Friday, May 30, 2014

Dreams of Gods & Monsters

Dreams of Gods & Monsters is the third and final novel in the YA contemporary fantasy Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor.

This is definitely a trilogy that you HAVE to read in order. If you haven’t yet read the acclaimed first novel Daughter of Smoke & Bone or the blockbusting second book Days of Blood & Starlight, click on the titles to read my reviews – and go forth and read both books!!!

Then you can read this review of Dreams of Gods & Monsters.

Got it?

Karou made a choice – after a violent attack – that is both a staggering deception to her people, the chimaera, and also their only hope to end the never-ending revenge that plagues their world.

Knowing the truth is not easy – nor is following through with a complicated, layered plot to ally with those long considered enemies in order to stop Jael’s machinations that are turning the human world upside down and putting them in terrible danger.

This throws Karou together with Akiva – and allows those simmering, unresolved, undeniable feelings to fester. Yet now is not the time to stop and work through them…

Now is the time to stand against the gods and monsters.

It is my opinion that if you’ve read Daughter of Smoke & Bone and Days of Blood & Starlight (and, ahem, if you’re reading this… YOU BETTER HAVE!) you don’t need much of a nudge to read this final novel. You most likely have already done so or are planning on it. Not much of a summary is needed then!

Right away, there’s just so much going on in Dreams of Gods & Monsters! I mean, wow!

Laini Taylor again sweeps the narrative into lyrical, poetic, powerful language that lingers and haunts. We get more of our complex characters and this truly original, meaty plot. It’s such gorgeous, thick writing.

Dreams of Gods & Monsters is a breathless, breathtaking, epic conclusion that never feels rushed or hurried at all. It’s a huge book but doesn’t feel like it – it feels just right. It continually goes places I didn’t expect – smart, climatic, surprising and new.

At small, occasional moments I thought perhaps Dreams of Gods & Monsters was somehow lacking a little of the magic the first two books had – but in the end, I have to say that worry was almost entirely squelched.

Dreams of Gods & Monsters is unexpected, unique, multi-layered and has an end that made me feel wowed.

What more can I say?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

While Love Stirs

While Love Stirs is a historical Christian romance by Lorna Seilstad and the second book in The Gregory Sisters series.

Though easily a stand-alone novel, to enjoy While Love Stirs to its fullest I recommend starting with the first Gregory Sisters book When Love Calls. You can click on the title to read my review.

Charlotte Gregory is determined to utilize her education at Fannie Farmer’s School of Cookery to make her dream come true: her own kitchen as a chef at a restaurant.

It doesn’t take long for Charlotte to realize, though, that there aren’t many opportunities for a woman to be taken seriously outside of the domestic kitchen – until she is presented with a job at the gas company.

They want someone to travel, lecture and give cooking demonstrations on the latest kitchen technology - the gas stove. It’s not quite her dream, but it seems to be the closest she’s getting to it anytime soon!

Her position leads her to meet sweet, crooning singer Lewis Mathis. Yet her mind still strays to Dr. Joel Brooks, whom she tends to argue with when in the same room, and who has still to be convinced of her ideas about the hospital food.

But Charlotte isn’t known for giving up…

Seilstad creates a charming 1910 landscape with While Love Stirs that is fast-paced, easy reading with fun historical details. We get faith and romance handled in a non-heavy-handed way.

The nice spattering of point of view changes in the narrative gives us a broader picture of the characters, and includes the youngest Gregory sister, Tessa – sure to be the next books focal character – in her own plot.

While Love Stirs
is an pleasant, overall lighthearted story that didn’t leave the strongest impression on me, but was entertaining while I read it.

I’m invested enough to want to know what is in store for Tessa when her book comes out.

While Love Stirs
is an agreeable way to pass the time!

*I received a copy of While Love Stirs from the Baker Publishing Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Corner of White

A Corner of White is a YA contemporary mashed with fantasy by Jaclyn Moriarty, it’s also the first book in The Colors of Madeline trilogy.

Since leaving their ritzy life behind for Cambridge, Madeline and her mother have barely gotten by with a single sewing machine and beans nearly every night.

Sometimes Madeline really wonders why she ran away from that life.

So do her friends.

Truly, it’s all very mysterious and pretty hard to believe.

Meanwhile, in the Kingdom of Cello, Elliot has returned home to Bonfire in The Farms after yet another unsuccessful search for his father – who disappeared after an attack by a third-level Purple that left his uncle dead a year and a half ago.

Not everyone believes that’s what happened though. There are rumors that his father wasn’t taken at all, but may have murdered his own brother and ran off with the high-school physics teacher.

