Tag: reading

Book Review: The Iron Flower, by Laurie Forest

the iron flower

Title:   The Iron Flower
Author:   Laurie Forest
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

High Priest Marcus Vogel and his influence—not to mention his army—is spreading quickly, along with his hate-filled, racist beliefs. The Gardnerian soldiers are tightening their hold everywhere, and the strict laws make life difficult, not to mention the fear their cruelty instills. Every non-Gardnerian is a target, and death is the sentence for many.

Elloren Gardner may be the granddaughter of a murderess, but she is a mage with almost no power. She’s determined to fight to save her friends and family. For Elloren, “family” is her brothers, her uncle, and her friends—of all races and species. Most of all, she wishes she weren’t Gardnerian and seen as the enemy by many she wants to help. As if that isn’t enough, she is the very image of her evil grandmother—and even the forest whispers dark things against her.

As the darkness around her grows worse, Elloren struggles to find a way out for her friends and family—any way out—and is willing to risk her life to save whoever she can. Then there’s Lukas Grey, commander of the military base and determined to win Elloren over, no matter what. The pull between them is strong, but Elloren has no way of knowing which side he’s truly on—or what he wants.

Let me say that I have not read The Black Witch, the first book in this series, but that did not detract from my enjoyment of The Iron Flower. (And, I’ll be buying and reading it immediately!) This was a fantastic read, and I was drawn in from the very first page. Elloren is fighting her heritage and what she’s always known as she realizes just how horrible those beliefs are. Diversity is something the Gardnerians hate, but Elloren sees its beauty—and will fight to protect it. This is a dark book, but completely compelling, and I read it in about 24 hours, staying up far too late to find out what happens!

Laurie Forest lives and writes in the woods of Vermont. The Iron Flower is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Harlequin Teen in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: Once a King, by Erin Summerill

once a king
HMH Books for Young Readers

 

Title:   Once a King
Author:   Erin Summerill
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

The kingdom of Malam has a dark history of persecuting Channelers, women with magical ability, but now the young king, Aodren is seeking to end the persecution and unite his kingdom. But decades of hatred cannot be undone with words, and rumors of a Channeler-made drug are causing fears to burst into flame, and violence to erupt.

Lirra was born in Malam, but her father fled when she was an infant, after her mother was murdered. She distrusts Malam and its new young king, and wants only to perform in the magic showcase, her chance to let her talents shine. But the deadly drug makes a kingdoms-wide summit even more dangerous, and soon Lirra is forced to work with Aodren as they try to find the source of the mysterious drug—and who’s behind it—before Malam’s future is destroyed forever.

This is a standalone, but it’s linked to the other books in the Clash of Kingdoms series, and I had no trouble picking this up without reading the first two (which sometimes does NOT work out). The worldbuilding was fantastic, and the sense of history gave so many compelling layers to this story! The characters are struggling to work together despite the many things that should make that impossible, as they do everything they can to overcome years and a culture of hatred. Highly recommended!

Erin Summerill is an award-winning author. Once a King is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by HMH Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Fire and Heist, by Sarah Beth Durst

fire & heist
Image belongs to Random House Children’s/Crown Books for Young Readers.

Title:  Fire and Heist
Author:   Sarah Beth Durst
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   4 out of 5

Sky Hawkins’s family fell from grace and lost some of their wealth and most of their good name when her mother disappeared after a heist gone bad. Sky lost her mom, her friends, and her boyfriend all at the same time, as well as becoming a social media and paparazzi pariah. Sky is a wyvern (a were dragon), after all, and the media is fascinated by her family and culture.

No one will talk about her mother’s disappearance, and Sky wants to know what really went down, so she starts to plan her first heist to find out. The first heist is a coming-of-age for wyverns, and Sky is determined to succeed at hers, and save her family’s good name, her mother, and her relationship at one time. Until she learns more about the mysterious jewel her mother was after—and realizes someone has been hiding dark secrets about wyvern history for years.

This is a clean read, and suitable for even younger YA readers. The wyvern society is intriguing and well-thought-out. It makes sense for were-dragons, and I loved how it tied in historical figures to the wyvern worldbuilding. Sky is kind of an innocent about life, so I’d say this is skewed a bit towards younger readers, and a few things seemed a little too easy, but it was a an entertaining and fun read.

