Friday, July 21, 2017

Wintersong - Review

Title:   Wintersong
Author:   S.  Jae - Jones
Series:   Wintersong #1

Synopsis:  “Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.
     “All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King.  He is the Lord of Mischief the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed.  Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.
     “But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above.  The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go – for a price.  The life a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says.  Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow.  Without death, there can be no rebirth.  In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King.  He accepts.
     “Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her – musically, physically, emotionally.  Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride.  A the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.”

Review:  I loved the idea of this book more than the book itself.  Wintersong was marketed as a retelling of The Labyrinth, and it falls far short of that.  The only similarity between Wintersong and The Labyrinth that I could find is that there are goblins and a Goblin King and a girl who is trying to rescue someone from them.
     The characterization is well done.  The characters are fully fleshed out, and the world building is very well done.  However the story itself is terribly boring and predictable.  Here’s the story in a nutshell: boy and girl were childhood playmates.  Boy turns out to be Goblin King.  He kidnaps her sister.  Girl exchanges herself for her sister.  Girl and Goblin King resist their feelings for each other.  Then they have sex.  Girl is suddenly more than she was before.  He falls in love with her and lets her go.  Seriously?  Surely we can come up with better stories?  Aside from how boring I thought it was I think what bothers me the most is the use of sex as the catalyst to Liesl’s sudden “awakening”.  This is a book meant for young adults and we are telling them that having sex with your kidnapper will change your life?  Sex is great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not life changing; and having sex with someone who is holding you captive is just disturbing.  I recommend skipping this one and reading something else instead.

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Skip this one and check these out instead:

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Unfiction - Review

Title:  Unfiction
Author:  Gene Doucette

Synopsis:  “When Oliver Naughton joins the Tenth Avenue Writers Underground, headed by literary wunderkind Wilson Knight, Oliver figures he’ll finally get some of his imaginings out of his head an onto paper.
     “But when Wilson takes an intense interest in Oliver’s writing and his genre stories of dragons, aliens, and spies, things get weird.  Oliver’s stories don’t just need to finished: they insist on it.
     “With the help of Minerva, Wilson’s girlfriend, Oliver has to find the connection between reality, fiction, the mythical Cydonian Kingdom, and the non-mythical nightclub called M Pallas.  That is, if he can survive the alien invasion, the ghosts, and the fact that he thinks he might be in love with Minerva.
     “Unfiction is a wild ride through the collision of science fiction, fantasy, thriller, horror and romance.  It’s what happens when one writer’s fiction interferes with everyone’s reality.”

Review:  Unfiction is a silly, fun read.  It didn’t require a lot of brain power to follow the plot and I was able to read it fairly quickly.  Even though this is a self published novel don’t be afraid. This is not your stereotypical self published novel.  The writing is strong.  World building is complete, the characters make sense (where they are supposed to), and the plot, while imaginative and silly, is complete.  I enjoyed the blend of genres and styles in Unfiction.  The idea behind the novel is kind of “what would happen if your writing came to life” and it was fun to read.  I’m planning to read more novels by Gene Doucette. 

**I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review via NetGalley.**

Publisher:  Gene Doucette

If you like this book you may want to read:

The Spaceship Next Door by Gene Doucette

Junkers by Benjamin Wallace

The Asylum of Dr. Caligari by James Morrow

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Roanoke Girls - Review

Title:  The Roanoke Girls
Author:  Amy Engel

Synopsis:  “After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas.  Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls.  But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.
     “Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing.  Did she run too?  Or something worse?  Unable to resist his please, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind.  Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer.  But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.
     “As it weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.”

Review:  This review will be short because with this type of book I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to ruin any surprises.  I was captivated by The Roanoke Girls after the first few pages.  It was creepy, terrifying, and disgusting.  I loved it.  I sort of had it figured out before we found out what the family secret was, but that didn’t make it any less horrifying.  There is the potential for some confusion as the story jumps back and forth in time, but after the first couple of times I became more comfortable with it and stopped being confused.  I highly recommend The Roanoke Girls for fans of psychological thrillers. 
**I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review via NetGalley.**

Publisher:  Crown

If you like this book you may want to read:

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

Sunday, July 16, 2017

H2O - Review

Title: H2O
Author:   Virginia Bergin
Series:  The Rain #1

Synopsis:  “They don’t believe it at first.  Crowded in Zach’s kitchen, Ruby and the rest of the partygoers laugh at Zach’s parents’ frenzied push to get them all inside as it starts to drizzle.  But then the radio comes on with the warning, “It’s in the rain!  It’s fatal, it’s contagious, and there’s no cure.”
    “Two weeks later, Ruby is alone.  Anyone who’s been touched by rain or washed their hands with tap water is dead.  The only drinkable water is quickly running out.  Ruby’s only chance for survival is a treacherous hike across the country to find her father – if he’s even still alive”

Review:  This book was a very different take on the classic apocalypse story.  There have been stories of stuff in the rain before, but not quite like this.  I felt a connection with Ruby; I would be very concerned with trapped and helpless pets as well. I’ve wondered before, when contemplating apocalyptic scenarios, what would happen to people’s pets when so many people die in such a short time frame. 
H2O made me laugh, and it made me cry.  I became very emotionally involved in Ruby’s struggle to find her father.  I’ve read some other reviews that complained about Ruby pushing people away and about her changing moods.  Ummm… She’s a teenager who has just been through an extremely traumatic event.  I would like to see you remain level headed and emotionally stable after losing everyone and everything you loved.  Ignore those reviews; the reviewers clearly aren’t thinking clearly themselves.  I highly recommend H2O for fans of YA dystopian and apocalyptic novels. 

