Saturday, November 29, 2014

High Stakes by John McEvoy

First off let me just preface this by saying I have not ready any of the other Jack Doyle mysteries. This is my first one. But I absolutely love the fact that it takes place in the Chicagoland area since that is where I grew up. I loved reading about places I had either been to before or places I have heard of. The familiarity definitely drew me to this book. While I’m not a huge horse fan, I do find them to be beautiful creatures and I enjoyed this book’s twist on murder mystery with the murder being that of retired horses.

I also thought it was really interesting that in the first chapter we witness a murder taking place and the suspect is narrowed down and revealed to be female. At times the changing perspectives could be confusing, but after a paragraph or two, I always got right back into the action of the story. The writing was good in this book, it seemed to be a good mix of description and matter-of-fact statements. This style worked well with the genre and plot.

Jack Doyle is an interesting “detective” if you can even call him that. He just has a way of understanding what is going on and in this case, he knows people in the business and that is what allows him to figure it all out. This book kept me guessing up until the end. And it still surprised me how it all worked out. I also really enjoyed the Chicago humor in the Epilogue.

*I received an ARC of this book from Poisoned Pen Press in exchange for an honest review*

✶ ✶ ✶ and 1/2 Stars

Friday, November 28, 2014

Book Haul #4- Black Friday

I went to the used book stored today and picked up 6 books for $15, plus I have a BookOutlet order coming eventually, but here are the 6 books I got today!
  • B&N Leatherbound Classic of The Scarlet Letter
  • The Trylle Series Box Set by Amanda Hocking
  • Let The Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger
  • The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Barefoot Queen by Ildefonso Falcones

First off, I just want to say that I was really looking forward to this book. It takes place in 18th Century Spain. It is about two female protagonists and their struggles in Spain. However, I was disappointed in how the book played out. The beginning of the book is filled with countless acts of harassment both against Caridad and Milagros. And while I’m not completely familiar with Spanish culture in the 18th Century. I am aware of their stance on women. However, I’m not sure it was necessary to have the countless acts depicted the way they were in this book. Reading about it make be incredibly uncomfortable. And I while many books due this to allow the reader to understand what the characters are going through, in this case it was too much for me.

This is also an incrediblely long book, it is over 600 pages. It took a while for the plot of the story to play out. But we quickly met Caridad and Milagros and they quickly met each other. The writing in this book was powerful and the book as a whole was extremely well written. I enjoyed the friendship between Milagros and Caridid, however aspects of the plot and violence within the story bothered me, making this a less than enjoyable read.

*I received this book from BloggingForBooks in exchange for an honest review*

✶ ✶ Stars

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

I'm going to marathon through this trilogy this week, so this review is going to be short. I'm going to do a full review of the trilogy when I finish, but wanted to get some basic thoughts out.

First, I just want to comment on how great this cover is with the mirror images of who I assume is Sophie. It is really great showing the good and the bad side.
The writing was meh for me, but I really enjoyed the characters and the world. I feel like Hawkins could have built up the world a little more, but I guess she has two more books for that. I also really wanted to meet Sophie's Dad, but I guess that can't happen yet. Hopefully I don't have too wait long.

This book had a lot of plot twists and I didn't not see a single one coming. Each one was a surprise. That being said I'm looking forward to continue to see where this is going.

✶ ✶ ✶ and 1/2 Stars

Thursday, November 20, 2014

White Hot Kiss by Jennifer L. Armentrout

After finishing Cruel Beauty last night I was really in the mood for another demon book. That lead me to White Hot Kiss. A book about demons and gargoyles which is fantastic. I have read the first three books in the Lux series and absolutely love Jennifer L. Armentrout’s humor and writing style. White Hot Kiss did not disappoint. This book was filled with the same witty banter between characters and the humor I enjoyed in the Lux series.

This book was also way fluffier than other books I’ve read recently. While this book wasn’t complete fluff, it was still a much happier book. Roth and Layla are great together and I loved watching them grow from enemies to something much more. The dynamic between the two of them was great and I really need more of it. With how White Hot Kiss ended, I’m not sure what is to come in the second one, Stone Cold Touch, but I look forward to picking that book up in the near future.

Overall, this was an enjoyable quick read for me. I loved the demon aspect plus the whole Warden vs. Demon, not to mention the apocalypse thing. This book was definitely better than I was expecting, especially given the cover. But the dynamic between the characters and the writing really helped move the narrative along.

