Category Archives: books
The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
Published: October 24th 2017
Format: Paper Book
Length: 385 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Christmas, Romance
Rating: 4.5 stars
On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.
And then she died.
Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.
Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable.
But this year, everything is about to change. . . .
I am not a romance reader. I’ve stated many times in my book reviews that the most annoying aspect of young adult books is always, always, the romance angle for me. There is always some trope to the romance that I can’t stand. (The boy is an asshole because he’s trying to protect the girl and the girl loves the boy despite the fact she knows she should hate his guts because he’s acting like an asshole. I want to claw my eyes out every time I read this and it is everywhere in young adult books.) But The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand is a romance that does not use those much loathed tropes. It is a romance that did something different and I actually liked it. I know, it was shocking to me too.
This is a great Christmas book and I love the idea. The Scrooge Project uses the Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol as a blueprint to try and rehabilitate a single person every year. It uses some pretty snazzy tech to do it too. Like the Go Room, that allows the Ghosts to travel to the Scrooge’s home, and the Time Tunnel, which allows the Ghosts to travel in time to show the Scrooges the error of their ways. And we can’t we forget the Hoodie? Capital letter most definitely needed. The Afterlife of Holly Chase has the same fun and silly tone of My Lady Jane and just the right mix of paranormal fun and seriousness to entertain.
I liked all of the characters. Yes, Holly starts out as the consummate brat, the character you love to hate, but she grows. I loved all the characters at the Scrooge Project. The other Ghosts and all of the tech people helping run things behind the scenes. I even liked Blackpool, the grim and intense Ghost of Christmas Future. I would have liked a bit more development between Holly and Ethan. I see no reason why Holly should love Ethan so much after just seeing a photo of him. Lust, maybe, but not such deep love. That’s my biggest complaint with romance stories. No reasonable build up, in my opinion. The supposed depth of emotion just happens far too fast for me.
When it comes down to it, The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand is a romance book and the first romance book that I’ve actually liked in a long time. If, like me, you are a bit anti-romance, I suggest you read this one. It’s a perfect read for the holiday season and Cynthia delivers her signature quirky, imaginative brand of writing that I so enjoy.
The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror by Christopher Moore
‘Twas the night (okay, more like the week) before Christmas, and all through the tiny community of Pine Cove, California, people are busy buying, wrapping, packing, and generally getting into the holiday spirit.
But not everybody is feeling the joy. Little Joshua Barker is in desperate need of a holiday miracle. No, he’s not on his deathbed; no, his dog hasn’t run away from home. But Josh is sure that he saw Santa take a shovel to the head, and now the seven-year-old has only one prayer: Please, Santa, come back from the dead.
But hold on! There’s an angel waiting in the wings. (Wings, get it?) It’s none other than the Archangel Raziel come to Earth seeking a small child with a wish that needs granting. Unfortunately, our angel’s not sporting the brightest halo in the bunch, and before you can say “Kris Kringle,” he’s botched his sacred mission and sent the residents of Pine Cove headlong into Christmas chaos, culminating in the most hilarious and horrifying holiday party the town has ever seen.
It’s funny and silly and has some cursing, be warned.
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum
Every child knows about Santa Claus, the jolly man who brings gifts to all on Christmas. There are many stories that tell of his life, but the delightful version relayed in The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus is by far the most charming and original of all. Relates Santa’s life, from childhood to old age and immortality, mentioning such adventures as those with the friendly Wood-nymphs and the wicked Awgwas. A human foundling child, adopted by a wood-nymph and raised by the creatures who inhabit a magical forest, grows up to be the immortal Santa Claus. Only L. Frank Baum, the man who created the wonderful land of Oz, could have told Santa’s tale in such rich and imaginative detail.
This is a pretty old book but my library had a couple copies of more recent printings.
