January Wrap-Up

“You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book!”  ~Dr. Suess

January started off with a BANG!!! I ended December on a roll of fantastic books! And while I wish it could have been all five star reads all through the month, they can’t all be winners…

13/125 – Goodreads Challenge

0 – BookRiot #readharder Challenge

I managed to keep a steady pace of reading, finished 3 books in the #24in48 reading challenge weekend, 2 buddy reads and a book club read! I knocked two more books off of my Netgalley TBR, working my way to that elusive 90% rating. I will get there soon! And, best news of all, managed to get in some personal reading choices. This was important to me, as my reading was all reviews at the end of 2017, and I was starting to feel bogged down.

January summary:

The Hazelwood by Melissa Albert: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Netgalley review

The Power ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Buddy Read

Red Rising by Pierce Brown: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reading Group/reread

Golden Son by Pierce Brown: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reading Group/reread

Morning Star by Pierce Brown: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reading Group/reread

Iron Gold by Pierce Brown: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Just for ME!!!

Match Made in Manhattan by Amanda Stauffer: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

BookSparks #WRC2018 Book

Strangers by Ursula Archer & Arno Strobel: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Black Heart Read Group Read

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Just for ME!!!

Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Street Team Read/ #24in48 reading challenge

City of Brass by SA Chakraborty: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Buddy Read/ #24in48 reading challenge

Otherworld by Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

#24in48 reading challenge

Woman Last Seen In Her Thirties by Camille Pagan: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

NetGalley review

I reviewed every book, which met my blog goals, and while I didn’t quite manage to blog at least every other day, I was close. I’ll call that a win! Every review is linked, in case you missed any.

Being on Instagram and participating in buddy reads and reading groups has been a nice new addition to my reading this year. I really only started doing them towards the end of the year last year, and having people to chat with while reading or after, really makes the reading come alive! Especially when its a book like The City Of Brass or Iron Gold, which everyone NEEDS TO READ RIGHT NOW!!!!

I also went to Howler Fest in LA for the launch of Iron Gold, which was amazing and fantastic and I want to go to all the events now!

I’m also looking forward to doing more readathons, keeping my Goodreads goal and working on the Book Riot challenge. I managed to get back on track with writing and having blog goals is helping me stay on track here as well.

How was your January? Did you hit your goals? Tell me all about it! And Happy Reading friends!

The Philosopher’s Flight – Review

“It’s never mattered that I can’t do it. What the heart loves, the will chooses and the mind justifies.”

The Philosopher’s Flight is an interesting mix of historical science fantasy, where in our past, we discover the use of empirical philosophy, the merging of magic and science. This particular branch of study is female dominated, and so we get an interesting exploration of gender.

Robert Weekes wants to study empirical philosophy. His mother is a famous war veteran and county practitioner, so he has been an avid student his entire life. In fact, he can actually fly, a feat not many men can achieve. But in this female dominated science, he has little hope of actually being able to achieve his dreams.

But a twist of fate lands him at a scholarship at Radcliffe College. One of four men allowed to study at the school, and he realizes how difficult achieving a station in the legendary Rescue & Evacuation Service will be. Through hard work, the support of his roommate Unger, and a bit of luck, Robert earns the respect of his female peers and professors.

“That must be what made you so brave — a lot of women beating courage into you.”

I finished this book a few days ago and am still working through how I felt about it. I wanted to like it. Hell, I wanted to love it. But I find myself feeling rather indifferent about it.

The idea behind the story is incredibly creative. The smoke carving, the idea of writing sigils to communicate and fly, among other feats is a fun concept. Rewriting history and using real events to examine how these changes would impact the turn of events is also a  fun idea and interesting exploration.

I liked the idea that women were the ones who were the experienced practitioners of this practice. Yet even with this power, or maybe because of it, they are a focus of vile hate and the target of political enemies. The level of hate and prejudice raised against them because of this ability seemed to highlight the struggles women actually went through in those time periods. How different would history be if women had a power men didn’t really have, and were afraid of? How similar?

“The causes were bound together from the first days: civil rights, women’s rights, and philosophical rights.”

However, it was hard for me to really relate or identify with the characters themselves. Unger felt the most well developed to me and he is only a side character. Some of the reactions and dialogue felt very satirical to me. Their reactions varied wildly and didn’t feel real. Like when Robert discovers he’s been miswriting an important sigil his entire life, his response didn’t come across as dramatic as I think it was supposed to.

Rachel is another example of a character that just felt very two dimensional to me. She was his biggest threat and his main opponent really, outside of the Trenchers. But she felt very childish and wooden. She felt more like an idea of a bully and blowhard rather than a real threat to Robert. I just didn’t really feel an emotional connection to any of them. Except Unger. He was the only one who showed heart and genuine depth.

All of that would have been fine, but the way the book started compared to how it ended was a problem of pacing for me. We begin with Robert looking back on his life, so we know this is a memoir of sorts. But the entire duration of the book is him at school. One year. I understand we are being set up for a series, but it felt like maybe this could have been introduced better at the onset. Getting 400 pages of school was a bit tedious in parts, and I found myself bored. I was expecting a more complete story, not the focus of a single year.

I also hated the ending. It was so abstractly abrupt I thought I was missing pages in the book. Especially with how detailed we got in the school portion, it felt like the author just needed to end and picked a chapter to stop writing. It didn’t feel planned. It didn’t feel, other than the hint at the beginning that there was a bigger story, that there would even be more to the story. There is nothing that really makes me close the pages and say, wow, what next. It was a bit frustrating, because when you tell me you’re an exile in Mexico, I really want to know what happened. Not a 400 page memoir of one year.

Overall the book was creative enough that I liked it. And while I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it either. I think for someone who enjoys historical fantasy, this is creative and fun book. I was left with questions of what happened when it ended, but no desire for the next book, if that makes sense. It just didn’t hit all the marks with me, and I don’t think I would rush to read the next one. Especially if they are going to be as slow paced as this one was.

Thank you NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for approving a copy to read and review!

The City of Brass – Review

“There’s no magic, no djinn, no spirits waiting to eat us up.”

Nahri doesn’t believe in magic. Even if proof exists in her ability to heal, both herself and others. It doesn’t matter. It’s just a part of her. Not a magical being there to grant wishes of her every whim. She’s just a con artist, hustling her way to something resembling a decent life in Cairo.

When one of her cons accidentally conjures Dara, a powerful djinn warrior, Nahri finds herself running from enemies she never knew existed, to a city she’s never heard of, to seek sanctuary from people she never believed in.

But once she reaches Daevabad, her life doesn’t become any safer. Court politics and centuries old tensions surround her at every turn. Nahri once dreamed of being a powerful healer. Of having wealth and luxury and fame. They do say, be careful what you wish for.

“The abilities that had once kept a roof over her head had become a curse, this connection with long-dead relatives she’d never known a plague on her life.”

The City Of Brass is one beautiful fantasy novel! Chakraborty brings the landscape of the Middle East to life with lush descriptions. You can smell the cedar chips burning in the rooms, and luxuriate in the sandalwood perfuming the air. Breathe in the jasmine and frankincense of the gardens, drink in the rose petals in the Grand Bazaar, while sipping sweet Hibiscus tea. Every texture, sound, scent and flavor is described simply yet effectively and it makes you yearn to surround yourself in the magic of scenery that Chakraborty weaves.

Along with the perspective of Nahri, we get Alizayd, a young idealistic Prince struggling to find his own way in the city. He wants to revolutionize what he sees as his father’s corrupt regime, but doing so isn’t as easy as he initially thinks. Choices he makes have devastating consequences.

Mystery surrounds Dara, but not just around him. The more Nahri learns, the more it seems like everyone has hidden agendas and secrets in the city of brass. Nahri wants to be left alone, but quickly learns that this isn’t an option. Whether she likes it or not, she is at the center of a war she doesn’t understand and can’t hope to control. Her friendship with both Dara and the young Prince only makes it more confusing and difficult for her.

“To keep walking a path between loyalty to your family and loyalty to what you know is right. One of these days, you’re going to have to make a choice.”

Both Ali and Nahri discover that not everything is what they thought, and that there are things happening around them that they can’t possibly begin to understand. They will have to re-examine everything they think they know and face choices more difficult than anything they’ve ever faced before.

The way Chakraborty presents the characters, it isn’t easy to pin a definitive good or bad on anyone. It is a complex society with a muddied history, and all sides make questionable choices both in the past and the present. Which makes the prospect of the next two books in the trilogy even  more exciting because I honestly have no idea which direction this story can go.

“She felt for him–truly. It was frustrating when someone upended your well-laid plans.”

I love when characters and plots reside firmly in the mucky grey area of moral ambiguity. Writing from the perspective of good versus evil is just too easy. I prefer a more complicated point of view, and starting with a con artist as one of the main characters places us dead center in murky.

Prince Ali is also fantastic writing and character development. He is righteous, but Chakraborty makes sure that he sees that even his beliefs aren’t black and white. That he must face hard truths in order to really stand behind his beliefs, and that his beliefs might end with just as much blood shed as he wants to stop. The similarities to current racial and religious conflicts are woven into his story line. Which gives the entire book a richer and more in depth texture.

Everything in this book is vivid and filled with beautiful writing. But the plot is well paced, with just enough world building and adventure to make you feel that you are well ensconced in the landscape with Nahri and Ali. And the mystery. Just when you think things are going to be resolved, new mysteries and intrigues are presented. The last few chapters of the book end in a maddening combination of satisfaction and immediately needing more. Have I mentioned that 2019 is WAY TOO LONG TO WAIT FOR THE NEXT BOOK?????

