smoke in the sun by renee ahdieh, a review

34818921_656760461337893_6792604178645516288_n-1SMOKE IN THE SUN by Renee Ahdieh had a book birthday on June 5th! To tell you I was waiting on this sequel with so much anticipation would not do it justice. Almost exactly a year ago I did a review on the first book in this duology, FLAME IN THE MIST.

Here’s what Goodreads has to say:

After Okami is captured in the Jukai forest, Mariko has no choice—to rescue him, she must return to Inako and face the dangers that have been waiting for her in the Heian Castle. She tricks her brother, Kenshin, and betrothed, Raiden, into thinking she was being held by the Black Clan against her will, playing the part of the dutiful bride-to-be to infiltrate the emperor’s ranks and uncover the truth behind the betrayal that almost left her dead.

With the wedding plans already underway, Mariko pretends to be consumed with her upcoming nuptials, all the while using her royal standing to peel back the layers of lies and deception surrounding the imperial court. But each secret she unfurls gives way to the next, ensnaring Mariko and Okami in a political scheme that threatens their honor, their love and very the safety of the empire

This sequel did not disappoint. I was so excited when Amazon accidentally? sent this to me a few days early so I got a head start on reading it. I had missed spending time with Mariko and Okami, and this book brought me right back into their beautiful word.

I enjoyed getting to know new characters, but much like with the The Wrath & The Dawn duology, I was every-so-slightly disappointed that I didn’t get to know these characters as deeply as the others. At times the book felt a little rushed, and a little unfinished, with the additions. However, I was very, very thankful for the epilogue- because without it I’m not sure I would have loved this book as much as the first. Just being honest, here!

Needless to say, overall, I am waiting to see what Renee Ahdieh has next. I am a huge fan.

If you’re in the Phoenix area, Renee will be in Tempe next Wednesday! I personally can’t wait to go. This will be my first reading/book signing- can you believe it? If you’re there, please make sure to say hi (if you like, of course)!

reading books then & now

31527F6E-4D80-4417-B79C-38E6F7F51364There aren’t enough days in the years to read all the books that I wish I could. To enjoy them and then read them again, and again, and again to absorb them. So many books, so little time.

I recently was rereading A LANTERN IN HER HAND by Bess Streeter Aldrich. An older book, I read it when I was a teenager and it didn’t really stick with me. Reading it now, though, as a mother of three- it stuck.

This is the way with books, I think. As we grow and learn and live, they change with us. Whether they are more or less applicable depends, but the pieces of your soul which they stick to can shift. It’s a beautiful, wondrous thing.

But I wonder, if because there are so many books and so little time, if we all take the time we do have to do this with the books that matter. To reread them, learn from them, understand them better. If we are only reading the new, new, new… if we only read books that are meant for younger readers when we are older or older readers when we are younger, are we benefitting from all the reading?

Yes, I would say. Don’t worry.

We always benefit from reading, but I think if we took more time we could benefit even more. Books help us through things, remind us of others, and help us escape. Every book has a different purpose.

If I hadn’t reread A LANTERN IN HER HAND, I would have missed the heartache of Abbie Deal. When I was younger I was more distracted by the idea of her not chasing her dreams and the fact that the book was very wordy and descriptive (less dialogue). Now, though, I understand and appreciate her sacrifice more than can be explained.

Rereading the HARRY POTTER books, for instance, or THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, with my oldest son- I am picking up on things that I have missed. (This is moreso with THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, because I’ve reread HARRY POTTER far too many times.) But each time, the books change for the good and the bad.

I think this proves the (subjective) quality of books. If they stand the test of time, change and yet mean something extraordinary to the reader, they are well worth the time to reread.

What do you think? Do you have any books you have reread that changed with time, or ones you hope/plan to reread?

The Madwoman Upstairs, a review

If you’re a fan of the Bronte sisters, you need to read this book.

[end scene]

 

 

But really. More than anything I want to go and read all of the Bronte works, something I have truthfully not done, in order to study them as much as Catherine Lowell, the author of this book, clearly had to.

