Monday, January 22, 2018

Book Review: Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Title: Down Among the Sticks and Bones
Series: Wayward Children #2
Written by: Seanan McGuire
Published: June 13, 2017 by Tor Books (Macmillan)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you've got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

I really loved Every Heart a Doorway. It had been on my list to read for awhile and I wish I had read it sooner. But the benefit of reading it now is that I can marathon the series. And that's exactly what I did. I started this book almost immediately after finishing book one. And this one was just as good.

One of the things I found missing from Every Heart a Doorway is more information about Jack and Jill. They were two of the most intriguing characters in the first book in the series and I wanted to know so much more about them their motivations, for obvious reasons. So I was incredibly excited to find out this was a book about them and their backstory. We learn a lot more about them including their upbringing, what led them to their fantasy world, and what it was like there for them. Most of the book is from Jack's perspective, which was fine, but I do kind of wish we got a little bit more from Jill. She's totally fascinating in that love to hate kind of way. But Jill is pretty cool as well. She definitely became very sympathetic in this book.

I think part of what made these characters so likable and interesting is the deeper themes that are explored when it comes to the characters and their relationships. This is definitely a series that explores the idea of belonging. That continued in this book and you really feel that overarching theme when you see if from more perspective.  But it also does a really great job with the concept of identity. So much of the characterizations here were about the characters figuring out who they are and who they want to be. I always find that to be an incredible relatable concept, no matter who you are or what your background. I really liked the way Jack and Jill were kind of forced into being one thing and then that shifted in a way that actually felt genuine. It wasn't a complete 180, it was a natural  progression, which made it all the more engaging.

But honestly, I wanted a little bit more from the plot of this book. It's definitely a character driven story, it's about Jack and Jill and how they became the young women we met in Every Heart a Doorway. Which is a great concept and one I was totally on board for. It should have been a little villain origin story, a little Hero's Journey, a little coming-of-age story. But it never really sold either of these concepts. I know it is a short book but I think it could have taken a little more time developing this stuff more. I think this is really the only thing that kept me from fully loving this book.

But one thing that I did love was the world. In Every Heart a Doorway I said I really wish we were able to explore the fantasy worlds, and here I got my wish. But even better than that, we were able to explore The Moors, one of the worlds I was most interested in. The Moors is a Gothic fiction fan's dream come true. It's dark and ominous with the perfect combination of horror and mystery. There were dubious characters and the perfect amount of gore. It's not really a place would want to visit myself but I found it totally fascinating and the perfect setting for this kind of book. it was atmospheric and pulled you in adding a level of suspense and interest. I honestly want more from this world. I want a whole novel from this world. I want a book about the Doctor and the Master. What's their story?

But that's probably pretty indicative of how I feel about this series in general. It's really good but I want so much more. There is another book and I can't wait to dive into it but I wish these were full length novels and not just novellas. They are so good they deserve the full book treatment.

I give Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire 9 out of 10 stars


Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. If you are like me and you enjoyed the first book in this series but wanted to learn more about the characters and the fantasy worlds then definitely check this book out.

Have you read Down Among the Sticks and Bones? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

ARC Review: Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Title: Unearthed
Series: Unearthed #1
Written by: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Published: January 9, 2018 by Disney Hyperion

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: When Earth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, it seems like the solution the planet has been waiting for. The Undying's advanced technology has the potential to undo environmental damage and turn lives around, and Gaia, their former home planet, is a treasure trove waiting to be uncovered.

For Jules Addison and his fellow scholars, the discovery of an alien culture offers unprecedented opportunity for study... as long as scavengers like Amelia Radcliffe don't loot everything first. Mia and Jules' different reasons for smuggling themselves onto Gaia put them immediately at odds, but after escaping a dangerous confrontation with other scavvers, they form a fragile alliance.

In order to penetrate the Undying temple and reach the tech and information hidden within, the two must decode the ancient race's secrets and survive their traps. But the more they learn about the Undying, the more their presence in the temple seems to be part of a grand design that could spell the end of the human race...

I’ve been excited about this book since I first learned about like a year ago. Not only is it an amazing concept, Lara Croft meets Indiana Jones in space, but it’s written by two authors I love who I am excited are writing together again. And I was not disappointed by this book. It was a thrilling read with a fascinating world and so many surprises.

