Friday, December 30, 2016

Book Review: This Is Our Story

This Is Our StoryAuthor: Ashley Elston
Publication Date: November 15, 2016
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Five went in. Four came out.

No one knows what happened that morning at River Point. Five boys went hunting. Four came back. The boys won’t say who fired the shot that killed their friend; the evidence shows it could have been any one of them. 

Kate Marino’s senior year internship at the district attorney’s office isn’t exactly glamorous—more like an excuse to leave school early that looks good on college applications. Then the DA hands her boss, Mr. Stone, the biggest case her small town of Belle Terre has ever seen. The River Point Boys are all anyone can talk about. Despite their damning toxicology reports the morning of the accident, the DA wants the boys’ case swept under the rug. He owes his political office to their powerful families.

Kate won’t let that happen. Digging up secrets without revealing her own is a dangerous line to walk; Kate has her own reasons for seeking justice for Grant. As investigates with Stone, the aging prosecutor relying on Kate to see and hear what he cannot, she realizes that nothing about the case—or the boys—is what it seems. Grant wasn’t who she thought he was, and neither is Stone’s prime suspect. As Kate gets dangerously close to the truth, it becomes clear that the early morning accident might not have been an accident at all—and if Kate doesn’t uncover the true killer, more than one life could be on the line…including her own.

When the new district attorney asked for my statement when I pleaded guilty…this was my story.

We all look at each other, each of us trying to figure out who it is. Only one of us knows the truth. And I’m going to make sure it stays that way.

The four of us sit on the couch, side by side, as a united front.

I saw this book on Goodreads about a month ago and I just kind of scrolled by it and didn’t really pay it any attention until I saw a booktuber on YouTube that I absolutely love and she was raving about it. After that, I checked out the synopsis and lo and behold I was hooked. I stayed up really late to finish this book because once the mystery was put out there I had to know the outcome. The storyline is original and I had no clue who committed the murder even up to the very end. The front of the book says it all: Five went in. Four came out. The murder mystery surrounds a hunting accident that is soon determined to be murder. Five boys go out hunting after a night of drinking and drugs and only four make it out of the woods alive. I was HOOKED!

The main character, Kate, was my favorite part about this book. She is working on the River Point case as part of an internship and gets in way over her head. The entire book was told from her perspective, other than a few tidbits after each chapter that is written from the perspective of one of the River Point boys, assumedly the killer. You don’t find out until the end just whose thoughts you have been reading, but it is so dark and creepy because it feels as if the boy writing has no remorse at all. Kate is a strong-willed young adult who wants justice for the victim and wants the killer to get what he deserves. I loved her character and thought she was really well developed. I will be checking out more from this author.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Book Review: The Amateurs

The Amateurs (The Amateurs, #1)Author: Sara Shepard
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Series: The Amateurs # 1

I need some answers about my sister. Help…

Five years ago, high school senior Helena Kelly disappeared from her backyard in Dexby, Connecticut, never to be heard from again. Her family was left without any answers—without any idea who killed Helena, or why.

So when eighteen-year-old Seneca Frazier sees a desperate post on the Case Not Closed message board, she knows it’s time to change that. Helena’s high-profile disappearance is the one that originally got Seneca addicted to true crime. It’s the reason she’s a member of the site in the first place.

Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, she agrees to spend spring break in Connecticut working on the case with Maddy Wright, her best friend from Case Not Closed. However, the moment she steps off the train, things start to go wrong. Maddy’s nothing like she expected, and Helena’s sister, Aerin, doesn’t seem to want any help after all. Plus, Seneca has a secret of her own, one that could derail the investigation if she’s not careful.

Alongside Brett, another super-user from the site, they slowly begin to unravel the secrets Helena kept in the weeks before her disappearance. But the killer is watching…and determined to make sure the case stays cold.

“She was never going to know the truth about Helena. What happened to her sister was going to remain a mystery – and a recurring nightmare – for the rest of her life.”

"Also, if you think she was killed in December, why would I have called her in January?" He rolled his eyes. "You people are total amateurs."

Maybe if Seneca figured it out, everything else in her life that was spinning out of control would fall into place, too. All right, then: she was going. She was going to figure out what happened. It wouldn't solve all her problems. It wouldn't solve all her mysteries. But it was a start.

