Monday, December 4, 2017

Review of Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez

Out of Darkness“This is East Texas, and there’s lines. Lines you cross, lines you don’t cross. That clear?”

New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Vargas and Wash Fuller know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them.

“No Negroes, Mexicans, or dogs.”

They know the people who enforce them.

“They all decided they’d ride out in their sheets and pay Blue a visit.”

But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive.

“More than grief, more than anger, there is a need. Someone to blame. Someone to make pay.”

Ashley Hope Pérez takes the facts of the 1937 New London school explosion—the worst school disaster in American history—as a backdrop for a riveting novel about segregation, love, family, and the forces that destroy people.
(Summary from GoodReads)

I struggle with historical fiction, because even though I end up enjoying almost all of the historical fiction I read, I worry that it’s going to be slow. I was pulled into Ashley Hope Perez’s story right away, and I’m sad that it doesn’t get more love from readers. Out Of Darkness is the beautiful story of a Mexican girl falling in love with a black boy in 1937 East Texas.

Although the New London school explosion plays critical role in this story, Out Of Darkness isn’t really a book about the school explosion. Naomi grandparents send to live with her stepfather, Henry, along with her twin half siblings, Beto and Cari. Henry is the type of character who readers love to hate, since he’s a pretty awful guy and is pretty much the reason Naomi’s mother died. The task of running the household essentially falls upon Naomi, and while she cares deeply for Beto and Cari, running a household, especially Henry’s household, is extremely difficult for her. There are a lot of trigger warnings that should accompany this book, including pedophilia and extreme racism.

Perspectives switch throughout this story and while I know not everyone was a fan of it, I thought that it worked really well. Perez’s characters are so well crafted that I had strong feelings about all of them by the end of this story. Her writing is beautiful, and I thought she did a good job of balancing the bleakness and hope that were a part of this story.

The ending of this novel absolutely broke my heart. Out of Darkness is a hard book to read, and I’m not sure if I’d want to read it again. Readers who want a sad, romantic story with a great deal of depth will love Perez’s novel.

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my library.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Review of With Malice by Eileen Cook

With Malice
It was the perfect trip…until it wasn’t.

Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room, leg in a cast, stitches in her face and a big blank canvas where the last six weeks should be. She discovers she was involved in a fatal car accident while on a school trip in Italy. A trip she doesn’t even remember taking. She was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…wasn’t an accident.

As the accident makes national headlines, Jill finds herself at the center of a murder investigation. It doesn’t help that the media is portraying her as a sociopath who killed her bubbly best friend, Simone, in a jealous rage. With the evidence mounting against her, there’s only one thing Jill knows for sure: She would never hurt Simone. But what really happened? Questioning who she can trust and what she’s capable of, Jill desperately tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.

(Summary from GoodReads)

I’m not a huge fan of adult thrillers, because whenever I read young adult thrillers, they’re just so much better. I was drawn to the setting of With Malice, because if I can’t go to Italy, I can at least read a book that’s set partially in Italy, right? Although I found With Malice to be a bit predictable, it holds an important place in the world of young adult thrillers.

I love how a lot of thrillers written for teens focus on female friendships. It’s something that Dangerous Girls does, and Cook does an excellent job of it here as well. Of course, this one plays with the idea that Jill may never remember exactly what happened.

With Malice stands out because it plays with privilege in so many ways. While in rehab, Jill rooms with a girl named Anna Lopez, which is eye opening for her in a lot of ways. Jill also spends the novel dealing with her father and her sleazy lawyer, who are primarily looking out for her father’s good.

Cook’s novel is great because it explores gender and privilege. As far as Dangerous Girl comparisons, this one is better for readers who are more into storylines involving memory loss. While not a personal favorite, this was still a solid read, and I think a lot of teens will speed through it.

Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book from the library.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Review of Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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.

(Summary from GoodReads)

When I heard Marissa Meyer was planning on doing an Alice In Wonderland story that focused on the Queen of Hearts, I had to get my hands on it as soon as possible.  Truthfully, I think it was Fairest that helped get me so pumped about this book.  Meyer did such a great job of making readers feel empathy for Queen Levana that I couldn’t wait to see what she did with this book.  Heartless was a rich, dark story that I couldn’t get enough of.

Cath is meant to become the Queen of Wonderland, which isn’t really what she wants.  She wants to spend her days baking delectable treats and opening a bakery.  I strongly recommend that you go to a bakery near you and pick up some goodies before starting this one, because the descriptions of food were utterly divine.

I loved the atmosphere that Meyer created in this book.  As a reader, you can completely tell why Cath and her parents want different things for her.  Meyer did a great job of incorporating that universal theme into the story.  I also felt like the madness in Carroll’s original story is present in Meyer’s novel, especially with her depiction of the Mad Hatter.

It’s true that this story perhaps has moments where it’s predictable.  However, I loved how dark it is.  After reading the Lunar Chronicles, which I adored, I was particularly fond of how this book ended.  Heartless is a fantastic, standalone for anyone who loves Alice In Wonderland, or just wants a retelling with a darker vibe.

