Category Archives: Review

The Kingdom of Back – Marie Lu

The Kingdom of Back – Marie LuTitle: The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
Publishing Info: March 3, 2020 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Date Completed: February 18, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Legend (Legend #1), Warcross (Warcross #1), Batman: Nightwalker (DC Icons #2)

Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart.

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish—to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she'll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age—her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl's hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true—but his help may cost her everything.

In her first work of historical fiction, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu spins a lush, lyrically-told story of music, magic, and the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.

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I was really excited to try THE KINGDOM OF BACK, something totally different from Marie Lu’s previous books! I’ve read the Legend trilogy and the Warcross duet, so I was interested to see what THE KINGDOM OF BACK would have in store, knowing how a good portal-world book can capture my curiosity. This one ended up being just a bit too different in too many ways for me and it just ended up not being a “me” book.

This was definitely a case of “It’s not you, it’s me.” The writing in this book was just lovely and and it was a lot more prosaic and lyrical (which is fitting since the book is about music — ha!) but I usually don’t get along with these types of writing styles with very few exceptions. If that’s a writing style that you enjoy, I think this could be an instant hit for you, but I just know it’s something that I don’t particularly care for and I feel like things end up being too drawn out.

I also just had a complicated relationship with the book overall. I really, really did not like the fantasy aspect of the book. There is a portal world/alternate universe type-thing happening here but it really wasn’t what I was expecting. It largely revolved around faeries which I have zero interest in and some of the faerie magic was just a bit too fanciful for me. My magical preferences are more about systems and structures than whimsy so I just really didn’t care for it at all and I hated the parts that glanced back over at the faerie world. It wasn’t that it was bad, but again, tooootally not my thing.

The children are young for most of the book and it takes a very long time for them to even been teenagers, so I would barely even call this YA. It’s more so a book that maybe doesn’t need an age categorization since it’s not a specifically teen coming-of-age story but really just a story about these two children and their lives. I also didn’t understand for the beginning of the book why it was important for this story to be about the Mozart children and it was kind of annoying that it could have been anyone. This does make a little more sense and ties into the story more as the book goes on, so I eventually did end up liking how it tied in (even if I didn’t like the fantasy world still). By the time the book was ending, I actually found that I would have liked the Mozart story by itself all together and a fun YA historical fiction book about the Mozart children that didn’t have fantastical elements would have been cool too.

I think fans of The Hazel Wood and Uprooted will enjoy this. 

There is an author’s note at the end of the book where Marie Lu explains the origins of the book. She had discovered that Mozart had a sister that was barely ever heard of so she investigated her story, and The Kingdom of Back was a real (well, “real”) place that the Mozart children invented and they used it to pass the time in their carriage rides (which does happen in the book, as well as further development of the world). If I had known that beforehand, it would have been much more interesting knowing that The Kingdom of Back actually had historical origins and that was why/how the book came about. I still wouldn’t have cared about the fairy world but it would have made me a little more interested to understand actual historical significance of the fantasy world and that’s why it was included. That author’s note to allow me the hindsight to make this connection is the only reason I felt in the middle about this book instead of disappointed.

It’s actually weird looking back because I really enjoyed the end of the book and it left on a good note. The book wasn’t bad at all but between the writing and the faerie world, it really just wasn’t my style and if I had known that, I might have not read the book or at least waited to hear from someone else if I might like it. I’m actually still kind of glad I read it because I did enjoy the historical aspect of the book but I wish I could have enjoyed it more!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Historical Fiction. I really don’t usually enjoy historical fiction, but I really enjoyed knowing that this stemmed from something real in history. That’s really what held my interest!
Left Me Wanting More: Reality. I just really didn’t care for the fantasy aspect in this book, weirdly enough. It was too whimsical for me and I just don’t love fairy type fantasy.

Addiction Rating
Check the reviews

I think you’ll either love it or end up feeling like I do. If this is your style, you’ll probably love it! If you think we share some opinions, I would say check out some more reviews.

