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“Raven Song” Book Review

Displaying Cover.jpgPhoto courtesy of: Author Assistant

Author:  I. A. Ashcroft

Publisher: Lucid Dreams Publishing

Type: Dystopian, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Rating: 🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Raven Song is a post-apocalyptic story in which the world as we know it burned and society has had to rebuild and find a way to survive in the charred remains of the time before. The story centers around Jackson, a smuggler, and a man with no memory of where he comes from. All that Jackson knows is that he is able to see ravens wherever he goes, this despite the fact that ravens are a long extinct bird. In contrast to Jackson is Anna, a woman out of her time. Anna is a woman who went to work one day, only to then wake over a century later in a box. Scared, unable to breathe, Anna finds herself being saved from the box she’s in by none other than Jackson.

What ensues is a story of two humans who despite being from different times, find themselves drawn to one another through an unspoken and not entirely understood connection. With government officials and those who believe in and practice magic working to track them down and do all that they can to either control, or if need be, kill them, Jackson and Anna come to realize just how much they need the other one to survive and to find out who they are, why they’ve been brought together, where Jackson came from, and what happened in Anna’s past that has caused her to be present 100 years in her future.

Thoughts:

I received a free copy of this book from Author Assistant in exchange for an honest review. I really wanted to like this as the premise sounded interesting and like something that would blow my mind. Unfortunately, this book did not live up to my expectations. I found it to be painfully slow-moving, and there were many times where I wanted nothing more than to walk away from it never to return; but, I persisted in pushing through in hopes it would pick up and get better. Despite reading the occasional paragraph or even page where my attention was fully captured, these moments of enjoyment did not last long and sooner than I would have like, I was back to plodding my way through the book.

Not only did the plot move way too slow, but I found that it posed more questions than it answered. I know that this is the first book in a series and that this book is laying the ground work for the later books, but it would have been nice is some of the questions that were posed were answered instead of sidestepping the issue and creating more questions. Having finally finished this book, I currently have no plans to finish the series.

“The Sleepwalker” Book Review

Author: Chris Bohjalian

Publisher: Doubleday Books

Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Type: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

One morning, Annalee Ahlberg’s children wake to discover that their mother has disappeared in the middle of the night. Knowing that their mother suffers from sleepwalking, Lianna and her sister Paige immediately contact their father who is out-of-town for a conference along with the police and neighbors to get a search party going. With no clues to where Annalee went, aside from a small piece of fabric from her nightshirt which is found hanging from a tree branch by the Gale River, the search eventually fizzles out.

With the case having gone cold due to a lack of clues and a body, Annalee’s daughter Lianna works to understand both her mother’s sleepwalking and who she was as a person. As Lianna delves into her mother’s history, she finds herself being drawn to one of the detectives investigating her mother’s disappearance, Gavin Rikert. With mounting questions about: what drew her mother out of bed that night? what exactly Gavin’s relationship to her Annalee was? If her mother is in fact dead, where is the body? Lianna slowly puts the pieces of what happened that night together as clues prove to be slow in forthcoming.

Thoughts:

I was fortunate enough to receive a galley copy of Chris Bohjalian’s newest book, The Sleepwalker from the publisher and as with other books I have read by Mr. Bohjalian, this was a truly enjoyable and unique story to read. This is also going to be a hard review to write as I don’t want to give away too much, but I’ll do my best. One of the main things I loved about this book was how much it taught me about sleepwalking and the different types of sleepwalking that exist as I knew next to nothing about this condition. The characters were wonderfully fleshed out and I found that I was just as frustrated as the main character Lianna was in her search to figure out who her mother was and what happened the night of the disappearance.

Upon learning what happened to Annalee, I couldn’t help but feel like Lianna in that I knew all along what happened that night, as the clues were provided to me earlier in the story but I didn’t want to believe that was what happened. The old adage, of often the simplest answer is the correct one came to me as it proved to be true. Despite silently berating myself for not figuring it out sooner, I still enjoyed the story and can’t help but marvel at the fact that once again, Chris Bohjalian has managed to weave such a complex and intricate story that not only held my attention but provided just the right amount of misdirection and red herrings to keep me second guessing where I thought the story was heading.

Even though I loved this book, and I love the writing style, I gave it a four out of five rating because I found the first part of the book to be a bit slow. Despite this, the book did pick up in pace and drama for me once I finally settled in and I ended up flying through the second half of the book with no trouble.

If you’re a fan of Chris Bohjalian, you definitely do not want to miss this book.

