Review: Remember, Remember by Anna Elliott

rememberrememberRemember, Remember by Anna Elliot

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James Mysteries

Date Published: April 21st, 2017

Publisher: Wilton Press

Pages: 357 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: A lovely American actress awakens in London on a cold morning in 1897 – lying face down on the concrete pavement outside the British Museum. She has no memories. She does not even know who she is, although she has a vague recollection of the name Sherlock Holmes. What she believes is that she has may have just killed someone, and that someone is definitely trying to kill her. As she searches for clues to her true identity, she will learn that she is not the only target. Unless she can defeat her evil adversaries, the people most dear to her will die.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

I’ll admit I went into this book a little bit hesitant. It’s no secret that I love retellings or novels that use classic characters in modern day literature—these are some of my favorite types of novels. However, the hesitation I experience comes from my love of the original stories and characters themselves. I’m always a stickler when it comes to keeping true to the most essential and definitive aspects, even while the author is forming his or her own unique story. And I am especially picky when it comes to my all-time favorites. This particular novel, I’m pleased to say, does a reasonably good job paying homage to the incredibly well-loved characters from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s timeless tales of the great Sherlock Holmes.

In this novel, we read from the perspective of the main character, Lucy James, a young woman who wakes up on the steps of the British Museum with amnesia. Once woken up, she realizes she has lost all of her memories, including her name. All she knows is that she was hit in the head and that someone is most likely out to kill her—and that she may in fact be a killer herself. This, along with the vague recollection of the name Sherlock Holmes, is all she has to go on as she attempts to remember who she is, where she’s from, and why she is running for her life. Her enemies are ruthless and willing to take down anyone who gets in their way. Navigating dangerous circumstances and forging new alliances, Lucy takes on her adversaries and works to prevent them from carrying out their nefarious scheme.

Despite my original wariness, I ended up enjoying this story quite a bit. I found the plot to be fast-paced and easy to get wrapped up in right from page one. Though this is actually the third book in the Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James Mysteries series, it functions extremely well as a standalone. The overall mystery of the story is not completely unpredictable or surprising, but it still made for a very fun and action-packed read.

The portrayal of the various characters, overall, is fairly well done, but also the area from which the majority of my issues with the novel stem. The characters that were original creations of Anna Elliot were by far the strongest. Lucy is a great protagonist—she is a strong, highly intelligent, and independent heroine. The only major issue with her characterization is that there isn’t much development over the course of the story or depiction of flaws. One of the reasons a character such as Sherlock Holmes is so interesting is the mixture of his tremendous intellect and cleverness with flaws that make him human. While Lucy is a likeable character that is still easy to connect with, she seems just a bit too perfect at times.

As for Elliot’s versions of Holmes and Watson, I had somewhat mixed feelings. While her portrayal of Watson, in my opinion, is quite accurate, I felt a little bit lukewarm about her portrayal of Holmes. We don’t really get to see all that much of him, and even though there are certain times that truly reflect the classic great detective, there are some moments and plot points that I felt strayed a little too far. Though it was a little hard for me to imagine at first, I believe she did a decent job of gauging the way Holmes would treat a daughter had he had one in the original stories. However, there were times—such as his offering Lucy dating advice—that just didn’t feel authentic.

I had one odd problem with one of the character’s names. I was reading from an advanced review copy, so this is probably the cause of my confusion, but I could not figure out Lucy’s love interest’s first name. It kept jumping back and forth between John and Jack every few pages, sometimes even within the same page. Again, I assume this was caused by the uncorrected proof, and it has absolutely no bearing on my rating of the novel. However, I’m still not certain what his name actually was meant to be.

Elliot’s writing style is solid and easy to become absorbed in. She gives Lucy a strong narrative voice, which caused the plot to both flow well and pack a punch. Her world building of 1897 London is vivid and skilled, making it a very high point of the novel. She unravels the mystery at a steady pace, showing her talent for creating a storyline that hooks her readers and keeps them wanting more.

