Sunday, September 27, 2015

Book Review: Beastly Bones

Beastly Bones (Jackaby, #2)Author: William Ritter
Publication Date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Series: Jackaby # 2

The highly anticipated follow-up to the “rich world” of the “lighthearted and assured debut,” featuring an “irresistible character” whose first thrilling and original adventure “demands sequels.”

“I’ve found very little about private detective R. F. Jackaby to be standard in the time I’ve known him. Working as his assistant tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality.”

In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer R. F. Jackaby are called upon to investigate the supernatural.

First, a vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens, and a day later, their owner is found murdered with a single mysterious puncture wound. Then in nearby Gad’s Valley, now home to the exiled New Fiddleham police detective Charlie Cane, dinosaur bones from a recent dig mysteriously go missing, and an unidentifiable beast starts attacking animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Charlie calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

“Follow my lead, Miss Rook,” Jackaby said, rapping on the ornately trimmed door to 1206 Campbell Street. Were my employer a standard private investigator, those might have been simple instructions, but in the time I’ve been his assistant, I’ve found very little about Jackaby to be standard. Following his lead tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality.

Some girls work in shops or sell flowers. Some girls find husbands and play house. I assist a mad detective in investigating unexplained phenomena – like fish that ought to be cats but seem to have forgotten how. My name is Abigail Rook, and this is what I do.

“I guess I forgot about being frightened because it felt good to finally be in the adventure.”

"Failure is not the opposite of success- it is a part of it."

I could not wait to get my hands on this novel, and it was just what I needed to get in the mood for the upcoming Halloween season. Jackaby was a wonderful debut novel, but I think Beastly Bones took the prize. I was again captivated by Jackaby and Abigail; they make a great pair and readers never know what types of creatures or paranormal phenomena they will encounter on an adventure with these two. We get to see all of the same faces that we met in book one, and this time they are back with much more action and adventure. Not to mention, we open the very first chapter with some shape-shifting kittens. Yes, I did just say that. Like I said, there is a never a dull moment where Jackaby and Abigail are concerned. This feels just like a good ole’ Sherlock Holmes novel and completely captivated me from the very first page.

The story in this second installment to the series was even better than the first! There are so many things to love about this book: quirky characters, lots and lots of paranormal happenings, romance, and some good old-fashioned romance is thrown in the mix as well. We were given a hint of romance in the first book, and this one took us a little deeper down that road. I love when an author can evenly balance all of my favorite genres and wrap them up nicely into one: historical fiction, mystery, and romance. Abigail Rook very well may be one of my favorite female narrators. I love the spunk and spirit that she brings to each and every book! I cannot wait for the next one.

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Algonquin Books for Young Readers in exchange for my honest review***

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Book Review: Pretty Girls

Pretty GirlsAuthor: Karin Slaughter
Publication Date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow

The compelling new standalone novel from the Sunday Times No. 1 bestselling author of Unseen and Cop Town.

With a missing girl in the news, Claire Scott can’t help but be reminded of her sister, who disappeared twenty years ago in a mystery that was never solved.

But when Claire begins to learn the truth about her sister, nothing will ever be the same.

“People did not change their basic, core personalities.”

“Your mother and I had always been secretly pleased that you were so headstrong and passionate about your causes. Once you were gone, we understood that these were the qualities that painted young men as smart and ambitious and young women as trouble.”

“Lydia supposed his headstone had been ordered. Something large and garish made of the finest marble and phallic shaped because being dead didn't stop you from being a dick.”

“You couldn't turn on the TV without hearing about the missing teenage girl. Sixteen years old. White. Middle class. Very pretty. No one ever seemed quite as outraged when an ugly woman went missing.”

This was my first Karin Slaughter novel, and I will say that she kept me intrigued and entertained about 70% of the time. I have just recently gotten into the thriller genre and am still new to all the authors that are out there. I loved the premise behind this book, but at times felt that it was too graphic and too much for me. Some of the characters in this book are into some pretty horrible things, and I was shocked by some of the things I read. I will say that Slaughter can make readers feel sorry for her protagonists so easily. I found myself lying awake at night wondering and worrying about so many people in the world who have faced the things that Claire, Sam, and Lydia faced. The villain in this book is the character that I had the most problem with. I rated this book a 3 out of 5 because of him. He was the most predictable character that I have read in all of 2015.

