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Series Review: Jackaby (#1-3) by William Ritter

Well, I had the best intentions of binge-reading this series but alas. I found out that it was actually a four-book series and not a trilogy, so today’s series review will have to be for the first three books and then when the fourth one comes out, that’ll be on its own.

SERIES REVIEW: JACKABY, BEASTLY BONES, GHOSTLY ECHOES

Reviews for each book/the series are a whole are generally spoiler-free for any major occurrences or twists but may contain info about plot points so I can properly discuss the plot. 

Series Review: Jackaby (#1-3) by William RitterTitle: Jackaby (Jackaby #1) by William Ritter
Publishing Info: September 16, 2014 by Algonquin
Source: Borrowed from Hoopla
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, Paranormal
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: January 1, 2017

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary--including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police--with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane--deny.
Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

I wasn’t totally sure what JACKABY was all about but I was excited to start it! I actually hadn’t known that it involved paranormal elements so that was an interesting surprise when I started reading! (Yes, yes, I know that’s what the whole series is about and it’s plain as day in the book descriptions but you know me and going in totally blind.) I actually thought JACKABY was straight historical fiction, like a YA Sherlock Holmes. I was also interested to find out that Jackaby himself wasn’t a young adult, and I thought that was great to have an adult character as a main part of the book since so many YA books skip around older figures and stick with the teens. It brought an interesting dynamic and mix and also allowed Abigail to get involved in so many things that she may not normally have had access to. That’s always my thing with YA mysteries — a big question that always has to be addressed is why a teen wouldn’t go to an adult with a murder-mystery case and in JACKABY, Abigail is working for paranormal detective R.F. Jackaby.

I also figured that there would be a romance between Jackaby (this was before I knew how much older he was) and Abigail and I’m really glad that there wasn’t! It was nice to see the romance built with Abigail and more of a secondary character and that it was a side plot and not a main focus of the book. The quirky mysteries still took the spotlight and there wasn’t any mixing of work and romance. I actually didn’t really care for the romance, though. I thought it wasn’t very developed in the first book, which it didn’t have to be developed right away, but for some reason it felt fast and forced for me.

JACKABY wasn’t a perfect book but it was really enjoyable! Things kind of piled on with the paranormal but it was fun and not overwhelming as some books tend to feel when dealing with so many different para-creatures.

Series Review: Jackaby (#1-3) by William RitterTitle: Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2) by William Ritter
Publishing Info: September 22, 2015 by Algonquin
Source: Borrowed from Hoopla
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: January 21, 2017

In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, R. F. Jackaby, are called upon to investigate the supernatural. First, members of a particularly vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens. A day later, their owner is found murdered, with a single mysterious puncture wound to her neck. Then, in nearby Gad's Valley, dinosaur bones from a recent dig go missing, and an unidentifiable beast attacks animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Policeman Charlie Cane, exiled from New Fiddleham to the valley, calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

I started BEASTLY BONES right after I finished JACKABY because the first book was just so enjoyable and a breeze to read! I thought BEASTLY BONES stepped it up even more and that William Ritter’s writing really improved, not that I thought JACKABY was lacking, but it felt more mature and more put-together.

I loved the fantastical element in this book and I won’t give it away because it was a super fun reveal for me but it was a creature that I was so excited to see, and even that had a turn of its own. The characters handle the situation adeptly, as always, and the mystery was a hoot!

One thing I actually didn’t like was the appearance of some secondary characters that were immediately eliminated in this book. They had such a heavy focus in BEASTLY BONES and it kind of felt like a waste to get to know them for such a short time only to never see them again. There was also a bit of repetition of terms and words in this book that I started to notice a lot (I didn’t need to read “indomitable” 20 times) so that was a little frustrating but I thought the mystery was even more exciting than the first book and it took a different turn as well!

Series Review: Jackaby (#1-3) by William RitterTitle: Ghostly Echoes (Jackaby #3) by William Ritter
Publishing Info: August 23, 2016 by Algonquin
Source: Borrowed from Hoopla
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, Paranormal
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: January 25, 2017

Jenny Cavanaugh, the ghostly lady of 926 Augur Lane, has enlisted the investigative services of her fellow residents to solve a decade-old murder—her own. Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, Detective R. F. Jackaby, dive into the cold case, starting with a search for Jenny’s fiancé, who went missing the night she died. But when a new, gruesome murder closely mirrors the events of ten years prior, Abigail and Jackaby realize that Jenny’s case isn’t so cold after all, and her killer may be far more dangerous than they suspected.
Fantasy and folklore mix with mad science as Abigail’s race to unravel the mystery leads her across the cold cobblestones of nineteenth-century New England, down to the mythical underworld, and deep into her colleagues’ grim histories to battle the most deadly foe she has ever faced.

GHOSTLY ECHOES was a bit different all together with one of the main characters being involved in the mystery instead of someone from the outside. I really loved how much more personal the mystery became — to Jackaby and Abigail as well as the reader — and where the whole series went! Things really escalated in this book and I really appreciated how so many things came full circle here.

The friendships in this book were stepped up even more and I love how much tighter this group got! The different elements in this mystery were also top notch and I think this was my favorite book of the series!

SERIES THOUGHTS

 

This series is fun, easy to read, and seems to be getting better with each book! I still am missing that big “wow” factor that would shoot it up to five stars but these are all so solid and really entertaining.

I think William Ritter does a great job bringing all of the plot together, especially in GHOSTLY ECHOES, and it was also nice to have an overall plot but mysteries that were solved at the end of each book so I didn’t have to jump back into a world where I forgot everything that had happened, as with so many series. (Although I did binge read these so that wasn’t a huge issue anyway.)

I do feel like I could do without Abigail’s romance. I personally have never connected to it and it still feels forced to me. I actually feel like Abigail would be a stronger character without it, or she needs a more spirited companion. She’s so spunky and I would love to see her banter with someone instead of becoming softer and more gentle, although I guess she does have a different sort of banter with Jackaby. Still, I love that romantic banter and teasing.

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Addiction Rating
Read them!

This is a really solid series and each book seems to get better! The paranormal and fantasy aspects are so much fun and the two main characters (Jackaby and Abigail) are really solid.

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BOOKS LIKE JACKABY

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

Blog Tour: The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles | Guest Post on Instalove

Welcome to the blog tour for
The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles!

I’m so excited to share today’s blog post which is my blog tour stop for THE EDGE OF EVERYTHING by Jeff Giles! I was so honored to read the book early and provide a blurb for the ARC, thanks to Bloomsbury Kids, and then to meet Jeff Giles at BEA and be able to say hello. Now I’m a part of the blog tour and it’s been so great being so involved with this book!

For today’s post, Jeff Giles is talking a little bit about instalove. As with some books where two worlds collide, instalove happens. Heck, instalove just happens in real life. When I first saw the topics for guest posts for the blog tour, I instantly latched onto this one because I feel the same way! I even had a post that defended instalove because not all instalove is unrealistic. Today’s post has a full discussion from Jeff and I just love it!

Before we jump into the tour, let’s take a second to check out some details about the book:

Blog Tour: The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles | Guest Post on InstaloveTitle: The Edge of Everything (The Edge of Everything #1) by Jeff Giles
Publishing Info: January 31, 2017 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Source: BEA 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Paranormal, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: March 27, 2016
Related Posts: The Edge of Everything

It's been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who's still reeling from her father's shockingly sudden death in a caving accident and her neighbors' mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying sub-zero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in a cabin in the woods--only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.
X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe's evil attacker and others like him. Forbidden to reveal himself to anyone other than his victims, X casts aside the Lowlands' rules for Zoe. As X and Zoe learn more about their different worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future. But escaping the Lowlands and the ties that bind X might mean the ultimate sacrifice for both of them.

“INSTALOVE ACTUALLY”
by Jeff Giles

When you’ve got a novel about to come out, you spend a lot of time reading reviews of other people’s books as a sort of dress rehearsal for reading your own.

I love the intensity of opinion among readers, whether it’s positive, negative or sideways. For some reason, I especially love the continuing debate about instalove, so I thought I’d share the thoughts that have been piling up in my head.

When I was younger, instalove was called “love at first sight”—and nobody ever questioned it. People generally liked the idea that, at any moment, they could turn a corner, accidentally spill coffee on someone, and proceed directly to Happily Ever After. The trope was no more realistic then than it is now, but it made every second of every day feel like a lottery ticket that could pay off big.

These days, a lot of readers DNF novels like that, of course. That may be because young people are savvier now. They know, from the internet, that some people lie about/disguise who they are every day.

For the record, I think it’s a good thing to be careful about falling in love and to expect novels to be subtle and realistic. I’m not in love with instalove in any way—but I want to say a few things in its defense, because I think it get a bad rap sometimes. Not always, but sometimes. So let’s pretend that I’m instalove’s court-appointed lawyer and I have to defend it, because it’s my job. Okay?

Here we go.

1. Sometimes people DO fall in love instantly.

It happens, even if it doesn’t happen a lot. One of the gifts, and curses, of being young is that you feel things with an almost supernatural intensity. Juliet was 13. Romeo was a couple years older.

But people of all ages can fall in love fast. It may be because they’re at a transitional point in their lives and especially open to possibility. It may be because they’re vulnerable after a loss or a trauma. It may be because they’re stranded in the Artic during a scientific expedition and the generator’s dying and the helicopter’s not coming after all and they have to huddle for warmth. But it does happen.

2. Not every character who THINKS they’re in love is ACTUALLY in love.

People lie to themselves sometimes. We ALL know people like this. They want to be in love so much that they rush in, in clear violation of the famous Elvis song about how only fools rush in. A lot of times instalove is just insta-lust in disguise, obviously. If you see a character whose eyes turn into heart emojis within three pages, the author may setting him or her up for a fall.  

3. If a novel (or a movie) is good enough, it will make you forget that you hate instalove.

The Titanic sank within four days. Four! That’s how long Jack and Rose had to fall in love. Yes, it helps that Jack selflessly gave his life even when there was definitely enough room for him on that floating door.

4. People are more likely to fall in love fast if someone (parents, say) or something (an iceberg, maybe) are trying to keep them apart.

That happens constantly in books and movies, right? It happens in real life, too. None of us want to be told who to love. None of us want to give up because there’s a war coming, or a dystopian government has outlawed love.

5. Even bad instalove is better than that thing where two people meet and hate each other’s guts before realizing they’re soul mates.

I can’t stand that. Give me anything else. Just because you detest someone does not mean you should marry them!

6. If a character is going through tragic stuff, as many YA characters are, an author may just really want to give them a partner for the journey.

It’s not a great excuse, I know. But authors are protective of their characters, and they often want someone to stand by their MC every second and say, “I love you. You can do this.” Yes, that person could be a friend or a sibling or a sentient robot, but sometimes you really just want to give your character someone to kiss.


Don’t miss the rest of the blog tour stops for THE EDGE OF EVERYTHING!

GIVEAWAY

There’s also a giveaway as a part of the tour for one copy of the book + keepsake metal bookmark! This giveaway is open to US/Canada only. Enter the Rafflecopter form below for your chance to win!

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The Edge of Everything – Jeff Giles

The Edge of Everything – Jeff GilesTitle: The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles
Publishing Info: January 31, 2017 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: March 27, 2016

It's been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who's still reeling from her father's shockingly sudden death in a caving accident and her neighbors' mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying sub-zero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in a cabin in the woods--only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.
X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe's evil attacker and others like him. Forbidden to reveal himself to anyone other than his victims, X casts aside the Lowlands' rules for Zoe. As X and Zoe learn more about their different worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future. But escaping the Lowlands and the ties that bind X might mean the ultimate sacrifice for both of them.

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I was fortunate enough to read THE EDGE OF EVERYTHING incredibly early when Bloomsbury asked me to include a blurb for the ARC! (Eee!) it’s a weird thing to sit on a review for half a year but I knew I had to write some things down after reading, otherwise I’d never be able to form coherent thoughts when reviewing!

THE EDGE OF EVERYTHING was a really unique novel for me. If you’re looking for a feel, I’d thrown out EVERNEATH by Brodi Ashton (the Underworld aspect) meets DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor (the forbidden romance). THE EDGE OF EVERYTHING is about Zoe, the quirky yet girl-next-door type who meets a bounty hunter from hell —  literally. When Zoe meets X, her entire world is turned upside down in so many ways and it was incredibly interesting to see the ways that she and her family were affected by X’s appearance.

The book started off a little slow for me, but not in a bad way. X appears on the scene and Zoe can clearly see that he’s not quite human so after the first few chapters, the first half of the book is a lot more character development and set-up before it hits some of that world-building that I love. The delay in action really had me focused on the characters and their clear pull towards each other which was definitely important for some plot points down the road! It was also a bit slower, I think, because the concept took a bit of figuring out. This really wasn’t like many books I’ve read before so I was trying to place it into a genre (Fantasy? Paranormal? Mystery?) and figure out how everything really worked. My advice is to just let the book take you where it will and don’t try to put this one in a box! There are lots of elements at work and things came together really well in the second half of the book!

I was hoping for a bit more world-building regarding the Lowlands earlier on the book but I’m such a sucker for that kind of stuff that I was just dying to know what it was all about. It’s not quite Hell or the Underworld as we “know” it so I was so curious to explore the different rules and regulations, functionality, and why it was so important in Zoe’s story line. There was a lot to explore there and I was curious to investigate this dark side and how it maintained balance in the world. I will admit that I was hoping for a bit more in this book BUT there is still a lot to explore in upcoming novels which I’m pretty excited for!

I didn’t know this was a series when I started since I read it so early but I’m actually really glad it is! Once I really got into the book, I was so curious about really everything and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next! There’s so much more exploring that I want to do and I’m really excited to see where Jeff Giles takes his readers. I see so much potential for even more development and I can’t wait to see where this story goes!

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Paranormal concepts. This was kind of fantasy, kind of paranormal, kind of urban fantasy…? I loved the unique mix and it was such a unique read!
Left Me Wanting More: Developement. I just wanted a BIT more development of the world and romance!

Addiction Rating
Try it!

This was a really interesting and unique read and I think it’s a great selection for fans of Brodi Ashton and Laini Taylor!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE EDGE OF EVERYTHING

(Click the cover to see my review!)

THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING    DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE

How to Hang a Witch – Adriana Mather

How to Hang a Witch – Adriana MatherTitle: How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather
Publishing Info: July 26, 2016 by Random House Publishing Group, Listening Library
Source: ALAMW16
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 2, 2016

It's the Salem Witch Trials meets Mean Girls in a debut novel from one of the descendants of Cotton Mather, where the trials of high school start to feel like a modern day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem’s past.
Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?
If dealing with that weren't enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with The Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it's Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

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** This is a spoiler-free review EXCEPT for the last paragraph about the romance in the book. It’s a very minor spoiler (and some may not even consider it a spoiler) BUT if you don’t wish to know any details, avert your eyes at the end! ** 

I first heard of HOW TO HANG A WITCH at ALA this past January and was instantly attracted to the “Mean Girls meets Salem Witch Trials” pitch. When I saw an audio review copy from Listening Library, I knew I wanted to read it soon and I quickly dove into the audiobook. I was surprised to find out that the author, Adriana Mather, narrates it herself! It was such a fun experience overall and I really enjoyed the entire vibe of the book.

The “Mean Girls meets Salem Witch Trials” pitch is pretty spot on. I was actually reminded a lot of The Craft as far as the Mean Girls aspect went with Sam having several conflicts with The Descendants, a group of classmates who are actual descendants of the families involved in the Salem Witch trials and who may or may not dabble in actual witchcraft. They dress in all black and are generally surly bunch and this totally reminded me of the movie The Craft! (And I loved it.) I also totally picked up a Hocus Pocus vibe with Sam moving to Salem from the city and being the new kid in school. She meets a boy, has a crush, communicates with spirits, and gets involved with witches. Not to mention the whole thing takes place during the fall and I was just totally pining for autumn and Halloweentime! My only regret about reading this book when I did is that it wasn’t fall already! I absolutely loved the overall feel of the book — movie vibes included — and really enjoyed how it was a contemporary take on the witches without being historical fiction or total fantasy world. It had that perfect modern feel that fit so well with the book’s overall tone.

The plot kept me hooked and entertained from start to finish. There were a lot of interesting twists and like your average book, some were predictable and some totally weren’t. I liked that the past played a really strong part in the present and there are so many ways that Sam’s current situation is intertwined with the actual history of the Salem Witch trials. Some twists really surprised me and I had a long-standing theory for a couple things that were happening that turned out to be incorrect, which I actually love because I think it’s great when an author can surprise or mislead me to keep a big reveal for the ending! There were a couple spots that got a little confusing or convoluted with some extra details that didn’t end up playing a part in the book but those details also kept me on the trail of something that turned out to be a red herring and maintained the element of surprise, so I guess that was good in one way!

The really, really neat thing about HOW TO HANG A WITCH is Adriana Mather’s actual, real-life relation to the Mather family of the Salem Witch Trials. She really is a direct descendant and there’s a neat author’s note that I listened to at the end explaining a long and rather important family history in which her ancestors played big roles in some major historical events. I thought it was really neat how she used her own family connection to create this story! Obviously some historical elements were changed to tweaked to accommodate a young adult novel as well as creating into a modern work of fiction, but there are a lot of general concepts and even some specific facts relating to the Salem Witch Trials and the Mather family specifically that are totally true! With Adriana Mather’s narration of the audiobook as well, it was just really neat to see so many specific elements of involvement in the production of her book and it felt like such a personal touch and connection.

(Possible spoiler paragraph) The one thing about the book that I really had a hang-up with was the romance. I was really accepting of everything — witches, ghosts, paranormal activity, a gang of descendants — up until this romance thing took a turn. It started out sweet with Sam and neighbor boy Jaxon slowly starting to develop a little bit of a romance but then Sam’s involvement with Elijah, the ghost that follows her around, starts to become romantic. And then you lost me. I can handle fond feelings for the ghost-boy but Sam wanted to actually start like… dating him. Sweetie. You realize he’s a ghost, right? Sam has the ability to physically interact with him and it’s pretty consistent  but things get weird when you start kissing ghosts of boys who have been dead for hundreds of years. Thankfully, that resolved itself but why throw in a love triangle angle with a ghost? That was my one big turn-off.

HOW TO HANG A WITCH was an overall fun and enjoyable read! I just really dug the whole vibe of the book, from The Craft and Hocus Pocus feel to the contemporary take to the sarcasm and snark, the book really just fit with me! Some readers will probably be anticipating a little more depth because for all of its history, it did still feel on the lighter side but I personally really liked that about it. I really enjoyed the levity while still digging into actual history (with a little bit of creative licensing) and having a book that was easy to breeze through and kept me entertained! I think this is a really fun fall read and should definitely be on your reading lists this autumn if you love reading spooky or seasonal reads before/around Halloween!

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Yes, I used a gif in my status update. Look at those skills! (ha) 

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Sam // Character obsessions: Her father’s health, being a loner, solving mysteries.
Sam was a fun character for me! I loved her sass and snark and with Adriana Mather’s voice narrating the audiobook, she kind of reminded me of the middle sister Mandy in Last Man Standing… Except not dumb haha. (That’s what her voice reminded me of!) I liked how she grew Elijah // Character obsessions: Protecting, watching, seriousness.
I had kind of a love-hate relationship with Elijah. I kind of liked his presence but I also got annoyed by it. I enjoyed how he interacted with Sam but I also really disliked it at times. I’m still on the fence about him but I’m glad things wrapped up the way that they did at the end of the book!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Modern History. I really liked that the history was so involved in a contemporary setting. It was fun to see witches but in a contemporary fashion and still have that Salem Witch Trials connection!
Left Me Wanting More: Platonic relationships. The romance aspects of the book felt a little forced. I think this is a book that could have done really well with little or zero romance at all! Instead there was a little too much and things got a bit carried away.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

This was just a really fun book from start to finish. If you’re into The Craft or Hocus Pocus, I totally recommend it because I had friends who picked up on those vibes as well! It’s a fun fall read and one I’ll be recommending come Halloweentime!

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BOOKS LIKE HOW TO HANG A WITCH

(Click the cover to see my review!)

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10 Things I Felt About This Book | The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

I remembered that I hadn’t yet written a review for THE RAVEN KING (nearly two months later) and when I sat down to write it, I just couldn’t put this book into real sentences. THE RAVEN KING was full of so many moments, so many things, and so many swoons that I just really had a hard time organizing them into long strings of perfectly formed paragraphs. Instead of struggling, I decided instead to switch over to my non-traditional review format with “10 Things I Felt About This Book” and let the feels fall where they may!

10 Things I Felt About This Book | The Raven King by Maggie StiefvaterTitle: The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4) by Maggie Stiefvater
Publishing Info: April 26, 2016 by Source: Audible, Amazon
Genres: Paranormal, Magical Realism
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: April 29, 2016
Related Posts: Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls #1), The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle #1), The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2), Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3), The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1), The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2)

For years, Gansey has been on a quest to find a lost king. One by one, he’s drawn others into this quest: Ronan, who steals from dreams; Adam, whose life is no longer his own; Noah, whose life is no longer a lie; and Blue, who loves Gansey… and is certain she is destined to kill him.
Now the endgame has begun. Dreams and nightmares are converging. Love and loss are inseparable. And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path.

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10 THINGS I FELT ABOUT THE RAVEN KING

  • TERRIFIED. Oh boy, I was just plain terrified to read this. The end of BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE left me with so much anticipation AND I hyped myself up for it so I was nervous that somehow it wouldn’t live up to my expectations.
  • IN LOVE. I am so head over heels for this gang. I’ve never read a friendship that was so amazing and so all-encompassing like it is for Blue and her Raven Boys. Too many times, someone starts to get jealous and it ends up fracturing a friendship and while that was still present in this series (naturally. It happens to the best of us), it was taken to a level where the characters didn’t want it to affect the friendship and they did everything they could to keep the group together instead of letting jealousy take over. I love how much these characters wanted to be together and how important they were to one another.
  • IN DENIAL. THE RAVEN BOYS starts off with the prediction of Gansey’s death so it’s no spoiler that it’s heavy in everyone’s minds during THE RAVEN KING. I was in total denial that it would even happen so I pretty much spend the entire book convincing myself otherwise even though Maggie said it was definitely happening.
  • ACTUALLY FEARFUL. There were some ACTUAL scary moments in this book! I don’t read books about ghosts when it’s taken at a horror angle. I’m way too much of a chicken. There were some very, very creepy things that happened in this book and I will not lie to you — I cried actual tears of fear. I mean briefly, but yeah, it was scary!
  • IMPRESSED. I know Maggie Stiefvater had this all sorted out before she even started but I’m always so impressed to see an author bring a series together for a great conclusion. It was really neat to see how all of the pieces fit together and see so many things from all of the previous book find an explanation in THE RAVEN KING.
  • UNPREPARED. I just really, really, REALLY was not ready for this series to end. Confession? I actually felt SUPER weird once it was over. The cliffhangers from the previous books were so intense and interesting that it was really weird to leave this book with a note of finality. I mean, obviously we needed to but it didn’t leave me with that series hangover feeling because I wasn’t ready for it to end like that.
  • SHIPPY. I won’t spoil anything but obviously in a big conclusion, we get some big ship answers and conclusions as well. I was totally feeling them.
  • ANXIOUS. The hardest thing about reading a huge series finale is that A) everyone is so in love and B) there is no ARC so everyone reads the finished copy all at the same time. In a series like this, I was especially afraid of spoilers and they were so hard to avoid!
  • HOPEFUL. The way the book ended, there was a whisper of hope that maybe, just maybe, we might get more words about this gang in the future. I’m hoping for an adult Raven Cycle book,.
  • SATISFIED. This was such a satisfying conclusion. I actually was a bit — disappointed is too strong of a word but the best I can think of at the moment — at a big moment at the end because it felt too… happy? I mean happy things happen in this book but I think I was expecting a devastating moment and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I actually somehow hoped for it a little bit but I guess things really did work out quite well and it just wouldn’t have been the ending that it was had the book not played out like it did. Cryptic, I know, but how do you talk about the ending of a book without spoiling it?? 