In the first part of the novel, Elliot does a great job of presenting Lucy’s slow gathering of clues pertaining to her life. The transition between the two halves of the novel—where Lucy suddenly regains her memories—is a bit rough. We are thrown rather quickly into her rapid and high-stakes lifestyle. However, this still does not hurt the plot progression overall, and though it was a little bumpy, I found myself falling into this new twist fairly easily. In general, Elliot keeps the plot as a whole straightforward enough to follow, and just unpredictable enough to create a exciting mystery.

Overall, I found this novel to be a pretty enjoyable and fast-paced read that was quite easy to become swept up in. This wound up being a very fun story, and an inventive take on some very timeless classics. While I would have liked to see a bit more development in Lucy and the various other significant characters in the novel, they were still portrayed well in general. Despite its few flaws, this is a good addition to the ever-expanding world of Sherlock Holmes novels. I am definitely planning to go back and read the first two novels of this series, and will eagerly await and further installments.

3.5 TARDISes

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Review: The Timekeepers by Jenn Bregman

thetimekeepersThe Timekeepers by Jenn Bregman

My Rating: 1/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: May 4th, 2017

Publisher: Triborough Publishing

Pages: 334 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: A fast-paced thriller, The TimeKeepers plunges headlong into the depraved underbelly of Big Law and big money where greed is king, murder is incidental, and winning is the only thing that matters.

Attorney Sarah Brockman is young, idealistic, and naïve. Having left Big Law in search of work that would make a difference, she finds herself barely scraping by running her own personal injury law firm working for clients who can’t pay and pursuing causes she can’t win. Then a random horrific car crash shatters everything. Now she’s staring into the darkest shadows of the very system she’s dedicated her life to upholding, filled with corrupt judges, dirty cops and attorneys, offshore banking, massive fraud, and twists and turns through the highways and byways of Southern California, Mexico and the Cook Islands.  

Facing off against a cunning and deranged adversary, Sarah is aided by a sharp-witted socialite, a felon and occasional crackhead, and a shameless Mexican raconteur. All while kindling a tender romance with Sam, her boyishly handsome new love, who has been following the same trail but from the other end – and the wrong side of the law.

Sarah feels invisible strings pulling her ever closer to the core of the conspiracy. But if she’s just a pawn in someone else’s game, are the strings being pulled for good or for bad? Or, even, both? And will she be on the side that wins?

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

This novel is a bit out of my normal reading comfort zone. However, I always love giving any book from any genre a try—and from the synopsis, The Timekeepers sounded like an interesting, high-stakes mystery. Unfortunately, what I ended up with was a slow-paced, confusing story, one-dimensional characters, and no mystery.

There was absolutely no suspense in the plot due to the style of narration that Bregman chose for it, and there were very few riveting plot points to grip readers. Throughout my experience with this novel, I never found myself eager to turn the next page. And rather than the book motivating me to read it, I had to motivate myself every time I picked it up.

A book that could have been fast-paced and exciting is bogged down by repetitive narration and an extensive amount of scenes that solely contain descriptions of the various workings of Big Law. It’s not that I minded learning the details about law or what goes on behind-the-scenes at law firms—it was specifically that topic which caused me to want to read this novel. But instead of mixing definitions and facts fluidly with a heart-pounding and interesting plot, the plot fell flat and facts overtook almost every aspect of the novel.

In this novel, according to the synopsis, we follow a young attorney named Sarah Brockman, who is struggling to run her own law firm specializing in personal injury cases. One day, her life changes when she begins dealing with the case of a man who has been hit by a car. This seemingly common personal injury case inadvertently throws Sarah into a world she is not prepared for—a secret side of law, where the dealings are quite suspicious and spell danger for all involved. All of a sudden, she finds herself mixed up in a risky face off with some major names of Big Law, where ethics have no place.

Now, this is where one of my biggest issues begins. The synopsis has practically nothing to do with what the novel is actually about. Sarah Brockman, the supposed main character, barely plays any part in the main storyline itself. She is primarily there to jump in and save the day at the very end of the novel and, of course, to add a touch of romance at various points. Even her love interest Sam has a bigger and more important role than she does. The main character, I would say, is the main villain of the piece, who has considerably more screen time.