However, in particular, if you are a fan of Jane Eyre, as I am– you, more than anyone, need to read this. It makes your mind run with ideas and possibilities, all the while following Samantha and her professor through this journey.

In this smart and enthralling debut in the spirit of The Weird Sisters and Special Topics in Calamity Physics, the only remaining descendant of the Brontë family embarks on a modern-day literary scavenger hunt to find the family’s long-rumored secret estate, using clues her eccentric father left behind.

Samantha Whipple is used to stirring up speculation wherever she goes. As the last remaining descendant of the Brontë family, she’s rumored to have inherited a vital, mysterious portion of the Brontë’s literary estate; diaries, paintings, letters, and early novel drafts; a hidden fortune that’s never been shown outside of the family.

But Samantha has never seen this rumored estate, and as far as she knows, it doesn’t exist. She has no interest in acknowledging what the rest of the world has come to find so irresistible; namely, the sudden and untimely death of her eccentric father, or the cryptic estate he has bequeathed to her.

But everything changes when Samantha enrolls at Oxford University and bits and pieces of her past start mysteriously arriving at her doorstep, beginning with an old novel annotated in her father’s handwriting. As more and more bizarre clues arrive, Samantha soon realizes that her father has left her an elaborate scavenger hunt using the world’s greatest literature. With the aid of a handsome and elusive Oxford professor, Samantha must plunge into a vast literary mystery and an untold family legacy, one that can only be solved by decoding the clues hidden within the Brontë’s own writing.

A fast-paced adventure from start to finish, this vibrant and original novel is a moving exploration of what it means when the greatest truth is, in fact, fiction.

This book took me a little longer to read than my usual speed. One, because I just had a baby, but two because there was so much academia in it and theories that I had to take the time to process it. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t necessarily slow you down– but it makes your mind want to pause and truly think it out.

I loved this book for that. And its characters.

The only downfall, I think, with this book is I had a little trouble connecting with Samantha. It wasn’t that she wasn’t likable or she didn’t have human attributes that made you want to connect, it was that I just had a hard time thinking the way she did as she came across on the page.

Regardless, I wish to get to know the Brontes…and then read this book again. You should, too.

 

flame in the mist by renee ahdieh, a review

IMG_9142If you’ve read my reviews of The Wrath & The Dawn and The Rose & The Dagger, you know I’m a big Renee Ahdieh fan. Her use of history and periods of time, with a fantastical twist, are beautifully done to the point that I’m not always sure I’m ready a version of fantasy. She weaves her worlds and characters in a way that suck you in immediately, so I was more than excited when I found out she was writing another series.

I finished Flame In The Mist in a mere 32 hours, and I’ll forever be grateful for that because it was right before my new little man came into the world. Here’s the Goodreads description:

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

I loved this book because it threw me for a few loops I wasn’t expecting, something her previous duology did as well. Mariko was a very strong character, and initially I thought her love interest might be someone who it didn’t turn out to be. I loved how torn she was between her blood-relatives and, in the end, a new found family.

If you loved Renee Ahdieh’s previous works, I highly recommend this new read. An interest in Japanese culture is also a plus, as this weaves in some very beautiful peaces of dress, food, honor, and more.

Go read it!

 

 

The Hate U Give book review

IMG_6904I had been looking forward to this book since way back when. I love being plugged in to the author/writing community on Twitter. While I’m not going to lay any sort of claim to knowing the author personally, I know someone who knows her– and that always brings books closer to my heart.

But this one, y’all… this one would have been there anyway.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. What everyone wants to know is: What really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could destroy her community. It could also endanger her life.

I read this book in 72 hours, and it would’ve been faster if I didn’t have to adult. The characters/setting was so vivid that I was pulled into every detail of what was going on. Starr was amazing with her torn life and decisions, and I loved every character. As in, no character was lacking story or personality. They all came to life.

This book is extremely relevant to current events, and one that makes you want to sit and think and discuss so many issues. No matter where you stand or what you believe– you should read this book.