I absolutely loved the setting, and feel like I haven’t read enough fantasy in this area or with this particular mythology. I devoured this world, and fell in love with every single thing in this book. The City of Brass immediately became my new book obsession!

Anyone who loves good fantasy, with solid world building, breathtaking pacing, questionable characters and a whopping heap of adventure will fall in love with this book. Absolutely stunning book!

Morning Star – Review

Here’s the deal Howlers! This is the third book in a trilogy, so this review will contain spoilers from the first two books. It can’t be helped so stop whining, you gorydamn Pixies. To be perfectly honest darling, if you haven’t read this series by now, you are never going to earn your scar at this rate!

“I rise into darkness, away from the garden they watered with the blood of my friends.”

In case anyone could forget the traumatizing cliffhanger that Golden Son left us with, Pierce Brown stabs us right in the gut with his opening sentence. Again. This guy loves making his readers cry. Repeatedly.

But it is such a sweet agony!

The opening of Morning Star tests our limitations for hopelessness. In fact, this book, out of the three tests the reader the most.

“I feel like a prisoner who has spent his whole life digging through the wall, only to break through and find he’s dug into another cell.”

This is the first book where Darrow cannot hold onto his own chains of secrecy. He has to learn to trust, really trust, in his friends. In the way he asked for before but never gave in return. This trust is difficult for him, but opens the door for some beautiful relationships to begin to develop with Darrow.

The beauty in this book is the emphasis on trust. Darrow isn’t a chosen one. Yes, he’s a symbol, but the fate of mankind is not fated on his shoulders. Even the rebellion isn’t fully dependent on him, though obviously, he plays a key role. I feel like this book really refocuses the whole point of what the Son of Ares stands for. Building a better Society for everyone, not the few.

While the previous two books can feel very cold and cruel, Morning Star is a book full of warmth. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of brutality, violence and cruelty written in the pages. This society didn’t undergo a complete change of heart overnight, after all. But, in contrast, you see the possibility of the rebellion solidify into the full potential of Eo’s dream.

“I always told Victra to let people in. I could never take my own advice because I knew one day I’d have to betray them, that the foundation of our friendship was a lie.”

But potential doesn’t always mean victory.

Darrow learns rather quickly that war is messy, and difficult to control. They have unleashed the tide of the lowColors into open rebellion, but they may not all share the vision of a peaceful society like he does. Many want to see Golds punished. But this isn’t the way to bridge society into a better tomorrow. This discord once again provides a tone of reality to this series that I really enjoy. It also ensures that nothing with Darrow, nor his plans, will ever go easily.

“Victories are less romantic when you’re cleaning your friends off the floor.”

Beyond the rebellion and the battle over the future of Society, this book is about relationships. We see them develop in such an intimate way. Not just with Darrow, but between everyone that is choosing the side he and the Son of Ares represents. It’s a fascinating conversation over fighting for an ideal versus fighting for what’s right. Do you watch horror and atrocity and wrap yourself in your ideals to excuse the violence? Or do you see beyond it to something more?

We also get to see the dynamics and power structures of other Colors beyond the Gold and Red. Finally we see how fully the Golds of Society have stayed in power. The full scope and horror of their manipulation is jaw-dropping. And also the sheer arrogance they have shrouded themselves in.

“And man was never meant to tame fire. That’s the beauty of it,” he says challengingly. “This moon is a hateful little horror. But through ingenuity, through will we made it ours.”

Everything in this book is played with higher stakes. This is an all out battle over a Society to remain the same, or one that will be forever changed. Adding the element of the deeper relationships, along with showing characters dealing with the trauma not just of war, but of torture and loss, adds to this escalation experience.

Every single battle is more intense, whether the scale is one to one in the snow of the Poles, or facing an enormous Armada in the depth of space. And, again, the intensity ratchets up even more because war is never clean. War is never easy. And people on both sides die. Brown isn’t afraid to show us the horror of loss, the reality that war isn’t selective and that death comes to us all.

“War is not monstrous for making corpses of men so much as it is for making machines of them. And woe to those who have no use in war except to feed the machines.”

And the ending. Oh, goryhell, talk about a writer ripping your heart out and holding it while it bleeds on the floor. I am rarely shocked at a book. And I rarely am so upset that I am tempted to close the book, slag that, throw the book and never look back. You think you’re ready for heartbreak. But you have no idea. And while I won’t ruin the reading for anyone, just keep reading. Remember, I said this book will test you.

While any death is difficult, rarely is it careless in this series. Heartbreak is sometimes inevitable. Brown never relents in doing what is true for the story, true to his characters, even if it means doing the hard thing.

“Everything is cracked, everything is stained except the fragile moments that hang crystalline in time and make life worth living.”