One of the things that I think Amie and Meagan do so well is plot. This book proved that for sure, because it is a book that is incredibly gripping and full of excitement. That should probably come as no surprise considering the comparison between Lara Croft and Indiana Jones. It definitely has that exploration and adventure story kind of vibe. So many moments had me on the edge of my seat as the characters attempted to escape whatever trap or challenge they had before them. It’s definitely exciting and full of action.

But I think the thing that surprised me most about the book is the amount of mystery. It’s not a mystery in and of itself, but it still had so many mystery elements. It’s not even like there is anything to solve and yet I still wanted to solve everything. I wanted to know everything and figure out everything. About a two-thirds of the way into the book the tone changed a little bit as things started shifting to a new mystery and twist. I often get annoyed at books for changing things so drastically so late but here I think it worked. It added a level of interest and mystery to the book. And holy crap that ending! The way it left off was incredible but seriously so mean! I need book two ASAP.

But I think the most engaging thing about this book was the world. Amie and Meagan do science fiction so well. They have this great way about adding science to the books without getting bogged down in the specifics. I really liked the way that there was a background here too. It wasn’t just about the future, it was about what happened in the past to get to where we are. It grounded the book which I appreciated. The other fantastic thing about this world was the planet they were exploring. It was so interesting. It had a really cool archeology, ancient temples, kind of vibe which I found amazing. But it also gave me flashbacks to the time I did an Escape Room. The puzzles and the way they incorporated all of that in the actual setting was so cool. All of this really combined to draw you into the world and added as much to the plot as it did to the setting.

As for the characters, I did liked but I’m not sure they were exceptional. It’s a book that had multiple perspectives which was fine, it added a layer to the story to be able to see things from different sides and get to know the main characters on a more personal level. But I don’t think it’s a book that needed multiple perspectives. It would have been just fine if we saw things from either Jules or Mia’s P.O.V. I do think they were likable characters though. Both had their own reasons for doing what they were doing and they were motivated by something personal which made them easy to root for. Plus I liked the way they played with gender roles a little bit by making Jules the academic who is slightly helpless and Mia the adventurous and strong one. Plus they did have layers to them and were interesting.

My biggest reservation withy he characters, and honestly the reason I didn’t love them as much as I would think, was the romance. I am very surprised to report that there is an Amie and Meagan unlikely duo that didn’t have me shipping them. Maybe I’m just getting more picky with my romance or maybe it was something else. It just kind of felt like a lust sort of scenario. Throughout the book there kept being moments where the characters talked about how they thought the other person was cute but I just didn’t feel it went any deeper than that. I think they were a great team and seemed to have affection for one another but I’m just not all in when it comes to the romance. I would have preferred it there was more of a built up to something more. But they made the romance part of the plot and characterization and that’s where I think they lost me. But that is completely a personal preference. I’m okay with romance but I don’t really like it to be a plot line.

But all in all this was a fantastic read. I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it and I couldn’t put it down. I read this over the weekend as I was just feeling better from being sick and I am so glad I was able to devour it because it was that good. It has a thrilling plot, an engaging world, and complex characters.

I give Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner 9.5 out of 10 stars


Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. If you like science fiction or are looking for a book full of adventure and mystery definitely check this one out. And anyone who was a fan of the Starbound trilogy will love the triumphant return of Amie and Meagan back together. I know I did.

Have you read Unearthed? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday


A weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine

Title: Not if I Save You First
Author: Ally Carter
Published: March 27, 2018 by Scholastic

Synopsis: Maddie thought she and Logan would be friends forever. But when your dad is a Secret Service agent and your best friend is the president's son, sometimes life has other plans. Before she knows it, Maddie's dad is dragging her to a cabin in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness.

No phone.
No Internet.
And not a single word from Logan.

Maddie tells herself it's okay. After all, she's the most popular girl for twenty miles in any direction. (She’s also the only girl for twenty miles in any direction.) She has wood to cut and weapons to bedazzle. Her life is full. Until Logan shows up six years later . . .
And Maddie wants to kill him.

But before that can happen, an assailant appears out of nowhere, knocking Maddie off a cliff and dragging Logan to some unknown fate. Maddie knows she could turn back- and get help. But the weather is turning and the terrain will only get more treacherous, the animals more deadly. Maddie still really wants to kill Logan. But she has to save him first.

