Title: Elsie Mae Has Something to Say
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
Author: Luz Gabas
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
Did Not Finish (DNF) @ 27%
Nothing in the world will make it okay for our leading lady to make out with mystery man only a couple kilometres from where her husband is catching up on work (because he spent time with her he didn't have). Just no.
This reads a bit like Outlander (but nowhere near as good) in that there is trashy romantic moments, next to historical lore, next to literary devices. And while the writing is good enough; it feels a little like Lux Gabas wanted to span too many genres and be serious yet a romance novel at the same time. While it can be done, it's tough and Return to your Skin doesn't seem to achieve it.
I was relatively bored from the get-go. Even the Wiccan ritual was described in a boring and unmoving way. How can you not make witchcraft/magic boring?!
However, the facts of Wicca I read are correct and laid out in an acceptable manner. For many people (myself included) Wicca (a branch of Paganism) is not a mystery but our actual religion. Through Wicca I found my link to deities an the earth.
It's possible that this will happen for our lead lady. That seems to be what is being foreshadowed. And yet I still couldn't care.
Incredibly dull and not worth picking up for any reason I can think of.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
Certainly stories of strong historical women aren't unusual; even if history barely remembers them. We seem to want to tug on these journeys until their story unravels. Indigo Girl is a mostly true story. Eliza, our lead gal, was a women of not even 17 living in the American colonies in mid-1700s.
The primary purpose of the story appears to be about Eliza but I actually think (based on the afterword); that this is really a story about indigo production and how to get by in the mid-1700s.
The perseverance and no quit attitude portrayed by Eliza in The Indigo Girls is something I think anyone can admire and wish for; regardless of time period or gender.
As it's the mid-1700s on a plantation in what would later become South Carolina; inevitably much of the book is about slavery. Eliza was a very progressive woman for her time and truly loved her slaves like family. This caused her a lot of heartache but also meant she fought hard for her slaves and treated them well.
At one point I did get tired of how 'special' Eliza was that she saw her slaves as real people instead of, well, slaves. I suppose that is because to us, today, it seems so obvious that everyone should be seen and treated equally. This was the largest annoyance I had in Indigo Girl is that it got a bit repetitive about Eliza's special bond with the slaves.
However, without a doubt Eliza's love for anyone with a good heart is what makes this a poignant and sometimes sad story. Especially the elements of it that are definitely true. Natasha Boyd makes a point at the end of letting the reader know what characters were fiction and which were real people. In a historical book built on truth I always appreciate this. There's also a bibliography if you want to read more about Eliza. I love that most of the letters are quoted direct from Eliza's real life letters.
I would highly recommend The Indigo Girl for anyone that loves historical stories; but also to those with a keen interest in some of the building blocks of the future that people in the USA laboured so hard to create. This Canadian is very glad to have learned the story of Eliza and her Indigo dye.
Well I was blown away by this book. I had heard a lot of very poor reviews on it and gotta say I think it's quite good. The writing is wonderfully compelling and readable. It's fast-paced, has a unique fantasy world set-up and the main character does not identify with one gender over the other (it depends on the day). I love that the gender fluidity isn't the primary motivation of the story or even for our lead Sal. Instead it's just a part of Sals overall personality.
Why don't others like this book?
There are some problematic areas and what doesn't help is most of them are near the beginning of the book. There are strong comparisons to Hunger Games at the beginning with the competition, but there's not much past that.
Not unlike The Gilded Cage I think there are improvements to be made but overall for a debut YA author, in an over saturated market of dystopian-fantasy, Linsey Miller has made Mask of Shadows a more than decent read. I also think it's written for teens and sometimes I think us non-teens or older teens forget that to a 14 or 15 this could be their first foray into stories like this. And we all know that you never forget your first book love that opens the doors to a whole new realm of fiction. This book could be that for some people and unlike some books (ahem, Twilight) I think it has interesting morals and motivations to help someone start thinking about themselves in different ways. For me that creative thinking and self identity meant a lot when I was a teen (ie: I didn't have a self identity at all) and so I like that Mask of Shadows encourages this thinking and promotes individuality.
Numbers as names
I know a lot of people had issues with the naming being numbers, so let's talk about that for a minute. When the competition starts the players are all given numbers and do-away with their names and (presumably) their old identities. I know a lot of people struggled with this.
I'm not good with names on an amazing day. I tend to remember people by association but rarely by their name (in real and book life). Because the number names are written out like Four, Five, etc. It was just a name to me and not a number. Funny enough the numbering system helped me remember that low numbers were invitees and high numbers auditioned to be in the competition. I think for many people you have to immediately dispel thoughts that the word Five means 5. And instead the word Five means a boy whose an arrogant jerk. The same way that you think of any other character with a 'proper' name.