Publisher:   Sourcebooks Fire

If you like this book you may want to read:

The Storm (The Rain #2) by Virginia Bergin

The 5th Wave (read BookGirlR’s review here) by Rick Yancey

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Caught Dead Handed - Review

Title:  Caught Dead Handed
Author:  Carol J. Perry
Series:  Witch City Mystery #1

Synopsis:  “Most folks associate the city of Salem, Massachusetts with witches, but for Lee Barrett, it’s home.  This October she’s returned to her hometown – where her beloved Aunt Ibby still lives – to interview for a job as a reporter at WICH – TV.  But the only opening is for a call-in psychic to host the late night horror movies.  It seems the previous host, Ariel Constellation, never saw her own murder coming.
     “Lee reluctantly takes the job, but when she starts seeing real events in the obsidian ball she’s using as a prop, she wonders if she night really have psychic abilities.  To make things even spookier, it’s starting to look like Ariel may have been an actual practicing witch – especially when O’Ryan, the cat Lee and Aunt Ibby inherited from her, exhibits some strange powers of his own.  With Halloween fast approaching, Lee must focus on unmasking a killer – or her career as a psychic may be very short lived…”

Review:  I have a weakness for cozy mysteries involving cats, coffee, or the paranormal.  I call it my guilty pleasure, and for a long time I was embarrassed by it because cozies have a reputation for being fluffy or silly and for being full of clichés.  Well, yeah, that’s kind of true.  But I still enjoy them.  Sometimes it’s nice to read something you don’t have to think too much about. 
     Caught Dead Handed is a fun bit of fluff.  I enjoyed the characters, especially the cat, O’Ryan.  I think it would be fun to be a call-in psychic hosting late night horror movies on television.  Lee and Aunt Ibby are likable characters.  With a cozy you are pretty much guaranteed that everything will wrap up nicely in the end, and your favorite characters will be okay, but I was still compelled to stay up late to finish and find out what was going to happen.  I look forward to reading the rest of the series. 

Publisher:  Kensington

If you like this book you may want to read:

Tails You Lose (Witch City Mystery #2) by Carol J. Perry

A Familiar Tail (Witch’s Cat Mystery #1) by Delia James

Secondhand Spirits (A Witchcraft Mystery #1) Juliet Blackwell

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Lady of Ashes - Review

Title:  Lady of Ashes
Author:  Christine Trent
Series:  Lady of Ashes #1

Synopsis:  “In 1861 London, Violet Morgan is struggling to establish a good reputation for the undertaking business that her husband has largely abandoned.  She provides comfort for the grieving, advises them on funeral fashion and etiquette, and arranges funerals.
     “Unbeknownst to his wife, Graham, who has nursed a hatred of America since his grandfather soldiered for Great Britain in the War of 1812, becomes involved in a scheme to sell arms to the South.  Meanwhile, Violet receives the commission of a lifetime: undertaking the funeral for a friend of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  But her position remains precarious, especially when Graham disappears and she begins investigating a series of deaths among the poor.  And the closer she gets to the truth, the greater the danger for them both…”

Review:  I really enjoyed Lady of Ashes.  There aren’t many novels out there about undertakers, much less a female undertaker in Victorian England.  Trent’s character building and world description was well done.  The descriptions of Victorian funeral practices, and etiquette was fascinating.   Violet is a likable heroine and I couldn’t help but feel for her.  I hated Graham and truly felt throughout the novel that Violet would be better off without him, despite her being a woman in a male dominated society. 
      I don’t read a lot of mysteries, because I can always guess what is going to happen and get bored.  Lady of Ashes was a perfect blend of history, mystery and romance.  I did not get bored and even stayed up past my bedtime to finish, because I just HAD to find out what happened.  A big thank you to my Tattooed Cupcake for recommending this outstanding novel to me.  I can’t wait to read the next installment!

Publisher: Kensington

If you like this book you may want to read:

Stolen Remains (Lady of Ashes #2) by Christine Trent

Jackaby (Jackaby #1) by William Ritter

A Deadly Affection (Dr. Genevieve Summerford Mystery #1) by Cuyler  Overholt

Monday, May 29, 2017

River of Teeth - Review

Title:  River of Teeth
Author: Sarah Gailey
Series:  River of Teeth #1

Synopsis:  “In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source.  This is true.
     “Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.
     “This was a terrible plan.
     “Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe.  It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew.  It is the story of their fortunes.  It is the story of his revenge.”

Review:   This is an awesome novella.  I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a rollicking fun adventure.  You might have guessed this, but the hippo wranglers ride hippos like cowboys ride horses.  Yeah, they ride the hippos.  But wait, it gets better.  These hippo wranglers have been hired to clear out a bayou full of feral hippos.  Have you ever seen a video of an angry hippo?  They’re terrifying!  Here’s a video about hippos for those interested: start at 20:37 to watch a hippo attack.  Another awesome thing about River of Teeth is the inclusion of genderqueer/non-binary and bisexual characters.  Thank you Sarah Gailey for a fun romp through an alternate history.  I cannot wait for Taste of Marrow, the second in this series.  This is easily one of the best things I’ve read all year!

Publisher:  Tor

If you like this book you may want to read:

Taste of Marrow (River of Teeth #2) Sarah Gailey

A Natural History of Dragons (Memoir by Lady Trent #1) by Marie Brennan

Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi