Mini Review: The Road Between by Courtney Peppernell

theroadbetweenThe Road Between by Courtney Peppernell

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: August 29th, 2017

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 288 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: The Road Between is poetry well-lived.

Poetry for the soul that walks the fine line between losing yourself in the world and finding yourself again, often in the smallest of moments. Courtney Peppernell is the bestselling author of Pillow Thoughts, a collection of poetry and prose about heartbreak, love, and emotion.

Make a cup of tea, find your place, and lose yourself in the pages.

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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.

Courtney Peppernell has quickly become one of my new favorite authors. This was yet another beautiful collection that truly spoke to me. Peppernell has a great talent for creating short and deceptively simple poetry that has a much deeper underlying meaning. Her striking prose flows perfectly, and each line packs a strong emotional punch. This particular collection is about the journeys that life presents all of us. Specifically, these poems deal with the process of finding yourself again after becoming separated from it along the way—how we have to carefully piece ourselves back together until we feel whole.

The theme of finding oneself is something that, at this time in my life, really speaks to me. I’ve definitely been taking this exact journey over the last few years, feeling like I had lost touch with myself and trying to figure out who I am and what I need in my life. I’ve been feeling a deep need to settle into and truly come to terms with every aspect of myself. It’s this sort of work that I can connect to very easily—that makes me feel more confident in who I’ve discovered that I am and what love means to me. Peppernell’s words are wonderfully profound and they deeply touched me.

I always think it’s fantastic to see more LGBT+ work coming into the the literary world. Even though many of the poems that focus on love deal with a romance between two women, I believe these poems will speak to anyone, no matter their orientation and how they love. Love is love—it is a universal subject that can touch the hearts and souls of all of us. I’ve already gone ahead and purchased her two novels and I absolutely can’t wait to read more of her work.

5.0 TARDISes

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Mini Review: A Candle From The Far East by Y.T. Kim

acandlefromthefareastA Candle From The Far East by Y.T. Kim

My Rating: 2/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: October 3rd, 2017

Publisher: Mill City Press

Pages: 114 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads

Synopsis: In his first collection of English poems, Korean writer Young-Tae Kim (Y.T. Kim) presents a remarkable anthology of work with themes ranging from political musings on an international scale to living well in an increasingly global world. Kim offers a unique blend of the modern and traditional, as overtones of the poet’s Eastern cultural roots permeate each page.

In addition to musings on present-day society, A Candle from the Far East (Poems) offers reflections on more emotional themes—such as the growth of deep and profound love, alienation of once close friendships over time, and finding purpose through spiritual growth—culminating in a beautifully rich collection of works that have universal applicability. The end result is a collection that readers will turn to time and time again and one that successfully shares wisdom and contributes to the well-being of all.

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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.

While I can appreciate the themes and meanings Kim tried to convey through his poetry, I personally did not get caught up in his writing. There were only a small number of poems that really resonated for me. This collection ranges from reflections on Kim’s personal life to commentary on history, modern technology, and the current state of our society and the world as a whole. Even though these are all interesting topics, there were many poems that felt less like poetry and more like reading a textbook or list of facts—this took away from the fluidity of the writing.

The poems that focused on history or his more intimate thoughts on his own experiences spoke to me the most. The history aspect, as well as the wonderful photographs that accompanied it, really caught my attention. In just small snippets of text, I felt that I learned a lot of new information I hadn’t come across before. His short reflections on his own life were the most poetic of the collection. Kim created beautiful snapshots of his view of the world around him as well as his relationships with family and friends. Again, the placement of pictures coinciding with these poems really brought his meaning to life.

As for the actual writing itself, apart from a few select instances, I found the overall flow of these poems to be quite rough and choppy. There were some attempts at rhyming that really did not come across well and ended up being a detriment to the piece. There were many occasions where I felt as if I were reading a list of facts rather than poetry, so many of the poems were quite stilted. The moments where he focused on subjects like A.I. just did not come across like poetry in my opinion, and I found myself skimming through these.

Of course, poetry is always subjective, and my personal experience is going to be unique to me. Therefore, I still encourage you to check out this collection if it appeals to you. Kim’s talent is obvious, and I’m sure his poetry will touch the lives of readers for whom the depth of the work is more easily accessible than it was for me.

2.0 TARDISes

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Review: Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

downamongthesticksandbonesDown Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Wayward Children

Date Published: June 13th, 2017

Publisher: Tor

Pages: 189 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: 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.

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This is a spoiler-free review.

I absolutely adored this novel, which is why it has taken me so long to write up this review—I’m having so much trouble trying to find the right words to express how much I loved it. The first novel in this series, Every Heart a Doorway, was an already amazing start, but this sequel completely surpassed it in my opinion. Once again, McGuire brings us another captivating modern fairytale that is very dark in tone, and has a very beautiful yet bittersweet plot line. She has a gift for mixing together the perfect amount of relatable reality with the peculiar, the sinister, and the bizarre.