 

Top 12 Books of 2016

As 2016 draws to a close I can’t help but reflect on the past year and all the books I read. For the most part, the majority of the 102 books read I found entertaining and enjoyable, there were only a handful that I did not enjoy. Looking back on all of these books, I felt it was only right to select my top 12 books from the year. As I waded through the list of books, I decided it was best to select my top read from each month to help narrow down the contenders.

JanuarySalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea was my first introduction to the writing of Rita Sepetys and she quickly became a writer that I look forward to reading more from. This was a beautifully written historical fiction YA book about a very little known piece of World War II history. The story centers around four teens who are each making their way, amidst thousands of other refugees towards the coast in hopes of boarding the Wilhelm Gustloff ahead of the Soviet advance. This was a heart-wrenching and all too human story of the greatest tragedy in maritime history. This book was my top read for January because of how well Ms. Sepetys wove the story together and for moving me to moments of tears and joys as she told the story.

FebruaryAudacity by Melanie Crowder

Another historical fiction YA book, Audacity tells the story of Clara Lemlich, a young Russian Jew who emigrated to New York at the turn of the twentieth century. Clara found herself working in a factory on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and after harsh work conditions she went on to lead the largest strike by women in US history. This book made it to the top of my February list mainly for the way the story was told. This important story was told in verse and for me it brought the story to life that much more. Verse isn’t for everyone, but I think that this is a book that many would find enjoyable.

MarchDark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn

Every so often I get in the mood for some poetry reading and I will look towards either a classic poet, or a more modern poet. In March, I found myself reading Amber Tamblyn’s book of poetry that looks at the lives of more than twenty-five of Hollywood’s actresses. The poems range from Marilyn Monroe to Sharon Tate, from the famous to the lesser known. The poems are insightful and raw, and the pictures that accompany many of the pieces are each unique to that poem and to the artist who drew it. I would love for Amber to one day write a male version of Dark Sparkler as there are plenty of male actors in Hollywood with dramatic stories of their own.

AprilNovember 9 by Colleen Hoover

This was my first Colleen Hoover book and I decided to pick it up after seeing so many rave reviews of it on Instagram. I devoured this book in a matter of hours and was left not only satisfied with the book as a whole, but left wondering how I had gone so long without reading it. Not only did November 9 quickly become my favorite read for the month of April, but it became one of my favorite books of all time. So much so, that I’m afraid to read any other books by Colleen Hoover in case they don’t live up to this one, but I’m sure I’ll get over that fear in the New Year.

MayScarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw

Reading this book was like spending the afternoon with one of my best friends. Scarlett was the kind of fan girl that I was able to relate to as she reminded me of how obsessed I was with Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I was a teen. Now, I didn’t take part in the online communities or write Buffy fanfic, but I did make it a point to be home when it aired and I would shush anyone who tried to speak to me during that hour of the night. This was one of my favorite début of the year and I can’t wait to see what else Anna Breslaw comes out with.

JuneGirl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

I found this book to be a very cathartic read, as I myself had experienced a trauma at the beginning of the year. I was able to relate to Maguire and her issues with anxiety so much so reading Girl Against the Universe aided me in dealing with my own anxiety and working to move forward in my own life. Both this book and the author, Paula Stokes, are on my favorites list because of what was an important read for me and because of the kind words I received from Paula Stokes when she read my review of her book.

JulyThe Call by Peadar O’Guilin

This YA horror story is one that literally haunted my dreams while reading it. Rather than reading the story in one sitting, I decided to draw out the anticipation of everything and as a result I would toss and turn at night dreaming of all the different possibilities where the book was going to go next. My nocturnal musings led to me only getting 4-5 hours before I was awake again and picking the book back up. I loved everything about this book and its unique take on the folklore of the fae in Ireland and what happened to them. This was the perfect book to keep one up reading late into the night.

AugustGirl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

I have recommended this book to so many of my fellow bookworms since reading it, I even filled out a shelf talker at the bookstore to further help promote it. Girl in Pieces is a story that needs to be told as it deals with some of the darker issues which exist in society and that some of us, our friends, or family may deal with. The story was raw and emotional in its sadness. Reading this book made me want to reach in and hug the main character, telling her everything would be all right and that she could count on me. Upon finishing the book, I was left wishing I had studied psychology  or social work in school and gone into counseling for teens.

SeptemberMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This was actually a re-read for me. I first read the book not too long after it was originally published and decided to revisit it after hearing they were going to make it into a movie. On my second read through, I found insights into the story and the accompanying pictures that I had missed on the first read through. Sadly, I still have not seen the movie, or finished reading the rest of the books, but those are both things I plan on resolving in the New Year.