Pierce Brown gets the tragedy of what it means to be human. We are a fickle species. Capable of achieving the heights of greatness or falling to the depths of depravity. He shows us this spectrum without flinching, or romanticizing it. This series will take you down through how truly awful we can be, but will also show you how simultaneously wonderful we also are.

Yes, these books are about war. And societal strife. They are full of violence and cruelty and brutality. But they are also about friendships. Love. What it means to live for more. To live for others. It is a book on the grand spectacle of humanity. And one very much worth reading.

Red Rising – Review

“I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.”

Anyone who has known me at all, for any time, during the last two years, has probably had me try and push this book on them. I mean, it’s pretty bloodydamn amazing. As I’ve pushed it and raved about it and wanted to get ready for the new release of Iron Gold, a quiet part of me wondered, would my love of this series survive a reread?

Yes, my goodmen, it gorywell can!

For those of you who may not know the story of Darrow, Red Rising is the first in a trilogy. And be warned, this series will not be for everyone. It is violent, brutally so. This book is a fascinating and in-depth look at the complexity of power in society.

Darrow is a Red. Born in the mines underground on Mars, mining an element that will make terraforming planets possible. They are told they will be heroes when they mine enough. Saviors of mankind. They work on the promise of a better life for their children.

But that promise is a lie. Built by the Golds.

Darrow soon learns of this betrayal and his rage drives him to do the impossible. Become his enemy.

Through Darrow’s eyes, we learn of the enormity of the lies he had been raised on. We learn of the vast caste of Colors, all playing a role in maintaining a society that thrives. Golds at the top, and everyone else serving beneath them.

But we also learn that there is a reason the Golds rule. They are cold and cruel. Willing to inflict pain for the greater good. Willing to do what is necessary to retain their power.

“Gods don’t come down in life to mete out justice. The powerful do it. That’s what they are teaching us, not only the pain in gaining power, but the desperation that comes with not having it, the desperation that comes when you are not a Gold.”

There is so much to rave about in this series! SO MUCH!

The examination of power within a society is fascinating in this book. Not just in the caste system and the way it’s laid out. But even the level of power an individual has within each caste. Not every Red is created equal. Not every Gold is created equal. Each Color has it’s own positioning, with appropriate benefits or punishments to be doled out as the leaders see fit. This book really does an excellent job of showing how precarious power can be, and how ruthless people have to be to secure it.

“Security and justice aren’t given. They are made by the strong.”

If Game of Thrones upset you over an author willing to kill his darlings, be prepared, because Pierce Brown drinks the tears of his readers for breakfast and laughs. Except it isn’t just the fact that he willingly kills off characters. It’s that he writes such amazing side characters, with such depth, and gives them such vibrancy, that it doesn’t take very long before you’ve become attached. It’s actually quite a skill to create these personalities in his characters that manage to find their way into your hearts so quickly.

Brown’s ability to write this diverse and vivid cast of characters is impressive. If your favorites manage to stay alive, and that’s a big if, you’ll find that even though this book is told in the first person entirely through Darrow’s perspective, Darrow isn’t the only character you root for. I dare you not to fall for our favorite little goblin or the giant teddy bear of a warrior! I DARE YOU!

“If violence is the Gold sport, manipulation is their art form.”

The level of manipulation and betrayal in the Gold caste is breathtaking. Characters you root for, you find yourself cursing. Alliances change lightening fast. Power a tricky and slippery thing. Again, this look at how power works is stunning. How it is elusive, and even individuals in a group considered Gods among men can still fall. Or be powerless.

Brown doesn’t write drastic black and white characters, with allegiances firmly in the good or bad camps. Instead we get something closer to reality, both present day and historically. We see political machinations working underneath processes thought free of them. We get to pull back the curtain to see how leadership is often taken, rarely actually earned. This harsh reality can make for uncomfortable reading because these characters don’t follow normal tropes or formulas. Like Darrow, Brown sees the game and rips it apart.

“An empire cannot be destroyed from without till it is destroyed from within.”

I happen to like books where you might like the villain as much as the hero. Where the hero makes mistakes and isn’t perfect. Where the villain may be evil, but also holds grains of good. People are rarely all good, or all bad. They are generally made up of a million shades of both and everything in between. Brown writes his entire universe in that spectrum and it makes for an intense, bloody, and breathtaking ride.

The first time I read this, I inhaled the words. This book felt like a campaign of shock and awe. It was stunning in scope and awesome in detail. I wasn’t sure what the ride would be like a second time. Turns out, it was just as intense, but somehow, knowing what was to come made the book even more heartbreaking. I was able to really understand how fast these characters are introduced and how strongly they make an impact.