The characters themselves served their purposes well; the good ones were likeable and the bad ones were detestable. However, I never truly cared about or connected with any of them. They are fairly cookie-cutter type, one-dimensional characters, and really never stray from their very predictable storylines. In the same vein, the romance between Sarah and Sam, a fellow lawyer, is exceedingly unsurprising and just far too immature and cheesy to be believed.

One of the most glaring problems character-wise is that there is not nearly enough distinction between their voices. And since the narrative jumps from person to person multiple times per chapter, it becomes very tricky to know immediately whose perspective we have just fallen in to. To add to this, very little is done to make any of the characters particularly memorable, and they are left feeling quite inconsistent personality-wise through the entirety of the novel.

And then there was the ending—the astoundingly convenient chain of events that allows the story to finally come to a predictable close. One of the most perfect examples of the term “deus ex machina”. Everything works out perfectly. All the most important pieces fall flawlessly into place. Sarah and Sam literally stumble across absolutely every piece of information they need to take down the bad guys. And in the final climactic scene, a physically impossible feat is pulled off to save the day.

The writing itself is not necessarily bad, but it definitely leaves much to be desired. As I mentioned before, each chapter of the novel jumps around between multiple characters’ points of view. However, there is barely any fluidity in how this occurs, making for a very choppy and confusing narrative that can be hard to follow at times.

The narrative is also far to wordy and repetitive, and it drags along in far too many places. There are numerous points throughout where characters chronicle the exact events that have just happened mere pages before to another character that wasn’t there to witness them. Then, there are tedious monologues about the inner workings of law that play no part in moving the plot forward nor in giving facts to the reader that might become necessary knowledge for other events later in the story.

Overall, this unfortunately did not end up being the enjoyable new read I was looking for. One idea I had that I think could have massively increased the mystery and suspense of this novel would be leaving the villains faceless.

Since we switch between all characters’ points of view, we always know, from the start, who everyone is, how they are connected, and what part they are playing, nefarious or other. This erases all sense of intrigue and uncertainty, and really sucks the interest out of the narrative. If Bregman had left out the perspectives of the bad guys, or—better yet—kept them in but not given a name to the voice, this novel could have been remarkably more dynamic and enthralling.

1.0 TARDIS

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Review: Birthrights by J. Kyle McNeal

birthrightsBirthrights by J. Kyle McNeal

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Revisions to the Truth: Book One

Date Published: June 6th, 2017

Publisher: Elevate Fiction

Pages: 402 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: To escape the burden of his family’s past, Whym accepts an apprenticeship with a master his parents fear and revile. He soon finds himself entangled in a web of treachery and on a perilous journey to locate a creature of myth and magic-a journey that will transform Whym and shape the future of the realm. 

Meanwhile, Quint, the son of a powerful religious leader, abandons his faith to join the fight against a corrupt council. As the adviser to a remote tribe, he must find in himself the wisdom and fortitude to save the people from the invading army-and their own leaders.

Civil war looms, defeated foes plot revenge, and an ancient deity schemes to destroy them all. While navigating the shifting sands of truth, the two young men must distill what they believe, and decide on whose side they will stand in the coming conflict.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

This was an extremely solid start to a very promising new fantasy series. Richly detailed, thought-provoking, and highly intriguing, I was very easily pulled into the narrative. Though it took a little while to fully immerse myself in the world and its history—the lore at the heart of every character’s life—once everything was set up, I felt completely absorbed into the words. There was something to find engaging about every moment of the narrative. This is intrinsically a coming of age story, but past that, you begin to see the intricate complexities of not only the characters but the of society they live in.

In this novel, we follow multiple characters’ lives as they weave together into one, captivating picture of the Lost Lands. Primarily, we follow two young men named Whym and Quint. Whym has reached the point of his life where he must begin an apprenticeship, and he is willing to do anything to break away from the poverty of his parents’ lives—even if it means working with a potentially dangerous man who has a past that connects darkly with his own. Quint comes from the most powerful religious family in the Lost Lands, his future laid out solidly before him. But when his long-held faith is ripped from him, he begins a journey to bring the truth to light.

Despite its initial appearance, this is not just a simple tale of two young people coming of age. It is a story about faith and beliefs. About corrupted politics and the inciting of a rebellion. About history and finding out where you fit into that which is being made around you. About discovering the meaning of truth and extracting it from the harshness of deceit. These characters are having their eyes opened to the society they are living in, one where the foundation is deception and the currency is lies.