OctoberThe Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters

This 1920s retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet was so well written and uniquely done. I loved that for once, an author actually wrote about a minority female as their main character. The story was beautifully woven together and had so much rich insight into the history of Oregon in the early 1920s. The included historic pictures further added to the story for me since I was unaware of the vast majority of the facts which are covered in the book not having grown up in Oregon. I was fortunate enough to meet Cat Winters at a book signing and share with her just how much I enjoyed her book; I was even able to convince 4 other people (all strangers to me) who  were looking to read a diverse book to purchase it.

NovemberVassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

This retelling of a classic, and lesser known, fairytale was darkly enjoyable. Vassa was such a different story and unique in it’s telling that I flew through the book, and then proceed to read the original fairytale. Sarah Porter told this story so well, that I think she could give the Brother’s Grimm a run for their money.

DecemberBlack Moon by Romina Russell

The third book in the Zodiac series did not disappoint. The stakes continue to be raised, the new zodiac worlds which are introduced are just as stunning unique as those introduced in previous books and the cliff hanger ending left me screaming in shock and horror. This book quickly jumped to being my favorite book in the series thus far.

As previously stated, 2016 was a wonderful year when it came to reading. I read a total of 102 books, attended some amazing author discussions and books signings, made some new bookworm friends along the way. Looking forward, there are some amazing books coming out and I can’t wait to see which authors I’ll get to meet on their book tours and stops in Denver.

 

“Frostblood” Book Review

frostblood-cover image courtesy of: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27827203-frostblood

Author: Elly Blake

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Type: Fantasy, Young Adult, Advance Readers Copy

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Elly Blake’s upcoming YA novel, Frostblood, is delightfully action packed and full of danger from the very beginning of the book. The story revolves around seventeen-year-old Ruby, a young fireblood, a unique human who is able to start and control the element of fire with her body. When Ruby’s village is raided, and her mother killed by the frost soldiers of the Frostblood King, Ruby finds herself imprisoned with nothing but thoughts of revenge to keep her going.

Despite the country being the home of the frostbloods and their king, and hatred of the firebloods, there are those who oppose the king and work towards overthrowing him. Thus, Ruby finds herself being broken out of prison by a couple of mysterious monks and taken to their abbey for safety and proper training of her powers in exchange for her agreeing to help them kill the king.

As the months pass, Ruby’s powers continue to grow and she finds herself not only learning to trust and befriend some of the monks, but even falling in love with the mysterious Arcus. Just when Ruby and Arcus finally begin to admit to and explore their feelings for one another, the king’s soldiers raid the abbey, taking Ruby into custody once again. This time though, Ruby is taken to the court of the ice king where she is made to flight frostblood champions to the death in a gladiator style arena.

With her powers continuing to grow, a dark force attempting to control her, no idea as to whether her friends are alive and coming for her, it is all Ruby can do to hold on to a piece of herself and remember her original mission.

Thoughts:

I received an advance review copy of Frostblood, courtesy of Netgalley. Even before starting the book, I was taken in by both the beautiful cover and the engaging description. I find that with a lot of fantasy novels, YA or adult, the description will make the book sound absolutely amazing, but upon actually reading the book, it falls flat for me. Luckily, Frostblood did not do this. The book both lived up to and exceeded my expectations. I loved the world building Ms. Blake created and the mythology she developed for the story. The mythology is so rich with details, that the possibilities for the subsequent books int he series have my interest so piqued that I’m ready for the next book and the first one is still weeks away from release.

The characters were well-developed and for once I didn’t want to constantly beat the main character upside the head for whining too much. That’s not to say that Ruby was a perfect character, she was stubborn and often acted before fully thinking things through. Thankfully though, Ruby did learn from her mistakes and developed into the kind of character who thought things through and allowed others to help advise her.

As for the romantic aspect of the book, it held just the right amount between Ruby and Arcus. Since the developing romance between them is not the main focus or driving force of the story, it was actually a pleasure to read because it didn’t feel forced upon me as the reader. Did I know that they would go from not liking or trusting one another to friends and eventually more than friends? Of course I did, but the progressions was both enjoyable and humorous. I was further pleased with the love story development because I really saw how complementary they were and it was nice to see that Ruby could hold her own when Arcus wasn’t around.