Sarah Beth Durst writes fantasy books for all ages. Fire and Heist is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Random House Children’s/Crown Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Second Chance at Two Love Lane, by Kieran Kramer

second chance
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Second Chance at Two Love Lane
Author:  Kieran Kramer
Genre:   Romance
Rating:   3 out of 5

Ten years ago, Ella and Hank were both struggling actors with big dreams. Instead of taking a big role, Ella refused as a show of support for Hank. Instead of a proposal, she got dumped when Hank got a big break, something Hank has always regretted. He still loves Ella, but she has a new life.

She acts in community theater, but she’s also a matchmaker at Two Love Lane, doing her best to solve the problems of her clients’ love lives and see them happy. When Hank comes to town to shoot a leading role, he gets Ella a bit part, and wants to make things work between them. But Ella knows he’ll just leave her behind again when fame’s demands take him out of Charleston.

I didn’t realize this is the third book in the series, but they’re written as standalones, so that doesn’t affect anything. For me, the characters weren’t very fleshed out, and some of them came across more as caricatures than anything. Very one dimensional. The entire plot felt very bare-bones and too easy, and one of the subplots seemed rather pointless and did not add anything to the story.

Kieran Kramer is a USA Today best-selling author and has an MFA from The College of Charleston. Second Chance at Two Love Lane is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

What I Read in November (2018)

Books Read in November: 22

Books Read for the Year: 175/150

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

pride

Pride, by Ibi Zoboi. (Cultural.) I’m not sure how I ended up reading two Pride and Prejudice retellings simultaneously, but…I really loved this book! I loved the diversity and seeing how this particular culture came to life. Zure was a little much at first, but I ended up loving her attitude and her pride in herself, her culture, and her family.

AHA, by Kyle Idleman. (Spiritual.) I love Idleman’s voice and his brutally honest and down-to-earth style.

Unequal Affections, by Lara S. Ormiston. (From the TBR.) I loved this re-telling of Pride and Prejudice. I thought it was very well done, and stayed true to the characters and world of the original.

Around the World in 80 Days, by Jules Verne. (Classic.) How have I never read this before? An enjoyable adventure tale!

For Review

nightingale+cover

Nightingale, by Amy Lukavics. This is about a girl in the 1950s who doesn’t want to be a perfect housewife, but wants to write stories about alien abduction. She ends up in an asylum, where she realizes it’s no ordinary hospital. When I finish a book and think WHAT did I just read?, it’s not generally a good thing. This book was odd and just didn’t make sense.

love in catalina cove

Love in Catalina Cove, by Brenda Jackson. A solid read by a good author, about a woman who goes back to her hometown and finds her past is not what she thought at all.

embolden

Forbidden and also Embolden, by Syrie James and Ryan St. James. Two more “meh” reads. I love the idea of angels and Nephilim, but the main character is so selfish and ridiculous that it completely detracted from the interesting idea.

ministry of ordinary places

The Ministry of Ordinary Places, by Shannan Martin. I don’t usually find nonfiction riveting, but this I did. Highly recommended.

shadow of the fox

Shadow of the Fox, by Julie Kagawa. I love the Japanese culture and mythology, and the Iron Fey series was fantastic, so I was excited to read this. But I found this a little predictable, despite my liking for the naive main character.

the witch of willow hall

The Witch of Willow Hall, by Hester Fox . Family scandal, mystery, and secrets in this Gothic tale set in 1821. I enjoyed this a lot!

when the lights go out

When the Lights Go Out, by Mary Kubica. After her mother dies, Jessie Sloane finds out she has the name and social security number of a dead girl. As she tries to figure out what that means, her lack of sleep stretches into days and she starts seeing things that aren’t there—or are they? I enjoyed this quite a bit, and I’ve never wanted a character to get some sleep so much!

the lying woods

The Lying Woods, by Ashley Elston. After Owen’s father disappears with millions of dollars, destroying the lives of most of the people who live in their small town, he moves back home to try to help his mother—and figure out  if his dad really did take the money. What Owen finds is hatred, violence, and the truth about his father. This was a fantastic read!

burning fields

Burning Fields, by Alli Sinclair. When Rosie returns home during World War II, she finds some things never change, no matter how badly you want them to, but maybe with the help of the Italian man next door, she can find out the truth about her family. A solid, enjoyable read.

a marriage in 4 vseasons

A Marriage in Four Seasons, by Kathryn K. Abdul-Baki. This tale, which opens with a miscarriage, moves to an affair and a divorce, and through to a reconciliation, is a slow, emotional read that is at times painful to follow.

