Genre: magical realism

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Aug 12

Remember Me – Review and Tour!

Book Reviews, Book Tours 0 ★★★★

Remember Me – Review and Tour!Remember Me by Chelsea Bobulski
Published by Feiwel and Friends on August 6, 2019
Genres: Historical, magical realism, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 256
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads four-stars

In this eerie and suspenseful YA, a teen girl discovers what connects her to the hotel she calls home as horrifying visions lead her to the truth.

Nell Martin is moving again, this time to the Winslow Grand Hotel, built in 1878. As Nell is settling in, strange things begin to happen. Doors lock of their own accord, writing appears on bathroom walls--and most horrifying of all--visions of a dead boy permeate her waking life. Thinking it was her mind playing tricks on her, she soon finds the past and the present colliding as she learns horrific details of a murder that happened at the hotel in 1905 involving a girl named Lea.

Nell and a mysterious bellboy must relive that day in hopes of finally breaking a curse that imprisons them both. And Nell discovers what truly links her to the history of the Winslow Grand Hotel.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Be sure to check out the entire tour lineup over at The Fantastic Flying Bookclub! Also scroll to the bottom to enter the giveaway. 🙂

I was not, honestly, expecting this book to be creepy. In my experience most YA books that try to be “horror” or even just plain mystery are usually only vaguely so. I am thrilled to report that Remember Me was better than most! I actually felt the hair on my arms raising at points. It was awesome! It did have a little trouble getting off the ground, in my opinion, but once the settings (yes, plural, as the POV alternates with a modern day one and a historical one) were established I absolutely couldn’t put it down. Highly recommend if you enjoy both YA and mystery/paranormal type books!

My one caveat: mental illness is somewhat used as a plot device. Treatment is given respect and not made fun of, and Nell’s feelings about her mother’s death and her subsequent therapy and very common, but I didn’t like the way it was made to be just a result of a THING in the plot. Terribly vague to avoid spoiling.

This is a very hard book to review because of the risk of spoiling, which really would ruin a lot of the story…so here are some quotes to whet your appetite! It really is an amazing, multi-layered tale and I strongly recommend it. Also, there’s a good bit of sweet, swoon-worthy romance. 😉

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It’s as if the air is heavy with their presence, every year and every guest superimposed on the other, all occurring in the same place, standing on the same floors, surrounded by the same walls. The only thing separating us is time.

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He does not have to say the words: Or else. They are implied in the tightening of his fists and in the memories of bruises hidden where no one could see. “Yes, Father.”

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I just keep feeling my hair twisting in midair, keep hearing the bulbs shatter, keep seeing those bodies lying on the floor, drenched in blood, and the man standing over them, asking me to join them.

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He looks at me with a hunger so intense, I feel it radiating down to the tips of my toes. He looks at me like I’m the only thing he wants. The only thing he’s ever wanted.

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I understand kissing now.

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About the Author

 

Chelsea Bobulski was born in Columbus, Ohio, and raised on Disney movies, classic musicals, and Buckeye pride. She’s always had a penchant for the fantastical, the stories that teach us there is more to this world than meets the eye. She has a soft spot for characters with broken pasts, strange talents, and a dash of destiny in their bones. After graduating from The Ohio State University with a degree in history, she promptly married her high school sweetheart and settled down in Northwest Ohio with her notebooks and daydreams and copious amounts of chocolate. THE WOOD is her debut novel.

 

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four-stars

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Mar 18

The Waking Forest Review

Book Reviews 0 ★★★½

The Waking Forest ReviewThe Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees
on March 12, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, magical realism, Young Adult
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads three-half-stars

The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more—until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.

To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.

The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I sort of do know what she means, sitting here in the semi-dark and the semi-silence. I have a scratchy, restless feeling, as if my soul were grinding against my skin, my bones, not necessarily wanting to get out but urging my body to go to impossible places, convinced I can touch the stars and not burn.

The Waking Forest is a story that is a true journey. I wasn’t EXACTLY sure what to expect going into it, and I was almost halfway through before I was even sure what the heck I was reading! Perhaps not the most stellar start for a debut novel, BUT. Bear with me – and bear with the book, too. While I did only rate it at 3.5/5 stars, I also feel it is totally a book worth reading and I will gladly be reading the next novel that Alyssa Wees comes out with.