By Fire

As in most fantasy novels, there are always some aspects that take a little while to fully grasp. Building up the world, introducing the many characters, laying down the backstory and lore, all take a while to set up and for the reader to become involved in. It took me about a third of the novel before I felt I had truly gotten into things, so the beginning was a bit slow. However, this minor sluggishness in the beginning took the place of a short but massive and confusing information dump. The opening chapters are not fast-paced and packed with action, but are a gradual and meticulous composing of an intricate world.

I was a bit confused toward the start as I began piecing the backstory together but, at the same time, there was never a moment were I did not feel very engaged in the plot. The measured construction of each and every element ended up serving the narrative well. By using this method, McNeal allows the reader to take the time needed to become connected to the story and its expansive cast of characters. He also saves them from the confusion that can come with trying to convey too much information to quickly. As a whole, though the pace might feel slow, it establishes a solid foundation for the reader right from page one.

McNeal did a wonderful job building and growing his various, multi-dimensional characters, as well as giving them each a distinctive voice and personality. They were vivid and very easy to like or dislike, as the case may be. Whether hero or villain, each one was memorable and well-developed, which worked favorably with the regularly shifting perspectives of the narrative. I also highly enjoyed the dynamic and relationships between the various characters—they were very interesting to follow. I was particularly intrigued by the relationship between Whym and Kutan.

Wood Pile

I have to admit, there were a few times where it was difficult to remember who a minor character was and what role they had played in previous chapters of the novel. This was due in part to their short appearances, stemming from the frequent jumps in perspective. Another issue that I had character-wise was that I never quite understood the concept of “the Rat-Man”. I also wish that there had been a bit more of a glimpse at some characters’ storylines, but I am hoping this will be rectified over the course of the rest of this series. All-in-all though, these were very small problems for me, and did not detract much from my overall reading experience.

McNeal’s writing in this novel was absolutely spectacular. The scope of this enchanting world that he has created leaves him endless opportunities to spin an absorbing story in his unique voice. I found him to be a brilliant storyteller; the prose was beautiful. His writing flowed incredibly well, and it was very easy to be carried away by his words. This was a strong debut novel, and I believe that he has shown a great talent and will go far in the future.

Overall, I had quite an enjoyable time delving into this tale. Once I began to feel involved in the characters’ lives, I found myself lost among the pages. This novel held so many of the elements that make me love the fantasy genre. I now feel extremely invested in these characters and their futures, so I am highly anticipating the upcoming installments in the series. If you are a fan of high fantasy or, especially, if you are just discovering the genre, this is a series that I would definitely recommend giving a try.

4.0 TARDISes

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June 2017 TBR

june2017tbr

Happy June, everyone!

I’m so excited because, once again, I had another amazing reading month! I managed to get through eleven books! As usual, I didn’t quite stick to my TBR entirely…but I tried! So this month, I am also going to create a rather ambitious TBR. I should have a lot of time to read this month and during my travels toward the end of the month, so I’m really hoping to get a lot of reading done. Here are some of the books I would really like to get to during the month of June! 🙂

June TBR

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

downamongthesticksandbones

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.
This is the story of what happened first…
Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. 
Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.
They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.
They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

Paper Wishes by Spencer Hoshino

paperwishes

There is a belief that with each origami star folded, a falling star is saved. After folding 365 stars while mourning the loss of her mother, Vilvian makes a wish that will change her life forever.
Enter Nox Bright, the handsome and mysterious guy who has been haunting Vilvian’s dreams. She can barely believe it when he walks into her homeroom near the end of the school year. Has she gone crazy or is it possible that wishes really do come true?

