Tag: readers

Book Review: Of Fire and Lions, by Mesu Andrews

of fire and lions
Image belongs to WaterBrook.

Title:  Of Fire and Lions
Author:  Mesu Andrews
Genre:  Christian fiction, historical
Rating:  5 out of 5

Abigail is just a girl when the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem—and the temple. Abigail is taken captive and finds herself serving four Hebrew boys destined to become powerful princes in Babylon, including the kind and caring Daniel. Abigail falls in love with Daniel, but the king’s machinations keep them apart, and soon Abigail finds herself lost in another city, with nowhere to turn.

Seventy years later, Daniel and Abigail have been married for years and have children and grandchildren when Daniel is once again called to serve the new king. Abigail’s family is full of anger and malice, but she’s kept secrets about her early years, secrets that might tear Daniel from her for good, and secrets that might have a chance of mending the rift in her family. But she will have to overcome her fear with faith if she’s ever to know true fulfillment.

Of Fire and Lions is a richly imagined tale that brings Biblical stories to life. Daniel and the lions’ dent. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. The exile of the Hebrews. These things come to mesmerizing life on the page. And Abigail—Belili—and Daniel come to life as well:  their struggles, their trials, and their faith drawing the reader in. This is an exceptionally detailed and vivid re-telling of some familiar Bible tales, but with so much life added to the story.

Mesu Andrews writes biblical fiction. Of Fire and Lions is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of WaterBrook via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project, by Lenore Appelhans

manix pixie
Image belongs to Lerner Publishing Group.

Title:  The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project
Author:  Lenore Appelhans
Genre:  YA, fantasy
Rating:  4 out of 5

Riley is a Manic Pixie Dream Boy—the trope’s token boy—in trouble for speaking out in his last novel role. He’s sentenced to do therapy in TropeTown with other Manic Pixies who have behaved outside of their roles. Riley isn’t sure therapy is going to help him, until he meets Zelda, another Manic Pixie, and decides maybe it won’t be so bad.

But the Manic Pixies have been causing trouble, and now they might be terminated. All the Manic Pixies will have to work together to save their trope from destruction, and Riley will have to choose between a secure future, and the chance to seize his greatest dreams.

I saw a comment that Riley might be a character from The Fault in Our Stars—although that’s never stated, obviously—but I’ve never read that, so I can’t comment on any similarities (I’m sure it’s a wonderful book, but I don’t read anything I know ahead of time will make me cry). This novel is ironic and lighthearted. It’s an easy read, and there are a few moments of surprising depth—like the lesson about other, now-retired tropes being terminated because of their racist characteristics—but at heart, it’s just a fun read.

Lenore Appelhans’s new book is The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project.

(Galley courtesy of Lerner Publishing Group via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

The Best Books I Read in February (2019)

I read 14 books in February, four less than in January. My top three picks for the month include one book for review, one for pleasure, and one nonfiction.

wow

Warrior of the Wild, by Tricia Levenseller.  I really enjoyed this book. It has a sort-of-Viking culture, and a heroine who was raised as a warrior. When she’s betrayed and fails her challenge, she’s banished to live in the deadly wilds until she kills the god her village pays tribute to every year. She’s a strong character, but she’s haunted by fear of failure and betrayal. I enjoyed this so much!

I’d Rather be Reading, by Anne Bogel. Anne writes the wonderful Modern Mrs. Darcy blog.  I love reading all her posts, although I haven’t ventured into the world of podcasts yet. And Book Club is amazing, too. A book about reading? I’m so there!

Cast in Oblivion, by Michelle Sagara. I really love this series, and have read all of them. And loved them. Kaylin is a great character:  flawed but so loyal and brave. Awesome world-building as well.

Book Review: Mist, Metal, and Ash, by Gwendolyn Clare

mist, metal, & ash
Image belongs to Imprint/Macmillan.

Title:  Mist, Metal, and Ash
Author:  Gwendolyn Clare
Genre:  YA, fantasy
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

In an alternate Italy, Elsa can create new worlds by writing in books. Special writing. Special books. Special talent…and one that puts her in danger when political extremists steal a book that can change the very nature of the world itself.