The first half of the book is told in alternating chapters between Rhea, in our modern world, and the Witch of the Wood, in a very odd dream-like world. I was SO confused as to what was supposed to be happening in these…but the writing is beautiful. If you are not into heavy descriptions and very sustained metaphors, you might not enjoy it. It’s a very different style from what I’ve been reading recently, so it took a little while for it to grow on me. But grow on me it did, and eventually the prose (which could, admittedly, be considered kind of “purple” prose) was just painting these amazing pictures…so even if I was turned around and had no idea where the story was going, I was just enjoying the journey.

Eventually the two tales merge, and that is rather…mind-bending. There is enough foreshadowing that you sort of see it coming, but not…not…in the way it played out, or at least I didn’t. The story shifts to an entirely fantasy world, with incredible creatures and magic. I really wish the magic had been better explained! I was still kind of confused by how everything worked in the end, but it was glorious and shiny and I liked it.

My absolute favorite part was Rhea’s relationship with her sisters. These four girls are kicking ass and taking names and making no apologies – and dealing with their own issues along the way. There is some beautiful encouragement for those of us who struggle with anxiety in these pages – and the characters aren’t considered less than or incapable because of it! I loved it. Absolutely loved it.

Overall, The Waking Forest isn’t perfect but if you like fantasy and quirky characters, definitely give it a try. And keep an eye out for more books by Wees!

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three-half-stars

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Jan 18

Annaliese Rising Blog Tour and Review!

Book Reviews, Book Tours 0 ★★★★

Annaliese Rising Blog Tour and Review!Analiese Rising by Brenda Drake
Published by Entangled: Teen on January 8, 2019
Genres: magical realism, Modern, Young Adult
Pages: 350
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads four-stars

Half-Blood meets Antigoddess in a thrilling, romantic new series from New York Times bestselling author Brenda Drake.

When a stranger gives Analiese Jordan a list of names before he dies, the last thing she expects to see is her own on it. Not. Cool. Her search for answers leads to the man’s grandson, Marek, who has dangerous secrets of his own. Both are determined to unlock the mystery of the list.

But the truth is deadly. Analiese is a descendant of the God of Death, known as a Riser, with the power to raise the dead and control them. Finding out she has hidden powers? Cool. Finding out she turns corpses into killers? No, thank you.

Now the trail plants her and Marek in the middle of a war between gods who apparently want to raise an army of the Risen, and Analiese must figure out how to save the world—from herself.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I’m so excited to be a part of this book tour! Analiese Rising sounded fascinating to me the moment I read the blurb, and I’m happy to say it did not disappoint. Be sure to scroll to the end and enter the giveaway!

I had an error in blog scheduling and apologize that this post was supposed to be up yesterday!

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4/5 stars! I definitely recommend Analiese Rising, especially if you enjoyed Percy Jackson or similar stories. I’ll be on the lookout for more from Brenda Drake!

Things I Loved

  • The ancient gods of MANY different countries (not just Greek or Roman, as is so very common) are plunked down in the middle of modern day Europe. The way their quirks and foibles and abilities are revealed was absolutely fascinating.
  • After the first few chapters of set-up, the action was non-stop. Analiese and Marek go globetrotting, and so much happens to them in such a short time. Phew!
  • The whole premise of death-risers. WHAAAAAT. I need more. Please tell me there will be a sequel.
  • Analiese’s relationship with her brother, Dalton. I love those two so much and seriously needed more of Dalton. He seemed like such a cool guy and kind of got the short end of the stick.
  • Diversity! Yes! While the MCs are straight and white, there are several secondary characters of various colors and sexualities/genders.

Small Complaints

  • The insta-love. I know this is YA and it’s kind of expected but really. Sigh. Also, let me repeat for the 9,909th time…BOY SWEAT DOES NOT SMELL GOOD.
  • The way adults treat teenagers, like they’re still small children. I realize this happens in real life, but come oooooon can’t we have at least one adult who realizes that their underage charges are actually capable?
  • Would like some more background on how the Risers came to be…maybe another book?? Pleeeeease? Hehe.