Everything Everything book review

IMG_6288EVERYTHING EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon was a book I kept seeing around Instagram, and honestly picked up once I saw the trailer for the movie (don’t hate). While I love YA, I’m not always a huge YA Contemporary person. I have had my moments with John Green and other authors and loved them, but overall I will admit I tend to stick with Historical Fiction the most.

However, one must always branch out. And I’ve made it a goal to do that more and more this year.

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

I loved the creativity that went into this book. All of Madeline’s drawings, diagrams, lists, etc– it adds so much to the book. I love books in any genre that take everything one step farther, and I really think this book did that.

The only negative thing I thought during my time with this book was how realistic some of it was. Of course that’s the fun of fiction, but books like these you have to wonder and question certain aspects of it all. Not saying things/situations aren’t possible, just saying I couldn’t decide how believable it was to me- even in moments I was immersed in the story.

No spoilers, but there was a twist that I was not expecting. And my goodness how it made my heart throb/break/beat. See what I did there? Now you hopefully don’t know what kind of twist it is!

I would suggest reading this before the movie (May 19) if possible. You won’t regret it!

Dream Eater book review

IMG_5575Happy book birthday to K. Bird Lincoln’s Dream Eater! I did a cover reveal for this book a few months ago, hosted a post from the very author, and now I finally get to share my review with y’all!

Koi Pierce dreams other peoples’ dreams.

Her whole life she’s avoided other people. Any skin-to-skin contact–a hug from her sister, the hand of a barista at Stumptown coffee–transfers flashes of that person’s most intense dreams. It’s enough to make anyone a hermit.

But Koi’s getting her act together. No matter what, this time she’s going to finish her degree at Portland Community College and get a real life. Of course it’s not going to be that easy. Her father, increasingly disturbed from Altzheimer’s disease, a dream fragment of a dead girl from the casual brush of a creepy PCC professor’s hand, and a mysterious stranger who speaks the same rare Northern Japanese dialect as Koi’s father will force Koi to learn to trust in the help of others, as well as face the truth about herself.

I read through this book pretty quickly when I received it. I was very excited about the Japanese folklore inside, as I have little to no knowledge of it and was eager to learn and explore alongside the characters. Koi quickly drew me in with her hermit-like tendencies and desire to not touch anyone. It was easy to get sucked into what was going on, fast.

Kept entertained through the book, I only had trouble following sometimes as it was hard to figure out what was going on with Koi and the dream fragments from time to time. Once more, I also really wanted more character development from her sister, her father, and even Koi herself. Thankfully I know this is the first in a series, so I’m hoping more comes to life through more books!

My favorite part of this book was the descriptiveness. It was so easy to see Koi, the other characters, and the surroundings.

As Koi drew closer to accepting who she was and interacting more with those around her, it grew harder and harder for me to put the book down. Needless to say, I will definitely be looking forward to the rest of the series!

 

All The Missing Girls book review

17308699_435957483418193_4427007164832455838_nI picked up this book of the recommendation of my agent, and I’m not sorry at all. I absolutely love crime/mystery/thrillers, although I don’t read them as often as I did in the days of Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie (when I was younger). This book took me a minute to stick with it, but once it started tugging with clues and suspicion, I could not stop!

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

Like nothing you’ve ever read before, All the Missing Girls delivers in all the right ways. With twists and turns that lead down dark alleys and dead ends, you may think you’re walking a familiar path, but then Megan Miranda turns it all  down and inside out and leaves us wondering just how far we would be willing to go to protect those we love

I loved that this book was written “backwards.” At first I wasn’t sure. I thought, how is this going to work? But once I got pulled into it, it was such a cool way to read. When you got to earlier chapters, things continued to make more and more sense as the mystery unfolded. Not only that, but things from earlier in the book, but later in the timeline, became clearer, hoping me draw conclusions and call the killer.

Just so we’re clear, I’m pretty sure no one can guess the ending of this book. That’s why you should read it!

I gave it four stars on Goodreads, mostly because there were some parts where I wasn’t really sure it was helping the story, but overall this book was so worth the read. More than worth the read.

Go get it!

damaged goods by jennifer bardsley, a book review

IMG_0637If you haven’t read Genesis Girl, the first book in the BLANK SLATE set– stop right now, and go read it.

