I decided to give it a shot. 

It took me some time to really think through what I thought of Shadow of the Fox because I knew that there was something that I didn't like but I had a hard time deciphering it at first. I will say this for the wasn't boring. It was a fun adventure story that involves samurai and creatures but that is pretty much where my praise ends. 

The story is told through two perspectives (Yumeko and Kage Tatsumi) which is interesting but would have been better if the characters weren't one dimensional and flat. I felt as if each of them repeated a few thoughts each over and over. Yumeko seemed to only think about making Tatsumi her friend and hiding the scroll and Tatsumi only thought about his mission and how he is so evil. 

Another issue that I found with this book was the lack of stakes. Every battle or obstacle that I thought would help to move the story along or have some excitement happen, fell flat due to things happening just right so that everything worked out for the protagonists. I don't tend to enjoy it when characters that I love die but I would love to see them fail at some point or become wounded to the point that they need to seek out help. With the lack of stakes, I cared a lot less about what happened in the story. 

I wanted to like this book but there were just too many obstacles to overcome with the flat characters, lack of stakes, and the plot that wasn't very engaging. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood #1) by Melissa Albert

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Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away-by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

I have a huge issue with magical realism and tend to dislike books that involve it. When I read The Hazel Wood it felt like magical realism so I think that is why I didn't love the book. I was still able to enjoy it which I would attribute to the element of fairy tales and a story within a story.  

I really liked the darkness of the story and how the hinterland tales were not the typical fluff /sparkly clean fairy tales. It was the element that kept me reading the story because plot itself felt fragmented and the characters were unlikable. I found Finch to be naive and selfish. I had liked him at first but I didn't like the changes in him as the story progressed. Alice was so rage-filled and didn't seem to care about anything or anyone except for her mother which could have redeemed her but she treated her mother poorly at times as well. 

Overall, the story was okay but nothing that I would say has to be read by everyone. If you like dark fairy tales then I think that you might enjoy this book. It is a quick and interesting read.  

Monday, April 6, 2020

Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon

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In this epic and haunting love story set on the Oregon Trail, a family and their unlikely protector find their way through peril, uncertainty, and loss.
The Overland Trail, 1853: Naomi May never expected to be widowed at twenty. Eager to leave her grief behind, she sets off with her family for a life out West. On the trail, she forms an instant connection with John Lowry, a half-Pawnee man straddling two worlds and a stranger in both.
But life in a wagon train is fraught with hardship, fear, and death. Even as John and Naomi are drawn to each other, the trials of the journey and their disparate pasts work to keep them apart. John’s heritage gains them safe passage through hostile territory only to come between them as they seek to build a life together.
When a horrific tragedy strikes, decimating Naomi’s family and separating her from John, the promises they made are all they have left. Ripped apart, they can’t turn back, they can’t go on, and they can’t let go. Both will have to make terrible sacrifices to find each other, save each other, and eventually…make peace with who they are.
*Advanced Copy through Netgalley*
I was excited to hear that Amy would be writing another book that would be coming out this year. I knew that I had to read it because I haven't disliked anything that she has written yet and knew that I would most likely enjoy this one as well. She is one of the few authors that can write a historical romance that I enjoy. Her writing is so beautiful and romantic that it brings the story alive. 
I thought that Where the Lost Wander was another great addition to the books that she has written. It has not usurped my favorite but I thought that it was an interesting take on pioneer life. I appreciated the way that she wrote about the struggles that the pioneers faced back then and the lives that they led. I loved that she relayed both sides of the issues like the tensions between Indian tribes and pioneers without the book becoming too political/preachy. 
This book reminded me heavily of Running Barefoot, an earlier book that Amy wrote that has an American Indian main character that struggles with fitting into a society that doesn't completely accept him. It also has a main character much like Naomi that is different from those around her. I found Running Barefoot to be more relatable and emotional for me but still thought that Where the Lost Wander was very emotional as well. I just found that I didn't connect quite as much as I would have liked with some of the hardships and characters as I would have liked. 
If you enjoy historical romance or just love anything that Amy Harmon writes then I highly recommend that you pick this book up!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

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

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

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

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

Fairy tale retellings seem to be a hit or miss for me unless they are Alice in Wonderland. I found it intriguing that the author chose to do a take on the twelve dancing princesses and thought I would give it a try.

First of all, I loved the creepy, dark atmosphere that the author was able to create. I almost felt as if I could feel the wind and sea spray and see the ghosts of those that were lost. She was able carry this throughout the book and even intensify it which I appreciated.

Only a few of the characters seemed like actual individuals and the rest were repeats I have seen in other stories before. I liked Annaleigh as she was relentless in her pursuit of the truth and loyal to a fault. She was a great leading lady and pushed the story forward.

I would have liked for the plot to have been more developed. The author does well with trying to misdirect readers away from solving the mystery but I still found part of it predictable. I wanted  to author to leave more breadcrumbs and establish certain pieces of the plot from the beginning.

I also hate to sound like a broken record because so many other people have already said this but I didn't like the very ending of the book. When you decide to take your book in a certain direction then commit to that and don't backtrack. I think the author should have just cut the last three pages of the book.

Monday, March 30, 2020

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1) by Sarah J. Maas

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I decided not to put the synopsis of this book with this review because I feel like it gives too much away and spoils so points in the book. 
First of all, can we all just look at the eye candy that is this book cover?! This has got to be hands down my favorite cover of all time! 
I don't think that anyone should be surprised by my rating and review of House of Earth and Blood because I LOVE Sarah J. Maas! She has got to be one of my all time favorite authors! I understand that she is not for everyone and that she gets a lot of hate but I'm not ashamed to say that I love her books. I went into this book expecting to love it and I did. There was a moment where I doubted this mainly due to the main character. 
So, let's dive into the main character, Bryce, first. I hated her in the beginning of the book. I thought that she seemed obnoxious, self absorbed, and a party girl. I couldn't relate to her at all. I was praying that she would become tolerable as the book progressed because I couldn't understand what Maas was doing. Thankfully, she grows tremendously as the story unfolds and becomes more likable though at times she is still a jerk. I loved the rest of the characters. They were interesting and Maas was able to represent many different groups of creatures including angels, shape-shifters, humans, merfolk, and faeries. I loved having the variety!
I noticed that a lot of people said that the book was extremely slow and that nothing happened until the last 200 pages. While that may be somewhat true, there is a lot that happens during the whole story up until that point. We get to know the characters and the tension builds regarding the mystery of who is committing the murders. While there were parts that were slower paced, I still enjoyed the dialogue between the characters and getting to know the vast world that is Crescent City. I think that I would describe this book as fantasy thriller which may be why it is throwing some people for a loop. It's not the author's typical type of story with the exception of the romance element which you would find in all of Maas's books. I devoured the last 300 pages because that is when the crap hits the fan and the majority of the reveals happen but I loved the entire thing. I have no doubt that the next book in the series will be even better and I heard that Maas intends to include different parts of the world that she created. If you tend to love Sarah J. Maas books then I think you are in for a treat!