About the Author

Brenda Drake grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up is of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. With kids of all ages populating Brenda’s world, it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the fantastical for both younger readers and the young at heart. And because she married her prince charming, there’s always a romance warming the pages. Her favorite books are The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, Kings Row by Henry Bellamann, and Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. When she’s not writing, she hosts workshops and contests for writers such as Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness on her blog, and holds Twitter pitch parties on the hash tag, #PitMad. In her free time, Brenda enjoys hanging out with her family, haunting libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or just reading someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

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four-stars

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Nov 29

Review of The Curses

Book Reviews 0

Review of The CursesThe Curses (The Graces, #2) by Laure Eve
Published by Amulet Books on December 31, 2018
Genres: magical realism, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Goodreads

Picking up the pieces after the chilling events of the previous year isn’t easy, but the Graces are determined to do it. Wolf is back after a mysterious disappearance, and everyone’s eager to return to normal. Except for Summer, the youngest Grace. Summer has a knack for discovering the truth—and something is troubling her. After a trail of clues leads her to what could be the key to both her family’s mysterious past and the secret of Wolf, she’s determined to vanquish yet another curse. But exposing secrets is a dangerous game, and it’s not one Summer can win alone.

At Summer’s behest, the coven comes back together, reluctantly drawing their erstwhile friend River back into the fold. But Wolf’s behavior becomes unpredictable even as Fenrin’s strength fades, and Summer must ask herself whether the friend she so loves is also planning her family’s ultimate, cursed demise.

This riveting sequel to The Graces is saturated with magic, the destructive cost of power, the complications of family, and the nature of forgiveness.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Be forewarned, there is swearing involved in this review, because, um…

What TF just happened.

I really wanted to review The Curses without giving spoilers for the first one, The Graces (please excuse the formatting on that ANCIENT review), but it’s so damn difficult because you absolutely cannot be reading this one without reading the first. Please don’t even try. So yes, there are some spoilery comments for the first book contained in this review. 

You should be tolerant of every kind of behavior…except ignorance and stupidity. No one should ever tolerate behavior that ruin the world.

This book is so much better than the first. SO MUCH. Like so much I want to hug it. Once I started it, I finished in less than a day. I could barely put it down, I wanted so much to know what the heck was going on! Considering my “meh” feelings over the first book, I am just ecstatic that this one pulled the story out off the runaway train track. In fact, had it not been for the TOTAL shocker at the end of The Graces, I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up. But I think you would have to be just about inhuman to not be overcome by curiosity about that ending.

The Curses picks up a few months after the events of The Graces, and this time is written from the perspective of Summer, the youngest Grace. This was soooo much better than the narrative voice in the first book. I really hate unreliable narrators, it makes me feel like my entire life is a lie, so I was relieved that Laure Eve didn’t repeat that in this book. We also spend almost no time at the school in this one – hallelujah.

Thalia, Fenrin, Summer, River, and Wolf are all active players once again, but they are quite changed by the previous events and are all coping in various ways. Wolf’s dramatic disappearance and subsequent reappearance has cast a shadow of sorts over the entire town, and the Grace household bears the brunt of it. Everything is different, with an undercurrent of ill feeling, but no one seems able to quite put a finger on the cause. Summer, ever curious and following her gut, digs and probes until she has her siblings just as involved as herself, and eventually River gets dragged back into their circle as well.

Time had brought a folding inward instead of outward. They had trapped themselves in a relentless limbo of deliberate numbness. Too afraid to feel, too afraid to let go.

The magical realism in this story is, well…so very real. The Graces are pagan witches – which is an actual thing, and I have friends who follow practices very similar (and often with similar reactions from the general public, sadly), as far as the herbal magick and belief in binding, etc. However, none of them – as far as I’m aware – actually think there is a way, or if they did, would ever actually TRY, to resurrect anyone. Which is where the magical, or fantasy if you will, part comes into play. Also, the “power” of various witches to bend events or the future to their will (such as River, particularly) is set firmly in the realm of fantasy. The use of tarot cards, spells, wardings and bindings…not so much. Perhaps it is the slightly blurry line between the two that allows this story to pull you in so very well. At times I variously felt the hairs on the back of my neck raise, as though I’d been punched in the gut, and as if my blood was actually turning cold in my veins. Some of the events are just almost too much to bear, as the pain and loss with accompanying grief is completely palpable through the page.

My favorite part of this book though? The sibling solidarity. The Graces have each others’ backs, no matter what, and they will go down without even a peep to protect one another. Even if they fight and bicker like any siblings, if anyone else threatens one of them, the outsider quickly wishes they hadn’t. And when one of them is in serious trouble, the others think nothing of getting into trouble right alongside them.