I know I am probably in the minority with this statement, but this is my first Sara Shepard novel. My favorite type of book is one that has a secret that unveils itself at the beginning, but makes you wait until the very end to find out what exactly that secret is. This is the first book in what I am hearing is going to be a series. We meet a few characters who are, for whatever reason, into reading about and solving longtime cold cases. Some of these characters are connected to cold case personally and this story follows one character in particular. At the beginning of the book, we learn about the cold case that surrounds these characters this time around. A web of lies, deceit, and downright twisted endings flows through this rather short novel.

I was able to get through this book in only a few hours and was pleasantly surprised by the entire thing. Although, without giving too much away, I will say that the end was completely twisted and I am rather anxious to see how Shepard takes the series from here. I am also anxious to see the development of some of the main characters. While I developed an interest in them, I felt that they were lackluster at times. I wanted more about them and the things that triggered them. I hope that we see more of all of them in the next additions to the series. I will say that the mystery was well thought out and that I did not see any of it coming. I look forward to more from Sara Shepard!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Book Review: Heartless

18584855Author: Marissa Meyer
Publication Date: November 8, 2016
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Sometimes your heart is the only thing worth listening to.

“But hoping," he said, "is how the impossible can be possible after all.”

It is a dangerous thing to unbelieve something only because it frightens you.

A heart, once stolen, can never be taken back.

I was really looking forward to this book and I hate to report that I was left unsatisfied and disappointed. Let me start off by saying that I did not, by any means, hate the story or the way the book turned out. I finished the book and wouldn’t say that I didn’t enjoy some parts of Catherine’s story. However, I will also say that I feel like a lot of this had to do with the start of the story. It took me forever to get past the first one hundred pages or so. I tried to keep my judgement separate from the Lunar Chronicles, but ultimately I found myself going back and comparing the two. I wanted the story to take more of a creative twist on things, like her other novels have done. I liked the familiar characters making appearances like the Cheshire Cat, the Jabberwock, and others, but I was still left feeling a little empty by the time I had finished reading.

I loved Catherine’s character, but I like there was so much more room for fleshing her out. I felt like something was missing from her. I wanted to see more of her flaws, imperfections, dark little desires, and awkward habits from the start of the book and I don’t feel like I ever got that. Another thing, that relates to what I was saying earlier about creativity, is that retellings are a dime a dozen. We get ten plus every year; this one was just like the rest. Where is the surprise? Where is the tiny, little tidbit that sets this apart from all the rest? It just wasn’t there. Like I said, there was plenty to like and enjoy, but I just feel like with fairytale retellings, we really have to be amazed!


Monday, November 14, 2016

Book Review: A Study In Scarlet Women

A Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock, #1)Author: Sherry Thomas
Publication Date: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Berkley
Series: Lady Sherlock # 1

USA Today bestselling author Sherry Thomas turns the story of the renowned Sherlock Holmes upside down…
With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society.  But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London. 
When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her. But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

“She had very much looked forward to a word in private with him. But she forgot, as she usually did, the silence that always came between them in these latter years, whenever they found themselves alone.

The queer sensation in her chest, however, was all too familiar, that mix of pleasure and pain, never one without the other.

She could have done without those feelings. She would have happily gone her entire life never experiencing the pangs of longing and the futility of regret. He made her human—or as human as she was capable of being. And being human was possibly her least favorite aspect of life.”

Sherlock Holmes is really a lady?! I am so thrilled that I stumbled upon this brand new series. I was so excited for it because of my love for all things Sherlock. I had this book on my most anticipated list for this year, and I must admit that I was not at all disappointed. Of course my favorite part of this book was the fact that our bold, brave Lady Sherlock defies many gender roles for women in her time and era. I loved Charlotte Holmes – she is so clever and just absolutely brilliant! I look forward to following her character most of all. The mystery was my second favorite thing about this new series. There were quite a few things happening at once, but it was all done remarkably well.