There are some cute comparisons to be drawn between Four in Divergent series and Four in this story. In the end I appreciated it as it didn't feel stolen but more an homage to stories that came before; but you might not get that until you finish the book which I think promotes a negative impression on readers quite quickly near the beginning. This doesn't help people feel confidence in the story and could result in DNFs. I get that.
The romance in Mask of Shadows is adorable!! While I know our lead character is gender fluid I felt like they were more feminine than masculine. I think it's very individual (and shows how well Miller wrote the gender discussions into the story) that many people come away from the book with a different perception of Sals possible anatomy and identity. I hope we learn more about why Sal distinctly chooses to be male or female on any given day and I'm really hoping her anatomy makes sense to it. Ie: castrated male, born with no distinct genitals or both exist, etc. If Miller chooses not to get into the anatomy of Sal however I won't be disappointed because honestly there is sooo much more to love about this book than just Sals gender choices both for identifying herself and whom she finds attractive and desirable.
I cannot wait for the next book in this series as the ending was awesome! I actually think book 2 is likely to be better because this one only improved as it went. I've read a lot of teen/YA books in my life and I gotta say that while Linsey Miller didn't write the best ever, she has done a stand-up job in a very difficult market. Her and Vic James should discuss their woes of trying to break into this market as I think they'd say a lot of the same things!
I guess my point is if you've heard bad thing and have been avoiding Mask of Shadows that you should give it a chance. A 40% chance. If you still hate it after 40% then fair go on and DNF it. But I think you might find that by 40% you can't put it down and walk away as easily as you might have at 20% mark.
I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it if you like dystopian teen fiction you need to read it. The basis for the book is that climate change killed most of the world off and a few select people who saw it coming prepared for it. These people are led by one man named 'Noa' who created a place called 'Ark' that is a sanctuary. Lots of cute nods to Noah's Ark and other biblical stories (without being preachy at all!). The big thing about this community of people is that they can only use 500 words to communicate. Thus, removing all unnecessary, emotional charged, or problematic words from language. Noa believes that words are cheap and the world would be better off if they didn't exist.
For now I've given this book 4 stars. I think there is a possibility that as I reflect on it more it might be worthy of 5 stars. My conflict there is that it's not quite as good as Hunger Games (but really what is). However I do believe it is written better than Divergent. The relationships between the people are more realistic. There is no insta-love (chemistry but not love) and the romance story is really on the side to the main story. It interferes very little with the plot and provides some extra motivation for our characters but nothing outrageous or annoying.
The lead gal is an intelligent, responsible heroine that is a good role model for readers. She is a strong, yet cautious person that thinks through her decisions; and when she chooses to do crazy things she accepts that it's crazy but always provides her reasons for acting. I appreciate this as I believe it's realistic and reflective of our real people think. I don't want to say too much about any of the characters or the plot because I believe that part of the enjoyment in dystopian literature is to have the reveals unravel as you read.
There are some science elements that are fictional in The List. I was disappointed to learn that Nicene isn't a real thing (in any form). Yet I believe this really shows how truly creative Patricia Forde is. She's created a world that feels like it could be our world in the not-so far future.
There are subtle references that I believe were nods to The Giver and other dystopian fiction. I liked this respectful way of including elements of other stories we all know and love. There are things that Forde decides not to touch on (ie: reproduction, death, property ownership, etc.); but I actually think it was nice to focus on language and intelligence as the key to this dystopian society.
Overall, thinking of the teen books I've read that were published this year, this would easily be in my top 5 teen reads of 2017. It certainly deserves a place on my bookshelf and I will be looking to get my very own print copy to oogle on the shelf.
I will definitely be looking for more from Patricia Forde.
Author: Amy A. Bartol
Genre: Teen, Dystopian Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This is a frustrating 4 stars for me because it should be 5. Secondborn is a wonderful dystopian teen novel that belongs alongside Divergent, Hunger Games and the Maze Runner; up until it shatters itself for no good reason.
Amy A. Bartol does a really good job of setting up her dystopian society (though a poor job of explaining why society is that way but I can overlook this miss) and helping us to understand the hierarchy of firstborn, secondborn and (god forbid) third or less born. She illustrates imaginative buildings that if shown on the silver screen would be gorgeous; and all the while keeping your attention because she shows us things instead of telling us. Our lead gal is strong, interesting, if a little consistent sometimes (but aren't we all?).
