The Library Book by Susan Orlean

I gave this 4.5 stars. I really enjoyed this book! It’s not only an informative novel about the horrific Los Angeles library fire and the possible arsonist who caused it, it’s a book about the long standing love for libraries and the importance they hold in our communities. From the inner workings of a functioning library to the impact historical events have on the information we seek, we get a glimpse into the ever changing job of a librarian. I found the history to be my favorite part of this novel and couldn’t get enough. For the love of libraries and the people who keep them running, read this novel.

A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

I was able to read A curse so Dark and Lonely early thanks to Netgalley.com. When I heard this was a Beauty and the Beast fantasy retelling I knew I needed to read it. Obviously, as a reader girl, I loved Beauty and the Beast growing up. I also loved the story of finding love in an aberrant way. Throw in a fantasy twist and I was sold.

Synopsis

Fall in love, break the curse. 

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom. 

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin. 

I gave this book 5 stars! It delivered on every aspect I was expecting. It had characters I fell in love with right away, plot twists that made my jaw drop, and fantasy elements that were unique and engaging. I found myself not wanting to put it down.

The characters in this book had me from the beginning. Harper is a young girl with cerebral palsy who completely blows away any stereotypes that go with having a disability. Her character was relatable and endearing. Rhen, the prince, was a perfect representation of “the beast”. He starts off cynical and grows into a character you love. One of my favorite characters was actually a side character named Grey. He was rigid and stoic as a soldier but his transformation was my favorite. By the end I found myself completely invested in his storyline.

I was really pleased with the way this story developed. I went into it expecting it to be more like the original Beauty and the Beast, but was pleasantly surprised with the modern twist it had. With Harper being from the modern world thrust into another dimension we got a good mix of reality and fantasy. I liked how the witch in this story was much more present than in the original. She was a villain you could root against along with the characters. The twists and turns of this story kept it engaging and the ending leaves me wanting more.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a bit of fantasy and a sweet love story. The true essence of the original story are present without it feeling repetitive. I’m hopeful there will be a book 2 in this series and can’t wait to see where this story leads.

This book releases on January 29th 2019.

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

“On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn’t.

And then she died.

Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change. . . . “

If you’re looking for a feel good Christmas story this is the perfect book! It’s a little funny, a little sad and full of heart. The pieces of the story fit together like a perfect puzzle and by then end the entire picture comes into view. It’s a different take on A Christmas Carol, with a fun corporate feel and futuristic elements while keeping to the true meaning of Christmas. I found parts to be a little predictable, but I didn’t mind. It’s exactly what I wanted for the holidays.

First Impressions of The Gilded Wolves

I was able to read an excerpt of The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi on BookishFirst.com. I read the first thirty pages and can’t wait to read more!

“Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.” – Roshani Chokshi

From the very beginning I was hooked. Murder, a heist, and witty characters that I know I’ll love. Severin and Enrique have a banter that makes me not want to stop reading. The cover is intriguing and makes more sense after reading about Tristan, the charming boy that can manipulate plants. I look forward to learning more about him and his love for these strange creatures he keeps as pets. Laila has a special ability that could be a blessing or a curse and Zofia is quirky and already lovable. The characters drew me in and the story of hidden treasure maps and a heist sealed the deal for me. I can’t wait to read the full story.

I already added The Gilded Wolves to my TBR shelf. The expected publication date is January 15th 2019.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

Fawkes was our “I’m Booked” book club pick for the month of November. We kind of had to pick this book with it being about Guy Fawkes. Guy Fawkes day is November 5th and my cohost, Lindsey’s, birthday. I went into this book not really knowing anything about the history of Guy Fawkes. I’m glad I did, because I learned a lot just from reading this story.

Thomas, riddled with the stone plague, is the great Guy Fawkes’ son, but he hasn’t seen his father in years. When he is denied his color power mask he goes in search of answers. What he finds is a new group of men plotting to kill the king and a girl on the wrong side of the plot. Will he choose to help murder the king or will he choose the other side, the side of the Igniters.

