Posted in Reviews

Review: Orestin’s Own by L. Alyssa Austin

Orestin’s Own by L. Alyssa Austin – 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Verdict: Absolutely compelling every step of the way

Recommended: YUP
For a fantastic world in both senses of the word, for an epic adventure kind of story, for creatures that will certainly haunt you in sleep

Summary:
The veil is thinning. Every day more undead creatures slip into Everra. Soon their most terrifying kin, spawn of the dark goddess Orestin, will emerge to devour all life. Master Historian Mycellane enlists an aging Knight and an inexperienced priestess to join him on a journey to obtain an ancient artifact-one that can bring an end to the incursion. But their salvation lies on the other side of the veil, in the Dead Waste of Myrcantos, and only one person can bring them through: a Myrcantan necromancer who remains loyal to the enemy. The path before them leads through a barren, unforgiving land. Ravenous abominations lurk in the shadows. But the greatest danger to their mission is the hatred and distrust they feel for one another…

Thoughts:
Orestin’s Own deftly avoided the trap of falling into expected cliches and “twists” that are actually pretty much the norm by this point. The twists here? Are entirely unique. A book I can’t predict 100% is a rare treat for me, and this was one of them. Reading this felt so lyrical, and so emotive. The feeling of cold seeping into the characters bones as they traverse the frozen wasteland of the dead… the paranoia they grapple with, both towards each other and their more pressing threats… the jarring descriptions of all manner of shambling corpses and afterworldly horrors…. I felt it.

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Review: One Year of Ugly by Caroline Mackenzie

This is going to be one I recommend to basically everyone. 🥰

Recommended: yeeeeeeeesssssssss!!!!!!!!!!
for a lovable lot of characters, for a story that has a lot of elements to it, for a wide variety of situations

Summary:
After fleeing crumbling, volatile Venezuela, Yola Palacio wants nothing more than to settle into a peaceful new life in Trinidad with her family. And who cares if they’re there illegally—aren’t most of the people on the island? But life for the Palacios is far from quiet—and when Yola’s Aunt Celia dies, the family once again find their lives turned upside down. For Celia had been keeping a very big secret—she owed a LOT of money to a local criminal called Ugly. And without the funds to pay him off, Ugly has the entire family do his bidding until Celia’s debt is settled. What Ugly says, the Palacios do, otherwise the circumstances are too dreadful to imagine.

To say that the year that follows is tumultuous for the Palacios is an understatement. But in the midst of the turmoil appears Roman—Ugly’s distractingly gorgeous right-hand man. And although she knows it’s terrible and quite possibly dangerous, Yola just can’t help but give in to the attraction. Where, though, do Roman’s loyalties lie? And could this wildly inappropriate romance just be the antidote to a terrible year of Ugly?

Thoughts:
I saw this book’s synopsis and thought I would probably love it, and yup, I was right. 😍

What I loved
The setting in Trinidad was an quick obvious draw for me, because I don’t know much of anything about it. Well, now I do! Like the fact that there’s the largest natural tar deposit in the world there, and also that they have notoriously poorly paved roads because they export all their tar. 😂 The little tour around the island on Yola and Roman’s excursions were a perfect way to introduce readers to the area.

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Review: Marilia, the Warlord by Morgan Cole

Marilia, the Warlord by Morgan Cole
Verdict: A weaving epic spanning years. Flaws and all are on display here in a main character that is clearly only human. 👌

Recommended: sure
For a long-spanning story from childhood to young adulthood, for a character who makes mistakes but you love her even more for it, for a blend of interpersonal drama and battlefield bloodiness

Summary:
Born the bastard daughter of a painted lady, Marilia was told she would live out her days within the walls of her mother’s brothel, a companion for the rich men of Tyrace. But after a terrible betrayal, she and her twin brother Annuweth flee the only home they’ve ever known in search of the one man who can offer her a chance at a better life–the Emperor of Navessea’s greatest general, a friend of her deceased father. Along the way, Marilia discovers, for the first time, the gift she has for strategy and warfare—a world that is forbidden to girls like her. When the empire is threatened by a foreign invasion, Marilia swears to use all her courage and cunning to do whatever she can to help repel the invasion—if she can convince anyone to follow her. Marilia will need all the help she can get, even if it means doing something her brother may never forgive: making a deal with the man who murdered her father.

Thoughts:
This story should pretty much have something for everyone (except romance). If you like seeing a child grow up and learn tough lessons with the hand they’ve been dealt in life, this is for you. If you like battles and strategizing and scheming around the hierarchy, there’s plenty of it here. If you like court drama and interpersonal conflict, betrayal, trust issues — take a look inside. Honestly there’s so much bound up in this one story, and it’s avoided the trap of trying to fit so much in that it loses focus. The story stays sharp and Marilia is always in the spotlight.

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Review: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

Verdict: meh. A mediocre mystery lacking sinister characters and shocking yet satisfying twist that mysteries and thrillers are built on.