A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens
Dickens’ story of solitary miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who is taught the true meaning of Christmas by a series of ghostly visitors, has proved one of his most well-loved works. Ever since it was published in 1843 it has had an enduring influence on the way we think about the traditions of Christmas. Dickens’ other Christmas writings collected here include ‘The Story of the Goblins who Stole a Sexton’, the short story from The Pickwick Papers on which A Christmas Carol was based; The Haunted Man, a tale of a man tormented by painful memories; along with shorter pieces, some drawn from the ‘Christmas Stories’ that Dickens wrote annually for his weekly journals. In all of them Dickens celebrates the season as one of geniality, charity and remembrance.
It would be hard to not have seen A Christmas Carol in some form. There are cartoons, TV shows, and movies galore. But the written version is the best, in my opinion, and Dickens wrote many other Christmas stories, all of them with the Victorian regard for spookiness. Telling ghost stories is an old Christmas tradition that has sort of fallen out of favor in modern times. This particular book is just one of many collections you could choose to read to get into the holiday spirit.
My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by Various Authors
If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. Whether you enjoy celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or New Year’s there’s something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love.
This anthology has stories from some of my favorite authors, most notably Holly Black and Rainbow Rowell. Like all anthologies, I liked some stories more than others but I enjoyed the book as a whole. There are a lot of genres, not just contemporary but also paranormal and historical. It’s a great mix.
Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
Susan had never hung up a stocking . She’d never put a tooth under her pillow in the serious expectation that a dentally inclined fairy would turn up. It wasn’t that her parents didn’t believe in such things. They didn’t need to believe in them. They know they existed. They just wished they didn’t.
There are those who believe and those who don’t. Through the ages, superstition has had its uses. Nowhere more so than in the Discworld where it’s helped to maintain the status quo. Anything that undermines superstition has to be viewed with some caution. There may be consequences, particularly on the last night of the year when the time is turning. When those consequences turn out to be the end of the world, you need to be prepared. You might even want more standing between you and oblivion than a mere slip of a girl – even if she has looked Death in the face on numerous occasions…
This is a book about the nature of belief. I adore Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series and this is one of the best in the Death series. I know. How Christmasy could it be if it involves Death? But it’s funny and quirky and great tongue-in-cheek observations about humanity.
Some other stories I could recommend to get you in the Christmasy or wintery mood. (Look at me, just making up words all over the place.)
Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris
Winter Prey by John Sandford
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfiled
The Immortal Nicholas by Glenn Beck
Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
Mr. Dickens and His Carol: A Novel of Christmas Past by Samantha Silva
Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn
Published: July 5th 2016 by DAW
Format: Paper Book
Length: 378 pages
Genre: Adult, Urban Fantasy, Superheroes, Comical, Paranormal, Romance
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
Being a superheroine is hard. Working for one is even harder.
Evie Tanaka is the put-upon personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, her childhood best friend and San Francisco’s most beloved superheroine. She’s great at her job—blending into the background, handling her boss’s epic diva tantrums, and getting demon blood out of leather pants.
Unfortunately, she’s not nearly as together when it comes to running her own life, standing up for herself, or raising her tempestuous teenage sister, Bea.
But everything changes when Evie’s forced to pose as her glamorous boss for one night, and her darkest comes out: she has powers, too. Now it’s up to her to contend with murderous cupcakes, nosy gossip bloggers, and supernatural karaoke battles—all while juggling unexpected romance and Aveda’s increasingly outrageous demands. And when a larger threat emerges, Evie must finally take charge and become a superheroine in her own right… or see her city fall to a full-on demonic invasion.
If you want something fun to read, then Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn is right up your alley. This book is entertaining and packed full of action. The characters kick-ass and are incredibly diverse. It was a pleasure to see characters that break out of the mold, especially for superheroines. These girls were not secondary characters or love interests to the main male character. I loved the focus on female relationships, either between sisters or best friends. I did have a bit of a problem with Aveda/Annie’s behavior through the first and middle sections of the book. Her attitude made me want to reach in and slap her. Thankfully, she progresses and realizes how she is treating Evie and her other friends is unacceptable. I also adored Evie. Everything from her quirkiness to her fire power made me love her. She was an extremely likable character.