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Buy it and read it, of course!

This is still one of my all-time favorite series. I really can’t wait until it’s time to re-read the whole series again knowing how it all ends!

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE THE RAVEN KING

             UNDER THE NEVER SKY

Shallow Graves – Kali Wallace

Shallow Graves – Kali WallaceTitle: Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace
Publishing Info: January 26, 2016 by HarperCollins
Source: Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: March 21, 2016

Breezy remembers leaving the party: the warm, wet grass under her feet, her cheek still stinging from a slap to her face. But when she wakes up, scared and pulling dirt from her mouth, a year has passed and she can’t explain how.
Nor can she explain the man lying at her grave, dead from her touch, or why her heartbeat comes and goes. She doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past.
Haunted by happy memories from her life, Breezy sets out to find answers in the gritty, threatening world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight, and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she discovers is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.
Debut author Kali Wallace interweaves folklore and myths from all over the world in this stunning novel about the heartbreaking trauma of a girl’s life cut short and her struggle to reconcile her humanity with the monster she’s become.

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Warning: This is going to be a bit of a ranty review and actual discussion of plot which I don’t normally do. I actually didn’t have much of an expectation before I started this book but I did something I don’t normally do and I skimmed some reviews before I picked it up. I was looking for a new audiobook to listen to and some of my available review copies had gotten less than stellar reviews so I landed on SHALLOW GRAVES. From people’s comments, I knew it wasn’t a zombie book and yet main character Breezy really isn’t quite alive either. I was definitely curious throughout the book but I had one main issue that kept coming back to haunt me (no pun intended) and that was that the book seemed to lack a clear focus.

The book starts with Breezy on the scene, working with her ability to identify killers. She’s discovered she has the ability to spot a “shadow” on a murderer and the first plot points involve her seemingly following a mission to end the lives of killers thanks to whatever this is that came with her undeadness (she woke up in a shallow grave and we find out she’s not quite alive but she’s not quite dead). The story continued on for a while with this focus but it was a lot of action but not a whole lot of explanation — is the main focus of the book was hunting down killers or finding out how she got this ability? As I kept reading, I found myself wondering exactly what the whole point of the book was because it still wasn’t clear. What was the question we needed an answer to? When Breezy started questioning if she could die again and exactly how she got to be that way, I figured that had to be the end goal of the book.

Then all of a sudden, the book took a turn. Breezy ended up in a compromising situation in the middle of nowhere and became trapped. Then other supernatural/non-human characters got involved. Because of the turn of events, I tried to adjust my focus to fit more of a Sleepy Hollow meets True Blood (minus the vampires) meets what I would assume Supernatural is like but I haven’t seen it — a paranormal focus. (They called them monsters.) So the book continued on with Breezy learning about monsters, meeting new people, and I figured they would end up on some sort of mission to figure out what Breezy is (no one really knows). Once I adjusted to that idea, another new concept came up and I was just totally lost on where this book was going and what I was supposed to be getting out of it. 

The focus of the book changed so many times that I had no idea what it was even about. I actually got really bored (and annoyed) about halfway through and almost stopped but I was on an hour plus drive and had no other audiobooks to listen to so I kept slogging through. The action picked up but went in a totally random direction… again. This book was seriously just all over the place and it’s not like I need a purpose spelled out for me — I feel like I can follow quite a bit — but there were too many questions posed with no answers and then other things just randomly introduced out of nowhere.

The characters were enjoyable but confusing. I felt like the author was trying to do too many things with characters like Rain, Mr. Willow, and even Breezy sometimes. I actually really liked Zeke and Jake. The involvement of a “family” of supernatural characters was fun but it seemed to pop into the story from nowhere and I wished the book could have either been entirely about Breezy and figuring out what she is (WHAT THE HELL IS SHE) or have them be involved from the start. If this actually is a series (IS IT? The ending sure left some things wide open and yet there’s no mention of it being a series anywhere) I think it would have worked better to have those supernatural characters emerge in book two after Breezy has already established what she is, what she can do, and when she has no place to go, BAM she finds a new monster family in the next book.

I just really felt like this book had no focus. It was just so scattered that it made it hard to follow. It needed a lot more structure and a logical flow for why Breezy ended up where she did and how these people became involved in her life. It’s another one of those books where it could have benefited from a whole lot more backstory before things actually pop up but instead they just happened seemingly when the book needed an action point and not truly where they fit in.

If it actually is a series, I probably won’t read book two. If it’s not, I’m pretty freakin’ frustrated that it ended like it did. I just had a very hard time trying to follow what in the world SHALLOW GRAVES was about and it would have been nice to have at least one big answer, even if it is a series. It was a fairly frustrating read for me.