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber

theevaporationofsofisnow

Ever since the Delonese ice-planet arrived eleven years ago, Sofi’s dreams have been vivid. Alien. In a system where Earth’s corporations rule in place of governments and the humanoid race orbiting the moon are allies, her only constant has been her younger brother, Shilo. As an online gamer, Sofi battles behind the scenes of Earth’s Fantasy Fighting arena where Shilo is forced to compete in a mix of real and virtual blood sport. But when a bomb takes out a quarter of the arena, Sofi’s the only one who believes Shilo survived. She has dreams of him. And she’s convinced he’s been taken to the ice-planet.
Except no one but ambassadors are allowed there.
For Miguel, Earth’s charming young playboy, the games are of a different sort. As Ambassador to the Delonese, his career has been built on trading secrets and seduction. Until the Fantasy Fight’s bomb goes off. Now the tables have turned and he’s a target for blackmail. The game is simple: Help the blackmailers, or lose more than anyone can fathom, or Earth can afford.

The Windfall by Diksha Basu

thewindfall

A heartfelt comedy of manners, Diksha Basu’s debut novel unfolds the story of a family discovering what it means to “make it” in modern India.
For the past thirty years, Mr. and Mrs. Jha’s lives have been defined by cramped spaces, cut corners, gossipy neighbors, and the small dramas of stolen yoga pants and stale marriages. They thought they’d settled comfortably into their golden years, pleased with their son’s acceptance into an American business school. But then Mr. Jha comes into an enormous and unexpected sum of money, and moves his wife from their housing complex in East Delhi to the super-rich side of town, where he becomes eager to fit in as a man of status: skinny ties, hired guards, shoe-polishing machines, and all.
The move sets off a chain of events that rock their neighbors, their marriage, and their son, who is struggling to keep a lid on his romantic dilemmas and slipping grades, and brings unintended consequences, ultimately forcing the Jha family to reckon with what really matters. Hilarious and wise, The Windfall illuminates with warmth and charm the precariousness of social status, the fragility of pride, and, above all, the human drive to build and share a home. Even the rich, it turns out, need to belong somewhere.

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

agatheringofshadows

**Minor spoilers for A Darker Shade of Magic**

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London. 
Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.
And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

sixofcrows

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:
Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)
Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)
Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)
Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.

The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis

thegunabove

The nation of Garnia has been at war for as long as Auxiliary Lieutenant Josette Dupre can remember – this time against neighboring Vinzhalia. Garnia’s Air Signal Corp stands out as the favored martial child of the King. But though it’s co-ed, women on-board are only allowed “auxiliary” crew positions and are banned from combat. In extenuating circumstances, Josette saves her airship in the heat of battle. She is rewarded with the Mistral, becoming Garnia’s first female captain.
She wants the job – just not the political flak attached. On top of patrolling the front lines, she must also contend with a crew who doubts her expertise, a new airship that is an untested deathtrap, and the foppish aristocrat Lord Bernat – a gambler and shameless flirt with the military know-how of a thimble. He’s also been assigned to her ship to catalog her every moment of weakness and indecision. When the Vins make an unprecedented military move that could turn the tide of the war, can Josette deal with Bernat, rally her crew, and survive long enough to prove herself to the top brass?

Birthrights by J. Kyle McNeal

birthrights

To escape the burden of his family’s past, Whym accepts an apprenticeship with a master his parents fear and revile. He soon finds himself entangled in a web of treachery and on a perilous journey to locate a creature of myth and magic-a journey that will transform Whym and shape the future of the realm.
Meanwhile, Quint, the son of a powerful religious leader, abandons his faith to join the fight against a corrupt council. As the adviser to a remote tribe, he must find in himself the wisdom and fortitude to save the people from the invading army-and their own leaders.
Civil war looms, defeated foes plot revenge, and an ancient deity schemes to destroy them all. While navigating the shifting sands of truth, the two young men must distill what they believe, and decide on whose side they will stand in the coming conflict.

Hell and High Water by Tanya Landman

hellandhighwater

Mystery turns to mortal danger as one young man s quest to clear his father’s name ensnares him in a net of deceit, conspiracy, and intrigue in 1750s England.
Caleb has spent his life roaming southern England with his Pa, little to their names but his father s signet ring and a puppet theater for popular, raunchy Punch and Judy shows until the day Pa is convicted of a theft he didn’t commit and sentenced to transportation to the colonies in America. From prison, Caleb s father sends him to the coast to find an aunt Caleb never knew he had. His aunt welcomes him into her home, but her neighbors see only Caleb s dark skin. Still, Caleb slowly falls into a strange rhythm in his new life . . . until one morning he finds a body washed up on the shore. The face is unrecognizable after its time at sea, but the signet ring is unmistakable: it can only be Caleb s father. Mystery piles on mystery as both church and state deny what Caleb knows. From award-winning British author Tanya Landman comes a heart-stopping story of race, class, family, and corruption so deep it can kill.”