Elliot refuses to believe this.

Then, one day, Madeline and Elliot begin to correspond – there’s a little gap between their worlds, something that hasn’t happened in centuries.

And a magical, rare event forces Elliot to stay put in Bonfire longer than he wanted.

Life begins to get more complicated for both of them, and it’s just possible that – even across worlds – Elliot and Madeline may be able to help each other…

This is a book that is very hard to summarize, let me tell you.

It’s utterly bizarre.

And utterly brilliant.

I have to say that Jaclyn Moriarty is becoming an author I am keeping an eye on – and I am planning on reading much more from her!!!

A Corner of White is quirky, original and very interesting – it’s an oddity in the best way!

The Kingdom of Cello is a strange, inscrutable place that gets fleshed out with just enough to make it relatable but more than enough to make it foreign.

This is clever, attention capturing writing and a truly, truly unique story! There’s some hilarious dialogue, enigmatic characters, fascinating universe building and an ability to so smoothly and suddenly switch from eccentric to serious.

A Corner of White has a passion and power behind it – a revealing, intimate, touching aspect that is wonderful. Then you get that funny side, the creative aspect and overall entertainment factor that won me over 150%!

I have to say I am extremely looking forward to reading book two, The Cracks in the Kingdom.

Especially after some awesome twists at the end of A Corner of White.

This is one of those books that is difficult to put into a genre – I am floored by Jaclyn Moriarty’s ability to continue to do that. The Ghosts of Ashbury Hall was the same way for me.

Bring on more Moriarty!!

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Girl with the Iron Touch

The Girl with the Iron Touch is the third book in the YA steampunk series The Steampunk Chronicles by Kady Cross.

You will want to have read the first two books, The Girl in the Steel Corset and The Girl in the Clockwork Collar, before this one. If not, avoid this review and click on these titles to read the reviews of the earlier books. Deal?

The Girl with the Iron Touch resumes relatively quickly after where The Girl in the Clockwork Collar left off. They are back in London and romance is in the air.

Finley, with her light and dark side having merged mostly into one, and Griffin, whose powers over the Aether seems to be draining him more than ever, have moved forward with their feelings for each other – yet he continues to keep secrets from her and the rest of the group, frustrating her to no end.

Meanwhile, Emily, with her affinity for anything mechanical or technological, and Sam, with his super powered robotic parts, are still tiptoeing around their connection – but getting closer.

But when Emily is abducted and all evidence points toward automatons being behind the grab, the team has to pull together to rescue their red-haired teammate.

Even as clues reveal that her abduction may have to do with a former enemy.

An enemy they thought was dead…

I very much enjoyed The Girl in the Steel Corset and (too a slightly lesser degree) The Girl in the Clockwork Collar.

I still liked The Girl with the Iron Touch – but to yet a slightly lesser degree again.

Can’t say I’m loving this downward trend.

My problem is that Finley and Griffin’s relationship has always been one of the weaker parts of the books, for me. And a lot of focus was on that.

Oftentimes, there were some rather situationally inappropriate romantic interludes that just sort of irritated me. Like, really? You’re going to stop a share kiss now??

Also, there was no real mystery to The Girl with the Iron Touch. We know what’s going on with Emily as we see her point of view often, so the suspense just really wasn’t there.

Yet the automatons were very creepy and the plot involving them was both intriguing and disturbing.

So, I will definitely read the fourth book, which I think may be the last one, but I’m not as excited about it as I was for The Girl with the Iron Touch.

Which makes me sad.

Monday, May 19, 2014

File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents

File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents is a middle-grade comical mystery novel by Lemony Snicket, and around book 2.5 of the All the Wrong Questions series.

Personally, I strongly recommend you read this series in order – first Who Could That Be At This Hour? and then When Did You See Her Last? I have read (and loved) them. Due to my weird reading and blog schedule, though, the actual reviews aren’t posting until June. Stay tuned!

Anywho, in the midst of young apprentice Lemony Snicket’s time in the mostly abandoned Stain’d-by-the-Sea and his larger, overarching mystery (which we shall not get into now, so as not to spoil all you lovely bibliophiles), File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents covers his smaller, but no less tantalizing mysteries.

Here we dive into the details of ghostly hauntings, neighborhood kidnappings, potentially rhyming vandals, and missing food – and more!

Oh, Lemony Snicket, how I love thee!!!

File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents is humorous and wonderfully mad from the outset! Delightful dialogue and entertaining narration make for one blissful Angie!

The hilarious, witty conclusions are housed in the back of the book, each story providing a page number to read the deduction. I loved this silly, fun quirk and enjoyed it thoroughly. I was continually chuckling and just felt HAPPY reading File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents.