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BOOKS LIKE THE KINGDOM OF BACK

             

All the Stars and Teeth (All the Stars and Teeth #1) – Adalyn Grace

All the Stars and Teeth (All the Stars and Teeth #1) – Adalyn GraceTitle: All the Stars and Teeth (All the Stars and Teeth #1) by Adalyn Grace
Publishing Info: February 4, 2020 by Macmillan, Imprint
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: February 8, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Set in a kingdom where danger lurks beneath the sea, mermaids seek vengeance with song, and magic is a choice, Adalyn Grace’s All the Stars and Teeth is a thrilling fantasy for fans of Stephanie Garber’s Caraval and Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series.

She will reign.

As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer—the master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but for Amora, it’s never been a choice. To secure her place as heir to the throne, she must prove her mastery of the monarchy’s dangerous soul magic.

When her demonstration goes awry, Amora is forced to flee. She strikes a deal with Bastian, a mysterious pirate: he’ll help her prove she’s fit to rule, if she’ll help him reclaim his stolen magic.

But sailing the kingdom holds more wonder—and more peril—than Amora anticipated. A destructive new magic is on the rise, and if Amora is to conquer it, she’ll need to face legendary monsters, cross paths with vengeful mermaids, and deal with a stow-away she never expected… or risk the fate of Visidia and lose the crown forever.

I am the right choice. The only choice. And I will protect my kingdom.

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I went into ALL THE STARS AND TEETH with an open mind because I haven’t been getting along with a lot of new YA fantasy lately. Catch me at the beginning of this book and I was raving about how happy I was that I was excited, interested, and swooning over bantery pirates! The more I read, the less interested I became and by the end, I felt like I just wanted to know what happened and how the book would end.

I didn’t totally love Amora throughout the whole book, but it was easier to understand her in the beginning of the book because she didn’t know what was going on and it was interesting to follow her while she was figuring everything out. There was a lot for her to discover throughout the whole book but for some reason it was easier for me to connect with her in the beginning. I loved Bastian, our sassy pirate, and I really liked the attitude and tone he brought to this story! Obviously being a main character, he has a big role in the overall plot as well, but he certainly did keep things interesting. He and Amora had some great chemistry and of course, I loved the cleverness. I also really liked Ferrick who added something really nice to the group dynamic. I don’t want to go too far into it because there’s a lot that happens in the beginning and I don’t want to spoil anything, but I liked that he became a part of the book and that he was the kind of “nice guy”. It was easy to be sympathetic to him and I felt like he brought a nice balance to the group.

I think Adalyn Grace packed a lot of punches in the beginning of the book that I wasn’t expecting, including Bastian, who he was, and why he was there, so it was really exciting! She didn’t save every twist until the very end and I was really happy to see some things to help kick off the book. The pacing was pretty consistent throughout the book but there was a point in the middle where I had to put the book down (just because of reading time) and I wasn’t able to come back for a week and then…. I just a hit a stall in interest. Things didn’t quite pick up again like I had hoped and there were moments when I found Amora more irritating while she was discovering some of the politics of her world. It just started to hit a point where everything felt a little more tropey and I was sad that it lost that magical spark for me.

The magic system and world building were pretty cool but I also felt like they could have been developed a liiiiittle bit more for me to really latch onto them. It still felt like a lot about the magic was thrown in at the beginning, which I guess you kind of need in order to understand some parts of the world, but I almost wanted to discover it a little more slowly because some parts of the magic and world-building felt like a bit of an info dump. There’s a bit of a journey in the middle and there are some pieces of some of the magics that are explored but there’s not really a reason why or how or how much. Magic doesn’t always need a why because sometimes that’s just a part of what the world is, but I felt like I needed just a bit more than “everyone has magic and here’s what they can do”. I felt like if we went one layer deeper, I would have really appreciated the world more.

I’m a little bummed because I really did love the beginning so much and I was talking it up, but I just really lost interest towards the end and just wanted to be done reading it. It wasn’t bad at all but I felt like it started off as something special and different and then it just fell into the pattern of the average YA fantasy novel. I’m sure others will really enjoy it but it just fell a little flat to me towards the end.

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Pirates. So I don’t always care about pirate books but I WANT to care. The pirate part was kind of major, kind of minor, but it worked SO WELL.
Left Me Wanting More: World/magic depth. There are secrets about the magic, we know, but I just wanted a little bit more world-building and magic depth. I would have rather spent a few more pages working on those elements to really secure a world instead of some of the fluffy descriptions of towns or appearances.