Heroine Complex can also be a little cartoonish and a tad drawn out. It felt like a Saturday morning cartoon, full of color and silly but a little jarring to read. Especially since this is an adult book, not YA. This is accomplished by dropping a fair amount of sexual situations into the plot and some nice cursing. Neither which I had a problem with. If anything, it made the characters more believable. It was just out of place with the tone of the writing. The ending also felt drawn out. Kind of like a ridiculous comic book situation that you have to roll your eyes at. It’s campy and outlandish but so much fun. As long as you don’t take the book too seriously and are looking for something comical, Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn is a good pick.
Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffin
Publication: October 4th
Nell Crane has always been an outsider. In a city devastated by an epidemic, where survivors are all missing parts—an arm, a leg, an eye—her father is the famed scientist who created the biomechanical limbs everyone now uses. But Nell is the only one whose mechanical piece is on the inside: her heart. Since the childhood operation, she has ticked. Like a clock, like a bomb. As her community rebuilds, everyone is expected to contribute to the society’s good . . . but how can Nell live up to her father’s revolutionary idea when she has none of her own?
Then she finds a mannequin hand while salvaging on the beach—the first boy’s hand she’s ever held—and inspiration strikes. Can Nell build her own companion in a world that fears advanced technology? The deeper she sinks into this plan, the more she learns about her city—and her father, who is hiding secret experiments of his own.
Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig
Publication: October 4th
Flynn’s girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own?
Flynn’s girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can’t answer, and her friends are telling stories that don’t add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January’s boyfriend, he must know something.
But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January’s disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
Publication: October 4th
When the Moon Was Ours follows two characters through a story that has multicultural elements and magical realism, but also has central LGBT themes—a transgender boy, the best friend he’s falling in love with, and both of them deciding how they want to define themselves.
To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.
But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.
Beast by Brie Spangler
Publication: October 11th
A witty, wise, and heart-wrenching novel that will appeal to fans of Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan.
Tall, meaty, muscle-bound, and hairier than most throw rugs, Dylan doesn’t look like your average fifteen-year-old, so, naturally, high school has not been kind to him. To make matters worse, on the day his school bans hats (his preferred camouflage), Dylan goes up on his roof only to fall and wake up in the hospital with a broken leg—and a mandate to attend group therapy for self-harmers.
Dylan vows to say nothing and zones out at therapy—until he meets Jamie. She’s funny, smart, and so stunning, even his womanizing best friend, JP, would be jealous. She’s also the first person to ever call Dylan out on his self-pitying and superficiality. As Jamie’s humanity and wisdom begin to rub off on Dylan, they become more than just friends. But there is something Dylan doesn’t know about Jamie, something she shared with the group the day he wasn’t listening. Something that shouldn’t change a thing. She is who she’s always been—an amazing photographer and devoted friend, who also happens to be transgender. But will Dylan see it that way?
A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith
Publication: October 25th
A time-travel story that alternates between modern day and 19th century Japan as one girl confronts the darkness lurking in her soul.
No one knows what to do with Reiko. She is full of hatred. All she can think about is how to best hurt herself and the people closest to her. After a failed suicide attempt, Reiko’s parents send her from their Seattle home to spend the summer with family in Japan to learn to control her emotions. But while visiting Kuramagi, a historic village preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period, Reiko finds herself slipping back in time into the life of Miyu, a young woman even more bent on revenge than Reiko herself. Reiko loves being Miyu, until she discovers the secret of Kuramagi village, and must face down Miyu’s demons as well as her own.
Glitter by Aprilynne Pike
Publication: October 25th
Outside the palace of Versailles, it’s modern day. Inside, the people dress, eat, and act like it’s the eighteenth century—with the added bonus of technology to make court life lavish, privileged, and frivolous. The palace has every indulgence, but for one pretty young thing, it’s about to become a very beautiful prison.