I love the historical fiction aspect of this book and also the fact that the plot focused so much more on the mystery than any romance. I’ve read a lot of reviews that complain about the slow and boring pace, but I really loved the background information and the buildup. This book was the first in a new series, so I expected the author to frontload some of the character’s background and the stories that connect the secondary characters. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Victorian historical fiction or Sherlock Holmes, of course!

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

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Book Review: The Graces

The Graces (The Graces, #1)Author: Laure Eve
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Publisher: Amulet Books
Series: The Graces # 1

Everyone loves the Graces.

Fenrin Grace is larger than life, almost mythical. He’s the school Pan, seducing girls without really meaning to. He’s biding his time until someone special comes along. Someone different, who will make him wonder how he got along all this time without her. Someone like me.

Fenrin’s twin, Thalia, is a willowy beauty with rippling, honey-colored hair. Wherever she goes, Thalia leaves behind a band of followers who want to emulate her. She casts spells over everyone she encounters, just like Fenrin—even if they both deny it.

Then there’s Summer. She’s the youngest Grace, and the only one who admits she’s really a witch. Summer is dark on the outside—with jet-black hair and kohl-rimmed eyes—and on the inside. It was inevitable that she’d find me, the new girl—a loner with secrets lurking under the surface.

I am River. I am not a Grace. But I’ll do anything to become one.

She had power. Of course she used it.

Magic didn’t seem to make things easier.

They haven’t seen a fucking thing yet. (Last sentence of the book!)

This book felt somewhat creepy and eerie all the way through and the ending took me by surprise, I must say. I wanted something huge and tragic to happen about midway through – and I didn’t get that until towards the end of the book. River, our protagonist, has a very convincing and edgy voice. I was hanging on every word she said, especially when it came to the Graces. The Graces are a group of three siblings that allegedly have “powers” and everyone at school both fears them and wants to be one of them at the same time. They are mysterious and wild and anyone who gets too close to them for too long ends up going stir crazy. River makes it her ultimate mission to be a part of their “group” and find a way into their inner circle. I loved learning the history of the Graces the most and trying to understand the stigma that followed their family name.

The book does have a creepy feel that makes you question what outlandish thing will happen next. Each of the Grace siblings has such a different personality and it is nice to see their stories unravel. You learn small secrets about each of them as the story progresses – books like this are always my favorite. By the end of the book, we are left with a cliffhanger where I must say that I am unsure if River will be evil or good by the time the series is over? I feel like she wants revenge and I am so stoked for the next book in the series. I have such high hopes for the next book. Such a perfect book for Halloween!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Book Review: Stalking Jack The Ripper

Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #1)Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publication Date: September 20, 2016
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books
Series: Stalking Jack The Ripper # 1

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord's daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father's wishes and society's expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle's laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

“Roses have both petals and thorns, my dark flower. You needn’t believe something weak because it appears delicate. Show the world your bravery.”

“Fear is a hungry beast. The more you feed it, the more it grows.”

“There’s nothing better than a little danger dashed with some romance.”

“It was a great night for hunting Jack the Ripper.”

I have never been a huge fan of Jack the Ripper. I really hate stories where women are brutally murdered; however, I must say that this book was written exceptionally well. I am so intrigued after finishing this book that I believe I am going to find myself reading and researching more about Jack the Ripper. This story follows seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose, the daughter of a Lord and a young lady fascinated with dissecting cadavers. She becomes completely wound up in the case that soon becomes known as the Jack the Ripper serial killings. Audrey Rose was everything I could ever want in a female lead! When I tell you that I squealed a little when I found out this was a serious, I literally squealed…OUT LOUD.

I do not have what I consider a “weak stomach”; however, there were moments in reading this story that I had to look away and jump a few paragraphs forward. The author does a great job with imagery and fine detail – almost too good. Some parts are very graphic and the descriptions WILL make you cringe, which is perfect for a Halloween read. The end became predictable about three-fourths of the way through the book, but the writing is so superb that I was still hooked and wanted to see how Audrey reacted when she found out who, in fact, Jack the Ripper actually was. I am so excited for more from this author and more in this series!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Book Review: The Gilded Age

The Gilded CageAuthor: Lucinda Gray
Publication Date: August 2, 2016
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. BYR

After growing up on a farm in Virginia, Walthingham Hall in England seems like another world to sixteen-year-old Katherine Randolph. Her new life, filled with the splendor of upper-class England in the 1820s, is shattered when her brother mysteriously drowns. Katherine is expected to observe the mourning customs and get on with her life, but she can't accept that her brother's death was an accident. 