Addiction Rating
Try it

I bet a lot of people will really love this one. I enjoyed it so much in the beginning but I’m left a little sad that it kind of turned for me towards the end. I just felt like the beginning was so different and towards the middle, it fell into typical YA plotting.

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BOOKS LIKE ALL THE STARS AND TEETH

             

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #1) – Holly Jackson

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #1) – Holly JacksonTitle: A Good Girl's Guide to Murder (A Good Girl's Guide to Murder #1) by Holly Jackson
Publishing Info: February 4, 2020 by Random House Publishing Group, Delacourte Press
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: January 30, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

For readers of Kara Thomas and Karen McManus, an addictive, twisty crime thriller with shades of Serial and Making a Murderer about a closed local murder case that doesn't add up, and a girl who's determined to find the real killer--but not everyone wants her meddling in the past.

Everyone in Fairview knows the story.

Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.

But she can't shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?

Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn't want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.

This is the story of an investigation turned obsession, full of twists and turns and with an ending you'll never expect.

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This was such an interesting read and great fun with added interview portions! The audiobook had a full cast that jumped in to be characters that were being interviewed, so that was a neat addition for the audiobook versus reading the print copy. I’m always big into audiobooks but that was also something that really set the reading experience apart and made the audiobook a unique experience!

I’m always nervous when I read YA mystery/thrillers because there has to be a valid reason why the teens wouldn’t work with adults or cops. In this book, it’s Pip’s capstone project to solve a murder. Well, really it’s supposed to be social media’s influence on investigations, but she uses that as a reason to investigate the murder of a teenager five years ago, wanting to prove that the accused murderer was actually innocent. Things went really smoothly (well, they went horribly wrong but the plotting was smooth) as far as this being a conceivable story. There were only a couple moments where I got annoyed with Pip for one of those dumb reasons that she felt like she couldn’t talk to someone else, but that was about it!

I was also really impressed that this book constantly kept me guessing. Pip gets a great deal of answers throughout the book so the reader still feels like they’re constantly solving the mystery. One question leads to another, but then we get an answer and a different question. Holly Jackson did a great job at keeping the pacing consistent and moving forward. Lots of doors are opened to the things that were hidden years ago and Pip slowly uncovers mystery after mystery. We finally get the answer in the end and THEN we get even more answers. I just felt like the book was really well-written and very carefully executed!

In checking out more details on the book, it looks like it got picked up to be a pretty big series (Goodreads it showing four books so far) and I am totally here for it! I wonder if they’re going to be related, companions, or totally unrelated. No matter what it is, I’m looking forward to more mystery investigations from Holly Jackson!

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Kept Me Hooked On: YA mystery/thrillers. I love when I get a good thriller and it’s even better when I’m pleasantly surprised! I always hope to enjoy what I read and I really just loved the pacing of this.
Left Me Wanting More: Laughs? I don’t know why but I thought this was going to be campy, probably from the title. I’m almost glad that it turned out not to be what I was expecting because I’m glad that it wasn’t silly but I am always craving some dark comedy like that.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I really, really enjoyed this one. Sometimes I have a hard time with YA mystery/thrillers and everyone having valid reasons why they need to take investigations in their own hands. Holly Jackson made me throw those questions out the window and just enjoy reading without thinking about any of that stuff!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER

             

A Heart So Fierce and Broken (Cursebreakers #2) – Brigid Kemmerer

A Heart So Fierce and Broken (Cursebreakers #2) – Brigid KemmererTitle: A Heart So Fierce and Broken (Cursebreakers #2) by Brigid Kemmerer
Publishing Info: January 7, 2020 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Source: Amazon
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: January 21, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Find the heir, win the crown.

The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.

Win the crown, save the kingdom.

Rumored to be the heir, Grey has been on the run since he destroyed Lilith. He has no desire to challenge Rhen--until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?

The heart-pounding, compulsively readable saga continues as loyalties are tested and new love blooms in a kingdom on the brink of war.