Marriage of a Thousand Lies by S.J. Sindu

marriageofathousandlies

Lucky and her husband, Krishna, are gay. They present an illusion of marital bliss to their conservative Sri Lankan–American families, while each dates on the side. It’s not ideal, but for Lucky, it seems to be working. She goes out dancing, she drinks a bit, she makes ends meet by doing digital art on commission. But when Lucky’s grandmother has a nasty fall, Lucky returns to her childhood home and unexpectedly reconnects with her former best friend and first lover, Nisha, who is preparing for her own arranged wedding with a man she’s never met.
As the connection between the two women is rekindled, Lucky tries to save Nisha from entering a marriage based on a lie. But does Nisha really want to be saved? And after a decade’s worth of lying, can Lucky break free of her own circumstances and build a new life? Is she willing to walk away from all that she values about her parents and community to live in a new truth? As Lucky—an outsider no matter what choices she makes—is pushed to the breaking point, Marriage of a Thousand Lies offers a vivid exploration of a life lived at a complex intersection of race, sexuality, and nationality. The result is a profoundly American debut novel shot through with humor and loss, a story of love, family, and the truths that define us all.

May Wrap-Up

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – 5/5 stars (Full Review)

Thin Places by Lesley Choyce – 2/5 stars (Full Review)

Alice by J.M. Sullivan – 4.5/5 stars (Full Review)

Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault by Candace Robinson – 3.5/5 stars (Full Review)

Send by Domenico Capilongo – 2.5/5 stars (Full Review)

Leave This Song Behind by Teen Ink – 4/5 stars (Full Review)

The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate by Eric Bower – 4/5 stars (Full review)

Pretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid – 4/5 stars (Full review)

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan – 4/5 stars

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis – 5/5 stars

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis – 4/5 stars

What are your reading plans for the month? What were some of your favorite May reads? Let me know in the comments!

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Top 5 Wednesday – May 17th, 2017

topfivewednesday

Top 5 Wednesday was created by Lainey at Gingerreadslainey and is now hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Every week, book reviewers all over the world are given a bookish topic and respond with their top 5 books (or elements of books) that relate to that topic. Click here for the Goodreads group if you would like to learn more about Top 5 Wednesday and join in!

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is books that remind you of summer and are your quintessential summer reads. I’ve decided to go back a few years and pick out my top five favorite reads that I randomly picked up from the library during the summer and fell in love with. The library always reminds me of summertime, and it is the perfect time to not only do a ton of reading, but also to go out of your comfort zone and choose some books you might not normally have picked up. So here are my reads that I loved and thought were perfect for reading in the summer! 🙂

Love and Other Unknown Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander

loveandotherunknownvariables

Charlie Hanson has a clear vision of his future. A senior at Brighton School of Mathematics and Science, he knows he’ll graduate, go to MIT, and inevitably discover solutions to the universe’s greatest unanswered questions. He’s that smart. But Charlie’s future blurs the moment he reaches out to touch the tattoo on a beautiful girl’s neck.
The future has never seemed very kind to Charlotte Finch, so she’s counting on the present. She’s not impressed by the strange boy at the donut shop—until she learns he’s a student at Brighton where her sister has just taken a job as the English teacher. With her encouragement, Charlie orchestrates the most effective prank campaign in Brighton history. But, in doing so, he puts his own future in jeopardy.
By the time he learns she’s ill—and that the pranks were a way to distract Ms. Finch from Charlotte’s illness—Charlotte’s gravitational pull is too great to overcome. Soon he must choose between the familiar formulas he’s always relied on or the girl he’s falling for (at far more than 32 feet per second squared).