When Danica witnesses an act of murder by the young king, her mother makes a cruel power play . . . blackmailing the king into making Dani his queen. When she turns eighteen, Dani will marry the most ruthless and dangerous man of the court. She has six months to escape her terrifying destiny. Six months to raise enough money to disappear into the real world beyond the palace gates.
Her ticket out? Glitter. A drug so powerful that a tiny pinch mixed into a pot of rouge or lip gloss can make the wearer hopelessly addicted. Addicted to a drug Dani can sell for more money than she ever dreamed.
But in Versailles, secrets are impossible to keep. And the most dangerous secret—falling for a drug dealer outside the palace walls—is one risk she has to take.
So many fantastic books coming out in October. I could have gone on but these are the more popular books coming out next month. Just in time for a Halloween Read-a-thon!
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Published: July 5th 2016 by Greenwillow Books
Format: Paper Book
Length: 427 pages
Genre: Dystopia, Supernatural, Horror, Urban Fantasy
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
There’s no such thing as safe.
Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be.
August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.
Their city is divided.
Their city is crumbling.
Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something.
But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which?
I’ve only read one other Victoria Schwab book several years ago. It was The Near Witch and I was very unimpressed with it. I received This Savage Song in my OwlCrate box last month and figured, since I had it, I might as well give her another try. I must say, she’s gotten better over the years. While I still found This Savage Song a bit slow at the beginning; the world building is fantastic and the writing superb. In Schwab’s dystopian world, violence spawns physical monsters as consequences. Simple violence breeds Corsai; murder breeds Malchai; while the most heinous crimes, like mass murders, breed Sunai. The best aspect of This Savage Song is the world building because in most other ways, the story is rather generic.
The city of Verity is split in two, with each side ruled by a different man. In North City is the mob boss like Hawker, giving protection to the citizens who can pay for it and keeping the monsters under his control at bay with harsh punishments. South City is run by Flynn, whose task force is barely keeping its head above water. It’s all very West and East Berlin like, with the empty Seam between the city halves acting like the Berlin Wall. Then there are the characters. I liked August but I found Kate to be your typical cookie-cutter YA tough girl who is really a mess inside. She really wasn’t interesting. August was your usual tortured emo boy but at least he had his interesting aspects. The plot is also pretty dull as well. The first half of the book is just Kate and August circling each other until Kate figures out August is a Sunai and even when the action picks up in the second half, there were no surprises. It was obvious what was going to happen and who was behind it. I felt like the whole book was just setup for the next novel, where, hopefully, more interesting things will happen. Over four hundred pages is a lot of setup, though. I kind of felt like I was wasting my time.
The novel’s saving grace is the excellent world building and the writing. I applaud Schwab’s choice to leave out any romance between Kate and August. I often find the romantic tropes between two characters detract from a story and was pleased to find it absent here. I liked the juxtaposition of the monster hierarchy. The more horrendous the violence, the more human looking the resulting monster. The Sunai looked completely human but were spawned from the worst violence. I would have enjoyed even more world building. We never learn why violence started creating physical monsters. It’s just called the Phenomenon but we’re never given details. In all, I felt like This Savage Song by Victor Schwab was good but not perfect. There were no surprises in the plot and the characters are overdone tropes but it was entertaining for the most part.
As I Descended by Robin Talley
Publication: September 6th 2016 by HarperTeen
Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.
Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.
Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.
But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.
Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.
But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.
From acclaimed author Robin Talley comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.
The Graces by Laure Eve
Publication: September 6th 2016 by Amulet Books
In The Graces, the first rule of witchcraft states that if you want something badly enough, you can get it . . . no matter who has to pay.