✶ ✶ ✶ ✶ Stars

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

This book was exactly what I needed right now, a paranormal fairy tale. Cruel Beauty is a Beauty and the Beast retelling with demons. Basically two of my favorite things, I absolutely love the Beauty and the Beast story. It is a great love story about looking within. And this particular novel added demons. There is just something about demons that always get me. I’m not really sure what it is, and I’m sure Supernatural has something to do with my slight obsession.

The beginning of this book was a little bit confusing with respect to the curse and how it tied in with the fairy tale, but as we learned more about both Arcadia and the Gentle Lord/Ignifex, I understood the retelling aspect a lot better. And while this is a retelling, it goes beyond the source material and creates a universe that I utterly enjoyed.

Ignifex is a new favorite when it comes to characters. He was cunning, haunting, and obviously very good at getting what he wants. His characterization was great. The books starts out depicting him as this cruel, very black-and-white character, but as the story unfolds we see all the layers and complexities to his character. Plus there is his shadow, Shade. Shade was an interesting character for me, I really hated him at the beginning, since I was a strong proponent of Ignifex and Nyx. But understanding Shade’s past helped. As for Nyx’s character, she had always been groomed to marry Ignifex and destroy him, and as expected, learns there is more to the curse than originally thought.

I thought Hodge did a beautiful job creating the universe and retelling the classic Beauty and the Beast story with her own twists. Hodge has beautiful writing that just pulls you into the story. And the last part of the book was extremely well written. The book reached a whole new level at the end with the forklore and mythology.

After I started this book, I could not put it down and was dead set on finding out what happened to the characters I had just met. I’m sad that this is a standalone, even though Crimson Bound is in the same universe. I wish I got more Ignifex and Nyx. But I do feel like the book ended perfectly, without diving too far into the future after the plot of the story had played out.

✶ ✶ ✶ ✶ and 1/2 Stars

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander

Like many books nowadays, this book is told with dual perspectives. However this book is unique in that it has dual timelines as well as more that the typical two perspectives. We get Jack’s, Edwards’s, Sadie’s, and Felix’s perspectives throughout the book. The book also involves multiple genres. You have the mystery with the dead girls, even though that is solved quite early in the book, but you also have the mystery of Elizabeth’s death and who is following Jack. Alexander also adds magic to this pot leaving you with the story that is The Secrets of Life and Death.

I really enjoyed this book. I loved the different aspects of it and the multitude of perspectives the reader got due to the various POVs throughout the book. This made the book enjoyable and kept the reader way more informed with what was happening. This was also a good book for me due to it’s historical references. I tend to shy away from historical fiction books because they typically fail to keep my attention, but this one had the added fantasy aspect that really helped keep my interest.

The writing in the books was also amazing. I really enjoyed the way Alexander introduced characters and I loved her descriptions. She pulled you into the story and portrayed the characters perfectly. I felt connected to the characters as they tried to figure out what was happening now to Jack, while examining what happened in the past to Elizabeth.

Overall, I really appreciated this book. It was an enjoyable historical, mystery, and fantasy book. Alexander was able to build magic into our world and keep it believable.

*I received this book from BloggingForBooks in exchange for an honest review*

✶ ✶ ✶ and 1/2 Stars

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Top 5 Wednesday- Couples

  1. Chaol and Celaena from the Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas
  2. Snape and Hermione from the Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling (I don't even care that it isn't cannon).
  3. Ryan Dean and Annie from Winger by Andrew Smith
  4. Tris and Four from the Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth
  5. Mara and Noah from the Mara Dyer Trilogy by Michelle Hodkin

Splintered by A.G. Howard

As I’m sure you have guessed by now, this is another book that I totally judged by the cover. But I was not disappointed at all by the actual book. It was great. I loved the Alice in Wonderland connection but I also appreciated Howard’s own take on the world. While I loved Alyssa and Jeb as characters, Morpheus wins it all for me. He is absolutely amazing and I love his characterization. He is just so obnoxious but also completely lovable at the same time. I may be in the minority with this, but I loved each and every scene with him. And his interactions with Alyssa were great, the teasing, the tension, and just the overall way he approached things with her. And you could argue that many of his choices were despicable, and he was often quite cruel, but I think his actions and his heart were in the right place.

As I got further and further into the book and you learned more about the curse on Alyssa’s family all because of what Alice had done to Wonderland, you got a better understanding of some of the choices Alison had made to protect her daughter. Alyssa was determined to do whatever she could to protect her mom and destroy the curse. I think having Jeb come along was a way to protect Alyssa from going completely head-first into the battle with little to no concern. It also kept her somewhat grounded as she realized how similar she was to the people of Wonderland and just how well she actually fit in if she thought about it. At first Alyssa’s blind faith and love in Jeb really bothered me, (probably because I hated his girlfriend so much). Even now after finishing the book and knowing everything, I’m still not really sure how I feel about that. Plus my obsession with Morpheus definitely influenced my views.