I am a huge book pusher when it comes to this series. It is unlike anything you’ve ever read. It is about power. Love. Loss. Revolution. Rebellion. Rising up and falling down. It is bloody, violent, harsh and cruel. It will show you the best of humanity and the worst. Sometimes in the same breath. And it all happens in bleeding space!

Bring it on Golden Son, because here I come!

2018 – We have plans!

Last year I sat down around this time, give or take a few days, and started this blog. When I first started, I wasn’t exactly sure what this space was going to be. I knew I wanted to explore my writing more, and I wanted to start reviewing books. But I didn’t really know what that meant.

Fast forward a year, and the more things change, the more they stay the same!

I’ve talked a bit about my reading goals in my 2017 summary. I am once again doing Goodreads, and trying the Book Riot Read Harder challenge again. I am going to leave my Goodreads number as is, just as I did last year. It’s a good exercise for me to stop trying and changing my goals. Set them and work towards them. Even if I meet that challenge, changing it raises too much uncertainty in me. I just need to keep going forward. Does anyone else relate to that?

One of the biggest successes I had was in building relationships in the bookstagram and blogging community. I am floored by how generous and kind the people in these communities are! I talk to them every day, and my life and confidence is blooming because of them. No matter what career or hobby you find yourself in, reaching out and developing relationships with people within that area is such an enriching experience. Being able to talk to other writers and know that they go through the same roller coaster of emotions and challenges helps quiet the noise for me. It helps me feel like I’m not on this journey by myself.

I enjoyed posting my bookstagram photos before, but let me say, the experience is 1000 times better when you get involved in the community. This group of wonderful book worms has single handedly changed my experience of social media. Life is what you put into it, and the same can be said of social media. It can be intimidating and scary to reach out into the abyss of the unknown and open yourself up to strangers. But man is it rewarding! This experience was the most unexpected thing to happen in 2017, and by far one of the best.

Life as a reviewer bloomed in 2017. When I first started, I had no idea how to request books, let alone reach out to publishers or publicists to build relationships. Again, with help from some amazing friends, I learned about Netgalley, First to Read, Blogging for Books and began to email for books. This process can seem daunting when you’re first starting but it isn’t nearly as frightening as I would have initially thought.

I also learned some things about reviewing. The first is, careful what you wish for. When I first began, I emailed and requested everything from everyone. And ended up getting more than I could handle. I wish I had requested less and built better relationships with fewer publishers. Rather than feeling stressed out and spread thin. But you live, you learn, and then you do better.

Personally, 2017 was a bit of a turbulent year. We ended up selling our store in April, and at the time I thought that meant I would have more time. Time to write, time to recover, time to reconnect with myself. What I didn’t anticipate was just how exhausted and run down I had let myself get.

The thing about exhaustion that I learned, is recovery takes time. It’s a slow process. It isn’t just the physicality of it. It’s mental and emotional as well. It meant that I didn’t make as much progress on my manuscript as I thought, and that other projects I dreamed of tackling took more time as well. And when you’re exhausted like that, you can be a bit fragile. I found that my anxiety and depression, which had mostly been under control for quite a long time, hit me hard.

Recognizing that I was in a depressed state took some time. Accepting it took time. And finding my way back, took time. Bit by bit, I found my energy returning, and with it, the ability to focus. I began to feel like myself, a self that I forgot about. Because that’s the other thing with exhaustion. When you run yourself low, but just keep pushing yourself, you forget what normal feels like.

So what does all this mean for 2018 goals?

First, I am going to discipline myself with reviews more. I’m going to request less and work in personal books with my reviews. I don’t want to get back in a rut when I feel like reading is a chore.

I want to post more consistently on my blog. Since I didn’t really have goals in place with my blog when I started, I never got into a routine with my posts. Some weeks I posted daily. Some only once that week. But like anything, consistency matters. So, whether it’s a review, a check in with writing, or writing about questions of the day, I want to post at least every other day.

My manuscript is almost complete, and I want to start submitting within the second quarter of the year. This gives me time to work through a second draft, get to some trusted readers for feedback, and to review that feedback. And of course, start the second book!

I am going to become more active on my social media accounts. Developing friendships has been the best thing I could have done. I want to be sure I continue and give back to that community as best I can.

One of the big accomplishments was opening my Etsy shop! I want to keep developing that account and working on projects so that the shop is always evolving and growing. Writing is my destiny, of that I am sure, but working in this mode creatively is a very fulfilling exercise, and I want to see how far I can take that.

Finally, I want to make sure I am taking time for me. I need to be kind to myself. To forgive myself for setbacks, to cut myself some slack, to stop being my biggest critic. Life is a journey. One meant to be lived. Here’s to taking each day, the good with the bad, and living.


Nevernight – Review

“At the heart of it, two kinds of people live in this world or any other: those who flee and those who fight.”