It all seems to be coming together beautifully. A villain is introduced, family dynamics are a mess and friends plus a romantic interest show up and things are really clicking. There's action that develops the characters forward and a lot of plot, but it's all easily understood.
And then Bartol makes a CRITICAL MISTAKE, that nearly ruins the whole book for me.
She takes this wonderfully set-up, moving forward group of people and jumps forward one year. Which means, we have to assume the relationships have grown (including the romance between lead gal and boy), catch up on politics, hear in passing about momentous battles and just assume the development of everything. UGH!
So, what should have happened?
This first book in the series should have ended with the major event that happens shortly after the year break. Having the story in that year be fleshed out and relationships developed would have been perfect. Then when our major event happens it would have everyone dying for book 2.
It's a calculated error, if you will, because I get that the time jump allows more exciting things to transpire in this book. But plot moving forward at the risk of the world and characters you've built is the wrong choice here.
Bartol has a compelling writing style. It did occur to me a few times that maybe the flow of the story was inconsistent; but by no means did it stop me from picking up the book.
I'm sorry to give this book only 4 stars but the gap in time just killed the momentum for me and makes all the relationship things that happen after it difficult to believe because I felt like it just skipped ahead and nothing felt genuine. I want to believe in the live and devotion these characters developed during that one year but I wish I had experienced it myself.
I will read book 2, but I think I'll always mourn that missing year. Maybe to fix the hole Bartol can write a novella to bridge the gap...
This would make a wonderful book club book for groups that like to take on tough and morally subjective topics.
There is not really one major character per say in The Last Days of Summer. Although certainly out leads are a brother who just got out of jail, a conflicted sister over her familial obligation and said sisters two daughters.
Of all the things that stick out in Vanessa Ronan's prose; it's certainly that the youngest daughter is the person we all wish we could be as adults. Innocent, trusting, and compassionate. I love her line:
"Everyone should have a friend"
I want to say that after reading this book I believe it's true that everyone should have a friend. That all human beings are valuable in their own way; but it's hard to really believe that.
There are so many themes to discuss here from: faith, prayer, forgiveness, innocence and home.
- Do you have the right to return home after being in prison?
- Do you deserve a friend no matter what?
- Are there ever ways to gain forgiveness for heinous acts?
Ultimately for me this book is about what we as humans deserve. Do we all deserve to be happy? Do we deserve to ever have comforts if we've done certain things? And does anyone ever deserve to be treated in a different way?
Fair warning there are awful crimes described and that play out in this book. If you are squeamish or avoid some of the nasty things in our world then this book is not for you.
But if you believe we can learn from all acts, responses and thoughts of a child then I believe you will walk away from The Last Days of Summer with lots to think about and discuss with others if you choose to.
I'm rounding up to 4 stars from 3.5. I think Cat Winters has a wonderful writing style. It's immersive, creepy and fits the 1900's time period perfectly. For this reason alone I will read more of her books (Odd & True was my first of hers). I also commend Winters for putting a disabled main character in an old setting where being disabled makes you expendable. Tru is a character that I think a lot of people will relate to and desperately want to be like. Which is only a good thing.
This book is really a study in setting mood and developing characters. If you want plot you've come to the wrong place. Almost nothing happens in this book until the last 20%. I found this disappointing as the blurb certainly made it sound far more interesting and exciting. The blurb should probably have said something about how the monsters might be physical or emotional and Tru needs to be prepared for secrets to come to the forefront. Because a lot of this book is just revealing family baggage that isn't necessarily monster hunting related at all.
Now 3.5 stars might feel like a high rating for a book with no plot. But honestly I can say the mood of the book was truly wonderful. I'm kind of hoping Winters has a sequel planned and I'll be one of the first in line to read it. The ending is a pretty good payoff but I think a lot of people may DNF long before they get there as the substance is really missing for most of the story. So if you can stick it out to the end you'll likely walk away somewhat satisfied; but I wouldn't judge anyone who chooses to give up on this one.
If you know nothing (except maybe the rhyme) about Lizzie Borden go ahead and read this right away. You'll likely find it an intriguing little murder mystery.
If you are obsessed with Lizzie then read this; as I'm sure Sarah Schmidt's take will interest you.
If you know some about Lizzie and the Borden's (watched a documentary or two, like me) then I recommend you read a bit further before deciding if this book is for you.
Certain this is Sarah Schmidt's interpretation of the history many know so well, and that's okay. However that's what you have to remember while you read. This is a Schmidt's interpretation of the evidence (or lack thereof), cast of characters, etc.