Overall, this was a truly enjoyable read that I flew through and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

“Girl Against the Universe” Book Review


Author: Paula Stokes

Type: Young Adult

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Some people seem to have all the luck. They’re the ones who win sporting competitions with what looks to be no effort, always ace the test, receive two items out of the vending machine for the price of one, and find money lying on the side of the street. The average person has neither a high amount of good or bad luck, rather life that goes along as it’s going to. Then there’s Maguire, the protagonist of Paula Stokes’ newest young adult novel, Girl Against the Universe. Maguire is the poster child for bad luck for bad luck seems to follow her everywhere she goes like a faithful dog, despite all the good luck charms she buys and rituals she follows.

Maguire traces the start of her bad luck back to when she was a young girl and the sole survivor of a car crash that took the lives of her father, brother and uncle; a car accident which she walked away from with barely a scratch. Since the car crash, Maguire has managed to escape: food poisoning at a slumber party, a roller coaster going off its tracks and injuring the other riders and her neighbors house catching on fire. Having escaped all of these events with little to no damage to herself, Maguire has come to the conclusion that she is bad luck and needs to do all she can to limit other people’s exposure to herself.

With the start of the new school year, at a new school, Maguire finds herself trying to overcome her fears and experience more in life with the help of newfound friends, especially the ever stubborn Jordy who is convinced that he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak.

Thoughts:

From the moment I receive an email with tracking information for the shipment of my Uppercase Box, it’s all I can do not to check the tracking of the box every hour. Having seen that my book subscription had been delivered to the mailbox one afternoon in May, I immediately jumped up and headed out the door to retrieve my package so as to discover what that month’s book would be. Having torn open the package and retrieved the book, I proceeded to read the description before even looking at the other items included with the book. As I read the book jacket, I was immediately intrigued and excited to read this book for I recognized that it was not only a unique story but that it would make one think about the different ways humans find to cope after tragedy.

Unlike Maguire, I have never been the sole survivor of a car accident, been in a roller coaster crash, attended a slumber party where everyone but me got food poisoning and I’ve never had my neighbors house catch on fire. I have however been in a restaurant eating lunch when there was a gas leak and the building exploded with myself and others still inside. Like Maguire, I walked out of the building physically unharmed, while others who had been in the restaurant did experience injuries and have to be taken to the hospital. Reading of Maguire’s experiences and the resulting survivor’s guilt and anxiety in public places which resulted, I found that I was able to empathize and even relate to many of the feelings Maguire was dealing with. It was because of similar shared feelings following a tragedy that I enjoyed the book as much as I did, even going so far as to read the book cover to cover in one sitting.

Just like attending therapy for myself following my own experience helped me to learn to cope with and deal with what I lived through, Paula Stokes’ book also helped with my ever continuing healing process. It helped to remind me that I will never forget what it was like to be in that situation and to think back on the what ifs; to have moments of anxiety when I experience something that reminds me of the sights, sounds or smells of the explosion; and that to still dream about and occasionally have flashbacks to that day are normal and part of the healing process. Girl Against the Universe reinforced that despite the horrific memories that with the help of family and friends, I can continue to not only move forward, but that I don’t have to fear that anytime I leave the house I’m going to have a similar experience. It’s okay for me to eat in restaurants, it’s okay for me to be in public places, and not every work crew I see is going to mistakenly cut the gas line and cause an explosion.

 

“Scarlett (A Creepy Hollow Story)” Review


Author: Rachel Morgan

Type: Young Adult, Fantasy, Short Story

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Scarlett tells the story of sixteen-year-old Beth, a young girl who is living a rather ordinary and somewhat mundane life. Beth finds herself exhilarated to celebrate her one year anniversary with her boyfriend Jack, with a new dress and feeling more beautiful than she ever has before, Beth knows that tonight will be the perfect night spent with her boyfriend whom she loves. Unfortunately for Beth, things do not go as she had planned. After almost killing her boyfriend, Beth flees to the fae realm to track down her siren mother in hopes that her mother will be able to help her control her newly awakened siren powers.

Sadly, Beth finds herself cast out by her mother as it turns out her powers are different from a true siren’s power and as a result uncontrollable. Afraid of her new powers and of having harmed her boyfriend, Beth finds herself in the Dark North where she takes up residence with a group of witches who claim to be able to help her not only gain control of her powers, but to also learn the full extent of the power within her and how to wield the.

Assuming the name of Scarlett, Beth learns that not only is she powerful and deadly beyond anyone’s imaginings, but of a world that she never knew existed and of her place within that realm.

Thoughts:

When Rachel Morgan announced at the beginning of the month that she had written a companion story about her beautiful and unique siren character, Scarlett, I immediately bought and downloaded it as soon as it was available. The Creepy Hollow Series quickly became a favorite series for me from the moment I read The Faerie Guardian, and I was beyond happy to finally get to learn more about Scarlett, a character who was first introduced in the first book and makes appearances throughout the series in different contexts.