Recommended: not really
Look elsewhere for a character you like, or for a story that focuses on the suspense and not the domestic issues, or for people who are made out to be really sinister and suspicious, or for a twist/shock that will blow you away

Summary:
When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family. What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder. Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant. It was everything. She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.

This might be the first time ever that I finished a book and wrote and posted a review the same day I finished it!! 🎉

Thoughts:
Ah, I mean, I don’t know. While I read this pretty quickly, it wasn’t because of how into it I was. More because there wasn’t much to take in, so I flew through it.

I expected a lot more as far as developing the possible characters in suspicious ways. I wanted to see them seem evil, or sinister, or delve more into the supernatural elements. I wanted to have no idea who to trust, with scheming at every turn! There were a few select moments like this, but ultimately none really had the impact I was hoping for.

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Review: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Verdict: So much more than I expected, and so sweet and savage that I absolutely loved it!

Recommended:
For a great example of how much story and building can be included in a graphic novel, for a story that grows in scope imperssively, for unexpectedly deep bonds and betrayals

Summary:
Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are. But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

Thoughts:
I found this as part of a reading challenge to read a book someone else rated five stars. And you know what? I wholeheartedly agree with that person. A surprise at it developed, I did NOT anticipate what this story would grow into. Laughter? Justice? Vengeance? Tears? It’s brilliant y’all.

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Review: White Ivy by Susie Yang

White Ivy by Susie YangRelease Date November 3, 2020
Verdict: I was expecting something different than a slow burn character study of a compulsive liar, but if you go in knowing that’s what you’ll get then this is a fantastic read.

Special Note: this book currently has a Goodreads Giveaway going on! So if you’re interested, head on over and enter the giveaway! (Ends 10/7/20)

Recommended: to people who know what they’re getting
For a psychological study of a woman who lacks empathy, for race and class reflections on a life lived, for a strangely compelling view of someone constantly on the edge of self destruction, for a very slow-paced read that focuses on the inner workings on one woman’s mind

Summary:
Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar—but you’d never know it by looking at her. Raised outside of Boston, she is taught how to pilfer items from yard sales and second-hand shops by her immigrant grandmother. Thieving allows Ivy to accumulate the trappings of a suburban teen—and, most importantly, to attract the attention of Gideon Speyer, the golden boy of a wealthy political family. But when Ivy’s mother discovers her trespasses, punishment is swift and Ivy is sent to China, where her dream instantly evaporates. Years later, Ivy has grown into a poised yet restless young woman, haunted by her conflicting feelings about her upbringing and her family. Back in Boston, when she bumps into Sylvia Speyer, Gideon’s sister, a reconnection with Gideon seems not only inevitable—it feels like fate. Slowly, Ivy sinks her claws into Gideon and the entire Speyer clan by attending fancy dinners and weekend getaways to the Cape. But just as Ivy is about to have everything she’s ever wanted, a ghost from her past resurfaces, threatening the nearly perfect life she’s worked so hard to build.

Thoughts:
This book was not what I expected. Instead of an explosive thriller watching a descent into madness fueled by racism and class striation, I got a character study of a person trapped in their own mind as they self destruct their happiness in lieu of what they see as The Good Life. By the end, I felt a little deflated. But hopefully, if I can set expectations correctly, you can read this book happily the whole way through and end it feeling quite satisfied with what you’ve had.

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Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
Verdict: a good enough one-time read with an interesting folklore basis

Recommended: sure
For a fairy-tale-esque read that actually has a few surprises, for an MC who is actually pretty dark but without being too whiny about it, for some pretty dope myth and folklore inclusion

Summary:
There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story. As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison. Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

Thoughts:
My biggest takeaway from this book is that it was much better than I expected, but still not particularly mind-blowing because I had low expectations. I know that might sound weird: why did I write a whole post months ago about how I was anticipating this book if my expectations were kind of low? And to that I say that even if I don’t expect a book to blow my mind with originality, it can still fill a pleasant role as a somewhat predictable but still enjoyable read.

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Review: Verity by Colleen Hoover

Verity by Colleen Hoover – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
WHOO. Damn, Colleen. Well done. I’ll be lingering over this the rest of today for sure 🤩

Recommended: yes
For a delightfully creepy “villain” character, for an ending that makes you question everything in the best way, for atmosphere over character reflection

Summary:
Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish. Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died. Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

Thoughts:
The coauthor premise was abandoned pretty quickly in lieu of the rest of the book’s plot, which is fine because the rest of the book was great. It did weaken the overall structure of the story a tiny bit, because it was clearly just used as the bridge to get her in the house, but it’s a minor thing. This book just rushes you right into the creepy bits, and everything prior to that is minimally important in my opinion. 😂 I just want the eerie-ness!