Everyone loves the Graces. Fenrin, Thalia, and Summer Grace are captivating, wealthy, and glamorous. They’ve managed to cast a spell over not just their high school but also their entire town—and they’re rumored to have powerful connections all over the world. If you’re not in love with one of them, you want to be them. Especially River: the loner, new girl at school. She’s different from her peers, who both revere and fear the Grace family. She wants to be a Grace more than anything. And what the Graces don’t know is that River’s presence in town is no accident.
This fabulously addictive fantasy combines sophisticated and haunting prose with a gut-punching twist that readers will be dying to discuss. Perfect for fans of We Were Liars as well as nostalgic classics like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the 1996 movie The Craft, The Graces marks the beginning of a new wave of teen witches.
Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee
Publication: September 8th 2016 by Duet Books
Welcome to Andover… where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.
A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
Publication: September 20th 2016 by Random House BFYR
I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?
Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she’s brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?
Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
Publication: September 20th 2016 by Tor Teen
In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.
In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.
But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair. . . .
Inspired by the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful and Sarah Porter’s years of experience teaching creative writing to New York City students.
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Publication: September 20th 2016 by HarperTeen
Fans of acclaimed author Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood will devour her latest novel, a dark and inventive fantasy about three sisters who must fight to the death to become queen.
In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.
But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.
The last queen standing gets the crown.
A long list of new books coming out in September this year. I’m really excited to see something new from Kendare Blake. Anna Dressed in Blood was my favorite when it came out. I’m also looking forward to Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter. On a side note, all of these are up for grabs from Goodreads contests. Just click the link and it will take you to the book’s page where you can sign up for a chance to win a copy of the book.
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
Published: June 7th 2016 by HarperTeen
Format: Paper Book
Length: 512 pages
Genre: historical fiction, fantasy, magic, shapeshifters, royal drama
Rating: 4.5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…
Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…
Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.
The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?
I was prepared to give My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows a pass when I first heard of it. I usually find period historical royal drama books dull and pretty cringe worthy. Then a copy of My Lady Jane arrived in the June Owl Crate subscription box and I figured since I had it, I should give it a read. I’m glad I did. I expected something stuffy and sluggish but My Lady Jane is a hilarious, clever reinventing of English history with a heavy helping of magical highjacks. It was so much better than I could have anticipated.
Ah, the Tudors. Never a more dysfunctional royal family will you find. In case you need a refresher, this is the period of time where Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church just so he could marry 6 different women. (His wives kept ending up dead, for some reason.) His son Edward VI, by Jane Seymour (wife #3), was brought up a Protestant, while his half-sister Mary, by Catherine of Aragon (wife #1), was brought up a Catholic. Both were struggling for control of the English throne. It is into this political stew pot that our story unfolds. Our authors take the religious tensions of the day and switch them over to a magical prejudice system between shapeshifters, the Edians, and those who despise them, the Verity. Our story is set in 1553, just as young King Edward was about to die from tuberculosis (as history tells us). Only Edward doesn’t die, much to everyone’s frustration. Throw in a royal coup d’état, other dastardly plots, and a horse and you have My Lady Jane in a nutshell.
For the amount of political drama that is the setting, My Lady Jane is a silly historical comedy full of puns and mockery of the sexist attitudes and ridiculous social graces of the time period. It’s funny and tongue-in-cheek. It’s entertaining. My Lady Jane is the type of easy, undemanding book that you can relax with. The romantic relationships, especially between Jane and G, are done spectacularly, with a believable evolution. The humor is clever and sarcastic. It is the exact tone I love to read. The characters are interesting. I especially like Jane. I really identify with her. She has so much book smarts but it’s hard to translate that usefully into the real world. The plot is well-written and the blending of history and fantasy is splendid.
