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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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: Paper Wishes by Spencer Hoshino

paperwishesPaper Wishes by Spencer Hoshino

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: The Magical Girl Series

Date Published: February 14th, 2017

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing

Pages: 212 pages

Source: Author

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website

Synopsis: 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?

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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.

The young adult contemporary romance genre is the genre I am pickiest about. Typically, I gravitate more toward fantasy, mystery, and science fiction novels. I sometimes get really in the mood to read them, but they are always starkly either a hit or a miss for me. They can be either weighed down by the same types of tropes or feel like the same story as all the others with little originality. Very rarely do I find novels in this category that really pull me in and are enjoyable to read—with a few exceptions, of course. I am happy to say that Paper Wishes, for me, is one of those very few exceptions.

In this novel, we follow a girl named Vilvian, who is trying to recover after the recent passing of her mother. She had been keeping to herself, drifting away from her friends, and living more in her dream world, where she has delightful dreams about falling in love with a handsome mystery man.

As the story begins, she is gradually coming out of hiding. Slowly, we begin to meet the most important people in her life as she allows them back into her world, which is finally stretching beyond the closed door of her bedroom. But she is still in mourning, and during the process of healing she folds three hundred and sixty-five origami stars and makes her wish, as the fable dictates. Little does she know this cultural tradition will end up changing her life in a seemingly impossible way.

Paper Wishes is an utterly sweet and charming novel. The tone of the novel has a good balance between serious depth and light warmth. The addition of Japanese culture references and the backstory of the paper stars made for an even more intriguing read. Addressing the topics of overcoming grief, finding a family and support system, and falling in love for the first time, this novel is incredibly easy to connect with. And with the hint of fantasy in the plot, it makes for quite a unique read. Who wouldn’t want to have their best dream come to life?

The characterization in this novel was excellent. Hoshino really brings each character to life, giving them three-dimensional personalities that both flesh out the plot itself and allow the reader to effortlessly relate to them. Each one felt highly realistic and were nicely woven into the plot. One could say that there is a bit of insta-love between Vilvian and Nox, but at the same time, their story is a quite exceptional one. To me, Ann felt a bit pushed into the story just to create some conflict, but I think that was due to her having a more minimal part and less portrayal compared to the main characters.

Vilvian’s grieving process feels true to life, and her dream world is a widely used form of escaping from the stresses of the world. Nox figuratively—and later literally—represents the strength she has deep inside her that causes her to push on from one day to the next. He is both a tangible and intangible source of love, protection, and encouragement—a sign to Vilvian that things can and will get better, despite how bleak the circumstance appears to be.

Hoshino’s writing style is absolutely wonderful to read and get lost in. It flows beautifully and makes it very easy to become swept up into the story. Her descriptions are spot on and build the world up right around the reader. The text is deceptively simple—it is a fairly straightforward story, but there is so much depth and meaning behind the words. The bittersweet tone of the novel shines through clearly as Hoshino demonstrates her perceptibly talented word-crafting.

Overall, this is a beautiful and adorable novel, and one that is a fantastic light summer read. Despite my feelings about contemporary romance novels in general, I ended up having quite an enjoyable time with this one. This is the perfect sort of quick pick-me-up type read if you are looking for a sweet and heart-warming tale. It is so much fun to fall in to, and is impossible to get through without a smile. Hoshino has used her great talent for words to create a lovely and truly magical story that will work its way into the hearts of readers of any age.

4.0 TARDISes

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June 2017 TBR

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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

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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

wherevergraceisneeded

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: Thin Places by Lesley Choyce

thinplacesThin Places by Lesley Choyce

My Rating: 2/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: August 22nd, 2017

Publisher: Dundurn Group

Pages: 200 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: A dazzling story told in verse, of sixteen-year-old Declan Lynch and the girl whose centuries-old voice rings in his head.

One day, Declan Lynch, a regular teenager, starts hearing a girl’s voice inside his head. Eventually, he even begins to see her. Though he’s not certain the girl, Rebecca, is real, Declan finds himself falling for her. She shows him visions of places and people he has never seen — places he feels compelled to find in hopes of meeting her.

His quest takes him to County Sligo, Ireland, and its “thin places,” spots where the earth and the spirit world seem almost to touch. His slightly crazy Uncle Seamus takes him in, as Declan’s search has him wondering which world he belongs in — his, or the one belonging to a girl who might not even be real.

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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 am having a lot of trouble gathering together my thoughts on this book. A novel in verse, this is a short and poetic read in a beautiful setting. However, though verse novels always tend to be quicker reads, this one was way too short, in my opinion. So short, that I had absolutely no time to connect with the characters or the plot before it was finished. Though I fluidly sped through it, I never had a chance to involve myself in it. This is what makes voicing my thoughts particularly difficult—this novel left me with a sense of confusion and incompleteness.

This novel had an intriguing and eye-catching plot to me for a number of reasons. We follow a young boy named Declan Lynch, who is no stranger to hearing voices in his head. For the first sixteen years of his life, those voices took on the form of characters, involving themselves in his decision-making and all he did. Despite this, these characters still sounded like his own internal voice, allowing him to retain some sort of connection with reality.

One day, however, this changes when he begins to not only hear the voice of a girl named Rebecca, but is able to see her materialize in his head. The strong connection he immediately feels to Rebecca sends him on a journey to County Sligo, Ireland. Declan is thrust into the arms of his estranged Uncle Seamus, as he attempts to locate Ireland’s “thin places”—where the world of the living is believed to meet that of the deceased—and unite with this mysterious girl.

I was expecting this to be a sweeping journey in a beautiful country as a young boy answers a calling in himself to uncover a hidden portion of family history and discover who he is—where he fits into the world—in the process. What I actually found was that over half the book had flown by before Declan even arrived in Ireland to begin his quest to find Rebecca. This left very little time for what I thought would be—and what was represented as—the main plot point in the narrative, given the synopsis.

The characters were incredibly one-dimensional, as the length of this novel gave them little to no room to be developed. I absolutely could not connect with a single one of them, simply because there was no time. The narrative barely skimmed the surface of key elements such as characterization and world-building. It is driven much less by the characters and descriptions and much more by dialogue, which did not serve this novel well. Instead, it heavily weighed the text down.

On top of everything, this novel was insta-love central, aggravated immensely by the length of the narrative. This is never usually a good thing to have in a story—it is definitely one of those overused and highly disliked tropes in writing. The romance feels like it is just haphazardly shoved into the plotline. From the first second that Declan sees Rebecca in his mind, he instantly falls in love with her, and this takes up a huge portion of his thoughts for most of the novel. They haven’t met, he has no idea whether she is even real or not, and yet she is automatically the love of his life. This “romance” took over the majority of the narrative.

On a slightly more positive note, despite my problems with the plot and characters, the writing was surprisingly delightful in some ways. While there were some problems, the overall prose could be quite beautiful.

The only complaint I had when it came to the writing aspect of the novel was the fact that the layout of the verses—a key and very compelling point in a verse novel—felt very random and disjointed. Part of the art of a verse novel is to arrange the lines of text and breaks in those lines so that they add to the tone and significance of the plot. So not only does the writing itself need to be beautiful, but that layout has to be meaningful as well—preferably not feeling like a hasty jumbling of words.

In the end, I unfortunately did not particularly enjoy this story as a whole. It left me feeling extraordinarily unsatisfied and as if I had missed a huge chunk of plot that should have been there. I just needed more from this book and it never delivered. It was a nice, quick read that definitely staves off any sort of reading slump, but that was one of the only positives I felt by finishing this novel.

2.0 TARDISes

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