Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mini-reviews: Made You Up by Francesca Zappia; Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith; Jeweled Fire by Sharon Shinn


Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
Rating: 5 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. This is a compelling and provoking literary debut that will appeal to fans of Wes Anderson, Silver Linings Playbook, and Liar.

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn't she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal. 

Funny, provoking, and ultimately moving, this debut novel featuring the quintessential unreliable narrator will have readers turning the pages and trying to figure out what is real and what is made up."

Mini-review: This debut was bloody fantastic.  This is the kind of unreliable narrator that I love reading about.  She's constantly trying to decipher what's real and what isn't, and so are we alongside her.  The mystery, therefore, was top notch.  This book is funny, bizarre, and ultimately really touching.  The characters are interesting, the plot keeps you on your toes, and the feeling when you walk away is deeply satisfying.  Highly recommended.

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Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
Rating: 4.25 stars
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Cormoran Strike is back, with his assistant Robin Ellacott, in a mystery based around soldiers returning from war.

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.  Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…

Career of Evil is the third in the series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A mystery and also a story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives."

Mini-reviewRobin remains an outstanding character (though she did make some frustrating decisions in this novel) and I loved how tightly plotted this book was. Strike is still brilliant and surly and intriguing, but I'm not sure he's good enough for Robin. Grievances: I had a hard time keeping the suspects straight for the first two hundred pages, and I NEEDED one more chapter in the end. Seriously. That ending killed me.

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Jeweled Fire by Sharon Shinn
Rating: 4.5 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "As one of the four princesses of Welce, Corene always thought she might one day become queen. Only circumstances changed, leaving fiery Corene with nothing to show for a life spent playing the game of court intrigue—until a chance arises to become the ruler of a nearby country.

After stowing away on a ship bound for Malinqua with her loyal bodyguard, Foley, Corene must try to win the throne by making a play to marry one of the empress’s three nephews. But Corene is not the only foreign princess in search of a crown.

Unaccustomed to being anyone’s friend, Corene is surprised to find companionship among her fellow competitors. But behind Malinqua’s beautiful facade lie many secrets.

The visiting princesses are more hostages than guests. And as the deadly nature of the court is revealed, Corene must rely on both her new allies and Foley’s unwavering protection—for the game she has entered is far more perilous than she ever imagined."

Mini-reviewReally, really good.  I love being back in this world.  This installment is more on par with Troubled Waters than Royal Airs, thankfully.  Great dialogue, varied and interesting characters, court intrigue, diversity, friendship, deadly plots, high stakes action, plus a little romance... this YA fantasy has everything I like and I loved reading it.  (Though I missed being in Welce.)

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Mini-reviews: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo; On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo; Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan


Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.
 

Kaz's crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first."


Mini-reviewNearly everything in this character driven story feels like a set up for the future books, which would be really annoying if I didn't like reading about these characters. Luckily I did, so the frequent flashbacks and build ups weren't insufferable. But still, I felt like this book was strangely boring for a heist story. The action took second place to the character bios, but what action there was was fantastic. You almost feel like Kaz and crew are fooling the readers along with everyone else, and I liked that Ocean Eleven-esque quality. So long as you can connect to these characters, you'll enjoy the book. If not, I'm afraid you won't. Happily, I did.

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On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo
Rating: 3 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "The infant management concepts presented in this book have found favor with over two million parents and twice as many contented babies. On Becoming Babywise brings hope to the tired and bewildered parents looking for an alternative to sleepless nights and fussy babies. The Babywise Parent Directed Feeding concept has enough structure to bring security and order to your baby's world, yet enough flexibility to give mom freedom to respond to any need at any time. It teaches parents how to lovingly guide their baby's day rather than be guided or enslaved to the infant's unknown needs. "

Mini-review: I read this because my son was very colicky for the first four months of his life, and I was utterly exhausted.  It didn't answer several of my questions, but I like the feed-wake-sleep idea. As with all parenting books, take what you like, leave what you don't.

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Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
Rating: 3.25 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?"

Mini-review: Meh.  It sometimes succeeded at that gothic slow-chill mystery thing, but most of the time I just wasn't really feeling it.  I have nothing against this story, it just wasn't my thing.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Weekly Words: L.M. Montgomery

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Mini-reviews: Crushed and Crossed by Eliza Crewe

***NOTE: There be some spoilers below for the first book in the series, Cracked.***

Crushed (Book #2 in the Soul Eater Series) by Eliza Crewe
Rating: 4.5 stars
Source: Purchased 
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Meda Melange has officially hung up her monstrous mantle and planted her feet firmly on the holy and righteous path of a Crusader-in-training. Or, at least, she’s willing to give it a shot. It helps that the Crusaders are the only thing standing between her and the demon hordes who want her dead.

The problem is, the only people less convinced than Meda of her new-found role as Good Girl are the very Crusaders she’s trying to join. So when a devilishly handsome half-demon boy offers escape, how’s a girl supposed to say “no?”

After all, everyone knows a good girl’s greatest weakness is a bad boy."


Mini-review: I blew through this book so quickly that I forgot to mark it as "read" on Goodreads.  I really had a blast with this book.  I love that the characters are trying to be authentic and true to themselves, but that they are still gray.  I love how fast-paced the plot is.  I loved Jo and Meda's friendship so much.  Just lots of love for this series.

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Crossed (Book #3 in the Soul Eater Series) by Eliza Crewe
Rating: 4.25 stars
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "War is here.