Enter the world of Mia Corvere. The little girl who barely escapes with her life after her father plots (and fails) a rebellion. Now, she is grown and has vengeance in her blood, driving her forward. Her goal is the Red Church. A school of the worlds most deadly assassins, all fighting for one of four position as Blades of the Church. She leaves Godsgrave and everything she knows to pursue her singular goal.

Jay Kristoff writes in such a unique and addicting way. There is the story, with the narration telling the story of the present but also jumping back to reveal glimpses into Mia’s past. Helping us build the horror of her past into the horror of her future. But, we get an additional narrator, in the footnotes added throughout the book.

At first, to be entirely honest, I wasn’t sure I liked that format. It felt distracting and I kept getting pulled out of the action. But, slowly, without even knowing it, I realized that this is done purposefully and adds to the immersion into the world of Itreya in a way that normal narration simply wouldn’t have allowed. It adds a second personality, and one that I quickly fell in love with.

“Here is the truth gentlefriends: when in doubt, it’s best to be polite when dealing with lunatics.”

This narrator is snarky and sarcastic in all the best ways. He adds all the details and history of the Republic, along with legends and stories from the past. It’s information that would be difficult to add in otherwise, and the humor is fantastic! To be yelled at for reading a footnote in the height of a fight, by the footnote, is just a special sort of magic.

The humor of the mysterious narrator is also needed, because this book while delightful is incredibly dark and violent. I happen to find that sort of dreariness delightful, but be warned, this book is about a school of murderers striving to become assassins in a very brutal world. Kristoff does not hold back when writing about severe punishments inflicted for breaking the rules, or in the very vivid descriptions of torture and torment, or in the fast paced and heart pounding fighting that occurs.

“The wolf does not pity the lamb,” Drusilla said. “The storm begs no forgiveness of the drowned.”

This is not a book about mercy. This is a book about vengeance and betrayal. About one girls fierce desire to take down the Republic that killed her family and destroyed her life. Mia is a fantastic character. Even though she’s more likely to slit my throat than share a meal with me, I think we would be amazing friends. She is driven by revenge, but she hasn’t lost her heart. At least, not yet. But that is something she will have to face in this quest she has set herself on.

Kristoff has given us a world that is massive and epic in detail, with the narrator contributing enormously to the richness of this world. Nevernight shows us a world with three suns. A world where the night sky is only seen rarely. A world where the city is built from the bones of a fallen God, nobles living in the gravebone ribs high above the Spine below, using weapons made of godsbone. It’s a world that is unforgiving and brutal, but wondrous and magical nonetheless.

“She could feel it. All around her. Seeping through Godsgrave’s cracks. The agony. The fury. The pure and blinding hatred nestled in this city’s bones.”

This is a book that takes the cold harshness of a Roman-like Empire and adds a touch of fantasy and magic to it. There is nothing fluffy written within these pages, but that isn’t to say that the book isn’t full of heart. This is a book that gives you the good and bad of human nature and everything in between. You may not think you can find charm in an assassin, but you’d be wrong.

Kristoff doesn’t give you cookie cutter characters where the line between good and evil is clear. Instead, he offers something more real and far more satisfying. He gives you characters that feel like people. Of course, he does add in magic, which makes everything a lot more fun!

Nevernight is a book filled with dark humor and violence. It doesn’t back away from examining the dark reality that lies beneath humanity’s shiny veneer. This is dark fantasy at it’s best. We are taken into another world. A world we don’t know but can easily recognize. We are subjected to pain and hope, betrayal and triumph, love and loss. It is a book that takes us down a very human journey, and is stunning to experience.

For anyone who enjoyed Game of Thrones or Red Rising, this book will definitely be for you!


Cut – Review

“Because of an organ shortage, most of the patients were at death’s door before they received a liver, and many died waiting.”

Cut is a medical mystery novel diving into the murky world of organ donation. Sarah Golden is a transplant nurse who loves her job. She is confident that people cannot manipulate the organ donation system and travels around the country assisting the top transplant teams. But a run-in with a wealthy patient and her boyfriend during her stay at a Miami hospital leaves her with a bad feeling, and a lingering question: can you buy a liver?

The novel started off with an interesting premise. The author weaves in the reality of the transplant world within the pages of the first few chapters while introducing Sarah. You get a feel for not just the medical aspect, but the administrative as well.

Unfortunately, the rest of the novel was a miss for me.

Perhaps I was expecting this to be a mystery like so many that I read, where the reader is also unsure of what exactly is going on, so there’s a reason to continue to turn the pages. You want to solve the mystery. But, this is a case of too much tell and not enough show.

We are told the mystery from the very beginning, and there’s aren’t any plot twists or grand reveals to keep the reader involved. The writing relies entirely on your connection to the characters to drive the plot forward, and for me, they just weren’t that strong. I liked Sarah and Jackie, but their antics were a bit far fetched to be plausible. While Amanda and Sergio were very cliche villains. Rather than showing us a complex look at power and wealth, they are simply beautiful rich people who throw tantrums whenever their wealth doesn’t get them what they want.