I have always found Scarlett to be a complex and hard to crack character, whom I never believed to be truly evil. It was nice to read of Scarlett and to have an insight into who she really is, as she is definitely one of the more mysterious characters within the books. Reading this makes me want to go back and read the series all over again from the beginning as I believe I would view Scarlett with new eyes now that I know more of where she came from.

Rachel Morgan has done a wonderful job of continuing the expansion of her storyline with books that are not only beautifully written, but that are fully engrossing and hard to set down until the last page has been read. This was definitely a welcome read to help tide me over until A Faerie’s Curse, the sixth book in the series is released next month.

 

“The Care and Feeding of an Independent Bookstore: Three Instructive Essays” Review

“Consumers control the marketplace by deciding where to spend their money. If what a bookstore offers matters to you, then shop at a bookstore. If you feel that the experience of reading a book is valuable, then read the book. This is how we change the world: we grab hold of it. We change ourselves.”

― Ann Patchett, bestselling author and co-owner of Parnassus Books

Author: Ann Patchett

Publisher: California Bookstore Day Publishing

Type: Essay, Non-Fiction

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

This past Saturday, April 30, 2016 was one of my favorite days of the year, Independent Bookstore Day. For those who don’t know, Independent Bookstore Day is a day where those who love books and bookstores, are able to show their love and appreciation by celebrating and supporting their local Independent Bookstore, and in turn supporting their community by shopping local. This year marked the second year of what will undoubtedly become a yearly event, and dare I say it, a holiday within the book community. As with last years event, a variety of limited edition items were available on this day as long as supplies lasted. Among these items were literary tea towels, posters and even books, including the one I am showcasing in this post.

The Care and Feeding of an Independent Bookstore: Three Instructive Essays by Ann Patchett was a cute little autographed book that was available for $6. I went into this day knowing that aside from the Neil Gaiman Coloring Book, that I wanted this book despite not knowing what it was about. Why did I want this little $6 book of essays when I knew nothing of its contents? One simple reason, the dachshund on the front. It had to be a must read for any dachshund lover and dachshund Mom such as myself.

After a successful shopping trip at my favorite Denver independent bookstore, The Tattered Cover, I returned home and proceeded to home with my haul. Curling up on the couch with my dog, Ripley, I set aside my other book so as to delve into this little read and find out why there was a dachshund on the cover of a book about independent bookstores. What I found within the pages was a rather interesting and engrossing story of how author Ann Patchett found herself co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, and the bits of information she has picked up along the way since becoming and independent bookstore owner.

In the first essay, The Bookstore Strikes Back, which first appeared in The Atlantic, tells of how after the last remaining bookstores in Nashville closed in 2010 and 2011, the city found itself without a local bookstore in the town. Although community forums were held to discuss what could be done to fill this void, none of the suggestions caught on with the community and this led to Ann Patchett considering opening a bookstore of her own. It was with an introduction to Karen Hayes, Ann Patchett’s future co-owner and business partner, that the ball began rolling. Despite constant feedback from the media that bookstores were dying and in another decade would cease to exist all together, Patchett and Hayes persevered and before they knew it, Parnassus Books had opened and was a success, Nashville once again had a bookstore in its town.

The second essay, Things No One Told Me About Owning a Bookstore, is where I finally received the answer to my question in regards to the dachshund on the cover. In this essay, Patchett discusses the little intricacies she had never thought of when it came to actually owning a bookstore: such as the group of employees who would come to be like a family that celebrated one another’s highs, lows, successes and set-backs; the customers who shop at and support the bookstore and become such regulars that the staff is comes to know their reading preferences and are better able to make recommendations; the fellow authors and friends of Patchett who visit her store while either on book tours or in town visiting; and the dogs which have come to be a staple and mascots of the bookstore, including a dachshund named Mary Todd Lincoln who even has her own Instagram account. It was this second essay which solidified in my mind that my next trip to Nashville needs to include a visit to Parnassus Books in order to meet the dogs, specifically the dachshund Mary Todd Lincoln.

The final essay, Booksellers Love to Recommend Books (It’s Who We Are), is nothing more than a list of Ann Patchett’s 52 favorite books from the year she turned 52. Of these 52 books, I myself have read only 4; I did however find an additional 9 books on the list that have peaked my interest and I now plan on reading at some point in time.

All three essays combined, made the perfect little read to cap off the success of my shopping trip on Independent Bookstore Day. It is my hope that future Independent Bookstore Days will feature more little books of essays and musings from authors who are involved in the support of the Indie Bookstore.