Why I'm Waiting:

I really enjoy Ally Carter. I have not read all her books but every book from her I have read I really enjoyed. I love the idea of this one because it seems to find of combine some elements from all the other series. It's not quite a spy novel like Gallagher Girls but I'm sure there will be elements of that. It's not quite a heist novel like The Heist Society but it's a rescue mission so I'm down. And it's not quite a political thriller like Embassy Row but the president's son does go missing so I'm sure there will be some politics involved. I hope.

Anyway, either way, I'm very excited. This book sounds fun and with a really fantastic mystery/thriller. Plus it's Ally Carter so probably there will be a lot of humor. I'm really excited to read it and I am sure it will be amazing and fun.

I am definitely going to get myself a copy of this book. I still haven't decided which new releases to get this winter but I know this one will be among them. I meant to request a review copy but I totally forgot and probably now it is too late. But that's fine. I'll read this book regardless because it sounds so good.


What about you? What are you waiting for this Wednesday? Are you waiting on Not if I Save You First along with me? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish and Blogging Resolutions of 2018

A weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Reading Goals

1.) Read 120 Books
Last year I had to lower my goal after a very slow fall. I came close to my original goal of 150 books but I did not meet it. I though this year instead of setting a high goal and having to lower it, I would set a lower goal and raise it.

2.) Read 20 debuts
I'm not doing any formal challenges this year. I feel like not meeting them isn't great for morale. But I always really like reading debuts. Sometimes my favorite books of the year are debuts, plus I liker being up on the new reads.

3.) Read 25 books from Netgalley/Edelweiss
Speaking of new reads, I have not been very good at reading e-ARCs. Partially this is because I don't have a ton because I'm not really spending as much time checking it as I used to, and maybe it's just because I don't have time to read on public transportation anymore.

4.) Read 15 backlist books 
In the past few years I wanted to read like 25 backlist books and I have never met that goal. So while I still want to read books that are not new releases I think I need to set a more realistic goal.

Blogging Goals

5.) Post four times a week
At one point in time this was not very difficult, but these days it kind of is. I'm lucky some weeks if I can post three times I week. But I want to get back to posting more often. I have been reading more so I think this is doable if I make sure to other posts.

6.) Write more discussion posts
Which brings me to my next goal. Last year I was doing the discussion post challenge and I did not complete it. I need to be better about doing more discussion posts. It's one of the things I love reading most and always have fun writing.

7.) Comment on blogs daily 
Part of the problem with my new job is that I can't spend all day on social media and reading blog posts. Because of that I have to make time to read and comment on blogs. This year I am resolved to do just that.

8.) Redesign my blog.
This is something I say basically every year. But I am once again getting to the point where I want my site to look different. And I think that now is a good time to make a new design that is more my own and not a template.

Other Goals

9.) Go to ALA and some more signings in Boston. 
I thought there weren't very many book signings in Pittsburgh but there are so many less in Providence. But there are plenty in Boston. I want to go to more. I also want to go to ALA again. because not only was it super fun but it's in New Orleans this year.

10.) Finishing writing something.
I have started plenty of writing projects but I have never actually finished anything. This year I am determined to finish something. And I won't let myself start something else until I do that.

There you have it. All my goals for 2018. What are your goals? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Audiobook Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Title: Every Heart a Doorway
Series: Wayward Children #1
Written by: Seanan McGuire
Published: April 5, 2016 by Tor Books (Macmillan)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

This book was such a short, weird, totally engaging read. It’s been on my TBR for quite some time but after getting the audiobook on an Audible sale I finally took the time to read it. And I’m glad that I did because it was really interesting.

I was initially attracted to this book because of the concept. I love the idea of people who had been to fantasy worlds not being able to function when they return to normal society and them having to go to a boarding school to cope. And the author did a great job of establishing that concept and making it engaging. It became so much more about belonging than I expected but it totally worked. Because of that it grounded the book and the characters.