when elephants fly

When Elephants Fly, by Nancy Richardson Fischer. This book was such a good read! Teenager Lily is trying to live a stress-free life to hopefully avoid the genetic curse of schizophrenia. When she was seven, her mother tried to kill her, but Lily has hopes of avoiding her mom’s fate. When she ends up covering the story of a baby elephant abandoned by its mother, she finds herself way too emotionally involved.

little white lies

Little White Lies, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. It’s been a while since I read anything by this author, but I completely enjoyed this tale of Sawyer, from the wrong side of the track, who ends up living in high society for debutante season, as she tries to find out who her father is. The feel of this loosely reminded me of the Gallagher Girls series, except not as comic.

 

love a la mode

Love à la Mode, by Stephanie Kate StrohmA cute read about two teens who get into an elite cooking school in Paris. This book made me hungry!

Second Chance at Two Love Lane, by Kieran Kramer (review forthcoming). I found this kind of underwhelming. There was too-much glossing over of things, so it seemed o skip around, and several of the characters were caricatures and not fully fleshed-out. And one of the sub-plots was basically pointless, with its resolution summed-up and not resolved.

Just Because

Fury, by Rachel Vincent. I was excited to read the conclusion to the Menagerie trilogy. This is a fascinating world, and I love the characters. Great read. I finished it in one sitting, but I was not a fan of the ending.

Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis. I had to stop myself from devouring the whole thing straight through. I want to be friends with Rachel!

Look Alive, Twenty-Five, by Janet Evanovich. I do love this series, but…this one was sadly lacking in humor, apart from Lula’s antics. I think this series is starting to get stale.

Book Review: Love à la Mode, by Stephanie Kate Strohm

love a la mode
Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Title:   Love à la Mode
Author:   Stephanie Kate Strohm
Genre:   YA, fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Rosie Radeke is from East Liberty, Ohio, a small town where winning local baking contests is a big deal. But now Rosie got into Chef Laurent’s prestigious cooking school in Paris, and she just knows she’s finally going to start living all her celebrity-cooking-show-inspired dreams. But a nightmare chef/instructor soon makes Rosie wonder if she has any talent at all.

Henry Yi was raised in his dad’s Chicago restaurant. Cooking is in his blood, and it’s all he wants to do. His mother, however, insists he do more—and gets him extra work from his instructors to prove it. Henry likes Rosie, but between his extra homework, his fear of being an uninspired cook, and Rosie’s growing friendship with famous model/chef Bodie, does he even stand a chance?

This was a sweet tale, in more than one way. First, don’t read this if you’re hungry. The pastry descriptions alone will have you drooling. And this is a clean book, which I appreciated, told from both Henry and Rosie’s point-of-views. Well-written, with quirky and entertaining characters (the secondary characters are a riot), this is a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Stephanie Kate Strohm writes children’s and YA books. Love à la Mode is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: When Elephants Fly by Nancy Richardson Fischer

when elephants fly
Image belongs to Harlequin Teen.

Title:   When Elephants Fly
Author:   Nancy Richardson Fischer
Genre:   YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

Lily Decker is a senior with a 12-year-plan that includes college, no caffeine, no stress, and no boys, except her best friend Sawyer. Her plan is geared towards fending off the schizophrenia that runs in her family—and that caused her mother to try to kill her when she was seven years old.

Her dad wants her to sit home and do nothing, but Lily can’t forget that he reached for her mother and not her on that fateful day, so she keeps quiet about her internship with a newspaper. Until Lily’s story about naming the zoo’s elephant calf leads to Lily being present when the calf is born—and also there when the mother rejects the baby and attacks her.

With the baby elephant, Swifty, grieving, Lily is desperate to help in whatever way she can. That turns out to be traveling with Swifty to the circus when the zoo loses custody of her. But everything at the circus is not as perfect as the owners pretend, and Lily will risk everything—including her mental health—to keep Swifty safe.

This well-written novel takes a sensitive subject—mental health—and treats it with respect, dignity, and understanding. Lily is desperate to avoid schizophrenia, but she’s also realistic about her chances and her symptoms. The bond between her and Swifty is sweet and heartbreaking, and I flew through the pages to find out what happens.

Nancy Richardson Fischer graduated from Cornell University and used to work for the circus. When Elephants Fly is her new novel.

(Galley provided by Harlequin Teen in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Little White Lies, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

little white lies
Image belongs to Disney Book Group/Freeform.