Not all of this book was disappointing to me, however. I absolutely loved how the story was told. Claire, Lydia, and their dad, Sam, alternate telling their sides of the story. Sam’s entries date back to the disappearance of his daughter, Julia, who is also the older sister to Claire and Lydia. His entries were so believable as they were filled with grief and torment. He seemed like such a real character; he said and did all the things that you would expect any parent to do in a situation like his. His parts were sad and depressing, but they were completely necessary to the story. Claire and Lydia were so very different from each other, but it was nice to see how each sister dealt with their sister’s disappearance. I enjoyed those parts. I hated the villain, as I suppose was Slaughter’s goal, but he was just too predictable and downright disgusting. Needless to say, I will try another Karin Slaughter novel soon!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at William Morrow in exchange for my honest review***

Monday, September 21, 2015

Book Review: Tonight The Streets Are Ours

Tonight the Streets Are OursAuthor: Leila Sales
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

From the author of This Song Will Save Your Life comes a funny and relatable book about the hazards of falling for a person you haven't met yet.

Seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley is recklessly loyal. Taking care of her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But she's tired of being loyal to people who don't appreciate her—including her needy best friend and her absent mom. 

Arden finds comfort in a blog she stumbles upon called "Tonight the Streets Are Ours," the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter. When Peter is dumped by the girlfriend he blogs about, Arden decides to take a road trip to see him.

During one crazy night out in NYC filled with parties, dancing, and music—the type of night when anything can happen, and nearly everything does—Arden discovers that Peter isn't exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn't exactly who she thought she was, either.

"Love means sometimes sacrificing the things you want in order to make someone else happy. It means being there for someone, even when maybe you don't feel like it, because they need you."

“Like all stories, the one you’re about to read is a love story.”

“You were promised a love story. And this is mine.”

“But that's the thing: when you swear to take someone's side no matter what, sometimes you have to go to war for them.” 

“Hurting people, really, deeply hurting them - that isn't something you do on purpose. It's just a by-product of living.” 

I will always have high hopes when I go into a Leila Sales novel. She never disappoints. This book was such a fun, fast-paced read for me; I was done with the book after two nights of reading. The story follows Arden, a girl who is fiercely loyal and tends to be the dependable person in most of the lives of the people she knows. She soon realizes how unhappy she is and how no one is there for her like she is for them, and she is able to find comfort in a blog called Tonight The Streets Are Ours. The blog is written by a boy her age named Peter. Arden becomes completely enthralled by his words and when he blogs about his recent break-up, she decides, spontaneously, to take a road trip to meet him. They spend time in New York City and do everything imaginable in the span of just one night. Arden realizes that Peter is not who she thought he would be, but she quickly learns that she is not the same person that she thought she was either. This was, overall, a great coming of age story. Arden grows so much in the span of just a few pages and her journey into finding herself is definitely worth a second read.

The book started off a little slow to me, but of course, seeing the four cupcake rating, it ultimately picked up speed and captivated me. Arden’s story was told so beautifully and readers will root for her 100% of the way. She feels so underappreciated and this road trip allows her to discover so many things about herself. I guess you could say that this is what I love and advocate for most of all: self-discovery. I did not care for Peter, especially after Arden finds out his secrets. But I will say that his character was a nice building tool for Arden; he allowed her to grow and learn to look past what she sees as flaws in herself. I will say that this book is not my most favorite by Sales, but it is so worth the read!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in exchange for my honest review***

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Book Review: A Curious Beginning

A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell Mystery, #1)Author: Deanna Raybourn
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: NAL
Series: Veronica Speedwell Mystery # 1

In her thrilling new series, the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, returns once more to Victorian England…and introduces intrepid adventuress Veronica Speedwell.

London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

One cannot innovate new improvements without understanding old failures.