I was disappointed that none of Lizzie's trial or those facts that are known from it were truly shared. I'd have liked to know what Schmidt thought Lizzie experienced in jail. However, it may have made it so that it wasn't as ambiguous about who the killer may have been by the end. So I can accept why she didn't delve into this; even if I really wanted her to.
The flow of the story and timeline was a bit of a challenge for me. I felt it was sometimes difficult to realize what events were before the killings, after and in the far future. The dates at the front of chapters didn't help me much as they weren't always adhered to and as an ebook version I couldn't easily flip back to reacquaint myself with the dates.
My opinion on who killed the Borden's has not changed after reading See What I Have Done. I'm not sure Schmidt intends to change anyone's mind which is just fine. That said, I can't deny that Schmidt gave me an explanation to all the questions and odd moments in this historical event. And she strategically leaves it up to the reader to decide if they accept her version of events or not. I do not accept her version of the event 100%; but it certainly gave me some things to think about.
It's official: How to Make a Wish is the first book I've EVER read that portrays a bisexual girl in a realistic and understood way.
I've struggled in my life, a lot, to even figure out if (given I have a husband) it matters that I'm also attracted to girls. Ashley Herring Blake has reminded this 34-year-old that is most certainly does. Not because it makes me special, but because it's part of what makes me, me! You may think this is a silly thing to say but I think it's easy to loose track of who we are and not just who everyone else thinks we are.
Quite often I struggle with contemporary "summer" young adult reads. They are either too annoying, too sappy or poorly written. This book is none of these things. It's a very fast read that is poignant, beautiful and yet totally plausible.
The ex-boyfriend, the crazed mom, the dead mom, the best friend, the town, the lighthouse, the beach and even the summer job are all elements in the story that fit together nicely. The situations, scenarios and people are real. I wonder if Blake didn't base some of them on real people.
Overall the biggest things to know about How to Make a Wish are:
1) a gorgeous bisexual relationship emerges,
2) death and neglect are the major themes;
but both these things are secondary to the major message which is: be sure to make a wish for something you can control and then work hard to make that wish come true.
This is my first foray into the writing of Charlie N. Holmberg. The Paper Magician is patiently waiting on my overfilled TBR print bookshelf. After reading The Fifth Doll it is definitely moving closer to the top!
Fifth Doll is a solid read. Good characters, interesting unique plot, and a love interest/romance that was just enough for me. The magic in it is clever and yet felt very natural. I think often times when we can't put a finger on why we didn't like a magical system it's because it's illogical or unnatural. Holmberg certainly understands how most people think and keeps his magic inside a realm we can all easily understand and appreciate.
There is a constant tension and step-up of the plot in a way that keeps you turning pages. I was never once bored or annoyed with the general story. Certainly I cheered on the obvious romantic interest, as everyone likely will, and am frustrated when I doesn't play out "perfectly". But this I also liked because it's more like real life. Pieces rarely fall into place in the way you expect them to.
Overall, The Fifth Doll is a solid read. You won't go wrong gifting it to a teen 13 or older (maybe even a bit younger if the child is an advanced reader). It's got some intense moments but they are not inappropriate at all. Just moments that are dark enough to keep a teen reading but nothing too offensive that parents would frown at.
Alternatively if you are like me and an adult that loves teen books I believe that you will at least be moderately pleased with this read. It's not the best book of the year but it's certainly worth a place on my shelf and I have no trouble recommending it.
Author: Lucy Hounson
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
Did Not Finish (DNF) @ 54%
The best way to describe this book is that it is a hot mess. It goes from a possible dystopian fantasy, to a possible quest based fantasy, to (what it actually is) epic fantasy.
Now maybe you're thinking, ohhh that sounds elaborate and I love elaborate. So do I. Except that when you build a new elaborate world you absolutely MUST build characters alongside it that your readers are dying to read about. At no time did I ever feel like I was drawn into this world or was excited about reading more of it. In fact it was the opposite, I dreaded picking it up.
There are three major mistakes made in Starborn:
1) Very poor characterizations. I did not hate our lead girl but I certainly didn't like her. The two travelling companions that she goes with could have been super mysterious and interesting, but instead they had stilted dialogue and just no chemistry with each other or our lead gal.
2) Plot. You must make me want to keep reading. This (generally) requires plot. There needs to be something drawing us into the story that is moving it forwards. Instead in Starborn things happen that are random, make no sense and seem to happen because it's convenient. A huge pet peeve of mine is when there is no flow to the story and things seem to happen because the author needed them to happen instead of them fitting into the story and plot.