Title:   Little White Lies
Author:  Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Genre:   YA, fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Sawyer Taft grew up on the wrong side of the tracks with a mom who was unreliable at best and the knowledge that her mother’s family kicked her mom out of the house when she got pregnant in the middle of her debutante season. Now 18-year-old Sawyer is an auto mechanic who’d love to go to college but sees no way to get there.

Until her autocratic grandmother shows up, offering her half a million dollars if she’ll move into the family house and participate in the current debutante season. That’s a whole lot of money to put up with a prim-and-proper crowd with certain expectations and a penchant for the phrase “Bless your heart,” but Sawyer thinks she might be able to solve the mystery of who her father is, so she agrees.

And finds herself in a world of glittering dresses, unending rules, and people with more secrets than she ever imagined. Not to mention the devious minds to keep those secrets and manipulate Sawyer and her new friends. And one of the best-kept secrets is just who Sawyer’s father is—and why he doesn’t want anyone to know.

I read a few of Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ books years ago and enjoyed them, but kind of forgot about her until I saw this one. I’m so glad I picked this up! The glittering world of the debs is far beyond my experience, but it came to life on the pages of Little White Lies. Sawyer is a great character:  she does not fit in with this society and she unsettles everyone around her, but she is intent on doing what’s right—and she’s smart. This is an attention-grabbing read, and it was nice that it wasn’t filled with romance like a lot of YA series-openers are.

Jennifer Lynn Barnes was a Fulbright Scholar at Yale, and also holds a Ph.D. from Yale. Her newest novel is Little White Lies.

(Galley provided by Disney Book Group/Freeform in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review A Marriage in Four Seasons, by Kathryn K. Abdul-Baki

a marriage in 4 vseasons
Image belongs to She Writes Press.

Title:   A Marriage in Four Seasons
Author:   Kathryn K. Abdul-Baki
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

English professor Joy and her husband Richard are grieving in the wake of a miscarriage and take a trip to Granada, Spain. While there, Joy meets a handsome stranger who awakens feelings she thought were long dead. When they return home, she’s still grieving and Richard, hurting himself, becomes involved with a free-spirited teacher.

When Joy finds out about the affair, their marriage ends. Joy moves to Virginia and tries to deal with her bitterness. Inspired by the story of Sultan Suleyman and his Russian concubine, Roxelana, Joy decides to take a trip to Turkey and Richard joins her. While there, Richard tells her a startling truth, and their relationship changes forever.

I’m not sure what to say about this novel. I felt sorry for Joy and Richard both, but I also found them unlikable at times. They hurt each other selfishly over-and-over again, and never really seem to learn from their mistakes. The exotic locales were vivid and well-drawn, adding excitement to an otherwise slow-paced narrative.

Kathryn K. Abdul-Baki was born in Washington D.C. and grew up in Iran, Kuwait, Beirut, and Jerusalem. A Marriage in Four Seasons is her new novel.

(Galley provided by She Writes Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Lying Woods, by Ashley Elston

the lying woods
Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Title:   The Lying Woods
Author:   Ashley Elston
Genre:   YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

Owen Foster is in the middle of a prank war with his best friend Jack when his mom shows up at his fancy New Orleans boarding school. Owen knows it can’t be good news, and it’s not—his dad has disappeared with millions of dollars from the family business that supports most of their small town.

Owen and his mom are the most hated people in town. Most people think they knew what his dad was up to, or at least where he is now, and the threats soon turn to violence. To escape all the anger, Owen finds himself working for Gus on a practically-abandoned pecan farm outside of town.

Owen doesn’t want to believe his father stole the money, but all the evidence points towards him. Soon Owen realizes that someone must have helped his dad, and he’s determined to unravel the mystery and keep his mother safe.

The Lying Woods is told in alternate viewpoints between Owen now, and his father in the past, the year he first came to work for Gus. I’m not generally a fan of male POV characters in YA, but I loved this one. Owen is complex:  everything he thinks he knows gets upended in this book, and he has to figure out the new world he inhabits now. He’s hurting from his dad’s betrayal, worried about his mom, and missing his friends, but he learns to see things from other people’s point-of-view as he struggles to right the wrongs he encounters. Definitely read this! I realized after reading this that I’d also read Elston’s The Rules for Disappearing, and it was a great read as well, so she just moved to my must-read list.

Ashley Elston lives and writes in Louisiana. The Lying Woods is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)