The events really just come one right after another in this one, with none of the drag I felt in the first book. Also, the foreshadowing – maybe Laure Eve should take up writing suspense or thrillers, because OMG the cellar scene where all the lies come out was INTENSE and I was just left with my jaw hanging open…and then I realized, like Summer did, that HOLY SHIT IT WAS THERE ALL ALONG.

5/5 stars. I really can’t think of anything bad to say about this one! Which totally surprises me, given that I had quite a few bones to pick with The Graces. The Curses is full of amazing quotes and feelings, and the ending – while it left me feeling sad and melancholy – was really full of closure and not without hope. The author seems to have worked out just about all the things that made me twitch in the first book, and I was just left with a massive hole in my heart for all the things the characters went through.

Oh, and once again, let’s end with a note about this freaking fabulous cover. I am obsessed and I can’t WAIT to have this sitting beside The Graces on my shelf because they look absolutely stunning together.

 

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Oct 20

Review of Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★

As soon as I saw that Toil and Trouble had a story by one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth May of the Falconer trilogy, I knew I had to have it. Even if the subject matter hadn’t been one of great intrigue and interest to me, I would have bought it for that alone! Then it turned out to also have a story by Zoraida Cordova, which was also awesome.

Review of Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and WitchcraftToil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft by Tess Sharpe, Jessica Spotswood, Brandy Colbert, Zoraida Córdova, Andrea Cremer, Kate Hart, Emery Lord, Elizabeth May, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Lindsay Smith, Nova Ren Suma, Robin Talley, Shveta Thakrar, Brenna Yovanoff
Published by Harlequin Teen on August 28, 2018
Genres: magical realism, Young Adult
Pages: 405
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
Goodreads four-stars

A young adult fiction anthology of 15 stories featuring contemporary, historical, and futuristic stories featuring witchy heroines who are diverse in race, class, sexuality, religion, geography, and era.

Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

Glinda the Good Witch. Elphaba the Wicked Witch. Willow. Sabrina. Gemma Doyle. The Mayfair Witches. Ursula the Sea Witch. Morgan le Fey. The three weird sisters from Macbeth.

History tells us women accused of witchcraft were often outsiders: educated, independent, unmarried, unwilling to fall in line with traditional societal expectations.

Bold. Powerful. Rebellious.

A bruja’s traditional love spell has unexpected results. A witch’s healing hands begin to take life instead of giving it when she ignores her attraction to a fellow witch. In a terrifying future, women are captured by a cabal of men crying witchcraft and the one true witch among them must fight to free them all. In a desolate past, three orphaned sisters prophesize for a murderous king. Somewhere in the present, a teen girl just wants to kiss a boy without causing a hurricane.

From good witches to bad witches, to witches who are a bit of both, this is an anthology of diverse witchy tales from a collection of diverse, feminist authors. The collective strength of women working together—magically or mundanely--has long frightened society, to the point that women’s rights are challenged, legislated against, and denied all over the world. Toil & Trouble delves deep into the truly diverse mythology of witchcraft from many cultures and feminist points of view, to create modern and unique tales of witchery that have yet to be explored.

The fifteen short stories in Toil and Trouble vary widely. They all have a couple common elements, as one might guess from the subtitle – all involve women, most of them amazingly strong, vibrant characters, and all involve “witchcraft” as defined by each particular author. Some I enjoyed more than others, namely the ones by Elizabeth May, Jessica Spotswood, and Emery Lord. I will definitely be finding books by the latter two and reading them, as somehow I had never come across their work before. For a more detailed review individually, check out The Sassy Book Geek’s review. She has an absolutely AMAZING overview of each story in this anthology!

The relationships that many of the stories showcase – and in such a short few pages – are beautiful, and heart-wrenching. There are sisters, lovers, friends, mothers and daughters and grandmothers. Reading these made me realize how much I need to value the female friends and caring family members I have in my life, as well as feel a little jealous of a few of them! The sister trio in Emery Lord’s story really pulled at my heart strings.

“She’d tell her daughters someday: ‘If you don’t feel safe enough to yell back, you’re not safe enough. My babies, that is not love.’” ~ Emery Lord in Toil & Trouble

If you are looking for an atmospheric collection of stories, this is definitely it! If you are looking for horror, this is NOT it. The hair-raising factor in these is due to the “unnatural” powers and magic, not anything particularly grotesque.

Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review! 