As for the actual plot of the story, after Morpheus explained the “curse”, it was pretty clear what needed to be done to “save” Wonderland. And like with all things, it was easier said than done. I thought the plot progressed realistically and I don’t have many problems with the way things progressed. And I was completely surprised by the twist at the end. I didn’t even have a small inkling that it was even possible. That unpredictable twist allowed me to enjoy the book even more than I already was.

Overall, this was a solid first installment in the trilogy and I cannot wait to find out what Alyssa, Jeb, and Morpheus get up to in the next two books.

✶ ✶ ✶ ✶ and 1/2 Stars

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

We again have another favorite book. I was highly anticipating the release of this book and that was mostly due to the cover. Word cannot describe how stunning this cover is. It is even better in person and having the physical book. But this book was so much more awesome than the cover made me think it was. I was not disappointed in any aspect. The one flaw in the book and it is minimal, is the fact that I was able to predict a small detail that we learn at the end.

The writing and descriptions in this book were great. Claudia Gray has a very unique and intriguing way to draw you into the story. The way she described all the science in the book was great. She was descriptive and went in depth, but at the same time she would add humor to it to fit with Marguerite’s lack of science understanding. I loved the way everything was introduced and explained in the different universes. Even when the universe was very similar to Marguerite’s real home, we always knew what the differences were. Having Marguerite be an artist who focuses on detail was very important in regard to this story. The narrator needed to be someone who was detail-oriented but who also had a very limited understanding of physics. The whole basis of other universe travel was based on physics and using equations to understand why things happened.

Paul Markov was a very complex character who we knew very little about, however as the story went on we learned more about his life and his interactions with Marguerite. I loved the little flashbacks throughout the book that gave you a better understanding of why it was so shocking that Paul could kill Marguerite’s father and destroy all the data and leave.

There were many twists and turns in this book that set many things up for the next book and the rest of the series. I appreciate that Claudia Gray didn’t leave us with a huge cliffhanger because that is just cruel, but she still has me beyond anxious to read the next one and find out what they are going to do to stop the villain, (not naming him because spoilers). I also tried really hard to not finish this book right away, but I didn't accomplish that very well. The book came out Tuesday, and it is Saturday and I have already finished it.

Overall, this was an amazing start to a new series. It contained so many elements of what I appreciate in a book, there was the science aspect, the whole fantasy, multiple universes aspect, the humor, and of course the romance. The cover of this book is just as amazing as the actual book. And it is going to look great on my favorites shelf.

✶ ✶ ✶ ✶ ✶ Stars

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

In honor of Retribution coming out tomorrow, I decided to read this so that I can read Retribution right away. The book was better and crazier than the first. After the first, I felt like I had a good grip on what was happening in the book and the series as a whole, but this book completely obliterated all that. I'm currently sitting here in shock because I have no idea what to expect in the final book of the trilogy. I can say that I'm super excited to read it.

The book set up what I expect to be an amazing conclusion to the trilogy. Michelle Hodkin's writing style is amazing and I absolutely love the whole unreliable narrator aspect of the story. We have no idea if we can trust Mara or if anything she is telling us is true. One minute she thinks someone is terrorizing her then we find out that she did it herself. But then there are other times where her suspicions appear to be real. This book has so many twists and turns that right now I don't even have any theories for what could possibly happen in the final book.

I'm also really glad that I was able to wait until the day before Retribution came out to read this book and that I was never spoiled. So now I only have to wait a few days to find out what is really happening in this trilogy.

5/5 Stars

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

This book is amazing and definitely ranks in the top tier of what I’ve read this year. Kestrel and Arin’s story is enticing and pulls you right in. There are so many nuances and intricacies to the world that Rutkoski has built. The history of the Valorians and the Herrans is fantastic and captivating. Rutkoski blends politics, revolution, and history together with the story of Arin and Kestrel to create this novel.

The characters alone in this novel are so intricate and have so many layers they shape who they are. Kestrel and Arin both have countless reasons for their actions and have many difficult choices to make as the novel progresses. Other than Kestrel and Arin, the side characters are just as intriguing. The romance is a large part of this novel, but it didn’t take central stage which I appreciated. It was more of a friendship that blossomed into something more.