This struck me as a good skeleton of a draft. The idea is good and the premise is interesting. It just felt like more of a draft than a finished product. The dialogue needed polished, and again, the mystery could have unfolded a bit more dramatically. Or at least with a touch more suspense.

I also found it difficult to keep up with the end. It felt rushed, things simply fell into place that wouldn’t. And I still am unclear what the legal issues were (outside of the obvious one, which I won’t reveal because of spoilers). It felt like a case of the author writing an ending, and the details of plausibility weren’t really taken into account.

All that said, the novel was a fast read and I can see why people enjoy it. This would be a good easy beach read. The characters are comedic, and if you find more enjoyment in character antics than a suspenseful mystery, I think this book would be perfect.

Thank you BookSparks for sending me a copy to read and review.

Learning To Fall – Review

“As if conjuring my dream, the earth shook.”

The opening line of Learning To Fall reads as an omen. The earth shook and then Brynn’s world shook, leaving her to desperately try to hold on to everything she has ever known and loved.

Learning To Fall is a stunning debut novel that sweeps you into the world of horse show jumping. But to say that this is just a book about show horses is selling this exceptional book short. This book is about finding yourself when life seems determined to rip you apart.

Brynn Seymour is months away from graduating from a national prestigious veterinary program. She is focused on being able to provide a stable life for herself, and more importantly, her family. Horses have been in her blood, but her father’s dreams of winning the illustrious Million Dollar Gold Cup have always felt more like dreams than reality.

The day the earth shook, Brynn lost her father in an accident. With that loss, came the reality that his dreams were built on a far shakier foundation than she ever imagined possible. Now, she struggles to go to school, run the family business and desperately try to keep the ranch from being auctioned off piece by piece.

But the world of show horses is cutthroat, and as her competition begins poaching clients from her, Brynn realizes the only answer is to go after her father’s dreams herself. With the help of champion, Jason Lander, Brynn has to learn to let everything fall away before she can build back up.

“It’s not about losing control, it’s about giving up control. There is a difference.”

Clermont brings this competitive world into such vivid life, you feel as if you are there. Brynn is a very believable and real character. Even if you aren’t fighting to keep your family’s ranch out of debt, I think many women will relate to her. She isn’t just facing the outside pressure of her family’s financial situation. She’s also facing the internal fight over who she is and what direction she wants her life to go in. Show jumping may have been her father’s dream, but Brynn has to examine if it really is her dream as well.

Anyone who loves animals, and particularly horses, will enjoy reading this book. Clermont brings the horses to life as much as she does the people in her writing. Jett is one of my favorite characters, and though he can’t speak, (he is a horse after all), you can feel the warmth of his eyes, the softness of his ears, and the strength of his muscles in every scene he is in. You feel his pain, his calm, his joy. It isn’t just Jett that Clermont does this with, but every horse she mentions. They are as unique and identifiable as any other side character in the book and give the plot a much richer texture.

“Jett stared at me, his liquid eyes spoke of knowing, of understanding, a bond we’d shared for years. He didn’t care about his mane. What mattered was this. This unspoken love. If horses could smile, he’d be smiling now.”

The messages written into the plot are fantastic. Examinations of how fear holds us back in life, forces us to make decisions that continue to drive negativity into our lives. How we can let fear take over our lives completely if we let it. There’s a look at how to be yourself in a world that demands conformity. Of how difficult it is to do the right thing when bending rules and sliding by could yield greater short term results. It’s a much more difficult thing to stay true to yourself and what you believe.

Within these pages is a look at life and loss, love and heartbreak, forgiveness and guilt. This is a book that fully captures the essence of life, and the struggle that we all face in some form or another throughout our lives. We all have to face the idea of who we are versus who we want to be. Who we think we love versus who we really love. What love means, both in familial terms and romantic ones. And what we’re willing to accept, from others, from ourselves.

Learning To Fall is a title that wraps up so many ideas within three little words. Brynn must learn to fall in so many ways. She must learn to fall into the unknown, fall in love, fall off a horse, and simply fall into the current that is life.

“Accidents happen. We try, we stumble, sometimes literally. It’s part of life, to have problems and challenges, to deal with them and move on. We’ll never have no problems. Only new ones.”

This book will transport you. I read it in less than a day, the pages simply flying by. Each character is written to be complex, contributing to the plot but also giving it the same richness that people in our lives gives us. We never live life alone, and decisions or their consequences are rarely made in a vacuum. Clermont captures those layers in these pages. I ended the book feeling as if I were there, cheering, holding my breath, laughing and crying with them.