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I seem to be in the minority having not really enjoyed this one as much as I had hoped. A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY was one of my favorite books of 2019 and I didn’t feel the excitement and the pull as much as I did reading the first book.

So A HEART SO FIERCE AND BROKEN is split up into two POVs like ACSDAL, except this time it’s two total different characters. We see Grey and new face, Lia Mara, daughter of the queen of Syhl Shallow. I think part of the reason I didn’t enjoy this book as much was because I really enjoyed the different voices of Rhen and Harper with Harper having modern speech and Rhen being more antiquated to simulate the more regal tone often adopted with high fantasy locations. I really enjoyed the contrasting narratives and the difference between the two also brought some levity to the book since Harper had to learn about Rhen’s world and Rhen had to understand things that Harper said that made no sense away from the “real world”. I really wanted more of that contrasting narrative from someone from Earth/the US and someone from Emberfall and I think that had really added a lot of character to the story that I was missing here.

I seemed to love Grey more as a side character than from his actual POV. He’s easy to empathize with but I liked the mystery of him more, I think, and I really liked seeing him through Harper’s eyes. His own POV just didn’t appeal to me as much and I was more bored than intrigued. Lia Mara was a nice new addition but I really would have liked to see her (did we see her in the first book?) or at least remember her so she was already an established character. Really what I would have liked to see would have been a handful of Rhen/Harper chapters to keep their story moving forward. I really, really missed them in this book and it didn’t feel the same without them. I felt like Harper’s voice was weaker seeing it from someone else’s POV and Rhen was essentially villainized and I don’t want another ACOTAR situation here, because that’s exactly what it felt like.

There is a twist at the end, but to be honest, I didn’t care for it. It’s tired and it’s been done and I would have much rather seen Rhen and Grey duke it out with other factors holding them back instead of …. this. I don’t want to spoil anything but it’s not where I was hoping this would go at all and I’m really not thrilled about it. I am hoping we get to see all four POVs, maybe, in the last book. (Is it the last?)

I really think this could have been a two-book series (which is what I thought it would be), cutting out a lot of traveling (you know how much I hate and get bored by journeys in books) and cutting down a lot of the random stops along the way from Emberfall to Syhl Shallow and back again. I just didn’t love the structure, I didn’t love the POVs, and I didn’t love the ending, so this was more of a disappointment to me. I really wasn’t engaged while reading and it was fine but I won’t be raving about it any time soon.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Grey. I loved Grey in the first book and I did still enjoy his character here, but I also felt like it wasn’t quite as interesting.
Left Me Wanting More: Consistency. There was just too much that was disconnected from the first book. I missed Rhen and Harper. I missed the connection to DC and the modern world.

Addiction Rating
Read it

I’d say it’s still worth the read but book three has a lot of work to do, in my opinion. I’m curious to see what will happen next!

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BOOKS LIKE A HEART SO FIERCE AND BROKEN

             

In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children #4) – Seanan McGuire

In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children #4) – Seanan McGuireTitle: In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children #4) by Seanan McGuire
Publishing Info: January 8, 2019 by Macmillan, Tor Books
Source: Scribd
Genres: Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Date Completed: January 29, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

This fourth entry and prequel tells the story of Lundy, a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she's found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.

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While I enjoyed IN AN ABSENT DREAM, I sort of felt like this prequel should maybe not have been the fourth book in the series. I didn’t mind that it was out of order chronologically but I felt more disconnected from Lundy after the last couple books (to be honest, I binge read the first three so I can’t remember which was she prominent in) and I would have liked to see her story earlier.

I liked how, unlike other children who had found doors, Lundy had family history with her door and the Goblin Market and how she was able to go there and back until ultimately the door was shut on her as well. It was also more interesting because she had some ties to the “real world” that she didn’t want to give up and felt an equal pull towards this new one. A lot of the other characters felt 100% better in their new worlds whereas Lundy’s sister gave her quite the reason to stay.

I really liked the feel of the world and the other characters. This felt like one of the lesser-developed portals compared to the other stories, possibly because Lundy kept going back and forth between the two. I would have like to spend more time there discovering more about the rules, spending time with some of the quests and tribulations instead of them being things that were just referenced.