Precious by Sandra Novack

precious

The summer of 1978, ten-year-old Vicki Anderson rides her bike to the local park and goes missing. Her tight-knit blue-collar Pennsylvania neighborhood, where children roam the streets at night playing lightning tag, aboveground pools sparkle in backyards, and flowers scent the air, will never be the same.
Down the street from Vicki’s house, another family is in crisis. Troubled by her past, headstrong Natalia Kisch has abandoned her husband and two daughters for another man. Frank Kisch, grappling with his anger, is left to raise their girls alone, oblivious to his daughters’ struggles with both disappearances: Eva, seventeen, plunges into an affair with her married high school teacher, and nine-year-old Sissy escapes to a world of imagination and storytelling that becomes so magical it pierces the reality of the everyday.
When Natalia unexpectedly returns, the struggles and tensions that have built over the summer erupt into a series of events that change the Kisches irrevocably—forcing them to piece together their complicated pasts and commitments to each other.
In this haunting, atmospheric debut, Sandra Novack examines loss, loyalty, and a family in crisis. Lyrical and elegiac, Precious illuminates our attempts to make sense of the volatility that surrounds and consumes us, and explores our ability, even during the most trying times, to remember and hold on to those we love most.

Wherever Grace is Needed by Elizabeth Bass

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In this thoroughly heartwarming novel, Elizabeth Bass-author of Miss You Most of All-creates an unforgettable story of friendship, compassion, and the extraordinary love that lies at the heart of every ordinary family.
When Grace Oliver leaves Portland for Austin, Texas, to help her father, Lou, recuperate from a car accident, she expects to stay just a few weeks. Since her mother’s divorce thirty years ago, Grace has hovered on the periphery of the Oliver family. But now she sees a chance to get closer to her half-brothers and the home she’s never forgotten.
But the Olivers are facing a crisis. Tests reveal that Lou, a retired college professor whose sharp tongue and tenderness Grace adores, is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Grace delays her departure to care for him, and is soon entwined in the complicated lives of her siblings-all squabbling over Lou’s future-and of the family next door.
Ray West and his three children are reeling from a recent tragedy, particularly sixteen-year-old Jordan, whose grief is heightened by guilt and anger. Amid the turmoil, Grace not only gives solace and support, but learns to receive it. And though she came to Austin to reconnect with her past, she is drawn by degrees into surprising new connections.
With wit, wisdom, and unfailing insight, Elizabeth Bass tells a story of loving and letting go, of heartache and hope, and of the joy that comes in finding a place we can truly call home.

The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder

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One moment can change everything.
Amber’s life is spinning out of control. All she wants is to turn up the volume on her iPod until all of the demands of family and friends fade away. So she sneaks off to the beach to spend a day by herself.
Then Amber meets Cade. Their attraction is instant, and Amber can tell he’s also looking for an escape. Together they decide to share a perfect day: no pasts, no fears, no regrets.
The more time that Amber spends with Cade, the more she’s drawn to him.  And the more she’s troubled by his darkness. Because Cade’s not just living in the now—he’s living each moment like it’s his last.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

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A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Honorable Mention:

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

What books remind you of summer or have been your favorite summertime reads? Let me know in the comments!

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Top 10 Tuesday – May 16th, 2017

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Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another Top 10 Tuesday list. This is an original weekly blog meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, there is a new bookish topic for bloggers to create a list about. If you want to know more about Top 10 Tuesday, click here!

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is a Mother’s Day related freebie. So my choice for a topic is the top ten books I think that my mother should read! She is always asking me for reading recommendations, so I figured this would be an interesting topic to do. I would also love to see her get back into reading more. So hopefully, my mom will see this! 😀

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

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Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

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The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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Aimless Love by Billy Collins

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Jackaby by William Ritter

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The Martian by Andy Weir

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The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

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Me: Stories of my Life by Katharine Hepburn

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Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

adarkershadeofmagicA Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Shades of Magic

Date Published: February 24th, 2015

Publisher: Tor Books

Pages: 400 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

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This is a spoiler-free review.

This is, by far, one of the most hyped books I have on my shelves, which is something that would normally scare me off. However, this book beyond lived up to the hype. It promised action, thrilling adventures through parallel worlds, and of course, plenty of magic. Victoria Schwab once again proves herself to be one of the most brilliant and talented writers out there. She is resourceful and exceedingly unique in every detail that she writes. Between her beautiful writing, intricate descriptions, and skilled characterization, she has created a vivid and heart-pounding journey through the magic of London.