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

shallow graves gr review

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Breezy // Character Obsessions: Shadows, answers, memories, death 
I really liked Breezy in a lot of ways. She was fairly casual, seemed easy to get along with, and just seemed really down-to-earth. I actually really liked her character throughout the whole book and I think that’s what kept me reading when I was frustrated.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Paranormal. I don’t read a lot of paranormal/urban fantasy these days so it was fun to read a book about “monsters”. I only wish we had spent more time getting to know each of them instead of introducing them and then moving on.
Left Me Wanting More: Plotting. The book really just seemed to jump from place to place. It would follow for a while and then end up in a totally random place.

Addiction Rating
Skip It

It wasn’t a terrible book but it was terribly frustrating. I just can’t recommend something that I felt so frustrated with.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE SHALLOW GRAVES

(Click the cover to see my review!)

THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN    HOLD ME CLOSER NECROMANCER

Series Review: The Mara Dyer Trilogy by Michelle Hodkin

I had been meaning to read the Mara Dyer trilogy forever! I had heard so many things about the series, how crazy it was, and how it messes with your head so I was incredibly excited to finally start! I even avoided an event at my local bookstore when Michelle Hodkin was in town because I hadn’t read the books yet and I didn’t want to encounter any spoilers.

We read THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER together for our On the Same Page read in January and I knew I wanted to binge-read these series to A) finally complete it and B) because I had hoped I just couldn’t put it down!

Each book is reviewed individually and then I have some overall feelings on the series, all spoiler-free!

Series Review: The Mara Dyer Trilogy by Michelle HodkinTitle: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #1) by Michelle Hodkin
Publishing Info: September 27, 2011 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Paranormal
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: January 7, 2016
Related Posts: The Evolution of Mara Dyer

Mara Dyer believes life can't get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed.
There is.
She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.
She's wrong.

I was SUPER excited to finally start this series! THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER kicked off with a bang (maybe quite literally) and really hits the ground running! I was immediately intrigued and was hoping for some super twisty things to happen!

The middle of the book dragged for me just a little bit. When books kick off with such a big start and then the pacing slows, I tend to have trouble staying hooked unless more crazy and/or twisty things continue to happen. There was a lot of necessary set-up of Mara’s new life in Florida and how she meets Noah Shaw/comes to fall for him but there were so many THINGS I couldn’t wait to find out that it did slow down for me just a tad!

There was SO much hype about how much this book/series messes with readers’ heads that I just really wanted so much more of that throughout the book. There were a lot of things that happened but there was very little explanation in this book. I knew (well, hoped) that it would be explained in later books but I do get frustrated when more questions appear than answers. I feel like in order to keep readers hooked, you need them to feel like they got something and aren’t left feeling so confused or in the dark. It’s also more exciting to actually get some answers and then be able to ponder what that means for the rest of the series!

The ending did get super twisty and I totally raced to finish the book! Thank goodness I already knew I was binge-reading the series because I would have had to after that ending!

Series Review: The Mara Dyer Trilogy by Michelle HodkinTitle: The Evolution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #2) by Michelle Hodkin
Publishing Info: October 23, 2012 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Paranormal
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: January 17, 2016
Related Posts: The Evolution of Mara Dyer

The truth about Mara Dyer's dangerous and mysterious abilities continues to unravel in the New York Times bestselling sequel to the thrilling The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. Mara Dyer once believed she could run from her past.She can't. She used to think her problems were all in her head. They aren't. She couldn't imagine that after everything she's been through, the boy she loves would still be keeping secrets. She's wrong. In this gripping sequel to The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the truth evolves and choices prove deadly. What will become of Mara Dyer next?

WELL, EVOLUTION certain amped up the mind games quite a bit! Of course you always want to believe the protagonist (Mara) but it’s a case of, is this really an unreliable narrator or is she actually experiencing the truth and no one believes her? It was so much fun to really play around with those ideas and never quite know what was going on! Things started to get absolutely bananas towards the end and I was literally shivering and shouting and afraid of things that go bump in the night because I was getting so freaked out (in a good way).

I really felt like things picked up throughout EVOLUTION and carried on with a steady pace. The reader finds out a lot more of what is happening to Mara and a little bit more as to why. This was definitely my favorite book of the series but things got super twisty and I was totally riveted from about the middle of the book until the end!

I was actually a little bit disappointed by the ending, though. I’m not sure if I had hoped for more mystery? There are some answers to whether we trust Mara or throw her into the loony bin and I wasn’t a huge fan of how the answers played out. I think it felt a bit strange, maybe a bit too hard to believe? Which is saying a lot considering what we’ve learned about what Mara can do and I’ve fully accepted that!

I also was a bit disappointed that more questions got added and there were STILL things I had no answers for. I always hope that book two answers some to most of the questions set up in book one and I was left wondering what the hell is going on with some of these things.