This wasn’t my favorite story but it was still rather enjoyable. I know each story really does go back and it’s out of sequence chronologically speaking, but I almost wish there would have been one more story back and the school first and then heading back out to get more backstories of the other children at the school. I think I needed one more element to tie things back together, possibly.

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Kept Me Hooked On: The many worlds of this series. It’s always so interesting to see what each person’s different world is! I really love exploring each one and seeing the creativity behind them all.
Left Me Wanting More: Character connection. I just felt al little distant from Lundy in this book. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it was earlier in the series.

Addiction Rating
Read it

I’ve really been enjoying this series! Plus they’re super quick reads and really fun on audio!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE IN AN ABSENT DREAM

             

The Mortal Coil (This Mortal Coil #1) – Emily Suvada

The Mortal Coil (This Mortal Coil #1) – Emily SuvadaTitle: This Mortal Coil (This Mortal Coil #1) by Emily Suvada
Publishing Info: November 7, 2017 by Simon & Schuster, Simon Pulse
Source: Scribd
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopian
Date Completed: January 15, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

When a lone soldier, Cole, arrives with news of Lachlan Agatta's death, all hope seems lost for Catarina. Her father was the world's leading geneticist, and humanity's best hope of beating a devastating virus. Then, hidden beneath Cole's genehacked enhancements she finds a message of hope: Lachlan created a vaccine.

Only she can find and decrypt it, if she can unravel the clues he left for her. The closer she gets, the more she finds herself at risk from Cartaxus, a shadowy organization with a stranglehold on the world's genetic tech. But it's too late to turn back.

There are three billion lives at stake, two people who can save them, and one final secret that Cat must unlock. A secret that will change everything.

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I read this book based off of some glowing reviews from Instagram friends, usually people whose tastes I align with, but THIS MORTAL COIL fell a little flat for me.

I’ve been really into sci-fi lately but I notice a trend with my sci-fi: I’ve been enjoying books involving space or time travel/alternate universes. Sci-fi books with other themes need just a bit more to hold my attention and THIS MORTAL COIL had a little bit of a wow factor but it also lost me in some places.

The big buzz about this book was the series of plot twists, some bigger than others. I was really impressed with the biggest twist, which I didn’t see coming until it was already on top of us. It was a really neat concept and well-executed! I liked that the book as well as the twist had a little something different — a step outside of some of the overused plots. Emily Suvada brought some elements to this book that were unique and creative, and I always love being surprised!

Where I wasn’t as thrilled was the characters. This is a problem I seem to have with a lot of dystopian-type settings. Everything is so life-or-death that everyone is so serious all the time and all of the characters fall a little flat, lacking some of the better depth that I’ve connected with in other books. Aside from being serious and determined, I didn’t really feel a lot from any of the characters. I love banter and just about every group has some sort of comic relief and I just hoped for more of a witty character or someone who lightened things up every once in a while. I can’t count on a romance bringing lightness to a book. I guess it works in some situations and for some readers, but I’d love to see more well-rounded personalities from everyone.

While the ending of the book was interesting, I’m not sure I want to continue the series. The characters just didn’t do it for me and it made me not as interested in their stories, despite the captivating plot. Unrelated, the audiobook narrator was…. weird. She had some mispronunciations for some super common words and it was just plain bizarre that no one corrected her or fixed it. When you pronounce “vaccine” oddly (emphasis on the first syllable), don’t know how to say “capillaries”, and don’t know how to pronounce “saline”… it just really threw me off it was just weird. (Maybe people do pronounce these differently? I’ve never heard it though.)

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Kept Me Hooked On: Interesting sci-fi concepts. I was definitely interested by the plot and there were some good twists and clever concepts here.
Left Me Wanting More: Character connection. The characters were mostly blah to me. It was too dystopian/fast-paced and not enough time developing the actual characters for me.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

I personally won’t be continuing the series and didn’t really connect with this one, but so many people absolutely loved it! I’d say check out some other reviews or just give it a try! It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great enough for me to really want to continue.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THIS MORTAL COIL

             

Scream All Night – Derek Milman

Scream All Night – Derek MilmanTitle: Scream All Night by Derek Milman
Publishing Info: July 24, 2018 by HarperCollins, Balzer + Bray
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction
Date Completed: January 4, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

A darkly hilarious contemporary realistic young adult novel about growing up and finding your place in the world, perfect for fans of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Running With Scissors.

