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Jessica (HDB)

I'm a bookworm of the highest caliber! If you see me, I'll probably be reading. There's nothing I love more than finding a good book, and then sharing it with the world!

Currently reading

Sleeping Beauties: A Novel
Stephen King, Owen King
Progress: 32%
A Single Stone
Meg McKinlay
Progress: 54/272pages

Dominion (The Molly Stout Adventures #1) by Shane Arbuthnott

Dominion - Shane Arbuthnott

This is such a wonderful story! I'm pleased as punch that requesting the second book in this series for review, and then finding out that I needed to read Dominion first, put this on my radar. You all know how much I love a good Middle Grade book! Dominion is wonderful. Molly Stout is wonderful. So please pardon me while I gush a bit.

In this reader's opinion, the best part about Dominion is Molly herself. Although there's a lot of other parts that are definitely worth gushing about, Molly reigns supreme as the reason this book is so easy to love. I adored Molly's passion, empathy, and the fact that she had just enough reckless bravery to really make things fun. Better still, there's so much growth that happens in this book. From learning that preconceived notions aren't always healthy, to learning that it's okay to love someone and not forgive them, there are messages in this book that I found so important for this age group. Molly's family isn't perfect, her life isn't easy, but she shows how strength and perseverance are what change things for the better.

As for the setting itself, I think the technology of Dominion is truly what sets it apart from a lot of the other MG Fantasy that I've read. Instead of being Steampunk, I'd pin this book more as "Spiritpunk". Molly's world is one that floats in the clouds and sees spirits as fuel. Which, as I mentioned above, allows for this grey area that Arbuthnott really uses as part of Molly's awakening. I could close my eyes and picture massive ships floating in the clouds. To say that it was easy to get caught up in this book is an understatement.

My only issue, and it's a small one, was that there were some loose ends upon finishing. The ending felt a bit like it was rushing to tie as many things up as possible, while setting the stage for a cliffhanger. I know that there's another book on the horizon though, and so I'm willing to be patient! I'm more than happy to follow Molly, no matter where she might go.

The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace

The Memory Trees - Kali Wallace

Alas, The Memory Trees falls on that odd line that I've found lately between something that enchanted me, and also left me slightly cold. I'll do my best to explain, I promise. It should be noted that I love Magical Realism. There's something beautiful about books that keep one foot firmly rooted in our reality, while exploring something otherworldly at the same time. In this case, I'm just not sure that Sorrow's story really accomplished that as well as I had hoped.

At the core of this story is a deep family lineage that, as is often the case, is peppered with grief and loss. The Lovegood family has never had it easy. From the moment that the first Lovegood moved onto their ancestral land, their lives have been difficult and layered. I appreciated the fact that Wallace took the time to let the reader see the vast history that surrounded Sorrow's childhood home. It's easy to see how one event can echo through history, and even affect the present in ways that might not be completely obvious. The stories that were told rooted me in the Lovegood's lives like nothing else could.

The downside to this way of writing though, is that it's rough to really settle into. Although I felt for Sorrow, and understood her anger at what she had lost, I couldn't quite step into her shoes and really become her. There were portions of this story that, while I could see that I should be feeling grief or hatred or anger, all I felt was a missing connection. It's a little tough to explain, but I felt like I was being told this story by someone far removed rather than someone who had actually experienced this. Additionally, I felt like the Magical Realism wasn't really coming through as strongly as it could have. There were small elements of mystery and magic, but they didn't feel as fleshed out as I would have liked. I wish I could have felt more of the magic that Sorrow was meant to feel. Try as I might though, it never stuck.

As you can see, I'm of two minds about this book. The Memory Trees has great bones. The family history here is vast, and gives this book something that I'd been missing. It gives it roots. On the flip side, I never felt fully connected with our protagonist and that made things tough. What I can say is that the audio book version of this is definitely perfection. The narrator that was chosen has a voice that pins down that ethereal quality, and really brings the ghostly Lovegood family to life. So, my final suggestion is just to read this! If you're in love with rich familial ties, wide open country land, and stories that pull you into the life of someone unlike you, this is a book for you.