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Jan 16

The Love That Split the World Review

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★★

The Love That Split the World ReviewThe Love That Split the World by Emily Henry
Published by Razorbill on January 26th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Modern, magical realism
Pages: 390
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads five-stars

Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start…until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” At first, they’re just momentary glimpses—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.

That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.

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“No matter how hard it feels, you don’t need to be afraid to move on, and you don’t need to be afraid to stay either. There’s always more to see and feel.”

How I felt after finishing the last page of this book.

What this book is: 90% emotions/feelings. Glorious, ooey-gooey lovey-dovey, feelings that make me want to actually try to hope for HEAs and the best in life and love. Adorable. Cute. Romantic.

What this book is not (i.e., please don’t pick it up if you’re into these things): deep, extremely thought provoking, realistic.

First of all, I’m so stinking proud of myself for READING AND FINISHING this book! At long long LOOOOONG last, as it came in my February 2016 OwlCrate. Yikes. I read like one “meh” review of it and lost all my enthusiasm for the story…which I sort of regret, but I also realize that at the time, this sort of ooey-gooey-ness would probably not have sat very well with me…and quite possibly would have resulted in it being thrown across the room, never to be finished.

The Love That Split the World is an adorable summer story of love, loss, and teenagers finding themselves and each other. Sprinkled in between the emotionally intense, physically warming scenes (but never explicit or very graphic, and there is no actual sex in the book) are gems like the quote above, and others I desperately wish my 16-18 year old self (hell, even 19, 20, or 21 year old self) had read or known.

“You shouldn’t be scared of someone you love.”

The book briefly addresses the issue of consent – even for “just” making out, and one scene in particular left me feeling rather nauseous even though “nothing happened.” Alcoholism is also brought up, and addressed in one of the most succinct ways I have ever seen – painful, as it always is, but it was done so, so well. Huge props.

Oh, and the characters!! I’ve discovered yet another book boyfriend – Beau, your beautiful soul has won my heart. I will also confess that in high school, I admired the football players from afar so…yeah…piano AND football playing Beau is just totally swoonworthy. And I always, ALWAYS get hit right in the feels by the broken-but-still-strong hero types, the ones who just remain good people at heart despite having been given the shit end of the stick in life. Natalie’s spirit – her need to KNOW, her intense desire to find herself, to make something of herself – really resonated with me. While I don’t know how it would feel to grow up a minority (not only in your town, but in your FAMILY) in a small southern town, I spent a lot of my growing up years in places not unlike her Kentucky hometown and to some extent, I can imagine. Especially in small town America, people who don’t look (or act) exactly the same are often viewed with suspicion and outright dislike. In Natalie’s case, her biggest struggle seems to be with not sharing her looks or personality with her adoptive parents, and the fact that she was hassled about it by her classmates when she was younger.

I adored the time bending/travel aspect of the story. I was a little (ok, very) confused for awhile, but eventually I realized what was happening…mostly. I still DID NOT see that ending coming and my poor little heart nearly burst with ALL THE FEELS. I didn’t quite CRY, but my throat squeezed very very tight, my eyes burned, and I blinked rapidly for a few moments. Then I had to read the last few pages about 5 times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything!

Diversity: This was my first pick for the January topic, Biracial Awareness (check out the suggested bookshelf!), in the Platypire Diverse Books Reading challenge. Natalie is bi-racial, and adopted. Another main character is Korean. The author does not belong to either of these groups, but she seems to have put a great deal of effort into making her story authentic and respectful especially to the First Nations cultures she draws from in the writing of the book.

I gave this book 5/5 stars. It is an amazingly fun and cute romance with enough time-turning stuff to keep that side of my brain interested too.

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I hope you enjoyed my review of The Love That Split the World! Follow me on social media to keep up with more reviews and bookish posts!

         
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five-stars

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Oct 12

Review of Roseblood by A.G. Howard

Book Reviews 1 ★★★★★

Review of Roseblood by A.G. HowardRoseBlood by A.G. Howard
Published by Harry N. Abrams on January 10th 2017
Genres: magical realism, Young Adult
Pages: 432
Goodreads five-stars
three-flames

In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

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Guard your throats and hide your eyes. He’s not dead, you fools. Legends never die.