Dario Heyward knows one thing: He’s never going back to Moldavia Studios, the iconic castle that served as the set, studio, and home to the cast and crew of dozens of cult classic B-horror movies. It’s been three years since Dario’s even seen the place, after getting legally emancipated from his father, the infamous director of Moldavia’s creature features.

But then Dario’s brother invites him home to a mysterious ceremony involving his father and a tribute to his first film—The Curse of the Mummy’s Tongue. Dario swears his homecoming will be a one-time visit. A way for him to get closure on his past—and reunite with Hayley, his first love and costar of Zombie Children of the Harvest Sun, a production fraught with real-life tragedy—and say good-bye for good. But the unthinkable happens—Dario gets sucked back into the twisted world of Moldavia and the horrors, both real and imagined, he’s left there.

With only months to rescue the sinking studio and everyone who has built their lives there, Dario must confront the demons of his past—and the uncertainties of his future. But can he escape the place that’s haunted him his whole life?

bookreview1

SCREAM ALL NIGHT was an enjoyable book! I’ve been loving books with dark humor like UNDEAD GIRL GANG and KILL THE BOY BAND and SCREAM ALL NIGHT seemed like the perfect recommendation for those books so I knew I wanted to give it a shot!

The beginning of the book started off with a bang (quite literally, actually. No pun intended, but well-fitting). Instantly there was some dark comedy, a wacky family, and some laugh-out-loud moments and I knew I would love this book! Then it kind of dissipated as the book went along and those laugh-out-loud moments were fewer and fewer. It wasn’t in a bad way, but the book got a little more serious than I had anticipated and overall, I had found myself wishing for a bit more hijinks and wacky, weird comedy. Dario’s brother was just a bit too weird sometimes and it lost some of that humor for me whereas other characters could have brought more of that comedy to the scene and didn’t. I mean, these were merely my anticipations of the book so I’m not critiquing that it should have been there, just that it was what I was hoping for. I think I was just hoping for more zany weird and sarcastic weird instead of “this guy may actually be delusional” weird.

The plot was actually interesting and had a great message, really coming together nicely in the end. Dario’s family is quite complicated and abusive (both physically and psychologically) so throughout the book, there’s a constant question of whether he’ll stick with the family that he had emancipated himself from now that his father is gone or continue to venture out on his own in the world. There are a lot of different layers of these familial relationships and I really appreciated how Derek Milman handled everything! It wasn’t just a mean parent or a jealous sibling, etc etc. There were a lot of different moving pieces that caused Dario’s family to fall apart as it did, or rather, converge on him in a sort of attack.

The horror movie aspect of the book was so much fun and I love how it played into everything! It wasn’t just that the family ran a horror production company — the business and movies themselves played big parts in everyone’s lives in different ways and it truly shaped the book and the characters. I loved that it sort of played its own role in the book and was used as a way for the characters to communicate with one another. Sometimes the movies made spoke words that the characters couldn’t. Other times the movies were used to heal. Sometimes the movies were moments of reaching out. It was really neat and very well-written how everything really did tie together.

I think I was just expecting to be a little more connected and didn’t anticipate the middle of the book to be so serious — I was just anticipating a lot more of that comedy and an actual light feel for the whole book and the book just wasn’t meant to be an LOL-fest the whole time. I did enjoy my read of SCREAM ALL NIGHT and it was a good book for me. I had a hard time knowing what I wanted to start for my first book of the year and I started and stopped a couple that just weren’t feeling right. This was the first book I started and wanted to finish and I’m definitely glad I read it!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Unique realistic fiction stories. This wasn’t one I probably would have picked up on my own (I picked it up as a rec!) and it was really neat reading something like this!
Left Me Wanting More: Laughs. It wasn’t that the book needed more comedy, it’s just that it’s what I was expecting for some reason. I think I personally would have enjoyed it more if it was a constant riot of funny, but that was my personal expectation.

Addiction Rating
Add it to your TBR!

It’s definitely worth checking out and was a fun and also lovely read. I liked seeing this unique family and a different perspective that I don’t normally read.