Speaking of the characters they were one of the best parts here. I don’t like to refer to characters as quirky very often but oh man these were some quirky and weird characters. They had all been to magical worlds of some kind and it had definitely affected them. Some had been to nonsense worlds ala Wonderland others more darker places. But all the characters were strange in the most endearing way. Plus this book had diverse characters. Not only did we have an on the page asexual explaining what that meant and how she feels but we also had a transgender character and racial diversity. These were definitely interesting characters and characters I was rooting for.

As far the plot goes, it was interesting but I wanted more. This book did a really good job of balancing the character-driven with more plot-driven elements. There was the story of belonging and who you are after a “trauma” but there was also a pretty good mystery. However, the mystery elements just didn’t get as much attention as I would have hoped. It almost felt like an afterthought. There wasn’t really much to solve and even when things were revealed it was just kind of glossed over. I definitely found the twist a little surprising and I just wish they had allowed it to sink in before they had moved on. I know there are more books in the series so I am hoping there is more to learn and see.

One of the more interesting things about this book is the world. I don’t know how the author has managed to develop multiple worlds without is ever having been there but she did. It made me very curious about these worlds. I kind of hope in future books we get to go to more of the fantasy worlds. Maybe because they were so interesting and maybe because I was expecting more of a low fantasy world within a world kind of read and I got a mystery.

I definitely enjoyed this book. It was a short and sweet read that was super interesting. It had a fascinating concept with a mystery grounded in a character-driven story. I was hoping for more from the plot and the world.

I give Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire 9 out of 10 stars


Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. If you are a fan of world within a world fantasy and are looking for an interesting and short read that plays with the genre tropes then definitely check this one out.

Have you read Every Heart a Doorway? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Friday, January 12, 2018

ARC Review: Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely

Title: Gunslinger Girl
Written by: Lyndsay Ely
Published: January 2, 2018 by Jimmy Patterson (Little Brown Books for Young Readers)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: James Patterson presents a bold new heroine—a cross between Katniss Everdeen and Annie Oakley: Serendipity Jones, the fastest sharpshooter in tomorrow's West.

Seventeen-year-old Serendipity "Pity" Jones inherited two things from her mother: a pair of six shooters and perfect aim. She's been offered a life of fame and fortune in Cessation, a glittering city where lawlessness is a way of life. But the price she pays for her freedom may be too great....

In this extraordinary debut from Lyndsay Ely, the West is once again wild after a Second Civil War fractures the U.S. into a broken, dangerous land. Pity's struggle against the dark and twisted underbelly of a corrupt city will haunt you long after the final bullet is shot.

**** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ****

I love a good YA Western! This is one of my most anticipated debuts of 2018 and I was ecstatic to get a copy at ALA/ I was so excited to read another one, especially one with a post-apocalyptic setting. And I am happy to report that this was a fantastic read with a great plot and an engaging world.

I think the thing I was most excited and most nervous about this book was the world.
Westerns are such a great setting that is rife for action and adventure. But they are also sometimes hard to do well. This one I think was done well. What I liked about it was that it wasn’t too over the top. It had elements of Westerns like lawlessness, a saloon style setting, six-shooters, and more but it wasn’t trying to be a historical fiction which I actually enjoyed. This book balanced the elements of Westerns with science fiction naturally. It made for a much more complex world which I really enjoyed.

But this book also had a ton of political intrigue. If you know me, I love when books have political intrigue. And like a lot of things about this world it wasn’t too overwhelmingly. It didn’t get bogged down with details about the second Civil War, it was just one elements that added to the world. It just kind of touched on what happened and why the world is this way. Then it added more to the world with the current political climate. It could have easily gotten too complicated and confusing. It really just added a lot of drama to the world and plot of this world.

Speaking of the the plot, I really enjoyed the plot of this book. It was a book full of action, adventure, and mystery. It’s the kind of book where you are instantly pulled in with the plot. I read most of this book on two flights and it was the perfect book for travel. It’s a fast paced and exciting read. I honestly didn’t want to put it down. Usually when that happens it’s because I am curious about what is going to happen next. I don’t think that was necessarily the case, it was still just very engaging. And I am so interested to see what happens next. Because this book did that rare thing where it concluded the current book and left things wide open for the future.