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Mini Reviews from August

I drafted this post ready to go on September 3rd, and then didn’t finish it until September 17th. That feels about right for the flow of time these days. 😂 Two weeks feels like a few days at most! Anyway, here are the books from August that I didn’t get around to fully reviewing and some others that I posted for last month. 🙂

Fully reviewed books

Mini reviewed books below

All book covers link to the Goodreads page for the book with the blurb & additional info!

  1. Memoirs of a Teenage Insomniac by Gabrielle Zevin
  2. Heartsongs by Matti TJ Stepanek
  3. Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer
  4. Nothing Special by Katie Cook
  5. Craigslist Confessional by Helena Dea Bala
  6. Let’s Play, Season 2 by Mongie
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesia by Gabrielle Zevin

2 Sentence Summary:
Naomi hits her head hard enough to forget the last 6-ish years of her life. Now she has to re-learn her boyfriend, her best friend, her family, her studies… and herself.

This book was decent, but I feel like it tried to be too many things at one time. The plot took a wild left turn halfway through, and then softly ended where I expected it to head all along. The overall experience was a bit jarring because of that. I didn’t much like Elsewhere either, so maybe this author’s style just isn’t my fav.

Heartsongs by Mattie JT Stepanek

2 Sentence Summary:
Poetry by a child, mostly about things children know about. Also God.

As I mentioned in my monthly wrap up, I 100% did not realize this was by an actual 5 year old child. My mistake; and my disappointment. Good for elementary school or KCC, less good for an adult seeking quality, moving poetry.

Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer

2 Sentence Summary:
Twilight, but from Edward’s point of view. Bella is more interesting, but Edward is still pretty creepy.

Frankly the reason I didn’t review this is because Angelica from The Book Cover Girls already wrote everything I would have said, and more eloquently than I could have said it. Just go read her review.

If I had to recommend between reading Twilight or this one for the story, I’d say read this one.

Nothing Special by Katie Cook

2 Sentence Summary:
A half-demon girl goes on a search in a dangerous magical land for her abruptly missing father. Her boy-who’s-a-friend from the human world comes with her, and they discover he’s also half-something-not-human as well.

I don’t know how I found this but I’m thankful as heck that I did. It’s a perfect read for feeling hopeful and sweet while still getting that excitement f adventure and a rich new world. Also there are ghost plants, and it’s the cutest damn thing ever.

Craigslist Confessional by Helena Dea Bala

2 Sentence Summary:
A woman puts her standard career on hold to listen to people’s stories full time. It’s amazing how people just need to have someone really hear them.

I thought it would be too much for me, but I did finish this Fast Forward Friday book! It was every bit as emotional and affecting as I anticipated. If you’ll notice, the two reads before and after this one were lighthearted webcomics for a reason.

Let's Play, Season 2 by Mongi

2 Sentence Summary:
A game developer and avid player works her way through attempted romances and finding her confidence. Her friends and coworkers (and trusty loyal pup) are all by her side.

This story is great because you care about all the characters in it. When there are some episodes about Marshall, or about Link, you are just as excited to read them as the ones about Sam. It’s all excellent! Funny, sweet, honest, steamy… it’s got it all! (Plus, GAMING!)

Alright y’all, I’m off to continue reading!

Sometimes it’s hard to decide which to do: read, or write about reading! Today I feel like the decision is easy though, as I have a few great books I’m in the middle of. Have a lovely day!

PS – thanks to Yu Siang Teo on Unsplash for the photo featured in the cover!

Posted in Reviews

Review: Pretty Funny for a Girl by Rebecca Elliott

Pretty Funny for a Girl by Rebecca Elliott – ⭐⭐⭐
Expected Release: October 1, 2020

Recommended: sure
for a lighthearted YA novel, for an MC who works on being ok with her body image, for an MC with a fairly unusual goal of being a standup comedian

Summary:
Haylah Swinton is an ace best friend, a loving daughter, and an incredibly patient sister to a four-year-old nutcase of a brother. Best of all, she’s pretty confident she’s mastered making light of every situation–from her mom’s new boyfriend to unsolicited remarks on her plus-sized figure. Haylah’s learning to embrace all of her curvy parts and, besides, she has a secret: one day, she’ll be a stand-up comedian star.

So when impossibly cool and thirstalicious Leo reveals he’s also into comedy, Haylah jumps at the chance to ghost-write his sets. But is Leo as interested in returning the favor? Even though her friends warn her of Leo’s intentions, Haylah’s not ready to listen–and she might just be digging herself deeper toward heartbreak. If Haylah’s ever going to step into the spotlight, first she’ll need to find the confidence to put herself out there and strut like the boss she really is.

Thoughts:
Okay, I feel like the #1 question about this book should be “the main character wants to be a stand up comedian, so is the book funny?” and I can report that it’s more or less a yes. The plot itself is a standard YA coming of age sort of read, but the moments of specific comedic routines are funny enough. They’re delivered by high school students, so that’s the experience the material focuses on, but if you can pass yourself back to that age you can probably get a chuckle or two.

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