Thomas was a complicated character for me. He started out a little selfish and naive but soon grew into a compassionate person. Following his journey was both frustrating and rewarding. He really made up for his short comings in the end and found himself, but I wish there was a little more there for him.

Emma on the other hand was a powerful and dynamic character. I liked her from the very beginning. She stood up for herself and knew exactly what she wanted. She complimented Thomas quite well. There is a major twist with her character in the middle of the book and it was done perfectly. I wanted more of her towards the end of the book, she was such a well developed character. I would have liked to see more into her past and discuss more of who she was.

This book has a magic system that allows someone to control colors by wearing a certain color mask. There are two sides to this, the Igniters and the Keepers. Both at war with each other over their differing beliefs. The Igniters believe in white light and the power to talk to multiple colors while the keepers believe you are given one color to control and the white light is evil.

This concept was very interesting to me and added a twist to this historical story. I did have a few problems imagining the color powers, I wish there was more back story for this magic system and more detail about how it worked and affected the people of this town. I had a lot of questions about how it worked that just weren’t answered.

The plot was thick with betrayal, twists, and other worldly magic. It touched on the horrible racism in London in the 1600s and had religious undertones based on the history of Guy Fawkes. There were sections that flew by for me and had me reading nonstop and then there were sections that seemed to drag for quite a bit. The ending felt rushed and I wanted more detail like we were getting towards the beginning. The very end wasn’t my favorite but it added a good element to the story.

Overall I enjoyed this book. I gave it 4 stars. While I had some problems with the pacing of the book and some of the characters, the story line and Emma saved it for me. I learned a lot about London in the 1600s and the story of Guy Fawkes. I think if you like historical fiction you’ll enjoy Fawkes.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Pride isn’t just another love story between two people, it’s a love story between sisters, between a girl and her hood and a love story about family. I thoroughly enjoyed this Pride and Prejudice retelling. I was surprised by how much it made me want to go and re-read the original story. It had all the original vibes.

“It’s a truth universally acknowledged that when rich people move into the hood, where it’s a little bit broken and a little bit forgotten, the first thing they want to do is clean it up.”

The modern day setting was perfect. Zuri Benitez and her sisters have lived in Bushwick their entire lives and now it’s changing. The wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street causing all kinds of trouble, or so Zuri thinks.

I thought for sure I would love the romantic element the most in this story, but I was shocked to see how much I started to care for the family element more. The sisterly love is done so well, it makes me wish I grew up with sisters! By the end I was having all kinds of feels for the neighborhood and family, making the love story take a backseat.

The romance between Zuri and Darius wasn’t quite as good for me, but it had all the angst and back and forth of the original. At times things seemed to move too fast and I wanted even more of that slow burn romance we are used to. Maybe that’s why I focused on the family dynamic more.

I gave this book 4 stars and would definitely recommend it. It’s a laid back, easy to read adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. It gave me a look into a neighborhood and family I had never seen before and I really enjoyed it.

Crow Flight by Susan Cunningham

I was able to read this book through Netgalley to provide feedback and my honest review.

Gin is quite possibly a computer genius. She is able to make complex computer models and her dream is to attend Harvard some day. When a new boy, Felix, shows up at school her focus is turned. Felix winds up in her modeling class and becomes her new partner. As they work through their final project, terrible secrets are found and Gin has to make a tough decision.

I really enjoyed the beginning of this book. There was an element of mystery that kept me intrigued. The arrival of Felix and the strange crows he seemed to always be around was so mysterious I didn’t want to put it down until I knew more. Unfortunately it took over half the book to get that answer. Usually that wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me, but the story seemed to drag on without much happening.

The relationship between Felix and Gin was unusual to me. His character never seemed interested in her even when he actually was. I had a hard time seeing why they were interested in each other, other than the fact that they both enjoyed computer models.

If you enjoy computer sciences and modeling I think you would really enjoy this book. There were specifics related to how a computer model works in great detail. I found those bits to be interesting at times and a little boring at other times. Sadly my interests don’t involve computer sciences so I was probably not the right audience for this story.

The biggest problem I had with this book was the ending. The entire storyline was moving so slow and then right at the end every conflict happened one after another. It felt rushed and forced on the reader. I wish the conflict and resolution had been better fleshed out.

I think the concept behind this book was unique. It was an interesting read, but the story didn’t flow for me and was hard to get through.

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

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Shadow of the Fox is a YA Fantasy revolving around Japanese mythology. It is the story of Yumeko, a young kitsune ( part girl-part fox) who is thrust into a mission to protect the scroll of a thousand prayers. When she meets a man claiming to be a samurai named Tatsumi who is after the scroll she is trying to protect, she has to keep a secret that could destroy her. If the scroll winds up in the wrong hands the great Kami Dragon may be unleashed again. This story is full of Japanese culture, adventure, and mythical creatures.

I gave this book 4.5 stars. The storyline had me hooked from the beginning. It is told from a dual first person perspective with the two main characters, Yumeko and Tatsumi. Yumeko is a young girl raised in a temple full of monks. I love when a character really grows and learns throughout a story and she did just that. In the beginning she is naive and unsure of the outside world but by the end she is starting to find herself and her path.

Tatsumi was my favorite character in this book. He is very strict and business-like, but we start to see a shift in him as the story progresses. There is still a lot we don’t know about him and I’m hoping we get more back story for him in the second book.

The interaction between Yumeko and Tatsumi was a slow burn romance that kept me wanting more. They are both keeping secrets from each other throughout the story and at times you can’t really tell if they like each other or not, but the undertone of romance and attraction is definitely there.

I chose to listen to the audio book and I’m glad I did! There are a slew of Japanese words interwoven into this story and it was nice getting to hear them pronounced correctly. The story seemed to move quite slow, but it worked! We were introduced to so many cultural things throughout, that it helped to have a slow pace to keep things straight.

The main reason I couldn’t give this book 5 stars is because I felt like the ending was left too open. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for me I had invested over 400 pages of reading into this book and I just needed something to be resolved towards to end. Of course this means I’ll be reading the second book, because I need to know what happens!! So maybe that was a good move by Julie…

 

Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

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Vengeful by V.E. Schwab is the anticipated sequel to Vicious; a story of right and wrong and everything in between. In Vengeful we follow the same beloved/hated characters from the first book.

Sydney is still in shock over her sister’s death. Victor is less himself, dealing with death and life over and over again. Eli Ever seems to have gotten away with murder.

In the second book Victor finds himself in a position of weakness, grasping for answers only to be led down a winding path of pain and death. His family- Sydney, Mitch, and Dominic-are falling apart around him and so are his powers.

Five years has passed and Eli Ever is trapped, constantly being tormented both physically and mentally in his new surroundings. But there is one thing that keeps him going, his work will continue, even if it’s done behind bars.

This story can never get old for me. I would follow Victor, Sydney and Mitch as they made breakfast and went shopping if V.E. Schwab wrote about it. I just love these characters that much. Their make shift family is the perfect mix. In this book, they are just as great, but we get introduced to new characters that have the potential to join this trio in my heart.

Marcella is a strong and brazen woman we meet right in the beginning of the book. She had the potential to be a main villain in our story or a powerful ally, you’ll have to read to find out which. I really enjoyed the way her character develops, as a mob bosses wife she doesn’t take opposition well.

June is another new character, yay for more female EO’s. Her history is a little more secretive and we are left not knowing much about her. I have so many questions still, that is makes me wonder if we’ll be seeing her in another book! She is a little more level headed than Marcella, but just as bad in a good way.

Without giving too much away, I thought the progression of this story flowed well. It had the same short chapters and jumpy timeline as the first which I personally enjoy. Overall I gave this book five stars and these two together are some of my favorite reads of all time. Maybe I’m a sucker for super human powers, or just the inner uneasy state of my conscious constantly telling me it was wrong to root these characters on. Either way I highly recommend this series to anyone who likes a good action packed sc-fi.