As for the characters I found them engaging but a little basic. I did connect with Pitt pretty quickly in the book. She had a seriously rough upbringing and came out of it tough, determined, and still compassionate. I wanted to see her get out of that all and have the life she wanted to. As for the rest of the characters they were pretty odious but they didn’t quite make me feel how I usually do with those kinds of characters. I think maybe I just didn’t connect with them so some of the twists and surprises fell a little flat. The characters were likable I was just hoping they could maybe be more complex, but that’s just a personal preference.

All in all I really enjoyed this book. It was everything I was hoping it would be. It had an interesting world, an exciting plot, and likable characters.

I give Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely 9 out of 10 stars


Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. If you like YA Westerns or are looking for a unique dystopian definitely check this one out. It is a fantastic debut and worth a read.

Have you read Gunslinger Girl? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

ARC Review: Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking

Title: Between the Blade and the Heart
Series: Valkyrie #1
Written by: Amanda Hocking
Published: January 2, 2018 by Wednesday Books (St. Martins)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Valkyries have one great responsibility: to return immortals to the afterlife by slaying them. As a Valkyrie, Malin has always known that the balance of the world rests on her ability to carry out orders. But when Malin discovers that her mother spared the life of an immortal who was destined to die, her world is thrown into chaos.

Malin not only wrestles with the knowledge that her mother might not be who she thought—she’s also thrust into the path of a gorgeous blue eyed guy named Asher who needs her help slaying the rogue immortal who destroyed his family. The balance of the world is at stake. And, as Asher competes with Malin’s ex for her love and loyalty, so is her heart.

**** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ****

I was so excited to read this book. I have been wanting to read more books about Vikings and Norse Mythology. So when I heard there was a book about Valkyrie I was over the moon. And I was even more excited to get a review copy. I made this my first read of 2018 because I was so excited. And while this was a good read it didn't blow me away.

One thing I did really like about this book is the plot. I am constantly reminding you all how much of a plot driven reader I am and this was perfect fodder for people like me who want a book with a strong and specific plot. In fact I think this book may have even had too much plot. So much happened in this book. There were surprises, thrills, action scenes, and lots and lots of adventure. The book definitely built to an exciting conclusion. But like I said, there was almost too much. It's one of those books where so much happens that it has to move super quickly from moment to moment. Because of that I think there was a lack of impact here. Everything was really good but I wasn't able to let it all sink in before we had already moved. I wish that it just had a little bit more of a weight to everything.

I also liked the world of this book despite the fact that it wasn't really what I was expecting. Because this book is definitely urban fantasy. I have not read any Amanda Hocking but I think this is probably what she does well. I don't read a ton of urban fantasy but it's nice every once and a while to read a book like that. This is a world that mostly combines elements from Norse Mythology. But what I appreciated is that it also pulled in some other mythologies as well. Most of the immortals were really interesting and unique which I really appreciated. Plus this book had that show instead of tell style of world building. There were multiple times where I found myself looking up the mythological figures that were mentioned to find out who they were. This was definitely an engaging world and one that was perfect for this kind of read.

As far as the characters go these ones were okay but I didn't totally connect with them. Malin was a fan main character. I appreciated her desire to make a difference and think she was tough and resilient but I finished the book a few days ago and honestly I remember very little about her, she just didn't make that strong of an impression. I do remember she had some complicated relationships with her family. Her mother was only minimally involved but I think their relationship was interesting. She was definitely was searching for approval from her because she admired her so much but she wasn't really getting that. It made for an interesting dynamic that's for sure but it didn't make for super interesting characters.

But I think my biggest problem with the characters and this book in general was the romance. I know I am really hard to please in the romance category but I just was not impressed with this book. One thing I did appreciate was that it has an on the page bisexual character. You saw her not only be attracted to both men but also women. But that just made for a weird love triangle situation. And neither of them I was really very invested in despite the fact that she seemed to be invested in both. I appreciate that she was so sex positive but I was just not into the romance and it kind of impacted my feelings on the rest of the book to be honest.

In general I think this was a good read. It had a great plot and an interesting world but I didn't love the characters but the overblown romance and super complicated plot just kept me from totally enjoying it. It had a lot of promise but it didn't completely live up to that.

I give Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking 8 out of 10 stars


Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you are a fan of urban fantasy and are looking for a YA with a sex positive bisexual romance than maybe check this one out. It was interesting it just didn't super impress me.

Have you read Between the Blade and the Heart? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!