This is a really, really fun story – it actually made me want to watch one of my favorite shows, Pushing Daisies, which it was reminding me of occasionally.

File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents is truly and completely a joy to read – and I can’t wait for more!!

My only sadness? Supposedly there’s only two more books left in the All the Wrong Questions series!

I can never have enough of Lemony Snicket.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Along for the Ride

Along for the Ride is a YA contemporary novel by Sarah Dessen.

For a long time now, Auden has been unable to sleep through the night.

Nights are her quiet time – her chance to escape everything going on around her.

When she decides to stay with her dad, stepmom and new baby sister for the summer in Colby, her odd sleep habits don’t change.

But she does meet Eli.

Eli also doesn’t sleep at night.

Soon enough he becomes her nocturnal tour guide and she begins to, for once, look forward to seeing someone else – after years of social solitude...

It’d hard to do a decent synopsis on Along for the Ride, because there’s not much to say. That doesn’t mean there’s no plot – it’s just that there are so many nuances to it you’ll either give away too much or too little.

I opted for too little.

But any fan of Sarah Dessen, I’m sure, will be more than willing to read Along for the Ride without needing encouragement from me anywho!

Auden is a “good girl” – sheltered from peer experience by being raised by two academic, artistic types that raised her, essentially, to be an adult.

In Along for the Ride we see a messy divorce, a mom that feels very distant, a dad that’s nice but seems disinterested and a haggard, young stepmom that is probably in over her head.

First of all, I have to say that it’s great to be back in Colby! Keeping the Moon was one of my favorite Dessen novels, so all the references to that first book – even just being in the Last Chance – was joyous to me! Plus, there’s even a connection to Lock & Key that warmed me. I love the way she’s doing little tie-in’s!

Along for the Ride presents an issue of insomnia that is very different – it gives Auden my sympathy right away over what is clearly a psychological issue. Amidst the family pain, which is sadly realistic, you really get to know these people.

There’s a quietness to Sarah Dessen’s writing that I had to re-orient to since it’s been so long, but once oriented it’s so subtle and graceful that it has a power in that quietness. She, in such a seemingly simple way, shows the ugly flaws in others – but yet still has a sense of hope.

That is Along for the Ride.

Quiet. Unsuspectingly powerful. Disarmingly simple. Poignant.

It’s Sarah Dessen.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Shadow Hand

Shadow Hand is the sixth book in the fantasy series Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.

As I’ve said numerous times before while reviewing this series, it’s definitely a good idea to read these books in order. Though the time periods jump around a little, it’ll help to keep things more clear – which I’ve struggled with, as the books have not come to me in order.

So, you’ll want to first read Heartless, then Veiled Rose, Moonblood (review to come in July), Starflower, Dragonwitch and finally Shadow Hand. The below review will have some slight spoilers from earlier books, so tread carefully!

After Lionheart, Prince of the Southlands, was dispossessed and banished, Lady Daylily is now betrothed to his cousin Foxbrush, who has taken his place in the kingdom.

Lady Daylily had come to love Lionheart – a love that never seemed to be returned – and now a life with Foxbrush seems to foretell a life just like him – awkward and reclusive.

On the day of Lady Daylily’s wedding she flees to the dangerous Wilderlands – with the intention of never returning.

Yet, Foxbrush cares for Daylily and is determined to rescue her – though the thought of entering the Wood – in which there are rumored magical creatures, brutal Faeries, and myth come to life, all of which fights Foxbrush’s logical, rational mind – is terrifying to him.

But if Foxbrush is to be king – should he not learn to be courageous?

There is a ton more plot to Shadow Hand than this brief synopsis describes, but that’s just a taste of the beginning.

Eloquent phrasing pulled me into Shadow Hand – into this vast fairytale universe that Stengl has grown and strengthened over these six interwoven novels. The Tales of Goldstone Wood are always captivating, delicately and intricately layered and full of stunning depth.

Shadow Hand, along with the rest of the series, is impossible (for me, anyway) to speed read – you HAVE to slow down and absorb the writing and story. There’s a sophistication, imagination, suspense and romance that is happily original here.

Most definitely complex, both in plot and characters, and I always feel like I’m missing some vital info – but I look forward to rereading the entire series someday – when I have the time to give it my undivided attention.

Shadow Hand has humor, whimsy and gorgeously penned myth and legend – with a frightening darkness and evil that creates an excellent Good vs. Evil intensity.