Disclosure: I received an ARC of this book from a friend, and later purchased my own finished copy.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Review of Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3)Celaena has survived deadly contests and shattering heartbreak―but at an unspeakable cost. Now, she must travel to a new land to confront her darkest truth . . . a truth about her heritage that could change her life―and her future―forever. Meanwhile, brutal and monstrous forces are gathering on the horizon, intent on enslaving her world. Will Celaena find the strength to not only fight her inner demons, but to take on the evil that is about to be unleashed?

The bestselling series that has captured readers all over the world reaches new heights in this sequel to the New York Times best-selling Crown of Midnight. Packed with heart-pounding action, fierce new characters, and swoon-worthy romance, this third book will enthrall readers from start to finish.

(Summary from GoodReads) 

Heir of Fire is a turning point in the Throne of Glass series, and for that I utterly adored it.  At the start of the book, Celaena is sent to Wendlyn to dispatch the royal family.  Of course, what she’s really doing is confronting who she really is.  While some people found Heir of Fire to be too slow, I absolutely adored it.

Right away in Heir of Fire, we meet Rowan.  I loved watching the dynamic between the two of them unfold.  It was nice to see a character who challenged Calaena in so many ways.  I also loved meeting Manon, who I adored in every single way.  Not only is she a total badass, I loved meeting her and every other witch.  I loved seeing how the witches interacted with each other and with the wyverns.

Unlike Maas’s other books, Heir of Fire felt very character based.  There were definitely things that happened throughout the story and kept the plot moving.  Mainly, it felt like we spent a lot of time learning about characters like Rowan and Manon.  I was happy that these characters felt as fully fleshed out as other characters we’d met throughout the series.

I understand why Heir of Fire wouldn’t satisfy every Throne Of Glass fan, but I was a huge fan of it.  I loved the dimension that Maas added to her world and characters.  Given it’s position as the third book in a six (seven, now?) book fantasy series, I thought Heir of Fire took a route that was enthralling but not entirely predictable.  A solid installment to this series, and a great book on its own regardless.

Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Review of Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2) "A line that should never be crossed is about to be breached.

It puts this entire castle in jeopardy—and the life of your friend."

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena's world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie... and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

(Summary from GoodReads)


I crossed the line from thinking Throne of Glass was good to adoring this series after reading Crown of Midnight.  I buddy read this book with my friend Jennie and we frantically texted the entire time we read it.  Crown of Midnight is a sequel that had all of the action, world-building, and character development that I craved.

When I went into this book, I found myself wondering how exciting another book set in the palace could be.    As it turns out, Crown of Midnight was full of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, and they all involved the characters that I cared about it.  Not only did Maas manage to shock me, she also had me freaking out about the characters that I loved.

People often complain about how young adult novels in series should be able to stand on their own while also functioning well as part of a series.  Even though Crown of Midnight ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, I really liked where it ended.  I loved that Maas gave us all a taste of what we could be expecting in the coming books throughout the series.

Crown of Midnight was a book that made me feel really impressed by Maas as an author.  While this series is not for everyone, Maas makes it clear she has the technical parts down. She knows how to build a great world, fantastic characters, and craft a riveting plot.  Crown of Midnight made it clear that while Maas is a fantastic fantasy writer, she has the potential to do exceptional work in other genres.

Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Review of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the  OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

(Summary from GoodReads)


If I had dollar for every time someone recommended Ready Player One to me, I probably could have used that money to buy twenty people copies of the book.  Considering what a fantastic read this is, I wouldn’t hesitate to do that at all.  I doubted that I would know every reference in Cline’s novel, and I was worried that would stop me from enjoying it.  I was totally wrong.  I absolutely adored everything about Ready Player One.

The Oasis is a virtual reality where teenager Wade Watts spends most of his time.  There are a lot of things that are wrong with Watts’ real world.  He lives in a trailer park, and spends a lot of his time playing the game from a van, and uses a stationary piece of exercise equipment to power his equipment.  There are evil corporations out there who are trying to make everyone miserable.  However, Wade is on a quest to find the egg that’s hidden within the game, something that no one has ever done before.  When Wade makes the first major step towards finding the egg, his life totally changes.

I absolutely loved the puzzles that the characters have to solve as they go looking for the egg.  To be a good player, intelligence is required.  Along the way, Wade finds himself enlisting the help of his best friend, and pursuing a love interest.  I loved how there were twists and turns in the relationships.  There’s obviously a message about how not everyone is who they appear to be.

The plot of this story is absolutely riveting.  While a lot of the story takes place in the Oasis, there are also pieces of it that take place inside the real world as well. I loved how Cline tied these different parts of the story together.  By the end of this story, I wasn’t totally surprised by how things worked out.  However, it was exactly what I wanted for these characters, so I completely adored it.

Ready Player One is a story that will appeal to lots of readers: folks who grew up in the eighties, gamers, or anyone who likes stories with a bit of a dystopian element.  As I turned the finally pages, I was happily surprised by how in love with Cline’s book I was. I can’t wait to reread this story when I need something that’s fast-paced, nuanced, ridiculously nerdy, and still inherently feel good.

Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book.


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