Cake At Midnight by Jessie L. Star

Cake at Midnight - Jessie L. Star

It's been a while since I sat down and read a romance novel. I open with that thought because you need to understand why it took me a while to settle in to Cake At Midnight. Expecting a fun and food filled romance, I was instantly smitten with Gio and her glowing personality. However as soon as Declan entered the picture, well, let's just kindly say that I didn't get their connection. This book has a lot more drama than I expected and, while that's not necessarily a bad thing, I felt like it took me a while to really get on board with it.

Before anything else though, let me praise Jessie L. Star for creating such a wonderful character in Gio. Her passion for baking, her deep love for her friends (even when they might not quite deserve it), and her endlessly glowing personality all had me smitten. Gio is the type of main character that we'd all love to be friends with. She's the character who you cry for, cheer for, and yell at all in the same ten minute span. In other words, Gio is a human. I loved her for that.

In the same respect, despite my disdain for Declan, all the other characters feel distinctly human as well. They love, they loathe, they make mistakes, and they forgive. It's no surprise that Theo steals center stage once he's introduced. Starting as the stoic "Nod Next Door", and slowly moving towards someone that Gio genuinely feels for, he was definitely someone that I adored. It's always nice to see a relationship on the page that isn't perfect, and takes real time and work to create. While I didn't agree with all of the choices the characters made in this book, I can say that at least I understood them.

My biggest issue with this story was that it felt slightly too long. The drama that unfolded between Theo and his family, and then between Declan and Theo, started to feel a little forced. That and I'm not sure I was entirely satisfied with Gio's growth by the end of the book. She started as a character who was too willing to let her friend walk all over her, and she ended not too far from where she started. I understand happily ever after endings, I just wish Gio had gained a bit more backbone. I know, it's romance. I'm being nitpicky. Still, I admit that would have made me extremely happy.

Overall, this was a sweet and well-written read. If you're looking for a foodie romance, with realistic characters, add Cake At Midnight to your reading list.

Buddy Read!

My Best Friend's Exorcism - Grady Hendrix

Hey everyone!

 

Char, Grim and I are starting a buddy read of this on Saturday, 1/13. If anyone else would like to join us, we'd love to have you. We'll be chatting in this thread:

 

http://booklikes.com/thread/3208/my-best-friend-s-exorcism-buddy-read

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

You Were Here - Cori McCarthy

Two things, before I dive into the meat of this review. One, this is the first YA Contemporary book that I've read in about a year so I'm coming into this with fresh eyes. It's entirely possible that has also biased me to love this book, so let's get that out of the way before anything else. Two, although I was given a copy of this to review back in 2016, it has taken me this long to get to it. I actually borrowed it from the library to read, and I'm not sorry in the least. Now that you know where I'm coming from with this review, let's get started.

I love Jaycee, but I also hate Jaycee. I'll start right there, because that's the kind of book that You Were Here really is. I love Jaycee because she's a broken protagonist who is falling into a pit of grief and can't figure out how to claw her way out. She's raw, brutally honest, and walled off into her own safe place. I love her because she's real. On the flip side, that's also why I hate Jaycee. She reminds me of how easy it is to fall into that pit, how easy it is to push everyone away and become a flicker of your former self, and how hard it really is to let that all go an come back to the light. It was Jaycee, and her profound loss, that really made this book hit home for me. Cori McCarthy perfectly crafted a human being with real flaws, and I soaked that in and reveled in it.

In fact, every character in this book has their own set of flaws and short comings. That's what made me feel so strongly for them. McCarthy even manages to craft a character with social anxiety, who is selectively mute, and still bring him to life on the pages. His chapters, told in graphic novel format, were actually some of my favorites. I loved being pulled in to his mind, and seeing things from his point of view. It's not easy to have a book narrated by multiple characters that isn't confusing at times. McCarthy hits that out of the park though. Every character is so rich, and well formed, that it's not hard at all to skip from the mind of Zach, to Jaycee and back again. It's normal, and wonderful.

What really impressed me, more than anything, was how easy to read this book was. It deals with some tough subjects, unabashedly so, but it does it in a way that makes you love the characters and want to be wrapped up in their lives. I found a part of myself in every one of them, and it made this a really personal and amazing read for me. Highly recommended! Just be prepared to get a bit teary eyed.