I felt in this new adventure I was rousing to life again. I was a butterfly, newly emerged from the chrysalis, damp winged and trembling with expectation.

You have large opinions for so small a person.

Music and needlework. I am astonishingly lacking in traditional feminine accomplishments.

Veronica is not your ordinary Victorian heroine. She is headstrong, opinionated, and is not shy about the number of lovers she has taken in the past. Veronica has no desire to be tied down to a husband, nor does she have a desire to start producing children and keeping a house. When her last living relative passes away, Veronica decides to branch out on her own and experience some freedom and live on her own terms. Little does Veronica know, she is about to step into a spider web of adventure, action, murder, and deception. After a situation that could have ended in her demise, Veronica is left in the care of a gentleman who refers to himself as Stoker. Together these two must solve the murder of a man they both had a connection to, while also trying to find out who is after Veronica and what they could possibly want with her.

Stoker and Veronica made the perfect pair. Stoker does not really know how to handle a woman like Veronica, since she is so much different from what is normally expected of her gender during this time period. They share a lot of witty, sarcastic, and sometimes nagging banter, and to be completely honest this was one of my favorite things about the book. The mystery sometimes took second place to my feelings about the dynamics building between Stoker and Veronica. The entire book was well-written; Raybourn has such a knack for providing vivid and unbelievable details while still keeping you interested and excited about the rest of the story. She takes Veronica and Stoker to so many interesting places, and continues to make readers picture every single place in their minds. I am very excited for the other books in this series!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at NAL in exchange for my honest review***

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Book Review: Chivalrous

Chivalrous (Valiant Hearts, #2)Author: Dina L. Sleiman
Publication Date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: Bethany House
Series: Valiant Hearts # 2

Strong and adventurous Gwendolyn Barnes longs to be a knight like her chivalrous brothers. However, that is not an option for her, not even in the Arthurian-inspired Eden where she dwells. Her parents view her only as a marriage pawn, and her domineering father is determined to see her wed to a brutish man who will break her spirit.

When handsome, good-hearted Allen of Ellsworth arrives in Edendale searching for his place in the world, Gwendolyn spies in him the sort of fellow she could imagine marrying. Yet fate seems determined to keep them apart. Tournaments, intrigue, and battles--along with twists and turns aplenty--await these two as they struggle to find love, identity, and their true destinies.

“Brave Warriors, as we commence the game today, be honorable, be courageous, be chivalrous, and be strong. But most of all, go hand in hand with the God of all creation.”

“I prefer to think of a man and woman standing side by side, offering mutual support.”

“I do not wish to watch a tournament. I wish to fight in one.”

Gwendolyn Barnes is ready to be free from her father’s constraints and most of all free from his hopes of landing her in a secure, lasting marriage. Gwendolyn wants things her way and wants the freedom and adventures that her brothers have. She is not at all interested in being “tamed” by some man, nor will she settle for it. Her life is only begun, so when she gets the chance to disguise herself as a knight and enter a jousting tournament to prove her true strength, she jumps at it. However, she soon discovers that her opponent is Sir Allen of Ellsworth, the only man whom she has ever found herself enamored with – will she be able to go through with this? Can she walk away from this handsome, valiant knight and lead a life without love or happily ever after?

If you missed the first book in this series, do yourself a favor and get them both! I loved the first one – Dauntless – but I must say that I found myself even more wrapped up in Gwendolyn’s story. I loved the historical background in this book – all the talk of knights and jousting made me long for more medieval stories. Gwendolyn’s desire to become a knight instead of someone’s trophy wife was powerful and her character was brave beyond words. These books send really strong messages about courageous females surpassing the social norms that were placed on them during the times in which they lived. I love a strong, independent heroine. Gwendolyn was the cherry on top of the pie for me!