3) Writing. While the last couple chapters I read actually had some good writing and dialogue going on; during the first 45% of Starborn it feels like Lucy Hounsom is finding her writing style and therefore it's all over the place (a hot mess). I'm shocked that TOR didn't work on this more and allowed it to be published as is.
Now I know what you're thinking, but Mel if you stopped reading just as the writing was improving how do you the rest of the book isn't great?
The thing is I just don't care. Our lead gal is inconsistent and does things not because they fit her as a character but because they need to happen. Random people show up with no real purpose or semblance of reason. The world building is just strange (ancient superstition, magic, tribal living, then airships, large cities, etc); it's like Hounson couldn't decide what kind of world she was building so she threw everything into it. I could go on but let's face it I'm just repeating myself.
Maybe if this book had started at the 40% with a short prologue or flashbacks to tell the first 40% of the story in a quick fashion I would have felt differently. But I just wasn't willing to force myself to pick this book up and pretend to care any longer than the 54% I read.
DNF @ 53%
This is book 2 of a series. I read book 1 and it was just okay. So when I started reading this book I was hoping for more. Instead what I got was the exact same set-up and story. The only difference is our lead lady is already in the past and doesn't travel there.
I suppose this is why I don't read a lot of murder mystery as the murder cases themselves rarely keep my attention. It's the people and the happenings around them that does.
For the second time this year a time traveling book has annoyed me by how little the main character seems to want to go home. It's mentioned in passing once or twice about her thinking about going home (and she makes one 'attempt' near the beginning of the book); but overall it just feels like she's not too concerned about it.
This really bugs me. if Gabaldon got anything right with Outlander it's that at least Claire had a major desire to go home for a long time!
Overall if you love the whodunnit part and don't mind a Victorian setting you might like this. Otherwise I'd pass, skip and jump to something else.
I suppose I get the appeal of this book. It's cute, has fairly realistic characters and a few clever little lines and anecdotes.
Here's the thing, the true bookish girl wouldn't ever have a makeover and suddenly be appealing and popular. Sorry but this just doesn't happen in real life. Nor would she, before the makeover, be left alone (no bullying) as she appears to be. What I wouldn't have given to be invisible like that in high school.
It's a cute book about a girl who loves books and uses them to become more popular, outgoing and get some boys. But let's be honest, the Hunger Games and Divergent are probably not giving our teens the kind of advice that is easily translated to their real life, technology driven lives.
Now, if I was 13 or 14 (and not mid-30a) and reading Bookishly Ever After, I could see myself becoming obsessed with the other stories besides the main one. There are snippets of the books our lead gal loves throughout. As they are in no real order I could see myself figuring out the order, how many books are "quoted" and putting those together.
In fact I'd have rather read any of fictional books that are referenced than the book I was reading!
Maybe Isabel Bandiera will write those books instead of more in this series.
Overall I'm going to read second book because I have it already and maybe the story and characters improve...?
Title: The Amber Shadows
Author: Lucy Ribchester
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
It's easy to forget that during war times that danger doesn't always come from the enemy. I think I've maybe taken for granted in historical fiction about either of the Great Wars that the enemy is usually clear and obvious. Lucy Ribchester does a superb job of reminding us that isn't always the case.
Not only are there spies to watch out for but also those who would be nefarious no matter what was happening around them.
I don't read lots of mystery books. Usually the ones I do have historical, sci-if or fantasy settings. So I will confess I'm easily fooled by a good mystery. And yet I'd like to think I'm not completely stupid (lol). So when I got towards the end of The Amber Shadows and realized I had gotten it all wrong, I was genuinely surprised. I believe this is because Ribchester has very persuasive writing. Each time I delved into the story I felt like I was in the mind of our lead gal and so believed what she believed; whilst she typed encrypted messages in an enigma calibrated typewriter. I won't lie, as much as Ribchester reminds us of how harsh and awful war times are (even for those not fighting on the front lines), it all held a little bit of magic for me. How exciting it must have been at times to decide the message that saves a ship, town or supply run from being bombed.
Yes I realize that is my very naive self falling into the trap of believing that another time besides my own might have been better. Let's face it, this is why so many of us read and wish to travel back in time or to dangerous unknown worlds; for the simple reason that it's not in the here and now.
I really don't want to say anything more about the content of the story as it might take away from the intrigue as it plays out.
I will say if you enjoy cryptic, coded, intrigue stories you are bound to like this one. But you're also likely to enjoy it if you like historical fiction in general. Ribchester does a good job of setting the scene of WWII whilst telling us a story that will make you wonder what is truth and what is deception.