A bitter poacher prowls the estate, and strange visitors threaten the occupants of the house. There's a rumor, too, that a wild animal stalks the woods of Walthingham. Can Katherine retain her sanity long enough to find out the truth? Or will her brother's killer claim her life, too?

John frowns, and I know he isn’t fooled. But, tapping his horse smartly with the reins, he does as I say. I am, after all, the lady of Walthingham Hall.

“You won’t catch me going outside after dark again,” one mutters. “Not now that the Beast of Walthingham has claimed another.”

The Beast of Walthingham preys on the wicked, they say…

Then I see the gaunt, dark figure watching me silently from the other side of the rise.

For the month of October, I am trying to read books that are either gothic themed or have a creepy storyline. This book had a very gothic feel, but in the end fell short for me. The main character Katherine, along with her brother, come into a huge fortune when a relative suddenly passes away. When they move to Walthingham Hall they are impressed by a lavish and grandiose lifestyle, far different from they have ever known, but their lives are soon changed because of the mysterious and even fatal occurrences that happen in and around the manor. The novel had all the necessary elements to be a spooky, haunting read, but it lacked something that I find very pivotal for a novel to be at the top of my shelf: characterization.

Katherine was not what I expected in a female heroine. She was a very flat character and was not characterized very well. The mystery fell flat for me as well. I had the “who-dun-it” figured out about halfway through, and I was pretty disappointed when I realized there were not going to be any more interesting twists and turns. The setting was absolutely magical; the estate was gothic, creepy, and everything you hope an 19th century manor would be. The story line sounds perfect for Halloween, but the plot left me wanting more and left me unsatisfied by the end of the book.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Book Review: The Thousandth Floor

The Thousandth FloorAuthor: Katharine McGee
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins
Series: The Thousandth Floor # 1

New York City as you’ve never seen it before.

A thousand-story tower stretching into the sky. A glittering vision of the future, where anything is possible—if you want it enough.

Welcome to Manhattan, 2118.

A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose.

Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.

Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one?

Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.

And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Amid breathtaking advancement and high-tech luxury, five teenagers struggle to find their place at the top of the world. But when you’re this high up, there’s nowhere to go but down…

“Maybe that's all that praying was, she thought, just wishing good outcomes on other people.”

“Sometimes love and chaos are the same thing.” 

“If you aren't sure, then you definitely aren't in love.”

This book gave me the biggest book hangover ever. No book that I read after this one was going to compare and I knew that about halfway through. The premise behind this book was so enchanting and after seeing so many people rave about it on YouTube, I decided that I had to give it a try. The book was full of drama and I loved learning more about the tower; I hope that in the series we learn more and more about the different floors. I will say, without spoiling the novel, that the higher to the top you are the more money and power you have. I just loved the idea that all of New York was in this thousand floor tower and even the modes of travel to get from one floor to the next were futuristic.

My favorite thing about this book was all the different perspectives that we are given. We get to read from the point of view of about five or six different characters which makes the world all the more entertaining because they all come from different backgrounds. Each character has something very interesting to add the story and reading from the different point of views allow you to feel like you are reading more than one story wrapped into one. The ending of the book answered enough of my questions to be satisfactory, but of course I am anxious to know where things are going from here. This is definitely a great book to pick up for Fall!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Book Review: Ghostly Echoes

Ghostly Echoes (Jackaby, #3)Author: William Ritter
Publication Date: August 23, 2016
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Series: Jackaby # 3

Jenny Cavanaugh, the ghostly lady of 926 Augur Lane, has enlisted the investigative services of her fellow residents to solve a decade-old murder—her own. Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, Detective R. F. Jackaby, dive into the cold case, starting with a search for Jenny’s fiancĂ©, who went missing the night she died. But when a new, gruesome murder closely mirrors the events of ten years prior, Abigail and Jackaby realize that Jenny’s case isn’t so cold after all, and her killer may be far more dangerous than they suspected.