Roseblood by A.G. Howard was one of my super anticipated reads this year, mainly because I absolutely loved the sweet romance of the only other A.G. Howard book I’ve read, The Architect of Song. Then, I started seeing all these really crappy reviews and I got scared. I wasn’t expecting the next great classic novel or anything (because that is not what Howard ever seems to have tried for her books to be), but I mean…damn, son! Some of the reviews were super salty! So I put it off for awhile, but when I finally picked it up I read it in less than 24 hours. Haters gonna hate. Don’t let it put you off if you enjoy gothic/paranormal stories. This is one for the shelf. However, if you are expecting realism or originality (by the way…no story is completely original, let’s get that straight) off the charts, this book is not for you.

It’s pretty much this dramatic, but thankfully Rune does not share Christine’s affinity for swooning.

Roseblood is a modern gothic novel. And by gothic I mean “portentously gloomy or horrifying.” Not to insult anyone’s intelligence or anything, but I think a lot of readers were expecting something else and when they got over-the-top-gothic-romance they felt kind of let down. Now to me, that sort of book is like a dark chocolate truffle – I don’t read them that often, but when I do I thoroughly enjoy them! This book was exactly what I was expecting after The Architect of Song.

Characters:

First of all. All her weird abilities/paranormal stuff aside – I LOVE RUNE. SHE KNITS TO KEEP HERSELF CALM AND THE BIGGEST MARK OF HER AFFECTION IS HER MAKING SOMETHING FOR YOU. Ahem. Please excuse all the yelling but the girl is my sister from another mother, I swear. She gets it. She’s a maker, and I love her. Even if she makes some seriously DUMB choices partway through the book. Because of course agreeing to be blindfolded and driven away to a rave is the epitome of smart decision making…oh to be so young and optimistic again. Rune’s problem is unique in the books I have read (not the reasoning behind it that’s eventually revealed, but I’m not giving spoilers). and at times seems a little bit…silly. But I can feel her pain and  the embarrassment it causes her.

Then there is Thorn, who is very attractive and has the saddest back story ever and of course melts our collective heart with his wounded hero-ness. He’s not perfect, which is nice – he’s made some rather crappy choices in life and even though he tries to make amends and be a good person there are all those dark shadows. I like to consider myself immune to wounded heroes, but the truth is…I’m just not.

World-building:

Ahhhh! The setting is the definition of atmospheric. Rune’s boarding school is set in an old theatre, complete with lonely hidden rooms and dingy passages, old gardens and older chapels. I adore it. I want to live in the gardener’s hut. *wink wink* You’ll have to read it to find out about the hut…Oh, did I mention it’s set in Paris, France? So jealous. I want to visit Europe sooooo badly.

Plot:

I never lost my interest, all the way through this story. Considering I read this in the middle of one of the worst reading slumps I’ve had in a couple of years, that’s quite an accomplishment. The plot is a little predictable, as most romances/gothics are, but I didn’t think it was so much so as to make it unenjoyable! Also, while this is more of a sequel, of sorts, to the original Phantom of the Opera, there are enough similarities to leave few surprises for someone familiar with the original. Thankfully though, Rune is not the hapless, vapid Christine. I liked the way it was resolved and I really wish there was going to be a sequel!

5/5 stars, 3/5 flames because phew, Rune and Thorn do get the blood flowing just a little bit! If you need a chocolate-truffle-brain-candy sort of book, I highly recommend Roseblood and another of A.G. Howard’s books, The Architect of Song! Oh, and this book would be a PERFECT atmospheric read for Halloween, especially if you’re participating in the Halloween Read-A-Thon. 😉

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five-stars

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Jan 24

Review of The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review of The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette MartinThe Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin by Stephanie Knipper
Published by Algonquin Books on August 2nd 2016
Genres: magical realism, Cozy
Pages: 336
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads four-stars

Sisters Rose and Lily Martin were inseparable when they were kids. As adults, they’ve been estranged for years, until circumstances force them to come together to protect Rose’s daughter. Ten-year-old Antoinette has a severe form of autism that requires constant care and attention. She has never spoken a word, but she has a powerful gift that others would give anything to harness: she can heal things with her touch. She brings wilted flowers back to life, makes a neighbor’s tremors disappear, changes the course of nature on the Kentucky flower farm where she and her mother live.
Antoinette’s gift, though, puts her own life in danger, as each healing comes with an increasingly deadly price. As Rose—the center of her daughter’s life—struggles with her own failing health, and Lily confronts her anguished past, they, and the men who love them, come to realize the sacrifices that must be made to keep this very special child safe.
Written with great heart and a deep understanding of what it feels like to be “different,” The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is a novel about the lengths to which people will go to protect the ones they love.