In the wake of a horrific betrayal, Elsa has one goal:  track down the book before the extremists can use it to wreak havoc. Getting revenge on her betrayer will be just a bonus. But Elsa doesn’t realize the secrets she’ll encounter along the way, some of which she’s even kept from herself.

I love steampunk, but I don’t actively seek it out—I don’t know why. I have not read the first book in this duology, Ink, Iron, and Glass, but I highly recommend doing that, as I spent the first third of the book being highly confused. I ended up loving the world and its nuances:  differences from our own, but some similarities, too. There’s a lot of action here, and a bit of romance, but it’s all woven together seamlessly. I like the intrigue with Casa as well.

Gwendolyn Clare is a scientist and a writer. Mist, Metal, and Ash is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Imprint/Macmillan via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Doing the wrong thing for the right reason in Lillian Clark’s “Immoral Code”

immoral code
Image belongs to Knopf.

 

Title: Immoral Code
Author:  Lillian Clark
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Five friends. An absentee father who’s a billionaire. One nefarious plot.

Nari is a genius digital hacker. Keagan is her sweet boyfriend who would follow her anywhere. Reese is a visual artist who dreams of traveling everywhere. San is headed to Stanford on a diving scholarship and wants to go to the Olympics. And Bellamy is a physics genius who gets into MIT—then finds out the father she’s never seen is a billionaire, destroying her hopes of financial aid.

Nari’s not going to let her best friend’s dreams be destroyed by some jerk who wants nothing to do with her, so she comes up with a plan:  hack into Bellamy’s dad’s computer empire and plant a code that skims enough money off millions of transactions to pay for Bellamy’s first year of college.

What could possibly go wrong?

This group of characters was fascinating. A group of individuals who form a fantastic team with an unbreakable friendship. I did not entirely care for Nari, who was very bossy and demanding (autocratic comes to mind), but I loved the rest—especially Reese and her vibrant hair. The relationships were complex and believable, and Keagan was my favorite character:  he’s the voice of reason, as well as being the lone “ordinary” soul in the group. Definitely a good read.

Lillian Clark grew up in Wyoming and now lives in Idaho. Immoral Code is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House Children’s/Knop Books for Young Readers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: Roam, by C.H. Armstrong

roam
Image belongs to Central Avenue Publishing.

Title:  Roam
Author:  C.H. Armstrong
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Abby is 17, new to town, and she and her family are living on the streets as a result of her mother’s bad decision. They had to leave Omaha behind because of the backlash—and the friends who abandoned them.

Now they’re ready to make a fresh start. Abby dreams of having a boyfriend, going to college, and a career in music, but the winter is bad, and they never know where their next meal is coming from. Her stepfather is having trouble finding a job. Her mother is similarly out of luck. Abby’s family needs help, but she’s afraid to tell her new friends the truth, after the devastation of losing all her friends at her old school.

Roam was a difficult book to read. The subject matter is heavy—and sad. I cannot imagine being homeless, much less homeless with two kids. Abby is a strong person, but guarded, after everything she’s been through. Sometimes, asking for help is the hardest thing to do.

C.H. Armstrong holds a B.A. in Journalism, and lives in Minnesota. Roam is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Central Avenue Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

 

The Best Books I Read in January (2019)

While I’ll continue to post my monthly reading re-caps—my goal is an ambitious 175 books this year—I thought it would be nice to also focus a bit on the three books I enjoyed the most in the previous month.

 

For January, that was:

white stag

White Stag, by Kara Barbieri.

This book had a very dark aesthetic, but I loved so much about it! Janneke was a character I connected with from the first page:  she’s scarred and ugly (in her eyes), she’s weak (compared to the goblins around her), she has no magic, and she longs to go back home (she thinks).  But she’s the strongest character in the book! I love her smart mouth, her sarcasm, and her kick-butt-and-take-names attitude.

Find out more about this author here.

Unmarriageable, by Soniah Kamal.

unmarriageable

Can I say again how much I loved this? I love reading about different cultures, and I love Pride and Prejudice, so this was a win-win read for me. I was fascinated by both the differences and the similarities between this and the original, and I love when a talented author re-does something I love…and does it justice!