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BOOKS LIKE SCREAM ALL NIGHT

             

An Unwanted Guest – Shari Lapena

An Unwanted Guest – Shari LapenaTitle: An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena
Publishing Info: August 7, 2018 by Penguin Random House
Source: ALAAC18
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: December 30, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

A remote lodge in upstate New York is the perfect getaway. . . until the bodies start piling up.It's winter in the Catskills and the weather outside is frightful. But Mitchell's Inn is so delightful! The cozy lodge nestled deep in the woods is perfect for a relaxing--maybe even romantic--weekend away. The Inn boasts spacious old rooms with huge wood-burning fireplaces, a well-stocked wine cellar, and opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or just curling up with a book and someone you love. So when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity--and all contact with the outside world--the guests settle in for the long haul. The power's down but they've got candles, blankets, and wood--a genuine rustic experience! Soon, though, a body turns up--surely an accident. When a second body appears, they start to panic. Then they find a third body. Within the snowed-in paradise, something--or someone--is picking off the guests one by one. They can't leave, and with no cell service, there's no prospect of getting the police in until the weather loosens its icy grip. The weekend getaway has turned deadly. For some couples, it's their first time away. For others, it will be their last. And there's nothing they can do about it but huddle down and hope they can survive the storm.

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This was such an interesting read! I always love reading mysteries or thrillers where I’m not quite sure what’s going on. Shari Lapena did a great job at not revealing too much suspicion too early, and then once it started to arise, to cast it around really evenly to put a lot of doubt on the pages, never being too sure who to trust. At one point, I had no idea who was the murderer so I started to form all kinds of hair-brained ideas extending to psychological “everyone is the murderer” tropes that get played out so often. The ending was surprising and satisfying!

I also really loved this wintery setting. A snow storm was the perfect way to lock the guests of this hotel in, adding in the loss of power, unable to leave or maintain footprints because of the ice, and the antique nature of the hotel lending even less technology or modern conveniences, preventing the suspects from getting answers too easily. I also waited to read this book in the winter so it made it even more atmospheric (even though there wasn’t a lot of snow on the ground when I read it).

I feel like the narration could have been a bit smoother and it took me out of the novel just a little bit. Some of it felt forced and choppy (I sometimes have trouble when authors don’t use contractions in order to keep the narration formal when it just doesn’t seem natural) so that was really the only thing I didn’t connect with throughout the book.

It was quite a solid read with a good mystery and I really enjoyed it! I’m definitely interested in picking up more from Shari Lapena in the future and already have a few other titles from her earmarked!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Single location thrillers. I loved that this all took place in a little off-the-grid hotel. It’s fun to see the ways that authors have to eliminate technology like this in order to keep everyone in the same place and unable to phone for help. I love everyone stuck together to hash out the mystery!
Left Me Wanting More: Smoothness. There were a couple spots that felt a little forced and choppy. With a couple more smooth transitions, this would have been even better, but I still enjoyed it quite a lot!

Addiction Rating
Read it

I really liked this one! I love when I read a thriller and I’m already looking forward to more from the author.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE AN UNWANTED GUEST

             

One of Us Is Lying (One of Us is Lying #1) – Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying (One of Us is Lying #1) – Karen M. McManusTitle: One of Us is Lying (One of Us is Lying #1) by Karen M. McManus
Publishing Info: May 30, 2017 by Delacourte Press
Source: Scribd
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: December 27, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High's notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn't an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he'd planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who's still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

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I feel like there was a TON of hype surrounding this book was it was first coming out in 2017. I’ve been sitting on this review for a while (really just because of time, not for any special reason) and the more I look back on, the less I feel about it. I don’t really get the hype and excitement over it and it makes me sad that another young adult mystery book that felt over simplified when it came to the characters and disconnected in order to preserve the mystery of “whodunnit”. The book was still an enjoyable read in a lot of ways, but didn’t quite grab or thrill me. It was complicated because the whole time, I felt like it couldn’t be the four main narrators and yet the book made you feel like it was one of them. The conclusion was surprising and yet made sense all at the same time.