Series Review: The Mara Dyer Trilogy by Michelle HodkinTitle: The Retribution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #3) by Michelle Hodkin
Publishing Info: November 4, 2014 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Paranormal
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: January 22, 2016
Related Posts: The Evolution of Mara Dyer

Mara Dyer wants to believe there's more to the lies she’s been told.
There is.
She doesn’t stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead.
She should.
She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance.
She will now.
Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fate and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer’s story.
Retribution has arrived.

RETRIBUTION was a very weird case for me in that the entire book was actually a bit lacking for me but the ending was so clever and very fun! It actually left me on a good note with the series which was nice because I was kind of frustrated with the overall feel of this book, especially as a series conclusion. It sort of felt like it should have been the “sophomore slump” you so often see in trilogies except this happened in the last book instead. Very strange!

RETRIBUTION was the least mysterious/suspenseful for me. There was a lot of action and some straight up “I can’t believe he/she just did that” moments but it felt more like shock value than actual suspense. I was totally bummed that I didn’t have as many “omg” or “wtf” moments as I had in the first two books. Book two was just out of control with crazy moments and RETRIBUTION kind of took a turn…

There was a lot going on in this book but things started to feel way more far-fetched. I mean, we’re dealing with possible paranormal, possible sci-fi, possible mind-messing, but things started to really stray here, I think. Without spoiling anything, I will note that there seemed to be a major character shift which really threw me off. There are new characters who gain more spotlight and other characters who end up moving to the back-burner or are completely (physically) absent for large chunks of the book. It kind of screwed up the dynamic for me and just plain felt odd to do in the last book when relationships are solidifying and answers are finally happening.

I was also not impressed with the new settings and scenery change. Again, it felt like the “sophomore slump” since that so often happens to me in book two even though this was the last book in the trilogy. I just really didn’t like the turn the book took and I felt like an inordinate amount of time was spent in this new setting with this new concept. I really felt like things could have been wrapped up quicker — or just differently all together — and the story could have continued with more suspense or crazy answers.

When it comes down to it, RETRIBUTION did provide a lot of big questions for me. My issue was that I wasn’t a big fan of how those answers came to be. I did like what the answers were but I wished things had played out a little differently to get there. Some scenes felt unnecessary and overdone when something simpler could have happened. It was paranormal, it was science, and yet it was neither. I was sadly not super impressed with the conclusion to the series but I was left on a high note with the very ending of the book itself. I wished parts in the beginning of RETRIBUTION had been more condensed and maybe played out a little differently. Overall, the series was fun but felt a little too dramatic to me when it could have been more suspenseful. The suspense and mystery was absolutely GREAT but I wanted so much more of it in the last book.

SERIES THOUGHTS

Mara Dyer was a lot of fun and really did keep me on the edge of my seat! I’m glad I ended up reading all of these back-to-back-to-back because I would have lost a lot of details if I had waited. The second book was definitely the most thrilling and twisty for me and I really wish the third book had continued on that pace. It was definitely a bit crazy but it also started to become a bit too wild for me in the sense that I wasn’t quite believing it anymore. I kind of felt like Michelle Hodkin was trying to combine too many things all into one series. There are some series (The Raven Cycle comes to mind) where the books blur the lines between genres and you don’t end up falling into any one specific category. I feel like that’s what Mara Dyer should have been for me and it almost was, but things started to fall apart once the answers started coming into play. The answers to the mysteries did resolve things but I wasn’t a big fan of how we got there.

The romance was definitely a lot of fun and I loved the balance between Mara and Noah! They played off of each other nicely and their opposition really made them a good pair! I wasn’t wholly sold on the romance the way some readers are. There was definitely chemistry there and I don’t know if it was because I was listening to the audiobook but I could have used a bit more development of the feelings before the whole falling in love thing. BUT I do get it in the long run!

I absolutely loved the humor in these books. Lots of sarcasm, quips, banter, and jokes based on pop culture. I love how every day humor really brings characters alive and Michelle Hodkin did an amazing job with that! Although I wasn’t totally satisfied with some of the plot developments, I think Michelle Hodkin does an amazing job at character development. I feel like I got a really good sense of who everyone was and Michelle Hodkin really let each personality shine!

Overall, I was hoping for a bit more suspense and mind-messing! Each book definitely had its moments but it didn’t quite seem consistent throughout the series. I also really enjoyed how thing wrapped up but I wasn’t a big fan of how book three got there. It was a solid series, though, and I definitely want to pick up the Noah POV that’s coming out in 2017! I actually feel like I have the potential to enjoy it more than this one… I’m pretty excited for it!

Have you read the Mara Dyer trilogy? Which book was your favorite? Are you planning to read the Noah POV in 2017!?

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Addiction Rating
Read them!

I did enjoy this series as a whole. The great thing was that once I was done with one book, I immediately wanted the next — thank goodness I started this series after they were all out!! I wasn’t totally impressed but I did like the ease of reading and how quickly I was sucked in. I definitely enjoyed this world and want more!

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BOOKS LIKE THE MARA DYER TRILOGY

(Click the cover to see my review!)

POSSESS     UNSPOKEN