My only real complaint is that it jumps between three POV’s, making it slightly irritating when we switch over to another person and have to backtrack to cover what was happening to them during a time period we’ve already covered from a different POV. I find changing POV’s incredibly jarring to the reading experience, making it hard to really settle into the flow of the narrative. However, I would have never guessed there were three authors. The writing style doesn’t change throughout the book and the tone never shifts. Our authors blended seamlessly together. I have to assume they wrote different parts but you could never tell. There are some portions that drag but the action picks up quickly. I was pleasantly surprised by how NOT annoying the romances were. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows is a fun, witty rump through Tudor history turned on its head that I recommend anybody looking for a good chuckle and some sweet romance should read.
The Gilded Cage by Lucinda Gray
Expected Publication: August 2
After growing up on a farm in Virginia, Walthingham Hall in England seems like another world to sixteen-year-old Katherine Randolph. Her new life, filled with the splendor of upper-class England in the 1820s, is shattered when her brother mysteriously drowns. Katherine is expected to observe the mourning customs and get on with her life, but she can’t accept that her brother’s death was an accident.
A bitter poacher prowls the estate, and strange visitors threaten the occupants of the house. There’s a rumor, too, that a wild animal stalks the woods of Walthingham. Can Katherine retain her sanity long enough to find out the truth? Or will her brother’s killer claim her life, too?
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Expected Publication: August 9
Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.
One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.
The acclaimed author of The Witch’s Boy has created another epic coming-of-age fairy tale destined to become a modern classic.
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
Expected Publication: August 9
Destined to destroy empires, Mia Covere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.
Six years later, the child raised in shadows takes her first steps towards keeping the promise she made on the day that she lost everything.
But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, so if she is to have her revenge, Mia must become a weapon without equal. She must prove herself against the deadliest of friends and enemies, and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and demons at the heart of a murder cult.
The Red Church is no Hogwarts, but Mia is no ordinary student.
The shadows love her. And they drink her fear.
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff has been wildly anticipated by book lovers for the past few months but I’m not hearing great things about it by the early reviewers. Most are calling the writing overwrought and painful to read. If you like super dense high fantasy stories, you might be able to get through Nevernight, but most readers are completely put off by the writing style. Lots of descriptions, overuse of similes and metaphors, and with slow plot spacing. Reader beware.
These book reviews are going to be short and sweet because I did not like either of these books, didn’t even finish one, and I don’t want to waste time with books I disliked this much. So, here are some mini book reviews.
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
Published: March 22nd 2016 by Ecco
Format: Paper Book
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Adult, Fiction, Family
Rating: 1 star
Goodreads | Amazon
The Plumb siblings are sure The Nest, the nest egg their father set up as a little gift for their later year that unexpectedly ballooned, will solve all their problems. At least, it would have if their mother hadn’t almost drained it paying for the elder brother’s rehab when he gets in a car accident while intoxicated, complete with 19 year old waitress in the passenger seat. Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.
After about a 100 pages of people whining, I gave up. This was the book that I did not finish. Other people might find the train wreck that is the Plumb family interesting but I just could not stomach reading about the whining of a bunch of self-entitled, self-absorbed brats. The characters are vapid and lifeless and the entire situation is just laughable. I’m confused about the many positive reviews. This book wasn’t interesting at all. I guess you have to have more patience for morons than I do.
After the Woods by Kim Savage
Published: February 23rd 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Format: Paper Book
Length: 304 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Rating: 2 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
Julia saves her friend Liv when they are attacked in the woods. Liv runs, leaving Julia at the mercy of their assalant. A year later, Julia is trying to puzzle out the details of her abduction while dealing with Liv’s self-destructive spiral down and a whole host of secrets.
I wanted to like this more than I did. It took me forever to finish After the Woods because I kept losing interest. Despite an halfway interesting main character and a sort of fresh angle on the mystery – the book takes place after the abduction and sort of moves backward with our unreliable amnesic main character trying to remember what really happened and unravel the spider web connecting everyone – but it just felt wandering and unfocused rather than suspenseful. I don’t know why the romantic interest was in there at all, as he serves no purpose and I’ve already forgotten his name. Plot points are added and then never brought up again and characters just seem wooden. By the end, I was rolling my eyes so hard they hurt. Savage was aiming for intrigue but fell flat with a messy plot and slow pacing.