Much like the previous installment, McGuire focuses in on the stark contrast between fantasy and reality—how easy and freeing it can be to escape into fantasy, and the pains of suddenly being forced back into the real world. It tackles the subject of self-discovery and breaking away from the labels that society and even the people who are supposed to have our best interests at heart put on us. Even with the fantastical elements, at its core, this story is a highly relatable depiction of what every single one of us has gone through or will go through in our lives—the universal idea of finding oneself and being accepted.

Unlike the first novel, we get a chance to fully dive into one of those fantasy worlds from which the wayward children come back, making this an incredibly unique and utterly captivating story. It honestly could work perfectly as a standalone, but is definitely most interesting in the context of the rest of the series. I didn’t think I could love these books or Seanan McGuire’s writing any more than I did already, but this novel completely proved me wrong.

In this novel, we jump back in time to explore the experiences of two previous side characters—twins Jacqueline and Jillian—in their formative years, both with their family and during their time in the Moors, their alternate world. The two girls are brought up in the strictly regimented lives of their parents, who wish to mold them into what they perceive as the perfect children. Jacqueline is placed in the role of her mother’s perfect daughter—always wearing dresses, never getting her clothes soiled, and faultlessly polite. On the other side, Jillian becomes her father’s idea of the perfect daughter—an adventurous tom-boy who plays sports with the boys and is never afraid to get dirty.

In their youngest years, they play along in their assigned roles without question. But as they grow and experience life, the twins begin to wonder why—why their personalities are being dictated for them and why they can’t break away. Just as they are beginning to figure out what they truly want in life, the door to their other world appears. Soon, they are walking separate paths and coming into their own—learning that there are no set rules for how to be a girl. But in this eerie and twisted world, the sisters veer away from each other in more ways than they ever could have predicted.

The main aspect of this novel that I adored was getting the chance to see the background of these two characters—whom we’ve already come to care about—and actually delving deeply into the intriguing and frightening world of the Moors, in which they find themselves living for a time. Unlike the first novel, this one deals primarily with Jack and Jill’s time in their alternate world, rather than with the result of spending so long living there. It was wonderful to really explore the details of one of these fantasies that is only hinted at previously. McGuire has already proved her immense talent for the creative and unique, but she is able to take it to a whole new level with this particular story.

McGuire does another spectacular job creating vivid and multi-dimensional characters in this novel, despite the limitations of its length. Jack and Jill evolve a great deal throughout the course of the narrative. Having this extra time to experience these two characters helped flesh out their personalities even more than the previous novel did. Though none of us have had lives quite like theirs’, the struggle to find oneself in a society that is obsessed with labeling is a common theme that any reader can connect with.

Jack and Jill’s parents are horribly selfish, yet a hugely important element of the novel. Their parts in forcing the two girls into the lives and personalities that they would like them to have is an essential trigger for Jack and Jill finally realizing and becoming who they are truly meant to be. It is their strictness that sends them looking for answers and toward the door that has just opened for them. All of their efforts to mold the perfect daughters only drives the twins more toward independence and the ability to discover themselves.

The writing, as in the first novel, is once again pure magic. Seanan McGuire’s talent at crafting these beautiful and unique little vignettes is boundless. Her writing is fluid and simple, but her words contain a great amount of depth. This novel is slightly slower-paced than its predecessor, but that does not make it any less compulsively readable. For me, I loved the fact that I could take my time and really get wrapped up in the world. Even though I am always left dying for more, the narrative as a whole is a solid, complete, and fulfilling story.

The term that continuously returns to my mind when reading or thinking about these stories is “fractured fairytales”. They are enchanting and magical, as any fairytale is, yet also broken and sharp. They take you on a journey beyond the boundaries of the natural world, to the furthest reaches of your imagination, and then cut into you with their menacing undertones and unsettling twists. Instead of being sparkling and refreshing, they are murky and rough around the edges.

Everything about this novel is darkly beautiful, enchanting, heartbreaking, and bittersweet—there wasn’t a single moment that I didn’t love with all my heart. McGuire expertly unfolds another haunting, gritty, and whimsical modern day fairytale that is sure to captivate readers. It is such a short story, but it packs a huge punch in a small amount of time, and the length never inhibits the reader’s ability to become enveloped by this world. Though I don’t want it to be over just yet, I am still absolutely dying to get my hands on the final book in this trilogy.

5.0 TARDISes

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Mini Review: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

milkandhoneyMilk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: November 4th, 2014

Publisher: Createspace

Pages: 204 pages

Source: Library

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Milk and Honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose, deals with a different pain, heals a different heartache. milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.

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This is a spoiler-free review.

Milk and Honey is a collection that has me finding difficulty in pinpointing my feelings about it. I think part of this is due to the hype surrounding this collection—it didn’t quite live up to my expectations based on reviews I had seen floating about. However, it was far from disappointing at the same time, leaving me feeling a bit lukewarm about it as a whole. These poems started out very strong and immediately captivated me. Kaur’s writing style was beautiful and poignant, and she displayed quite a bit of candor throughout. I definitely felt the most connection to and impact from the opening sections.

However, the strong start did not last until the end of the work. For me, I began to like each part less and less, and this caused me to become quite detached from the poems by the end of the collection. I think this is where I began to feel a decrease in the fluidity of the writing as well—some parts came across as a bit jumbled and choppy. Though her intended message retained its power, the disjointedness was a bit off-putting. Nevertheless, I can see why Kaur’s writing has touched so many people’s lives.