After you’ve done that (and I don’t think it will take you long, because it consumes you until you’re finished), you can come back and read this review about the second book of BLANK SLATE.

Here’s what Goodreads has to say about Damaged Goods:

Blanca has everything she ever wanted, a hot boyfriend and the loving support of her foster father. She’s finally escaped the abusive control of her birth father and her tortured childhood at Tabula Rasa School.

But the scars of Blanca’s Vestal upbringing run deep, especially when the FBI start asking questions.

Blanca feels abandoned by her boyfriend, who is hunting for Lilith, Blanca’s only blood relative. The Defectos, a support group of Vestal-Rejects, offer Blanca comfort which she readily accepts.

While the Vestal order crumbles, Chinese rivals, the Guardians, rise to power and wrest control of important Tabula Rasa contacts. As Blanca’s life is thrown into chaos once more, she struggles to recognize friend from foe, and one miscalculation can have devastating consequences.

This sequel to Genesis Girl sucked me in, fast. Thanks to having a sick day, I read the majority of this book in one setting, and I’m so glad I got to do just that.

I loved the questions that were answered in this book, the ones we were left with after reading Genesis Girl, and I loved the twists and turns this sequel took us on. The twists, in the end, that were presented might have made me gasp out loud.

The biggest thing I love about both of these books is the big idea it presents with the Vestals. A community of kids being raised in a hunkered-down school that is technology free does not feel like it’s something too far off from our future. In fact, all the ideas that Bardsley presents gives a person pause, considering the technology age we live in today.

I love Blanca’s character and how she struggles with not wanting to be a brainwashed Vestal, but still hold true to the way she was raised without the burden of too much technology.

The only thing that left me a little puzzled were the questions we didn’t get answered in this book, which makes me hope/hanker for a third book.

If you haven’t read these books, I’m very serious: Go. Now.

iron cast book review

img_0076Iron Cast was one of the last books I read of 2016, and as soon as I started it I had a hard time putting it down. It’s a beautiful historical fantasy set in 1919 that is full of twists a reader would be hard to catch until that very moment in the story.

Historical fantasy really seems to be growing on me. Being a lover of historical fiction, I’ve been branching out more and more and I’m not sorry for it. Although I’m pretty sure historical fantasy will never be something I, myself, could write– I thoroughly enjoy the authors who do.

And Destiny Soria’s work is no exception. Here’s the description from Goodreads:

In 1919, Ada Navarra—the intrepid daughter of immigrants—and Corinne Wells—a spunky, devil-may-care heiress—make an unlikely pair. But at the Cast Iron nightclub in Boston, anything and everything is possible. At night, on stage together, the two best friends, whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art, weave magic under the employ of Johnny Dervish, the club’s owner and a notorious gangster. By day, Ada and Corinne use these same skills to con the city’s elite in an attempt to keep the club afloat.

When a “job” goes awry and Ada is imprisoned, she realizes they’re on the precipice of danger. Only Corinne—her partner in crime—can break her out of Haversham Asylum. But once Ada is out, they face betrayal at every turn.

This description, to me, does not adequately portray the book. While it obviously grabbed my attention, a little more insight to the details might make one want to read it even more.

The dual point of view in this book really helps the reader get to know the two main characters, Ada and Corinne. Their friendship is what drives the book, which is one of the reasons I loved it so much. While there are romances brought into the chapters, they are not the focus, or even big highlights, that run the plot.

The magic in this book is beautiful, and it brings up some good questions with it. The characters toe the line with their gifts between what is right and what is wrong, but the justification that is brought to light in all of it is because they have been forced into a position where they cannot use their gifts solely for good.

This point and thought, as off as it might seem, made me think of X-Men and how the mutants are forced between what is right and what is wrong because of how the world sees them. It’s the same type of concept, and one that can be applied to many issues constantly arising in our world today.

I would not have heard of this book had I not just been perusing Amazon one day for more historical fiction/fantasy, and I worry that it’s the same for others. If you haven’t heard of it, and are a lover of historical fantasy, you’ll want to pick this up.

Now.

This instant.

Go.