However, Sir Allen is not without his many affluent virtues – he and Gwendolyn together made a perfect pair. Their interest in one another turns into a massive adventure when they concoct a plan to try and overthrow the kingdom. They were a perfect match and their many character traits complimented one another. There is so much in this book to love: the plot, the characters, their roles in society, the adventure, and the ending! I cannot wait for more from Dina!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers and the author, Dina L. Sleiman in exchange for my honest review***

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Early Book Review: The Shrunken Head

The Shrunken Head (The Curiosity House, #1)Author: Lauren Oliver & H.C. Chester
Publication Date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Series: The Curiosity House # 1

What you will find in this book:

– A rather attractive bearded lady
– Several scandalous murders
– A deliciously disgusting Amazonian shrunken head
– Four extraordinary children with equally extraordinary abilities
– A quite loquacious talking bird

Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-
thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events. When the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts.

This sensational new series combines the unparalleled storytelling gifts of Lauren Oliver with the rich
knowledge of the notorious relics collector H.C. Chester.

What you will NOT find in this book:

– An accountant named Seymour
– A never-ending line at the post office
– Brussel sprouts (shudder)
– A lecture on finishing all your homework on time
– A sweet, gooey story for nice little girls and boys.

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: step right up and don’t be shy. You must not – you absolutely cannot! – put this book down.

What museum, you ask? But surely you’ve heard already. You see, within these pages is a museum, and within the museum is a story of wondrous weirdness, of magic and monsters…and of four of the most extraordinary children in the world.”

“And now, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages: welcome to Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders.”

I need more middle grade fiction in my life! I have loved every single middle grade book that I have ever read that has been published by Harper Collins. Not to mention, I love Lauren Oliver and any book of hers is on my must read list. This story follows a group of four quirky kids: Max, Pippa, Sam, and Thomas. They live and work at Mr. Dumfrey’s Dime Museum, where they showcase their unusual talents. Their employer has recently acquired a shrunken head that has business booming and has added a rather cheerful smile to Mr. Dumfrey’s face. All is well in the world, until the head, which is quite possibly cursed, turns up missing. Mr. Dumfrey is facing bankruptcy and these four eccentric, yet loving children cannot stand to see their employer and guardian go down without a fight. They decide to take matters into their hands and work together to try and solve the case and determine who has stolen the head before the doors to Mr. Dumfrey’s Dime Museum are closed forever.

Each of the children bring their own unique and interesting characteristics and talents to this wonderful tale. Each chapter was told from a different perspective, with all four of these children being able to share their side of the story. There were so many twists and turns as I read; I thought I would be able to predict what was coming next and then the authors clearly knocked my socks off and threw another murder at me. Yes, there are multiple murders! I thought I had the thieves and murderers picked out, but yep, you guessed it, wrong again! I fell in love with each of these characters and could honestly not say which my favorite is. I cannot wait for the next book in this series and to meet up with all of their familiar faces once again!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Harper Collins in exchange for my honest review***

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Book Review: Mirrored

MirroredAuthor: Alex Flinn
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen

A modern, multi-generational tale of Kendra, the witch from "Snow White," who trains Violet, an ugly, lonely, and heartbroken girl in the 1980s who transforms herself into "the fairest one of all" but still cannot win Greg's heart, and Celine, Greg's daughter with Violet's high school rival, Jennifer.

I wanted Violet to love me. She was the only mother I had, after all.

Nothing unusual happened for a year or so. Maybe I made nothing happen. But then, one day something did. Something that changed everything.

“Mirror, mirror, in my hand, who is the fairest in the land?” Who’s the most batshit crazy? I bolt from my room, but not before I think I hear the mirror say something back. Now who’s crazy?

Alex Flinn’s retellings have always been some of my favorites to read; I have followed her work ever since I fell in love with Beastly. This story is a modern day retelling of Snow White, but of course the book has a twist that on Alex Flinn could spin. The story is told in two parts, focusing on our two main characters: Violet and Celine. Violet, the character that becomes the evil queen, is different, odd, and can never seem to fit in or get someone to notice her. She is an eccentric girl and thinks that she will forever be alone until she meets Greg. Greg and Violet have a lot in common and they bond quickly, until Greg goes away one summer and comes back looking completely different. Greg is now able to fit in with the popular crowd, leaving Violet in his dust and acting as if they were never even friends to begin with. Violet meets a witch named Kendra, and discovers that she has a magic all her own. Later on, we meet Celine, a girl so beautiful that she chooses not to be popular. Violet soon becomes Celine’s stepmother, and you can only imagine where the story goes from there!