In this novel, we follow two main characters—a traveler named Kell and a thief named Delilah “Lila” Bard. Kell, hailing from Red London, is an Antari (one of two) who possess potent blood magic that allows him to cross through the doors between each of the three Londons—the regal and magical Red London, the dimmed and magic-less Grey London, and White London, rendered colorless and menacing by its abuse of magic.

Red London lives in harmony with its magic, respecting it as much as it does them. White London sees it as something to be controlled, turning it into something ugly and terrifying. However, this pales in comparison to the magic of Black London, the world that has been locked away, hidden and mute—that is, until a remaining piece of it’s dark past, in the form of a stone, unexpectedly falls into the hands of Kell. The only remnants of a history preferred to be forgotten, it sets off a chain of horrible events as Kell struggles to contain it and return it to its proper place, even if that means sacrificing himself in the process.

Along the way, he obtains an unusual companion, the tough and courageous Lila Bard, who becomes involved after she pickpockets the Black London stone off of Kell when they encounter each other in the streets of Grey London. Always seeking adventure, she forces Kell to take her along on his journey to return the stone and save the three remaining Londons from this all-consuming dark force. What starts for Kell as a reluctant pairing turns into a surprisingly strong partnership as they navigate treacherous obstacles on their quest.

Despite the complexity involved in the unique details of the various Londons, not once in this entire novel is it difficult to understand, nor will it leave the reader feeling lost. Schwab depicts each setting with such care and skill, sweeping her readers into the worlds. Rather than giving an information dump of all the necessary facts, she shows the reader by pulling them straight into the action, conjuring a clear picture through descriptions and tone. Not only is it easy to imagine what every feature of this narrative looks like, she also evokes the specific feelings of each setting in the reader.

One of the aspects of this novel that first caught my attention was how unique it sounded. I’ve read a lot of fantasy books and this one was unlike any I have encountered before. This is due in part to the highly unique magic system that is primarily demonstrated through our main character, Kell. The power of blood magic is a unique and intriguing system that I have not come across in any form before. That, combined with the specific language used by the Antari to conjure the power, had me completely hooked. It was—no pun intended—absolutely spellbinding.

This book was absolutely action-packed. The fight scenes were epic, magic-filled battles, featuring struggles involving both the characters that are advantageously powerful and the characters that fight simply using the strength and willpower they have inside them. I was fully caught up in every second, tearing through page after page.

Schwab is known for writing very character driven novels, and this one was no exception. From the very start, I completely fell in love with the characters she created for this story. Kell is an incredibly brave and selfless hero. He is willing to sacrifice himself to protect the three worlds and all those in them. Lila is headstrong and sassy; she is a skilled thief that has a certain distinctively human magic about her. Hilarious and strong-willed, she has definitely become one of my favorite female literary heroines.

As always, Schwab makes her characters vivid, realistic, and three-dimensional—loveable for both their strengths and their weaknesses. Kell and Lila together are one of the best pairings I have ever come across in literature. They are two halves of one amazing whole. Even the characters that lingered at the edges of the main plot were as equally three-dimensional as the protagonists.

The writing in this novel was absolutely enchanting. Schwab has a natural talent for weaving a complex storyline into a fluid narrative that easily carries her readers from page to page. The detailed world building and fleshing out of her characters are some of the most breathtaking elements of the story. She builds each world, each setting, right up around the reader, clearly defines the class system of the various Londons, and pulls the reader alongside Kell and Lila in their adventures. It is as if you are standing right in the middle of things, feeling the pull of the magic, which is both bright and foreboding.

At this point, I think the fact that I completely and utterly fell in love with this novel is fairly clear. This is basically the epitome of my literary-loving heart and soul. I would very highly recommend this story to everyone, especially if you love magic, parallel worlds, and magnificent writing. Victoria Schwab has an unbelievable amount of natural talent, and is a superb figure in the current literary world. There is no cliffhanger ending for this novel, but it will still leave you craving further installments.

5.0 TARDISes

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