This book has been on my shelf for almost 6 months! Shameful. I kept meaning to read it and then I would get distracted. But at long last, I present my review of The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin!

Feels:

The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is a sweet, homey book that easily transported me back to my childhood and teen years growing up in Ohio. I immediately loved the sisters Rose and Lily and TOTALLY identified with Rose’s stubbornness and heartache in not calling her sister years earlier. Antoinette is clearly a difficult but lovable child and so many times I just wanted to scoop her up and hug her. The slow, off-the-main-plot romance was also sweet…even if I wasn’t particularly fond of how this grown-up version of a love triangle was handled, in the end.

Characters:

The sisters Rose and Lily along with Rose’s daughter Antoinette, are the key players in this story. The story is told in turns from the POV of Lily, Antoinette, and Rose’s diary. It works really well – I was surprised! Antoinette’s father disappeared before she was born and Rose has devoted herself entirely to her daughter. Lily hasn’t had a serious relationship since the-boy-next-door, Seth, broke up with her years before. Even if her best friend is a guy and they’ve been through a lot together. The other side characters that populate small town Kentucky are so real they almost walk out of the pages. I love them all. I wish I could be the sister’s neighbor.

Antoinette is a dear thing, even if I can imagine how frustrating and difficult it would be to try to be her mother or guardian. Her autism is one that baffles even the doctors, as she both shows signs of severe autism and breaks all the “rules” regarding it.

Plot:

Rose is dying. As a last resort, she calls her estranged sister and begs her to come home and help care for Antoinette and their family’s flower farm in Kentucky.

The story centers on Antoinette, even though she never says a word. Her sections of the book are VERY well done. Of course we don’t know for sure how a non-verbal child would describe the world around them, Knipper’s depiction is vivid and sharp without being condescending. Her personal experience with special needs children is evident. Antoinette never feels “wrong,” or like someone to be pitied. She just is, and as she is, she has a lot to offer the world if only people would look past their first impression.

Now, here’s where I have a slight issue. When I requested this book, I guessed it would be magical realism. Which was spot on. However, I’m not really okay with Antoinette’s disabilities being written off as a side effect to her magical ability to heal. At times it seemed like it was more “in addition to” her autism, she could heal things – which is fine and creative and all that. But at other times it seemed like she was different because she could heal things. The difference is small but it’s a lot in terms of how you look at people with impairments. The overall tone is one of deepest respect and love for Antoinette (and by extension, anyone with differences), as well as understanding of and for her, but that point bothered me a little.

I really liked that Lily also has signs of a disorder – she’s very high-functioning, so as an adult she copes and hides it well – but it’s there all the same and as a child she was always the odd one. I loved that so much. I love that it gave her a means to connect with Antoinette, I love that she didn’t grow out of it or magically become cured by coming home.

Anyway, as far as the story arch goes…it was a beautiful story. It’s not very fast-paced (very in line with small town Kentucky), but it’s lovely. I felt like I was walking the rows of flowers with the characters, and I was sure I could smell lavender bread at one point. The resolution was NOT what I expected though…and I really wasn’t pleased with it. I understand that the book is centered around the idea of unexplained abilities, but up until the very end it was still very believable. The ending was just too convenient for my taste, but if you like happy endings you will enjoy it immensely.

There is a little bit of romance – even a grown-up, mellow version of a love triangle – but it works. It’s sweet and a fireflies-in-July type of warm and fuzzy. It’s believable and not over the top. I didn’t like the way it was wrapped up, particularly…well, I was happy with who ended up together but not how it ALL ended.

 Setting/Description:

I grew up in Ohio/Virginia. This little town, the farm, and the people, are as familiar to me as my own name. Stephanie Knipper has done an amazing job last bringing this little place to life. I really felt very, very homesick as I read.

Rating/Thoughts:

I’m giving 4/5 stars. Overall this is a lovely story that I would highly recommend for a rainy afternoon and evening while drinking a cup of tea. There’s nothing drastic in it, nothing scary…it’s a very cozy book, but it still managed to rend my heart. I hope Stephanie Knipper writes more books, I would definitely give anything she wrote a chance. I’m actually very surprised this book doesn’t have more reviews!

Many thanks to the publisher and LibraryThing for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Challenges:

This counts towards my Beat the Backlist challenge!

four-stars

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