I have read so many reviews where bloggers and readers have complained about the way Flinn chose to retell Snow White. I, however, think it was so genius. I LOVED that she built Violet’s story first and then turned to Celine’s; she even adds in her on twist on the dwarves. Plus, if you have read other books by Flinn, you know that Kendra is not a new character. I thought it was so awesome that she made an appearance in this book as well. I enjoyed reading all the reviews on this book, but I could not agree with readers who could not finish the book. I think that what Flinn did here was brilliant and I had a hard time putting the book down, thus why it got a little wet in the bathtub (oops!). I am always ready for the next Flinn retelling! Alex, please don’t stop now!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Harper Teen in exchange for my honest review***

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Book Review: What To Do With A Duke

What to Do with a Duke (Spinster House, #1)Author: Sally MacKenzie
Publication Date: August 25, 2015
Publisher: Zebra
Series: Spinster House # 1

Welcome to the charming, fatefully named village of Loves Bridge, where a woman destined for spinsterhood can live a life of her own choosing—or fall unexpectedly, madly in love…

Miss Isabelle Catherine Hutting would rather be lounging in the library than circling the ballroom in search of a husband any day. So when Cat hears that the town’s infamous Spinster House is open for a new resident, she jumps at the chance to put all this marriage business behind her. But first she must make arrangements with her prospective landlord, Marcus, the Duke of Hart—the most handsome man she’s ever seen, and the only man who’s ever impressed her in the least…

With her wit, independent spirit, and not least of all her beauty, Marcus can’t help but be stirred by Cat. It’s terribly unfortunate he’s not looking to marry, given the centuries-old curse that left his family with the Spinster House to begin with. No duke shall live to see his heir’s birth. But is there a chance the curse could be broken—in true fairy-tale fashion—by an act of true love? The race to Happily Ever After is about to begin…

Madness. This beautiful, vibrant woman wished to look herself away with a quill and paper live in her imagination?

“Your Grace, not only do I not wish to marry you, I don’t wish to marry anyone.”

He liked the girl, but she made his head spin. She wasn’t like any other woman he’d ever met. Not only did she not want to marry, she said the most outrageous things.

It would be a blessing if he were the last Cursed Duke.

I have been a dedicated fan of Sally MacKenzie since I started by book blog. I first fell in love with her Duchess of Love series and I am sure this series will be just as promising and rewarding. MacKenzie writes historical romance like no other. This first book was so enchanting in every way. Miss Isabelle Catherine “Cat” Hutting is twenty-four years old and is well past the marrying age, and with her younger sisters either married or about to get married, she knows that soon she will only wear on her parents nerves and all she really wants is some peace and quiet to writer her novel. When she hears that the Spinster House has lost its spinster, she quickly jumps on the idea of occupying the house and finding her peace and quiet away from her rowdy siblings. Soon, Marcus, Duke of Hart, rushes off to Loves Bridge to find a new spinster to fill the vacancy. But when he and Cat meet, they are instantly attracted to each other. They might be attracted to each other, but Marcus cannot forget the curse that has ripped a line of Dukes before him from the world. The curse holds true to the fact that the Duke of Hart will not live to see the birth of his first heir. This is not a fate that Marcus wants to live through.

Sally MacKenzie is able to hold any reader’s attention with her witty and loveable characters. There will be humorous scenes and serious scenes and everything in between. You will not want to lay this book down until you have finished the entire thing. I immediately went to Goodreads and looked to see when the next book would be published. MacKenzie can just develop her characters and make you fall in love with them; she can make you think of them long after putting the book down. Neither Cat nor Marcus want to marry, but the way they are drawn together is undeniable and unavoidable. These really are the best types of romances; stories in which the characters cannot help but to fall in love with one another. They do, after all, make for the best endings!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Zebra in exchange for my honest review***