I felt like the beginning of this book was a little weak as Rutkoski built the world and set the stage for the Revolution. But that did not diminish my love of the book at all. Lots of books need time to explain the world and build up what is going to happen. Once the revolution happened, the pace picked up and the twists and turns began. There were so many times throughout this book where Arin or Kestrel’s choices were unexpected. I was convinced they were going to do one thing and then they would do something else entirely.

Overall, this was an amazing read and I cannot wait to read more about Kestrel and Arin and the aftermath of the revolution. This book pulled me right in and I couldn’t stop reading it. I’m not really sure how this book should be classified, it definitely has elements of historical fiction, but there is a fantasy feel as well. Regardless, I would recommend this book to anyone that wants a book with true intrigue, drama, and action.

5/5 Stars

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

First let me just say this book is absolutely gorgeous. The cover is amazing with the two hands reaching towards each other, and the tiny little gold stars scattered in the sky. But the best part is the page edges they are gold. It is beautiful with the gold accents on the cover.

This book is very different then what I would typically read. I tend to stick to fantasy, paranormal, and dystopian. But The Book of Strange New Things has qualities of my typical read. There is the sci-fi aspect since the Oasis is in space and whatnot. However, the faith part of the book is new to me. I have never read a book with faith such a strong theme in the book.

Peter and Bea are devout Christians and it is his faith that leads Peter to travel with USIC to Oasis as the preacher. Peter leaves Bea and their cat Jonathan behind. When Peter gets to Oasis everything seems to fall apart. Faber created an interesting world between Earth and Oasis. The added theme of faith really made this book unique.

I have to admit this book wasn’t quite my cup of tea. It was a little too faith heavy to me. But I’m glad I read it since it opened my eyes to other genres and I have always said I should always try every genre at least once. Since I didn’t really enjoy this book, I can’t give it more than a couple stars. But I do commend it for incorporating two topics that typically don’t get put together, space and religion.

* I received this book from BloggingForBooks in exchange for an honest review*

2.5/5 Stars
 The concept and the beautiful writing is what raised it from a 2 to a 2.5.

Wake by Amanda Hocking

I’ve been on a little bit of a mermaid kick recently. Anna Banks’s Syrena Legacy is amazing. And I’ve had Wake for awhile now and finally decided I needed to read another mermaid (yes this one is technically sirens, but same idea) book. I enjoyed the alternating perspectives between Harper and Gemma. It was amusing how different but yet similar the sisters were. It was informative to see everything from Gemma’s perspective as she learned about what she had become and to see things from Harper’s perspective as she saw her sister change and saw other people’s reactions to that change.

I also enjoyed watching their different relationships unfold. I have to say I absolutely loved Daniel’s character. He is that obnoxious boy who always annoyed Harper until she gets to known him better (AKA typical bad-boy in YA novels). And Alex is such a sweet guy and I absolutely loved him and Gemma together.As for the mythology aspect of this novel, I loved the back-story we got from Penn, Lexi, and Thea about sirens and the Demeter’s curse. I also liked that it wasn’t until half way through the book that we learned about the sirens.

One thing that really bothered me in this book was the fact that Gemma and Harper referred to the Dad as Brian. During dialogue he was Dad but everywhere else he was Brian. It was just weird. They did the same thing when they met their Mom, Nathalie. It was just awkward and I’m not really sure if their was any benefit to it being that way.

Overall, this was a fun read and a great introduction to the series. I adored Hocking’s writing style and the way she pulled you into the story. I liked that Hocking built up Capri and Gemma and Harper’s lives before she introduced the Siren aspect and the troubles that lie ahead. The ending seemed a little rushed, but I liked the fast-paced aspect of the book.

3/5 Stars

October 2014 Wrap-Up/November 2014 TBR

October was a bit of a slow month for me. School definitely became more time consuming for me. Hockey also started which gave me less time to read. But I still read 14 books.

In order of reading:
  1. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
  2. J by Howard Jacobson
  3. Winger by Andrew Smith
  4. The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black
  5. Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick
  6. Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
  7. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  8. The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
  9. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  10. Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
  11. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  12. The Jewel by Amy Ewing
  13. Firstborn by Lorie Ann Grover
  14. The Luxe by Anna Godbersen
I'm currently in the middle of The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber.

As for my November TBR, for the most part I'm attempting to read the books I own that I have not read yet. For sure reads are:
  1. A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray (cannot wait for this one to come on Tuesday)
  2. City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare (finally going to get around to reading this one).
  3. 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith (I love Andrew Smith so I'm going to continue reading all his books)
  4. We are the Destroyers by DK Lindler (I got this one from the publisher to review)