These poems display a lot of bravery and boldness—they unflinchingly tackle tough yet important topics. Journeying deep into the core of humanity, Kaur delves into dark topics in a very heartfelt way. Though it fell a little bit flat for me in the end, I truly do appreciate the beauty in her words and the impact of the messages she is conveying to the reader. Overall, I would definitely recommend giving this collection a try, and see if and how it speaks to you.

3.0 TARDISes

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Mini Review: The Chaos of Longing by K.Y. Robinson

thechaosoflongingThe Chaos of Longing by K.Y. Robinson

My Rating: 2.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: May 31st, 2016

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing

Pages: 118 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: The Chaos of Longing is a prose and poetry collection draped in raw honesty, ache, and eroticism. The collection explores trauma, love, heartbreak, and the realizations from it all.

The book is divided into four sections. “Inception” briefly examines formative years and its effects on how one loves. “Longing” reflects on love and sexuality. “Chaos” explores toxic relationships, unrequited love, and heartache. After chaos, there is order with self-love and healing poems in “epiphany”.

Some content may be triggering.

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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 always say, poetry is extremely subjective and hard to review, as it will touch each and every reader in a completely unique way. Not every collection or poet will strike the right note with every reader, and this ended up being the case for me with these poems. This was one of those situations where I could appreciate the talent of the author, but the topics and their presentation were just not for me. However, despite my personal experience with these poems, I can easily see how they could deeply impact a reader.

These poems are brave, raw, and powerful. They are incredibly intimate and portray both human weakness and the strength that can come out in one’s most vulnerable moments. The collection as a whole is a journey from naivety, through the torment and battering that life and love can inflict on one’s heart and soul, and ending where healing begins.

Robinson paints a vivid and candid retrospective on self-image and self-discovery—she exposes the full depth of the painful, open wounds that slowly close over time. Not only does she display the torment that one may go through when they let down their defenses in favor of passion, but also the triumph of courage gained from accepting who we are and the decisions we make. Ultimately, this collection is not only her story, but also a stark and uninhibited portrait of what it is like to be human.

Even though I didn’t quite connect with this particular work and the subject matter, I still found the beauty in Robinson’s writing and delicate crafting of each poem. She clearly poured so much heart and meaning into every word, and truly bared herself and her personal emotional journey through this collection. I admire her candor and her nerve, opening herself up in this manner—and I very much believe that her writing can and will reach and impact plenty of readers.

2.5 TARDISes

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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: Dead Over Heels by Theresa Braun

deadoverheelsDead Over Heels by Theresa Braun

My Rating: 4.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: November 16th, 2016

Publisher: Frith Books

Pages: 38 pages

Source: Author

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: Veronica’s first date with Sebastian not only stirs up a powerful attraction, but also a series of supernatural events that will tear them apart.

After countless hours of dead end online dating, Veronica meets up with Sebastian at a reportedly haunted restaurant, since he knows she has a fascination with the paranormal. While enjoying their meals and each other’s company, they share a shocking supernatural experience. Their romantic connection is overshadowed by the ghosts of their own pasts that threaten to destroy their budding relationship. Veronica decides she must return to the restaurant to face her past and dig up more answers. Unfortunately, she realizes she must go back, this time with a reluctant Sebastian. In the end, they join forces against the evil that stands between them, but will they make it out alive?

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

This is a spoiler-free review.

I really enjoyed reading this story. It is a creative, inventive, and truly captivating tale that pulled me in from page one and took me completely by surprise. This is one of those stories that keeps you wanting more—the sort that will make you voraciously tear through it, and really packs a punch.

Despite the fact that it is short in length, the plot and its characters are completely fleshed out and multidimensional. This is a story that will stick with you long after reaching the end. From the mysterious situation that the two main characters find themselves in all the way until the shocking conclusion, Braun hooks her readers and fluidly pulls them into every page.

In this story, we follow our main character, Veronica, as she finds true love under the most peculiar of circumstances. After an unexpectedly deep connection occurs between her and her new beau, Sebastian, they soon learn just how unbelievably deep it actually goes. The two share very many similarities, the main one being their painful pasts—each one has lost a parent at a young age. But just as quickly as their relationship blooms, they are forced to quite literally face the ghosts of their pasts and relive a true nightmare. And when their individual histories play out before them, their love is put to the test as renewed pain threatens to break them apart.

There is so much packed into such a short amount of time, and Braun expertly unfolds a compelling and detailed plot within the length limitations. It is fast-paced and exciting, full of twists and turns, and without a single dull moment. Her writing style flows well and is easy to get swept up in.

This was unlike any story I’ve read before, and I applaud Braun on her originality in creating such an intriguing supernatural mystery. Her characters are relatable and likeable right from the beginning, and the full arc of their relationship ends in a shocking and unexpected conclusion. Filled with romance and humor, darkness and tragedy, this novella will keep readers on the edges of their seats and craving more, even after the final page.

4.5 TARDISes

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