Reading progress update: I've read 30%.

The Store - Bentley Little

I had to look at when this was published because the more I listen, the more I feel like this book is just weird commentary on the changing of independently owned businesses, to corporate run businesses. I don't feel the horror aspect of it yet. It just feels... dated. 

 

I'm going to give it a bit more time, and then decide whether to DNF or not.

Reading progress update: I've read 58%.

You Were Here - Cori McCarthy

Okay, this book was an excellent way to jump back in Contemporary reads this year. Last year I couldn't read anything too realistic, because I was trying to hold myself together better and wasn't ready. This year I missed it, picked this book up, and I'm in love. Jaycee's way of dealing with grief, Natalie's way of dealing with anxiety, all of these characters and the ways that they're a little broken by holding it together, it has been speaking to me. This book has completely captured me. I was so mad I had to stop reading when my train ride was over this morning :(.

The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker

The Frog Princess - E.D. Baker

Would it surprise you if I told you that I read this just because I felt like it? No? Good. That means you know my reading style well! I love Middle Grade, I love fairy tales, and I can't resist anything that has a princess involved, so this book was something perfect for a quick read.

 

I loved the fact that Princess Emeralda was a "I can do it myself" kind of girl, and that situations allowed her to do just that. I also very much appreciated the adorable twist that E.D. Baker put on the whole frog prince story, while still staying true to the feeling of the original. This was a sweet, quick read that was a lot of fun to listen to. It was just exciting enough, without being too scary, and actually really well paced. It helps, of course, that Katherine Kellgren narrates this audio book. I adore her voice, and this was no exception.

 

To the surprise of no one, I didn't really love the prince. He was whiny, mostly self-centered, and rough to like. I suppose it was good that he was though, because his inability to really be front and center during any big moments made Emeralda shine! Still, that meant the romance didn't really work out for me, even though I knew it was the whole point of this fairy tale. I know this is Middle Grade, but I still maintain that a princess has every right to be picky! No one wants a whiny prince. *wink*

 

Overall, this was a cute read with a lot of fun parts in it. This would be excellent for a bedtime read between parents and their kids!

The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams

The Wicked City - Beatriz Williams

In all fairness I should probably start this review with the fact I've never read any of Beatriz Williams' previous books, so I don't have any standing knowledge of her writing or characters. So it actually surprised me when I picked up this book and started enjoying it as a standalone, only to slowly fall further and further out of sorts with what was actually going on. I feel like I should warn any potential readers that although this is technically a standalone first book, there are references to Williams' other books here too. I had a friend who has read more of her works than I have explain them to me, and then everything made more sense after that. So, if you're lost, you might want to do a little digging. Just a PSA.

Now, on to The Wicked City. This is a dual narration book, alternating between the POVs of Ella Hawthorne in 1998 and Gin (Geneva) Kelly in 1924. I have to say, I was a little disappointed that Ella didn't get more of the limelight here. I actually enjoyed her story immensely, and felt like she got cut out more than she should have. Struggling to make her way in a world where she was once so happy, and now all alone, I so felt for her. While Gin's story was wonderful, and intriguing, the focus on her didn't create strong ties between these two women's stories. It felt more like Ella was just a filler story to connect Gin's story to present day events. There's a "ghost story" of sorts that works hard to make this connection, but I'm still not convinced. Add in the fact that the ending is wide open to make way for another book, and there are tons of loose threads floating out there, and you'll see why I was on the fence about that.

I can definitely say that Gin's story is well done though. Down to the vernacular, you can feel the vibe and grit of the 1920's. From speakeasies, to bootleggers, to prohibition era agents, it all draws you in to Gin's day to day life in Manhattan. I loved how easily Williams showed Gin's deep love for this Manhattan, despite its less than desirable aspects, and how realistic her life felt on the page. Despite not always feeling like her story tied into Ella's, I can't say that I didn't enjoy seeing life through Gin's eyes. Her story was wild and unpredictable, much like her character, and I appreciated that. In fact, had this been a story that only focused on her, I probably would have happily rated it much higher. It was the stretches of tying this back to other stories, and to other characters, that kept giving me issues.