13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad
Published: February 23rd 2016 by Penguin Canada
Format: Paper Book
Length: 244 pages
Genre: Adult, Memoir, Short Stories, Mental Illness
Rating: 2 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
Growing up in the suburban hell of Misery Saga (a.k.a. Mississauga), Lizzie has never liked the way she looks— her weight affects every portion of her life, self-esteem, and makes her miserable. So she starts to lose. She grows up and gets thin, navigating double-edged validation from her mother, her friends, her husband, her reflection in the mirror. But no matter how much she loses, will she ever see herself as anything other than a fat girl?
I’ve read a couple of these fat lady memoir / autobiographical books. This one is a little heavy on the mental illness aspect for my tastes but otherwise ok. There is little ‘I’ve come to accept myself’ and a lot more ‘look how messed up I am because of society’. There is a tiny bit of dark humor and some clever turn of phrase going on but it is not a funny book and I honestly don’t know where people got that impression. If you are looking for something uplifting, look elsewhere. Honestly, the way Mona acts in this book is just short of horrifying.
Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn
Published: April 26th 2016 by HarperTeen
Format: Paper Book
Length: 355 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Magic, Horror, Murder, Funny
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
Make a wish…
Lennie always thought her uncles’ “important family legacy” was good old-fashioned bootlegging. Then she takes some of her uncles’ moonshine to Michaela Gordon’s annual house party, and finds out just how wrong she was.
At the party, Lennie has everyone make a wish before drinking the shine—it’s tradition. She toasts to wishes for bat wings, for balls of steel, for the party to go on forever. Lennie even makes a wish of her own: to bring back her best friend, Dylan, who was murdered six months ago.
The next morning gives Lennie a whole new understanding of the phrase be careful what you wish for—or in her case, be careful what wishes you grant. Because all those wishes Lennie raised a jar of shine to last night? They came true. Most of them came out bad. And once granted, a wish can’t be unmade…
Talk with your kids about their secret wish granting powers, people. Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn started out strong but lost its edge as it progressed. The dark and macabre mood we start out with is soon lost amid out of place humor and slapstick. Down with the Shine flip-flops between the two and ends up being kind of annoying with the different atmospheres. If you are going to be dark, then be dark. Same thing with silly. Mashing the two together just leaves me unsatisfied and unsure which way to go. The elements that were dark; Lennie’s psychopath father, murdered best friend, and string of accidently granted wishes that turn out rather horrifyingly, were all great, but sort of fell to the wayside as Down with Shine focused more on comedy in the middle portion. There were so many juicy elements to explore and we’re just let down.
The wishes that Lennie unknowingly grants at the party are played for laughs and the whole thing comes off as a comedy sketch with her uncles running around trying to contain teenagers suddenly stuck with bat wings, who were turned into Thumbelina, or turn everything they touch into Cheetos. Then there is the ridiculous drama of the budding romance between Lennie and Smith. I was frankly uninterested about those two. Dylan’s murder, mutilation, and decent into the dark side are unexplored. The disturbing kiss between Smith and his mother is left dangling. We’re left wondering about Lennie’s father. There are just so many interesting elements in Down with the Shine that aren’t focused on because of the humor. It’s like there are two stories going on here and both suffer from lack of focus. Pick one; dark or silly, and stick with it.
I’m especially disappointed by Dylan. The resolution at the end saves her life, granted, but then the underlying issue of why Dylan acted as she did, pretending to be Lennie and meeting with strange men, is not dealt with. Our main character, Lennie, is your basic sarcastic outcast character that I am frankly tired of in YA books. I love the premise and the majority of my enjoyment in this book was from the interesting storyline and magical elements. Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn could have been dark and gritty and fantastic but feels watered down.