I did like the character relationships and how they came together in this time of accusation. They really started to find themselves when they were put in the spotlight, the worst of everything and everyone exposed. Not everything was pretty but I also felt like the author did a great job at portraying the relationships of high school students (including familial relationships) without it feeling overly dramatic or hyperbolic. Every relationship really did feel real and accurate for the drama of the teenage years.

I wished I had felt a little more connected somehow because looking back, I just really don’t feel connected to this book at all. My initial reactions were that it was entertaining and enjoyable albeit a bit lacking in some ways, but now I just feel like I was disappointed by it. While initial reactions are definitely important, I also think it’s critical to see how you feel about a book after time has gone by. I don’t have the desire to pick up the next book in this series after sitting on this for a while. addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Close-quarters thrillers. I liked that this was a “Breakfast Club” type feel with a lot of the kids spending time together at school or together to make things interesting!
Left Me Wanting More: Depth. When I first read it, I remembered it being pretty enjoyable. Looking back, I feel like there wasn’t a whole lot there and I wish there was a lot more depth there. The ending was surprising still but I can’t help but feel like I’m a little let down now.

Addiction Rating
Try it

If you’re not a mystery/thriller reader, maybe you’ll enjoy this one more. I feel like I’ve already read so many thrillers, most of which are adult thrillers, and they just have a different feel.

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BOOKS LIKE ONE OF US IS LYING

             

The Starless Sea – Erin Morgenstern

The Starless Sea – Erin MorgensternTitle: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Publishing Info: November 5, 2019 by Penguin Random House, Doubleday Books
Source: Amazon
Genres: Adult, Magical Realism, Fantasy
Date Completed: September 2, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: The Night Circus, The Night Circus

Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is.

A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade party dances and whispered back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for. Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction. As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and each other, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea.

bookreview1

THE NIGHT CIRCUS is one of my favorite books and I’ve been waiting so long for a new Erin Morgenstern book that I was SO NERVOUS for THE STARLESS SEA! I also have a tendency to hype myself up and sometimes overhype myself for some of my favorite books so it was quite the effort to let myself get immersed in the book and not get ahead of myself! Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about because Morgenstern’s master prose easily wrapped me inside of the pages of this book and I was instantly swept away.

THE STARLESS SEA is basically a love story to books, reading, writing, and anything literary. There are so many amazing quotes about books and literature here that it was easy for me to love on so many different levels, but it wasn’t just about the characters being book lovers. The concept of stories made up this book on a magical level, adding fantastical elements to storytelling in the real world. It’s really kind of impossible to describe but Morgernstern once again nails that dreamy element of magical realism that lets you peek behind the curtain into the magical undercurrent of the normal world. It’s truly mesmerizing and it was such an incredible thing to read.

There’s quite an array of characters in the book, all of which were lovable, really. All of them have their flaws but I absolutely loved following the story of main character Zachary Rawlins. He sort of reminded me of a Quentin-type character (from The Magicians) except not quite as tragic and not quite as… erm… whiny, I guess (sorry, Q. It’s a common complaint). He’s a book-lover, has a studious mind, is a little more reserved, and just has something about him that reminded me of Quentin, which is funny considering I read later on that Erin Morgenstern actually kind of borrowed the concept of the bee-key-sword combination from Lev Grossman and The Magicians!

It’s kind of funny how THE STARLESS SEA seems to leave me wordless and tongue-tied when it’s so beautifully written but it’s slightly indescribable and so hard to review! I think the beauty of the book speaks for itself. I loved the stories within the story that linked back to different stories that represented things in real life which were also magical. (See? Impossible.) Everything just folded back in on itself and connected so perfectly and it was a truly wonderful read.

 

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Bookish magic. Can it really get much better than magic inspired by and revolving around books and stories? I don’t know if it can.
Left Me Wanting More: Time with the ending. There is a point in magical realism books where I have a hard time merging the fantasy and reality and that point in THE STARLESS SEA really came towards the end for me. I just wanted a biiiiit more time to spend with some of the magical elements to really feel grounded with them and know that this was real.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I know that this book isn’t for everyone BUT if you enjoy magical realism or think you might get along with this book, I do highly recommend it! The writing is definitely more etherial.

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BOOKS LIKE THE STARLESS SEA