Fantasy and folklore mix with mad science as Abigail’s race to unravel the mystery leads her across the cold cobblestones of nineteenth-century New England, down to the mythical underworld, and deep into her colleagues’ grim histories to battle the most deadly foe she has ever faced.

Some corners of the city, I was coming to find, were always dark, as if to spite the sun.

“Send your expenses to my office, Miss Rook. You two are on the case.”

Jenny Cavanaugh was dead, and she wasn’t happy about it.

There is so much to love about this series. Firstly, it is perfect for Halloween and got me in the mood for all things spooky and supernatural. The series contains so many loveable characters and while eerie and haunting at times, there are added bits of humor thrown in to provide comic relief. In this third and most dark installment of the series, our investigators, Jackaby and Abigail Rook, are finally able to investigate the death of their favorite ghost, Jenny Cavanaugh. I found it so interesting that Jenny’s cold case was brought to light and I was thankful that so many questions I had have now been answered. This cast of characters is not one that you will forget easily. They are all unique and special in their own way. I was up way past my bedtime reading this one!

I am unsure what to think about another book. I am reading a lot of reviews where people seem to believe there will be more, but I have also heard talk that this book will be the last in the series. Either way, this is not a story that you want to miss out on. Like I said, these books are perfect for the spirit of Halloween, and this third book in particular has been the spookiest of all. There were times where I was unsure that I was going to be able to keep reading at night. William Ritter had me squinting my eyes, scared for what I would read next. I am so pleased with this series; I can honestly say that it gets better with each and every book!

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

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Book Review: Root, Petal, Thorn

Root, Petal, ThornAuthor: Ella Joy Olsen
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Publisher: Kensington

In this beautifully written and powerful debut novel, Ella Joy Olsen traces the stories of five fascinating women who inhabit the same  historic home over the course of a century—braided stories of love, heartbreak and courage connect the women, even across generations.
Ivy Baygren has two great loves in her life: her husband, Adam, and the bungalow they buy together in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Salt Lake City, Utah. From the moment she and Adam lay eyes on the  home, Ivy is captivated by its quaint details—the old porch swing, ornate tiles, and especially  an heirloom rose bush bursting with snowy white blossoms.  Called the Emmeline Rose for the home’s original owner, it seems yet another sign that this place will be Ivy’s happily-ever-after…Until her dreams are shattered by Adam’s unexpected death.
Striving to be strong for her two children, Ivy decides to tackle the home-improvement projects she and Adam once planned. Day by day, as she attempts to rebuild her house and her resolve, she uncovers clues about previous inhabitants, from a half-embroidered sampler to buried wine bottles. And as Ivy learns about the women who came before her—the young Mormon torn between her heart and anti-polygamist beliefs, the Greek immigrant during World War II, a troubled single mother in the 1960s—she begins to uncover the lessons of her own journey. For every story has its sadness, but there is also the possibility of blooming again, even stronger and more resilient than before…

Relieved to take a break from the sad twist in my own tale, I was more than eager to consider hers.

He was picturing his home freshly built, his wife a young woman with a baby on her hip. He was pondering 1944.

She smiled and leaned into him. “Yes, this house has harbored its fair share and it’s still standing. Surely it can handle you.”

This book is such a charming, cozy read. The book starts out with Ivy Baygren and her sudden bout of grief because of her husband’s unexpected passing. She tries to work through her husband’s passing by working on the sweet, little house that they purchased together. As Ivy works in and around the house she and her husband shared together, she starts to wonder about the history of the house and others that lived in it before her. Ivy finds small mementos left by other females that have lived in the house from 1913 onwards. As readers, we get a peek into the lives of each of these women. The story is told from alternating viewpoints and each character is just as crisp and carefully written as the last.

Each of the women who lived in the house had such interesting stories to share. I was so excited to get to a new chapter for each woman so that I could continue their stories. This book is so magical in its delivery. All of the lives you will read about are enchanting and personable; you won’t be able to put this book down. There are many emotional parts of this book. You will feel the same pains as the characters and you will find yourself rooting for their happily ever afters. I was so enthralled by how eloquent and completely endearing this book was that I struggled to put it down. I even woke up early one morning just to read some more!

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