Full-scale war has erupted between the Crusaders and demons and even Chi has to admit isn’t going well. Like any sensible rat, Meda’s eager to abandon the sinking ship but, unfortunately, her friends aren't nearly as pragmatic. Instead, Meda’s forced to try to keep them all alive until the dust settles.

As the Crusaders take more and more drastic measures, the tables turn and Meda suddenly finds herself in the role of voice of sanity. No one is more horrified than she is. When old enemies reappear as new allies and old friends become new enemies Meda has to decide—again—whose side she’s really on.  And then the Crusaders decide that Meda should go to Hell. Literally.  Can’t a monster ever catch a break?"


Mini-reviewFive stars for the addiction factor. Imaginative story, biting and funny protagonist, lovable side characters, loyal friendships. The world building could have been a bit more clearly written, but still highly enjoyable. I will miss being in Meda's head.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Mini-reviews: The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson; The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty; Of Dreams and Rust by Sarah Fine


The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson
Rating: 4.25 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save Lia's life, her erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komizar that she has the gift, and the Komizar's interest in Lia is greater than anyone could have foreseen.

Meanwhile, nothing is straightforward: There's Rafe, who lied to Lia but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom Lia always believed to be savages. Now that she lives among them, however, she realizes that may be far from the truth. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her sense of self, Lia must make powerful choices that will affect her country... and her own destiny."
Mini-reviewWhile I didn't feel the need to compulsively read this in one sitting like with the first one, I still loved the story, the characters, the setting, and the twists along the way.  The Komizar was an especially gripping character.  A strong sequel that left me really mad that I couldn't read the final book immediately.  (Though I believe Book 3, The Beauty of Darkness, is coming out this summer, so the wait is nearly over!)
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The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Library
Buy the BookAmazon
Summary"Ellen O’Farrell is a professional hypnotherapist who works out of the eccentric beachfront home she inherited from her grandparents. It’s a nice life, except for her tumultuous relationship history. She’s stoic about it, but at this point, Ellen wouldn’t mind a lasting one. When she meets Patrick, she’s optimistic. He’s attractive, single, employed, and best of all, he seems to like her back. Then comes that dreaded moment: He thinks they should have a talk. 

Braced for the worst, Ellen is pleasantly surprised. It turns out that Patrick’s ex-girlfriend is stalking him. Ellen thinks, Actually, that’s kind of interesting. She’s dating someone worth stalking. She’s intrigued by the woman’s motives. In fact, she’d even love to meet her.  Ellen doesn’t know it, but she already has."
Mini-review: For not being into hypnotism or love stories, I actually really enjoyed this book.  I must say right off the bat, though, I really dislike the bland title and cover image. I feel like it does nothing to sell this story, or even convey what it's about. This book is actually quite deep and both emotionally and mentally engaging. While Big Little Lies is still my favorite of Moriarty's books, this one was still equal parts entertaining, interesting, and satisfying. And even a little bit scary, actually. Recommended.
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Of Dreams and Rust by Sarah Fine
Rating: 2.75 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "War erupts in this bittersweet sequel to "Of Metal and Wishes", inspired by The Phantom of the Opera and called “relentlessly engrossing” by The Romantic Times.

In the year since the collapse of the slaughterhouse where Wen worked as her father’s medical assistant, she’s held all her secrets close. She works in the clinic at the weapons factory and sneaks away to nurse Bo, once the Ghost, now a boy determined to transform himself into a living machine. Their strange, fragile friendship soothes some of the ache of missing Melik, the strong-willed Noor who walked away from Wen all those months ago—but it can’t quell her fears for him.

The Noor are waging a rebellion in the west. When she overhears plans to crush Melik’s people with the powerful war machines created at the factory, Wen makes the painful decision to leave behind all she has known—including Bo—to warn them. But the farther she journeys into the warzone, the more confusing things become. A year of brutality seems to have changed Melik, and Wen has a decision to make about him and his people: How much is she willing to sacrifice to save them from complete annihilation?"
Mini-review: I really, really, really liked Of Metal and Wishes, and was really looking forward to this sequel.  But I ended up getting really frustrated with Wen's spinelessness in this story.  Where was the girl from the last book?  Where was her courage?  Her bravery?  This might have been a case of too high expectations on my part, because despite my disappointment I still blew through the whole thing.  But it's still nowhere near OM&W.
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Monday, April 18, 2016

Oh, Hello.

Hey guys.  Remember me?  Shockingly, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth.  But I have had quite a few significant life changes in the past several months (birth of my son who turned out to be very colicky for four months, job change, and a move to a small town where I know exactly no one) that have left me with very little down time.  I wish I could have posted more because I missed it, but life happens.  C'est la vie.

Anyway, I just accepted an ARC for review for the first time since my son's birth, and I'm excited to write about it.  I haven't written a book review since October though (!) so I'm a little rusty.  In order to get my analytical-review-juices flowing I thought about reviewing some of the other books I've read between now and then, but it was too hard to pick just one.  So I'll be doing some mini-reviews with only a few thoughts, because I want to record what I read and want to remember my take-aways.  

I'm not exactly saying that my maternity-leave-turned-extended-personal-leave is over, seeing as life is still a little on the crazy side (read, I haven't finished unpacking yet) but I will be making appearances here.  Mini-reviews will be coming, as well as a few other things I have up my sleeve.  I'm not sure who my readership is after taking such a long break (or if I even still have one!) but if you're there and if you want to talk books, I'm still here!

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Weekly Words: Annonymous

Because when I read the world is just better