Truth be told, I'll probably seek out more of Beatriz Williams' books, if for no other reason than I really enjoyed her writing style. I would also like to fill in some of the questions I have for myself, and give some of her other characters a chance. I still feel like it should be noted somewhere though that this book is a little difficult to read as a newbie to Williams' work. If you're willing to enjoy the story without fully understanding every little reference and nuance, you'll be fine. If you're nitpicky, like I am, you might have an issue. I'd say this is worth a read, as long as you know what you're in for! 1920's Manhattan is a fascinating place to take a literary trip to!

Books I Missed in 2017

Just a link to the blog post I put up today, and a call for any recommendations of books published in 2017 that I NEED to read. I did a lot of backlog reading, and basically no new release reading so... I'm really far behind.

 

As always, I'll take all recommendations though. Tell me what I need to read in the new year!

Reading progress update: I've read 50%.

White Hot -  Ilona Andrews

“I’m going to shoot him,” I squeezed through my teeth.

 

“No, that would be murder,” Grandma Frida told me, her voice soothing. “You’ve had a long day. Let’s put your magic away. You know what you need? A nice cup of chamomile tea and a tranquilizer . . .

 

Ahahahahahaha. Oh, Nevada. You and Rogan are just too much. I so needed this to be the last book that I enjoyed this year. Ilona Andrews never ceases to make me happy.

I know it's a day late, but Luna says Merry Christmas!

Reading progress update: I've read 20%.

White Hot -  Ilona Andrews

Is it hot in here, or is it just Mad Rogan?

 

*fans self*

Bout of Books 21

 

Yes, I am alive! Well, mostly. In an effort to finish out my year of introspection and anxiety wrangling strong, and not want to punch anyone on Christmas, I've been lurking a bit. Finishing up last minute books for fun, binge watching Christmas movies, and eating too many tamales. It's been good for me. Now I'm feeling recharged, and ready for my 2018 reading year! I'm going to start off with a bang, with Bout of Books.

 

Bout of Books
 
 
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 8th and runs through Sunday, January 14th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 21 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team
 
 
I'll keep my updates here, and periodically let you know how things are going! I took a huge step back from reviewing over the last few months, but I miss it. I really, really do. So expect more reviews again, and another binge or two of some of my favorite series. 2017 was the year of introspection, 2018 is the year of putting all of that to use. Let's do this!

DNF @ 20%

City of Dark Magic - Magnus Flyte

I can't finish this. Only 20% in and I'm not only confused, I'm bored and mildly baffled at Sarah's character. I'm not a prude, but the sheer amount of sexual tension/acts in the first part of this book really threw me off. I'm just done.

Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin

Snow & Rose - Emily Winfield Martin

It should come as no surprise to my more frequent readers that I eagerly leapt at the chance to read Snow & Rose. Fairy tales were, are, and always will be, my favorite thing to get lost in. In what I can only assume was fate smiling upon me, I started reading this on a day when the weather was particularly rainy and cold. So I got to snuggle up under a blanket, sip tea, and get lost in the world that Emily Martin Winfield had woven for me. It was perfection, and this book had a lot to do with that.

This is a rendition of Snow White and Rose Red, but fundamentally changed in a way that I really appreciated. Snow and Rose's father disappears into the forest one day, leaving his little family to fend for themselves. Cue enchanted woods, mischevious creatures, and two brave little girls who absolutely delighted me every step of the way. I love that Winfield stayed true to the original story, but also gave it a more whimsical spin. Both Snow and Rose come to life on the page, with their own personalities and quirks. I adored them both.

Honestly, I can't wait to see the finished version of this book. The ARC that I was sent for review had sketches of the art that will soon grace the pages, and I am so eager to see the whole package. The sketches that were there already lent so much whimsy to the story, and those were only in pencil. I see Snow & Rose as a story for parents to share with their children at bedtime. I see it as the type of story that will appeal to all fairy tales lovers, both young and old. I see this as the perfect type of escape that we all need sometimes. Snow & Rose is beautiful, and it should definitely be on your reading list.