If you love stories about finding who you are, stories that mimic life in all the difficult and real ways, this book is for you. If you love horses or animals and enjoy a story where the animals are as much a heart of the book as the people, this book is for you. Whether you are familiar with the world of show jumping or not, by the end, you won’t be able to help falling in love with Brynn, Jason and of course, with Jett.

Thank you BookSparks for sending me this book to read and review!

Gridley Girls – Review

“Once upon a time there was a diary.”

Gridley Girls is a debut novel that reads part memoir, part fiction. The story is based on true events. Even though we get a look at a few aspects of the truth, we don’t know all of the truth versus the fiction. And because it’s based on true events, this novel read as a hybrid novel, with some pieces reading more as fiction and others more as a memoir. It’s easy to imagine that this was indeed very close to how the author grew up. Even if it isn’t, the writing is so distinct and full of personality, it feels as if you’re hearing her talk rather than reading a story.

Meg Monahan grew up in Gridley California. Like her parents before her, and their parents before them. She knows nearly everyone in the town. Secrets are hard to keep secret, yet somehow Meg is always the one people confide in, expecting that she keep their confessions safe.

“Mainly I just stay private. That’s hard for you to imagine since you live your life out loud, but it’s easier for us to be private.”

After she is chosen to be a peer counselor her freshman year, this confidence gets pushed to the limits as she receives information that is simply too much for her to handle on her own. It’s easier to keep a secret when it’s your choice. Meg finds that the expectation of confidence, combined with the heavier secrets, makes the burden that much harder to bear.

The novel is told through the eyes of an adult Meg, deciding if she can stomach uprooting her family to the unthinkable reaches of Minnesota, and a teenage Meg going through her freshman year of High School. The events that unfold during her teenage years all carry through and show their relevance to her adult life as the book progresses.

We are all shaped by the things that happen to us growing up. Tragedy and triumph alike can leave indelible marks and shape the adults we become. For Meg, these secrets that her peers trusted her with became nearly too much. When she confides in a trusted friend, and is overheard, that guilt follows her into adulthood.

“In my mind, I was out of control. Who was I going to tell next? My parents? The mailman? Nothing was stopping my giant mouth. My fears were ruling my life.”

This book is a hybrid in another sense. The pieces of Meg’s high school years are very fitting for a YA novel. Not just because she is an adolescent. But because there are some very good lessons and messages written within those pages. Topics like teenage sex, struggling to reconcile your religious beliefs with the reality of life around you, abortion, homosexuality, death and mental illness are all brought up and examined in a thoughtful way.

The messages aren’t preached to you, and they aren’t drilled down or overly dramatized. Some are more dominant than others, and not all of them have lessons learned or even closure written to them. But they are excellent conversation starters and serve to open the door for closer examination.

They hit home because they are told in first person, from the eyes of a teenage girl. Her reaction is what you would expect them to be: scared and confused. This allows for her to ask for advice, and to analyze her own thoughts to try and process how to feel. It was an excellent representation of how confusing adolescence can be.

It’s balanced with the adult years, and the lesson that life doesn’t always make sense once you reach adulthood. There are still struggles and tragedies mixed in with the good times and triumphs.

“I guess that’s the whole point: the attempt to understand, the attempt to love. It’s when we stop trying to understand and stop trying to love that everything falls apart.”

This book is a very fun read, and at the end, First throws in a guide to seventies pop culture. This will be especially helpful to younger readers who may have no idea what actors, shows, music, or even general culture references are made during her teenage years. For those who do remember, this book will be a fun blast into the past.

Sometimes pop culture can be tricky to write into a plot without sounding out of place or forced, but First writes it in fluidly, making them part of the scenery and not overly obnoxious. It feels very natural, because it stems from Meg. Of course that’s how she would make sense of her world, because it is her world.

It did take me a few chapters to adjust to the writing style. It can feel a bit choppy, and you feel that while reading. Once I got to know Meg a bit, and realized that an adolescent girl who talks a mile a minute when she’s nervous probably would talk like that, it became more natural to read. Again, because it reads part fiction and part memoir, the fluidity of the writing does change a bit between chapters. It requires the reader to adjust to the tone of the chapter, and in part to the change between Meg as a girl and Meg as a woman.

Overall I enjoyed this book. There is a lot of humor in First’s writing, both as a teenager and as an adult. She tackles very real topics, not just about growing up, but the world at large. These make the book full of depth. I didn’t grow up in the 70’s, but even still, I felt a lot of nostalgia reading through her experiences. Any teenage girl, regardless of the time and specifics, all feel awkward, and scared, and overwhelmed, and confused during those years. She’s relatable and easy to identify with. Which I think makes this a good book to start conversations with teenage readers. Not to mention, just being able to ask your mom about some of these trends and references to pop culture will definitely start some good conversation, along with some memorable laughs, I’m sure!

Thank you BookSparks and She Writes Press for sending me a copy to read and review!