Personally, Eanrin and Imraldera are two of my favorite characters – and I hope we continue to see more of them as the series continues. I won’t say what my wishes are for those two, though anyone who reads the Tales of Goldstone Wood could probably guess!

Shadow Hand
, by its final pages, had given me goose bumps! Surprisingly touching and powerful, with a Christian allegorical whisper in many of its lines, I loved it.

I want more.

The good news? More is coming!!!

*I received a copy of Shadow Hand from the Bethany House Book Reviewers program. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Watcher of the Dark

Watcher of the Dark is an adult horror novel, and the third in the Jeremiah Hunt novels, by Joseph Nassise.

As it is the third in a series – in order to not spoil yourself on the plots of the prior books – I recommend you read Eyes to See and King of the Dead before Watcher of the Dark. Feel free to click on the titles to read my reviews!

Assuming only readers of the first two books are continuing on…

Jeremiah is on the run.

Again.

Plus, now he doesn’t have his friends with him – he’s just a blind guy with ghost-sight, a stolen car and next to no money.

In Los Angeles.

That’s what having the FBI tailing him and a foray into the terrifying kingdom of the dead to bring back the soul of the woman he cares about from a horrifying otherworld will do to you.

Especially when, in order to complete the ritual to save her, you have to stab her. And there are witnesses. Others don’t seem to understand the whole, “I had to plunge that knife into her – to save her life!”

Now, in L.A., Jeremiah has been recruited – with major strings attached – by Carlos Fuentes. Fuentes believes Jeremiah’s ghost sight and exorcism abilities will be useful to his enigmatic ends to find a mystical key that opens into nowhere good.

And the Preacher wants the same thing…

You know, I really liked Eyes to See – it was original, scary and humorous. It had that urban supernatural edge that can be really great when done right. Jeremiah was helping out the FBI and trying to find his missing daughter – there was a lot going on, and I liked it all.

King of the Dead was still good – an interesting expansion of the supernatural world layered on top of the ordinary one – but wasn’t as compelling for me.

Sadly, Watcher of the Dark continued that downward turn, in my opinion.

It is in no way bad.

It’s just that I really feel there was some awesome potential in Eyes to See – potential back when Jeremiah wasn’t on the run. I would’ve liked more books following him back them – when he could try to use his skills to help people and pursue his own ends, also, without running all the time.

Now, Watcher of the Dark does have creepy, crazy situations – not to mention action – from the get-go, which is great. It just didn’t hold my attention the way the urban paranormal/horror mystery did back in Eyes to See.

Not to mention I missed all the supporting characters. Hunt is cool and all, but he’s the only familiar one in Watcher of the Dark.

Unfortunately, I just felt it was missing that spark that made me really excited in Eyes to See. Maybe it can get turned around – but the trend toward stop-the-supernatural-world-ending plots doesn’t leave me as engrossed…

Hope you disagree!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Murder on Astor Place

Murder on Astor Place is a Victorian-era murder mystery and the first in the Gaslight series by Victoria Thompson.

These books have been out there for quite some time – in fact there are now fifteen books in this series. I’ve wanted to read them for quite a while – and now here I am!!

After midwife Sarah Brandt assists in a standard delivery at a rooming house, she returns to check up on her patient and the baby.

When she does, she finds out that a young girl boarding there was murdered.

A young girl she saw briefly the night of the delivery – a young girl who looked startlingly familiar to her.

Upon meeting Sergeant Frank Malloy, her opinion of the police force and their terrible corruption is not improved – but he requests she search the girl’s room on his behalf, causing her to discover that the girl was from one of the most well-known, affluent families in New York.

And the little sister of an old friend.

Fearful of scandal, the family doesn’t want an investigation.

Sarah though, with Frank’s help, is determined to bring the killer to justice.

Using her past status as a way in to the inner circle of the family, Sarah starts doing a little sleuthing of her own…

Murder on Astor Place is edgy, yet still “cozy”.

Sarah is a smart, independent woman with a layered, stimulating personality and background. And initially I didn’t like Frank, but the author surprises us by letting us get to know him better. I don’t want to give anything away about either of them, as the story sweeps you into the revelations so perfectly. What I will say is that they are both three-dimensional characters.

The murder itself is complex, twisty and was compelling to follow. I guessed a couple things, but overall did not have the whole picture until everything was solved – so I was very happy.

There’s a great vibe to Murder on Astor Place – mature, great historical details, and a large puzzle to do some clue-finding in while appreciating some great main characters.

At the end I knew one thing for sure: I WANT MORE!!!

Definitely a must read for any fans of murder mysteries and/or historical fiction!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Neverwas

Neverwas is a YA sophisticated haunted house story, and the second in the Amber House Trilogy, by Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed and Larkin Reed.