Check out the author’s site here.

winter of the witch

And Winter of the Witch, by Katherine Arden.

This book. This book. I’ve loved this entire trilogy so much. It’s dark. It’s cold. And the legends and magic are riveting. The layers of history and culture entwine with fantasy to create this fascinating mixture that is almost impossible to put down.

Find out more about the author here—she’s led an interesting life.

Book Review: The Falconer, by Dana Czapnik

the falconer.jpg
Image belongs to Atria Books.

Title:   The Falconer
Author:  Dana Czapnik
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4 out of 5

Lucy Adler is seventeen years old in New York City in 1993. Lucy is a basketball star, but she’s frequently the only girl on the street courts, and she’s in love with her best friend and teammate, Percy, son of a wealthy family.

Lucy observes the world around her, always questioning the why of things and seeking to understand. Two female bohemian artists invite Lucy into their circle, and open her eyes to wider issues than basketball and love, as she learns more about being female amidst the struggles women face.

Honestly, I’m not sure what to say about this novel. 1) I don’t generally read sports-related books, but I read this one entirely—and pretty quickly. 2) This is a time-period I relate to—sort of—because I’m only a year younger than Lucy. 3) I know nothing about NYC or art.

The Falconer is very much about Lucy’s internal journal towards knowing who she is and what she wants. What she deserves. She is an exceptional observer, but she doesn’t always know how to process what she sees—especially what she doesn’t like or can’t make sense of. This is about Lucy’s journey—not her feelings for Percy (and he’s a jerk anyway).

The Falconer is Dana Czapnik’s debut novel.

(Galley provided by Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Inbetween Days, by Eva Woods

the inbetween days
Image belongs to Graydon House/Harlequin.

Title:   The Inbetween Days
Author:   Eva Woods
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4 out of 5

Rosie Cook wakes up in a hospital, having been hit by a bus, but no one knows she’s awake. Everyone thinks she’s in a coma, on the verge of death. Rosie can’t remember anything:  who she is, what her life is like, or how she got hit by a bus. She just knows she wants to live.

Then Rosie starts remembering things:  a fight with her sister, a walk on a beach, the day her brother was born. But why these memories? And what do they mean? Rosie has trouble facing what the memories reveal about who she was before she woke up, but if she doesn’t make sense of them and figure out who she really is and what she wants, she may never get the chance to try.

The Inbetween Days is touted as emotional and comic, but I wouldn’t really say it’s a comic novel. There are some funny moments, and every page is full of emotion, but it’s not a humorous book. Rosie wasn’t a very happy person—or a nice one—and her memories are not usually happy ones. However, the story follows Rosie’s change from a person she can’t stand, to one filled with hope and promise, and this is truly an excellent read, although Rosie’s sister, Daisy was the one I really related to.

Eva Woods is a writer and lecturer. The Inbetween Days is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Graydon House/Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Famous in a Small Town, by Emma Mills

famous in a small town
Image belongs to Henry Holt & Company.

Title:  Famous in a Small Town
Author:   Emma Mills
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4.2 out of 5

Sophie loves living in a small town. She has her four best friends, marching band, and the Yum Yum Shoppe and its fourteen flavors of ice cream. She also has a few regrets, but she tries not to let them get her down. This year, she just wants the band to be able to march in the Rose Bowl parade, and she’s ready to go all-out to make sure that happens. Even if that includes a social media campaign to the country star who is from their small town.

When August moves in down the street, he’s determined to keep everyone at arm’s length, especially Sophie, but soon he’s hanging out with her friends and joining the social media campaign. Her friends aren’t sure he deserves a permanent spot in the group, but August makes a home for himself there—if he’s willing to claim it.

I enjoyed this light, funny read, but it does have some deeper themes as well. Sophie is good at pushing the bad stuff to the back of her mind, but sometimes you just have to face things. August prefers to expect the worst—and not to bother hoping for the best. The friendships in this story are so realistic:  good, bad, at times ugly. I’d love to hang out with these people.

Emma Mills lives in Indianapolis. Famous in a Small Town is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Henry Holt & Company in exchange for an honest review.)