If you haven’t read Amber House, reading Neverwas will not only cause spoilers of the first book – it’ll also be super confusing. Do yourself a favor – read my review of Amber House here and then read the book.

Amber House is extremely awesome – you’ll be glad you listened.

If you have read the stupendous Amber House, then read on for a brief synopsis of Neverwas.

After the death of her grandmother, beloved by her family and community, Sarah Parsons has come to live at Amber House – a centuries-old estate that has been passed down through generations and carries ghostly echoes of the past.

Before long, Sarah begins to get a sensation that things are… wrong… somehow.

Different.

As the American Confederation of States still struggles with segregation, tension is building in town – but even more so in Sarah as she starts to believe she may have caused changes to the world that are not altogether good…

As New Year’s approaches, Sarah decides to listen to what Amber House is trying to tell her and see if she can affect a difference once more – before it’s too late…

Hopefully that’s a vague enough summary, ha!

I absolutely loved Amber House but when I started Neverwas I couldn’t remember much as it had been a while, and I didn’t have time to re-read it. Happily, my memory began to get jogged and my initial, “Huh?” didn’t last too long.

Obviously, there are some clues in there that Neverwas is definitely taking place in an alternate version of what we had gotten used to in Amber House.

Change was definitely achieved and at times it was a little confusing, but the altered world history and the numerous butterfly effects were truly fascinating.

As I read Neverwas I yearned for Sarah to remember events of Amber House, to draw that connection together. There’s a slight difference to her character that is superbly done in the fact that her upbringing is also different. But not so much to make her a completely different person.

Neverwas is peppered full of info of this different version of life, and at times I started to wonder if/when any of it would change but it became increasingly thrilling, intriguing, chilling and extraordinarily well done!!! The race to figure out what event was altered to change so many things is very suspenseful!

Without really giving anything away, I will say that I feel Neverwas is excellently written, a phenomenal time-travel/alternate reality/ghost story novel that is wholly original and compelling.

I am now very, very impatient for the third book!!!

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Parasol Protectorate, Book Five: Timeless

Timeless is the fifth and final novel in Gail Carriger’s adult, comedic, steampunk, supernatural series The Parasol Protectorate set in an alternate Victorian age.

You have to know that I *strongly* recommend reading The Parasol Protectorate in order!! I mean, ARE YOU CRAZY?! The spoilers will, well, spoil too much squeal-worthy goodness!! So, if you haven’t read Soulless, Changeless, Blameless and HeartlessREAD NO FURTHER.

If you have, proceed…

Over the last couple years Lord and Lady Maccon and Lord Akeldama have settled into an out-of-the-ordinary sort of household harmony.

For Alexia this means keeping a hawk’s eye on a toddler that turns supernatural haphazardly and suddenly becomes stronger and faster than she. Oh, joy.

Not to mention assimilating werewolves into London’s High Society and hiding the fact that she and her husband are living in a vampire’s second best closet.

But Alexia likes to keep life interesting.

Then a summons comes from the world’s oldest known vampire queen – all the way in Egypt – “requesting” that Alexia bring little Prudence to meet with said vampire.

Turning the affair into a trip of epic proportions, Alexia, her husband and daughter Prudence are joined on a steamer to cross the Mediterranean with the Tunstells and their entire acting troupe in tow.

Two questions weight heavy on Alexia’s mind as they grow closer to their destination:

One – What does the Queen of the Alexandria Hive really want with her and Prudence?

Two – Will there be any good tea in Egypt?

As Timeless began I absolutely loved seeing little Prudence as a toddler – far more interesting, I think, than if she’d still been an infant. So, the small time gap worked perfectly for me.

The abilities of Alexia and now her daughter Prudence are so inventive and fascinating, while never taking away from the overall breeziness of the series!

Timeless is still laugh-out-loud funny and so much fun – the series, in my opinion, never lost its way or diminished. This final novel felt like a warm, affectionate goodbye to characters we love – yet an opening for more, too.

Again, The Parasol Protectorate series is rather free and loose with its romantic entanglements, but yet again it’s done in such a way that doesn’t bother me too much. In fact, I love the characters so much that I quite easily can let that go…

Timeless is awesome – simply put – though there is a tailspin of horror that caused me great concern. By the conclusion I was in a state of pure satisfaction, however. No details for you!! Read it, you nincompoop!

When I closed the last page I was only still happy because of two truths. One is that we still have two more books of The Finishing School novels. Second is because I know that Gail Carriger is planning a series about Prudence!! It has been delayed, but is still in the works.

Yes, please!!!